I Cheated on my UFO’s and I’m So HAPPY I’ll Share My Bliss With a Giveaway!

Now I don’t advocate this strategy as the ideal UFO-busting solution—it’s too expensive by a long shot. It’s just that sometimes paying a sewer to finish a quilt top is the most burden-relieving, freeing, liberating, fantastic, wonderful decision a time-crunched quilter can make.

Aaaah, the joy of outsourcing my quilting troubles . . . bliss!

Several posts ago, I faced my UFO demons and decided to prioritize my unfinished quilts. There was a particularly beastly one in the bunch. Naturally, it was my only quilt-to-be that had wedding-present potential for my newly engaged nephew and his fiancé. The problem was that nearly 100 Y-seams separated me from finishing it as a wedding quilt. Yes, I’ll repeat:  ONE-hundred Y-seams!

What possessed me? Ah, that would be Laura Nownes (my dear blogging sister) and one of her Empty Spools workshops. Some time back, I had signed on to make Diamond Jubilee, a popular From Me to You pattern she developed with Diana McClun.

Turns out that all those piles of striped parallelograms I’d cut and sewn madly at the beginning of the workshop also could be arranged into giant sparkly stars. That was merely the beginning; we also added a secondary pattern. By the night of the walkabout, when the students and teachers visit all the classrooms, I had a stellar queen-sized quilt pinned to a clashing bright orange sheet. Utter madness!

A constellation of stars pinned into submission.

Once home, the project overwhelmed me; in fact, my scary star quilt didn’t even make my UFO list until the engagement was announced earlier this year. Could I? Noh-uh! Not with a job, a family, a blog, and piles of other things. Then, I wondered:  what about outsourcing?  Could I afford to subsidize a Y-seam extravaganza? Could I even find a willing sewer?

Things were grim after two refusals, but then I encountered an intrepid novice quilter with a mentor to guide her. Okay . . . luckiest break ever:  I scored Diana McClun’s protégée Ashleigh Jones. Not only was Ashleigh willing to take on such a daunting chore, she had the pattern’s co-designer for expert input.

I scrimped and saved so I could pay my tab when the quilt was finished. The result? The best quilt-outsourcing decision ever:  Ashleigh did a fantastic job (better even than I could have managed). The edges of the quilt were perfectly aligned plus, and probably the hardest part of the sewing task, the quilt top lay flat—not a poof in that galaxy of stars.  And as for the newlyweds?  Looks like I scored there as well.  Phew!

A neon image of "Starz-a-palooza" . . . an epic and insane quilt! Yes, I outsourced the machine quilting (ala Deb McPartland). Hey, I did the binding though--a very fashion-forward faced variation with striped corner triangles.
The fabulous fabrics for the quilt's backing, binding, and setting triangles.

Guess what?  Laura’s giving me five patterns for a giveaway this week. Here’s your winning strategy for this drawing:  leave a comment describing a crazy thing you’ve done to finish a project. I’ll draw 5 random names from those brave enough to tell a tale. You’ve got a week to spill the beans (that’s Friday, November 4) and I’ll announce the winners on my next scheduled post, Friday, November 11.  Specify your pattern choice:  Diamond Jubilee, Diamond Jubilee II, (neither has Y-seams) or Tumbling Stars (the Y-seam variation) in your comment.


It’s Fall – Perfect Pumpkins, Glorious Gourds and a Bundle of Beautiful Batiks to Give Away!

Fall is my favorite time of the year. Mother Nature puts on a beautiful show, the air is crisp, and the holidays are just around the corner. Good grief – Halloween is next week!  Check out these great pumpkins.

Straight from the patch.

There’s no frost on them, as it’s been over 80 degrees every day this week! I guess the weather has something to do with the fact that our trees aren’t exactly radiating with traditional fall colors. We did have two small earthquakes last week – aah, life in California.

And look at these wonderful gourds. The colors are so vibrant – and those shapes -they’re all so unique!

Beautiful colors and shapes!

The mini gourds and pumpkins are my favorites (especially the little white ones – ever so chic!) These days my idea of carving a pumpkin is getting a black sharpie and drawing a happy face on a mini.

Cute little mini gourds and mini white pumpkins.

It seemed like the perfect time to give away a beautiful bundle of batiks in fabulous fall colors.

Beautiful batiks in fall colors - 1/4 yd cuts

If you’re a batik fan and would like to be entered in the drawing for this giveaway, post a comment by end of day on Halloween. The winner will be selected and announced in my next post, Tuesday, November 8th.

Trick or treat!

New Fabric Line Makes Quilt Market Debut: a stitch in color by Malka Dubrawsky

Don’t you love it when nice things happen to nice people?

About four years ago, I had the pleasure of editing a book for Lark Crafts written by Malka Dubrawsky, an Austin, TX, fiber artist with a burgeoning following for her fantastic hand-dyed, hand-stamped fabrics and her colorful blog, a stitch in dye.

The fabulous Malka!

The book is titled Color Your Cloth, and in it, Malka shares her simple, straightforward techniques for creating your own custom dyed and printed fabrics. The experience was a delight from start to finish.

Some of Malka's hand-dyed, hand-stamped fabrics
More of Malka's colorful, hand-crafted "originals"

Although Malka and I have never met, we really “clicked,” and I have followed her continuing success, which has included the publication of a second book, Fresh Quilting, for Interweave Press, a cover story for Quilting Arts magazine, and all sorts of good stuff. 

The December/January 2009 issue of Quilting Arts magazine, with Malka's quilt featured on the cover

As luck would have it, the design director for Moda fabrics saw Fresh Quilting and was blown away by what she saw. Before long, Malka was on her way to the company’s headquarters in Dallas with a batch of fabric samples, and a design star was born!

Malka’s new fabric line, a stitch in color, will debut at the International Quilt Market in Houston next week. It features 40 fabrics based on her hand-dyed, hand-stamped designs: 34 prints and six solids. The fabrics are scheduled to hit quilt shops in January 2012.

Coming soon to a quilt shop near you!

Of course, being from Moda, you can expect fat-quarter packs, jelly rolls, layer cakes...

Can’t you just imagine using these fabrics, not just in quilts, but for garments, totes, home- dec accessories, and more?

"Strips and Bricks," made by Malka using a jelly roll (2 1/2" strips) from her new fabric line
Four classic Shoo Fly blocks make a colorful pillow.
Moda had totes like this one made for each of their sales reps. (Surprise! It's "cheater's cloth!")

Stop by and see Malka, her new fabrics, and some cool projects to make with them at her Schoolhouse or at the Moda booth at Market.

And from me to you, Malka, congratulations! Couldn’t happen to a nicer person 😉

 Until next time, happy stitching.

 Oops! I almost forgot. Since it’s almost here:


"Boo! It's Sunbonnet Sue" from "A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue"

Have a spooky Halloween!

The Party’s Over…but the Beat Goes On

And on the sixth day…… we crash! I’m staying home ALL day today. PIQF is always a wonderful experience but, as you may imagine, it can be completely exhausting.

Here we are in front of our newest quilts.

So many thanks to all of you who stopped by our booth to say “hi” and to extend your good wishes. We always love seeing and visiting with you. Your continued support is heartwarming. For those of you asking about Diana, please let me assure you that she is doing more than great…she has just decided to retire from the administrative duties of two successful businesses. Now, she is able to design to her heart’s content and take any class she wants at the Empty Spools Seminars that she founded 25 years ago. (What a dream come true!) She has many more quilt designs brewing inside that creative mind of hers and I know she will continue for many, many more years.

For those of you fortunate enough to attend the show, you’ll recognize the following quilts. I hope the rest of you enjoy the photos. LOTS and LOTS of glitz again this year…crystals, crystals, and more crystals. (See the quilt below with 5,121 Swarovski crystals made by Sherry Reynolds!) There was also an abundance of beads, baubles, buttons, ribbons, rickrack, and beautiful thread work. With limited time and so many quilts, I just shot a few of the ribbon winners with lots of sparkle. As is often the case, the photos don’t do justice to the beauty of the quilts themselves.

Sherry Reynolds of Laramie, WY, with her Best of Show Quilt, "America, Let it Shine"

Label on the back of "America, Let it Shine"
"Now, That's a Horse of a Different Color" by Michelle Reasoner of Hallelsville, TX

"Beyond Beautiful" by Jan Reed of Grass Valley, CA

By Janet Head of Windsor, CA
Detail of "Koi" by Cathie Hoover of Modesto, CA, which won Best Use of Embellishments - Traditional

One of our readers, Linda Hungerford of West Des Moines, IA, wrote last week to say that she had two quilts in the show and wished she could be there to see how they were displayed. This is for you, Linda. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to find Linda’s second quilt, but there were many people stopped in front of this one taking photos…no surprise as you can see how beautiful her quilting is.

"Life is a Celebration: Nature" by Linda Hungerford, West Des Moines, IA

That’s it for today. As I said at the start, I’m taking the day off and spending it with family. Until next time, enjoy creating.

Road Trip: Are You a MAINE-iac Quilter?

Early autumn sunset Camden, ME

I am! I’ve just spent the better part of a week enjoying Maine’s beautiful Atlantic coastline. Even though my roots are in New England, I’d never visited moose country. Believe me, I’ll be baaaaaack!

So, do you want the lowdown on some quilt stores? Or, perhaps, the inside track on a charming stop or doodad shop? Read on . . . okay, a tiny caveat before I launch:  my husband hates to browse so I didn’t actually get to stop at all the beguiling craft venues I saw on our drive. Let’s face it, village potters and local art galleries are better fodder for a girlfriends’ road trip. Just know that there are myriad options to satisfy the discerning shopper for handcrafted goods—I know, I waved to them as we passed. Sigh!

Portland, Maine was our first destination. Now I was prepared for a cosmopolitan flair after watching Anthony Bourdain’s recent No Reservations segment on Portland’s burgeoning food scene, but the abundance of cool stuff was a lot of fun to see. Plus the lobster rolls were tastier and better priced on Portland’s waterfront than in the other towns we visited.

Just across from the docks you’ll find Company C. One word:  Wow!  I fell in love with the showroom of this New Hampshire-based company. Hey I like Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel as much as anyone, but Company C really offers more color-craving satisfaction.

Z Fabrics in Portland, ME is a tiny shop with a lovely selection of Amy Butler prints and other similar fabrics. Mary Zarate is the proprietor.

Marjorie Hallowell has 2 locations for her shop Mainely Sewing–Nobleboro, ME and Wiscasset, ME. Although she’s a thread fanatic, she also stocks a delicious and deep collection of Westminster Fabrics, including some Martha Negley prints I hadn’t seen yet. As she has booths at major East Coast quilt shows, you may already know about her shops.

Chances are you’ll hit Sewing by the Sea in Trenton, Me either on your way to or from Bar Harbor, ME and Acadia National Park. I didn’t realize it when I was in Portland, but there’s a sister shop called Sew Portland in that up-and-coming gourmet mecca.

Sewing by the Sea has a slew of lobster and seashore novelty prints for those looking for Maine fare. Check out the mosquito fabric to your right that, thankfully, lacks the buzz and sting of the real thing.


Fa-bri-cate in Bar Harbor, ME is another great spot for themed seashore and natural world prints. Housed in a repurposed bank building, the setting is surprisingly charming for a locale that has sale fabric housed in a vault. Nessa Reifsnyder and Erin Early-Ward are the owners. Their store is less than a year old and pulls heavy traffic from cruise ship tourists.

No, he is not my husband--mine would never wait as patiently as this kind man.

Imagine my surprise when I drove up to Knights Quilt Shop in Cape Neddick, ME (just south of Kennebunkport) and found a massing of quilters on the front step. Turns out Knights is a popular stop for quilting tourists. This group was an international tour of quilters from as far as Europe and South Africa. Who did I run into? Fellow Californians, of course!  Michelle Knight has a friendly, welcoming venue plus 4,000 bolts to browse. Doesn’t that sound promising?

Now isn't Knights a pretty shop?

Ultimately, Maine is a fantastic vacation spot, especially when the sun is shining and a lively breeze blows in from the ocean.  I consulted an expert:  She predicts a Maine trip in your future!  

Pack your bags, Maine is calling!

Cool Collections – Sherbet Pips and Little Apples

I’ve become totally enamored with Sherbet Pips and Little Apples, two recent fabric collections from Moda. Both lines by designer Aneela Hoey feature charming and whimsical little motifs that I find irresistible. She masterfully combines fresh, contemporary color palettes with playful little characters that are just a wee bit nostalgic. I can see using these fabrics for a variety of projects – quilts, pillow cases, children’s clothes. I’m currently working on two new quilt patterns, armed with jelly rolls, layer cakes and charm packs from both collections. Take a look at a sampling of Little Apples:

A few of the fabrics in the Little Apples collection.
Little Apples tree motif.

And here are a few of my favorite images from Sherbet Pips:

Sherbet Pips girl in a swing.
Sherbet Pips dogs.
Sherbet Pips scooters.

Designer Aneela Hoey is a graduate of the Winchester School of Art in the UK with a degree in printed textile design. She has worked in studios in London and New York, designing both fabrics and embroidery patterns. To see more of her work, check out Aneela’s blog.

Until next time, back to designing with pips and apples!

The Ashe County Barn Quilt Project: Country Roads and Colorful “Quilts”

Please don’t misunderstand me! Since moving west in early 2002, I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the charming city of San Francisco, the rugged beauty of the Northern California coast, and the majesty of Yosemite. Even so, I’ve never quite overcome my homesickness for the place I left behind: the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.

View from the Blue Ridge Parkway, right outside Blowing Rock, NC, on the cusp of the change from summer to fall

I lived (and quilted) in this part of the country for over 16 years, and never tired of the ever-changing mountain vistas, with their hourly shifts in color, light, shape, and line. One of my favorite pastimes was to hit the road on Sunday afternoon, exploring the rural byways in search of inspiration. 

Since 2005, visitors and locals alike have been treated to a new addition to the Northwestern NC landscape, one that pleases the eye without disturbing the natural beauty of the environment. If anything, this addition not only enhances the view, but celebrates the cultural history of the area as well. It’s called The Ashe County Barn Quilt Project. (Following photos courtesy of the Ashe County Arts Council.)

Star of Bethlehem, painted by Lyn Soeder on the barn owned by Ronnie Cooper, Fleetwood, NC

Decorative painting on barns is nothing new. German farmers who settled what are now the Berks, Lancaster, and Lehigh County areas of Pennsylvania were applying colorful designs to their outbuildings some 300 years ago. The current revival, however, traces its roots to Adams County, Ohio, where–in 2001–Donna Sue Groves, a field representative for the Ohio Arts Council, sought to paint a large quilt block on the side of a tobacco barn to honor her mother, a master quilter. The idea caught on, and a movement was born. Barn Quilt Projects sprang up quickly throughout rural Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, and other adjoining states with large agricultural regions.

Ashe County, situated just up the road from my former home in Boone, joined the movement in 2005, largely through efforts spearheaded by the Ashe County Arts Council and its executive director, Jane Lonon. Jane was excited and inspired by the opportunity to marry the area’s rich history of craft with its deep agricultural roots. (Christmas trees are the primary crop these days.) What better way than by showcasing a quilt block on a barn?

North Carolina Lily, painted by Loretta Weaver on the Francis barn, Warrensville, NC

 The Ashe County Barn Quilt Project is a work in progress. At present there are over 50 barns that have been decorated with the assistance (funding and labor) of the local Arts Council. Property owners can choose from two dozen or so different patterns, and can arrange to have their selection painted by volunteers, or undertake the job themselves, with guidelines provided by the Arts Council. “It’s not difficult,” Ms. Lonon explains. “It’s basically coloring by numbers and staying within the lines. We’ve had some local art classes volunteer, and we’ve even had a family or two tackle their ‘homeplace’ barn as a group project at a family reunion.”

Pine Tree, painted by the Ashe County H.S. Art Class on the Perkins barn, West Jefferson, NC
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, painted by the Ashe County H.S. Art Class on a Creston, NC, barn

In addition to honoring the area’s heritage, the project has increased tourism, drawing visitors deeper into this once easily overlooked corner of the state. At present, there are two driving tours mapped through the county, each passing more than a dozen painted barns while covering bucolic, scenic byways ripe with outstanding photo ops.

Blackford's Beauty, painted by Cathy Shepherd on the Jones barn, Lansing, NC

You’ll find more information about the Ashe County Barn Quilt Project by visiting their website. For information about similar projects in your area, or an area you plan to visit, check out the comprehensive website available through the American Barn Quilt Project. For a glimpse of the outstanding craft heritage of the Southern Appalachian region, check out this video, taken during Alex Anderson’s recent visit to Asheville, NC (about 100 miles SW of Ashe County), and which originally appeared on The Quilt Show website.

Squares and Stars, painted by Meghan Minton on the Witherspoon barn, Jefferson, NC

As autumn deepens, I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-tour of quilts and countryside. ‘Til next time, happy stitching.

Oops! How could I forget! We had lots of wonderful feedback on the post about Joen Wolfrom‘s new book, Adventures in Design. The lucky winner of the autographed copy is Sandy S., of Greer, SC. Congratulations, Sandy!

Sneaking a Peek: Before the Big Show

Life is busy here, as it always is right before a big show (in this case, Pacific International Quilt Festival). Just want you to be the first to see the new patterns that I have been working on.

It’s been awhile since I showed you this beautiful jelly roll. It is the talented Kate Spain‘s “Terrain” line by Moda Fabrics.

Terrain by Kate Spain for Moda Fabrics

I had so much fun making these stars using Kate’s wonderful fabrics.

Blocks made with Kate Spain fabrics

Then, I put them together with some alternate blocks to make this quilt. I’ve named it “Star Light, Star Bright.”

It’s rare that I make more than one quilt from the same line of fabric, but I just couldn’t get enough, so here’s #2 from the same collection.

I combined Kate’s line with four of Kaffe Fassett‘s lovely polka dots. What if I were to call it “Kaffe Goes to Spain?” That sounded catchy at first, but on second thought I decided to name it “Sweet Rolls” as it takes both 1-1/2″-wide and 2-1/2″-wide pre-cut strip sets (called Honey Buns and Jelly Rolls if you are using Moda fabrics).

Some of you may be familiar with my popular “Going to Market” basket pattern. I decided to give it a new look with some of the latest Riley Blake fabrics. I just love the black-and- white-stripe handles from the original quilt.  As hard as I tried to use other options in this version, I kept coming back to my first (and favorite) choice.

All three of these patterns will be available as kits. Please do stop by my booth (#634) at PIQF if you are planning to attend the show. It promises to inspire your creative spirit.

Many thanks to my bbs (that’s best blogging sisters!) for the touching post last week. You truly ARE the best and I’m so fortunate to be working with you.

Now… back to making kits.

Take care of yourselves everyone, and happy sewing.