When I examine my fabric stash, it amazes me to see how many neutrals I’ve accumulated. For someone who’s usually drawn to and inspired by bright colors, it’s odd that neutrals take up more than their fair share of space, and when I do my annual sort through the “too-much-ever to-use-in-a lifetime” stash to make room for the new, I rarely give them up.
The versatile neutrals are especially wonderful for masculine quilts and, depending on the pattern selected, the results can range from traditional to contemporary. Here’s a quilt I made using the Urban Chic pattern for my niece and her husband as a wedding gift. The décor in their home is ultra modern, so I used lots of black, taupe, and cream fabrics with geometric prints.
Mother Nature provides a bounty of neutral inspiration, from stones to beach grass. One of my favorites is high-desert landscape (soft gray-greens and creams)–very yummy!
If you’re interested in a book on neutrals, try Alex Anderson’s Neutral Essentials from C&T Publishing. It’s full of information and includes seven projects using the neutral palette. C&T has generously donated a copy for today’s giveaway!
My blogging sister Darra has a charming little quilt featured in the book. It’s so cute, and very Darra with the buttons and rickrack.
Here’s a detail of another neutral quilt I made which favors more of the brown, tan, and gray hues. It was for my favorite nephew Joel and his wife:
Several years ago, I attended Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar, CA, where I took Sylvia Einstein’s Dancing Rings workshop. The pieced-rings design is based on the classical Double Wedding Ring pattern. Sylvia is a phenomenal teacher and it was an inspiring, creative four days; however, I had chosen a neutral palette for my quilt and everyone else in the room was using brilliant, bright colors. I felt like a dandelion in a field of poppies. Once I got it out of the classroom, however, and away from the “colors,” it turned out to be another of my favorite quilts.
If you haven’t tried working with the neutral palette, you’ve missed something special. Don’t forget to add glorious grays and beautiful blacks. Grays used to be difficult to find, but in the last couple of years they’ve been popping up in lots of fabric lines. Gray adds a modern sophistication to the traditional creams, tans, and browns.
To be entered in the giveaway for Neutral Essentials, post a comment telling me how you might like to explore neutrals. Or, if you’ve used them, let me know what you’ve created. The winner will be randomly chosen from comments received before midnight Friday, February 10th, and announced in my next post, Tuesday, February 14th.
One of the most appealing and satisfying aspects of quilting is that no matter how long you’ve been engaged, there is always something new to learn, as long as you remain open to the possibilities.
Gwen Marston is a well-recognized–and beloved–figure in the quilt world. She has taught quiltmaking in the US and abroad for over three decades, including at her popular Beaver Island Quilt Retreat, which will celebrate its 29th year this fall. (This year’s theme is Liberated Medallion Quilts.) Her work has been featured in solo exhibits all over the world. She has written 26 books, contributed to numerous quilting magazines, and inspired countless quilters with her passion, knowledge, and playful techniques, including Liberated Quiltmaking, with which she has become synonymous. With so many accomplishments, most of us might be content to sit back on our laurels. Not Gwen!!
About a year and a half ago, Gwen embarked on a new quilting journey. She had been teaching for her friend–quiltmaker, author, and shopowner, Jean Wells–in Sisters, OR, and found herself with a four-day gap before her next teaching gig: not quite long enough to make the long trip home worthwhile. Jean invited Gwen to stay, and the two looked forward to four glorious days in Jean’s studio.
Gwen decided to focus on making a few small pieces combining a number of Jean’s techniques (narrow curved insets and small accent squares) with some of her own signature methods. Making small quilts is not new for Gwen; over the years, she has made approximately 450 of them! She explains, “I feel that constructing small quilts developed my technical skills and aesthetic understanding more than any other single factor.” In the past, working small has allowed her to experiment efficiently with a variety of ideas, to be more adventurous due to the reduced risk in time and materials, and to audition new techniques, compositions, and fibers. But this time, something unexpected happened.
Over the course of her visit, Gwen completed four small pieces, attempting each day to create a new composition while staying within the parameters she had set for herself in size (small), fabric (mostly solids), and technique (freeform). “When I began, it was never my plan to work in a series,” she reveals. However, when she eventually arrived home, Gwen’s head was spinning with ideas stemming from the little pieces she had made during her four-day “sabbatical.” She also had begun to recognize the link between these little quilts and the sketches a painter makes to work out ideas regarding color and composition. With a healthy block of uninterrupted time now available to her, Gwen decided to continue what she had started in Sisters.
The end result was a series of 37 small pieces, or “sketches,” and what Gwen has described as “a crash course in design.” The typical piece finished approximately 9″ x 11″, and she usually was able to complete one a day. She took a short break after making #19 to refresh and regroup, but was soon back at work, enthusiastically committed to a new composition each day.
“Small Study 33” by Gwen Marston (2010)
“Small Study 34” by Gwen Marston (2010)
When the last little quilt was finished, Gwen realized that she had something to share. She gathered the 37 pieces, and worked with fine-art photographer, designer, and publisher Harry Littell (who generously provided the quilt photos for this post) at Six Mile Creek Press to create a beautiful, 96-page, hardcover book, 37 Sketches, that chronicles her experience as she followed her muse, and the astonishing work that resulted from her journey.
The book itself is a work of art; it was recently honored with an award by the 2012 New York Book Show. It is not a “how-to” book, with patterns and instructions, but a book filled with inspiration and offering unique access to the design process of a very talented quiltmaker. It opens with a foreward by Jean Wells and an introduction in which Gwen describes how the series evolved, where she draws her inspiration, and how she works, with insight into the series process. The remaining pages are devoted to the quilts, with a two-page spread dedicated to each of the 37 pieces, shown in the order they were made so you can follow Gwen’s progress.
Wouldn’t you love to own a copy of this special book for your personal library? Well, Gwen has generously offered an autographed copy to one of our readers! Leave a comment below by midnight (PST), Wednesday, February 8, telling us your thoughts about working in a series: Have you ever tried it? What was your experience? If haven’t, would you like to give it a try? I’ll announce the winner, chosen by random drawing, in my February 10 post. If you can’t wait that long, and want to purchase a copy, check your local quilt shopororder an autographed copy directly from Gwen.
In the spirit of working in a series, I’ll replace my usual avatar this time with one of the little quilts I’ve been making since the first of the year to explore new ideas and to jump start my creativity.
Welcome to Part Two of our Color Journey using the helpful 3-in-1 Color Tool by Joen Wolfrom. If you are just joining us, you might want to take a minute to catch up with Part One , where I introduce the tool and select my favorite color scheme (triadic).
I have spent the past several days hunting through my stash, my friend Diana (McClun)’s stash, and visiting my local quilt shops for fabrics to expand my original selection. Yes, this process often takes a bit of time, but isn’t the hunt just so much fun? I took my handy tool with me wherever I went and, of course, many customers were curious as to just what I was up to.
I started by looking for both the lightest colors (called tints because white has been added to the pure color) and darkest colors (called shades because black has been added to the pure color) found on each of the three cards. I found it pretty easy to find solids to meet the requirements, but honestly, I love lots of pattern play so I had to hunt even further to find the variety of textures I so enjoy using in my quilts.
Take a look at what I have added so far to each of the three color families: golden yellow, fuchsia, and aqua blue. Notice that I have selected both the lightest and darkest. If you want less contrast, simply select colors closer together in the line-up on the pages.
Please remember that if you are playing along, we are not trying to “match” any particular swatch, but instead trying to find fabrics that look like they belong to and feel comfortable with that family (or page) of colors.
Here’s my collection as it looks at this point.
I am going to take one more step before making the final selection and deciding on a pattern. I call this “Playing in the Mud”–not a technical term; just my description of adding what I refer to as the muddy colors. They are commonly referred to as tones because gray has been added to the pure color.
I am happy to be able to offer the 3-in-1 Color Tool under “My Favorite Tools” on my website. I always suggest you first support your local quilt shops, but if you are not able to find the tool, you can click here to purchase one.
Until next time, when we have fun “playing in the mud,” happy fabric hunting everyone.
It’s probably not a shocker that someone who confesses to an obsession with rosy colors, as I did in my last post, might be pretty hot on Valentine’s Day as well. What with pink and red heart-bedecked cards, chocolates, and rosebud posies, February 14 is a silly, sentimental diversion that I absolutely adore.
Beyond that, though, Valentine’s Day is all about celebrating aching, hopeful, yearning . . .hearts. I can’t help it: I love a romantic ending. To me, every heart beat is an opportunity. As long as your heart thumps in your chest, you’re alive and you can do anything–like sending us a valentine for our challenge (click that heart icon for details!). We’ll award prizes and display the collection of entries in our newly inaugurated See How We Sew gallery (click for a preview) through the end of February.
Now that my sons are grown and I don’t get the vicarious pleasure of a school valentine exchange, I try to think of ways to keep the spirit of the day. My latest diversion is making little heart pillows to hang on doorknobs or drawer pulls. Sometimes they’re sachets as well, but mostly they’re just pretty bibelot (good seven-letter Scrabble word, BTW). This year, though, I’ve been sidetracked by a quest to list heart words and phrases and that, in turn, has inspired a “black-hearted” piratical valentine. (Gotta admit to loving sea-faring, bodice-ripper romances with sword-wielding corsairs and damsels in distress. What’s not to like–other than embarrassingly cheesy book covers that I want to hide?)
Jack Sparrow’s valentine (click here to download PDF) was so much fun to make that I’ve placed the instructions in our Pattern Library to share. Also, take a look at my list of heart words and phrases before you start; you just might find unexpected inspiration for your own riff. At last count, after an evening spent in hearty brainwork, my snarky eldest son and I came up with an easy 114, and we’re still finding stupidly obvious ones we missed.
If I’ve whet your appetite for valentine fare, you can find much theme-appropriate creativity online. It’s astonishing to see the extent of the heart-shaped craft and quilting universe collected on image-compiling websites like Pinterest and Google Images. And that’s just the inedible category. Check out the mouthwatering heart-themed foods and candies at Google Images.
Craft & Quilting Valentine Resources
Sisters Marina and Daryl Lyn at Quilt Inspiration gather links to free quilt patterns from top designers at their fabulous blog:
It’s the start of a new year and what could be more stimulating than a brand new block of the month project! Each month, for the next nine months (yes – we’re giving birth to it), we’ll introduce a new 8″ x 10″ rectangle block. It’s perfect for 2½” strip pre-cuts (I LOVE these – they save so much cutting time), so if you have a Jelly Roll, a Tonga Treat Strip, a Bali Pop, a favorite grouping of fabrics, or, heaven forbid, a stash of scraps – let’s use them!
Hint: when using pre-cuts with a pinked edge, use the outside tip of the pinked edge for measuring – it’s part of the 2½”.
The finished quilt is lap-size (56″ x 66″), comprised of 25 blocks, sashing and a 5″ border. To complete the 25 blocks in the nine months, we’ll make three each of the January-July blocks, and two each of the August-September blocks. In October we’ll add sashing and borders. This allows time for quilting and binding before the holidays – which, as we all know, roll around more quickly each year.
The blocks in the quilt are very quick and easy to make. For those who have used my Artichoke Collection patterns, you know my mantra is unique designs with simple techniques for every style. There are so many beautiful fabrics available to us, and I believe we should let them do the work.
Here’s a thought – why not make more than one quilt? I’m going to start two. The first will be made primarily from the pink/orange fabrics in the “Happiness” line from Kathy Davis for Free Spirit (featured in my last post), with a few more coordinates added from my stash. I love the vibrant colors and painterly feel of this line. Here’s Block 1 made with Happiness:
The second quilt will be made with the “Habitat” line from Michele D’Amore for Benartex (if you’ve been following our blog from the launch, you might remember these fabrics from my April 12, 2011 Road Trip post). The sophisticated color palette paired with the playful, contemporary designs are so appealing. Here’s Block 1 made with Habitat:
Blocks (25) approx. 40 – 2½” strips (by width of fabric) or equivalent fabric
Sashing ¾ yd
Border 1 yd
Binding 5/8 yd
Backing 3½ yd
Ready to get started? Click here to download the instructions for Block 1 or click to visit our pattern library. I’ll be anxious to hear what fabrics you choose for your quilt(s), and don’t forget to watch for Block 2 in my post on Tuesday, February 14th.
So far, I’ve been diligent in following my resolution to spend at least 30 minutes a day doing something creative…in fact, most days, I’ve spent much more than that. You know how it is: it’s all about getting started. Once you’re in your space, and get your hands on the fabric and other goodies, the time just flies. For the first five days of 2012, among other things, I made a small, 3″ x 5″ fabric collage a day.
Then, on the sixth day (last Saturday), my husband and I headed to Florida to help my amazing mother-in-law celebrate her 92nd birthday. Since I was away from my sewing room, this required a different type of creativity: to fulfill my “promise to myself,” I spent time walking the beach, taking photos, and writing in my idea journal.
Then, on Tuesday, I hit the jackpot: I visited the local quilt shop! How lucky can you get? Creative is even part of its name 😉
StitchCraft Creative Quilting & Sewing (originally called Three Crafty Ladies) first opened its doors in Boca Raton, FL, in October 2010. It didn’t take long for word of this must-shop location to get out among the quilters, sewers, and fabric crafters of South Florida (and beyond), and–as a result–it soon became obvious that larger “digs” were a necessity.
It’s just a question of making more room!
Never daunted, owner Johanna Felberbaum, a self-taught quilter who has crafted since she “could hold a crayon,” simply packed up this past fall and moved across the street to a more roomy location at 399 S. Federal Highway (US 1). The new 3,300-square-foot space is a stitcher’s dream: spacious, bright, and airy; dotted with colorful and inspiring samples and attractive vignettes; and generously stocked with mouth-watering fabric (including the latest from such luminaries as Kaffe Fassett, Kate Spain, and our friend, Malka Dubrawsky, due to arrive any day), thread, notions, books and magazines, patterns, ribbons, fashion buttons, rickrack, garment-making essentials, and more. (I’d show you my purchases, but they include a few surprises for unsuspecting friends!)
I loved these cleverly packaged “Espresso” kits by Happy Hollow Designs.
In addition to providing the aforementioned goodies, Stitchcraft is also a dealer and service stop for Baby Lock sewing machines and sergers, sells the popular AccuQuilt Go! Fabric Cutter, and boasts a Handi Quilter longarm machine on site, which customers will soon be able to rent for finishing their projects right there in the shop.There is even a tropical fish tank to entertain and inspire!
True to its unofficial mission statement–“to be the epicenter of quilting for the community”–StitchCraft offers a full slate of classes. (Jane Hardy “Rusty” Miller, author of the popular French Braid quilting books, was scheduled to teach the day after my visit.) When it is not in use for classes, Johanna opens the large, welcoming classroom space for local quilters to gather, chat, and stitch. As a result, the room is often a hotbed of activity: there are three large official quilt guilds in Boca alone!
So, if you love fabric and all the “fixin’s” (who doesn’t?), are looking for an enriching and creative experience, and find yourself in the South Florida “neighborhood,” be sure to put StitchCraft Creative Quilting & Sewing on your itinerary. You won’t be disappointed…and do tell them I sent you.
Time to head off to make today’s collage. ‘Til next time, happy sewing.
Don’t you just love little surprises, especially when they tell you that someone special is thinking about you? Last spring, my talented friend Anita Grossman Solomon and I spent an afternoon visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We both especially enjoyed viewing the incredible seahorse exhibit. Tucked inside my Christmas card from Anita this year, I found this piece of fabric.
My first thought was “Ahh, what a sweet gesture and so very thoughtful. Just like Anita to do this for me.” Although I like the fabric, it is probably not one I would be immediately drawn to in the quilt shop. Perhaps, like many of you, I tend to work with the same style of fabric designs and colors. I have a comfort zone and personal color preferences. Although I like yellow golds, they would not be a starting point for me in building a color scheme. With this thought in mind, I have decided to challenge myself this year and use this fabric as my inspiration for designing a quilt. I hope you will follow along with me as I cover the steps in several upcoming posts.
I know from years of teaching beginners that combining prints and colors can be one of the most challenging tasks in the quiltmaking process. Some students just have a natural affinity for color, but most do not. It just takes practice and often a little help along the way. An in-depth study of color theory is one way to approach this, but most of us like to keep it simple and get on with the sewing!
We have mentioned the talented color expert, Joen Wolfrom in a previous post , but I want to bring her in again as she has created a helpful tool called the 3-in-1 Color Tool, Updated. The tool includes 24 color cards with numbered swatches, plus an instructional guide to make color planning easy. Joen promises “you can easily see which colors work best together in a very quick manner. It’s simple to do and it quickly clarifies the colors to use.” Doesn’t all this sound great?
Follow along as I take you through the steps in developing a color scheme based on my inspiration fabric.
Step One: Place your fabric on the table and then find the card with the color that seems most suited to your fabric. It is really not about “matching” perfectly, but instead finding a color family that feels comfortable.
Step Two: Turn the card over to find clear color diagrams indicating the five major natural color schemes.
Step Three: Select a color plan that most appeals to you. After looking through my options, I decided on the Triadic Color Scheme – I love working with fuchsia and aqua blue!
Step Four: With this scheme in mind, I looked at the color cards for both Aqua Blue (#8) and Fuchsia (#16) and found fabrics that I think work well with them. Here is what I have selected.
So here is my starting point for building a color scheme. Please be sure to check back as I continue to add fabrics to make multiple blocks, show you how to preview secondary designs, and finally put them all together into a quilt top. It will be fun.
C & T Publishing has again generously offered a giveaway. If you are interested in following along and challenging yourself this year with a new color scheme or two, please leave a comment by end of day Saturday January 14th. The lucky winner of a 3-in-1 Color Tool will be announced in Christie’s post on January 17th.
Have a happy and colorful week everyone.
PS – Just checked in with Joen and learned that she has lots of information on her new blog, Playing with Color. Here is a listing of some of the specific tutorials you might be interested in:
To learn about painting the pure colors from yellow to turquoise blue/cyan, click here.
To learn about painting the pure colors from turquoise blue/cyan to magenta, click here.
To learn about painting the pure colors from yellow to magenta, click here.
To learn about making your own color wheel after painting the color swatches, click here.
I hope you know I’m not working on my Christmas cards this week so I can write my new post. Yes, it’s 2012, and I’ve not done my cards yet. I’ve resigned myself to writing “Almost New Year’s” cards instead. That’ll be next week though because I really do want to give you a peek at an exploration of my latest obsession: pink. Pink. PINK.
Some time ago, I think before Thanksgiving, I got an emailed sale flyer that rocked my world. I’d been mulling over pink + red as a color palette and wondering how to explore the mix when J. Crew delivered that very color combo with their ad featuring my fave MacIntosh apples arranged in a matrix on a hot-pink background.
In my spin I’ve replaced the apples with dimensional appliqué single-petaled roses—truth is, I don’t need much of a push to go floral. The quilt’s still a work in progress, but I’m happy that my first 2012 project is so very PINK.
A good design tactic when blending two strong similar colors like these is to add black/white or a complementary color—I opted for both with a white grid and chartreuse greenery. I’m still a few weeks from completion, but I’m taking my time and enjoying each phase. Hey, I’m actually fulfilling the resolution I made in our last group post with this little quilt because I’m making a quilt to please myself without a deadline or a destination. It’s a New Year’s miracle!
Here’s an FYI about the latest (February 2012) issue of TheQuilt Life on the newsstands: Check out the “Heart Strings” article (page 34) and its accompanying quilt project. My blogging sister Darra and I participated in a collaborative quilt project for our friend Kim Butterworth—it’s super-easy, fun, and a perfect way to express a heartfelt sentiment. Also, TQL editor Jan Magee just gave See How We Sew a fantastic plug on the TQL blog–thanks to Jan and a welcome to our new visitors!
p.s. Darra just told me I’m bucking the color trend with my pink thing. Turns out color forecasters are hot on Tangerine Tango for 2012. I can roll with that, orange is a happy color (and it looks terrific paired with PINK).
Can money buy happiness? Absolutely! While browsing in one of my favorite local quilt shops, I bought Happiness, a new fabric line from Free Spirit.
When I first spotted the bolts they were stacked on the cutting table – they hadn’t even made it to the shelves yet. It’s exciting to get the first cuts off of new bolts (kind of like the first spoonful of ice cream out of a new pint). Next came the decision of whether to buy the blue or the pink…..
I loved them both so bought some of each!
Happiness is the latest fabric line from designer Kathy Davis, who, I have discovered, is a very versatile artist. In addition to designing fabric, she has greeting cards, stationery, prints, gift wrap, calendars and gift items. Kathy is the author of “Scatter Joy: Living, Giving, and Creating a Life You Love.” On her website I was admiring the fabrics in her three previous lines Journeys, Blossoming and Ambrosia, and realized I already had some of those pieces in my stash. Some go nicely with the new line. I guess I’ve been a fan and didn’t know it.
A question that comes up frequently in the quilt shop is how much fabric to purchase when you find a line you love but aren’t sure what you’re going to do with it. If it’s a focus fabric that I really, really love, and can see using it in more than one project, I get 3 yards. Most of the time I’ll get 1½ or 2 yards of the focus fabric, which will give me enough for a border and the central design in a lap-size quilt. For blenders and coordinating pieces, I usually buy ½ yards.