See How We Sew Takes on Quilting in the Garden 2012

Heritage California oaks form the backdrop (and hold the clotheslines) for an alfresco quilt show

With temperatures typically bouncing past the 90 degree mark in September and October here in Northern California, it’s truly difficult to pinpoint that moment when summer gives way to autumn.

Here it’s often easier to count on marquee events to signal seasonal change like Quilting in the Garden at Alden Lane in Livermore at September’s end or the Pacific International Quilt Festival (PIQF) in Santa Clara in early October.

Quilting in the Garden, though, is truly our “alert the media” moment—bring on the changing leaves, crispy mornings, and frost-covered pumpkins, we’re ready!

As the featured artist for 2012 Judy Mathieson’s spectacular quilts hold pride of place at Alden Lane’s entry, although you can see quilts by Jennifer and Christie peeking through on the right.

As you can see from the photos, Alden Lane is not like any roadside plant nursery. It’s set in a shady grove of heritage California oak trees and winds around gravel paths and pretty seasonal vignettes. The quilt show is curated masterfully by Alden Lane’s coordinator Cyndee Carvalho, her staff, and quilt show volunteers who hang the quilts by color, maker and/or theme. The result is a visual feast of brightly colored quilts that glow in the oak-tree-filtered natural light. (Makes the quilts hung in indoor shows with uneven fluorescent lighting look washed out in comparison.)

Running left to right, another view of the entry featuring quilts from Christie, Jennifer, and two quilts from Darra’s Sunbonnet Sue and Cuddle Me Quick books

We spent two busy days doing product demos, selling our patterns and crafts, and socializing with visitors. We’d do it again, anytime! Having the opportunity to share our quilting stories and handiwork in such a lovely setting was a real pleasure.

Thanks as well to those who stopped by and were so positive about our blog–we LOVE the feedback! It’s a funny experience sending our posts out into the online quilting universe. It’s such a relief to know that we’re making contact and we engaging our audience with fun projects and creative inspiration. Yeah!

More Judy Mathieson, featured artist 2012 Quilting in the Garden

We have so many photos of Quilting in the Garden that we thought it would be fun to open the Gallery and share some of the very pretty sights from the weekend. Check back this Friday, November 2 for the debut.

A friendly Alden Lane staffer outfitted for the big day

Our photographers for today’s post and the Gallery exhibition on Friday include: Kim Butterworth, Mike Harding, and Nelly Schrager.  Thanks for your contributions!

See ya’ll on Friday for more quilting wonders from Quilting in the Garden!


Last Call for SHWS Exhibit of African Quilts: Get Your Views in Now!

Paula Benjaminson and I want to extend our thanks to the wonderful quilt artists who contributed to our online exhibition of African-themed quilts. While I’m so sad the exhibition is closing, the good news is that the Gallery space will not be empty. We’ll be debuting a photo tour of the 2012 Quilting in the Garden exhibition at Alden Lane in Livermore, California where we, the See How We Sew bloggers, were invited to display our quilts along with the handiwork of the spectacular Judy Mathieson and Thom Atkins, among others.

Thanks as well to our viewers who made the exhibition the MOST successful online event we’ve sponsored to date. Wow! You visited in droves from across the globe. It was epic!

Hand-dyes from Ghana offered for sale at PIQF 2012 from Ananse Village of Ft. Bragg, CA.

We also got input from vendors who sell African fabrics in North America.  Ananse Village which is based in Ft. Bragg, yet another coastal locale (Mendocino this time), sells a wide variety of fabrics and handicrafts from Africa and Haiti. (Clearly, I’m having a Love Coastal California week with my Tuesday post about the Monterey Peninsula.)

I had a close encounter with Ananse Village’s African prints at the 2012 Pacific International Quilt Festival a couple of weekends ago and succumbed to a pair of damask Ghanian prints. Hey, after Paula’s rundown on several types of African fabrics, I’m almost licensed to be an expert. Almost.

Delicious piles of artisanal African fabrics displayed by Ananse Village at PIQF 2012, Santa Clara, CA.

Ananse Village, like Michelle Dunn of Kallisti Quilts and Valerie Hearder of African Threads who both contributed quilts to our Gallery show, sells fabric and handicrafts online.

Close-up view of some lovely mustard yellow prints–I ONLY bought yellow fabrics at PIQF. Why? Just because . . .

Even though the African exhibit is closing, the exhibition’s Gallery Guide will continue to be available here.

Happy sewing,

Back Porch Fabric: A Fabric Mecca for Quilting Enthusiasts in Pacific Grove, California

The Monterey coastline–fancy that: a quilt shop + fantastic scenery. Photo by Kim Butterworth

I’m sure the latest tour guides don’t include this tidbit about a particular stretch of coastal California, but did you know that the Monterey Peninsula is a quilter’s mecca? Five times a year the region hosts the incomparable Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar, attracting the brightest of the craft’s teaching talent. Beyond that, Pacific Grove, a bracing beach walk away from the Asilomar conference grounds, is the locale for Back Porch Fabrics, a dream of a quilt shop just a half-block off the town’s main drag on the Monterey Bay side.

Earlier this month I had the honor to strut my lecturing and trunk-show stuff at a meeting of the local guild, Monterey Peninsula Quilters  Guild.  (My most sincere thanks to a welcoming group of quilting women!) Bright and early the next morning, I stopped by Back Porch Fabrics for a look-see. Of course, I left later with a lighter wallet, but the purchases were sublime and exactly what I needed for the quilt I’m planning for my niece/goddaughter’s upcoming wedding.

Now I’ve been to plenty of guild shops across the country, for me though, Back Porch Fabrics is a real standout. Owner Gail Abeloe has impeccable fabric taste–always a plus–and she’s got a store layout that appeals mightily to the neat freak in me. (I only wish I could fulfill my tidy tendencies the way she can. Living with three adult sports-TV-watching males, two of whom zealously avoid chores, pretty much undermines my compulsion for order.)

The store’s natural light is bright, the rafters are tall, the walls are white, the floor is hardwood, and the display shelving is full of bolts stacked in color and style order. What a pleasure it is to browse! Plus, like any canny proprietor, Gail parks the flashy new fabric right inside the front door. Yes, I purchased from that selection. Could you doubt that?

Welcome to Gail Abeloe’s cabinet of quilting wonders at Back Porch Fabric in Pacific Grove, CA!

Another standout feature of Back Porch Fabrics is the beguiling array of quilts tacked to the walls that delivers serious fodder for shopper creativity.

See that middle quilt? Yeah, well, I had to buy the book to make that one.

Back Porch Fabrics also hosts a Gallery where Gail invites artists to show their handiwork. Sometimes she features individuals, and at other times, thematic exhibitions.

Look to right of the wall quilt for a glimpse into the shop’s Gallery. The current exhibit, “Digitally Textured Quilts,” runs through the end of the month.

To my delight I bought so much on that excursion, I earned a gift certificate. (I’ll take ANY excuse to drive to Pacific Grove!)

Back Porch Fabrics: a place to commune with fabric of varied color, print, and texture.

FYI:  the See How We Sew gallery exhibition of African quilts is about to close.  Get your views in as soon as you can. The good news for our readers is that you won’t have to wait long for a new exhibit–we will close out October with a peek at our weekend at Quilting in the Garden at Alden Lane, Livermore, CA.

Wishing you successful fabric shopping (possibly at Back Porch Fabrics)!

Friday Photo(s): A Fresh, Award-winning Take on Free-Form Flowers

Recently I had the opportunity to visit my old stomping grounds–the mountains of Western North Carolina–and lo and behold, my stay coincided with the Asheville Quilt Guild’s annual show! How lucky was that? This year’s theme was Color Your Life…With Quilts, and true to its title, the show boasted over  250 fabulous, color-drenched quilts, ranging from teensy to king-sized, from the most traditional to the cutting edge.

As I wove my way through the colorful maze, a particular quilt came into view, stopping me in my tracks.

Posies, made by Theresa Curd of West Jefferson, NC.

Posies, made by my friend, Theresa Curd (with whom I was attending the show), stood out for its joyful palette and whimsical style. (Apparently it caught the eye of the judges, too, who awarded it a coveted Merit Quilt designation.) But color and design were only part of the story for me. As Theresa pointed out with a smile, she had created the playful “posies” using the free-form flower technique I wrote about in my July 1, 2011 post!

Final steps in making a free-form flower, from my 7/1/11 post

I love how Theresa expanded on my basic idea by framing up the oddly shaped flowers and planting them in wonky pots.

Posies (detail), quilt made by Theresa Curd.

It’s always rewarding–and inspiring–to see a talented quilter pick up on the seed of an idea and adapt it to create an original work that reflects her personal style. I hope you’ve been finding–and continue to find–inspiration in our See How We Sew posts, and will consider sharing stories and/or photos of your SHWS-inspired quilts and projects with us. We’d love to hear from you! Leave us a comment below or send us your photos via

Many thanks to Theresa Curd and to the folks at the Asheville Quilt Guild for their assistance with this post.’Til next time, happy stitching!

Two-for-One Basket Blocks…Easy, Easy, Easy (+ a Book Giveaway)

Last time I posted, I previewed one of the quilts in Cuddle Me Quick: 11 Baby Quilt Designs, my brand-new book, co-authored once again with my friend, Christine Porter. Chris and I are very excited about our “new baby” and look forward to meeting in Houston next week to promote the book at Fall Market. (More on that later.)

Hot off the press!

In this post, rather than just a photo, I’d like to share the quick-piecing technique that I  used to make the little baskets in A-Tisket, A-Tasket, another quilt from Cuddle Me Quick. This fun-and-easy method lets you make two sweet little Basket blocks at once, saving you time both cutting and sewing. (FYI: Want to make the entire quilt? Complete yardage amounts, cutting, assembly, and quilting suggestions appear in the book, along with the technique described below)

A-Tisket, A Tasket, 38 5/8″ x 44 1/4″, designed and made by Darra Williamson, machine appliqued and quilted by Chris Porter.

You’ll love this technique. It’s soooooo easy! The following instructions yield two 4″ x 4″ finished blocks, the perfect size for using those charm squares you’ve been saving.

1. Cut one square each, 5″ x 5″, from three different fabrics. Determine which square will be the basket bottom, the handle, and the background.

Step 1: Cut three 5″ squares.

2. Following the manufacturer’s instructions for the fusible, prepare the handle square for fusing. Use the handle pattern in the Pattern Library to make a handle template. (Be sure your printer is set to print the pattern at 100%; no scaling.) Cut the handle from the prepared handle square.

Step 2. Prepare the handle for fusing.

3. Fold the background square from corner to corner in both directions; unfold and fingerpress. Using the foldlines as a guide, center the handle on the background square. Fuse the handle and finish the edges as desired. (I used a straight stitch here for demo purposes; Chris used a machine blanket stitch in contrasting thread for the blocks in the quilt.)

Step 3. Fuse the handle; secure with stitching.

4. Draw a diagonal line, corner to corner, on the wrong side of the appliqued background square. Draw a line 1/4″ from the original line on both sides. Place the marked square right sides together with the basket-bottom square. Sew on the two outermost lines.

Step 4. Sew on the two outermost marked lines.

5. Cut the unit apart on the center diagonal line.

Step 5: Cut the triangles apart on the center line.

6. Press the units open and voila! Two identical Basket blocks. Trim the blocks to 4 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ if necessary.

Chris used a decorative machine blanket stitch to finish the basket handles in A-Tisket, A-Tasket.

To further celebrate our new book, I’m offering an autographed copy as a giveaway to one of our See How We Sew readers! Leave a comment by midnight (PST), November 8, telling me why you’d like to own this book, and you’ll be entered into the random drawing to win. I’ll announce the winner in my 11/20 post.

Meantime, we’ve got a winner for the Lark Crafts book, Creative Quilting with Beads, from my September 18 post. And that winner is…fleurette! Please email your snail-mail address via, and I’ll get your book on its way.

Finally, if you plan to be at Market: Chris and I will be doing a 30-minute Schoolhouse on Friday, October 26, at 1:20 pm in Room 352D; we’ll have a doorprizes for a few lucky attendees. We’ll also be doing demos and signing books at the Martingale & Company booth (#264), Saturday, October 27, 10:30 am – 11:30 am. Do stop by and say hello!

‘Til next time, happy stitching!

Final Block of the Month Instructions and a Pumpkin or Two

I can’t believe it’s October already! When we started our little block of the month project back in January, it seemed like a long way off! But here we are, our blocks are finished and the pumpkins are in abundance. Speaking of pumpkins . . .

I’ve always been partial to the neutral colors in these mini pumpkins.

Fall is my favorite season, and the other day when I came across these beauties, it was a reminder that the leaves will be turning and cooler weather is just around the corner (soon I hope, last week it was 98 degrees).

So our twenty-five blocks are finished, and we’re ready to complete our quilt tops. Click here to download the final block of the month instructions for setting, sashing and border. Instructions for all the monthly blocks can be found in our pattern library.

I’m still working on completing my quilts, and will share photos with you as soon as they’re finished. My friend Allison (who had an advance preview of the final instructions) got busy and finished her quilt. She used a Jelly Roll in Sweetwater‘s Hometown line from Moda (you may remember seeing her May block in a previous post). Congratulations Allison, your quilt is divine!

Allison’s finished Block of the Month quilt.

Keep sewing and let me know how your quilts are coming along!

Voila! Two easy to make voile scarves.

I love wearing scarves and am so happy that they are in vogue. I have knitted several beautiful ones from baby alpaca and I always seem to find a new one while shopping at some of my favorite stores. Someday I’ll have to count how many I have, or perhaps I really don’t want to know!

Now that our big show is over…more later on that, I felt I needed a creative play day. I brought out the stack of beautifully printed voile fabrics given to us by the generous people at Amy Butler Designs. If you want just a pop of color without adding warmth around your neck, these fabrics are the perfect choice. In fact, they just feel like butter and are much easier to work with than one might imagine.

Beautiful voiles by Amy Butler Designs.

I like the look and feel of both the fluffy scarves and the popular infinity designs so I decided to play with some ideas I’ve had brewing for awhile.

This first one is just a simple infinity scarf (think tube) that is made with two fabrics. I’m planning to make another using four different fabrics.  I think it will be so lovely as the different colors and designs twist around my neck.

Choose two fabrics. Then cut two 10-1/2” x 36-1/2” pieces from each one.

With the right sides together, join two pieces of different fabrics together along a short end. Press the seam open. Repeat for the other two pieces.

Next, place the long strips together, right sides facing and stitch together along both edges, starting and stopping 4” from each end.

Note that the edges are offset to indicate that there are two layers. Align edges when stitching.

Turn the tube of fabric right side facing out. With right sides together, stitch one of the short ends together, folding the other short edge out of the way.

Next, stitch the other end. Then turn the tube wrong side out and stitch one of the side openings closed. Turn right side out again and hand stitch the final opening closed.

Voila – ready to wear. You have the choice of leaving it full or pressing flat. Since, as I said earlier, I like the fluffy look, I tend not to press the seams flat.

Here’s a second version, again using voile fabrics.

For this scarf, I cut two 10-1/2″ x 36″ pieces of fabric. I joined the short ends together with a flat fell seam to make one long piece. Here’s a quick tutorial on flat fell seams in case you need a refresher.

Lay the two ends wrong sides together, placing the top piece 1/4″ down from the underneath piece. Stitch 1/4″ from the edge of the top piece.

Next, open the fabrics, press the seam flat and then turn the 1/4″ extension of the back fabric over the edge of the shorter end. Press firmly and then pin to hold the crease. Finally, stitch close to the folded edge to complete the seam.

I found two options for finishing the edges of the fabric. The first one creates a narrow hem all the way around. I hemmed the short ends first. Stitch 1/4″ from the edges. Use the stitching line as a guide while turning and pressing a narrow folded hem. Stitch close to the folded edge. Repeat for the other sides of the scarf.

The second option creates a rolled hem that is often found on lightweight fabrics. I used perle cotton thread. The thread is placed about 1/8″ from the edge of the fabric. I set both my stitch width and length at 2. The needle will catch the edge of the fabric and bring it back over the edge of the perle cotton. This takes a bit of practice but well worth the time.

Perle cotton 1/8″ away from the raw edge of the fabric.

Finished edge of rolled hem. Even the yellow thread used for this tutorial is hidden in the roll.

Here’s the fun part. I used elastic thread to make it “fluffy”. Again, with the machine set on zig zag, and the wrong side of the fabric facing up, stitch over the elastic thread. Gently pull along the thread as you sew. The amount of stretch will determine the amount of gathers. You can adjust as desired.

Zig zag over a piece of elastic thread. Gently pulling on the thread as you sew.

I ran two rows of gathers down the length of the scarf. You can design to your own liking.

Just have fun and enjoy!

Happy Fall everyone. I’m ready to start baking pumpkin pies. How about you?