A Scraptastic Quilting Adventure + A Kaffe Fassett Giveaway Today!

A springtime posy to enjoy.
A springtime posy of magenta anemones, bicolor tulips, freesia, ranunculus, grape hyacinth, and alyssum.

Giveaway-GoldApparently, I’m all about my own quilting updates lately. This post? Same old, same old. You are, after all, visiting a blog called See How We Sew—we’ve got to show our handiwork sometimes . . . The fun part of this week’s post is that I get to invite someone along on my Kaffe Fassett ride! His U.S. publisher, TheTaunton Press, is offering a giveaway of one of Kaffe’s latest titles—see details below.

Inspiration-J:  UFO boxes stacked

Remember my Year of Finishing posts? It turns out that my hope for a single year effort is morphing into a multi-year, multi-pronged campaign: I’m finishing UFO’s and reducing my stash. Last October, I found a fun stash-busting project at Back Porch Fabrics and decided I’d jump in with scrap fabrics. Well, as one thing inevitably leads to another, bigger thing, I also decided to tackle a foundering Kaffe Fassett project from Kaffe Fassett’s Quilt Road. I figured if I finished that one first, then I could use the excessive number of leftover strips to fund the scrappy quilt. Makes sense, right? Start a new quilt, finish two? Just means more quilted love to spread around!

A harvest of hexies for “My Fair Lady” from Kaffe Fassett’s Quilt Road.

I confess, scrappy, stash-busting quilts present their own particular torments to me. It’s easy to get lost and stymied by too many fabric choices. I started Kaffe’s My Fair Lady with a few themed fabrics that I adored and then proceeded to design myself into a corner with hexagons that were overwhelming with saturated color or print.

Book-J:  Kaffe Fassett's Quilt RoadThe trial layouts were so ghastly I scooped up my hexies and stuffed them in a plastic box for storage. The funny thing is that when I lifted the lid a few weeks ago to restart the project, I amazed myself by selecting some very nice strip combos for the hexagons. Well, it seems that time is a healer indeed. What’s more, I only needed to make seven strip sets to finish the quilt top!

Even armed with my redeeming hexies, I faced the challenge of getting the weirdos and the pretty ones to play together in the quilt layout. The first draft was HIDEOUS! I could not achieve an effective distribution of the strong and weak ones. I ended up with cabals of saturated colors, repeats of strong prints, and dominating stripes. Every time I walked by my living room (my quilts-in-the-making live on the floor by my sofa) I kept getting sucked into weird games of hexie tic-tac-toe.

Block-J:  Kaffe Fassett My Fair Lady Hexagon

Tired of the madness, I pulled up the hexagons; sorted them into categories by color, pattern, value; and distributed them into seven piles—i.e. the number of rows in the quilt. Bingo! That was the key to dispersing the troublemakers. I don’t know why I didn’t do that in the first place. You’d think I’d listen to my own scrappy quilt-making mantra: random acts of randomness. Gotta admit I hijacked: “practice random acts of kindness.” Yeah, well, it’s not the most eloquent adaptation, but chanting it in my head does help me when I want a scattered pattern.

Giveaway Details Check Here!

Amidst this project I discovered a new Kaffe book that re-explores past designs with brand new colorways and prints. Lo and behold, the book includes a redo of My Fair Lady! Luckily for SHWS readers, The Taunton Press would like to share that Kaffe Fassett wonderfulness with us. So, to enter the random drawing, leave me a comment answering the following question:  What’s your fave Kaffe thrill? His fabric, patterns, or both? It’s another quickie contest so leave your comment by Thursday, March 21 and I will announce a winner in my upcoming Friday post.  Good luck!

Book-J:  Kaffe Quilts Again

I’m almost finished with my version of My Fair Lady and, after a rocky start, it’s turning out to be much prettier than I expected. As a bonus, the unfinished quilt top is fun fodder for digital camera experiments. Lurid and wonderful stained glass effects resulted when I photographed the reverse side against strong natural light (and a little too much wind) using a Super Vivid camera option.

Sometimes the backside, shot against strong light, is  even better than the front.

See ya Friday with a giveaway winner, J-Signature

10 Things I’ve Learned From Hanging Out With Candace Kling, Ribbon Worker Extraordinaire

Inspiration-J: Candace Kling's Studio
How wonderful are these pretty blossoms? I absolutely love the satiny texture of the ribbons and their colors.

1.  Candace Kling, the subject of my Tuesday post, has a wonderful studio with plenty of room to spread out works-in-progress and storage for supplies, tools, and everything else. It’s a shared warehouse space with a surface design artist/art professor, a print maker, and a fashion designer.

Candace's main work center with the super-cool map drawer set.
Candace’s main work center with the super-cool map drawer set.

2.  Candace is wonderfully organized in the best-possible, non-anal way. Shelves display labeled boxes filled with wondrous flowery and ribbony treasures; a re-purposed set of map drawers in her primary work area holds her most useful supplies and tools; and file drawers stock class curricula and other material for her life as a working artist. The atmosphere is hip-creative and yet not precious or overwrought with “studio” design.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's Studio

3.  She’s well connected. After 30 years in pursuit of her craft, she’s got ties with a huge community of artists, collectors, crafters, collaborators, curators, peers, students, suppliers, and so forth. There’s a lot of activity in her orbit–a vintage hat discovery by a friend in an L.A. resale shop could be the start of a new exploration.

Straight from her worktable--a pretty blossom with handmade stamens and a center with cording hand dyed by a student and sculpted by Candace
Straight from her worktable–a pretty blossom with handmade stamens and a center with cording hand dyed by a student and sculpted by Candace

4.  Relatedly, Candace knows her way through private and museum costume collections.  Much of her work and teaching derives from close-up study of these garments. Her detailed analysis and documentation preserves our understanding of historic clothing and our appreciation of antique workmanship.

A mid-20th century cashmere sweater with wonderful ribbon work and embroidered details.
A mid-20th century cashmere sweater with wonderful ribbon work and embroidered details.

5.  Speaking of learning from vintage goods, she has an incredibly precise eye when she examines these fragile wares and has developed a variety of hands-off techniques for measurement. Often all she can use is a piece of thread for determining the dimensions of each element she’s studying. Her academic background in figure drawing and garment design/construction certainly honed her skills and raised her comfort level, and gave her the confidence to tackle even an 18th-century gown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Precision? These perfect tiny blossoms are probably 1/2" in diameter
Precision? These perfect tiny blossoms are probably 1/2″ in diameter.

6.  Candace has a sublime resource library of ribbon, stamens, leaves, etc. A good portion of her stock is vintage goods culled from her finds and purchases from collectors. The new materials come from specialty shops and online stores. Everything is sorted, categorized, and labeled. And she’ll also custom make some of the elements, like stamens, when she needs a particular color or shape.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's ribbon collectionInspiration-J:  Candace Kling's StudioInspiration-J:  Candace Kling's Studio

Inspiration-J: Candace Kling's ribbon drawer7.  All told, she takes a fine-arts approach to her work, which is very thoughtfully composed, almost as though she’s painting a portrait or still life. There’s great deliberation in placement, proportion, size, depth, and shadowing.

This still life is a casual sketch combining old and new flowers--the vase is a re-purposed vintage handbag
This still life is a casual sketch combining old and new flowers–the vase is a re-purposed vintage handbag.

8.  Candace goes to extremes. Really? Yes! Most of her work can fit in the palm of a hand, but she’s been known to blow the roof off fine-art installations. Her sculpture, Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls, is 17 feet tall. Countless yards of hand-pleated and pressed sateen wrap a constructed plinth and cascade across the floor in sculpted, undulating waves.

"Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls" by Candace Kling
“Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls” by Candace Kling
Close-up view of the hand-folded and pressed pleats, and sculpted into undulating liquid-like shapes.
Close-up view of the hand-folded and pressed pleats that have been sculpted into undulating liquid-like shapes.

9.  She has all the material, research, and images for a new book . . .

What's on Candace's work table? Trippy Japanese lanterns, rosebuds, and other fanciful flowers.
What’s on Candace’s work table? Trippy Japanese lanterns, rosebuds, and other fanciful flowers.

10.  Meeting her changed me. (No, I’m not a vampire now, Twilight fans.) I’m about to turn my dimensional applique process on its head by paying much more attention to how I use fabric on the bias and straight of grain when building my flowers. Using a bias-cut pattern piece on the back side and a straight-grained piece on the front will enhance my ability to sculpt my flowers–I guess I should’ve paid more attention in Home Ec.

Oh yes, the giveaway of a copy of The Artful Ribbon . . . did you read my reply to yesterday’s comments? Candace Kling has bestowed 2 autographed copies on me for the giveaway. And so, without further ado the winners are Pam S. and Laura Tawney! Congratulations, you’ve won a fantastic book!

I will now repair to my small, uncool studio/laundry room to work on flowers ala Candace Kling . . . later crafters, quilters, and sewists!



Candace Kling, Masterful Manipulator of Fabric & Ribbon–Giveaway Today!

Good enough to eat? Candace Kling's delicious "Eye Candy" may fool you, but the confections are made of fabric!
Good enough to eat? Candace Kling’s delicious “Eye Candy” may fool you, but the confections are made of fabric!

I don’t think it’s a secret here at the blog that I’ve got a case of floral love. I’ve a habit of posting flower photos when I blog and dancing around blossomy themes and colors in much of my work. Which makes me think you’re not going to be shocked when I reveal that my fave crafting book is about flowers.Giveaway-Gold

Do you know The Artful Ribbon by Candace Kling from C&T Publishing? Not only do I have an update on Candace’s further flower adventures here, but she gave me an autographed copy of The Artful Ribbon as a giveaway to one of our readers! (See details below.)

Book-J:  The Artful Ribbon by Candace Kling

Isn’t that book cover spectacular?

Lucky for me, Candace lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined me for lunch last Friday and, even better, she invited me to her studio so I could see her handiwork LIVE!

Pansies and fuchsia
Pansies and fuchsia made with fabric and ribbon

Reading The Artful Ribbon was transformative to me. I poured over its pages and experimented here and there with her flower-building instructions. Did I become a fabulous hat or dressmaker as a result? Nah, I just had a heck of a great time playing with ribbon and embellishing handmade decor. Nonetheless, apprenticing to Candace via her book taught me much about translating the natural world into sewn form.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's flowers
The rosy nosegay shows her incredible skill with “sculpting” floral shapes, the tiny flowers show her dexterity.

Meeting her turned out to be somewhat life changing as well. I set out to interview a renowned craftswoman, but I walked away with incalculable insight into creating floral artwork. A long-time teacher, imparting know-how is as natural as breathing to her—even her hands speak as she describes sculpting petal-like shapes from ribbons and fabric.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's flowersCandace is a child of the Sixties; actually, she’s a true flower child who is Bay Area born and raised. While she has formal training from leading art schools in drawing, fashion design, and costuming, what she knows about embellishments she gained first by working in an East Bay vintage clothing store called Bizarre Bazaar (Facebook link) as a seamstress and then by studying the collections of leading museums and private collectors.

At that time, BizBaz was the locus of heavy trading in garments of all 20th century decades, some even earlier. The shop was hands-on learning of the best sort because Candace tailored and fit the vintage garments for the buyers who wore them out into the world. The museum wares she studies even now are handled very gently and worn only by mannequins on the rare occasion of a public exhibit and are otherwise strictly hands-off.

Inspiration-J: Candace Kling's cockades etc.
Intricately folded cockades perfect for finely tailored clothing

Her renown as a resource about vintage clothing and embellishment, and her growing skill at ribbon work, helped her build a very busy schedule of teaching and lecturing opportunities that continues today. It turns out that ribbon work is a skill that crosses many disciplines so Candace can bring her expertise to the widest range crafters from milliners to interior designers and costumers. She teaches actively in Northern California at guilds and shops like The Ribbonerie and The Sewing Workshop in San Francisco and travels outside of California to other venues as well. Visit her website for her teaching schedule.

I was so dazzled by our visit that I realized I couldn’t possibly fit everything I wanted to cover in one post. On Friday we’ll visit Candace’s studio to see recent work and other wonders. That means the turnaround for the giveaway will be super quick. Leave me a comment by this Thursday, January 24 and I’ll announce a winner in my Friday post.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling box of confections
“Eye Candy” by Candace Kling–visually appetizing and easy on the waistline

FYI: Visit Candace’s website and/or find the resource page at the back of The Artful Ribbon if you have questions about resources for ribbons and embellishments.

See you Friday!


A Shower of Flowers: Nancy Mahoney and Her Fabulous (Vintage and New) Floral-Themed Quilts

As soon as we decided on May Flowers as our theme for this month, I knew immediately what (and whom!) I would write about in today’s post.

The multi-talented Nancy Mahoney

Over the years, Nancy Mahoney and I have crossed “professional paths” many times. I’ve edited a number of her books for Martingale & Company; more than once, she has generously lent me vintage quilts from her extensive collection, including five beauties for my appearance on The Quilt Show (Episode 805).

Nancy, who lives in Palm Coast, FL, is a prolific quiltmaker, author (12 books and counting!), teacher, editor, and pattern designer. She also designs fabric and creates quilts for P&B Textiles, and has been collecting quilts for many years, with a particular interest in those from the 1930s, which she began acquiring well before they had achieved their current, highly collectible status.

As is typical of quilts from that period, many of Nancy’s vintage quilts showcase wonderful floral designs.

This floral-themed Dresden Daisy Chain dates from the 1930s. It’s from Nancy’s collection; she lent it to me for my appearance on The Quilt Show.

“Prior to the 1930s, floral designs were much more abstract,” Nancy explains, “but in the ’30s, these designs became more realistic; a rose looked like a rose. Favorite traditional patterns were rediscovered, while some patterns, such as Double Wedding Ring, appeared for the first time.” Syndicated patterns appeared in newspapers across the country, often attributed to fictitious designers with names like Laura Wheeler and Alice Brooks. Kits were popular as well.

This wonderful 1930s Pansy quilt–also from Nancy’s collection–was made from a kit. Similar kits were available from Needlecraft Magazine for $3.49 and included applique shapes stamped for cutting, and a top pre-marked for applique and quilting.
Detail of Nancy’s vintage Pansy quilt

I guess it’s not surprising that Nancy not only collects wonderful quilts with floral themes, but makes them, too! She draws her inspiration from a variety of sources. She loves to garden, and enjoys visiting gardens and nurseries, especially when she travels, to view the many varieties of flowers and to study their colors and textures. Of course, she is influenced by the floral quilts of the 1930s as well. The following four quilts are from her book, Applique Quilt Revival: Updated Patterns from the ’30s, which includes patterns and instructions for making them.

Tulip Patch, 78 3/4″ x 91 3/8″, designed by Nancy Mahoney, made by Loretta Sylvester, and machine quilted by Kelly Wise
Rose and Bow Wreath, 60 1/2″ x 60 1/2″, designed by Nancy Mahoney, made by Julie Sheckman, and machine quilted by Nan Moore
Peony Garden, 72 5/8″ x 84 5/8″, designed and made by Nancy Mahoney, machine quilted by Dawn Kelly
Flower Garden, 46 1/2″ x 55 3/4″, designed and made by Nancy Mahoney, machine quilted by Nan Moore

This next quilt is from Nancy’s classic book, Treasures from the ’30s. It’s one of eight wonderful designs–many of them flower themed–patterned in its pages.

Bell Flowers, 64″ x 64″, designed and made by Nancy Mahoney, machine quilted by Nan Moore

Here’s the cover of Treasures, so you can look for it at your favorite quilt shop.

The final three quilts appear in one of Nancy’s most recent books, aptly titled Fast, Fusible Flower Quilts.

Precious Peonies, 68 1/2″ x 68 1/2″, designed, pieced, and appliqued by Nancy Mahoney, machine quilted by Nan Moore
Daisy Vines, 43 1/2″ x 53 1/2″, designed and made by Nancy Mahoney
Orange Marmalade, 65 1/2″ x 82 1/2″, designed, pieced, and appliqued by Nancy Mahoney, machine quilted by Kelly Wise

Nancy’s longtime publisher, Martingale & Company, has generously provided a copy of Fast, Fusible Flower Quilts as a giveaway for one of our lucky readers. The book  includes patterns for “Precious Peonies,” “Daisy Vines,” “Orange Marmalade,” and eight more colorful, floral-themed pieced and appliqued quilts. Just leave us a comment telling us your favorite flower by midnight (PDT), Wednesday, May 16, and you’ll be entered in a random drawing for this book. I’ll announce the winner in my Friday, May 18 post.

Among her many quilt-related activities, Nancy enjoys traveling and teaching. Visit her website for details about her extensive listing of workshops and lectures, and for information on her current teaching schedule. If you plan to attend International Quilt Market in Kansas City, MO, later this month, look for Nancy at the Martingale booth on Friday, May 18, at 1:30 PM, where she’ll be signing copies of her brand-new book, Kaleidoscope Paper Piecing. (I told you she was prolific!)

Many thanks to Nancy for the photos of her vintage quilts, and to Martingale & Company for the use of the quilt images from Nancy’s books.

Finally, I’m happy to announce that the winner of the triple giveaway from my April 20 post is…Pip! Pip, please send me your snail-mail address via seehowwesew@gmail.com and I’ll get your package off to you with a Non-Stick Pressing Sheet from June Tailor, a package of five 9″ x 12″ sheets of Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 from The Warm Company, and a craft pack of Fast2Fuse from C&T Publishing.

That’s all for now. ‘Til next time, happy sewing!

In the Frame: Part 2 of Heidi Adnum’s Perspective on Photographing Quilts

In my last post, you’ll recall See How We Sew hosted a stop on Heidi Adnum’s blog tour for The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos from Interweave Press. We’re still on topic with today’s edition:  we’re taking a gander at Heidi’s suggestions for flat-shot quilt photography. She’s got so many good ideas that I’ve opted to give you the highlights here and provide a PDF version of her extended answer for those who want details. Click here.

Flat shot on wall by Heather Moore. Click the photo to visit her Etsy site.

While good lighting is always the #1 requirement for successful quilt photography, there are a few other essentials Heidi suggests for shooting whole quilts. Ultimately, the challenge is to capture the full size of the quilt and the totality its pattern/design as well.  That means flattening the quilt against a surface like a floor, table, or wall.

Heidi’s Tips:

  • Select a background bigger than the quilt. Backgrounds that are too small look messy and contain distracting details.
  •  Aim the camera directly at the quilt’s center to mitigate perspective and distortion challenges. (Here’s your clue that you’ve missed the center point with your focus:  your quilt’s edges will be tapered or rounded.)
  •  Consider investing in a mid-range professional tripod that combines a vertical column with one that will rotate and lock horizontally at 180 degrees. Tripods make it easier to photograph quilts straight on when spread on a floor or another flat surface.
  •  Investigate using wider-angle lenses—generally 50mm and below—to achieve a broader field of view. You’ll get a little distortion, but you can minimize that by increasing the area of your background by an additional foot or so and cropping excess background in photo editing.

The bottom line is that it’s easier to photograph large quilts on the wall than on the floor, but the biggest challenge with that strategy is affixing the quilt to the wall and keeping it flat.  Heidi suggests using double-stick tape, especially exhibition tape with low- and high-tack sides. You’ll find more insights into craft photography in her wonderful book and in the interview excerpt linked above.

Professional flat shot of "Harajuku Feathered Star" by Laura Nownes. Click the image to visit her original post on the theme fabric and star design. Visit Laura's Etsy site for all her patterns.

For those in need of especially high-quality quilt photographs, there are professional resources available. As quilt makers who design patterns for purchase, Christie, Laura, and I occasionally turn to C&T Publishing when we need to photograph our larger quilts.

Professional flat shot of "Zen Roses" by Jennifer Rounds. Sorry no pattern, but I'll gladly teach you my dimensional applique process!
Professional flat shot of "Block Party" by Christie Batterman. Click the photo to see Christie's Artichoke Collection patterns.

About that Interweave giveaway and the winners of the valentine’s challenge . . . Carmen has won a copy of Heidi Adnum’s The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos. Congratulations! And many thanks to our visiting author and Interweave for the book and the blog-tour visit.

Hearty congrats to Kim Butterworth for best interpretation of theme with “Heart-FELT Valentine,” Sandra Bruce for “XOXO,” and Michelle Rockwood for “Hearts Full of Love.” Each will win handmade heart earrings which I photographed by using Heidi’s nifty idea for a light box explained on page 56 of her book. Click Gallery to visit our Heartfelt Special Exhibit (FYI: closes 2/29/12) and click any image to start the slideshow. Till next time, Happy Quilting!

For Your Bookshelf: Heidi Adnum’s “The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos”

Have you noticed our recent bookishness? Well, that trend continues today with a blog-tour visit by Heidi Adnum, author of The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos from Interweave Press. Check below for giveaway details and click here for the tour itinerary.

Heidi’s made her mark on Etsy offering fine art prints and handmade décor called Good Will Bunting, but it’s her photographic skills that have given her an enviable edge in online commerce and made her a go-to resource for photography tips.

The bottom line here:  I LOVE Heidi’s book! It’s my new blogging bible. Seriously.

It’s one thing to write a post, quite another to take the images that capture the spirit of a tale, illustrate a technique, or showcase handiwork. Who will be tempted to read a post if the photos don’t sell the message? (Much less spend precious bucks for a handcrafted item that isn’t drool-worthy.)

Photo by Rodica Cioplea

Of all the hurdles to setting up and running a collaborative blog like ours, photo taking has been among our toughest weekly challenges. Enter Heidi’s instructional guide complete with do-it-yourself accessories and real-world insight from featured artists. I’ve hopes that I can close the gap between my creative ambitions and technical skills now that I’ve perused the book and experimented with her suggestions.

While Heidi’s book tends to focus on photographing smaller crafts and fashion, her insights are equally appropriate for those of us who want to showcase quilts. Luckily, blog tour hosts can query visiting authors so I asked Heidi for advice when photographing quilts. She gave me so much great information that I’m splitting the details into two posts. Check back Friday, February 17 for the next installment–she’ll be covering flat shots of quilts.

What advice do you have for photographing large-scale items, like quilts?

I think in situ and neutral backgrounds are two great options for styling quilts. In situ styling (also known as lifestyle or on-site styling) includes homey settings such as a living room or bedroom, on a wall, draped over a sofa, or folded and stacked on a chair, etc. Choose an uncluttered, not-too-personal setting, moving the prop nearer to the window to take advantage of natural light, if necessary.

Outdoor settings can be lovely, too; just make sure that the lighting is soft and the scene is relevant to the object. For example, you wouldn’t normally hang your quilt over the verandah, but you might drape it over a chair.

Photo by Heather Moore

Neutral backgrounds in whites, soft grays, and natural colors will let the beautiful detail, color, and patterns of a quilt do all the talking. Neutral styling can also include walls, but choose walls without distracting details. Combining the two together, that is, a neutral background with a simple but relevant in situ prop, can give you a clean and contemporary result, similar to what you will often see in higher-end home décor stores, catalogs, and websites.

Using a white wall against a white or concrete floor and one or two simple but classic props, such as a beautiful chair or hanger makes a high-impact visual statement. Photographing a quilt that is laid out on a bed won’t allow the full pattern to show, but it will still give the viewer a good idea of the pattern and composition.

Photo by Helen Rawlinson

Try shooting your photo from eye-level or slightly below and consider framing a side-on view to the bed or diagonally across the bed’s surface from one of the bottom corners, depending on the room layout and quilt design. Check the book for tips on showing the texture of the fabrics that your quilt is made from. H.A.

Now about that book giveaway . . . Interweave Press is generously offering a copy of Heidi’s book to one of our readers. You know the drill: leave a comment by Friday, February 10 for the random drawing and I’ll announce the winner in my next scheduled post the following Friday, February 17.

REMINDER:  The Heartfelt Valentine challenge also ends on Friday, February 10–I’m working on the prizes so you work on your valentines! Click here for challenge details and our Gallery preview.

Neutral Palettes: Sophisticated and Sensational!

Black adds drama to a neutral palette.

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.

Neutral palette using Urban Chic pattern.

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.

Look for the project instructions in "Neutral Essentials"

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:

Another of my favorites!

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.

My dancing rings "dandelion"

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.

Happy sewing!