Embroidery Workshop with Debby Schnabel

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Close up of Debbie Schnabel’s freeform embroidery.
The annual event, Quilting in the Garden, was held a few weeks back. Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore, CA. hosts this wonderful quilt show. If you have followed our blog for a while, you know that we have covered many of the past shows. It is a gorgeous venue of quilts hanging in majestic oak trees at a beautiful nursery, filled with fall festivities.

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Quilting in The Garden, 2017.
Quilting in the Garden also hosts classes the week before the show, with some truly talented quilt teachers. This year, Laura and I (along with a few of our quilty friends), were fortunate enough to take a hand embroidery workshop with the very talented Debby Schnabel.

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Let’s just digest that for a moment. An embroidery class, with a talented teacher, filled with classmates that were our quilty friends, doing handwork, at a quilt show venue, in a beautiful nursery, that just happens to be filled with massive old oak trees – on a gorgeous fall day.

Got that? Needless to say it was wonderful.

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Debbie Schnabel’s creative threadwork.
Here is a peek at some of Debby’s intricate work. You can see more of her work on her website at https://debbyschnabel.com.2017-09-22 12.35.13

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And here are a few peeks of the student works.

terri embroidery sampleTerri Carpenter, longarm quilter of Hello Stitch,  played with some improvisational clamshells.

Karen M sample

My table mate and good friend, Karen McArdle, took her project on a plane ride the next week, finished it up, and gave it as a gift! Lucky recipient!

Linda Lambert embroidery

Laura’s table mate, Linda Lambert worked on this whimsical little project.Alex Anderson sample Here’s the cheery piece Alex Anderson was working on.

File Nov 01

I decided to play with paisley’s and background texture. My 1st paisley was a bit lopsided, but I figured it out on the second one!


Laura made this sweet vine and berries piece. She was so inspired that she pulled out some of her favorite embroidery books. Any of these look familiar?2017-10-12-15-35-03

Some times you just need a bit of inspiration to look at an old favorite craft in a new light. Something you did 10 years ago may take on a whole new look with what you are inclined to do today. I know it really got the ideas flowing for me! I can’t wait to incorporate this in a new project!

Hope this inspires you to pick up a needle and thread and do a bit of play yourself!


An Afternoon of Fabric Play = Five Easy Pieces!

Today I just felt like sewing. Nothing large, or complex. Just something that would let me play with fabric, and that I could start and finish in an hour or so.


A summer or two ago, we decided to plant “a few little lavendar plants” in a bed near our front door. Given the sunny location, and the Mediterranean-like micro-climate here east of San Francisco Bay, it wasn’t long before our little lavendar patch was assuming the proportions of a lavendar farm!

Just a small sampling of last year's lavendar crop
Just a small sampling of last year’s lavendar crop

As last summer ended, I brought some of the harvest to dry indoors, enjoying the fragrance all winter long.

One of many lavendar bouquets to grace our home last winter
One of many lavendar bouquets to grace our home last winter

With a new crop well on its way, however, I’ve been getting kinda desperate. Hmmmmm. Dried lavendar. Fabric. Ribbons and trims. Small project. Sachets! Not only a worthy prospect to soothe my yen to sew, but a perfect, quick-and-easy Mother’s Day (or end-of-year-for-teacher) gift, too.

Sashets with Lavendar_2

There are so many ways you can make them. For the basic sashet:

1. Cut two fabric squares to the size you’d like the finished sachet to be, plus about 1/2″ for seam allowance.

2. Place the squares right sides together, and stitch all around the perimeter with a 1/4″ seam, leaving a generous opening on one side for turning and filling.

3. Turn right side out and fill with lavendar (a funnel or folded sheet of paper helps here). Tuck the remaining seam allowance to the inside, and handstitch the opening closed with a blind- or whipstitch.

Ah, the variations! You can tie the basic sachet package-style with decorative ribbon. Add a charm, just for fun.

This little sachet measures approximately 3" square finished, but you can make it any size you'd like.
This little sachet measures approximately 3″ square finished, but you can make it any size you’d like.

You can center and stitch a piece of vintage crochet work (or other vintage tidbit) to the front fabric before assembling the “pillow.” The size of the crochet piece will determine the finished size of the sachet. If you add a little extra to the cut squares, the fabric forms a lovely frame.

My crochet piece measured about 3 1/2" square, so I cut my fabric pieces 5" square--enough for seam allowance and a nice little frame.
My crochet piece measured about 3 1/2″ square, so I cut my fabric pieces 5″ square–enough for seam allowance and a nice little frame.

As an alternative, you can stitch lace, ribbon, or other favorite trims to the front fabric before assembly. (I added the button after the sachet was filled, turned, and stitched closed.)

This sachet is slightly larger than a teabag.
This sachet is slightly larger than a teabag.

If you’d like, add a ribbon loop for hanging. For this variation, I placed the fabrics wrong sides together and took a generous 1/4″ seam. (No turning necessary, but I still needed an opening to add the scent.) Once the sachet was filled, I folded and fused wide ribbon to all four sides, knotted a length of 1/8″-wide satin ribbon, and secured the ribbon with a button.

This sachet finished about 4" square; the ribbon loop makes it hanger ready.
This sachet finished about 4″ square; the ribbon loop makes it hanger ready.

Of course, you can make your sachet a shape other than square (and use fabrics other than cotton). I used scraps of dupioni silk to make this rectangular sachet. Circles and hearts are other options.

Once again, I stitched the ribbon to the front fabric before assembly; finished measurements: appropimately 3" x 4 1/2".
Once again, I stitched the ribbon to the front fabric before assembly; finished measurements: appropimately 3″ x 4 1/2″.

So there you go. I spent a delightful few hours fondling fabric, stretching my creative muscles, making a glorious–but highly satisfying–mess, and in the end, came away with five finished little pieces. (And boy, does my sewing room smell good!)

Not bad for an afternoon's work!
Not bad for an afternoon’s work!

That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching!Darra-signature

For Valentine’s Day and Beyond: Capture Mementos (and Memories) with a Nostalgic “Pocket” Pillow

Some sources say that it was Henry VIII who, in 1537, settled the English celebration of Valentine’s Day upon February 14–by Royal Charter, no less. At the time, he was married to his third wife, Jane Seymour. Jane, who was expecting, ultimately produced the long-awaited male heir, marking one of the happier times in Hal’s well-chronicled marital history.

That old romantic, Henry VIII; photo courtesy of www.theanneboleynfiles.com
That old romantic, Henry VIII; photo courtesy of http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com

(Don’t you love the photo? I found it on a wonderful blog — The Anne Boleyn Files — a fun destination for Tudorphiles.)

Last week, under the spell of the approaching holiday (and inspired by Downton Abbey, to which I’ll admit I am hopelessly addicted), I decided to put my creative mojo to work designing something with a hint of romance and nostalgia. I had the perfect inspiration, too. About 18 months ago, my (nonagenarian) mother-in-law Ethel passed along a beautiful collection of delicate lace- and cutwork-trimmed handkerchiefs and tea napkins. Some had been given to her as a girl as souvenirs from family traveling in Europe; others she believed had belonged to her own mother, or possibly her mother-in-law.

Just a sampling of my lovely "inherited"  textiles; by the way, that fashionable, bustled lady is my great-grandmother's sister, Pauline, who made her living as a dressmaker. Fabric is in my blood, I guess!
Just a sampling of my lovely “inherited” textiles; by the way, that fashionable, bustled lady is my great-grandmother’s sister, Pauline, who made her living as a dressmaker. Fabric is in my blood, I guess!

It was Ethel’s intent that I put at least some of these family heirlooms to use in my work. I began as I usually do, by choosing a basic palette (in this case, gray, pink, rosy mauve, ecru, and white), and then raiding my cupboards for fabrics, trims, and embellishments that might create the “mood” I’m looking for.

Some of the fabrics, trims, and other embellishments I considered
Some of the fabrics, trims, and other embellishments I considered

Now the big question: what would I make? Here’s what I came up with . . .

pillow complete vignette

This dainty, Edwardian-inspired, 8″ square pillow met all my criteria. It’s feminine and romantic, with a pocket for tucking away cherished photos or other ephemera. It allowed me to use one of my treasured vintage hankies. Finally, once I had finalized the materials, it took less than two hours to make, including the pillow form (which means that yes, you can still make one in time for the big day)!

If a 48-hour turnaround is just a tad too ambitious, consider making one as a first-year anniversary gift for a special bride (incorporating her bridal handkerchief, and tucking her wedding invitation and/or wedding portrait inside); as a memorable silver or golden anniversary gift; or as a christening or First Communion rememberance. Then again, you might whip one up in the appropriate fabrics and trims; stash some fancy chocolates, a pair of movie passes, a handmade sachet, or even a gift card in the pocket; and surprise someone you love, “just because.”

Here’s What You’ll Need

8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ square each of two different fabrics (one for pillow front, one for pocket)

Two 6 1/2″ x 8 1/2″  rectangles of fabric (for pillow back)

3/4 yard of 1 1/2″-wide wire-edged silk ribbon

Small lace-edged handkerchief, tea napkin, or crocheted doily

Charm, button, or other embellishment as desired

8″ square pillow form (or make your own; directions follow)

Making the Pillow Front

1. Fold over the top edge of the pocket piece approximately 3″; press.

Stripe is the pillow front; rosy hand-dye is the folded pocket fabric. I've shown both so you can see the approximate proportions.
Stripe is the pillow front; rosy hand-dye is the folded pocket fabric. I’ve shown both so you can see the approximate proportions.

2. Fold the hankerchief diagonally over the folded top edge of the pocket, so the desired amount of handkerchief is visible on the pocket front. Use matching thread to baste the handerchief to the pocket along their top edge with a 1/8″ seam.

hankie overlap_2

3. Trim the handkerchief even with the sides and bottom of the pocket.

hankie trimmed

4. Fold the length of wire-edged ribbon in half crosswise. Tie a generous bow at the midpoint. Pin the ribbon to the top edge of the pocket, centering the bow. Working outwards from the center, use matching thread to stitch the top and bottom edges of the ribbon to the pocket, right along the wire edges. Trim excess ribbon even with the sides of the pocket.

ribbon extended_2

5. Layer the pocket on the pillow front, right sides together, with side and bottom edges aligned. Baste the sides and bottom of the pocket to the pillow front with a 1/8″ seam.

pillow front complete

Assembling the Pillow

1. Turn under one 8 1/2″ edge of one backing piece 1/4″ to the wrong side; press. Fold over a second 1/4″; press and topstitch. Repeat with the other backing piece.

back piece

2. Layer the pillow front and the backing pieces, right sides together, aligning the raw edges; pin. (The hemmed edges of the pillow backing will overlap about 2″ – 3″.) With your machine set in the needle-down position, stitch 1/4″ from the raw edges all around the perimeter, pivoting at each corner. Clip the corners at an angle, taking care not to cut into the seam.

pillow assembled_2

3. Turn the pillow cover right side out, making sure the corners are nice and crisp; press. (Another job for my 4-in-1 Essential Sewing Tool). Add a decorative charm, button, or other embellishment to the bow as desired. Insert the pillow form, and you’re all set!

finished and stuffed

Pillow Form

If you can’t find an 8″ square pillow form, make your own. It’s easy! Cut 2 squares of muslin (or other light-colored cotton), 8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″. Place right sides together. Stitch around the perimeter with a 1/4″ seam, leaving a 5″ opening along the bottom edge. Clip the corners, turn right side out, and press. Stuff to desired firmness with your favorite filler, pin the opening, and slipstitch to close.

Our readers went all out with the Valentine’s comments in response to last Friday’s post. We even received some poetry! The winner of Laura’s apron pattern is Mary on Lake Pulaski. Congratulations, Mary!

Don’t forget to check back on Friday, when I’ll be announcing the winner of Quilt Blocks Go Wild! from my February 5 post.

‘Til then, happy stitching. Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!Darra-signature

A Heart-y Hello from See How We Sew Along with a Giveaway!

Inspiration-J:  Flowers for Valentine's Day

Giveaway-Green:RedIt’s that time of year again when we can plunder our stashes for all things pink and red in the name of fondness, friendship, and love.

Just in case you want to know why we celebrate February 14 with representations of affection, I’ve excerpted this bio of St. Valentine from catholic.org:

St. Valentine was a Priest, martyred in 269 at Rome and was buried on the Flaminian Way. He is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses.

I get the connection to love and marriage–how about plague?  What does it mean to be the patron saint of plague? Although epilepsy and fainting are odd as well. I guess that’s what love is, a swooning sentiment that can give you fits . . . yes, I do know . . .  St. Valentine will intercede in all plaguing matters, etc.

We blogging sisters at  See How We Sew  have much more charming Valentines to share with our readers:

Laura’s Take on Valentine’s Day

From Laura’s workshop, a brand new iteration of her popular apron pattern and she’s offering a copy of the pattern as a giveaway. See details below.


Laura’s Tea for Two apron can be made in two variations–the one shown above and another with a top bib. You can purchase the apron pattern at Laura’s website (and/or enter the giveaway). The pattern was designed originally by Althea Hampton, the mother of Laura’s long-time collaborator Diana McClun. She and Laura found Althea’s original apron with the paper pattern tucked into a side pocket while rummaging through a box of vintage aprons they’d found. What a lovely gift! (And one Diana and Laura have enjoyed for years by making many versions for special holidays and events.)

Darra Sends Out ♥ Messages via Postcard Quilts

Darra’s been channeling heartfelt themes for a while now in her postcard quilts:

"Be Mine" by Darra Williamson
“Be Mine” by Darra Williamson
"Hearts Entwined" by Darra Williamson
“Hearts Entwined” by Darra Williamson
Project-D:  Postcard
“Cross My Heart” by Darra Williamson

Check back on Tuesday next week, as Darra’s got something wonderful cooking for Valentine’s Day in her upcoming post.

Jennifer Goes for Hearts and Flowers

As to Jennifer (me), I’ve been eyeing my silk ribbon and bead collections for appropriate Valentine fodder. My take on the day is doorknob decor. I just love the idea of surprising a loved one with a handmade token of my esteem (perfect houseguest treat BTW!):

A heartfelt memento for a valentine.
A heartfelt memento for a valentine.

I’m not sure I’m ready to graduate from Candace Kling’s academy of ribbon work, but I’m practicing. The instructions for each one of those flowers, leaves and berry bud can be found in The Artful Ribbon. The how-to’s for the heart pillow are available in our Pattern Library. Yes, I was feeling piratical last year, but the directions work for whatever riff you choose.

Inspired by Candace Kling, here's my take on silk ribbon flowers with beads and ribbon plundered from my stash.
Inspired by Candace Kling, here’s my take on silk ribbon flowers with beads and ribbon plundered from my stash.

The Giveaway Scoop 

Project-D:  PostcardSend us a ♥-felt sentiment, phrase, wish in Comments to enter the giveaway for Laura’s apron pattern. Darra will announce the winner in her Tuesday post on February 12.

Heartiest greetings to all!


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!


Tiny Flower-Inspired Quilts: Design, Embellish, Display!

The rainy season has ended here in Northern California…

Stormy Weather, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamson

…and those April showers–as always–have delivered a bounty of beautiful blossoms.

The wild iris are abundant in late spring at Pt. Reyes National Seashore.
It’s not too early for roses in our part of the world. If we’re lucky, they bloom through Thanksgiving!
Love those colorful coreopsis!

How can I not be inspired?

Rememberance: Pink Blossoms, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamson

If flowers in the wild and in the garden aren’t inspirational enough, a visit to a local nursery is a surefire way to get those creative juices flowing. Alden Lane Nursery, in Livermore (CA) is a favorite. My husband loves their vegetable starts and fruit trees; I love the incredible variety of flowers and fanciful floral vignettes.

A wheelbarrow of blooms at Alden Lane Nursery

A Saturday morning visit always provides a burst of creative energy!

Alden Lane, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamson

As my “year of creativity” moves forward, I continue to experiment with new compositions, techniques, and materials in my “non-threatening” 3″ x 5″ format. (My husband calls it “Mouse House Art.”) I guess it’s natural that I’d be affected by what I see as the seasons unfold and Mother Nature reveals fresh palettes and textures. My current collages are heavily inspired by what’s blooming outside my window.

I’m Looking Through You, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamson

Embellishment plays a big role in creating many of these little pieces. I use lots of beads, especially seed and bugle beads. Silver bugle beads make perfect raindrops in Stormy Weather, which leads off this post. I love the way they catch the light! I used bugle beads for the greenery in Remembrance: Pink Blossoms, and to embellish the leaves in Alden Lane, both also shown above. In I’m Looking Through You, I used bugles to “soften” the line between garden and sky. I sew the beads on with silk thread and a size 12 quilting between or applique needle.

In Up Close and Personal (below), golden seed beads create the center (and focal point) of my close-up bloom. I love images that zoom in close or show only part of the whole. Sometimes it takes a moment to figure out what you’re seeing, but that’s part of the appeal. It’s a design idea you might like to try.

Up Close and Personal, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamson

Buttons make lovely flowers. I used them for the blossoms in Alden Lane and the whimsical flowers in Button Vine (below). I usually attach buttons with matching cotton thread–which I also used in Button Vine to attach the leafy charms–although I have been known to use a glue gun on occasion!

Button Vine, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamso

Truth is, I never know what will turn up in one of my collages. Tranquility (below) probably represents one of my more “inventive” recycling efforts.

Tranquility, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamson

Those white flowers started life as holders for incense, which I enjoy each evening as part of my bedtime routine. (Very relaxing!) A favorite variety includes a holder in every box, so I’ve amassed quite a collection. I was about to toss them recently when…bingo! I stitched down a scrap of ribbon, secured the “flowers” with French knots, and glue-gunned a few glass-bead leaves for good measure.

I guess you know by now that I love making these little quilted collages and I hope you’ll be inspired to give them–and some of my embellishing tips–a try. I’ve already harvested a bumper crop of ideas for larger quilts, and–in the meantime–I’ve found lots of ways to display and enjoy my tiny treasures. (They make nice little birthday, thank you, anniversary, get well, and hostess gifts too.)

From the left: acrylic frame stand-up frame, plain glass clip-on frame, miniature easel (great for bulky embellishments), standard frame with mat

Instructions for constructing the basic 3″ x 5″ background “sandwich” appear in an earlier post. You’ll find more of my little collages there as well.

Before I sign off, I want to say “congratulations!” to Barbara (lily of the valley), winner of Nancy Mahoney’s  book, Fast, Fusible Flower Quilts from my May 4 post. Barbara, please email us your snail mail address at seehowwesew@gmail.com, and we’ll get that book out to you right away.

That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching!

Called up to the Big Leagues: The Empty Spools Seminars!

Come to my workshop said the spider to the fly . . . okay, lame reference, but isn't she the cutest silvery spider made of pewter beads, Swarovski crystals and wire?

Hey, make no mistake, I’m very flattered and pleased to have gotten the call to teach at the Empty Spools Seminars in Pacific Grove, California, but like a rookie waiting for his first Major League pitch, I’m shaking in my cleats and my palms are s-w-e-a-t-i-n-g!

I’ve written about Empty Spools for The Quilt Life and The Quilter magazines and I’ve taken a couple of sessions as a student as well, but I’ve not yet strutted my teaching “stuff” in such stellar company—take a gander at that faculty: it’s awe inspiring, plus Ruth McDowell will be there! The Ruth McDowell!!!!!

Yeah . . . well . . . time to tamp down on that rookie panic and focus on preparation.

I’ll be hosting a “Flower-Powered” workshop during Session II (April 3 to 8, 2012) that riffs on a dimensional appliqué technique I adapted for a project in A Dozen Roses, a Martingale & Company title co-authored with Catherine Comyns.

Diana McClun's world-class quilting husband suggested I add a spider to my little still life study. So I made a beaded spider and found a tiny fly charm at my local bead shop. I'm hoping whimsy outweighs the buggy yuck factor.

The floral workshop theme is probably no surprise to you, dear blog readers. I have, after all, decorated an inordinate number of my posts with still-life photography. But I can’t help it; I’m wickedly attached to buds and blossoms. Some would channel such enthusiasm into gardening, but I’m omnivorous (so to speak). I want to bite into many floral experiences from botanical illustration* to Japanese watercolors and Modern Art styles and I’m hoping that there are quilters out there who want to join me at my “buffet.”

*Click the link to find the beautiful botanical art of my friend Sally Petru–an early collaborator who inspired my rosy dimensional applique quilts.

This is my sort of quilting inspiration. Instead of doing time in the garden I photograph my neighbor's roses generally at near dusk right after a rainfall.

There’s one caveat for me—no scary needle-turn appliqué. I’ve got expressionistic aesthetic goals in mind, not literal recreations of flowers. Actually, that’s a preference I’ve picked up from my artful mother who in her oil painting days splashed colorful washes across canvases and painted images suggested by the resulting swirls and drops.  While I appreciate the exactitude of the purist form of appliqué, and I can see that it will take a quilter down the road to true botanical art, that’s not my objective.

So what can you experience in a Jennifer Rounds Flower-Powered workshop? The freedom to follow your own floral whims with instruction in flower-building, designing vessels, creating dimensional settings for still-life portraiture, exploring borders and unusual finishing details, and (very delicious) using luxury fabric, ribbons, and beads for embellishment.

Consider yourself invited!

Patchwork Beading: Where Handicrafts Collide Beautifully!

There are times like today when I feel more beady than thready. I’m thinking about shutting down the sewing machine, and zeroing in instead on my jewelry-making kit that’s hidden among the piles of craft and quilting junk littering my workroom.

I’m probably pushing things a little to describe my beading diversion as “jewelry” because the precious gem and metal quotient is low (especially nowadays), but today I’d like to adorn myself with something pretty that I’ve designed.

Lately, I’ve noticed a trend in compliments when I wear my handmade stuff. The kudos usually sound like this:  “Love that necklace—how did you ever think to combine those colors?”

Even while I thank them, in my head I’m thinking: “Clearly, you’re not a quilter otherwise you’d get why I selected these colors and textures.” What I do recreationally with beads is nothing different from what we do every time we visit quilt shops–we’re specialists in high-caliber color play.

Guess what? The same principles apply when trolling bead shops or taking a run through a retailer like Michael’s for jewelry-making supplies. To make things super easy, slice the color code off the selvage of a favorite fabric and get to work sorting through beads and findings to match the swatch.

The biggest challenge is to avoid running up a bill—a 20-cent 4mm Swarovski crystal is merely pennies until you have a couple of hundred of them and then you’re paying in dollars.

When it’s time to string my beads, I typically do a spin of that quilting challenge where you throw fabric strips in a bag and blind sort to sew. My version with beads: pour your choices in a bowl and pick randomly.

Okay, full disclosure here: I usually have a casual plan in mind when I pick a bead to string:  warm/cool, dark/light, opaque/transparent, or something along those lines.

Project supplies: A flexwire product for stringing, beads (of course), a closure and/or crimping beads

So, I’m heading off to my local bead shop where I can run my fingers through twinkling Swarovski crystals and drape myself in strands of minerals with exotic names. If Wilma Flintstone can do it, we all can! (Although Mr. Snarky asks how I know Fred’s beloved was a crafter. I just know–Wilma can do anything plus she needs an escape from F.F.)

UPDATE: A new “something pretty” from my workshop!

Amethyst briolettes (not so pricey when purchasing two), pairs of Swarovski pearls, earring bases, oval wire earring forms, and wire for wrapping

“Embellish” Your Memories with a Quilted Souvenir

"Mediterranean Memories," made by my good friend, co-author, and occasional quilt-cruise colleague, Chris Porter, who just returned from the Mediterranean

Summer is winding down in the Northern Hemisphere, but there’s still plenty of time to toss a couple of things in your bag and head off for a bit of R and R. Kitschy mementos abound, but what better way for a stitcher to stir recollections of a special time away than with a souvenir quilt?

I made my first souvenir quilt after teaching on a quilting cruise to the Caribbean sponsored by Quilt Seminars at Sea. (I know, tough gig, but somebody’s gotta do it!) After making Wish You Were Here: Caribbean Dream, I quickly realized that more trip-related souvenir quilts were in my future. 

My quilt, "Wish You Were Here: Caribbean Dream"

I loved everything about my trip to Alaska–the majestic scenery, the little villages, the wildlife–and I wanted to capture it all. I used many of the same techniques, and called my quilt Wish You Were Here II: Ketchikan, Alaska.

"Wish You Were Here II: Ketchikan, Alaska (center detail). I love the look of a random, strip-pieced background, and find it makes the perfect choice for a landscape-based quilt.

Ideas for your souvenir quilt can come from anything you see, hear, taste, or otherwise experience along your way. Your personal photographs are an obvious source for design ideas, but don’t overlook the motifs on the tee-shirts, coffee mugs, postcards, and other typical “take-homes” that pop up in the local tourist shops. Carry a tiny note pad to jot down ideas or thumbnail sketches to carry home to your sewing room.

Your fabric souvenir doesn’t need to be large or complex. Just have FUN! In fact, over time, I’ve discovered that simpler (and smaller) is better, enabling me to capture the moment quickly, while it’s still fresh in my memory. Consider this little (18″ x 22″) quilt I made to commemorate my first visit to Hawaii.

"Aloha, Baby!"

Here are some quick, easy techniques that I used in making Aloha, Baby! and that you might like to try.

1. Build your “canvas” first: background, borders, layering, background quilting…even binding. (More on this in a minute!) It’s fun to use fabrics you’ve collected on your journey.

2. Keep the background simple. Sometimes, a single piece of “just-right fabric” (e.g., a special hand-dyed or painted piece) is all you need. I like the visual interest created by an unevenly divided surface, so I used two fabrics for Aloha, Baby!–sand and sky.

Sometimes a single fabulous fabric is all you need for background. Incorporate fabrics and embellishments from your journey as well.

3. Use basting spray to secure the three layers for quilting. These small quilts are perfect for it. Another option, if the piece is small enough, is to fuse the three layers together.

4. Keep the background quilting simple, too: clouds, wavy lines for water or wind, radiating lines for sunlight. Outline the motifs in the border fabric when appropriate. You can always add more quilting after the foreground elements are in place. 

Keep the background and background quilting simple.

5. Finish the edges with a fold-over, raw-edge binding. Rotary cut the strips, or tear them for an even more free-form feeling. Fold the strips over the raw edges of the quilt sandwich, press, and finish with a straight or decorative stitch.

6. Now it’s time to “paint the picture.” Use whatever creative shortcuts give you the desired results. I cut the blossom shapes for the lei free-form to save time and effort. Fussy cutting is another great timesaver. Chris used it for the grapes in her Mediterranean quilt.

Chris saved lots of time by fussy cutting the grape clusters for her quilt "Mediterranean Memories."

7. With the exception of the palm tree, the elements in Aloha, Baby! are all fused, and the edges “finished” with a straight stitch. The overhanging palm is double-sided: I fused two pieces of fabric together, outlined the shape in thread, and then cut and attached the piece to the quilt with stitching that echos the fronds.

Check out the raw-edge binding, overhanging palm, and button coconuts.

8. Now comes my favorite part: embellishment! For Aloha, Baby!, I added a narrow, satin-ribbon bow ribbon tie on the lei; used decorative trims and buttons on the flip flops; and stitched on a few tortoise-shell buttons for coconuts. As with fabric, it’s fun to incorporate trinkets found on your trip. 

So, no matter where your travels take you, whether across the state or across the sea, I hope you’ll consider commemorating your journey in fabric, thread, and trinkets. If you’ve already made a quilt to celebrate a travel memory, I hope you’ll post a comment to tell us about it 😉

Another vacation quilt by my friend, Chris Porter. This one is called "Sailing 'Round the Lighthouse." Notice the tiny seashells, the fussy-cut fish, and the cool cording around the border.

Til next time, happy stitching!