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!


A May Garden of Fun Little Fabric Flowers and a Giveaway

Check out these charming yo-yo flowers – aren’t they cute?

This is my idea of a Spring garden!

They’re surprisingly fast and easy to make using the Clover “Quick” Yo-Yo Maker (the tool size is flower shaped-large). To make a yo-yo, all you need is the tool, a 5½” square of fabric, needle and thread. The directions are complete, easy to follow, and have excellent illustrations. The diameter of each finished yo-yo flower measures about 1¾”.  I used quilting cottons from my stash and found that the softer fabrics worked best. Use a strong, heavier weight thread; this will reduce the chances of the thread breaking when you gather up the stitches to form the flower. I used YLI Machine Quilting cotton thread and it worked very well.

Clover package front.
Covered buttons in the centers adds an extra pop of color.

For an extra pop of color in the flower centers, I used coordinating fabrics to cover buttons using the Dritz Cover Button Kit Size 24. The button size is 5/8″, and they’re also quick and easy to make. I chose to glue my buttons to the centers of the yo-yo flowers rather than to sew them. Just bend down the metal loop on the back of the button so it lies flat, and apply a small amount of glue around the back edge of the button. Press it into the center of the flower and let it dry.  I used a permanent adhesive by Beacon called GEM-TAC, which is perfect for bonding porous materials – fabric, wood, suede – to smooth surfaces such as glass, vinyl, and metal. It holds beautifully, dries clear, and is washable. It’s a wonderful product and I always use it when there’s a need to adhere fabric to anything.

I think these little yo-yo flowers are really adorable and have great embellishment potential. How fun would it be to make a “baby headband” using matching fabric with a flower attached? They could also be used in a grouping to make a corsage, or to decorate packages. There’s got to be hundreds of different uses.

If you’ve got a good one, send it in a comment by Friday, June 1. If we pick yours, we’ll send you a Clover YO-YO Maker. The winner will be announced in my June 5 post.

Take care and let me know if you “plant” a garden of yo-yos. It’s my kind of garden – no bugs, no watering, no weeds!

Half-Baked Ideas (& Brownies)

Last year I pledged to tackle my UFO pile in a “true confessions” post.  All told, I’ve succeeded in finishing the most pressing ones, and I feel great about that, but I’m still facing a towering pile of plastic project boxes. Frankly, some of those suckers depress me and I don’t want to do them. Which leads me to pondering the nature of UFOs—what’s a half-baked idea and what’s a dead end? Let’s be plain here:  what can I cross off my list?

Towering possibilities or quilting purgatory?

It turns out that my question isn’t all that lame. My blogging sisters had a good bit to say when I asked them. As quilting teachers they see students who are determined to finish everything they start even though they’d be happier and more successful as quilt makers if they’d cull their guilt-inducing  collections of half-made projects. Quilting is, after all, the great recycling craft—if it doesn’t work in one project, it’ll work in another.

The reality is that not every inspiration will be fruitful. Sometimes an idea is merely a stop along the way to a better one. In effect, an unfinished block or quilt can function like a rough draft that just needs to be rewritten in order to shine. Take this example from my pile of UFO’s—I’d call this one a half-baked idea that might yield a quilt someday.

A pretty tumbler from Orla Kiely for Target--inspiration for a personal project. Click photo to visit her website.

Here’s my Target plastic tumbler. Isn’t it cute? It was the inspiration for the diagram I sketched. My challenge was to make floating floral blocks using a Snowball block. I was hot on the project for a couple of days and then, somewhere between whim and reality I boxed up the project. Hmm—I’m not ready yet to pop the lid and sew, but I still like the colors and that’s a good sign.

How about dead ends? You know the UFOs that give you the creeps—I certainly do. There’s one in my pile; it’s a dimensional rose-and-daisy wreath set on a pink and white damask background. Separately, the components are wonderful; together they’re a snooze. My gain is that I figured how to make dimensional beaded daisies with tulle, plus I repurposed the roses I’d made for other projects. Hey, I think it’s time I emptied that box—yeah! How many more can I eliminate?

A reasonable start on a prototype dimensional daisy.

You know there are other good (even delicious) aspects of half-baked things. Brownies are especially delicious in an underdone state. So, while you mull over your UFOs, consider indulging in my spin on caramel-scented bittersweet chocolate brownies. My gift to you fellow UFO busters and blog readers! (Keep scrolling for an extra-special offer from The Quilt Show!)

Click the photo to open the recipe PDF or click the Recipes tab above.

In honor of International Quilt Day (March 17), The Quilt Show, the web TV show hosted by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims, will “open” all of its shows from the first nine series—that is, from show 100 through show 913—for the entire weekend of March 16 –18. This means that—for three special days—everyone will have the chance to view these 117 shows, featuring some of the quilting world’s leading artists, for FREE.  Two of my sister bloggers—Laura (Episode 710: Conquering the Y-seam Tumble) and Darra (Episode 805: Feedsacks, Fun, and Old Friends: Quilts of the 1930s) have appeared as featured artists on TQS. If you didn’t have the opportunity to see their shows first time around, now you’ll have the chance to see them—and so many other terrific shows—at no cost in this unprecedented three-day offer.

In the Pink with Fabulous Fabric Flowers

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.

A dazzling sales flyer from J.Crew--the apples look tasty too.

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!

Rose Matrix currently pinned into submission--found fantastic glass beads to embellish the blossoms.

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).

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!

Serendipity Strikes: “Repurpose” a Dress with Fabric Flowers

In the midst of another busy week, I was able to find a few minutes to meet another “on-call project Mom” request…this time from my older daughter.  An upcoming wedding invitation provided the inspiration for this fun project, which grew out of her request to “repurpose” a bridesmaid’s gown that she wore last year.

Just a few simple supplies needed to make these adorable fabric flowers.

The dress is a stunning shade of blue that is perfect with her crystal-clear blue eyes, but its strapless, floor-length features needed some work. I started by shortening the dress to tea length and then used the leftover pieces to make fabric flowers. I must admit I was a bit nervous at first, thinking that the altered dress would never be as elegant as she had pictured it in her dreams. Honestly, making the flowers was the easy part…and the finished dress looks fabulous on her!

Here’s what I did:

For each flower, I cut four fabric circles from the dress’s lining fabric. (I used the lining rather than the outer fabric, as the lining had more body.) I cut the circles 4-1/2″ in diameter, but they can be any size you like. I used a small bowl as a template to get a perfectly round shape. No need to hem the edges; it’s okay if they fray a bit. In fact, they look good that way.

I folded each circle in half, and then half again. With a needle and thread, I took a few stitches through the folds in the corner to hold it secure.

Take a few small stitches to hold the folds in place.

Then I stitched the four units together at the corners to complete the flower.

How cute is this!

I made enough flowers to go all the way across a shoulder strap (which I also made from the extra lining fabric), and then I stitched the flowers to the strap. It was so easy and so beautiful. My daughter couldn’t be happier! Now, isn’t that all that really matters?

Love my flower girl!

I can see fabric flowers added to many different projects: totebags, headbands, sweaters. I can even envision sewing several of them together to make a necklace. Oh yes, how could I forget? I may even try adding them to my next quilting project.

Before I forget, all of us here at SHWS want to congratulate Patti Owen, winner of the giveaway basket filled with some of our favorite piecing notions (and more) from our first group post (July 26). Be sure to check back often and watch for future giveaways.

Happy sewing everyone, and enjoy another week of creativity.

Declare Your Quilting Independence…with Free-form Flowers!

"Sunbonnet Sue at the BBQ" (22" x 26") from A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue

Happy July 4th weekend to all our American friends! As you can see, that all-American girl, Sunbonnet Sue, has caught the spirit. She’s the July entry in my book,  A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue, co-authored with Christine Porter, and she’s got eleven specially themed friends, one for each month of the year, complete with full-sized patterns and instructions. Ask for her at your favorite quilt shop, or–for an autographed copy–email me via seehowwesew@gmail.com.

So…What do you have planned for the long holiday weekend?  Why not take the opportunity to try something “freeing” and EASY at your sewing machine…like the liberating free-form flowers that bloom on my wall quilt “Still Life #1” (shown below)? They are a snap to make and are a great way to use up your scraps. Use them on blocks or pillows, to embellish garments or totes, to create a free-form Baltimore Album-style quilt or your own original “still life”…the only limit is your imagination.

Detail of "Still Life #1"

1. Cut an irregular four-sided shape (not a square or rectangle) for the flower center.

2. Sew a scrap of “flower” fabric to one side of the flower center. Make sure the scrap overhangs the edge of the flower center on each end. Press the seam away from the flower center.

3. Trim the two side edges of the flower fabric to follow the edges of the flower center. Trim the top edge at any angle you like.

4. Using the same process, proceed counterclockwise around the flower center, adding a flower-fabric piece to each of the remaining three sides. Press and trim as you go.

5. “Shape” your flower by trimming each of the four corners at a random angle. Spray lightly with spray starch or fabric sizing to stabilize.

Detail of "Gustav's Dream"; the entire quilt measures 20" x 27".

You can make the flowers any size you like. Experiment with hand-dyed fabrics, batiks… even velvet or dupioni silk. I typically fuse the flowers to the background and secure them with a machine straight stitch and decorative threads, but feel free to explore other options. Embellish your blossoms with beads or buttons.

In “Gustav’s Dream (shown at right), I made the flowers extra small, and tied them in place with gold metallic thread. For more about this quilt, see the article “Flower-Powered Quilts Reap Huge Rewards” in the August issue of The Quilt Life magazine.

Do you have a favorite technique for making flowers for your quilts? A special quilt you’ve made with a floral theme? Post a comment by noon (PDT) Friday, July 8, and you’ll be entered in a random drawing to receive a copy of Rodale’s Successful Quilting Library: Favorite Techniques from the Experts. The book features “Still Life #1” on the cover, and includes my chapter on the free-form flower technique, with additional tips and ideas for using the finished blossoms. It also includes chapters on favorite techniques of such well-known quilters as Mary Stori, Ami SimmsSally Schneider, Karen Kay Buckley, Karen Combs, Sharyn Craig, Anita Shackelford, and more. The winner will be announced in my post on Friday, July 15.

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


April Showers Bring May Flowers – Fabric Flowers!

I love fresh flowers but I’m not much of a gardener. When I go out into the yard the bugs know I’m coming and instead of running the other way like they’re supposed to, they come up and say hello. I don’t like that. We’ve made a pact – if they’ll stay outside, I’ll stay inside. My local market has beautiful fresh flowers and no bugs. It works for me.

I prefer making fabric flowers with a tool I discovered a couple of years ago -the Clover Sweetheart Rose Maker. I volunteered to demonstrate it at a holiday open house and, of course, it was the night before when I opened the package for the first time. Once I made a couple of practice roses I got the hang of it. The instructions are very well written, and all you need is the tool (comes in small, medium, large), a strip of fabric and a needle and thread. It’s done with very simple hand sewing. I use the large size (rose is approx. 2-3/8″) with cottons from my stash, but any fabrics can be used. Look for the Rose Maker at your local quilt shop, and to view a great 2-part video demonstration, just google youtube sweetheart rose maker (I wish the video had been available the night before my demo).  

Fabric roses in a vase

For a bouquet, insert dry florist oasis into a small vase.  Break a bamboo skewer in half, dip one end into fabric glue and attach a rose. Once the glue is dry, arrange the roses by inserting the skewers into the oasis.

Another idea is to use the roses to decorate gifts. I like to curl ribbon and add raffia for a final touch.

Gift box decorated with three fabric roses


Package Front

These little flowers are fun, easy and impressive. It’s fascinating how a lovely little rose blooms from a simple strip of fabric with a few folds, stitches, and twists.

Who comes up with these things?   

Happy gardening.