See How a Quilt Design Evolves–The Many Faces of “Heartstrings” + Giveaway

Quilt-J:  Original Heart Strings Quilt

Quilt-J:  Heartstrings featured in The Quilt Life1-Giveaway IconNot so long ago I spearheaded a group project for a member of my quilting/dining group–she’d lost her mother and we wanted to give her a quilted hug. It was such a beautiful shared experience that I wrote about it for the February 2012 issue of  The Quilt Life and called the quilt Heart Strings.

 The Other Faces of Heart Strings 

Some time after that, our original SHWS quartet of Christie, Darra, Laura, and I made another version of Heart Strings for our very dear tech-savvy blog helper Michelle. She had had to say good-bye to her mother after a lengthy illness and we wanted to gather her up in a big group hug. It’s difficult to discern from a distance, but Heart Strings #2 is embellished with a stitched tree and flitting hummingbirds, the deft handiwork of long-arm quilter Marla Monson

Quilt-J:  Heart Strings hanging at Quilting in the Garden
Heart Strings #2 featured in the 2012 Quilting in the Garden exhibition, Livermore, California.

Then, just this year, as I was reading the June 2014 issue of The Quilt Life, I found a Letter to the Editor from a reader named Carol Findling who wrote about making a version of Heart Strings with her group for a friend who needed support after losing a daughter. They finished their version in three weeks to surprise her:  Heart Strings #3.

Is there more? Of course. My buddy Cyndy Rymer and I share more than a love of quilting, we also share a gynecologist:  a rare and wonderful physician who dropped the obstetrics end of the business to focus on women of a certain age. I don’t know how many locals she’s pulled from the brink of hormonal madness and other malevolent afflictions, but the numbers are legion and our admiration for her is profound and enduring.

Well, the sad news is that sometimes even healers need healing. She’s closing her practice to undergo intense cancer treatment. Cyndy and I cannot sever our connection to her without expressing our love and heartfelt wishes for her recovery. What else can we do but make her a quilt imbued with positive, healing thoughts?

Quilt-J:  Final stages neutral Heart Strings
Almost done: Heart Strings #4.

Before I stow my damp and crumpled Kleenex and finish today’s theme, I’d like to share one more thought about heartfelt quilts. Sure we make many celebration quilts, but we also make them for poignant reasons. As I tackled this post I was finally able to verbalize the reason I take on these quilts: I want that someone to know that he or she matters! How simple is that?

A Variation on the Heart Strings Theme

1.  Cyndy and I worked on the original Heart Strings and we knew it would work for us, but, to change up things, we went neutral. And, wouldn’t you know, Cyndy just happened to have a stash of unfinished neutral blocks in her UFO pile. We were halfway there without even trying!

Quilt-J:  Neutral Heart Strings

2.  Rather than a string of hearts, we opted for roses for the finishing detail. I turned to one of my own designs, Radically Ruched Roses.  This time I went for a fused spiral rose  rather than ruching bias strips to make the spirals–ruching isn’t fodder for a quickie quilt! After my recent Quilt-Along fusing frenzy it was an easy decision. Head’s up:  Radically Ruched Roses is available as free a downloadable pattern in our Pattern Library!

Quilt-J:  Madly Mod Rosie

3.  The leaves and stems also derive from Radically Ruched Roses–turns out I, too, had leftovers to donate to our cause. I pinned the strips in gentle waves and, before gluing them in place, I auditioned a layout of blossoms and leaves.

Quilt-J:  Neutral Heart Strings Draft Layout

4. Did you notice that the top was layered and quilted before we added the flowers and greenery? Cyndy loaded the quilt onto her long-arm machine and chose a simple floral motif for background quilting.

Quilt-J:  Neutral Heart Strings in Process

5.  Back to the stem strips:  Glue-Baste-It!  Laura recommended the product and it’s a dream for securing the applique pieces before finishing with stitches. I finished the edges with decorative stitches along the outer edges of the stems to give them a slightly thorny look. Then, Cyndy reloaded the quilt on the long-arm and stitched the leaves and roses to the top. The jury is out on whether or not that was a good idea–it wasn’t as much fun as she’d hoped. FYI:  The roses are dimensional appliqué (with an additional thin layer of batting on the back) and the spirals are top stitched.


6.  I’ve got the label affixed, stray threads trimmed, and so I think we’re ready to send out our healing quilt.

Heart Strings #4: yes, that is a spaniel sculpture--he wanted to be featured in the photo too! He's supposed to live in the garden as a remembrance of a very dear dog, but this guy likes the hearth.
Heart Strings #4: yes, that is a spaniel sculpture–he wanted to be featured in the photo too! He’s supposed to live in the garden as a remembrance of a very dear dog, but this guy likes the hearth.

Giveaway Details

I happen to have full-color reprints of the Heart Strings article and pattern from The Quilt Life and I’d be happy to share 3 copies with our readers. Leave me a comment by Thursday, July 24 and I will name the winners in my Friday post. Here’s your prompt:  Have you made a heartfelt quilt? Do tune in on Friday for a special edition cuz a seasonal fave will be flying in!




New Quilts –and Other Updates–from Previous Darra Posts (and a Giveaway)

1-Giveaway IconIt’s hard to believe that by early next week, the first half of 2013 will be history. (Wait!? Didn’t we just take down the holiday decorations?) On the plus side: the halfway mark seems a good time to update you on a few of my previous posts with news and new quilt photos. Here goes:

The popular Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts
The popular Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts

Update #1: One of the quilts that inspired my recent two-part post (April 9 and April 12) on the zigzag or streak of lightning set (and that encouraged me to finish my own in-progress, zigzag-set Churn Dash quilt top), was a quilt I spotted on Pinterest. It was designed by Edyta Sitar, of Laundry Basket Quilts, and I fell in love with its dainty 3 1/2″ Basket blocks and zigzags in alternating colors. I intended to contact Edyta for permission to include it in my posts, but Last-Minute LuLu that I am, I cut my deadline too close. Still, I couldn’t get that quilt out of my mind.

After playing a bit of email tag, Edyta and I did finally connect, and she’s pleased to share her quilt with our See How We Sew readers. Little Baskets is an outstanding example of my favorite set from one of today’s most popular and talented designers.

Little Baskets by Edyta Sitar/Laundry Basket Quilts
Little Baskets by Edyta Sitar/Laundry Basket Quilts

The story doesn’t end there. Little Baskets is available as a pattern, and we’ll be giving one away to a lucky SHWS reader. Leave a comment by noon Thursday, June 27, telling why you’d like to add this pattern to your library and we’ll announce a winner in our Friday, June 28 post.

Cuddle Me Quick coverUpdate #2: Last September, I posted a “sneak peek” of Rubber Duckies, one of 11 baby-quilt patterns in the book, Cuddle Me Quick, which I co-authored with my friend, Chris Porter. Recently, in need of a quilt to welcome a friend’s newborn daughter, Chris remade Duckies, switching out the blues and blue greens of my original for a sweet pink palette, and introducing gray prints for a very current color scheme. I love it, don’t you?

A pink version of Rubber Duckies, made by Chris Porter from the book, Cuddle Me Quick; photo by Neil Porter
A pink version of Rubber Duckies, made by Chris Porter from the book, Cuddle Me Quick; photo by Neil Porter

Update #3: I’m really excited about this next one! As I write this, the current (August) issue of The Quilt Life magazine is just hitting mailboxes, quilt shops, and newsstands. The theme of this issue is Playtime, and it features an article (on page 40) about my 30-minutes-of-creative-play pledge. The piece includes over a dozen of my little 3″ x 5″ collages (some not seen before in my SHWS posts), and two larger pieces, including one on the table of contents page.

The new (August 2013) issue
The new (August 2013) issue

To complement the article, The Quilt Life is running a simple tutorial via its website that shows you how to make and finish the basic 3″ x 5″ background “canvas.” Here’s the link for the download. Of course, in preparing the step-by-step photos, I needed to make a new collage.

Cherries Jubilee (3" x 5") by Darra Williamson; tutorial on The Quilt Life website
Cherries Jubilee (3″ x 5″) by Darra Williamson; tutorial on The Quilt Life website

I hope you’ll check out both the magazine and the website tute. These little collages are great for trying out new designs and techniques, and can lead to bigger things.

Cattails (7 1/2" x 10") by Darra Williamson; a slightly larger piece inspired by one of my 3" x 5" experiments
Cattails (7 1/2″ x 10″) by Darra Williamson; a slightly larger piece inspired by one of my 3″ x 5″ experiments
Larger still: Sunflowers (7" x 20" approx) by Darra Williamson; private collection
Larger still: Sunflowers (7″ x 20″ approx) by Darra Williamson; private collection

Update #4 (sorta): From time to time, my thoughtful husband emails me an image to brighten the start of my day or week, to make me smile, and/or to inspire or simply delight me. This past Sunday, I found the photo below waiting in my morning email. It was taken in my neighbor’s garden, where the artichokes are flowering. Although not an update on one of my posts, I think it’s a perfect complement to that lovely purple door in Laura’s Friday post. (Plus, purple is my favorite color!)

Cathy's artichoke flower; photo by Brooks Sheifer
Cathy’s artichoke flower; photo by Brooks Sheifer

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

Another Scrap-Happy Quilting Adventure (+ A Super Quick One-Day Giveaway)

This quilting thing? It’s utter madness. I’m not alone, though; I know you share this insanity. You finish a quilt, give it away, and in that pause between taking a deep, refreshing breath and re-committing to getting the house in order, you blow off your good intentions and turn on the sewing machine.

Yup, I did that within hours of the end of my recent holiday. I’d been eyeing another scrap-happy project, a Blue Underground Studios pattern called “Sticks and Bricks” published in the April 2012 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting, and I succumbed. Mind you, I do have a deadline for a magazine project-like thing plus a super-secret pattern in development. What the heck, go big or do housework. I’m opting for a BIG pile of quilts!

Quilt-J:  Another Scrappy Quilt in the Making--A Blue Underground Studios Pattern
Ready for the first draft layout–I’m a little scared of the dark blocks.

I’ll post a picture when I ‘m done, but the Blue Underground Studios version is so pretty, I reserve the right to “forget” to post if I don’t like my result.

As I mentioned in my Tuesday post, I delivered a colorful scrappy quilt to my sister-in-law Laurence when we met up in Los Angeles recently for her daughter’s (my niece/god-daughter’s) bridal shower. Our hostess (and newest extended-family member as mother-of-the-groom) has the perfect setting for styled quilt photography so we staged an impromptu al fresco photo shoot.

Quilt-J:  Romance Shot of Laurence's Scrappy Quilt
I did NOT plan this photo shoot–it was kismet: the colors, the furniture, the sunny day.
Thanks to Marla!

Here’s a closer look at the quilt. One of my favorite long-armers, Elaine Beattie, machine quilted the top in a curvy water-drop motif.

Quilt-J:  Detail of Laurence's Scrappy QuiltScreen shot 2013-05-15 at 8.11.07 PMHere’s a look at the quilt back with it’s faced binding and accent triangles in the corners.

Just to update, the latest issue of The Quilt Life (June 2013) has an excellent explanation of faced bindings done by Ricky Tims with how-to photos and a primer for doing the triangles as well. I touched on faced bindings in a recent post and promised to tell you then when the magazine was available on newsstands.

Quilt-J:  Back Side of Laurence's Scrappy Quilt

Giveaway Details Here

Oh yes, about that super, super-quick giveaway . . . leave me a comment TODAY and I will  award a copy of Jelly Roll Quilts by Pam and Nicky Lintott at the end of the day and notify the winner Saturday morning. How’s that for insane fun?

Here’s your question:  What do you do: drop everything to quilt or clean your house first, then quilt?

p.s.  Hey Ginabeth, you’ve got a prize to claim from the Verna Mosquera giveaway!  Email us

p.p.s.  May 18, 2013:  Here’s the name of the Lintott book giveaway winner:  Donna from Texas.  Congrats!

Happy quilting!


Infinity Edges in Quilts: The Delights of Faced Binding (Giveaway too!)

My freshly finished version of Kaffe Fasset's "My Fair Lady" quilt from xxx.
My freshly finished version of “My Fair Lady” from “Kaffe Fasset’s Quilt Road.”

1-Giveaway IconJust when you thought you had all the elements of quilt making nailed down, there’s another very cool, fun, and mod finishing detail to explore:  ooh, the delights of faced bindings! Sure, there’s nothing actually all that new “under the sun” in quilt making other than technology, but there are techniques that ebb and flow with fashion. Right now, faced binding is trendy even though it’s been a standard sewing technique forever.

My blogging sister Darra pointed me toward faced bindings several years ago for a stylish finish to an Asian-inspired quilt that I was making. She suggested Kitty Pippen’s Quilting With Japanese Fabrics, a quilting classic published by Martingale & Company, for the instructions. (Giveaway details below!) Of course, I still use a traditional binding, but the faced method has been very suitable to the style of quilts I’ve been making recently. Sometimes, a quilt design is incompatible with the “hard” edge of a traditional binding and requires something expansive. I’d describe a faced binding as akin to an infinity-edged pool–it’s visually limitless.

So, shall we look more closely at the application of the technique with a couple of quilts?

Faced Binding With Prairie Point Accents:

Background detail shot of faced binding with prairie points. My version of "The Seasons" from Doughty/Fielke's Material Obsession 2.
Detail shot of the back side of a quilt with faced binding and prairie points.
Detail view of quilt back with faced binding and prairie points.
Detail view of the front side of a quilt with faced binding and prairie points.

Here’s the completed quilt–you may remember my post about a group quilt that took a major effort to complete.

My version of "The Seasons" from Doughty/Fielke's Material Obsession 2--love, love, love the addition of the prairie points.
My version of “The Seasons” from Doughty/Fielke’s “Material Obsession 2.”
I love, love, love the addition of the prairie points!

Invisible Faced Binding:

Here’s a clever binding approach from my friend Kim Butterworth.  She had enough backing fabric left over from trimming her quilt to create “invisible” faced binding. Look closely: she matched her quilt backing and faced binding perfectly.

Invisible faced binding on Kim Butterworth's quilt.
Invisible faced binding on Kim Butterworth’s quilt.

Classic Faced Binding:

If you’ve been following my recent quilt-making adventures here and here, you’ll know I’ve been tackling a Kaffe Fassett quilt that’s been languishing in my UFO pile. I’m happy to tell you that I’m minutes away from finishing that quilt. It simply lacks a label, but I’m alternating working on that little detail and this blog post. Deb McPartland, one of my very fave long-armers, quilted the top in a classic “Orange Peel” design with variegated yellow thread. I don’t like high-contrast quilting on white fabric, and so the light, sunny colors of the thread were perfect for adding texture without diminishing the impact of the wildly colored hexagons. I wish my photos could capture Deb’s wonderful craftsmanship, but alas, I can only show you fragmented views for the details. Thank you Deb!

My quilt is destined for my dear Floridian friend from high school days (mentioned in a prior group post as needing a quilted hug), and thus my slightly eyeball-burning choices of backing and batting to suit sunshiny climes.

Backing fabric shown on left, faced binding is the umbrella fabric and the accent triangle in green/blue polka dot.
Backing fabric shown on left, faced binding is the umbrella fabric and the accent triangles in green/blue polka dot.

I’m not going to detail the faced binding technique in this post because, if you wait just a short time, the June issue of The Quilt Life will feature a excellent how-to from Ricky Tims along with an added embellishment of triangle corners, a technique I picked up from a friend who picked it up from another friend, etc. It’s a fabulous design twist, but I haven’t a clue where it started.

Here’s the finished binding:

Completed faced binding with accent triangle.
Completed faced binding with accent triangle.

And here, a partial view of the front, back, and faced binding in one photo:

The many design elements of "My Fair Lady" in view:  finished quilt with completed faced binding and machine-quilting in "Orange Peel" by Deb McPartland.
The many design elements of “My Fair Lady” in view: finished quilt with completed faced binding and machine-quilting in “Orange Peel” by Deb McPartland.

Here’s the quilt in its entirety (sadly, not a great photo, but you get the idea):

Quilt-J:  "My Fair Lady" from Kaffe Fasset's Quilt Road

Time to add that last, critical detail, the label:

Quilt-J:  Quilt label

Giveaway Details Here!

Here’s something wonderful:  Martingale & Company is offering Kitty Pippen’s classic Quilting With Japanese Fabric as a giveaway. (Remember, she’s got a great technique for faced bindings described in the book.) The title is now being offered as an eBook so if you’ve got the technology, you’re in good shape. You know the giveaway drill:  comment by Thursday, April 18, for the drawing and I’ll announce a winner in my Friday post.  Here’s your question: Have you or will you finish a quilt with faced binding?

Later, gators! JenniferInspiration-J: Boston



Strutting My “Flying Colors” Quilts & A Giveaway Winner

I always like to open on a floral note--an anemone I photographed about 100 times trying to catch the incredible fuchsia color. This was the most successful shot.
I always like to open on a floral note–an anemone I photographed about 100 times trying to catch the incredible fuchsia color. Clearly, I’m having some colorful moments right now.

By day, I trade in words. I write articles for  print and online media to publicize a company. It’s only when I write for quilting magazines (and the blog) that I get to show more of myself. This month, I scored a trifecta in the latest issue of The Quilt Life: an article, a styled photo, and a pattern. It’s a story, more a tale with a lesson, about sending boys off to college with handmade quilts–the vagaries of helicoptering as experienced by one dedicated, devoted, yet slightly deluded, parent. (My children, of course, would question the use of “slightly.”)

Usually my son's feet peek from the bottom of my quilts in photos--this time he's the main feature in shadow form. The article in "The Quilt Llife" is about his (our really) nearly-disastrous college freshman move-in day.
Usually my son’s feet peek from the bottom of my quilts in photos–this time he’s the main feature in shadow form. The article in “The Quilt Life” is about his (our) nearly disastrous college freshman move-in day.

Magazine-J:  April 2013 The Quilt Life

The featured pattern is one of my favorite pared-to-the-essentials quilts. I like super simple designs in my own work and these days, with a mod aesthetic ascendant, that appears to make me surprisingly trendy.  (Cough. Cough.) I’d opt for timeless. Actually, the original version is a two-color quilt in sunny marigold yellow and bright white. I keep on thinking I should bestow it as a gift, but I can’t let it go yet. As it turns out, that quilt is included in a featured post in the magazine’s blog Quilt Views. The Quilt Life’s iteration is made from two fabrics as well, but it looks like I went on a hunt for perfect value progressions in blue and black and then painstakingly placed them in my design. Nope. Just two Gelato Collection fabrics from E.E. Schenck. Isn’t ombré fabric magical?

Quilt-J:  Flying Colors by Jennifer
The “masculine” version featured in the April 2013 issue of The Quilt Life.
An al fresco styled shot of the marigold yellow variation. Those Meyer lemons come from Darra's incredibly abundant tree.
An al fresco styled shot of the marigold yellow variation. Those juicy Meyer lemons are from Darra’s ridiculously abundant tree.

It’s the machine quilting of both quilts by the fabulous Deb McPartland that delivers a fillip of stylishness to the design. I never imagined that a wavy line paired with a stair step in a pantograph could deliver a textural element that would also play tricks on the eye. Deb told me I’d like the result and she was spot-on. The optical illusion is most apparent in the blue/black version, especially in the magazine’s flat shot.

Giveaway Winner Here

Clearly, Kaffe Fassett has fans out in the quilting world. Wow! My unscientific poll of the comments reveals that we LOVE his fabric and use words like vibrant, colorful, and cheerful to describe our passion for his designs. Some embrace his exuberant style, while others deploy his fabric in smaller doses. Whatever tactic chosen, we simply adore his work and are enriched by his designs in fabric and quilts. He’s truly fortunate to have such abundant fans and followers. Just a quick note, I used a Clearview Triangle™ Super 60 Combination Ruler to cut the triangles for my hexagons–boy do 60º triangles make rotary cutting life easier! And the winner is . . . Sandy, the March 20th birthday girl. Congratulations (& happy bday)!

p.s. I will share photos of the finished hexagon quilt, after Deb McP adds her special touch. Thanks for your kind words in the Comments–heady compliments indeed!