My New Slow Project – Union Jacks

I know it probably seems weird that someone who sews for work also sews to relax. I’m lucky to have several social sewing opportunities each month, and I try hard not to take my work to them. Sewing with friends helps me re-connect to the joy of sewing, and to the heart-warming community aspect that has always surrounded quilting. I always come away refreshed and recharged.

Small projects work well for me when I need to go portable, and while I’ve had a recent run of making Sew Together Bags (and, egad, I might not be done with them, I still have a couple of people left to spoil), I needed something else to play with. The solution? Another Slow Project.

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Check out the tiny Big Bens in the print in the top block!

I decided to make Union Jack blocks for this one (in homage to my English heritage), and chose the tutorial from Molli Sparkles for the construction method. Molli’s pattern has the right ratio in the proportions of the flag, and the thick/thin aspects of the white stripes are correctly rendered. (Read here for more information about the flag’s design.) It’s also a pattern that doesn’t leave you with all bias around the edges – a problem that isn’t hard to solve, but great to avoid if other solutions are available!

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Like my last slow project, I think I’ll make this one for my bed, which means it could take a couple of years (which is great, because then I don’t have to think about what to take to sew day for a while!) The block is 7 1/2” x 15”, so I’m probably looking at about 100 blocks to make another big bed quilt. I also have a friend who made it very clear to me that if I junk up her living room with a Union Jack quilt, she’ll love me forever! Who can resist such an offer?! So perhaps I’ll aim for 150 blocks to start.

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I’ve made a working rule for the fabric choices: a print goes in the “blue” space, and a solid goes in the “red” space, with the “white” space remaining white. It’s been fun to comb through my stash for prints, and I’ve also had some donated to the cause by friends.

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I imagine that it will need some calm sashing when I set it, but I’ll worry about that when I get there.

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I’ve made 15 so far, and I’m really having fun with them. Looking forward to the next social sewing day!

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The Joy of a Slow Project

I’m capable of working quite quickly, fast enough that my friends invented a hashtag for it, #sewingatthespeedofsam. Yes, I get through a lot of projects – remember, I design and sew for a living! – but over the years, I’ve had several slow projects, lasting more than a year, and I find great delight in them. There’s something about NOT being on a deadline that is so relaxing.

My most recent “slow” finish was a huge bed quilt, just for me. I started collecting the fabric a couple of years ago, and then spent a retreat weekend cutting up the strips I needed. It took me the better part of a year to put it together, just sewing a bit at a time over retreats and social sewing days to finish the quilt top.

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The quilt is comprised of 36 big log cabin blocks. I had a loose rule for them, making rounds of 2 different sizes of strips for a little randomness, but a rule that made sure they would all hit the same size at the end. Most of the centers have to do with writing, and if not writing, they are personal to me in some way, representing my hobbies, heritage, passions, and travels. The quilt is a celebration of birthing my book, Quilt Talk, and I thought that getting that book finished and launched was something to commemorate with a significant project, not to mention something I will continue to be proud of for years to come.

The blocks are 17” across, and the postage stamp sashing is 1” wide (and yes, there’s a lot of sashing, about 45 yards of it!) so it came in at 110” square – big enough to hit three sides of floor and hide all the things stashed under my raised bed.

I sent the quilt to Nancy Stovall of Just Quilting here in Portland, and she searched for the right text driven design to quilt over it. Nancy is a wonder… not only does she bring her considerable talent to her work, but she spends time getting to know you as an artist before she begins her design process. She knew what I liked before I even talked about it with her (not too dense, and no feathers!). And the design was beyond perfect, full of letters and numbers in different fonts – so right for the quilt, and so very ME at heart:

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I finished the quilt right at the end of 2014, and have been sleeping under it since. It sleeps and drapes beautifully, and I utterly adore it.

Later this week I’ll show you blocks for my next slow project… do you have one on the go?

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Come sew with me this weekend

I’m teaching at Fabric Depot in Portland, OR, again, this Sunday (April 12th) – I’d love it if you come play!

(BTW – Teresa Coates of Fabric Depot interviewed me for their blog – read it here)

HDS.003 - Big Block Tumble - COVER

This time, we’ll be working on Big Block Tumble. It’s a delightfully fast and easy quilt to make, and needs only three fabrics in the main body (you can add more in the borders like the cover sample if you like).

You can sign up here: http://www.fabricdepot.com/big-block-tumble

Best of all, it has NO Y-SEAMS! It constructs in easy, forgiving strips. You’ll probably have the body of the quilt top finished before you go home. And just so you know, I iron and rip for my students :-)

Here are some other versions I’ve made:

BBT OrangeBrown for PS Tumb Blox RedGray cropped

 

It’s a fun and versatile quilt, and a great one to make when you need a quick gift. I’d love to see you in class!

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Free Pattern – Washable Veggie Bags

I have another freebie for you over at Janome’s site! This time, a fast way to make cloth bags to take to the farmers market or grocery store.

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One yard of fabric quickly turns into SIX bags of different sizes. And you just know you have a yard of something in your stash that you might no longer need to keep :-)

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I’ve been carrying bags like this, along with my re-usable shopping bags, for a couple of years. I always get compliments about how cute they are, and how cool it is to use one less plastic bag. And if they get wet or dirty, you can pop them into the laundry with your towels.

The link to the project is here – enjoy!

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Free Motion Inspiration from Christina Cameli

Yesterday I wrote about playing with Sara Lawson’s new fabric, Fantasia, and promised you a look at the quilting I did. It’s based on designs from Christina Cameli’s latest book, Step-by-Step Free-Motion Quilting.

I should preface this with the fact that I don’t consider myself sophisticated at machine quilting at all. It’s my least favorite part of the process, and while I still quilt most of my own quilts*, I’m very practical in my designs. I tend to echo straight lines around things, or run lines and grids across the surface, and I can do a mean stipple to fill space when I need to.

Sara’s fabrics have a sweet, cheery feel about them, and I felt that banging a bunch of straight lines across the quilt would be a disservice to the nature theme of her designs. So I turned to Christina’s book for some inspiration.

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It would be easy to look at this book and think that all the designs are intended for a long-arm audience, but that’s far from the case – they are designed to be handled on a domestic machine (this is one of Christina’s superpowers). The designs have an organic, hand-drawn feel about them that I find to be a lovely respite from some the intense, dense, and almost mechanical quilting that has been recently popular. I don’t buy many quilting books, but I’m so glad to have this one in my library – it’s that good. And no, I wasn’t asked to review it!

The book has several edge-to-edge designs that have elements that interlock with each other… the element of one line takes up the space left between two elements of the line next to it:

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I took this concept, and looked for something in Sara’s fabric that might lend itself to such a pattern, ending up with this petaled design:

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Which I interpreted like this in quilting:

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And interlocked like this across the quilt (this is the back, for a better look):

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It was really easy to do down the length of the quilt, and flowed well on the bed of the machine. The rhythm of the design wasn’t hard to find, and the quilting got done quite quickly. I will definitely be using these types of designs again!

The book is lovely, Christina – Brava!!

* When I don’t do my own quilting, I happily hire Nancy Stovall of Just Quilting, and Jolene Knight of Good Knight Quilts here in Portland, OR.

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Sara Lawson’s Fantasia

My friend Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness put a call out a couple of weeks ago for people to sew with her new fabric line, Fantasia, by Art Gallery Fabrics, so I raised my hand to help out.

I worked with some Art Gallery fabrics while writing Quilt Talk, and they’re not kidding when they say “feel the difference.” The hand of the fabric is smooth and silky, and it makes minimal shreds while you work with it. Lovely stuff!

Fantasia is a light-hearted and whimsical line, with a healthy dose of PINK running through it, so as you can imagine, this was out of my comfort zone! The prints are well integrated both thematically and in terms of variety of pattern texture. There are several good blenders, with a couple that could become great “low volume” staples too. There are two colorways: the PINK/GRAY based Ambrosial, and the TEAL/ORANGE based Crepuscular (what a fun word that is – worth looking up!)

The feature/focus prints are based on Unicorns…

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with supporting designs of flowers, mushrooms, and unicorn-shoes!

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Sara sent fat quarters of both colorways, so I decided to mix them in a fast and easy precut pattern that’s been on the design wall… I’ll be releasing it in May with a few others, so no full pix until then! I used Christina Cameli’s latest book for quilting inspiration – more about that tomorrow!

The fabric should be shipping this month, so ask for it at your local quilt store.

Thank you, Sara, for the chance to play with Fantasia!

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Dimensional Indeed!

Pam Lincoln at Mama Spark’s World recently filled my inbox with goodness! Check out the pix of her rendition of my Relatively Dimensional pattern!

IMG_3494She used a custom Gallifreyan Spoonflower fabric for the background, and then sent it to Kathy Koch at Thread Bear Quilting for the long-arm artistry.

IMG_3496 IMG_3497I’m utterly entranced with the interplay of the circles, and more than a little geeked out by the “DW” motif in the door panels. Swoon!

Brava, ladies! And thank you SO much for sharing the pix with me!

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A Slight Obsession with Sew Together Bags

Have you made a Sew Together Bag yet? Did you know there’s a pattern for a MINI version??

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It’s shorter, and has only two interior pockets.

Elizabeth at OPQuilt.com designed the adapted mini, but she did something utterly cool to protect the original pattern. Rather than offer up the cutting instructions, which could thereby cheat Michelle at SewDemented out of some pattern sales, she created a worksheet that doesn’t work unless you have the numbers from the original pattern. What a delightful way to honor and protect the original pattern!

Anyway – I’ve been on a bit of a tear, making them for friends. I’ve made eleven so far. I even made one for a zipper pouch exchange at my guild’s retreat this weekend. And I have the parts cut out for 4 more to sew while I’m there….

Yep. A little bit obsessed :-)

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Bloomin’ is in Keepsake!

I’m tickled to share that one of my patterns is being featured in the current Keepsake Quilting Catalog – it’s on the back page of the Spring issue! Thank you to all the friends who’ve forwarded pix to me.

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Keepsake has paired the pattern with Catalina, a new floral line from Maywood Studio Fabrics.

This version of the quilt was made by two dear and talented friends – paper-piecing maven Cath Hall of Wombat Quilts made the top, and Nancy Stovall of Just Quilting here in PDX did the long arm honors.

The pattern uses both paper-piecing and easy straight seam piecing to get the job done. If you’re not a fan of working within a collection, it’s an excellent scrap/stash buster – I used prints, batiks, and hand-dyeds in my version for the cover:

HDS.019.v1 - Bloomin - COVER

 

Yes, yes, I know… I used PINK. But you noticed the ORANGE in there too, yes? Of course!

Both the hard copy and PDFs are available in my store… just follow the shopping link above. Or get yours as a kit from Keepsake.

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WASWI: “But I don’t need the money”

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It’s exciting to see the topic of selling handcrafted items for decent money rise up in the consciousness of our industry. I believe that the more we talk about it, the better it will be for all.

I was sent a recent post from Kate Chiconi, from which I pulled this quote (emphasis mine) regarding getting paid well for a quilt:

But I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no point counting the hours I spend in my enjoyment and expecting a return on investment. All that would achieve is a deep sense of despondency at how poorly I’m rewarded, whereas in fact the reward lies in the process and the pleasure my handwork gives, not the monetary reward. Fortunately, I’m not dependent on my sewing to support myself, unlike some of my forebears!

While I’m glad Kate understands the “despondency” of being low-balled for her work, and I’m thrilled she enjoys her process, I think she is missing the fact that her contemporary peers try to make livings with a needle, too.

For many of us, it’s REALLY tough to place a price on what we do. It engages all sorts of discomfort in our esteem, and often leaves us open to criticism and ridicule for daring to challenge the notion that it’s OK for artists to starve. Our love for what we do is called into question when we monetize it. And for we ladies, there’s an added layer of judgment about being uppity and “not nice” when you try to be business-like.

So we don’t do it. We shrink back when asking for a fair price. We do funky math and discount the cost of the materials because we already owned them (unwilling to point out that to replace them will cost good money.) We weakly defend the idea that you can love something AND make money at it (and why the hell is this only a conversation in the arts? I don’t see bankers struggling with this at all.) And the most corrosive lie we can tell is “I don’t need the money.”

It’s a great one to hide behind… not only does it make you sound fortunate, it colors you as generous and altruistic. You’re doing the would-be buyers a favor by leaving some cash in their wallets.

But while it might help you, and maybe get you a modest sale, it actually hurts all your sew-sisters and -brothers. YOU might not need the money, but I certainly do, and I’m not the only one. If you don’t educate buyers as to a fair price, then the knowledge of what that is will not permeate our art-buying culture. And we all suffer for it.

Even if you don’t need the money, PLEASE charge it. Donate the cash to children’s arts programs or your favorite charity if you need to get it out of your account. If you still don’t want to do that, please AT LEAST give the buyers a detailed invoice showing the depth of the discount they receive. Education is the easiest thing we can do to change this.

Kate ends with this:

We create because we can and because we must. Monetary reward is just a very pleasant fringe benefit…

Pleasure in my process is certainly important. But no one quilts for cash without enjoying their process – it’s just too damned hard. However, we can’t pay the rent in satisfaction, nor should we be expected to. Money isn’t a fringe benefit in the arts, it’s what feeds the family. Just like in other careers.

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