Square Pegs for Hoffman – plus a fabric giveaway!

If you didn’t already know, I frequently sew for Hoffman Fabrics: they send me pix of their new stuff; I choose a couple of colorways and offer pattern choices; we shake hands on an idea; they send fabric; and I start sewing.*

New collections are ready to debut, so they reached out for a quilt. This time, we chose one of my newest patterns, Square Pegs:

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While the cover quilt leans more “modern” with its clean colors, I’ve been interested in seeing it rendered in batik. There’s been much discussion of late in as to whether batiks can play well in the modern quilt arena (I contributed to an article in the latest Gen Q mag about it). My answer to the question is YES, of course batiks can be “modern.” I think how you categorize a quilt is as just as much a function of the pattern design as it is the fabric choice, and as long as you play by good fabric choice rules (mind your values… watch out for too much medium tone mush), batiks are a fabulous choice.

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Batiks are also a fit for our current hand-made vibe – they are still hand printed, even at the volumes the quilt world consumes. And if you need more eco-assurance, Hoffman has some lovely environmentally careful practices around the water used to make their pretty fabrics.

Anyway, back to that quilt. Like last time, I posted Instagram pix (@huntersds) in real time, and shot them out to the HDS FB page (please go like it! thank you!), answering questions along the way. And feel free to ask more questions over there or in the comments below.

So – fabric choices! The pattern needs 12 quarters (fat or long, or a mixture) and a chunk of background. As you know, I usually lean ORANGE, but this time I was intrigued by the elegance of these cooler colors:

Hoffman for Sq Pegs

They are much prettier than they look in the long shots on Instagram! The background is not pure white, it’s a subtle, very light, mottled blue-gray – it’s part of the Watercolor series (Snow 1895-307) which are the solid-reading batiks. The light gray at top right became the binding. And look at the bold graphic designs in the prints!

For the curious, it took approximately 22 hours over the course of 3 days. Yes, I’m pretty speedy (#sewingatthespeedofsam was coined by my friend, Z-Girl) BUT – truly, this is a speedy quilt to make. It’s all straight seams and easy construction, with lots of negative space for you to quilt-doodle through. Yes, I sew fast, but the pattern choice didn’t hurt!

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For an even faster finish, you could skip the pieced border if you like, or sew these parts together as “leaders and enders” as suggested by one of my Stunt Peeps** if you sew that way. I also copied the quilting I had done on the earlier one, which meant I didn’t spend design time testing different quilting ideas. It’s easy straight lines following the lines of the blocks, and simple stippling in alternating spaces for extra texture.

On the first day I made the blocks and the border; on the second I set it into a quilt top, made the back (ran errands, had the car break down, got towed), and basted it; and on the third, I quilted and bound it (catching up on Mad Men) – and in a rare moment of having it all together, got the sleeve and label into the binding process rather than putting them on, cussing, as an afterthought! If making it for a client, I would bid 28 hours of time to allow for more unique designing if needed, and possibly surprise them with a discount if I beat my time.

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And so to giving away fabric! I have 2 bundles…

Bundle 1: A Square Pegs pattern plus 14 almost Fat Quarters – I cut a couple of the fabrics wrong, so they’re a tad short (wasn’t wearing my glasses… sigh) so you get the 12 you need for the pattern and a couple extra because I’m a goof (and the pattern doesn’t use the entire FQ so you’ll have plenty if you want to use them for this).

Bundle 1

Bundle 2: A Square Pegs pattern plus all my big scraps – most of which are 1/4 yard or more. You’ll have enough to do the non-background parts of the top, but might need to be creative with how you cut. And I might put in some ORANGE just because.

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Comment below to win – and tell me what you think of batiks as potential modern fabrics. And yes, you’re welcome to disagree with me – I love the discussion! I’ll choose winners on Friday. And yes, this is open to international folks too.

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

* I disclose my arrangement with Hoffman Fabrics out of a desire to be transparent in the name of my commitment to the We Are $ew Worth It movement. That said, I love working with Hoffman, and like and respect their people – and wouldn’t play with them if I didn’t! I only do what works for me with people I like :-)

**Square Pegs was test driven by Stunt Sewist Peeps Karyn, Jennifer, Karen and Julie!

My Top Ten Sewing Studio Hacks

Do you have tips, techniques, tools or hacks that make life in your sewing space easier or more efficient for you? Here are some of my favorites… please share yours in the comments!

1. Table Extensions

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Whether you sink your machine into some kind of sewing furniture (I use both the Janome Table and the Sew-Ezi table), or spring for the portable extension for your machine, having the bed of your machine extended across a table will allow you sew with more accuracy. The table gives you space to line up and straighten out your fabric before it reaches the needle.

2. Velcro on the Foot Pedal

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I sew on carpet, so my foot pedal is fond of going walkabout. A chunk of the hook side of sticky-back Velcro allows it to get a grip on the carpet. Your space isn’t carpeted? Try a decent sized square of the rubber mat sold for lining cupboards (I carry one in my portable kit so that if I sew somewhere else I’m ready for either).

3. Noodle on the Knee Lift

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The bigger machines of today all have knee lifts, and as the machine throats (or Harp Space, if we’re getting technical) get bigger, the knee lift gets further out to the right. Reaching it can be a bizarre form of inner thigh stretch. Buy a pool noodle that has a big hole through the middle, saw off a chunk (a bread knife is perfect for this) and slide/tug/push it on. It will bring the knee lift edge closer to you, and you won’t have mismatched thighs! Bonus: One pool noodle will get you three or four pieces so share with a friend!

4. Different Rotary Cutters for Different Uses

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I keep a selection of cutters around so that I can make it easily through different techniques. The 60mm one is for batting, fusible fleece, and when I’m cutting through more than 4 layers of fabric. I have an extra 45mm one specifically for cutting paper, or trimming paper pieced blocks (this gets my older blades). The 28mm is for smaller pieces and curved templates.

5. Cone Stand Hack

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Don’t have a cone stand? Do this instead… Grab a big coffee mug or a big canning jar. The base of the cup or jar needs to be bigger than the spool’s base or it will wedge. If using the jar, go wide-mouth so you can get your hand in if needed. Pop the thread into it and set it up next to your machine. Tape a safety pin (closed, sharp point down) to the edge of your machine such that you can go from the jar into your thread path in as straight a line as possible. Thread through the end hole in the safety pin and into the thread path.

6. Slider on the Machine

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Cover the path to the needle of your machine with a chunk of Supreme Slider (I had a damaged one that I cut in half for this). It will help stop seams from flipping the wrong way underneath as you come into the needle. For paper-piecing, it helps the paper slide across the machine bed, and stops the dreaded flip of the underneath piece. Tip: rinse the slider off at the beginning of every sewing session to keep it sticking on the bed.

7. Needle Threader

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If you can see to thread a needle easily, huzzah! File this away for the day after your 40th birthday for when, suddenly, your arms need to be longer to read anything. This little goody is the Desk Needle Threader made by Clover. Put the needle in eye down, lay thread across the path, push the lever, pull out the threaded needle. It also has a cutter across the top so you don’t have to risk your scissors to the capriciously enforced rules of the TSA.

8. Sticky Notes

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Do you go back to same machine settings over and over? Keep them close by on sticky-notes. I also use them to mark cuts of fabric when I need to keep it all straight.

9. Zippy Bags

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I use these relentlessly to corral projects and their parts. Being as I paper-piece a lot of words (and always precut for them), I bag the parts for each word as I’m cutting. I play a lot less 52-pick-up when I move things around in bags.

10. Tweezers

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I keep two sets on hand – one has teeth in the tip, the other has flat ends. I use the first mostly for pulling paper out of paper-pieced seams, and the flat ones for pulling up threads at the machine.

11. Non-sticky Hand Lotion

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Fabric will steal the moisture from your hands, so I use these little tins of hand lotion bars. Lavishea and LoLo Bar make my two faves, and I like the citrusy smells. Dump the bar into your hands, give it a quick rub, pop it back into the tin, and massage the lotion into your hands. Neither of these products leave a sticky residue! Bonus: when your hands have some moisture, you’ll be able to grip the fabric better, and pick up single pieces from stacks.

12. Scrap Pillow Case

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No matter how many scraps you keep, there’s still a point at which you’ll toss out the smallest bits of fabric. Put together a simple pillow case from that “what was I thinking?” fabric you bought a while back, and throw your scraps into it. When it’s full, run a sturdy seam down the edge, and drop it by your local animal shelter next time you’re out running errands.

Ooops – that was twelve! No matter!

Please share your fave tips in the comments.

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

 

New Sassy Buttons!

The last minute prep for Spring Quilt Market is under way… the suitcases are out, the new pattern samples are with the distributors (I’ll give you a peek next week), and I have one load of laundry left to go.

One of the things I always take to market are Sassy Buttons… usually a bag of the latest and favorites, along with a bag of brand new ones, hot off the presses, to share and test. But it hardly seems fair to exclude you, dear readers, from the newest sass! So here they are:

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If you’re interested in winning a set, leave a comment telling me which one you would give to a specific friend and why – I’ll draw after I get back from Market next week. YES, if you’re outside of the USA, you can play too :-)

As for Market – keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram ( @ huntersds ) – I’ll be posting pix there for you too. If there’s something specific you want me to look for, please mention it on FB and I’ll do what I can to track down a picture for you.

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

 

 

Finishing Birch Bark

The games continued yesterday, and as promised, here are more detailed shots and more process information as I finished the Birch Bark quilt for Hoffman Fabrics. As always – if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll answer as best I can!

The first job of the day was to make the backing. I had yardage for this, so no pieced backing needed. One seam did the trick. BTW, if you don’t have the Creative Grids yardstick ruler, you NEED one. I can’t believe how much I use it.

IMG_4967It’s still important to take off the selvedges on the seams for a back. You’ll notice that they are often tighter than the rest of the fabric, so if still in the seam they can lead to puckers on the back. Also, and again especially with batiks with their denser weave, the thicker edge can make you break a needle. I used a 1/4 inch seam and pressed it to one side. Had I been sending it to a long arm artist, I would have used a 1/2 inch seam for extra insurance, and pressed it open to reduce density (or asked for the artist’s preferences).

I use spray baste, specifically 505. I think it is the least smelly of the bunch, and holds well for a long time (seriously, I’ve had stuff spray basted in the bottom of the closet for a couple of years and didn’t need to re-do it when the time came to quilt it). When I started using spray, I didn’t get shown how by the people that “knew” so I daresay my method could be considered wrong. But it works well for me with the studio tools I have available so let me see if I can explain it well in pix (one of these days I swear I will attempt video).

First I clip the back down to my table. It’s one of those old, heavy, particle board affairs and it’s perfect for the job. Just like when you pin baste, it’s important to have a smooth tension on it, but don’t stretch the back or you WILL get wrinkles. I work from top to bottom on the quilt, not from the center. The TOP is on the left for reference.

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Then I lay the batting and top onto it. BTW – see the fan in the background – you need to have some type of fan pulling the air out of your space when you do this… I also cover all the important stuff with old sheets because it will all get sticky otherwise!

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I fold them both back, and spray the backing fabric (imagine video of me spraying here)

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Then I smooth the batting down, and spray the batting. I start at the center and move towards the edges. But don’t stretch!

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Then smooth the top down the same way.

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At this point, it’s glued from the top to the edge of the table. I unclip everything, move it towards the top so that all but about 4 inches of the the glued stuff is hanging off the top edge of the table.

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Then I re-clip the top edge (that’s glued) on the outside of the sandwich, and re-clip the backing only at the bottom edge.

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Now, we’re doing the same thing, but working from the other side of the table. Spray the backing and smooth down the batting.

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Then spray the batting, and smooth down the top. And move it again. Once you get to the bottom of the quilt, only move it as much as needed to get the bottom of the quilt onto the table. This stops you from overspraying batting and backing that might go back into your stash.

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Once all the spraying is done, unclip everything and give it a trim. I trim about an inch away.

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And done. A quick flip to the back to see if there are any wrinkles that need attending to…

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Looks good. And now onto quilting! I put this one back on the design wall to contemplate it. My first thought was to do a spiral, but that involves a lot of turning on the quilt, and remember, this one needed to get finished quickly. So I decided to go with a straight line pattern – fast and easy to do with a walking foot. This design was inspired by something my friend Flaun did recently on a commission. I set the lines on diagonal so as not to run into issues keeping them parallel to the seams in the top.

Another reason for choosing this design is that every line starts and stops OFF the edges. This also reduces the time spent pulling up threads or burying them later.

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I needed to find the right starting point for the center, and the “rule of thirds” worked well here… things that are off center in such a way that they align with thirds are usually pleasing to the eye. Here’s the third in both directions marked with a square of batting so you can see it:

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I chalked out the initial X of the design while it was on the wall so that I could see the angles.

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BTW – I used a Chaco Liner in white for this. I find the white comes off dark fabric easily, although sometimes it can be faint. I wanted a fine line to follow, and this does fine lines beautifully. I will also say that I use their other colors with reservation… sometimes they don’t come out too well. In their defense, Clover states in a blog post I dug up that they were designed for marking dress seams and darts that would be hidden, so it coming out quilts wasn’t part of the product design.

I chalked out one quadrant – one of the smaller ones to start with.

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And now to thread choices! I have a lot of Robison Anton rayon threads in my studio. I bought them before I discovered the likes of Aurifil (my #1 piecing thread) and Isacord (which I like to quilt with too), so I still use them. No sense in waste! I have quilting friends that don’t like to use rayon for “utility” quilts – those that will get used and washed a lot – as they might be too delicate and break under wear and tension. Most of my quilts are designed for photographing on pattern covers, and then carted around for trunk shows. So while I would never use nasty cheap thread, the RA is fine for how I use my quilts. I do have some utility quilts that have RA quilting that is holding up just fine – so as always – your mileage may vary!

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I ended up choosing an ORANGE. Surprise! I also want to show you these – they are Steady Betty Bands. They wrap around the palm of your hand to give you traction while quilting. I quilt with my palms, not my finger tips, so most of the gloves don’t work well for me. I also like that I can re-thread the machine or handle scissors with them on. They could be a prettier color though!

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And on to quilting! I marked one quadrant and quilted it before marking the next so as not to rub off all my chalk lines. For reference, it took 2 bobbins worth of thread to complete. The quilting unfortunately doesn’t show up well on this picture – often times the quilting on batiks gets lost in the fabric patterns.

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And onto the binding. Again, I put the quilt back on the wall while I worked out the binding choices. I had two ORANGE fabrics to work with, and liked the darker one better.

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I like to make bias binding when I can. I don’t find it any harder to cut and sew, and I like how it settles in on the edge.

How to calculate? Perimeter +20 (for goof-ups) times 2 1/2′ (width of binding), then divided by 40 (the width of the fabric), then rounded up to the next whole number, plus one (for goof-ups). In this case that was 18” x WOF. And I had about 30” left over so pretty dang perfect!

I lay it out on the mat, and make the first 45 degree cut at one corner.

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Then cut the rest of the fabric in 2 1/2” strips.

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And finally, take that first triangle that was left behind and cut it too. I leave behind the last corner triangles – usually anything under 8” (that’s why the +20 and round-up in my calculations)

Sew them end to end. Mind your right sides and wrong sides with batiks!

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Press those seams open, and the press the whole thing wrong sides together.

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And here’s the last edge getting sewn down. I join my edges with a bias seam, but that’s a game for a different post!

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Last step – I press the binding out so that when I do the hand work it folds over better.

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And DONE. This step, from making the back to ironing the binding was about 5 hours, sewing at the Speed of Sam!

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I sew the back of the binding down by hand because I like how it looks. This one took me the length of the Avengers movie on Netflix and a healthy dose of chocolate!

Total time for the entire project is right around 12 hours – but I was seriously hustling. If I was bidding it as a custom job for someone I would estimate 15 hours for safety, and surprise them with a little discount if I finished faster.

Questions? Do ask! I’m happy to help you make more quilts!

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

 

 

Birch Bark at the “Speed of Sam”

If you follow a lot of the quilting industry people, you’ll see one of two things this week… either frantic posts about the last minute finishes we all seem to be pulling off for next week’s Spring Quilt Market in Pittsburgh – or utter silence, because of said frantic finishing! As the saying goes, if it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done! And stitching binding on the plane to Market is almost a given.

I’ve sewn last minute stuff for three Markets now. I’m honored to be on call for Hoffman Fabrics… I design patterns that work well with their batiks, and so they often reach out for a booth quilt made of their newest lines. They got their new fabric in last week (no joke) and mine arrived Monday night.

Birch Bark - COVER

They asked for Birch Bark – one of my quick strip quilt patterns – so yesterday, I decided to photo and time myself through the top construction. I was posting on Instagram (@huntersds) and FB, but if you missed it, here are some of those shots and more, along with some of the thought process in my head. It has been a couple of years since I made one, so I estimated 5 hours for the top construction.

Hoffman sent me this new Bali Pop, which I believe will be called Sparrow. It’s all beautiful warm browns with some deep cranberry thrown in. They also sent me a couple of different ORANGE selections for the accent – they know me well! I chose the spotty one, and might use the solid for the binding (we’ll see when I get there).

Some of the new patterns in the batiks (known as “tjaps” and pronounced “chops”) are trending towards more modern and geometric patterning – and they are lovely! This group has those as well as the more organic, nature-driven patterns we’ve come to expect.

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The first step is always to take off the selvedges. Even though batiks are printed to the edge, that quarter inch of selvedge is made of thicker stuff (the warp threads are doubled at the edges). It can break your needles and distort your seams, so best be off with them!

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Next – chop up the strips and cut the accent pieces:

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To the machine! It needed a little TLC before I started. Out with the lint, in with a new needle. New needles can matter greatly with batiks as their weave is tighter. I use a Jeans/Denim 80/12 for all my piecing, and that sharp jeans tip is great for batiks.

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I chain-pieced the accents onto the strip sections…

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… and then chain-pieced those end to end to make a really, really long strip. Birch Bark is based on the Jelly Roll Race in terms of construction, so there are about 1600 inches of strip to wrangle.

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To the iron! I iron all the seams in the same direction for ease and speed.

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The strip gets turned into strata. I don’t press this until it’s all done.

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Now it can be pressed:

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The strata is cut into chunks, and the chunks go up on the design wall:

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There were a few areas where colors or accent bars came together in a way that I didn’t like.

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So I took out a seam in those blocks, and just moved one section to the other side of the piece I took it from. Even though the construction on this is partly about giving in to the randomness of how it comes together, you still get to manicure the parts that don’t make you happy!

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And seven seams later – top is DONE:

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It took 3 1/2 hours (4 from start to finish with a half hour break for lunch). Yes, I sew quite fast – my friend Melissa Z coined the phrase “Sewing at the Speed of Sam” after sitting next to me at a retreat! But I also have fast machines – both a Janome 6500 and 8900, which have delightfully fast top speeds. Still, you could still make this top in a day sewing sanely with plenty of breaks.

So today, I will be basting and quilting it. I will photograph/Instagram.FB my way through for that too, and will post it tomorrow. If you have any questions about why I do what I do the way I do it, ask on FB and I’ll try to answer those questions either as I work, or in tomorrow’s post.

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

 

 

 

Stitch ‘n Swap – join the party!

The Generation Q Magazine team has done it again with their new book Stitch ‘n Swap! It’s a sweet collection of exchange-worthy projects, and psst… I contributed one too!

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I was hot off the design of the Chunky Wee Bag when Jake asked me for a project for the book. She mentioned some of her fave features in a bag and so I designed a new version that had those - she likes swivels on her straps and magnetic closures. It’s called the Out and About Bag and it’s on page 77:

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The book is full of fun projects – I’m itching to try the tea cozy by Karen Cunagin, and the eye pillow by Carrie Bloomston. In all, 19 designers contributed a total of 25 projects.

I’ve only recently started participating in swaps, and for me the best part about them is the challenge of trying to really understand your recipient so that you can make something that will thrill them. It usually means I stretch myself in using colors and prints I might not be drawn to, but I always learn so much from it. And then, of course, the excitement of opening the one that was made for ME! And if you get a chance to make something for me, you know that it should be ORANGE, right?!

I know you want me to tell you where to go for a chance to win one of the three books Gen Q is giving away, so here it is! Comment on the original Generation Q Stitch ‘N Swap post letting them know if you’ve ever participated in a swap and the coolest thing you’ve ever gotten in a swap. That’s it! All winners will be chosen from the Generation Q Magazine post Wednesday May 7th and posted Thursday May 8th.

Of course, you can buy the book too! Stitch ‘n Swap releases May 19, 2014. It has 112 pages filled with 25 projects from amazing designers and get this–it’s only $17.95. Pre-order now through C & T Publishing, or beginning May 1, from Gen Q’s website. Ask for it at your local quilt store too – maybe even ask them to host some classes using the book’s techniques. 

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If you want to follow the blog party, here’s the schedule – check out the contributor’s blogs so that they can tell you more about their projects:

Date:       Event                                    Who
4/24        Blog Party week 1                    Scott’s Placemat Pattern, Melissa T. Maher, Jeni Baker, Anne Deister, Emily Herrick, Sam Hunter, Lynn Kraus
4/29        Blog Party week 2                    Vicki Tymczyszyn (will blog for Generation Q), Carrie Bloomston, Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Rose Hughes, Heather Jones, Tracy Mooney, Elaine Wong Haselhuhn
5/6          Blog Party week 3                   Jake Finch, Scott Hansen (Blue Nickle Studio) , Karen Cunagin, Michelle Freedman, Linda Hansen, Kevin Kosbab, Melissa Peda

Remember! Comments here DON’T put you in the book drawing!

 

 

Fabric Crush: Introducing PAINT!

Welcome to my hop on the blog tour for PAINT, the latest fabric line from Carrie Bloomston of SUCH Designs!

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To read more about my friendship with Carrie (and one her beautiful “wise-woman” stories) go here.

PAINT continues the conversation begun in Carrie’s first line, Collage. The elements we know and love are there in new shades – the “torn” stripes, and the text prints (psst… Carrie handcrafts the text to be full of positive and inspiring words).

I’m thrilled to see all the solid-reading blenders in this line – they are so needed to bring together a pretty composition – but I’m utterly wowed by the border print! Carrie sent me some to play with, and so I featured it in the flap of a couple Chunky Wee Bags:

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I made the littlest bag especially for Carrie’s daughter, who is featured in the Lookbook that Windham Fabrics created for the fabric. It’s worth a peruse – it has a bunch of sweet projects in it, showing the versatility of the fabric. And don’t miss the inspiring prayer flags created by a community of Carrie’s readers on the last page!

Carrie and Windham have a charm pack of the fabric for you to win – just leave a comment below, and I’ll choose a winner on Tuesday morning. And look for the fabric at your LQS in July/August (tell them to order it at Spring Quilt Market!)

Don’t miss the rest of the blog tour!

April 9 April Rhodes
April 10 Sally Keller + Julie Goldin
April 11 Shea Henderson
April 12 Ramona Burke + Jenny Kelly
April 13 Sam Hunter A Vintage Fairytale (Staci Barrett)
April 14 Rachael Gander + Erica Sage
April 15 Karen LePage + Tia Curtis
April 16 Shelly Figueroa + Fabrications2b (Bonnie Bobman)

 

These Hands Make Things

If you follow any of the social media surrounding the current wave of feminism, you’ve probably noticed that we are beginning to see photographs of real people with little electronic alteration – a trend I find so welcome.

The latest version of Vanity Fair is the yearly Hollywood issue, and right in the middle of all that impossible glamour is a group of pictures taken by Chuck Close. The stars were instructed to show up without stylists and entourages, and Close shot the images up close and personal in his usual fashion.

My favorite of the group is this one of Helen Mirren:

Helen MirrenI love that she seems to not have messed with her beautiful face (that smile hints of delight and mischief), but more than that – I love the realness and honesty of her hand. It looks like a hand that has lived.

Which got me to thinking about hands in advertising… all those perfect hands with perfect nails. That always seem, somehow, to not actually look like they know what they are doing in the ads. They don’t look like they’ve ever slathered peanut butter on bread in a hurry. Or cracked a nail while grabbing keys off the counter. Or endured the tiny stabs and pinpricks of a daily life in the needle-arts. They might be real, but  they just don’t look it – anymore than those perfectly polished cover girls we’re trying to debunk.

Which then got me to thinking about my own hands:

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I like these hands. I’m proud that, after 52 years and counting, they’re still working pretty well. They have made many beautiful things, and they bear the scars of a rich life. That knot of arthritis in the last knuckle of my right index finger is a present from grad school (along with bifocals) – the incredible volume of writing, researching and making did a number on that knuckle and it bumped up in defense. You can see a new burn on the same index finger – I’m still getting used to the oven in my new digs.

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There’s also a cut on the side of my left index finger, a snick in a quick moment of making dinner for a friend. On the palm side of my left hand is a web of scars from a disagreement with a blender a year ago (I’ll spare you the picture with the stitches) along with an almost 30 year old scar from a minor surgery to remove a pesky cyst. And you can no longer see where I machine-sewed through my finger on one of those doing-too-much-too-fast days. And freckled over all, the salt and pepper of age spots.

But let me tell you other stories about these hands… they changed a bunch of diapers on a really sweet kiddo who is soon to turn thirty. They have hugged and hugged and hugged so many wonderful people. They’ve written serious term papers and typed silly statuses into social media. They’ve made oodles of shortbread. And they have made quilts. Lots of quilts. Hundreds of quilts. They have started a pattern business, designed a bunch of sassy buttons, and written a book. These hands are CAPABLE. They might not be cover-girl smooth anymore, but they know how to MAKE things. And that, to me, makes them beautiful.

So show me YOUR hands on the HDS Facebook Page and tell me a story about them. And if you’re using Instagram let’s give them a #thesehandsmake hashtag so that we can see them all together!

(With thanks to my friend Annie for the photo assist… hand selfies are not easy!)

Honored

Last week I spoke at the Camarillo Quilt Association in Southern California – a friendly and welcoming guild of ladies and gents. I love, love, love working with quilters – they are the sweetest people!

Before we got started Gayle Moyer, one of their members, showed me a group of quilts that she made from one of my patterns:

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And here’s the story behind the quilts, in Gayle’s words:

“My son is currently active duty in the Navy. He is the rescue swimmer/door gunner on a helicopter. This summer, while the squadron was deployed into the Red Sea, he was on a detachment on the USNS Rainier. This detachment consisted of 2 helicopters, 4 pilots and 5 air crew (of which my son was one of). A rogue wave hit the helicopter while chained on the deck of another ship. This wave ripped the helicopter from the deck of the ship and it sank deep into the Red Sea. The one air crewman, which was still on the helicopter, was thrown free but the two pilots went down with the helicopter. It was a very stressful time for our family, not knowing if our son was involved. Before we even knew who the 2 men were that were lost, I decided that I wanted to be involved in making Home of the Brave quilts for the family. I had made some quilts for Home of the Brave in the past, including 4 that I made when 2 members of my daughter’s Army unit were killed while she was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006. When I heard that each of the pilots left behind 2 small children, I decided that I wanted to make the children quilts to comfort them and to remember their fathers by. The youngest child was born only 2 months before his father was killed and had never met his dad. The others were ages 4 and two 6 year old’s.  I decided not to use the Home of the Brave pattern as these were young children. I wanted to use bright patriotic fabrics that they might still love when they are older. I had made several quilts from your Mouse Trap pattern and decided to use the pattern because it was an easy pattern that looked good with many different fabrics. I made the 4 tops and quilted 2 of them. A friend of mine quilted the other 2 as I wanted to get them finished to be able to present them at the Memorial service that was scheduled for January 17.”

photo3“I wrote each child a little letter explaining who I was, my relation ship to the squadron, and to let them know that their dad was a true HERO. I was able to present these quilts as well as an official Home of the Brave quilt to each of the widows. My prayer is that as these children wrap themselves up in the quilts, they will imagine their daddy giving them a big hug.”

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“The service went well. It was a wonderful service. I was glad that my son was able to sit with me and also was with me as I presented the quilts. He was able to tell them that he really enjoyed working with their husbands. We did not spend much time with the widows as there were more people wanting to talk to them. I was able to hand them over without turning into a puddle.”

photo2Gayle – this world is a far better place because people like you take the time to make important quilts like these. Thank you so much for including me in this. Now excuse me while I go turn into a puddle…

Improv piecing and the Pope’s robes

photo (2)Despite living in Los Angeles for decades, I had never made the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown LA (ha… almost wrote Downton!) Yesterday, I changed that.

Just so you know, I don’t talk about how I do faith in public. I’m cool with how I do faith, and on board for however you do yours, but I find overt evangelism a bit odious, so when the topic comes up amongst anyone other than my closest pals, my response is usually “How ’bout them Dodgers?”

I went to the cathedral to experience it as art and architecture. I’ve been to many European churches and cathedrals, and they are usually marvels, testaments to the absolute best the artists and craftsmen of their time had to offer. A mason could work his entire (short) life on a magnificent edifice, knowing he would never see to completion, yet knowing that it might stand for generations to come. Sometimes I think quilting can be just that important too – they can outlast us if we make them right.

So this cathedral… impressive, but not my cup of tea. I understand that one doesn’t set out to build an old school Gothic cathedral full of soaring buttresses in 1996, but I found the postmodernist angles of this building to be, well, angular. My friend remarked that they didn’t inspire much comfort. I would have to agree. The tapestries, though, were quite spectacular and worth a visit. As always, I might come for the building but I stay for the fiber!

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In one rather awkward little alcove, there were some mementos of the Pope’s visit to LA in 1987. There were a few press pictures of him saying mass in Dodger Stadium (and… how ’bout them Dodgers?!) wearing the robe and mitre in these pictures.

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And look… improv piecing done in myriad contemporary fabrics! Fancy that! I wonder who made these? And if she is now a modern quilter?