Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ending 2014 with a little improv patchwork and baking

My DH carried on the majority of the holiday cookie-baking tradition this year. He did a fine job mixing the dough and added his own improvisational flare with the butter cream frosting, colored sugars and sprinkles.
Roll-out cookies.
These are the roll-out variety… complete with Christmas-themed trees, reindeer, candy canes, stars and snowmen. Because of my vast collection of cookies cutters (been collecting for years!), we also add the doggies, kitties, bunnies, sheep, birds, pigs and other animals to the medley to make it more fun and festive. We like to give tins of cookies away to family, friends and neighbors.
Frosted and decorated roll-out cookies.
After the baking, I stole some time for a bit of improv patchwork—for the pure joy feeling the fabric glide through my fingers… passing beneath the needle of the sewing machine… unconcerned with achieving an exact 1/4 inch… or not. Very low key… it was wonderful.

Begin by dumping the "Red" box of fabric pieces onto the table...
From my "red" box.
interject a few contrasting bits… do a little improv cutting and piecing...
Improvisational piecing.
then top off the quilt sandwich with a sampling of easy, go-to-favorite free-motion filler patterns.
Free-motion quilting filler designs.
I have a recipient in mind for this handmade gift.
Improvisational patchwork.
The other cookie recipe that re-appears at our house during the holidays is kolacki (or kolacky). The hunt for the Solo brand pastry filling is always unpredictable here in Tennessee, but we were able to score poppy seed, apricot and the last can of almond this year.

This is the perfect accompaniment to improv patchwork—a hot cup of tea (in my ceramic Quiltfest mug) and homemade Christmas cookies. So, Cheers to 2014 and Welcome to 2015. I hope it is happy and bright.
Kolacki and roll-out Christmas cookies.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Circle in a Square: Reverse appliqué with pre-cut strips

Sometimes things work better if you "do it in reverse." With appliqué, anyway.
Close-up of the quilting on the Reverse Appliqué class project.
This week I rolled out a new quilting class [you saw a sneak peek of the project here] on Reverse Appliqué. Have you tried this technique?
"Circle in a Square" table runner.
Reverse Appliqué class.
I taught "Circle in Square table runner" at Pins and Needles Quilt Shop to a crazy-fun group of quilters that call themselves "Squirrels." The Squirrels have lots of energy, are eager to learn, laugh easily and bring chocolate cookie bars to class. What more could one ask?
Talking about strips sets and the reverse appliqué block.
We used the "Circle in a Square" pattern by my friend, Janice Pope, of Anything But Boring as the jumping off point for the class project, a table runner. Incidentally, all of the Squirrels used strips or yardage from fabric collections by Blank Quilting Corporation. (Way to go, Squirrels!)

Here is Helen Marie's mix of metallic jewel tones from the Spring Bouquet strip set.
Reverse appliqué quilt blocks using Spring Bouquet strips by Blank Quilting Corp.
Linda's contrast fabric was the hunter green panel from the Radiant collection.
Reverse applique blocks using hunter green Radiant by RaNae Merrill
for Blank Quilting Corporation.
Susan embellished her block with decorative top stitching. Her strip set was the green Color Story (20 strip package) from Blank Quilting. The delicate picot edge stitching mimics the tiny twinkling stars in one of the fabrics.
Decorative stitching enhances this quilt block. 
 Cheryl used one of Blank Quilting's Sumatra batiks for the contrast fabric in her blocks.
Preparing the block for reverse appliqué.
After working though one block, the Squirrels agreed that reverse appliqué was "a cool technique!" 

In the class, we also discussed design possibilities for strip-piecing the blocks, block layouts, and applications for using the reverse appliqué technique. Each student completed two or three appliqué blocks for their "Circle in a Square" table runners in class, so the projects are well on their way to the finish line.
Finished quilt blocks.
At one of the Squirrel's request, I offered ideas for quilting the table runner and used my quilt (below), a variation of the Circle in a Square pattern, as inspiration. The "Pralines and Cream" Fabrications strip set [Blank Quilting Corp.] and Eclipse turkey red solid was used for this quilt.
"Circle in a Square"
One of Blank Quilting's flannel wide backings (color: putty) was used on the back of this quilt. The quilting stitches sink right into this backing—leaving a soft-sculpted surface texture. This quilt was also the impetus for a new, intermediate level, free-motion quilting class called "Fillers, Spillers and Thrillers." (Stay tuned for more about this class.)
Flannel 108" wide backing.
Thanks to all the Squirrels for coming out to Pins and Needles for my new Reverse Appliqué quilting class. I had a great time and hope you did, too!
Reverse Appliqué students (from left): Susan, Cheryl,
Helen Marie, Linda and me at Pins and Needles Quilt Shop.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Score! Gingher embroidery scissors

Winner, winner, chicken dinner... I won these scissors—made by Gingher.
Gingher embroidery scissors. A perfect tool for doing reverse appliqué.
I attended the "Charity Quilt Auction and Christmas Open House" event at Pins and Needles Quilt Shop last month. The following week, I got a call from Stacy, the shop's owner, saying I had won a door prize. Yahoo! Last Friday, I picked it up—this fabulous pair of 4" embroidery scissors, made by one of the premiere manufacturers of cutting tools for needlework of all kinds, Gingher.

What a nice surprise. And so fun to crack open a box and use a shiny new sewing tool. This little gem is perfect for doing reverse appliqué (a new quilting class I'm working on!). The photo above is a sneak peek of the project. It uses pre-cut 2.5" strips. (I am the Strip Queen, after all.) Open… sort… sew… easy.

Thank you, Stacy and Pins and Needles Quilt Shop. I love my new Gingher scissors!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

ATCs: Simple Things

These days, the hustle and bustle of the season can be overwhelming. Everyone is rushing, planning and multi-tasking—not without more than a little stress on top of it.
"A steaming mug on a cold day…"
by Kathy Dillon

   It might be time to take a moment …


   Breeeeathe in.



Take a look at the November/December Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) with the theme, "Simple Things." Remind yourself to find joy in a few stolen moments. And enjoy the pleasures of simple things.

"The Simple Things"
by Lisa Howard
"A penny saved is a penny earned!"
by Liz Armstrong
"Simple Things"
by Marilyn League

"A hot cup of tea on a cold day"
by Veronica Hofman-Ortega
"It is better to light a single candle
than to curse the darkness."
by Karen Downer
"Simple pleasures… warm sand, cool breezes"
by Carlene Jacobsen

"Coffee Break"
by Debbie Joyner
"Scissors, Thimbles, Needles and Thread"
by Bonnie Stevens

"Hot Chocolate"
by Sharon J. Griffith
Thanks to all the ATC Artists who've shared their art, time, skills and talent with me and those in my Artist Trading Card swaps this past year. My heart and my ATC collection overflows.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Blue Rhino Moon: the Paint Chip Challenge quilt

The Paint Chip Challenge:
Make a quilt using 3 paint chip colors whose names begin with the initials of your name.
Blue Rhino Moon (detail)
This was a parameter of my quilt guild's [the Choo Choo Quilters] Challenge this year along with a size guideline and a required hand technique. My guild had its Challenge reveal at the November guild meeting. My entry, "Blue Rhino Moon," tied for the First Place prize. Check out the other fabulous quilts here.
"Blue Rhino Moon"
33.5" x 43.25"
1st Place winner, Choo Choo Quilters Guild Challenge
After sorting and purging a huge pile of paint chips, I focussed on these three colors: Volcanic Ash, Hang Ten (turquoise), and Oh So Red. The charcoal gray offered a dark value that contrasted with the other two, near-compliment colors—(almost) blue-green / red-orange.
VHO: Volcanic Ash, Hang Ten, and Oh So Red paint chips.
Inspiration also came from a cotton/linen blend remnant from an Echino Decoro collection for Kokka fabrics.
Kokka cotton/linen print was an inspiration.
Since the focus of the Challenge was a color story—dictated by the paint chips—blender fabrics became indispensable in accomplishing the goal. Being tonal by nature, the eye is not distracted by a contrast in color and value that is found on coordinating prints or the variety of imagery on most focus fabrics.

For my fabric rep compatriots, included in my Challenge piece are Splash, Crushed, Fusion and Just Color blenders and two colors from the Peppered Cottons blender line by Pepper Cory: 23 carbon and 16 flame. Carbon and Flame matched the Volcanic Ash and Oh So Red paint chips perfectly so they became predominant fabrics in Blue Rhino Moon.
Blenders and coordinates included in "Blue Rhino Moon."
As many of you know, the [free-motion] quilting is one of my favorite aspects of the quilt-making process.
Free-motion quilting (detail).
The yarn-dyed Peppered Cottons are wonderful to stitch and quilt! These shot cottons are almost solid so they show off the texture and bas relief created by the free-motion stitching quite nicely. Aurifil Mako 50 wt. cotton threads were conducive to quilting the background fills and zig-zags.
Free-motion quilting on Peppered Cottons.
The handwork techniques that I incorporated were hand appliqué (the patchwork circle) and the addition of small surface embellishments that I needle-tatted and crocheted with perle cotton thread and cotton yarn. These motifs were hand sewn onto the quilt after it was quilted.
Embellished with tatted and crochet pieces.
Trapunto was used in the blue appliquéd circle and the backing fabric is Sparkle cherry 108" (this fabric is no longer available).
Sparkle cherry 108" wide backing.

Quilt Stats:
Finished size: 33.5" x 43.25"

Threads: Aurifil 50/2 cotton in the top and Superior Bottom Line in the bobbin.
16 hours of quilting. 4 bobbins.

Batting: Hobbs Tuscany unbleached cotton with a piece of Tuscany polyester batting for the trapunto in the appliquéd circle.

This piece has a faced binding.
Many guild members commented how the caliber of our guild's Challenge pieces has elevated over the past few years. I couldn't agree more! See the other entries here.

During the evening's presentation, each quiltmaker gives a brief overview of her processes, color choices and then the floor is opened up for a short, informal Q&A for each piece. It's interesting to hear each quilt's story unfold. We often laugh about when our guild members actually start working on their Challenge quilts. Most admit to a very recent date. Then, we all chime in, "there's nothing like a deadline!"
Label for "Blue Rhino Moon"
My label (another Challenge requirement) was made from leftover patchwork bits and a strip from my inspiration fabric... with the rhino.

Now, I just have to make a pocket to hold the paint chips and sew it to the back—like two clever guild members did on their Challenge quilts. (Wish I had thought of that!)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Piecing Dresden plate blocks

I had a great group of quilters at the "So Easy Dresden" class last weekend. And, let me tell you, these women were nailing that quarter-inch seam! Whoa.
So Easy Dresden class
With sixteen 22.5-degree wedges that have to fit together exactly to form a circle, you have to get that 1/4-inch seam allowance pretty much on-the-money or your plate will not lie flat. They did it… waaaay better than I do when making these blocks.

The class fabric and color combinations were charming, colorful and festive. Students auditioned background and border possibilities. Some of these Dresdens will likely find their way to holiday tables and be used as decorations for the season.
Mary's Dresden
Martha's Dresden
Frances' Dresden
Lisa's Dresden
Judy's Dresden
Brenda's Dresden
My students made excellent progress on their Dresden plates. We discussed options for hand and machine appliqué and tips for quilting this dimension quilt block. This is a perfect small project for practicing free-motion quilting.
"So Easy Dresden" quilting class at Chattanooga Sewing Center
Chattanooga, TN
Very well done, ladies! I can't wait to see your finished projects. Thanks for an enjoyable class.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Easy Dresden class this Saturday

The Dresden Plate quilt block is a classic. Whether you make it with traditional style fabrics, '30s reproduction prints, popular blenders, batiks or even hand-dyed fabrics, the geometric nature of this block lends itself to just about any taste and style.
I'm teaching a "So Easy Dresden" class this Saturday at Chattanooga Sewing Center.
My personal quilting aesthetic tends to employ a bold, bright color palette as you can see by these Dresden examples.
"Sidewalk Surprises" (detail)
My first quilt soiree with this 3D Dresden block, however, was with Blank Quilting Corp's black and white pre-cut strip set paired with Blank's popular Splash blender (I had a Splash fat quarter bundle to pull colors for the Dresden centers).
"Moon Garden" (detail)
This quilt is called "Moon Garden" and you can read about it in this post.
Dresden Star 3-D quilt block.
Isn't this a cool block? Those sharp star points are actually 3-dimensional. It looks complex, but it's really easy. All done by machine—piecing and appliqué. And the petals and points are accurately cut with reusable acrylic templates. I'm telling you… it's "sew" easy.

Wanna try it? I'm teaching a Sew Easy Dresden class this Saturday, November 15, at Chattanooga Sewing Center. Call (423) 899-3664 to see if there are any spaces available. (It was almost full 2 weeks ago.)

How about using a collection of festive prints and whipping up a little tree skirt in time for the holidays? One of my students made this one last year (so, so, sooo cute!). Once you make one Dresden block… you'll want to make 5 more!
Dresden Star tree skirt.
Join me for a fun project this Saturday!
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