Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stitch with love

"The heart has its reasons that reason does not know." —Blaise Pascal

Valentine's Day is right around the corner. Are you stitching something special for someone you love—your sweetie, your mom, a child, a friend, or perhaps a little something for yourself?

From Sonnet 116:
"Love is not love which alters
when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests
and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown,
although his height be taken."
             —William Shakespeare

I hope you find time to stitch something with love for someone you love.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hanging out with the Huntsville quilters

Last weekend I had the pleasure of hanging out for 2 and a half days with the Huntsville quilters at Huntsville Sew and Vac. This is Donna, my gracious host for the weekend, and owner of this fabulous shop.
Me with Donna Cagle (right), owner of Huntsville Sew and Vac.
The huge classroom was dressed to the nines (or more aptly, the 44/45s) with sample quilts made with Blank's fabrics hanging on the walls and patterns from both indie designers and Blank's in-house designers on display.
Samples and color cards of Blank's new fabric collections.
The quilters that attended the "Madeline's Picnic" Mystery class and my Intro to Free-Motion Quilting class were also treated to a sneak peak of Blank Quilting's new 2014 fabric collections (lots of oohs and aaahhs over these!).
My Huntsville free-motion quilting students.
More quilt samples are hanging in the back of the classroom.
This is Sherri (below left) with Alexis, Donna's granddaughter. Sherri is one of the creative masterminds behind many of the special events at Huntsville Sew and Vac. Her enthusiasm and energy are infectious and she is a master on the long arm. Huntsville Sew and Vac carries HandiQuilter and Tin Lizzie long arms as well as a full line of Janome and Brother sewing machines. 
Sherri (left) and Alexis at Huntsville Sew and Vac. 
Sherri assembled a Mystery Quilt kit for each attendee. Madeline, the focus fabric, was accompanied by 8 coordinates and a background fabric from Blank's fabric lines. 
"Madeline's Picnic" mystery quilt kit.
Sherri also knows all the cool local places to get a great bite to eat, like Sam and Greg's Pizzeria Gelateria downtown Huntsville. (Guy Fieri should touch base with her!)
Sam and Greg's outside (left) and inside.
Sam and Greg's is a sandwich and pizza, order-at-the-counter, pub-type place. In addition to the extensive list of "eclectic" pizzas, they have in-house-made gelato (twist my arm, why don't ya). You practically walk right into the gelato display case when you enter the restaurant, so it's difficult to get away without ordering a cup to finish off your meal. The Spicy Hot Chocolate gelato is made with cayenne pepper and has a zingy aftertaste. I had a cup of the hazelnut which was delicious, and my lunch companions, Sherri and Linda, each had the Birthday Cake flavor. I also tried a Key West personal size pizza with ham, chicken, artichokes and mango—just as tasty.
Eight flavors of homemade gelato in the display case at Sam and Greg's.
Alabama, like most of the south, had cold, single-digit temperatures that weekend. The shop's staff kindly offered to cater lunch for the full-day Free-motion Quilting class so class participants did not have brave the cold and wind. It was another delicious "good eat" from a local place called Granville's Gormet Ribs and BBQ. I had their special "Hot Baked Potato Salad" with pork (Sherri's overwhelming recommendation). It's a take-off on a stuffed baked potato, but the "potato" part is a cross between hot German potato salad and an au gratin. You gotta try it to believe how good it is!
Huntsville quilters at the Mystery Quilt class.
So, my thanks again, to Donna, Sherri, the staff at Huntsville Sew and Vac, and a great group of quilters for letting me hang out with y'all for a few days. I hope to be back soon!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Picture This" vest provides a blank canvas
for creative patchwork

"Picture This" vest features fabrics from
Mystique collection.
After making several quilts that either go on the couch or bed, hang on the wall, or decorate some area of the house, do you ever feel like a little garment sewing?

I like "wearing" my quilts, too. Here's an example…

The "Picture This" vest pattern [one of my all-time favorites!] by folk artist, Rachel Clark, offers a blank canvas for patchwork, innovative piecing, or just showing off a beautiful or interesting piece or collection of fabrics.

A recent creation of mine uses the Picture This vest pattern and a new fabric collection from Blank Quilting called Mystique. This collection has a few gray and white coordinates (see the vest front) and a couple prints that introduce black and a warm cocoa brown to the mix (see vest back).

I particularly like the juxtaposition of the geometric print on the lapels with the leaf and paisley print of the bodice. The patch pocket (my own addition) is trimmed with a small black print (6807 from Blank Quilting's Lola collection) that is also featured on the vest back.
Patch pocket on front of vest.
Although there are only two layers—a muslin inner layer and the pieced top layer—the vest is "quilted." I free-motion stitched vertical lines through the two layers of the vest front and top-stitched along the curved seamlines on the back and on the pocket. The extended shoulders of this pattern provide a figure-flattering inverted triangle shape and the lower hemline is slightly cupped and hugs the hipline. We all like to look as if our waist is smaller than our hips and bustline! Can you say, "hourglass figure?"
"Picture This" vest, front and back views.
The lining fabric (also from the Lola collection) echoes the gray/brown/black color scheme of Mystique.
Lining fabric.
I wore my new vest last weekend while teaching classes at Huntsville Sew and Vac in Huntsville, AL and to the Choo Choo Quilters guild meeting this week. The "Picture This" vest pattern will be available for purchase at Huntsville Sew and Vac (Huntsville, AL) and locally at Ready Set Sew in Chattanooga, TN.
"Picture This" vest made by Veronica.
And, here is my friend and fellow guild member, Cristy, with a surface embellished top made from a patchwork of kimono pieces. Another idea for "wearing your patchwork!"
Cristy in her patchwork blouse made with
various kimono fabric swatches. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Found on a restaurant napkin

"Quilt. Eat. Sleep. Repeat."
No explanation required.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Let the scraps fall where they may

I finally had an available Saturday that coincided with a guild meeting of the Modern Quilt Guild in Chattanooga. So, I decided to go. The meeting was well attended and the program was on free-form piecing

The program was a hands-on exercise with the goal of providing new quilters—or quilters new to free-form piecing—with an opportunity to experiment with this technique; a popular patchwork technique that is found in many of the modern style quilts.
Fabric scraps of various sizes were sorted into bags for free-form piecing.
Various fabric scraps were sorted and put into brown bags according to their relative size. Apparently, the guild members had been collecting scraps over the last several months with this exercise in mind because there were four work areas set up in the room. Through a blind draw, scraps from the "small," then "medium," and if necessary, the "large" bag were assembled with no forethought or angst over choosing a layout or pattern. The randomly chosen scraps were sewn together intuitively to form patchwork (note, I didn't use the word "block").
Free-form pieced patchwork.
These are a few of the pieces that came from the group I was with. These pieces are much like the "crumbs" patchwork that I referenced in this blog post. It's all about using random bits and pieces of fabric and sewing them together without a specific plan, with no heed to coordinating fabrics, styles, colors or prints, and just letting the bits fall where they may. Free-form!

Gwen Marston calls this technique "liberated quiltmaking" in her books of the same name. Whatever you call it, it's easy sewing and fun patchwork.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A January drive

This is what it looked like earlier this week.
Interstate 24 driving through Monteagle, TN.
Although the sun was bright and the sky was electric blue, the temperature was in the single digits. These photos are not motion blur photography. The icicles were formed from the run-off water that drips from the cliffs of the Cumberland plateau.
Frozen run-off water from the cliffs of the Cumberland plateau.
When I arrived at my first sales appointment, the quilt shop owner had a steaming cup of hot chocolate and a chicken biscuit waiting for me. We love our quilt shop owners! They are the just so thoughtful and considerate towards their fabric reps as well as their customers.
A field in middle Tennessee dusted with a light blanket of snow.
At mid-week, we were excited to hear the temperature was "getting up to 20 degrees."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pandora and Spring Bouquet

Quilts can help stave away the chill when there's a deep freeze outside—whether you're snuggled up beneath one, or piecing the top for a new one. This is Pandora. It's a pattern designed by one of my fabulous pattern designer friends, Chris Hoover, at Whirligig Designs.
"Pandora" made with a package of Spring Bouquet pre-cut strips
I just finished piecing this top using a pre-cut strip collection called Spring Bouquet. (Gee… if we "Think Spring," will the frost melt??) This is a strip collection of all metallics: swirls, mini leaves, small scale geometrics and tiny flowers. "Spring bouquet" adequately describes the rich, warm and vibrant colors in this color scheme.

After auditioning several possibilities for the setting triangles, I chose a creamy white metallic. The neutral color provided an unobtrusive background which did not compete with the saturated colors of the 9-patch blocks. It framed the composition nicely.
Spring Bouquet pre-cut strips from Blank Quilting.
The centers of the 9-patch blocks are various fabrics from additional collections. If you decide to create a Pandora quilt yourself, you could pull fabrics from your scrap basket for these 4.5" center patches, or the pattern provides a yardage amount.
Strip sets await.
This is the next strip quilt project for which I'll be using the Prairie Wagon collection. These strip sets are patiently awaiting assembly while basking in the morning sunlight. I hope the sunlight and your quilts are keeping you warm these cold, frosty days.
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