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.
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