There’s a fabulous hand-appliqué tip from Martingale author Cynthia Tomaszewski on their blog, Stitch This!
Go see What to do when your appliqué fabric frays. This one’s going straight into my bag of tricks. Thanks Cynthia!
My mother’s mother, better known as Grandma, was from Scotland. She and Aunt Alice lived in my hometown, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Grandma never lost her brogue even after more than 60 years living in the States. I’ve been to England a few times, and even to Ireland, but I’d never been to Scotland. Bucket list!
Grandma holding me, “a number of years” ago.
Earlier this month, my science-writer husband Dana was invited to cover a statistics conference in London. I had a quilt show booked at the same time, so I flew out to meet him after both our things were over. We spent a couple days in London.
No museums for me this trip! SHOPPING was high on my priority list!
Give me Liberty!
The major stores do not appreciate photography inside, but not knowing that, Dana took an illegal shot of some installation art looking down from the top floor.
My haul from the famous fabric department…. soft cotton lawns.
The unmistakeable purple bag.
Also on the agenda: Cath Kidston. Picadilly Line to Covent Garden, anyone? Again, no photography, but let me just tell you, for someone who loves color and floral prints, it was a feast of eye candy. Here are my small souvenirs.
We shopped along Oxford Street and visited the Topshop. Upstairs is the mens’ department, Topman. Just two weeks earlier they had installed a system whereby you could design your own tee shirt on a computer screen and have it printed on the spot. Of course Dana jumped on that!
We designed the following shirt which makes me laugh every time I see it. A prancing kitten, on the moon, with astronauts.
We visited the fun and funky Camden Market. This little owl jumped into my purse.
I can’t go to London without visiting Harrods. Dana and I were there on our honeymoon trip 25 years ago and I just love it. It’s like 50 large department stores on steroids, with customer service agents everywhere to willingly help you with your smallest requests.
All lit up for Christmas, and Dana even got one of those iconic red double-decker buses in there.
Carnaby Street (makes me think of Twiggy) had a special holiday lighting party one night. We took the tube over a little early and did some strolling and shopping. In a card store, we each picked out charity cards, and they both had robins on them!
It was right about then that we started to notice robins everywhere. Carnaby Street had huge robins strung across the sky!
We asked a very friendly shop clerk what was up with the robins. She held her hands up as if to say “Obvious” and replied, “It’s… Christmas…”
Apparently robins have become a symbol of the holiday season in the U.K. Our shop friend admitted that she didn’t know exactly why. We explained that in the States they’re more of a herald of spring. Later Dana looked it up. Here’s a blog post that gives a couple of theories:
I also always seek out Marks & Spencer. Nowadays seemingly more known as M&S (or at holiday time, Magic & Sparkle), there’s always one close by so not too hard to seek. Their tea bags are properly strong enough to stand up to the milk and sugar that I add courtesy of the partly Scottish upbringing.
Spotted some more holiday cards that seemed perfectly printy and decided to come home with me.
To Euston Station in the evening to catch the Caledonian Sleeper to Aberdeen. This was fascinating and fun. We booked a private double sleeping car that was tiny and cozy, with bunk beds, and we even managed some sleeping! The conductor woke us up about half an hour before arrival, with orange juice for Dana, coffee for me, and Walker’s shortbread for us both.
We stayed at the Skene House Whitehall. After the cramped quarters of the plane, the small London hotel, and the train, it was a heavenly surprise to open the door and find an entire living room, kitchen, and bedroom. I’d highly recommend the Skene House if you ever venture to Aberdeen. There are three of them.
The next day was our highly anticipated visit with my second cousin Jane, a relative I’d never met. Our grandmothers were sisters. Jane and Sandy live in nearby Stonehaven, and they invited us for lunch. We nattered nonstop for hours, exchanging information about our respective branches of the family tree while Jane fed us a delicious lunch of hot smoked salmon, with treacle duff for “afters.”
Sandy, Jane, and yours truly, in their lovely home.
The next and last day of our trip was my whole reason for going… a visit to Inverurie, Grandma’s hometown. I didn’t want to dive deep, I just wanted to be there, look around, and walk where she had walked.
We found a couple of addresses where the Manns had lived.
High Street was the main drag, so we strolled up and down a bit.
In one of the shops I found a precious wee robin to put on our Christmas tree. He has a piercing gaze.
You know how we have the dollar store? In the U.K. they have Poundland. I made a fabulous find!
Sometimes it’s the little things.
Back home a few days ago after an 18-hour trip door to door. Still trying to catch up with jet lag and and an eight-hour time difference, but getting there. And one important thing off my bucket list. Grandma, I hope you felt me there in Inverurie, walking in your footsteps.
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
The reader who won Edyta Sitar’s Seasonal Silhouettes is No. 56, Maureen! Congratulations Maureen! I know you will enjoy these beautiful designs.
In other news, my buddy Kim of Chatterbox Quilts has been cooking up some HEAT: “Hand Embroidery Appliqué Technique.” It’s so charming, and be sure to check out the introductory pattern that’s free for a short time on Kim’s blog Chatterbox Quilts Chitchat.
At the Moonlight Quilters show last weekend, I had to stop and fish out my camera on the spot when I saw this:
What a cow!!
Okay that makes it sound like I have a football team standing around in my kitchen getting ready to peel me a grape. The truth is, there are only two hunks in my life, my (actually rather skinny) husband of 23 years, Dana, and our strapping young tuxedo cat Max.
Being an appliquér, most of the pieces of fabric in my stash are little, just odds and ends that are perfect for making flowers, stems, teapots, birds, pie, cake, and whatever else is cooking in my brain at the moment. When I embark on a project I usually have to go out shopping for yardage for the background and/or borders and backing. But I do have a small, very untidy stack of what I think of a ‘big hunks’ stuck in the very corner of my stash. A big hunk to me is anything a yard or longer. (I know, I know. But they take up too much room in the tubs with the smaller pieces.)
My next-door neighbor at Festival in Long Beach was DeNiece of DeNiece’s Designs, inventor of the Fabric Organizer. This Texas gal was a hoot and a half and we had a great time being next to one another all weekend long. I decided to bring home some of the organizers to see if I could wrangle some sort of better order into my big hunks.
I got eight of the Small size, 5″ x 14″.
It was fun folding and wrapping the lengths onto the organizers, which BTW are acid-free. The organizers have push-out tabs to secure the leading edge of the fabric. By folding the fabric into eighths, (5-6 inch widths), I was able to get two onto an organizer, and secured them with rubber bands.
A lot better now, don’t you think? And these little almost like mini-bolts fit right back into that little wedgy space in the corner of the stash! Now I can see what I have without rummaging. Very satisfying.
There are a lot more uses for the organizers, and different sizes to fit different needs. You can find out more at TheFabricOrganizer.com.
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
I hope this doesn’t bust WordPress.
First off let me direct you to a couple of excellent blog posts, one by Kathy Mack of Pink Chalk Studio and the other by Anne Sutton of Bunny Hill. They’ll each give you a taste of Spring Market in Kansas City.
This was the view from my hotel room. The convention center is the long building on the right. Très convenient, no? I was going to be staying at a hotel far removed from the epicenter, but through a series of conversations that went sort-of like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, I ended up with this splendid room right in the middle of the action! My friend Carmel talked to her friend Bettina Havig, who talked to Marti Michell, who had an extra room reserved, and then it went back down the chain to me! When I checked in, the Marriott even told me I was a VIP!
Across the way, Jersey Boys was playing in the Music Hall so I went to see it Thursday night. Fun!
Here’s my new book in the Martingale booth, prominently displayed with the other April releases. Seeing stuff like that makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Now for the main event of this post. One day at Market, I had tromped all the aisles and had about an hour before going to see some people about some stuff. I decided to make it my mission to take a picture of every single fabric company. I held my camera in my hand and went down each aisle once more, not trying for photography perfection but just going snap, snap, snap. I think my camera’s going to need new batteries, and by the time I covered the floor, I tell you, my dogs were barking.
Thankfully I learned how to use a feature in Photoshop to resize and optimize all the photos for the web in one fell swoop, and now WordPress can import multiple files, so that saved a bunch of time. I then set about the task of linking all the pictures up to the websites of the fabric companies. I think I got them all pretty well.
Keep in mind that these companies largely sell only to the wholesale trade, so consumers may not be able to order fabric directly from them. But you should bookmark this post! It’s a fabulous resource for when you want to go window-shopping for fabric online!
Enjoy my photo essay, Fabric by the Mile.
And I didn’t even get them all…
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
I subscribe to the Checker Newsletter blog. Checker Distributors is one of the major suppliers of everything for our independent quilt shops, and Penny Haren, author of the Pieced Appliqué books, does a wonderful job of writing about all of the new and intriguing products that are coming down the pike. Lo and behold, yesterday Penny talked about a gorgeous new floral bouquet fabric that is just coming on the market! Maybe they’ll make a comeback!
On my last post, a reader asked for some help: “I saw a lady who gave a Quilting with Crayons demo, and I have lost the demo, but she really did a great job showing how to do it well, at least for me. I would love to find her again. No, I did not remember her name.”
Jeanne, could you be thinking of Creative Quilts from Your Crayon Box by Terrie Kygar?
Neat things coming up:
Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks, Volume 5 Blog Tour is next week, April 30 through May 4. My day is April 30! The tour will continue all week with visits to lots of other designers who have a block in the magazine. Be sure to tune in for prize-winning opportunities all week long.
On Friday I’m driving down the coast to beautiful San Luis Obispo to set up for the annual Seven Sisters Quilt Show at the historic Madonna Inn. I was at this show the last two years and it has become one of my favorites.
By Kay Mackenzie
A hearty welcome to new readers who’ve found the blog by way of Stitch This! I hope you’ll take some time to poke around the Bookstore, Blogroll, and Categories. There’s a ton of information about appliqué here!
After my recent post about broderie perse, Angie SoCal asked, “Curious – did you find that bouquet in home decorating fabric? I don’t see much fabric like that in the stores.”
Nope! It’s a regular quilter’s cotton. I rummaged through my tub of florals and found the rest of the hunk I had.
“Rose Garden from Marti Michell and Maywood Studio.” Like most of the fabric in my stash, it goes back a few years.
While I was rummaging I pulled out a few other examples of fabrics that would make good candidates for broderie perse. Like I said, these particular fabrics are “aged to perfection” so you probably won’t find the exact same ones today. But if you’re at all interested in broderie perse and you see some beautiful bouquet fabrics like these, grab ‘em!
“Nancy Kirk Civil War II for Benartex.”
“Vintage Cottons by Hoffman International Fabrics.”
I don’t have the selvedge of this one but I know it’s a Lakehouse fabric by Holly Holderman.
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
I finally found a way to code the blog so that the comments on each post are numbered. Finally I don’t have to manually count (and count again to be sure) to find the winning comment. Yay!
|The winner of Nancy Mahoney’s Fast, Fusible Flower Quilts is… drumroll… Number 27, Susan!
Susan says she is thrilled, being a big fan of Nancy’s work. I know she will enjoy the book.
Just got home yesterday from a long weekend trip to Reno, where Dana was playing in a chess tournament. I went to three fabric stores. The first one was Mill End Fabrics. When I saw the sign for it, I thought, “Oh, it’s in that big building.” When I got out of the car and walked inside, it was like, “No, it’s the WHOLE building.”
I felt like I was in Mood! A huge building full to the rafters with every type of material and trim you can think of. I meandered around and looked at everything, and finally found the cottons section. After some sleuthing I did discover some very good bolts of high-quality quilter’s cottons.
Then I went to Windy Moon. A delightful visit as always, with gorgeous arrays of fabrics. It was a special treat to spy my Teapots 2 to Appliqué in one of their displays!
The next day I revisited Sew-n-Such, an airy, happy, cheerful quilt shop. It was just a fresh and friendly as the first time.
Here are my fabric purchases from the trip. I was apparently on a deep-red-and-cream jag.
Admin note: Early last week our ISP moved all of our websites and blogs to a new server, and upgraded the blogs to the latest version of WordPress. This was not without a fair amount of angst. By now, most of the wrinkles have been smoothed out, but if you notice anything funky about the blog (such as missing images), please let me know.
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
Comment #35 came up the winner of Cheryl Lynch’s Quilt Fiesta! Congratulations Kathleen! Enjoy the book.
Are you a new quilter, or do you know somebody who is? Heck, I’ve been quilting for about 20 years, and I learned something really cool that I had never known before when I watched Kim Jamieson-Hirst‘s brand-new video series, Fabric Fundamentals. Kim is about the nicest person in the world, and her videos are wonderfully shot, so be sure to go and check out these little gems of fabric wisdom at Chatterbox Quilts Chitchat.
If you’re in the northern California area, I hope to see you at the upcoming Pajaro Valley Quilt Association’s annual show, February 25-26. The PVQA is my home guild and the weekend is full of smiles and wonderful feelings for me. My booth is #30, the first one on the right as you come into the main building, aka the Crosetti building. Our featured speaker is amazing pictorial quilt artist Linda Schmidt. There’s a fashion show and a quilt auction, a bed turning, door prizes, guild flea market, children’s activities, and just a large measure of all-around quilty goodness at our show.
Until next time,
Heather came up the winner in the draw for Pennies From Heaven. Congratulations Heather! She says she is particularly attracted to the valance since she has been toying with the idea of making one. Enjoy the book!
Every year the DH Dana puts some fat quarters in my stocking. (Yes, he’s a very good quilt husband.) This year, as I mentioned, he was in Oslo on a business trip in mid-December, so what should I pull out of my stocking but these beautiful things!
The apple fabric turned out to be an Alexander Henry, which he was bitterly disappointed to learn is a California fabric company LOL! I didn’t care, I love it!
He did better on the other two. I consulted Dr. Google and found that the Tilda fabric is designed by adorable Oslo native Tone Finnanger. Isn’t it gorgeous? Tone has a whole line of things that she has designed and it’s all to drool over.
Dana didn’t remember the name of the shop where he found the fabric, describing it as “sort of a craft store.” Luckily the label on the fabric enabled me to track it down to being Panduro Hobby in downtown Oslo.
And here’s what else I got for Christmas. You remember the Cavalcade of Kittens? And how I said there was a followup? You remember the very last batch, the ones with the sneezy noses?
A few days before Christmas I started getting a queasy feeling… queasy because I was terrified by it but still it was there… of thinking that maybe Max would stay. (He’s the one in the middle with the smush-face.) I brought it up with Dana and he was delighted! He was all for it, but understood my fear of commitment. After losing Willie and before that, three aged cats one by one, I felt like a widow enjoying the dating scene but not ready for a long-term relationship.
But truly, Max had all the qualities we would want in a cat, so I kept thinking about it. On Christmas Eve we turned out the lights at about 11:30 p.m. and Max came and draped himself purring over my neck and laid his face on my cheek for a pillow, and suddenly my heart opened up and the fear washed away, and I knew that he was a keeper. It had to be about midnight on Christmas morning.
Dana named him for his favorite childhood TV character Maxwell Smart. Max is a velvety soft, squishy, floppy five-month-old who loves to be picked up, held, hugged, kissed, turned upside down, draped over the shoulder, etc., purring all the while. He’s ours now, all officially adopted through the shelter, and fits in here like peas and carrots.
Willie used to sleep at the base of my stash.
Max has chosen his spot, about four feet higher.
To quote Dr. Seuss (and Anne Sutton, who recently told us the heartwarming story of Bitsy Button Sutton), “It came without ribbons.” I didn’t want a kitty for Christmas, but it’s the very best present I got.
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
P.S. BTW the other two kitties recovered well from their colds and I took them back to the shelter. Within 10 minutes of getting them set up and settled in the adoptable area, one of them was already requested for a meet-and-greet. Out the door he went with his new family. About 45 minutes later, the other one went! That’s gotta be a new world’s record, even for the Kitten Flipper (as they call me at the shelter)!
This is a beautiful set of fabrics for the appliqué enthusiast! There’s a gorgeous printed panel and a whole range of fabrics that are perfect for this type of project.
Until next time,
(patchy project nearing completion),
By Kay Mackenzie
Sarah answered the call! Recently, when I put out a call for contributions to the blog, regular reader Sarah Vee of Ontario, Canada, got in touch right away. I’d delighted to turn the blog over to her today for a terrific guest post about blanket-stitch appliqué. Go Sarah!
Sarah Vee of Sew Joy, whose motto is “I have found happiness in making quilts – and joy in sharing my quilt making.”
Sarah: I have been a patchworker for most of the time I have been quilting. Almost 14 years now! I shied away from the “A” word for many years, even though some of the first quilts I fell in love with were in the Baltimore Album style.
Eventually I started to try it a block at a time. I made a wedding wallhanging with one large appliqué block –- no one could really tell if I had left anything out — and I did, almost half of the leaves!
When Kay’s book Easy Appliqué Blocks: 50 Designs in 5 Sizes came out, I was lucky enough to win a copy. Who could resist the possibilities! Around the same time, my sister sent my daughter a container that held all of her embroidery floss from doing cross stitch for many years. She was putting it aside to focus on quilting.
My daughter never had a chance! I claimed the box of thread like it was my first box of 64 crayons! I was no longer daunted by the delicacy of appliqué – I had colour on my side.
I put my first blocks from Kay’s appliqué book into a larger pieced quilt for one of my nieces. Instead of having my stitches blend in with my fabrics, I outlined them in black like a colouring book.
I use the blanket stitch because it’s easy (once you get the hang of it). You can change the size of the stitch to work on any piece, and you can work it by hand or machine. You can use it to secure pieces that are fused and also ones that are not.
I’m by no means an technical expert on supplies or technique. I use what I have, look at lots of pictures – and try stuff. Just take a quick look at these photos I took while working on my latest quilt. You’ll see how I made the colours and blanket stitch work for me to create my Bunny Lady quilt.
The basics: I’m using DMC embroidery thread. I use two strands because that seems to give the thickness I need to cover the edge of the fabric. I use a needle that works for me — not sure if it’s the ‘right’ one. The eye isn’t so small I can’t see to thread it, but not so big that it leaves a hole when going through my quilt top. It’s a medium-length needle so that the thread doesn’t glide out of it too easily.
Tip: Use a fairly long strand of thread. You don’t want to re-thread the needle any more times than you need to – just don’t make it so long that it tangles after every stitch (this isn’t quicker – trust me).
To start: Bring your thread up from the back right at the edge of your piece to appliqué. The length of the next stitch determines the length of your blanket stitch – how far it goes into your appliqué. Put your thread into the fabric and bring it back up almost right on top of where you started.
On the leaves I used smaller stitches closer together because I had to turn a lot of corners, and the leaves are fairly small. On the carrots, I took larger stitches because there was more open space in the middle of the appliqué pieces.
You work this stitch counterclockwise (at least I do because I’m right handed). Hold your thread across the edge of the piece working to the left.
From where your needle just came up, take a stitch down and to the right that lines up with your first stitch into the appliqué. Bring your needle up at the edge of your appliqué and go over the thread you are holding in place. Pull the stitch snug (but don’t make the piece pucker).
This space defines how close together your stitches will be. On smaller pieces, or going around a corner, you probably want them closer together.
Keep going until you’re done, or almost out of thread! Make sure you leave a long enough tail so you can make a knot on the back.
You can see how I had fun with colour. I used different shades of orange on my carrots. Changing the colours made it more fun to go around so many carrots –- and also gives the up-close viewer a visual treat. The carrots in the border were not fused down, just pinned in place until I secured them with the blanket stitch.
The bunnies and carrots in the quilt top were fused, then stitched. I used bright, fun colours on them too. I used a fairly large stitch on the bunnies so it would be more visible.
I hope this was helpful and encouraging. I stared at many magazine diagrams and pictures of beautiful quilts before I finally tried my hand at appliqué and the blanket stitch. You’ll never know the possibilities until you try. Thanks Kay for providing so many possibilities with your designs and inspiration-packed blog. I’m looking forward to including appliqué on many more quilts.
Kay: Thanks a million, Sarah, for your article sharing the joy of appliqué! You’ve gone from “A” word avoider to appliqué enthusiast, because you found your method! I love those patched bunnies… reminds me that I have some randomly pieced hunks of patchwork sitting in the UFO pile awaiting their final destiny! Hmm…
FYI, Sarah is hosting a Placemat Party Blog Hop from Monday, June 28, to Friday, July 2. Visit her blog to find a new hostess each day celebrating the release of Sarah’s first pattern, “Eat with JOY! Placemats”. There will be prizes, fun, refreshments, and hostess-gift ideas for summer parties. Sounds like summer fun!
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
Tasty precuts make great ingredients for A Baker’s Dozen!
Most of the staff at Martingale & Company (parent company of That Patchwork Place) are quiltmakers. In this collaborative pattern book they challenged themselves to use the yummy precut assortments available today… we’re talking jelly rolls, layer cakes, honey buns, turnovers, dessert rolls, fat quarters, and charm packs… to whip up a bakery case of delectable quilts.
Note: It isn’t required to use precuts. Each set of instructions also gives fabric requirements for pulling from your stash or from bolts at the quilt shop. But just in case you have been tempted by those luscious jelly rolls, layer cakes, etc., the book gives information on how to handle them, sort them, to wash or not to wash, and what to do about those confusing pinked edges.
Staff from all areas of Martingale contributed to the book, from web manager to the marketing department to customer service and relations, print and production, editorial, book design, illustration, accounting, author liaison, acquisitions and development, and the social networking coordinator, who quilted 11 of the quilts! I thought it would be fun to hear something about the process.
Mary Burns, Marketing Coordinator, tells the story of her quilt Flying Shuttles.
The Editorial Department put out a call to the staff for designs using precut fabrics or fat quarters. I don’t really consider myself a quilt designer. I think of myself as just your average quilter. Everyone here is so encouraging though—I work with such wonderful and creative people—so I decided to jump in!
I had a fat quarter pack of Kim Diehl’s “Country Haven” and I knew I wanted to do something old-fashioned and folksy to go with the décor of my 1901 farmhouse. I found a traditional pieced block called “Cracker” in my trusty Judy Hopkins book 501 Rotary-Cut Quilt Blocks. I set the blocks in circles and called it Colvin Mill Wheels, after a historic mill near my sister’s house in Virginia.
At the last minute, I sketched out an alternate layout of Cracker blocks in vertical rows—and that’s the one that was chosen. (Hooray for last minute inspiration!) At that point the quilt didn’t have any appliqué, but after I pieced it and sewed on the cream border, it just looked like it needed something. I sketched out a flowing vine, some leaves, and folksy flowers. Fortunately, they were thrilled—but I only had a couple weeks before the deadline for finished quilts— and I was scheduled to be at Spring Quilt Market the first week and on vacation at my sister’s in Virginia the second week. What was I thinking?!
As Marketing Coordinator, one aspect of my job is to get everything ready for our booth at Quilt Market. The month up to and including Market is extremely hectic. I stayed up late every night the week before we left, finishing the pieced borders and machine appliquéing all my vines and leaves, cutting out all my folksy flowers and flower centers and packing them all in my carry-on—didn’t want to risk losing it!
I use freezer paper applique on the wrong side of the fabric, with the shiny side up so that I can press the seam allowance to the sticky side, then cut a slit in the back and remove the paper. I machine-appliqued the vines and leaves and hand-appliqued the flowers and flower centers. I finished appliquéing the centers onto the flowers on the plane; it really made time fly!
When we got to the hotel, I laid the quilt out on my bed and figured out where I wanted the flowers to go. Despite my valiant efforts, by the time Market was over, I still wasn’t finished appliquéing the flowers—how naïve of me to think that I could work hard at Market and still have time and energy to finish the quilt! So off to my sister’s house the two of us went, my quilt and I, with a promise that I’d email a photo of the finished quilt before the deadline. It’s kind of fitting that I finished it in all the way across the country in Virginia, near the Mill that originally inspired me to use the Cracker block.
I changed the title of the quilt to “Flying Shuttles” because the way the Cracker block turns left and right reminds me of how a shuttle flies through a loom. When I showed it to my teenage sons at home, the Cracker blocks reminded them of the old Intellivision game, Astrosmash, and the space shuttles that you had to shoot to win. Either way, I just love how this quilt turned out–and apparently I’m not the only one, because the quilt has been chosen to be in That Patchwork Place Quilt Calendar 2011—I’m Miss November!
So there’s my saga, hope you find it amusing. The hardest part about designing a quilt pattern is that you have to write down everything you do, and have it make sense to someone who’s never done it before. Now I know! It’s not as easy as it sounds!
Cathy Reitan, Martingale’s author liaison, set a personal challenge for herself with her design.
I have always created with textiles, starting in high school with fashion sewing from patterns and then moving into copying store fashions. As I moved into my 30s and had a family, the focus changed to children’s designs and home dec sewing with a little bit of quilting. With the dawn of children having their driver’s licenses and freedom from being a slave to the car, I began to quilt. You know, the kind of quilting where you plan a project, shop for the items you need, and work on it for significant lengths of time, not just in stolen moments.
I usually use traditional civil war colors and patterns with a lot of hand work. When the opportunity to design a quilt for A Baker’s Dozen came along, I set myself a goal of using colors out of my normal color palette and geometrical shapes that where also not the norm for me. Circles and Chains was the result. I combined the traditional Irish chain block ( just could not completely give up the traditional) with the geometric fast-fused applique circles. I made couple of sample blocks and threw them away because the colors I picked were not strong enough to support the jelly roll I wanted to work with. Back to the quilt store for the brown and yellow solids and another trial block was made. The effect of the deeper color was much better with my jelly roll. I used several colors I love to hate, primarily orange paired with turquoise which is color that I am repeatedly drawn to but matches nothing in my house. Now I just need a child to give up a bedroom so I can decorate with a new color scheme!
Working at Martingale is a great place to inspire creativity and take the next leap of faith because there is always someone to encourage and praise your efforts. There is always someone to bounce and brainstorm ideas with. Of course with so many beautiful samples coming in from authors the list of projects I want to make is always longer than the hours left in my lifetime!
Adrienne Smitke from the illustration department describes the collaborative effort that went into her design.
This quilt was a team effort, and I think that’s part of why I like it so much. Not only are the colors and motifs cheerful and welcoming, when I see this quilt I think about all the different elements of its construction and how many different hands helped stitch it together.
While I really like sewing, I love shopping for fabric. I could spend hours browsing either online or in the fabric store through the ever changing rows of color and pattern. It is more often the fabric that helps inspire the kind of quilt or project I want to make rather than the other way around. I had been trying to come up with an excuse to work with Momo’s Wonderland fabric line since its release. While browsing for ideas, I took a closer look at the polka-dot print in this fabric line and discovered that some of the dots were actually ladybugs. Inspiration struck and I knew ladybugs would make a cute and easy appliqué design. To compliment the ladybugs, I pulled three simple flower shapes from the print used in the border.
As a technical illustrator I spend a lot of time working with Adobe Illustrator (a vector drawing program), so it was easy for me to draw the full size applique patterns on the computer. This allowed me to easily tweak and size them as I needed to fit the blocks. You don’t need to be a professional designer to use a computer to create your own patterns. Many computers already come with drawing software, or you can simply Google “vector drawing program” online to explore the many options available. It can take a little time to get used to the drawing tools in these programs, however you shouldn’t be discouraged. Like with any skill, practice makes perfect.
Once the quilt design was complete, that’s when the teamwork began. I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish two complete quilts (my other quilt in the book is “Rose Garden,” page 62) in the time available, but my co-workers came to the rescue. Despite that they were all working on additional quilts of their own for A Baker’s Dozen, they pitched in and each took on a part of the process.
While I cut and sewed the pieced blocks, Karen Soltys worked on the appliqué blocks. Karen has a wealth of great tips for how she made the machine appliqué simple and easy. First she traced all the large shapes on fusible web and then, before cutting any of them out, traced the smaller shapes inside the larger ones. She cut those smaller pieces out of the centers of the larger ones, and fused them onto their contrast fabrics. This not only saved on fusible web, but made the finished appliqué blocks much softer and more flexible.
After all the shapes were fused to their fabrics and then to the white background blocks, Karen machine-blanket-stitched around all of the shapes using chocolate brown machine-quilting thread to add definition to the designs. She recommends using open-toe presser foot so that you can easily see where you’re stitching. In addition, she used a 50-weight thread (“regular” sewing thread) in the bobbin, which required loosening the machine tension a bit so that the bottom thread wouldn’t pull up to the top as she stitched.
Karen handed off the appliquéd blocks to Cathy Reitan, who hand-embroidered the beautiful details for the flower stems, lady bug wings, and antennae before assembling the blocks and borders into a quilt top. Karen Burns, who did the stunning machine quilting on almost all of the quilts in the book, stitched all-over swirls in the appliqué blocks to help the motifs stand out, and then added flowers in the borders reminiscent of the flowers in the fabric pattern. Finally the quilt came back to Cathy, who sewed on the binding and hanging sleeve. It was really thrilling to see how all of the blocks and pieces were assembled into a stunning final product, and to know each of us had a hand in it. Now the quilt hangs behind my desk at work and each day I am greeted by its cheerful motifs and reminded of the teamwork that helped put this quilt together.
I really enjoyed hearing these stories, hope you did too. Martingale has supplied a copy of the book to give away, so leave a comment before 7:00 p.m. California time on Saturday, May 8, to enter the drawing to win this delicious collection of quilt patterns. (U.S. and Canada only)
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
Mary Lou Weidman is one of my most favorite admired quiltmakers and authors. Her Whimsies & Whynots: A Playful Approach to Quiltmaking has been on my bookshelf for years.
And so it was with great pleasure that I received a copy of Mary Lou’s latest book Out of the Box: Unleash Your Creativity Through Quilts from Martingale & Company as our featured appliqué book for this month.
Mary Lou’s quiltmaking style is one of riotous, colorful fun, personal meaning, and brave and fearless fabric choices. (It was through her that I first noticed and learned to appreciate the color “cheddar.”) This book is an inspiration to anyone who is willing to be inspired, and Mary Lou writes at length about the process of discovering your inner artist, inviting play and discovery, and listening to yourself instead of to your friends and/or critics.
Every day you have at your disposal the ability to think big, think colorful, think happy, think with large imaginative images, think clever, think expressive, think funny, think lofty, think about the past, think about the future, and think things that no one but you can think of. You have the ability to think ‘out of the box’ and to share your wonderful thoughts and your imagination with others in the form of art, in this case, quilts.
How different is that from the quilting rut of choosing colors and fabrics that “go” with our living rooms, of fretting over “perfect” precise blocks, of fearing the quilt police so that our childlike creative voices are stifled?
What is out of the box? “Push the lid open and jump out!” says Mary Lou, and she gives us a checklist of 24 sample items to test our position in relation to the box. After administering this self-test I discovered that I am not quite out LOL, but I can peep over the lid.
This book holds quite a bit of wisdom, more reading and thoughtiness that your average quilting book I’d say. It’s a process book rather than a product book. I really appreciate that approach. When I’m in my booth at quilt shows, I’m often asked, “How long did it take you to make that?” or, “How long would it take to learn to do that?” Wow, that’s a really product-oriented type of thinking. I want to reply, “Does it matter, if you’re enjoying yourself?”
Mary Lou emphasizes the need to think and daydream, and this struck a chord with me as well. Often, what happens to me during shows is that when I have some down time… slow periods on the show floor, or upon waking up too early in the morning… I seize a pen and paper and write down long list of thoughts that flood into my brain. The inspiration and energy that comes from being at a quilt show turns on a tap for me and I love it when the daydreaming flow of creativity starts. Mary Lou says we need to set aside time for this every day to doodle, think, and imagine.
(Yes, you really can find a half an hour each day.)
There’s a list of creativity stoppers to watch out for (like, ‘there is only one right answer’), pages and pages of inspiration exercises and sources found in our everyday lives, how the author shops for fabric, a section on words in quilts, and lots of information on color. How about being shown the eight styles of fabric! This was an eye-opener for me and something I especially enjoyed.
Then there’s an extensive gallery of the author’s quilts and short-story quilts made by her friends and students. Martingale has done their usual fantastic job on the photography… kudos Brent Kane!!! The quilts burst from the pages. Mary Lou finishes up the book by talking about the making of short-story quilts and how you can derive them from your own life. She shares “secrets” of scale, theme, focus, design elements, drawing, creating patterns, and also shares her own methods of appliqué. Borders, quilting, finishing, and embellishing (‘the icing on the cake’) are also included.
Out of the Box is quite a pep talk and an energizing boost! If you’d like to win a copy, leave a comment before 7:00 p.m. California time on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. (U.S. and Canada only.) Tell us why you need this book in your quiltmaking life!
The winner will also receive a copy of my book Easy Appliqué Blocks: 50 Designs in 5 Sizes. Thank you Martingale!
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
At the Road to California show in January, I had the excellent fortune to sit at the breakfast table with Carol Gilham Jones and Bobbi Finley. Several friends of mine were staying at the hotel, and they were also friends of Carol and Bobbi, so introductions were made–on a first-name basis–and Bobbi was flabbergasted when I asked her, “Are you Bobbi Finley??” That was a very familiar name to me after years of hanging around with active members of the American Quilt Study Group.
Carol and Bobbi had a special exhibit of their tile quilts in the show. Passing these at warp speed as I did the first time, these beautiful pieces have a stained-glass look, but lighter and airier. Bobbi says that a lot of people compare them to stained-glass quilts, but they’re not. Construction-wise, instead of “leading” applied over the raw edges of the shapes, these shapes are finished with turned edges, and the background is left exposed to create the spaces between shapes.
Tile Quilt Revival: Reinventing a Forgotten Form is Carol and Bobbi’s fascinating, educational, and inviting book that reintroduces this “unique and somewhat obscure” form of appliqué quilt.
Tile quilts are explained this way:
Traditional tile quilts… are constructed with small pieces of cotton fabric appliquéd in a random manner to a white background, leaving a narrow space between the pieces; this white space serves as the “grout” between the tiles or “mortar” between the pavers or stones.
The books starts out with a brief history of tile quilts, with great photos showing examples from the past. Then comes a section on how to make a tile quilt, reinterpreted for today. When I read the following, the heavens opened up and I heard the heavenly choir!
The tile quilt technique, with its large and simple shapes, creates an ideal showcase for bold, contemporary fabrics. Interesting, large-scale prints are will suited for the tile pieces. If you’ve ever found yourself admiring some of the daring prints now available but wondering how to use them, a tile quilt is an idea project for putting them to good use.
Hallelujah! I have a tub of fabrics in my stash labeled “Modern” that has been… well… sitting there.
Now my “daring” prints have a destiny!
The techniques used in the book are so simple they’re ingenious! No need to consider seam allowances, to reverse patterns, or to figure out where to place the pieces. Another really great thing about this book is that it has fantastic appliqué instructions… needle-turn by hand, turned-edge machine-appliqué and fusible machine appliqué too, all expertly explained and illustrated. If you’re reading this blog, you probably like appliqué already, but how about this section where the authors say:
Even if you don’t love to appliqué or don’t consider yourself to be skilled at it, chances are you will enjoy the tile quilt process because it is not exacting. The tile-and-grout form is quite forgiving, and the inevitable deviations from strict uniformity in the grout add to the visual interest and appeal of a piece.
How cool is that?? Get your A-word friends to take a look!
After the appliqué information, there are instructions for several projects with full-size pull-out patterns.
Then there’s a Gallery of Contemporary Tile Quilts. These are fun and inspiring to look at as you see what quilters of today are doing to reinvent the form.
C&T Publishing is graciously sponsoring a giveaway of a copy of Tile Quilt Revival! Leave a comment before 7:00 p.m. California time on Friday, March 5, to be in the drawing. U.S. and Canada only, unless you’d be willing to pay the shipping.
Those subscribed by email, click over the the blog itself and scroll to the bottom of the post to leave a comment.
I wanna start a tile quilt right now, but dang I have deadlines!
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
I came across this entry on longarm quilter Nancy Gambrel’s blog, where she shows off her customers’ quilts and the beautiful quilting she’s done on them.
Lo and behold, there’s an absolutely beautiful teapot quilt made by Pat Besenhofer, and I recognize it as being from my Teapots 2 to Appliqué.
What an internet find! Pat and Nancy both graciously agreed to let me use the photos and put up a Show & Tell of my own.
Look at the elegant quilted frames surrounding each teapot, setting them off just so.
This is so cool. My quilt is indeed based on your book Teapots to Applique 2. I would be thrilled to have my quilt shown on your website. And to think it isn’t even bound yet! I’m glad that Nancy and I spent so much time exchanging ideas about the quilting, I think the frame she did works beautifully with the teapots and the corner diamonds.
I’ve been a tea person all of my life, and I get so tired of patterns featuring coffee, espresso’s and latte’s, etc., so I snatched up this book (as well as the first one) when I saw it at the all-the-quilt-books-in-the-world vendor at the Rosemont, Illinois, Quilt Festival a a year or two ago.
This is the first quilt I’ve made with a definite location in mind; it’s going to go in my kitchen. I’ve been second-guessing myself on the pattern, wondering if I should have placed one or more teapots going the other way, or adding a teacup in one spot for a bit of whimsy. I’m happy that you like it as is.
Pat told me that the quilt was done with fusible raw-edge applique. In order to get the teapots facing the ‘correct’ way, she copied the positive images, then flipped the paper to create a reverse image to draw on the fusible web. Pat, that’s just the way I do it. Nancy stitched down the edges of the fusible applique with clear thread.
A beautiful job, both Pat and Nancy!
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
It started last Wednesday morning bright and early as Dana and I packed the car and drove an hour and a half to Pleasant Hill, California, to attend the quarterly meeting of the Northern California Quilt Council. I had been invited to participate in a panel discussion called “So You Want to Get it Published.” How very cool! Publishing nerd that I am, I can’t think of a more thrilling topic.
My fellow panel members were Cara Gulati of Doodle Press, Jill Rixman of A Designing Woman, Megan Wisniewski and Lynn Koolish of C&T Publishing, authors Judy Sisneros and Melinda Bula, Tracey Brookshier of Brookshier Design Studio, and Judy Mullen of Scaredy Cat Designs. Quite an array of different perspectives on publishing in the quilting world!
We each had five minutes to introduce ourselves, complete with red, yellow, and green flash cards to let us know when the hook was approaching LOL. Questions from the floor followed. Some of the answers shared great information about various forms of ‘getting it published,’ while others provided moving inspiration. I think we all wish the session could have gone on longer. We only scratched the surface; there was so much more to talk about!
After the meeting was over Dana and I had lunch and set off for our next destination: Shinneyboo Creek Cabins near Emigrant Gap in the Sierra Nevadas. This is a rustic vacation resort with little cabins that I found by following Google Maps up I-80.
It was so much fun! A complete change of scenery from our coastal Santa Cruz. Crisp mountain air, woodsy terrain, and tons of tumbled rocks and huge boulders thanks to the work of glaciers in the last Ice Age 20,000 years ago. (Hello, I‘m married to a science writer.)
We brought our dinner and warmed it up in our cozy little cabin in the microwave, and made tea with the electric kettle. Dana immediately climbed up into the loft and turned 10 years old again, reading in the loft as happy as a clam. I read some quilting magazines and stitched three holly leaves.
The next morning we went for a walk. (Notice I said walk. I’m a good sturdy walker but don’t say the word hike.) Our destination was the Pierce Creek Wetlands Trail, ¼ mile from the path behind our cabin.
A mile or so later down a rocky road, we came to the following sign.
But we did find the Pierce Wetlands, er, dry creekbed. Rains this winter will undoubtedly make it wet again.
They also have a yurt.
We left Shinneyboo and drove east to Bearpaws & Hollyhocks, a charming quilt shop in Sacramento well worth the detour. I found some of the double pinks that I have come to greatly appreciate.
We got back on the freeway and proceeded eastward a short hop to historic Auburn, where I stopped in at the Cabin Fever Quilt Shoppe. The first thing I saw was Susan Brubaker Knapp‘s hot-off-the-presses Applique Petal Party! (A whole post about that’s comin’ up.)
As I was perusing the shop’s lovely fabrics and making my selections, the owner came in. “Oh, hello!” she said to me. She had been at the NCQC meeting that morning! It was great to chat with Patti a little bit about the experience. She gave me a copy of the 2007 Quilt Sampler magazine, which features Cabin Fever as one of the Top Ten Stores! Congratulations Patti and staff!
Then, on to our last stop, the Sands Regency in Reno, Nevada.
Dana plays in a chess tournament at the Sands once or twice a year and I love to go along when I can. The fabulous Windy Moon Quilts has a huge selection of fabrics, lots of lights and darks and other categories too numerous to mention. I also found Sew-n-Such, a very fun shop featuring sewing machines, sergers, and a sizeable quilt fabric presence. Very nice vibe in that shop.
My haul of fabrics from the trip. Can you tell that I’m collecting backgrounds, reds, pinks, greens, and blues? Yep, I’m off to the races on another future project.
So what quilter doesn’t combine vacation time with visits to quilt shops, catching up on quilting magazines, and time spent on take-along projects? For us, all trips are quasi-quilty! I sure enjoyed mine.
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
Thank you so much to everyone who came over from the Bloggers Quilt Festival and left amazing comments about Shopping Bags. I cherish each and every one; you’ve done my heart good.
There’s a followup story. As I was cutting shapes for the bags, I also cut a few blades and squares from each fabric for some Dresden plate blocks, figuring I had already pulled a coordinated assortment of fabrics so why not make it a twofer. I made this quilt later. Same fabrics exactly as the shopping bags! This quilt is from Faye Anderson’s pattern ‘Cracked China.’ I call mine ‘Mix and Doesn’t Match.’
Here’s the quilt that appeared in American Quilter. Funny that they were originally attracted to the pattern from the dark blue quilt, requested an additional lighter sample, and then never used the first one at all!
In this quilt, the bags were pieced into the background instead of appliquéd on.
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
I asked Dana which quilt should be my quilter’s choice for the Blogger’s Quilt Festival put on by Amy of Park City Girl. Immediately he said, “Shopping Bags.”
The bag popped into my head a number of years ago whilst tromping the aisles at Pacific International Quilt Festival. It must have been the heavenly combination of quilts, fabric, and shopping!
It took awhile for the concept to get from my head to a design. Yes, kids, each bag has set-in seams in two places. That did not deter me. I used freezer-paper templates and sewed carefully, and they came together just fine.
It was gobs of fun rummaging through my stash for fabrics to make the fronts, sides, and backs. For the sides, I chose fabrics where I could use both the back and the front, to add to the illusion of a folding pleat.
After the bags were all sewn together (by machine), I turned over a quarter of an inch all around the edges and pressed. I chose a swirly background fabric and made my best stab at an artistic arrangement. In fact this may have been my very first quilt to come even close to being an “art quilt.” I just wanted them to hang there in space and overlap and float in and out from each other.
Once the bags were arranged, I basted them down and stitched the turned edges like appliqué, changing threads to match or blend with each fabric.
I went to the craft store to get something for the handles. I made my choice and as I was standing in line I saw the manager. Susan!” I yelled. “Whaddya call this stuff?” “That’s rat-tail cord,” she replied. Who knew. I couched the cord into place using one of those curve-bar thingies for placement.
Get this… I totally forgot to leave enough background fabric at the top for the handles. I quickly figured out that the topmost handles were going to stick up off the quilt. A happy accident… I get comments on how creative and clever this is.
Along with a different version of the quilt, the Shopping Bag block pattern was published the Fall 2005 issue of American Quilter magazine.
Hope you like Dana’s choice! Visit Park City Girl every day through October 16 and get a ringside seat for other bloggers’ quilt picks.
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie
The item that I ordered from Keepsake Quilting to use for the new designs arrived. There’s your second clue.
Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie