Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Finish Line in Sight

Race metaphor brought to you today because I ran the local Turkey trot last Thursday. I was super excited about my time...until I learned that the course was accidentally shortened by a half mile and was actually 4 1/2 miles rather than 5.
Today's finish line though is completely under my control. No pace car or confused policemen to screw this up. Today I'm off to the quilt this:
  It's a full size bed quilt for a customer across the globe. She had seen the version that I made my daughter several years ago and asked for one of her very own.
I've mentioned this before here and wrote about it in my new book, but I have to extol the pleasures and time saving nature of renting time on a long arm quilting machine. Quilting this entire top will take me 4-5 hours including "basting", a process that's a lot different and easier on you back/butt than taping the backing to the floor, layering the batting and top, and then proceeding to scoot around pinning the layers together. I'm telling you, long arming is the only civilized way to go.
 I'm hoping to have this bound and photographed for display in this space on Thursday. If I were y'all, I might just check back here then because 1. Thursday is a special day for me and 2. How fun would it be to share some of my special day with you lovely folks. Need I say more? :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shop Talk

I may have caught the Black Friday fever. I didn't venture out to the malls, but I did go in search of a couple specific fabrics at Joann's. People, that place is a madhouse. I ended up buying a couple spools of thread. Big, thousand yard spools that usually cost about $10.00 a piece, but today were buy one, get the second free. Then, the checker scanned some coupon that she had at the counter and the spools got even cheaper.
Though the craziness of the place convinced me that I should come back during the week to buy muslin, I was inspired by my Joann's experience to do something new in my shop.
(Imagine me speaking in a loud voice) For the first time ever, I'm offering my blog readers, that's you wonderful people, a special discount on the items available in my store. That's 10% off any purchases between now and next Tuesday. To use the coupon code, all you need to do is type in the phrase BLOGLOVE when you check out.
I've just updated the store with some new fabric bundles

 and a scrap bundle.
 I also have an array of pillow covers, patterns, hand dyed fabrics, coasters, quilts, and at least one or two other things I've forgotten.
If you've been thinking about buying one of the quilts or pillow covers I have listed, her's your chance to get it at a discount.
Just sayin. :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

In the Interest of Brevity: OMG

Years ago, before I ever thought about dyeing fabric or making quilts, back when I was still in art school, I knew about American Craft Magazine. Periodically, I would go to the bookstore to peruse the magazines I couldn't afford to buy and along with Art in America and Art News, I would read the latest craft news via American Craft.
Fast forward twenty some years and I get an email from a local writer, Shelley Seale, telling me that she has been commissioned by American Craft to write a story about me. Me?!!
And then, like icing on the cake, American Craft sends an amazing photographer, Michael O'Brien, to photograph me and my studio. Do you think I might be jumping up and down like a contestant on The Price is Right?
I've had to keep this under wraps for a couple months, but I got my copy last week and I'm ready to shout it from the rooftops. I am so thrilled to be included in the Dec/Jan issue of American Craft!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Of Bags and Buckles

If you've watched the promotional video I made for my book, Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color, Design, and Inspiration, you've heard me describe the projects in this book as items I've wanted to design for a long time. Many of the projects are the result of ideas I've carried around for a long time. For instance I mentioned that the kitchen curtain that's featured in the book is a concept I've long wanted to play with. I'll often see something in a store or in a magazine and think it's interesting and then something about will just stick with me. That's the story behind one of the projects that was originally slated for the book, but, due to space constraints and the complexity of the project just didn't make the final cut.
 The impetus for this book bag was my desire to make a bag that had a bona fide, working buckle. This bag is all about that 3" buckle. Years ago I was at Hill Country Weavers and I saw a knitted bag with buckle on the cover of a Rowan magazine. I liked the bag, but I LOVED the buckle. What's more, I loved the concept of a bag with a buckle. I know that seems like a little detail to hone in on, but I put it in the back of my mind that one day I'd design a bag with a buckle.
The rest of the bag: the quilted interior and exterior, the placement of the flap, the binding encasing both the quilted flap and the interior seams, and all of the other details I had worked out in this previous design.
 But this was where I decided to add my buckle.
Interestingly, the bag that is in the book also has a design feature that I had in mind for years.
 This is my image of the Four Points Tote taken before the bag was sent off to Interweave Press last winter. The handles, however, were given to me by a friend several years back. At the time she was cleaning out her aged mother's house and found these wooden handles. She didn't know anything about them, but thought I could put them to good use. I set them on a shelf and there they sat and gathered dust. As I was planning the patchwork for the tote, I realized that I wanted to use those handles in the design. I checked to make sure they were a standard size so that folks could recreate the pattern without having to dig in some obscure place for similar handles and, once reassured, added them to my tote.
Now I have both bags in my home. The tote I've set aside until book promotion is over, but the buckled bag is already getting daily use. And, like a little kid, I am so loving buckling and unbuckling my bag.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wanted: Guinea Pigs

Not the real kind. I actually have two Chinchillas that live in my house so I don't need any more rodents in my life. I mean sewing guinea pigs.
I'm working on a new quilt pattern and I'd like to ask a few of you skilled sewers to review the pattern for me and, if you'd like, sew a version of the quilt. You don't have to sew up the pattern to review it, just make sure that the directions make sense.
In return for your hard work and sage advice, you'll get the first draft PDF of the pattern and, eventually, the final draft PDF for free.
 I should warn you that this is a pretty large quilt measuring 69" x 69", so those who might want to sew the top as part of the review process should be aware of that.
 If you're interested, please email me directly at malka@stitchindye.com for additional details.

Edited to add: Wow! Eager beavers, I means guinea pigs. I have all the testers I need. Thanks everyone!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Two-fold Purpose

Obviously part of the focus of today's post is to announce the winner of the Quilt Scene magazine. Before I do that I want to reveal my very special method for picking a winner. my technique involves sitting in my favorite chair an calling out to one of my girls. Sometimes the one being called doesn't hear me or is, in fact, not home. They are teenagers after all and there have been a few times when after calling their name repeatedly, I set out in search for one only to discover that she's not home. Thank goodness they have phones and I know how to text.
Anyway, I usually continue to call until someone, anyone, responds. At that point I ask them to pick a number based on the number of comments I've received. They don't even know or ask why I want them to select a number between 1 and 131, they just pick one. It couldn't be anymore random than that. Today's number, courtesy of my sweet Rachel, is 113.
That makes Mathea our winner. She said:

The magazine looks wonderful, and I love your quilt, but oh, what I'd give to have real sunlight in November.. :-D

Congratulations! Please email me at malka@stitchindye.com with your mailing address and I will send the magazine super quick-like. Unfortunately USPS doesn't allow me to ship sunlight, so I can't help you with that.

My second purpose is to pass on a bit of quilt inspiration I happened to photograph at Quilt Festival the other week. As I was heading back to my car, I noticed two small buildings across the street from the George R. Brown Convention center.
 Both these little structures are located on a bit of park-like space.  They're very small, so I'm assuming that they're purpose has something to do with controlling the lights or some other technical aspect of the surrounding structures. If someone sees these images and knows what their point is, please chime in because I am curious. Anyway, they've been adorned with the blocks of warm and cool colors.
True confession: when I took the pictures I thought the buildings had been placed there exclusively for Festival. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that, but I figure it's just between you and me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What does it mean...

when you find a package on your porch last night, realize it's from your publisher, but decide you're going to wait until the next day to open it, so you can take pictures of the contents as they emerge from the box?
And what does it mean when you're taking pictures and then notice the cool way the light is playing on the surface of the box and quilt and floor,
so you take one picture
 and then another
and then some more pictures of what is essentially the reflection of the slats of your dining room chairs? I have even more pictures, but people, even I have some kind of filter.

And what does it mean when the point of this post was not to show off pictures of sunlight or chair slats or even quilts, but to giveaway a copy of this year's Quilt Scene magazine and I'm this far in and only now getting to it?
 Answers. I'm going to need them. And your comments. You're going to want to leave them because this is a magazine worth owning. You know who has patterns in this magazine? How about Elizabeth Hartman.
and Ashley Newcomb,
 and Denyse Schmidt.
In all honesty, when I held the magazine, I actually thought it was heavy. There are loads of wonderful projects, so leave a comment. I'll pick a winner on Sunday night and announce him/her on Monday.
Good luck and have a fabulous weekend!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Slow and Steady

That's what wins the race, right?
It better be because that's the pace I seem to be working at when it comes to this quilt.
Here's today's progress shot:
My deadline is November 30, actually the 29th because I already made an appointment with my long arm machine buddy to quilt it. That actually helps because nothing gets my butt in gear like a deadline.
In the meantime, I'm going to be quilting another large top next week and writing up a new quilt pattern. I'm super stoked about this design and I hope you all will be too. Also, I'm slowly adding samples that I've made for various magazines and books to my Etsy store. Yesterday, I uploaded these:
 Tomorrow, I've got at least one more pillow to add and maybe some potholders and a Strips and Bricks quilt. Check Ye Olde Etsy Shoppe if you think you might be interested.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Around the Block this Week

Last week I previewed some of the projects from my soon-to-be-released book, one of which was this quilt. To prove my point that I'm almost never completely done with a design, I'm posting these images.

A customer recently asked me to recreate this quilt. It's basically the Nate quilt but constructed primarily out of squares that have been dyed to look concentric rather than being pieced concentrically. I've done a lot of the dyeing and am ready to start sewing. The blocks measure about 20" square though they're pieced improvisationally so that's a little iffy. The final quilt is supposed to measure about 85" x 91", so I'm figuring about twenty blocks with a maybe an extra row or two should get me close to the desired size.
I thought it would be fun and helpful(for me) to focus this week on posting newly made blocks. Hopefully that will give me incentive to work steadily and avoid distraction as well as reassure me that progress is in fact being made.
And, in hopes of making it fun for you as well, I thought I'd end the parade of blocks this week on Friday with a little giveaway. So, check in to see new blocks, some explanation of the process, and hopefully watch this quilt top get closer to completion.
This is where I am so far:
 Here's hoping they'll be quite a few more blocks on that wall by week's end.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Book Preview #4

I'm a little torn about what I want to feature in today's preview. On the one hand I'd like to focus on one of the non-quilt projects because there are 14 of them and 6 quilts. On the other hand, there is one quilt I especially want to mention, partly because I'm pretty fond of it and partly because it's going to be the focus of my demo tomorrow during my Open Studios session at Quilt Festival in Houston.
The thing that's tipping it for the quilt is the fact that I rushed to make an alternate block to demonstrate tomorrow and I'll be damned if I'm not going to show it off in this space.
OK. Today's featured project is called The Modern Baby Quilt.
 If memory serves me this was the first project I designed and finished for the book. Truth be told, that's the way I work, one project at a time from start to finish. I don't like to have multiple things going simultaneously.
A few weeks ago, I posted about this quilt and told you all that it was a variation of a quilt from my book. See, I wasn't kidding.
I love making baby quilts. They're so gratifying because they're small and a wonderful opportunity to be playful, both in terms of fabric selection and construction.

I really wanted this quilt to be fun to piece and for me that means it's a wee bit challenging. There are plenty of projects both in my book and in others that are fabulous for a newbie, but sometimes I feel like there's not that much out there for someone who's got a few quilts under their belt. This quilt uses a technique called Y piecing to machine sew the partial and whole hexagon sections. It's an incredibly useful little technique and can be used to machine stitch other odd shapes. Y piecing does require that you stop stitching some seams 1/4" short of a corner and that can be disconcerting. A part of me really wanted every millimeter of my seams sewn together, but a few deep breaths and watching the top come together and stay that way despite the unstitched corners, reassured me that Y piecing was pretty darn cool.
So, tomorrow I'm going to be demonstrating this cute little trick using the templates from the book. I've made a couple of variations from the original.
 Rather than use one fabric for the center hexagon, I sewed it out of 6, string pieced triangles. I made a template for the triangle, but added a bit too much seam allowance. No matter, after I sewed the triangles into a hexagon, I overlaid the one of the outer hexagons and trimmed it to size. You gotta roll with the punches. I limited the color palette to orange for the "flower" and gray for the background, but used a variety of fabrics to give the block complexity.
I might pick up a few new oranges and grays tomorrow at Quilt Festival. Rumor has it they sell fabric there. :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Book Preview #3

When I think about it, I'm pretty amazed that the project I'm featuring today is one of my favorites. First off, it wasn't even my idea to design one of these; my editor suggested it. It's not an item I would typically make like a quilt or pillow, yet it is, without a doubt, one of my favorite projects in the book .
 I love this sewing machine cover on so many levels.
There's the simple fact that it's a very practical item. As someone who is forever cursing having to stop sewing so I can brush lint out of my machine, anything that cuts down on dust and drek in there is a good idea.
Also, because I'm always a little tentative whenever I engineer something, I'm awfully proud that I figured out how to insert a piece of cardboard in between the layers so that top of the cover would lay flat on the machine. And, the cherry on top of that is that the cardboard wasn't new or some fancy oak tag, but straight out of my recycling bin.
If I'm completely honest though, I'd have to say the element that endears this item to me most is the patchwork pattern. I based it on a photo of a window I saw in a magazine. I saved the photo and would periodically look at it and wonder how I could adapt it to patchwork. What's funny is that the final pattern is only dimly like the photo, but I guess it was just a jumping off point.
I love this pattern so much that I've already re-imagined it as this:
and this:
There are loads of variations on this pattern and the more it's re-worked the more possibilities are revealed. Maybe that's why I'm drawn to this project. The pattern can be adapted to a host of items in a host of configurations. And that's just what I might come up with. I can't wait to see what others figure out.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Book Preview #2

Today's preview from Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color, Design, and Inspiration can best be described as one of my oldies, but, hopefully, goodies. I first created this improvisationally pieced quilt titled Nate's Quilt for a dear friend's new baby.
The first incarnation looked like this:
 My friend's baby Nate is no longer a baby, but an incredibly cute 3 1/2 year old and since then I have returned to this design numerous times to make pillows,
mini quilts,
 and even larger quilts.
And now I'm proud to share it in my new book.
 What strikes me about this design and makes it a favorite that I turn to again and again is that, despite it's improvisational underpinnings it is essentially repeatable and adaptable to a variety of scales. And, if I can repeat it and adapt it, so can you.

What's more it's not about following exact measurements, but making one block and a second and then adjusting the size of one or both, so they fit together. It's about trusting your eye as you freehand cut strips. It's about loving the off-kilter nature of this design and being confident that you can contain it so it doesn't go completely haywire by focusing on solids and adhering to a few basic parameters of construction.
I listed my essential "rules" for embracing improvisation in a little sidebar titled " Ten Ways to Love Improvisational Piecing".
You can read all about them in this post from Quilting Art's blog, Quilting Daily.
Improvisation, whether it's based on a simple block like this modified log cabin or a complicated block like Double Wedding Ring (yes, you can improvise a Double Wedding Ring), is such a fun way to approach quilt making. It's definitely one of my favorite techniques and that's why I wanted to preview this quilt for you.