Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quilt Improv:: Lucie Summers

Ok, I can't just reappear in this space without acknowledging my absence.
No doubt about it, I've been away. But, just from this space. I've been designing and creating and re-working. And, soon enough, you all will see the fruits of that labor.
Today, however, I wanted to take a minute to introduce you to someone fabulous:
Everyone, this is Lucie Summers.
Lucie, this is everyone.
Lucie has just written an amazing book, Quilt Improv: Incredible Quilts from Everyday Inspirations.
I love so many things about this book: the wonderful, earthy way she describes and defines improv, her fresh takes on traditional blocks and, most of all the wonderful eye-candy quilts she features.
It may seem a bit over the top to say this book has everything you need to get inspired and started in your own improv does.
It's divided into 4 sections: introduction, building blocks, quilt, and a general sewing/quilting section.

After a brief intro to her process as well as her take on improvisational quiltmaking, Lucie walks us through 13 basic building blocks, from chevrons, to half-square to triangle to, my personal favorite, log cabin.
Lucie encourages the reader to make these blocks either as stand alone mini quilts or as part of larger constructions.
They are all rendered in bright, fresh fabrics that really communicate the joy of working improvisationally.
The third section of the book focuses on 12 beautiful quilt that are just as beautifully photographed. It really gets you jazzed up to make the quilt when it's pictured in wonderful lighting and set in a lovely space.

Add to that, each of the quilts is accompanied by a sort of process map. Lucie includes sketches, inspiration photos, and other tidbits to help guide you in making your version as well as applying her overall process to crafting your own improv quilt, be they based on these blocks or not. 
In its final section, Quilt Improv features general sewing/quilting info and an extensive resource section. 
I think this book is great. Really, really, really.
The previous link takes you to the UK page, but, because I like you, each and everyone of you, I'm including the amazon link for those of us who live on this side of the pond and spell the word color without that superfluous U.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Just a trick

I mean it.
Actually, let's back track.
Ok, now the treat. 
The mail carrier and he was a real nail carrier, not some 10 year old dressed as one, brought me a special treat today.

Yep. That's the latest issue of Modern Patchwork magazine and it's filled with lots of great stuff including two of my projects.
One is version of a tote bag I made for my friend, Nan and the other is a simple pillow crafted out of wee little squares. 
Policy at Interweave Press/F&W Media is to send contributors 3 complimentary copies. A lovely idea, but I just worked super hard to downsize my stuff when I moved here. So, guess what?
I'm giving away the extra two copies to one of you fine, crafty people. 
I'm doing it in double celebration of the day. You see Halloween is not only a fine day to dress up as say one of the Village People, but it's also my eldest girl's birthday. 
Needless to say that is my best Halloween memory, My daughter's birth not spelling out YMCA.
So, if you want to be entered into the drawing, leave a comment with your best or scariest Halloween memory and I'll announce the winners in the next few days. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Snail's Trail at the Speed of Sound

Well, not exactly the speed of sound, but certainly faster than if I were making smaller blocks.
This will eventually be twin sized. Actually it needs to be that size by Monday when it goes to the long arm quilter. Like I said, thank goodness each block measures 16" x 16".

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Improv Courthouse Steps

I'm in final wrap-up for Quilt market mode which really means scrambling to finish projects before I head out on Friday.
Before things get any crazier though I wanted to share with you my finished Improve Courthouse Steps quilt.
I quilted the entire thing from start to finish yesterday and then finished binding it this morning. I've got a bit of backache which is pretty funny considering I just came back from Colorado where I ran the Barr Trail and around Garden of the Gods, hiked halfway up Pike's Peak and ascended the Manitou Incline...twice. Those didn't seem to bother me, but machine quilting this piece has me taking ibuprofen.
No matter. I'm super happy with the way this quilt turned out and it has sparked loads of new ideas for using the stripes featured in my new collection for Moda, From Outside In.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What to Call it Wednesday

That's my title because I'm totally off my little, self-imposed schedule this week.
I'm supposed to be posting my mid-week workshop today with Monday's entry focusing on this week's mini quilt. But, there was no entry on Monday.
I've been getting ready for Quilt Market in Houston at the end of next week, working on several design assignments, and planning for a trip to Colorado, so, I propose we play a game of pretend. let's pretend today is Monday. You pick the date. I don't really care, but let's all close our eyes and imagine that it's the start of the work week.
That's it. Breathe in. Breathe out. And it's Monday. And on Monday I post this week's mini quilt. So, welcome to Mini Quilt Monday!

Remember these pillows? I designed and created them for Modern Patchwork Magazine. Well, the nice folks there have asked me to teach a Schoolhouse segment at Market focused on that project and I thought it would be fun to reinterpret the pattern just a bit and make a mini quilt version of it.
I think I might call this my Mid-Century Modern Mini Pieces.
I decided to up-size the template pieces a bit and focus on low volume, graphic prints, including a few of my own from my new collection, From Outside In.
I also wanted to play with an idea I've been thinking about for a while.
I've been wanting to start adding bits of ephemera from my own life into my pieces. That probably will be primarily in the form of my own photos transferred to fabric, but, in this case I decided to transfer a few of my race bibs to fabric, cut those up, and piece them into these blocks.
Is it weird that, despite the fact that I "make" my own fabric all the time, I was blown away with how cool it was to "make" fabric out of these bibs? I think it's a little weird, but, that's what I was thinking. Also, I love the graphic quality of the numbers alongside these fabrics.
When the quilt was all pieced and quilted it just seemed to scream out for rounded edges. So I obliged and finished those edges with a sweet pale blue solid.

Also, I don't want to forget to mention that the lovely Tammy at Marmalade Fabrics is having a sweet, sweet sale on some amazing fabrics, including Lotta Jansdotter's Glimma collection. One of those prints appears in my Mid-Century Mini Pieces quilt.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mid-Week Workshop :: Piecing an Improv Block

Before I get to today's topic, I wanted to tell a little story.
The other day, my youngest daughter, a junior in high school, told me that, though her Physics class was very difficult for her, she was really enjoying it because it was genuinely challenging. She added that there have been other classes that were "hard", but they didn't challenge her the way this class does. 
I think what she meant by that was that when you work on something slightly or more out of your usual realm, and begin to understand it, bit by bit, there's a sense of growth and accomplishment that only that kind of challenge brings.
I've experienced that type of challenge today in prepping the materials for this post. 
It started when I decided that, rather than take step-by-step process shots of the making of this block, I would make an Instagram video instead. I've made those before and they're fun and cute and that's about it. Also, if you're not my friend or follower or whatever on Instagram, you probably wouldn't  know the video was there. 
So, I uploaded the video to my Google drive and then downloaded it to my computer and then uploaded it here.
For those of you who've been doing this since Roosevelt was in office, this may not be impressive. I don't claim to be the first to do this. Just that this was the first time I've done it and I had to figure it out and it was challenging and I feel accomplished having done it. 
In a similar vein, I think that many of you, afraid of working improvisationally, might encounter the same experience if you give the technique I'm featuring a try.
So, today's workshop is about piecing this block:
The block is part of this work in progress:
It features 4 of the striped prints in my new collection, From Outside In, and a solid.
You can make this too. Ideally with these exact fabrics, but, since they won't even be in stores until January and, once you watch the video, you'll be rarin' to go, select other stripes or solids. I wouldn't use big, bold prints, but I think you could use smaller, more discreet prints.
The key to this is consistency of strip placement.

Note that in this group of four blocks the center red square is pieced first to a yellow striped piece, then to a green striped piece, then to a cream striped piece, and finally to a blue striped piece. That order is then repeated for two more rounds. Also, though the orientation of the block may change as it is sewn to other blocks, the strips are sewn on clockwise.
So, what do you need to make this block?
Strips in 5 solids or stripes.
Using a rotary cutter, freehand cut and layout all the parts of the block
BTW- you can do this. Physics is way harder and you've been uploading video since before the invention of the microwave oven.
Now, take your strips over to your machine and, one at a time and in the order they were laid out, sew them together.
Here, watch me. 

Apologies for running out of video feed before I managed to attach the last two strips, but you get the idea.
I did include a mistake, which I fixed, because everyone makes them and I'd like to credit my dog, Charlie-Tucker with providing background vocals.
I would note that as I pieced each strip I pressed it to one side and trimmed it to fit.
It's really so easy...really.
Questions? Ask in the comments section and I'll do my best to answer.
Also, don't fret, we'll cover how to put these potentially differently-sized blocks together in next week's workshop.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mini Quilt Monday meets what I was supposed to blog about last Friday

How's that for a long, un-catchy title? Let's hope my epitaph is a little bit more of an attention grabber.
But, the truth is the truth. I was supposed to blog about new additions to the shop last Friday and instead I was, you know, eating bon-bons.
Ok, maybe not eating bon-bons, but it didn't happen, so I'm going to add(read shove) that into this post.
First though, a mini quilt:
or two:
or maybe even three:
All these are made with Moda Pre-cuts called Honeycombs. They are and I say this as a self-proclaimed expert on the value of sliced bread, the best invention since...well, you know.
I love them so much I plan on carrying them in my store(along with a pattern designed just for them) when they are released in January of 2014.
The one with the circle dyed in its center is one of these:
I patterned a few hexagons by clamping and over dyeing them like I do my Twinkle circles.
Serious excitement ensued when I un-clamped these babies, but, no mention of their relation to the greatness of sliced bread. That's reserved for the hexagons themselves.
I see lots of possibilities with these and that excitement is inspiring all sorts of new ideas with the other pre-cuts as well.
More on that in a future post.

As for what's new in my shop, well I've got a couple of new pieces of fabric patterned with new designs.
And plans to add a bunch of quilts over the next few days. So, if you have a chance, check it out.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mid-Week Workshop::Floor Pillows

I mentioned in Monday's post that I was helping my friend, Nan, who, by the way refers to herself as my Sousstress( you know, like a chef has a sous chef to assist him/her, Nan is my seamstress assistant, a Sousstress). Nan was looking to cheer up some pillow forms in anticipation of house guests. Well, this got me to thinking about pillows and floors and tutorials and stuff to make to promote my new fabric collection.
And all that thinking led to today's mid-week workshop project, floor pillows.
Like these:
Don't those look squishibly comfortable? I think I'll add squishibly to the English lexicon along with sousstress.
Let me assure you they are. So, go ahead, grab some fabrics and make a few.
Here's how:

About 3/4 of a yard of 2 coordinating cotton prints or solids
Self-healing mat
Rotary cutter
Quilter's clear, acrylic ruler
Coordinating machine sewing thread
24" x 24" pillow form

Cutting the Fabric:
1. From one fabric, cut a 24" x 24" square
2. From second fabric, cut two 16" x 24" rectangles

Making the Pillow Cover:
1. Working with one of the 16" x 24" rectangles,  wrong side facing up, press a 1/4" seam allowance, along one long edge.
2. Press an additional 1" seam allowance along same edge.
3. Machine stitch folded edge about 1/4" from fold.
4. Repeat steps 1-4 to make second half of envelope backing with remaining 16" x 24" rectangle.
5. With right sides facing, pin together pillow front (24" x 24" square) and stitched rectangles of envelope pillow back, making sure stitched edges of envelope backing overlap in center of pillow cover.
6. Using a 1/4" seam allowance, sew together all 4 edges.
7. Turn pillow cover right side out through envelope opening.
8. Press seams. Insert pillow form.
Begin squishibility testing with good book and glass of wine.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mini Quilt Monday and More

I was going to title this post "Mini Quilt Monday and Sew Much More," but decided not to. Not because I don't have more than my mini quilt to show. I do, But because not all of it is finished and photographed and "Sew much more" felt a bit over the top.
First off, this week's mini quilt which, incidentally also serves as last week's addition to my store, though, truth be told, was just added this morning. Details, details.
Anyway, tried and true and much loved, a new Twinkle mini quilt makes its way into the world.
Sometimes I wonder if I'll tire of making these little quilts and I can only respond with," not yet."
I decided to make this my mini quilt this week after I made a design decision concerning this work in progress:
I'm crafting this quilt improvisationally exclusively out of the striped fabrics in my new collection, From Outside In. My original plan was to use all the leftover bolt strips Moda Fabrics sent me and see how large a quilt that made. Over the weekend, in the interest of having something brand new and wonderful to show you all for Mini Quilt Monday, I thought I would abandon Plan A and just finish this as a mini of sorts. But, I'm a big believer in sticking to Plan A, so instead I posted the Twinkle mini quilt.
If that was all there was to the more part of today's post title, I'd think that adding the "more" was unjustified. But, wait, there really is more.
More patterning:
This piece of fabric, soon to be in my store, is done being over dyed and is tumbling away in my dryer as I write. I'm writing today's post at a local coffee shop, so I can't actually hear the tumbling, but trust me, I emptied the lint tray and the fabric is definitely drying.
More pillow making:
This is just one pillow. One, very large pillow. My friend, Nan, wanted to recover a pair of floor pillow forms in anticipation of house guests, so she came over yesterday, picked out two prints, one from From Outside In and a second from Simple Marks Fall and we made a new cover. She returns today to make the second.
More designing:
I'm not going to say a lot about this bag other than it's a prototype for a new pattern and that it's designed as a bag that can be used as either a tote or a backpack. More about this soon as I have a few other fabrics I want to make it in before I write the instructions and formalize the pattern.
So, I guess there really is more. Dare I say, Sew much more?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mid-Week Workshop::Kinda, Sorta...

I say kinda, sorta because, though this mid-week "workshop" is filled with hopefully loads of good stuff, it's not exactly a tutorial.
My planned tutorial was coming along fine until the mail came on Monday and this arrived:
One of the many perks of designing for Moda is getting freebies of their packaged fabric in my various designs. For every collection I've received jelly rolls and fat quarter packs and layer cakes. But, I'd never gotten this before. I suspect because this must be new, but how amazing is this? They are pre-cut hexies. Large pre-cut hexies measuring about 5" along each edge.
Needless to say, I had to stop whatever I was doing and work with these. I think you understand.
My first project was very simple.
Each package contains 42 hexagons in a variety of patterns and color ways. I selected 7 in a similar palette and created a single flower block.
I added some diamonds and triangles to square off the block as well as some 2" strips to give it a wee bit more size.
Next up: quilting in a much loved design,
rounding the edges,
and hand binding.
Normally, I'd sew down the binding with a zig-zag stitch in a coordinating thread, but I was still a bit giddy from excitement over these pre-cut hexagons.
Now what? How about a second one in a warmer palette:
Or resist patterning the pre-cuts and over dyeing?
The results of this little experiment are in the dryer as I write.
A world(one in the shape of a hexagon, not a circle) of possibilities awaits.