Saturday, January 14, 2017

Wintry Mint

Even with its asymmetric sashing and highly varied block sizes, the Penny Sampler still is at heart a sampler quilt.   So... part of the fun of making so many different blocks is thinking about how one might like to use them in other projects!  This winter I've decided to take one of my favorite blocks from the Penny Sampler, the snowflake, and make a wintry baby quilt.

Wintry Mint

My palette is calm, cool and serene.  The quilt will be mostly a pale, wintry mint with flashes of white, silver and gold.  The "silver and gold" concept was totally inspired by Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  You know how the snowman glides around singing "silver and gold, silver and gold"?  Well, since I've had very little actual snow in my life, apparently I connect snow mainly with movies?  Hmm.

Wintry Mint

Fat Quarter Shop has a wealth of lovely mint fabrics at the moment!  Each will make two snowflake block backgrounds, so here are plenty of options for a baby quilt.  From top left:  Raindrop Metallic Pistachio Precipitation, Calico Days Mint Week Days, Garden Dreamer Reflection Triangular, Hello Bear Cotton Sigh Firefly, Aunt Grace Green Blossom Vine, Blueberry Park Pond Sprouting Row, Kona Aloe, North Woods Icicle Crystal, Kona Ice Frappe and Birds of Liberty Aloe Daisy Bouquet.

Wintry Mint

And for the snowflakes themselves I'll use Kona white and two metallics by Cotton & Steel:  Netorioius in Cloud and Netorious in Goldilocks.  I'm glad to have an excuse to sew with silver and gold metallics.  They shine so prettily!

Wintry Mint

I made my first block in the rainy Precipitation print on a rare South Carolina snow day.  Fitting.  I've resized the block to finish about 10" with a thin background fabric border.  The half square triangles finish just 1.75".

On my first few blocks, I made HST's using the popular 2-block batch method that starts with squares.  In the quilting ruler round-up, I had mentioned I don't use my Fons & Porter Half & Quarter ruler because I prefer the batch method for HST.   Debbie commented that when she uses the ruler she doesn't have to trim her HST.  That was all the encouragement I needed to try the ruler again! 

Wintry Mint

Now I'm hooked on the Fons & Porter Half & Quarter ruler.  Even with these teeny tiny half square triangles, they come out accurately enough that I don't have to trim before assembling my snowflake blocks.  Hurray!  It's those little things that make a quilter's day.  Thanks, Debbie!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Cathedral Windows {a mosaic contest}

Slow down a minute, my friend, and ponder with me in color...

All the colors dance with splendor as light streams in from cathedral windows. Sharp, refracting beams collapsing into a most delightful whole.  As we raise our faces towards the heavens, we find each beauty outlined by grief, each sacred motif framed in shadows. 

Cathedral Windows {a mosaic contest}
cathedral window, quilt by Susan Wessels, fabric stack, trees, monarchs

Blue is the color of cathedral windows.  True blue, most blue, royal blue.  It's sky and sea and peace enveloping the kaleidoscope of life's rich hues.  And it casts a dreamy wonder in these sacred spaces.  Blue smooths the waters lapping along our rocky shores. 

Cathedral Windows {a mosaic contest}
jellyfish, candles, water, stained glass, St. George's Cathedral, boat, quilt by Stolzfus

Then hand in hand with royal blue weaves another royal shade.  Lavender and orchid, grape and magenta - in cathedral windows rare purple is as plentiful as rain.  It lends an air of mystery wrapped in royal robes of light.

Cathedral Windows {a mosaic contest}
butterfly, flowers, quilt by SillyBoodilly, makeup, stained glass

Into dark, cavernous halls, cathedral windows usher light and color and the heritage of story.  They invite us to make space in the dark corners of our hearts for new, bold beautiful beings; for virtues that shine like gemstones and draw others to join in their song.  Ruby red, emerald green, amber and aquamarine sparkle in the company of cool royal blue and purple, bringing together all the colors just as we ought to bring all together with our love.

Cathedral Windows {a mosaic contest}
flowers, blue interior, quilt by Lieblingsdecke, quilt by lilabellelane, hummingbird

Such is the power of art to inspire our hearts and our hands.

I invite you to join us for a fabric mosaic contest sponsored by The Loopy Ewe.

Carefully craft your mosaic of 9 fabrics from among the offerings at The Loopy Ewe.  You can browse fabrics sorted by style here.  Use the links in the left sidebar to sort by color, designer, etc. if you like.  Choose fabrics to express your interpretation of Cathedral Windows.  There are many possibilities, though be sure to include some royal blue and other saturated colors.

Once you have your fabrics, the free Mosaic Maker tool makes it a snap to create a mosaic (though you may use any mosaic tool of your choice).  Copy and paste image url's from The Loopy Ewe.  To find url's first go to the item page, then right click on the image you want and choose "copy image URL".

To enter the contest, add your mosaic image to our collection here.  If it suits you, link to a blog post explaining your choices - that helps us spread the word about our contest.  But no blog post is required (you can put your image url in the url space).  Anyone can enter, anywhere in the world.

***Important Tip*** If possible, share your mosaic so that when it's loaded to the link up and you click on your mosaic, it takes viewers to see a larger version. This makes it so much easier for me to see your mosaic and consider it as a finalist!  Hosting your mosaic in a public place (such as Flickr or Instagram) and linking the URL works beautifully!

Add your mosaic by midnight January 21st.  You can make up to 2 mosaics!  On Sunday the 22nd, I'll open voting.   We'll have two winners!  The 2 Top Mosaics will earn a complete fat quarter set of their mosaic fabrics!!!  Winners announced January 25th.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Scraps on Parade quilt

It's finished!

Scraps on Parade

And how lucky that photographs fell on the first (and likely only) snow day of our season!  A pretty dusting of snow to prove it's winter at last.

Scraps on Parade

I made Scraps on Parade purely for the joy of scraps.   No plans and no pressure - perfect for those first weeks with baby.  It was a bit of slow going with some head-scratching along the way, but here we are at a finish I can celebrate!

Scraps on Parade

The hourglass blocks were best for eating up scraps.  I would have loved a whole quilt just of them, but it does get tedious sewing the same small block again and again.  The stretched 9-patch block is one I will likely make as a dedicated quilt someday.  It was quick and still scrap-friendly.  And the stars...  I'll never tire of sawtooth stars.

After adding that solid Kona Ash border, it all fell into place for me.  A simple, straight-line quilted texture brings things together, and a nearly-black floral provides a final frame for the wandering eye.

Scraps on Parade

On the back I used some fun prints that would be a shame to cut up for patchwork, as well as a large piece of a neutral gingham as a quiet bit of contrast.

Scraps on Parade

Scraps on Parade is so named for the way my block types are lined up "like soldiers," my mom said.  I see them more as rows in a quilty parade, with one silly sawtooth star causing mayhem in the hourglass ranks!

Scraps on Parade is listed in my Etsy shop today.  My first finish in the new year!

Scraps on Parade

Oops, I'm on my second-to-last label.  I've been using these sew-in ribbon labels from Etsy store GutenTags for years and years.  They hold up well to washing and look quite professional.  She closes her shop to new orders whenever she gets busy, so it can be hard to catch her taking new customers.  But reorders are quick and always available here.  If you're interested in labels, maybe convo her on Etsy to see if she has a wait list for new customers?

Sometimes I wonder if decades later when I'm not at this anymore, someone might stumble on one of my quilts, become curious about quilt-making and search their way to my blog to discover the (old) world of quilt-alongs and free online tutorials.  How cool would that be!



Saturday, January 7, 2017

Welcome, Quilt Sandwich Fabrics!

A new sponsor is joining Stitched in Color this new year from the state of Washington.  Quilt Sandwich Fabrics has a lovely spot on Etsy teaming with over 1000 fabrics!

Browsing through Quilt Sandwich's offerings, I see so many fabrics I've sewn with over the years, from my favorites by Cotton & Steel and Denyse Schmidt to excellent basics I've used again and again.  There are even hard-to-find bundles like this fat quarter set of Hand Drawn Garden by Anna Maria Horner!

Plus, at Quilt Sandwich you can buy a 1/2 pound bag of scraps for $8.  Now that's a fun and affordable way to boost your variety! 

Here's a snapshot of fabrics and patterns by Carolyn Friedlander, available in the shop:

And then there's these fat quarter sets of color-themed fabrics by Cotton & Steel.  Can you spot the tiger stripe kitties in each bundle?  Those are the ones I used for Elora's baby blanket!  Love them.

Cotton & Steel bundles at Quilt Sandwich

Besides big designer names, Quilt Sandwich also carries a nice selection of novelty fabrics from Alexander Henry, Michael Miller, Dear Stella, Blend and more.  You'll find something unique at the Kids & Novelty page.

I'm all for stashing helpful fabrics, which you'll find a-plenty at Graphics & Solids.  I was happy to find they still have nearly all the colors of Cotton & Steel's Sprinkle basic, including Pickup Truck red which I photographed baby upon last month.  I need to snag a few other shades before this print goes extinct!

A big thanks to owners Becca and Kris for choosing to support this blog space with their sponsorship!  And now they'd like to thank you for considering their shop by offering a giveaway open internationally.  Add your comment now through noon (EST) on Tuesday the 10th for your chance to win a Half Yard set of the 9 Sprinkle prints shown above!  Wow, what a nice giveaway!!

Good luck!

*********************Comments Closed****************

Congrats to #32 - Ramona.  I'll be in touch!

Friday, January 6, 2017

getting started {Penny Sampler}

On Sunday I sent the January edition of the Penny Sampler to all registered for the 6-month and 12-month programs.  We're starting our journey with extensive lessons in applique, some optional Dogwood practice projects and several sampler blocks.  Under Contents on the pdf cover page lessons are labeled "Sampler" to indicate Penny Sampler blocks assigned to this month. 

On the 6-month track, we're to complete the heart blocks, clover, mitten and village this January.  I'm getting started!

Penny Sampler Jan blocks

I decided to make the hearts and clover with sew & turn applique.  Even though sew & turn method can be tricky with shapes that have deep clefts, if you trim the seam allowance really close at the inner points, it does work. Since I backed my shapes with muslin, they show a sliver of cream along the edges.  I don't mind.  I decided it adds an extra sense of dimension (wink).

Penny Sampler Jan blocks

Many of my first blocks are very dark with little contrast.  That's because they'll land in the "border" areas of the quilt, which I am intending to keep very dark gray.  Remember my inspiration pictureRight.  But I don't mind making simple, quiet blocks with such little contrast.  I know the Penny Sampler is a detailed quilt with lots to see and many opportunities to infuse color.  Some visually simple blocks seem like a smart way to start.

Penny Sampler Jan blocks

Each of these cuties were easy makes.  I'm attaching all of my applique with the sketch stitch method.  Wow, that's soooooo quick!  I forgot how quick it is.  Makes me want to approach an orange peel quilt this way this year.  My favorite block is the black clover.  The subtle cursive print was just the right touch.

Penny Sampler Jan blocks

If you're starting your Penny Sampler and have access to a design wall, you may like to put up some of your "first choices" fabrics to provide a visual frame for your blocks.  It helps with choosing fabrics/colors!  The First Choices lesson suggested you choose background for Hanging Diamond, background for Penny Candy Sashing and Side Border Print L.  If you've done that, you can make these cuts and put the fabric up on your design wall.  These cuts are part of the cutting process for each selection, so you are not wasting fabric:
  • Hanging Diamonds background:  Cut a 12.5" width of fabric strip.  Place at upper right corner of quilt layout.  I'm using Kona Charcoal.
  • Penny Candy Sashing background:  Cut (2) 3.5" width of fabric strips.  Make a cross with them, mimicking the quilt diagram.  I'm using FreeSpirit Solids Cosmic Blue.  
  • Side Border Print L:  Cut a 9.5" x 36.5" piece.  This is the exact size needed for quilt assembly.  I'm using Good Folks Good Fortune in gray.
  • Small Diamonds background:  If you have also chosen the background fabric for the diamond section at top/center of the quilt, you can cut (2) 5" width of fabric strips and place them side by side in that section of the quilt.  I'm using Kona Charcoal.
Making these cuts and laying them out is totally optional and technically working ahead.  I just wanted to extend the opportunity to you since it was helpful to me to do so!  Now I can add my blocks to the layout as they're created to feel my way colorwise.

::Notes for Students::
  • If you did not receive your pdf, please let me know!
  • Original pdf's have links to download your templates.  Those links were unnecessary since templates are embedded in your pdf.  The download links weren't working properly, so I've since removed them.  You can download a new version without links, if you like, but it's really not necessary.  The point is your templates are embedded!
  • Be sure to save each month's pdf to your computer.  You can view the pdf right in Dropbox OR view it in Adobe Acrobat on your computer.  If you view in Dropbox you will see comment threads in the sidebar.  Feel free to ask questions there or to email me.  
  • Trouble printing templates?  Try printing from Adobe Acrobat rather than from Dropbox.  You can tell Acrobat to print a single page.  No need to print the entire document.
  • To clarify there is not a separate class blog for the 2017 Penny Sampler.  I apologize to those of you who misunderstood and expected a class blog based on your earlier experiences with my courses.  Rather than having a class blog, I am delivering pdf's each month to you via Dropbox in the same format as a "block of the month" type of program.  The monthly pdf includes lessons for all sampler blocks to be completed that month.  For questions you may use the Dropbox comments feature or email me (see teal Contact button in right sidebar).  
  • Looking for community?  Sharing your photos to Instagram with hashtag #PennySampler will definitely connect you with lots of students.  There's already plenty of action on IG right now under #PennySampler.  In addition I will be opening a link party once a month at StitchedinColor for you to share your progress pictures, especially if you don't prefer to use Instagram.  Look for that later this month when I share my completed Little Village block!
Do you have any further questions about class format or using the pdf's?  Feel free to add your questions here or use the Contact button in my sidebar to email me.  Thank you for your trust!  I hope you enjoy the Penny Sampler!!

p.s.  It's not too late for you to join us.  Choose your format HERE

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Quilting Ruler Round Up

Quilting Ruler round up

Do you ever wonder which rulers are worth buying and which ones would just gather dust?  Specialty rulers have the potential to make cutting so much faster and sewing more precise, but it's easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices.  Plus, many rulers actually do the same work, which isn't always so clear.  I've bought some rulers that were duds and others that are pretty awesome.  Let's have a quilting ruler round up!

::Basic Quilting Rulers::

Many of my basic rulers are by Omnigrid.  They have a non-slip side and seem to be very reasonably priced.  You can find these at big box stores everywhere and at Amazon. 

6" x 24" Rectangle - This is your basic ruler for cutting up yardage.  It's the first ruler you should buy. 

12.5" Square - Many blocks are squared up to 12.5" as a final step.  This ruler makes it easy to center your cut when necessary. 

Square Ruler Set - Aside from my 6x24" ruler, the rulers I use most were purchased as a set from Amazon.  You can use any and all sizes for cutting block elements, trimming scraps to size or squaring up finished small-size blocks.  I use 2.5", 4.5" and 6.5" the most.

::Favorite Specialty Rulers::

Flying Geese from Fons & Porter - This little ruler is the only way I want to cut and sew flying geese blocks.  It improves sewing accuracy with a notching system.  I don't have to square up blocks!

Tri Recs Tools by EZ Quilting - Great for making half rectangle triangles, triangles-in-squares and triangles for a simple triangle quilt.  Like the Flying Geese ruler, it improves sewing accuracy with a notching system.  I make lots of quilts with triangles.   This set gives me the tools to easy cut pieces for my own patterns.

Drunkard's Path Rulers - Easily cut pieces for this essential curved block.  I have one D.P. template.  This set would be a great addition to my tools. 

::Rulers I've Also Tried::

Hex N More by Jaybird - Designed to cut hexagons, half hexagons and jewel shapes.  I've only used this for one quilt, Twirly Top (tutorial here), so I'm not sure yet how useful the ruler will be to me.  If you like to work from patterns, there are many written for this ruler.

Half & Quarter Ruler from Fons & Porter - Since I love the flying geese ruler, I thought this might be helpful.  I find I prefer the sewing methods that make batches of half square triangles over the one-at-a-time style required for this tool. 

Quick Curve Ruler - I enjoyed using this ruler for a winding ways quilt so much that I'd like to make another in the same pattern.  However, so far none of the other patterns designed for this ruler appeal to me.  If you like to work from patterns, there are many written for this ruler.

Easy Circle Cut -  I've had this for years and never used it.  It allows you to cut circles of various sizes, which could be used for applique.

Tailor Diamond Cut - In my opinion this ruler is both unnecessary and frustrating to use.  I much prefer to use the lines on my 6x24" ruler to cut diamonds.  Also, I discovered when using the Diamond Cut that I don't like slotted rulers!

::Rulers I'd Like to Try::

Dresden Ruler - Would this be helpful for my dresden exploration this year?  I wonder if the EZ quilting ruler is a good version? 

Kaleidoscope Ruler - Someday I have to make a kaleidoscope quilt.  Is the ruler quite helpful, I wonder?

Pineapple Trim Tool - I love the look of pineapple blocks, but not so much the making.  Perhaps this would speed the process?

Scrapmaster Plus - I've long had my eye on this interesting tool that's supposed to help you trim scraps into triangles for half square triangles.  Maybe this tool would help me use up my triangle scraps?

Ok, your turn!  What must-have rulers have I forgotten?  Which rulers are on your wish list?

Note:  This post includes affiliate links to Amazon and some links to my sponsor, Fat Quarter Shop

Sunday, January 1, 2017

In Retrospect

I suppose today is a good day for looking forward, but any good look ahead begins with a good look back.

I didn't archive my work when 2015 dawned, I think because I was too busy being excited about my pregnancy with Eleni!  And then I didn't archive my work when 2016 dawned, definitely because I was too busy surviving.  This year I feel all myself again.  A changed self, surely, but generally with my heart, soul and mind all in their proper places.

Over the past few days I've been adding all my finished projects from 2014-2016 to my Gallery pages.  At Quilts you can see quilt finishes from 2010, which was my first year of quilting, through 2015.  The Quilts page is getting too long, so I've created a separate post for the Quilts of 2016!

Favorite Quilts of 2016

It is fun to hear which of my 2016 quilts is your favorite.  There were several comments in favor of Cranberry Tart, which surprised me.  I think my favorite quilt is Doodle Doodle, from my improv series.

Doodle Doodle, a finished quilt

I was working on this quilt at the time of my baby Eleni's passing.  Due to its open-ended nature, I was able to express my feelings in the colors and shapes I used.  My favorite inspiration was to contrast the white/pale gray half square triangles at top left with a flock of dark gray/black half square triangles at top right so that light and dark come together in a hard line.  I wrote, "The clouds really can roll in so fast.  A storm.  A downpour and we're soaking, until suddenly that too is gone," a not-too-subtle analogy to Eleni's birth injury, life and death.  I sell or give away nearly all my quilts, which is a good thing considering I make about 20 per year, but this is one that I feel a slight regret at parting with.  I trust it is being enjoyed though!

As a quilter I stretched myself in 2016 by making my first quilt relying heavily on partial seams.  Figuring out how to sew the design and then completing A Still Point in a Turning World gave me that exciting sense of accomplishment that comes from trying new things.  I created the pattern for it hoping others would enjoy the same!


2016 also saw a proliferation of quilts expressly designed and actualized as quilt therapy.  I used quilts to express my hopes, disappointments, loss, isolation, love and even anger.  Aside from Doodle Doodle, I made My Brokenful Heart after Eleni died specifically to express my loss.  That quilt was the toddler quilt I would have made her if only.  I used my favorite girly fabrics and hand quilted it as if it was a keeper, even knowing I would part with it just as I parted with her.

Brokenfull Heart, hand quilted

Of course the I Heart You series of NICU quilts was made in Eleni's honor from her never-finished heart quilt to show my love for her and hope for those NICU babies.  A Still Point in a Turning World was about isolation and despair, while Never Easy tapped into my anger. 

 Never Easy patchwork quilt

I am grateful for this healing creative outlet and for you all, who have made this creative outlet possible.  Truly I wouldn't be who I am as a person, let alone as a quilter, if I didn't have this space encouraging and ensuring my quilting hobby.  I hope that in 2017 I don't have quite so much to "say" with my quilts!  Or maybe that's not true...  Maybe I hope to say a whole lot of love, joy and peace with them!!!

I created a new class in 2017 called Patchwork from Scrap.  It was my first class geared to beginners, since it taught basic habits of cutting, organizing and project planning that support patchwork and specifically scrappy patchwork.  Unfortunately Patchwork from Scrap was not a popular class.  I'm hoping that was due to the beginner target market rather than to a general disinterest in my online classes.  Although Craftsy and such are huge competition nowadays, I hope my classes can be unique and rich enough to continue to draw a following. 

I'm not sure what my next class will be about.  I'm going to be careful to choose something that matches where I am currently at as a quilter, rather than looks back to somewhere I have been before.  If you have any class suggestions, please let me know!

In 2017 I would like to host some weekend workshops here at my house in my new sewing room!  I am thinking groups of up to 8 students, eating and sewing together Friday night through Sunday afternoon.  Maybe one workshop in spring and one in fall, both of which are lovely seasons in South Carolina.  I'm hoping baby will start sleeping through the night so that I have more creative energy to plan those workshops.  If you would be likely to attend, what would you like to learn?  Some ideas:  improv, curves, color, machine paper piecing, or just a fun round robin project.

Looking back over three years of projects gave me some thoughts about where I'd like to go next:
  • Improv Handbook Scores:  I'm so glad I started working through the scores of The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters in 2015.  The series has definitely helped me grow as an artist.  There are several more scores I'd really like to tackle if I could wrestle some time away from all my own ideas!
  • Statement Quilting:  I've finally come to a point where the quilting stage doesn't particularly intimidate me.  I used to choose a quilting design based on what seemed easiest, fastest and/or least likely to destroy my project!  Now I have a comfort level with free motion quilting and straight line quilting, plus a great machine to work with.  I think I'm on the cusp of being able to use quilting to actually enhance my designs.
  • Dresdens:  Early on I marked dresdens as a traditional style I disliked.  Somewhere along the way (actually, it was after the first QuiltCon), I realized that I enjoy traditional patchwork with its repeating blocks and intricate shapes.  Turns out I enjoy all kinds of patchwork!  Dresdens have been intriguing me since summer of 2015.  It's high time I played with that shape.
  • Baby Makes:  2017 is the only year that Elora is going to be a baby.  Next year she'll be a toddler!  I want to be sure to enjoy it by sewing all the fun baby things.  I could use some help with that.  What should I make?  Right now I'm thinking those Anna Maria Horner bloomers, but what else?
  • Community:  Since I got out of the habit of regular blog reading, I've struggled to connect regularly with the larger quilting community.  I do use Instagram to connect some, but would like to develop a new habit of blog reading that fits.  I'd also like to continue to integrate Instagram into occasional blog events in 2017.

I can't say enough how grateful I am for the opportunity to be encouraged by you, learn with you and inspire you to be creative.   I appreciate your time and trust as a reader.  None of this would be possible without you.  You've cared for me and my family through some very hard times in truly amazing ways.  And, most recently, you've celebrated with me in a way that only a friend can.  So thanks for 2016!  Here's to another fabulous year!!!

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