17 April, 2015

Sarcasm and Orange

We are a sarcastic household. So much so that The Monster's third grade teacher has made a point to comment that most kids don't fully appreciate sarcasm until they are closer to twelve. Not our kids. (She was fully getting it when she was 3.) So when my husband constantly tells the kids "Orange is for nerds!" whenever they wear orange they all know that he is being a smart@ss, not serious. Especially when he says it wearing his own orange jacket.

Not surprisingly, my son's favourite colour is now orange.

After cleaning up my studio this week I set about to sorting out some storage. One of the bins I opened contained a few of these blocks - samples for the Scrapper's Delight class I sometimes teach. With our family conversations and my boy's recent birthday I felt totally inspired to combine everything into one bright quilt for him. I added more fabrics from my stash and the scrap bins to compliment the first few blocks. Each block is currently squared up to 12.5'' x 12.5'', just like the original pattern.

How fun is this quilt? I am having fun making more blocks. That's a good thing, because to get this up to bed size I need to make 49 of these in total. But the blocks are super easy and a great way to unwind at the end of the night.

15 April, 2015

Vintage Treats for Sale

A few years ago I was gifted with a random box of sewing things. Our of it came a wonderful quilt - well, a top that I finished and gave back to the original owner of the box. Otherwise, the contents of the box sat in my sewing room. Once I took out a zipper but that's it. It's time to move on. There are absolutely wonderful little treasures in the box, but they need to go to a more interested home.

Check out my Etsy shop for a complete listing of items for sale from the box. Listings include vintage quilting fabric scraps, dress making scraps, notions, patterns, and clothing. A few items of clothing are finished, most are not. The unfinished ones generally need waistbands or closures only. And the collection of materials in incredible.

I'll admit, I was tempted to keep some of the clothing and use them for fabric, but I just couldn't do it. So much work had already gone into them that I couldn't bear to cut them up. But if you want to after purchasing then go for it!

After shipping and handling I will be donating 50% of the proceeds to Little Warriors. My neighbours that passed on the box were supporters of that charity so it seemed appropriate.

Speaking of shipping. I know it is expensive. Thank you Canada Post. If you buy multiple items I will adjust shipping based on real cost after purchase (issuing refunds, if necessary). And if you are local and want to pick up, then there will be no shipping!

Now, just a tease of what is available for purchase in the shop.

13 April, 2015

Round and Round Update

It felt like months since I did any improv. In truth, it was only a few weeks, but it felt like months. After following clothing patterns and drafting quilt patterns my improv muscles were twitching. Not to mention I was having a pretty crappy day. So I cracked an afternoon beer and dove into my scraps.

Seeing as these blocks are 16.5'' x 16.5'' and my scrap strips are anywhere from 1''-4'' wide, it takes a bit of time to get a block done. But in less than 2 hours yesterday I had 3 more blocks done. And my mood was infinitely better. (Of course the mood improvement may have also been because of a random text from a friend telling me that she saw alligator road kill in Florida and it made her think of me. Don't ask why, but that made me giggly.)

So now I am up to 16 of these blocks. I could stop now and have a good lap size quilt. I'm going to keep going though. I'm always thinking bed size now for the kids' beds, so I will make 9 more blocks. That will give me an 80'' finished quilt, perfect for their double beds.

And perfect for all mood improvements.

09 April, 2015

Values Plus Quilt

Values Plus
36'' x 48''

Such a fun little quilt. And the only reason it is little is because Amanda Jean talked me out of going bigger. She was right, especially considering this is a class sample. Let's face it, it is much easier to travel with a smaller quilt.

I did find myself quite addicted to making these little blocks. It was made purely from scrap strips. The only decision I made in making the strip sets was making sure that I had value contrast in the pairs. After that it was anything goes! The real fun in playing with the layout.

In the end I went with this colour focused layout. Four patches where the dark fabric was all the same colour, forming a wonky plus sign. The result is bold, colourful, and far more organized. Because the blocks are small (3 1/2'' square) finding order was important. It also makes the value contrasts pop a lot more.

This quilt is a sample for an updated Values class. We've all seen - to great effect - the values quilts based on half square triangles. For this I wanted to play with a different shape and show what can happen when the effect is a bit more subtle. Then, how we find order and design in it.

This was the first quilt I quilted using a stitch regulator. Not sure about it yet, it will take some getting used to. But no one is perfect right out of the gate! With all that pattern I went for a simple stipple in Aurifil 2600. You aren't seeing the quilting on a quilt this busy as it is.

I totally lucked out with some leftover binding. There was just enough to get this quilt done. A little bias fun to complete the quilt.

07 April, 2015

A Year of Talking Quilts - Choosing the Pattern

You sit staring at the pile of fabric you just picked up, the pretty colours swirling in a kaleidoscope in front of you. You love them so much yet you can't move. You are paralyzed with indecision, overwhelmed with options, stuck with opportunity.

You have the inspiration, you have the fabric, now you need the pattern.

There are the times when we know exactly what we want to make, when the quilt pattern dictates the fabric selection. Those times are, admittedly, a bit easier. Picking fabric can still be a challenge, but having a starting point goes a long way to providing the necessary focus to get started.

Then there are the times that you need to start a new quilt or simply want to turn a beautiful stack of fabric into a quilt and you have no idea where to start. What quilt to make? Pinterest boards full of options, a drawer full of patterns, a shelf of books with pages marked all give us great ideas. They don't, however, answer the tough question.

In my early years of quilting the way I looked for a quilt design was by searching for just the right block. For example, because my brother proposed to my SIL on top of the Empire State Building I knew I wanted to make a New York Beauty based quilt as their wedding present. Often I would stroll through the block designs on a site like Quilter's Cache. Then I would make up a bunch of blocks, still not knowing what the final quilt would look like. After some sewing I would try to make it all come together. I could pick a block based on its name or what it looked like and how that referenced the recipient. It was actually a really good step towards design because it allowed for personal creativity while working within the confines of a block pattern.

Now, with so many quilts on the go I am often - if I'm being honest - not stuck for ideas. I generally have a problem NOT starting a new quilt, a new pattern. There comes that time when a baby is being born, a friend is getting married, a book is being written and I need to decide on demand what exactly I am going to make. In those moments I do one of two things, some times both.

1. Ask myself: Am I improvising this one?

You see, if I am going to improvise I might just start with my fabric or my idea and let loose. Bring on the rotary cutter and the neutral thread because I am just going to play until something more concrete forms.

2. Flip through my sketchbooks.

I keep detailed sketchbooks, have done so for years. They are where I capture any and all ideas. Gone are the days of scratching a design on hotel stationary and receipts from my wallet. My sketchbook lives by my side. So when I need to make something new I can pull out the dozen or so stashed on the cutting table in my sewing room, make a pot of tea, and flip through the pages until an old idea seems so RIGHT NOW.

Even with all the books on my not quite bookshelf I will often transfer the idea to my sketchbook (with proper sourcing) so that I only have one thing to look through.

One thing I know I do, and I think many others do, is getting hung up on making just the right quilt. We have to tell ourselves though that the recipient, if there is one, is going to love anything we make; that the symbolism we are assigning to our choices is 80% of the time only visible to us, the maker. And if they do get the symbolism they don't need the explanation and it doesn't have to be evident in every single step of the quilt making.

 (Photo by Kate Inglis for You Inspire Me to Quilt, C&T Publishing 2015)

When there is no recipient and we are making for the sake of making then I firmly believe we should try the first idea we had. Our instincts are usually correct, for one. Just like when you go to a restaurant and talk yourself out of the pasta you really want but think you should try their signature chicken dish, then are sorely disappointed. Not because the dish is bad, but because it wasn't the pasta.

And two, no one says you have to make the whole quilt. Just try out a few blocks, or put some of the fabrics together in sewn form to make sure they work. Try, play, experiment. You can always change your mind. Just because you start the quilt, doesn't mean it has to become a quilt.

There are so many choices to make in quilt making and picking the quilt to make is the most challenging. But it is also the most exciting. We need to keep ourselves from getting overwhelmed by the choice. Keep a running selection. Or don't. My friend Rossie, for example, doesn't keep a sketchbook because she says the good ideas will surface when they need to. Also, we all need to accept that we will never make all the ideas we have, there are not enough years in our lives and there are lives that need to be lived, so we should make the quilts that get us the most excited at that moment.

This is the third post in a year long series on all the steps of making a quilt. Musings and thoughts on the process.

02 April, 2015

2015 Goals - 1Q Check-In

I promised myself (and you, dear readers) a quarterly update on my goals. As I've spent the last two weeks evaluating some opportunities, cleaning up after a rush of work, and reconnecting with my family, this review is timely.

1. Start, and possibly complete, the next two quilts in my Alberta series.

Other than a sketch and some dreaming, nothing has happened here. It is a creative challenge that requires some attention, something I haven't had much of lately. 

2. Record at least 1 new online class or set of classes.

This goal might have been a bit of a cheat because I already knew I was going to be filming my CreativeLive classes. We'll chalk this one up to putting something on the list because you already know you can cross it off.

That being said, I think I might like to do one more this year.

3. Launch 2 more print patterns.

The final design for the Sewing Machine Quilt is being finished. I'm so close with this one. And I've started the quilt I hope to be another print pattern. 

To be honest, I'm still not sure this is a good direction for me, but I'm experimenting and we'll see the response.

4. Attend 1-2 quilting retreats as a guest and not a teacher.

Really hoping the budget allows for this, but I would also like a new bathroom.

5. Pick up 3 new freelance clients.

With the shut down of Quilty I lost a freelance client. I am writing for Cake and Whiskey's new blog, Sip and Slice though. 

Right now I am evaluating whether I want to pursue this more or just keep the clients I have and serve them even better.

6. Celebrate the launch of You Inspire Me to Quilt, because I never did that for A Month of Sundays and I missed that.

Still planning on this one. My advance copy is due to arrive this week but the launch of the book itself may be delayed due to labour issues at the ports where the book will arrive from printing.

7. Explore print and pattern making through regular sketching, play, and learning design programs.

I just started watching the Creative Bug class on fabric design. And I picked up a print making kit. If I can get my family on board, I'm hoping to take a class at the local art school to pick up some computer design skills.

8. Lose 20 pounds. Actually, closer to 25 if we count the holiday weight. I lost 20 pounds last year and want to continue on the road to health.

Up and down, up and down. I went off sugar for a couple of weeks - yay! I went to QuiltCon and drank my weight in bourbon - yay! Then there was the moment a few weeks back when I tried to make a 3 pointer at the basketball court. Nothing but... air. I am weak. So not only do I need to cut back on the sugar to get towards this goal, I need to get some good exercise in. And this week I started just that. This goal is moving up the priority list right now.

9. Find an agent/publisher for the children's books I wrote.

Nope, nothing to see here yet.

10, Spend at least 1-2 hours a week working on one, any one, of the outstanding Quilts Under Construction. Focused, steady progress should move some of those through the list, even when I'm starting new quilts all the time.

It hasn't happened every week, but it is happening. And the new quilts I've started have either been finished (because they were for publication) or they are for classes and have no immediate deadline. I'm happy with the focus keeping this list provides. I updated the list last week. The number is still up there (43) but I see progress. I also see where I might need to just let some things go. And finally, where I need to focus my efforts to move things along even more. First step, don't start any new quilts for a bit.

This pause and reflection on where I've worked in the past three months is quite useful. I need to ask myself, right now, if the direction I'm going is actually where I want to be. And will these goals get me there. I've always felt like I had a good end result in mind, but some good conversations with my husband has me asking questions. Honestly, I don't know all the questions and I certainly don't know the answers, but my brain and heart are working overtime trying to sort it out. Seeing these goals and my activity provides some focus to those efforts.

30 March, 2015

Playing With Pinwheels in Quilting - On CreativeLive

When was the last time you played? I don't mean get on the floor and play with the kids or grandkids? I don't mean kicking around the soccer ball either. No, I mean going into your fabric and making something for fun; quilting without a quilt a mind?

I'm going to venture a guess that it hasn't been lately. For all the things I start - and I do start a lot - they almost always are started with a finished quilt in mind. I'm not sewing for the sake of sewing. I don't experiment or play much. And this is so, so wrong.

That's because we learn so much when we play. Taking away the play instinct for a child isn't a good thing, we can all agree on that. So why do we think it is okay to do that for ourselves? By playing as quilters we get the chance to explore colour, construction techniques, shapes, lines, negative space, secondary designs, and our own challenges and joys. Instead of trying a new quilt pattern to experiment with just one or two of those things, just play. See what happens when you let go of the idea that everything has to be a quilt.

It is the move past this idea that everything has to be something that has to be tackled first. In this CreativeLive class, Playing with Pinwheels in Quilting, I want to help you do just that. We take a simple, common block - the Pinwheel - and turn it into so many different things. There is one basic way to do it, and then a million other ways. While I preparing for the class I had a hard time stopping. One idea begets another and another. Even while teaching the class on set I had even more ideas. 

Guess what? Playing is FUN!

Now I feel like I could take so many of the ideas from the class and turn them into quilts of their own. The blocks I made may or may not turn into a quilt as they are. I, frankly, don't care. They represent my own little quilty playground. Not to mention design opportunity. For now, they are on my design wall to remind me that play is fun, that exploring an idea or a shape is worthwhile, and that sometimes things are simply pretty.

If you have any questions about the CreativeLive class, don't hesitate to ask. And all feedback is welcome. They are new with quilting classes and constructive comments can only help. Did you know there are free previews of all the classes? 

You can also share reviews and your inspired work with the CreativeLive community. I keep up with the course pages, so please share your work (in addition to blogs and social media if you are active there).