By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts by Siobhan Rogers

By the Block - jacket art

This book is SO. MUCH. FUN.  By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts by Siobhan Rogers and published by Interweave (F+W Media) is stinking loaded with great projects for everyone from the novice quilter to the maker who is “time-poor,” as Siobhan describes in her introduction.  The directions for each project are clear, with plenty of diagrams for the spatial learner, such as myself.

"Wild Horses" by Siobhan Rogers, page 119 of By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts

“Wild Horses” by Siobhan Rogers, page 119 of By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts

As I perused the pages, I found that there were 11 projects that I was seriously contemplating making.  Like immediately.  But I had to pick one.  Ugh.  If you ever want to know about someone’s commitment issues, ask them to pick a quilt pattern or a piece of fabric.

"Go Big or Go Home" by Siobhan Rogers, page 47 of By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts

“Go Big or Go Home” by Siobhan Rogers, page 47 of By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts

I finally settled on “Go Big or Go Home.”  I mean really, who wouldn’t love a quilt named that?!?  And besides, how can you go wrong with huge HSTs?  So, I got to work.  The hardest part was picking fabrics from my stash that were worthy.  See the comment above about commitment issues.  The fun part was the arranging.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I chose to use two different large scale fabrics to go into this project, and I loved playing around with the effects of placement.  I was actually not having the best day, and was really excited when this last arrangement showed up on the design wall…

IMG_0399

Now to pick out fabrics for the next project… Maybe “Deco” on page 95- nestled log cabin hearts, which isn’t normally my thing, but hello, this one is cool.  But wait, “Wild Horses” uses fat quarters, and I just got that Alison Glass FQ pack from Spool…

See ya.  I got some sewing to do.

Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt! by Sue Bleiweiss

Colorful Fabric Collage - jacket art

I really like art quilts.  I know it isn’t everyone’s thing, but I have to say that I love being able to cross back and forth on that bridge from form to function.  A lot of times I like to hang out in the middle of the bridge where they both come together, but sometimes I really like to have dinner and a movie on the form side.  Not just a casual relationship, but a little more intimate experience.

So, when I had the chance to review this book, Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt! by Sue Bleiweiss and published by Interweave (F+W Media), I was actually pretty excited to READ it.  I know, that’s not normal for me.  I don’t read books like this often.  I mostly look at the pics, dive into a project, then figure out afterwords everything I should have just read in the first place.

IMG_0421

“Windows Arise” by Deborah Boschert on page 28 of Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!

But this book has wonderful information about hand dyeing fabric, creating a fusible fabric to work with, and basic understanding of how to form an idea for a final project.  I especially loved that with each chapter Sue included works by other artists using the techniques that she teaches in that section.  While her techniques and style open the windows to let the fresh air of inspiration in, being able to see how others have used her techniques took the roof off the building.

IMG_0420

“City Skyline” by Sue Bleiweiss on page 77 of Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!

Sue uses only her own hand dyed fabrics for the projects presented in Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!, and creates each fabric collage by using a fusing technique that actually differs a bit from my own experience.  I was intrigued by the section that discussed no-reverse applique, and I had to try the technique to make “cookie cutter outlines,” as Sue describes it.  I decided to make a small block for the Our Neighborhood project using Cherrywood Fabrics and this method.

I started out by creating the background through a method of improvisational applique.  Then, using the technique Sue teaches in her book, I created a freeform tree representing The Green Apricot.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was pleased with the results, and I was thrilled to have learned a couple of new techniques.

I also liked that Sue included projects other than art quilts in Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!  For instance, there are patterns and instructions for bags, pillows and other small projects.  Really, a great way to try a new method and have a finished product.

IMG_0422

“Full Circle” tote bag by Sue Bleiweiss found on page 99 of Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!

The “Our Neighborhood” Project

Swaps, bees and challenges really do act as a kind of creative prompt for our quote-unquote tribe.  I love them.  They give me the chance to make for someone else.  An opportunity to tap into inspiration that otherwise might have been left by the wayside.  A way to stretch a bit.  Learn something new.  Perfect something old.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But I think maybe the best part is the global neighborhood that we might not have even known we live in.  Through the groups I have worked with I have been able to chat with makers in Germany, England, Jersey (a tiny island in the UK that I didn’t even know existed), all over the US, and quite a few in Australia.  I mean really, what other excuse would I have to chat with someone on the other side of the pond, or even on the other side of the globe?

So, I got to thinking.  Wouldn’t it be fun to have a neighborhood quilt?  One that was made of bits of this amazing global neighborhood we belong to.  Inspiration…

I don’t know actually what to call this.  It isn’t exactly a swap, or a bee, or a straight-up challenge.  So, I guess we’ll call it a project.  The “Our Neighborhood” project.

Interested?

Here’s the deal.  You make blocks of things that are in your neighborhood, or at least represent things in your neighborhood.  It can be your country’s flag.  A house.  Apartment building.  Dogwood tree.  Feral cats.  Mailbox.  Grave stone.  Creek.  Rainbow.  Grass.  Sand.  Cloud.  Sun.  Get it?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then you send those blocks to The Green Apricot, and I will redistribute them back out to you.  So, if you make and send four blocks, you will get four blocks back.  If you make or send ten blocks, you will get ten back.  You will have until May 29 to send your blocks if you are in the US, and May 22 if you are international.  I will then send your blocks to you no later than June 10, 2015.

But that’s not all.  I am notorious for collecting blocks from swaps that I never actually put together into a finished project.  So here’s the deal.  We are going to have an “Our Neighborhood” online quilt show.  That will be judged.  With prizes.

Get ready, ’cause this is the challenge.  I will send your blocks to you Priority Mail, and you have until July 10, 2015 to finish your quilt and post a picture to our online quilt show.  Then our judges will scan the posts and respond to a survey about the projects, which will result in prizes.  Just like a IRL quilt show.  Except I don’t know what the prizes are yet.  Just being real here.

However, I do know who the judges are.  Giuseppe- aka @giucygiuce.  Kristi- aka @schnitzelandboo.  Chris- aka @frecklemama.  Lee- aka @maychappell.  Karie- aka @karie_twokwikquilters.  Ummmm, yeah.  Like, that’s awesome.

So, here’s the rules in relatively short form.  Relative because I always talk too much.

1.  Register to participate by clicking here.  *****There is a small fee for shipping your blocks back to you.  $6 for US residents, $20 for international participants (It’s expensive and takes a lot of time).  This fee is not refundable, and is required if you want your blocks to be mailed to you.

2.  Make your desired number of quilt blocks that represent your neighborhood.  You may make the same block multiple times, or you may make all different blocks.  It is up to you.  Use your best fabrics and your best skills.  Don’t be sketchy because I will just send them back to you or send you other people’s sketchy work.  You may use whatever technique you would like.  Blocks can be no smaller than 2 1/2″ UNFINISHED, and not larger than 8 1/2″ UNFINISHED.  (To clarify- blocks do not have to be square, as long as they are no smaller than 2 1/2″ on any given side and no larger than 8 1/2″ on any given side.)  Label each block with a small piece of paper pinned to the block including your name and where you are from.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.  Use the hashtags #tgaourneighborhood and #makeitlikeyoumeanit and/or tag The Green Apricot when posting progress.

3.  Mail blocks by May 29 for US residents, May 22 for international participants- AT THE LATEST.  I am not responsible for blocks lost in the mail or not received before June 10- the date that I am mailing out to you.  I suggest you mail them as soon as possible with tracking, and that if you wait until the last minute, which is what I would do, then use expedited services such as Priority Mail, UPS or FedEx.  The mailing address will be made available to you in a confirmation email after you register.  DO NOT SEND ANY EXTRAS.  Note- I will use USPS Priority mail with tracking to send your blocks to you on or before June 10.  Again, I am not responsible for blocks lost in the mail, although I will probably feel really bad for you and make you some more myself.  Or not.

4.  Wait on pins and needles for that package to come from The Green Apricot.

5.  When you receive your blocks, get to planning and to work.  You will only have a couple of weeks to finish your project and post it to the online quilt show.  International participants will have even less time.  You may add whatever you want to the blocks you receive, but please indicate what blocks came from whom.

6.  Post pics of your completed project in the online quilt show by July 10.  Projects should be complete with quilting and binding before the pics are to be posted.  Information for posting will be included in the mailing of the blocks.

I am totally aware that I am doing this at a crazy time of year.  And totally aware that this is a real challenge.  And totally aware that you can do it.  Between now and July 10 I have three trips that require an airplane, a child graduating from high school, and a camping trip with about 200 teenage girls.  I’m sure your list is even longer and more consuming.  But remember, sometimes we just need to reach a little further to win the prize.  I can’t wait to see what you do…

It’s all ’bout dat bag… The Betsy Travel Bag

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Betsy Travel Bag by Kristi McDonough of Schnitzel and Boo is crazy popular right now.  It’s all over Instagram, and the pattern release from Rebel Craft Media on April 1 has been a huge success.  Through the happy circumstance also known as The Stash Bash, I actually met Kristi last year.  It was at that same event that Kristi and Elizabeth Dackson of Don’t Call Me Betsy decided to start a #SwapOfEpicProportions, a bag for a mini, if you will.  In fact, the mini that Elizabeth made for Kristi is on loan at The Green Apricot and is adorning the studio with its awesome sauce.

IMG_0045

It’s the pink, yellow, turquoise and black starry one. Pretty fab, huh?

The bag that Kristi made for Elizabeth became The Betsy Travel Bag, and there’s lots of info about blog hops and background stories on Schnitzel & Boo’s site.  There’s even a sewalong on Instagram- check out @schnitzelandboo and #BetsySewAlong or #TheBetsyTravelBag for more details and to see everyone’s progress.

Kristi and I were chatting about her bag pattern last Fall, right about the time that The Green Apricot studio was starting to form.  So, I asked her if she would be willing to come to The Green Apricot to teach, and she said “No way.”

Just kidding.

So, here we are- just a couple of days away from The Betsy Travel Bag debut workshop at The Green Apricot, and I don’t mind telling you I am pretty excited about it.  I feel so very blessed to be surrounded by such talented people, and I am thrilled to have Kristi coming to the studio.  I am also excited about learning how to make this crazy bag.  Because it scares the crap out of me and I know I wouldn’t even try to make it without her help!  Hardware and gussets and zippers- it’s got it all.

It’s going to be epic.

Saturday Sew-In featuring The Betsy Travel Bag
Saturday, April 18, 3-9 pm
Nonmembers- $30, Members- 6 hours
More info about the studio and membership? Click here.

I’m just a fool for a retreat.

It’s pretty bad actually.  People talk about going away to creative retreats to take a break from everyday life and all the challenges involved.  I go to retreats because I am a brat.  I love my life.  I don’t need a break or to get away or any of that.  I do it because I love it, and I get so much sewing done!  The only thing it gets me away from is this stinking computer.

I wrote a while back about the F.A.R.T. some cohorts and I went on to east Tennessee, which was a great time.  Just a handful of us with all of our sewing gear, and brains buzzing from projects continued and started.  Notice I didn’t say finished.  That would be taking it too far.

Then just a few weeks after that I headed to the Grand Oak Retreat in Alabama for an annual trip with another group of fun friends.  Kris Caddy, who you will get to know more later, organized the trip.  We rode to and from Alabama together, and in his words, it was a quick couple of hours in the car.  Not only is he a very talented quilter, but we also have a great time laughing and chatting.

IMG_9816

The Grand Oak Retreat is just plain awesome.  Cindy and her husband built the home specifically for this- creative retreats.  The three-story house is built on the side of a mountain in Scottsboro, AL that looks out over a beautiful lake. The family lives on the main floor, while there are two retreat areas, a smaller unit on the top floor, and a larger one on the bottom.  Each retreat area includes comfortable lodging and a kitchen spot as well as space for sewing and creating.  The top floor hosts 3-5, while the bottom floor hosts 10-14.  Cindy cooks all of the meals during the retreats, and she is a great cook.  Not to mention a wonderful hostess.  I don’t think she has much time for quilting anymore with all of the work that she does, but she knows just what to do to make all of us very comfortable.  Last year we got to hypnotize her chickens, but the chickens met an unfriendly end, so we had to settle for Left Right Center and runs into town to do a little shopping.  We suffered terribly.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I may not be very disciplined at home, but I usually am while I am at retreat. Surprisingly, even with all of the shenanigans.  I’ve been known to take one project and work on it the whole time, but that was not so this time.  I had a list of deadlines to meet, and I knew this was the time to mark them off of the list.

My first goal was to finish my project for the #RainbowMiniSwap hosted on Instagram by Kate Basti of Stitch’N’Kitsch on Etsy. My partner has received her happy mail package way down under in Australia, so I can tell you a little about it now!  She is Marni Franks of Frankenstein’s Fabrics.  She loves dragons and skulls and all things magical and Halloween- all very different from what I love, but I had a feeling I could find something that would please her, and be a little expression of me at the same time.  I used the Creative Grids Pineapple ruler to make the background, and borrowed a graphic from my IG friend @cricketharris1.  As a note regarding construction, when it comes to projects like these, I find it easier to quilt the background before adding the applique.  The applique process then becomes part of the quilting and there is an outline of the applique on the back of the project.  I also use a 2″ cut binding, which makes for a tight, full and crisp binding.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I also needed to work on my bee blocks for Stash Bee.  I am in Hive 9, which has been a great group so far.  I really enjoyed this particular pattern, and hope to use it again sometime.  Fellow hive mate Maureen chose “Linked Squares” by Christina of afewscraps.com.  The link to the info about the block is here, just in case you want to do it too…

FullSizeRenderThe third project I worked on was a center medallion for a Round Robin that I am a part of.  I feel very fortunate to be a part of this lovely group of makers, and I am really excited to see what will come back to me in a year.  If you aren’t familiar with Round Robins, they generally begin with a center block that is then passed to other members of the group and each member adds a new border, or round, to the original center.  There are pros and cons to these groups- you never know what the quality will be, and fabric selection can be scary.  In this case, I am not the least worried about the skill level of my fellow quilters, and we each contributed a fair amount of fabric with our blocks with instructions not to add any more fabric from our own stash.  So, I have now turned in my center block and picked up my first block to work on.  It’s due at the end of April, and I am excited to work on it.  I won’t be posing pics of progress because it’s a surprise for the recipient, but I will write a blog post about it when it’s all done.  In the meantime, here’s my center block.  It is from a pattern by Frecklemama called Fifteen Degrees and uses a 15 degree ruler by Creative Grids.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So, what’s next?  Well, I’m sure it won’t surprise you too badly that I have another retreat to go to.  The Stash Bash is just around the corner, and this fall I’m headed to the Plantation Quilter’s retreat as well as Glamp Stitchalot.  I’m sure there will be another before the year is out…

Creative Pileup

I love it when a plan comes together.  Wait.  That’s not exactly what I mean.  More like I love it when bits and pieces of things that I have learned and experienced come together.  And something awesome happens.

So, here are the ingredients.  1)  A pillow swap challenge for the West Atlanta Modern Quilt Guild.  2)  Osnaberg fabric.  3)  Casey York’s lecture on the influence of art on quilting at QuiltCon.  4)  My incessant desire to never throw away any fiber, resulting in a horde of teeny tiny fabric scraps.  5)  Jackson Pollock.  6)  A class I took about 7 years ago from Joyce Becker on landscape quilts.  7)  A scarf I saw Peggy Barkle wear once.  8)  A small pack of fabric in my SWAG bag from QuiltCon 2015.  9)  A quilt I made several years ago that people either make fun of or love.  10)  My obsession to perfect this improvisational applique technique.

And here is the result.

IMG_9743

Creative Pileup

And here’s the how-to:

Materials:

Background fabric, backing fabric, and batting- all cut about 2″ larger than intended final size.  Scraps- particularly small or thin ones.  Thread- lots, but it doesn’t matter if the thread doesn’t match.  Good time to use up spools.  Spray baste.  Water soluble stabilizer.  Sewing machine and all the usual accoutrements.  (Thank you spell check for helping me use big words.)

1.  Gather your supplies.  I like using Osnaberg fabric for my background and backing.  Also, this stabilizer is from Baby Lock.  2.  Layer background, batting, and backing fabrics.  3.  Sew baste quilt the layers together in relatively straight horizontal lines.

4.  Coat the background with spray baste.  I do this inside of a large garbage bag, closing the ends so it doesn’t get on everything around it.  Be careful not to allow the bag to adhere to the fabric!  5.  Randomly stick bits of tiny scraps, including threads, to the background.  I say random, but in this case I avoided dark pieces, and I laid them in a more vertical fashion because I knew I was going to quilt over it horizontally.  6.  Repeat number 4, coating the top of the scraps.

7.  Cut pieces of water soluble stabilizer to size to cover the project.  8.  Pin if needed, but keep in mind this baby is about to be quilted to death, then quilt heavily through all of the layers, but not to the point where it is finished.  9.  Arrange more fabric scraps to the top.  I wasn’t satisfied with this one.

10.  Arrange again, until pleased.  11.  Baste pieces in place with either pins, a glue stick, or even thread.  Keep in mind they are going to be quilted.  12.  Finish quilting the heck out of it, and in the process stitching down the remaining bits.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

13.  Wash it.  I actually put it in my shower and hosed it down first, then ran it in my clothes washer.  The stabilizer dissolved beautifully.  The pieces shredded beautifully.  The whole thing shrunk beautifully.  I was so excited I took it out of the dryer too early and had to let it dry in my studio.

14.  Square up and finish as desired- in this case as a pillow cover.  My label follows suit with the front and is just a bit of canvas free appliqued on the back.

15.  I prefer to bind pillow covers for two reasons.  One, it looks like piping around the edges, and that’s nice.  Two, it gives it the opportunity of two lives- a pillow cover or a mini.  While breaking most quilting rules is totally okay with me, binding is a rule I really don’t like to break.  I don’t do it to show standards, but I am a little picky about it.  The first pic shows an atrocious corner.  Totally unacceptable.  The only way to fix it was to cut it off and start over.  So I did.  My sweet husband brought me pizza to ease the pain.  Well, hunger pains, but it’s all the same.  See that last corner?  Much improved, and totally worth it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And that’s it.  Hope that @legs_benedict enjoys having it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Would you like to come to the studio and make one of these with me?  I’m thinking sometime in May…

If you build it…

I am so very grateful for my life.  It feels like I say that a lot, and I’d love to be more eloquent and be able to convey the feeling that rises up in the very center of me- so twisted up in sinews and soul that I can’t tell where the heat and energy have originated from.  Gratitude.  Such a heavy word with wings.

Why did my husband and I build a studio?

A couple of years ago I had a moment.  I had been working at a quilt shop for several years, and one day while at work I was standing talking with the owner of the shop.  While we were talking the words “It’s time for you to go” came to my mind clearly- like an announcement on a loud speaker in the middle of a mall.  It caught me off guard so hard that I was distracted, even somewhat disturbed.  Why?  Why was it time for me to go?  I wrestled with the question for a couple of months before I whispered a word of it to anyone other than in prayer.  I thought I knew the answer.  I thought it was to help my husband in his expanding business.  It was a logical explanation, and wouldn’t a prompt like that be followed up with a logical explanation?  I put in my 30 day notice at the shop, but still couldn’t actually let go.  Maybe just fewer hours and more balance.  Thirty days turned into several months.  Maybe I didn’t really have to go.  A relationship that was over, but I didn’t, couldn’t let go of it.  After all, I wasn’t working at my husband’s business at all, so certainly I had been wrong.  Maybe the whole thing was just in my head.  The year wore on, and then suddenly on a very sharp day in August, it became clear that it was no longer working for the shop or for me to continue there.  Such mixed feelings.  Including a loss of direction.  The kids were all leaving home, one by one.  My life had been such a rapid cyclone of change over the last several years that I hardly noticed the winds anymore, and it felt like it was all suddenly slowing down and I didn’t know what to do.  A year of ideas, awakenings, peace, joy, and never-ending change came and went.  But still no solid direction.  Just a stirring that I needed to do something.  To borrow an idea from the movie Phenomenon, I felt like a pregnant woman who couldn’t deliver.  My husband began plans for renovations at his auto repair shop, and as he looked over the building asked the question- “Why don’t we build a studio for you?”  No self-respecting maker could possibly look that opportunity in the face and say “I’ll pass.”

And so it began.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sounds like a dream come true, right?  But if it was a dream come true, why didn’t I remember having the dream?  It’s one thing to feel like that you are meant to be a part of something, but what if you can’t define what that part is, or even what the something is?  Ideas had come and gone.  Some really good ones, some not so good ones. Now I had this very real thing happening right in front of me.  Tangible.  Concrete.  Wood.  Dry wall.  Paint.  And still not quite sure what to say when someone said “So, tell me about the studio you’re building!”  They were full of excitement and intrigue.  I was full of horror and pin pricks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It takes a while for a room like this to be built.  Building codes.  Circuits.  Tables.  Flooring.  Paint color.  Chairs.  Cabinets.  Ironing surfaces.  One thing at a time.  Agonizingly slow.  Not the building.  Just my understanding of what I was actually supposed to be doing with this.  I married this man that believed in me so much that he was willing to make an actual investment in my own unknown.  Not just in word, but in deed.  Probably one of the most terrifying facts of my entire life.  And that is saying something.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As the weeks anticipating opening the studio were bearing down on me, I still didn’t really know how to answer the questions.  How to explain what I was doing, or even why.  It came together so slowly- one little bit one day, then another bit the next day.  Never all at once, and certainly never complete.  Like a 3,000 piece puzzle in shades of blue with no picture on the box.  Even with events advertised and on the calendar, I still didn’t know what I was doing.  The final plan for how the studio would actually work didn’t come into place until a week before opening night.  And I still didn’t know why.  Why was it time for me to go?  Why did he believe in me so very much?  Why was this happening?

Then this happened.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Opening night.  People actually came.  And laughed.  And smiled.  And connected.  And got inspired.  And really excited.  They brought flowers and cookies and chocolate.  They traveled really far.  They stayed late.  They were happy.  And at the end of the night, I finally knew why.

For you.  So you would come.