Saturday, April 25, 2015

Progress and Procrastination

It's spring, and I mean, really and truly spring! We've been getting some lovely spring showers so the grass is shooting up so green and so quickly that it needs mowing every time I turn around. Trees are filled with new leaves, and apple blossoms are fading.

I should be out in my yard whenever the sun shines.  I should be working on cleanup, planting new flowers in my garden bed, and filling pots with spring annuals. Should be, should be, should be! I keep telling myself that I'll go to the nursery tomorrow. I'll get out the rake tomorrow. Tomorrow. Yes, I'll definitely do it tomorrow.

Excuses are plentiful.
Yesterday it was windy, so I had to do something else.
Today it's raining. I can't work outside.
Guess I'm stuck with sewing. Poor me.

I've been procrastinating like this on my yard work for the entire week, but I've been obsessed with trying to finish the slice and dice low volume quilt. There's been no spare time to get outside and dig in the dirt.

I keep kicking myself, but the low volume quilt sings a siren's song and without knowing what happened I find myself in my sewing room instead of in the garden. Here, at least, I'm making progress.

Remember these pastel fabrics?

That was last week. This is right now. Lightly spray basted and pinned for extra sturdiness.  All ready for stitch-in-the-ditch.

Tomorrow, I'll go to the nursery.
Tomorrow I'll bring the rake out of the shed.

Definitely, tomorrow.

If it doesn't rain. 

Happy Stitching!!

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Color Journey - From Here to There and Back Again

I've just started work on a low volume quilt. Softer, quieter quilts with light backgrounds are widely popular in modern quilting, and I like so many of the quilts I'm seeing. It's time to give low volume a whirl, and I've chosen to experiment with muted pastels on white. When I look at my new fat quarters, it seems like I've come full circle.

There's a story, of course.

As a child I loved art class best of all. In high school and during my first two years of college I took all the art courses I could even though I knew I was not meant to be a professional artist. I was too timid. Bold use of color or great, sweeping strokes of paint were terrifying. I didn't want any of my work to be "wrong".

Eventually, I found teaching. It became my life's work, and working with children was exactly where I belonged. Years flew by. In addition to being a teacher, I was the mom who sewed clothes, curtains, and Halloween costumes, but I turned up my nose at quilting. Something from bygone generations. Definitely not my thing.

Then my daughter told me that I'd soon become a grandmother, and she asked if I'd please make a baby quilt. She didn't sew, but she did own some beautiful quilts. At that moment she could have asked for the moon and I would have fetched it for her.

I had no idea what I was doing when I made that very first quilt. I didn't grasp how exact those 1/4" seams needed to be. Even so, I was instantly hooked on quilting. I studied the basics and got myself a 1/4" quilting foot and quilters' cutting tools. Before I could blink I was merrily churning out one baby quilt after another. Pretty little baby colors, clean white backgrounds, absolutely perfect for me!

I tried my hand at larger quilts, but I was disappointed in so many of them. Quilt blocks and partially completed quilt tops found their way into the give-away bag because I simply couldn't bear to look at them anymore.

One day I ran across an article in a quilt magazine about choosing fabrics for quilts that almost jumped off the page. Every quilt book I'd read had promoted the same ideas, but somehow this particular article woke me up.

The word, "pop", appeared over and over. Dark values "pop" on light background, light values "pop" on dark backgrounds. In addition to color value, the article continued, balance between large scale prints, smaller prints, and solids or tone on tone fabrics could make a quilt come to life with "pop".

I had assumed that with my background in art I knew what I was doing. Oh, so wrong! My quilts were desperately lacking in "pop".

I took a deep breath and went shopping for fabrics that were light, medium, and dark in value. I bought big, dramatic prints, and mixed them in with other fabrics.  Some combinations worked. Some didn't. But as I learned to embrace color in all it's hues and values and to incorporate prints of varying scale, my quilts took on new life. Before long I was fearlessly choosing bold, vibrant fabrics and experimenting with new color palettes. "Pop, pop, pop!"

This past week when I began cutting into that stack of quiet fat quarters in the pastel colors I've always loved I realized that I had somehow found my way back to the beginning.

"Hush," the fabrics whisper to me. "Your colors don't have to shout all of the time." No "pop"? We'll soon know how a quiet quilt will look.  Full circle. I hope I've learned enough to make it work this time around.

I don't have photos of the earliest quilts, but the photos below are snapshots of a few important steps along my journey. The first is from a pattern in a McCall's magazine. I hadn't begun making patterns when I designed the others.

An experiment with value. All of these blocks are from a single block pattern.

Kaffe Fassett is discovered. Talk about "pop"!

Working with scale and bold contrasts. Could this be from the person who was afraid of color?
Piecing combined with applique in light and bright scrappy fabrics.
With this quilt I found my happy place in quilting.
... and back again ...

Happy stitching, fellow travelers!

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Week of Purses - One Down and One to Go

 I really do need to take more time for personal sewing, but I get so excited about patterns that I keep putting my own projects off for another day. Right now with the happy frog mug rug completed I don't have any really pressing projects.  This is a great time to take a bit of a break, so I've begun sewing a couple of  spring purses for myself.

The first purse is finished. This was my very first experience with making a messenger bag.

I made so many mistakes in designing this pattern! It finally came out okay, but what headaches I created for myself by not thinking it through carefully enough before I began.

I should probably break down and buy a couple of patterns, but I'm so stubborn about making my bags from my own designs. I never see anything that's exactly perfect. If I design my own bag I can construct one with the exact style and measurements that I want. My husband tells me that I make work for myself when I could do things so much more easily, and he's right, I suppose. Stubbornness runs in the family and I inherited it in spades.

The second bag will be so different from anything else I own, and I'm truly excited. The idea for the design came from Pinterest, of course, and the decision to make it came out of a trip to the Baby Lock shop.

I had to pick up a new foot for my sewing machine, you see, and I should have known that I'd get lost in the fabric department. This scrumptious little group of fabrics was irresistible. I had saved a photo of a bag that I loved, and it required a group of soft and warm coordinated fabrics.

That bag I saw on Pinterest that will be the basis for my design. No pattern is available, so this time I have a real excuse for doing my own thing. Plus, I plan to make some major changes to the design, so the bag will be quite unique.

I really wanted to start today, but I can't do much until I have a zipper. Today, I'll take care of some essential chores around the house and work on getting the pattern just right. The zipper will have to wait a day.

Later in the week, I hope to begin making a second fat quarter quilt from my slice and dice design.

This time I'll get photos as I go, and, although it will be made with the same design as this one, you'll see two totally different quilts in the final pattern.

The weekend is upon us, and the drizzle of the past few days seems to be ending. We've had some warm days, but it's been very chilly this past week. I'm definitely not complaining about the moisture! We've had an unusually dry winter and the rain is more than welcome.  My grass is lushly green and my apple tree has begun to bloom. I can't wait to say goodbye to the cold and welcome the fragrant spring breeze when we can finally open the windows and let the fresh air blow through the house.

I love this photo! It reminds me so much of my grandmother's farmhouse. Thank you Google Images.

Wishing you a beautiful weekend.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ideas and the Origin of a Happy Dance

I'm always surprised when people ask me where I get my ideas and whether I'm afraid I'll run out of things to make.

I honestly don't go around wondering what I can possibly do next. I do, however, run into trouble trying to choose which of my ideas I should work on next. Ideas pop into my head faster than I can write them down, and half the time I don't know where they come from or why they arrive. It seems that all the while I'm working on one project my mind is chasing ahead to next twenty possible projects.

Now and again, though, I know exactly why I thought of a specific design. The frog pattern is a great example of that.  My niece has a little girl who has a hard time getting up in the morning. They have finally found a solution, and her father posted it on facebook.  He said that the song, "Good Morning", from the Gene Kelly movie, "Singing in the Rain", was the newly discovered trick to getting her up and about with a smile on her face.

It's one of my favorite movies of all time!  I had to go hunting until I found the movie clip for Gene Kelly's famous dance in the rain. You remember this, don't you.

What a joyous dance!! The inspiration for my happy frog dancing in the rain with an umbrella traces all the way back to 1952 and a movie that has stayed with me since I first saw it as a young girl. 

I wasn't planning the pillow until a facebook follower said that she needed a frog pillow for her sunroom. Others liked the idea, and first thing I knew I was off buying a pillow form and planning a pillow as well as a mug rug. 

I chose the colors of the mug rug because they are so bright. They simply shout "happy". The colors on the pillow were picked to go with the small lap quilt that brightens our guest bed.  

I made this little lap quilt before I retired eight years ago. It was my very first experience with free motion quilting on something bigger than a small table runner. I hadn't a clue what I was doing and my stitches were all over the place in size. Even so, this quilt is one of my favorites, and to be honest, I'm the only one who's ever paid the least bit of attention to the quilting. 

The pattern is really quite deceptive. It's a Jacob's Ladder quilt and the color placement creates the stars. I spent hours moving all of the patches in the blocks around on my dining room table and photographing the different effects until I happened across this particular arrangement. 

There are no photographs of the process, of course, but it's such an easy little thing that I could likely make the pattern using my very limited skill with the drawing program in Word. It shouldn't be that difficult - all squares and half square triangles. I wonder if anyone would want it. 

I'm not yet sure what I'll stitch up next. I do need a new purse, and I have all of the fabrics for a low volume quilt for the "Slice and Dice" pattern. Those will be made before long,  but that doesn't mean for sure that they'll be next. At some point a vision of a project will hit like a bolt of lightening and I'll be catapulted into whatever it may be. 

In the meanwhile, here are just a few of the ideas I've jotted down for the future. For the most part I don't know which of these will be table toppers or table runners, mug rugs or wall hangings. I may even work up another pillow.  
  • A heart shaped box of chocolates for Valentine's Day.
  • Children on swings.
  • A trio of friends "then and now" quilt blocks or mug rugs.
  • Mug rugs shaped like a camper and a VW Bug.
  • A fish bowl
  • Sunflowers
  • Tiny houses
  • Christmas stockings
  • Packages on a table runner
  • A rocking horse
  • Farm scene
  • Little house in the big woods
  • Ships and sea
  • Cupcakes
  • Cats and a scratching pole
  • A table runner with feathers, probably in batiks
  • A sewing themed wall hanging (maybe for next year?)
  • Fruit
  • Sunshine
  • Child building a snowman
What would you like to work on next? 

Wishing you a joyful week with new reasons for happy dancing every day!

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Offer That Wasn't

One of my friends posted this on facebook the other day. She headed it, "That moment when you know you're doing the right thing.."

I am so blessed to have found exactly the right career - twice!

I began teaching in 1965 and I retired in 2007.  I didn't rationally and intentionally choose to be a teacher. When I started college, teaching, right along with nursing and secretarial work, was on my list of "women's" jobs that I absolutely refused to consider. Then, in my second year of college, teaching found me. It really was like a calling that I couldn't avoid following. I wouldn't trade those years of working with children for a different career anymore than I would trade my own children for those of someone else.

Then came retirement. For the first year or two I just played around with my quilting and my sewing. Then Craftsy came along and I signed up. Little could I have imagined at the time that this website would lead me on to a new and totally unplanned career. I had always designed my own patterns and drawing had been a favorite hobby from the time I was old enough to hold a pencil. It was a perfect match, a hobby that I love and a small business that comes in very handy in these retirement years. 

And that leads me to the offer that turned out not be. 

The Offer 

Back in early January I received an interesting offer. At least it seemed interesting at first glance.

I had an email from a buyer for a very well known quilt catalog. She had seen my patterns on Craftsy and thought they might sell well through this company with it's international sales and millions of customers worldwide. She enclosed a PDF of frequently asked questions and offered to send me a contract should I be interested.

She didn't have to tell me that this is a big company. I knew that. I've been getting their quilting email for years.

It all sounded rather intriguing and I thought about the advantages. 1. I might pick up lots of sales this way and expand my customer base. 2. Customers who chose not to join Craftsy wouldn't have to become members in order to purchase my designs. 3. Those who don't use PayPal could pay another way.

I was curious, but not convinced that this would be a good idea, so I read the FAQ page. I was surprised to see that they wanted to take a 70% commission on the sale price of any patterns they sold. On second reading, it appeared that there might be room for negotiation. I had other reservations, but I responded anyway.

I sent a pattern to the buyer and explained that she might want to look it over before making an offer. My patterns are a bit different from most in that all of the templates are all drawn by hand. I don't know how to use a computer drawing program, I've not needed to learn this yet, and not a single customer has ever complained, so I'm happy. Her company might feel that this takes away from the "professional" look of the pattern, but I'm not interested in redoing templates or changing anything else about the patterns, for that matter.

Next, I told her that I'm an old grandmother, so I've no intention of trying to build an thriving business.  I'm just playing and having fun with my retirement hobby. I enjoy making these patterns at my leisure.  If my patterns pay for my materials and a give me a bit of extra spending money I'm happy.

Then I explained the most important aspect of my little business, the part that means more to me than any amount of money I can earn. By selling through Craftsy, I am able to communicate directly with my customers. I am easily accessible, always available to answer questions, able to guide beginners to the information they need, and excited to share in the joy of their successes. I know many of them by name, and we have a relationship that goes well beyond that of customer and seller.

I would never, ever give up these close relationships. I'm a retired school teacher, for goodness sake. I like people. I like being helpful. I get goose bumps when a customer learns something new or turns my pattern into something special. I thrill over photos of projects that are sent to me - even if the patterns used come from a different source.

I wrote that she could contact me if she wanted to discuss selling my patterns in more detail. Needless to say, there's been no response.

That's fine by me.

My patterns don't have to look "professional".  They may look amateur, but that's because they're made by an amateur.

On any given day, I can choose when I work, what I work on, how I go about my designing, and whether I work at all.

If I really wanted more customers, I could sell on Etsy, too, but I'm quite content with only one set of procedures for posting patterns.

I love spending my retirement doing something that gives me an enormous feeling of accomplishment and a heartwarming connection to others.

What I'm doing now is exactly the "right thing" for me!

Now, let's all go sew stuff! 

The frog pattern will be out in just a few more days!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Finished Wall Hanging!!

Yes! Yes! Yes!

The last block is completed, the last stitch has been sewn, templates have been drawn, and the pattern has been written! The 2015 Summer Garden quilt along is altogether finished, and it's done way ahead of schedule! This feels so good!

I must have taken 20 photographs, but this was my favorite. 

I've included the fabric requirement and instructions for assembling the quilt in this last block pattern. It's done very simply with 1" sashing and a border of the same size. 

The creation of a trellis block came as a complete and total surprise to me, but it was a very welcome surprise. It completes the quilt and it is unique. I've searched the web, but nowhere have I found another trellis block on a quilt. I'm sure that others exist out there, but I wasn't able to locate one. I do detest creating something and finding that it looks very similar to another designers quilt. 

Originally I had planned to use primary colors to make this quilt. Red, blue, yellow with a bit of green sounded happy. Somehow, though, that didn't happen. Without intending to at all, I slipped back into my comfortable pastels. The wheelbarrow and trellis blocks with shades of pink and purple changed everything, so I had to remake two of the small blocks. The dark blue butterfly was exchanged for a brighter, paler blue, and a red heart was replaced with one in yellow and pink. 

But, I know that I like this much, much more than I would have liked the original color scheme. Best of all, my hubby enjoys looking at it. "Beautiful," he says. I'm such a happy camper today.

I may make a combined pattern for all of the blocks eventually, but for now the patterns for separate blocks will have to do. With all of the full size templates and layout plans the combined pattern would have so many pages! The main advantage to this is that people can purchase and download one pattern at a time as they are ready to work on each new block. For me it's a time issue more than anything. I have so many projects in the works right now, and that's a really wonderful thing!

Hope your weekend is filled with glorious sunshine, both in the sky and in your heart! 

Happy Stitching!!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Photo from a New Quilter and a Glimpse into my Week

It's been a crazy, busy week, but before I say any more about that I want you to take a look at this photo from Jane.

Jane made this little table runner from my "Spring Table Runner" pattern. It was her first experience with fusible web applique and her first try at free motion quilting. Isn't this lovely for spring? I love the matching bunnies for Easter, too. As she worked on this, Jane asked lots of questions. It was so delightful to visit with her and cheer her on from the sidelines of cyberspace. 

Unfortunately, there is very little to actually show you about my own week. The big accomplishment was finishing up the sewing on the garden quilt. It's totally, absolutely, completely finished - fmq, binding, everything - done!

I do worry when these quilt alongs are in the process of being designed as I go and shared with you before I know what the finished product will look like. What if things go wrong late in the process? What it people who've already bought blocks are disappointed? What if? 

Now it's finished and I'm so relieved that I really do like it! Truly! It's one of my very favorites and, best of all, my husband has declared it a work of art. He's a little biased, I admit, but his opinion still counts for a lot with me.

Now I'm working on writing up the pattern for this last block and the instructions for assembling the quilt.

This morning I worked on the layout sketch. I'll make the page of templates next, and then I need to write the pattern up. That will take a week or two because I'm working on other things as well.

I've been asked to put all of the blocks in one pattern as an alternative for those who want buy the entire quilt at once. The option to purchase it block by block would still remain. Next week I'll be looking into how and if I can make the big pattern happen. There are so many pages of templates and layouts! The total price would be the same, $10 total, so those who have some of the blocks and want the rest won't be affected.

This is what the wall hanging looked like prior to quilting. The photo of the finished quilt will come out when the pattern has been completed and is available on Craftsy.

What else? 

I'm designing a frog mug rug. It's very much in the sketching stage as yet, but once I get the design figured out, it will go quickly. I hope to publish this pattern next week. Fingers crossed.

Wishing you a fabulous spring weekend and a gorgeous, happy week ahead. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Quilting Patterns to Help You Spruce Up for Spring

Birds are everywhere, bits of green are beginning to show here and there in treetops, and small green shoots are pushing up from the bare, brown earth. Spring is just beginning to smile down on my little corner of the world. I'm ready to banish the dark, warm tones of winter and brighten my home with the cheerful colors and symbols of the new season.

I've been going through my patterns and projects and pulled some of the best spring ideas for you to peruse.

Easter is coming up quickly, and with sunshine and rain the first flowers will prepare to bloom. You might want to try one of these mug rugs for April.

April House



Spring Tulips

April Showers

QA 2015 Bunny and Basket

Mother's Day is the big holiday in May, but the month is also known for its abundance of flowers. I'll start with Mother's Day.

Baskets for Mom


May Mischief

If you want something larger, this table runner and pair of mug rugs may be just the thing.
Spring Table Runner

I already have the table runner on display and several of the mug rugs are scattered around on my table tops. When I finish the 2015 "Summer Garden" wall hanging, it will be the first thing to go on my wall.

I Love Spring!!
Hope you have a good one!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Choosing Applique Thread, and Switching Fabric Colors

Choosing Thread

I've had much more experience with machine applique in the past two years than I had during all the previous years of quilting.  I no longer grab the nearest thread of the right color, but I've learned to choose from a variety of thread types to attach applique pieces. The thread choice depends on the effect I want to create.

If I want the edges of the applique to blend in or disappear, I will use a matching 60 weight polyester thread. This thread is so fine that it becomes nearly unnoticeable.

Here it is on my Spring Table Runner. With any zigzag stitch, this thread will come closest to looking like hand applique.

If I want the applique to have the old fashioned appearance of a blanket stitch made by hand, I'll opt for black in a 50 weight cotton thread.

This is how it looks on the Elephant Walk bib and in this mug rug from Alphabet Soup.

Lately, I've been using a 40 weight rayon thread more and more. Sometimes I want the stitching in matching thread to stand out and be noticed. This heavier weight thread with it's lovely, silky shimmer does the trick.

This is a section of the trellis block I'm working on for this year's quilt along.  To make the trellis recede into the background, I stitched that piece with 50 weight cotton in an exact color match to the fabric. In contrast, the thicker rayon in the flowers and leaves gives texture and dimension to them making them pop out from the background trellis.  

Color Switches

When I made the wheelbarrow for the 2015 Garden quilt along I found myself using pink and purple fabrics. It totally changed the appearance of the whole quilt.  As you can see in the closeup photo of the trellis block above, I've added another large block in pink and purple. Now a couple of the first pair of blocks seem to clash. I think I will likely need to remake one butterfly and one heart so the colors are better balanced.

That's what happens when I design as I go, and it's the way I usually work. I'm very often surprised by my finished project, but for me, that's one of the most exciting elements in designing. I love discovering something lovely that was completely unexpected. It does call for a redo of some parts now and then, but if it makes a positive difference in the outcome, I don't mind reworking things at all.

The color clash is much more evident in real life than it is in the photo. Can you see which two blocks may need to be remade?

I'm determined to finish this little quilt completely before I start something new or work on any of the other projects in progress.  I have way too many irons in the fire right now, and that can be stressful. I'm retired! I can set my own goal and deadlines. And, who could possible want to create more stress in their life?

Today is the first day of spring!!

Wishing you a 
VeryHappy Spring!
(in purple, of course)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Forsaken Goals

There are weeks when I look at my goals and ask, "What happened?". This was one of those weeks.

I made no new name quilts for my daughter's office buddies. No cute little house blocks have been added to the pile. I spent money on fabric, too.

I could beat my head agains the wall, or I could remind myself that goals are just that. Something one would strive to achieve, but they aren't self made laws that must not be broken. Plus, there is no one demanding that I put in a certain number of hours a week before I can get a paycheck. I do this all for fun. It's a hobby, not a job.

I did accomplish some things, so all is not lost. I made the April quilt along blocks and the Easter mug rug, wrote up the pattern and posted it so everyone who wanted to would have time to make something for Easter. That was totally unplanned and spontaneous, brought on by a sudden flash of an idea, and it used up several days of my week.

I've also put some time into developing a pattern for that fat quarter quilt. There have been enough requests for it on Craftsy that I decided to go ahead and make the pattern. This kind of pattern takes a lot of time to write, and of course, that means stitching up another one in different fabrics. That explains the fabric purchase. I happened upon this fat quarter set, "Wildflower Meadow" by Riley Blake, and I couldn't resist these cheerful colors and cute little critters. I also got enough of the dark blue for the sashings and back of the new quilt. The switch from white to dark blue should give the quilt a totally different look. Then folks will have choices. I may add another row of blocks at the bottom as well to make it large enough for a lap quilt.

Then, this morning I hung a new thread rack and organized my thread. I had totally run out of space for all of my thread. I have old thread, new thread, double spools of the same thread, and threads of different weights and fiber content. Now I have a bit of breathing room.

So, all in all, it wasn't such a non productive week.

And now I'm going for a walk in this glorious, unprecedented summer weather. We Nebraskans are all in shock at the temperatures in the seventies and the brilliant sunshine. We also know that this is not to be trusted. I can't recall a year when we didn't have a snowfall in March or early April. Summer is just playing with us. Winter will return.

I hope your weather is fabulous, too! Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Early Quilt Along Block for April

Whew! It's done!!

I've been hurrying to get Blocks 6 and 7 for the 2015 quilt along finished up and published this week. If you recall, there are two little 5"x5" blocks that fit above the wheelbarrow in this little quilt. I'd originally planned to put a watering can in one of them, but I had no idea what might fit in the other.

Then I looked out of my window a few days ago. A brazen bunny was looking in at me! What am I? An exhibit for the entertainment of cute lagomorphs? (Not rodents. I had to look it up to be sure.)

Well, that was it. My garden has no shortage of bunnies. There are bunnies hopping through my yard in any of the four seasons. In fact, I finally gave up on planting strawberries because I couldn't keep the bunnies out of them. Between the bunnies and the birds there were never any berries left for the people.

Well, then, that finalized the choice for the second of the pair of blocks. Strawberries! There are two watering cans in last year's quilt along, so I've already done that. I put my strawberries into a basket. I like baskets filled with yummies, don't you?

So this is where the 2015 quilt is now.

And then, it connected. Bunnies, baskets ... Easter on the way ...

That explains the rush to get this pattern out early. Someone may want to sew up something cute for Easter. Like a mug rug.

So there are two baskets. Mix and match at will. Make a mug rug, make the blocks, make both.

I have to admit it. I adore these new bunnies!!

Do I have a new favorite block this time around, too.
You bet! Move over wheelbarrow. It's all about bunnies and baskets today!

Happy stitching!!