Thursday, December 4, 2014

What's New!

Well. Look what arrived in the mail last Friday. All the months and months of preparation seemed like they'd never end. Then all of the sudden an actual book shows up! I received my first author's copies of the new book, When Bad Things Happen to Good Quilters on Friday.

It's quite different from the previous two books. This book is full of stories, tips, best practices, and advice--and even a little humor--to get a quilter out of a jam. Ask for it at your favorite quilt shop. Or place your order here, keep in mind, I haven't received my 'real' order yet, so it might take a bit before I can ship them!

I can't wait to hear what you think about the book. I hope you like it, if you decide to make a purchase. (It will be arriving in stores everywhere just in time to make it on your holiday wish-list!--just sayn *wink!*)

In the meantime, just before the Thanksgiving holiday, I headed to Las Vegas, Nevada. No, not to take advantage of the entertainment 'opportunities' available almost anywhere you go (like here at the airport).

I was actually headed to Henderson, Nevada and Quiltique.

Your first impression as you take your first step through the door is all about color, fabric, and pure inspiration.

. . . more color is around the next corner . . .

 . . . and the next one, too!

In fact, you can find colorful fabric and project ideas to inspire in every corner of this Bernina dealership!

Wait! I wasn't there only for the eye-candy. We had some 'work' to do. A trunk show and two workshops! The Runaway Thread quilt was the first of two workshops to be held in the spacious classroom.

Doesn't the quilt look beautiful hanging right behind the counter!

The second workshop, the Bloomin' Steps quilt yielded some beautiful scrappy colorful blocks made with some slick techniques.

Perhaps what made this trip more memorable than most is that the staff bowling outing coincided with my visit, and I was invited along. It's funny, I found my bowling 'skills' improved after a cocktail or two. Let's just say, I don't expect to see my picture hanging in the Bowling Hall of Fame any time soon!

It was difficult to leave my new friends in Nevada to head back home to New York state. But it was wonderful to see that everyone's scrappy masterpieces were under construction.

Happy Stitching,

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Say that again?

Recently, I exhibited at two big quilt shows in Houston, Texas: Quilt Market and Quilt Festival. This post isn't about the shows; it's about the things I heard over and over again--frequently asked questions or comments--in the booth.

My objective for both events was to spend a fair amount of time visiting with quilters and introducing them to the ScrapTherapy Mini Scrap Grid. My display prominently included the 99 Bottles quilt from the book ScrapTherapy, Scraps Plus One! And my demonstrations featured the Mini Scrap Grid.

The 99 Bottles quilt has about 500 nine-patches that finish to 1-1/2" square. It's a beautiful quilt; it was fun to make; but no doubt about it, there was a fair amount of work involved in making it.

"Look at those little 9-patch blocks! That was done by sewing strip-sets, then cutting them apart."

Actually, the quilt wasn't made from strips, using the cut-up scrap fabrics from my ScrapTherapy bin, I started with 2" squares to make the miniature 9-patches. When you cut the colorful squares in half twice, the result is four matching 1" squares. To make a 9-patch, I needed five more 1" squares and I chose a cream-colored solid for contrast--those squares were cut from yardage. It was just easier to make the seams one at a time for each miniature block than to try to figure out how to do a strip-piecing routine, one 9-patch at a time.

Working with small fabric squares isn't for everyone. For me, I found that sticking to a small piecing goal each day was rewarding and kept the project moving in a positive direction. As a bonus, my 'regular-sized' piecing became much more accurate as a result of handing the smaller pieces. And it was really gratifying to watch my scrap fabrics being converted into a project, even if it was only one little square of fabric at a time.

"Did you use the Mini Scrap Grid interfacing to make the quilt?"

Actually, no. The interfacing (the Mini Scrap Grid) came after the quilt. I never intended the quilt to be a pattern at all, making the miniature 9-patches as a personal challenge (sick as it may seem!). As the quilt came together with some additional cool techniques in the sashing and borders, it seemed like a good idea to include it as one of the projects in the book.

The interfacing was developed for the quilt and it's job is to make miniature 9-patches that finish to 1-1/2" square. The small squares are fused or stabilized to the interfacing following the printed grid. Once fused to the interfacing, the small squares become easier to handle, plus the sewing lines are printed right onto the interfacing. I have to say, I think I'm addicted to the stuff and have developed a few more patterns for it with more on the way.

"You can use the interfacing to make the larger 9-patch, too!"

Well . . . not so much. For the 99 Bottles quilt, the miniature 9-patches are sewn alternately with 2" scrap squares to make a medium-sized 9-patch. Then medium-sized 9-patches are sewn together to make the block.

It would be a waste of fabric to fuse a larger than necessary solid fabric square on the interfacing between the 9-patch squares (a mock-up with red arrows pointing to the oversized scraps is shown below), then sew seams through everything (the purple-ish dashed line), including the solid fabrics. Trust me, it's sounds like a good idea, but meh.

"Why start with 5" scrap squares to cut 1" fabric squares? Can't you just cut 1" strips from yardage?"

The 99 Bottles quilt isn't the only pattern I've written that uses the ScrapTherapy Mini Scrap Grid. Several additional patterns--Mini Mug Mats, pins, and the Toss Across runner--start with 5" squares. With a few quick cuts, the 5" squares become 25 smaller ones that are 1" grid-ready. Why 5"? The 5" square is one of the three scrap sizes that I recommend to cut and store in the book, ScrapTherapy, Cut the Scraps! And it's a common size for popular pre-cut fabrics. Could you cut 1" strips from yardage? Of course! But I like to use my cut-up scrap fabric in the sizes I use frequently whenever I can!

"Why bother cutting the grid apart to make the mini 9-patches? Just sew between the mini 9-patches before cutting them apart to make a larger mass of 9-patches."

Yes, you could do that, but the grid was designed specifically to be a 9-patch grid, not a 'watercolor,' all-over grid. So the process of cutting apart the nine-patches (where the red-dashed lines are), pressing and trimming them to size works better than sewing the seams (along the red dashed lines), at least in my mind--but then I'm a serious tidy-butt with my piecing!

Is this the only interfacing you have?

Quiltsmart prints my interfacing and they have a whole bunch of different interfacing-intensive projects to make everything from Mondo Bags to full-sized quilts to applique shapes. The ScrapTherapy Small Scrap Grid is used in several of the quilt projects in both books, but is perhaps best known as the vehicle to make the super-scrappy border on Bloomin' Steps. And, besides the Mini Scrap Grid, there just might be another ScrapTherapy interfacing product in the works. You'll just have to stay tuned for more information . . .

If you would like the complete how-to for using the Mini Scrap Grid interfacing, a detailed step-by-step tutorial can be found here.

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Local Interests

My husband, Dave, recently joined the Syracuse Musketeers Fencing Club. He's been many years away from the sport, but seems to be enjoying himself as he gets reacquainted with the hobby/sport. (With a few bruises to show for it!)

Last week, one of his fencing partners handed Dave a brochure for the Open Studios and Holiday Sale at the Delavan Center. When he's not wielding a sword, Mark is a painter, and his wife Judi makes jewelry; both artists lease studio space at the Delavan Center on what is known around here as the Near West Side in Downtown Syracuse.

The Delavan Center has a fascinating history. It was originally a plow manufacturer, then it became a John Deere factory, but since 1971, it has been operating as a honeycomb of artists' studios. Once a year, the artists clear away the paints, beads, and laptops, and open the doors to the public for a holiday sale. The building interior is a maze of oddly-shaped studios, and one can easily get lost walking through the expansive site. Each studio has lots of natural light and high ceilings--and plenty of creative neighbors! It seemed to be a perfect soul-nurturing atmosphere!

Tempted by many of the artists and their displays, I settled on these treasures, although Judi's beaded jewelry was tempting and oh-so-unique! Maybe next time.

Then on Sunday, my sisters and I headed to Fly Creek Cider Mill. If you've been reading this newsletter for a while, then you know, this is an annual affair, complete with matching pumpkin-applique sweatshirts.

Feeding the ducks and geese at the pond behind the mill is a must.

We used to have to remember to retrieve hoarded quarters for the coin-operated duck-feed dispensers. No more. They've thought of everything at the mill.

The cider mill is full of tasty sauces, dressings, and dips, all available to try before you buy. Apples and cider, too--it's a cider mill after all. And don't forget the fudge!

Sometimes the best experiences are closer to home than you think! And you don't have to travel at all for a local treat.

With the crazy holiday rush approaching swiftly, I think the best of the season is the 'ordinary' stuff you can easily forget to do. Do you have a favorite creative spot or annual open house or event in your local area?  

Do tell! . . . Post a comment below to share a nearby must-do/must-see in your community. Why is it special for you?

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Quilty Eye Candy

Quilt Festival celebrated it's 40th anniversary with this year's show--their Ruby Jubilee! Seems appropriate to have a display of red-and-white quilts! The beautiful display is reminiscent of the Infinite Variety display of quilts at the New York City Armory in 2011. 

If you are a new follower to this blog, you may know that anything 'bird' seems to draw me in! This quilt was no exception. The quilt is called Nocturnal Gardens by Ted Storm.

A closer look really shows off the incredible detail.

If you have a parrot, then you know that an occasional bite on the ear is part of the program. The macaw's tail extends below the main part of the rectangular quilt. The quilt: She Loves Me--She Loves Me Not by Holly Altman.

It's hard to believe that this is a quilt at all. Amazing detail! It's painted, and appliqued. Dazzling Dahlia by Andrea Brokenshire.

Something about this wolf drew me in, perhaps it's the reflection of the wolf's body on the surface it rests upon. Heavily thread painted, the wolf is very realistic. Seneca by Ferret.

This whimsical quilt sampler of appliqued pets in all shapes and sizes--fish, bunnies, dogs, cats, and of course, birds--was quite fun to look at! All in the Family by Nancy Brown.

Although the title hints of a different locale, this reminds me of the Alaskan cruise this summer! Maui Gold by Karen Donobedian

Beautiful, right?

Now take a closer look to see scads and scads of mind-boggling detail. Unfortunately, my phone jiggled at an inopportune moment, and I'm not able to credit the title and maker of this exquisite piece. I do know that the quilt maker is from Japan.

The winner of the Robert S. Cohan Master Award for Traditional Artistry sponsored by RJR Fabrics. One of the grand prize winners. Delicate detail and soft colors. Lovely! Breezy Garden by Kayoko Hibino.

It's so inspiring to see the different entries from all over the world. It makes me want to 'step up my game' in my own quilting. If you didn't make it to Houston this year, I highly recommend it for your quilty bucket list.

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

October Sky

With one or two deep frosts already under our belt this season here in central New York, the last couple of days have brought a reprieve from the approaching chilly season in the form of a few warm, breezy days. So warm, that a quick trip to Gannon's Isle for a cone of yummy pumpkin ice cream was in order on Tuesday with my friend Janet Lutz of Calico Gals. The place was mobbed just like it would be in the middle of July.

And yesterday morning, as the sun was rising, this was Mother Nature's greeting. The clouds soon over took the sky, and the weatherman says they're here to stay for a few days. However, with a morning like this, how can the day possibly get off track?

Quilt Market (big trade show) and Quilt Festival (bit retail show) are fast approaching, and all my productive energy seems to be going toward booth preparation, samples, printed materials, and product for sale. As well as preparing for the road trip to Houston.

At my Quilt Market booth (booth 932) and at Quilt Festival (booth 609), it's all about the 9-patch, and the Mini Scrap Grid Interfacing. And, of course, all the associated patterns.

On Sunday morning during Quilt Market, I'm teaching a Take & Teach workshop. Shop employees can have hands-on experience making a Mini Mug Mat using the Mini Scrap Grid interfacing. Many thanks to Presencia and Colonial Needle, Creative Grids, and Timeless Treasures for providing our class supplies. And let's not forget Bernina for the fabulous machines we'll be using! Last I knew, there's still space in the class, so pass this along to your favorite local quilt shop owner so he or she can reserve his or her spot!

More goodies for goody bags . . .

And some fabulous treats to wear thanks to Hoffman California Fabrics and the brand new 1895 Bali hand-dyed fabrics. These 9-patch pins will be THE bling to wear at either show!

Enough distraction for now. I'd better get back to business and put my 'nose to the grindstone' - although that really sounds quite painful. Maybe I'll stick to sewing!

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dinner is Served!

With Quilt Market and Quilt Festival approaching, a lot of my energy and time is going toward preparing quilted samples and printed materials. With all that going on in the sewing room and at the computer, who has time to cook?

And yet, the farmer's market is just loaded with tempting harvest produce this time of year! My family heritage is 100% Polish, and that means a large, fresh head of cabbage translates to only one thing: Golumbki (pronounced go-WHUMB-kee), or stuffed cabbage rolls.

As a kid, I used to watch my mom par-boil a full head of cabbage after cutting out the core, pull off the large leaves one by one as they softened, then stuff them with a mixture of rice, meat, tomatoes, and seasonings. Her hands would skillfully and carefully roll up each leaf, then pack each tidy cabbage roll into a huge roaster pan to finish cooking in the oven. It took all day (it seemed) in the kitchen.

The result was a real harvest treat! A slice down the center of each steaming cabbage roll left room for a touch of savory butter, melting into the center. Just thinking of those days, makes my mouth water. Comfort food, for sure.

I've searched for a recipe that simplified the process, but maintained the flavor and texture from the cabbage rolls. And I think I've finally found the secret formula. Ingredients are tossed together in a lasagne pan then baked--maybe thirty minutes of prep and 90 minutes in the oven--a far cry from the all-day leaf-rolling affair that I remember as a kid. Super easy! Super yummy. And plenty of leftovers!

You want the recipe? Download a copy here.

Enjoy and  . . .

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Who's Got the Button?

All summer long, Fabrics N Quilts has been running their fourth annual Scrap Quilt Challenge. As a sponsor, I promised to post a tutorial for a scrappy quilt block. And since it's October, and October is 'my' month . . . here we go!

For my scrappy quilt block, I was inspired by the Ikea carpet that I used in my booth at the AQS Quilt Week in Grand Rapids this summer. Buttons. Lots of scrappy buttons. This Cute-as-a-Button block finishes to 5" square, so we're dealing with some fairly small scraps. Especially in the very center.

Most of you may know, that I like to cut and store three scrap sizes: 2, 3-1/2, and 5" scrap squares. And if you aren't aware of that, you can learn all about my thought process in either of my ScrapTherapy books.

Therefore, whenever I start a new scrappy project, I dig into my bins of pre-cut scrap squares. For one button block, I'll need two matching 5" scraps, and from some white yardage in my stash, I cut two 2-1/2" squares and up to four 1" squares. On the back of the 2-1/2" squares, draw a diagonal line, corner to corner. 

I'm choosing to work with white yardage, because I want a consistent background. So, grab something from the stash or from the quilt shop to make the scrap fabrics really pop in the finished project.

Cut two 2-1/2" squares from one of the 5" scraps . . .

 . . . and four 2" squares from the second 5" scrap. Use the leftover 1" strips to cut . . .

 . . . at least five 1" squares.

Arrange the 1" squares into a nine patch for the center of the button block . . . wait a minute! Sewing those itty bitty squares can be a bit of a pain in the patootie. . . SO . . .

I'm going to use one 9-patch worth of the ScrapTherapy Mini Scrap Grid! Align the 1" squares on the fusible side of the printed grid interfacing to form the 9-patch block.

Fuse. Now, instead of handling tiny little 1" squares, I'm dealing with a significantly more comfortable-to-handle, stabilized piece of fabric! Notice that there's a little bit of interfacing showing between the scraps--that's on purpose to make the next step easier.

Fold the 9-patch on the first dotted line and pin to secure. . .

Sew on the solid line. . . Repeat for both seams.

Then snip the interfacing at the intersections, snipping just past the stitching line (there is a little + sign printed on the interfacing right where you want to snip)

Rotate the block 90˚ to sew the last two seams. The snipping allows you to oppose the seams. Fold on the dotted line, then oppose and nest the seams. Front seams away from each other, and back seams toward each other. (Or vice verse, as long as the seams are 'toward' and 'away' on opposite sides.)

Pin the seam intersections so they don't get a mind of their own while you sew.

Sew . . .

These next few steps aren't necessary, but I like to do them because I'm a tidy butt (right, Maureen?!) Pull out the last few stitches on both sides at all four seam intersections as shown. . . .

Then furl-pop-twirl-twist (this technique is called many things in various quilt patterns) the center of the seam so it flattens. The interfacing creates a little flattened triangle on the back of the mini 9-patch. See how the seam intersections rotate around each seam intersection?

Then press real quick from the front.

The block will be a tiny bit larger than 2" square. So I (tidy-butt Joan) like to trim them up nicely. Look how that ruler helps align dots with seams! Trim to 2" square. Exactly 2". Not a thread more! (*wink*)

Set the little 9-patch aside and let's move to making half-square triangle units. Place a scrap 2-1/2" square and a background 2-1/2" square right sides together, with the background fabric on top so you can see the drawn line.

Sew 1/4" seam on both sides of the drawn line. Repeat both pairs of squares (hey, that rhymes!)

Cut them apart . . .

And press the seam toward the scrap fabric.

Now, trim all four half-square triangle units to 2" square. I like to use the small Blocloc ruler to do this, but any square ruler with a bias line will do a nice job, too!

You should have four half-square triangle units, four 2" squares cut from the original 5" scrap square, and one center 9-patch. Arrange them into a bigger 9-patch and sew it together. Sew the parts into rows, then sew the rows together. Press to best advantage. 'Best advantage' means press to fewer seams in this case--it'll feel like the right way to press. When in doubt, follow the red pressing arrows below.

There's the Button Block! Looks a little weird to me, but it gets much better when you sew it into something. And even better when you quilt it! Scroll back up to the Mug Mat at the very beginning of this post--I found a couple of kitchen items that were just the right circular size to use as quilting templates.

Here is the back of the block. See the 'best advantage' I was talking about?

Now make more. I switched up the center mini 9-patch on each of the button blocks to make four-hole and two-hole buttons.

It's just a collection of goofy-looking blocks until you make something from them. I chose to make a table runner. 1-1/2" sashing strips in between the blocks, and a 2-1/2" background border all the way around. I can't wait to get this quilted in time for my next stitch-in event with my quilty girlfriends! And I have the perfect multi-color striped binding to pull all the scrappy goodness together.

By the way, each panel of the ScrapTherapy Mini Scrap Grid makes 54 mini 9-patches. Wow! That's a lot of buttons!

Now, it's your turn. Submit a quilt following the guidelines listed at the very bottom of this Fabrics N Quilts blog post by October 15th, and you could be a lucky, lucky winner. Tons of great prizes!

Good luck and . . .

Happy Stitching!