Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ant and Octopus


There are two kinds of quilters in the world: ants and octopi (stay with me here). Ant quilters shoulder one project, working solely on it all the way to the end. And then there are octopus quilters - those who have eight projects, one for each arm, constantly switching between them as inspiration strikes. Both kinds of quilters are fabulously awesome.

I am, without a doubt, an octopus. I've focused on finishing lots of WIPs and UFOs over the last couple of years, but I still have 5-6 from previous years. While I'm working hard on my book, sweet summer stretches before me. I'm scatterbrained, lacking in organization, with several enticing projects at hand, in various stages of planning and finishing. But that's the way I like it.

What kind of quilter are you: ant or octopus? And what are you working on this summer (if it is indeed summer where you live)?

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Using Fabric to Decorate A Home - Part 1

White walls are the enemy. They might make for good quilt pictures, but as a color-obsessed quilter, my first move in any place would be to paint (side note: I actually love painting walls. My mom and I could paint contently all day).

While our new apartment allows painting, the repainting fees per room are quite extravagant. We're hoping to stay more than 2 years, but still, it doesn't seem like the right move. So, I've decided to spruce up the place with bursts of color. In the past, I started a series called "Project Color My Apartment" (scroll down my Community page here to read the posts). I guess this is the second series!

When we first saw the place and made the decision to move, I decided to take my cheap little storage ottoman with me. I haven't really used it proudly (because of the color - much more pink than purple) and it seemed high time to recover it. After polling Instagram, I grabbed my long-stashed-and-much-loved blue Alison Glass chambray. If I had used the beige one, I'm pretty sure I'd trip over it every time I walked into the room, because our carpet is the same color! ;)

I've been working behind the scenes with chambray a lot, and I'm pleased with its drape and solid nature (it's thicker than quilting cotton). Staple gunning the fabric to the ottoman wasn't difficult, but certainly a two-woman job (I folded and help while Mom stapled). Every time I walk into my living area now, I get a swell of pride seeing it there!

My mom also rescued and painted a quilt rack for Christmas, so I've used that to temporarily store some quilts and bring color to the room. These quilts will be on the road all summer, so their loveliness in this space is short-lived! But a little color makes this feel like home. I'd really love to get a quilt ladder one day, too.

Now that we're unpacked, the next project is walls. Even my husband, who could live for decades without a thing on the wall, openly admitted that this was necessary. Besides quilts and picture frames, some embroidery hoops are on the table. I'll have more photos to share later in the summer, for sure!

We're not allowed to use screws or Command hooks so I'll likely be using my handy dandy clear pushpins for smaller quilts (go away, quilt police, they're my quilts and I'll do what I like with them!). So, here's the big question: do you have any suggestions for hanging larger quilts without screws or Command hooks?

Linking up to Needle and Thread Thursday, TGIFF, Crazy Mom Quilts

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sashiko Flower Pillow: By Hand and Machine

This past year, I've been fascinated with combinations of machine and hand-stitching. After getting to know Susan of Easy Piecing, I dove in and bought several sashiko patterns to last probably several years (this is not a sponsored post - I just love her shop and appreciate her friendship and encouragement!). I chose this one because it had a purple background... simple as that. I love purple. And, well, the circular motion of the flowers had me intrigued.

Immediately after I finished my fall sashiko table topper, I dove into this pattern, slowly but surely. It took several months to finish; this year has been super busy quilt, event, and quilt show-wise, so I haven't had much passive time to sit and stitch (usually, I watched episodes of New Girl). Sashiko stitching is so easy and relaxing. I love to challenge myself with quilting, but it's nice to have something relatively mindless to keep my hands moving!

Once I finished the panel, I decided to turn it into a pillow to gift my mom for Mother's Day. She's always hinting that she'd *love* something handmade as a gift (and she definitely gets her share, make no mistake!). After all, I'm still head over heels for my first sashiko pillow. I had confidence this one would turn out well.

I used three different sashiko threads to hand-stitch. The blue was meant to outline the flowers and also connect them. Then, I quilted around the whole thing with my favorite purple Aurifil thread, #4225. My goal was to enhance the inner circular design and add even more texture. I'm really pleased with how it came out! I also quilted up the border, which is a print from Biology by Sarah Watson for Cloud9 Fabrics. I've been holding onto that fabric for at least a year, and I loved how it brought out the blue hand-stitching.


At the last minute, I embroidered a label on the back so that we'll remember when I gifted this special pillow (it says: For Mom, Love Jess, 5/2017). That purple rose fabric (by Nel Whatmore for Westminster Fabrics) is easily in my top 5 favorite purple fabrics of all time. I kept it in the family, though, so it would be in use, and I can visit. :)

A far away look. Yep, still loving those roses.

And finally, a picture of the pillow in its forever home! My mom did a beautiful job of arranging her bed, but I bet she didn't expect me to sneak in there and snap pictures.

Have a wonderful weekend! I'm spending time unpacking and settling into my new sewing space. Hopefully I'll hang up some quilts in the next week - fingers crossed!

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Blog Comments and Newsletter Updates

It's been a while since I wrote up a post about general goings-on around here. I've listed all my questions/points in bullet form below. Please feel free to comment on/ask questions/answer questions related to any of them. I'd appreciate hearing back from you!

  • Blog comments - thank you to all those who comment! I really treasure the email conversations I have with you. If you comment and haven't received an email from me, that means there is no email attached to your account and/or I can't find one (yes, I do look around!). You might not hear back from me the day of, but I usually answer comments within 2 business days (I try to stay away from the computer on weekends).
    •  I have heard tell that for some, Blogger (the service I currently use) is difficult to comment on. I am sorry to hear that but from my end there's not much I can do. If you'd like to get in touch with me, you can always send me an email instead. It's much appreciated! 

    • If you read your blogs on Bloglovin, they recently added a commenting tool. I can't respond to those comments (yet!) but I do appreciate them! See Yvonne's post, "Commenting Via Bloglovin" for more info and a call to add replies. EDIT: Yvonne let me know that I can respond via the app now! I haven't used it but I may download it just to do this. :)

  • I'm curious about how you read blogs these days, specifically mine. Are you an email subscriber, or do you access through one of the blog readers (Bloglovin, Feedly, etc.)?
  • Let's talk about the newsletter. It's a lot of work but it's my favorite content to write online. I try my best to include interesting links and topics for you to read about/peruse, related to modern quilting in today's world. The next issue will be coming out tonight (Wed. 5/31 around 10 PM). I'll continue to release it over the summer, but it will be shorter than usual (namely a couple segments, like The Sewing Circle, will be on hiatus).
    • FYI - you can subscribe below my blog post to receive The Wonky Press newsletter directly in your inbox, 2x a month.

    •  I used to have a popup with HelloBar (which was pretty non-intrusive IMO - what I wanted - but then they made closing it a paid feature, and I'm not willing to upgrade at this very moment) and then with MailChimp (the "x" was too small and difficult to see on mobile phones) so for now I'm without a popup. I know lots of people don't like them, but the popup brought a lot of browsing readers into my world, and it's a great tool for building a newsletter. I really just want to share the content with as many interested parties as possible. :)

    • You can also see links to all 40 issues on this page, plus troubleshooting suggestions (if you're not seeing it come up in your email, for example!).

    • Something I've learned from having Gmail - it's likely the issue lands in your Promotions folder - so check there!
Thanks for all your support and for making the quilting world a great place to be!

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Inspired by the Sketchbook

 Part of this post was originally written for The Wonky Press newsletter, issue 37. I write special articles for the newsletter every two weeks - you can subscribe for free at the bottom of this post.

My sketchbook is overflowing. I'd grab it in a fire; I could remake most quilts, but not my ideas. Lately, I haven't been too inspired to draw quilt designs because I'm diligently working on book projects (which I designed months and years ago). In the past, though, I've been known to utilize those inviting graph paper pages even for practicing free motion quilting motifs.

I like having one place to reference all of my ideas. Sometimes, I'll remember I've drawn something and search hurriedly for it. It can be like wading through the mud, though, as there's quite a lot of doodling and experimentation gone awry. Sometimes I find a pearl of inspiration in a mess. Those pages are worn down for all the right reasons.

Back when I was new to improvisational quilting, I drew out every. single. block. of my Facets of Emerald quilt. This quilt, which was meant to look like a gem, would have been better paper pieced, but I was determined to sew it together improvisationally. I took many of the ideas and twisted them a bit to allow for inaccuracy and whimsy versus precision. Funny that I found this sketch right after I entered the current Pantone Challenge (this was my 3rd-place-winning mini quilt entry 4 years ago).

Needless to say, there are designs that I've been itching to create for years. One is Burst, my recent quilt for the RJR Fabrics "What Shade Are You?" blog hop. The challenge was to make something out of their Cotton Supreme Solids (of which there are early 200 - full disclosure, I received the fabrics from RJR), and my orange peel design leapt from the pages. I drew it at least 2 years ago.

I used my sketchbook to test the colors - which ones would look best in the middle square, versus the outside border? I went with the top - it glowed.

 Sometimes, I make little pictorial quilts for people I love. This is a sketch of two characters from the game Final Fantasy X - which I then made into a little quilt. I love the sketch even more than the quilt, I think.


Also, I recently found my sketch of a minimal pinwheel, based on the traditional pinwheel block. When editor Lisa Ruble of the free Modern by the Yard e-zine asked if I would be willing to write another pattern for them, the design jumped to my mind. Paired with a background of two greens (for depth), this little quilt was perfect for spring. And it's super easy to make! I can't remember when I sketched this design, but it's early on in my book. Thanks to Benartex for providing the fabrics and opportunity to bring it to life.

Just what else, I wonder, is hidden in my sketchbook these days? Hopefully I'll get the chance (soon) to investigate further. Sometimes, all I need is paper and colored pencils. Do you use a main sketchbook to track your sewing and/or designing, or do you rely on your computer to catalog ideas? Or a little bit of both?

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