Thursday, December 29, 2016

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017!

I already know that 2017 is going to be a great year. It has to be (right?), since 2016 was a crazy, crazy year. It was a tough year for my family but we made it through (I haven't explained this fully in the interest of privacy). 2016 wasn't kind to the world either, at least from my perspective (though this Google video really cheered me up. Well done, Google!).

 16 quilts for 2016 - totally unplanned! Almost all are my own designs. Links to all of these projects (explaining process and featuring more pictures) are available in my Portfolio.

However, I want to focus on the positives! This was the first year I was officially published in a few magazines. It was thrilling to see my name in print. I'm still all about the personal quilt challenges though - stretching my creativity and trying new things. If I'm going to piece a simply-constructed quilt, you can bet I'm going to try some challenging quilting. Because I LOVE quilting!

 Also, 16 mini quilts for 2016. How did that happen?! Most of these were made for others.

I also traveled a lot this year for classes and lectures. Most memorably, I visited the Baltimore MQG and Country Quilters Guild in Pine Bush, NY for a couple of weekends, and I was the keynote speaker at the Colonial Quilters' quilt show in Easton, PA. It's such a thrill to be able to meet you all IN PERSON and connect with you. I'm a teacher at heart and I love to talk about quilts, so this segment of my life is a match made in heaven.

 Many, but not all, of my other 2016 makes

My quilts traveled further west than I (so far): "Home" to QuiltCon in Pasadena, and "Soar" and "Deconstructed Churn Dash" to the Ontario Museum of History and Art in CA (this exhibit of modern quilts based on traditional blocks is up until Jan. 22! I wish I could go). "Home" also won a modern theme ribbon at PNQE. It was a fun year for my quilts, to be sure.

Here's "Soar" hanging at the Ontario Museum of History & Art. Isn't that yellow wall just divine? Thanks to Georganna Hawley for the photo!

Here were my 2016 Goals:

1. Stay away from swaps. YES! I didn't fall into this trap. I only made for a few swaps and they were carefully chosen, for people I already know. I think I've set a manageable pace, and I really enjoyed having the time to make

2. Create and produce my first pattern. I did write several patterns for magazines but I haven't produced any on my own. I'd say 75% of this goal was met!

3. Pitch article ideas and create projects for more publications. Check.

4. Teach more classes/give more lectures locally and at guilds everywhere. This was my busiest year yet, and next year looks just as busy (some are still in the works and aren't official yet, but I can't wait!)

5. Develop the community segment of The Wonky Press newsletter. I worked on this and it paid off. Next year's focus is on color and I've been receiving a lot more submissions. My hope is to keep readers engaged and excited to share their quilt stories.

6. Keep my focus and continue to put myself out there. This summer I buckled down and sent out tons of proposals and applications. For every magazine project or article published, or quilt accepted to a show, there are at least 3 rejections (usually more). Rather than take it personally, I keep trying!

Regardless, I'm feverishly preparing for my first solo exhibition in March, there are several exciting things coming up this year, I'm teaching 2 classes at the Quilt and Sewing Fest of NJ, and I'll be submitting to International Quilt Festival and MQX at the very least. My goal is to stay involved and engaged with the quilting community in as many ways as possible.

7. Keep fabric buying to a minimum and REALLY "use what I have." I bought a lot of fabric this year, but I can say that going into 2017, with several large projects looming, I'm set for a while. I'm sure I'll still go shopping here and there though.

8. Try some more simple paper piecing. If the need arises. I don't think I did any paper piecing this year, and I'm okay with that. :P

9. Decide where to go next in my quilt teaching career. I have, and I can't wait to share more with you when the time comes.

So, in 2016, I finished a LOT of WIPs and UFOs. That's because I made it my mission. All of those projects really stretched me and I'm thrilled to be able to enjoy them now. I really wish our guild's former WIP contest was going on. :D Anyway, I'm really thrilled to have worked through lots of my projects... to make way for the new.

1. Finish my epic AMH medallion so we can actually use it this winter! DONE!!
2. Finish my Doe scrap quilt (pictured above). DONE!!
3. Finish my 2015 Sisterhood quilt (which should be arriving back at my house soon). Not done. The top is, though! This is something I'd like to work on next year. I'm in love with this quilt.
4. Finish my Mod Corsage quilt from Anna Maria Horner's class at QuiltCon 2015. DONE!!
5. Make another Disney mini quilt (start a series?) DONE!!


And the 2017 goals:

1. Use my Quilter's Planner to actually plan. I used my 2016 planner for the first few months, and fell out of practice in the summer when I had more free time (thus, I didn't need to plan it out!). I'd like to start off in January right away.

2. Write more. This is already happening - I'll have a published article to share with you soon. Last year I wrote an article for Sew Mama Sew on round robin bees, and biweekly pieces for The Wonky Press, separate from this blog. I really do love writing.

3. Widen my teaching scope. This coming summer I will apply to more venues. I've also considered online teaching but I just don't have the time to devote to it yet (so, if you've asked me about it, I'm more than willing to travel and teach in person, but I don't have any classes in the works online). Next year includes trips to guilds in NJ, NY, PA, and DE, plus Savannah for QuiltCon (just hanging around the quilt show/vendor hall, sitting in on a few lectures, and meeting up with people), Quilt & Sewing Fest of NJ, and Lancaster for Mid Atlantic Mod.

4. Develop a quilt-a-long for summer. I've run one every summer for the past several years. The Quilty Habit Facebook group was (to my surprise) a great success, and the Star Light, Star Dark QAL was my favorite QAL yet. I'll be sending out some feelers soon.

5. Develop a quilt-a-long for 2018. I have the sketches down - I just need to make the time to do it. Hopefully later in the year. This would be my first time running a QAL for a whole year. I'm so excited to share this particular pattern with you; it's been sitting in my brain for far too long.

6. Blog at least 2x a week. This year I blogged a little less than 2015, and I expect that number will go down in 2017. I am not going anywhere, but I need more time to devote to my large secret project deadlines and to The Wonky Press. There are only so many hours in a day! So, if it's a little quiet around here, you'll know why.

 I'll be blogging about this very personal mini quilt in the New Year.

I do this to keep myself organized. Publishing it here on the blog keeps me accountable. :D

Immediate WIPs:
  • Brother's quilt - due early Feb. for his birthday - quilt and bind
  • Improv Fall Landscape quilt - quilt and bind to debut in my solo exhibit
  • "Today I Feel" wholecloth quilt - bind to debut in my solo exhibit
Long term WIPs:
  • Meadow quilt - needs to be quilted and bound. This one is a long time coming. I honestly don't know when it will happen, though.
  • Purple scrap quilt - needs to be pieced together 
  • Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts from 2015 - make backing, baste, quilt, bind
Definite projects:
  • Sashiko stitching - so relaxing. Quite simply, I love it.
  • More hand quilting - yay! My current obsession.
  • Quilt for RJR What Shade Are You? blog hop
  • More orange peels. Always more orange peels. I'm still exploring!
Possible/hopeful projects:
  • Geeky awesome quilt with my husband (we have been meticulously planning this, and we have the fabric already!). This may not get started for a while, but it's fun to think about.
  • Linen/chambray/canvas picnic blanket - I've been gathering fabrics. 
  • Wedding quilt for October
Is it January 1st yet? Let's go, 2017!!

2017 Planning Party

Linking up to 2017 Planning Party at Quilting Jetgirl
Crazy Mom Quilts

    Wednesday, December 28, 2016

    Best of 2016 - Blog Posts

    Despite the easiness of other forms of communication and sharing (aka Instagram), I love to blog. Those of you who have been with me for a while especially know that. :) I appreciate that Cheryl of Meadow Mist Designs runs a link up at the end of the year to once again share our favorite and/or best blog posts. Writing is so important to me; I decided to choose 5 posts for 3 different categories.

    Epic Anna Maria Horner Medallion quilt (above)
    Emergence quilt (below)
    Fractured Cathedral Window quilt
    Sashiko Addiction: Orange Peel Pillow
    Week 1: Wholecloth Quilt Challenge (this quilt is ongoing - a finish post is coming in the new year)

    Discussions and Editorials
    Originality and Individuality
    What It's Like to Teach a Quilting Class
    The Great Stitch Length Debate 
    What's In A Name?
    Thoughts on Quilt Guild Leadership

    Just For Fun
    Quilt Parade - Star Light, Star Dark QAL (my two versions are above)
    Top Ten Tips: Items to Pack for a Quilt Retreat
    Quilting in GIFs: Quilt Retreat Edition 
    Teaching My Mom To Quilt
    Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza 2016 Recap

    Please enjoy exploring the blog posts of my fellow quilting bloggers, too! I'll be back on Friday with my end of the year recap.

    Monday, December 26, 2016

    Handmade Holidays 2016

    Every year, I consider making less gifts for the holidays, and then I rethink it. There have been times where I've been rushing to the last minute to finish up just one more gift, or a big quilt for someone, but I've gotten better at managing my holiday season. One way to be better is start before November, but usually, I'm still planning at that point.

    Anyway, I love to give gifts, but I'm really *not* a big fan of the consumerism that rises up around this time of year (for example, shopping anywhere on Thanksgiving... no thank you). I'd much rather make gifts, and now that I've been sewing for six years, I'm confident that my gifts will be alike or better than store quality (hopefully better). So, I make more and more handmade gifts every year, and they are well-received. This year, 75% of the gifts from my husband and I are made (though this did not come without lots of effort)!

    Plus... when one of your nieces can't stop hugging her handmade pillow, you know you've done something right. I have no regrets.

    One of my favorite gifts to give is a double sided table runner. I bought the wintery fabric for the Christmas side years ago at Pennington Quilt Works, and it's not quite my taste anymore. However, I thought (and hubby agreed) that my mother-in-law would love it. It will look perfect in her warm, predominately brown kitchen. Plus, the other side is simple strips of fall fabrics, so she can easily use it for half the year if she wishes (fall and winter, not just Thanksgiving and Christmas). :) She loved it!

    What do you make or give a 1 year old boy? This year, I made fabric balls for the first time using this tutorial and template from Stitches and Love; the first one took 10 minutes, so I made a second one! I gathered up my Cotton and Steel fabrics, Poly-fil, and some jingle bells to add to the inside. My husband thought they were from the store, and I was pleased to tell him that I had made them myself. They are sewn together tightly and accurately, so I'm not worried about anything getting out (and if it does, it will be a quick and easy fix). I hope my nephew enjoys playing with them at home; he definitely enjoyed them yesterday at Christmas. For reference, they fit right in my hand!

    I also made some scarves out of knit fabric for my nieces, using Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin with Stacie Stukin. Thanks to Maggie @squishythings, my guild friend, for lending it to me. Two things about these scarves: they look adorable (if I may say so myself - see below), and they were entirely made from scraps, including several t-shirts.

    Bonus: I have an old Snuggie that was never used, so I cut it up - it's so soft and warm as a scarf! That's the bright pink layer in the side two scarves. I will DEFINITELY return to this project, and they were well-received!

    I made scarves for my coworkers out of of voile and knit (left and middle), according to their tastes. I almost kept the Anna Maria Horner one from myself (it's SO WARM) but I resisted (I could always make another). The right scarf was made for my sister out of metallic voile by Rifle Paper Co. for Cotton + Steel. She's going to be a world traveler this summer so I thought it was appropriate to have such a luxurious, long scarf. Plus, she'll have a piece of me the whole time. By the way, this tutorial by Sew4Home is my favorite one for infinity scarves.

    I made the ever-popular stuffed oblong pillow (again, with Poly-fil) for one of my nieces, who didn't yet have a birthday to receive one. I'll probably make her a scarf for her birthday next year. I also made a couple of these in red and purple for my other nieces' recent birthdays, but forgot to take pictures. This is my own pattern and it's always fun to make.

    One of my older nieces, who lives nearby, is VERY interested in learning how to use a sewing machine. I promised her that she could come over soon and we would work together.

    I made her this little bag, a smaller Ellie Travel Case by Fabric Mutt, filled with notions and fabric for her to use. I passed along a special pair of scissors and a seam ripper from my own collection. She's 9 and she's going to be a fabulous sewist; I can tell already. :)

    This was the first year I made ornaments for all of the families within my family. I hope to do this every year. I used this tutorial by Devoted Quilter (Free Motion Quilted ornaments). I collect ornaments and many of my family members do, too.

    Finally, one or two people receive a custom handmade quilt from me (one day, all of my family and friends will have one, I think), but this year, I only made one. It's a joint Christmas and birthday present for my younger brother, and he is really excited about it (hint: it combines improvisational piecing and a large beer bottle). That piece has yet to be quilted but there's no pressure to finish it for Christmas. He still got to open it, though, and he very much approves. More soon.

    Did you make gifts this holiday season? Either way, hats off to you - we made it through another holiday season. I'm ready to relax and start 2017 with a fresh outlook. How about you?

    Wednesday, December 21, 2016

    Evergreen Pillows in Modern Patchwork + Giveaway

     *The giveaway is closed, and Lee is the winner! She has been emailed. Thank you!*

    I get my best sewing ideas late at night. If I have time to quilt during the day, I save my computer and design work for the late hours (the extra natural light during daytime helps a lot with quilting!). Late one spring night, I sent a sketch of some wintery pillows to Modern Patchwork magazine, and I was thrilled when they accepted!

    Picture from Modern Patchwork, Winter 2017 edition

    The idea for the pillows came about while I pondered my obsession with blue and log cabins built to the side (just a little touch of modern, if you will). When the pillows sit side by side, they create an abstract tree. They're perfect for all winter long, right? Not just the Christmas season. When I make seasonal gifts or decorations, I tend to prefer those that last beyond holidays.

    For quilting, my main goal was to mimic the angle of the tree in each pillow, so that it radiates out. Additionally, I like to quilt most of my pillows less densely, otherwise I don't find them as comfortable. So...

    ...I decided to quilt with a simple straight line, though I changed the space between the lines and thread colors to add interest (Aurifil 2805 [light blue] and Aurifil 2024 [white]). You can also see the lovely shine from the Cirrus Solids I used (yarn dyed crossweaves by Cloud9 Fabrics - Limestone, Sky, and Lagoon).

    These particular pillows have already found a home on my couch, but I think they'd make a great hostess gift. I'd love to see someone make them in other colors! Maybe white/green, white/red, or gold/white, or more blue. One of the pillows on its own would make a statement in a modern home, too.

    To celebrate my first inclusion in Modern Patchwork (like, you can actually get it at Target and Barnes and Noble - that's super cool), I'm giving away a copy of the Winter 2017 edition. Thank you to F+W Media for providing a second copy!

    I'll also throw in a bunch of larger scraps, so tell me what color or kind of scraps you are looking for in a comment. If you're not looking for scraps, tell me what particular fabric print you are thinking about today (mine is Anna Maria Horner's In The Clearing flannel from a few years ago... sigh).

    You can have a second entry if you follow me and leave a comment mentioning one way (Bloglovin, Feedly, Wonky Press, Instagram, Facebook, etc.).

    This giveaway is open to US entrants only this time (sorry, international friends) from 12/21 - 12/27. I'll choose a winner with the Random Number Generator and email them, so please make sure your email address is attached to the account you post with, or include it in your comment(s).

    I hope you enjoy the magazine! There are a ton of lovely, modern winter projects to make (read: not just for December - as we are, suddenly, close to January). I'll be back next week with my 2016/2017 review/goals post. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

    Sunday, December 18, 2016

    Sunday Stash

    I recently had the distinct pleasure of visiting Purl Soho in NYC for the first time. I've been a huge fan of their shop and projects for so long (probably since I started sewing 6 years ago). As a little birthday gift to myself, I bought some quarter yards of Watercolor Linen for my linen/canvas/possibly chambray picnic blanket project (more about that sometime next year, I hope. I'm still collecting fabric though). I had never seen linen like this - they will be the perfect, glimmering solids for my project. Ah!

    Then, I also used my birthday month discount to buy a few pieces I've had my eye on at my LQS, Pennington Quilt Works. Only the bottom right Cotton and Steel print was for a specific purpose (my picnic blanket). Yum.

    Clockwise from top left: PB Textiles Bear Essentials, Cotton and Steel "Tulips" from Bluebird, Hemma by Lotta Jansdotter, Rifle Paper Co. for Cotton and Steel, "Artisan" by Kaffe Fassett

    Oh, you wanted to see more from my NYC trip? I have plenty of photographic evidence that I did, indeed, visit the craft mecca of the city...

     I knew I had come to the right place!

    This quilt and that ceiling. Sigh. Seriously, go to Purl Soho and try to look away from that ceiling (I promise there are a million fabulous distractions, but I do love a good ceiling pattern).

     The famous Liberty embroidery hoop wall, as soon as you walk in the door.

    Speaking of Liberty, I *almost* bought some for my souvenir. Then I spotted the linen.

    Peekaboo, I see you, Empire State Building! This was taken from Bryant Park. :)

    Linking up to Sunday Stash

    Wednesday, December 14, 2016

    Week 5: Wholecloth Quilt Challenge

     The "Today I Feel" Quilt is my ongoing large wholecloth quilt project. I'm writing one post every week about the past week's phrases, which answer the prompt, "Today, I feel...." You can read more about the project on Week 1's post and my daily expansions on each phrase on Instagram under the hashtag #todayifeelquilt. The threads are generously sponsored by Aurifil Threads.

    Week 5 is the second to last week of this quilt! I only have enough space to write 7 more phrases or so. December has been a very event-heavy month (you can read more about that on my Instagram), and I'm looking forward to a little relaxation as the holidays approach.

    I thought I'd use one of my last posts to talk about the logistics of the project, so here goes!

    I started writing at the bottom right corner. Why? I didn't really think about it. It was a comfortable place (if you've quilted on a domestic machine before, you'll recognize it as the place where you'll have the least amount of bulk). As I quilted that first week's phrases, I started to think about how I'd proceed from week to week. Ultimately, it made sense to quilt in a circle (see above) and end right where I started. So I filled up the right side of the quilt from the bottom up.

    What did that mean for basting? Well, I'm constantly checking and rechecking the backing. I spray basted and then added tons of safety pins. As I'm nearing the starting point, I'm worried that it will puff up a little (when you free motion quilt you're *supposed* to quilt FROM the middle, not TOWARDS other quilting - so you can avoid this).

    If it does puff up... I'll just quilt in the tucks and deal with it. It's my quilt, it's raw and emotional, and the quilt will reflect that. And if it doesn't puff up, I'll send a thanks up to the quilting gods!

    Jane asked if I could give some tips on burying threads. I'll be back with that soon. Otherwise, send a blessing up to the quilting gods for me as I finish up this last week!

    Thursday, December 8, 2016

    Fractured Cathedral Window: A Finished Quilt

    I always forget how satisfying small quilts are. Not just mini quilts, but small quilts in general - baby quilts, wall quilts, and the like. I've spent a long time with an automatic "go big or go home" mindset, so it was refreshing to start this project and realize that it didn't NEED to be bigger (it's 29" x 24")!

    I am infatuated with traditional cathedral windows quilts. I even made one once (below - "Circus Tent"). Mind you, it was a mini quilt, but it was very precise, took forever and a half, and used a lot of fabric (3 things I usually try to avoid). Plus, I'm always excited about pulling out traditional blocks and modernizing them. So, I took inspiration from a single block and remade the diamond, using pieced curve techniques that I teach in my Waterfall quilt class (not bias tape applique, though I could have done so).

     "Circus Tent" mini quilt, made for a Flickr swap back in 2012

    It's certainly hard to imagine that the quilt once looked like this! These were simply bricks of solid fabric that the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild swapped last year. I only took out a couple of colors from the stack to arrange them vertically in a visually-pleasing rainbow formation.

    One of my most valuable takeaways from this project is the improvised background. I am always mesmerized with improv quilts that are cut into and changed, because the piecing spreads all over the quilt. There are a couple of spots on this quilt where just a tiny shimmer of fabric shows, because that's where an arc was pieced in. I explained the process of how I pieced the background in this post from August.

    The "fractures" in the diamond were actually a happy accident. These curves are long and unwieldy, so the quilt top had severe ripples (this is common for curves). I calmed them using a technique from Sherri Lynn Wood's lovely Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, and those "fractures" were the result. I thought about cutting into the quilt more to make it even wonkier and more off balance, but it seemed subtle enough to shine through.

    Okay, the quilting. So much to say about this little quilt and I haven't even talked about my favorite part of the process yet! My goal was to emphasize the orange peels that happen as a secondary design on cathedral windows.

    I used a healthy mixture of thread colors and weights for machine quilting - Aurifil 2600 (Dove Gray, 50 and 28 weight), 2024 (white, 50 and 28 weight), 2520 (light purple), and 2805 (light blue). The purple and blue give the middle of the quilt (below) some extra shine. I also decided to only quilt the middle with my free motion foot and without marking to give those diamonds some extra "wonk" or crookedness. Imperfection is perfect.

    The heavier weight threads served a purpose in the orange peels; combined with very thick hand stitching with DMC floss and perle cotton, the outer part of the quilt is very textured. I LOVE it. I could have added even more quilting but this stopping point felt "right."

    My fabric stash thanked me for making this quilt (I actually heard it speaking to me - maybe I need to get out more? :) ). Not only did I utilize almost all the solids from that guild swap - I used up my last large piece of this Anna Maria Horner print for the backing (from the Dowry fabric line).

    This was only the second time I blocked a quilt. Instead of following 1 tutorial, I took a bunch of tips from several and tried something. I threw the whole thing in the bathtub to start and soaked it in Synthrapol so that the solids wouldn't run on the white (that would have ruined the whole effect, and no, I'm not a prewasher, and no, I don't plan on becoming one). Then, I pinned it flat on my carpet and let it dry out for an entire day. The result was a VERY flat quilt, which is a huge improvement! Plus, the crinkle is lovely. I'm thrilled!

    This project is one of my very favorites from 2016. It looks to my past (improv, curves, machine quilting) and to my future (hand and machine quilting combinations). I'm so pleased to finally share it with you today! Lesson learned: make more small projects.

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


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