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!

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?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Why Make Political Quilts?

Recently, in the aftermath of making my Women's March quilt, some asked why I'm suddenly making quilts with political messages. I thought the topic warranted at least a blog post, so here goes.

One of the best parts of making is the freedom to create whatever I want. I rarely follow a pattern because I enjoy creating my own designs. If there is a suggested color palette for a pattern or challenge, I tend to shy away from that and choose my own colors. That being said, I LOVE that quilting gives me opportunity. If I find a reason to make a quilt, I can figure out a way to make it. That is empowering!

Lately, I've felt empowered to quilt. To spread a message. To thank someone. To raise money (more on that soon). To submit to exhibits. These are reasons many of us create at one time or another.

In terms of speaking out about politics, I don't have qualms about sharing my beliefs online. My goal is to never be hateful but hopeful. I create with a positive spin on something that angers me (the above quilt is a sneak peek of one I'll be sharing shortly).

If you feel isolated by my political quilts, I'm sorry that you feel that way, but I'm not going to change who I am or silence myself to satisfy others. You can simply choose not to read and/or comment. I'd be sorry to see you go, of course. If you have different political beliefs than me, it's really okay. It doesn't matter. I still want to be your friend and chat with you. The moment we stop talking with people who believe differently than us, we enclose ourselves further into our bubbles. That's the opposite of what we all need. 

Two more notes:

-Many quilters have articulated discomfort or extreme adversity to political quilts in general (sidenote - why is "politics" so often used as a negative term?). I was surprised to receive these comments and emails, but now I'm prepared. I've responded politely to them all, but I thought I'd share some of the comments and my responses in this post:

  • "Quilts simply don't belong in politics; they're just fun and relaxing crafts" (That's never been the case for everyone [plus, if you're interested, see more examples linked from my Women's March quilt post] - and further, I actually feel relaxed when I craft with a message in mind)...

  • "You shouldn't be talking about this issue because it's not an issue" (Maybe it's not an issue to you, but it is to me... the more we listen to each other and acknowledge our different experiences, the better off we'll be. Saying there is no issue is ignoring the issue)...

  • "There's too much going on with politics! I'm so tired of hearing about it, please don't contribute further" (I'm tired of hearing it, too, which is why I'm inspired to make art. Political issues aren't going anywhere. Instead of closing myself off, I'm finding ways to work through my thoughts. This is the way I've chosen to cope. It's not better or worse than another's way, but it makes me happy).

-If political quilts make you uncomfortable or make you think, that's the point. Just because a quilt does that doesn't mean it's any less of a quilt than one made simply for fun, or that we should discount it or silence the maker. When you walk into an art museum, do you see paintings and sculptures inspired by political events? Do you see art that makes you uncomfortable? I bet you do. I certainly do. Why should quilts be any different?

Further, I think it's wonderful that The Modern Quilt Guild exhibits "statement quilts" in their annual modern quilt show, QuiltCon. I'm assisting with United We Quilt, an ongoing show of progressive work online, which you can submit to for free. Museums and quilt shows all around the United States will be exhibiting the Threads of Resistance traveling show in the upcoming year. So many quilters have so much to say. You have the power to engage in it too, if you so choose.

Thanks for reading, and as always, I'm willing to chat with you further. Thanks to all who have been so supportive of my recent direction of quilting (it's certainly not ALL I'm making, though!). As always, happy sewing to you all.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Loves Me, Loves Me Not" - Pantone Challenge mini quilt

This year, the Pantone Color of the Year is Greenery. I've never been a huge fan of green, but my fabric stash says otherwise. Anyway, Pennington Quilt Works (my awesome LQS) gifted our guild 2 bolts of Kona Lime to start a mini quilt challenge, and I had to admit that this particular shade of green is lovely.

It took a while to pin down inspiration for this quilt, which had to be 18" square (I like to "go big or go home," even with mini quilts). While flipping through my sketchbook, I found an orange peel design from at least 2 years ago. It reminds me of that scene in Disney's The Little Mermaid when Ariel pulls petals off a flower ("he loves me, he loves me not"). In a less romantic sense, it's a graphic design with an unexpected modern element (one peel falling to the side).

Instead of trying straight applique orange peels like usual, though, I was itching to form them with improvisational curves; I had just worked on improv curve blocks for one of the group quilts at the Mid-Atlantic Mod retreat. I really loved adding in random prints to complement the solids.

I had forgotten how much I LOVE sewing improv curves, and, well, curves in general. Once you get the hang of it, it's quite fun. So I set to work creating 3 white and purple petals and one green petal falling off (why purple? Because it's the best color, and it looks amazing with green!). I adhered Heat N Bond Lite to the backs of the peels before raw-edge-appliqueing them onto an improvised green background. Some of the background scraps disappeared under the applique, but I was prepared for that.

Finally, I decided to quilt the whole thing to emphasize the falling petal (with wavy lines, one of my favorite FMQ motifs). Instead of just pebbling around the rest of the "flower," I quilted smaller and bigger pebbles in groups to create interest.

To achieve this effect, I used up ample amounts of Aurifil 5017 (lime green) because pebbles take a lot of thread! I also used bits of Aurifil 2870 (medium green) to accent the wavy lines. Quilting can shine in a graphic, modern quilt, too! I think this mini quilt will bring cheer to our new home when we move in a couple of weeks (hence this blog being a bit quiet lately). :)

I had to miss the April meeting, but luckily my guild mates are bringing the 30+ challenge quilts again to next week's May meeting (see some of them here!). In addition, they will be on display at Pennington Quilt Works soon and then PNQE (Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza) this fall. I can't wait to see them all together!

Thank you so much to Pennington Quilt Works for the solid fabric. And thanks to Sarah @nohatsquilts and Rebecca @bryanhousequilts for hosting the Pantone Quilt Challenge, which is opening up May 19, tomorrow! I'm entering this one in the mini quilt category - you can see all the entries here through the end of the month. Enjoy!

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A letter to quilted pebbles

Dear Quilted Pebbles,

You are my favorite quilting motif, hands down. I'm not quite sure what it is about you that makes me want to quilt you all the time. After all, you use up an exorbitant amount of thread. You make my shoulders hurt. Plus, you take a long time to quilt. And when there's a tension mishap, the un-sewing takes even longer.

My current Pantone Quilt Challenge project - more next week.

But, you create AMAZING texture. There are a million different options for creating you (small, large, mixed, oblong, circular, in a line, as a filler, as a cascade... I could go on).

I'll never forget the first time I tried quilting you back in 2012. I wanted to create a cobblestone path like the one I had walked on in Prague. So, I just went for it, and I was hooked.

All in all, pebbles, I'll always do the hard work to make you happen. Never change.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sunday Stash - Retreat Edition

It's been a week since I returned from the 4th annual Mid-Atlantic Mod sewing retreat (read my recap here), and I actually have some stash additions to share! I've been really good about clearing out fabric and materials I no longer use/need. Also, I've been destashing fabric that's no longer my style. However, I gathered up an interesting assortment in three days, between the swag bag, pre-shopping at 1 Choice 4 Quilting, and shopping at The Old Country Store and Zooks. Lancaster, PA fabric shopping is no joke.

My favorites amongst these: the Mod mug (AH! I love big mugs), the Goddess Sheet (won in a giveaway by my guild friend Michele and gifted to me - I used one for the first time and loved it - thank you for your kindness, Michele!), top purple leaf fabric from Zooks (it's so me), and the Literary fabric (library book dates) I found at Old Country Store.

Oh, and I treated myself to a lace zipper and variegated purple Valdani thread from the last shop. Yum. I already have plans for that thread in my next portable hand-stitching project.

Finally, check out the glimmer of this Essex linen bundle by Robert Kaufman. It was begging to be photographed. I rarely buy bundles, but all the fabrics in this bundle matched my future linen picnic blanket project, so I went for it. Thank you, 1 Choice 4 Quilting (affiliate link - but I wouldn't link to something I didn't 100% love)!

I'm thrilled to purchase some fabric for future projects. In the meantime, I'm being much more aware of what's in my fabric stash already; I've only been buying fabrics that I need for a specific project, or ones that fill a distinct color hole in my collection. And after I'm done with book sewing, I have big plans.

P.S. Within the next month, I'll be having a large destash on @quiltyhabit_destash over on Instagram. Check it out if you're in the market for some modern fabric and scrap bundles by color.

Linking up to Sunday Stash.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

2017 Retreat Recap - Mid-Atlantic Mod

I'm finally unpacked and back to book sewing (yay!), so I thought I'd quickly recap where I was this weekend. This was the 4th year Jessica Levitt and Andrew Joslyn have expertly organized Mid-Atlantic Mod, a modern sewing retreat in Lancaster, PA. This year, members from 6 Modern Quilt Guilds + friends (76 quilters) met for a total of 4 days. There's nothing quite like sitting in a gigantic hotel ballroom with your sewing machine and friends, while a wedding and school dance happened right outside (different nights, of course). Here are some excerpts from my trip this year (I was there Friday - Sunday):

 It's hard to describe the scale of an event like this, but hopefully this picture captures it.

Once I arrived Friday night, we had a cocktail hour and show and tell. It was great to catch up with my own guild (I missed our last meeting, so it's been a month and half since I last saw them - and after 5 years together, some of us are very close!). I also had the opportunity to greet members of other MQGs that I've met through this retreat and teaching. It was a great way to start off a night of sewing! Thank you so much to the sponsors of the cocktail hour: 1 Choice 4 Quilting, Fabricworm, Gotham Quilts, Pink Door Fabrics, and Del Ray Fabrics!

My friend Linda shared this amazing bee quilt from our guild! She just finished it - and it's especially spectacular in person. I was going to share another member's bee quilt but I remembered that they asked it be kept secret for now. So I'll leave you with this picture of me sharing my "Burst" quilt - judging by my face, you might want to think twice about giving the microphone to a ham like me.

That night, I started working on my Pantone challenge quilt. This was due at the last guild meeting, but I'll bring it to this month's. I'm also going to enter the online Pantone challenge - how about you? Here's a sneak peek. I actually got a lot done on this project over 3 days.

 I had to test how comfy "Burst" really is - I haven't washed it yet, but it kept me warm that night.

The next morning, I had a lovely breakfast at a local joint with Linda and Susan from my guild, plus Ann from the Lancaster MQG. Then, we went fabric shopping at two of our sponsoring shops: Zook's and Old Country Store (below, where you can see Lin's pure excitement). Fabric shopping in Lancaster is like stepping onto a fabric-covered planet. It's EVERYWHERE.

Saturday afternoon, I taught my Brick-by-Brick Improvisation workshop. Usually it's a three hour class, but the MOD classes are pared down to 1.5 hours. Here are just a few pictures from my adventurous and excited students. Thank you all for making my job so enjoyable.


The next day, I discovered who my secret sewist was: Sarah (@yorebelwoman)! When Chad and I plan this swap, we always assign partners as members of different guilds (Chad assigns my partner so that I'm surprised in the end). Sarah left me thoughtful, well-made, and rebellious gifts for 3 days, including this amazing mini quilt. This was her first time writing with free motion quilting (she watched my webinar first! Isn't that cool? It says, "Nevertheless, she persisted"). I LOVE it, Sarah. THANK YOU!

My secret partner was Hayley from the Philly guild, who I hadn't known before. Hayley doesn't have much of her work online so at first it was hard to decide what to make her. Besides other smaller gifts and fabric, I ended up sewing this bear paw pillow of Tula Pink fabrics (she mentioned loving modern traditionalism, Tula, mint green, and lilac).

Funnily enough, I befriended Hayley over the weekend, starting at the cocktail hour, but I swear it wasn't because she was my secret partner. :) She said she couldn't believe it was me in the end! This swap is my favorite part of MOD, I think.

Okay, last few photos! Here's a final picture of one of the progressive quilts I worked on over the 3 days, with 11 other quilters - the theme was "quadrants." It was a lot of hard work, and Paulette from my guild won it! She ended up gifting it to Jess Levitt, who promised that she and I could quilt it together (YAY! All I ever want to do is quilt one of the progressive quilts, so this made my day). Great job to all who participated.

I also got the opportunity to quilt about a third of my own bee quilt with a curve theme (from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts). This will likely be my go-to "for fun" project whenever we have guild sewing days this year.

I stopped on the way home to visit my brother for dinner. Thanks, bro. :)

And one more picture of our guild's 16 attending members! I'll share more about my fabric acquisitions and swag in another post.

Phew. So, have you ever attended a quilt retreat? What was/is your favorite part, besides the sewing?


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