Saturday, July 14, 2018

Reorganizing Fabric and Scraps

Over 8 years of sewing, my fabric needs and preferences have changed many times (have you ever looked at a piece of fabric and thought: what was I thinking?!). I think it's important to reevaluate your hobby periodically and make the necessary changes (which is why I have frequent fabric destashes and give a lot away to my quilt guild and students). Your hobby is important and you have to make sure it fits your current space and needs.

Right now, I've come to terms with the fact that I'm making many more scrap quilts than those with yardage, so I'm paring down both my buying and fabric stash (for the record, I usually buy a half yard of something when I like it or need it). Plus, I really want to make quilts instead of holding onto fabric for years and years (this post by Jenny Kae Quilts says it all).

While going through my normal stash piles, I quickly noticed lots of small fabric pieces at fat quarter size or less; since they weren't stored with my scraps, I'd often forget about them. Also, the closet (shared with my husband's computer stuff) very clearly needed a complete makeover. I bought bins on sale at Target (score), which easily close and stack (my other, tiny ones, did not - see the size difference below). These are TWICE the size than the ones I was using! They fit my fat quarters of each color along with scraps. What a relief! Why did I wait so long?

Before, I was also using an assortment of Ziploc bags and shoe boxes to organize scraps. Not only did it look terrible but it was confusing (besides a general organization by color). I felt overwhelmed just stepping into the closet. I didn't give it the time and attention it needed... until now.

Now, I have more room to store scraps together. I combined colors together except for blue, purple, and green, which all needed their own bins (also, I have very few yellow scraps - believe it, Sarah! - so a small bin still holds those). I'm already feeling much more excited about diving into my scraps.

One part of my stash that will remain in tact through change is solids, since I use them possibly 75% more often and in abundance than I used to 4 or 5 years ago. While I don't keep track of them by company or name, I'm happy with the assortment I can pull from for any project. I seem to have accumulated a lot of purples and grays from over the years, and many of these are larger pieces. Solids have become absolutely essential to my quilt-making process (here, they are on the bottom of my storage unit).

Also, during this process, I went through my fabric stash 3 separate times and put together a huge pile to destash (see below). I'm also considering making up a few bundles for sale. I'll be posting these for sale on my separate Instagram account, quiltyhabit_destash, within the next month. Follow this IG account to get updates (sorry, US shipping only).

So, have you gone through your fabric lately? What's changed, if anything? Your taste, needs, space, etc.?


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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Delaware/Maryland Class Openings

I'm thrilled to embark on a 5-day lecture and workshop tour next week. Are you in the Lewes/Rehoboth Beach, DE or Easton, MD area? There are a few spots left in my Orange Peel and Improv classes! If you're interested, email me for the guild contacts (I don't want to post their emails online). Thank you!

Scatter.jpg Soar.JPG
Quilt designs and improvisation technique are originals by Jessica Skultety.  
  •  Workshop - Ocean Waves Quilt Guild, Lewes, DE
    • "Orange Peels and Improv" - Tuesday, July 10
    • 9am - 3pm
    • $48 for nonmembers
  • Workshop -  Bayside Quilters of Easton, MD
    • "Orange Peels and Improv" - Thursday, July 12
    • 9:30am - 4pm
Orange peels are beautiful and striking traditional blocks that can be manipulated in exciting ways. We'll pair them with "planned" improvisational piecing to make a scrap-friendly baby or wall quilt (44” x 55”) that you’ll be proud to show off! You’ll learn the “stitch and flip” method for making orange peels for machine applique. Then, you’ll use background fabric and my favorite improvisation technique, brick-by-brick, to stitch them into a modern quilt top uniquely your own.

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Monday, July 2, 2018

Intersection: Quilting Modern Quilts Blog Series

This is the 2nd of 6 quilts that I'm sharing as part of a series this summer, which explores ways to quilt modern, more minimalistic quilts (than what I usually make). To read a detailed introduction to the blog series, click here. Quilts featured so far: Electrify. Read to the end for a giveaway!

I was going to save this quilt until the end, but it has the same roots as the last quilt. It is one of my favorites of the group, mostly because it came out exactly as I envisioned and all the cool quilting I challenged myself with. This is Intersection.

The four cross design comes straight from the roof of an old house in Quakertown, NJ (the same roof as Electrify - you can read more about that here). I was completely taken with this design, which is a gorgeous, traditional layout of crosses.

I liked the idea of using a short, somewhat squat version of the Greek cross because it seems more unexpected and unusual. When designing this quilt, I thought it would be interesting to let part of the design disappear off the quilt, and after playing around, it seemed even more appropriate to include 2 different groupings of crosses.

Cirrus Solids used: Amazon (teal), Clementine (orange), Limestone (white), and Shamrock (green backing - see picture further down this post).

Since negative, or blank, space suddenly became a huge part of this design, a bright, bold color fit the bill. Plus, one common question I get about modern quilts is, "don't they have white backgrounds?" Just sometimes. :) Anyway, since I love cool range colors (blue/purple mostly), teal was an attractive choice. And lo and behold, dark orange is complementary to teal (directly across from it on the color wheel). Add some white to let it breathe. Let the orange be the exception.

Cirrus Solids by Cloud9 Fabrics were the fabrics that I really wanted to use for this quilt. They have a beautiful crossweave, which makes it a little difficult to photograph but also makes it shimmer in person. It's hard to convey the exact colors here. I've been working with Cirrus Solids for a long time and I always appreciate the wide range of colors, softness, and solidity. Thank you to Cloud9 for providing the fabrics for me to try out this design.

The quilting itself tested me. When I look at the quilt, I see a circular motif surrounding the outline of the crosses. The key to making this kind of minimalist quilt have an impact is quilting the negative space in an unusual way (that's how I go about it, at least). Once the idea popped into my head, there was no getting it out.

The quilt is quite large (59" across by 67" down), so the large pebble paths were the most intimidating part.  I have loved creating paths like this for a long time, but these are by far the largest I've quilted. I marked them with white chalk (it wasn't an exact science) and then simply filled them in with pebbles of all sizes. I really love the point where they meet (below).

Contrast in size and shape of the quilting can often make the quilt. I used the same color and weight of thread (a beautiful, glow-y turquoise Aurifil 2810, 40 weight) for both the pebble paths and background, and changing scale in the negative space really makes the difference.

I wanted the orange crosses to relate to the large pebble swathes, so I quilted a different pebble configuration there, in Aurifil 2240. Just now, I'm realizing that I used the same free motion motif (swirls) in the white crosses here and the background of the other quilt (with Aurifil 2024). Sometimes I surprise myself. :) I really enjoy using the opposite of the piecing design to quilt (curvy vs. angular, for example).

The final test was the matched binding. This quilt really didn't want a frame; it seemed to float. I actually save the matched binding for one of the last steps of finishing the entire quilt series, but it was easier than expected. It matches up just enough for me (I'm not interested in perfectionism, even if this one does go to a quilt show. That's just what I like. The quilt feels more human to me. :) ).

This quilt was a test of my quilting skills but I truly enjoyed every step. Isn't that what it's all about?

Thank you to Cloud9 Fabrics for sponsoring the fabric, The Warm Company for Warm and Natural batting, and Aurifil Thread for the threads. All opinions about materials are my own, honest ones.

Please note: some people have emailed me about releasing patterns of the quilts. While I'm flattered, sharing the measurements and methods are no longer in my plans, as I explained in the introduction post. If you derive a quilt from my design and share it publicly, I would greatly appreciate a link to my website and a caption noting that you were inspired by this design. This also goes for quilt shows. Thank you!


And today's giveaway is a fat quarter bundle of summery Kona Solids by Robert Kaufman (which I used to make samples and practice quilting) and a 2 pack of white chalk pencils, so you can practice your own marking!

Giveaway details: Runs from July 2 until July 9 at 12 am EST. Use the Rafflecopter below to enter  - this helps me when tallying votes. Once you comment on the blog, please be advised that it will not appear right away (I have to approve comments due to insane amounts of spam). You can still comment and not be entered in the giveaway if you so desire (just don't use Rafflecopter below). If you won a previous giveaway from this blog series, you cannot win again.

 Also, I will not be responding directly to all blog comments at this time due to volume and issues with Blogger (unfortunately). Sorry, U.S. entrants only, please. I will email the winner and if there is no response within 2 days or winner is not located in the U.S., I will randomly choose another winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Electrify: Quilting Modern Quilts Blog Series

Electrify is the first in my series of modern quilts to share with you this summer (click here to read the blog series introduction post). It's a design made to combine a classic plus block with an improvised scrappy look, and it has a story inspired by architecture. And it's certainly quilted to life (not death), which is how I prefer to finish off modern designs. :)

Several years ago I was traveling back and forth through Quakertown/Franklin, NJ to get to and from college. This route is a nice scenic one, which takes about the same time as the highway and purposefully avoids the infamous Flemington, NJ traffic circle (which is now even more confusing several years later, but I digress). Anyway, on one drive, I saw this AMAZING motif on a roof there. Every time I drove home, I looked for the roof but couldn't take a picture (I value my life much more than that). So, the image of four crosses joined together at the corners stuck in my head, and eventually, I drew it in my design notebook, hoping to make a quilt someday.

For this quilt, I wanted there to be purple (lots of purple! Bring on the purple quilts!) and finding just the right shade was important. I had made a computer mock up of each quilt for my book - see below - and after trying a couple color schemes, I quickly fell in love with purple, pink, and a touch of lime green, surrounded by gray and white (thank you, Paint, for making experimentation so easy!). This perfect-for-my-quilt purple is Thistle, one of Northcott's ColorWorks Premium Solids. I loved the purple so much that it became the backing and binding, too (see below). Here, the binding serves as a bright frame for the design.

Other ColorWorks solids used in this quilt: Lime, Super White, Smoke, and Fuchsia. What I like most about Northcott solids is that they are super soft (like silk, as they say) but they aren't slippery or buttery. No fraying - just a solid, well, solid - that comes in a huge variety of bright, modern colors. They also wash up nicely!

"Electrify," named for the joining strips, has a lot of modern quilting elements to me (though of course I didn't set out to purposefully check these off). Negative space, improvisation, bold colors, graphic design, and solid fabrics.

Now, the quilting. I struggled with the decision at first. The computer graphics made it easy to experiment with quilting motifs. Originally, I considered quilting straight lines from the middle, radiating out, because that's the movement I see in the design. However, since my book was about intermediate free motion quilting with little to no marking, this would have been difficult to do (really need a walking foot). Plus, since I love free motion, I wanted to take on the challenge of figuring out a different way to quilt.

The spirals in the background serve as a contrast from all the angular piecing. I matched thread colors (Aurifil 2024, white) because I hoped the texture would be enough (it was!). Several other thread colors add more interest to the rest of the design (Aurifil 1243 Dusty Lavender, 5017 Shining Green, and 4020 Fuchsia). For these projects, I had lots of opportunities to switch thread colors, and I definitely indulged!

My unexpectedly favorite part of this quilt is the improvised stripes because a. how I decided to quilt them (one of my favorite go-to motifs) and b. how the white strips on the ends fade into the background. Seeing this quilt come to life after several years of contemplation was positively thrilling. I made another quilt for the book that's also based on crosses, which I'll share in a few weeks.

Thank you to Northcott Fabrics for sponsoring the fabric, The Warm Company for Warm and White batting (which, to me, seems to make the white background shine even more in person), and Aurifil Thread for the threads. All opinions about materials are my own, honest ones.


And today's giveaway, sponsored by Northcott, is a Colorworks Premium Solids color card with 2 half yards - one of Thistle and one of Fuchsia!

Giveaway details: Runs from June 14 until June 22 at 12 am EST. Use the Rafflecopter below to enter  - this helps me when tallying votes. Once you comment on the blog, please be advised that it will not appear right away (I have to approve comments due to insane spam amounts). You can still comment and not be entered in the giveaway if you so desire (just don't use Rafflecopter below).

 Also, I will not be responding directly to all blog comments at this time due to volume and issues with Blogger (unfortunately). Sorry, U.S. entrants only, please. I will email the winner and if there is no response within 2 days or winner is not located in the U.S., I will randomly choose another winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Intro: Quilting Modern Quilts Blog Series

I'm SO excited to share a series of 6 quilts with you over the next few months! I'll be telling one quilt story every 2-4 weeks in order to reveal the bulk of work I completed in secret for over a year. But first, a little more background (in addition to this post - thank you for all of your kind words of support! I have responded to everyone I can locate an email for).

So - quilting modern quilts. Just like eating Reese's, there's no "wrong" way to do it; I don't pretend to be the definitive guide in any way. But it's a topic that fascinates me. A lot of modern quilting takes on a graphic nature, like straight lines (looooots of those, including matchstick quilting), boxes, waves, and echoing. I love movement and adding to the design I pieced, so I try my best to highlight the most important part of the design in some way. Adding that last layer of design can be so much more than utilitarian, if you want it to be!

Whenever I give my "Modern Quilting: What's All the Hubbub?" lecture, I always emphasize that there really isn't one definition to the modern quilting movement. I think it's important to be open to new ideas, as what is considered a modern quilt has changed already and will continue to change. For example, there used to be an emphasis on functional modern quilts but there also seems to be a more "modern art" focus lately, for those that are just meant for a wall or decoration (I'm looking especially at quilts hung at QuiltCon). There's a lot more that could be said here, but this is just an example for now. :)

Anyway, to me, these quilts are graphic and generally minimalist (*gasp* - I am SO NOT a minimalist!). In fact, they're probably some of my most "modern" quilts ever. They are simple in design, made especially to showcase the actual quilting. Because quilting can and does often make the quilt. When I go to QuiltCon (or any quilt show, really), what I most love to ogle is the actual quilting! You (or your longarmer) really have the power to take your original design to the next level.

As described in my recent post, I'm no longer writing a quilt book. Most of the book quilt ideas were taken from several pages from my quilt design notebook (I prefer graph paper and colored pencils over the computer). So, some of these designs have actually been in my head for well over 5 years! In this blog series, I'll be delving into the background behind each one (as much as I can remember). It was like a dream come true to block aside time to make these quilts!

While preparing to make the quilts, I already had most of the color schemes in mind. The designs all seemed to scream, "make me with bold, solid fabrics!!", so I reached out to a bunch of companies (some I had previous relationships with, some not) to see if they'd be willing to provide fabric and materials in exchange for public thanks and advertising. Every single one said yes, and I'm pleased to also provide a bit more about each company's solid fabrics (and thread and batting) as I tell the quilt stories. All of these thoughts will be my honest opinions (spoiler alert: all of the solids were AMAZING to work with. Every. single. one.).

Originally, the book was going to include patterns for these quilts, and the bulk of the book would focus on ideas for quilting them. Once I was considering self-publication, I did away with patterns completely and added more quilting content/inspiration/motifs to the outline of the book. I've been advised before that quilt books sell because of patterns, but I'm sure there are also a lot of people, like me, who hardly ever use patterns and just want the instruction/motifs/inspiration/etc. Since I'm no longer writing, it doesn't matter, but I will continue to impart some of the knowledge in my remaining workshops and lectures this year as it pertains.

Next week, I'll post the first quilt (and giveaway!). After that, the schedule will vary throughout the summer. I hope these quilts will inspire you to think outside the box when it comes to your own modern quilts!

This blog series is sponsored by the following companies. Thank you!


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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Why I'm No Longer Writing a Quilt Book

About a year ago to the day, I got home from work and received a phone call. On the other line was a representative of C&T Publishing, letting me know that they were dropping my book contract. At first, I was in total shock; I was 2 months from one of my biggest deadlines. Pen and paper in hand and somewhat in a daze, I jotted down some important info (several authors were being let go due to their downsizing in publishing books [which was later revealed officially in detail by Craft Industry Alliance], it was in my contract that this could happen, and I would receive an official letter in the mail).

Now, I know what you're thinking - you had/have options! You can still publish! Yes, I can. But do I want to? After a few months of considering all the options, I decided: no. Several friends were very helpful and encouraging; they pointed me in the direction of other publishers who might want to pick me up as an author. Otherwise, I could self-publish (there ARE so many options!), bring my books to workshops and lectures still, AND pave the way for others who might want to do the same. That certainly sounded viable.

After some research, time, and lots of thought, I made the decision not to shop around or self-publish for a few reasons. At this particular point in my life, I want to be a more a part of the quilt community rather than the quilt industry itself. Lots of wonderful, talented people make a living in the industry, and I'm so very grateful that it exists. BUT - there's SO much noise out there. I don't want to add another free motion quilting book to the market, another curated ad on your Instagram page, another sale. You might remember back when everyone had a blog, and then so many had a fabric line, or a book. When the latter happened for me, it felt strange and it didn't feel completely right, though I love to teach and write. I should have acknowledged that gut feeling from the beginning.

More specifically, I realized over the last year that I don't WANT my quilting to be my main business right now (maybe I never have, maybe never will), which is why I've been devoting much time and energy to my career in the real world. My "side hustle" and love for quilting don't HAVE to become my main focus or business. Some of the other reasons for not pursuing the book are more personal, and I'm grateful for my friends who have supported me so much in this decision. I wrote this post to bring some light, as so many have so politely and excitedly asked about the book's progress. Thank you! It all has a happy ending! :)

I will be teaching some of the concepts from the book in workshops and sharing these quilts in my lectures on modern quilting and quilt blocks for the rest of the year. I plan to accept limited engagements in 2019, too. I'm still working with quilting companies and utilizing products I love. I'm still blogging (going on 8 years! Is that real?) and still writing The Wonky Press (which is somehow 2.5 years old?). I'm still entering quilt shows and exhibitions here and there. I'm still designing and making quilts (what I love most). But I'm no longer writing quilt patterns and I'm not writing a book at this time. This feels so right to me.

But it seems a shame not to share the quilts that I made for the book - 1. Because they were the bulk of quilt work I did over nearly a year and 2. I'm so grateful to the companies who put their trust in me and gave me materials. I just put the binding on the very last quilt after several slow months of finishing up the details and thinking all the thoughts.

So, this summer, I'll be sharing the body of 6 finished quilts from the book as part of a series on quilting modern quilts! There will be no rush to reveal (roughly every 2-3 weeks, which will take me to September/October), which will give me time to write detailed blog posts on the design and quilting thought behind each one. These are really special quilts to me, and now that they are completely finished, I am excited to share them with you! I also hope to open up some discussion about the modern quilting movement, and to highlight the companies I have had the pleasure of working with. I will also be giving away some goodies! Peek back for an intro post and the first quilt shortly.

I can't end this blog post without thanking a few people. My guildmates and longtime friends of the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild for their continued support and love in whatever I choose to do. Abby Glassenberg, Anne Sullivan, Jenelle Montilone, Jess Levitt, and Lindsie Bergevin for your encouragement and guidance. My family, who has forever been supportive of everything.

Finally, the following wonderful companies provided fabric, batting, and thread to make these quilts possible (I will be sharing more details in each post): Andover Fabrics, Aurifil Threads, Cloud9 Fabrics, Free Spirit Fabrics, Northcott Fabrics, RJR Fabrics, Robert Kaufman Fabrics, and The Warm Company. Thank you so much for your continued support of my quilting and of the quilting community.

I've been quiet on the blog lately, working on finishing the last of the quilts and some other projects. Onward!

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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Kintsugi: A Pantone Challenge Quilt

Kintsugi is the Japanese practice of filling pottery cracks with gold in order to create beauty out of brokenness. The method, so prevalent in my mind over the last year, translates to my life in several ways. Mulling over this fact and inspired by the Pantone Color of the Year, ultraviolet (purple, my favorite color), I embarked on the first of what will hopefully be a series of small quilts.

Recently, renowned artist Lisa Congdon posted her thoughts about "art is survival," and that is the most succinct way to describe the last 8 years for me. I'm slowing down on production (so many ideas!) and beginning to focus more on the kinds of sewing that make me most happy. The process. The details. The quilting.

Quilting came to me at a time (age 20) when the whole world was a possibility. While this is still true, 8 years is a long time in both life and in practice of art. Lots of wonderful and terrible things happened. The daily practice of quilting (and my quilt friends) really kept me together. Only within the last couple years, though, do I think I had the capability to create something like this. Only after going through some really tough times. Now, I feel like I can get through anything.


Because kintsugi is about the beauty in the struggle. When I first cut the vase out from my piecing, it looked nothing like my vision, and I had to cut it apart and piece it together again. I tried to embrace it as part of the process - and I'm really glad I kept persisting, going back and forth for a few days before I finalized the vase's shape.

I purposefully pieced some lighter purple scraps in jagged, angular ways to show the cracks in my vase. After quilting the vase with my walking foot in three colors (Aurifil 1200 Blue Violet, 2540 Medium Lavender, and 1100 Red Plum), I used DMC metallic embroidery floss 5282 to embroider in gold. It was a challenge to make it look like real cracks and not hand-drawn with chalk beforehand! Thank you to Lindsay and Alyson for your encouragement!

For parts of the embroidery, I played with the kintsugi method of filling whole pieces of the broken pot in with gold, separate from the cracks.

At first, I considered quilting the pieced gray background like Metropolis, but thought it better to use lines rather than waves (to make the pot's curves more obvious). It was too plain for me, though, so I started randomly quilting orange peels with my free motion foot inside some of the channels. I used a variegated thread, Aurifil 4060 Silver Moon, which smoothly glides from light to dark gray (thereby blending and standing out at different points throughout the background).

My husband spotted me taking these pictures, remarking, "It looks like something you would make." I was pleased. The vase is my favorite color surrounded by my favorite motif, quilted orange peels. The backing is my current 2nd favorite fabric ever ("Rosealea" by Nel Whatmore for Free Spirit - very ultraviolet). The quilt itself is anything but perfect. Just how I like it.

I made pleats inside the vase to make up for the extra fabric pooling while I quilted (Sherri Lynn Wood teaches a method in her book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters). The embroidery is purposefully see through/not completely full. The background and pot are purposefully lopsided. Needless to say, this quilt came out even better than I hoped, and it's very special to me. Isn't that what quilting is all about? And now, I'm thinking of other ways I can represent kintsugi in quilt form. So much to think about.

Quilt stats:
-Size: 37" x 37" and made in the USA
-Designed, pieced, and quilted by me on my Janome 6300 home machine
-Made for the 2018 Pantone Quilt Challenge (and for my personal enjoyment), hosted by Rebecca of Bryan House Quilts and Sarah of No Hats in the House
-Other kintsugi quilts of interest: by Alexis Deise

Linking up to the 2018 Pantone Quilt Challenge (quilts category), TGIFF, Needle and Thread Thursday, Crazy Mom Quilts.

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