Saturday, December 31, 2011

30-Day Challenge:: Photo Mosaic

Just like the title says this is a mosaic of some of the most significant(to me) projects and events from the past year. It includes some super highlights like the article about me published in American Craft and the debut of my fabric line as well as some sad moments such as the passing of my dear sweet puppy, Scout. It's been the most change-filled year of my entire life and I am by no means the same person now that entered this year, but, there's something to be said in acknowledging that things probably are exactly as they should be. Here's to more change(hopefully all good) and many more opportunities to create in 2012.

Friday, December 30, 2011

30-Day Challenge:: Gratuitous Cute Puppy

What does this puppy have to do with me, my work, or my blog? Absolutely nothing. Some total stranger was selling these 5 week old puppies on a little grassy knoll near a shopping mall and I took a few pictures of them. Our lives intersected for a few minutes. Mine and the boy selling the puppies as well as mine and the puppies.
Do you ever glance at the person sitting in the car next to you when you're both stopped at a light and think about their lives? Are they married, single, happy...? What do they do for a living? Do they like it? You'll never know because you'll most likely never see them again, but you often can't help but wonder. We're a curious bunch, aren't we?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

30-Day Challenge: Work Space

Making it in a bit under the wire, but who's keeping track, right?
I've been spending a lot of time lately in this space as I'm working on another fabric collection. The ideas have come a little more slowly this time and I've rejected more than I've selected. All that is a little unusual for me, but maybe that's the way the 2012 version of me works. Tomorrow is always a mystery and you have to be willing to roll with the punches, even if you're the one throwing them.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

30 Day Challenge:: Blanket in Progress

I call knitting my fiber hobby. You wouldn't think that someone who sews and designs for a living would want to spend their free time engaged with more fiber, and, truth be told, I don't want to spend all my free time that way, but some of it is definitely devoted to knitting. Knitting also inspires some of the sewing and quilt designs I create. For instance this blanket. The pattern is Abby's Blanket by Kristin Kapur and and though it's not even close to done, I know that seeing it on Ravelry influenced this design. I like that idea of cross-pollination and would love to one day work in the opposite direction and design knitting patterns based on sewing designs.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why wait? The 30-Day Challenge

My friend, Adam, doesn't believe in New Year's resolutions. It's not that he doesn't think folks should set an intention to improve something in their lives and then act on that intention, it's just that he doesn't see the point of waiting until New Year's Day to take on those improvements. I actually agree with him, despite the fact that I love making New Year's resolutions. I enjoy thinking about what I want to tackle and even reflecting on what I changed or didn't the previous year. I like the "clean slate" feeling of it. But, I have to agree with Adam, there's no point to waiting until New Year's Day.
With that in mind, I want to tackle a 30-day challenge that I read about on another blog, but before I do, I'm going to engage in something I rarely, if ever, do here in this space.
I try to keep this space almost exclusively about my work or things that inspire my work and always with a positive spin. I think approaching life with a positive attitude is probably the best gift you can give yourself. Unfortunately, life is not all cherries and kittens, though I'm allergic to cats, so I don't know why kittens would be a positive thing in my world, but.... Anyway, the past year has brought so many blessings, both professionally and personally, but it has also been the most challenging year of my life in terms of my personal life. Without going into too much detail, but also reassuring all you terrific readers that I'm thankfully at the "light-at-the-end-of the tunnel" point, 2011 has been the year I went from married to single.
It's all(mostly?) good now and in many ways the process has been full of growth. Sometimes it takes a major shake-up like that to force you to re-examine your life and how thoughtful you are about your everyday existence. As part of that I've done a lot of reading, both online and otherwise, and found so much wisdom out there. One site that I particularly like is Marc and Angel Hack Life.
Their current post is titled 30 Challenges for 30 Days of Growth. If you take the time to read the post you'll discover that they're not expecting you to take on all 30 challenges listed, but to pick 2-5 that you feel you can make a daily commitment to for 30 days.
One of the challenges I selected is #30: Document Every Day with One Photograph and One Paragraph. It seemed like a bit of a no-brainer to choose that one because, hey, I already have a blog, and I could certainly work on improving it and generally being more attentive to it.
So, with that intention in mind and, noting Adam's point about the senselessness of waiting to take on a challenge, I'm starting today. For the next 30 days, I'll be posting a picture and a brief paragraph that, hopefully, relates to that.
Sound good? If you'd like to join me or want to take on some of the other challenges listed and feel like a public declaration of that intention would aid the process, feel free to let me know in the comments.
As for me, here I go.
Last night I was teaching a class at Stitch Lab, which, by the way, is the best fabric and sewing store in town, and had a few minutes to walk around and shoot some pictures. I'll upload all of them to my flickr, but this one seemed especially appropriate for my first entry on my 30-day challenge. I'm not going to lie to y'all, I worry that I won't make all 30 days. It's like flossing daily. I leave the dentist's office with the best of intentions and then daily flossing becomes every other day or once every three days. But, and this is a big but, you can't make the change without setting forth the intention and there's something powerful about stating it publicly. So, I'm making my intention known about this aspect of the 30-day challenge. As for the daily flossing....hmmm...we'll see.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Don't let the pictures fool you...

... they have nothing to do with the text. This is not the first time I've posted about one topic and "illustrated" that post with unrelated pictures, so you all should be used to this. Sometimes I have a story to tell, but no pictures to accompany that story. As I hate to post without pictures, this is my solution.
Before I get into my topic, I want to caption the pictures by letting you know that they are of a new pillow featuring a new block design inspired by this photo.
OK. Here goes.
 As many of you know, I'm an avid runner. Well, yesterday, I ran what I would to date describe as the most amazing race of my running life. For the past few months I've been training for the Decker Challenge. This particular half marathon is considered one of the hardest around and that's primarily because of the hills that surround Decker Lake. I'm not going to lie to you, there have been a few times, especially in the last couple weeks, when I thought about skipping the event. I worried about whether or not I could deal with the hills and the infamous bad weather that has historically accompanied this race.
And, a couple weeks ago, it seemed that I had a ready-made excuse. I had gone to a "boot camp" style workout and woke up the following morning with a very sore left foot. I didn't run for a week after that. In fact, I didn't run again until the Tuesday before the race when for silly reasons I ended up running twice in the same day, both times about 5 miles. I then ran another 3 miles that Friday and made peace with the concept that what would be, would be.
I woke up yesterday morning and headed out to Decker Lake in my shorts and t-shirt, ready to brave the 40 degree temperature and light rain and, almost from the very start, knew this was going to be an amazing run. I don't know if it was my determination to be patient in the straightaways and not let my pace get out of control or my willingness to be present in the moment and just listen to the sound of all those feet hitting the pavement, but, what I thought would be drudgery turned into a string a magical moments. By mile 4, I knew I was on pace to set a new personal record and as each mile marker went by, I seemed to be running faster and stronger and feeling like I could conquer anything.
Those of you familiar with the course out at Decker Lake know that mile 10 features a long, steep hill which is made longer and steeper because it is so late in the race. I got to the hill at mile 10, ran up, and knew that I was about to finish the best race of my life.
I realize that my story is just about a run and that, in the scheme of things, it's not exactly monumental, but I do think there might be a bigger point here. Maybe that point is about not pre-judging a situation and bringing your whole self to an experience? Maybe it's also about how lucky we are to have a given experience and that we never really know whether the next thing we do may be truly magical?
Whatever the "point", whether I know it or not, I hope I bring these ideals along with me to the next race, the next project, the next moment.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Power to More Pillows

...or rather just pillow covers.
This time it's an improv version of the traditional pinwheels pattern, very similar to this mini quilt I made a few weeks back.
I had a few half-triangle squares leftover from that project and rather than find a completely different home for them, I opted to re-imagine the mini quilt as a pillow.
Add my go-to circular quilting and a little peak of selvedge from my a stitch in color fabrics and you've got one fun pillow top.
I love this typewriter fabric and have used it in several projects. It seems particularly appropriate here where the feel of this pillow is just a wee bit irreverent.
I added this little beauty to my shop yesterday, so I'm on track (so far) for regularly introducing new goodies to my store this month.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cure For Writer's Block?

I had thought I'd post about how I'm determined to add new items to my shop as much as possible this month and to that end I've added this and this as well as created the pillow pictured.
I had thought I'd mention that this pillow was pieced improvisationally and loosely based on the traditional Drunkard's Path block.
I was hoping to touch on how much I like the circular quilting, especially for a top that features circles and how fun it is to bind a top that features lots of color with a simple, black and white, graphic print.I was going to say that if you check my store regularly this month, you'll see new items as well as some of the projects from my book and others.
I thought about saying all that, but I had a bout of writer's block, so....

Monday, November 21, 2011

New and News

I thought I'd take a moment to show off a new mini quilt that recently made its way into and out of my shop and let you all know about something I've just added that will be there for hopefull a very limited time.
First the new mini quilt.
I made this little quilt at the request of a customer who plans to gift it to her mom. Very sweet. The patches are all original hand dyes while the backing and binding come from my a stitch in color fabric collection. I hope mom enjoys both the quilt and her daughter's thoughtfulness.
Now, new to my store, but on a very limited basis is this:
I have 11(strange number, I know) copies of my book, Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color Design, and Inspiration, which I am selling and happy to sign to you, a neighbor, friend, or even your dog.
This is a very limited offer as I got the books for a specific event and these are the leftovers. I'm not planning on selling my books in my store on a regular basis.
For the two of you who haven't heard me go on and on and, maybe even on about this book, it features 21 sewing projects including 6 quilts, 2 wearables, a baby book, sewing machine cover, and even a kitchen curtain. It is beautifully styled and photographed and filled to the absolute brim with illustrations and step-by-step instructions.
I realize that you can buy the book for less from Amazon while I am selling it at the suggested retail price, but I won't be signing any of those Amazon books and I will happily and lovingly sign any of the 11 copies I'm selling in my shop.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cool Story, bro

That's the often flippant remark my dear, sweet 17-year old daughter says after I've told her some semi-mundane story. Admittedly, the comment usually follows a tale about going to the dry cleaners or the price of a head of lettuce, but that's her response. And, lately, I say it as well. She tells me about her little sister borrowing some item of clothing and how annoying that is and I respond with, "Cool story, bro." It's actually a great diffuser of situations and maybe makes us realize how thankfully mundane some of our "problems" are.
Recently though I've come to view the phrase in a different, more positive, life-affirming light. And I think a recent project has been the reason for the turnaround in how I interpret, "Cool story, bro."
Several months ago I designed a project for the current and inaugural issue of Stitch Gifts. My project is a pair of pillows that I titled "Story Pillows". Actually, I think I originally titled them "Our Story Pillows", but somehow the our got dropped.
 Anyway, the pillows were inspired by a pair of embroideries that I purchased at Quilt Festival two years previous. The embroidered panels were crafted by a cooperative of women in South Africa and can be purchased online here. The embroideries give these women a chance to express their creativity, tell their story, as well as earn money for their families. It seemed amazingly appropriate for a publication that promotes gift-making during a holiday season that's also about helping others to design a project that encompassed both values.
The embroideries were so beautiful and compelling on their own that I was stumped for quite a while as to how to incorporate them into a project. Eventually I decided to make them the focal points of these pillows and surround them in a loose log-cabin style series of strips. I wanted, however, to add some text to the pillows because I felt that the embroideries had more of an overt story to tell and that it would be obscured by pretty pictures and colors. So, I went on the internet and found two African sayings that I felt rung true to the spirit in which these embroideries were made. The two proverbs were: "The Pillar of the Earth is Hope and "Knowledge is Better than Riches". How beautiful and deeply meaningful are those ideals?
Using my favorite transfer paper, I wrote both phrases on my fabric and free-motion machine quilted the text, then crafted both quilted tops into pillows with zippered backings.
Now that the magazine is out on the stands, the original pillows have made their way back to me and I think they look perfect on my couch.
Pretty cool story, huh, bro?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

For the Love of Lotta

Raise your hand if you love free fabric. How about beautiful free fabric? Yeah, I thought so.
One of the cool things about going to Quilt Market and attending the Schoolhouse presentations is the stuff they give away. Sometimes it's a sneak peek at a new book or a free pattern and sometimes, and best of all, it's free fabric.
That's exacty what Lotta Jansdotter gave away to promote her new line, Echo, for Windham Fabrics. And, I'm here to tell you, the stuff is seriously beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I couldn't wait to come home and make something with the charm pack of samples I got.
Initially, in adherence with my selfish sewer philosophy, I thought to use the fabric to make a pair of new pillows for my new sofa(more info about that when I do actually make pillows for said sofa).
But, on further contemplation and because a baby shower was quickly approaching and I was sans a handmade gift, I decided to use the fabric as part of a baby quilt for one of my lovely and talented co-workers at Stitch Lab.
 I apologize for the work-in-progress photos. I just didn't have a chance to take a picture of the finished quilt, but I can guarantee you that Lotta's fabrics made the top feel fresh and contemporary and fun.
A few of the sampler blocks were larger than the others because they came from a kit she handed out along with the charm packs. I wanted to use both, so I improvisationally pieced borders around some of the blocks to get them to fit together. I also added four corner blocks to the border muslin which may or may not be visible in the first photo.
The quilt was super-quick to piece and machine quilted from the center out to echo the above shape. The quilting really accentuated the organic nature of both that particular block and Lotta's fabrics in general.
Being a fabric designer myself and having my own line to promote, I feel a little weird gushing about these fabrics, but they are beautiful, fresh, and eminently useable. If I was on a desert island and could take only one collection with me other than my own, Lotta's would be it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Finally, Full Views

I wish I could count how many times I've finished a project that I desperately wanted to share with you all only to realize that I can't. So much of the time what I create has to be kept under wraps until somebody, somewhere gives me the green light to share it here. Well, this week I've gotten that green light regarding two projects that thus far I've only hinted at.
The first is a mini quilt that I showed detail images of a few posts back.
Like I mentioned in the original blog entry, this little quilt was designed for Cathy Gaubert's book, Pretty in Patchwork: Doll Quilts: 24 Little Quilts to Piece, Stitch, and Love.  I took this shot before I sent it off to Cathy months ago and have been holding on to it anxiously waiting for an opportunity to share this image.
The other full view is of the quilt I created as a free project to promote my fabric line, a stitch in color. Here too impatience got the better of me and I posted a few close-ups to get folks excited about the fabrics and quilt. Now that it has debuted at market I can show it off in its entirety.
 By the way, for those of you who think this is a difficult-to-piece quilt with Y seams and finicky hexagons, I've got a little reveal for you: it's all triangles. The entire quilt is pieced in rows of two different triangle templates. One is an equilateral triangle and the other, meant for the edges and corners, is a right triangle. Easy peasy, people.
There you have it: the full monty, sorta....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

This Little Piggy Went to Market

...and here's a bit of what it looked like.
Part of my display in the Moda booth
See the cheater cloth tote on the floor? That has to be the #1 thing folks asked me about other than who was getting the fabulous upholstered chairs and ottoman that Moda had crafted for the booth.
I had such a wonderful response to the fabrics and met so many amazing people that, as a first time attendee, I can wholeheartedly recommend market to others considering making the trip.
It was a little weird to discover that Amy Butler is really tall and that Ty Pennington is not nearly as good-looking in person(sorry, Ty), but I walked away impressed and inspired and ready to design more fabric, quilts, and who-knows-what else.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

a stitch in color :: twinkle mini quilt

I love follow through. I'm not always able to attain it, but when I am, boy howdy, does it make me happy.
So, following through on yesterday's promise, I present these images:
The completed top sans quilting

All done!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

a stitch in color overdyed

It seems to be working.
I especially like the circles discharged and overdyed from the cheater cloth as the "stitching" that's printed on the fabric remains visible.
I've got another batch of these ready and am planning to assemble and quilt the mini quilt today. Good thing too as I'm leaving for market bright and early on Friday.
I hope to be back here tomorrow to show you the finished project.
In the meantime, check out this terrific piece the Darra Williamson, writer and editor extraordinaire, put together about me and a stitch in color. Thanks so much, Darra!

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's Not All Created Equal

Those of you who've had this experience can attest to the fact that not all commercial fabrics are created equal. By that I'm not referring to their hand or base fiber or even inherent beauty. I'm talking about whether they can be manipulated through surface design techniques, especially discharging or bleaching.
You all might be familiar with my quilts that focus on a singular shibori technique to create patterning. Quilts like this and this. Well, not every commercial fabric that I use works with this technique.
In short, this technique, itajime, uses clamped pieces of plexiglass to form a resist on the fabric's surface. Wherever the plexi comes in contact with the fabric, dye or bleach don't penetrate. This method works much of the time, but I have encountered commercial fabrics where the existing color didn't budge or, despite being cotton, the dye seemed to float off the surface. Considering how much I love this technique and I hoped that this resistance to surface manipulation would not be a characteristic of my new fabric, a stitch in color.
Well, you can all breathe a sigh of relief (assuming you were that worked up about it), I can vouch for the fact that discharging is definitely doable with these fabrics.
I haven't had a chance to over dye these, but usually discharging is more of an issue than over dyeing, so I'm confident all will be well.
My plan is to make a twinkle mini quilt like the one I linked to for Quilt Market this weekend. I'm going to need a few more clamps to expedite the process, but I don't think it's too lofty a goal.
I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pretty in Patchwork :: Doll Quilts

One of the best parts of what I do is having the opportunity to design for other people's books. It's great on several levels. First, I get to meet and interact with a lot of fun, interesting people. Also, I'm usually asked to design within certain parameters and that, for me, actually facilitates the creative process. And, finally, other than financial compensation, I almost always get a complimentary copy of the book which allows me to enjoy the work of the author and the other designers.
The book I'm featuring today is no exception.
 Pretty in Patchwork Doll Quilts: 24 Little Quilts to Piece, Stitch, and Love by Cathy Gaubert definitely allowed me to indulge in all the things I love about design work.
For those who don't know Cathy and seeing as this is the internet, there might be one or two of you, she is a person of intense, infectious enthusiasm. From the very first email, I couldn't help but get caught up in her excitement about the book and I think that energy shows in the designs represented and the fun, accessible way the text is presented.
My contribution to the book was, obviously, a mini quilt using hexagons and a favorite piecing technique called Y seaming. The book doesn't officially release until November 1, so I've limited my images to details rather than full views.
I've called this little quilt the Cupcake Quilt as it's kind of related to this design. The finished quilt, made according to the instructions, measures 27" x 23 3/4", but, since it's made in blocks, expanding or shrinking the size of your piece is easy.
As always, I'm excited to see how you all will interpret this design, so, if you happen to make this quilt, please send me an email with an image of your quilt.

Friday, October 14, 2011

a stitch in color preview project #8: Sukkah Chain

I know some of you are scratching your heads and wondering what is a Sukkah and why would I make a chain for it. Rather than answer those questions directly because, hey, I'm nothing if not a little lazy, I'll direct you here.
Today I'm featuring another project using my new line of fabrics, a stitch in color, but I'm particularly proud of this project as it combines two significant things in my life and produces something semi-useful.
Every year I build a sukkah. And, by build, I mean that I get some nice, helpful guy to construct it for me. Nonetheless, it is a presence in my life every year at this time in the Jewish calender. Every year I decorate my sukkah in some way. One year I put up all the drawings my kids had made in the past year. Of course that year it rained a lot, so I didn't do that again. Some years I hang paper chains or gourds. It all depends on my mood and how much time I want to devote to it. This year I strung a lot of lights (thanks to the assortment of Christmas lights already available at Target) and made these:
Yup. Those are fabric chains made out of a huge box of leftover strips of a stitch in color that Moda sent me. I haven't even begun to make a dent in the strips(potential future giveaway?), but I did use them to craft these chains.
Aren't they pretty?
I did have some help in making and hanging the chains from my buddies, Adam and Josh, so thanks guys!
To all my fellow sukkot celebrants, I wish you a chag sameach and to everyone else, have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I'm Back...

This, of course assumes you wondered where I was. I hadn't planned on taking a break from blogging, but between regular life and the myriad of Jewish holidays that fall this time of year...I did.
Anyhoo, I'm back and I have a project to share as well as some information for you local folks who might like to join me in a class or two.
As some of you know, I teach classes in a variety of sewing topics over at Stitch Lab. I've actually taken a break this past September and October from teaching so I could focus on getting ready for Quilt Market, but new classes start up in November and I  have some new offerings.
So, in prepping for these new classes, I've had the opportunity to re-make a few much-loved designs, including this one:
 This is another version of the Fish Baby Log Cabin quilt that I shared with you as well as folks over at Sew, Mama, Sew. The original has long since gone to it's recipient who is now about 3 months old and seriously cute with or without the quilt.
The version featured here is headed to Stitch Lab to help promote the class and hopefully get some of you locals inspired to make this easy, quick project along with me.
For a complete listing of the offerings at Stitch lab, click here.