Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Tree for the Birds

A beautiful dusting of snow appeared over Friday night. Yesterday was delightfully gray... a perfect studio day. After a foggy evening we awoke to bright blue sky and a sparkling coat of frost over everything. It is never boring here!

This week I worked on the new book and did a little holiday shopping, very little. I like to keep the holiday simple, especially after such a busy year. Handmade holidays are always best. Greg found a nice tree, as always, with room for ornaments to dangle. It looked like the perfect tree for birds to nest in. So I went to work making nests.

I went through my scraps and cut random squares of brightly colored fabrics. Then I piled them in loose stacks and free-motion quilted a big spiral in the middle of each one. After that I slashed them all around the edges and popped them into the washing machine.

Next I sent them through the drier twice to fray and tangle the flaps until a grand bouquet of nests emerged.

Melissa Peda made us a bunch of sassy birds for our Early Birds booth at Houston Market, so of course, they will warm all the new nests. After the birds are all settled in we will add the next layer of ornaments.

It's starting to feel like Christmas. Remember to take some time to stitch this week... and bake and wrap...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jack Frost Arrives

This week we had our first sprinkling of snow and the chill felt blistering. The scarves, hats, gloves and boots were put into service. I had many good work hours in the studio, but it has been hard to adjust to it getting dark so early.

For this weeks "show and tell" I'm keeping with the holiday color theme. Here are two purses made with the Pretty Perfect Pocket Purse pattern. This is the purse design that I use everyday. It's just big enough for everything I need. These are both featuring fabrics from the new Early Birds collection. Above is the Primrose Posy and the Poka Dots, both in the Strawberry colorway accented with yellow rick rack, red ball fringe and felt balls on the zipper pull. Both bags were made by my quilting buddy Juanita Whiting.

The extra little details make all the difference. The primroses have been free-motion quilted and there is hand stitching around the pocket and top band. She has also enhanced the black fabric with a simple, but very effective, machine embroidery stitch done on the "to die for" Bernina 830. The back of the bag is also black and covered with the same embroidery.

This pattern is fun because the front panel is like a little quilt that you can embellish any way you'd like.
This version uses Prairie Poppy with gentle echo quilting with top-stitching thread. The pocket lining is made with the lime Curlicue design. Ball fringe adds to it's optimistic attitude.

This time we chose a hand dyed green cotton for the top band and back. Juanita used a variegated thread for the machine embroidery detail. Again the hand stitches really give this little bag some class. Wonderful workmanship!

So this is your little dash of seasonal color from the Sassaman studio this week. Next week we hope to feature the Christmas tree decorated with a few Early Bird ornaments.

Thank you, too, to everyone who put in your scarf vote over at the Dragon Threads blog. Looks like the Spiderweb design was the big winner.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Fair and Fabrics

The holiday season officially began yesterday with the annual Chicago Waldorf Holiday Fair. Our children went to Waldorf School from preschool through high school and the seasonal fairs were always huge events in our lives. I always looked forward to decorating the greenery for the winter fair and making May crowns for the spring fair.

This year Willow had her own colorful booth to vend her wonderful wares. You can see she has access to the "mother load" of Sassaman fabrics. So I journeyed down to support her enterprise. The pillowcases were a big hit, as always, and quite a few reversible ties found good homes, too.

It was so nice to see many of my old friends and know that the school is still as active and vital as ever.

So in the holiday spirit, I'd like to share these monkey puzzle quilts that certainly have some traditional colors and shapes for this season. I love the simplicity and graphic punch of this quilt pattern. The piece above is made with the two colorways of the Willow Wand from the Garden Diva's collection. The blocks were arranged to take advantage of the linear design of the stems. They were also placed so the light and dark blocks alternate for exciting contrast. This quilt was elegantly quilted by Janice Head of Head to Sew Quilting.

Since discovering this quilt pattern I have made several versions. Here are two sides of a pillow that I've made with this season in mind. They are made with the two colorways of the Leaf Dance fabric in the new Early Birds line. You can see the third colorway in the heading of this blog above.

This design always reminds me of a wreath, so it seemed the perfect way to play with these fabrics, which have Christmas colors but in a modern way. I like how the black background of the print and the solid black surround blend into each other.

I am happy that Early Birds was delivered to many stores this week, so hopefully some of these fabrics will be used for Christmas crafting. Press the button in the right column above to find a list of Early Bird vendors.

My other big news is that my friends at Dragon Threads want to make some beautiful silk scarves from one of my FreeSpirit quilt designs!! They have posted several candidates on their Open Books blog and are looking for your opinion. So scoot over and put in your vote.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Thanksgiving Weekend

I am nesting in my little house during this holiday weekend. After the big house cleaning I was anxious to add a spark of celebration. A tablecloth is a good place to begin. This year we are introducing a buttery soft laminated fabric in two Early Birds designs in three colorways. Two of them will be perfect for Christmas decorating. This is the Primrose Posy in the Blueberry colorway. The Christmas cactus is right on schedule.

I also thought it was time to update the speakers with fresh new covers. Now they look like bright Christmas presents in the corners. The Zinnias are from the Garden Divas line and all the others are from the new Early Birds collection. Dapper "Basil" is an alley find that has become a family heirloom.

For some reason I am really looking forward to this holiday season. A sprinkle of snow is predicted tomorrow. Ahhhhh....

More holiday ideas to come.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holiday Brush Up

Friday was house cleaning day. The dust had gotten pretty deep during all the Houston preparations and I was determined to spiff things up to start the holidays right. So this weekend I'm feeling renewed and ready for the next phase and enjoying the perfect Thanksgiving weather... dreary and dreamy. 

Our house is the laboratory for Sassaman designs and it is fun to switch out fabrics from time to time. It's amazing how refreshing a simple change of pillow covers can be. At our house the walls set the scene as each room has a color theme. Our bedroom is turquoise with a pink adjoining bathroom. It has been decorated in the dusky colorway of the Prairie Gothic line from a few years back. But it is time for a change! So here you see a welcome lamp and pillow made with the new Early Birds fabric in the plum colorway.

The lamp shade is covered with the Primrose Posy fabric and trimmed with pastel green bands of rick rack. I like using fabrics with white backgrounds for lamps and curtains because the white still lets light shine through.

I also like to make my pillows reversible to get twice the use from them. In this case, both sides have the same simple layout, but the fabrics have been swapped around. On this side the Strawberry Serenade is in the center and the pretty Prairie Poppy are the corner blocks. The purple Poka Dots border both sides.

This half is a reverse of the other side. Each half is actually a mini-quilt and I entertained myself with the quilting on both sides. I prefer using heavy topstitching thread for all my quilting since it shows up so much better. Well, I guess this means the new duvet cover can't be far behind!

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and hope you all have a little time to yourselves in the sewing room this weekend, too.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New Goodies To Wrap up the Year!

This week has been spent cleaning and organizing after the studio mess devoted to Houston Market.
Before I leave for my last teaching gig of the year, we were able to get our two new designs added to the webstore... the new mugs and the Hepburn Apron pattern, too. Hooray! We have also posted my workshop schedule for 2012. It has been an intense couple of months and it feels like we have accomplished a lot.

But the activity isn't over! The rest of the year will be devoted to working on the new book, Patchwork Sassaman Style for Dragon Threads. The designer has sent some sample layouts and they look great. It really makes a difference to be able to imagine it in print. Looks fabulous, YES!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Houston Market Report 2011

With a sigh of satisfaction and exhaustion, I can show you the results of all our energy for the past month. Here is our Houston International Quilt Market booth for 2011. It is amazing how it all fell together. The booth was designed around the fabulous party dress in the corner. The new Early Birds line has a really nice border print, so I knew it would be perfect for the edge of a fancy garment. We added drama by framing it with some fabulous curtains and adding a coral pink backdrop.

My steadfast friend and super sewer, Susan Tempin, made this show stopper from a current Vintage Vogue pattern. Then she added the icing on the cake by hand sewing a gold sequin in the center of each little daisy. I just LOVE it!

To the left we had a display of Early Birds purses and bags, many made by Melissa Peda from her own pattern designs. You can find them at her Etsy store. The Pretty Perfect Pocket Purses, a Sassaman pattern, were made by the fabulous and enthusiastic Juanita Whiting. The almost whole cloth quilt on the table was pieced by my quilting buddy, Susan Buckingham.

I was lucky to have both Susan T. and Melissa P. in Houston for support and companionship. Thanks to everyone!! Thanks for making the booth such a success. Thanks, too, to all the folks who stopped in for a visit and shared so much encouragement and interest in our new designs!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

And the winners are........

WOW! Thank you everyone who posted a comment on last weeks blog! It reminds this quiet quilter what a delightful community we fabric fondlers have. This morning the lucky Early Birds mug winners were drawn from the soup bowl and they are Rachaeldaisy and Tonya Littmann. Hooray and congratulations!!

Rachaeldaisy has been a steadfast Australian follower of this blog, so it is nice to be able to recognize her loyalty. Tonya is a graphic designer and fabulous art quilter from Denton, Texas. Check out her wonderful dragonfly quilt. Again, thanks to you all for making this drawing so exciting!

Of course, this has been another busy week in preparation for Houston Quilt Market. One of our goals was to have the apron pattern finished and ready to deput. That means the directions and patterns needed to be perfected and photographs taken for the cover sheets. So above is one of the many shots I took this week. The fabrics are from the new Early Birds collection for FreeSpirit. Don't those colors play nicely off the saffron colored walls? We will be posting the apron pattern and new mugs in the webstore directly after Market, so you can see the real cover next week.

The rest of the time has been spent stitching up a storm, designing fliers and attending to all those last minute details. Today I plan to make a market bag with the beautiful new laminated fabrics and bind three quilts. Just 4 more days to make it all happen. Several people have asked when Early Birds will actually be on the shelves... November is the answer. This is great news, as there are some fabrics that will be ideal for the holidays. The next blog will be my Market report.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Early Birds Give Away!

There has been a dramatic change in the landscape this week! After a week of sunshine and idyllic autumn days, it finally rained and brought wind and cooler temperatures. It's all good weather to me, although I've hardly had a chance to enjoy it!

This was the week for gathering, organizing, packing and shipping all the supplies and booth accessories for my booth at Houston Quilt Market. Too much driving, too many lists and shopping for those little details. This morning I loaded it in the car and shipped them out! What a relief!

You all know what it's like when your sewing machine is beckoning to you but you have to ignore it! This was my week. So in celebration of a job well done, I am going to give you a sneak peek at the new Early Bird Mugs that have just been unpacked.

In fact, I'm so happy to have this assignment completed that I'm going to give away one mug each to two random visitors who leave a comment on this post. The winners will truly be Early Birds and have the first mugs to venture into the world. The design is from the signature fabric for the new Early Birds collection for FreeSpirit.

You can see how much fun this fabric will be to quilt and create with, so I am especially excited to have so many Early Birds quilts to share in the upcoming book, Patchwork Sassaman Style with Dragon Threads publishers.

By the way, did you notice that Dragon Threads was giving away some of my greeting cards, too?

Maybe this week I will get to enjoy my surroundings a little more, but now I've got too many sewing projects to whip up for Market. But that's a much nicer assignment!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Glorious Mess Begins!

These have been sublime autumn days. It is still warm, but we have had to turn on the heat a few times already. The vegetables are pretty much at an end except for the pumpkins and gourds. The flowers are still glowing, especially the hardy dahlias and mums. The zinnias seem determined to out shine them all!

But in the studio the GLORIOUS MESS has begun, as production for Houston Market is in full swing.
We have started cutting into the new Early Birds fabric for quilts, aprons, tea cozies, purses and pillows.
A big part of the fun is making fabric combinations for each project.

Luckily, I have some helpers to give these ideas life. Since the fabric arrived so late we are really having to hustle. We are setting up a moch booth in the corner of the studio to test out our plans. I am even sewing in my sleep, it seems! I'm not complaining, though, since this is the best part of designing fabric... seeing it come to life as fun and usable objects. But time is short!!

All thoughts of the new book have been temporarily set aside. But now is a good time to let you know it is underway and due out this spring. I am so pleased to have Dragon Threads as my publisher for this new venture. We are calling it "Patchwork Sassaman Style" and it is all about using big, bold and beautiful prints. And we will be featuring lots of pieces made with my FreeSpirit fabrics, including Early Birds. I will keep you up to date, as we have lots of ideas to share as the book comes to life. Check out editor, Linda Teufel's latest blog and she will give you some more backgound on our project, including our sunny quilting cruise!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Early Birds Have Arrived!

 WHOOOOPEEEE! It finally came! Can you tell that I was pretty excited when my box of new FreeSpirit designs arrived on Thursday? It is called Early Birds. Some collections just feel good from the start and this is one of those. So let's open this treasure box and see what's inside.

It usually takes a while to get reacquainted with your designs because it has been months since the artwork went off to the factory. But this time they felt like old friends. Look at those COLORS!

Of course, a mother has to love her children, so I'm biased. This is one of the designs that will also be done in oilcloth (laminated fabric). I see some fabulous tablecloths in the future!

Naturally, you have to stroke and caress each one as it comes out of the box... and then do it all over again as you sort them into their proper stacks. The beautiful hand of FreeSpirit fabrics makes it a tactile feast as well as a visual one. Then you have to unfold them and fondle them some more. Heavenly!

If you would like to see the whole line, visit my website. It is still under renovation, but the fabrics are all posted for your inspection. If you like what you see, pass the word to your favorite fabric store. The fabric will be available in November and they can see it in person at Houston Market, with their Westminster representative or on the FreeSpirit website.

The other nice thing that happened this week was that the October/ November issue of Quilter's Newsletter arrived with my article about designing fabric!  And if you go to the Quilter's Newsletter website there is another fun article by my good buddy, Nancy Arseneault. We are both Day of the Dead devotees and there you can see and read about her wonderful new Beauty Parlor de los Muertos Quilt.

So after such a quiet summer the autumn is starting with some nice energy. Let's sew!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Preserving the Green

As I still wait for the arrival of my new fabric, I have taken time to record some of the shapes and colors around me. The autumn transition has set in and all the colors are beginning to change. The soybeans and corn are turning yellow and the mums are beginning to bloom.

It is ironic that my designing time is in winter when all the inspiration is covered in snow. So these photos are my memory for the designing days ahead. As you can see,  green still rules in the garden.

On the quilting scene, I have finally taken the time to prepare some fabric for a portable project. I hate to sit idle and am always happier when I have some hand work. So I spent a day cutting 5" hexagons from freezer paper and fusing them to the backs of the Exotic colorway of the Iris and Bleeding Heart fabric from the Garden Divas collection.

Then I treated the seam allowances with Mary Ellen's Best Press starch alternative and ironed them to the back. In the following evenings, I basted the seams in place and then began to whipstitch them together.

Here are some of the kaleidoscopic results.

Pretty exciting and a bit addictive. The color contrast and the variety of scale make some interesting effects. The next step is deciding how to put them into a composition.

Cross your fingers for new fabric this week.