Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Baking

It's so nice to have a baker in the family, especially during this season of celebration! Willow always makes us treats for the holidays. Last weekend she made three kinds of croissants... bacon and tomato, onion and apple. I can't remember the last time I've baked because I'd rather be quilting. But when the kids were little baking was a favorite activity.

I just happened to have a new apron design made with the Garden Divas fabric. My tomato red kitchen opens onto a saffron and yellow dining area, so the Exotic colorway is perfect for my kitchen color scheme. The apron is reversible and both sides have side pockets.

This pattern was designed to cover both your front and back because I don't like having my backside sticking out, like it does with most aprons. Willie is so slim, though, that she doesn't have that dilemma!
It was fun picking out the fabric combinations and I am quite pleased with the contrasting trim on the pockets and ties. The blue willow fabric really adds some zip.

Here you can see the apron during construction and pinned to my work wall. Basically, I made 4 apron halves, two with pockets and two without. Each fabric was cut to take advantage it's symmetry. The scale of the little dragonfly check also adds some interest. I just love these colors!

Happy and Healthy Christmas to you all!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Bouquets

Last weekends storm socked us in for a few days. But that was fine! The kids where up and took over the studio to stitch some Christmas gifts from the Sassaman stash. The timing was right because I had about a billion threads to bury while the sewing machine was occupied. I have been making a few new class samples for the 2012 teaching year and still working on the big salamander quilt. It is rare for me to work on several quilts at a time, but the balance seems to be working.

Above is the latest little broderie perse project for the Bountiful Bouquets workshop. The Jack-in-the-Pulpit are fussy cut from last years Sunshine & Shadow line, as is the central background. The border and the butterflies are from the new Garden Divas. I think the combination worked well.

The Jack fabric had a black background, so when I cut out the characters, I kept about a sixteenth to an eighth inch of a black outline because I knew it would blend in with the black Sprigs fabric. All quilters know how hard it is to work with black on black because the details disappear, but in this case, it is just what I wanted to happen. The extra edge also allowed me to keep the whole shape intact and not eat into the design. The black finishing satin stitch also dissolves into the background nicely, too.

Even the borders are appliqued, so the construction was pretty straight forward. I have chosen to simply follow the existing outlines for the quilting because the fabric is so graphic and pictorial.  As usual, I am using heavy 12 weight thread for quilting. It adds just a little frill to the edges, too. Perhaps it will get finished this weekend.

I hope you are all taking advantage of the season of good cheer! It is so easy to be overwhelmed with good intentions during the holidays. So remember that fondling fabric lowers stress and promotes positive thinking!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Celebrate the Simple Things

It seems like the weather changed gears overnight. Autumn was mild and lasted longer than usual.
But on Friday we began preparing for the first snow storm of the season, which started around midnight.
We went to bed anticipating the new world morning would bring and looking forward to being stranded
 for the weekend. We weren't disappointed.

This kind of weather heightens the nostalgia of the season, especially since we are "empty nesters" now. There are just a few decorations which have become necessities, among them are the Christmas stockings, even though we have never had a mantle to hang them on.

The stockings, no doubt, were inspired by this little tree that I made at our Brownies meeting in third grade. I can remember sitting around the big table at Cindy's house and stitching it together. It was a gift for my mom and she kept it in her jewelry box for 50 years. I just loved this little tree made of pinked green felt, sequins and seed beads. I don't really know why it still tickles me so much, but it does.

Also, my mother-in-law had made felt stockings for each of her seven children and my husband was very fond of his. So when my kids came along I got out the felt, beads and sequins to keep the tradition going. The things a mother will do for her kids!!

I will admit I had a great time sewing these goofy stockings. And the kids do take notice of them every year, probably hoping they will be filled with golden chocolate coins again. I wish we'd had access to all the great wool felt and beads that we have today. Perhaps I'll have to make one for myself.

So the seasonal basics have come out of the closet and I plan to just enjoy these few weeks that slip by more quickly every year. We will celebrate the simple things this year.

Season's greetings to all of you who check into this blog! Your friendship and support keep this quiet quilter in stitches all year long!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Pattern for the New Year

Winter is settling in today. It is delightfully dark and dreary and I suspect we will have out first flakes of snow today. But, as you know, I love this kind of weather, especially if I am in the studio and fondling fabric. One of the first projects of the season has been to write and illustrate this new purse pattern. I call it the Pretty Perfect Pocket Purse and it is the bag that I actually use everyday. I have had so many people admire it, that a pattern was the obvious outcome.

I love this little bag (11" wide and 12.5" tall) because it is just the right size. It holds everything I need and the front pocket is great for all the things you want close to hand, like your keys and your cell phone.
But I like it, too, because it's just FUN! It make people smile and the felt beads are the icing on the cake.

Both of these are made with the new Garden Divas fabric, which will be available in stores this January. But it is perfect for featuring some of that fancy fabric already in your stash. The other fun thing about this pattern is decorating the front pocket to make it personal and unique. On the first bag I quilted it and added she-sha mirrors. On the turquoise bag I quilted it and then added clear sequins and pink French knots. The front pocket is your creative canvas... beads, buttons, ribbons or paint. If you can't find felt beads for the bottom, ball fringe will work just as well.

It takes a lot of concentration to put a pattern into production, so it is a good feeling to see the project come to life. We added it to the Sassaman Store this week, too, for those of you have taken the "handmade pledge" this holiday.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Garden Divas Finally Materialize!


Welcome to the new season of inspiration from the Idea Book. This week I have been busy sewing things with my new FreeSpirit fabric, Garden Divas. There are so many possibilities and ideas that I want to try, so I have been trying to organize my time in the most advantageous way. Basically, it comes down to serious sewing, designing and office work during the day, handwork (burying threads) for relaxation in the evening and dreaming about new projects at night. I actually have several jobs going at the same time, which is unusual.

Here is a little broderie perse quilt that is hot off the sewing machine. This was made by fussy cutting Zinnias from the Pastel colorway that are backed with interfacing. The interfacing adds stability and also helps to keep the colors bright. I was careful to keep a bit of the blue background surrounding each flower, so the applique stitching would not eat into the blossoms and blend into the blue background.

The pot, background and border ( Lively Silhouette- Green) are also backed with interfacing. After arranging the bouquet, the pieces are appliqued from the bottom up and the background is cut away from underneath. This keeps the quilt nice and flat by removing the multiple layers.

Then I got to practice my free-motion quilting by stitching in the white outlines. It's not perfect, but it really gives the piece a wonderful texture. I used 12 weight (topstitching) thread to quilt the flower pot and around the border.

Here is an extension of the idea, through the magic of Photoshop. The butterflies are too regular, but that would be easy to change in "real life." This could be a wonderful quilt to hang over a bed or above an entryway. The quilt could be made in any of the colorways by matching your background fabrics... red for the Exotic colorway and black for the Peacock Zinnias.

This has been wonderful fabric to brighten the cold and cloudy days this week. I hope it has brought a little cheer into your life, too!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A New Design Season Begins

So now Houston Market is a pleasant memory and the teaching year has finished. As the new year of design begins, I am looking forward to showing all the fun new fabrics and the items we have made from them. I have made a pledge to post a new blog entry every week, so stay tuned for more fabric inspiration and project ideas as we head into the season for celebration!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Off to Quiltworks Northwest

After all the bustle and anticipation of Quilt Market in Houston, I am home for a day before I leave again to see all my fiber friends in Seattle and teach a three day class at the wonderful fabric shop, Quiltworks Northwest in Bellevue, Washington. Quiltworks is a favorite store and I am looking forward to fondling some fabrics there!

This is my last scheduled teaching job of the year, so I am a bit giddy and looking forward to getting started on many of the new ideas and improvements I have planned for the next creative year. Most of all, I am anxious to show you all the goodies made with the new FreeSpirit fabric, Garden Divas, now that it has been officially launched!

But in the meantime, we have posted Garden Divas on the website so you can start your own designing gears in motion! I am really pleased with the line and I hope you will like it, too!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumn Report-Because I can't reveal the new fabric yet!

There have been some delicious changes in northern Illinois in the last few weeks. As you can see from the top photo, the soybean fields have turned to gold and the wild prairies are sprinkled with purple and golden yellow. The purple asters are especially plentiful. Being "Miss Contrast" I love the purple petals with the orange/yellow centers which glow in the evening autumn light.

The sedum have their fresh colors on display, too, adding more pink to the overall color scheme

The native sunflowers are quite dramatic now as their yellow petals drop and the pregnant seedpod begins to look like our favorite felted beads blowing in the wind. 

Greg has been planting Moonflower vines by the front door for several summers now and this season they have been taking their sweet time to blossom. They have spectacular twisted buds which anticipate the magnificent blossoms to come. They actually open in the night time and are so high on the vine that we can see them better from our second story bedroom. The large flat flower and skinny throat look like  platters balanced on a stick or a delicate stemmed goblet. 

You can see why we look forward to these dramatic blossoms! And to have them are the "end" of the season makes them even more precious.

Even as the flowers still bloom, the damp fall forest decay is following the traditional seasonal schedule. The variety of funky fungus shapes are amazing, especially after such a wet year.

These growths look like they were deliberately placed as lovely trunk ornaments or broaches.
I am forever overwhelmed by Mother Nature's imagination.

Here are a couple of critters that also appreciate the recent rain. This tiny turtle was hanging out by the garden faucet. If you look very closely, you will spy a tiny snail clinging to his back foot. He looks like a pine cone with legs.

These little frogs like to climb up windows, even very high ones. Many nights this summer we had one of these little guys on our bedroom window, stalking bugs that were attracted to our reading lights.

This long environmental report is due to the fact that my new line was delivered unexpectedly late on Sept. 10. Needless to say, I dived into it early the next day. Since then I have made four quilt tops and one back. Poor Greg only sees me when I get hungry and head up to the kitchen. But it is BEAUTIFUL and it is killing me to keep it a secret until Houston Market! 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Quiet Before the Storm

Our Midwestern landscape has taken another step toward Autumn this week. Each day the corn and soybeans become more golden. Here is a peek at the field next to us... a sea of soybeans after last nights heavy rain. In a short while this will be dancing waves of yellow leaves.

I traditionally kept my August through October teaching schedule light because I usually get my new FreeSpirit fabrics in August. Once they hit my door step, they are my only focus in preparation for Houston Quilt Market at the end of October. But this year, even though I finished the designs ahead of schedule, there were more color corrections than usual and the strike-offs traveled between the factory and here four or five times. Now the fabrics may not arrive until the end of September! Yikes!

So, I have been taking advantage of this precious time to begin quilting my Illinois Album quilt. I have finally finished all the outline quilting, which is tedious but necessary, and am on to adding the details inside each element. This part of the process is much more entertaining.

I have been hibernating in the studio and enjoying this luxury. Besides the mosquitoes make it impossible to stay outside! It has been a long time since I have worked on a quilt this big and wrestling so much fabric through the sewing machine. But it feels great to get back to some personal work.

I am using some of the decorative stitches for the quilting, too. You can see how they add interest, rhythm and texture... the last layer of icing on the cake.

Yes, thousands of threads to bury! But what a joy to have the time to enjoy the process. 

The bumblebee is developing some personality, as his real life brothers are busy, busy busy in the garden outside the door. Perhaps I should have included mosquitoes in the composition, too, for they certainly have been the theme here this summer! Consequently, there has not been much weeding done.

But in spite of it all, wearing his mosquito net hat, long sleeves and pants tucked into his socks, Greg has done a marvelous job with the flowers and the kitchen garden in ten minute spurts.

This has been a wonderful year for tomatoes. Don't these look like jewels after the rain?

Personally, I don't think you can have too many fresh tomatoes. The kitchen counter is covered with the bounty of summer and every visitor goes home with a sack of home grown goodies.

Oh well, we'll work on the weeds next year. Another good excuse to head for the studio!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Settling Into Summer

I am still thinking about the wonderful sights I saw during my extraordinary Australian teaching adventure. No matter where I travel, I love to look at houses! I like to imagine the home's inhabitants and wonder about their lives. This is a charming Australian style cottage which I noticed everywhere. Many are being rescued and lovingly renovated and many new homes are being modeled on these quaint ancestors. This architectural style personifies Australia's respect for traditions and good manners.

Another convention that delighted me was morning and afternoon "Tea Time"which occurred with perfect punctuality every workshop day. And almost everyone in class brought their own tea mug from home! And each mug had a special carrying container, as well!

In Brisbane, many of the gals were using the same cute pattern for their Mug Bags. This one belongs to Bev Sellers and happens to be made with Sassaman fabric from the Sunshine & Shadow line. Needless to say, Bev got extra points from the teacher!

Some of these adorable satchels even sported little pockets to carry a favored tea packet. There were always little cakes or scones with whipped cream and jam to enjoy with your tea, too! Consequently, the art of baking cakes is alive and well respected in Australia, too.

The coffee break is a thing of the past in the American workplace, we just carry our paper coffee cups everywhere we go and Starbucks is on every corner. But in Australia Tea Time is a comforting custom that I think we should remember and revive on this side of the world! 

But here, on the home front, the growth is lush, the mosquitoes are ever present and the zucchinis are the size of baseball bats! This morning, on my walk through the park, I noticed the first turned red leaves of autumn and acorns spread over the ground. Summer has peeked, fall is in site and I have some stitching to do in the studio... life is good!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Australian Native Color

A week ago I returned from a fabulous teaching tour in Australia. I was forewarned that it would be winter when I arrived on the other side of the world. But to my delight it was not the same winter we have at home. I laughed every time someone complained about the "cold". As you can see from these photos it was very moderate and pleasant; flowers still bloomed and the birds were enthusiastic.
Every afternoon reminded me of our early autumn... the temperature, the slant of the light, the long shadows and the hint of crispness in the air. It was lovely!

Above is a photo of my first teaching location, at Be Creative by the Sea Symposium in Coffs Harbour on the Tasman Sea in New South Wales. So most mornings began with a walk on the beach or exploring the residential neighborhoods near the resort. Below are two wonderful signs on the hotel property at the beginning of their little nature walk.

The wild life was quite exotic to this Midwestern girl. All the birds were twice as big and twice as loud as the ones at home. On my first evening I spied a huge bat flying right outside the window and hanging in a palm tree! This was not a puny little bat from Illinois, but a BIG bat just like the vampire movies! It was thrilling. My host, who lives in Coffs Harbour all year, says that in the summer there would be hundreds of them in the air!!

On my days off I was always treated to a local tour and gardens were always on my list of places to visit. The flora of Australia is unbelievable and just as amazing as the critters. Most of my classes were about translating and abstracting designs from nature, so the class projects often portrayed native Australian plants. This was a nice way for me to learn more about the flowers, too.

Just scroll through the photos and you will see a small sampling of the natural wonders that I enjoyed during my visit. I had plans to post my pictures while I was there, but the Internet, especially WiFi is often expensive and difficult to find. But it was kind of nice to be excused from everyday tasks and to take advantage of this incredible sensory experience.

These spiky trees were one of my favorite discoveries! It is called a Floss Silk Tree and is a native of South America. The thorns are the size of a Hershey's Kiss or larger!! Delightfully dangerous!

I see a quilt or new textile design in every photo and I am anxious to get into my studio and let the Australian inspiration take over. I will also be thinking about the many wonderful men and women who are new friends on the other side of the earth. Who could dream that quilting would led to such an extraordinary journey!