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Simple Stitches, Exquisite Quilts

WindowsIt was with a little bit of trepidation that I waved goodbye to the majority of my personal quilts I have made.  They were loaded into an SUV to be taken to the Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg for their three month exhibit “Simple Stitches, Exquisite Quilts.” I told my friend, Bunnie Jordon, the exhibit’s curator who was driving them down, “There goes my life’s work.”  No pressure there!

Many of my longtime friends helped to hang the quilts. Since this experience has been something akin to handing over my children, this calmed me…somewhat.

VQM InstallAs you know, I make all of my quilts by hand. People think I am crazy to do everything by hand and they marvel that I do it but wonder why.

Ray of Light
Ray of Light

But to me handwork is a solace. Sitting and stitching by hand and thinking about what is going on in my life spins the events of everyday life into the quilts. It is sort of a meditation – you don’t have to rush, finish, get it done. I can just relax and enjoy the moment. That is what hand stitching is to me.

I can look at each of those quilts and know where I was when I was making it, what was happening in my life at that time and each one brings back memories.

The exhibit will have 18 of my personal quilts including “Ray of Light” and “Windows” as well as 21 quilts from my charm quilt collection.

3 Quilts
Sundance, Day Lilies, and Ode to Vasarely

A quilt where every piece is cut from a different fabric is called a charm quilt.  Charm quilts are usually made with pieces cut from a single shape such as a square, diamond, triangle or hexagon. Tumbling Blocks is one of my favorite designs for a charm quilt and is a great hand-piecing project.  I love these unique quilts and often use their many fabrics as inspiration for my fabric designs.

My exhibit at the museum runs through April 25.  I will be giving a lecture, to be followed by a reception, on February 22.  I would love to have you join me.  For more information, please visit the Virginia Quilt Museum website.

VQM

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Put a thimble on it!

Hand quilting tumbling blocks.
Hand piecing tumbling blocks.

The thimble has become an indispensable sewing tool to me through the years although that wasn’t always so.  I never remember learning to sew.  I’ve been doing it all my life.  As a child, I never used a thimble.  In fact, as an adult, I pieced my first quilt top without one.  That all changed one day when the eye end of a needle went through my finger.  (If you have ever done this, you know how much it hurts.)  Ever since then, I have worn a thimble to protect my finger from the eye-end of the needle.  Wearing one has become so natural to me that I often don’t realize I have it on.  I will never forget finding a “lost” thimble in the freezer.  I must have forgotten I was wearing it and it fell off when I was preparing dinner.

Finding the perfect thimble is like finding the perfect pair of shoes.  What fits for one may not be right for another.  Sometimes the hunt is brief but sometimes it seems to take forever to find a good fit.  Here, then, are some things to consider when you are on the hunt for your perfect thimble.

Which finger do you use?  Most use the middle finger of their dominant hand.  Others use their thumb which requires a totally different type of thimble.  The motion of your finger and whether you are piecing or quilting also affects your choice.  Do you push with the tip of your finger or the side?

Closed & Open Thimble
Closed & Open Thimble

Are your fingernails long?  If so, you will probably opt for an open thimble over a closed one.

Thimbles are made with a wide variety of materials.  Metal, plastic, leather, rubber and even porcelain are popular. Some cause fingers to sweat and some wear out quickly.  There are even pads which stick on your finger. Of course, different materials have different costs which is also a consideration.

Various thimblesHow do you find the right fit?  It’s a little like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  You want a thimble which is not too tight, not too loose.  Put the thimble on your finger, hold your hand down at your side, move your hand around a little.  The tip of your finger should rest gently at the top and the base should fit comfortably on the sides of the finger with no pinching. The thimble should stay on but be comfortable enough that you don’t really notice it is there. (Remember the freezer story?)

Also, at different times of the year you may need to change sizes. We have many customers who use two different sizes of thimbles—a larger in summer when fingers swell and a smaller size for cold winter months.

It seems like a lot of fuss over a humble little thimble, doesn’t it?  But if you wear one for hours and hours, you will soon realize how important it is. As with so many of our quilting tools, it may take a lot of trial and error before you find what works for you. Next time, I’ll talk about the thimble I use and love.

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Travel to Costa-Rica & Australia

One of the benefits of being in the quilt profession is the wonderful places I get to travel to.  Next up for me is a trip with Jim West and Sew Many Places to Costa Rica. While I’ve visited there a couple of times for pure relaxation, I have not seen a lot of the country. I’m particularly excited to go with the group to the village of Sarchi.

Sarchi is a key artisan town in Costa Rica best known for its vibrant and lavishly decorated oxcarts. These oxcarts were first used in the mid-nineteenth century to transport coffee and other goods to port cities for export overseas. The addition of painting and carving to what had begun as simply utilitarian transportation started in the early twentieth century. Don’t you just love the many compass designs?

The colors and designs are so great to look at!
The colors and designs are so great to look at!

I’ve always loved  mariners compass-type designs and when I look at these amazing oxcart wheels I see endless quilt inspiration. What a design eye opener for all of us. We’ll definitely be talking about quilt possibilities!

Compass copyThe trip had been sold out but we have just had two last minute cancellations. Are you looking for reprieve from this winter? Why not come join me and my small band of fellow travelers in visiting Sarchi plus the jungle and gorgeous tropical waters? If you are interested, simply contact Sew Many Places for the details.

tortuga-island-02

costa-rica-toucan

If Costa Rica is a little too soon for you, Jim has also just announced our last minute decision to go on an Austrailian expedition in April.

Australia1

I’ve been to Australia so many times and am really looking forward to sharing my love of the country with participants on the tour. We’ll be visiting the Australian Quilt Convention, Sydney and the countryside. There is also an optional tour of New Zealand. The Australian trip is limited to only 16 people so it should be a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other. Because while one benefit of my quilting life may be the travel, the best benefit truly is the wonderful people I meet along the way.

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Fun With Puzzle Balls

Boxes!Wow! We’ve really started the New Year off with a bang here at the Studio.  It’s been incredibly busy!  I suppose with all of the nasty weather across the US, many of you are staying in your cozy homes and quilting.  If you’ve ordered from us, it may take us just a little longer to get your orders out so thank you in advance for your patience.

Thank you also for the fabulous response to my project with Craftsy.  We’ve been getting lots of calls here at the Studio about Craftsy’s BOM program. While my customer service staffers can answer lots of questions, the BOM program is Craftsy’s so it is Craftsy who can best answer the questions.  Here is their Help Center link where you can get answers to frequently asked questions.  They will continue to add FAQs to this page.help button

https://www.craftsyhelp.com/hc/en-us/articles/203905380-2015-Craftsy-Block-of-the-Month-BOM-Kit-Lessons-FAQ

Now for a fun project and a great idea…..

Puzzle ball bookWhen I first designed my Puzzle Balls many years ago, I thought of them as a great take-along hand project and as a wonderful project when teaching children to hand piece.  What never occurred to me was how popular they would be with animal lovers and their pets.

Many a customer has come into the Studio or written to tell us how much their pets enjoy batting them around.  They seem to be most appealing to cats and many of their owners will insert little noisemakers, like bells or even catnip inside which make them even more fun.

I recently received a letter from Amy L. from Lowell, MA.  Amy is a member of the Chelmsford Quilters’ Guild.  She started making a few puzzle balls for her family and friends. Most ended up as pin cushions, but one she made specifically as a cat toy for a cat belonging to friends.

Since Amy is fond of Siamese cats, friends suggested she adopt a cat through Siamese Cat Rescue Center.  The Siamese Cat Rescue Center has a circle of volunteers who can transport cats all up and down the coast.  Little Rumi made the 9-hour trip from Virginia to Massachusetts.

The aforementioned Rumi, he is a little camera shy.
The aforementioned Rumi, he is a little camera shy.

Trying to find a quilting project to work on, Amy remembered the puzzle balls and how her friends’ cats enjoyed them. She began the Meezer Teaser project as a fund-raising project for the Siamese Cat Rescue Center who gave her Rumi.  This organization works to rescue Siamese before they are euthanized at shelters and to offer a variety of information and resources related to the Siamese cat.

MT LogoUsing scraps from wherever she can get them along with polyester fiberfill (and later catnip) , Amy makes up little baggies with the parts for the puzzle balls so she can just grab them and her sewing case to work on them wherever she goes. The Siamese Cat Rescue Center will be selling them through their fundraising storefront called “The Siamese Store.” (Note: They are not yet on their website.)

Miko, the "action cat" playing with the puzzle balls.
Miko, the “action cat” playing with the puzzle balls.

What a wonderful idea Amy has had. We wish you luck, Amy, with this wonderful fundraising effort. When events in the world get a little scary, it is nice be reminded of these small acts of caring and the contributions each of us can make.

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So now the best kept secret is out!

Craftsy BOM final quilt
Craftsy 2015 BOM Quilt

So now the best kept secret is out. Craftsy, RJR Fabrics and I have just announced our partnership in presenting the 2015 Craftsy Block of the month. During all my blogs these last eight months it was very difficult for me not to mention this project that was consuming a major amount of my time.

We worked very hard to present a program that covered a wide variety of quilting skills and each month students learn a different technique. We will cover hand and machine piecing, paper piecing, two methods of applique, mitering, working with border prints and more.

All of my summer and the better part of three more months was spent on developing this Craftsy 2015 Block of the Month. We began with preparing the outline and what would happen each month. Then there was the task of making the quilt, making all the stepouts, writing the pattern.

And finally, the production. I spent a week at the Craftsy studios in Denver and was extremely impressed with every aspect of the production and the professional way everything was handled. There were long days filming, refilming, dealing with a power outage, thunderstorms that pelted the roof so we had to stop filming because it interfered with the sound and lots more!

It was an exhilarating week and now that I see the final product I’m even more impressed.

Craftsy workshop1I’ve had so many requests the past few years to do online classes for those of you who can’t travel to the Studio here in Virginia. I’m so happy to be able to present this for you. The class is free so I encourage all of you to sign up for it through this link.

http://www.craftsy.com/ext/JinnyBeyer_4816_Free

Blog image1Craftsy is the exclusive source for the kit. You can find all the information you need by visiting our site by clicking here. They have been overwhelmed by the response to the class and kit and sold out of their first order of kits within two days of announcing the class. If you receive that notice, keep checking this link periodically to see when they have restocked.

I hope you enjoy the class and I want to see photos of your quilt in progress!

Now about my sewing room situation which I shared with you last week. I’ve made a bit of progress……..I cleaned out one drawer. Hey, you have to start somewhere.

We love the “before” photos we’ve gotten from you on Facebook and the blog. Keep them coming. Staffer Diane shared her sewing room pics, and I realized now why I like her so much. Here are a couple of photos.

Diane's Workroom

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The Sewing Room

Sewing Room, Work Room, Studio……whatever you want to call it, what does yours look like right now? As we approach the first of the year, I’m thinking about what my main resolution will be……I say this every year and every year it never gets done…Clean up my “Studio”!

Jinny's "studio" after the last "clean-up" 15 years ago.
Jinny’s “studio” after the last “clean-up” 15 years ago.

So what is my “Studio”? It is a long narrow room at the back of the house that attaches to the laundry room. It actually used to be the whole laundry room but I cut it up and made a workspace out of part of it.  There is a door that leads outside. Along one wall and around a corner is a long kitchen height counter to use for workspace with a couple of cubby holes to allow a bar-type chair to fit. Windows, over the counter, look out to the yard and drawers for storage are underneath. Opposite the counter are shelves for fabric storage. One wall, that has the door to the laundry room, is burlap covered and serves as a design wall. The door is also covered in burlap…….doesn’t sound too bad.

A lot of people would like to have a space like this. So why haven’t I used it in 15 years? Why, when I have a project to work on, do I spread it out on the island in the kitchen and work at the kitchen table?

Okay, I’m really going out on a limb here. I’m thinking that if I show you some pictures of what it really looks like now and declare my resolution in front of all of you then I can’t back down. I’ll have to save face and clean it up.

Sewing room2

My work room has become a catchall. I don’t sit at the counter or use this room as a “Studio” and work because:

*The counter is piled high with fabric and junk……the whole entire counter!

*A dog crate sits under one of the work cubby holes and fabric is stored in bins under the other, so there is no room for a chair to fit.

IMG_5251
Dog crates make another great horizontal surface to hold “stuff!”

*Drawers and shelves are stuffed as full as can be with no room for anything else.

*My burlap covered wall has the second dog crate in front of it as well as a now defunct copy machine. Back when we still had cats, they liked to use the burlap as a scratching post……its pretty ugly right now.

Now, mind you, this won’t be a day project. I have to find a place for all that clutter or get rid of a bunch of stuff. In order to do that, I have to clean out every drawer and shelf so I have a place to put what I really want to keep. I’m going to have to clean the attic so I have a place to store things that I’m not going to use all the time. I’m going to have to replace the burlap wall with something else and dispose of the defunct copy machine……I won’t get rid of the dog crates because I love my dogs and they love their crates…..but I will make room under at least one of the cubby holes for a chair so I can once again sit and look at the nice view as I work.

So how many of you have a “Studio” that needs organizing? How many of you will take the challenge with me and send a “before” photo? Then during the year lets share progress photos…..we CAN do this!

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Sit Back and Watch The Quilt Show

Jinny and RickyI hope all of you who celebrated Christmas yesterday had a day which was “merry and bright.”  Often, though, we are left dragging the following day, hoping for a little time to relax.  I have a suggestion for what you can do to kick back and put your feet up for an hour.

Six years ago I was honored to have been named a quilting “legend” by my friends Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims from The Quilt Show. The episode they filmed for their show took place in my home and at the Studio here in Great Falls.  This week, through January 1, they are offering their legend shows for free.  In my episode, you will see my historic home (parts of which date back to 1750), my gardens and visit my Studio. I talk about my start in quilting and my color theory, and I get to show you some of my quilts.  If you would like to see this episode and others, visit The Quilt Show following this link.

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Wishing You a Peaceful Holiday Season

Holiday signIt is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, worrying about buying the right gifts, baking cookies, decorating a home.  With so many distractions, we sometimes forget to pause and take stock. I’m reminded of the words of Dr. Suess in his famous tale of How the Grinch Stole Christmas:

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

I hope we all take a moment to take stock and that our thoughts are full of all the blessings we have—our families, friends, homes and communities.

And for me, that includes you, too.  I’ve enjoyed meeting many of you in classes and in the Studio, reading your emails and comments on Facebook and my blog and, of course, sharing my love of quilting.  Even though we may live countries apart and we may never meet, we are all part of this wonderful quilting community.

Yes, I think quilters especially understand this message from the Grinch.  The gift of a quilt is a labor of love whether for a friend, family member or even a stranger.  The world can be a scary place these days.  I am so grateful to be associated with generous men and women who give others tangible signs that they care, that the recipient is special.  Maybe the world just needs a few more quilters.

We have lots of exciting projects ahead in the New Year but for now, let me wish all of you a happy, healthy and peaceful holiday season.

christmas 2014

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Staff Profile- Barbara

Barb profile pic croppedEvery now and then I like to do a profile of one of the members of my amazing staff.  These are the ladies who keep the shop running on a daily basis and who supply an endless source of inspiration.  This time let me introduce you to Barbara Hollinger.

Barb’s mom taught her to sew as a child.  Her first quilt experience was as a young single woman when a friend suggested they give quilting a try.  While she loved the precision of the piecing, she hated the actual quilting part.  That changed later on as she developed a love of hand quilting and also discovered the joys of free-motion machine quilting.  Now an accomplished machine quilter, Barb was a regular contributor to the magazine Machine Quilting Unlimited and teaches our machine quilting classes at the Studio.

Thistle
Thistle

Barb joined my staff over a decade ago. Her first career was as an engineer and you can see in her work the influence of her technical background.

Painted Prayers - made for the 2008 Jinny Beyer Hilton Head Seminar on Kaleidoscopes
Painted Prayers – made for the 2008 Jinny Beyer Hilton Head Seminar on Kaleidoscopes

Having done just about everything at the Studio, Barb recently left her job as Studio manager and currently serves as our “Quilt Project Engineer” proving to be of great help in my design work.

Seymoure full view
Seymour – made for the 2005 Jinny Beyer Hilton Head Seminar on Radiant Stars

Having joined a group of contemporary quilters, Barb became involved in the project, “Healing Quilts in Medicine” which brings beauty and education to hospitals through quilts.

P & P copy
Pick your Poison II & Pacific Yew – Both quilts are based on animals and plants which are used to create modern medicines.

postcard-4inx6in-h-front

 

Barb is currently devoting much of her time as curator for the upcoming Sacred Threads exhibit.  Held every two years, this exhibition is a forum for quilters who see their work as a source of healing and inspiration to others.

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Amazing Effects with Mirror-Image Fabric

I have mentioned the Design Board on our web site before.  Just this week we added design number 225.  All of these are free downloads and available in 6, 10 or 12 inch sizes.

As I was fussy cutting the paisley fabric for the points of this latest block, I realized I have talked about fussy cutting border prints (Anatomy of a Border Print), but not about looking for fabric with mirror-images to use in the same technique.

1 and 4 mirror blog WWO end paisley

Here is an image of the paisley fabric I used for the triangles in World Without End, Block 225. The white lines indicate the “mirror” lines. These are places in the fabric where the design left of the mirror line is the identical reverse of the design to the right of the line. In the case of this particular block, the triangle can be centered anywhere along the mirror line.  In fact, it is fun to try it in different places. And don’t forget you will get different designs if you turn the template upside down. See how many variations you can get.

Mirror image lines side by side copy The use of a fabric with mirror-image motifs can enhance the appearance of the block.  See here the World Without End block with and without the mirrored paisley fabric.

WWO side by sideBlock 218 looks great as it is but let’s add a paisley design. Here is the block as it appears on our Design Board and another variation using the mirrored paisley from Renaissance Garden.

Quasar side by side copyBlock 144, Southern Pride, from the Design Board is shown here first the original form and, second, with paisleys used in place of two of the other fabrics.

Southern side by side copyFinally, see how different Southern Pride looks when multiple blocks of each variation are put together.

Quilt side by side copyLook through the designs on the Design Board and see how many you can find that already use fabrics with mirror-image motifs and which blocks you think would benefit from the additions of a mirror-image fabric. E-mail us pictures of your designs at service@jinnybeyer.com, we would love to see what you create.