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Out with the old and in with the new

When I first opened the Studio, I had the vision of a cozy quilt shop which would welcome my customers and not feel like a store even if that’s what it was. I never fail to feel that coziness each time I step inside. I suppose that’s why when the staff started telling me that we needed to do a bit of sprucing up, I put it off. As we often do at home, we don’t always notice when it’s time for a change.

With the busy fall season fast approaching, I finally realized, yes, it was time, especially with the long Labor Day weekend fast approaching. There is an awful lot of stuff which has to be moved around to paint a shop and unfortunately for the staff (and maybe lucky for me) I would not be around to help out. At close of business on Saturday, several of them moved fabric cases and bookshelves, removed quilts from walls, and so much more to get the shop ready.

shop staff cleaningThe first step was to remove the fabric which has covered the walls for 13 years.  Underneath, it was discovered that there was not one but two layers of wallpaper. Once that was all removed, painting the walls with a cheery white could begin.

shop redo 5

It’s only a start, but we love how it looks! Things have gone back in, been moved around, and quilts are being hung.  While we couldn’t do the whole shop at once (why, we’d have to close for DAYS to do that), it has started a bit of a “clean up and clean out” feeling among us all. Hmmm….now what should we do next?

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Fabric…It’s Not Just for Quilts

Jinny is quite busy with a top secret project this week (you’ll have to wait to hear what it is) so the staff is giving her a break and taking over the blog. Since there is no way we can impart quilting advice better than Jinny, we thought we’d show you something a little different—some alternate uses of Jinny’s fabulous fabric.

To be sure, nearly everyone who steps through the door of the Studio is here to buy something for their latest quilting project. Occasionally, a purchase is made for home decorating like curtains, napkins, tablecloths, and such. Large triangles from border prints make wonderful pillows. Why, we even have a border print running around the wall like a chair rail in our bathroom. One of the most fun “other” uses of Jinny’s fabric has to be when we see them in garments. Now we know you are thinking of those jackets we’ve all made which basically look like we’re wearing our quilts. While they are cute, what we’re talking about are garments which, at first glance, you would never think used quilting fabric.

Western shirtsLouanne G. from Taylor, Texas wrote to us a while back telling us how her husband loves Jinny’s border prints so Louanne uses them to make his Western shirts. Aussie quilter Esther A. used an Ambrosia fabric to make one of her fun Hawaiian-style shirts.

LorelaiSince fellow staffers spend many hours surrounded by fabric, they can come up with lots of unique ideas. Kristi has been making dresses for her granddaughter Lorelai since she was a baby. The dresses are precious but can’t outshine such a beautiful model.

Linda

When Linda’s grandson Andy was a baby, she made him this cute little jacket with Monochrome fabrics. Proving that her sewing skills were not just for the young, she made her very dapper dad (who’s in his 90’s), a shirt using the Pacific Rim line.

Dana
Fabrics used are from Corsica, Rajasthan, and Renaissance Garden collections

Some of the most amazing clothing, though, comes from our youngest staffer, Dana. Dana has a background in fashion design. A graduate from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, she originally learned to sew by quilting with her grandmother. She does make quilts but her real passion is clothing.  She has found a unique way to mix and match some of Jinny’s different collections to showcase her unique style. She says, “Cotton can be a really fun fabric to work with.  Although it is not ideal for pieces that need to breathe like pants, it works great for skirts and children’s clothing. It is easy to sew and the range of color and print possibilities is endless.”

So next time you stop by the Studio or your local quilt shop, we hope you’ll look at the fabric in a different light.

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Gardens Gone Wild

I swore I wasn’t going to dwell on my vegetable garden this year, but I just can help it. It is going crazy!

My corn is way taller than an elephant’s eye (I’m 5’6”).

I can’t reach the sunflowers.

corn and sunflowerszucchiniThe tomatoes, which were slow to ripen, have now all decided to turn ripe at the same time. I have to beg people to take zucchinis and cucumbers.

We are enjoying my favorite tomato salad every night. (See my recipe below). And then just this morning I saw some red ripe tomatoes way inside the plant. When I reached for the first one, I realized it wasn’t several but just a single gigantic one. It weighs 2.68 pounds! While I realize that is not the world’s largest tomato, I think it is pretty big and I wasn’t trying to grow a large tomato.

Jinny and tomato

I have used my Cuisinart so much that it died on me this morning while I was in the middle of making 10 quarts of tomato sauce.

Let’s get back to my sunflowers for a moment.

sunflower comboNotice in this close-up that the seeds form a pattern of two sets of spirals going in opposite directions. If you count the two sets and divide one number by the other, you will have either .618 or 1.618…….the golden ratio!  Also if you count the number of petals on a sunflower; it will almost always be one of the Fibonacci numbers.

Jinny’s Caprese Salad

salad

Slice as many tomatoes as you need and place a piece of fresh mozzarella cheese on top of each one. (Buffalo mozzarella is the best, if you can find it.) At this point, most recipes call for putting a basil leaf on each tomato slice and drizzling with olive oil. We like it better with some fresh pesto on top of the mozzarella. I make a larger batch than I need and keep the rest in the refrigerator for use the next time. It keeps well for at least a week.

Pesto for Caprese Salad

Two cups fresh basil leaves

Two cloves of garlic

¼ cup pine nuts, walnuts or pecans

About ¼ cup olive oil

Dash of salt

Pepper to taste

Chop nuts, garlic and basil in a food processor, while the processor is running add olive oil in a slow drizzle until pesto forms a soft paste.

Happy eating!

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Stop By If You Are in the Neighborhood

waitchie1-1Four hours north of Melbourne, Australia, heading towards the outback, lies the farming town of Swan Hill. Drive another half hour or more along a small road and in the middle of nowhere you will come to an old church which now serves as the patchwork shop “Miss Sampson’s Drapery”.

The church and a train crossing are basically all that is left of the town of Waitchie. But if you are in the vicinity, be sure to stop by this charming shop. I love the message about shop hours on the website.  http://www.misssampsonsdrapery.com.au

Shop Hours :
Tuesday – Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. unless we are at a show so check the calendar and/or ring before coming!
If I’m home on Saturdays, I’m more than happy to open up as long as I know you’re coming! The same arrangement for Sundays.
We welcome very small, small and large groups for coffee and cake on their first visit, but please let me know in time so I can bake!!

Miss Sampson's

The proprietor, Sue Bennett, has organized many of my teaching trips to Australia and we have become good friends over the years. Sue and her husband Malcolm and a few dogs and other animals live just down the road from the shop and always welcome visitors. If you are in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by.

canola field

Last night Sue sent me this photo of the vista she is seeing right now out her back door. Can you guess what it is? I use it for cooking almost every day but never saw it growing.

canola colors

Sue, here are the colors. Now I’m waiting for the canola quilt!

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Shop Hop Fun!

Every year, along with nine others shops in the area, we hold a shop hop known as Quilter’s Quest. Held each November, the planning starts months earlier. At one of our meetings this spring, we discussed another type of shop hop held during the summer known as the Row by Row Experience. Started in upstate New York just four years ago, participation is spreading across the country and we all decided to join in. We didn’t know what to expect but we have all been thrilled with the fun which has ensued.

We often get quilters from all over but this summer the quilters who have stopped by have been telling us of shops they have visited across the country and it seems that my staff, too, has caught the Row by Row bug. Here, then, are some of the places they have visited and the experiences they’ve had.

That's Sew Debbie! in Groton, Connecticut
That’s Sew Debbie! in Groton, Connecticut

Nancy accompanied her husband on a business trip to Groton, Connecticut. Visiting “That’s Sew Debbie!” she was warmly greeted by Alberta H. and delighted to find that the Row by Row patterns were on a table covered with one of my palette fabrics. She was then introduced to one of the instructors, Charlie M. Charlie is currently working on his second Moon Glow quilt (wow!) and is a great “collector” of my fabrics. I love the quilt he’s holding in the picture here and I recognize almost all of those fabrics, Charlie.

Shops in the Pennsylvania area
Shops in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area

Diane went to seven shops in two days while visiting Lancaster County, PA. Even though she has visited the area often, she discovered quilt shops there she never knew existed. One store looked so tiny from the front she normally wouldn’t have bothered to stop but upon entering was thrilled to discover it just went on and on, filled with wonderful fabric. Now it will be a regular stop on her visits there.

Kristi regularly travels between here and Greensboro, NC, and just last week decided to break up the driving with five stops at participating shops. She hadn’t been to some of the shops in years and really enjoyed seeing all the new and different fabrics they held.

Kristi with Joanne Jones, the shop owner
Kristi at Ye Olde Forest, with Joanne Jones, the shop owner

Over the weekend, one of our staff, Sharon, while visiting family in Tacoma, Washington, stopped by Calico Threads. Here she is standing with Sandy Pickering and Donna Denman who opened the shop 2 years ago.  Having lived in Tacoma in her high school years, Sharon recognized the bridge in the store’s pattern – the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Sharon with Sandy Pickering and Donna Denman of Calico Threads in Tacoma, Washington
Sharon with Sandy Pickering and Donna Denman of Calico Threads in Tacoma, Washington

Barb stopped in at “Running Stitches” in Kent, Washington to pick-up a Row by Row pattern. She had a lovely chat with the staff and found a few fat quarters that had to come home with her (“As if I didn’t already have enough” she said). On her way out, she saw a gentleman on an adult tricycle with a basket mounted between the rear wheels. In that basket ? You guessed it, his sewing machine safely buttoned down inside its case. Too bad you didn’t get a picture of that, Barb.

As my staff visited other shops they asked themselves why they don’t do this more. Every shop carries different fabrics and has a different “feel” to it to inspire and spark your creativity. Row By Row continues through September 2nd. After that, why don’t you consider joining us in November for our Quilter’s Quest?

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The Best Birthday Gift a Teacher Could Receive

!_MAX7115For three years in a row I taught classes in Ukraine. The students were so diligent and were like sponges for the information I had to give them. The best part was that I was teaching them design ideas and not a specific project.

Recently I celebrated my birthday and two of my Ukranian students, Lena Koroleva and Miri Tsoi gathered together several of their quilts and took these wonderful photographs and sent then to me along with birthday wishes. I remember with joy each of the classes I taught in Ukraine and it makes me so proud to see that they have taken the design ideas and turned them into their own quilts.

It is also wonderful to see that they are passing those skills on. A few days earlier, Lena also sent me photographs of students in classes they are teaching. This was the message she attached with the photos:photo 2

“Ukraine is experiencing hard times, but people rallied around our common disaster, all helping each other, to help the army and refugees from areas captured. In occupied by terrorists city of Donetsk live almost all my relatives (Donetsk is a city in which I was born and lived for more than 30 years). I am very worried about them.

Yesterday I and Miri Tsoi organized for refugee children from the Donetsk region free master classes on patchwork.”photo 1

With all the strife going on in that country right now it is great to see that Patchwork is still going on and brings some measure of joy to the people.

!_MAX7133

 

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Out of Virginia and Into Africa

Visit the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
Visit the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

Many of you may not know that in the early years of our married life my husband, John, and I spent several years living outside the United States. First it was Sarawak (a part of the Federation of Malaysia) on the island of Borneo, then Colombia in South America, next Nepal and finally India.

it-africa-022015 copyWhen we left India to return back to the U.S., we decided to take a side trip to Kenya to see some of the game reserves and visit that beautiful country. By then we had three children, ages 8, 6 and 2. This was in 1972 and there were not a lot of restrictions when traveling to the game parks.  Back then we rented a Volkswagen Beetle, loaded it with our family of five, and toured the game parks on our own. We saw incredible wildlife, were chased by a rogue elephant, stayed in humble accommodations, and had quite some adventures.

Kiss a giraffe or (not)!
Kiss a giraffe (or not!)

I’m so excited that I will return to Kenya in February for the first time since 1972. I will be going on another Sew Many Places Adventure with Jim West. This time there will be luxury accommodations along with trips to the parks very well supervised by an expert guide for every four-person safari vehicle. In addition to all the wildlife we will see, other highlights of the trip  include a visit to the Kazuri Bead factory, Karen Blixen’s home from Out of Africa fame, an elephant orphanage, a Samburu village and a giraffe sanctuary. It will be fun to revisit my first trip and share new experiences with people on the tour.

One of my favorite YouTube videos is this one. Watch the whole thing…..it is pretty amazing and has a surprise (and happy) ending. We may not quite experience this kind of sight……but you never know.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU8DDYz68kM

The Safari Expedition takes you to the heart of a game reserve
The Safari Expedition takes you to the heart of a game reserve

There are still a few places left on the expedition. Jim West always does a wonderful job with his tours and I feel comfortable knowing I am safe with everything is taken care of from start to finish. I hope some of you will be inspired to join me and Jim on this once in a lifetime experience (fortunately for me, I get two chances.)

Explore the African plains
Explore the African plains

Thank you to Jim West for allowing us to use his beautiful photographs.

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Nothing Lasts Forever

Nothing lasts forever and no matter how carefully we plan, we eventually run out of a border print used in a favorite quilt design. When that happens, I am faced with the challenge of replacing it with a current fabric. When we update kits, we’ve already done the calculations for you. But what happens if you have an old pattern of mine, you want to use a new border print and you have to figure it out? Let’s take a look at how to replace one border print for another. Sometimes the switch is easy. Some quilts, however, require a little more consideration.

Summer Lily with the original border and the new border.
Summer Lily with the original border and the new border.

We recently used up the last bolt of one of our favorite border prints, a lovely teal and blue print that complimented several quilt designs. It was featured on two quilts, Shimmering Sea and Kinabalu in the Ocean colorway. The quilts are very similar in construction style but the symmetry and use of border print are very different. Planning the substitute border print for these two quilts shows just how easy or complex this process can be.

AshfordI selected the teal colorway of the Ashford border print. The color balance and flavor were very much the same; both teal and blue with curves and flourishes, but there are a few key differences that I had to take into account when making the switch.

  • Value: A darker or lighter background behind a print will change the overall value of the border print.
  • Repeat: The width of the border stripes and the distance between the mirrored elements can change the yardage required to piece the quilt.
  • Layout: Each of my border prints has a filler strip between the wide and narrow stripes to allow for a ¼ inch seam allowance for each strips. This section is either solid or filled with additional design.

Now, let’s take a look at the two quilts.

shimmering seaShimmering Sea, does not use the border print in the block. It simply frames the assembled blocks to highlight the rich, jewel tones. The Ashford Border Print is slightly lighter than the original fabric and is slightly narrower. The lighter border print changes the balance of the quilt but requires nothing more than swapping one for the other. The final quilt is slightly smaller and the overall effect is similar.

The Ocean colorway of Kinabalu is another story.  In addition to the framing stripes, the border print is used in the block design, fussy cut and filling the corner of each block to accentuate the curved illusion. The 36 blocks require 36 identical triangles cut from the wide section of the border print.  The design repeat in this print is 12” between identical images rather than the 9” in the previous border print and the stripe is not wide enough to cut two, point to point one above the other, from each repeat. I can only cut 3 of these identical triangles from each running yard of border stripe. Yikes! That is only 18 triangles per yard of fabric. That yardage adds up quickly and leaves excess waste behind.

SS Borders copyAshford Ocean Template A Guide 6By using both mirror images, I can eliminate a good portion of that waste and drop the yardage bock down to a reasonable amount.  The triangles from Position 1 will be used in the blocks where the triangles will touch and form a larger mirrored image (see diagram). Triangles cut using position 2 are for the remaining blocks where they will not touch those from Position 1. The variation in triangle design will add to the movement in the quilt design.

Here is what those changes look like in the finished quilt:

Kinabalu copyYou can use this approach in any of my quilt designs that use a border print.  Each of the border prints currently in stock has the width and repeat information available. Just click on the small fabric image on our website to view the enlarged fabric with the design information attached (see image below).  Calculate the amount you will need for the framing borders by following the pattern and then map out any additional border print you might need to include in the blocks.

border swatchIs there a pattern on our website where you would like to change the border or color?  This is your chance to play around, experiment and have fun!

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Washington DC Folklife Festival

festival-home-photo-generalLiving in the Washington D.C. area certainly has its advantages. There are so many cultural opportunities available. An annual event that occurs for two weeks every summer on the National Mall is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The festival celebrates several US and foreign cultures each year with music, crafts, food and demonstrations. This year Kenya and China were the featured nations.

Last Thursday, Jin Yuanshan, a patchwork artist and one of the participants in the Festival, visited our shop hoping to have the chance to meet me. Unfortunately, I was out of town but she delighted the entire staff and shared some of her beautiful creations. When I returned, I learned that she would be demonstrating at the Festival on Saturday, July 5th.  So I went into Washington with Barb Hollinger, one of our Studio staff members.

ms jin with barb and jinny
Staffer Barb, Jin Yuanshan, and myself

Jin Yuanshan had so many of her beautiful creations with her and was sharing her techniques. I am so pleased that I had the chance to meet this truly inspirational and prolific artist.

Ms. Jin's Pieces

Ms. Jin works almost entirely in silk and does all of her work by hand (a woman after my own heart). I would describe many of her pieces as organized crazy patch. She never throws any scraps away but just makes smaller pieces with the leftovers. The pieces are joined together with silk thread with an over-cast stitch similar to the stitch used to connect English paper piecing.

Staffer Diane with Jin
Ms. Jin with staffer Diane

She also does dimensional pieces where she rolls or folds scraps of silk to create beautiful layered medallions.  She carries small squares with her everywhere she goes and in spare moments folds them, runs a needle through them and strings them for use later.

folklife festival_edited-1zuchinisAnd back here in Great Falls…..The reason I wasn’t here when Ms Jin stopped by the Studio was that we were visiting our grandchildren (and their parents). We were only gone four days. I swear that before I left I picked every single zucchini on the plants in our garden (except for the ones that were only two inches long). I came home to this. Thank goodness there are several women in my husband’s office who love giant zucchini. Five of them were very happy.

Oh, I noticed that I am wearing my “Nats” shirt…….In case you didn’t know, I am a huge baseball fan….and either go to, watch, or listen to every Washington Nationals game that I can.

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Pictures and Palettes and Pixels – Oh My!

Back in April, I wrote a blog post on the inspiration from all of the spring colors I found on my walk.  I also passed along a tip on how to create a beautiful palette from a photograph using Photoshop.  Here in the Studio, we’ve been playing around with some favorite photographs to see what we come up with.  We also got a “pingback” from another blog on how to take this a step further. Let’s take a look.

Nancy found this pile of shells on the beach after a storm. She was so taken by the many colors of the broken shells that she had to snap this photo. Never, though, would she have guessed that you could come up with 99 different colors!

Nancy photo

Studio manager Jane has always been taken with the brilliant colors of the early blooming flowering quince.  Yes, we all see the gorgeous apricot color of the flowers along with the green leaves and grayish-brown stems, but would you ever expect all of this?

Jane photo

I recently returned from visiting my younger son and his wife in their new home in California. The view from their house is amazing. One night, there was a spectacular sunset which just seemed to get better and better. Look at how the colors change.

sunsets copyWhy, you may wonder, are we revisiting this topic? A blogger for the group called, “Pixeladies” (I love the play on words) read my blog and took this a step further with instructions on how to change Photoshop’s default swatches with those you have created from your photograph.

Sunset color palette

Once your change to the swatches has been made, how do you take that palette and put it to good use? How about filling a quilt block with your new favorite colors?

Here’s how:
1. Open your unfilled quilt block in Photoshop.  This can be any quilt block line drawing- jpeg, png, tiff or pdf)
2. With the magic wand tool, click the area in which you would like to fill with your first color.  If you want to choose more than one area, hold the shift key and select as many areas as you would like.  The “dancing ants” will outline the area chosen.
3. Choose the color from your new palette that you would like to fill the area with in the block.
4. Next, select the paint bucket tool and drop the color into the selected areas.
5. Now, have fun filling and creating! You can always Edit-Undo if you don’t like your selection or fill over top with a different color.

Sunset filled blockTake that antique quilt from your grandmother that you love so much and recreate it with a new, fresher look or design a quilt from scratch like I did with my Argyll quilt.

Argyll1