For 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:
“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.”
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.
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.
When 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.
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.
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.)
Thank you to Jim West for allowing us to use his beautiful photographs.
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.
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.
I 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 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.
By 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:
You 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.
Is 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!
Living 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.
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 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.
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.
And 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.
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!
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?
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.
Why, 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.
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?
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.
Take 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.
While the Studio bears my name, it is pretty obvious that it takes a number of people to keep it running. I am blessed with a wonderful staff that carries on the day to day operations. They allow me to focus on designing and teaching, yet I seem to get a lot of the credit for what happens behind the scenes. I want to take the opportunity to focus on my amazing staff by occasionally doing profiles to give them the recognition they so deserve. For the first profile, I couldn’t think of anyone better to start with than Linda Marcinowski.
Linda has been on staff at the Studio longer than anyone else, having started in the summer of 2002. Many of you have been greeted by her friendly smile and welcome along with her remarkable memory for customers’ names and their stories. While Linda learned to sew clothing from her grandmother when she was only seven years old, it wasn’t until years later, in 1998, that she took up quilting. As an Army wife, she was invited to a welcome coffee and joined a quilt group headed by the general’s wife. Linda taught herself to quilt to keep up with the others in the group. Jinny’s techniques were her favorites and she had learned much from Jinny’s books. Once her children were grown, Linda needed something to do, and started working at the Studio.
Linda, having started when the brick and mortar shop was fairly new and the business was smaller, has done just about everything. She worked on the newsletter, made shop samples, set up booths for quilt shows, been a member of the seminar staff, and even became certified in thimble fitter in 2005.
What she enjoys most, though, is meeting the customers, seeing what they are working on, and helping them with their projects. She says, “It makes my day. I love the amazing, different people I meet and the stories they tell.” One of her favorite things to do is play with Jinny’s border prints, figuring out more and more things to create with them.
Having been a military wife for many years and the travel it entails and now with her two daughters married, you may think that Linda and her husband lead a quiet life. Two years ago, her adorable little grandson, Andy, came into their lives and now there is a granddaughter due within the next couple of weeks. “Oma” Linda doesn’t have the quilting time she once did.
Stop by to meet Linda and the rest of my fabulous staff this summer. We have new fabrics arriving, exciting classes, and we’ll be participating in the Row by Row Experience shop hop.
The story I have to tell today is one to which I’m sure many of you can relate. (Please tell me I’m not alone in this.) You’ve been rushing and rushing to get a quilt done for a special occasion and run out of time. You “give” the quilt anyway, but say you need to finish it. Somehow, once the cat is out of the bag there isn’t quite the urgency to keep hurrying to completion.
This, unfortunately, has happened to me too often. Years ago, I made a quilt for my husband’s parents to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. I had the top done and only part of the quilting when their anniversary arrived. I showed it to them and they were very excited.
Well, it just seemed to take forever to finish the quilting. Every phone call, my mother-in-law would ask if I had finished the quilt yet and I would answer that doing all the quilting by hand just took a long time. Finally, on their 41st anniversary when we called to give them our best, my mother-in-law sounded very frail. She asked if I had finished the quilt. I told her no, but it was coming along. She sighed and said, “Well, I hope we both get to enjoy it together.” That guilt trip got me going again and I had it finished within a couple of months. They enjoyed it together for many years.
I tell this story because I am now in the process of finishing yet another special occasion quilt. My son and daughter-in-law were married in September of 2005. For a “guest book” I made a quilt top and at the reception all of the guests signed the quilt with a permanent marker. My intention was to do the hand quilting and present them with the finished quilt on their 1st anniversary.
Well, life got in the way, I got involved writing my book, “The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns,” and did no sewing for the five years I devoted to the book. Then other “stuff” happened and I never finished it.
Now nine years later, they have just moved to a new house and my husband and I are flying to California tomorrow to visit them. About three months ago, knowing we would see them, I vowed to finish the quilt and give it to them for their new home.
I took the last stitches this morning, cut the strips for the binding and have the material for a sleeve in case they want to hang it. I’ll start the binding tonight while I watch the “Nats” (my beloved Washington Nationals) play baseball and finish it on the plane. Watch Facebook for a photo of them with the quilt.
As quilters, we show we care by making quilts for others. We mark births, graduations, weddings and other special occasions with our quilts and don’t mind (much) that some of the recipients will never know the amount of time which goes into its creation. Making a quilt with signatures is a nice way to capture the sentiments of people who participated in a special event. Some quilters add photographs with photo transfer or fabrics from clothing. There is so much we can do to make our gift of a quilt extra special.
Editor’s note: If you have made a quilt for a special occasion using Jinny’s fabrics or patterns, we would love to see a picture and hear the story behind it. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Often on our Facebook page, we show pictures of quilts our customers have made using my fabrics and, inevitably, someone will ask if there is a pattern for it. Of course, we are more than happy to provide them with a pattern if it is one we carry or send them to another source, but sometimes we just don’t know. What, then, is a quilter to do if she falls in love with a block but can find no pattern? You can draft it yourself. Really, you can do it. It is not hard at all.
I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I figured out years ago that most square patchwork designs were based on a grid such as a 2 x 2, 3 x 3, 4 x 4, 5 x 5, etc.
Through the years, I’ve written several books on patterns and drafting with my most recent and comprehensive being, “Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns,” which has over 4000 pieced block patterns. It gives quilters a way to recreate each and every block in quilts of their own without all of the complicated math. (Don’t spread this around, but I really don’t like math.) All you have to do is look up the name of the block and see what grid is used.
Now, here is something that even people who have owned the book for a while sometimes don’t notice. Hidden in the back cover, under the jacket flap, are two plastic sheets full of grids. (Be sure to pull off the protective film.) Find the corresponding grid on the plastic sheet, place it over the design, and…..viola! You can see which lines of the grid to connect to draw the design.
What do you do if you don’t own the book or don’t have it with you when you need it? I learned a valuable tip from a fellow passenger on an airplane years ago. Go to my “Tips & Lessons” page and click on “Drafting Quilt Blocks” for this easy technique.
*If you want to receive our free block-of-the-month patterns sign up for our monthly newsletter.
You are probably now checking to see if you clicked on the wrong thing because you were expecting something about quilting. I’ve been writing about somewhat technical topics lately and thought you might enjoy a break. There is, however, a tie to quilting if you just read on.
This time a year my vegetable garden is in its fledgling stage. I am harvesting the winter onions and some salad greens and radishes, but the tomato and pepper plants are still spindly. The herb, corn, beans, cucumber, beets, and squash seeds have just sprouted and mostly I’m still seeing a lot of dirt.
But it is the potatoes that make the garden look legitimate. I plant the seed potatoes in mid March and by now they are full bushes at least 18″ high. Every time I walk in I think “Wow! It looks like a garden! If you have never planted potatoes you should give it a go next year. Many years ago when someone suggested to me that I should plant potatoes, I wondered why would I do that. A potato is a potato, something you can just get at the store. How wrong I was!
Not only is it one of the first vegetables to harvest, but home grown potatoes are delicious. I plant the various varieties in the order in which I harvest them. I have experimented with lots of different kinds and now have my favorites. I start with early red Caribe potatoes, which I will start harvesting in a couple of weeks, as soon as the flowers start dropping. Then along come my favorite, Yukon Gold, and finally the storing potatoes. This year I have Kennebec.
From the first little new potatoes steamed and then tossed in chopped parsley and garlic infused olive oil, to the July 4th potato salad, roasted potatoes, baked potatoes and so much more, I love the potatoes and know that they are organically grown. Below is one of my favorite recipes and I think this is best with Yukon Golds.
So how does all this relate to quilting?
I’ve been eyeing the potato leaves as a possible fabric design.
PS. Did you know that many leaves have golden ratio proportions? If the narrow opening of the Golden Gauge Calipers is placed on the widest part of the potato leaf, the wider opening of the calipers is the height of the leaf.
Smashed Potatoes Recipe
One potato per serving (Yukon Gold are the best for this recipe)
olive oil, salt and pepper
1. Wash the potatoes and wrap each in aluminum foil.
2. Bake at 350 for one hour
3. Remove the foil and place the potatoes on a cookie sheet that has been rubbed with olive oil. Leave plenty of space between potatoes.
4. Rub the bottom of a small skillet (I use a cast iron skillet for the weight) with olive oil and then place it on top of a potato and press down until it squashes to a shape of a thick hamburger patty.
5. Brush the top of each potato with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
6. Bake in a 500 degree oven for about 15 minutes then turn each potato and bake another 15 minutes or so until the potatoes are brown and crispy.
These have the taste of french fries without all the calories.
A few blog posts ago, when I talked about the Golden Ratio, (1 to 1.618 or .618 to 1) there were several questions about how the golden ratio relates to the Fibonacci number sequence.
Leonardo Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician (c. 1170-1250) who devised a number sequence where the relationship of one number to the next or previous one provided perfect proportions. Mathematicians and artisans have been using this number sequence ever since. Some quilters use these numbers to plan proportion for their designs.
Fibonacci’s number sequence goes like this:
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, etc.
Can you see how the numbers are determined? Here’s how the sequence works. Start by adding our first two numbers: 0+1=1. Go to the second and third numbers, 1+1=2, then 1+2=3 and so on. Each successive number is the sum of the previous two numbers. You can select any number in the sequence. It is always the sum of the previous two numbers. For example 21 is obtained by adding 8 and 13.
But in actual fact, this is virtually the same as the Golden Ratio. As the numbers get higher the relationship between two adjacent ones approximates the golden ratio. In fact from the 10th number on, you will get a value of almost 1.618 or .618 every time!
The rectangles and spirals shown here, illustrate exactly how the Golden Ratio relates to the Fibonacci sequence of numbers.
Fibonacci begins with two squares, (1,1,) another is added the size of the width of the two (2) and another is added the width of the 1 and 2 (3). As more squares are added the ratio of the last two comes closer each time to the Golden Proportion (1.618 or .618). Put quarter circles in each of the squares to get the Fibonacci Spiral.
The Golden Spiral begins with a square and a rectangle is added whose width is .618 of the first square. Another square is added that is the width of the first square and rectangle (1.618) This proportion continues so that all the relationships are either .618 or 1.618. Once again the spiral is achieved when quarter circles are drawn in each of the squares.
Comparison of the two spirals:
An overlay of the two spirals shows that at the beginning they do not match up but as Fibonacci’s numbers grow the two spirals are virtually the same. The Golden Gauge Calipers show that the spiral is in perfect Golden Ratio proportions, 1 to 1.618!
All of this fascinates me. And I discovered that you can do the same type of number sequence starting with a different number. For example, we can call this one “Jinny’s Sequence”.
3, 3, 6, 9, 15, 24, 39, 63, 102, 165, etc.
Once again, by the time you get to the 10th number, and divide the 10th by the 9th you get very close to the Golden Ratio….1.6176
It seems to come out this way no matter which number you start with. So you may be asking yourself, do quilters really use this? My quilt, DaVinci was something of an ode to the proportion with the strip widths determined by this mathematical ratio. I am a huge fan of the work of Caryl Bryer Fallert, who has created an entire Fibonacci series of quilts. Why don’t you give it a try?
If you find all this fascinating check out the previous blog posts on the Golden Ratio.