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Try Your Hand at Color Shading

Customers walking into the Studio are greeted by hundreds of fabrics in an array of colors. In nearly every bit of wall space, we have quilts with dozens of fabrics.  Fat quarter bundles designed to shade from one color to another are in baskets and boxes. But what if you want to choose your own fabrics? It is easy to become overwhelmed when it comes to selecting colors and fabrics for a project. Many quilters don’t know where to start. It really isn’t that hard and can be a lot of fun once you get started.

On our website, we have three large fabric bundles, Emerald Isle, Indian Marketplace, and Shades of the Tropics, which are examples of my color theory. Each contains 39 fabrics divided into three color groups. While they look great on their own, they are more effective together. We recently decided to add another fat quarter collection, and I’ll use this to show you how easy color shading can be.

BundlesOur Moon Glow quilt has been popular for years and customers love the colors, so I decided to create a Moon Glow fat quarter bundle. I first chose a range of colors and made sure that I had several shades of those colors. There should be no gaps from one to the next, the more fabric the better.

Image 1Next, I added some deep darks, fabrics darker than the others to make my original colors pop.

IMG_5199-2I then added a couple of accent fabrics, both a little brighter than the other colors.

Image4It’s starting to look nice, isn’t it? Now I’m going to add neutrals. Neutrals cover a wide range but I think of them simply as grayed-down or muddied colors. Often quilters skip these because they say they don’t really like these colors. These neutrals, though, make the other fabrics shine. Can you see what a difference they make?

Image3Finally, I took my Portable Palette and went shopping through my stash just as you can do at home. (Of course, my stash happens to be the Studio!) Fill in anything that’s missing with a trip to your local quilt shop. Here’s how these colors work in Moon Glow and in our new fat quarter bundle.

Moonglow collageCheck out my video on our website for more details on color shading. I had so much fun putting together this fat quarter collection that I’m already planning another which will be available soon. Are you ready to give it a try?

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Cookies & Quilts: They’re More Alike Than You Think

I realized the other day that quilting is a lot like baking cookies. (I may have been a little hungry at the time.) To bake cookies, you have many ingredients that you gather together sometimes lining them all up before you even get started mixing.  Imagine the disaster if you used the exact same measurements of flour, butter, salt, baking soda, etc. What makes your cookies taste good is the amount of each of those ingredients you use.

When looking at a palette of colors such as the one shown here, you might think there is too much red, or maybe you don’t like so much purple. Keep in mind that you are seeing equal amounts of each of the colors.

night and day blog ill 1A quilt will look very different depending how much of each color is used. To illustrate this, I have used the Carnival fabric collection to update our popular quilts “Night and Day.” The blocks of the quilts are made with sets of fabric that are strip pieced. Once the strips are sewn, then identical triangles are cut.

Night and day ill 2When I first designed “Day” I wasn’t planning on making two quilts but I realized that the leftover triangles (B) could be used in another quilt. The only extra fabric needed would be the background. We changed our kits to include all the fabric needed to make two quilts, a “Night” and a “Day.”  I decided to use a light background for “Day” and a dark background for “Night.” “Day” has so much more orange showing and “Night” has more purple.

Night and Day Carnival1
Night (left) and Day (right)

The background can also affect how the colors look. This time I went one step further and swapped the backgrounds of Night and Day and created two new quilts called Dusk and Dawn.

Dusk and Dawn Carnival
Dusk (left) and Dawn (right)

Getting back to those cookies again, the ingredients you choose and the amounts you use is how you create a finished product which suits you. Whether you like your cookies chewy or cakelike or whether you like the colors orange or purple, it is all a matter of taste. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to tweak your recipe, experiment with different ingredients, combinations and amounts. You just might come up with something delicious.

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Join Me on These Exciting Trips

Costa Rica 1If you are looking for a get-a-way during the doldrums of winter, I have the perfect spot! Two years ago my husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. We decided it would be great to have a family gathering in a beautiful tropical place and we chose Costa Rica. I made two scouting trips to Costa Rica to find the perfect place and I did! We rented a house in a private 125 acre resort and had a wonderful time. I will be returning to this same resort in February for another tour with Jim West of Craftours/Sew Many Places.

We will cruise to a nature preserve to snorkel with coral, a ship wreck, and lots of tropical sea life; then we’ll raft through the jungle. Shopping is always a must and we will visit a local community known for their well-made crafts. This trip would make the perfect Christmas present. There are still a few places remaining.

The view of the beach from the hotel balcony.
The view from the hotel balcony and the view of the beach from an overlook

WindowsI’m pleased that Jim West has asked me to be the guest quilter on a tour to Tuscany in April. Quilters are well acquainted with the beautiful floor tiles in the centuries old cathedrals and how they can inspire quilts such as my “Windows” quilt. We will visit ancient cathedrals and galleries housing the work of world-renowned artists in Florence and Siena, historic towns and quaint piazzas. Tuscany is also known for the rolling hills of the extraordinary countryside, its fabulous cuisine and its wonderful wines. I can’t wait to try them all! I’m looking forward to visiting these fabulous places and hoping some of you will join me. Maybe you’ll be inspired to make a quilt based on the designs we will see.

You can find more about these two trips on our website by clicking here.

Tuscany2

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My Visit to India

camel 2Wow! I’ve just arrived back from another whirlwind tour of India with Sew Many Places. Jim West certainly knows how to put together an exciting and educational adventure.

 

We rode on bicycle rickshaws through Old Delhi and Jaipur, motor scooters, buses, camel carts and elephants. The dates of the trip were planned around the Festival of Diwali (known as the festival of lights) and the Pushkar camel fair.

 

 

Diwali, Festival of Lights in Jaipur. A bicycle rickshaw ride through the old town was a perfect way to see all the lights.
Diwali, Festival of Lights in Jaipur. A bicycle rickshaw ride through the old town was a perfect way to see all the lights.

I began quilting while living in India years ago and every time I go back I am inspired anew by the color and design that surrounds this incredible country.

Jim and our guide Govind in front of the Taj Mahal. Look at the pattern in the walkway.
Jim and our guide Govind in front of the Taj Mahal. Look at the pattern in the walkway.

 

Couldn't help but do some color shading with the group as we were standing in front of Amber Palace in Jaipur.
Couldn’t help but do some color shading with the group as we were standing in front of Amber Palace in Jaipur.
Delhi, India. Each section in the Qutab Minar, built in 1193 seems to follow the proportions of the Golden Ratio
Delhi, India. Each section in the Qutab Minar, built in 1193 seems to follow the proportions of the Golden Ratio

Words cannot describe what all we did and saw, so I thought this blog should be more photos than words.

Meanwhile, I have three more exciting trips next year……..to Costa Rica, Tuscany and Bali. I would love to have you join me on another adventure.

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2014 Quest Quilt- Lotus

Cairo tentmakersLast February I was asked to give a lecture at the AQS show in Phoenix. The quilt show was amazing and it was my first opportunity to see the Tentmakers of Cairo. The two men from Egypt were demonstrating the appliqué technique that they use for decorating tents.  I loved both the boldness and intricacies of their designs and thought that maybe it was time that I got back to appliqué. Inspired by what I saw, I have recently been working on quilt designs that contain both piecing and appliqué.

About a month ago, I shared with you a photo of a quilt on my blog that I was designing and making for our annual shop hop, Quilters’ Quest. At that point, I had the star made and was working on the appliqué which would be in the background squares and triangles.  With all the flight time on my recent trip to Japan, I was able to finish the background and I recently added the borders.

Lotus

If you are in the Washington D.C. area Nov. 7-16 this year or are in the mood for a road trip, you might enjoy taking part in the Quest. We are working very hard gearing up for it, making special projects, assembling kits, and preparing demonstrations.

Each shop has designed and made a quilt using our color-coordinated 2 ½” strips.  When you visit a shop, you will receive a free pattern for that shop’s quilt. The colors are jewel tones and blend well together. Our Quest quilt, Lotus, shown here, is made up of the strips that each shop will be distributing. There are ten shops and if you make it to all ten shops you will be eligible for some fantastic prizes.

We still have a few places on our two buses and would love to have you join us.

QQ staff image

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The design process behind my fabric

People often ask me where I get my inspiration for fabric design. I am inspired by nature, architecture, antique fabric and wallpaper, and so much more. But a lot of my design inspiration comes from other art. There are design archive companies which cater to fabric and wallpaper designers. They have thousands of pieces of art that they, themselves, have collected to show to designers.

At the Starbucks in Kyoto
At the Starbucks in Kyoto

I have just recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Japan where I met with the artists who work with me on my fabric collections. I also went to the printing facility that prints my fabrics. I try to go periodically to personally touch base with the people who work with me and to also look through their design archives.

On my most recent trip, I looked at more than 10,000 pieces of art in two days. I was getting bleary eyed! When looking at each, it is important to look beyond what is actually there. I look for interesting textures, motifs, backgrounds. Sometimes, something with really high contrast or bold electric colors catches my eye even though I would never use it as is. I look for parts of the design that I can manipulate to turn into something else.

Jinny with art2For instance, Chelsea, my most recent fabric collection, was inspired by designs that I selected on a previous trip to Japan. Let me show you an example of how this design worked for me.

Original floral design
Background design only

The first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful flowers on this more than 60-year-old piece of art. The second was the design in the background. Notice that there is too much separation between the flowers and the background making it a bit difficult to use in quilting. I also didn’t like the white dots on parts of the design.

Studying the design, I decided to make two fabrics from the one piece of art with  one being a separate fabric of just the background.  For the other, I eliminated the white dots and brought the value of the colors closer together.

I do most of this work in Photoshop and then send what I have done to the design studio. They make any corrections that I cannot do on my computer and send it back to me. Once I have the designs complete, I do the colors on my computer and send it back to Japan so they can prepare the art for printing.  Here are photos of three of the final fabrics in the collection

fabrics and backgroundsMost exciting for me is to finally have the designs the way I like them. I then work with the digital images to create a quilt using that collection. I will talk more about designing fabric in upcoming blogs.

Chelsea both colorways
Chelsea quilt in blue and pink granite

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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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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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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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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.