I just returned from a visit with my grandchildren and their parents. One of the things we did was to go to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry to see their new exhibit “The Art of the Brick.” We had to wait in line for more than an hour to get into the exhibit, but it was worth the wait.
This exhibit features the work of Nathan Sawaya, an Oregon artist who builds his amazing art with Legos! I have to say that I was just as in awe as the children were. We as quilters build our art with fabric and thread, one piece at a time and it was easy to see some of the parallels in the creation of the Lego art.
I took several photos with the children to put into perspective the size of some of the pieces.
If you ever get a chance to see an exhibit of Mr. Sawaya’s in person you should go. It is truly inspiring.
My recent trip to Nepal this year and India last year was an eye-opening experience. I lived in that part of the world for nearly five years. At the time, I didn’t recognize the impact this region was having on me because I was not yet a quilter. Going back recently was like going home. I discovered how profoundly my time there has guided me throughout my quilting life.
Probably the most powerful influence was the borders you see everywhere, both simple and elaborate.
Simple can be seen as just a small edge to stop the pattern of a wall of bricks or a plain fabric in a different color to stop the eye around a shirt, sari, or pair of pants.
Elaborate borders abound as well whether it is one surrounding the window or doorway of a home or temple or borders around the outer edges of entire buildings.
Even the written language has a straight line across the top of the characters.
No wonder when I began quilting I wanted to add borders to everything. There was just a need to stop the design and give it a proper frame……sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate. It is like framing a picture. It looks so much better when the frame sets it off.
So at least from me, you will get borders on my quilt designs, sometimes elaborate, sometimes simple, but whatever is needed to stop the design and showcase it.
I visited my grandchildren a couple of months ago and Polly carefully showed me her Treasure Box containing all kinds of items that were going to go into the trash that she rescued for projects. There were empty tissue and paper towel rolls, an interesting button, empty spools, odd pieces of yarn, etc. She and her brother, Emmett, have amazingly creative minds and put together all kinds of creatures and art.
So in anticipation of Polly and Emmett’s visit this Thanksgiving, I started collecting items for a Treasure Box here. The box contained plastic tubes and pen holders, threads that accumulated at the shop from tearing fabric for fat quarters and kits, scissors, scotch tape, duct tape, lots of fabric scraps, felted wool balls, and so much more.
When they arrived and I told them about the box, they could hardly contain themselves and wanted to delve in right away. Of course, it had to be emptied where the activity was going on…….the kitchen table. So for a week we ate in the dining room and the kids had their on-going projects to work on in the hubbub of activity.
The first thing they went to was the fabric and they said they wanted to make Halloween costumes for next year. Emmett wants to be Darth Vader and Polly wants to be a peacock. I told them we would need larger pieces of fabric than what was in the box so we went to the shop. Emmett immediately found solid black fabric and Polly found a batik that she thought would make a perfect peacock skirt.
I decided it was time to introduce them to the sewing machine so that went on the kitchen table as well. They both caught on very quickly.
While I was showing Polly how to work the machine, unbeknownst to me, Emmett had cut a hole in the middle of the black fabric for his head, two holes for arms and found a decorative belt to go over his shoulder. He made a hat from a black file folder and my black microwave vegetable steamer and his dad helped him tape batting inside so it wouldn’t slide around his head.
Among other sewing, Polly and I made holiday napkins for her mom and dad for Christmas along with her peacock skirt. Emmett made a quilt with squares, a hat and clothes for stuffed animals and dolls. What a wonderful feeling to share my love fabric and sewing with them!
Of course, in the middle of all the activity, our washing machine died Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. We were able to get a new one Friday and the kids immediately latched on to the box it came in and spent the next several hours creating their “Time Machine”.
Five rolls of scotch tape and three rolls of duct tape later……
In the midst of all the projects, we also had cooking activities and fed and took care of the animals I borrow from a friend whenever the children come for a visit.
Needless to say I’m a bit worn out. But happily so!
I am just back from an awesome trip to Nepal with Sew Many Places and, as this blog is published, I am heading off to Houston for Quilt Market (and still jet-lagged). Yes, it can at times be quite tiring but the best part of my job is the wonderful people I meet along the way. I don’t have time to write much today but I just wanted to tell you a quick story about one of the ladies on my Nepal trip. I promise that next week I’ll tell you more about Nepal and, also, Houston.
I met Barbara Suess several years ago. Barbara is an expert on Japanese Temari. Temari is an ancient Japanese folk craft which came from the desire to entertain children with an embroidered toy thread ball. I have had Barbara to the Studio to teach and have carried her books. The designs are beautiful!
Well, Barbara was on the trip to Nepal and brought along a bag of Temari balls she and some of her students had made. Barbara was graciously giving these balls away. One day, we were at a cooperative where local woman worked on crafts for sale (more on this next week) and Barbara gave her one of the Temari balls. The woman put it in her hair and proudly wore it for the day.
Despite language and cultural differences, it was special to see these two women, who love to create things of beauty by hand, share this moment.
I’m having a great time in Nepal on the tour with Sew Many Places. Several of the people on the tour have traveled with me previously and I’ve also made many new friends.
I arrived early to Nepal with two quilting friends to get in a little additional sightseeing, the highlight of which was time spent with the elephants. (My thanks to Sandi Goldman for many of these pictures.)
Our tour group gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city.
The sadness for me is seeing the ever-present effect of last year’s earthquake with the total destruction of some structures and the shoring up of old historic landmarks.
But, of course, there are so many wonderful sights to see including the Nepali children who are always ready with a smile.
And, since this is a quilters’ tour, there is always time for a lesson or two.
I’m excited to announce my next trip with Sew Many Places. A year from now I will be traveling with them to Guatemala. I have never been to this country but have heard and read so many wonderful things about it.
Jinny is off this week so the staff here at the Studio decided to take over her blog. The takeover was prompted by a discussion of this week’s web special. In the web special, we are offering a bundle of autumn colored fabrics inspired by a photograph of the spectacular colors of the maple tree at the Studio’s front door. How did we get from that photograph to the fabrics for this week’s special?
Looking at the image, you will see in the lower left corner the colors taken from the photograph. Jinny explained in her blog in April 2014 how you can do this with any photograph using Photoshop software. From that, she chose eight fabrics ranging from warm golds, oranges and reds to a weathered dark brown. Compare the fabrics with the color palette from Photoshop. Don’t they look wonderful?
But where there are pretty shaded fabrics, there is always the question of where to use them.
Jinny next went into the Quilter’s Design Board on our website. The Design Board allows you to download hundreds of free quilt blocks, get fabric recommendations, yardage requirements and more. After looking through it, she chose two blocks to play around with. Here is what she started with to get to the two quilts above.
Choose the size you want your blocks to be and you can see the templates for each patch and how many you will need along with a handy template guide for how to put your block together.
You can print the templates directly onto template film. Check out this tutorial on our website.
All that’s left is to pull out your fabric and get started. You can make the scrappy Bear’s Foot or the shaded Pine Tree. You just need a half yard bundle and two yards each of a background and border print. We can’t wait to see what you come up with.
People have been fascinated with interlocking designs throughout the ages. I became interested in this type of design in the 1990’s and diligently studied the work of Dutch artist M.C. Escher to try and figure out how he created his amazing tessellations. One day the light bulb went off and it all fell into place. It is so simple!
The first question is “What is a tessellation?” A tessellation is any shape that can be repeated over and over to fill a surface without gaps or overlaps.
Squares, triangles, hexagons, and diamonds are all tessellations because they can fill a surface without gaps.
Those are easy to see, but the more intriguing tessellations contain more complex, interlocking shapes. There are a few rules to follow and these rules must be adhered to or the shape will not “tessellate”.
So the number one rule is that you must begin with a base shape that tessellates. Number two is that you must give it back to the side of the shape that is equal in length. It makes a difference which side you give it back to or whether you flip or rotate the shape. Here are a few designs with this simple square and several of the patterns that can be created by merely putting the cut piece back in different ways.
Lets look at the simplest of the tessellations, the square. It is easy to see how it can repeat over and over to fill a surface without gaps. But what happens if I take a chunk out of that square? It is no longer a tessellation.
So here is the “aha” moment. The secret to creating tessellations is this: if you take away a piece of a shape, give the piece back to another side of the shape. You will once again have tessellation because the piece you give back will fit into the hole of an adjacent piece where it was taken away.
There are a variety of ways to give a shape back and a few rules that must be followed. You can rotate the piece or not depending upon the shape used. I wrote an entire book on this called Designing Tessellations. Unfortunately it is out of print, but it is still available as an “e-book.”
I am currently working on an online class that will be offered through my website sometime in the future. It will cover all the rules, shapes that can be used, how to turn the shape into a usable pattern for quilting and much more!
I’ll keep you posted as to when it will be available but for now, why not come to the Studio and take a class in person. I will be teaching Designing Tessellations August 11 & 12.
Back in the beginning of May we announced a contest inspired by a box of packets of 10-inch squares from last year’s Quilters’ Quest. We challenged you to design and make a quilt (or quilt top) using these fabrics. Photos had to be submitted by June 18th.
What fun we had looking at your entries! Each member of the Studio staff, totally untrained in any kind of quilt judging, voted on his or her favorite. The quilter who got the most votes wins a $100 Studio gift certificate.
About a dozen people managed to finish their projects and submit them in the short amount of time given. There was a wide range styles and entries came from around the world.
And the winner is…Sarah Kirtland from Williamsburg, Virginia.
Sarah’s quilt, Here Comes the Sun, is based on the classic kaleidoscope block. She knew she wanted to do something with triangles after seeing my new Thousand Pyramids quilt. She spent four days simply drawing, working on the design. Sarah was at the Studio at the beginning of the month taking a class and picked up a few fabrics to supplement the 10-inch squares. Then the fiendish sewing began and didn’t stop until shortly before the deadline. She didn’t believe she had a chance to win but thought it would be a good exercise. I’m reminded of a saying by Mark Twain: “…you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.’
There were many other fabulous quilts. Here are just a few.
David Schulz took inspiration from local Native Americans who had different names for different parts of the Potomac, calling the river above Great Falls, where the Studio is located, “Cohongarooton”, meaning “honking geese.” He included flying geese blocks along with a variation on a block design from my Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns (Island Compass 380-11). He also used the Golden Ratio throughout the piece. Even the number of flying geese is included in the Fibonacci sequence. The finished piece measures 29” x 18”.
This Phoenix quilt came from Charlie MacDonald and we enjoyed his description of the process, the trials and tribulations. He loved the palette from the Quilters Quest. It reminded him of sunset/sunrise “and somehow the colors got him thinking of a Phoenix rising in flame from the ashes.” He used his Apliquick tools for the appliqué. Charlie said he learned a lot from making this and already has ideas for Phoenix 2.0.
Tom Dengler took an interesting approach. He writes: “I was inspired to find a way to challenge myself to use both sides of the fabric based on some ideas I had first seen used in watercolor quilts. The white gives the illusion of piercing the fabric by piecing the fabric backside. I learned that hand stitching the corner first gives a much neater appearance.” It is called Dos Rayos de Luz.
One thing that I particularly loved seeing was how many truly challenged themselves to try something new and, it seems, are very glad they did so. Here are more of the wonderful projects we received pictures of. We have no stories to go with them but I want to thank each and every one of you for participating and congratulations to all for your beautiful work.
The new McCall’s magazine, The Best of McCall’s Quilting – 22 of Our Most Popular Patterns, features a quilt I designed for them several years ago, Lone Star Salute.
Upon seeing it again and with the election in the forefront and the Fourth of July approaching, I began thinking about commemorative quilts. We have certainly seen many patriotic-themed quilts over the years and, I must admit, I have done my share to add to the pool of these types of quilts. Some of them are personal quilts and others are ones that I designed for patterns.
In 1976 when I had been quilting for only four years, a friend asked me if I was going to make a quilt commemorating the bicentennial. I hadn’t thought about it but decided that was a good idea. While I think the overall design and balance leaves a lot to be desired, I learned a tremendous amount during the process of making it. First of all, I wanted the blocks in the quilt to have been named for some event in our country’s history. I have blocks such as Dolly Madison’s Star, 54-40 or Fight, Mrs.Cleveland’s Choice. I even created my own block of the bicentennial logo.
All of those blocks were to be a 10-inch finished size. Since I knew it would be impossible to find all the patterns in a 10-inch size, I had to figure out how to draft all of those designs. Intrigued by the drafting process, I began teaching pattern drafting to my students and that lead to my first book, Patchwork Patterns, published in 1979.
Drafting the 50 five-pointed stars to fit into a larger five-pointed star was a challenge but I eventually figured out how to do it. Another challenge was fitting exactly 200 triangles into the border that surrounds the central motif.
My quilt Windows was another commemorative quilt with a red white and blue theme that I made following the terrorists attacks on September 11, 2001. I wanted at least one piece in the quilt for each of the victims of the attacks. In the end, the quilt has 4,777 pieces.The patriotic quilts I have designed which have patterns available include Lone Star Salute, shown above, September Sun, another that was designed shortly after the terrorists’ attack, and Fourth of July Star. Smaller projects include my new Wings wall quilt and our row for this year’s Row By Row shop hop, Eagle’s Pride.
Why don’t you give a try at creating a patriotic-themed quilt.
Every now and then, I like to share with you projects that members of my staff are working on. It’s a treat for me to see them too, so here goes.Staffer Dana made Millennium Star, based on an old pattern of mine, using fabrics from my Delhi collection. She will have a tough time finishing it if her kitty, Turbo, won’t give it up.
Cathy has one quilt recently finished and one in process. She used one of the new monument fabrics, as we call it, from the “Celebrating Our Region” collection to make this quick and easy quilt using the “Times Three” pattern. It’s perfect for showcasing a favorite fabric. She is currently working on this Civil War era quilt for her son-in-law.
Finishing up UFO’s has been Julia’s mission lately. This is a Karen Sievert design, “Color, Color All Around,” which Julia started in a class with Karen in 2012. The top is now finished and she’s beginning the quilting.
Nancy is finishing, in the nick of time, a quilt for a challenge called “Architectural Quilts.” The design for this is based on a floor found in Venice, Italy.Grandchildren often influence our projects. Linda, in addition to making placemats from border print fabric, made this precious dress for her granddaughter’s doll using fabric from the Palette, #149. It is a free pattern by Susan Kramer which she found on Pinterest.
Another granddaughter, this one Lura’s, was the pretty little recipient of a new dress. Lura also is quilting a Serengeti quilt and making hot pads for her quilt guild’s upcoming boutique.
Looking at these two projects from Rebecca, I can’t help but notice the diversity in her interests. The first is her “whacky family portrait” quilt made in a Lisa Ellis workshop. She is also finishing up this snowman red work quilt, a Gail Pan design. It is hand quilted with perle cotton. She just finished the binding and all it needs is a label, before it is ready for the snow!
Kelley is our newest staff member and it appears she is very busy at home. She is working on a number of projects including this “Diva Frame Wallet” by Sew Many Creations and Lucy Boston. She just finished sewing together a tuffet cover using Erin Underwood’s “Quick and Cute Tuffets” pattern and the Creative Grids 15 Degree Triangle Ruler. The next step is upholstery. Finally, she is moderating a small online sew along of Lori Holt’s “Farm Girl Vintage” with six quilters from Virginia, Arizona and Texas. Here are her month #5 blocks plus an alternate block, “corn and tomatoes”. The corn kernels are 1/2″ finished squares. Phew!
There’s more hand piecing going on. Janet is hand piecing flowering snowball blocks this summer. Eventually it will be a queen sized quilt. She says it is the perfect project for sitting on the porch on a sunny day. Hopefully, all the rain we’ve had will go away and give her the opportunity to to just that.
Here is a top just completed by Eunice. When a staff member leaves, we make blocks from our Quilter’s Design Board as a farewell gift. Eunice just moved to Florida last month but has already managed to assemble the blocks we gave her. It’s beautiful, Eunice!And finally, as for me, I am enjoying spending most evenings watching my beloved Washington Nationals while hand quilting Calliope. It’s a wonderful way to end each day.