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Ox Cart Wheels

blog photo 1Last week I told you about my trip to Costa Rica and showed some photos of the decorative ox cart wheels that are an important part of the culture. It might be difficult, at first glance, to look at these awesome designs and figure out how to adapt them for use in a quilt. This week I want to show you images of more wheels and tell you how you can create your own design using some of the techniques that the artisans of Costa Rica use.

Each wheel is divided into 16 wedges. The design is painted onto the wedge and that motif is repeated 15 more times to complete the decorative wheel. Each artist makes their own design, all similar in style but unique to the artist. Notice the wheel shown here. The white lines indicate one of the 16 wedges.

blog photo 21. This particular design has six circles. Other designs might have more or less. The distance between the circles is arbitrary, according to the artist’s whim. Start with 32 spokes and draw the first part of the design.

illustration 12. Increase the spokes to 64 and draw the remaining portions of the design.

illustration 23. Make 16 identical wedges to complete the design.

illustration 3Look at these additional photos of ox cart wheels and see if you can find the “wedge”

blog photo 3blog ox cart 2blog ox cart 3

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My Trip to Costa Rica

Sunrise from my hotel balcony
Sunrise from my hotel balcony

I have just returned from a magical place……Costa Rica! Once again Jim West put together a fabulous trip through his company, Sew Many Places. We had a great group of adventuresome people and together we enjoyed time for relaxing and sightseeing.

The first four days were spent at Tango Mar Resort, a small boutique hotel at the southern end of the Nicoya peninsula. This secluded spot has a magnificent beach, beautiful scenery, a great spa, abundant wild life and so much more.

On our first morning I did the introductory class on our diamond project. That afternoon we relaxed–some had spa treatments, some walked the beach and others just read by the pool.  The next day we took our excursion by boat to the Curu game park continuing on to Tortuga Island for lunch and snorkeling.  On our way back, we slowly floated up a mangrove swamp area and saw a lot of manta rays.

From there we went to San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, for three nights and had some great side trips to a coffee plantation and best of all to the village of Sarchi. This village is known for its elaborately painted ox carts. Costa Ricans have traditionally used these carts to take goods to the coast for shipping.

Ox Carts

The ox cart wheels were first made from a solid piece of wood with brightly painted symmetrical designs, reminiscent of Mariners’ Compass patterns that we use in our quilts. Soon it was realized that the wheels would be more durable if they were made with wedges.

cart wheel 1Each wheel is now made up of 16 painted wedges. Decorative scroll work intertwines with the geometry.  My mind is spinning with ideas for a pieced and applique quilt inspired by the ox cart wheels.

Diamond workshop
Diamond workshop

I hope you enjoy this collage of photos. One thing I can say about Costa Rica is that color abounds everywhere!

Nature collage

 

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Simple Stitches, Exquisite Quilts

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

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

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

Ray of Light
Ray of Light

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

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

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

3 Quilts
Sundance, Day Lilies, and Ode to Vasarely

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

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

VQM

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Travel to Costa-Rica & Australia

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

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

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

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

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

tortuga-island-02

costa-rica-toucan

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

Australia1

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

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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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Quilters’ Quest 2014

You’ve heard us talk about it for months and it’s finally here, our annual shop hop, Quilters’ Quest. Jinny is busy greeting all of our Questers and doesn’t have time to write this week’s blog. Here is a glimpse at what is going on here and at the other nine shops.

Jinny Beyer1 copy

Jinny greets all who arrive, stamping passports and handing out finishers’ bags.

jinny greeter

We have lots of items made just for the Quest with our gorgeous Quest batik fabrics.

Jinny Beyer2 copy

Again this year we have two bus trips from the Studio traveling to all of the shops. Here are pictures from the first bus trip.

Our first stop on the bus trip was Material Girls in La Plata, MD. Sisters Wendy, Amy and mom Robin own this cheerful shop.

Material girls 1

Here’s the new shop on the Quest, Crazy Cousin in Fredericksburg, Virginia.Crazy Cousin

In historic Warrenton, VA, you’ll find Kelly Ann’s Quilting located in an old carriage house.

Kelly Ann copy

Scrappy Apple in Winchester, Virginia, is owned by the ever cheerful Kelly.

Scrappy AppleCottonseed Glory is located in quaint Annapolis, Maryland.

Cottonseed GloryBear’s Paw in Towson, Maryland is famous for their indoor gazebo.

Bear's Paw1

Patches in Mt. Airy, Maryland is located in an old Victorian home.

Patches1

In Hagerstown, MD, you’ll find Traditions at the White Swan, a wonderful family-run business where you are always greeted with a big smile.

Traditions1

Our final stop is always Capital Quilts in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Capital Quilts1

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My Visit to India

 

Wow! 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.

 

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

 

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.

 

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

 

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.

 

Couldn’t help but do some color shading with the group as we were standing in front of Amber Palace in Jaipur.

 

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

 

Delhi, India. Each section in the Qutab Minar, built in 1193 seems to follow the proportions of the Golden Ratio.

 

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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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!