Sunday, December 8, 2019

Merry Making

"It's coming on Christmas. They're cutting down trees. They're putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace." - Joni Mitchell

We bought the tree and all the lights are on. We'll get it trimmed later tonight. A small portion of the house is decorated. I've brought out the Christmas dishes and the Christmas cds. I'm a little late. Seems like I should have been doing this weeks ago and here I'm just getting started.

I love Christmas. I love all the craziness, the shopping, the decorating, the cooking, the snow - if we're lucky.  If I choose to, I can make all of that stressful. But long ago I decided that what I need to focus on is actually enjoying and reflecting on the holiday, slowing down, taking time for myself and being with family and friends, doing the things I love the most around this time -  making things, baking a little, listening to music, not worrying about buying gazillions of presents or finding the perfect ones and just stressing out in general about the small stuff. If something doesn't get done, then it doesn't get done. 

Do you get the bug to make things right before Christmas? It's a good way to de-stress and get into the holiday spirit. Try a little simple stitching. This is a Gail Pan design from her book Christmas Patchwork Loves Embroidery. It's a sweet little book full of Christmas projects.

Here's my wool tree skirt for a mini tree. The pattern is on my website. I've got some other cute Christmas things there and in my Etsy shop .

How about a simple little present pincushion? Free pattern on my website.

Making things is good. Helps you slow down and enjoy the holiday a little bit.

Have you made any little trees yet? EVERYONE seems to be making these. There's a free paper-pieced pattern in Files in my Facebook group and I think it's also on my website. There's another one using flying geese.

"It's coming on Christmas, I'm cutting up trees . . . "

I often put things off until the last minute and then usually stay up late at night the week before Christmas, struggling to finish last minute things. Sometimes that's part of the fun. The house is quiet and I can relax and sew. These trees don't take long at all. 

If you're new to my blog and haven't seen my little redwork stitcheries, try visiting my website (link above) or my Etsy shop for the pattern. They're also pretty quick. 

Merry Making!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Controlled Scrappy or Wild Scrappy?

Unlike some quilters, I hardly ever create a scrap quilt at random, grabbing pieces here and there and sewing them together without a plan. This scares me. I usually prefer to play around and carefully arrange the scrap pieces in a way that is pleasing to my eye, paying attention to color, contrast and value. I think it's a control thing. I'm always amazed when quilters tell me they don't plan their scrap quilts. I hesitate to just throw fabrics together and assume it will all work out because it usually doesn't for me. I always need to plan a bit. How do you make your scrappy quilts?

Treasure boxes from my book Small & Scrappy. This may look like a random scrap quilt made with lots and lots of small scraps but look closely and you can see I used a definite color theme of pink, blue and brown with a few small kicks of color. 

Same here. Scrappy blocks yet with a tan and blue theme.

Here's one of my least favorite scrap quilts, below. It's my Civil War Soldier's Cot quilt from my book The Civil War Sewing Circle. I challenged myself to create this one at random - no planning, pulling fabrics from who knows where, not caring if they went together while I made the blocks. It's definitely scrappy. The only thing I planned was to make it as I thought a woman from that era might have used up her scraps to quickly sew a quilt for a soldier who desperately needed bedding in the camps. To me, it's just meh - too much brown, green and gold, not my favorite colors. I like the pattern though and may even make another one someday, definitely with  more blue in it, LOL. 

I like my planned scrap quilts much better because I often try to at least use a certain color theme throughout. Still scrappy.

If you're a beginner at making scrap quilts, you may want to try a planned one at first. There's not always a need to throw caution to the wind. I know that can be scary. Make a plan and just try throwing in a few scraps of a few different colors here and there. It gets easier after you've made a few quilts. This is where small quilts come in. It's so much easier to try this in a small quilt before you spend time making make something large and end up not liking it. It just takes practice.

See what I mean about controlled scrappy?  At first, try using several different prints in the same color and mix them up in your blocks for a scrappy look. This is a good way to ease into the scrappy look if you're afraid of your colors going all over the place and the quilt becoming too wild. Then, perhaps, gradually introduce a random little piece of a different color in a block or two and step back. You'll know when it's too much for your taste.

Moderately scrappy - not crazy, wild scrappy. Just use different shades of the same colors in your backgrounds.

Here's a blog post I wrote awhile ago to help you choose and buy fabric to build a nice collection for making scrap quilts.

Have a good weekend!

Friday, November 15, 2019

I Love My Scraps

Most of the quilts I make are scrappy. Often, they are made with scraps from my scrap basket, mixed with newer fabrics. My scrap pile seems to get bigger and bigger as time goes by. I try to keep up and organize it now and then and sort the scraps into small and large pieces by color. The larger scraps go into a drawer unit. Then the smallest scraps usually go into several small clear bins where I can see them. It calms me to spend an afternoon sorting then organizing them. If I can see them, I'm more likely to use them up.

These small bins contain my smallest scraps of fabric, sorted by color. The white basket holds small scraps from my cutting table that still need to be sorted. Looks like I may not have room to shove much more in there. I need to get going and make more scrap quilts! 

This color-coded drawer unit houses my larger scraps and I keep in in a corner near my sewing table but pulled it out to take a better picture. Yes, my sewing room has a playful Kindergarten touch. Why not? After all, it's my "Play Area." It's difficult for me to sort through a huge bin full of all different colored scraps as I look for a particular piece, so I try to separate them. If I'm making a scrap quilt, I can easily see what drawer to pull from if I need to make some blocks in a particular color. 

Example: these are large scraps stored in my red drawer. Mostly leftovers from larger pieces that have been cut into. But still scraps.

Larger cuts of fabric are folded in the drawers of the blue dresser behind the rainbow tower. Sorted by color, of course. Small drawers on top hold pink, then gold, green and brown. Larger drawers below hold blue, red, tan and shirtings and miscellaneous prints. Black and purple don't need a whole drawer. Blue needs two! Shirtings are going to need more space soon . . . .

I recently replaced my cutting table with an IKEA island with storage underneath. It's a little messy now so here's a generic pic. Works really well for me in my small space. 

If I had a larger room I might be more motivated and creative about organizing my space. But it is what it is. There's lots of light and I love that. I like to add colors too and would not be able to sew in a drab space or in a basement, which was an option when I first took up the hobby. We have a smallish house and I'm using what used to be the original (small) baby room for my sewing room. (That baby is now in his 30s and the room is no longer a shrine, LOL.)  The blue dresser is the old baby dresser that used to be painted white, recently brought up from the basement. I painted it last year with a teal blue chalk paint and bought some new drawer pulls. It's not perfect but it works for me right now. I'm hoping to add a little more storage soon.

Is it silly of me to hang onto scraps and have so many bins and drawers for them? I don't know -  I love my scraps and I needed to find some way to organize them so I don't go crazy when they take over. I'm surely not going to throw them out. When I make small blocks for my quilts, I dig into the drawer or bin and find the perfect scrap that fits with the others. Who cares if it's old? I love using them.

How can I possibly throw these away?? 

I admit, I do have a habit of hanging onto my favorite pieces (some of them are now pretty small) and lovingly spreading them throughout my scrap quilts. I never get tired of using some of them. Those of you who have my books and are pretty sharp may have noticed that I like to use some of the same scraps over and over in the quilts I make. You'll see that same lovely blue, pink or brown print everywhere you look. I've had some of them for years and they're almost gone so I feel lucky when I come across one again, years after it went out of print. 

Now, it's not that I don't have enough other fabric (goodness) or because I can't afford to buy NEW fabric. I've just formed attachments to some of these old ones. Somehow it feels very satisfying to use those scraps and place the ones I particularly love in several different quilts. Then, every time I look at one I have to smile because I feel a little tug at my heart. 

I'm still hanging onto scraps of some of these cadet blues too because they're hard to find now. 

This simple little prairie quilt is so old. From one of my first books. Can you believe I still have some small pieces of these old fabrics too? I'm saving them for a rainy day, LOL.

*  *  *

Well, I hope I have inspired some of you to sort through and organize your scraps. Cleaning up a bit is always a feel-good thing for me. Try it. It takes time but it's worth it even if you only spend an hour or so at a time. Clears your head (and your space!) and makes you want to create something new. It's amazing what clarity of mind you get when the space is organized and everything is put back into place where you can access it. At least it works for for me.

Last week I was inspired to start a new project just from tidying up my room and organizing my scraps. I'm going to love this quilt when it's finished. These are mostly scraps left over from a quilt I made for the new book that's coming out late next year. 

This is a fake sewing machine that's actually a sewing box. I store scissors and thread in it. (Lovely Country Lane Quilts pincushion was made by my dear friend Karen Schultz.)

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Fall Quilt Show

I ventured over to the Chicago Botanic Garden for their annual Fine Art of Fiber quilt show over the weekend. Always a great way to spend the afternoon. Two of my favorite things -  fall and quilts. 

The gardens are a lovely backdrop for this unique show. Because it's Illinois and November, the show is held indoors. It was quite cold but sunny at least. This was before the snow came (yesterday). 

The quilts that are featured in this show every year are usually very different from the type of quilts I make - modern, bright and non-traditional. There are always a few traditional quilts thrown into the mix, but only a few. I don't mind. The fun part is seeing just how creative some of the quilters get with color and fiber. It's always a glorious show of color indoors and out. And all the natural light makes it a great place for a show.  

Here are a few highlights - 

Made by Marsha Gordon

Made by Mary Meyers

In the midst of all the modern quilts, imagine my surprise when I spotted not one but THREE Dear Jane quilts! What a nice treat. Many of the fabrics used in these were more on the modern side but it all worked. 

Made by Cheryl Paras

Made by Chris Deering

Made by Barbara Wessel

I never get tired of seeing different DJ quilts. 

Made by Cathy Baker

Made by Suzanne Davis Killen

The Gift Boutique is always fun too.

Now that my next book is finished and the quilts and manuscript have been sent off to the publisher, I finally have some time to breathe and work on other things. I've decided I really need to make myself some larger quilts. I've got several that were started before the book project but they had to be set aside. And, of course, there's my own Dear Jane that still needs to be worked on. But, instead of finishing one of those (I will! I will!) I got the urge to start something new. So, as I was cleaning up my sewing room last week, I took frequent breaks and began to mindlessly sew a bunch of 3" half-square triangles for a simple antique-looking quilt I want to make someday. I've already made 100 HSTs from some of my favorite prints in just a few days. I think I'll probably need several hundred for a big quilt so we'll see what happens with this "someday" project.