Past meets present with Inspired Free-Motion Quilting

I could not be more delighted to take part in the online book tour for Inspired Free-Motion Quilting by Bill Volckening and Amanda Leins. I have been itching to get my hands on this book for a while now because it combines some of my favorite things: antique quilts, free-motion quilting and Mandy.

I met Mandy at International Quilt Market in Houston the year our previous books were published. (Her: Wanderlust Quilts. Me: Modern Style for Girls.) Have you ever had one of those encounters and you just know about someone? Yeah, it was kind of like that. Little did I know that my new friend was an amazingly talented quilter and teacher — but I would soon find out.

And take full advantage of it.

Luckily for me, Mandy was okay with me occasionally picking her brain. I quickly learned that she had a way of breaking down quilting designs that made total sense for me. If I was struggling with something (ahem, feathers), Mandy would send me a sketch with little arrows so I could really see how to move and make the shape. It really helped me visualize how to go from Point A to Point Z and everything in between. Those same illustrations of the quilting designs are throughout this book and I think you’ll find them just as helpful.

Inspired Free-Motion Quilting is like having Mandy right there, along with antique quilt eye candy that serves as the basis for the quilting designs. The anthropology nerd in me totally geeks out over the quilt history included throughout the book. The wool whole-cloth quilts, in particular, really spoke to me. I’ve always thought of quilts as being rectangles or squares, so seeing T-shaped quilts covered in a variety of quilting designs sparked some interesting ideas I may need to explore (my half-canopy iron bed with footboard would benefit from a T-shape).

But first, I will be adapting some of the quilting motifs to some of the tops in my queue. My eye was immediately drawn to the Swag (pg. 64), as well as the Pomegranate (pg. 74). I think both would be great in borders — an area of my quilts where I’d like to add a little more oomph. Normally, I warm up a little more before I try tackling designs but I was so excited, my hands started moving and the next thing I knew, I had a little Swag going on!

I’ve been working on a quilt project since late summer (a Jen Kingwell Spindrift quilt made with Tula Pink’s De La Luna fabrics) and I can already see that some of the FMQ designs from the book can be adapted for those blocks. And now I’m kind of itching to try a whole-cloth piece (maybe with that Dream Big panel I keep petting).

Are you ready to be inspired, too? I’m excited to be giving away an e-book to one lucky winner! Just comment on this post between now and 5 p.m. EST on Sunday, 1/13/19, with your biggest quilting challenge. I’ll use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner and announce it here that evening. Good luck and happy quilting!

Be sure to check out all the other great stops on the tour with more chances to win (and Mandy’s grand prize at the end) :

Jan. 7
C&T Publishing
Bill Volckening

Jan. 8
Amanda Murphy, Amanda Murphy Design
Kim Lapacek, Persimon Dreams
Stephanie Palmer, The Quilter’s Planner

Jan. 9
Teri Lucas, Terific Creations
Lynn Harris, LynnCarsonHarris.com
Debby Brown, Debby Brown Quilts

Jan. 10
Robin Koehler, Nestlings by Robin
Patty Murphy, Patty Murphy Handmade
Mary Abreu, Confessions of a Craft Addict <-you are here!

Jan. 11
Joanna Marsh, Kustom Kwilts
Amanda Leins, Mandalei Quilts

Disclosure: C&T Publishing is also my publisher. I received an electronic version of this book as part of the online book tour. Opinions are solely my own.

Review: Quilts for Scrap Lovers

When Judy Gauthier asked me to be part of the online tour for her new book, Quilts for Scrap Lovers, I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough. I have a love-hate relationship with my fabric scraps. I love to find uses for them but they’re weird sizes and — because I make a lot of garments — often they are oddly shaped.

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Yet I can’t seem to stop saving them, to the point that my color-coded scrap bins are stuffed to the brim. And don’t even ask about the tubs full of scraps from my three books that I keep thinking I’ll turn into the most epic scrap quilt ever.

I finally had a chance to dig into the ebook for Judy’s book while traveling to and from Quilt Market and I knew this was the book for me. All the challenges I’ve encountered with my own scraps? She gets it and she tells you how to deal with them. She’s not afraid to tell you what she’s done wrong, too, which I love, like admitting that cutting her scraps into certain size pieces without a plan made things way too hard.

I found myself nodding my head and occasionally commenting out loud in agreement (sorry, nice lady in the seat next to me on the plane!) to things like, “You can’t go wrong if it makes you happy when you look at it.”

She breaks up the pieces into three sizes of templates (the acrylic templates are sold separately; you can also use acrylic rulers, template plastic or even cardboard to make the templates). Position the templates and cut, then reposition and cut again until all the usable fabric has been turned into pieces that are ready to turn into amazing scrap quilts.

Judy talks about mixing old and new fabrics, color, value, bias edges, balancing quilt layouts and more before showcasing 16 quilt designs that use actual scraps. Some of the quilts require background fabric but even those backgrounds could be made with something like a variety of white-on-white fabric scraps to really go scrap crazy.

While I read through the projects, I was mentally flipping through my inventory of scraps, plotting which quilt I would make first. I’m pretty sure the cover quilt, Sunshine and Shadows, is near the top of the list. But it’ll have to wait until I’ve made Hugs and Kisses:

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I just love this quilt! And I can totally see making it in a mix of pinks and aquas, which are two colors I have more scraps than I can manage!

Be sure to check out the other folks taking part in the book tour:

Mary Abreu Nov. 3 <– that’s me!
Diane Knott Nov. 4
Kim Lapacek Nov. 5
And now for the fun part: You can win your very own copy of Quilts for Scrap Lovers! Comment below with your favorite tips for organizing scraps and you’re entered to win. Winner will be chosen via Random.org on Monday, Nov. 7.

The STEM Connection

Today is STEM Day here in Georgia, a day for schools and companies to increase awareness of career paths in science, technology, engineering and math. Miss L’s school observed STEM Day a day earlier and invited parents with STEM careers to talk to their child’s class about what they do.

To: Teacher

From: Me

Subject: STEM day

My job isn’t typically considered STEM but if you are still looking for speakers, I’m happy to come share about my work and how sewing and creating sewing patterns (and books) is as much about math and geometry as it is about fabric. This year’s Met Costume Gala theme is “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology,” which is related to my current explorations involving LEDs, el wire and the use of tech as clothing embellishments.

To: Me

From: Teacher

Subject: Re: STEM day

This sounds great and interesting for the kids! … Thanks!!

A photo posted by Mary Abreu (@t

hatcraftaddict) on

So my Power Point presentation, my bag of stuff and I headed out to talk about the STEM side of sewing and quilting for an hour before work. Crazy, right? I mean, who thinks of sewing and quilting as STEM?

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But that “M” — that’s “math,” and it’s everywhere in this passion of ours.

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I explained to the kids about creating pattern blocks/slopers from measurements, translating a 3D figure into 2D representation. How those slopers are used to create patterns, which are then cut out of fabric and sewn into garments.I showed them how arduino, conductive thread and LEDs add a little something extra to a quilted panel. After quizzing them about the Fibonacci sequence, I showed them a quilt that illustrates it perfectly (you can see it in action on my Instagram). They passed around English paper piecing samples and saw examples of arranging hexagons in different ways created new patterns. And then I gave them packets of paper hexies and glue sticks and cut them loose.

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While the kids worked on their quilt block art, I talked with Miss L’s teacher about my presentation. “I really had no idea about any of this,” she said. “Why aren’t people talking about sewing in the context of STEM?”

I have no answer for that but I’m trying to start the conversation.

Hello, Dahlia!

Have you ever seen something and just instantly fell in love, knew “this is the one”? That’s kind of what I felt the first time I saw a dahlia quilt. Curvy, colorful, big and beautiful.

Of course, it’s also the kind of project that makes me think, “Can I do this?”

When I came across the Dahlia quilt pattern from Prairie Grass Patterns, I knew I’d found my entre to the quilt of my dreams. It took me a little while to get to it, but when I did, I couldn’t stop until it was done.

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I used largely Tula Pink fabrics with a bit of Timeless Treasure’s Studio Basics blender and a wee touch of Cotton + Steel. It’s all machine pieced, then hand appliqued to the background fabric. I machine quilted each blade of the dahlia, echoing the lines of the piecing. Then I echo stitched around the dahlia on the background fabric.

The finished mini quilt is about 25″ square and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. It was a good learning process without the level of intimidation that is the Giant Dahlia pattern. And now that I’ve done it, I know I want to follow through and make the dahlia of my dreams.

That Quilty Thing

A couple of months ago, Sarah and I were trying to figure out the whole Block of the Month thing for the shop for 2014. Our regular BOM teacher is taking a break this year, so we decided that the two of us will lead a Block of the Month. Or possibly she suggested that we do it and I dove in, feet first, and dragged her along with me before she changed her mind. (If you’ve met me, you probably can figure out which is the correct scenario.)

We figured out pretty quickly that we were on the same wavelength when it came to choosing a quilt and decided to take different approaches to the fabrics. She chose a beautiful neutral Essex linen for the background of her blocks and a scrappy assortment of fabrics, leaning pretty heavily on ones from the Kaffe Fassett Collective. I went a little more…crazy. LOL! Here’s a sneak peek:
stars

The background is from the Collage line for Windham Fabrics and I used a mix of dots, chevrons and solids for the stars. I know the fabrics aren’t for everyone but I was so thrilled to see it come together the way I saw it in my head.

Ultimately, I think our quilts really reflect our styles. I absolutely love how mine turned out and I can’t lie: I think Sarah’s is pretty darned awesome. Hers is off with the longarm quilter and mine is waiting for me to get the back pieced but I’ll share pics when they’re ready to be unveiled. (Plus links to sign up for the BOM, just in case you’re interested.)

A #ssswap Christmas

Earlier this fall, I jumped at the chance to join the Twitter #ssswap (Secret Santa Swap) organized by the lovely @sukie80 (be sure to check out her fab blog, too). I was excited but a little nervous because I knew several of the folks involved and, well, it’s a little intimidating to think about sewing stuff for some of these folks since they might rethink our friendship upon closer inspection of my handiwork.

And then I got the email with my swap partner. And my heart was filled with joy.

IMG_1497 Me with Jana at Quilt Market in Houston

I love this girl. And her family. Immediately the wheels were churning. Stalking her Pinterest only further honed my instincts. So early in December, I sent her a box containing this:

#ssswap gifts wrapped

Three little packages all wrapped up in kraft (craft?) paper and lace ribbon. Inside the packages …

#ssswap gift

A scarf made with ruffle fabric in a pretty pink to add a little pop of color to her day (based on a tutorial from V&Co. because she’d already made what I had in my head). A footstool pincushion (modified version of a pattern by the oh-so-awesome Penny) because Jana needs a safe place to keep her pins. And a Fluevog all her own to love and fondle.

fluevog mini quilt

I’m not a quilter but I have been known to try my hand at the odd quilt pattern every now and then. There is no pattern for this, however, so I pretty much made it up as I went along. I was in the middle of working on my first Don’t Look Now! pattern (more on this tomorrow) so I decided to use that appliqué technique for this one.

I started out by photographing one of my shoes, then importing it into Photoshop and printing it out at the desired size to trace off for the appliqué pieces. It is a raw-edge technique with lots of free-motion stitching around each part of the appliqué (which I’m not very good at doing) but I think that just adds to the funky quality. I used embroidery floss for the running stitches detailing the shoe and some vintage buttons to replicate the leather-covered buttons on the strap.

fluevog mini quilt detail

I finished it off by quilting in a geometric sort of ray pattern radiating out from the shoe. There’s a small line of echo quilting around the shoe and I used that and the inner border as my guide for moving between each line of quilting. I finished it off with an embroidered label on the back (backing is from Sandi Henderson’s Farmer’s Market line):

fluevog mini quilt label

It’s not a very big quilt (the background started life as a fat quarter) but it was stitched with a lot of love.

LAX Love

We interrupt the belated Quilt Market blog posts to share something else entirely.

So, part of the reason I am so tardy in getting around the Market blogging is because I came home from SLC and had a slew of end-of-the-year gifts to finish, including this lacrosse quilt. (I also had to create and burn the end-of-season DVD for the lacrosse teams — 103 discs, to be exact — at the same time I was finishing the binding on this quilt.)

This is only the second year our high school has had a lacrosse team and much of the credit for getting it off the ground goes to one family. A family whose son just graduated and will be moving back to SLC this month. Lacrosse has been such a great thing for my son and I wanted to show this family how much I appreciated it, so I decided to turn the logo they designed into a quilted wall hanging for them.

About three-fourths of the way through making this, I realized it was so big that it was better as a team/booster club gift to the family. Folks, it’s big. The white is one full yard of fabric. I think the center shield and panther are about 24 inches. This is a level of applique I’ve never tried before and I’m not sure it’ll be repeated any time soon.

The applique is layered and done reverse style, for the most part. I actually sewed the shield together to meet in the center then cut out the shield shape. I used an X-acto knife to cut out the finer applique details and adhered it to the backing with Steam-A-Seam. And Heat n Bond. For the record, I don’t recommend mixing adhesives but I was in a time crunch and trying to use what I had on hand. (I also don’t recommend leaving paper in the middle of your applique design but YMMV.)

I did a tighter zig-zag stitch in gray around the shield and panther head to somewhat mimic the shadow effect of the logo. The remainder of the stitching is done with a straight stitch in thread to match each area. Finally, I quilted around the shapes  in a subtle echo effect.

I was so blown away with the finished product in sort of an “I made this? *I* made THIS!” kind of way. (It looked much better when it was ironed but I pulled it out of the gift bag to photograph on our way to the banquet.) The folks at the banquet thought it rocked and the recipients were just blown away, which definitely made the work worth it.

To Market, to Market

I may officially be the last person to blog about Quilt Market. Seriously, I’ve been home more than two weeks and still haven’t finished scanning in my pics. Instead of waiting for the planets to align and that to happen, I’m going to just dive in with a few pics and my thoughts on some things I saw there.

Above is the view from our hotel room in SLC as the sun rose our last morning there. The weather was all kinds of perfect and Salt Lake City has to be one of the nicest cities I’ve ever visited.

It’s always fun to go to Market but exhausting, too. This trip was no different, with Sarah and I up and at ’em early every morning, on the go all day, attending social/networking events in the evening, then winding down in time to grab some (not nearly enough) sleep. Even with all that time on the floor, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and miss so much of what’s there. After comparing notes, Sarah and I noticed a few trends:

  • Solids are big and definitely getting attention from a lot of quadrants. Manufacturers, pattern designers and authors are all tapping into this one. I love me some Kona but I’m also grooving on the FreeSpirit Designer Solids (touch them and see if you don’t agree that the hand is just amazing).

  • Stitchery — embroidery and cross stitch — is being shown lots of love, too. Sarah Jane and Anna Maria Horner both come to mind but they’re far from the only ones (the awesome Rashida Coleman-Hale even gave out a free cross stitch pattern that goes with her new fabric line). The new aida cloth from Westminster is some of the nicest I’ve touched and may even seduce me into trying some more cross stitching.

  • Modern quilting styles meet more challenging techniques. Personally, I’m loving this! I am so enamored of the “modern” aesthetic but I’m ready to challenge myself every now and then with some more complex piecing — but nothing so overwhelming that I can’t finish it in a weekend (Mariner’s Compass, you’re just going to have to wait your turn).