Monday, August 30, 2010

Upcycled Wearable Art

At the recent Association of Pacific West Quilters Symposium, held August 12-15, 2010 in Olympia, Washington, quilt designer and author Lorraine Torrence and Jane Moxey coordinated an evening event called the Upcycled Challenge. Contestants were challenged to make garments out of something they already owned that they were not planning to use, such as ready-made clothing, embellishments, found objects, threads, trims, or other “impulse-driven, still-unused crafting purchases sitting in their sewing space which will be so happy to be used for this challenge!” To make it even more interesting, there was a suggested time limit of one hour for garment construction. Any construction technique was acceptable—gluing, tearing, stitching by hand or machine, hammering, stapling, or pinning.

Since Jane and Lorraine were the event’s hosts, they had to make and wear their own upcycled garments that evening. And what do most quilters have in the back of their closet? Those souvenir quilt show canvas tote bags, of course, and Lorraine used hers to make this adorable jacket.
The contest was fun for all, and completed projects ranged from fun and goofy to beautiful and very wearable garments. Sounds like a great guild or bee activity!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Last-minute mystery ideas

Anyone with some quilting and piecing experience under his/her belt can still whip up the Part 1 blocks in our Beyond the Block Mystery Quilt and enter the mystery quilt contest. Deadline for entries is Tuesday, August 31—all the contest details are on page 66 of the September 2010 issue of American Quilter magazine. (And be sure to read my blog posting of July 23, August 5, or August 24 for an important cutting correction to the Part 1 instructions.)
But you don’t have to enter the contest to enjoy the fun. Here are some of the amazing focus blocks our readers have created.
Deborah Dunten of Houston, Texas, used flower photos (above) she digitally kaleidoscoped and printed on fabric. “They were originally going to be put into a Row Robin quilt but became orphans. This is a perfect use for them. I’m loving it! Can’t wait to get the next installment,” she writes.
Christy Turner of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, celebrated her “darling daughter” in these excellent photos-on-fabric focus blocks. Christy, what an amazing tribute quilt this will be!
“Since I was very young, I have been fascinated by fences,” writes Janet Springfield of Pendleton, Indiana. “The designs, types, materials, and uses for them have no end. So when I read about the mystery quilt focus blocks and asked myself what truly fascinates me, the answer was fences.” Such artistic blocks, Janet. Your quilt will be spectacular.
“My focus fabric is fussy cut from ‘Savannah’ by Michael Miller Fabrics,” says Marlene Oddie of College Place, Washington. “It reminds me of an award-winning painting by my high school friend, Stacy Barter. The magazine description of a non-traditional setting with a great visual impact sold me on using my fabric to make this mystery!”
Cynthia Felts of Rolla, Missouri, decided to make this quilt for her soon-to-be-five granddaughter. “I drew the outline of three different butterfly shapes with the help of clip art from the Internet. The shapes are machine appliquéd to the background squares using a satin stitch. I added some details with thread-painting. I really enjoyed working on this. Thanks for the excellent directions.” What a gorgeous quilt this lucky little girl will receive!
Carol Weber used a lovely autumn color scheme for her blocks. The leaf print focus fabric is presented beautifully in a circle-in-a square setting.

Even if you don’t enter our contest, perhaps you can take some inspiration from these photos and all the others I’ve posted the past couple months. Though the final block settings revealed in Part 3 will be similar for all these quilts, the colors, prints, themes, visual impact, and “voices” will be distinctly different, reflecting the personality of each quilt maker or recipient.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One week left to enter mystery quilt contest

There's still time...but you need to get those sewing machines revved up if you want to enter our Beyond the Block Mystery Quilt contest. Deadline for entries is Tuesday, August 31. All the details are on page 66 of the September 2010 issue of American Quilter magazine. (The digital version of this issue is available for AQS members at
Just after we went to press with this issue, our testers found an error in the cutting diagrams for templates E and H. Please be sure to follow the diagrams above instead of those printed in the magazine.
And if you are using directional focus blocks (with a distinct up and down), please use the figure 9 shown below to complete Star block #2.
I continue to get contest entries from dozens of U.S. states and several countries. Below are the completed blocks made by Yvette Maynard of Stone Mountain, Georgia. The masks are appliquéd from a pattern collection by Sindy Rodemeyer, while the animals are cut from a panel. Yvette had some animal print fabric bought on a whim and she says this contest gave her the opportunity to use it.
Martien Bakker from The Netherlands writes that this is her first-ever mystery quilt. She used fabrics purchased in Norway while on spring holiday along with suitable fabrics pulled from her stash (photo below).

And Janice Matsen of Portland, Oregon, fussy cut and pieced her eyecatching focus blocks.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Quilting: The "Thread" of Life

Every Monday morning, I try to start the work week with a project or article that speaks to the positive influence quilting has on my life or the lives of others. It's a great way to set the tone for the week while validating the hobby (and now vocation) I have enjoyed for more than 35 years. Marica Heckart sent me her quilting story and has allowed me to share it here.
"We three young mothers were busy raising children, with little time for getting together. That was 46 years ago.
Even though living on a farm found her busy with gardening and helping her husband work the land while raising a family, Ruth had become quite the quilter. She quilted by machine, yet she could also do beautiful hand quilting. Along came Sue and I, visiting Ruth, who provided the enthusiasm to quilting. Ruth assured us it really wasn’t that hard. I was to participate in the Relay for Life (American Cancer Society) and thought it would be nice to have a quilt to raffle off for my team. The only catch: the event was 10 days away. Ruth very calmly said, "We can do it." And so a quilt was made and raffled off, and thus the quilting bug began.
Sue is the artist—she can look at fabrics to help us choose appropriate values and colors. Sue suggested we make a quilt for a little boy with cerebral palsy. A fantastic creation was made, and received with tears. Our goup of three became six. Sue then suggested a quilt for the Relay for the next year, and another one was created with Sue's help. The winning raffle ticket was pulled at my church one Sunday morning, and the lady who won it was ecstatic. She had no grandchildren and none on the way, but knew exactly where the quilt would be donated. We all had tears in our eyes as she said, 'This is going to Provident House, in Cleveland, Ohio.'
After many years, Ruth, Sue, and I, longtime school classmates, renewed our friendship. Now that our families have grown, we all gather once a week and are joined by four other friends. We either make individual projects or a special quilt to be given away. (The African man in the photo above was put together with lots of remnants, some upholstery material, and leather scraps, making this quilt so vivid it truly speaks to the viewer.) And Ruth, bless her heart, does all the quilting with her longarm machine.
Friendship is precious, and what a delight to be 66 years old, enjoying the "threads" of life through quilting.”

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mystery quilt contest entries

There are still 15 sewing days left until the deadline for our Beyond the Block Mystery Quilt Contest. The excitement here at AQS is growing, as we’ve already received entries from quilters in 23 U.S. states and Canada. For complete contest details, see page 66 of the September 2010 issue of American Quilter magazine. (This article is also available online for AQS members.) And be sure to read my blog posting of August 5 for important cutting corrections to patches E and H. Here are a few more samples of the distinctive focus blocks readers have chosen for this challenge.
Marlene Hager of Springfield, Illinois, sent me photos of her beautifully pieced focus blocks (above), but admits the mystery quilt was a little beyond her comfort zone: “This is my very first mystery quilt and it was hard to let go of the control—choosing focus blocks and colors and not knowing where they were going to be in the quilt. Now that my first installment is done, I really like the blocks, so I feel better.”

Abigail Fuller of Troy, Idaho, started with leftover Maple Leaf blocks she had pieced for her sister’s wedding quilt 12 years ago. What a beautiful color scheme!

“Wow. I thought I was being bold in my fabric choices, but this is over the top,” writes Judy Hoxie of Cornelius, North Carolina. Judy, those blocks are just dynamite, and your finished quilt will have amazing visual impact.
The focus blocks chosen by Joy Hatcher of Clarksville, Tennessee, include an alphabet’s worth of sage advice and uplifting thoughts.
Barbara Skimin of Troy, Michigan, compliments our pattern instructions: “I really appreciate the precision of the instructions. Thank you for making this mystery so much fun. I can hardly wait for the next set of clues!” Barbara’s focus blocks are fabric transfers of photos taken during a recent vacation in Tucson, using colors that coordinate with her newly-painted living room.
A soothing Kona Bay oriental print was chosen by Jennie Peck of Alexander, New York, for her focus blocks. Jennie’s other fabrics include scraps from antique kimono pieces.
Ann Alexander’s lovely bird blocks are from the Legacy Studio "Nestled In the Branches" collection. This Tubac, Arizona, quilter intended to do something "traditional" with the fabric (for her mom's bird collection) but decided to use them for this mystery project instead. Ann says, “The birds are squared up on the fabric, but I found that some could be put on point without falling off the branches!”

I wish I had time and space in this blog to post all the wonderful entries. But I can say with assurance that each mystery quiltmaker so far has done a great job of expressing his or her personality and quilting style in their Part 1 blocks. Great work, everyone!

Friday, August 13, 2010

AQ Contributing Editor wins challenge!

American Quilter magazine contributing editor Kathie R. Kerler won first place in the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum’s Evolution Challenge with her quilt named At the Ocean's Edge. (Photo above taken by Mark Frey.) The challenge for quilters was to make a quilt based on something new—an idea, method, or device. Kathie’s quilt features an innovative technique, with dimensionality created through “mobius trefoils.” These trefoils are strips of fabric which are sewn, folded, and flattened into triangular shapes (photo below right). She hand quilted the trefoils, hand sewed them together, then hand appliquéd them to the background fabric. The background is machine quilted, and the wave border features a hand-couched metallic braid.

The quilt was made in response to an exhibition called Landscape of the Whale at the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum. The purpose of the exhibition was to promote awareness of a plan developed by the community of Cannon Beach called the Greater Ecola Natural Area Plan. The plan's goal is to create a community with a strong sense of place, protecting and enhancing the natural environment of ocean, beach, the Ecola Creek estuary, and surrounding forested hillsides. Also, for the past 40 years a beach clean-up called SOLV (Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism) takes place in both spring and fall up and down the Oregon coast during which volunteers remove tons of litter from the shoreline. To honor this desire to protect the area's beaches and way of life, it seemed natural to Kathie to use the mobius trefoil recycling symbol.

Kathie made another spectacular quilt featuring the mobius trefoil technique. This quilt, called Framing the Future, was designed to celebrate Oregon’s 150 year anniversary of U.S. statehood. That's Kathie in the photo with her quilt. More information on this quilt and also complete instructions for making fabric trefoils are on pages 22-24 of the July 2010 issue of American Quilter magazine. AQS members can also access this article online at Kathie earned certificates in design and embroidery from The City and Guilds of London Institute, and attended the Lesage School of Needlework in Paris, France. Kathie is also a quilt judge certified by the National Quilting Association. We at American Quilter magazine congratulate Kathie and are proud to have her as part of our editorial team.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Shop Hop Fever

With a free Saturday on my hands and wanting to see the newest fabrics and notions in local shops, I headed out for the Denver-area Rocky Mountain Quilt Fever shop hop last weekend. Our hop featured seven great stores, each with its own flair and flavor, each one successful in developing its own quilting niche. My first stop was at Harriet’s Treadle Arts in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Both the shop and its owner, Harriet Hargrave (who graciously posed for the photo above) are quilting legends. Harriet is a machine quilting pioneer, a revered teacher, and author of many important quilt books. Visit for more info.

What is a shop hop? Each city or group of stores that puts together a hop chooses its own rules and theme, but basically it’s a scavenger/treasure hunt for quilters. By visiting each of the participating stores in just a few days to get your “passport” stamped, you collect free patterns, coupons, snacks, and a year’s worth of new ideas and inspiration. And if that weren’t enough, all finishers in our hop received a beautiful custom-designed pin and a chance to enter a drawing for some very nice prices, including a $1,000 quilt store shopping spree.
Colorado Memories was the theme for this hop, and each shop designed and had on display a traditional-style quilt featuring an exclusive fabric designed especially for this event. This year’s fabric was a rich brown and tan toile featuring Colorado landmarks—you can see it in the large triangle setting blocks in the quilt behind Harriet. Both the fabric and finishing kits were available for purchase at all stores.

Six more stores, eight hours, and a half tank of gas later, I got the last of my passport stamps and collected my pin at Great American Quilt Factory in Denver. By then I was truly in the shopping mode and found nine wonderful vintage floral print hankies (which I plan to use in a quilt) in the antique store just a few doors down from Great American. Take a look at Carol Collett’s Vintage Hankies pattern in the July 2008 issue of American Quilter magazine. This pattern is available free at for AQS members. And in one of the best moments of the day, I reconnected with a quilting buddy, who I had not seen in years, at Holly’s Quilt Cabin. I’m already putting the 2011 shop hop date on my calendar.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quilters from coast to coast love a mystery!

Coast to coast, quilters from 13 different states have already entered our Beyond the Block Mystery Quilt contest, detailed on page 66 of the September 2010 issue of American Quilter magazine. The deadline for entering is August 31, so you still have 26 days to pick your focus blocks and sew the first “clues” in Part 1. (If you haven’t yet started, please note the pattern corrections at the bottom of this posting).

Jill Pesti of Memphis, Tennessee, is using all batiks for her mystery quilt (photo above). Jill says, “I was so pleased to see this mystery challenge in the magazine—I mean who doesn't love a good mystery? I am also a big fan of The Crafty Ol’ Broads Linda Johnson and Jane Wells. I purchased their book awhile ago and have made a couple quilts from it. I just completed Part 1 of the mystery and am thrilled and excited to see what’s next. Knowing their patterns, I’m sure I will NOT be disappointed with the outcome. Thanks for such a great magazine and great inspirations.”
Beth Schillig of Columbus, Ohio, writes, “I was excited to read about your mystery quilt challenge! It gave me the perfect reason to get out my Kaleidoscope Kreator™ 3 program and play with it, manipulating a picture of sunrise I took over Lake Erie in the program (photo above). Many thanks for this great challenge!”
And Susan Holman of Laytonsville, Maryland, says, “This is so much fun! The fish in my blocks (photo above) were designed by Heidi Pridemore from the quilt Under the Sea in the May/June 2005 issue of Quiltmaker magazine. Thanks for the heads up about directional blocks because mine are.”
Please note the following correction to the printed instructions in the September 2010 issue of AQ. (Corrections have been made to our online version of the pattern.)
Two small errors in the Rotary Cutting box illustrations on page 62 were caught just after we went to press. These are the correct diagrams for patches E and H.
We apologize for the error, but it does not affect the yardage requirements or any other aspect of the construction in Part 1.

If you are using a directional focus fabric, follow the figure 9 below rather than the one pictured on page 65 (both are correct, depending on your focus fabric).

Monday, August 2, 2010

Polish Pottery

So why am I writing about Polish pottery in a quilt magazine blog? The designs we create in our quilts originate from many sources, both natural and manmade. Kaffe Fassett, in his newest book Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts, shares insight on how to train our eyes to “see” the way simple shapes from mundane objects can be translated into textile art. When I look at my small collection of colorful Polish pottery, it’s apparent that the artists who created these designs also interpreted the simple shapes around them into spectacular pieces of useable art.
According to some sources, pottery guilds were in operation as early as the 1500s in the Boleslawiec region of Poland when it was ruled by Germans and known as Bunzlau. Farmers, constrained to indoor work when the weather became cold, turned to handwork, using the warmth and light of their fireplaces. Their pottery was simple in design and coloring, decorated in a folk art technique of potato stamping. Each piece was a unique work of art.
Modern Polish pottery evolved through the centuries, including the use of designs inspired by the “eye” of a peacock feather. The school of ceramics in Bunzlau was opened in 1897 to train artists to achieve the high standards for which Polish pottery is now known around the world. Polish pottery is considered important not only for its beautiful designs but also for its durability. Made in just four factories, the pottery is created with white clay indigenous to the Boleslawiec area and prized for its workable and durable qualities. The characteristics of this clay allow it to be fired twice near 2000 degrees Farenheit, producing tough stoneware which will not crack or chip easily and can be safely used in the microwave, dishwasher, oven, and freezer. The artists who paint Polish pottery are trained for years, now using stamps made of sea sponges rather than potatoes to apply designs. The most highly accomplished artisans create their own signed pieces, designated as Unikat, meaning unique.

Here are some of the pieces I own. Because each of the authentic Polish pottery factories produce and sell specific designs, most collectors like to mix and match patterns, as I do. There are many sources for buying Polish pottery in the United States, both retail and online.