Wednesday, November 30, 2011

All wrapped up: simple, stylish holiday quilts

~Stay tuned for Christmas around the World!~
This year we've featured a medley of holiday quilts, ranging from quick-pieced blocks to appliqued motifs.  Now, as we're getting ready to share Christmas quilts from around the world, here's a wrapup!

Row 1:  Shopping’s done! Gift’s wrapped! by Sandy Gervais at Pieces from my Heart; Argyle Christmas by Natalia Bonner at Piece N Quilt. Row 2: Royaltry by Kay M. Capps Cross at Cross Cuts Quilting; Christmas Tree by Paris Bottman at Bigfork Bay Cotton Co.   Row 3: Gift Quilt by Brandon Mably at Brandon Mably Designs; Christmas reindeer by June Jaeger at Log Cabin Quiltworks. Row 4: Peace by Norma Whaley and Joyce Weeks at Geoff’s Mom Patterns; Yonder Star by Ann Lauer at Grizzly Gulch Gallery.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yonder Star

It's the 8th day of our "simple, stylish holiday quilts". Here's a fast and fun Nativity-themed wall hanging, done with fusible applique. In the midst of a busy holiday season, this brings a sense of peace and repose, as the Wise Men journey through the silent and wondrous night, following the Star of Bethlehem.  

Yonder Star,  29 x 27 by Ann Lauer at Grizzly Gulch Gallery (Montana)

From Helena, Montana, Ann Lauer has been designing and creating quilts for over 20 years. Her online store, Grizzly Gulch Gallery, sells patterns, books, bed quilts, art quilts, fabric art, wall hangings, and custom made gifts. While perusing all the goodies for sale at Grizzly Gulch, this art quilt really caught our attention.

Like many quilters, we're enchanted by quilts which feature building and houses. The glowing village in the distance here creates such a balanced, graceful focal point and perfectly symbolizes the light of Christmas. The Yonder Star pattern features full size templates that are drawn in reverse, so they easily lend themselves to fusible applique and raw edge applique techniques. This traditional yet contemporary look goes with all decor and would look great in any room in your home.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Gift Quilt

It's Day 7 of our simple, stylish holiday quilts ! Here's a quilt which encompasses the spirit of the holiday season, which is giving to others. What could be better than a quilt sewn to look like a giant present, whether it is for friends, family, or even yourself?

The Gift, 27 x 33, by Brandon Mably at Brandon Mably Designs

Brandon Mably is the Studio Manager for the Kaffe Fasset Studio in London, and he shares Kaffe Fassett's interest in bold swirling fabric patterns with vibrant colorways.  The background of this quilt is done in easy patchwork squares, while the ribbon bow is machine appliqued. You can make this quilt in pretty contrasting holiday colors, as quilter Laura West Kong has shown on her blog, with a bright red bow and sparkling green accents.  "The Gift" pattern is available in a wonderful book, Kaffe Fassett's Country Garden Quilts, written by Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mably, and others.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas reindeer

Happy Saturday! It's Day 6 of our "simple, stylish" holiday quilts and we wanted to share our favorite reindeer (quilt).  He could be Dasher, Dancer, Prancer or Vixen. The image reminds us of the cover of the classic children's book, The Night Before Christmas,  which depicts Santa's reindeer silhouetted by the moon.

Christmas Reindeer, 23-1/2 x 33" by June Jaeger at Log Cabin Quiltworks (Oregon)

This reindeer is silhouetted by a shiny green Christmas ornament; the graceful red ribbon that adorns the deer is echoed by the red ribbon on the ornament. 

June Jaeger is a renowned designer, entrepreneur and teacher. We first featured her work in our series on Quilts of the Wild West.   Many of her patterns have animal silhouettes, which we love; the silhouettes portray the animals in their simplest forms.  At Log Cabin Quiltworks you can find June's artistic patterns for winter, wildlife and birds, including Gambel's quail. Last but not least, if you are a cat lover you will enjoy her cat quilts such as Here a kitty There a kitty.

Image credits: The image is shown with the generous permission of June Jaeger.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shopping's done !

Well, not really.  It's Day 5 of our "simple, stylish holiday quilts" and that happens to be the name of Sandy Gervais' pattern.  Since today is Black Friday we thought "Shopping's Done" was appropriate!   We like the abstract geometric shapes of the gift boxes, which give this quilt a very modern look.

Shopping's done! Gift's wrapped! 48 x 70", by Sandy Gervais at Pieces From My Heart

Each block is created using a stack and slice technique--cutting more than one piece of a pattern at once by stacking up to four layers of fabric. (You copy the pattern onto freezer paper, iron it to a fat quarter of fabric, then place it on top of as many layers as you think you can slice with your rotary cutter.) This quick-cutting approach is also used for Sandy's iconic "Tree's up" quilt:

Tree's up! Light's on! 51 x 70", by Sandy Gervais at Pieces From My Heart

Sandy Gervais learned to sew at an early age. In 1992 she combined her love for art with her passion for sewing into a quilt pattern company, Pieces From My Heart. At her first international Quilt Market -– St. Louis in 1994 -– she was discovered by Moda Fabrics. Over fifteen years, and countless fabric lines later, she is still designing for Moda.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Argyle for Christmas

It's day 4 of our simple, stylish holiday quilts.  We've always loved quilt designs that mimic plaid and woven textiles. Today's holiday quilt re-creates a traditional argyle design in patchwork. Simple? Stylish? Yes and yes.

Argyle Christmas, 52 x 63", by Natalia Bonner at Piece N Quilt (Utah)

In weaving, the argyle pattern originated with the tartan of Clan Campbell, of Argyll in western Scotland, and from the patterned socks worn by Scottish Highlanders since at least the 17th century. Natalia Bonner has transformed the design from a pure geometric to a cheerful holiday quilt by adding appliqued evergreen branches and bright red berries.

Natalia Bonner is a professional machine quilter and pattern designer. You can find Natalia Bonner and Kathleen Whiting, co-owner, at the Piece N Quilt website and the Piece N Quilt blog.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Christmas Tree

It's day three of our "simple, stylish holiday quilts" series.  This predominantly white quilt is a simple celebration of snow and holiday cheer. We like its uncomplicated design:  just a bear, and a tree.

Christmas tree, 21 x 27" by Paris Bottman at Bottman Design as seen at Bigfork Bay Cotton Company (Montana)

Paris Bottman is an artist who has been entertaining us with her whimsical characters for over 25 years.  Several of her works of art have been translated into quilt patterns by the talented group at Bigfork Bay Cotton Company.  As with many of Paris Bottman's designs, this polar bear captivates us with his human-like gaze.

Image credits:  The image is shown with the generous permission of Bigfork Bay Cotton Company. Bigfork Bay Cotton Company licenses the work of fine artists to create raw edge applique quilt patterns, and they produce fabric kits and thread kits for these designs. Bigfork Bay Cotton Company has its own quilt shop located in beautiful Bigfork, Montana.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A little peace for the holidays

Today's post is number two in our "simple and stylish holiday" series.  Recently we came across the most charming journal covers.  The dove of peace is one of the prettiest we've seen, and this journal cover fits a standard composition notebook.  We think that these would make fantastic gifts. 

Peace, 8" x 10", by Norma Whaley and Joyce Weeks at Geoff's Mom Pattern Company (Utah)

In her description of the pattern, Norma Whaley writes: "If you are someone who keeps a journal of your life's journey, you could make a cover that would look lovely on your night stand." For more examples check out Rejoice, Wisdom, Bird Nesting, Don't count sheep, and Flower Power Journal (shades of the '60's). You can see all of the designs - there are ten so far - on the Quilt Patterns page.

Geoff's Mom is Joyce Weeks, and Norma Whaley is her co-designer and friend. Norma formerly created patterns under the name "Remember When", and the two have now merged their business. Their quilt patterns can be found at Geoff's Mom Patterns and their blog is at Geoff's Mom blog.

Image credits:  The image is shown with the generous permission of Joyce Weeks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Simple, stylish holiday quilts

In the midst of the holiday hubbub it can be difficult to keep things simple. This year we decided to share 8 different quilts that embody beauty in simplicity.  As Frank Lloyd Wright said: "Simplicity and repose are the qualities that measure the true value of any work of art." 

Royaltry, 39 x 47", in Black & White and Pieced All Over, by Kay M. Capps Cross at Cross Cuts Quilting

Is there anything more elegant than black and white, or more simple than this edgy pine tree?  This quilt would look beautiful in silk or in Kona cottons. One reviewer on Amazon sums it up: "I like the use of black and white, usually with one other accent color. There's something very appealing about the crisp contrast this provides."

Kay M. Capps Cross is an expert in black-and-white quilts, and we love her contemporary style. Her books and patterns are designed for stress-free foundation piecing... which is exactly what we need at this time of year.

Image credits:  The image is shown with the generous permission of Kay M. Capps Cross.   To browse and purchase individual patterns please visit her website, Cross Cuts Quilting. You also can find Kay at her Facebook page.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Easy pieced wreath: Free pattern and tutorial

We've been dying to use our fabric stash to make a festive wreath.  We looked at many methods, including tying fabric strips to a wire frame, but we were put off by these words of wisdom:  "You will tie and tie for days and days".... and: "I got blisters on my fingers from the fabric when I tied it" (see where beauty meets function).  So we asked ourselves: why not stitch the strips together, then simply wrap them around the wreath?  After some trial and error we came up with this easy pattern that produces a beautiful, full wreath. The bow is built in, and the wreath itself can be re-used (the fabric strips can be removed for storage !)

This wreath has fabric all the way around, so it can be admired from both sides of a glass door.

It also looks great on the front door:

This wreath is a great stash-buster.  It can be as scrappy or as coordinated as you wish !

You will need:

-One 12-inch floral styrofoam wreath such as from Michael's 

-Dark green fabric for backbone strips (approx. 1 fat quarter - FQ)
-Hot pink fabric for bow (we used a 10" x 21" piece from 1 FQ)
-Assorted fabrics for cross-strips: approx. 1-3/4 to 2 yards (7-8 FQ)
-Rotary cutter and 24" cutting mat; 6" x 24" quilting ruler
-T-pins to attach the strips to the wreath

Step 1. Backbone strips: Cut the dark green fat quarter into 1.5" wide strips (you will need 9-10 strips that are ~21" long):

Step 2. Cross-strips:  Cut the assorted fabrics into 1.5" wide strips, then cross-cut so the strips are 3.5" long*.  To save time, you can cut a stack of 3-4 fabrics as long as your rotary blade is sharp (*use caution*!)  We first cut the 1.5" wide strips without separating them, then simply rotated the cutting mat and made a second set of cuts every 3.5 inches:

Here are the strips from the six fabrics we used.  We selected dark, medium and light value fabrics to give the wreath some interest. We used two FQ of the dark green, turquoise and purple, and one FQ of the others. We included some spotty white fabrics that looked like snow:

Step 3. Stitch the cross strips to the backbones: Place one dark green backbone strip in the sewing machine and take a few stitches down the middle of the strip to hold it in place (see second photo below).  Start adding cross strips as follows: fold one cross-strip in half lengthwise to make a 3/4" wide strip and pinch it in the middle.  Then layer another cross-strip on top and fold it in half lengthwise. We found it easiest to fold and stack the strips flat on the table, then pinch them together as shown below. (Note:  you can click on any of the pictures to expand them and see the detail).

Center the stacked cross strips on the backbone and take a few stitches down the middle.  Continue folding and adding cross-strips to the backbone strip, one right after another, as shown in the photos below.  You should not need to raise and lower the presser foot as long as you take only a few stitches before you add the next set of strips:

You can use chain piecing if you wish by starting on the next backbone without lifting the needle.  Each backbone will hold about 26 stacked cross strips.  It will take a little time to sew the strips - but not days !  It goes fairly quickly, and soon you will have a tantalizing collection of fluffy strips, at which point you will start to imagine all sorts of decor possibilities in addition to the wreath. Garlands, conical trees, jars filled with fabric, and wall hangings come to mind.

Step 4Make the bow: Before you finish stitching all the strips, attach the bow "strings" and bow to one of the backbone strips, about 6" from the end. First, cut the hot pink fabric into one 8" x 21" strip and one 2" x 21" strip.  Fold the 8" wide strip in fourths, lengthwise, making an accordion fold as shown below (first fold the strip in half lengthwise with right sides together; then fold back the raw edges.) This will become the "strings" for the bow:

Then fold the 2" wide strip to make a flat bow.  We've provided a free bow template in a pdf file (download here).  The bow looks like this:

Attach the bow "strings" and bow to one of the backbone strips, about 6" from the end.  First, center the bow strings on the backbone, then layer the flat bow on top of the strings and stitch down the middle, stitching through all layers. 

When you are done stitching the bow, continue stitching cross pieces onto the backbone.

Step 5.  Assemble the wreath: Start with the strip that has the bow.  Center the bow on the front of the wreath form and pin it in place temporarily with a t-pin:

Then start wrapping the strip around the wreath, pushing the bow and cross-strips to the left as you wrap the strip to the right: 

When have finished wrapping this strip, secure the end with a t-pin (you can tuck the t-pin underneath a cross strip so that it does not show).  Also wrap and pin the left end of the strip behind the bow  (once both ends are secured, you can remove the pin from the bow.) Keep pinning and wrapping strips around the wreath, one after another, until the entire form is covered.  Hint: If you wrap slowly, an inch or two at a time, it will be easy to push aside the cross strips so they do not get caught underneath the strip you are wrapping.  When you have gone all the way around the wreath, cut off any extra strips.  We used about 9.5 strips for our finished wreath.  Fluff the wreath with your fingers, straightening out any crumpled strips. 

Having completed this project, here's what we love about this method:

-The wreath looks very professional.
-It uses about the same amount of fabric as other methods.  There is little or no wastage.
-It takes only a few hours, not days. No blisters !  
-It is perfect not only for scraps and remnants, but also for pre-cuts such as honey buns - and, with minor modifications, jelly roll strips.
-After the holidays the fabric strips can be unpinned and stored in a box until next year.  The wreath form can then be used to make another Easy Pieced Wreath.
-It was so much fun, and so easy, that we want to make another one ! We're thinking white, with a pink or red bow, for Valentine's Day. 

~Enjoy your wreath and have a very happy holiday season ! ~

*Note:  Through trial and error we discovered that 3.5" is the right length for cross strips for a 12" wreath.  Strips that are 3" long are too short.  Strips that are 5" long look too long on a 12" wreath, but would be great for a 14" wreath.  Also:  our 12" over-the-door wreath hanger was a little too short for this size wreath.  We used a loop of wire to attach the wreath to the hanger.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Free pattern day: Christmas part 1

In 2010 we published 12 days of Christmas Trees, which revealed just how many variations of trees are possible.  Here are some fantastic free patterns and tutorials for Christmas Tree quilts.  After all, quilted trees are "green" (reusable) and they take up far less space than a real tree ! Note: This post was updated on July 6, 2015.  For the latest patterns, see Free pattern day: Christmas 2015 (part 1).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Houston International Quilt Festival Part 5

~Coming up... free patterns for Christmas~
The International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas, is the world's largest quilt show, with a seemingly endless array of beautiful quilts. Attended by 60,000 quilt lovers, it is truly a quilter's dream.   This is Part 5 of 5, so join us as we take a final look at an assortment of fascinating work.

The Secret Life of Dancing Tulips by Jeanne Brenner, Tallahassee, Florida

This lovely paper-pieced, hand-appliqued, and free-motion quilted work was inspired by Elsie M. Campbell's Star Flower.  Jeanne says, "Put together two friends who sharea love of bright colors and happy quilts and this is the result. The title refers to the dancing tulips subtly quilted into the border.

Buenos Aires. Villa 31.  by Cecilia Koppmann at Patchwork y Cia (Argentina)

Of her intriguing machine pieced, machine appliqued, machine embroidered and machine quilted work, Cecilia writes, "Since 1930 in a central and fashionable area of the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, a shantytown called Villa 31 has been growing. Every day, local and foreign migrant workers climb over fences and hastily put up fragile, new walls, or add a precarious additional floor level to constructions that are already shoddily built.  One day as I was sewing, I realized that I was constructing something much in the same haphazard way in which people were building their houses in the Villa 31, by improvising and using leftovers.

Close-up of Buenos Aires. Villa 31

Cecilia has quilted the background of this quilt in patterns which remind one of the tall skyscrapers, with their long straight strands.

My Family Tree of Life, by Ita Ziv, Pardes Hanaa, Israel

Some of the techniques used by Ita are:  freehand cut, fused, and free-motion quilted. Ita Ziv says about the original applique work,  "The names of my family inspired me when making this quilt.  My husband and my parents, children and grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, are what makes up My Family Tree of Life.

Close-up of My Family Tree of Life

Through the use of soft, muted Bali batik colors, the artist makes it seem as if the members of her family are continually walking into or coming out of a surreal, misty, almost supernatural world of the eternities. Notice the elegant parallel quilting lines, which seem to point the way into another dimension.

Courthouse Raising by Kathleen Tillman and the members of the Quilter's Guild of Parker County, Texas

Kathleen notes that this hand-appliqued, machine pieced, and machine quilted work is a log cabin pattern in the beloved barn-raising setting......."inspired by Nadine Murphree of Weatherford, Texas. She wanted a Courthouse quilt. Members of our quilters guild were asked to make the 10" blocks depicting buildings from around Parker County. The seven small blocks were also made by members of the guild."

Close-up of Courthouse Raising

Kathleen herself hand-appliqued the 19 inch Courthouse block in the center of the quilt, then she designed the setting and put the quilt together.   The quilt was quilted by Jo Lynn O'Neil.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Houston International Quilt Festival Part 4

Here are some more photos of great quilts from the International Quilt Festival, held November 2-6, in Houston , Texas, U.S.A.

Out On a Limb by Joyce Paterson, with Ann Horton (Ann Horton Quilts) and Renee Gannon, Mendocino Quilt Artists, Ukiah, California

Second place winner for group quilts, this original design of very eye-catching panels shows the cats in the birdhouses, waiting hopefully for "dinner".  We enjoyed the vibrant colors, thread embellishment, and crisp applique workmanship.

Close-up of Out on A Limb

Here's a clever fellow, draped over the roof, who advertises himself as just "house sitting." We thought this was the most creatively humorous quilt of this year's festival and enjoyed seeing the smiles on the faces of fellow viewers. 

An Athlete On Ice by Yoshiko Miyamoto, Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Ken, Japan

Second place winner for Portrait Art Quilts, Yoshiko says," I was fascinated by an athlete's performance on ice in the figure skating competition during the Winter Olympics. I got completely jolted by his energy and spirit. It was so powerful, it jumped out of the television."   This is a beautifully executed original design, using hand embroidery and applique, plus machine piecing and quilting.

New York Sunset by Marco Sarzi-Sartori and Daniela Arnoldi, Milano, Italy

The artists were inspired by a photo taken during their last trip to New York. They write, "This quilt reproduces the partial view of the city of New York, with the warm colors of the afternoon. The higher the heat of the day, the greater the deformation of buildings, of verticality, and of parallels. The sky lights up in color and is full of vibrations."

Close-up of  New York Sunset 

If you click on the photo to expand it you will be able to see some of the pretty strands of yarn, twine, and fiber that the artists used to create the "deconstructed"  effect of the building shimmering in the sunlight. This work was truly unique, and we were impressed by the extremely innovative design and construction.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Houston International Quilt Festival - Part 3

Calling all cowgirls (and cowboys)! Saddle up your pony and ride with us to the International Quilt Festival for Day 3 of more beautiful creations. Which ones are your favorites?  We always love to read your comments.

Please note: We strictly followed all rules for quilt photography, and we took pictures only where they were permitted.  We decided to post some of these photos in extra large size so you can see the detail.

Best of Show Award,  Harmony Within, by Sue McCarty, Roy, Utah

The $10,000 prize for Best of  Show 2011 goes to Sue McCarty, who writes, "As a gift for my husband, I created this quilt to reflect our life together. All the motifs are symbolic of the harmony two different sentient beings can find within marriage. The dragon on the upper right prefers to float about in a world of creativity, while the fisherman at the bottom left is more down to earth. The center area encompases a home together, with space for each individual."  

This magnificent pieced and appliqued work took 900 hours to complete. To add extra sparkle and shimmer, Sue used 15,000 yards of metallic gold thread and 4,200 Swarovski crystals. Truly a show-stopper, this quilt was constantly surrounded by dozens of admirers.  Unfortunately, we were able to get only this one photo, as the white glove volunteer man and the eager hordes agreed to step aside for only a few seconds. For close-ups and additional information, please see the website for the International Quilt Association. Also, you can read about Sue at the Gammill Professional Quilting Artist page.

World of Beauty Award, The Loading Dock by Mary Buvia, Greenwood, Indiana

The $7,500 World of Beauty Award goes to Mary Buvia, who used 78 different colors of Fairy Frost fabrics, reverse applique, couching, piping, embellishment, and iridescent film snowflakes to create a charming Santa's workshop filled with toys, as Santa prepares to depart from the North Pole on Christmas Eve. 

Close-up of  The Loading Dock by Mary Buvia

We loved the precise and crisp attention to detail which showcases Mary's flawless workmanship in this mostly hand-stitched work.  She has dedicated this quilt to her late husband Bob, whom she cared for during his illness, and who saw this quilt almost finished.You can read about Mary Buvia at the Indiana Heritage Quilt Show 2011 Teachers Page.

Master Award for Contemporary Artistry, Windblown, by Maria Elkins, Maria Elkins Art Quilts, Beavercreek, Ohio

Winner of the $5,000 Master Award for Contemporary Artistry, Maria notes of her original design, "This quilt is inspired by a dear friend who has stood firm and remained joyful despite the various challenges she has had to face in her her young life. " Maria used machine quilting and hand painting with ink, paintsticks, fabric markers, and gel pens on top of the polyester and metallic threads. If you click on the image to expand it, you will be able to see some of the fabulous quilting patterns, which resemble swirls and gusts of wind.

A Memory of Old Friendship by Tomoko Tsunoda and 11 friends, Tokyo, Japan

Third place winner for Group Quilting, Tomoko says, "We made this quilt because one of our quilt friends is leaving the quilt class. We have been enjoying making quilts together for over 15 years. In honor of our friendship, I put in her favorite flowers and used cheerful colors. I will never forget our friendship."

Close-up of A Memory of Old Friends by Tomoko Tsunoda and 11 friends

This lovely quilt is all hand-appliqued, hand-embroidered, and hand-quilted. Tomoko and her group did an outstanding job to create the flawless echo quilting patterns around each block. 

Friends of Baltimore by Susan Garman and colleagues, Friendswood, Texas

First place winner for Group Quilting, Sue notes, "Although inspired by many old Baltimore Album quilts, I designed this quilt to suit my own desire for a uniquely elegant quilt. Four dear friends each appliqued a block when a serious family illness diverted my attention away from the quilt's completion."

Close-up of Friends of Baltimore by Susan Garman and colleagues

The needleturn applique method and foundation piecing were used to create the blocks here. The entire piece was then hand-quilted. Notice the extremely accurate tiny sawtooth red and white sashing and borders, which gives this intricate heirloom quality work an especially cheerful and lively look.  For more information see Sue Garman's blog.
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