Posted on Leave a comment

Books to Buy: The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook

Many moons ago I wrote book reviews as a part of my job. No matter what, we had to find something nice to say about the book and encourage folks to buy it, but the truth is I never liked that. I love getting advance copies of books and getting the time to peruse them, but I don’t like having to recommend a book when I wouldn’t actually do so in real life.

These days I don’t work for any publications or marketing avenues, so I get to tell you the truth about my opinion on sewing/quilting books. I’ve decided I will only share with you the books to buy, so I’m kicking it off with one of my favorite authors: Thomas Knauer’s The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook: 91 Modern Art-Inspired Designs and Exercises.

Years ago, I spied Thomas Knauer at Quilt Market sporting a shoulder tote made with his new-at-the-time Pear Tree collection with Andover Fabrics. It’s still one of my favorites and so is Thomas. He is talented, opinionated, understanding and generous. What you see is what you get with Thomas and, for that, I adore him. And did I mention how smart he is? Well, he is and incredibly so. Best of all, he’s more than happy to share that with you and he does so brilliantly in his latest book.

The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook came out from Storey Publishing last year and my admiration has only grown over the months of reading it, exploring the concepts and putting the workbook to use. I’ve read over it on planes, taken it to bed to draw out shapes, sat at cafes with it and colored. It’s become a favorite, indeed, because it’s for quilters like me.

I came into the quilting world from the craft side. I’ve long been a maker and I love being able to create useful and pretty things, but I do not have an art background and most of the fancy art-world lexicon goes right over my head. I feel reticent to share my designs with the world, unable to blather on about them with any sort of intelligence. That’s where  The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook comes into play.

Thomas divided the book up into seven different sections focusing on different aspects of modern art: Space, Balance, Chance & Intuition, Simplicity, The Grid, The Geometric Environment, and Repetition & Iteration.  Then he walks your through each, gently explaining with clear examples what he’s talking about with each. {Read his take on it here.}

It is awesome.

Each section dives into the topic, then shares examples of art and quilts that show off that aspect. But that’s not it, he then gives you the opportunity to put it to use and for me this is really the kicker. I can read about art. I understand about balance and negative space and how things are laid out on a grid, etc., etc. Except when it comes down to it, I don’t know how to take that and make it into a purposeful quilt design. The whole point of the book, it seems to me, is to help the reader do just that.

In short, I think it’s a magical book and you should totally buy it.

For a bit more info, let me share with you what I did. First, I read the entire book cover to cover on a flight home. Then I went and made copies of the different design and coloring pages. I’m one of those, yes. Then I started with the first section: Space.

Thomas talks about the idea of filling space and using space, then tells us how Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse all worked with this idea of space in their varied styles of art. He includes pictures and explanations and at the end of reading it, you just feel like you had a mini art history lesson. I kinda love it.

Then I decided to jump in and just do it. I started with the easier part: coloring. (There are seven coloring exercises and five design exercises in this section.) The Stutter Step exercise says to “[d]evelop a color system that repeated, but with an offset (that is, the shapes that are repeated are int eh same color one row up and two columns over). Play with creating a color system that is not strictly horizontal or vertical to produce a secondary visual rhythm.”


Then I picked six fabrics that would work well together, I thought and just randomly used them in place of the colors I’d used on the page. They are 2 1/2″ tall with 5″ wide bases, just in case you wondered.

Then I set to arranging them in strips, then sewing strips together until I got this lovely thing:

I have no idea what I’ll do with it, but that wasn’t the point of this exercise. It was to explore the use of color and rhythm and an offset repetition. And I’m happy with it. I like the way it jogs over. I like how it made me try to make my points match. I like how it shifts and moves.

Now onto one of the design exercises and see what that teaches me. When you get the book, let me know and we can work on one together!

Posted on 1 Comment

Curves Ahead: a series for 2017

There’s something about a nice curve that you can’t help but love. Smooth, swooping, they are beautiful and this year I’m going to help you learn to tackle them in your sewing and quilting. I’ve long been a fan of them and after asking what you, dear readers, want to learn in 2017, it sounds like a lot (a lot!) of sewists want to master this one.

Together we’re going to take this one on and I’ll give you a little insight into how I work, and hopefully you can take a little bit of that and make it work for you, too.

Each month I’ll post a tutorial on a certain kind of curve sewing and then explore patterns that use it so you can practice each skill.  We’ll learn about:

  • freeform/improv curves
  • curvy needle-turn applique
  • inset circles
  • Drunkard’s Path blocks
  • Double Wedding Ring blocks
  • Winding Ways blocks
  • Clamshell blocks
  • Apple Core paper piecing
  • scalloped binding
  • and garment-making, too

  If you have other techniques you’d like to see, just let me know! I’ll add in some posts that share my opinion and experience with various rulers, rotary cutters, dies, templates, and more.  It should be lots of fun and (fingers crossed) will be helpful to you! Look for the first post in early February when we tackle the Drunkard’s Path block. If you want to make sure and follow along, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter. I’ll include additional tips, the series schedule and post recaps for you in each monthly email.

In the mean time, find some scraps that are at least 8″ square, get out your template plastic (or a cereal box), and get ready to give the Drunkard’s Path block a shot.

Posted on 3 Comments

Oh Dear Jane!

Dear Jane,

I fell in love with your crazy, beautiful quilt when I first saw it two decades ago ago. I bought the Dear Jane book (by Brenda Papadakis) a few years later, dreaming of my own version. Then I started collecting fabrics for it, especially lots of grey fabrics because I’d decided that is what I wanted it made with. And there it stopped. Well, except for the fabric collecting. You know how that is; any excuse to buy fabric and I’ll do it. But the idea of actually making the quilt was put on pause.

So now six, seven years later, this lovely little company called Paper Pieces decides to release a paper pieced version of your quilt using  Brenda’s book. The Dear Jane 18-Month Quilt Along should be a title that would keep me away from doing it, but I’ve been so enamored by that quilt I just couldn’t help myself. You know how I am, Jane; I signed up right away.

I got the first set of paper pieces for Row A at the end of December, but didn’t dare open it up and look for a few more days. And honestly when I opened it and poured all those itty bitty pieces out, I nearly cried. But then I remember you, doing this all without your Kai scissors or special paper piecing templates or good needle and thread or probably even decent lighting, and I pulled myself up from a fetal position on the floor and decided to give it a go. I’m only two blocks in (just 223 to go!), but I’m really going to try, Jane. It will be my magnum opus. My quilt to keep.

Row B showed up two days ago and I’m not even looking at it yet. One row at a time, right? It may end up being a three-year project for me, but so be it. I will finish it or die trying.

Thank you, dear Jane, for your beautiful work and the inspiration to venture into an overwhelmingly large project that will eat up my evening for years to come. I hope to make you proud in the end.

All the best,

sig17

 

 

 

P.S. If you want to follow along with my very slow process, you can follow me on Instagram: @teresacoates. Search for #dearjanegoesepp for others’ beautiful work, too.

Posted on 1 Comment

How to: Deal with PDF patterns

When they first really hit the market a half dozen years ago, PDF patterns were new and exciting and usually fit on just a couple pages. Today there are hundreds of patterns available in PDF format for everything from tops to wallets to coats to quilts. Smaller patterns, like the Necessary Clutch Wallet, are easy. You simply print and cut out the pattern pieces.  For apparel patterns, it takes a little more effort.

For the first few years of using PDF patterns, I would tape together the entire thing and then cut out the pattern pieces. I decided a while ago that that wasn’t the best way to do it. It made me frustrated and took up a ton of space that I didn’t have. While using one of Liesl + Co.‘s patterns, I noticed that Liesl designed all the patterns so that the pieces didn’t overlap pages and I could just tape together the pages printed with the sleeve pattern or the bodice front pattern or whatever. It was great and I love this aspect of her patterns (as well as the fact that hers are hands-down the best written patterns out there).

But most patterns aren’t printed that way. They overlap pieces on pages to save space, so I had to figure out another way.  So here’s my technique to taping/ cutting patterns that saves my floor space, sanity and frustration.

First I print all the pattern pages out. Make sure you do it single-sided (you can guess how I figured that one out…)

img_6032.jpg

Some pattern companies will number the pages (Colette’s Seamwork patterns do this and it’s helpful), but this one is not. Either way, I simply mark the pages I will need to cut out. You can see here that on a couple of the pages there are parts for both pattern pieces. This is where you can get confused, so go ahead and mark the pages any way that works for you.

One Hour Top PDF layout

Then I figure out what size I am for the pattern and start on page one, cutting out the piece on the cutting line, if it’s there. I also cut off the margin on top and right on all the pieces. This helps in taping them together consistently. Cutting out PDF patternsI cut out the pieces from page one and page two, then tape them together with washi tape. There are a couple reasons I prefer washi. One, because it’s cute. Two, because it’s not permanent. When I need to re-tape and move pieces, I can without tearing the paper.

taping together PDF

After taping a full row together, I add the next row one page at a time, taping the top and sides so they match as well as possible. Suddenly I have a complete pattern piece! Yay! I set that aside and tackle the remaining pieces the same way.

img_6039.jpg

I use the taped together pattern piece to cut out my first try. This time I used some gorgeous knit from Alexander Henry Fabrics with these great bats and roses and spiderwebs all over it.  If I really like the finished piece, then I will transfer the pattern to Swedish Tracing Paper for easier storage. You can find it fabric stores and online.

img_6042.jpg

I whipped this One Hour Top up in just over a half-hour. Super quick, easy and cute (even though I cut the front piece upside–oops!)

Finished one hour top

Posted on 1 Comment

An Imperfect Storm at Sea

A month ago I was in Houston for both Quilt Market and Quilt Festival. Two weeks hanging out in the Shannon Fabrics booths during the day and in the hotel room at night. It was super fun and super duper tiring. My favorite part of these eventsis seeing what is happening out in the quilting world. I don’t get to shops very often and rely on the Internet too much to keep me abreast of what’s new and exciting. So getting out and walking the aisles at Quilt Festival was a real treat.

In one of my quick forays out, I ran across the Flynn Quilt Frame Company booth full of tiny little quilts. Intricately-pieced traditional designs. While I love a good modern quilt, I’m a sucker for the traditional as well. I couldn’t help but swoon over the array and it didn’t take me long to settle on this itty bitty  Storm at Sea kit. (And the fact that it’s been out for 8 years and I’ve never seen it before makes me a little sad, but we’ve remedied that!)

Storm At Sea mini quilt kit

I’m a sucker for a good challenge and this one ranked right up there. I’d brought along my Singer Featherweight so I didn’t have to go weeks without sewing (because you know I’d lose my mind). I pulled the little machine out of the box that night and started piecing the laser-cut square-in-a-square bits. mini square in square blocks

You don’t even have to look that closely to see that most of them aren’t even real squares. The 1/4″ seam allowance wasn’t perfectly straight on each one. Angles ended up being slightly wonky. But that wasn’t the point of this project… I just wanted to make it  for my mom. I could do it perfectly and make it frustrate me. Or I could just sew it up because I love my mom and know that she likes purple and she won’t care that it isn’t perfect because either am I and she still loves me.

sewing my Storm at Sew mini

I sewed after Quilt Festival closed each night and spent a few more days working on it after Festival and before I went back home to Los Angeles. The need for perfection is there, assuredly, and there were a few times I had to take stitches out to get it slightly closer to perfect. But my mom is worth it.

laying out my Storm at Sea mini

I sewed the sections, one bit at a time until I could lay them out on the floor. I was hoping I could get some cool layout with them, but truthfully  Quilt Market Hangover is real and when you add in a little Quilt Festival Hangover, too, my brain was just too too tired to do anything really fun with it. I convinced myself that it was pretty enough as is.

Sewing together Storm at Sea blocks
Each quilt block finishes at 4 1/2″ wide (ish), so room for error was basically nil. Most of these blocks didn’t come anywhere near the perfection that I had wanted and there were a few times I had to talk myself out of simply throwing them all away. Those little overhangs and wonky intersections that don’t match… Even now they kill me a little, but this was an exercise in just letting go. Let it be. Don’t get stressed out about it. Just do it with love and acceptance. This mantra repetition was so hard for me, to be honest, but I knew I needed it. I can be ridiculously hard on myself for no reason.

I’m sure I’m not the only one either. We can all pick on ourselves more than we should and there are so many times where the internal berating has made me do some dumb things (take a rotary cutter to an imperfect quilt block, throw away an unfinished dress, toss out patterns). None of these things make me feel better in the end; they only reinforce my self-bashing. I swore I wouldn’t and I didn’t. Instead I just worked through it, tried my best without getting angry for the mistakes and finished the whole top.
As a whole, I thought it was beautiful and I convinced myself to stop looking at the little bits. Take in the big picture–it’s a lovely little quilt top. But it needed to be quilted and I really, really am not good at that one yet.

I gave it a try on my regular Pfaff 130 with the industrial motor. Great for piecing, not so quilt for quilting this guy. Despite using a walking foot it would get help up on seam intersections. It didn’t stay straight. I quilted about half of it. Had a good cry and picked it all out.

quilting with the Singer FeatherweightI took it to the Featherweight instead and that little beauty did it as well as I could have ever expected. I have a lot to learn on how to make the quilting look good and keep it even, but hey, it turned out. It’s usable. I won’t be humiliated to have my mom hang it in her home.

I’m not perfect. Either are my quilts. I’m learning that that’s okay.

Storm at Sea mini quilt

Posted on 113 Comments

It’s Giveaway Day!

I nearly forgot it was Sew, Mama, Sew’s Giveaway Day, but thank social media for the reminder! (I knew it was good for something..)

full_6225_203059_Mirthapaperpiecedwallquilt_3In the holiday spirit, I’m giving away a PDF copy of my Mirth wall quilt pattern! It uses 9 different fabrics to create a nine-block quilt. The full-size paper piecing template is included (you’ll make some copies of it) for easy and precise piecing.

All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me something you’d like to learn about sewing and quilting in 2017.  I want to know what you want to know. Maybe I can help you learn or maybe it’s something I want to learn, too!

And then head back to Sew, Mama, Sew to see what else people are giving away today!
Mirth quilt pattern by Teresa Coates _Crinkle Dreams
Winner will be announced on Monday, December 12, 2016.  is Kathy E.! Thanks to everyone for their input–it’s given me some great idea for tutorials in 2017.

Posted on 65 Comments

A New Spin on the Drunkard’s Path {book}

I first heard about this book a year ago when I was chatting with John Kubiniec at Quilt Market and he mentioned he was working on a book devoted to the Drunkard’s Path block. Drunkard’s Path?! That’s one of my top five! I love love love this block and its million different combos. I pretty quickly begged him to let me get a sneak peek at the book and he agreed. Months and months down the road, the book was finished and I got a copy to review.

11182_frontcover-1John’s “A New Spin on the Drunkard’s Path” was just released from C&T Publishing and is available directly from John (and he’ll sign it!), as well through many fine shops (and I’d encourage to seek it out at an independent quilt shop or book seller near you).

It wasn’t until I’d started reading it that I realized I’d met John’s work long before I met him. Like many quilters, I’m always tearing patterns and inspiration from magazines. Back in 2013 I found a beautiful red and white Drunkard’s Path in McCall’s Quilting magazine. I tore out the picture and put it into my files, ready to inspire me again when I had the chance. Come to find out, that was John’s quilt design and it was his first foray into the Drunkard’s Path block! That block layout is the one he used on the cover and so, of course, it was the one I had to use, as well.

I started with a half-yard bundle of Indie from Art Gallery Fabrics. I’ve been holding onto it for three years, as well, so I figured it was a great fit. I kicked out a couple of the fabrics in the bundle, choosing eight to work with, then combined it with Kona White.

His advice for manageable bits is wonderful and exactly the reassurance you need to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed. You can do this, really, but take your time and John’s advice to make it a fun, productive process. As he suggests, I simply did the cutting on the first day. And then let it sit there in a pretty little pile for longer than I should have, but hey, at least it was a lovely addition to my view.

You’ll notice that I cut out my triangles. I did much of the construction slightly differently than John, but only because I’m very comfortable sewing curves the way I sew them and prefer trimming before I sew.

His tips on sewing the curves are great and I totally recommend them. You’ll learn ways that make it easier for you along the way.  John suggests you pin at the ends and in the middle. I don’t pin at all, but you can see that I don’t always get it right in the pic to the left.  I have one block that is perfect and another that ended being 3/16″ off. John’s method  But in the end, I had a whole big pile of Drunkard’s Path blocks to play with.

Drunkards Path blocks in Indie
I really like how they play together and create these little bow ties in there.

I love how the fabrics play together and am so glad I held on to the Indie bundle for all this time.The view from above. Right now it measures 48″ x 42″ (approx) and is great crib size quilt. I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep growing it though. :) big-rig-quilting-bow-tiesIt’s fun to compare this quilt to what John originally designed in the red and white combo and what he shows in “A New Spin on Drunkard’s Path” with the black background. And honestly, this is one of my favorite aspects of quilting–the never-ending ways you can put together the same thing. Same block, same construction, totally different look. It keeps quilting fresh and fun and intriguing to me.

In his book, John shows several variation of each quilt to give you some ideas, spark a little creativity in the reader, which is a much-loved feature for me. But I think the winning aspect of the book is his attention to detail and accuracy. It’s clear that John is a teacher who wants his students to succeed.  He walks the reader through each step with clear photos, tackling the curves and adding interesting details to the block.

If you’re nervous about sewing curves and need someone to hold your hand through it, John is there for you, explaining and reassuring you at each step. He shows you just how easy it really can be and then opens a whole new world of quilts for you with 12 beautiful variations of the Drunkard’s Path.

I’ll be giving away a copy of the book to inspire you to get started on your own curvy quilt. Just leave a comment here and tell me what has stopped you from taking on the Drunkard’s Path or if you have, what you love about it. We’ll pick a winner on October 9.

Congratulations to Lori Morton for winning her very own copy of John’s “A New Spin on Drunkard’s  Path” book!

Posted on Leave a comment

Always Learning a Little More

Truth is when I interviewed for my current job at Shannon Fabrics, I’d avoided using the fabrics that they sell. Cuddle is a lovely feeling minky fabric that I only knew about from the complaining others had done in the past. I’d heard sewists and quilters gripe about its slippery nature, the preponderance to stretch and had stayed away except when I absolutely had to tackle it in a sewing class or private lesson.  Double gauze had seemed unwieldy and I had no idea what to do with it anyway.

Then I got a job at Shannon Fabrics and knew it was time to tackle this fear of the unknown. I take pride in my adventurous spirit; it was time to put my suppositions and assumptions to the side and give this stuff a try.

My first was a Little Pilot kit, a Wee One quilt that would be perfect as an oversized pillow, I thought. I got cocky, sewed the strips together –wham, bam, thank you, ma’am–and suddenly I realized I wasn’t even close to infallible. It turned out all cock-eyed and more like a parallelogram than a square. I threw it in the WIP pile with a heavy heart.  (Since then I’ve learned what I did wrong and I’ll share that soon!)

But since I’m not one to really give up, I picked up the next project: a Honey Bun Patty Cakes kit that combines the two fabrics in case the fear of one wasn’t enough. This time I decided to actually read all the instructions, too. This might be a first in the last decade…. I pretty universally refuse to read the primer, but this time I figured why the hell not. And I’m so glad I did.

I marked all the edges just like the pattern said to do and brought each of the four corners together and pinned, then stitched them. I chain-piece as much as possible, so my apologies that it looks more confusing that it is.

I trimmed the seam allowances then flipped the corner in, tucking the Embrace double gauze in and pinning just before I flipped.

I didn’t pin it exactly as directed, I’ll admit it. The pattern suggests you pin before doing the corners, but I didn’t want to deal with all those extra stabby points so I did it after finishing the corners. And then on the third side I realized that I could actually just glue-baste it and it would work perfectly well. 

Once I brought the yellow Rose Cuddle over the bee Embrace fabric, I simply pinned it well and zig-zagged the edges down. Easy as pie. The other parts of the kit include a smaller little “lovey” that’s made similarly and a swaddle.

I made all three and still had some of the Embrace double gauze left over, so I whipped myself up a little scarf. The trick, just as I’d done with the other projects, was the starch. It kept it in check and I was easily able to fold over the seam. I had trimmed it along the gridlines of the gauze, then folded that down to match the next gridline. Then I went back and folded that raw edge and pressed again. That gave it a nice even scant 1/2″ hem which I really liked and it was much easier than fidgeting with a tiny quarter-inch seam.

So there you have it. When i need to to, I will actually read the instructions (then change them) and learn something new. It was easier than expected (way easier, actually) and I was able to not only make some samples to show off when I visit stores, but also make a scarf for myself in the process.  A win-win!