20 November, 2014

Caterpillar Top - From A Month of Sundays


My husband called it Caterpillar so that name will kind of stick. But I also think of it as zippers or confetti strips. The original quilt, published in A Month of Sundays, was called Sherbet. In that case it was for the colours of the quilt.

Originally, I started this quilt simply to be step outs for a class I was teaching. It isn't often that I cut out the whole quilt before sewing a stitch, but with an already published pattern that is certainly the thing to do! So I demoed the piecing and assembly back in June, then it sat.

A few months ago my SIL asked if I would make quilts for her boys, my nephews. Of course the answer was yes. So we let the 5 year old pick out fabric, I grabbed what I had from their baby quilts, and we talked about patterns. When I started this particular quilt I wasn't intending it for any purpose other than a class sample. In the end though - and not just because I'm a multitasker - I thought it was perfect for my nephew.

I made two changes from the original pattern. One small, one significant. The small one was cutting the side borders narrower. In the original pattern they are 12 1/2'' wide. Because this was intended for a single bed I trimmed them down to 6 1/2''. That means the quilt finishes out at 66 1/2'' wide instead of 78 1/2''.

The big change was in the colour scheme for the quilt. Coming from A Month of Sundays the original quilt was full of low volume fabrics on a creamy, solid background. It shows the success of using scale of print to get value differences even with low volume fabrics. In this version I chose a coloured background. It's a Kona, but I'm not sure which colour (my colour card has gone missing). When I bought it I thought I would use some creamy prints, perhaps like these ones. In the end, the whole thing begged to be nice and bright. Now that's a way to turn up the volume!


18 November, 2014

There is Peace in Pattern


There is Peace in Pattern
53'' x 56''

It kind of says it all for us quilters, doesn't it? Well, it does for me. So, so perfectly. This might be a new contender for my most favourite quilt I've made ever.


This was actually the first quilt I made when I moved into my basement sewing studio. Well, the first quilt I started and the first top I finished. It all started with a bundle of Carolyn Friedlander's first line, Architextures. I pulled out the greens for another project and stared at the remaining fabrics for a bit. Then I picked and pulled from my stash some additional fabrics.

You know what I did next? I hacked it all up! Strips cut randomly from fat quarters, the scrap bin raided, chunks cut off of yardage. I created a giant pile of fabric pieces. One side had a few darker pieces in them, the remainder were all the low volume lovelies.

To make each letter I first sketched out the order of piecing. It was all improvised, but I needed a bit of direction. This is my Improv With Intention concept. Instead of choosing a single fabric for the background of each letter I went wild and grabbed randomly. As each letter, each word, came together I added more and more fabric.

And not a single one was a solid.


It didn't seem like it took a long time to get this top together, but it couldn't have been quick. If I recall I worked on it for a few weeks if not a month. That is, in snippets of time and a hour after bedtime or so. Once I got the words together there was a lot of extra piecing and puzzle work to get it all into a quilt top. When I do this kind of piecing I like to avoid totally distinctive grid lines so it gets fiddly at times. Just a personal preference of mine.

As soon as yardage of Architextures was available I ordered some for the backing and binding. But as the fabric and quilt top sat, I kept sneaking some of the fabric for other projects. In the end I was able to get my back together. And thankfully I'd made the binding already for a photo shoot. Phew. otherwise that awesome navy text print would have been long gone!


The quilting was done on the long arm, with Aurifil 2435. It is a great coral colour that worked wonderfully with all the fabrics. I free motioned a topography pattern. It fills the space wonderfully and totally echoes the main fabric on the back. Instead of doing any ditch work around the letters I actually just took the free motion pattern right to the letter edges, but not over. With the quilt washed the letters just pop now. Call it lazy trapunto. It works for me and I can see using this sort of pattern again.


In a slightly related note, I forgot to tell you something. Crystal from Two Little Aussie Birds interviewed me a few weeks ago. It was great to talk about modern quilting in a totally different way, and include a discussion of feminism in there. She is hosting a series of interviews called Modern Quilting Modern Women. Some great posts in there from some pretty spectacular and different quilters. I mentioned this quilt in my interview and that's what reminded me that I never photographed it. So, here is the quilt and here is the interview.

14 November, 2014

Newsletter Announcement


Announcing the Dining Room Empire Newsletter! Look over there on the right. See it? That's the sign up for the newsletter.

I can't promise that it will come out every single week, but it will be close to that. Included in each newsletter will a personal note from me, updates on Quilts Under Construction  - whether I blog about them or not, favourite things from me and around the web, announcements, and a fun little exclusive feature.

Ask Me Anything is a going to be a running column in the newsletter. You can send me your questions and I will pick one a week to answer. It goes without saying that they must be reasonable and appropriate, but it can be anything on topics like quilt techniques, what's on my nightstand, favourite technique for temper tantrums, my Sunday Dinner plans, whatever! I'm excited to share a little bit more about me and see what you are interested in learning.

This week's newsletter will go out over the weekend. It includes a fun link to an interview with me.

12 November, 2014

Corduroy Marching - Inspired by Gee's Bend


With the exception of the odd bit of linen or voile, I've never mixed my fabric when making a quilt. Pure quilting cottons. It wasn't a matter of being snobby, although, maybe? It's just what I was taught and what I'm comfortable with. But after seeing all the quilts in Gee's Bend and talking fabric with Mary Ann, China, and Nancy I was inspired.

Then, when wandering Birmingham on the same trip we came across a little quilt store called The Smocking Bird with quite the selection of corduroy. It was meant to be. I bought a few pieces, mostly blues. Honestly, I had no idea what I would do with it, but I wanted to play.


On the flight home I was writing some notes about my trip. A few sketches emerged too. I honestly thought that's all they would be. Then I was unpacking and realized my corduroy could be quite interesting here. So I pulled out a cotton/linen I had for some additional texture and set about to play.

No rhyme or reason to what I was doing. Just an attempt to mimic the shape I sketched out. I was inspired by the trip and our education on the Civil Rights Movement. The notion of a march as a means of process was front of mind when I set out. So these are legs, of all sizes, marching. I think they worked out quite well.


These blocks aren't even pressed, let alone squared up. I'm not entirely sure where they'll end up yet. They are fun, and poignant, to make. I will definitely make more.

Corduroy is a hot mess to work with though! It sews up fine, especially because most of this is a fine wale from Robert Kaufman. The mess, however, is rather annoying. Just a lot, a whole lot of lint. The softness and texture are totally worth it. I can see using it again.

Mary Ann Pettway was right. She told me it was great to work with and added something to the quilts. I should listen to other people more.


07 November, 2014

Friday Favourites - Micron 01 Pen


We know how much I love my sketchbooks. The same black books filled with notes, ideas, sketches, kids' drawings. They are what I would save in the event of a fire - over my quilts. For years my pen of choice has been the Uni-Ball Fine in black. I hoard my pens and get angry when they disappear.

(Go watch up My Pen from Kids in the Hall on You Tube.)

The other day I couldn't find a pen in my studio and needed to jot something down. So I reached into my jar of fabric markers for a Micron Pen. Frankly, I've only ever bought Microns for writing labels for quilts. And I usually buy a 05. Well, somehow I bought a 01. I must not have looked closely one day.

What a fortuitous mistake.


Right away I knew this pen was different. Such a tiny, special nib. A light touch from me and the finest of lines on the page. As someone who generally writes small and messy, the finer the nib the better. I thought I was doing well, but now it is so much better.

This Micron 01 is a game changer.


I know, it's just a pen. I get that. But this pen makes writing better. It draws line without the lines thinking too hard. This pen is the low volume fabric when the gorgeous moderns are just great too. It whispers for your attention and calms you to use it.

If you can't find any of these locally best check the desk drawer in my studio, I may buy them all just for me.

03 November, 2014

Modern Meadows Quilt


Inspiration to finished quilt. This is Mountain Meadows. Fully improvised, made with scraps from my own stash and shared by quilty friends and blog readers.

It started with a family hike. The wildflowers were in bloom all over the mountains. Little pops of colour dotting this hillsides. And so many greens. Not to mention the light and shadows dancing across the meadows. I wanted to capture the visual as much as the feeling. 

I think I did it.


Mountain Meadows
52'' x 68''

We went to Banff yesterday, a pleasant afternoon of brunch, a soak in the hot springs, and a little jaunt to take these pics. As you can see, I missed the window of opportunity for photographing this with the real inspiration. Snow has arrived!

But those grasses were still poking through the snow. And the sun played across the field. My kids threw snowballs at each other while Hubby helped me take the pics.



I quilted this one on the long arm. It isn't a big quilt but that quilting is dense. It took me nearly 5 hours straight. I wanted to mimic the movement of grasses. And here and there is a flower. Not difficult, but time consuming to execute. For thread I used Auriful 1147, a perfect olive green. It blends in parts and pops in others.

For binding I went with more green scraps. There was a moment where I thought about facing the quilt instead. I see this quilt, however, as the beginning of a series and part of me wanted it to be very, very clear that it is a quilt. So it needed a traditional binding. I did roughly match the binding with the top. If it was a dark section then there was dark binding, light got light. I didn't obsess about it perfectly matching, but made it work.


How I love a high contrast back! In this case the contrast comes thematically. This fabric is Jay McCarroll's Center City line. He was inspired by urban centres, so talk about contrast with my inspiration. But I had to have it and this quilt sat until I tracked down enough yardage. I'm thrilled with the result because of the contrast and because the quilting blends so nicely.


Remember, if you want to know more about this quilt you can listen to the Webinar I did with the Modern Quilt Guild on Improv With Intent. It's free to all Modern Quilt Guild Members.

In the Webinar I discuss the process of making the quilt - from inspiration to the final top. It isn't as straightforward as one might think. If you are a Modern Quilt Guild Member you can access the Webinar for free now, even if you didn't join me last week. To access it make sure you log in and join the Community site. Then click under Resources and there it is. Not only do you get to see more images and learn about my process, you get to hear my awesome Canadian accent.

30 October, 2014

You Inspire Me to Quilt Announcement


Announcing the next book: You Inspire Me to Quilt!

I'm thrilled to share with you today the cover of my next book. The book itself isn't out until spring of next year, but with the cover popping up on Amazon and the book available for pre-order I wanted to share the news. I promise I won't talk about it incessantly between now and then.

In this book there are 10 quilts with patterns, each with a story about who inspired the quilt and following the process of the designer as they made it. (I have two of my own in the book.) The quilts are all so unique. Such a range of styles, techniques, and colours. I want to make each and every one myself. And the stories are so inspiring, it makes the challenges and joys of making a quilt so very real. Here are all the designers who contributed to the book.

Amanda Jean Nyberg
Andrea Harris
Blair Stocker
Carolyn Friedlander
Cynthia Frenette
Heather Jones
Jen Carlton Bailly
Rossie Hutchinson

Photography is again by Kate Inglis. It was a great collaboration, again. If you haven't seen the teeny tiny sneak peaks and behind the scenes shots, look here. And for her take, here. We filled the book with images stolen and made from the world around me. With great thanks to my friends, their kids and homes, the forest and her setting sun, graffiti artists, late season snow, and a food truck.