August 1, 2014

Four-in-Art Challenge #4; Urban Contrast

Time for yet another reveal in the Four-in-Art Urban series. This quarter it was my turn to choose the topic within the overall urban theme. I must admit when urban was selected as the year's theme my first thought was what will I do? I'm a small town girl. Cities have always seemed like such a contrast to what I am used to and what I am comfortable with. So it just seemed appropriate to choose contrast as the topic for this quarter. Urban Contrast.

When I go to a big city I am always struck by how things contrast so much with what I'm most familiar with. I'm also struck by the contrast within the city itself.
  • Noisy vs quiet
  • Big vs small
  • Man-made vs natural
  • Fast vs slow
  • Differences in social/economic status

Here are some photos I took in Houston least fall while at Quilt Market. These images became the point of origin for my Contrast concept.

I fell in love with the trees in Houston. Such wonderful huge trees with branches spreading everywhere. The contrast between the trees and the buildings was beautiful. The trees made me feel at home amid the vast concrete urban environment. I much prefer a natural jungle over a concrete one. (Although I don't much like the humidity of a real live jungle. Been there in Belize and Guatemala and sweated way too much if you know what I mean.)

The contrast of the rigid concrete building and it's strong repetitive linear structure offset by the fluid lines of the tree was the perfect example of Urban Contrast for my mini. The contrast of man-made vs nature. Rigid and straight vs organic and curved. Perfect. 

I started by creating the building as my base. I wanted to mimic the strong vertical lines of the building in the photo. Two shades of cool gray plus a cool blue gray where used to keep the building rather cold and austere. Once it was pieced, I layered the top, backing and batting, stitched around the outer edge leaving an opening and then turned the whole thing right sides out. Then the opening was hand sewn closed. I chose this method over traditional binding because I wanted to allude to the building continuing beyond the actual frame. I quilted vertical lines in the ditch between all rows.

This became the foundation for the rest of my concept . . . the natural aspect with free form branches and leaves. The next step also became the hardest part for me. I know what I'm doing with a grid and structure but find myself less sure and less skilled at knowing how to achieve my vision when it comes to improv. I started by fusing brown fabric and cutting free form branches based on a loose sketch to get the scale and shape of the tree right. Even this wasn't easy for me. I wanted to draw it out precisely and then cut. Once I had the main trunk and a few branches cut, I tried various arrangements. Here is one of several I tried.

Next came figuring out how to create the leafy areas of the tree. I knew I wanted to add individual leaves as the final element but felt I needed to create clumps of color to indicate the mass of green areas before individual leaves were added. I tried cutting free form pieces of tulle in two different shades of green but once they were sewn on it was obvious this wasn't what I was after. Out came the ripper . . . away went the tulle.

Searching through my scrap bins, I grabbed a leafy green print and cut a large leaf shape. This seemed more like what I wanted. I used a darker leafy print for the base and added a few lighter ones here and there for highlights. I tried so hard to avoid the leaf shape for this underlying part of the tree only to find it was just right after all. Many times going against the obvious solution works and leads to better, more creative results . . . other times the obvious answer is the best after all.

Once the foundation leaves were positioned, I fused them and the branches in place and free motion quilted each one around the edges. Then medium sized leaves were positioned and quilted in the same way. These leaves were brighter in color and from a Kaffe print, a less traditional fabric than the larger leaves. The final layer was an even smaller leaf in an even brighter more modern print. These were stitched to allow the edges to be a bit more loose than the others and curl up. Here are the fabrics I used and a close up of all the leafy layers.

That was the process . . . now here's the end result. I'm quite happy with how it all turned out. Perhaps my favorite so far in this series. I haven't come up with a name yet. Any ideas?

As I worked on this project I came to realize the concept of Contrasts was at play not only within the Urban theme but also symbolically within my own quilting journey. 

  • I am a structured quilter. I rarely do improv or free form quilt designs. Planning and working with predetermined pieces and parts is more within my comfort zone and style. The building perfectly illustrates this love of structure and form.
  • The tree symbolizes the type of quilting I'd like to explore more . . . a looser more free style that I admire in art quilts. Perhaps my inner artist is breaking out a little.
  • The fabric choices also represent my journey from traditional to modern prints and solids. There was a time when I didn't own a solid and never envisioned using them let alone featuring them in a quilt. My fabric preferences have changed a lot in the past few years but I still love large scale Kaffe prints the most. 

I hope you've enjoyed my Urban series. You can see the first three quilts following these links:

There will be one more round in our Urban series and then we'll start the new year with a brand new direction. The quilters in this little group are all so very talented. It's a joy to see how they interpret each new theme. Follow the links below to see their work.

Amanda  at
Betty at a Flickr site:
Elizabeth at
Leanne at

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July 24, 2014

Emily Claire Studio

Spreading the word to anyone near Boulder, Colorado this weekend. 
Stop by the 29th Street Mall and take in the Firefly Handmade Market featuring 100+ local artisans including none other than my talented daughter Emily Claire and her beautiful jewelry. 

Sat 10 - 5 and Sun 11 - 4. 
Beer tent, food trucks and a kids' creation station.
Free admission and parking.

Not in Boulder?  No problem . . . 

Check out her newly listed pieces on her Etsy shop 
Visit her new website Emily Claire Studio
Become a blog follower
Or follow her on Instagram

She's been designing and making like crazy. 
Here's just a little peek of some of her work.

These fun necklaces just happen to be my personal favorites. 
She'll do custom phrases too and leather or silver chains are available.

Obviously I'm a proud mama. 
Emily's jewelry has certainly become my favorite. 
I hope you'll consider making it your favorite too.

June 30, 2014

Modern Patchwork Summer 2014

Have you seen the summer issue of Modern Patchwork?  I think it's the best one so far!

One of the things that makes it extra special for me is that my pillows made the front cover. WaHoo!!!
It's so exciting to see things I design get published and making the cover is like a cherry on top!

These two pillows were fun to make and really quite easy. Rather than my usual envelope enclosure, I opted for zippers that became a part of the finished design on the back. In the magazine you can't really see the back well enough to appreciate how it looks but in the photo below you can see how the zipper tape is aligned with the design on the pillow front and the color matches the lattice of the front patchwork. I love how they turned out and the zippers really were easy so don't let the idea of a sewing a zipper scare you off. Give it a try and find out for yourself. They aren't hard. Promise.

My issue just arrived today so the first order of business after my morning walk was settling in with a cup of tea and browsing through the magazine. There are several projects that I really like including one by my friend and bee mate Cindy Wiens of Live a Colorful Life. Her design is a modern take on the traditional churn dash block shown below. Way to go Cindy.  : )

The issue is full of projects for the home, the table, your bed . . .  even a few accessory items. There are several great quilts from full sized ones for the bed to smaller ones for your wall or snuggling on the couch. There are also some good articles including ones by Jacquie Gering and Cheryl Arkison so I've got more reading in store for this evening.  : )

Look for Modern Patchwork Summer 2014 at your local shop or go here to buy direct.

What's your favorite quilting magazine(s)? Are you a subscriber or do you prefer to pick them up at the newsstand when they catch your eye or feature a project you want to make? Do tell . . . I'd love to know.

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June 26, 2014

My Favorite Quilt

I'm playing along with the fun series My Favorite Quilt over at SewMamaSew. Pop over and get a peek at some wonderful quilts and read along to see why they are favorites.

Tell us about your favorite quilt. When did you make it? What pattern did you use? 
My all time favorite quilt is Cascade. I'm a huge fan of Kaffe Fassett fabrics and look to create designs that can showcase the fabrics well. The original design for Cascade had been taped to my wall for a good number of months before I finally started pulling fabrics and playing around. That was about four years ago. I have since gone on to create a pattern for the design and it's proven to be quite popular.

What do you like best about the quilt?
One of the things I like best about this quilt is the combinations of fabrics. I'm particularly drawn in by beautiful large scale prints and love letting my eye wander around the surface of the quilt taking in all the different prints. The other thing I love is the color scheme. The refreshing greens and aquas of the color palette along with the spark of purple just feel so relaxing and fresh to me. As the quilt evolved it began to evoke images of being in a lush tropical garden and viewing the foliage though the cascade of a waterfall . . . thus the name Cascade. One of these days I'd like to get a really nice photo of the quilt next to a waterfall but for now these will do nicely.

What memories or people does the quilt make you think of?
This quilt will always make me think of my daughter because she loved it so much she took it to college with her to hang on a big wall in her apartment. It will forever be hers.  : )

How did you grow as a quilter while making it?
I grew as a quilter more in the area of design than actual quilting skills because Cascade is such an easy quilt to make. I did play with new machine quilting ideas by using free form curved lines done with my walking foot and variegated thread. I think it complements and softens the shapes of the triangles quite nicely. I also didn't want the scraps from the trimmed corners going to waste so I made three pillows from the leftovers. Now I look for ways to put scraps to use right as the quilt top is being sewn.

If you could make this quilt again, what (if anything) would you do differently?
I have remade this quilt design several times, each time discovering a different way to use the basic concept and come up with something totally new. I absolutely love the design process and finding ways to bring a new and different look to the same design. This exploration has become a regular part of my patterns. Here's a few of the variations I've made along with the bonus projects from the scraps.

If you read my blog you've seen this one before, but I hope you enjoyed reminiscing with me about My Favorite Quilt. What's your favorite quilt?

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June 18, 2014

Colorful Colorado

I did it!  I got my challenge quilt done and delivered in time for the show next weekend. WaHoo!!!

"54 Fourteeners and Amber Waves of Grain"

Indian Peaks Wilderness in the distance

My understanding is four modern quilt guilds in Colorado participated in the challenge. We were given fat quarters of Free Spirit Solids in Tango, Saffron, Apple Green, and Hyacinth. Not the colors I would have chosen to highlight Colorado, but that's part of what makes it a challenge right?

the four given challenge fabrics

More than 50 solids were used altogether. I stopped trying to keep track but most were Kona Cotton Solids by Robert Kaufman. They are the easiest to find locally plus I have a Kona color card.

most of the additional solids used

The rules:  use a discernable amount of each color along with any other fabrics of our choice to create a modern quilt representing the theme Colorful Colorado. It needed to measure at 40".  Mine finished at 40" x 55" to approximate the proportional shape of the state.

My concept:
  • use the mountain block from the logo I designed for the Boulder Modern Quilt Guild.
  • depict 54 mountains to represent the 54 fourteeners here in Colorado. A fourteener is a mountain peak with an elevation of 14,000 ft or more. In researching the number of fourteeners, I discovered counts of 53 to 58 peaks with the most common agreed upon number as 54. 
  • depict the eastern plains which are an integral, but often overlooked part of the state.
  • use color to emphasize the Colorado sky from dawn to dusk. This provided a way to include the orange and yellow challenge fabrics as they are used in the dawn and dusk rows of mountains.
Working on this quilt was a great example of color study in terms of relativity. The three blocks below all use the same green in the mountain and yet all look quite different due to the color relationships. A little hard to see the color differences here but the green gets progressively darker in appearance.

I quilted large zigzags among the 54 peaks to suggest all the other peaks of the Rocky Mountains. It reminds me of seeing the mountains when they are a bit hazy in the distance.

zigzag quilting in the mountain section

The eastern plains were quilted with a series of curvy lines to suggest the waves of grain blowing in the wind. We can have very strong winds here.

gentle curving lines in the plains

To be really honest though, it was a struggle to finish this quilt for many reasons.
  • I went with one of the first ideas I came up with and am not in love with the whole concept. Normally I would work through a design and explore several directions but didn't have the time for that on this one. Not feeling passionate about the design made it hard to stay motivated.
  • I decided in order to pull it off, I needed LOTS of different colors. After 50, I lost count. This meant finding more solids which isn't easy at our local shops and when buying online proves quite hard to discern color differences.
  • I thought I'd piece the mountain blocks improv but ended up going with a paper piecing method instead. I designed 7 slightly different mountains. Forgot to reverse the printing the first time but eventually it came together. You can see more about that process here.
  • I quilted it in two sections and then pieced the sections together . . . new for me so I winged it. Thankfully it worked without incident. Whewww!
  • I faced the edge rather than use a traditional binding . . . not as familiar with this technique but I like the overall finish.
  • I lost a week.
  • I procrastinated . . . haha, no surprise there.

I'm quite happy to have this one behind me now and am looking forward to a summer of projects I feel a lot more passionate about. Maybe even some non quilt related projects. Time will tell.

If you'd like to see all the challenge quilts, visit the Berthoud Outdoor Quilt Show this coming Saturday June 21st. Maybe I'll see you there.

one last shot before delivering the quilt shows Long Peak elevation 14,255ft. in the background.

I had hoped to have this finished in time to share on Esch House Quilts Sew Solid Sunday last month but missed the cut off so I'm linking up this month. Check out the great pillow Debbie made along with the tutorial to make your own.

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June 11, 2014

WIP Wednesday

Working away on my biggest WIP of the week . . . my Colorful Colorado challenge quilt. I'm happy to finally see light at the end of tunnel. It will be done in time for the Berthoud Outdoor Quilt Show. Quilts must be delivered by June 13-14 (ack . . . 3 more days!!!) The show is June 21st from 10:00 - 4:00 in Fickel Park Berthoud, Colorado. If you live anywhere nearby come see all the quilts. Four modern quilt guilds in Colorado are participating in the challenge so there should be a good representation of modern quilting. I'll post more about the process and the show in the next couple of weeks.

I also needed to get my May Mid Century Modern Bee block for Carla of Grace and Favour done. She requested either arrow blocks from a great tutorial she did or feather blocks from Anna Marie Horner's pattern. Since most people were doing arrows, I thought I'd throw a feather into the mix. I love the look of these feathers once done but not the process of making a single one. I think the method of making multiples from strip piecing would be quicker in the long run. Still, it was fun to do and I love the result. Hope it works with all the rest. Thanks for your patience Carla.

As long as I was in the bee mood I decided to jump on June's bee block for Linda of Flourishing Palms. Linda is trying to wrap up an older UFO made of scrappy diamonds and asked us all to contribute some mid value blocks with a touch of orange thrown in. Now that Linda is "retired" she's uber busy teaching quilting, writing about quilting, and talking about quilting. Good luck getting fitting this UFO into your schedule Linda.   : )

Still one more June bee block to do for Denise and the Boulder Modern Quilt Guild Bee. A scrappy X block will be in the works soon.

And for all of you who have asked about a pattern for my Blogger's Quilt Festival winning quilt . . . it's coming along. As soon as the challenge quilt is done, I'll be wrapping up the final details. Thanks for all the interest and encouragement.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced. Hop over to see more quilty goodness.

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