August 30, 2016

Snowball Quilt; the Diamonds

My design wall is bursting into full bloom.

I'm well on my way to making a snowball quilt. My wall is covered with squares of Kaffe, Amy Butler and several older traditional prints from my stash. Lots and lots of cutting from lots and lots of different fabrics. Putting them up on the wall is like watching a fabric garden bloom. Love it!

Kaffe Fassett, snowball quilt, Springleaf Studios

Before I cut any fabric, I cut white paper squares to represent the diamonds. Then I fussy cut the blooms. See this blog post for my fussy cutting method. As more and more fabric blooms went up on the wall, I ran out of paper squares and decided not to bother with any more.

It's interesting to see the difference in the layout with and without the white diamonds. My first reaction was that the section without the white diamonds looked flat. The floral squares alone seemed incomplete. However as more and more squares went up I liked the look better and better.

Here's a section with the diamonds.

Kaffe Fassett, snowball quilt, Springleaf Studios

And here's a section without. Which do you prefer?

I don't really think one is better than the other. It's more a matter of what you're after in a design. I actually think a really large quilt of simple squares would be quite stunning. Especially one that included several of those big blooms with the dark background. They add depth and a focal point that helps to break up the overall surface. At this point in the process I have not played with fabric placement. Only cutting squares and throwing them up on the wall. Distribution of color and fabrics will come later.

My original plan was to use white for the diamonds but before committing I tried another fabric from my stash. A small black and white dot. This quilt will be used in my guest room where I've used a lot of black and white decor. At first I didn't like the dot. The white paper stood out so much that the dot looked flat. But the more dotted squares I added, the more I liked it. It's more subtle than the white which allows the blooms to really stand out. Plus, the little tiny touch of black is just right for the room.

Kaffe Fassett, snowball quilt, Springleaf Studios

Even though I grew to like the idea of all squares, perhaps that's another quilt for another time. Right now I'm making a snowball quilt.  A snowball quilt with black and white dot diamonds. This process reminded me of how important it is to continue to fine tune and work through design issues as you go along. If I hadn't bothered with the paper diamonds I wouldn't have had a good idea what the final quilt would look like. It's good to see all the parts come together. It's also good to be flexible if those parts aren't working the way you envisioned. Be open to making changes along the way. You just might discover a whole new concept that's even better. Or at least different and equally worthy of being made into another lovely quilt.

I'll be back soon with a post on how I decided on the size of the corner squares plus how I sew them.

Love gardening with fabric. Just wish my design wall was bigger so it could hold even more
beautiful flowers.   : )


August 23, 2016


Welcome back to my Color Inspiration series. This month I'm looking at aqua.

It's hot, hot, hot, and dry, dry, dry here in Colorado.  The weather has me dreaming of the beautiful, clear, aqua waters of a beach like Trunk Bay in the Virgin Islands. I had the best time of my life snorkeling around the little islands shown below.

Springleaf Studios, Trunk Bay
Springleaf Studios, Trunk Bay

Have you packed your bags yet?  Pleeeeease take me with you.  : )

Aqua is the quintessential color of sandy beaches and inviting swimming pools. After all, the word aqua is Latin for water. It's a very serene, calm, and refreshing color. 

If you think turquoise instead of aqua though, you might envision the southwest United States.  Places like New Mexico and Arizona. Things like turquoise gates, fences and window trim . . . 

aqua, color inspiration,
aqua, color inspiration, Springleaf Studios, HST quilts, half square triangle quilts

Thinking of the southwest also calls to mind turquoise jewelry. This beautiful piece by my daughter mixes a touch of southwest turquoise with an ocean theme. You can see more jewelry on her website, Emily Claire Studio.

Emily Claire Studio, Emily Claire Jewelry, turquoise jewelry, turquoise necklace
Emily Claire Studio, Emily Claire Jewelry, turquoise jewelry, turquoise earrings

Aqua, turquoise, robin's egg blue, verdigris, spruce, teal, mint, azure . . . these are just some of the words that describe variations of this lovely color. Aqua is a mix of blue and green with a touch of white. Take it to the darker side and you have teal. In terms of web colors, aqua is considered the same as cyan. 

When I looked around my home environment, I realized aqua doesn't play much of a part. Years ago, we had a little southwest flavor in our home decor with a dusty teal accent wall and hints of aqua here and there. At the time we were influenced by visiting Taos NM on a regular basis. Times have changed, as has our home, and there's not much aqua or turquoise to be found . . . except when it comes to quilting.

Looking through my quilts, I've made quite a few using a cool color range. While they don't all use strictly aqua fabrics, many use fairly equal amounts of green fabrics and blue fabrics, with the end result being an overall aqua feeling. This quilt was made for a dear friend and her island home in the Pacific Northwest and is probably the most aqua of all. 

Kaffe Fassett nine patch quilt, Kaffe Fassett, Springleaf Studios, aqua, color inspiration,

One of my all time favorite quilts is this one made from the Cascade pattern. It is mostly aquas and greens accented with purple. I think aqua and purple can be a stunning color combination. 

Cascade quilt pattern, Kaffe Fassett, Springleaf Studios, quilt pattern, aqua, color inspiration,

Another new quilt features a similar aqua and purple combination, but with the emphasis leaning more strongly toward the blues. Watch for this one to be a new pattern soon.

Kaffe Fassett, Kaffe Fassett fabrics, Kaffe Fassett quilt, aqua, color inspiration,

In addition to these quilts, I've had a few fabric combos pulled for a long time that feature aqua. The first combines lovely variations of aqua with touches of chartreuse and gray. The chartreuse brings a real zing to the calmness of the aqua and gray. Love it! I have another fabric grouping featuring mostly aquas with an accent of citrine. Love that group too. 

aqua fabrics, aqua

Then there's my cool colored stripe collection which reminds me of the beach. Hmmm . . . must get busy and start making quilts with these lovely fabric combos.

aqua stripe fabrics, aqua

Probably a good thing I'm not a knitter or I'd be rather distracted from my fabrics by this beautiful variegated blue-green yarn. Gorgeous.

Wrapping up this post with some aqua vegetation. In Colorado we have a lot of blue spruce trees. Now I usually think of trees as green, but I never think of a blue spruce as being either blue or green. It's kind of a dusty aqua. Spruce. We planted this one when it was a single, little, tiny sprout only about 4 inches tall. Now it's well over 30 feet and way way too close to our front porch. What were we thinking? 

In keeping with the challenge my daughter gave me at the beginning of my color series, I'm including more true aqua leaves to finish up. You know I love leaves.  : )  Once you start looking it's really not hard to find leaves in every color of the rainbow. Seriously. Try it. 

Springleaf Studios, leaves, aqua
Springleaf Studios, cabbage leaves

When I started this color series, my intention was to really look for the color in my own personal world. To see the color around me in my house, my environment and my experiences. For that reason I've chosen to use my own photos rather than rely on the abundance of beautiful photos and color schemes available through sites like Pinterest and Design Seeds. These sites are wonderful places for inspiration on color but I want my series to be personal . . . representative of the color I see around me.

You can see all my other color stories under the Color Inspiration tab at the top of my blog. If you'd like to see additional beautiful color images, you can follow my Pinterest color boards here. Just look for the specific color boards or my Color Scheme board. There are some beautiful color images.

I challenge you to look around your home, your neighborhood, your work and really see the colors in your world. Go look for some Aqua in your life. Thanks for reading.


August 18, 2016

Snowball Quilt; Fussy Cutting

2016 is the year of using my stash. Or more correctly, the first of many years of using my stash.
I probably have enough fabric to last a lifetime so I really, really should use it.

Sometimes though it's not easy. Sometimes I pull fabrics and then find it quite hard to cut them up. Fabrics that I've had forever. Fabrics that are out of print. Fabrics that I had another plan for.
hmmm . . . if I had a plan then why haven't I used it?

Do you feel my pain? Come on. Admit it. I'll bet you've have a least one fabric that you've hoarded and don't want to cut.

I have been cutting a lot of fabric lately. Fabric for multiple projects that I wrote about here. This week I'm focusing on the snowball quilt. It's an abundance of color and blooms. Many of the blocks feature fussy cut flowers so I thought I'd share my fussy cutting method.

1.  Start by cutting a 2 part paper template. The first part is a window with an opening the exact finished size of the block. The second part is simply the cut out part from the window.
I use copy paper.

2.  Using the window, audition different areas of the fabric to find the part you'd like to fussy cut.

3.  Once the area to cut is selected, place the template shape in the window opening. It helps to have a rolled piece of tape on the back of the shape to hold it in position.

4.  Remove the template window, leaving the shape in place.

5.  Position a quilter's ruler over the paper shape allowing a 1/4" seam allowance around two sides of the paper shape and cut along the ruler on both sides. Reposition the ruler, adding the 1/4" seam allowances, and cut the remaining two sides.

6.  Thats' it! Now you have a fussy cut shape and leftover fabric with a hole in it.

You may be wondering why my template window is a hexagon but my cut shape ends up being a square. For the snowball block I will be using the stitch and flip method on the corners of the block to create the angles so there's no need to cut a hexagon shape. I do want to see what part of the fabric will actually show in the finished block though, so my template window is a hexagon. I've used this method for years and have a file full of different sized square windows.

It's the leftover fabric with holes in it that gives me pause right now. I find myself being indecisive about fussy cutting some of my favorite Kaffe prints. I've hoarded many of them for a long time and of course they aren't available any more. Fussy cutting can leave very chopped up pieces of fabric. Not that the remaining piece isn't usable but it might end up being less useful when there's a hole cut out of it. I'm doing my best to keep the holes along one edge so that I still have the option to cut WOF strips or other bigger pieces in the future.

While I may agonize here and there about cutting holes in my fabric, it feels sooo good to use my stash. I'm mixing my older traditional florals with a wide variety of Kaffe and Amy Butler prints.
So far I love what's going on.

This is how it's looking on my wall. No rhythm or reason yet to placement. That will come after I sew the corners on. I am curious though about the possibility of bordering it with the green prints. This happened accidentally as I cut mostly warm colors when I started and then moved on to the cooler colors. There wasn't anyplace to put them other than the edges. This is probably only half of what I'll need for a queen sized quilt so I have a lot more cutting to do.

If you're wondering about how to use your stash, take a look at this article by Weeks Ringle. While most of the fabrics in the article are more traditional than mine, Weeks provides valuable tips on using your stash by combining different fabrics into workable groups.


August 10, 2016

The Evolution of a Design

Today I thought I'd share a little about my design process by walking you through a quilt I'm currently working on and showing the evolution of my design. Here's a sliver of what's on my design wall right now.

This project actually began when I was playing with the Drunkard's Path block. There are so many wonderful layouts using this simple quarter circle block.

My early explorations were primarily based on positive shapes created when quarter circle units are combined into larger shapes. Some of these shapes reminded me of flowers which led to my Christmas poinsettia quilt with lovely red and green Kaffe fabrics. I even did a quilt along last year based on this design which you can learn more about here. I love how it turned out.

Kaffe Fassett, Drunkard's Path quilt, Christmas quilt, QAL, quilt along, red and green quilt

While this quilt was in the works, I continued to explore other layouts using the Drunkard's Path block. As I played, I began to focus on more modern designs and the use of negative space. Three quarter circles creates a square negative space. One quarter circle can look like a bite taken out of a larger square. Just look at all the interesting negative spaces in the example below.

I started my explorations by creating a palette of basic shapes in Adobe Illustrator. A single quarter circle. A half circle. A 3/4 circle. Then I duplicated each shape and rotated them to give me a variety of orientations. Once I had my shape palette, I started to play around with placement of the shapes while paying close attention to the negative spaces that were created. At this point I worked in black and white.

Creating negative squares from positive circles really intrigued me and, with this concept in mind, the name Circling the Square was born. I don't often name a quilt before designing it but in this case the name spoke to me. It seemed to clarify the concept and began to influence my design decisions.

Early on I tried quarter circles coming in and swirling around until they created a square of negative space in the center. Very interesting but not quite what the name implied to me. Perhaps I'll pursue this further at another time.

Then I began to focus on the circles forming a mass with the square at it's center. This was closer to what the name implied but wasn't quite there yet.

The consolidation of shapes was going in the right direction but the rectangular format wasn't right. I made the decision to change the overall format to a square which seemed much more appropriate given the quilt name.

As the mass of quarter circles came together it only seemed right that the larger shape created be circular in nature. I tried a lot of different arrangements until I got a somewhat uniform mass of circles. Careful attention was paid, not only to the placement of the circular units, but also to the negative shapes that were created. I wanted to balance the use of full circles, 3/4 circles, and half circles along with the negative shapes. I worked primarily with odd numbers, in many cases repeating the use of three elements as you can see below.

Once I got the basic shapes in place, I started to explore color. The constructive nature of the design reminded me of the early modern art movements of Constructivism and Bauhaus.  Black, white and red were frequently used in the graphic designs of these movements so it just seemed to be the right color scheme to use here. I did look at a few other colors but nothing was as dynamic and strong.

As you can see in the illustration below, I tried using red for the center square. It seemed like the natural place to use color. The effect, however, was that the red square became a positive shape rather than a negative space. There's nothing wrong with this except it wasn't what I was trying to explore. My intent was the creation of a negative square formed by the circles. Removing the red, as in the second example, returned the square to it's negative space but the design needed color. By placing the red in the only full circle in the entire layout a focal point was established. It gave the eye a place to start the journey of the circles swirling around the square.

Once I settled on color placement, I explored the finer details of the arrangement. The addition of little black arcs around the outside activated the circle. Take a look at the far right illustration above and then the illustrations below and you can see how the composition feels more active. I started with three (below left) and ended up with six (below right).

Another refinement was in the three small negative squares that come off the large central square. I felt the small squares (below left) diminished the effect of the large square. It didn't quite read as a single large square in the way I intended. Next I tried changing the small squares to quarter circles (below right) but this didn't quite work either. Now the center square looked like it had three little wings. This arrangement also introduced a new positive shape to the black 3/4 circles that I didn't really like.

Do you feel like you're playing one of those games where you need to find the differences? Can you find all the things I'm referencing? If not look harder.  : )

Below is the final layout. Simply rotating the quarter circle units brought the 3/4 quarter shapes back in alignment with the rest of the design while clearly defining the negative center square. So there you have it. The final design . . .

While I work out a lot of my design in Illustrator, many of these finer details happened on my design wall. The placement of the final black arcs and refinement of the center square all happened on the wall.  I'm pretty happy with how this design evolved and developed. I also auditioned fabrics on the wall. I used tone-on-tone prints for almost all of the circle shapes and for all the negative areas except the center square which is a solid.

Here's the finished top. Even now, I'm contemplating a change or two. We'll see.

I hope this has been an informative post. It's a glimpse into my design process. My graphic design background leads me to a more controlled approach to my work but not everything is predetermined. It's a back and forth between computer and design wall. Sometimes even a rough sketch on paper.

I love designing.  : )


August 2, 2016

Summer Bee Blocks

It's been months since I shared my blocks made for the Mid Century Modern Bee. One of the things I like about sewing bee blocks is the variety of designs I have the chance to make. This summer has been no exception. Lots of variety.

In May I made this churn dash block for Carla of Grace and Favour. She gave us the freedom to make whatever style churn dash we wanted and one of the examples she provided was this one with a center square. I liked the additional space to use another fabric.

In June it was the Raspberry Kiss block for Rene' of Rene' Creates. She asked for clear, cool blues. Perfect colors for a Florida resident. The tutorial is by Rachel of Wooden Spoon Quilts and can be found here.

Then for July it was colorful log cabins for Sherri of A Quilting Life. Sherri always has so many wonderful projects going on on her blog. Especially some great scrap projects. I look forward to seeing all the scrappy log cabins come together. It's such an iconic quilt block.

Wrapping up the summer was this woven block for Mary of Needled Mom. Mary asked for oceany blues and teals. The pattern for this block is by Elizabeth Hartman and can be found here.

Well that wraps up my summer bee blocks. Four more months of MCM to go in 2016. October will be my month to request blocks so I better start thinking about it now. In the past I've had bee mates make test blocks for a couple of my patterns which helped tremendously as I worked through the pattern writing process and tested various fabric concepts.

Are you in a quilting bee? If so what is your favorite part?