Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I’m a Mary Fons Convert

When it came to picking my class load for QuiltCon this year, I wanted to take a workshop with someone who could teach me tried-and-true technique. I’m a self-taught sewist and quilter, and although I have logged thousands of hours behind my sewing machine, I thought I could brush up on some of the basics. Enter Mary Fons.

Most modern quilters know about Mary. She started her quilting career side-by-side with her mother, Marianne Fons, on PBS’s Love of Quilting. She was editor and creative director of Quilty magazine for several years. She is an author, a teacher, a blogger, and an all-around cool lady.

I spent time with Mary twice at QuiltCon, first in a full-day class entitled “Giants: No Fear Partial Seams” and then in a lecture entitled “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: A Brief History of the American Quilt.” Here are some Mary Fons gems I picked up along the way ...

Partial Seams Are No Big Deal

My workshop with Mary focused on her Giant pattern, a red-and-white quilt design that is composed of one block ...

The catch with this block is that it requires a partial seam. I don’t know how partial seams have gotten a bad rap. As it turns out, they are super easy. They are so easy, in fact, that I did not rip out one seam in my class with Mary on the subject!

I was not alone. The class overall took to partial seams quickly, so we transitioned from working on that technique to playing around with the Giant block. We played with value and placement of different fabrics in the block, challenging each other to come up with new combinations. I played with bookending the block like this ...

True story: When Mary saw this, she exclaimed that I was a genius. And who am I to argue with Mary Fons? (For the record, Mary may be prone to hyperbole.)

There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

People have been quilting for a long time. Applique, scrappy quilts, crazy quilts—quilters have been making them for centuries. I know there are still pioneers in the world of quilting, but at the heart of it, we’re doing what’s been done for years.

I find this comforting. I want to create something brand new. The idea that there’s nothing completely new lets me off the hook. There is such a long and rich quilting history behind me that I can focus on just being who I want to be as a quilter and forget about producing something that’s 100% novel.

This Is Not a Moment, It’s a Movement

The corollary to the fact that people have been quilting for a long time is that quilting is not a fad. Sure, it has had its high points and low points in the United States, but those quilting techniques that have been done for hundreds of years will be done for hundreds more.

That may be the most compelling reason to blog about quilting, to label our quilts, to record our history as quilt makers. What we produce has a place in the canon of quilting—we’re part of the movement! Let’s contribute to that history by documenting our quilty endeavors.

See? Mary touched on some great points. I left my second encounter with her, the lecture, encouraged: What we’re doing as quilters is important!

Are there other Mary Fons fans out there? What draws you to her and her work?

Linking up to Let’s Bee Social and Needle and Thread Thursday ...

Follow on Bloglovin

Saturday, March 4, 2017

QuiltCon: The Pre-Conference Pouches

Last week I traveled to Savannah for QuiltCon. My brain still can’t wrap itself around everything I saw and did during the course of the conference, but I can tell you it was awesome—like, one-of-the-best-weeks-of-my-life awesome.

I went for the classes (I took two) and the lectures (I took three). I went for the show and the shopping. It was the people who made the conference what it was, though. Being around all those creative quilters, talking about quilting from sunup to sundown, was both inspiring and exhausting!

I can’t summarize all that was QuiltCon in one blog post, so I thought I’d break it into a few posts about different aspects of the experience. First up is the pre-conference sewing I did ...

I wanted to make a little something for friends I’d be seeing in Savannah. I knew I couldn’t make a present for everyone I would hang out with, so I settled on making a gift for two in-real-life friends and for two social-media friends I’d be meeting for the first time at the event.

I sewed some of Ellen Luckett Baker’s Pixel Pouches, from her book 1-2-3 Quilt. I started one of these pouches a years ago, but assembling the 54 1½-inch squares—of nearly 2 dozen different fabrics!—was more than my scrap bin could handle. A few years later, my scrap bin is overflowing. Once I considered using a color scheme and layout different from what Ellen uses, these pouches came together quickly.

This is the Pixel Pouch from Ellen Luckett Baker’s 1-2-3 Quilt.

For the first one, I used scraps from this quilt. The beauty of this approach was I already knew that these fabrics worked well together.

The back features an extra block from this quilt, which was recently quilted and just needs to be bound. (Stay tuned for that finish in the next few weeks!)

For the remaining pouches, I broke into a Basic Grey Fresh Cut charm pack and sewed three pouches in slightly different color palettes. 

The only snafu I encountered while creating these pretty pouches was zipper related. (Isn’t it always?!) I zipped two of the pull rights off the trimmed tape. It took more than a little coaxing to get them back where they belonged. My perseverance paid off, however, and the recipients were thrilled to receive a pouch with a zipper intact and functional. Ha!

I have made my fair share of pouches, but truth be told, I prefer bag making to pouch making. Size matters, and smaller often means harder and more fiddly!

Do you have a go-to pouch pattern or tutorial? Once I make a bag or pouch pattern, I usually sew it up again and again. Check out some well-worn patterns and tutorials I have used here.

Linking up to Let’s Bee Social, Needle and Thread Thursday, Finish It Up Friday, and Scraptastic Tuesday ...

Follow on Bloglovin

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Beware the Procrastination Vortex!

One of my preferred approaches to dealing with a particularly frustrating WIP is the time-out. When a project is put in time-out, it leaves my sewing space and goes to live elsewhere, preferably somewhere I can’t see it, like tucked under a bed or buried at the bottom of my scrap bin or shoved in the back of a closet. I pull a project out of time-out out when my brain can deal with a challenge.

My latest finish, the Cargo Duffle Bag pictured below, was in time-out for almost 18 months. First, I couldn’t decide on a fabric for the pockets, then I misplaced the zipper and was waiting for it to turn up, and then I had difficulties shortening the replacement zipper I bought when I accepted that the original one was lost forever.

Here’s the Cargo Duffle in all its glory!

These obstacles messed with my perspective: How would I ever be able to finish this project and finish it well? This lack of self-confidence was completely unfounded because I had made this pattern before! (For real. See that version here.) With all sense of reason out the window, the time-out morphed into full-fledged procrastination!

If only I knew how beautiful the bag would be in the end, I think I would have shortened the 18-month time-out to 8 or 9 months. (Ha!) It’s the combination of fabrics that do it for me. The main fabric is from August Fields, an old home-dec line from Amy Butler. The bottom gusset and accent pieces are a denim-linen blend that was fabric-y love at first sight. It’s the most amazing shade of blue, with gray undertones that give it an air of sophistication. As for the pocket fabric ... after scouring my local quilt shops for the right print, I found this one in my stash. The bright salmon fabric is from Lizzy House’s Catnap line.

Isn’t that Amy Butler print divine?

Each of those fabrics is lovely in its own right, but together they’re even more striking. Truly, fabric is meant to shine in completed projects and not live on a bolt or in a stash!

Should you want to make a Cargo Duffle of your very own, you can find the free pattern, by Noodlehead, on the Robert Kaufman website. It is not for the beginning sewist. The instructions, although well written, presume you have experience following patterns.

As I mentioned earlier, I used home-dec fabrics for the main bag. This was in addition to the canvas layer indicated in the pattern; the home-dec and canvas worked well together to give the bag some substance and structure. The pattern uses two fabrics for the handles, but the denim wasn’t working for me—it didn’t lie nicely—so I stuck with just one, the August Fields fabric. (Even though I went rogue, the handle construction in the pattern is brilliant. I’ve used it elsewhere, like here.)

The handles also feature August Fields.

The pattern calls for binding the exposed seams in the bag’s interior. I chose to add a lining instead. I sewed together a bottom gusset, two zipper gussets, a front, and a back in a quilting cotton to create that lining. I couldn’t hand-sew it in the bag easily (the canvas was unpleasant to poke a needle through), so I Wonder Clipped the heck out of it and, following a line of quilting on the zipper gusset, sewed into the bag’s interior. For more ideas on how to pimp out this pattern, I recommend Coconut Robot’s post here.

You can see how the quilting line along the zipper is extra thick.
That’s where I attached the lining.

OK, it’s confession time! Who else has been swallowed up by the procrastination vortex?!

Linking up to Needle and Thread Thursday, Let’s Bee Social, and Finish It Up Friday ...

Follow on Bloglovin