Monday, March 31, 2014

#opgivewarmth {their very own blankets}

I'm continually awestruck and inspired not only by the innovative, thought-provoking and often just downright beautiful quilts that come out of our community, but also by our shared commitment to using our talents for good when we identify a group or a cause in need of just that.

Last spring, Amy of During Quiet Time and Berene of Happy Sew Lucky helped send love to (my native) Boston when an unthinkable scenario evolved into an inescapable reality.  Just the other month, my friend Alison of Little Island Quilting returned home from a trip to Mexico City forever changed and downright determined to gather quilts for children who could use more warmth in their lives.  Lynne of Lily's Quilts is an inspiration for no shortage of reasons, one of which includes her unwavering commitment to Siblings Together (in Lynne's words, "an initiative dedicated towards promoting positive contact between siblings separated by care").  And of course, Rachel of Stitched in Color is an obvious example with her 250-deep arsenal of individuals banded together in the name of do(ing) Good for charities near and far. 

In fact, it was Rachel's do. Good Stitches that led me to Jessica, the founder of My Very Own Blanket.  MVOB is an Ohio-based non-profit committed to making children in foster care feel valued and comforted.  Its main initiative—as the name suggests—is to provide them with handmade blankets (often the only personal items these children will take with them to their new homes).  So last winter, when the time came for me to send my first quilt on behalf of our circle, I began to question just why I was shipping a quilt from my home in Indiana to a foster care child in Ohio, when there are without doubt—simply by virtue of the society in which we live—children in need much closer to home.*

After of few months of idle thinking, I wrote to Jessica and asked if there was anything she could do to help me lay the groundwork for MVOB in Indy.  After a few emails, several games of phone tag and a nice long chat, I had a plan.  A small part of that plan includes monthly block callouts.  A big part of that plan includes you.

I know many people view charity quilting as an opportunity to clear out unwanted fabrics or produce items they wouldn't necessarily keep in their own home.  Personally, I have two points of contention with that philosophy.  First, to borrow the recent words of Victoria Findlay Wolfe, "Give your best work[.]  People who have nothing deserve the very best, more than anyone else."  Second, I cherish whatever little time I can spare at my machine, and much prefer spending that time with fabrics and designs that are near and dear to my heart.

So in the spirit of sewing somewhat more intentionally, my one "condition" on these callouts will be color-coordination:  each month from here on out, I'm going to post a color palette to the blog, flickr group, and instagram (@nohatsquilts) and call out for 12.5" (unfinished, unquilted) blocks.**  And no, they will *not* all be monochromatic (though you're welcome to sew your block(s) in a single color way if you so choose).  All I ask is that your blocks fall somewhere on that (or any previous month's) color scheme.  Use one color, use them all—your call.  Likewise, the design is 100% up to you.

As a working mother I am well aware of the myriad of constraints on our time these days, so I don't expect (but would welcome) intricate patterns and/or regular participation.  It's just that if you do ever have the time and feel inspired to give back, please keep #opgivewarmth in mind.  

And if you can't sew, for whatever reason, please consider spreading the word.  In our county alone (one of 92 in the state), the Department of Child Services moves 60-80 children each week.  Each week.  We will never be able to work fast enough.  But I pledge to turn all of our #opgivewarmth blocks into beautiful quilts and make every ounce of creativity count.  Because every child deserves some warmth and comfort.  Will you help me give that warmth?

*For those of you struck by the same sense of irony here, I encourage you to reach out to Jessica.  She's hoping to grow her regional platform into a national one and I'm sure she would welcome any discussions if you're inspired to assist with similarly-aimed efforts in your area.
**P.O. Box address and logistics soon to follow can now be found here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

sunset stag {in stripes and plaid}

Meet Sunset Stag, my latest adventure in paper-piecing.  This time, rather than opting for yet another tiny endeavor, I was thinking BIG when I offered to pattern-test this three-foot, four-legged friend for Violet Craft.

Truth be told I've had a stack of fiery sunset hues set aside ever since my nephew was born on a snowstorm-y day in January.  I considered several other concepts between now and then, but none of them felt right.  So I pressed pause and attended to a project with a different kind of radiance while waiting for inspiration to strike.

The alphabet starbursts sprinkled across the dusky sky may or may not spell out his initials and nickname ;)

Before I knew it, Violet's #forestabstractions patterns over on IG had planted a lasting (and promising) seed.  (My in-laws are all kinds of animal lovers, so this was truly perfect for their latest addition.)

Disappearing (red) stripes:  now you see 'em, now you don't! #themagicofoakshott

For anyone intimidated by the size, the large scale piecing was incredibly straightforward (...once I had assembled the 20-page printout, that is).  But Violet has assured us that the finalized pattern won't be nearly as cumbersome ;o)  

In the meantime, if you're interested in scaling up something of your own and don't mind a little extra prep work, did you know you can print super-sized versions of regular patterns just by using the "Poster" option on the print menu?

Here's how:  After selecting the "Poster" button, enter the magnification percentage into the "Tile Size" field (for instance, for a 12" pattern, 200% will yield a 24" block, while 300% will yield a 36" block).  Then, get out your scotch tape (speaking from experience, gluesticks and clear packing tape are no friends of any sewing machine needles *I* know); trim, line up, and join the printouts; cut the (giant) pattern into its respective sections; and proceed with piecing as normal.

I think you'll be surprised by how quickly an intricate top comes together.  This one just needs a border or two (or three?), then it's off to a new life on the farm :)

Friday, March 21, 2014

shoot for the stars {radiant goals}

Note:  Edited to sprinkle some "stained glass"-esque shots throughout :)

I was really excited about the Pantone Quilt Challenge this year.  And not only because the talented twosome of Anne of Play Crafts and Adrianne of On The Windy Side were our new proud and fearless hosts.  But also because I've sort of been hoarding purple fabrics.  ...Since I started stashing.

So last month, I thought I was ahead of the game when I decided to sketch out a couple of concepts.  And then life happened, other projects took priority, and before I knew it, I had one week left and two stacks of uncut fabric pulls. (Ruh roh.)  And then, out of the blue, my friend Heather of Crimson Tate asked if I would be available to fill in for a guild speaker who had something come up at the last minute.  (Déjà vu?)  I happily obligedeven though it'd cost some pantone-purple sewing timeand quickly decided to demo my {free} paper-pieced arrow pattern for the (our) Indy Modern Quilt Guild.

Sidebar:  I extended the shaft section of the pattern to the height of the page (~11"), and added a few improv stripes and band.

When it came time to prep that weekend (there are things I plan for, folks!), I decided to cut into a few odd-shaped scraps from my liberty (and justice for all) DWR, some leftover oakshotts from this {sweet as honey} quilt, and of course—being a connoisseur of farm-to-stash feedsacks—, a cream-colored sack of Midwestern origin for the background.

As for the presentation itself, I was on cloud nine.  (I might be an attorney by trade, but I'm always up for some quality chats and collaboration with fellow creatives.  And I mean always.)  So much so, that when I got home and reality set in that radiant '(k)id and radiant {koi} couldn't possibly be completed (well) by the challenge deadline, I set my sights on something new.  And then noticed that my arrow-heart had the perfect touch of orchid-purple. 

Serendipity :)  So I just started piecing mini-stars from my liberty and oakshott scraps, drawing upon a few other feedsacks for the background (I've been hoarding a somewhat tattered collection for Tula's city sampler blocks, but thanks to addictive ebay habits there's still plenty where those came from).

So by Wednesday I found myself with a purply-blue arrow and twenty-some odd stars in various stages of completion.  Surprisingly, I knew early on (read: Tuesday) that I wanted—for perhaps the first time ever—to avoid a straightforward grid structure (gasp!).  So I scattered the stars across the floor, cut a host of 2" strips from the feedsacks to fill in the background (à la gypsy wife), and starting piecing them in the best way I thought possible:  at random.  The end result?  (As my IG peeps have already seen...)

"Shoot for the stars."  (It seemed to appropriately capture my sentiments about the events leading up to this design, what with the lofty daydreams of a wholeheartedly creative life and whatnot.)  It measures a somewhat obscure 40" x 61", but I suppose that's what happens when you (I) improvise.  ;o)

The only outstanding question?  How to quilt it.  (!)  My thoughts?
—Tight straight lines in Aurifil on a diagonal (like this other (pseudo) pantone shooting star design) or
—Chunky, organic hand quilting with perle 8 to complement the rustic background (like the other arrow quilt)

Feel free to share yours if you have ideas for me!  And go on and take a look at all the glorious quilts that are painting Play Crafts and On The Windy Side purple these days, or check out #pantonequilt over on IG.  Plenty of inspiration to go around!

2014 Pantone Quilt Challenge


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

pantone {purple} progress

First of all, I want to thank you all for your incredibly supportive response to my sweet as honey arrow quilt!  Work/life has taken its toll on my inbox these days so I just wanted to make sure you all were aware of how appreciative I am (as always) of your beautiful support since there's somewhat of an unforgivable lag in my response rate these days.  :(

Fortunately (for my creative sanity), I have managed to scrap together some sewing time as the 2014 Pantone Quilt Challenge (here or here) is coming to a close.  Believe it or not, I was going to give feathers a rest until I was asked to fill in for our guild programming on relatively short notice (my new niche).  So after piecing this little number as part of my demo...

I couldn't really get radiant orchid off my mind.

Or midnight-purple (my favoritealso, potentially made up—color).  I actually had (have) two other concepts for radiant-inspired quilts, but one glance at my work calendar pretty much confirmed neither had a chance of materializing before this Friday's deadline.

Still not certain this one is going to make it, but I like to think it's got a decent shot ;o)

Let the countdown begin!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

the birds and the (honey) bees {sweet as honey no. 9/25}

By now I'm sure you've seen bits and pieces of Bonnie Christine's latest line for AGF—Sweet as Honeypopping up around the inter webs as part of the SAH blog tour.  

Yesterday, my irl friend Amanda of Material Girl Quilts showed off her subdued but show-stopping mini (hands down some of the best straight line quilting I've had the pleasure of seeing in person!)  And today—after much overgramming on instagram, no less—it's my turn to share a little something sewn from the warmer tones in Bonnie's line (think nectar, coral, marmalade, and peach):

Because I sew by color, I asked Bonnie to send fat eighths in what I now* correctly refer to as an "analogous color scheme."
*thanks in large part to my friend Anne of Play Crafts and her informative Color Chat series :)

It's safe to say that this design was inspired by the carefree, barefoot-in-the-garden-type sentiment out of which "Sweet as Honey" came to be(e).

The quilt finishes at ~60" square.

Half of the fletchers feature Bonnie's prints; the others coordinating oakshott shot cottons.

The rest of the free people-inspired arrows are pieced exclusively from oakshott, with ruby red hearts pointing the way.

Big thanks to Sarah of Sew What Sherlock? for pattern testing!  (Check out her squared off, "elongated" version here.)

And last, but not least, the sweet sultan cornerstones are a perfect landing pad for fussy-cut (and famished) honey bees.

The sweet sultan block (BB #800.8) is part of my (somewhat neglected) INDEX* initiative.
*an endeavor for those among us who fancy long lost traditional treasures

Speaking of, I knew I wanted to hand quilt this piece from the beginning.  But I also knew I probably couldn't hand quilt it well enough for it to withstand as many washes as naptime quilts in our household have to endure.  So I gave myself a little bit of "security stitching" in between the arrows with my go-to Aurifil 2021...

Psssst! Aurifil lovers everywhere take note:  Bonnie is working on a collection case!

And have since started to add some handsewn elements along the border using this summery mix of AMH embroidery floss from my friend Heather of Crimson Tate.

I used Kona snow for the background, because, well, it seemed quite fitting in light of the winter we've had!

I have to say, in an unexpected twist I'm actually looking forward to filling in the negative space.  Preferably over the span of several (several) relaxing spring evenings.  ...Assuming spring is indeed still coming this year, that is!

Sidenote:  for those of you who are interested, both the sweet sultan and arrow patterns are available as free downloads in my craftsy shop.

Up tomorrow on the tour is Miss Caroline.  I'm not sure what she's got up her garment-sewing sleeve, but after watching her fabric design debut unfold over the past few weeks I have no doubt it's going to be amazing.

P.S.  If you haven't seen that video, change that!  Art Gallery Fabrics recently announced its Limited Edition project, which cleverly features a trio of talented artists who make mini-collections of their own.  SewCaroline is among the trailblazers (her line is "Gleeful"), and the whole idea has me daydreaming about what my own fabric collection would look like.  (A dreamer can dream, right?!) In the meantime (read:  for the foreseeable future), I'll continue to use others' storied designs as I add to my modest (but growing!) portfolio.

Thank you so much for stopping by ;o)

xo Sarah

Friday, March 7, 2014

feather factory {arrows + amh for anchor}

I'm going to keep this post short

(and sweet),

because while these little bits of fabric might be near-fully transformed into fiery feather arrows...

they still have to join up with those sweet sultans and all make their way into a pieced top,

(which I plan to hand quilt with these AMH lovelies)

by next Thursday.


linking up with Kristy of Quiet Play!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

sweet sultans {for my hun}

Last week, these lovely warm fabrics popped up in my (still) snow-covered mailbox courtesy of Bonnie Christine for Art Gallery Fabrics.  Having had some time to think through my concept for her upcoming blog tour, I quickly set to work pulling coordinating oakshotts to complement the fiery tones in the prints.

Originally I was deciding between two ideas:  one inspired by free people's Valentine's feather arrow, and a second that incorporated this traditional block (Sweet Sultan, BB #800.8; coming soon to the INDEX).

Initially I opted for the arrows, but after getting the idea to fussy-cut the bees from one of Bonnie's prints for the center piece of each sweet sultan flower,

I'm happy to report I came up with a design that incorporates both.

The next few days will be full of feathers (of the paper-pieced variety), and once I've completed the top I hope to try my hand at hand quilting before my stop on the tour next week.

With the help of my color consultant, of course, who wisely added the lavender hues back into the mix after I had (foolishly) considered omitting them ;o)

What do you think?  Did we make the right call?

linking up with Lee