Modern Tumbling Blocks Quilt – New to my Shop

My new modern tumbling blocks quilt turned out wonderfully! The 3D effect looks great and it’s even better in person. The colors are just as rich and vibrant as I had hoped. If you’re interested in purchasing this pattern, it is now available in my Etsy shop!modern tumbling blocks quilt
Plate Tectonics : Core Deco 2015.The inspiration for the quilt comes mainly from the works of graphic artist Matt W. Moore. I am absolutely enamored with his use of color and his eye for pattern.

As my quilting expertise is limited, I would not yet try to create quilts as complex as some of his pieces. Even if I were a great quilter, I would never infringe on one of his copyrights. However, his work is a great place to find seeds for other creative expressions.

At right is a woven throw blanket from his Core Deco line. I love the colors and design so much I just had to buy one! It looks great in the same room as my modern tumbling blocks quilt.

Modern Tumbling Block Quilt – Fabrics

I used all solids for this quilt, trying to maximize the three-dimensional effect. I started with a jelly roll of bright Kona solids, and then added fat quarters of deep purples, teal, jet black, and a ombre collection of royal blues. Here are all of my blues – at top the royal blues, in the middle are navy blues, and at the bottom are a sky blue and a blue with a touch of purple in it. modern tumbling blocks quilt - blue fabricsYou can see I certainly shied away from using many pastels. A few light pinks, blues, and greens worked fine but I tried a lemony yellow for some of the orange blocks and it was just too light to stand up to the other bright colors.

Here are the series of plum pinks I used:modern tumbling blocks quilt - plum fabrics

I used two types of green – a kelly green and a celery green. If you look above the kelly green blocks are fine. However, if I were to do this project again, I would find a darker celery green for the “dark” side of the block.

Below are the series of teal colors I used:modern tumbling blocks quilt - teal fabrics

Modern Tumbling Block Quilt – Techniques

I used English Paper Piecing (EPP) to put this quilt together, and for guidance, I used and recommend the excellent book All Points Patchwork by my friend Diane Gilleland.

Before I started this project I had only used EPP once before, on my hexagon table runner project. When you read that blog post, you’ll see how valuable her book can be, as I share lots of things-I-would-have-done-differently-if-I-had-read-her-book-FIRST.hexagon table runner projectOne of Diane’s recommendations is to use pre-cut paper templates, and for the sheer volume of templates necessary for this bigger quilt project I gladly took her advice. I purchased my templates from PaperPieces.com. If you’re not too familiar with EPP, you will be BLOWN AWAY by the variety of pre-cut paper template shapes they offer.

If you’re interested in purchasing the pattern for my modern tumbling blocks pattern, please be aware that it is a pattern only. It includes the chart, how many pieces of each color you may need, and some ideas on the order in which I put the quilt top together, but it does not include any cutting, assembly, quilting, or finishing instructions. Diane’s book and many others have excellent instructions on these topics that I need not try to re-create.

Below you can see my new modern tumbling blocks quilt in it’s new habitat near my Persian Flower project. I never get tired of looking at it – it’s visually enticing and very contemplative. I love it with the colors I used and I’d also enjoy seeing it in other color combinations as well. I think a version in earth tones like rust, gold, brown, green, and red would be very striking.modern tumbling blocks quilt at home

React with Love Cross Stitch Pattern

This React with love cross stitch pattern is now available in my Etsy shop!react with love cross stitch pattern

This project is my reaction to the enmity, conflict, and ignorance in the world. If we react to certain situations in a positive way, toward kindness, trust, and understanding, the world might be a happier, more constructive place. [Of course, there are situations where love is not the immediate answer. For example, I don’t advocate welcoming physical threats to ourselves, our families, or our friends. That’s not what I’m addressing here.]

It can be overwhelming as there is so much conflict out there: between religions, between nations, between political parties, between neighbors, between co-workers, and even within our families. I find that concentrating on individuals rather than groups helps alleviate some of that overwhelmed feeling. Every two people have something in common, if only the fact that we exist. Even from a meager beginning we can develop our commonalities into a better understanding. This project can serve as a gentle reminder to work toward this goal.
handshake

[Handshake by Sakina-san via Flickr]

In an interesting coincidence, a conflict has come up between me and a good friend while I’ve been writing this post. This friend said that putting all Muslims on American soil into internment camps, much like the US did to people of Japanese ancestry during World War II, is a good idea. I was flabbergasted and deeply disappointed; how could someone I consider a friend espouse such a ugly, fearful idea?

My reaction? To be perfectly honest, my first reaction was not “with love.” It was disgust and exasperation as my husband and I argued fruitlessly against his idea. The next day, my reminder to “react with love not fear” kicked in as I started really thinking about what to do next.

My main thought was: EDUCATE MYSELF. Because I didn’t have the best information on hand at the time, I didn’t know how to respond intelligently or even coherently when my friend first brought up his awful idea.

I feel there are two big points to address: the first is about Islam and Muslims vs. radicalized Muslims, and the second is about the about the idea of internment camps. I happen to be friends with a really lovely Muslim couple, and I will ask if they can lead me to information that will address the first point. As for the second point, I happen to know that Japanese-American actor George Takei (he played Sulu on Star Trek) was in an internment camp as a child during WWII. He is an internet powerhouse and a champion of fighting the idea of internment camps, so I will search the internet for his most persuasive arguments on the subject.

DSC_0287

[Manzanar by Jason Neville via Flickr]

Will I then share these pieces of information with my friend? You bet. How will I do it? I’ll present the clearest, most succinct and rational ideas I can find and ask him to read them. Will he read them? Maybe not, but this is a person who generally respects my ideas, so I have hope that he will. Will this information change his mind? I don’t know, and that has to be okay.

Even if he doesn’t change his mind, my understanding of two big topics will expand. In the future, if I am confronted by anyone else with similar prejudices, I will be better able to react with love and in a more constructive way.

Self & Conflict

[Self & Conflict by Soul Patcher via Flickr]

My story above is just a tiny instance of conflict between a handful of people. Think globally and look at a situation as complex as the unrest in the Middle East. There are thousands of years of root causes of the violence there, from religious differences to political upheaval, from oil to opium, and countless more. It would take a multitude of scholars’ lifetimes to unravel the web of conflicts and truly understand all of the major points of view. How does one react with love toward something this overwhelming?

Obviously, there are no simple answers (how I wish there were). But this is a good example where focusing on individuals rather than groups helps me. I find myself often thinking about war refugees and their situations. If we act toward a refugee family with fear, with ignorance, distrust, and isolation, then they may have good reason to become our enemies. However, if we greet the family with love, with a desire to understand them better, with kindness and compassion and with opportunities for work and education, then they may have have good reason to become our friends.

Like I said above, every two people have something in common, if only the fact that we exist. The most simple acts of kindness can open up channels of understanding between people. I hope that this react with love cross stitch pattern may help remind us of that idea. 

Hexagon Table Runner Project

This hexagon table runner project was inspired by a number of things.

hexagon table runner project

First, I was just itching to play with my fabric stash. After several years of working solely on cross stitch and needlepoint projects, I wanted to play with the colors and prints of fabric again. I do love my stitching projects, but my heart really sings when I see fabrics juxtaposed in interesting combinations.

All Points Patchwork - coming soon!Second, I had never tried English paper piecing (EPP) before. When my friend Diane of Craftypod released her latest book, All Points Patchwork, I was intrigued by the technique. I was too busy with other projects to participate in any of the EPP blog hops at the time of the release, but working with EPP had been lingering in the back of my mind ever since.

Third, I wanted a table runner! I thought that a pair of my wood file cabinets could use a splash of color on top. With those three inspirations in mind, I set out to make my own EPP hexagon table runner.

Before I go further, I should explain that I had not yet purchased All Points Patchwork when I created this project, and I sure wish I would have. It is a treasure trove of all things EPP: tools, techniques, tips for creating with each shape, and design ideas. Further into this tutorial, I’ll share some things I would have done differently if I had read the book first.

Design

The design of this project was adapted from this “Modern Hexie Table Runner” project by Laura Hartrich. I liked her use of multiple background fabrics and a hexie layout that created gaps in the pattern to reveal the background. Her project is great; however, where her hexie layout was asymmetrical, I wanted to create a symmetrical arrangement. And where she used a simple applique technique to attach her hexies individually to the background, I was wanting the full EPP experience to join my hexagons together before appliqueing them. laura hartrich modern hexie table runner

I knew I wanted to use 1-1/2 inch hexagons so that this first attempt at EPP wouldn’t become too hard to manage. I also knew that the top of my two file cabinets measured just under 43 by 19 inches, and I didn’t want this project to overlap the edges of the cabinets at all. After some experimentation I ended up with this layout:

hexagon table runner project dimensions

1-1/2 inch hexagons “on their sides” as shown (rather than arranging the points at top and bottom) measure 2-5/8 inches high, so 5 rows add up to a total of 13-1/8 inches. A single 1-1/2 inch hexie measures 3 inches wide; however, 3/4 inch of the width of the NEXT hexie overlaps with the first hexie. Therefore, every column of hexies adds only 2-1/4 inches of width to the project. The seventeen columns of hexies shown here adds up to (3″ + 16 x 2-1/4″) 39 inches.

IF I HAD READ THE BOOK FIRST, I would have used hexagon graph paper from the beginning. Regular graph paper just didn’t get the spacing of the hexagons correct. This led to quite a mess that I didn’t catch until much later in the project when I removed the templates behind the hexies. I had to take out a bunch of seams, re-insert templates behind eight of the hexagons, re-position and re-attach five hexagons, cut all new pieces of background fabric, and I was left with barely enough backing fabric to do a wrap-around binding for the quilt. Lesson learned: use hexagon graph paper!

Fabrics

hexagon table runner project fabrics[Note: this photo shows the hexies BEFORE I sewed them together!]

The design was pretty well established so then I scoured my fabric stash, looking for candidates. I’ve been on a light blue kick for a little while now so shades of blue feature prominently. I also knew that this runner would be on a stained wood surface, so I wanted a few browns in the mix. From my collection, I ended up using fabrics 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, and 9. Then it was off to my local fabric shop to find prints for the background and the backing. There I found fabrics 3, 6, 7, and 10. I think it’s a good and slightly funky mix!

Background

I used fabrics 3, 6, 7, and 10 in the pattern you see below (10,3,7,6,10,3,7). I knew that 6 was going to be my backing and binding fabric, so I used only one piece of it in the center as opposed to the two pieces each of 3, 7, and 10.hexagon table runner project background

The background pieces were cut at 13-1/2 inches tall by 6-1/2 inches wide. That left enough for a 3/8 inch seam allowance between the pieces and an overall usable width of just over 40 inches. It turns out that I needed every bit of that 40 inches as the combined width of the hexies sewn together was 40 inches, one inch wider than the 39 inches I calculated. I think next time, I’d cut the pieces 14 inches tall by 6-3/4 inches wide, just to be safe.

I knew I was going to applique on the edge of the hexies and I knew there was some probable un-quilted space between the hexies and the edge of the runner. I also knew I wanted to anchor down the background a bit before I appliqued the hexagons. So at this point I layered my batting and backing fabric, pinned the layers (you can just see the white pin heads in the photo above), and quilted in the ditch between the seven pieces.

Templates

hexagon table runner project templatesTo create my own hexagon templates, I used Incompetech’s graph paper generator to make an original template on normal office paper. I cut out a hexagon and then traced it repeatedly onto manila file folders to make the templates. This tracing probably made the hexies a smidgen larger than they should have been, and this may be why my sewn hexies together measured 40 inches wide rather than the 39 I calculated. IF I HAD READ THE BOOK FIRST, I may have followed Diane’s recommendation that beginners use precut templates; however, with so few hexagons necessary for this project, I might still have created my own. Next time, I would make them with much greater precision, possibly printing the Incompetech hexagons directly onto the file folders.

Hexagons

hexagon table runner project fabricsThe layout calls for 38 hexagons. Although I made some (11) hexies from the background fabrics, I made the remaining 27 from the other fabrics. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Fabric 1: 5
  • Fabric 2: 4
  • Fabric 3: 3
  • Fabric 4: 5
  • Fabric 5: 4
  • Fabric 6: 2
  • Fabric 7: 3
  • Fabric 8: 4
  • Fabric 9: 5
  • Fabric 10: 3

Fortunately, even before Diane published her EPP book, she uploaded videos to YouTube that perfectly explain how to create hexiessew them together, and then remove the paper templates.

hexagon table runner project first hexieAfter watching these videos, I started basting my own hexies with ease! Once the fabric was cut, it took me less than three minutes to baste a hexie. I couldn’t believe it was so easy, and I felt silly for not having tried EPP before. At right is a photo of the first hexagon I had ever basted – it was a proud moment!

 

 

 

 

After all the hexies were basted, I laid them out on the background and played with their arrangement. I didn’t want any of the fabrics to overlap themselves in the background, and I wanted to balance out the location of the dark and light fabrics. This was the result:hexagon table runner project hexie layout

From here, I sewed the hexies together using Diane’s video instructions. After a good steam pressing, I removed the templates and was ready to applique the big piece of EPP to the background.

Applique

I took a great deal of care to lay out the EPP on the background: noticing where the pieces in a column lined up with the background seams, making sure that the top and bottom edges of the pieces were horizontal, and ensuring that the extreme left and right points were centered vertically. I then pinned the everlasting crud out of the EPP to make sure that it wouldn’t shift as I appliqued.

I first sewed around the seven gaps in the EPP and then sewed down the entire outline in one long take (see the red lines in the figure below).

hexagon table runner project applique

IF I HAD READ THE BOOK FIRST, I would have appliqued about 1/8 inch from the edge. As I did it, I appliqued about 5/8 inch, and I’m seriously considering whether I should resew it at the recommended 1/8 inch. The table runner looks fine as is, but if I were to wash it, some of the fabric on the back of the hexies might slip out and that would be a hassle to fix. I also think it would look a little better with the 1/8 inch distance when viewed up close.

I cleaned up all my thread ends and then buried the tails between the layers of the quilt.hexagon table runner project thread ends before and after

Binding

Last, I did a wrap-around binding (where the backing fabric becomes the binding) with a blind stitched finish on top. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave myself much fabric to do the wrap around, but I did manage, barely, to make it work. Just don’t look too closely at those corners, please!

Here is my new table runner in it’s new habitat, on top of its file cabinets, mere moments before it was filled with all the debris of modern life.

hexagon table runner project 2

I love it, and I’m looking forward to making more in the future. Maybe some holiday-themed hexagon table runner projects will follow!

New Projects – Floss, Remodeling, and Old Photos

Some big new projects have kept me incredibly busy lately!

dmc variegated floss 4210First and foremost, my variegated floss sales on Etsy have been picking up considerably, which is great news. People are discovering that my pricing is very competitive, so I’ve spent some time filling orders. The most popular colors thus far are DMC 4210 (Radiant Ruby) and 4255 (Orchid).

 

 

dmc variegated floss 4255The Ruby floss (above) is gorgeous, so I understand why it’s popular. And Pantone declared “Radiant Orchid” to be their 2014 Color of the Year, which may help explain why DMC’s lovely Orchid variegated floss is selling well.

With the increased sales, in the last week I’ve created a few more metrics and tools to help me keep track of inventory. These take some time to set up, but once that is done, it’s a matter of maintenance.

ancora crafts projects bathroom remodelAside from Ancora Crafts, I’ve got two big projects underway. First, one of our two bathrooms is being remodeled. A corner shower stall is going away and making way for the whole end of the room to be tiled and a glass wall and door installed. The room is pretty small, so it’s not an enormous project, but it’s substantial enough that we have a contractor doing the work. My husband and I have been running around for a couple of weeks picking out new tile and plumbing fixtures. Much fun but much time consumed!

 

 

ancora crafts projects photo organizationRemember non-digital photographs? Like many of you, I have a ton of ’em, and I’ve just started the process of putting them in chronological order, tossing out 75% of them (how many photos of a graduation or a family picnic do you really need to keep?), and then scanning the photos that remain.

I’m also going to dismantle nearly all of my scrapbooks (you can see a few of them in the photo at top left). I really don’t look at them very often, they’re heavy and take up a lot of space, and most of them use those sticky sheets that just aren’t good for the photos. The photos reside in an earthquake and tsunami zone, so if the big one were to hit, they would be destroyed. At least if I have them digitally, I can put them in the cloud and I know I won’t lose them forever to become part of a huge Pacific floating trash island.

ancora crafts projects first stitching projectA benefit of digging out all my old photos is that I found a few of my old stitching projects from years ago. Someday I’ll make a proper post about my old projects, but for now I’ll just share a couple highlights. At right is the first stitching project I ever made, with a ton of help from my Mom. I’m sure she threaded the needle and started and stopped the threads for me. She sewed on the cute trim and put the bell at the bottom. This thing hung on the door of my bedroom for years.

 

 

ancora crafts projects plastic canvas boxesNext are a couple of boxes made from plastic canvas and yarn, made when I was in my tweens and early teens. I made oodles of these little boxes but these are the only two that I still have. They’re cute, and I like the diagonal pattern I created on the box on the left.

 

As usual, I have more commercial ventures underway, including my compass rose needlepoint project and a series of fun cross stitched sayings that will appear on the blog and on Etsy soon. Staying busy is a happy place to be!

ACrafty Interview with Diane Gilleland of CraftyPod

Welcome to this week’s ACrafty Interview with Diane Gilleland, the multi-craft, multi-talented heart of CraftyPod.

When did you start crafting? DG: Oh, I’ve been at it since I was a tiny kid. My Mom is very creative, and she always had crafty activities for my brother and I to do. It was just a natural part of our family.acrafty interview craftypod spring easter craft mosaic

What crafts have you tried and what is your current favorite? DG: I’ll try anything once! At the moment I’m most besotted with English Paper Piecing and plastic canvas. But just as an example, in the past week I’ve dabbled with: embroidery, machine sewing, hand quilting, making Kanzashi butterflies (that’s a Japanese fabric-folding craft), and building ornaments from thin birch shavings.

acrafty interview craftypod plastic canvas robotsWhat craft project are you most proud of? DG: Hmmm… that’s tough to answer, only because I’m a process-oriented crafter. The minute I finish something, I kind of lose interest in it. But I do love how this project came out – I rescued some vintage quilt blocks by English paper piecing them into tote bags. I also love my little plastic canvas robots.

 

acrafty interview craftypod kanzashi in bloom book coverIf you’re a seller, what is your most popular project? DG: I don’t sell handmade goods, but I did write a craft book about the aforementioned Kanzashi a few years back, and it’s been pretty popular.

 

 

 

 

acrafty interview craftypod quiltblock coastersHas a craft or craft project ever challenged you in an unexpected way? DG: Oh, definitely! Crafts challenge me every single time. I’m pretty obsessed with finding new ways to combine techniques and materials, and once I learn how to make anything, I start messing around with different ways to do it.

Each craft has its own mechanics, too – bookbinding is an exercise in slowing down and being precise. Plastic canvas is an exercise in thinking in 3D. Needle felting is about tactile sensation and patiently growing forms. Crochet is about understanding structure. I like being in all these different moments with craft.

acrafty interview craftypod plastic canvas minecraft blocksHow has crafting affected your character? DG: I’m a big believer in the idea that creativity is essential to happiness, and that all humans are creative in some domain. (Peyton Manning, my favorite NFL quarterback, is creative as all get-out at the line of scrimmage. Jaime Oliver is incredibly creative about making healthy home cooking accessible to non-cooks.)

I just think that we’re all at our best when we’re creating, whatever form that takes – we’re connected to what’s essential about us, and we’re manifesting that in the world.

For me personally, crafting is a way to connect with people through classes and the online community, but it’s also important as a way to enter my own thoughts, work out problems, and process emotions. It’s almost a form of meditation for me. Simply put, if I go too long without making things, I get quite crabby and difficult.

acrafty interview craftypod quilted hexagon coastersCan you share a story about how your crafting has affected others? DG: Way back in 2003, I ran across a piece in a magazine about the Church of Craft, which is a worldwide group devoted to crafts as a spiritual idea. I found myself wishing there was a chapter in Portland, where I live. And eventually, it occurred to me that there would be one if I started it!

It was a huge step for me, a shy person, to organize a public craft group for strangers and have to get out there and promote it. I changed a whole lot as a result of the project. But in the six years the group met, I watched people make new friends, share all kinds of helpful resources, and just get a couple hours to relax and make things among like-minded folks. I witnessed the healing power of crafts over and over again.

acrafty interview craftypod quilting happiness book coverWhat crafty goodness do you have coming up in the future? Why is it appealing to you? DG: I have a new book coming out on August 27! It’s co-authored with Christina Lane, who’s such a talented quilter. The book is called Quilting Happiness, and it works on two levels: it’s a collection of Christina’s beautiful projects, and it’s also filled with creative exercises, quizzes, little vision-building projects, tools, and stories to help you explore all the ways quilting makes you happy. We’re so excited to see this work finally making its way out into the world!

Thanks very much, Diane, for sharing your insights, and best of luck with your new book!

You can follow Diane’s adventures on her CraftyPod blog, Twitter, and Facebook. I was lucky enough to be featured in a CraftyPod interview in March. Her “Image-Only Interview” series is fascinating and addictive – I highly recommend you check it out!

Would you like to be a part of this ACrafty interview series? Just contact me!

You also might like to see the ACrafty Interviews featuring knitter Sabrina Larson and cross stitcher WhateverJames