Tag Archives: reflection

Reflections & Goals for 2018

This time of year always results in the oddest collision of feelings–excitement for the family filled fun that comes during the holiday season, either stress over the projects I need to finish for the holidays or disappointed-letting-go of projects I will never complete in time, introspection and reflection on what goals I met (and didn’t meet) in the year behind me, eager anticipation and renewed inspiration for the possibilities that exist in the new year, gratitude for the gifts that I experience daily, and many more in between. As 2017 leads into 2018, these feelings seem to crash together like waves, one emerging strongly at one point only to be engulfed and buried by another the next moment. That odd transition from one year to the next, it’s really just the passing of a day like any other, so how does it hold such power? Does this happen for you, too? or is it just me?

goal setting planning for new year quilter's plannerEvery year, my dear friend Yvonne hosts a Planning Party on her blog Quilting Jetgirl, which really helps motivate me to sit down and sort through all of these feelings, reflections, dreams, and limitations, and try to determine my goals for the next year. I’ve decided to share my reflections on 2017 and goals for 2018 here, both to make a record of my intentions at this moment, and to maybe help inspire you to not only define your goals and determine steps to help you reach them, but also to be gentle with yourself when life doesn’t go as planned. Since honestly, when does life ever go as planned?

Reflection on 2017

Let’s start by looking at the goals I set for myself in January of this year. A few days ago when I read this over, I honestly laughed out loud.  I’ll give you a spoiler: I accomplished hardly any of these goals, but oh, I had such high hopes back in January! Here’s the list, with my comments in bold after each one.

  • Focus on incorporating repurposed textiles into at least three (3) quilt projects. Here I intended to pick up my repurposed 100 blocks in 100 days project that used all upcycled garments, but that wasn’t meant to be. I did use repurposed textiles in my contribution to Mel from Mel in the Attic’s Woman’s Work, so I’ll give myself a 1. I also am realizing I never shared about that collaboration here!;
  • Minimize new fabric purchases; focus on using the fabrics that exist in my stash already (not very measurable, but important to state!) I definitely did that this year. I only bought fabric for specific projects, or Alison Glass fabric (my weakness!), and not much at that.  I consider this one met.;
  • Experiment with at least six (6) of the #beesewcial prompts to help stretch my creativity and build improv skills. While I sketched out ideas for three (3) of these prompts, not a one made it into reality. I did not meet this goal.;
  • Use a purely green color palette (inspired by Patone’s color of the year, Greenery) on all bee and quilt along blocks to help create a visual statement on being “green” and to stretch my design skills by fitting them all together at the end. I did this!!! My Greenery quilt was really quite fun, and I did a fairly good job of making blocks from various bees here and there, until I had the idea for my Summer Adventure Quilt. Once my Summer Adventure Quilt began (see the most recent update here), Greenery took a backseat and has been sorely neglected. I do not have enough blocks for a full quilt yet and I’m still deciding what to do about it.;
  • Create a more concrete plan for my social action quilt idea, including:
    • a full sketch
    • 2-3 sample blocks
    • brief description I did not meet this goal. Fear, or fear that I would not be able to dedicate the time needed to organize, piece, and follow through with this idea has stalled me. It’s still simmering, but has not been met.
  • Dive further into the “Slow Fashion” movement:
    • Overcome my fear of garment sewing by making at least three (3) items of clothing I attended the Slow Fashion Retreat with A Gathering of Stitches in August and I very much am slowly wading into the Slow Fashion movement. I’ve made two tops–one of which I might actually wear!, and I’ve found a sewing buddy with whom I aim to sew 9 garments in 2018, so I did pretty well with this one!
    • {BONUS} hand stitch one garment. I did not hand stitch a garment, although I’ve mended 2 pairs of my jeans, a pair of my son’s shorts, and began repairs on my daughter’s jeans. Not what I meant by the goal, but hand stitched garments all the same!;
  • Complete two (2) quilt photography projects to deepen my repertoire and experience. I did this! I did quilt photography for Carole Lyle Shaw’s newly released book Patriotic Modern, did product photography for two local artisans (including Spring Fed Farm), and I also completed the epic Quilter’s Planner photography project of 14 quilted items for the 2018 Planner. Combined with ongoing photography projects for the Quilter’s Planner, I consider this goal met and surpassed!;
  • Teach at least three (3) different quilting and quilt photography related classes–spread the love and inspiration for creating beautiful things! Not yet! I am teaching at QuiltCon in Pasadena in February 2018, so that will be one (well, 4 courses and 1 lecture!). 
  • Use my Quilter’s Planner to set manageable goals and help myself feel successful and motivated–including building up to exercising 5 times per week! Sad to say the exercise habit hasn’t happened. I have built up to doing yoga 3ish times per week, and I did a LOT of hiking over the summer, but I consider this goal not met.
  • Stitch daily for 365 days as part of my participation in #1yearofstitches (more on this soon!) I very nearly succeeded in this! Near the end of the summer, I got off track, but so far have stitched for each day, even if it’s not posted on the correct day. I have a couple week’s worth of stitches to update on Instagram, but it looks like I’m actually going to meet this goal! 
  • Finish eight to ten (8-10) works in progress from last year!!! Oh goodness. No goal met here. I finished Finn’s Milestone quilt, but that might be the only WIP from 2016 that I finished. Oops. Yikes. 

So clearly, I did not meet many of my goals from 2017. It really was a year of very few finishes. In looking back at what quilts or projects I’ve finished, the list is very short: Finn’s Milestone quilt, two quilts for Quilt Theory: Staggered and Into the Forest, and my Superbolt Mini Quilt. I may have missed one, but that very well may be the extent of my finishes for 2017. So much for the mantra of “Finish what I’ve started.”

summer adventure quilt progress
Photo from about midway through the summer. There are many more blocks than these!

So what did I do in 2017? I did a LOT of hiking! We hiked at least once per week pretty much every week from March through September.

great pond mountain hikePaired with making an improv tree block before every hike, as well as other blocks to represent other summer adventures, my summer was pretty much filled with the Summer Adventure Quilt and all of the family adventures that went with it. I call that a win.

2018 Quilters Planner and mini-hi resI also did a lot of work for the Quilter’s Planner. Between photographing all 15 projects (I really need to share a post on this soon!), taking photos of the 2017 and 2018 planner both for marketing and for posting on the Instagram feed, and working as the Social Media Manager heading off the Instagram feed, I spent a lot of my time helping inspire others and providing tips on how to plan, stay organized, and create a positive routine of productivity and inspiration. In 2018, I aim to practice what I preach! (laugh with me here!) Honestly, though, the Quilter’s Planner is such an amazing tool, jam packed full of inspiration. Working with Stephanie is really fulfilling and I really do love it.  As with any job, it takes time.

Finally, of course I’m also the full time mom of three amazing children, the wife of a fun-loving husband, and the keeper of a lovely home in rural Maine. That in and of itself is a full time job. All this to say, I’m not disappointed in what I accomplished in 2017. I do, however, hope to use this reflection to help me set more manageable goals for 2018.

Goals for 2018

Where to begin? Since my high aspirations were a bit too high for 2017, I decided to focus on self care, family time, and finding a good balance of time spent on work and fun (both quilting and otherwise!).

I pulled out my 2018 Quilter’s Planner and opened to the Yearly Goals page (this planner really is amazing… and that’s not just my bias talking) to help me brainstorm and get ideas down on paper.

goal setting planning for new year quilter's plannerI chose 3 main goals, and then listed a few steps that would help me achieve each goal. Here they are:

1 – Sew for my family and me, and not just work

  • Finish Max’s Eye Spy quilt
  • Finish Moonstone pillow
  • Plan for 2-3 hours per week dedicated to me-makes
  • Finish Summer Adventure Quilt–finish making blocks, piece top, quilt, finish
  • Sew 9 garments for me!
    • Pick patterns
    • Find sewing buddy!

2 – Focus on Self Care and Family Time

  • Yoga-make it a routine at least 3x per week
  • Schedule and plan ahead more (using Planoly, scheduled blog posts, etc.) so that work isn’t constantly on my mind
  • Actually make goal #1 happen–finish the family quilts that have been on my WIP list for a year+
  • Say NO to some opportunities
  • Summer Adventure 2018?

3 – Continue to Grow and Maintain Night Quilter

  • Blog 3x per week
  • Newsletter 1x per month
  • Quilt & Product Photography – 2 jobs (Quilter’s Planner and ???)
  • Pattern Development:
    • Release 2-3 personal patterns
    • 1 submission to a magazine
    • Stretch: QAL
  • Teach – rock my QuiltCon classes and lecture and then evaluate direction from there–do I actively pursue teaching gigs, or focus on home and family time until my kids are older?
  • Take on no more than 4 outside sew-along, blog hop, or other pattern promoting projects unless it has a measurable impact to build my business.

goal setting planning for new year quilter's plannerSo there you have it. My goals for 2018 are laid out and in public. They now are real, even if they are still written in pencil in my planner.

Any tips to sticking with your goals and making it happen? I’m going to begin by using my Quilter’s Planner in a more organized way. Right now, I absolutely can’t live without it, but I use it more of a to-do list brain dump and “if all stars align and everything is awesome” weekly and daily goals list, than a meticulous plan with actionable, measurable, and attainable steps to get me there. The brain-dump helps keep me sane, prevents me from missing appointments, and helps me feel like I accomplished something even on my craziest days. Now I think it’s time to step it up a notch and work on improving my routines to help me make better use of my time AND take better care of myself.

Here’s to an inspired, productive, and nurturing year ahead!

What are your goals for 2018?

2018 Planning Party

I’m linking up with Yvonne’s Planning Party 2018 over at Quilting Jetgirl.

Let Your Heart Shine True: A Mini Quilt Finish

let your heart shine true mini quilt giftI recently finished and gifted this mini quilt to a fellow quilting friend as part of a small private swap, and now that it has been received, I can tell you all about it! I entitled it, “Let Your Heart Shine True”, and it’s meant to be a visual representation of the fact that the goodness in your heart shines through, despite any missteps, mistakes, wrong words, or other things we personally may feel will tarnish or cloud our good intentions. It was made for Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl, who often reflects on her introverted personality and how it influences her day to day, both quilting and non. The design inception came after Yvonne posted a number of articles about the struggles of attempting social interaction as an introverted person. The articles mentioned a desire to have people understand your good intentions, even if the words or actions that emerged as a result of an uncomfortable social interaction as an introvert may have been less than smooth. I think we are all familiar with foot in mouth syndrome; at least I am!

let your heart shine true gifted mini quilt finishThis is my first attempt at a “statement quilt”, per se. My thought was that the quilt would show the large pieces on top as representing “people”, and the rippled reflection below being the public perception of the person. When mistakes are made, things are said in a not so clear way, or even just general awkward social interactions happen, those are the ripples that cause the reflection to be jarred and shaken. Yet despite the ripples and the jolted reflection, the heart remains intact and unbroken. If you lead with the heart, your good intentions ultimately must become known, no matter how many times you need to back pedal or rephrase things to clarify your meaning. I thought creating a statement quilt for Yvonne was fitting, since she has created a number of quilts as part of her Reclamation Project, which she describes as “a project series to explore discomfort in [her] life with the hope that [she] can reclaim and redefine.” I primarily create quilts as things of beauty, but I thought it would be fun to try to create one that is both beautiful and meaningful.

let your heart shine true detailThe construction of this mini quilt was a fun multi-step process. I began by needle-turn appliquéing the rounded pieces onto panels of background fabric. I cut the bottom pieces with an identical free-style rounded top, but with much longer length since I planned to cut and resew it many times. Once they were appliquéd onto the background fabric, I cut random, varied width strips from the bottom ones, off-set it enough to wobble but not extend beyond the width of the finished panel, and resewed it. Each one was cut and re-sewn six or seven times to create the rippled effect. Let me tell you–that first cut into the needle-turned mound was a bit nerve-wracking! It was another one of those times I just had to trust that the vision in my head would translate well to reality.

let your heart shine true mini quiltAfter rippling all three reflections, I squared each panel and sewed them together creating a horizon with a very narrow, approximately 1/8″ strip of solid orange fabric (Kona Persimmon, I think!). Yvonne’s favorite colors are blue and orange, which clearly influenced my fabric selection. I used some of our mutual favorite oranges from Carolyn Friedlander, and added some sketch by Timeless Treasures and an unknown solid from my early quilting days stash. I bound it in blue Mercury by Alison Glass, including a bit of framing while adding a bit from another mutually adored fabric designer.

For quilting, I knew I wanted to matchstick quilt the background, but have the lines become gradually further apart in the bottom half, similar to ripples becoming less dense the further from the source they extend. I matchstick quilted the background of the top portion with 50wt Aurifil 1320-Medium Teal. To keep my rows evenly spaced, I used a stitch length of 3.0 on my Bernina 560, and I carefully moved two stitches (with a three-stitch gap thrown in here and there for interest) between rows. For the bottom portion, I first matchstick quilted with the same 1320-Medium Teal 50wt Aurifil, but instead of making the rows two stitches apart like I did for the top portion, I increased the number of stitches by one between each row. I moved one stitch between the first and second rows, two stitches between the second and third rows, three stitches between the third and fourth rows, etc., all the way to the bottom of the mini quilt. I think at the bottom, each row was 19 or 20 stitches away from the previous row. Yes, it got a bit trickier to keep my quilting lines straight, but I eyeballed it and it turned out well. Organic lines were my goal, after all.

let your heart shine true matchstick quilting detailAfter that, the quilt begged for some more quilting, so I added random rows in yellow, gold, and orange for interest (40 wt 1135-Pale Yellow, 50 wt 5022-Mustard, and 50 wt 1154-Dusty Orange respectively). Both the top and bottom ended up pretty thoroughly matchstick quilted, but I really like the addition of the yellow, gold, and orange thread in the bottom, as well as the added interest of using a slightly heavier weight thread as the yellow. It reminds me of light reflecting off the ripples in a pond, which is perfect given the intention of the quilt.

After matchstick quilting this mini, I can certainly see why people are so drawn to dense quilting. It creates a whole new textural element to the quilt!

let your heart shine true mini quilt gift
One of my dedicated helpers. He really wanted his picture taken with this mini!
let your heart shine true mini quilt gift
My other dedicated helper, who helped by not crawling *too* far into the lake while we were photographing this quilt.

I’m really happy with the final result of this mini quilt–it pretty much looks exactly like I imagined. Yvonne is also happy with it, even though it took months for me to finally finish each part and mail it, so that makes for one happy exchange! The true joy in quilting is in the giving, and it feels really great to have been able to create a little daily visual reminder for Yvonne that as long as you lead with your heart, joy will be found.

I’m linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts Finish it up Friday, Needle and Thread Thursday, and TGIFF. I hope you have a joyful day!

My Best of 2015

This time of year often sparks reflection as we prepare to start afresh in the new year. It always amazes me to look back on a year in full, as I realize just how full and rich my life is and how much I’ve accomplished (and what I thought I’d surely have accomplished by now but haven’t). One of the fun aspects of social media is ability to use analytics to take a concrete look at the past year’s blog posts and social media interactions. Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs is hosting a fun linky party inviting quilty bloggers to highlight their “best” posts of 2015. I’ve put together a few Night Quilter “bests” in this post, and I invite you to reminisce along with me.

My Top Accomplishment

june finish alyof finn epp table runnerI could not possibly begin a “best of 2015” post with anything other than my most epic Friday Finish of all time: giving birth to my third baby, Finnian. While the blog post announcing his birth falls *just* outside the top five most viewed posts of the year, I’m including it first here. Family is always first. Plus… babies!

Most Viewed Blog Post (including giveaways)

doe layers of charm quiltListing the most viewed blog post is a bit tricky, since typically posts that include a giveaway are viewed a lot more than those that don’t. Nearly all of my giveaways were accompanied by quilt or project finishes, though, so I’m including the tippy-top post here: the Doe Layers of Charm quilt I made early in the year. It has been viewed twice as many times as the next-most-viewed post, so it deserves a bit of spotlight. This was my first quilt made using all one fabric line, sewn for a Fat Quarter Shop short-cut pattern release, and what better fabric line to use than Doe by one of my favorite designers, Carolyn Friedlander.

Most Viewed Tutorial

tutorial embroidery floss organization made easyThis fun and easy tip revolutionized my perle cotton storage and use, and clearly was an all around favorite.

Most Viewed Blog Post (not including giveaways)

dropcloth color wheel rainbow quiltMy dropcloth embroidery sampler color wheel is very high on my list of favorite projects, and I see that everyone else agrees. One of my goals for 2016 is to face my fear of sewing circles and finish this!!

Most Popular Pattern

Love struck patternMy Love Struck foundation paper piecing pattern ranks the highest in patterns sold this year (32%), closely followed by Lupine (18%).

2015 Best Nine on Instagram

Instagram best nine 2015This may be old news for those of you who also follow me on Instagram, but there’s a rad analytic site called 2015bestnine.com (**Don’t visit this site right now. It appears to have been nefariously hacked since a “virus, ack!” pop up comes up on both my computer and phone when I go there now… but a few days ago it worked!**) where you type in your Instagram name and it generates a collage with your nine most viewed posts. Here’s my collage, which includes all sorts of fun–Finn’s birth stole the show on IG, accompanied by my visible mending foray (have I blogged about that?), modern hexies mini mini, growing tree mini quilt, the Rose Star EPP I made as my first big Sizzix tutorial, Finn’s milestone quilt project, and a Farmer’s Wife block. It really covers a large part of what I’ve been up to over the past 12 months, and of course includes rainbows.

I’ve had a great year, and feel so grateful for all of your participation, support, love, suggestions, inspiration, and friendship. Without readers, without comments, without reaction, this blog is just an endpoint for my thoughts. Add you, and it becomes a foundation for inspiration, a jumping-point for new projects, and a connection between like-minded makers. I’m filled with gratitude.

Thank you, too, to Cheryl, for giving me another reason to reflect and look back over the past year. It has truly been an amazing year, and I’m looking forward to a peaceful, productive, rainbow-filled 2016.

What was your favorite Night Quilter post or project from 2015?

Missing June {Why I Quilt}

Over the past week, little reminders of why I love to quilt have been popping up here and there. First, the birth of my son. There’s nothing like new life to inspire an overflowing heart and endless inspiration. I just want to stitch my love into a million timeless quilts so that my family can be wrapped in a tangible sign of my love, always. Family, babies, love–what beautiful things!

Then, days later, Amy from Stitchery Dickory Dock announced her new book, For Keeps. In her words, here’s what For Keeps is all about:

For Keeps Pledge

What is it all about?  Well, quilting, yes, but so much more than that.  It’s about building relationships, about preserving priceless memories, and sparking unforgettable family time.  It’s about making beautiful things, and infusing our patchwork with even more meaning and functionality.  After all, isn’t that what quilts are all about? They’re a joy to make, a joy to give, and a joy to use.

It’s about making beautiful things.

This line gets me every time. I’ll tell you why in a minute… but first, the next sign: yesterday, Moda Fabrics posted a graphic on Instagram sharing that it was National Making Life Beautiful Day.

create beautiful things moda fabrics

Create beautiful things.

All of these little signs, popping up here and there all within the first weeks of June remind me strongly of the one who first inspired me to quilt: Grammy June.

On one of the last days before she died, while she and I were looking through her photo album of finished quilts, I kept saying, “Wow, that’s beautiful!”… “Oooh, beautiful!”… “That’s so beautiful!”.  Finally, in her matter of fact way, she turned to me and said, “Well I only make beautiful things.” I wish you could hear her say it. It was just so… true. And so very much like her. She told it like it was like no one else I know, both the good and the bad.

I remember one time, shortly after my second child was born and I was over at a family gathering, just feeling soooo tired and sleep deprived and needed to the brink of my capabilities. I said, “I just need a break,” and Grammy June, in all her tactful truthfulness, replied, “Well you don’t get one.” She was right, but her matter of fact manner stopped me in my tracks. I think I actually laughed. After all, at times like that you can either laugh or you can cry.

Grammy June was an extremely talented traditional quilter. She pieced and quilted by hand, piecing with her Singer featherweight during her final years. I still find myself thinking things like, “I wonder what needle Grammy June would use for this” and for a split second feeling excitement at showing her a new skill or completed quilt. I am sure she would be proud, and I like to think she’s smiling down from heaven, saying “Of course you did” whenever I successfully complete a new quilting technique or create a new pattern. I do know she provides inspiration daily, through her creations and simple advice, which still echoes in my mind regularly. Her one simple statement, “I only make beautiful things” has become my mantra.

make beautiful things
Photo by Liz West, used from Flickr with Creative Commons. Text added by me.

I aim to make beautiful things, daily. To create just a little bit each day: an act of love, a creative outlet, and a little stitch into the quilts of time. I’m missing June, but Finn was born the day before her birthday and within a week I’ve been reminded of her multiple times through her very own words:

…make beautiful things.

I quilt. I make beautiful things. I am continuing her legacy, building relationships, preserving memories, and sparking unforgettable family time. This is just one of the many reasons why I quilt, but it’s a big one.

A few months before her death, I completed a quilted wall hanging for Grammy June. She had made countless quilts for every family member, but I had never heard of her receiving a quilt. I knew that had to change, but I also knew I didn’t have much time. A wall hanging it was, in her favorite color purple, with my first-ever paper pieced Irises, my first-ever flanged binding, and my first-ever free motion quilting. It seemed fitting, and Grammy June loved it. It was far from perfect, but she saw the love and the effort and that’s what matters. That’s why quilts matter.

grammy june iris quilt
Grammy June opening her quilt.

In sum of this reflective post, I will echo Amy’s words and invite you to refocus your heart when it comes to your sewing. Take a moment to pause, amidst your busy lives, bursting sewing rooms, and piles of unfinished projects, to take a quick look at why it is that you sew, and for whom you sew. If you feel so inclined, take the #ForKeepsPledge and spread the quilty love.

At the very least, go ahead and make something beautiful! xoxo

QuiltCon 2015 Reflection: Quilts

I’ve been home from QuiltCon for a good month now, but I cannot let the experience pass without some mention of the amazing quilts that hung in the show. I wish I could say that I spent hours gazing in awe at every quilt there, but to be honest, I’m SURE that there are quilts I didn’t even see. Every time I turned around, I found another quilt I had yet to see.

quiltcon 2015 quilts
Best of show – i Quilt by Kathy York.

QuiltCon was my first quilt show, and it was an amazing place to begin. Every single quilt was just one more bit of inspiration, and made my brain swirl with possibility. There is a lot of talk about what makes a quilt “modern”, but I think that the quilts hanging at QuiltCon definitely fit the bill, as vague and openly as that “modern” label extends. Being fairly new to quilting, there were quilts where my gut reaction was, “wow, THAT’s a cool idea/technique!”, where I had not even fathomed the possibility of a quilt made in such a way or in such a design. Like I said in earlier posts, I didn’t take nearly as many photos at QuiltCon as I would have liked, so here is just a collection of a few of my favorites. Click here to see most of the quilts from the show, care of Sew Mama Sew.

quiltcon 2015 quilts
Akhaten by Shannon Page. Description said: “This resulted from deconstructing my original design. I cut up the original top to make this and I could not be happier with the result.” –Can you imagine!? Now THAT is a bold idea that resulted in a cellularly fantastic outcome!
quiltcon 2015 quilts
Geometric Rainbow by Nicole Daksiewicz of Modern Handcraft
quiltcon 2015 quilts
Iceberg by Crystal McGann
quiltcon 2015 quilts
Group or Bee Quilt: Churn Dash 2: Complementary by Martha Peterson, Deborah Ferguson, Chandra Wu
quiltcon 2015 quilts
Spiraling Out of Control by Christa Watson of Christa Quilts
quilts of quiltcon 2015
Deconstructed Lonestar by Amy Struckmeyer
quiltcon 2015 quilts
Museum Windows by Melissa Fontanese
quiltcon 2015 quilts
Catenary by Carolyn Friedlander: even more amazing in person, if it can be imagined!
quiltcon 2015 quilts
Holy Sh*t Sherlock by Kristy Daum

I debated waiting until the crowd in front of Sherlock dissipated, but decided I really liked seeing him peek out and took the photo as shown. This quilt was one that begged to be visited multiple times!

quiltcon 2015 quilts
Chess on the Steps by Krista Hennebury of Poppyprint
quiltcon 2015 quilts
Quilting Excellence Award Winner: Coral Reef by Marla Varner
Check out that quilting!
Check out that quilting!
quiltcon 2015 quilts
That Twitch by Cara Sheridan

Some may be surprised that I rank this quilt in my top picks, since one might think my typical OCD tendencies might twitch at the sight of this one. To be honest, it makes me giggle with glee. What a simple yet completely unique idea. It’s a collection of yellow squares, with one out of wack. Tell me it’s not brilliant!!?

paper pieced modern amy garro icy waters quilt
Icy Waters by Amy Garro of 13 Spools (pardon how cropped this one is. No excuses.)

In all the known quilting world, I find myself the most drawn to modern quilting and paper piecing. I’ve been designing paper pieced patterns for about a year, but still struggling with finding a way to mix the two: modern and paper piecing. Enter: Amy Garro. This quilt is from her new book Paper Pieced Modern*, and when I first saw it and realized it was from an entire book of awesomely paper pieced modern quilts, my reaction was, “Yesssssssssssssssssss!!!” Let the fun begin!

Modern Quilting Trends

A lot of quilter bloggers have written about trends in the quilts that were accepted into the QuiltCon show, and rather than repeat what has already been said, here are a few excerpts that I also definitely noticed in the show:

I most agree with Lee from Freshly Pieced‘s observation that “design is the single most important element of a modern quilt” and that “walking around the floor, it was pretty hard to miss the layout creativity that was on display.” Lee totally nailed my gut reaction mentioned above; the layout creativity blew my mind and explored design elements beyond my wildest dreams. Read her full post here. Of course, taking Lee’s Off the Grid: Alternate Layout class was an eye-opening highlight of my trip, so I may be a bit biased, but I really think that she hit the nail on the head regarding the direction modern quilting is headed.

Afton from Quilting Mod noticed a prevalence of dense free motion quilting, straight line or matchstick quilting, circles or quarter circles, pixelated quilts (swoon Sherlock), quilts with actual words, gemstones, architecture, bold saturated rainbow colors, and a more lenient look at perfect craftsmanship with more of a focus on design. I definitely noticed a strong prevalence of dense free motion quilting and matchstick quilting, which is one more motivator to improving my free motion quilting skills!

I also loved Christa from Christa Quilts‘ reflections on modern quilting post QuiltCon. My favorite bit of wisdom I got from her post was “…just because you enjoy modern quilts doesn’t mean you have to BE a modern quilter. And just because you consider yourself part of the movement doesn’t mean you have to make exclusively modern quilts.”  Christa mentioned being able to see the quilters’ heart and soul going into the quilts, and I agree that so many quilts not only were aesthetically gorgeous, showed masterful craftsmanship, and exhibited a thinking-out-of-the-box design element, but they also expressed emotion. Maybe I’m just a quilting sap who found my creative niche in the mostly-modern quilting world, but the quilts spoke to me. (No, I’m not weird. Just humor me, ok?) The quilts at QuiltCon were a huge inspiration for me to continue playing, creating, and stretching my boundaries.

Here are a few of the blog posts specifically about the quilts at QuiltCon, if you want to get a more in depth look at other bloggers’ observations and thoughts:

Bryan House Quilts QuiltCon in a Nutshell
Christa Quilts Christa’s Soapbox – My Thoughts About Modern Quilting Post QuiltCon
Christa Quilts My Experiences from QuiltCon 2015
Christa Quilts More Quilts from QuiltCon 2015
Don’t Call Me Becky QuiltCon 2015
Freshly Pieced QuiltCon: My Thoughts
On the Windy Side QuiltCon Recap 1: The Quilts
Quilting JetGirl QuiltCon 2015: Quilts!
QuiltingMod QuiltCon: Trends Part I
QuiltingMod QuiltCon: Trends Part II
QuiltingMod QuiltCon: Trends Part III
The Plaid Portico Multiple QuiltCon Quilt posts

Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl has a pretty extensive list of quilt blogger posts about QuiltCon HERE.

Are you a quilter blogger who also posted about the quilts shown at QuiltCon? Let me know and I’ll add you to my list above!

*Amazon affiliate link included, which means if you buy Paper Pieced Modern by clicking through, I receive 4% compensation with no extra cost to you.

QuiltCon 2015 Reflection: Learning

The weeks leading up to QuiltCon registration, one suggestion echoed in the blogosphere from people who had attended the previous QuiltCon: don’t pack your schedule too tightly. I decided that I would take two all-day workshops and sign up for three lectures on the other two days, limiting the lectures more because I wasn’t sure how I would do in a lecture with my hearing as it is (I’m severely hard of hearing) and less because I thought I would need more time to see the quilts and visit the vendors and booths. Even still, before heading to QuiltCon, I made all sorts of tentative plans for “down time”–maybe a pedicure? maybe some blogging? Hah! Down time? What is that!? There was none. Zero. Zilch. As I said in my previous post, if there were four of me, maybe there might have been a bit of down time. With just me, myself, and I: no chance. But boy did I learn a LOT. Here is a bit of a synopsis of the classes and lectures I attended.

Value with Cheryl Arkison {Workshop}

I kicked off the entire QuiltCon experience with a full-day workshop on Value with Cheryl Arkison. Since I arrived late Wednesday evening after an entire day of flying, and stayed with my awesome friend Michelle (the other half of the Late Night Quilter blog) about 45 minutes away from the convention center, we decided to register Thursday morning. That means we arrived at around 8:20am, I registered in my first whirlwind flurry of adventure, and then rushed off to find the classroom in time for the 9am start.

Of course I arrived to the class with my required pre cut fabric squares sorted in rainbow order. That’s just how I am. I’m a color girl. But I went to QuiltCon hoping to try new things and stretch out of my comfort zone. Cheryl’s class was the perfect opening.

rainbow order for value class

Cheryl’s class was great. She reviewed the basics of value, and emphasized how value is the *relative* light or darkness of a fabric. This is best seen when it comes to fabrics of medium value: a medium reads as a dark when paired with a very light fabric, but a medium reads as a light when paired with a very dark fabric. It’s all relative. Cheryl showed us the fairly well known and infinitely helpful trick of taking a photo of fabrics and converting it to black and white to see how each fabric “reads” value-wise, and we went to work sorting our fabrics. Here is a portion of my initial sort, with (left to right) lights, mediums, and darks.

value comparison

As you can see when it is converted to black and white, there are a few fabrics in the medium pile that really belong with the darks, and at least one (maybe two) in the dark pile that would belong better with the mediums. After fixing those fabrics, we were ready to pair. Here’s the key hint for making value work in your quilt: start by pairing the medium pile. If you pair a medium with a really truly dark, or a clearly very light, you’re all good. If you pair all of the darks and lights first, then you are stuck with a bunch of mediums with no clearly value-different pair.

Of course I started pairing my fabrics by color: light blue with dark blue; light pink with dark pink, etc.  After a moment, Cheryl said, “Try to pair your fabrics looking at value withOUT thinking about color” with a nice, long, sidelong glance in my direction. Sigh. Okay, okay! It was just the push I needed to really step outside of my comfort zone and (painfully, I might add) I started pairing fabrics trying my hardest not to mind color. It was HARD for me, let me tell you!

But I did it, and after creating half square triangles (HST) out of our pairings and playing with some arrangements, I found one that I was happy with and that is VERY different than anything I would put together by my own forces.

value based quilt

One thing I realized through these exercises, though, is that as much as I liked the look of the quilt in a photograph or from very far away, when I look at it up close, it still grates on me a bit because of the inadvertent color pairings. Cheryl was extremely helpful in helping me overcome my smooth color aesthetic obsession, and gave me some tips on how to focus on value while still maintaining or creating some control of color. I definitely want to play some more with value, maybe with a bit more predetermined organization of color. I would highly recommend Cheryl as a teacher and sharer of inspiration, so if you ever have a chance to learn from her, do it!

I also thought it was awesome that later in the week, after a lecture by Carolyn Friedlander, I was talking with Carolyn and Cheryl and Krista Hennesbury (another awesome quilter blogger and the recipient of my Schnitzel and Boo mini swap a month or so ago) about something Carolyn had said in her lecture–when you try a new skill, sometimes you will love it, but if it doesn’t work for you, feel free to toss it aside and use the techniques that DO work for you. Cheryl brought up my in-person aversion to the value-focused and color-ignored quilt arrangements and said that if I found it didn’t work for me, I could just choose not use it. I’m not ready to give up on value-focused quilts, but it is really interesting to see how different people are aesthetically drawn to different styles, and that’s okay.

Color for the Modern Quilter with Heather Jones {Lecture}

I actually was able to hear much of the lectures, since I made it a point to sit front and center, which was quite exciting for me. Heather Jones lecture on color was a great review of color theory, which is the science of mixing colors.  She went over the basics of color (primary, secondary, tertiary colors, shades, tones, hues, saturation, temperature, etc.), shared some actual color theory, and showed some lovely examples and inspiration photos. One tip Heather suggested was to use the color key on the selvedge of the fabric. I had never even thought of using the color key to help find coordinating and complimentary fabrics; I always just thought those colorful dots on the selvedge were there to look pretty and add interest. *mind blown* Another bit I found particularly interesting is that tone on tone fabrics often “read” as solids. That makes a whole lot of sense, since I find myself particularly drawn to solids and tone on tone fabrics. Using tone on tone fabrics is my sneaky way of getting a very solid look while still technically using prints!

How to take Better Quilt Photos with Meg Cox {Lecture}

This lecture was great because it confirmed many of my thoughts on quilt photography, and added a few key tips and bits of new information. Meg Cox‘s impressive background and experience at the Wall Street Journal definitely gave her lecture an extra “wow, she absolutely knows what she’s talking about!”, and it was fun to see examples of both good and not-so-good (okay, horrible) quilt photos. She confirmed that in order for your photos to be stellar, using a camera instead of an iPhone is a must. MUST.  (Of course I’m promptly breaking that rule with this post, since many of my lecture and classroom photos were taken with my phone due to lack of light and tripod availability). I had recommitted to using only high quality camera photos for my blog a few months ago, and have been really working at improving my blog photos taken with my Canon Rebel XT.

I went away from this lecture inspired that I’m on the right track, with a list of camera functions I need to better master, and a few indoor photography props I hope to buy. One big tip that I found VERY useful and can’t wait to implement is using Daylight Balanced Compact Fluorescent CFL Bulbs to light indoor photo shoots. Getting sufficient light for indoor photos is something I struggle with, so I’m looking forward to giving these bulbs a try! (Disclosure: Amazon affiliate link above)

Architexture, Quilts, and Us with Carolyn Friedlander {Lecture}

carolyn friedlander lecture

I wasn’t quick enough to register for a full day workshop with Carolyn, so I was excited to get in on this lecture of hers. If you are a regular reader of my blog, my fangirl status of everything Carolyn Friedlander is no secret. I love her work. I love her background. I love her sources of inspiration. I love how real she is. I think part of why I’m so drawn to Carolyn’s work is its simple aesthetic and seemingly mundane source of inspiration. Carolyn studied and worked as an architect before becoming a quilt pattern and fabric designer. I worked as an environmental scientist wetland and land use specialist for 6+ years before becoming a momma (and aspiring quilt designer), so I spent much of that time working closely with landscape architects.

At this lecture, I loved listening to Carolyn talk about architecture and her sources of inspiration, since it all hits so close to home for me. She finds inspiration in the world around her, as do I. She finds hers particularly in architecture; I find mine in the complex architecture of nature. I loved how she explained pattern design as “solving a problem”. Carolyn walked through her design process: think of a design for a finished product, and then solve the problem of finding the best method of obtaining the desired outcome. This is how she got into needle-turn applique, and what sparked the discussion about us quilters seeking new knowledge and techniques, but needing to find the techniques that work for us as individuals in solving our own pattern design “problems”. I am looking forward to hearing more from Carolyn and hope to be able to attend a full class taught by her one day. She’s such a huge inspiration to me!

Off the Grid: Alternate Quilt Layouts with Lee Heinrich {Workshop}

lee heinrich alternate grid workshop

I closed out my first QuiltCon experience with another full day workshop: an alternate layout class taught by Lee Heinrich from Freshly Pieced. Lee is another one of my big quilt inspirations. I love her simple and bold aesthetic, and even during her presentation, I could pick out the sample quilts that she had designed and made since they were always the ones I instinctually reacted to with “Wow, I LOVE that one”. Her workshop was super helpful, finally putting names and technical know-how to my current method of “oh, that looks good” or “oh, that doesn’t look good”. It was fascinating to go through each “alternate layout” method and see how it worked (or didn’t work) with our quilt blocks. Different types of quilt blocks definitely lent themselves to different layout styles. For my blocks, I almost went with a modular layout with variable framing, but because I had very varied sized blocks, I ultimately opted for paneling so as to avoid trapping negative space between the blocks. Imagine the navy blue background extending all the way to the edges of the design board:


I would definitely recommend taking a class with Lee if you get the chance, too. This workshop was very well organized, with an introduction in the beginning, and then a break after each category or style of alternate grid layouts to allow us to try the methods with our own blocks. While we played, we not only had the input of our group members, but Lee would also circle the room providing feedback and suggestions. Next, she would explain and show examples of the next category or style of alternate grid layouts, and then we would again have a chance to try them with our blocks. It was a fantastic way to not only learn about many different layout options, but also see how they worked with a set of our own prepared blocks.

lee heinrich and meOne aspect of Lee’s class that really resonated with me is the idea of going “off the grid” as far as quilt layout, but still using the grid as a guide. It is a much more organized and sense-filled method than my usually slap-blocks-up-on-my-design-wall-until-they-look-good method. The outcome is fresh and modern, yet with that balanced feel that is so difficult to attain without any grid at all. I am very much looking forward to utilizing some of the different layout styles in my future quilts. Lee has a great reflection about the presences of alternate grid layouts in the QuiltCon quilt show that I highly suggest reading HERE.

As you can see, my whirlwind QuiltCon experience included a TON of learning and inspiration. I’m excited to start using this inspiration in future quilt designs and projects and I will be sure to point out aspects of future quilts where the skills and styles I learned are implemented. Now, where to begin?