14 April, 2014

Another Alturas Update and a Request

26 Alturas blocks!

And I just can't stop making these. I now prep them in groups of five. Some weeks all five get done, some times I go weeks before I get any done. Either way is fine by me. Quite a bit of progress from those first nine!

Last week I decided to throw some yellow into the mix. I felt like the blocks needed a bit of pop. I wasn't sure at first, but now I really like it. In truth, it now reflects one of my favourite fabrics ever, Motif Madness from Tsuru by Rashida Coleman Hale for Cloud 9. Hmm, I wonder if I could get my hands on more for the backing?

I'm at the point now where I am almost out of the options I've got in my stash for blocks. I am trying to make no two blocks alike. Not a perfect charm quilt, as some backgrounds may get used more than once, but as close as I can get. So now I am putting out a call for help.

Would any of you be willing to send me pairings of fabric for a block? Just a 5 1/2'' square for the background and a 5'' square for the appliqué. You could pick any combo you like, so long as we stick with the colours I've chosen:

- coral (not pink, not orange)
- blue
- teal (not turquoise or aqua or mint)
- grey.

I've got enough yellows to tackle those blocks.

I'm not picky about modern vs traditional fabrics, loving them all. But I do know that batiks are no good for the needle turn appliqué that I am doing.

If you are keen on sharing a bit of your fabrics with me, let me know and I will send you my mailing address. I would appreciate it so much! So would this quilt. It wants more variety, it keeps telling me that.

11 April, 2014

Friday Favourites - Beaches

After reading all your comments about beaches I started thinking about the beaches in my life. In the past year alone I've had the opportunity to hit all three coasts of Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Not to mention a few lakes along the way. Most of these trips have been for teaching, so I am very thankful for quilting taking me so many places. Just had to share pics from all these beaches!

Lake Superior. Sleeping Giant in the distance.

Lake Edith. Camping with family and friends.

Three Valley Lake. On the way to Vancouver to teach with the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Modern Quilt Guilds.

Long Beach in British Columbia. Camping and surfing with the kids.

Pictou Lodge, on the Northumberland Straight. Morning walks before a day of teaching at the Mayflower Quilting Retreat.

Ixtapa, Mexico. Morning cartwheels with my girl on a great vacation with half of my in-laws.

Turks and Caicos, a private beach for the day. First vacation Hubby and I took (alone) since our honeymoon twelve years ago.

Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. On the top of Canada. Technically I am indeed standing on the edge of the Arctic Ocean.

Hmm... no wonder I've had all the blues in my head lately...

10 April, 2014

Modern Quilt Perspectives (Almost Weekend Reads)

Well, you know I am a fan of quilt books that are more than a collection of patterns. So imagine my delight at one where the patterns, at first, feel like an afterthought! Then, after a careful read, they are not. Rather, they are part of an integral whole story. Not just of the specific quilt, but of the book.

Meta? Yes, I know I'm pushing it a little, but bear with me.

Modern Quilt Perspectives is a book about the practice of quilting more than the quilts. But in that discussion is the inherent story of a quilt. For every quilt has a story. Don't believe me? Wait for it, I will get to that.

This book tackles the many reasons and themes we make quilts. Conversations, Identity, Social Commentary, and the Quilting Tradition are all tackled. Through a brief discussion; the story of each quilt; running commentary of design, technique, and decision making in quilts; and the pattern itself. Thomas Knauer reveals so much of himself in the practice of making his quilts. Central to all of these discussions is that each quilt has a story.

Thomas introduces so much here. It is a structured bit of work for a guy who freely speaks his mind and isn't afraid of challenging norms. The book really is his, right down to his explanations of basic quilting tools. And the stories he tells of the quilts are emotional and vibrant. Not to mention inspiring.

When I first started the book I grumbled a little that patterns were included. The discussions Thomas presents are thoughtful, if not cerebral. They are a direct challenge for us to examine the way we think about quilts and our making of them. I believe every single quilter would benefit from taking the time to examine their making. So when I came to patterns for each quilt it frustrated me. If the goal is to get the reader to reflect on their own quilt stories, why would we be encouraged to simply recreate a quilt Thomas made? Then I read this:

"The pattern is only a map, a set of guideposts along the way to make a quilt. In many ways, a pattern is the quilt boiled down to its essentials, not just technically, but conceptually, and each remaking is an investigation of the ideas under consideration. I think of most of my patterns as a set of possibilities, the starting of a conversation about an issue, thought or world view. The specific materials you choose and the ways you might vary the pattern are responses and replies... I have come to really love the idea of quilt patterns, the idea of these quilts being made and remade in untold variations and the ways in which these quilts will become parts of people's lives."

It puts into a words a completely different perspective on patterns. It isn't about recreating the quilt on the cover or the page, it is about making that quilt yours and part of your story.

For sure, there are quilters who walk into a store and ask for the exact fabric on the pattern cover. Or they buy a kit. But you know what? That's their story. You don't know why they need it to be perfectly matched, they may not even know. But something in the fabric, in the pattern spoke to them and they want to join the conversation.

How many times have you been at a guild or retreat show and tell and someone stands up and just says, "I don't know why I chose these fabrics, I just liked them." Well, that's a story. Thomas, in Modern Quilt Perspectives, invites us to dig a little deeper into that story too. Why those fabrics? Why that pattern? What spoke to you? Find the story, even when you don't think it is there.

So, this book couldn't exist without the patterns because they are indeed part of the conversation. Twelve different tangents of a long, winding conversation. And who knows where they will go?

F&W, the publisher, is giving away a copy of this book to one of my readers. I was provided with a review copy for this post, part of Thomas' blog tour. Leave a comment here by midnight MST on Sunday, April 13. Tell me how often you work from patterns and kits.

09 April, 2014

Shimmer Blog Hop

One of the very first fabric designers I ever actually noticed was Jennifer Sampou. I'd only been quilting a year (almost 15 years ago). My stash shopping was very limited because I was in grad school with limited time and money for quilting. But after a few purchases I started to notice the names on selvages. And what I noticed was that most of the fabric I purchased was from Jennifer Sampou. I filed that fact as interesting and kept quilting.

Fast forward to two years ago and I am at Quilt Market. And guess who has a booth?! It was my first total fan girl moment. I briefly introduced myself and marvelled at the coincidence that Jennifer is married to my publisher. The next Quilt Market I stopped by Jennifer's Booth to say hello and we ended up chatting for well over an hour about everything - motherhood, fabric, creativity, colour, sewing, books, marriage. My first designer crush is truly a kindred spirit.

Since then I've truly enjoyed the opportunity to play with Jennifer's latest fabrics. When you listen to the designer discuss their inspiration for a fabric line the fabric itself takes on a new light, almost quite literally. Jennifer's neutral palate is inspired by her love of things that shimmer - feathers, shells, crystals, and even fools gold. The fabric itself is metallic or pearlescent (depending on your own description).

When my Shimmer fabric arrived in it was a very special shell from Jennifer. Have I mentioned how much I love shells? I have a casual collection of the shells I pick up from every beach I find. Just the interesting ones, the pretty ones, even the cracked and beat up ones. They sit in bowls and jars throughout my house. I had a completely different project in mind before the fabric and the shell arrived. At the same time, my girls took over the table setting duties. Every night they raid my shells and rather carefully place them around the table. They might forget forks, but the shells are always there.

The fabric I requested - shocker - were all the light prints in the line. You know me and low volume. But rather than play with a pattern I already had or even experiment with another inspiration, I had to incorporate my shells.

Each shell is appliquéd on the osnaburg background. I wanted it to feel like a scattering of shells on your feet at the beach. I used the technique I use to create and sew my appliqué circles. The shells come alive, or at least more realistic with the simple quilting. For the back of the table topper I improv pieced the scraps into a slab, with just a bit of aqua added for fun.

It's almost too pretty to use on the table, but my shell loving girls think it is perfect.

This is my stop on the Shimmer Blog Hop. Check out the other posts and all the fun things people have made with Shimmer. Robert Kaufman and Jennifer are sharing no shortage of inspiration with this pretty fabric.

Leave a comment here for a chance to win a Shimmer charm pack. It will be perfect for your own shell project, among others. Tell me about your favourite beach.

Giveaway open until midnight MST on Friday April 18.

06 April, 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Weekend Reads)

What a peculiarly fun book.

This was another beach read and what a perfect book is was. When it started I thought that I'd picked something a bit morose. And while it certainly has sadness and Nazi metaphors it is anything but morose. No, it is quite engaging and a fantastic bit of storytelling.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children straddles the wall of fantasy and reality, like the Harry Potter novels. It does this quite literally in the story, with the characters moving between present day and a loop of time where they exist in relative safety in all their weirdness. There is an invisible boy, a girl who constantly levitates, a teacher who understands them all, and a boy who is only discovering he is one of these peculiar kids.

The characters are built from a strange bit of photographs that the author, Ransom Riggs, curated. Searching through his own collected photos and those of other collectors he put together an assortment that inspired the story. Photos are included in the story, both illustrating it and becoming a part of it. They are creepy and surreal photos, to be honest. And instead of staring at them and wondering what they hell is going on in the photo, Riggs does that for you in the story.

It isn't just the characters, however, that make this book. It is well paced, with little hills and valleys that take you along on an adventure. There is a mystery to unravel and family dynamics to be explored.

I think, technically, the novel gets categorized as Young Adult/Teen. Get past that, or read it with a teen in your life. This is the kind of read that gets you antsy and excited, while also making you want to put the book down as if you were watching a scary movie. But you can't and you won't because it is also such a compelling story.

As a bonus, the sequel is already out.

04 April, 2014

Friday Favourites - Brayer

When I was finishing that Hot, Awesome Mess I had the chance to use one of my favourite sewing room tools. It is called, as far as I know, a brayer.

Typically, a brayer is used in the print making process. It is a flat roller designed to apply consistent pressure across the surface - perfect when applying ink. But thanks to the awesomeness of my friend Jules, I am now obsessed with using a brayer when I improv piece.Jules was a volunteer in the Denyse Schmidt Improv class. Having already bonded over motherhood and BBQ she happily shared with me this handy tool as we went through the day.

It works as a mini iron, pressing short seams right at the table. Now, it isn't as good as an iron, but it is infinitely better than finger pressing. It provides a crisp edge and allows you to continue to sit and sew for a while before getting to the hot iron.

And, because Jules is pretty great, she sent me one all the way from Australia because I couldn't find one here. If you ever see one I strongly recommend picking up one, or two.

02 April, 2014

The Last Photo

This is the last photo taken with my trusty camera, a Canon G11. I've had that camera for over 4 years now. It replaced the one I bought to replace the one I dipped in the Sea of Cortez a little over 5 years ago. This one met it's untimely demise in that pool there, right after the sun officially set.


Frankly, it was time for a new camera. The software was all wonky and the lens had a small scratch. I was contemplating an upgrade to a proper DSLR anyway. But an unceremonious flinging out of my bag as I go to put it on my shoulder was not my plan for retirement. I've got a short term solution in place, but it is time for the full upgrade. Wee!

In related news, that pic was taken in Turks and Caicos a month ago. Hubby and I escaped for our first trip away together - not work or wedding related - since our honeymoon twelve years ago. It was a trip we needed in so many ways. And while it pained me not to have a camera for the rest of the trip (I dunked mine on day 2) it was also kind of freeing. I stopped thinking about capturing moments and actually lived them. That was what we needed as a couple. And really, how many pictures of turquoise waters does one need?