Sunday, September 25, 2016

Blog Tour Coming Up!

I first became aware of John Kubiniec's quilts when he entered a McCall's Quilting Quilt Design Star contest. Although he didn't take first place, his designs and workmanship were unique, stunning, and memorable. Over the years, we've worked together many times on his submissions to McCall's Quilting and McCall's Quick Quilts magazines, and we even got to spend time together in person this spring when he came to my home town to teach some quilting classes.

I was absolutely thrilled for him when he landed a book contract with C&T Publishing, taking his interest in Drunkard's Path quilt designs to new depths and heights. John's book A New Spin on Drunkard's Path is now widely available, and he's hosting a blog tour beginning tomorrow to get the word out! Hill Street Quilts will be one of the blog stops on October 1, and I'll be giving away a copy of the book and a set of acrylic templates by Marti Michell that are useful in making quilts from the book. Please check back on October 1 for a chance to win, and visit the following websites for additional chances to win great prizes. There are some great quilting blogs participating in this tour, so each day is sure to be fun and inspiring. Let's celebrate Drunkard's Path quilts!

September 26, 2016

Jennifer Dick

September 27, 2016

September 28, 2016

September 29, 2016

Generation Q Magazine

September 30, 2016

October 1, 2016

October 2, 2016

October 3, 2016

October 4, 2016
Nicole Daksiewicz

October 5, 2016

October 6, 2016

Kim Niedzwiecki

October 7, 2016

John Kubiniec

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Take A Class!

Did you notice the new logo at the top of the page? My friend and graphic design diva Ellie Brown created it for me from my rough drawing. I think it's just right for Hill Street Quilts - cheerful, bright, and very quilty!

I'm still working on the free motion quilting for my yoga mat, but I'm almost finished. I can't wait to get it bound and start using it in my practice sessions. 

The pillows I made for the craft raffle at my family Soup Party picnic on Labor Day found wonderful new homes. My niece Lara won the clamshell pillow, and my cousin Carolyn the sewing machine pillow. The soup was possibly the best ever! Here are my cousins Paul and Dave and my brother Rich gathered around the very large soup pot:

Yesterday I attended my first art class in about 30 years! I'll be learning a whole new style (for me) of watercolor painting, much more vivid and realistic than anything I've attempted before. Packing for an art class is a lot like packing for a quilting class - it's tough to imagine everything you'll need and get it into a single tote!

Here's what we did in Lesson 1:

No filters! All that drama was created with watercolors. My teacher, Debi Watson, did a quick fix on my background, but the rest is me. I think I'll enjoy this class!

If you're ever feeling creatively stuck in your quilting, consider a class in a different art. It wakes up your appreciation for color and form in new ways. And although I'm not currently considering a mushroom-themed quilt, you might also find new inspiration for quilt designs. Give it a try!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Emergency Stitching Detour

So I started out my stitching time today with more free motion quilting on my yoga mat. I'm about 2/3 finished already! Then, as I'm happily quilting along, I remember...

Tomorrow is the Soup Party!

The Eck Soup Party is an annual family reunion (on my Mom's side) steeped in tradition and each year's enormous kettle of beef vegetable soup. If you're picturing a big pot of soup on a stove and thinking, "Wow, what a lame concept for a reunion", let me enlighten you. The original soup kettle for this every-Labor-Day event was a cast iron pot you could have cooked a missionary in, if you were a cannibal family, which we're not. My Mom was one of 14 children, 12 of whom survived to adulthood to procreate and require ever-increasing quantities of soup, so a huge kettle was a must. A few decades ago when my Grandpa Eck passed, the original soup pot was replaced by a somewhat lighter weight version one could still cook a good-sized child or two in (again, we are not so inclined).

There is no soup like soup party soup. It's rich and beefy and full of fresh-from-assorted-farms veggies. Several family members start prepping it at 7 AM so we can sit down to lunch at noon, when the cry of "Soup's on" is met by a stampede of Ecks young and old heading for the park pavillion. (Did I mention that we rent the park for the day? The whole park.) By the end of the party, the soup is even better. We (almost) fight over the leftovers, which go home with families and get carefully stowed in freezers for mid-winter soup party rituals involving lots of crackers and a bit of vinegar to refresh the flavors. I warned you there were traditions.

Carved wooden box by my uncle, Greg Eck

Another tradition of the Eck Soup Party is the arts and crafts raffle table. This is a class-A affair with nary a foam refrigerator magnet in sight. Among my relatives are many talented woodworkers (Grandpa Eck was a well-known local carver), painters, seamstresses, and all-around crafters. Heck, I have cousins who hand-craft the prize horseshoes for the horseshoe tournament each year! So the raffle table is a must-stop for everybody. And every year, I add my contribution, usually a small quilt or other fabric project.

But I forgot to plan something this year! So this morning when the realization hit me, I searched frantically around my sewing room for ideas. And I found some orphan quilt blocks. And I remembered that in my Mom's stash (still in my sun porch waiting to be disbursed from when we cleaned out her apartment in February) were some pretty nice pillow forms she had snagged on sale at Jo-Ann Fabrics. Problem solved!

I got to work sizing up one of the blocks by adding top and bottom strips, and then making an envelope back. Here's how that one turned out:

And then I decided to get fancy, because that's how I roll. I had an elaborate paper-pieced block I made when I did a review of Penny Layman's book, The Paper-Pieced Home, and it was exactly the right size for a 14" pillow form. But it needed something at the edges. Like...piping! But I didn't have any piping cord on hand. No problem...I'll use a triple strand of yarn! It actually worked out pretty well, and the pillow is so cute I'm tempted to keep it. But I won't. Because I want there to be many more Soup Parties in my future.

So, if you were an Eck, which of these pillows would get YOUR raffle tickets?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Practice Makes Better

I've been working on the machine quilting for my double-sided yoga mat. I decided to quilt from the Kaffe Fassett side, on the theory that any oopsies on the back won't show as much on the taupe Bunny Hill fabrics as they would on the bright side.

Things started out very rough. It's probably two years since I did any completely free motion quilting, though at least I have machine quilted a few small pieces using marked patterns.

So, I started out just meandering, making swirls, and generally wandering around the quilt like a lost soul. My stitch length was varying widely as I got the feel for smooth hand movements. Not very pretty, but it was getting the job done.

Then, about a half hour into it, my hands remembered a fill design I'd had success with in the past. It starts with a center swirl, and then you add petals to the outside, like this:

Like 100% better! Now I'm happily quilting along and filling lots of open space rather quickly. My hand motions are smoother already too.

Practice really does make perfect! Or at least better...

Friday, September 2, 2016

Quilting. Every. Day.

It's the second day of the rest of my life. Yesterday was my first day of not being employed with McCall's Quilting in well over 12 years. I spent it feeling sad, and free, and optimistic, and lost, and grateful, and all kinds of things. Because it was also the first "real" business day for Hill Street Quilts, I also sent in a bid on an editing job, caught up with some correspondence about other possible gigs, and made my first decision about how I'm going to conduct my new work life.

So this is it - here at Hill Street Quilts, we sew every day. This is because of one of the main regrets I have about my time working for McCall's. Most quilt magazine editors are so busy writing and editing patterns, filming video, and doing a thousand other little things every day that the only time they get to actually make quilts is on the weekend. And we all know how little free time actually occurs in most weekends. I'm determined that will not happen at Hill Street Quilts. I have at least a short time of being able to control my own daily schedule, and it's going to include quilting. Every. Day.

So yesterday I pulled out a UFO that is close to my heart. It's a double-sided quilted yoga mat. I pieced and appliqued both sides years ago, but never followed through with the quilting. One side was designed for days when it's hard to "get on the mat", when I'm feeling low energy and need a boost. That side is all Kaffe Fassett fabrics. The other side is meant for days when I feel on edge and need to calm down. All the fabrics on that side are from an old collection by Bunny Hill Designs for Moda, in tones of taupe, very soothing. Each side also has a one-word applique, "breathe" on the side meant to energize me, and "namaste" on the calming side.

What had halted progress on this project and turned it into a UFO was not being sure about how to quilt it. I want a two-sided mat, not two one-sided mats with backings. And I've never tried to quilt something with two feature sides layered together before. But yesterday I just dove in and layered the two sides with some Warm and White cotton batting:

I designed the grid on these mats to make best use of fat quarter cuts of fabric. Each side takes 11 FQs and most fabrics occur in 2 or more spots in the grid. It was just an idea I was playing with at the time, but I still kind of like it. Maybe I'll turn this into one of my first Hill Street Quilts patterns!

Today I'll continue quilting this UFO in an overall swirly design. I've decided not to worry about running over the appliques - I'll just quilt all over. I can't wait to start using the finished mat!

If you have a moment, let me know what you're stitching today in the comments, and thanks for visiting!