Free Spirit Quilt Top

This is how high I got up the ladder before my fear of heights set in!

I've spent the last two weeks working as hard and fast as I can to get this quilt top done in a timely manner for Free Spirit. All that's left is to applique a big white logo across the top and quilt it, and then ship it off to Charlotte, to Free Spirit HQ, so that they can take it to Quilt Con West next month!

So I thought today you might be interested in hearing a little about my work with Free Spirit?

In about September last year, I was approached by Free Spirit's marketing department in an email saying that Anna Maria Horner had recommended me as someone who might be interested in mapping some virtual quilts for her upcoming lines. The email was such a surprise, as I'm sure you can imagine, that I had to read it three times to see if I'd understood it correctly. And I didn't understand it. What was mapping? And what were virtual quilts? Anna Maria Horner knew who I was? And if I wrote back with these questions, was I giving myself away that I was completely in the dark, and therefore, possibly the wrong person for the job?

I took the plunge, politely, but excitedly replying that I was very interested, if they could just let me know exactly what I was interested in.
It turns out 'mapping' is designing, using the pictures of the fabric designs. I would design a quilt (actually, three or four quilts) on my computer with the images of the fabric line and submit them for consideration. They would get back to me with their favourite, and I would write a pattern for them.

I really enjoy the work. And if I may say so, I think I'm good at it. Though, that's not to say I haven't had to learn a lot. It's a very different process writing a pattern for a quilt before you've made it. My usual quilting process involves a lot of trial and error at the best and quickest way to put together blocks or quilt tops. I can't go through that process here. Often I tend towards scrappy quilts that play with value, rather than two-colour blocks, which makes cutting instructions really tricky. And I don't think I have ever, ever, sat down and thought about how much of each print I need and what exactly I need to cut before diving into a quilt. I usually just start cutting until I feel like I have enough, which is usually only about half of what I need. I sew it together and then start cutting again. And I guess, most importantly, while I'm making the quilt, I often make changes, because of how I feel about it now that I'm working with it, or because I've built on my original plan.

But quilt design on a computer is a completely different animal, and it's one I've learned to really love. I've had to learn that even in a scrappy quilt, I should use a similar amount of cuts per print, making the pattern much easier to read, and to write. I've learned, as I come up with new blocks or layouts, to ask myself "Could I actually describe that to someone? How?" and, "Do I even know how I would put that together?" It's easy to get creative with lines on a computer. It's a whole other thing to sew fabric together in the same way. The whole process has felt like learning a new science, or a new language. It's like the grammar here is different to the way I'm used to speaking, but I can find other ways to get my message across.

I've been amazed to see old designs I discarded on a previous job, suddenly come to life with a completely different line of fabrics. It's helped hone a sense of what brings different fabrics out, what do different styles need to look beautiful.

The lovely folks at Free Spirit have been so kind and open to me learning these things, happy to answer my questions, and I am very grateful for the opportunity. I've worked with lines that are exactly my taste, and I have more ideas than I can use. And I've worked with lines that are so different to what's in my stash, but the challenge of making something I'm really happy with has been so satisfying. I wish I could show them all here now! But I'll wait until the quilts have been shown at Quilt Market.

And then, about six weeks ago, I was asked to design this quilt, a special request for the Free Spirit Booth at Quilt Con West in Pasadena next month. Actually, again, I designed three quilts. I mapped the cityscape at the top of the post, the medallion quilt above, and the one I'm making. My brief included using a colour gradient, from purple to aqua, and the Free Spirit Logo in white. I really, really love the other two quilts, but I'm so glad they chose this one. It does make me feel like a Free Spirit. And it's also the simplest design, a good thing for me because I'm making it on the other side of the world.

Still, it's taken about twice as long as I anticipated to sew it up. I've always been terrible at guessing such things, and my optimism got the better of me here too.  I've been so fortunate that Tim is at home these days, able to look after the kids and the food and our other needs. Working from home is a challenge! But it still feels like a gift that I can tell my kids, who have walked right past Tim in the kitchen to come ask me for a sandwich, that that's Daddy's job this week. Oh, and to have my very own coffee connoisseur in the next room!

And my very own Quilt Critic. Here he is telling me what I didn't quite achieve in the design. We've been married ten years next month, and I'm glad I've learned to appreciate his feedback, and then still hold it up confidently against my own! And I love this quilt. I really love it. I can't wait to start the next challenge of appliqueing the logo. I can't wait to use some very new, yet to be released, wideback cotton for the backing! And I can't wait to see it hanging in the Free Spirit booth at QuiltCon.

Will you be there? Will you take a photo for me?

Red Sky at Night - Kansas Star

I've often heard it said that the internet and social media made Modern Quilting what it is today. I recently realised that I always interpreted that as meaning, "We used to sit around the table and quilt together, and now we sit around our computers." And in a way that's true. I rarely have people over at my place to quilt, and I communicate a lot with quilters all over the world.
This past week, I've been reading about the Kansas City Star, a newspaper started in the 1880s, which, during the early twentieth century, accepted submissions of quilt block tutorials and templates to include in their paper, even paying a small fee! And I don't know about you, but the only paper-reading folk I know in the whole world are my Dad, and my father-in-law. So when I think of the skill-building, light-hearted section of the paper, I think of Sudoku, crosswords and comics. Not quilt blocks. (Though maybe they should!)

As far as I know, I'm the first quilter in at least 4 generations of women who knew how to sew. My grandmother and mother sewed, not for relaxation or creative expression, but because when they had young children, sewing clothes was cheaper, a necessity. When clothes because cheaper to buy from the rack, my mother put away her sewing machine.
In the 1950s, when my mother was born, quilting was seen as an old necessity, replaced by production lines and department stores. Quilting was for the poor, the uneducated, the old. And I've been amazed, reading these old stories of quilters past, how much those ideas have stayed with me. How I've been sitting in this amazing online quilting community for years with this kind of fuzzy idea that no has ever done what we have done. No one made art like we do. They were just making do...
It struck me again, as it always does reading history, that these women were just like us! These ladies enjoyed putting colours and shapes together in new ways. They were inspired by their surroundings. They were industrious, creative, and enjoyed sharing their ideas with their community.

This week's block has been known as the Eight Point All Over and the Kansas Star, which historians believe may have come from the Newspaper quilt block series.


You will need:
RED: 5 x 3 3/8" squares and 8 x 3" squares cut in half to make half square triangles.
WHITE: 4 x 3 3/8" squares and 10 x 3" squares cut in half to make half square triangles.

Credit: Quiltville has the best square in a square dimensions graph here! I will never be afraid of these little blocks again!

1. Sew a white triangle to one side of the red square and press outward.

2. Sew another white triangle to the opposite site and press.

3. And then a triangle to each of the other sides and press outward.

4. (Yellow rulers are so hard to photograph!) Can you see the 2 1/4" line on the top and the right hand side? Line those up with the points on the diamond. Match up the other corners too. The whole square should be slightly larger than 4.5". Trim to 4.5" square.

5. If anything went wrong in the above steps (maybe you need a smaller seam allowance? I'm assuming a scant or true 1/4" allowance), fix it now. If not, follow the same steps for all your red squares in white and your white squares in red! 

6. Lay out your freshly trimmed squares with the white borders in the corners and the centre, and the red borders around the edge.
7. Sew together in three rows. Press seams open. Sew the rows together.

8. Don't forget to share your finished block on Instagram with the tag #redskyatnightQAL!

Isn't it clever? I really want to meet the first lady to make it. Did she find the star in there by accident? Or did she design it that way? Either way, I love it. It's a beautiful way to make do, don't you think?

Slow Quilt

I did not come to quilting via the traditional block. I came to it with a bunch of squares, next to my machine, all sewn together randomly with as little up and down to the iron as possible. I still like to make a quilt that way. But in the last year, I've come to appreciate the quilt block. Not just the look of them. I've always loved how they looked. Now I am learning to like the making also.

I cannot say enough how much I am enjoying this new line by Maureen Cracknell. Wild and Free is a sweet mix of basics, low volume and stand out prints. I pulled together a bundle of about 15 prints because this Luminous Field welcomes so many other colours to the mix. But eventually I settled on this limited palette, including only Sarah Jane's Glow Friends as an extra, and leaving the Folk Plaid for the backing.

When I was a teenager, we lived on 100 acres, about 4 hours north of Sydney. Before we lived there, it was a weekender, a horse riding retreat owned by a couple who divorced and sold the property in the settlement. When we moved, in the middle of winter, there was no electricity, no house, just a bunch of sheds, two caravans, 16 horses, an old Land Rover, and the most amazing view of the mountains. Every night, we heated our dinner over the campfire, then heated our water for washing up and showers. Then we sat around the fire to keep warm before bed. I felt like I had the most wonderful family in the whole world! These prints remind me of those peaceful and adventurous days (though I'm sure they were challenging for my mum!) before electricity and TV re-entered our life.

I'm cutting this quilt, mostly with my Accuquilt, in small sections. I haven't done the maths to tell me if I'll have enough fabric to make a queen size quilt. I don't really have the head for that kind of thing, so I'm making it block by block, laying it out on my design wall as I go, so I can match up the Sun Tracks, and the Woven Path fabrics. They are such perfect prints to play with in this way! And the repeat is big enough that each on-point square looks slightly different.

I've had the funny experience over the last few weeks of grieving finishing a quilt too early. Whenever I've gone into my studio and thought about what I've felt like making, I've settled on my Flying Geese quilt. And then I remember that I finished it just after Christmas so I could give it to my brother and sister-in-law! So I'm taking this one in slowly. I haven't settled on a quick chain peicing method yet. I'm still doing one block at a time. Then I put it on the board. Then I stare at it for a while. Then I grab a cup of tea. And then in the in-between times, I'm working on a faster quilt, one that doesn't need a bird's eye view, and that I'm not so emotionally attached to. Because I don't want to rush this. I want it to stay with me as part of my memories moving back to the country. I want it to evoke those feelings of quiet and adventure, of taking chances and fresh starts.

Linking up to Wip Wednesday and Fabric Tuesday.

Use Your Words Quilt.

I have my first finish for 2015! And I usually try to avoid clothesline photos, but when your new clothesline is old wobbly fencing wire woven through old timber planks, next to an old rusty bath tub and blue shipping container, it's worth a try, right? Add to that a husband away for the week, and a break in the rain, and it's practically fate!
This was my already cut, post Christmas haze quilt. No thinking. Just plug in and play. So while I fed fabric through my machine, I let it's therapeutic hum take my mind around all the events of the last few months, and various things that lead to me being here today.

When I was about 15, I wrote a music essay for school. I remember putting a lot of thought into how I would frame the arguement and bring it all together. My teacher handed it back with high praise. She told me she thought I should pursue journalism as a career. It meant a lot to me and I thought about it seriously. I chose all my subjects the following year that involved a lot of writing so I could improve. And then at the end of the year, I applied for a week long work experience with the local News station.
After a week talking to people about their pets, listening to the police radio chatter in hope of some disaster and doing a story about a school musical, I was utterly discouraged. What was the point?
I finished school the following year, tired of writing and completely bewildered as to how I could use it in a 'real' job and I went to Poland instead and became a missionary in an old Polish castle.

It wasn't until recently, when I was considering my name change, and thinking about what I love most about this part of my life, that it was the writing that stood out to me as a really important process of my making. I enjoy quilting most when I'm doing it to say something. Not necessarily preachy things or teachy things. I just like telling my story and having your share yours.
I chose these texty prints because I thought the Drunkards Path blocks in circles might look like thought bubbles. They don't. But I still like how graphic it is. And almost 3-dimensional. Unisex. Grown up. All those parts were pulled off like I hoped!

And here I am, 20 years later, enjoying the fulfillment of those encouraging words way back then, and in such a different way than I could have ever imagined. Proof that if you use your words kindly, you never know the long lasting fruit that can grow ever so slowly inside someone's heart.  

Linking up with Finish it up Friday


I started blogging about three and a half years ago, inspired by a pretty intense envy for Anna Maria Horner, one of the few bloggers I followed at the time. It sounds malicious, but it wasn't. I'd just finished my History degree, a lifestyle (part time mum, part time student) and identity which had suited me perfectly. I'd had a second baby. I spent a lot of time breastfeeding, while reading Anna Maria's exciting tales of setting up a new studio above her house. I felt trapped and lost. So instead of continuing to moan about it, I decided to take positive steps towards creativity, productivity and thankfulness. I started to write.

When I started blogging, I started reading other blogs, meeting new friends, people like me, sewing more, becoming part of a community. I discovered that some bloggers actually managed to make money from their craft, and I was struck by how great it would be to contribute to the family income that way. It would certainly justify the time I was spending writing about myself. When I wasn't feeling so optimistic, I wrestled with the extravagance of it all. I've written here before about my young-adult intentions to live and work with orphans and homeless children in Eastern Europe. It all seemed so bizarre, trying to find my place in the world through sewing, on my own, hoping to God the babies slept just a little longer, while much of the world wrestled with more urgent issues like war and food and shelter.

Over the last few years, there's been a lot of discussion on blogs I read about value. Valuing ourselves as creative workers, putting the right price on our work, whether it be physical or intellectual. As I've gotten to know creative folk in my city through my pop-up shop, or market stalls, I've loved the open and honest conversations I've had about how people price their wares, how business is going, what they love most about it. My own efforts to make money, selling clothes and quilts, developing a pattern, happily ticked over enough cash into my Paypal account to pay for fabric and support creative friends in their businesses too. It was part fun and exciting and part (mostly) monotonous, and never helped put food on the table. And, well, it didn't really feel like it was achieving anything or solving world problems.

When I had Finlay, earlier this year, I said goodbye to craft markets, started turning away custom orders, and decided to spend any time I happened to get sewing (a lot more than I expected!), making quilts for friends who had graduated from university and moved on. The experience has been so much more than I could have imagined. It's stretched my creativity, helped me discover more of what I love in quilts, and it's touched my friends deeply. This is the sixth, and final quilt I aimed to make this year, and I think it's my favourite.

I love that I got away with not using white or low volume prints. I love that it's scrappy, but still within a pattern. I love the mix of Anna Maria's saturated prints with the other lighter, brighter ones from my stash. I love that it includes a blessing, written by Tim, for the recipient, quilted into some of the church dash blocks. I love, LOVE the feeling of making something really work, after being worried from the beginning that it might not.

I was talking to an artist friend of mine a few weeks ago about this experience of making for gifts rather than making for sale, about how it's settled much of the angst in me about value, about needing to justify the time I spend sewing and thinking and writing about quilting. I've enjoyed seeing the changes in me (as an artist and a person) as well as the way it's touched other people.
She looked at me and said, "You know that even if you hadn't made those quilts as gifts, it's still a valuable thing to do, right?"
Yes, I did. I mean kind of. Actually maybe not. But it's been something I've been mulling over ever since, until yesterday when I read yet another blog post about valuing ourselves as bloggers/makers/business women, and I had that feeling again that maybe because I wasn't attracting blog sponsorship, that I wasn't really valuing my words here.

And that's when the light went on.

I absolutely support women working in a way that suits them and their families. I am for women who put themselves out there find ways to monetize their gifts and skills. I support paying them for their work, valuing it financially.

But I think I've had it around the wrong way. For me, at least.

My blogging, my making, are not valuable because I put a price on them. They are valuable because in the beginning there was colour and creativity, stories and relationships, way before money entered the scene. And they were good. In and of themselves. And when I make, when I write, when I pour my girl a drink of water, I make this place a little bit more like the author's original intention.

And that has great value.

May God grant you an adventure big enough to inspire awe in your indomitable spirit.
May all who share fellowship at your meal table be blessed by the sacrament of communion.
May God bless you with the harmony of work and passion that blossoms into a vocation.
May God make his face to shine on you, and yours in turn to shine in your world.
And until we meet again may God carry with you, all those you love in the palm of his hand
-Tim Godfrey