Monday, September 16, 2019

Needs simmering

I have gorgeous fabrics.

Shimmer Radiance by Deborah Edwards of Northcott
Just look at that blue with little metallic silver highlights!  How could I leave that on the shelf?

Natures Pearl fabric by Maria Kalinowski for Kanvas Studio
You can't tell from the picture, but the dots on this are metallic silver.  Very, very pretty though not my usual choice of fabrics.

I bought them with a particular design in mind.  I designed it in a much softer color palette for a project I can't share yet, and decided to challenge myself to give it a totally different feeling with stronger, darker colors.  It actually looked pretty good in Civil War reproduction blues, and in a particular group of reds.  I rather like the suggestion of plaid in the background.

Starlight Plaid in repro blues

Starlight plaid in reds

The catch is that I couldn't find what I had in mind at the quilt shop. I must be the pickiest fabric shopper ever, because with a choice of over 10,000 bolts of fabric at Quilting Connection  I wasn't satisfied.  Sigh. I just find it hard to change course when I have the perfect combo in my head.

However, change course I did!  How about a "guy quilt" in steely greys with just a pop of color in the stars?  That's when those two gorgeous fabrics above jumped on to my cart.  I chose three more greys to play with them, brought them home and promptly began to doubt my choices. There may not be enough value contrast between my first two fabrics for the design to pop.

Last night I stayed up late sewing some test blocks, hoping I was wrong.  While I sewed I had the sinking feeling that I was right.  I put the blocks up on the wall and went to bed mulling over options.  I liked the greys, but the blue wasn't working for the stars.  I went to sleep stumped about what to do about the stars.



I like my grey plaid background, but the star points fade away.  I still love that blue. I so badly want it to work, but I think it will have to wait for a different quilt.  

So what do you think about those stars?  I could use the same fabric as the lightest grey in the background, but would that make the quilt too dull, so very monochromatic?  Or creamy yellow stars?  Maybe I could find a red that would work, but it might be a challenge to find a value that isn't too close to the darker greys, with the same trouble the blue is having.  I thought it was vibrant enough that it would work anyway, but clearly value still counts.

So, it needs simmering.  I'm off to work on something completely different now!


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Burst of productivity in orange

Sometimes a quilt design takes time to develop.  Sometimes a deadline helps move it along more quickly!

I have been invited to be the International Association of Quilters' guest designer for November.  I'll provide instructions for a block for their mystery quilt, as well as a quilt pattern for their members.  I have known about this since last December.  I did have a plan, but just couldn't seem to start on the quilt or the pattern.  It turns out that was because it was the wrong plan.  I just didn't know it until a looming deadline made me admit that I just wan't excited about Plan A. Once I gave that up, Plan B popped into the newly vacated space in my brain and moved along at a steady pace.


I'm sure this block must exist somewhere.  If anyone knows what it is called, please let me know.  For now I've named mine Variable Starburst.

Plan B morphed a bit along the way.  I planned to work in blues, as in the test block above.  I planned a layout that used 10 of these stars, each with different value placement, as an exercise in playing with value and placement.  That's where the "variable" part came in.  Then I thought to add a layer to "variable" by making a single star a different colour.  I went back to my EQ drawings and made one star orange and promptly decided I currently love orange and had to make every star in the layout orange, except the variable one.


I got as far as doing all the math, figuring out cutting charts and yardage amounts before the test block fell off the design wall and I slapped it back on...on point.


OK, I like the block even more on point.  I fired up EQ again and played with that idea.


This is kind of fun too, but those pieced setting triangles would be a pain to write up in a pattern. I do like the movement the diagonal elements add, though.  I went to bed undecided and ready to pitch Plan B out the window.

The next morning, in my free half hour before heading to work at the quilt shop, Plan B morphed into Plan C. I really, really like Plan C, so much so that I spent my lunch hour doing the math so I could buy the fabric before heading home. (But you know, revisiting both versions of Plan B right now I think fabric may eventually come out to play with them too.)

I'll keep the full design to myself just a wee bit longer, since I'm very close to being able to show the finished top, but here's a peek a some of it.  I love its clean, crisp lines and all that orange brightness.  Who knew I could like orange this much?



Sunday, August 11, 2019

Mostly Clear mostly done

Since I last posted I reorganized my sewing area, opening it up to the family room, which also required resetting and decluttering the family room.  That took over about a week of my life but it feels great to have a renewed and uncluttered space.  I am in the mood to design and sew again, so the time investment was definitely worth it.

The first project from the renewed studio is Mostly Clear.  I think this quilt holds the record for shortest turnaround time from design to finished top in the history of Canuck Quilter.

Mostly Clear quilt top corner detail


I played with the design in late July, settling on final layout two weeks ago, and started writing the pattern.  This is backwards for me.  I usually do the required math, sketch some rough notes, then make the quilt to make sure the quilt looks good in real size as opposed to small picture on a page. I have all the bugs and any required design changes worked out before investing time in writing a polished pattern.  This time I wrote the entire pattern, working out all the details on paper first, then sewed following my pattern.

My husband and I took a day off to roam that Friday. We stopped at Mended Hearts Quilting and he was very patient while I pulled bolt after bolt trying to choose 4 fabrics that went together just so.  I found several sets of three, but the fourth one was never quite right.  I finally found a fourth that was good enough, bought the set, then happily found a fourth that was better when we stopped at It's Sew Tempting after a picnic lunch.

By Sunday night I had all my fabric cut and strip sets sewn.


Monday I sewed all the blocks.  Lots of chain piecing...


...and corner trimming....


...and seam matching. There are a lot of seams to match, but I planned all the pressing directions ahead of time and every.single.seam nested.  Happiness is a nicely nested, matched seam intersection!


Tuesday I sewed the blocks into rows.  Wednesday evening I sewed the rows into sections and the sections into a quilt top.


It was just past midnight when I finished the top.  Rosie did try hinting about bedtime sometime around 11 pm, but I only had 4 more seams to sew so I decided it wasn't my bedtime yet.





Check out the cheater pieced border.  Instead of making pieced border strips to add the start points into the border and adding that to the sides, I added the segments to the rows/sections and the border just happened as I sewed my rows together.  Happiness is also fewer border strips!

I'm going to send the pattern to testers this week and try to quilt the quilt while they test so I will have a pattern cover ready when testing and editing is finished.

I will try not to get side tracked with the next new starry quilt spinning around in my head.  That one has a more modern vibe and...wait, that's another quilt and another post!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Simply obsessed with Simply Snow

Finishing up the swan pillows seems to have started my creative juices flowing again.  Since I last posted, I have split my time between weeding the flower beds (I may have too many, but that's another post), fighting a summer cold, and sewing obsessively to finally bring the snowflake quilt into existence.  I think I am going to name it Simply Snow.

Simply Snow quilt by Joanne Kerton and Canuck Quilter Designs.
Photo and longarm quilting by Chris Hobbs of Urban Loon Studios
Panto: Carnival 2 by Urban Elementz.
I designed these foundation paper pieced snowflakes over 4 1/2 years ago for my Snowalong Sewalong.  I made a bag, a couple of runners and a pillow.  I always thought a quilt with all 26 designs together would be fabulous, but it took a long time for me to settle on a setting.  I narrowed it down a little, then let it sit, then refined it a bit more, then worked on something else.  I didn't start sewing the blocks until this past February.

Snowflake progress sometime in March.

Halfway into the snow making I was interrupted, and I didn't get back to it until about 3 weeks ago, but at that point I sewed obsessively because I wanted to finally see my vision in actual fabric.


I spent some quality time with my seam ripper to get to this stage.  I have better lighting in my sewing room now than I did when I sewed all the nine patches in February, and it revealed that I sewed one strip of white into a strip set wrong side up.  That wrong-side up white was sprinkled among many nine patches and while I tried to tell myself it didn't matter, it really did and they had to come out.  I didn't have enough blue to just start over with fresh fabric and a new strip set, hence the seam ripper.

I could have stopped with the layout above, as I originally intended, but...just a little extra border would make it into a queen size for my bed. Enter a few more nine-patches.

Simply Snow quilt by Joanne Kerton and Canuck Quilter Designs. 
Photo and longarm quilting by Chris Hobbs of Urban Loon Studios.  
Panto: Carnival 2 by Urban Elementz.

Chris Hobbs at Urban Loon Studios quilted it up for me today using the Carnival 2 panto by Urban Elementz, in baby blue thread that disappears on the blue and treads lightly over the white.  I am just thrilled with how it turned out. 

Simply Snow quilt by Joanne Kerton and Canuck Quilter Designs. 
Photo and longarm quilting by Chris Hobbs of Urban Loon Studios.  
Panto: Carnival 2 by Urban Elementz.

I will bind the quilt this week and send it off to the Iowa State Fair.  Then I'll sit down and attempt to finalize the pattern.  Look for it sometime this fall.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

School Swans?

I'm taking Katie's advice and sewing something, anything, to get back in the mood. In March I bought a kit on impulse.  I wasn't feeling very creative but I wanted to get back to my sewing machine. I figured a kit might do the trick.  This one was small to guarantee a quick finish and a sense of accomplishment.



We live in a university town. My husband teaches at Iowa State University and by this fall I will have two kids attending as students.  Maybe it's time to add a little cardinal and gold to my home decor.  Just a little though. 

Iowa State has two resident swans, Lancelot and Elaine, on Lake LaVerne on campus.  Elizabeth Hartman's pattern Swan Island is a perfect fit!  When Rachel at Quilting Connection chose the red and gold accents for a store sample, it struck me as just the right touch of ISU tradition and colors.  The kit includes only the fabric for the swans and you add your choice of background.  Brown fits my living room furniture, and it sure makes the swans pop. They kept me busy for a day or two, then sat on the design wall waiting for me to quilt them and turn them into pillows.

So, back to the idea of a quick finish.  Piecing the swans kept me busy for a couple of days, but the quick finish eluded me because of that creative void. I didn't want an allover pattern like the one used on the pattern cover because there is too much contrast between my swans and my background.  The quilting would be either too showy on the swans or too showy on the background. I knew what I didn't want but had no clue what to quilt instead. My swans hung on the wall for a couple of months.

A couple of days ago I decided to at least prepare the quilt sandwiches (I was going to say baste but that sounds like I am roasting these swans!) By the time I finished stitching in the ditch around and in the swan block, I had a plan for the background too.


I used my Westalee rulers to start stitching concentric circles centered on the front of the swan.  Since I don't have any that will let me stitch out anything larger than about 12" in diameter, I switched to my walking foot with a guide arm for the larger circles, switching to a very long stitch length when I had to stitch across the swan.  This let me keep track of the curve on successive rounds until I got past the swan.



I needed each of those curves as a guide to follow on the next round, all the way out to the edge, but the long stitches across the swan were easy to pick out afterwards.  I wrote a post all about this method several years ago.



I like how it turned out.  Last light I prepared a zippered pillow back, this morning I sewed the front to the back, and tomorrow I'll bring home some coordinating fabric for binding.  I bought brown for the binding yesterday when I popped into the shop for brown thread, but now I am leaning towards binding in fabric that matches the feather tips.


This is almost a finish, and I think my creativity is stirring.  Next up: quilting the butterfly quilt.  I has a longarm quilter baste it for me and it is ready for me to get started.  I'm going to try starting with stitching in the ditch again and hope ideas for the rest come to me while I stitch.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Fundy Skies: tester versions

As promised, here are pictures from my pattern testers.  They all did a beautiful job with their quilts and provided useful feedback about the pattern .  It's a better pattern thanks to them.

I love seeing the design paired with all the different fabric choices.  Without further ado, here are the quilts.  Enjoy!


Throw size by Kathleen Ross



Twin size by Judy Juhl

Lap size - baby with extra borders top and bottom, by Louise.  Check out her blog My Quilting Odyssey to see the beautiful quilt she makes while living aboard a boat.

Queen size by Lora Garrison.
Queen Size by Judy MacLeod.  Judy is a longarm quilter and I can't wait to see how she quilts it.  You can find her on Facebook as Painted Pony Quiltworks.

Baby size by Jeanne Holmes.  Find her on FB as jeanne.f.holmes or on Instagram as @jeammeholmes.

Thank you all so very much testers!


Remember, you can get a 25% discount on Fundy Skies today through June 21 in my Etsy shop by using the coupon code STARGAZING.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Did I forget to mention...?

Several months ago I released my latest pattern, Fundy Skies. Yup. After a false start with one photographer, I finally got a good picture for the cover (thank you QuiltPhotography.com!) and released the pattern.  Shipped it to distributors.  Uploaded to my Payhip shop, then to the Etsy shop when I switched to that.

I apparently forgot to announce it though.  My marketing needs some serious work!


I really, really love this design.  You can't accidentally cut off the points in this star block, so it is very forgiving.  The sashing is actually built into the large blocks so there are no long sashing strips to measure and sew. And if you like to nest your seams to help match corners, this pattern makes it easy.  Detailed pressing instructions help you nest every seam that needs to nest.

I designed it for my own bed several years ago, and revisited the design for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary quilt last year.




Here's what Kathleen, one of my wonderful testers had to say about the pattern:
"I loved this pattern.  Originally I thought it too wordy but as I went along I found it so organised and clear.  The cutting charts were accurate and easy to follow and I loved that you showed pressing directions - all seams nested perfectly.  This is a fantastic pattern..."
Thank you so much for being a tester, Kathleen!  I am also grateful to Judy J., Louise, Lora Garrison, Jeanne Holmes and Judy MacLeod.  Please drop in tomorrow to see pictures of their versions. 

In the meantime, please spread the word that the pattern is now available .  Ask for it at your favourite quilt shop (they can order directly from me or from distributors Checker or Brewer) or pop over to my Etsy shop to buy a PDF download.

Get a 25% discount on Fundy Skies today through June 21 in my Etsy shop by using the coupon code STARGAZING.



Friday, May 31, 2019

Round Robin sneak peeks

Though I didn't sew much the last few months, the quilt guild round robin  kept me from totally deserting my sewing room.  I had committed to this back in January, so I had to come down and sew a little, and I think that was a good thing.  My group gave me permission to share progress here, so here's a peek at the two quilt I have added rounds to so far.

Pam's Mariner's Compass medallion
Pam made a gorgeous Mariner's Compass block for her medallion.  That's fussy cut Tula Pink fabric in the blades, meeting and matching to make a lovely little floral center.  Coming up with a order to do it justice was an intimidating task, but playing around with stock borders in EQ8 helped.


The borders are from EQ but the corners are my esigns.  I had to tweak the colors a couple of times to get the right effect, but I'm pleased with how it worked out. 



I think if the next round had been mine to add I would have turned this on point.  I have no idea what wonderful idea the next person in the round robin came up with, as I missed the last meeting so didn't get a peek at the next round.

Next up is Traci's medallion with Jenn's round added.  This one is more modern than most of what I make so it stayed on the design wall most of the month while I figured out what to add that would play well with the rest.


I decided to try to pull out some of the brighter blues from the center, and have some sort of slash and insert component to the piecing, because the plus signs looked like they might have been constructed that way.


I slashed these squares at random angles and inserted the yellow and orange strips.  I followed that up by using the block as one of the fabrics in a paper pieced wonky triangle block.  Wonky-on-purpose is so much harder for me to acheive than wonky-by-accident!


I think using one background fabric for two adjacent sides and a different background for the remaining two added an interesting element, but it was not a thought out design decision.  I just didn't have enough of either fabric, or any other suitable background print.  Happy accident?

I wish I had a picture of what Pam added to my cat medallion.  I saw it when it was passed along for the next round but did not think to take a picture.  Her border of little tiny flying geese is fabulous!  I'll get the whole thing back in a few months and will share then.

I think there will be a short hiatus in the round robin as one person had life interfere with her plans, but I'm sure it will be worth the wait!  One more round to go...

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Wisdom from my daughter

I've been in a little bit of a creative and blogging slump the last few months.  I couldn't muster much energy for sewing and no enthusiasm at all for sitting down at the computer or surfing blogs.  Maybe the grey, cold, wet spring was to blame.  Maybe I just needed a break.  Maybe I was exhausted from watching my daughter be exhausted from slogging through the last projects and exams and activities and emotional upheavals of her high school career.

She graduated with honors this past Sunday, and gave one of the commencement addresses. She spoke beautifully about the need to face any challenge with the belief that one is good enough to succeed.  She challenged all her classmates, and the rest of us too, to always answer "Yes, I am good enough"  when confronted with whatever life throws at us. 


I am so, so proud of this strong, confident, accomplished and compassionate young woman!

She is now at a new-to-her summer camp as a camp counselor until she starts university in the fall, putting her own advice into practice as she embraces new adventures and makes new friendships.

As for my slump?  I am telling myself I am good enough to finally start things I have been avoiding, and I suspect getting past those will re-energize me to get more productive in the sewing room and socializing in blogland again.  See you again soon!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Ruler work samples

I have been invited to teach a class on quilting with Westalee quilting templates (AKA rulers) at the local quilt shop in April.  I have been playing with some of these for several months , on and off as I have a quilt that needs quilting and I am excited to share what I have learned.  I spent the weekend making two little samples to use in class.



When I took a class to get started last June, I came away with the basic idea of building designs by tracing various lines and shapes with the templates while freemotion quilting.  What I felt was lacking were examples of how to place those shapes on a patchwork quilt.  All our practice was just doodling randomly on a scrap quilt sandwich.

Having everyone bring a quilt to fill with motifs is a bit much for a beginner class, and different quilts would need different motifs and sizes and so on.  It just isn't practical.  However, I think drawing specific shapes and spaces on a plain quilt sandwich and filling those as though they were blocks or borders or sashing is a good alternative, and that's what these samplers are for.  Between the two, they use all 6 templates I plan to discuss and demonstrate. Participants will have the choice of random doodling, or more intentional placement practice, or both.


This one uses a straight edge, a 12" arc, a 2" circle, a 6" spiral and the Circles on Quits Spinning Wheel 36 (except that spinning wheel, instead of spinning, is being shuffled sideways for a design in the last border, just because I can and it looks cool).


This one (which is actually a pretty yellow but washed out in every picture I attempted) uses the Spin-e-fex No.4 template, the straight ruler, and the 3" clam shell.  I used the clam shell for the leafy bits and that curvy-pointy strip.

My biggest challenge is accepting that I cannot possibly both introduce how to use the rulers AND show or teach every possible design I can think to create with them!  Maybe that can be another class.

Tonight, I'm going back to piecing.  I need to finish the first round on the guild round robin.  I wish I could show you a picture.  Pam made a gorgeous mariner's compass with 32 points, fussy cutting and pattern matching.  It is a bit intimidating, but oh so fabulous!  I think our groups plans to go ahead and admire the progress on all the quits at each round, so I will ask at the next meeting if I can share pictures as I go.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

What is your favourite LQS?

How is the weather where you are?  In my neck of the woods, we are paying for the super mild December we enjoyed.  There is lots of snow. Today what fell last night is blowing around so much it looks like it's still snowing.   I'm taking the glass half full approach to it all:  as long a I don't have to go out in it, it looks pretty from my sewing room. The snowflakes in the sewing room itself are also multiplying, but not quite as fast, and not cold!

8 snowflakes finished, 18 more to go! Block patterns are in the Etsy shop!

All these snow days have also given me extra time to think about Canuck Quilter Designs and whether I want to keep moving it forward, and if so how best to do that.  Right along with several other states, Iowa has passed new sales tax legislation and the new law complicates my online pattern download sales.  I've been thinking about what to do next, and I hope you can help me with part of that.

I'd like to introduce more bricks and mortar quilt shops to Canuck Quilter Designs patterns.  Mailing sample patterns to every quilt shop in the country isn't feasible, but perhaps a carefully selected subset would be.  So, what is your favourite quilt shop and where is it located?  I'd like to send them a pattern or two!  Please let me know in the comments or email me at joanne@canuckquilter.com.


If you are a pattern instant download fan, don't worry.  I am in the process of moving my online shop to Etsy, as they have more features to help me stay compliant with tax laws. I have all my full-length patterns listed and the shop is open for business. To celebrate this step forward, I'm having a sale! I hope you'll check it out and spread the word.

I'm off to to sew more snowflakes now...

**Update March 16, 2018:  I missed that the graphic I used here was missing the sale dates, so I am extending the sale to March 18th.  No coupon required.**

Friday, February 15, 2019

Another Black and Red Finish

Hot on the heels of finishing Tic Tac Meow, I finally got around to quilting my red and black mini Sparkling Trail quilt that has been patiently waiting, since January 2015, for inspiration to strike.



 As you might have guessed, I played with my Westalee quilting templates/rulers.


 If you're wondering why the circles and pebbles don't go all around the circles, it's because they would not have fit exactly around, and I didn't feel like fussing with stretching or squeezing any of them to make things look like they fit perfectly, but I also didn't want a gap or an obvious overlap.  Partial strings of beads look very chic, random and modern, don't you think?  :)

Honestly, I was just playing with this quilt and making things up as I went along. The change in direction in the straight lines in the background add a little extra interest and movement to the otherwise simple background, but that was accidental.  I planned to do a diamond crosshatch in the background and started in that lower right corner.  Once I had crosshatched in the black stars, I decided it looked too busy and detracted from the circle quilting.  I stopped quilting in that corner, intending to come back later and pick it all out, and quilted the vertical lines in the rest of the quilt.  I went to bed, woke up, had breakast and pulled out the seam ripper to start ripping.  Hmm.  In daylight that little corner, part diagonal lines and part crosshatch looked like a rather interesting part of the whole.  Plus, that mindset saved me a lot of ripping!



You can see a little bit of the border treatment above, but it shows up even better on the back.


This is a border treatment I've been wanting to play with since I bought the feather templates.  These are just one side of a straight feather.  I started with a circle in the center of each side so I could make a tidy, orderly change of direction, and also liked how it broke up long stretch of feather lobes into more pleasing chunks.  I pondered how to turn the corners, then remembered old picture frames with scroll details that didn't always go all the way around the frame.  I decided to stop the feathers short of the corner and continue with plain straight lines around the corners to complete the "frame".  I love how it turned out and I think a larger version of this might come out to play when I finally get around to quilting the butterfly quilt.

I have quilted 5 versions of this quilt so far - 3 full scale throws and 2 reduced size ones, and each one needed a different quilting plan depending on the fabrics and colors.  Take a look:





I don't think I can choose a favourite...