Saturday, May 8, 2021

I thought they'd be quick...

Crumb blocks are quick to make, right?  Just slap scraps together, with no measuring.  No problem.

I should know better!  Each of these blocks took me about two hours to make.   Sewing, pressing and trimming probably added up to less than 15 minutes per block.  The rest of the time was all about  picking out scraps, and deciding how to place them.  

I don't do "random" very well. I can't help myself: I overthink the selection and placement of each little scrap.  There's nothing quick about that, trust me.  I wish I was better at just letting the scraps fall where they may, but I'm not there yet.  Maybe I'll develop that skill as I make the other 12 crumb blocks I need.   

In any case, I won't be using them to test my upcoming "I Spy Lanterns" pattern, as I had planned, because I'm short on time.  The pattern was originally designed to use large squares of focus fabric, and I thought it would be fun to substitute a crumb block in there as a design option.  Here's the original, using Northcott's upcoming Color Collage collection by Shelley Davies. (You can take a peek at the fabric in the Northcott April 2021 Look Book.)

I Spy Lanterns by Canuck Quilter Designs
using Color Collage and Toscana fabrics by Northcott

Here's the crumb block version.

I'll probably eventually make the crumb block version, but I'm going to have to move along to a quicker version to test the pattern.  I started playing around with "quicker" blocks in EQ, but that was a whole other rabbit hole.  So many options to play with.  What if I change this? And what about this little tweak?  This led to whole new design and pattern possibilities, but first I need to test the design and pattern I already committed to produce!

After a surprisingly short visit to the quilt shop, I emerged with these lovelies to test the original pattern.

Silver Jubilee and Shadow Play fabrics from Maywood Studio,
and Diamond Dust by Whistler Studios for Windham Fabrics

I'm sure you didn't expect these! Needless to say, the test quilt is going to look very different from my original sketch.  That's one of the things I love about quilting.  Using the exact same instructions with different fabric choices can lead to vastly different quilts.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Quilty May Day flowers and a pattern sale

 Happy May Day!  I don't have May Day flower baskets to share, but I have flower quilt pictures.

Prairie Mix by Canuck Quilter Designs

Don't mind my May Day dandelions. We're feeding the bees!

I shared a little about this project last September but never shared the finished quilt.  By the time I sewed the binding in November, the yard was grey and brown and muddy, not ideal for a quilt photo shoot. Then we were into the snowy season, but snow just didn't seem like an appropriate background for this quilt.  I can't seem to take decent quilt photos indoors, so Prairie Mix had to be patient until spring.

All the angles in these blocks and in the borders are made with the stitch-and-flip (AKA lost corners) technique, so there are no triangles to cut or bias edges to worry about.

I sent this quilt to Liz Meimann to longarm.  The pantograph she used to quilt it is Vanilla Cream by Anne Bright.  I choose this one on many of the quilts I send to Liz.  I like its hooked swirls, it adds texture without competing with the piecing, and it's pretty in the background.

Don't you love the polka dots?  They make me happy.  The yellow gingham as the accent fabric seemed a good choice to continue that informal, happy look.  I chose to make all the flower centers the same to give a more cohesive look to the quilt.  Bringing the yellow into the binding made a good frame to pull everything together.

I used to hesitate to work with pieced borders, because small piecing variations can result in borders that don't fit quite the way the pattern math claims they should.  However, piece borders can really dress up a quilt, taking the whole design up a notch.  It was worth it to me to work through the logic of it all and figure out how to make them fit every time.  I've written a tip sheet explaining simple adjustments you can make to make the pieced border fit perfectly.  

Get your free pieced border tip sheet by signing up here.

My quilt is the large throw, which measures about 60" x 72".  The pattern also includes:
  • baby (6 blocks, 36" x 48")
  • small throw (12 blocks, 48"x 60")
  • twin (24 blocks, 64" x 88")
  • queen (42 blocks, 88" x 100").  

Many thanks to Lynn Adolph, Tammy Howell, Tina Fugate and Kathy Pretorius for testing the various sizes.  I really, really appreciate my pattern testers!


If you'd like to make your own version, you can get the Prairie Mix pattern in my shop

From now through May 8th, enjoy 10% off your purchase of any pattern in the shop when you use the coupon code SPRING2021.  If you use this link, the discount will be applied automatically at checkout.

Happy spring and  happy quilting,

Monday, April 26, 2021

Breadcrumbs placemats

What is it about spring that makes me want new placemats?  Last spring it was Shuffle, the year before it was Leftovers, and at least two versions of Geese Across the Table were springtime projects.  This spring, it's Breadcrumbs.

quilted placemats and flowers
Breadcrumbs placemats and runner

I shared a glimpse of these last month, but they are now quilted and bound and match the flowers on my table.  The matching flowers are a happy accident.

This pattern is going to become one of my "go to" patterns for quick gifts. It's quick and it showcases a print beautifully.  Pick a print in colors and theme to suit and it's a winner.  You can find the Breadcrumbs pattern in my shop or ask for it at your favourite quilt shop.

Table setting with red plaid quiltyed placemat
Breadcrumbs placemat

I love that even with a place setting, you can still see the design.  I'm always sad to see pretty piecing disappear under the plate!   

red and black plaid placemats and table runner
Breadcrumbs placemats and runner

Here's an unobstructed view.  You can see this version uses a single print, while the one at he beginning of this post uses two prints.  The pattern includes both options.  The version above is made with fabric from Banyan Batiks' Bear Paw Plaid collection, shipping to store in October 2021.   This plaid look is making me think of picnics.  It's a warm sunny day here, so maybe we'll set these out on the table outside for an al fresco supper tonight.

Meanwhile, I'm making more.  Sooner or later, we'll be able to have people over for a meal again, and I'll be ready!

Placemat in progress, with blue and white triangles

Do you have a favourite placemat pattern?  What do you like best about it?  Please share in the comments.

Breadcrumbs placemat pattern cover

Available as a PDF download in my shop.  
Shops, please see the Canuck Quilter website for wholesale ordering information.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Getting to the binding

 Last week was a pattern writing and editing week. I felt sense of accomplishment when I sent three patterns off to testers, but I still felt I was "behind" somehow.  What to do?  Finish something!

Does it count if I don't have a picture?  I did in fact finish sewing the binding on my blue floral Cascade.  It's just been too windy to get a proper photo.  I'll get one soon and post again.  I'm so happy with how it turned out.  Florals seemed like such a leap for a modern design, but it worked.

Fresh off that finish, I was energized to push through and finish quilting Small Change.  That's the red and white quilt.  I had planned to quilt this quilt with my quilting rulers, but it has some bulky seams and the ruler foot can't get over them easily, so it was just as easy to break out my old friend the walking foot.  I quilted the center of the quilt shortly after I finished the top, but got stuck trying to decide how to quilt the borders.

I mostly stitched in the ditch, then extended a few lines to create the nested squares.  I considered adding more quilting in the white, but I decided I didn't want the quilting to draw the attention to any particular element.  I like than when I look at this quilt, sometimes my eye is drawn to the stars, at other times I see crossed arrows, and sometimes I see the overall diagonal lattice. 

These photos are not very well lit.  I thought the light coming in from the window was better...

I digress.  Back to the quilting.  I spent some time on Sunday marking evenly spaced lines to fill in the blanks in the border.  I thought of feathery somethings, or swirls, or something along those lines.  I chickened out. I have trouble keeping scale consistent, and I really wanted this to look tidy for the pattern cover.  I can't get much tidier than straight, marked, evenly-spaced lines with a walking foot!

The quilt is now quilted, trimmed, and is almost bound.  After I took this picture I sewed the binding to the front.  I just need to turn it to the back and stitch it down.  Hopefully, photos will follow soon.

Today's task is to try (again) to create some pattern covers.  Would you believe out of all the work that goes into producing a quilt pattern, the cover is my biggest hurdle?  Somehow, photos that look lovely on a screen for blogs and social media don't always work as pattern covers. Getting the lighting even and the colors looking good on the printed cover gives me a headache.  I'm dreading the cover for Small change.  All that white in the background will be a challenge to photograph without it looking dingy against the white paper.

It's sunny with a beautiful blue sky and puffy little white clouds today, so maybe I'll venture out for another cover photo shoot.  At the very least I can go admire the tulips!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

So many projects, so little time!

This week, I finally got overwhelmed.  When I have too much on my plate, I spend my time going around in circles trying to do a little of everything and end up not accomplishing much at all.  It's time to take stock, prioritize, whittle down the "to do" list and start being productive again.

This stack is a good place to start. It's not a stack of UFOs.  It's a stack of patterns in progress. Some of these are tests for patterns that are not fully written yet. Others are from complete patterns waiting for cover photos.  Some of the ones waiting for cover photos are partly quilted, some not, and some just need binding.

The red and white quilt is Small Change.  It has taken me longer to quilt than I anticipated.  I'll share the details when I give the quilt it's own post, but I'll say that it has been tedious.  I love how it's turning out, but it's still tedious.  Those of you who follow me on Instagram or Facebook know the quilt top and the thread snips had a little disagreement and I'm going to have to decide how to deal with that.  

I only have the borders left to quilt (and the snip to repair) then I can bind and photograph it.  Once I have a good photo for the cover I can release the pattern.  It has been tested and tech edited and it's ready.  It's just waiting on the quilting and photography.

This next one is brand new.  The pattern is partly written.  I started writing,  then decided I needed to make the top to work out a few details. The part I had written is now quite covered in notes and scribbles.  Sometimes I can write the whole pattern, then make the top as a test of what I've written, but sometimes, I need to sew through some details before I can write the instructions.  I'm not complaining about being forced to take a break from writing to sew!

Glacial - pattern coming soon from Canuck Quilter Designs

Pardon the poor lighting.  It was too windy for outside photos ion the weekend, and now it's raining.  More and better pictures to come!

Next up is a pattern possibility.

This is actually the back of the blue floral Cascade I made a year ago.  I had grand plans to custom quilt this one myself, but earlier this month I finally acknowledged that I just did not have the time to do it, so I sent it out to Liz Meimann to quilt on her longarm.  I needed a back, and had a lot of leftovers from the front so I decided to be frugal and piece the back.  Of course, that took time I probably could have used more productively on other pressing tasks but it was still less time than quilting the quilt myself, and I think I might have a pattern here.  It's very simple but look at how it showcases a gorgeous print on ether side...  This quilt just needs a binding.  The pattern...well, I'm still pondering.  Maybe I will, maybe I won't.

The other quilted quilt waiting for binding was also in the batch I sent to Liz to quilt.  It's also a quilt waiting for binding and a cover photo.  The pattern is otherwise ready.

Focus Squared by Canuck Quilter Designs

Focus Squared was designed to showcase a medium to large scale print.  This version is a rather elegant floral, but it would work with any theme. I mocked it up in EQ8 using Timber Gnomies from Henry Glass and it was super fun.  I almost headed out to the quilt shop for some Timber Gnomies of my own, but my list of things in progress was already rather daunting. Maybe once I whittle down the list I'll treat myself.  I'm sure I could use a new Christmas quilt.

Positivity Squared also went to the longarmer.  It's due home today, so it's in the stack waiting for binding a a cover photo.  Again , the pattern is tested, tech edited, and just waiting on a cover.

Next up is Breadcrumbs, and it's actually the closest to pattern release.  The placemats and runner are quilted and bound and just waiting for a sunny days for a photo shoot.  The pattern is ready and waiting on a cover.

Breadcrumbs by Canuck Quilter Designs. 
 Bear Paw Plaid fabric by Banyan Batiks shipping to stores in October 2021

Banyan Batiks sent me advance yardage of their Bear Paw Plaid line for the pattern cover. Watch for the fabric in stores next October.

The pattern also has a second version, with an accent fabric, which I tested with unidentified fabrics from my stash.  That version is waiting for quilting and binding, and I'm afraid it's at the bottom of the priority list. I want to finish it for my spring table, but some of the other things are really more pressing.  We'll see how things go in the next few weeks.

Breadcrumbs placemat in progress

Finally, the latest project is Modern Lace. This is all I have done so far and doesn't give you a good look at the overall design, but I'm so in love with this one right now that I think it's getting a spot at the top of the list.  There will be a pattern to test soon!

Modern Lace by Canuck Quilter Designs - in progress

To recap, 

Modern Lace - finish test, write pattern, quilt, cover photo
Glacial - finish pattern, quilt, photograph, cover photo
Small Change - finish quilting, cover photo
Focus Squared - bind, cover photo
Positivity Squared - bind, cover photo
Breadcrumbs - cover photo

Any guesses about what will be finished first?

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Scrap Garden

I'm so pleased to finally share Scrap Garden!  I started it in January 2020 as a scrap mitigation attempt.  I posted about it here, then never shared progress.  I'm sharing now, in the current issue of Make Modern magazine.

When I started sewing with my green scraps to try to whittle down the stack, I had no plan.  I thought 16-patches would be quick and gobble scraps so started sewing a bunch of those.  Some are strip pieced using scraps strips.  Others are pieced from individual squares.  Some are a combination, made from strip-pieced 4-patches.  I even made a few blocks combining 4-patches and plain squares.  All the options are described in the pattern, so you can use the method best suited to your scraps.

I added the shadows for interest.  The shadow pieces are strip pieced.  That's so mush faster than sewing individual squares of background to strips of shadow.  I'm glad I had nice big pieces of the grey Stonehenge left over from a backing to allow for strip piecing. 

The yardage of  Moda Grunge Metropolis Fog I found in my stash was perfect for the background.  It lets the blocks stand out, but isn't as stark as a solid would have been.  It looks comfortably scuffed and used, rather like my clothing does after an afternoon digging in the garden.

The little pops of red/orange/yellow in the cornerstones were thrown in to spice things up a bit.  It still amazes me to see how just a tiny bit of another color, yellow especially, can make make all the rest more interesting.  In this case, it helped give the quilt a name.  For some reason, the cornerstone colours made me think of peppers.  When a friend mentioned that the design reminded her of square-foot gardens, I knew this was a garden themed quilt!

I really didn't want to pull the focus away from all the scrappy goodness in this quilt, so I kept the quilting simple. I quilted a circle, a little off center, and just echoed it until the quilt was covered. I think it adds a little movement and interest without overwhelming the simple piecing.

How about a scrappy binding to finish?

Circling back to the scrap mitigation project that led to this quilt:  though my scrap bins look as full as ever, I know I must have made a dent because the only fabric I bought specifically for this project was a little extra Moda Grunge for the borders.  Even the back and binding are pieced from leftovers from other quilts.  

Make Modern issue 39 is available now.  Click here to purchase yours.  Make Modern is a digital publication delivered as a PDF, so you get instant access.  The link to my copy just arrived as I was writing this post, and I can confirm it is full of eye candy, patterns and lots of informative articles as well.

None of which Rosie cares about.  She just wants to know if this quilt is hers.  It's not.  It's mine.  All mine! Though I might share while I'm curled up on the couch plotting this spring's gardening...

Sunday, February 21, 2021

A "Just Because" Finish

Look what I finished this weekend!

Rosie has given it her seal of approval, but you can't see the quilt vey well.  Let's try again.

I started and finished this top last spring but it kept being pushed to the end of the quilting queue, behind projects with deadlines and new pattern samples.  This month I finally acknowledged that there will always be new deadline projects in my business, and that I needed to let myself enjoy some "just because" sewing.  

So I did.  I gave myself permission to not work on the weekends and I just played. I really enjoyed this one. I seem to be in the mood for simplicity these days, so I started with very simple straight line walking foot quilting in the background to emphasize the scrappy squares. Here's the first pass in both directions.

Another pass on the other side of each seam dressed it all up just a little.

That was the simple patchwork look I was looking for.  The plan, when I was working on the top last spring, was to do fancier quilting in the sunflowers with my quilting rulers.  I did try a little fancy work in the grey centers, but it just didn't fit with the simplicity of the background.  I picked it out and decided to just outline quilt inside the center and petals and hope inspiration would strike while I did that.

Once I had done that, I was satisfied with just adding simple crosshatching in the flower center.  That tied into the grid in the background.  Leaving the inside of the petals blank made them just a little puffy, like the rest of the quilt.

Next up was the border. I stitched in the ditch just before the last border, mostly to tack down the prairie point accents. Next I thought about straight lines either perpendicular to the edge or just running around the quit like a frame, but there are a lot of straight lines in this quit already.  I took out paper, pencil and quilting rulers to draw different ideas to add curves to the border.

These small arches fit neatly into the squares in the border and seemed to tie in with the petal shapes.

Yesterday I added a little scrappy yellow binding to frame it all. I am so happy with the finished quilt!

In case you were wondering:
  • Sunflower block is from the book Mini Wonderful Curves by Sew Kind of Wonderful
  • Setting is mine
  • Fabric (including backing and binding) is all from my scraps, except for three 1/4 yard cuts I bought to add a few lighter squares for variety.
On to the next project!  Small Change, the red and white quilt, is basted and ready to quilt.  I'm still pondering the possibilities, but once again I am leaning towards simplicity.  I'll see what happens when I actually start stitching. Hopefully I'll have a reveal for you soon.

Happy Quiting,

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Quick quilt top

After blogging last weekend I admired the pretty Island Batik 10" stack a little longer, then untied the bundle and set to work.

Here's what I started with.

I love that it matched my African violet.  It stayed on the coffee table a whole day longer than planned, just because the grouping looked pretty.

After pressing and cutting and mixing up the prints in stacks, I moved on to laying out blocks. 

I was still enjoying the fabrics up close, but I must say the project didn't look too inspiring as a whole at this point.

Things improved as I started sewing. Sewing larger squares together was so much faster than the all the corners and small pieces on last week's red and white project.  It was a nice change of pace.  You can see I pinned labels to the blocks.  This one was the first block in the second row.  I put all the labels in the the top left quadrant of each block to help me keep track of the orientation. It wouldn't have been a huge deal if I had inadvertently turned a block, or flipped positions, but since I went to the trouble of laying all the pieces out in the first place, I figured I might as well take a few minutes to add labels.

I love the way any design seems to smarten up once the background is added and everything is neatly pressed.  This was getting better, but was still a little bit bland.  It needed a little something to dress it up.

Well, this photo doesn't do it justice.  The border background is a rich purple that really sets off the jewel tones in the small squares, which in turn make the blocks pop a little bit more. Measuring, pinning and sewing on borders is far from my favourite part of piecing a quilt, but it can sure make a difference to the design.  I think this pieced border is much more interesting than a plain one, and ends up making the blocks more interesting that they would be on their own.

This pattern is now being tested, and the top will go in the growing "to be quilted" stack.  My local quilt shop is open by appointment only at the moment to help them mitigate covid risk, so I can't run in on a whim to get what I need to finish.  I have made a long list of backings, backings and threads I need to finish several quilts from the stack so I can make good use of my appointment time on Tuesday.  If I do this right, February might be good finishing month!

What's your quilting plan this month?

Happy quilting,


PS:  If you're wondering, everything in this quilt top is batik from Island Batik. The 10" squares are from the Jewel Quest collection, the background is a basic,  Egg White, and the border is also a basic (marble BE24-A1).  The background actually has pretty swirls of dots in subtle colors, and I can't figure out why it's called Egg White.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Lots of writing and frantic sewing

I started the new year feeling organized and in control.  One month in, not so much!  I have had a few more designs accepted by catalogs, but those come with pattern deadlines so I have hunkered down at the computer to write.  A couple of opportunities to submit designs elsewhere popped up, so I shifted into design mode.  All these are great "problems" to have from a business perspective, but it does mean I haven't had much time to share sewing here on the blog.

However, after all the designing and writing, I have to test things out.  The pattern isn't due to the catalog until March, but they need to order next fall's fabric for kits from the mills now, so they needed firm fabric requirements earlier.  I have confidence in my quilt math skills, but every now and then I forget to count a part.  I never feel 100% about my fabric math until I have made the quilt top.

Cue the frantic fabric cutting.

Doesn't that white stack look fabulous sitting on the red fabric?  I didn't get to admire it for long, as I had to get the red cut too.

There are all the pieces.  I'm not sure I should share the total number.  It makes the design sound daunting when it really isn't.

This pattern uses a lot of stitch-and-flip, AKA lost corners, so there is a bit a lot of marking.  I have tried different ways of sewing diagonal lines using a guide on the bed of the sewing machine, but I get better, more consistent results when I mark, so out came the pencil.  I'm not sure why I never before thought to lay out and mark several at a time.  I used to take one, mark it, stack it and reach for the next. Laying a few out a time is a small change, but it did seem to speed up the process.

I didn't plan to use a solid red.  I had a rich red Shadow Play in mind, but the shop didn't have any left when I needed it, so I settled for the solid.  I thought it might look too austere. Now that I have all the parts pieced, I think the solid is perfect. You can't see the white on white snowflakes in the photos, but they soften the look a bit, adding just a little interest to let the solids do their thing without making the whole quilt look stark.

With all the parts made, I'm pretty confident about what numbers to send the catalog, so I need to pivot to the other project with a deadline, but I'm really excited to share this one with you in the next little while.  If a classic red and white quilt is on your bucket list, or a quilt in any two colors, this design might be the one to tick it off the list.  If you'd like to test the pattern in the process, and have time to spare before the end of February, send me an email.  

As excited as I was to make this one (it's turning out just as I envisioned) I'm looking forward to something a little faster to put together. Next up is a 10" square precut friendly quick make, a  nice change from the many pieces of this red and white beauty.  The next one has fewer, bigger pieces, but it's just as pretty because it's going to be made in gorgeous jewel tone batiks...

Jewel Quest 10" stack by Island Batik, with yardage from their Basics lines

That's all I have to show until after I cut it all up and sew.  The presentation is so lovely though, it almost seems a shame to take it apart...

Meanwhile, I'd like to know:  have you ever made a two-color quilt?  I'd love to hear about it.  If you haven't, are you tempted?

Happy quilting,