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Uppercase Volume 3, “Circular Logic”😻

Is there anything better than receiving an email from the amazing Janine Vangool, asking if you would like some fabric to create a piece for her brand-new collection? 🎉🎉🎉

Actually, YES…when you receive another email from Janine telling you that Windham Fabrics liked the design and would like more of the same to be used as blocks for a larger quilt! (Insert major happy dance here 💃🏼).

So…a very relaxed weekend of creating the first one:

…was followed by the joy and frenzy of coming home from a business trip to a pile of half-yard cuts of the entire collection. Deep breath…MistyFuse all…noting possible combinations along the way:

Actually, yes…I think the beach scene is my favorite:

So, Jackson acquired a beach house…a ski house…a place in the city…spring and fall scenes…then I had to get a little creative when I discovered I needed to produce 9 scenes in all 😳. Ok…so, my cat had a blue phase:

…and had to take cover during a rainy day:

Working with Janine’s third collection is an absolute joy! Of course, I had a little help from miles of Aurifil:

…and somehow 9 were done by deadline…

The best part of all? Each of this kit’s “blocks” are 14″ and can be standalone contributions to Jamie Fingal’s amazing project for the Heart of the Home. (Next best, learning just how creative you can be on an insanely tight deadline ;).)

Thank you, Janine, for including me in this adventure!

“Quilt as Desired”…most hated phrase? 😝

Ok, so hopefully you have all purchased the current issue of Quilting Arts magazine and are inspired to create your own home-themed quilt for the Readers’ Challenge (which is for a particularly awesome cause!)

If you’ve decided to create a piece with the instructions in my article…you will see that I have included a few suggestions about what to do with the piece after you are done fusing. I thought it might be useful to offer the exact (time-saving) steps I employ…I have made so many of these now that I think my Bernina could do them for me ;). After assembling my thread palette of Aurifil 50wt for my series…

1. The cat comes first! Usually because I want to take a little time to look at the other fabrics and decide quilting patterns, I always stitch carefully around the inside edge of my cat, twice. On the second pass I stitch a line indicating one of his back legs is in front, then I stitch the outline of his face.

2. Next, house and roof! Simple outline stitching first…then radiating lines from peak of roof to bottom. Next, windows and door-again, simple outlines, then perhaps panes in the window. By now you’ve stared at the house fabric long enough to decide if it is made of stone (pebble stitch), brick (horizontal rows broken up by little vertical breaks), or clapboard (simple horizontal lines). An important design decision is: matching thread colors or contrasting hues? I prefer contrast for each element as it provides much more visual interest.

3. Tree time! I find it much easier to stitch the sinuous lines of the tree if I turn the piece around so the the roots are facing me. Outline first, then stitch “bark”…have fun adding a knothole and stitch around it. After the tree is finished, I’ll stitch the leaves: outline, then add a curving vein from stem to tip, backtrack and add a few little veins, then a second outline.

4. If you have a sun: begin at center and spiral outward…stitch the edge of the circle then stitch each little “ray.” Do cloud next.

6. Next, the “path” or “steps”. Consider the fabric: would you like to suggest cobblestones? Bricks? Some other pattern that enhances the fabric design?

At this point, you have finished the major elements. Little details such as a tree swing or a bird on top of the house can be added after you quilt the background. Now, take a lint roller and roll your piece firmly. Wow. There will be lots of fray to clean up (less if you are using batiks)!! I wear disposable lab gloves to free-motion quilt so I rub the surface of my piece at this stage to encourage the fray, then tidy it around each appliquéd piece with tweezers and thread snippers.


5. Sky…I like to turn the piece sideways and stitch in a smoothly rippling flame fill stitch.

6. Ground…first, stitch the horizon down with a few lines of stitching. Then consider the ground cover…this will depend upon the fabric. One approach is a free-motion lasso, which includes a leaf or a flower in between each 2 loops. Or, you might try free-motion zig-zag in curving lines to suggest grass…

Almost done! Now…if you want to include a tree swing (or a moon swing!),fuse a tiny sliver of fabric as the “seat,” stitch it down, and switch to a heavier thread to stitch the “ropes.” I, of course, recommend Aurifil’s 12wt…and for this bit, change your needle to a 100 size Topstitch. Free-motion stitch a line with little ripples in it, then backtrack doing the reverse pattern and it will look like this:

My last step? Well, I begin with my cat and I end with him ;)…whiskers are the final touch! A heavyweight white thread or a bright contrasting color (to both cat and ground hues) will be perfect. I lightly ink in his sleepy eyes and nose-mouth…stitch then carefully…then pick a spot on his jaw on each side and stitch in very visible whiskers for extra cuteness.

You’re done! Simply trim to 14″ square, zig-zag stitch around the edges, and you are ready to quilt your next house scene 😁.

Never Forget

Each of us has our own story for that day. Mine began on an Air Canada flight from Toronto to LGA…we were one of the last planes allowed to land. As the months passed, volumes of incredible art were created to commemorate the tragedy and help us to make sense of it all.

My piece is a nod to the incredibly moving Tribute in Light that shines over the site each year. I neglected to take any step-out photos but if you look carefully, you can see that it is quite simple.

1- the sky (Carol Eaton’s confetti-dyed) and the river (dark blue solid batik) were MistyFused onto the batting sandwich…

2- a piece of almost-but-not-quite Black was MistyFused and cut to the same width as the sky. First I cut out a series of skyscrapers in random order…then used my rotary cutter to cut a smooth curve representing the bank of the East River…

3- for the “towers” of light, I took a handful of silvery Angelina fiber…pressed it between my Goddess sheets,,,MistyFused it…then cut two tall narrow strips and fused them rising from behind the building…

4- and added “clouds” of wispy wool batting, MistyFused lightly to the sky.

5- I stitched the light towers in narrow columns with Superior metallic thread…a nod to the original design of the Towers…

6- and finished with simple free motion stitching in the sky and river (the latter a rippling pattern).

This piece hangs in my studio each September. I choose to remember the incredible kindness that New Yorkers showed one another that day…and the boundless hospitality offered by so many Canadians to those who were stranded north of the border.

Caption This! 😉🐾🐾

My latest piece all began, as they so often do, with an amazing piece of fabric from Carol Eaton…a 2-toned piece she added to my order for fun. The nanosecond I laid it out, I thought…hmm, black cat would look awesome on the red background, buff cat also awesome on the blue/violet.

I had pre-MistyFused pieces of Carol’s custom-dyed solids for Jesse’s other portraits and black silk from another piece featuring Jackson. Aha! I ended up not going with the other hand-dyed you see here, but instead the last precious scrap of Cherrywood black. (As you may know, black is a very difficult color to achieve in hand-dyed fabric…Cherrywood is my favorite, darkest black.)

The photo I immediately thought of was this one:

Summit meeting? Plot to overthrow human management of the house? Who knows…but it is a favorite of mine. The MobileMonet app turned it into this image:

…which gave me a paper pattern. Well, eventually…I played with re-sizing each cat half until it was the right size for the background. From there it was fast work to trace the outlines of my subjects onto their respective fabrics!

A brief side note on eyes: for very dark-toned pets, I sometimes prefer to use reverse appliqué for their eyes…so Jackson’s eyes were traced, cut out then backed with a bit of Carol’s brilliant green fabric-

Next…arranged and fused…and ready for LOTS of thread 😁!

For the backgrounds, I just had to try the dark red Aurifil in a slightly heavier (40) weight…for the blue-violet, well, when you cannot decide, use both! (Using monofilament in the bobbin makes life easy when you plan to change top thread colors frequently.)

Then my favorite part: whiskers! I love using very heavy 12wt thread for this detail as it helps them to really stand out:

If you do this, don’t forget to switch to an even larger needle…I use a 100 Topstitch needle for whiskers (90 for nearly everything else).

Time to complete this piece: about 8-9 (all-consuming) hours. My biggest time-saver, by far, is to MistyFuse my fabrics in advance-this enables me to go right to the cutting-composing-fusing-changing my mind and re-positioning phase. (The biggest time drain was trying to adjust the highlighted sections of Jackson’s fur…too dark!…whoops, too light…oh, SO much fabric ink…)

Now, to decide on a title 😂…what do you think?

I Love It! I Must Have It! … What Do I DO With It?

I recently introduced a friend to the amazingly talented Carol Eaton…well, more specifically, to Carol’s hand-dyed fabrics. I had to smile, remembering my initial OMG it’s-too-good-to-cut-into reaction. The vast majority of my pet portraits, big and small, are in no small part a collaboration with Carol’s gift.

Now that she has an Etsy shop:, I thought it would be fun to share the many ways you can use her marvelous fabrics.

1- Most obviously, as a brilliant background to a particularly cute subject. In the case of this quilt, I sent Carol the photo of adorable Ivy and she hand-dyed the “fur” solid fabrics I used to create the pup portrait against one of my favorite confetti-dyed backgrounds:

2- As a key ingredient of a piece…for instance, the leaves and vines in this portrait of Jackson were cut from an ice-dyed green I adored:

3- Consider functional pieces…such as this notebook cover I stitched for my Sweetie a few Hanukkahs ago:

4- Simply marvel at how nature imitates art (or vice versa?!)…I came home from walking the dog with this photo and realized I has a perfect background for a landscape:

I am a firm believer in the notion that our fabric talks to us and reveals its perfect use…this has been waiting for me for 3 years now, shouting at me that it must become this skyscape:

…while a few other pieces sit on my shelf, smiling mysteriously as they make me wait ;). I think the most important advice would be to enjoy the process…and when you feel that muse, don’t be afraid to cut into that fabric!

One Play Session With Inks, Two Stories

So it all began when I took this pre-dawn picture from my hotel window:

I was taken by the slightly mysterious effect of the light in the sky against the still-dark landscape…and the solitary car on a usually very busy street. Of course I had to apply my filter…

Ooh! Next step, grab some white Radiance (silk/cotton) and my Tsukineko inks to see if I could interpret that sky…

Since I was using a spray bottle of water to blur the inks and make them run together, I blotted the fabric with a second piece of Radiance…and to my delight it came up like this:

Do you see the landscape? I decided to stitch this second image first:

So much fun!! The only color I added was the duck…the scene was simply too peaceful with no strong focal point.

Back to my original scene…I MistyFused some dark blue batik on as the foreground, and began stitching in some details. I think I need to do this one on a bigger scale to do justice to the details…but of course I have dozens of other images in line, too. Hmm perhaps this needs a few dark blue birds in flight…

Remember that you do not need to devote a lot of space or time to this very fun exercise! Some inks, a few brushes, a spray bottle and a work surface are all you need:

Try some and have fun! (and do sign up for Judy Coates Perez’s classes to learn dozens of techniques which will ensure that you are never short of inspiration 🌈🎨😁!)

What’s On Your Top Ten List?

My airplane reading this week included the latest issue of the excellent “Love Patchwork & Quilting” UK magazine. The closing column is entitled “A Quilter’s Top Ten,” and I had fun agreeing with some items (eg, good quality cutting mat) and less so with others (I’ve never used spray starch as far as I can recall!) As my travel delays mounted, I couldn’t resist listing my own must-have top ten.

1. MistyFuse Without the magic of our favorite fusible, my pet portraits and landscapes wouldn’t even have a start! While I sketch my ideas and work from altered photos, sometimes I simply compose with my rotary cutter and a stack of pre-fused fabric (which is really the most fun ;)).

2. A really big pressing sheet! The Goddess sheet made by the genius behind MistyFuse is my fave.

3. Almost-solid hand-dyed fabrics in a rainbow of shades. I am crazy for bright colors, but my stash also includes some awesome subtle shades (many custom-dyed by my uber-talented friend Carol Eaton) for interpreting fur colors. Some artists dye a very tight-weave batik which is perfect for cutting out small details without fray…or, Cherrywood has their very own process with a softer hand and a completely different feel. I love them both!

4. Fabric collections by folks whose design sense I just love. Looking at you, Modern Quilt Studio, Uppercase, Basic Grey! And of course I keep discovering more…I am completely hooked on Alison Glass’ palette for her batiks and cannot wait for the next collection this fall.

5. Tsukineko fabric inks, discovered during my first visit to Festival. I love the pens in all colors but simply must have a bottle of their white ink for dabbing in highlights in my subjects’ eyes.

6. Aurifil thread, of course! The colors are incredible and the choice of different weights is so helpful…I adore the 12wt for stitching in whiskers :).

7. Superior Thread too…high-shine trilobal polyester that plays beautifully in my long arm, and monofilament which is my bobbin thread of choice for nearly all of my small art quilts (because I change the color on top so frequently)…

8. …and their needles, which are the best. I buy them in bunches, 90 and 100wt Topstitch are all I use. While we’re talking about needles, make sure you change yours frequently enough! I’ll switch to a new one after an afternoon of stitching if I’ve been thread painting (don’t wait until you hear that thumping sound which is your machine saying pleeeeeze feed me a new needle ;).)

9. Disposable lab gloves 🧤 to keep a firm grip on my piece while I free-motion quilt…so helpful!

10. High-quality small scissors for cutting small details on appliqué pieces (such as perfect kitty outlines 🐾🐾😉).

What are YOUR must-haves?