Link Love – FREE Patterns for the Tiki Tote & the Persimmon Dumpling Pouch

I’ve gotten some requests for more information about two projects I posted on Instagram recently – the Tiki Tote pattern from Bluprint (featured on the Midnight Quilt Show with Angela Walters) and the Persimmon Dumpling Pouch from Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness. Not only are both these patterns FREE, but they also have free video tutorials that show you exactly how to make them.

My Instagram post showing the Tiki Totes, Persimmon Dumpling Pouch, and a couple of basic zipped pouches.

I found these projects are a lot of fun – both to make and to use.

It all started with a jelly roll (collection of 2.5″ strips) that I picked up on clearance from Bluprint…

Jelly roll – coordinated collection of 2.5″ strips – a fun way to play with a wide selection of fabrics!

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What I Did This Summer… Fun with Sew Alongs on Instagram

First block in my Moroccan Tiles quilt

First, for those who enjoy a little backstory:

(if you don’t care about backstory, skip on down to the Sew Alongs – I won’t be offended!)

One of the challenges of pursuing your passion (or something related to your passion) as your vocation is the risk of adding so many financial and/or performance related pressures that what once gave you joy becomes another source of stress instead. Back when I was showing and selling my work in galleries, I found myself in the very odd position of not being able to afford my own work. The amount of money I could make by selling my art quilts was too high for me to justify making anything for myself when I had a family to help support! Later, when I was designing quilts and writing quilting books for Martingale & Co. and teaching both locally and all around the country, I found my sewing and quilting time so limited that I felt I couldn’t justify taking the time to sew or quilt anything just for fun – everything had to be something I could either sell, show, include in a book, or use as a teaching sample. I love to experiment and play the “what if” game, but I felt very constrained in my experimentation – I had to be pretty confident in the outcome in order to justify the expense of time and resources. I couldn’t allow myself to take the kinds of creative risks I yearned to take. 

Another of my Moroccan Tiles blocks

This phenomenon was exacerbated for me when an apparent mini-stroke almost 10 years ago (combined with long term symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis) left me not only reliant on aids like wheelchairs, walkers, and canes to get around, but left me with impaired fine motor control and strength – and mostly unable to cut fabric, sew (by either hand or machine), and especially quilt.  As the severity of my symptoms fluctuated, I was able to do a little sewing, but it was mostly (of necessity) related to my role as Creative Director for Lakeshore Sewing. 

I coped with this by turning my creative focus to writing, drawing and designing fabric – things I could do even when confined to bed, and sewing small items when able.

But something changed this spring. As my mobility, dexterity, and energy gradually improved, I started sewing again. Small stuff at first, like bags and purses; but eventually even quilts. While I am still very much affected by MS, I am physically doing the best I have since 2009/2010. And I am so happy!

But I also know that I want to approach my sewing and quilting differently than I have in the past – I want to keep more of the joy. As I was discussing this with my sister, she mentioned to me that I was reminding her a lot of a book she had recently read by Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. As soon as I could, I bought a copy for myself and started reading. I devoured it!

I won’t get into a full book review here, except to say that I heartily recommend it for anyone and everyone who is interested in living a creative life – not necessarily as a vocation (although it’s applicable for that, too), but as a way of living. One of the most important take-aways for me personally was not to get caught up again in always creating “original” or marketable work, but to allow myself to freely and without the pressure of expectation pursue any rabbit trails that might catch my eye and capture my interest.  Allowing myself to play and to participate more fully in the creativity around me has become a new goal for me.

Which brings me back to what I did this summer… Continue Reading…

Shimmer Quilt – Part 3

My clamshell “Shimmer” quilt has been a labor of love and persistence – for such a relatively small piece, it sure has been labor intensive! But I’ve enjoyed each step of the process as it stretched my creative muscles to experiment with new-to-me products, techniques and approaches.

Below is my completed quilt top. It’s a little wrinkly, as there was an unfortunate incident overnight with a leaky pipe right above my worktable that left my quilt top not only soaked but stained when I found it in the morning, and I had to wash the unquilted top. Not usually recommended! 

I also had some bleeding from the dark purple fabrics. I’ve always prewashed everything in the past; but in this case, I had followed the recommendations from Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) and I did not do so. I will never skip that step again!

The fabric shrank a little when I washed it, creating the appearance of small tucks and wrinkles in the quilt top. At this point, I was hoping they would disappear when I quilted the top.

I was very discouraged by these developments, but decided to press on.

Shimmer clamshell quilt top designed and made by Beth Ann Williams

I considered an all-over free-motion quilting design, as that has been my go-to approach in the past. But in the spirit of trying something new, I opted to treat each individual patch as an opportunity to play with a different motif or style of patterning. But first I stabilized the quilt top by quilting on either side of each patch to create an all-over latticework which I also extended into the white negative space around the outer edges of the quilt.

This left me with very tiny spaces to fill with free-motion quilting, but it was also fun. 😀

Shimmer clamshell quilt by Beth Ann Williams – free-motion quilting in progress.

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Shimmer Quilt – Part 2

Wow! I really need to catch up! There’s been a lot going on our lives – both good and bad (or at least very challenging and saddening); most notably the passing of my beloved Aunt Peg, aka Margaret Hochberg. She was one of those very special souls who exuded love and comfort to all those around her and worked tirelessly (often behind the scenes) to help everyone she could. She was a woman of deep and abiding faith who genuinely practiced what she preached in the most positive sense of the word. She welcomed and mothered us all.

One of my favorite sewing-related memories of Aunt Peg was the way she always came through when one of us (siblings, children, nieces, grandchildren, etc.) needed a special garment, whether it be for a wedding, performance choir, holiday photos, or just because.  She had an amazing ability to look at the collection of pattern books with us in the store, listen to all of the changes we wanted (which by the end, could render the purchased pattern all but useless), and somehow produce a garment that not only fit, but was just what was wanted. With her example, she taught me to create freely – modifying, adapting, or skipping commercial patterns altogether.

I think it’s especially appropriate to think about Aunt Peg today, as my approach to this quilt was definitely inspired by that freedom. 🙂

In my last post, I showed how I fused the 3″ clamshell templates cut from ink-jet printable, iron-on Wash Away Applique Sheets to the back of my fabric.

Sorting my fabrics into groupings – starting to get an idea of how I might arrange them…

The next step was to use a wash-away fabric glue pen along the seam allowance of the upper edge of each clamshell and then fold the seam allowance over just a little bit at a time, easing in any extra fullness. (I found this the quickest way to get a nice stable turned edge along the top of each clamshell.)

I laid out my clamshells into groupings of 4, overlapping the clamshells so that no raw edges of fabric would show when all the pieces were sewn together. In some cases (particularly with the darkest blues and purples), I used a light box to help me see exactly where the edges of the wash-away applique paper were underneath the fabric.

After playing with various arrangements, I settled on a final design. washing the color from left to right and values from bottom to top. But I needed to cut some more clamshells…

“Shimmer” clamshell quilt by Beth Ann Williams, pondering the layout…

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Shimmer Quilt – Part 1

This next series of posts will explore the process of creating a new quilt inspired by shimmering sunlight and shadows reflecting off the rippling surface of Lake Michigan.

My initial starting point was this selection of ombre fabric. I’d never worked with fabrics like this before, so I thought it would be a fun challenge to come up with a design that would take advantage of the gradated colors. 

Ombre fabric from shop.mybluprint.com

The next step was to think about what kind of shape or shapes I wanted to work with. I’ve never worked with clamshells before, but I’ve always loved them. It seemed to me that clamshells would lend themselves to the kind of organic movement I had in mind.   Continue Reading…

Cork and the Clydebank Tote

Have you ever heard of cork fabric? I was dimly aware of it, but it hadn’t really registered for me as something I’d like to try until I came across this post on the Sew Sweetness blog by Sara Lawson. In conjunction with an online book club she is hosting, Sara is posting a free project pattern and video tutorial every month. The first project was the Clydebank Tote, and several of the sample projects featured cork fabric on the side panels. I was intrigued!

I first purchased some cork fabric from Fabric.com, but wasn’t quite happy with the color match when it arrived. So I went back to Sara’s site, which has a great selection in a wide variety of colors.

Note: watch out when you are searching for cork fabric – the fabric I’m referring to in this post is high quality cork with a polyurethane backing and a smooth, leather-like hand. It is NOT regular quilting-weight cotton that has been printed to look like “cork”. Cork fabric is also sometimes referred to as “vegan leather”.

Selection of cork fabric and the Clydebank Tote pattern. (I have plans for the Clammy template and Glam Clam pattern later!) Note: the black cork I eventually used in my tote isn’t shown in this photo.

I opted to use fabrics from my Winter Romance collection in my Spoonflower shop for my tote. Continue Reading…

Checking Out Lightweight Cotton Twill

So I’m in love with the Kona Cotton Ultra from Spoonflower.com – it’s my go-to fabric choice when ordering, but when the site ran a promotion on Lightweight Cotton Twill, I took a chance and ordered some.

I’m so glad I did!

Lightweight cotton twill fabrics from my Winter Romance collection in my Spoonflower shop. These are all my own designs; but as far as I can tell, you can buy any of the 750,000+ designs at Spoonflower.com in this fabric.

I find the lightweight cotton twill launders well, is super easy to work with (easy to pin and presses well), has a subtle sheen I really like, and is sturdy enough that I don’t need to add lightweight fusible interfacing such as Shape-Flex as I usually do when using quilting-weight cotton to make bags, purses, or home dec items. (I still use foam interfacing when I want a structured bag – even with the twill.)

Here’s a comparison of the two fabrics (info from Spoonflower.com): Continue Reading…

And Now, for Something Completely Different…

I’ve been super inspired creatively the last few weeks, and need to start catching up on my posts 🙂

But first, something a little different from what I’ve been sharing: pics from a recent photoshoot – just before the snow melted.

I made the reversible brocade cape and capelet and shot the photos; Konaa modeled and added a little dramatic atmosphere to the woodsy background (and camouflaged all the messy footprints in the snow!) Thanks to our dear friends, Mike and Sue Callihan, for letting us use the woods around their house for the shoot. We had a lot of fun with it!

Back view – reversible brocade cape and capelet made by Beth Ann Williams (under the name Brennan Fogarty) for an upcoming studio project, modeled by Konaa.

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Fun with Cathedral Windows

Cathedral windows has been a favorite pattern of mine since I first saw this traditional quilt style many years ago, but I’ve never made more than a few blocks at a time because the handwork proved too frustrating for me to manage wth my peripheral neuropathy. So I was immediately intrigued when I heard about the Cathedral Window Pillow episode from Angela Walters on her Midnight Quilt Show. I checked out Angela’s demonstration on YouTube and was excited to see how the process had been reimagined and reengineered to make it relatively quick and easy to create by machine.

You can also download the (currently) free pattern from Bluprint 🙂

The cutting instructions are for two 20″ pillows, but I opted to make just one this time. Angela was using a charm pack (precut 5″ squares), but I raided my scrap bin and leftover bits and pieces from other projects and cut my own squares and triangles.

I decided to make my pillow with a mix of scraps of my custom fabrics from Spoonflower and of my carefully hoarded Kaffe Fassett fabric. The white fabric I’m using is Lily & Loom Brilliant White from Bluprint (formerly Craftsy).

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Out of My Comfort Zone – Desert Modernism Challenge

Why do I love Spoonflower so much?

As an independent designer (as well as consumer), I get a terrific way to create custom textiles for my own use, as well as to sell 20+ different types of fabrics (plus wallpaper, gift wrap and ready-made home decor items) printed with my original artwork to designers and sewists all over the world – without having to deal personally with payments and shipping!

But while the strength of working with Spoonflower is the huge marketplace it offers, it also means it can be easy to get lost in the crowd. NOTE: if you enter the Spoonflower site without going through my shop, the easiest way to find my work is to enter “bethannwilliams” (without the quotation marks 😉 ) in the search box.

To help with this, Spoonflower urges designers to enter design challenges and “Join the community of over 16,000 designers, gain visibility and share your work with over 600,000 shoppers per month.”

Spoonflower sets the challenge, and the designers have to come up with NEW work specifically for that challenge – they can’t use anything they’ve already listed in their shops.

I confess that I haven’t been paying the attention I should to the challenges…  So I almost missed this one! But I ventured out of my comfort zone and entered at the last minute.

Voting in the Desert Modernism Challenge ends on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 3 pm EDT. Anyone can vote – for my work or for any other designs you like!

Here’s is a peek at my entry:

Close-up view of my new design, Desert Dreams – 8″ swatch

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