Cotton Cuts and the Value of Value

“Color gets all the credit, but value does all the work.”

I don’t know who first came up with that quote; but I’ve seen many, many versions of it – because it’s so true!

Most quilt books have a section on how to choose colors for a quilt. Color theory can be very helpful, but what often gets lost in the discussion is the importance of value – how light or dark a given color (or piece of fabric) may be, and how differences in value and value placement can be used as a primary design element.

Today I’d like to briefly share some of my recent exploration in using value to define individual shapes within an overall pattern, establish focal areas, and create depth and lumiosity.

But first I’d like to back up for a second and talk about a different kind of value…

Cotton Cuts is one of those special companies that you not only feel good about supporting because of the quality of their products, but you can also feel good about supporting their mission.They offer a variety of monthly subscription options for top-quality quilting-weight fabric and Aurifil thread. They also have a 10-month mystery quilt; an online shop with additional thread, fabric, and patterns; and host the #CCColorChallenge on Instragram.

From the Cotton Cuts website:
“Cotton Cuts is on a mission to create jobs. We have partnered with a local workshop that provides dignified employment opportunities to the intellectually challenged and to those with other disabilities. Every Cotton Cuts membership that you purchase contributes toward enriching the lives of these very talented individuals.”

“Build your stash while feeling good about it!”

As a newly minted Cotton Cuts Brand Ambassador, I received my first box of goodies back in March.  What fun! Each box I’ve received so far has had different color theme.

Here’s my March Java Batiks unboxing video:

And here’s a video I posted of my April Java Batiks box:

Continue Reading…

Link Love – Sewing Face Masks to Help Fight the Coronavirus

When life seems particularly unpredictable and scary, I find it tremendously helpful when I can identify something productive to do – and doubly so when it will potentially benefit not only me and my family, but our community as well. Anyone watching the news lately will be aware of the shortage of face masks for health care providers on the frontlines of this pandemic, as well as for everyday people who are at risk of either spreading or contracting the Coronavirus/Covid-19. 

Graphic from Instagram – I don’t know who created it originally, but we are encouraged to use it to promote home sewing of face masks. 🙂

While the face masks we sew at home may not meet the CDC guidelines for medical professionals, it is my understanding that depending on the design, cloth masks can be used in conjuntion with the N95 medical grade masks, acting as a removable cover that can extend the usable lifespan of the medical grade mask underneath. When the medical grade masks are not available, they can be used by themselves to offer at least some protection.

Cloth masks may also be in high demand from local hospitals, nursing homes, cancer-related organizations, or other health care facilities.

Please note that I am not a medical professional. But as I understand it, by themselves, fabric masks will not completely prevent the spread of the Coronavirus or Covid-19. However, they can help us keep our germs to ourselves; and hopefully, slow the spread of the disease.  A mask can also help remind the wearer to avoid touching their face. 🙂

I’m including a link to the guidelines from the World Health Organization for when and how to properly use face masks. They suggest masks for those who as sick and for those who are caring for the sick.

UPDATE from the CDC: “CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. Cloth face coverings may slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others…. While people who are sick or know that they have COVID-19 should isolate at home, COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. That’s why it’s important for everyone to practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people) and wear cloth face coverings in public settings. Cloth face coverings provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people.”

And here some of the free patterns and tutorials I’ve collected from around the web that I feel are particularly helpful: Continue Reading…

Finishing Spree – Flange Binding by Machine

What is a flange binding? It’s a great no-hand-sewing option for finishing quilts with a sturdy double fold binding while adding a fun design element to the outer edges of your quilt.

Church Window quilt by Beth Ann Williams (pattern by Lo & Behold Stitchery), finished with a flange binding.

With only a few exceptions, I’ve always bound my quilts by sewing the binding to the front of the quilt by machine, and then wrapping the binding around to the back of the quilt and sewing it down by hand. I expect that I will always finish my show and “heirloom” quilts this way, but I have been thinking for quite a while about how I can speed up the process for utility quilts. Especially now that I’ve become enthralled with sew-alongs, the number of  quilts in the to-be-finished pile is growing, and I’m finding it challenging to keep up with myself!

I’d done some experimenting, but had not settled on a method I was entirely happy with, when a couple of the ladies at the Muskegon Lakeshore Sewing store told me about the flange binding method demonstrated by Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilt Company.

I was so impressed! The finished binding looks like it has been accented with fine piping – adding a fun design element at the same time as offering a relatively quick machine-sewing finish.

Since then, I’ve done quite a bit of research and found a number of different ways to achieve this effect.  I’m going to share what works for me – but please remember, this is only 1 of the many ways to do this. 🙂

There is quite a bit of preparation for this method, but I find that each step is an important factor in ensuring a hassle-free result at the end.

Ronan “assisting” me with binding prep – he was escorted upstairs shortly after this and remained banished for the rest of the process. 

Continue Reading…

Finishing Spree – Quilting with Decorative Stitches

Now that I’m participating in at least four new sew-alongs over the next few months, my finishing-spree is more important that ever!

This time, I’d like to share yet another machine quilting option – quilting with the decorative stitches that are built into your sewing machine.

Hold Tight Petite quilt, made by Beth Ann Williams, pattern by Sharon Holland.

My observations & recommendations: Continue Reading…

Finishing Spree – Hoops vs. Gloves for Free-Motion Quilting

I hope all of my US friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving! My husband and son couldn’t get away, but my daughter Connor and I had a fabulous road trip together to visit my family in Pennsylvania and New York. We had a wonderful time staying with my parents and then with my sister – including cherished opportunities to connect with many of my cousins and other extended family members. What a treat that was!

But now I’m home and back in finishing mode.

I’ve switched gears from machine-guided quilting with my walking foot to free-motion quilting with my darning or free-motion foot. This allows me to stitch in any direction I please – but also means that I am solely responsible for moving the quilt. The feed dogs of the sewing machine are disengaged so that the needle goes up and down, but doesn’t move the fabric. This means I need to have a careful balance between the speed at which I am running my sewing machine and the speed at which I am moving the fabric – run the machine too fast, and the stitches are too small; move the quilt too quickly, and the stitches are too long.  The goal is to create beautiful patterning (“drawing” with the sewing machine) while still keeping the stitches all approximately the same length.

Batting choice, needle choice, thread choice and tension settings can each make a significant difference in the appearance and quality of the stitching.

I often reach for 40 wt. variegated thread (with 60 wt. poly in the bobbin) when free-motion quilting. I love how the color changes add a subtle sparkle to the quilt.

But one of the main challenges of free-motion quilting is the physicality of moving the quilt. Fabric can get very heavy, and it’s all too easy for one’s hands to slip and lose control. Having a large stable, flat surface to work on really helps; this could be an extension table, a Sew Steady Table, or a cabinet with a surface flush with the surface of your machine. A Supreme Slider can also be a big plus – but you must first make sure it is anchored securely so that it doesn’t slide right into your stitches. Ask me how I know that…

In the past, I have steered away from the various hoops designed to assist with free-motion quilting, feeling that the downsides outweighed the potential pay-off. But I’ve been rethinking that.

I’m currently working on my Snowflake quilt from the sew-along with Nicole from Modern Handcraft

Snowflake quilt made & quilted by Beth Ann Williams, pattern by Nicole from Modern Handcraft.

As I quilt this, I’m considering what I learned from the previous two quilts in my Finishing Spree – my Church Window quilt (pattern by Brittany of Lo & Behold Stitchery) and the Enchanted Carpet bargello quilt made by my friend Ruth DeJager (original design from my book Colorwash Bargello Quilts).  Continue Reading…

Finishing Spree – Quilt-As-You-Go

Ronan contemplating my Talk of the Town quilt (pattern by Amy Ellis) turned Quilt-As-You-Go

Sometimes projects take a turn or two (or more!) along the way and don’t turn out as originally envisioned. I like to reframe these as opportunities for new “design decisions”.   😉

Earlier this fall, I signed up to participate in the Modern Patchwork Quilt Along – Talk of the Town Quilt with Amy Ellis. Little did I know that this was going to turn into quite the series of such decisions…

I read through the pattern carefully and selected the appropriate number of fat quarters specified for the size quilt I wanted to make.

My initial fabric pull for my Talk of the Town Quilt

The pattern was well-written and the diagrams looked very clear. But as soon as I started cutting my fabric, I realized I had a significant problem… the cutting diagrams assumed perfect 18″ x 22″ usable fabric from each fat quarter, and my prewashed fat quarters of fabric didn’t even come close. Most were around 21″, and that’s counting the selvage along one end.  So I didn’t have enough fabric!

I had to improvise.  Continue Reading…

Finishing Spree – Matchstick Quilting

Colorblock Love quilt made by Beth Ann Williams using the pattern by Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio.

Do you know what Matchstitck Quilting is? I didn’t until a few months ago when my friends Ruth and Michele told me about it. Yes, apparently I’ve been hiding under a rock… LOL

I had difficulty wrapping my brain around it at first; quilting lines only the width of a matchstick apart? Why on earth would you quilt so densely? But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became. So I did a little research and then let the idea simmer a while.

Meanwhile, my son Jack almost never asks me to make anything for him; so on the rare occasion that he does, I tend to drop everything else and make it.  That was the case for this project. I fell in love with the Colorblock Love pattern by Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio when Mr. Domestic adapted it to make a Pride Pillow and featured it on his Instagram page to promote his fundraiser for the Trevor Project. When I told my family I was planning to make the rainbow version, Jack asked me why I didn’t make a Trans Pride wall hanging instead. So I did!

Although I usually love the extra patterning free-motion quilting brings to a quilt, I felt that it would be more distracting than complementary to the graphic nature of this quilt. Then I remembered Matchstick Quilting!

There are many different approaches to matchstick quilting. Here is what I did for this particular quilt: Continue Reading…

Finishing Spree!

My most recent sew-along top finish – the Granny Cabin from Then Came June. Now it needs to be quilted!

I’ve been neck-deep in sew-alongs this fall – I find myself really energized by having multiple projects going on at a time. What I like best is that no matter how little time, energy, or physical mobility I have on any given day, there is sure to be something productive I can do on at least one project, whether it is collecting fabrics, playing with relative values to explore interesting design variations, cutting, sewing, basting, auditioning thread colors for machine quilting, actual quilting, or binding. But every once in a while, there is a time of reckoning when there is a pile-up of projects in the last few stages of completion and it’s time to wrap things up!

Now I plan to start a series of posts about my finishing spree – or how I’m turning my pile of quilt tops into finished quilts.

I’ll share some of my favorite ways to machine quilt, resources to help make the process easier, a variety of approaches to quilt labels, and a selection of binding techniques that I find most helpful.

I’m sure there will be some bouncing back and forth between topics as I work on whittling down my UFO (AKA UnFinished Object) pile, but I’ll tag each post with “Finishing Spree” so that they will be easy to identify.

You might also find the tag cloud on my site helpful – it’s usually located in the sidebar on the righthand side of the page if you are on a laptop or PC OR near the bottom of the page if you are on your phone. Just click on the topic of your choice to bring up all of my posts with that tag.

Meanwhile, Happy Quilting!

 

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!

Continue Reading…

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…