Adventures with Spoonflower – Changing Seasons

Note: if My Spoonflower Shop links aren’t working (the system has seemed overloaded at times recently) you can also find me at Spoonflower.com and Roostery.com by searching on “bethannwilliams”)

In my last post, I shared the origins of my Around the World and Back Again collection.

This time, I’d like to share a bit of the inspiration behind the designs in my collection Changing Seasons.

For several years, my dear friend June Mears Driedger and I co-hosted Storytelling in Fiber retreats at the Hermitage in Three Rivers, Michigan. Beyond the joys, inspiration and precious companionship of being around other creative women, one of the many things I enjoyed about our time there was private contemplative time in the woods. Sometimes I would walk the little labyrinth path, sometimes I would just walk slowly and commune with nature, and sometimes I would snap photos with my phone of anything that caught my eye.

These photos became the foundational inspiration behind Changing Seasons, particularly this shot:

Photo taken by Beth Ann Williams at the Hermitage in Three Rivers, MI.

You can see the influence of sunlight filtering through the outstretched branches, and of the colors and textures of tree trunks, branches, twigs, leaves, moss and sky in the 8″ swatches below.

To me, there is also a sacred quality to many of these designs, although that was not my conscious intent. Continue Reading…

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Adventures with Spoonflower – Around the World and Back Again

Note: if My Spoonflower Shop links aren’t working (the system has seemed overloaded at times recently) you can also find me at Spoonflower.com and Roostery.com by searching on “bethannwilliams”)

I haven’t been posting lately, but I HAVE been creating. 🙂

Working on designs for a couple of new fabric collections has made me reflect a bit on previous work. Today I thought it would be fun to revisit the first fabric designs I ever uploaded to my shop on Spoonflower.com.

Around the World and Back Again

This is what I titled my first fabric collection. The original inspiration behind this entire collection is one of my journal quilts, At the Gates of Midnight. The title of the quilt comes from a phrase I once read that stuck with me – “Even at the gates of midnight, still dreaming of the dawn…”

At the Gates of Midnight, journal quilt/art quilt, (C) Beth Ann Williams

Around the World and Back Again is a reference to my personal life, visiting and/or living in 17 countries by the time I graduated college. Most of the fabrics in the center of this quilt are from Africa. In addition to the personal associations, I  love the strong graphic quality, vivid colors, and high internal contrast common to many of these fabrics.

I used bits and pieces of the quilt as starting points to create new designs. As I was developing the collection, I also tried to keep in mind practical considerations such as having a variety of colors, values, and scales. And though I have a definite fondness for working with radial symmetry, I also included a few stripes and simpler all-over patterns as well. Continue Reading…

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My Adventures with Spoonflower

Sadly, the repairs, unpacking, and setting up again of my basement studio has yet to be finished, which has really been cramping my creative style…

However, Spoonflower is having a fantastic half price sale on fat quarters (all fat quarters – not just mine!) now through midnight on Nov. 8, 2018 – which also reminded me that this might be a good time to reflect on how I got started working with Spoonflower.

Some background information…

Way back when my books with Martingale & Co. started coming out (early 2000s), I was approached at the International Quilt Market (the big industry-wide trade show in Houston, TX, immediately preceding the International Quilt Festival) by a couple of different fabric companies about having my own line(s) of fabric. Initially, I was thrilled! But when I did some checking around and talked to other authors about their experiences working with these or similar companies, my balloon deflated in a hurry.  The companies who had contacted me seemed to fall into one of two camps: (1) they wanted to use a “celebrity” name to sell the fabric, but the “celebrity designer” had very little actual input on the designs, if at all; or (2) the “celebrity” was allowed more input, but the form that took most often was receiving a packet of samples in the mail and having very tight windows (sometimes as little as 24 hours) to make any decisions/comments/suggestions and mail the packet back again.  

Please note – this was at least 15 years ago, and most likely did not represent the fabric industry as a whole, just those particular companies.  I have no idea what the process is like now for current authors/designers. 🙂

Neither of those options appealed to me at all.  But the seed of interest had been planted.

A number of years later, a friend asked me if I was familiar with a new company called Spoonflower. I did some investigating, and was delighted to find a fantastic site for independent designers to create, showcase, and sell their work.

After a near-catastrophic neurological event in 2009 and series of surgical interventions in 2010 created radical new physical limitations and challenges, I had to expand my ideas about what living a creative life meant to me and devise new ways of expressing myself. (Creativity has always been the best emotional therapy for me, too!)

I first set up my online Spoonflower studio in 2011. I found the entire process absorbing, rewarding, and sometimes frustrating, too.  At that time, I wasn’t completely happy with how washed out or muddy many of my designs looked when digitally printed on the basic cotton. 

Over the next few years, two things happened: (1) I learned how to adjust my digital files in order to improve my results and (2) Spoonflower seemed to continually improve their digital printing technology – offering better inks, clearer images, higher quality textiles and a much wider range of base fabrics.

I most often buy the Kona Cotton Ultra for quilting, bags & totes, although the Organic Cotton Sateen has a beautiful sheen and smooth hand I really enjoy. The Poly Crepe de Chine makes BEAUTIFUL scarves. I have been super happy with the Silky Faille and Perfomance Pique, too.

Progress! The fabric on the left was printed in 2012 and the fabric on the right in 2018 – significantly clearer and brighter.

I decided earlier this year that one of my goals for 2018 was to work diligently on developing distinct fabric  collections. I also determined to spend more time thinking about/showing how these distinctive textiles might be used. 

Sample bags made from fabrics from my “Changing Seasons” collection – these are slightly older versions of my designs (fabrics printed 2012-2014), but I think they’re still fun.

You can read more about Spoonflower’s eco-friendly production system here.

Here’s how the process works on my end: Continue Reading…

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Fun with Paints – Acrylic Pours

I am very grateful to note that the dryer, hot water tank, chimney and furnace I mentioned in my last post have all been repaired and/or replaced.  Yay!

But my sewing machines, fabrics, and tools have yet to be unpacked and sorted out.  (They will be soon – I just haven’t had time!) Meanwhile, I have been in some serious need of quick creative therapy…

Happily, I came back from my recent trip to New York to see my sister all jazzed up and inspired by her very patient and very inspiring hands-on demo of acrylic pours. I love messing around with paint, but this technique was new to me. In retrospect, I kind of wish we had gotten the paints out at the beginning of the visit instead of detouring into the art room at 10:30 pm the night before we were to leave first thing in the morning, but sometimes things just happen that way. And honestly, there’s nothing we did during our visit that I would have wanted to miss; so on second thought, I’m tickled pink about my late-night introduction to acrylic pours – even though I did come home with paint on my favorite robe 🙂

Also happily, when we popped into Michaels after our trip, acrylic paints and packaged sets of 10″ x 10″ canvases were on a huge sale, and I had another stackable coupon on my phone for an additional 20% of the entire purchase. I took it as a sign and loaded up on inexpensive materials I wouldn’t worry about using up.

The basic concept Amy showed me was very simple. We mixed individual small plastic cups of white acrylic paint and a few additional colors with an extender to make them flow more easily, added just a bit of silicone, and then filled a larger plastic cup with a layer of thinned white paint, then a color, then white, and so on. Then we placed a canvas on top of the cup and flipped the whole thing over, pulling the cup away to allow the paint to spread out over the canvas. This is very messy, so plenty of newspaper, paper towels and plastic garbage bags were extremely helpful. She also lined a large box with plastic to contain the paint that ran off the edges of the canvases. 

Supplies I purchased for my experimentation. I also picked up a couple of cheap vinyl tablecloths to cover my worktable and floor, as well as thin plastic gloves. 

But it’s also surprisingly complex! Continue Reading…

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Quilts on the Grand 2018

So I’ve been offline for a bit, for both good and not-so-good reasons. First, the good – John and I took a WONDERFUL trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York to stay with my sister and brother-in-law. While we were there, we were also able to get together with my parents and with my brother and sister-in-law and their amazing kiddos. So lots and lots of fun all around!

But what a different story when we got home… we first found the dryer broken (unfortunate, but not so bad), then drips in the basement (somewhat alarming), then standing water in the basement (red alert!).  The hot water heater had sprung several leaks, couldn’t be repaired and had to be replaced; and then the technician let us know that our furnace also needs to be replaced asap, as well as the chimney (fire hazard). Whew!

Since my studio is downstairs (along with the dryer, water heater, furnace and chimney), and everything had to be packed up and/or pushed to one side in each of the large rooms downstairs in order to mop up water and create space for the repair crews to work, my creative activities will be a bit curtailed for the immediate future.

But a very bright spot in the midst of all this – the biennial Quilts on the Grand show put on by the West Michigan Quilters’ Guild at the Delta Plex in Grand Rapids, MI. Continue Reading…

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The Good, The Bad, and the Unfortunate…

I should have known, first thing in the morning when my 30 ounce environmentally friendly metal tumbler full of organic pu-erh tea and coconut cream completely upended all over a four foot radius of bedding, pillows, books, magazines, bedside rug and slippers that it wasn’t going to be an auspicious day for precision work.

But I’m an essentially optimistic person, so I decided to proceed with my plans to machine quilt my invisible machine appliqué teaching sample anyway.

Before quilting…

What followed what a series of unfortunate events punctuated by the occasional expression of shock and consternation.

It wasn’t just the tea that should have tipped me off that the stars were not in alignment that day.

The first step was to assemble my quilt “sandwich” of quilt top, batting, and backing.  I soon discovered that the supposedly fusible batting I had specifically purchased for this project wasn’t fusible after all.  So no biggie, I thought, we can improvise. Continue Reading…

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A Comfy & Easy-to-Make Pillow Lounger

 

My pillow lounger – ready to use! Next time I might buy enough fabric to match up the print properly; but I don’t think the kiddos will mind this time.   

I love to sit on the floor with William (age 3) and Emilia (age 1) and play, but I sure don’t love trying to get up again. Nor am I impressed with how hard the floor feels after a while.  Given that and also knowing how much fun the little ones have falling/jumping/snuggling into pillows, I figured we could come up with something that would work for all of us. Continue Reading…

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Handy Tools for Invisible Machine Appliqué

So this post will be a little unusual – it’s a few links specifically requested by the lovely gals in my Invisible Machine Appliqué class who wanted to know where I found a few of the items I used in class today. Upon discussion, it was agreed that the easiest thing for everyone would be for me to post the links here.

First off, here are the light boxes/light pads I brought for everyone to use:

For a working surface just under 13″ x 17″:
Continue Reading…

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Experiments in Binding – Changing the Width

In a previous post, I started experimenting with sewing quilt binding on the back of the quilt and then bringing it around to the front and appliquéing it down by machine (instead of sewing it to the front of the quilt, wrapping it around, and hand-stitching it on the back of the quilt).

I felt the experiment was successful, but the process needed refining. I’m going to give it another go. 🙂

This time I cut the binding strips 2 1/4″ wide. I still want the binding to be wider on the front of the quilt than the back (so that I don’t catch the binding in the appliqué stitching), but not as wide as in my first experiment.

I started by sewing the folded binding to the back of the quilt with a 1/4″ seam.

Then I wrapped the binding around to the front of the quilt, using Wonder Clips to hold it in place, and removed the clips as I worked my way around the quilt.

Continue Reading…

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Straight Line Machine Quilting with the Jazz

I was perplexed when I realized that the Baby Lock Jazz, which is marketed as a quilting and sewing machine, doesn’t come with a walking foot among the 9 included presser feet. It seems like a counter-intuitive omission. Not that big a deal for me, since I already have a deluxe Baby Lock low-shank walking foot for another machine that will also fit the Jazz, but definitely a first add-on purchase if you don’t have one on hand.

I truly enjoy free-motion machine quilting, so I tend not to do a lot of straight-line work. But I was intrigued with the number of quilts – particularly in the Modern Quilt exhibit – in the recent AQS show that featured simple straight-line channel quilting. The trend in show quilts of very dense, elaborate free-motion quilting seems to be still going strong, but the pendulum also seems to be swinging in the other direction – simple, but very graphic and effective, straight line quilting.

Since most of the fabrics I’ve designed for sale in my shop at Spoonflower.com (more on this another time) feature fairly complex designs, I’m thinking that straight line quilting might be an effective way to complement an overall quilt design without adding another layer of elaborate patterning.

Here is how I set up my machine:

    • Aurifil 50 wt. cotton thread in the top and 60 wt. Bottom Line in the bobbin
    • Schmetz Quilting Needle, size 75
    • Walking foot with guide bar set 3/4″ from the needle (this width is purely personal preference)
    • straight stitch
    • stitch width: 3.5 (straight stitch setting on the Jazz, as discussed in my previous post)
    • stitch length: about 2.25  (this is slightly longer than the stitch I used for piecing the quilt)

Stitch width and length settings I used for machine quilting with the walking foot

I started by using my white Clover Chaco Liner to mark one vertical line through the center of the quilt.  This is the only marking I’ll need, since I’ve attached the guide bar to my walking foot. Since I don’t want to have any more than half the quilt going through my machine at a time, I will work from the center of the quilt to the right-hand side of the quilt, and then rotate the entire quilt and quilt from the center to the (new) right-hand side of the quilt again.

Side view of Baby Lock walking foot with adjustable guide bar attached

Continue Reading…

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