The 241 Tote from Noodlehead – Review, Part I

Did you ever experience a breathless moment in time when you looked up and knew in that brief instant that THIS was THE ONE? 

Ok, let’s get our minds back on track here… I don’t know what you are thinking about, but I’m talking about tote bags. 😉

I love totebags. Cute little purses just don’t have enough room for me to haul all of my necessities around – especially since those necessities usually include a least a few file folders and maybe even a yellow pad. I’m always on the lookout for ideas for new totes – be it different fabric combinations, different bells & whistles (zippers, hardware, pockets, etc.), or different shapes.

What captured my attention about the 241 Tote (2-for-1, get it?) pattern from Noodlehead was the unusual shape and fun side pockets.

The 241 Tote from Noodlehead (photo from pattern page)

Continue Reading…

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December Wrap-Up & Link Love

What a month! Not only is late November through December extra-busy with the holidays AND one of the most demanding times of the year for my day job as Creative Director for Lakeshore Sewing, but our plumbing saga continued with more water in the basement, where my studio is located. Needless to say, my creative plans for the month had to be adjusted.

But I’m happy to say that I did manage to squeeze in at least a little sewing fun.

Below are 3 of my December projects, plus links to the free patterns I used. All 3 patterns are keepers for me – ones I’m sure I’ll use again. 

Scandiavian Star Ornaments

I was first introduced to these folded & woven fabric ornaments through a delightful instragram post by misterdomestic linking to this tutorial on his YouTube channel.

I also found a handy photo tutorial by Anna Curtiss.

Stow-Away Shopping Bag

I resized the free pattern from Moments Designs (pattern download offered through Craftsy) to make giftable shopping totes that fold into their own snap pouches for storage. I enlarged the pouch slightly because I used heavier fabric than was used in the original pattern. The instructions are terrific, with step-by-step photos for every step. 

Bohemian Bag

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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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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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Piecing on the Jazz

Continuing my evaluation of the Baby Lock Jazz – It’s time to piece a quilt! 

One of the first things I looked for is a straight stitch throat plate, as I have found that very helpful for sewing perfectly accurate, consistently straight seams on other machines, especially when strip piecing. I was initially disappointed to find that there is no straight stitch throat plate available for the Baby Lock Jazz. But I decided to give it a go before making up my mind as to whether or not this poses a significant problem.

Here is how it went:

Since the last stitching I had done was a zigzag stitch, the first thing was to switch the machine back to a straight stitch. No problem.  However, when I adjusted the stitch length to 0 (stitch width is not applicable for a straight stitch, right?) I immediately realized I had a problem:

I initially assumed I should set the stitch width to 0 for a straight stitch

Notice the problem – the needle hits the presser foot!

So I consulted the manual – which is terrific, by the way; very clear and well-illustrated.

Following the manual, I reset the stitch width to the dot marked on the dial.

This is the correct stitch width setting for a straight stitch

Perfectly lined up! Continue Reading…

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