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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Colorwash Bargello

What makes a quilt a bargello quilt?

And what does colorwash mean?

In the introduction to my second book, Colorwash Bargello Quilts, I credited 3 main influences:

  • Centuries-old bargello needlepoint, also known as Hungarian point, flame stitch, or Florentine work.

    Two examples of Bargello needlepoint patterns or Florentine work. (Left) typical curved Bargello motif, (Right) “flame stitch” motif. Image from Velvet-Glove (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) Public domain, via Wikimedia

  • Modern strip-piecing methods pioneered in the 1970s by quilt artists such as Barbara Johannah
  • Colorwash/watercolor quilting designers in the early 1990s such as Deirdre Amsden, Pat Maixner Magaret, and Donna Slusser.

I also recognize the influence of traditional quilt patterns such as Trip Around the World and Star of Bethlehem or Lone Star when the makers have used gradations of color and/or value in their fabric layout.

In my bargello-style quilts, I emphasize blending the colors and visual textures of the fabrics to create smooth gradations and transitions or “washes” of color across the face of the quilt, punctuated at intervals with areas of higher contrast.

Close-up of Aurora pattern from Colorwash Bargello Quilts showing gradations from light to dark and back again, as well as areas of  higher contrast.

Continue Reading…

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Celtic Quilts – My Journey

My first book Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs was published in 2000 by Martingale & Co.  

The following has been excerpted from a lecture/trunk show that I have shared with quilt guilds, quilt show attendees, and various community groups around the country.

I’d like to share with you some of the things in my life that led to my becoming a quiltmaker, and ultimately to the writing of my Celtic book. I’m also going to try to answer some of the questions I’m asked most often. So please be patient with me – we are going to tiptoe down what might seem to be a couple of rabbit trails; but I promise that they do, in fact, bring us back to where we want to be.

It is my hope that even if you don’t have any interest whatsoever in Celtic designs (how could that be??) Or if you never even look at any of my books, we can find some common ground – it always amazes me how quilters can be so different from each other, and yet again still so much alike.

We make quilts because we love to.  We need to.  It’s not just about keeping warm – it’s about creativity, self-expression, comfort, healing (sometimes even grieving) and expressing love.

My own journey has encompassed all of these things.

As you will see, my quilts are not intended to be the ultimate in Celtic design.  Instead, they are meant to reflect both my own heritage and my fascination with color and line.  My book is meant to be a good starting point for anyone who is interested in making their own Celtic inspired quilts – especially those with limited time on their hands who would still like to achieve an heirloom look.

The quilts, table runner, pillows and wall hangings shown in this post are all from my Celtic Quilts book. Complete patterns for all but the final quilt shown are included in the book.

Continue Reading…

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My Quilting Story

Legacy Journal Quilt

Back in March of this year, the Missouri Quilt Co. ran a contest: ”Quilting touches so many of our hearts on a much deeper level than just pretty fabrics pieced together. For some, quilting is an artistic outlet. It is a medium to allow your creative talents to really shine. For others, quilting can be a sort of therapy. I know that as I measure, cut, and stitch, I feel a great sense of release and relaxation. It is very satisfying to create my own little piece of order and beauty even though the rest of the world may be spinning out of control!
We want to hear your story. Why do you quilt? How has quilting made your life better? How has quilting changed you?”

This got me thinking… How could I sum up what quilting means to me in 500 words or less? Continue Reading…

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8 Tips for a Creative Life

Photo by Beth Ann Williams

This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared in the magazine CraftSanity, Issue 2, published by Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood. © Beth Ann Williams, 2011.

I also had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jennifer on CraftSanity Episode 116.

CraftSanity. Making stuff. Crafting Sanity.

Sometimes it’s about having something do to with my hands while my heart and mind are in turmoil. Sometimes it’s distraction from pain. Sometimes it’s about expressing friendship, love or commitment to a person or a cause. Sometimes it’s a way to reframe hardship or powerlessness. Sometimes it’s an affirmation of identity. And sometimes it’s for the pure joy of exploring “what if?” But mostly it’s a compulsion.

I have had to accommodate significant fluctuations in available resources and in physical abilities, but I have also learned there is ALWAYS a way to continue to create. It’s right up there on the level of breathing in importance to my sanity and well-being…

Which brings me back to CraftSanity.

Here are a few of my favorite tips and tricks for living a creative life: Continue Reading…

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Finished Is More Important Than Perfect

Finished is more important than perfect.

Anyone who has participated in one of my classes or Demo Days at Lakeshore Sewingt has probably heard me say this – it’s one of my favorite mantras when teaching.

The second part goes like this:

The more you finish, the closer to perfect you’ll get.

It’s generally true, especially when applied to learning a new skill or “perfecting” established skills. Time after time, I’ve observed that the creative souls who forge ahead and joyfully finish their project (whether it is a learning exercise or a finished work) tend to advance much faster than those who stop, judge, rip out, undo, redo, and eventually abandon the work because it doesn’t measure up to their expectations. Continue Reading…

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Evolving…

Tree of Life Journal Quilt

Journal Quilt – Tree of Life, designed and made by
Beth Ann Williams (C)

Evolve or Die. That sounds terribly ominous, doesn’t it?
A bit Borg-ish, even… (Yep, that’s a Star Trek reference; and nope, I didn’t see it coming either.)

But there’s some truth there.

Letting go of the old in order to make way for the new – I confess that sometimes it feels like that’s what my entire life has always been about. Transitions – sometimes eagerly anticipated, sometimes forcibly thrust upon me, sometimes resisted and sometimes embraced. It can be hard to let go of the known (even when it’s less than perfect) in favor of the unknown… but it can also be exciting, can’t it?

That’s how I feel about this new website and blog. I’ve been resisting it for a long time, but I’m finally ready to get moving – even though I’m not entirely sure where I’ll end up. Continue Reading…

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