Monday, March 28, 2011

Book-a-Round Tour 2 - Inspired by Tradition

Hi everyone:

If you've been following along with the Book-A-Round tour for Kay Mackenzie's new book, Inspired By Tradition, you'll know that today is my turn. Yay! I've been eagerly awaiting the release of Kay's newest book and the chance to share it with you. Make sure that you visit Kay's website to see the complete list of participating bloggers and whose turn it is next on the tour. In addition to reviewing this fantastic appliqué book, I'll also be giving away a copy of Inspired by Tradition, thanks to the generosity of the publisher, That Patchwork Place. I'll tell you more about the giveaway a little later in this post.

If you're visiting my blog for the first time, let me introduce myself. I'm Kim Jamieson-Hirst, the principal designer and social director of Chatterbox Quilts in Calgary, AB, Canada. You may wonder about the choice of my company's name: well, I'm from Chatham, ON and love to chat, so Chatterbox Quilts it was! 

I've been quilting for about 9 years now and have been designing patterns for the past two and a half years. I consider Kay my mentor in all things quilt, especially appliqué, and have always admired the practical and comprehensive information that she provides in all her patterns and books (as well as her cute designs, of course) and Inspired By Tradition is no exception. 

In this book Kay has included 50 appliqué blocks in 5 different sizes, allowing you to create your own personal quilts and wall hangings. Kay describes these blocks as having "that old-time vintage flavor and feel, but are simplified for the modern quilter." In addition, Kay provides appliqué information on everything from back-basting to fusible web appliqué. 

As with her first book, Easy Appliqué Blocks, Kay has included a CD to make it very easy to print out the blocks in any of the 5 sizes available. Yes, I said 5 sizes: 6", 8", 9", 10", or 12"! Think of the time and frustration you'll save by being able to print out the block you want in the size you want without having to go to a copy shop or fuss with your own photocopier. I think this is brilliant and actually increases the number of blocks available in the book as  each one is printable in 5 different sizes. 

You may wonder how the larger blocks will print out and this is how Kay explains it in her book: "Larger sizes will automatically print out as multiple pages; just trim and tape them together and you'll be ready to go. Reversed versions are also included". Seems like Kay has thought of everything (I'm not surprised). I really appreciate the inclusion of the reversed versions of the blocks on the CD since I usually do fusible web appliqué and this saves me quite a bit of extra work. I also like the fact that you can tape the parts of the larger blocks together to make the actual block size as I can print these out on my home printer on 8 1/2" x 11' paper, without using any special paper.

As with all her instructions, Kay takes you by the hand and walks you through the process of using the CD and accessing the blocks on it. She includes several helpful hints to ensure that the blocks will print out at the correct size and the proper orientation. 

Since the blocks all have a similar old-fashioned feel, combining them is easy, but if you're having trouble deciding on which block to do first or how to combine blocks, Kay has included a gallery of ideas to get you started. Appliquér at Heart is just one of the examples that Kay provides. 

It includes one of my favourite blocks from the book, "Distelfink". It reminds me of a summer vacation from my childhood where the restaurant that we ate at was called "The Distelfink". 

The only problem with this book is that there are too many choices for me to easily decide which block I'd like to do first! I'm drawn to the Distelfink, but the Puppy Dog is so cute and I can definitely see how I could combine him with the Pansies (it would look like he's sniffing them). Being able to print the blocks in various sizes really helps with these types of combinations as I could print Puppy Dog at 10" or 12" and print the Pansies at a smaller size so that the proportions would be appropriate. I really like the opportunities the 5 different block sizes creates. To pick your favourite block, visit Amazon where you can see all 50 of them.

Now that I've got you wishing you had your own copy of Inspired By Tradition, here's the information that you need to enter to win your own copy. It's easy! Just leave a comment below with your email address before March 29 at 9:00 p.m. MST letting me know which type of appliqué you like the best. As I will be on vacation at that time, Kay will be drawing the winner's name herself and will contact the winner by email to get their address details so she can send out their copy. I will be announcing the winner's name in a future blog post when I'm back from vacation. This giveaway is open to Canadian and U.S. addresses only. 

Good luck in the giveaway and thanks, Kay and That Patchwork Place for providing a copy of Inspired By Tradition to be won by one of my readers.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Book Review - The Civil War Sewing Circle

Hi everyone:

I'm sitting here "enjoying" the spring weather in Calgary, which is snow, snow, snow and just below freezing. While it's too slushy and cold to do much outside (do we really need to shovel the driveway again?!), it's a perfect opportunity to review a quilting book.

Today, I'm looking at The Civil War Sewing Circle: Quilts and Sewing Accessories Inspired by the Era by Kathleen Tracy. This is Kathleen's fourth book published by That Patchwork Place and, as in her previous books, she combines historical content with projects reminiscent of that time period. Kathleen's inclusion of historical information, such as diaries and letters from the civil war helps to evoke the emotions and feeling of that turbulent time. The 16 projects in the book include doll quilts, wall hangings and throws as well as small sewing accessories and are, with a few exceptions, pieced projects.

We sometimes forget that quilting wasn't always a hobby, as it if for most of us, but a way to provide warmth and comfort in difficult times. During the civil war, it was the women volunteers of the U.S. Sanitary Commission who provided quilts for bedding for the wounded soldiers. The Soldier's Cot Quilt was based on one of the few remaining examples of the quilts made for this purpose during the civil war. Its simplicity would be effective in solid colours and reminds me of the quilts that are currently being made by modern quilt guilds.
Since I've recently begun making hexagons, The Hexagon Flowers Doll Quilt appealed to me. A simple design with hexagons in the centre and borders with cornerstones, it would stitch up quickly. I could see this pattern in both traditional and contemporary fabrics. 

Another quilt that I liked in the book was the Union Stars Quilt. It's a throw size project with half square triangles (I love half square triangles). I think it would be equally effective in scraps or in a more controlled colour scheme as in the book. 

There are also patterns in the book for a sewing box, needle case and pincushion, again reminiscent of items from the time period, but which would also be practical items in our quilt or sewing studios today. 

The size of several of the projects lend themselves to handwork if you wish to have a portable project. Certainly any of the doll quilts could be hand pieced and quilted quickly. Although I don't usually do handwork, the projects in this book have my fingers itching to do some hand stitching!

I liked that most of the projects in the book were small enough to try a new technique. You could make one of the doll quilts or pincushion easily in a day and then spend a little more time hand quilting them. If you didn't enjoy the technique, then you haven't wasted a lot of time and energy on it. I also enjoyed the combination of information about the civil war and projects from that time period. A little bit of quilting, a little bit of reading, a perfect way to spend a snowy day!

Monday, March 21, 2011

What a cute purse!

Hi everyone:

Lately it seems as if I've been working on lots of things and not finishing very many. Okay, those of you who know me would say "what else is new?", but I do finish things sometimes - really, I do!

We're going to be going away on the March break and I felt that I needed a cute little purse to take with me. Something small and packable, just big enough for some money and lipstick (yes, I'm never without that!). I thought that the Pick a Pocket purse pattern from All People Quilt, would be perfect. Since I've already made two purses from this pattern and have lots of fabric in my stash, I figured it would be quick to whip up. Surprisingly enough, it actually was and I managed to finish this little baby in one day. 

I wanted some bright, fun fabric and had some Cheep Talk from Connecting Threads in my stash. Even better, I had enough of it for this project. I have a bad habit of buying fabric I like without really having a project in mind at the time. I was pleased that I had enough of this fabric and it was the right "look" for this purse.

So here's what the final result!

Pick a Pocket purse with Cheep Talk fabric

Interior of Pick A Pocket purse with Cheep Talk fabric
Do you make your own purses or backpacks? I'd love to hear about your favourite purse pattern.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Win $1,000 of Accuquilt products

Hi everyone:

Yes, you read the title correctly! Here's your opportunity to win free products in the amount of $1,000.00 from Accuquilt. And it's really easy too. All you have to do is come up with an original block design and submit it to Accuquilt for their 2nd Annual Barn Quilt Contest. That's it - a virtual quilt block, just one, and you're entered. The deadline to enter is midnight on April 10, 2011 and there is no cost to register or enter.

To get all the details that you'll need to enter your winning design, just click on the Accuquilt Barn Quilt Design badge on the right side of my blog. It looks like this:


In addition to winning free products and round trip airfare for two to Fremont, Nebraska for the unveiling ceremony of your winning design, you'll win tickets for 2 to the 1st Annual Let's GO! Quilt Retreat. I'd be as excited to win these tickets as the free products since the retreat is already sold out - and you just know that they're going to have a lot of fun at this event!

There are also prizes for the second and third prize winners, so there's lots of opportunity to get some Accuquilt swag.

You can also help me to win some Accuquilt products by clicking through to Accuquilt via the Accuquilt badge on my blog, so feel free to ask your friends and family to check this contest out too - by clicking on the badge on my blog (I'm starting to sound like a commercial, aren't I?). I'd appreciate all the clicks you can give me.

Good luck in the contest!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Upcoming Events

Hi everyone:

Well, it looks like spring - or at least pre-spring - has arrived in Calgary. Yup, it's actually warmer than 0 celsius out and is supposed to remain that way all week. Yippee! Of course with the warmer weather comes lots of slush as we've still got tons of snow to melt, but I'm not complaining - I'll take that sunshine and warm temperatures any day. I've been busily working on a few projects which I've finally finished up this week-end so I'll be able to get outside and enjoy those sunny days this upcoming week. 

You're probably wondering what I've been working on. Well, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. I've been working on a pattern which will be published in the summer edition of Quilter's Connection Magazine. I'm so excited, but also nervous, since this is my first magazine submission! I've previously had a pattern in their newsletter, but this is the big time - in the magazine! I'm especially proud to have my first pattern published in a Canadian magazine. I've just got to mail the sample off to the magazine for photography and will be doing this in the new few days. Then it'll be a few months' wait until I get to see it in print. I can only give you a small idea of what it is - you'll have to wait until the magazine is published to see the entire project. 

I've also been eagerly awaiting the release of my friend, Kay Mackenzie's latest book from Martingale & Company and it's finally here! Inspired by Tradition: 50 Appliqué Blocks in 5 Sizes is currently being shipped to quilt shops and is also available on Amazon, on Martingale & Company's website and on Kay's website, if you'd like an autographed copy. I'm so happy for Kay and excited that I will be one of the bloggers participating in her Book-A-Round blog tour which is starting on March 22 and will run until March 31. I'll be providing information about Kay's book on March 28, so mark your calendars. In addition to a review of the book and accompanying CD, there will also be a giveaway for a copy of Inspired by Tradition at each stop of the Book-A-Round tour (U.S. and Canadian addresses only). 

So that's what I've been up to. How's your week been?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Brainstorming with fabrics

Hi everyone:

I've had my head down this past week working on several projects, so I apologize for being out of touch. I'm almost finished one project, which I'll talk about in an upcoming post, but I thought you might be interested in seeing how I select fabrics when I'm working on a design.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't always approach things in a logical fashion and often will jump from thing to thing, so I can't be expected to have an orderly, organized method to choosing fabrics for projects, can I? While some people purchase fabrics specifically for projects they intend to make, I often buy fabrics that catch my eye and then have to figure out what to do with them - and where to store them! Hopefully, since I really liked them when I bought them, they'll be perfect for one of my future projects. I usually buy several coordinating fabrics, so I will have enough to make a table runner at the very least. This year I'm really trying hard to use up my existing stash, but it can be a bit challenging to find the fabrics I need in my studio. It does, however, allow me to re-connect with forgotten fabric friends. 

I liked them; I bought them!

Once I have my design complete it's time to start searching in my stash for those perfect fabrics that will really make my finished quilt shine. 

Here's where the disorganized part comes in. I know that some people will choose fabrics and make a block to see if the fabrics work well in the quilt before they make the entire project. Not me. I'm too impatient and just want to choose the fabrics, make the quilt and be on to the next project. I think making a block or two is a great idea and I have done this to check out a construction technique, but never to check fabric combinations. Did I mention that I can be a bit stubbon? Anyway, this is how I do it:

I pull out several fabrics that I think might be suitable for the design and then start to play. I must admit that I quickly eliminate fabrics which are in insufficient quantities to take part in the current project. I may be impatient and stubborn, but I'm not dumb! They'll have to wait for a future design. Initially I have fabrics stewn all over each other, but then I start to narrow down the selections. Next I start to fold up the fabrics to approximate the size and shape that they'll have in the quilt. Then I arrange the fabrics to see if they play nicely together. I often take photos of my arrangements or use a door viewer or spyglass, as I like to call them, to get an overall view. I also find that this helps to see if there is sufficient contrast among the fabrics. If one or two fabrics aren't working out, then they'll be swapped out and new ones will be introduced.  It can sometimes take quite awhile to get the fabrics just right, but then I know they'll work okay in the finished quilt. If all looks well, I'll then proceed to cut up my fabrics and make the design.

Fabrics folded to approximate shape and size
Auditioning fabrics

I also use a similar technique when arranging die-cut appliqué shapes for a project. I think I just love playing with fabric! I will lay out the background fabric and borders and then spend time arranging and rearranging appliqué pieces until they look just right. I often take photos at this stage to help me when I actually fuse the fabrics down - which may be a few days later, since I often get distracted by other ideas and projects. Did I mention that I can be a bit scatterbrained too? 

Auditioning hearts and circles cut with Accuquilt GO! dies

So now you know how I select my fabrics for my projects. Do you have a method that you've found works well for you? I'd love to hear about it. In the meantime I'm off to finish  the edges on some appliqué shapes. I think I actually might get this project done this week!