Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Charm Pack 101 for Machine Embroiderers

Charm packs, those little 5" x 5" fabric swatches, have been around for a while, and we're sure fortunes have been made coming up with ways to use them. The machine embroidery community, on the other hand, has totally ignored them. Why? If you think about it, machine embroiderers are usually thread heavy, but a little light on fabric stash, so what could be better than an assortment of 40 matching fabrics, sized perfectly for 4" x 4" applique?

We decided to start a new trend-- so here's one take on how to use them in the hoop. Our first up Christmas project, entitled "Charm Pack Village," debuts on Black Friday. We used a charm pack named "White Christmas," designed by Zen Chic. Look at all the fabrics included-- light, medium, and dark tones-- all perfectly sorted.

In no time at all, we were stitching up a little house in a 4" x 4" hoop. One charm square was used for the background, and others were snipped into little house and roof parts. Then we just picked an accent thread color right from the fabrics, gold, for the door and windows. 

In no time at all, we had a little village of nine different houses!

Another advantage of the charm pack-- there was plenty of matching fabric left over for little sashing and cornerstone pieces.

Then we digitized a beautiful header to complete the wall hanging. The header require a bigger piece of fabric, so we had ordered an extra half yard of this collection which was also used for the backing.


We had so much fun with the idea, don't be surprised if you see Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's themes coming next!

All of our fabric came from the Fat Quarter Shop...
you can use the link above right to go to the store-- then just click "Charm Packs" on the left and prepare to be inspired! There are tons of Chrismtas themed ones.. so you can make your wallhanging with your own favorite.

So that is Charm Pack 101--the wallhanging pattern will debut on Black Friday-- gosh-- can you believe that is only ten days away!

We are also starting a new free stitch-a-long that day-- use the link above, top right, to sign up for our e-mail list so you won't miss a stitch!


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Can a quilt be a quick Christmas gift?

  Today we are stitching along with the Fat Quarter Shop to see if a quilt can be a QUICK Christmas gift!

Face it— if we, as quilters, were looking for a hobby that delivers faster results with less precision, we’d all be handing out these for the holidays. Yes,  I was a bit skeptical of the “shortcut quilt.”

I worked on the Layer Cake Custard Quilt-- 
a layer cake and 3-1/2 yards of background fabric is all you need to get started. You can see that half of the blocks are just plain layer cake squares and the other half are deconstructed nine patches. Simple, right?

I love Christmas fabric— every year, multiple favorite designers put out a new collection which results in a quandary— which to buy? Fortunately, the Fat Quarter Shop has taken the pain out of that decision with their curated collections. We found this one— HOT DOG!— some choice Christmas prints from three different designers. Problem solved. And FQS must already have a delivery drone—it always seems like the package is on our doorstop the next day!

The pattern certainly looked hopeful— no triangles, and very few points to match up. Cutting was a breeze—my bestie Tere helped. I usually don't cut an entire quilt out in one sitting, but under her tutelage I did— a definite time saver-- we logged in about an hour and half.

On to block making. Seventeen blocks were simple layer cake squares with a little frame around them... easy peasy.. and they show off beautiful prints so well. The addition of the frame insures you are not going to have to match points in those corners.

Those blocks took a couple of hours. I really put the pedal to the metal on all of those straight seams.

I have never made deconstructed blocks before-- taking a rotary cutter to a perfectly good nine patch goes against my grain. 

Once I got over my inhibitions, it was fun and easy. Elapsed time for this project, about six hours, just putting in a hour here or there. 

Layout time! That's my favorite part and this was easy— I just divided the blocks into reds, blacks, whites, and greens,  and since this pattern has such a diagonal feel to me, layered the colors out in stripes.  

Final assembly took about another 2 hours.

I was planning on just doing some easy straight line quilting on the diagonal— but at this point, I am liking this SOOoooo MUCH and am so far ahead of deadline, I decided to give it an upgrade, and send it to my favorite longarmer, Sara Velder of Acorn Ridge quilts. Sara is the one who quilted my prize winning Judy Niemeyer quilt. This time, she’s just doing an edge to edge— Since those plus sign patches remind me of blinking lights, we're going with a star pattern. Once again, Sara had it finished in just a few days.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

I have an absolutely blockbuster Christmas gift, truly, at 8 hours, quilted in a day. Any machine embroidery fans  will recognize the opportunity for some embroidery in those big square block

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Charm Pack Fun

I never really understood the whole precut thing-- I've always been a fat quarter girl. Then I subscribed to the Fat Quarter Shop Sampler Boxes and a "Charm Pack" was one of their favorite things to put in it. Then the thrifty side of me realized it's a lot cheaper, if you like a collection of fabrics, to buy the charm pack instead of the fat quarters, so I became a bit of a collector!

Then the time crunched part of me realized it's a lot faster to put together a little charm pack quilt than a bed quilt... I then discovered "Schnibbles" patterns made for charm and layer cakes... keep in mind these patterns are several years old and I'm sure you've already heard of them... I am just late to the party!

The fun thing about the book is that you can make the same pattern with either a layer cake (10" squares), or a charm pack (5" squares) and either get a twin size quilt or a nice table topper with the same amount of sewing.

I found a charm pack "Caroline" by Brenda Riddle when I was at the Lancaster Quilt Show. Of course, I had to buy it, because that's my DDs name! We both laughed though, because the fabric is so dainty, and my girl is gutsy and bold. She turned 21 this year, so to celebrate it, I made this table topper piece for her with the "Dulcinea" pattern. It was super easy and fun to make.

Now I have started one for myself-- I love Fig Tree fabrics, didn't want to spend for the fat quarters, but am using the charm packs to make a pattern called "Picnic" with beautiful flower basket blocks.

If you ever wondered what these Cupcake Mix and Layer Cake mix papers are, they are made for these square precuts. You sandwich together two fabrics, right sides together, pin a paper on top, sew on the lines, then cut them apart and remove the papers. Cupcake Mix Recipe #1 makes the 1-1/2"  and 3-1/2" HSTS I need for the flower baskets. So you can see on the paper, they give you three block ideas, but I thought I was pretty smart to figure out I could use them for my flower baskets! It has further simplified things. Six blocks down, ten to go.

We have actually been inspired to make a cute "Charm Pack Village" pattern to be released for Christmas. We think the machine embroidery community has been a bit slow to understand how to use pre-cuts for our projects. 

Another project, although not a charm pack one, is the Texas quilt I am making for my new grand-nephew... all of the Texas flag blocks are done and I have eight boots done. I just need four more boots and a guitar. Here is my sketch of the boot on graph paper... one day I will make a tutorial on how to make your own flip 'n stitch pattern. But so far it has taken eight boots for me to figure out the correct size of that little tab at the top of the boot!!!  LOL So not ready to write that tutorial yet.

From the Fat Quarter Shop Sampler box, I also got some Kim Diehl prints a few months back. They look Civil War-ish, which I thought I would NEVER use. What do you know... aren't they perfect for those boots!! <3

This month's Sampler Box just came in. Now we are branching out into jelly rolls! I'm not sure I will ever stockpile jelly rolls, but it is Zen Chic collection and I really LOVE the pattern that came with it-- "Ellipsis," and a ruler to make it. I'd just love to donate more quilts to our local Quilt Bank charity-- there is so much need, so maybe this will be the one. All of these new products and ideas have really boosted my finished pile!

I frequently refer my customers to Fat Quarter Shop, so they finally rewarded me with affiliate status! If you love them as much as I do and were going to buy something anyway, you can click the link on the right side of this blog, and I will get a commission for your purchase, at no extra cost to you. It's a nice way to support us and we do appreciate it.

So that is what we've been working on at night... our day job right now, designing machine embroidered Christmas projects, has been super productive this year, too! We can't wait to start releasing them soon.


Friday, October 12, 2018

Mancuso World New England

At the end of every summer, The World Quilt New England show comes to New Hampshire and what a treat it is!! I have been to my share of quilt shows, and while all leave you feeling inspired, after viewing all the eye candy, many of them also leave you quite intimidated.

This show will ONLY leave you inspired.

These are quilts whose greatest aspiration is not to be technically perfect, but are more artistic in vision.   I doubt “Starts and Stops” are part of the judging sheet. They come from all over the world, and are highly unique and very imaginative.

So with very little comment, here are some of my pictures.


"Unfurling" Freida Anderson

"Australia's Bouquet" Yvonne Chapman

                             "Erte Bazaar II" Sue deVanny

"My Cool City Sampler" Maureen Hyslop

 "Levitation Fascination" Di Jobbins

If it looks very 3-D to you... it is... 
the pieces are not stitched down at the edges.

"A Time for All Seasons" Linda Steele
This was my very favorite-- the seasons AND embroidery. So many dear little things, everywhere. Made with L-O-V-E. No ribbon, but I believe it won "Viewer's Choice."

"An Interrupted Still Life" Pam Seaberg

The next three quilts are part of a one man show--
"Whaddaya Mean Red and Turquoise Don't Go Together?"
I thought they did, but these beautifully made quilts were incredibly hard to look at... I even have to turn my eyes away from the photos.
DISCLAIMER: We are NOT responsible for any lingering afterimage after viewing!

"The Full Haykin"

"A Three Hour Tour"
I love a sense of humor in quilt names-- note the pattern is Storm at Sea LOL

"Love Entwined" Jenny Henry

"Nearly Insane" Frances Meredith
This is a pattern from an antique quilt-- takes "Dear Jane" to a new level. Frances blogged about the making of this quilt in 2013.
EPP. Bonkers. 

 "Perpetuum Mobile" Ruth Rudnick

"Union Jack meets Log Cabin" Joy Salvage
Tiny, tiny pieces. Big quilt. Blue Ribbon!

"Birds of the British Isles" Jane Hopkins
Cloud Club inspiration!! All of our birds have been North American, though.

"To the Bright Future" Chieko Shiraishi
This quilt was based on a scene from "Little Women" where the characters are up on a hill, telling of their dreams of the future.
A wonderful, heartwarming piece.

So, I will tell you, that is less than 1/4 of all the wonderful things I photographed at World Quilt New England... and even ALL of my photos were 1/100th of what they had exhibited!

And for me, it is a BRIGHT future! In less than a month, I'll be attending the Houston Quilt Festival for the first time. I am thinking of bringing a traditional camera with a HUGE memory stick-- I don't think my phone will be up to the task. Any advice on that? And, yes, I will take you there with me by sharing when I get back!