June 1, 2016

Choosing Fabric with Stashbusters!

As quilt shop owners, Sarah Maxwell and Dolores Smith get a lot of questions about how to choose fabrics for a quilt. So in their new book, Stashbusters!, they made sure to cover a few of their favorite approaches, including controlled color placement, a limited palette, and a focal fabric. And these gals are true experts—even if you think you know how to work with one of these color schemes, Sarah and Dolores throw in plenty of tips that’ll have you going, “Oh, I never thought of that!”

A great example of a controlled placement color scheme is the stunning cover quilt, Scrappy is as Scrappy Does. Sarah wanted to use a wide range of fabrics in the quilt (there are more than 50 in the final design!), so she decided to plan where each color would appear, controlling the randomness of the design. Black and red were used to anchor the Odd Fellow’s Chain blocks, and she settled on a black and red border to tie the whole quilt together.

Blueberry and Butter shows off the power of a limited palette color scheme. By sticking to only blue, brown, and yellow fabrics, Sarah ensured the quilt would come together beautifully—plus, the distinctive color scheme gave the quilt its name! One of her best tips? Look for fabrics that combine the colors you’ve chosen for your palette.

We’ve all heard of the idea of choosing a focus fabric for your quilt—a fabric you love with three or four colors that guides your color choices for the rest of the quilt. It’s All about Love takes this concept and runs with it, including anywhere from four to ten different fabrics for each color drawn from the focal quilt. Plus, Sarah works in brighter greens and reds, adding a spark to the quilt and drawing the eye.

How do you choose colors for your own quilts?

Filed under Books

May 31, 2016

Quilter’s Bucket List: Bonnie Hunter

Hi there! I’m Heather Kojan, and I’m excited to bring you the first in a series of interviews we’re calling Quilter’s Bucket List. As quilters, it seems we’re always looking two to three (20–30?) projects ahead and have an ongoing list of “some day” or “bucket-list” projects. Your favorite C&T authors are no different. They have bucket list quilts as well!

We’re kicking off the series with  Bonnie Hunter! I first became aware of Bonnie Hunter about five years ago (I know, I’m a little late to the party). I had recently moved to Baltimore and met a group of quilty friends. They were all abuzz about an upcoming quilt cruise with Bonnie Hunter. Bonnie who? Clearly I needed to educate myself. After several hours of Googling and blog bingeing, I understood my friends’ excitement. Then I became lost in her world of scrappy goodness and leaders and enders. I was hooked. And now, a full-circle moment, as I interview Bonnie!

Bonnie, thanks so much for chatting with me!

First question: What are you working on now?

Along with working on quilts for my next book down the pipeline for a Fall 2018 release, I’m working on some things for ME as well! I’ve always wanted an initial quilt. My last name is Hunter, and after acquiring a couple of vintage H quilts during my travels, I started my own.

I’ve been making little H blocks for a bit more than a year, just out of scraps that found themselves on my cutting table. I’m up to adding the sashing and will soon be sewing the top together. I’ve enjoyed the whole process, designing as I go.

No name for this one yet, but I’m thinking of For the H of It… or H Is for… It will come to me!

I love the whole process of quilting, from a simple block idea, to how to set things, to the top assembly, to the quilting, and on to the binding.

Those H’s!! What a happy quilt! I think I need one of those too (being an H and all!)

Do you have a favorite quilt you’ve made?

Many! But if I had to pick one, it would be Pineapple Crazy from my book String Fling.

I paper-pieced those blocks while on the road, using gleaned scraps from student discards, as well as small scraps from my own projects, combining them all into one big, happy, scrappy mess.

This quilt makes my soul smile.

What a fabulous quilt! A memory quilt of your travels. I can see why you love it.

Do you have a favorite quilt you own (not made by you?)

I do! And at first glance, you might wonder WHY this quilt is a favorite. It’s not the most beautiful; it’s not museum quality and it doesn’t hold great monetary value. The points aren’t perfect, the fabrics are ordinary—everyday scrap bag!

This quilt is called Periwinkle Star or Hummingbird and was made in the 1940s. Of course, that cheddar orange grabbed me from the get-go, but I also love it because it is machine quilted.

If you look closely you will see that there is a section that has a huge “crazy-pieced” PATCH JOB right on top of the quilt, also machine quilted in place.

I love things that give us little life lessons, and as I go through life I realize that we all carry patches on ourselves from things we’ve been through and have overcome. Some things leave scars, but we are still valuable, maybe even more beautiful, as we go through the obstacles that life throws at us.

I wish I knew the story of this quilt, but I don’t. I just have to imagine that someone loved this quilt so much that they patched it with what they had so they could go on loving it and using it, making memories with it along the way.

So what’s on your Quilter’s Bucket List?

I have two projects that have languished in the hand-quilting department.

Life hasn’t given me time to sit and blissfully hand quilt those. I need to be in a very relaxed, unfrenzied place to pick up needle and thread and do hand quilting. Finishing those two quilts is on my bucket list. I need to MAKE myself carve out time for them, or I know it will never happen.

Anything non–quilt-related on your bucket list?

I want to take a cruise, just the four of us: The Hubster Dave, my two sons Jason and Jeff, and me. Go somewhere wonderful; make some memories, the four of us as a family, NO QUILTING ALLOWED! Okay, maybe a bit of hand stitching on the deck, but that’s it. Sometimes you just have to step away from the fabric, thread, machines, and projects and make some other kinds of adventures happen.

Sounds perfect! Book it now!

Just for fun, here are some lightning-round questions about how you quilt:

Barefoot or shoes?

It depends on the season, but mostly I sew with shoes. I bind barefoot! Or in socks. Because I sew on vintage machines, both electric and treadle, the foot pedals and the treadle pedal just work better with shoes on for me. My feet are more comfortable in shoes, even if it is a pair of Birkenstocks in the summer.

Quiet or music/movie/TV/podcast?

I love instrumental music when I need to think and don’t want lyrics clogging my head. If I’m writing or designing, I love my Pandora with the Jim Brickman channel on. If I’m happily piecing, you’ll find me with everything from 1970s and 1980s pop to John Mayer and Adam Levine.

If I’m in the mood to watch something, I am a Netflix girl. Drama, romantic comedy, and anything criminal/legal/police/detective-related.

Salty or sweet?

Salty. Mixed nuts. Chips & salsa. And fizzy flavored seltzer water.

Self-taught or schooled?

Self-taught, mostly. My fist projects came from magazines in the early 1980s. The first book I ever owned was It’s Okay If You Sit On My Quilt by Mary Ellen Hopkins. It’s the one that turned the whole “patchwork is basically just a grid” light on for me. There was no stopping me after that book. I still have it. Thank you, Mary Ellen—you are greatly missed!

I too loved Mary Ellen and her PPM (Personal Private Measurement).

Planned or scrappy? (Wait, don’t answer that—I think I know the answer!)

I am firmly of the belief that “once you go scrappy, there is NO going back!” That said, scrappy CAN be planned by choosing certain color families to work with and using that palette to add some uniformity to the quilt through color and value. But why choose one blue when you can have 42? It’s more fun on the scrappy side! I just want to play with the whole box of crayons.

Perfect or done?

Oh, definitely throw the perfection out of the window. Give it your best shot, but don’t let perfection be the main goal. Don’t be shoddy just to get it finished either. I often say that “I live happily in the Land of That’ll Do,” and it’s a great place to be!

And one last question: You’re so prolific—do you ever sleep?

YES! Oh my goodness, I have people ask me this EVERY day, as if I should be ashamed of what I get done in a twenty-four-hour period. I think we all work at our own pace, whatever that pace is. My pace just might be a bit more ramped up than the next person, but we all do what we can with our quilting around what life throws at us daily. This is my norm. This is the frequency I’m tuned into.

Do what you can, accomplish what you can accomplish. Choose what’s important and throw those things out of your life that end up being a huge time suck.

I also found that once I distanced myself from those things that were an emotional suck as well, my creativity was restored, wide open.

Please stop trying to keep up with your neighbor. No comparing! Quilt at your own pace. It should bring you peace and joy, not frustration that you aren’t accomplishing enough fast enough.

I take naps! I love naps! I’m an early morning person and get my best work done before noon. I love a midafternoon snooze.

I’m off to bed by 10:30 p.m., that’s when I turn into a pumpkin. And I am lucky that I do sleep well. And I’m ready to go again the next morning.

Bonnie, you’re a gal after my own heart: naps, naps, naps! Thanks so much for talking with me. You’re an inspiration (and an all-around really nice person!)

Do you have any more questions you would like answers to? Please leave a comment below!

Bonnie K. Hunter is the author of several C&T titles, including  Scraps & ShirttailsScraps & Shirttails IIString FlingAdventures with Leaders & Enders, and More Adventures with Leaders & Enders.

Be watching for a new book release from Bonnie and C&T in the fall of 2016.

Bonnie is also the Addicted to Scraps columnist for  Quiltmaker magazine, giving hints, help, and tips in every issue to help put your own Scrap User’s System to good use, making more quilts in less time.

Follow Bonnie’s Daily blog at  http://quiltville.blogspot.com

Facebook:  http://facebook.com/quiltvillefriends

Facebook Group:  Quiltville’s Open Studio

Instagram:  @quiltville_bonnie

Heather Kojan is a quilt teacher, lecturer, and author living in Baltimore, MD. She’s the founder of the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild and a contributing author to Classic Modern Quilts. You can read more about her quilting life on her blog www.heatherkojan.com.

Filed under Books

April 15, 2016

A Simple Life: How a Diary Becomes a Quilt

The star of A Simple Life, author Shelly Pagliai‘s first book, is the block-of-the-month quilt Hazel’s Diary. Who is Hazel? Shelly Pagliai’s mother, a farm girl growing up in Kansas in the 1950s. And why the diary? Well, Shelly was inspired to design this quilt, a gorgeous mix of piecing and appliqué, when she discovered her mother’s little red diary–a five-year, line-a-day diary given to her at Christmas when she was fourteen. For the past six years, Shelly has been transcribing the diary entries, one a day, to the Hazel’s Diary blog. She’s also been dreaming up blocks and borders that represent different pieces of her mother’s life.

The first block is based on the traditional Missouri Star quilt block, chosen because Hazel was born and raised and lived her entire life in Missouri.

The wildflower appliqué sports five lovely petals, one for each member of Hazel’s family—Hazel; her mother, Mildred; her father, LaVern; and her two brothers, Donald and Larry, otherwise known as Buck and Puz.

This block is called Canasta. Hazel mentions playing canasta so many times throughout the diary. It was a card game the whole family enjoyed. Back in the early 1950s, families sure had different ways of entertaining themselves than they do now!

This block is called Fancy Farm Girl, a tribute to all those farm girls doing their chores in dresses and patent leather Mary Janes. Shelly has a great photo of Hazel’s cousin doing just that on her blog!

This block is called Fair Weather. Based on the traditional block called Weathervane, Shelly designed some windblown flowers to appliqué on top of it. It commemorates a period in Hazel’s life when everything was going well for her–her singing trio got to perform on television!

Be sure to pick up a copy of A Simple Life to learn the stories behind the rest of the blocks and enjoy the rest of the retro projects as well!

April 13, 2016

Simple Blessings in Cotton and Wool

It seems like lately everyone has discovered the wonders of wool, and Jill Shaulis and Vicki Olsen–sisters, dynamic quilting duo, and partners in Yellow Creek Quilt Designs–are no exception. Their latest book, Simple Blessings in Patchwork, features plenty of projects sure to appeal to wool lovers everywhere.

Their specialty is combining pieced cotton with wool appliqué, such as in the stunning quilt on the cover, or in this table runner:

Fresh Picked table runner, featuring wool posies in pieced basket blocks

But Jill and Vicki are also experts at piecing wool and cotton together, such as in these beautiful table toppers:

Starstruck table topper

Chocolate-Covered Blueberries table topper

If the idea of combining wool and cotton in piecing make you nervous, don’t worry–Jill and Vicki walk you through the process step-by-step, making it totally nonintimidating. With their guidance, you’ll be making charming quilts that combine the crisp beauty of cotton with the rustic warmth of wool in no time.

Filed under Books

April 11, 2016

Making the Best Cut with Bonnie Hunter

Hi, everyone!

I’m so excited at being asked to contribute a monthly post to C&T. What a great way to share with you some of the things I have learned along the way that have made my projects fall together so much better!

You can look forward to my posts showing up on the second Monday of the month right here and on the C&T blog.

I have been traveling and teaching internationally now for more than ten years, and I have done a lot of observing to find out where the perils and pitfalls of patchwork might show up, and it has been very revealing in many ways.

So many folks say that they have trouble with a 1/4″ seam, but when we get down to it, it isn’t the seam that is the culprit at all, it goes way back to the CUTTING of the fabric.

I hope what I share with you today will help you achieve better results, just as it has my students.

Shown here are the hands of my student Marilyn as she goes about sub-cutting some strip sets for four-patches during last week’s workshops in Naperville, Illinois. Little did she know she would become a hand model for this post!

Rotary Cutting 101:

Never use the lines on the mat to measure and cut by. It’s a sure fire way to wear out your mat too quickly, as this creates deep grooves in the mat that won’t heal. Cutting in the same place on the mat again and again is also a way to get inaccurate cuts as your fabric is pushed down into the grooves creating an inaccurate measurement, not to mention dulling your blade way before its time.

Use the lines on the ruler to measure your cuts, and move your work around the mat to avoid cutting in the same place all the time. Your mat and your blades will enjoy a much longer life.

The ONLY time I will use the lines on my mat for measuring are when I need to cut extra-large squares, 15″ or larger, and then slice them with an X on both diagonals to give me the setting triangles I need for on-point quilt settings. I use the lines on the mat when the shape I am cutting is larger than any ruler I have.

A common bad habit…

This is one thing I see quilters doing time and time again: when you cut, you slide the line on the ruler you are measuring by right up against the outside edge of the fabric, but the whole line is left OFF the fabric.

You’ve left the line behind…on the mat! It’s next to the fabric, but not on it.

You can short yourself several threads when doing this, and it might not seem like much, but over the number of seams within a block, you can easily end up a 1/4″ too small on your block, no matter how “perfect” your 1/4″ seam is.

Don’t blame the seam! It might be the cutting!

In other words, if your strips are too narrow to begin with, it’s not going to be what you want it to be. Add into the equation that we have all those places where we have pressed the seams one direction or another, and we now have the thickness of the seam to add into the mix. To compensate for that this is what I do:

I hope you can see in this picture how I cut this 2″ strip as a right-handed quilter.

Pardon the worn name tag on my ruler, I use my tools hard and they show it!

I’ve got the 2″ line—the WHOLE LINE—ON THE FABRIC with the left-side edge of the line at the outside edge of the fabric. There is no fabric showing beyond the line, but the whole line is ON the fabric. This helps me make sure that I have not shorted myself on the strip width, and it may give me a couple extra threads that help me with the fabric I lose when pressing seams over the thread to one side after sewing.

The height of the seam can shrink a unit because it does take up space.

To show you what happens if you cut with the line on the ruler NEXT to the fabric, instead of including it ON the fabric, I took this picture:

Can you see the difference? The line is now right next to the fabric, and touching the fabric, but look at the excess that is at the right edge of the ruler. If I had trimmed here, I would have shorted myself THAT MUCH. And over time within my blocks, that shortage will add up, giving me units and blocks that are too small. I even got one extra shot so I could show the sliver of difference between line on, and line off. THIS is how much you can short yourself if you don’t put the line you are measuring by ON the fabric.

As I’m thinking about how to word this and explain why I do what I do, I realize that basically instead of having to excessively “scant down” my 1/4″ seam allowance, I’m “scanting up” my strip widths to compensate for the thicknesses of pressed-to-the-side seams and bulky intersections, and I get the best results with my patchwork if I follow this simple rule I made for myself.


So that’s your basic cutting lesson today. Find the right tools that work for you. Look for rulers with easy-to-read numbers, thin lines for accuracy, and while you’re at it, treat yourself to a new blade—you and your mat and your fabric deserve it!

Is there a topic you would like me to discuss or a question you would like answered in a future blog post? Leave me a comment below and we may feature you in a future post.

Bonnie K. Hunter is the author of several C&T titles, including Scraps & ShirttailsScraps & Shirttails IIString FlingAdventures with Leaders & Enders, and More Adventures with Leaders & Enders.

Be watching for a new book release from Bonnie and C&T in the fall of 2016!

Bonnie is also the Addicted to Scraps columnist for Quiltmaker magazine, giving hints, help, and tips in every issue to help put your own Scrap User’s System to good use, making more quilts in less time.

Follow Bonnie’s Daily blog at http://quiltville.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/quiltvillefriends

Facebook Group: Quiltville’s Open Studio

Instagram: @quiltville_bonnie

Filed under Books