Free-Wheeling Single Girl, the quilt and me

I first saw the Single Girl quilt from Denyse Schmidt years ago and knew that someday I’d have to make it.  I’d been single again for a decade already with no intention on re-marrying and while I adore the double-wedding ring pattern (and in fact made one for a wedding gift last year), I knew it wasn’t for me. I needed a Single Girl quilt.

But those templates. Ugh.

Then two years ago Denyse came out with the Free-Wheeling Single Girl quilt pattern that uses paper arc templates to randomly piece together scraps and I was sold. I bought the pattern and, as we are wont to do, stuck in the pattern file and let it age appropriately before pulling it out again.

Back in March, I was up at Sew Expo and on my road trip from Seattle to Portland, I stopped at a few shops including the Ruby Street Quiltworks in Tumwater, WA where I found the Newsprint Gray fabric from the Compositions collection by Basic Grey for Moda. I bought the rest of the bolt. Sorry.

And then, like a good quiltmaker, I let that age on the shelf for a few months.

I figured I’d get around to making it sooner or later, but then my friend Paula said she didn’t think I’d ever actually make a quilt for myself. I’ve been quilting for 25 years and have yet to keep a bed-sized quilt for myself.

Challenge accepted.

A week later I’d cut out all the background pieces. 

Then I knocked out the arcs over the next two weeks, using scraps from a variety of projects as well as some sent by Instagram friends.  Another weekend later and the quarter-circles were ready to get together into full circles. I threw in two empty squares because there are empty bits of me, too. And a silver ring made from a crazy metallic suit jacket that I cut up, adding it because I wear silver rings all the time.

I pieced it together, sent it off to the super talented Karen at Cosmic Quilting down in Laguna Hills and waited a whole three days for her to return it.  Seriously, she turned it around so fast it almost made my head spin! A quick machine binding and it was ready to go for my housewarming party that weekend.

So finally, two decades after making that first quilt, I have a quilt for my own bed. I can’t really explain why it took me so long, though I’m sure it has something to do with being a mom, a woman, and not putting myself first. I’ll dig into that later. But for now, I’m going to enjoy seeing it on my bed and wait patiently for it to cool off enough for me to use it.

If you haven’t used Denyse Schmidt’s patterns before, I’d definitely recommend them. She writes clear and concise pattern instructions, plus gives you leeway in the making that allows you to trim to perfection. Check out her array of patterns here

xo,

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Dear Jane: My Favorite EPP Tools and Tips

I’m still plugging along, albeit very slowly, on my Dear Jane and already I’m a whole month behind. I’m trying not to panic, but I may have set up a little morning stitching time if I ever plan to keep up. Sheesh.

Work life has been busy lately with Road to California and this past week’s trip to Sewposium in Orlando. If I were thinking more clearly, I would have brought a couple of the Dear Jane blocks on the plane with me. Five-plus hours each direction is plenty of time to get some sewing done, but instead I read the entirety of A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Then I got bronchitis and still didn’t sew anything.

But I digress. Let’s talk English Paper Piecing (EPP).

This sewing/quilt-making technique has been around for  at least a couple hundred years, which seems both crazy and wonderful. I love the long history of textile arts, somehow connecting a thread between generations and continents, preserving a craft, an art for the future as well.  Luckily for us, these days, we have the high quality tools and this lovely thing called the Internet to make it a bit easier than the ladies had it back in the 1800s.

If you’re just getting started with EPP, or struggling a bit with it, let me tell you what I use and do to make it a fun and not-so-laborious venture.

•   Kai 4″ Scissors  

Small and sharp, these 4 1/2″ serrated scissors come with a cover that keeps them safe and easy to stash in the zipper pouch. Perfect for trimming pieces and clipping threads.

•   Clover Wonder Mini Clips  

I use a Wonder Clip on on the opposite end of the seam I’m stitching to keep the washi tape in place.

•   Washi Tape

Since I sew my pieces flat and washi tape keeps the seam aligned and even without trying to use pins.

•   Bottom Line thread  

Honestly, this is my favorite EPP thread by far. There are a few lightweight threads designed specifically for the task, but the Superior Threads version is super strong and never snaps. You can get it on pre-wound bobbins or spools.

•   John James needles

I like this brand, but as proven by the needle testing we did for Sew,Mama,Sew, it really is personal preference. I like a slightly longer needle without a sharp butt (I’m prone to stabbing it into my finger).

As I mentioned, I prefer to sew my pieces together when they are flat. I can get a tighter stitch that is not seen from the front. I used to simply try to clip it together, but they would slide apart. I started using blue tape because it doesn’t stick to the fabric. I switched to washi tape for the cuteness factor only.

Here’s a pictorial rundown of how I sew my pieces:

First, I pin the pattern piece to whichever fabric it needs to be made with. I’ve coded these as BG=background and G= grey.

I cut the fabric pieces as I go, trimming there to a heavy 1/4″ seam allowance. They are rarely even and often not-quite-straight, but in the end it doesn’t matter at all.

Using an obvious-color thread, I stitch right through the Dear Jane paper template. For my hexagons, apple cores, etc. I do not stitch through the paper, but because this project will live for a long time in a box and there are a lot of triangles and squares, I want to make there that papers don’t shift as I sew and then store them.

I get each square going by sewing just two pieces at a time. As I get pairs together, I’ll start putting the pairs together. No matter the order of assembly, all the seams start this way.

From the right side, I tape the pieces together, making sure the edges are even and correctly aligned.  Then I clip the end that I’ll sew last o that it all stays in place as I make my way across the seam. One of the issues I have when I don’t do this is that the pieces shift ever so slightly and the end won’t match.

I start by knotting the thread and securing it away from the corner/edge. Then I stab the needle through the very corner of each piece.

Working my way across the edge, I take tiny stitches, then tug them tight. It might look a little crazy-making, but once you get a rhythm going they piece together pretty quickly.  In the end, the stitches look fine from the back and are invisible from the right side.

  

I toss these back into my little zip pouch and keep putting them together, two pieces at a time until the block is finished. Now that life is a little more on-track, I’m hoping to get a few of these done this week. I’ve already got the templates for Rows B and C waiting for me, so I have to try to catch up a bit!

Are you doing the Dear Jane, too? How are your blocks coming along? Check out everyone else’s blocks on Instagram with a quick search of @dearjanegoesepp.

Just keep stitching!

Curves Ahead: a series for 2017

There’s something about a nice curve that you can’t help but love. Smooth, swooping, they are beautiful and this year I’m going to help you learn to tackle them in your sewing and quilting. I’ve long been a fan of them and after asking what you, dear readers, want to learn in 2017, it sounds like a lot (a lot!) of sewists want to master this one.

Together we’re going to take this one on and I’ll give you a little insight into how I work, and hopefully you can take a little bit of that and make it work for you, too.

Each month I’ll post a tutorial on a certain kind of curve sewing and then explore patterns that use it so you can practice each skill.  We’ll learn about:

  • freeform/improv curves
  • curvy needle-turn applique
  • inset circles
  • Drunkard’s Path blocks
  • Double Wedding Ring blocks
  • Winding Ways blocks
  • Clamshell blocks
  • Apple Core paper piecing
  • scalloped binding
  • and garment-making, too

  If you have other techniques you’d like to see, just let me know! I’ll add in some posts that share my opinion and experience with various rulers, rotary cutters, dies, templates, and more.  It should be lots of fun and (fingers crossed) will be helpful to you! Look for the first post in early February when we tackle the Drunkard’s Path block. If you want to make sure and follow along, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter. I’ll include additional tips, the series schedule and post recaps for you in each monthly email.

In the mean time, find some scraps that are at least 8″ square, get out your template plastic (or a cereal box), and get ready to give the Drunkard’s Path block a shot.

An Imperfect Storm at Sea

A month ago I was in Houston for both Quilt Market and Quilt Festival. Two weeks hanging out in the Shannon Fabrics booths during the day and in the hotel room at night. It was super fun and super duper tiring. My favorite part of these eventsis seeing what is happening out in the quilting world. I don’t get to shops very often and rely on the Internet too much to keep me abreast of what’s new and exciting. So getting out and walking the aisles at Quilt Festival was a real treat.

In one of my quick forays out, I ran across the Flynn Quilt Frame Company booth full of tiny little quilts. Intricately-pieced traditional designs. While I love a good modern quilt, I’m a sucker for the traditional as well. I couldn’t help but swoon over the array and it didn’t take me long to settle on this itty bitty  Storm at Sea kit. (And the fact that it’s been out for 8 years and I’ve never seen it before makes me a little sad, but we’ve remedied that!)

Storm At Sea mini quilt kit

I’m a sucker for a good challenge and this one ranked right up there. I’d brought along my Singer Featherweight so I didn’t have to go weeks without sewing (because you know I’d lose my mind). I pulled the little machine out of the box that night and started piecing the laser-cut square-in-a-square bits. mini square in square blocks

You don’t even have to look that closely to see that most of them aren’t even real squares. The 1/4″ seam allowance wasn’t perfectly straight on each one. Angles ended up being slightly wonky. But that wasn’t the point of this project… I just wanted to make it  for my mom. I could do it perfectly and make it frustrate me. Or I could just sew it up because I love my mom and know that she likes purple and she won’t care that it isn’t perfect because either am I and she still loves me.

sewing my Storm at Sew mini

I sewed after Quilt Festival closed each night and spent a few more days working on it after Festival and before I went back home to Los Angeles. The need for perfection is there, assuredly, and there were a few times I had to take stitches out to get it slightly closer to perfect. But my mom is worth it.

laying out my Storm at Sea mini

I sewed the sections, one bit at a time until I could lay them out on the floor. I was hoping I could get some cool layout with them, but truthfully  Quilt Market Hangover is real and when you add in a little Quilt Festival Hangover, too, my brain was just too too tired to do anything really fun with it. I convinced myself that it was pretty enough as is.

Sewing together Storm at Sea blocks
Each quilt block finishes at 4 1/2″ wide (ish), so room for error was basically nil. Most of these blocks didn’t come anywhere near the perfection that I had wanted and there were a few times I had to talk myself out of simply throwing them all away. Those little overhangs and wonky intersections that don’t match… Even now they kill me a little, but this was an exercise in just letting go. Let it be. Don’t get stressed out about it. Just do it with love and acceptance. This mantra repetition was so hard for me, to be honest, but I knew I needed it. I can be ridiculously hard on myself for no reason.

I’m sure I’m not the only one either. We can all pick on ourselves more than we should and there are so many times where the internal berating has made me do some dumb things (take a rotary cutter to an imperfect quilt block, throw away an unfinished dress, toss out patterns). None of these things make me feel better in the end; they only reinforce my self-bashing. I swore I wouldn’t and I didn’t. Instead I just worked through it, tried my best without getting angry for the mistakes and finished the whole top.
As a whole, I thought it was beautiful and I convinced myself to stop looking at the little bits. Take in the big picture–it’s a lovely little quilt top. But it needed to be quilted and I really, really am not good at that one yet.

I gave it a try on my regular Pfaff 130 with the industrial motor. Great for piecing, not so quilt for quilting this guy. Despite using a walking foot it would get help up on seam intersections. It didn’t stay straight. I quilted about half of it. Had a good cry and picked it all out.

quilting with the Singer FeatherweightI took it to the Featherweight instead and that little beauty did it as well as I could have ever expected. I have a lot to learn on how to make the quilting look good and keep it even, but hey, it turned out. It’s usable. I won’t be humiliated to have my mom hang it in her home.

I’m not perfect. Either are my quilts. I’m learning that that’s okay.

Storm at Sea mini quilt

It’s Giveaway Day!

I nearly forgot it was Sew, Mama, Sew’s Giveaway Day, but thank social media for the reminder! (I knew it was good for something..)

full_6225_203059_Mirthapaperpiecedwallquilt_3In the holiday spirit, I’m giving away a PDF copy of my Mirth wall quilt pattern! It uses 9 different fabrics to create a nine-block quilt. The full-size paper piecing template is included (you’ll make some copies of it) for easy and precise piecing.

All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me something you’d like to learn about sewing and quilting in 2017.  I want to know what you want to know. Maybe I can help you learn or maybe it’s something I want to learn, too!

And then head back to Sew, Mama, Sew to see what else people are giving away today!
Mirth quilt pattern by Teresa Coates _Crinkle Dreams
Winner will be announced on Monday, December 12, 2016.  is Kathy E.! Thanks to everyone for their input–it’s given me some great idea for tutorials in 2017.

Life Quote Quilt

life quote crinkle dreamsI finished a quilt –for myself!!– last month. It’s been on my to-make list for years, but in my life somehow for much longer.

Let’s start back in 1999. Despite the amazing Prince song that most people are reminded of, there was no partying happening. It was the year I got divorced and embarked on a road that I have stayed on for the next 17 years…solo parenting. (Long story short, their father is not a part of their lives.) I grew up in a religious family that holds tight the conservative ideas of American life: birth, school, marriage, work (til you have kids), buy a house, play it safe. Getting divorced and all that it entailed for me and my two kids made me rethink everything I’d believed in.  I knew I could either feel bad about the path my life was on or I could embrace it fully and that’s when I came across the Helen Keller quote that inspired this: Life is a daring adventure or nothing.

You’ll notice in the mock-up I have the quote with an additional “at all.” That’s how I originally knew the quote, but before I got to cutting out letters,  I did a bunch of searching for the original. From what I can gather, that part just got tacked on by someone, somewhere along the line and suddenly there were two versions of the quote. From what I could find, the shorter version is actually what she said (but I could be wrong!)

Anyway, this quote has long-guided me in my choices, both as a mom and as a person. We get one shot at this, I figure, we might as well make it interesting (hence college in my 30s, living in SE Asia, making a hodgepodge career, random road trips, etc).

I wanted a quilt that would exemplify that idea, so I started with a big box of scraps from work. I cut dozens and dozens of strips, divvied up by color intensity. Then started sewing them together. 

I used my handy Strip Tube Ruler to cut out a ton of triangles, then laid them out. Then chain-pieced like a crazy person. Soon enough, the top was done . Then came the scary part–the letters. 

I made templates out of file folders and traced around each, hoping to spell out the quote correctly. I worried about that a lot.cutting out letters

I stitched around each letter, then carefully cut out the patchwork to reveal the Grunge (Moda) that I’d backed the quilt with. It headed off to the quilter (Kazumi Peterson) and came a few weeks later looking just as good as I’d imagined when I first came up with this crazy idea. I love love love the way “or nothing.” just fades away, giving it a bleach-dipped look.  

I’m happy to announce that the quilt will be hanging at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Sisters, Oregon on July 9, 2016.

A Grand Finale

The story begins last October at Fall Quilt Market in Houston. Like everyone else I was awed by Elizabeth Hartman’s Fancy Forest Quilt and wanted to make it. So I proposed that we make it with some Hoffman/Me+You batiks and sell bundles, teach the class, make everyone happy. It worked and over ten weeks, starting in late February, I taught (with the stalwart assistance of the amazing Paula Chipman) 42 students to make the Fancy Forest quilt. I’m proud to say that a good number of them actually finished: 6 of them with the full quilt and a dozen more finished the small version.

It was amazing to see them all complete the myriad animals, struggling at times and cheering with their own success at others. The class was all I had imagined and more, with it becoming a support group of sorts, students encouraging each other as much (or more) than I was encouraging them. Paula helped me out every Sunday class, keeping me in check when needed and getting me back on track when my rambling wandered off. I could not have done it without her.

On our final day, I felt a bit misty-eyed watching everyone still working so diligently on their quilt tops. Then Eileen handed me a bag and said it was for us. I looked at her quizzically, then peered inside to find these beauties. She’d painted us our very own Fancy Forest quilts! I nearly lost it, gave her a huge (maybe awkward) hug and thanked her one million times. 

We’ve filled up the Fabric Depot class again and the next session (with “only” 24 this time) starts Sunday after this. I can hardly wait to get in the classroom again and see what this crew makes.

 

Introducing Mirth, a paper-pieced mini

Mirth is one of my favorite words and now it’s finally a quilt.  Last fall, Brenda of Just A Bit Frayed asked if I’d like to design a quilt using RJR’s Cotton Supreme Solids and, of course, I said yes! They have a lovely feel, sewed up beautifully and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the final mini quilt. You can find their solids at independent quilt shops.

I’m super happy to introduce you to Mirth, a happy little paper-pieced quilt. The pattern is available now via Craftsy and Etsy.

The Making of Red, a quilt

Red at Watermark Gallery. Photo credit: Peter Cameron

Late last year, I teamed up with Bill Volckening to brainstorm some modern art-inspired quilt designs. Over a couple of dinner meeting, we settled on something reminiscent of Matisse’s paper cuts with a touch of Rorschach, deciding that it should be all needle-turn applique in the spirit of traditional Hawaiian quilt making.

Teresa Coates applique
I started by free-hand drawing the red shape on Kona Cotton, then cutting it 1/4-inch larger. I basted it to 108″-wide white muslin.

Over the next month, it went from a digital sketch to a full-blown (80″ x 80″) quilt, hand-appliqued and lightly hand-quilted by me, with load of echo quilting from Jolene Knight.

The entire shape was appliquéd using a traditional needle-turn method. It took about 30 hours in total.
I just keep stitching, then removed basting stitches.
Needle turn might just be my favorite.
Big stitch quilting
Bill took it to Jolene who worked her magic, but left purposeful gaps for some additional big-stitch hand quilting in both the white and red.

 

In the end, I’m absolutely thrilled with ‘Red,’ which is now part of the Volckening Collection.

It is currently on display at Watermark Gallery (part of Gallery EOSS) in East Providence, Rhode Island through April 10, 12016. Red by Teresa Coates, quilting by Jolene Knight

 

Addendum: Sam of Hunter’s Design Studio wrote about the work here and there was an interesting bit of discussion that ensued.

Building a string quilt, one scrap at a time

I got this wild idea about three years ago, that I wanted to make a string quilt that goes from white to bright and I’d embed my favorite quote in it. I plotted it out on the computer and then just let it sit there, for years.

But recently I realized that I have made a whole three quilts of my own design (and a hundred more for others) and it’s about time I start making one that I want to keep. This one is gonna be my very first wall quilt. Of course, I thought about making it bed size, but changed my mind when I started actually putting it together. String quilts are a lot of work!

I started with a box of scraps that I bought from work. Lots of end-cuts, 1- to 4- inches in width, that I sorted by color intensity.

Then I started cutting, getting strips from 1- to 2-inches in width. 

I cut each strip in half so they were about 20-22 inches long, giving me more variety in the combinations, and started sewing them together in a groups of five or six. 

And then there was lots of pressing, starching and cutting. I’d gotten pretty acclimated to the Strip Tube Ruler for this type of project a couple years ago on a LUKE quilt, so it wasn’t difficult this time. The trick is to starch and try to line up the marks on the ruler with a seam so that the outside strip is as straight as possible. And don’t expect to be able to cut them out side by side the entire length. You’ll need a gap between every few triangle cuts.
Cutting with the Strip Tube Ruler

 

Finally I moved on to stitching: first the pairs of small triangles, then with the pieced triangles. After that I cut them down to 6 1/2″ squares. 

I started laying them out last week and slowly but surely they are coming together. Maybe next week I will have it finished enough to show you (and off the living room floor!).