Road Trip/ Business Trip, Part One!

by Heidi Emmett

Last Thursday, my husband and I drove north to Portland, Oregon. One of my distributors, E.E. Schenck, had a show for shop owners(from many states) in their ginormous warehouse. They invited me to come and speak about “Art To Wear” patterns, MY patterns. I was so honored to be asked. And I decided I had sooooo much eye candy to show that I would need to bring it up myself (not on a plane).  And, it was time for a road trip. So pull up a chair, and pour a cuppa, as you travel from Cedar Ridge, CA to Portland, OR .  It’s still winter so snow and rain greeted us right outside Lake Shasta. We were stopped along with 1000’s of other vehicles for 2 1/2 hours while they cleared two jack-knifed big rigs because of snow. Everyone involved were o.k.  Mount Shasta was totally covered by clouds so I got this picture of an “itty bitty” cinder cone that is next to 14,162ft.  Mt. Shasta.

Whaaat?? A business owner likes color as much as I do…this came up so fast I couldn’t get a panoramic shot. Every color of the rainbow, trucks lined up out front. 

A much needed break for coffee in Yreka, CA. Look, more color, but better yet, love these, half oval shapes.  Perfect for some machine stitching. When this idea pops up in one of my designs, I will remind you of this very picture. 

Ohhh, what cool patterns, shapes, and colors we have here. 

At last, over the border into Oregon. First thing I noticed barns and ranches and happy cows, sheep, and horses, and green grass everywhere! Again, in the barn I see rectangles, washed colors, and depth of design. 

Cottage Grove, Oregon. Blooming ornamental plum trees, EVERYWHERE! Gorgeous!

The largest pansy flowers I have ever seen.

I see an entire palette in this picture. Hmm…does all that moss on this plum trees trunk mean lots of rain to go with? Well, Oregon is noted for it’s rain, rain, and more rain. 

And SUDDENLY here I am in my “Meet and Greet” area, after my Trunk Show. The beautiful quilts behind me, sadly, are not mine, but they are each made of only one fabric that is produced by E.E. Schenck. This is called “Gelato”, and each piece in the line is what we call  “ombre” fabric. I am wearing my Off The Grid Vest, and the base of it is this same Gelato fabric in Gray.  I love, it sew much.  Schenck is adding new colorways to this line as well.  If you want some now but can’t find it in your local shops, visit, She carries it in her online store. I’m holding my Tahoe to A “T” (black & white) and my latest Terrific Tabard. And showin’ off all the projects in my book, “Quilted Fashion Accessories.”

More about my trunk show and other pictures in “Part 2” next week. Thank you for stopping by. I have to cut this short as I have to get out a ton of orders for my patterns and books. And that’s a GOOD thing! Hugs, Heidi

YIPPEE!!! I’m Busting Outta Here!!!

by Mary Boalt

Just a quick note to let you know what this Artistic Alchemy member is doing for the next week. It’s that time of year for my semi annual retreat. I can’t wait!

This is where genius ideas and new patterns are born. I come home recharged with fresh inspiration and renewed energy. I’m excited to be sharing this experience with Sandra and Christine this year. It’s a wonderful opportunity to visit with each other away from the regular meetings of planning the Zephyr Retreat…..although I’m pretty sure Sanda and I will be creatively brainstorming for that too.

So, I’m staging my stash/luggage/projects/giveaways/machines/show and tell by the back door for an early Sunday morning departure when I swing by the airport and add my sister and her luggage to this array of goodies.

If a retreat is what you’re craving to push ahead creatively, we still have some openIngs for Zephyr in September. Retreats are wonderful! I’m a fan! Click on Workshops.

Meet the Newest Alchemist

Let me introduce myself I am Jane Haworth, the newest Alchemist. The Artistic Alchemists have their retreat coming up September 3-7 at Zephyr Point so click on the Workshop tab to see all the workshops on offer for 2018.

I live in Auburn, CA but moved from Devon, England in 1998. This year my family and I will be celebrating our 20th year of living here in beautiful California. A yearly trip back to the UK allows me to catch up with family, visit a pub or two and enjoy all those British foods that I crave.


I am a Pisces, I love to swim and snorkel in the ocean and since discovering Kauai in 2003 my family and I love to visit Hawaii. After that first trip to Kauai I began to make art quilts. I had seen Susan Carlson making one of her fish quilts on Simply Quilts with Alex Anderson and so I began to experiment with fabric and make small fish quilts. Then using my photos from that vacation I started to design and make my first real art quilts, using both raw edge and turned edge appliqué.


Waioli Huiia Church in Hanalei Bay, North Shore, Kauai

We love to stay on the North Shore and driving through Hanalei Bay you cannot help but notice this church and of course I had to take a lot of photographs. Then back home over a number of years I have made many quilts of it. Here is a selection of just a few.




Returning in 2007 we stayed at a VRBO house on the beach in Haena, its called Hale Kilo I’a’ which means The house where you watch Fish. It is still our favorite place to stay, and comes highly recommended, although we haven’t been back in a few years. Its owned by the family of the artist Tambi Larsen and has an eclectic mix of original Hawaiian art The House where you watch Fish


Hawaiian Appliqué Fish Quilt

In my years of quilting since 2003 I have returned to making fish quilts on a number of occasions. It must be the Pisces in me. In 2004 I wanted to submit a quilt to a show so I combined many smaller fish to make a larger quilt. I came up with Pacific Oceanlife. I entered it in the local county fair and won 1st place for novice quilter and a sewing machine! I also entered into the quilt show in Paducah and it got juried in.


Pacific Oceanlife before quilting.

In 2016 I was asked by my guild to design their opportunity quilt for 2018 which I was quite honored to do. Rather than look for a pattern to use I decided I would design it myself and then invite guild members to help work on it. I came up with Rainbow Fish. It has rows of varying sized raw-edge appliqué fish each placed onto an improv pieced quilt block. My fish designs came naturally to me especially when I looked at the bathroom I had painted for my children back in 1999.




And also this gouache painting I made in 1991, that hangs on my living room wall


The photo is not great because of the lighting and the glare of the glass but you can see I am still drawn to those same fish designs and use of  bright colors. I realized I could make the same kind of image using not paint but fabric.


Rainbow Fish, 2018 Opportunity Quilt for Foothill Quilt Guild

My favorite way to work is still raw edge fabric collage or appliqué and that is what I will be teaching at the Alchemist’s retreat this September at Zephyr Point, Lake Tahoe. I am still making fish quilts but have branched out to work on reptiles, birds, flowers, faces and now my biggest love is pet faces mainly dogs in both realistic and abstract color ways.  Look at my website for more photos of my work janehaworth


Winston, British Bulldog in progress

I will close with a photo of my family when we posed for photos, at sunset, on Tunnels Beach whilst staying in Haena, Kauai in 2008. I will dream about our next stay at The House where you watch Fish but keep making art quilts in the meantime. Message me if you have questions about my workshop, Fabric Collage Addiction.


Color and Pattern—They Just Go Together

by Christine Barnes

Well, fellow quilters, sewists, wearable artists, and others, here I sit, your Alchemist Emeritus, trying to decide what to say in my final post. You’ve heard about my plans for online classes, and you know you can keep up with me through my “Color Connection” newsletter. So I thought I’d talk about pattern in fabric. A student in a recent workshop said as she was leaving, “I learned as much about pattern as color today.” Great point. It’s hard to separate the two—they just go together.

Patterns are described by their style (naturalistic, stylized, abstract, geometric, ditzy, etc.), their scale (large, medium, small, and everything in between), and their density (open or closely spaced motifs). Classic design tells us to “vary the style and scale” of patterns in a design, such as a quilt, but when I mentioned this in a class early in my teaching career, one of the students tentatively raised her hand and said, “I have no idea what you mean by that.” I got the point and stuck with examples because visuals are almost always better than words, right? Right!

So let me show you pattern combinations in a few of my blocks and those of my students. In October I taught my “Urban Sunsets” quilt workshop for the Diablo Valley Quilters (what a great group!). Here are two blocks, one from my quilt, the other made after the quilt was finished. In the first example, the hand-painted fabric on the left is very open, the stripe is geometric and dense, and the Marica Derse print is stylized. (As an example, the paisley motif, which originated in India, is a stylized version of a pine cone.)In the block below, the scale of the hand-dye and the batik is very different, while the “pattern” of the red-orange Grunge is more like a texture.Back to the class . . . . In the delightful example below, you see a near-solid blue, a casual batik plaid, and a stylized floral. There’s a color connection among the fabrics, but the style, scale, and density are very different. Black-and-white strips help to separate the fabrics.What fun to see the repetition of dots in different sizes and colors. (This student was experimenting with the width of the skinny strips. I like to cut mine 3/4″ wide so they finish to a scant 1/4″.)I couldn’t resist: Nancy, who once belonged to the Grass Valley guild, is technicolor 24/7. She definitely brightened my day.Pressing the seams flat is essential to getting a crisp block.Don’t the center units look great up on the design wall? Yellow-green Grunge dots were popular that day.A lovely block, with related colors and very different patterns. The variation in the scale of the prints is very sophisticated. A Grunge in the center ties the fabrics together.

Next stop, the Sacramento chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild, a very enthusiastic group of risk-takers. 🙂 The goal in this Granny block exercise was to work with a classic color combination. This block is a triad of red-orange, yellow-green, and blue-violet, three colors spaced equally around the color wheel. The patterns are busy, but the colors and values vary enough to keep the design sharp.This block is roughly the same color combination, but two of the fabrics are much less intense than the yellow-green. And wow, aren’t these patterns dynamic together? I especially like the way this student oriented the “striped” fabrics to draw the eye inward. Extra credit for this mock-block! (Not everyone filled in with background triangles on their mock blocks. We were having too much fun, with too little time.)The Farmer’s Wife block, also known as Genny and Ruth, is a wonderful template for working with value, color, and pattern. Search Pinterest and you’ll see many versions—it’s such a versatile design. Here, black-and-white squares really bring the corners forward. Again, not everyone completed the background.Oh gosh, look what happens when the “star points” are white and part of the negative space is patterned—hard to believe it’s the same block as the previous one. I love the fresh colors and patterns in this block. Notice that the triangles are two different colors (yellow-green and blue). Great use of the airy, open print in the nine-patch unit, and the black-and-white print is the perfect scale for the corner squares. Nice!Finally, look what happens when the triangles in a “Japanese X and +” block are highly patterned and darker in value. This student gets even more extra credit for unique pattern placement—this block is going in circles, in a good way.In case I’ve left you confused, this is what a typical X and + block looks like, with the  triangles as background.I hope those blocks inspire you to look at and work with color and pattern in new ways. A big thank you to my brave and cheerful and willing students!

Let’s move on to my Studio Sale and the fabrics I love, but may never get around to using. Here’s how it works: Email me through the “Bio/Contact Me” page on my website,, not through our AA blog, and let me know what you want. I’ll add the sales tax and postage and get back to you with the total. If it’s agreeable, I’ll send you a Request for Money through Pay Pal. (You don’t need a PayPal account for this transaction.) Once you pay, I’ll send your package. You can also pay by check (I’ll give you my mailing address once we’ve agreed on the sale). OK, here goes . . .

1. This woven and hand-screened piece is from Kasuri Dyeworks, a famous high-end Japanese fabric store in the SF area. The shop closed more than a decade ago because, get this, artisans in Japan weren’t making many of these fabrics anymore; there just wasn’t the demand. (Google Kasuri Dyeworks to read the story.) So this is truly a gem. 40″ x 14¾”, $30 + tax and postage2. I bought this piece of hemp (yes, hemp) from a vendor selling Asian fabrics at Pacific International Quilt Festival. It’s very crudely woven, and has “unique” flaws, but I still LOVE the design. I tested a small corner of it in cold water and it barely bled. The true color is slightly lighter; for some reason my camera insisted on making it a bit darker. 45″ x 14″, $20 + tax and postage. The scissors in the bottom right are for scale.3. This yukata cloth came from Kitty Pippen, an author and internationally known quilter of Japanese fabrics, and a lovely lady. It would make a gorgeous wall hanging, framed by other sophisticated fabrics. 36″ x 14¾”, $20 + tax and postage4. Alexander Henry “kyugetsu dolls,” no longer available. The colors are exquisite and the black is deep and rich. 1 yard + 2 inches, $17 + tax and postageThe next two photos were taken on either side of the fold:5. A Robert Kaufman print, as it would appear on a bolt. 1 yd. $12 + tax and postage6. A batik of many wonderful colors. 1 2/3 yds. $20 + tax and postage7. I’ve always been drawn to ethereal batiks in organic geometric patterns. 1 yard, $12 + tax and postage8. More hard-to-say-goodbye-to fabrics, indigo batiks from a primitive-fabric vendor at the Marin Needle Arts show. 6 fat quarters, $16 + tax and postage9. The center square in the piece below is Kaffe Fassett, the ombré is by Caryl Bryer Fallert (no longer available), and the stripe is also by Kaffe. This block photographs as very rich and saturated, but it’s a bit more muted in real life. 17″ x 17″, $18 + tax and postage10. Finally, I made a series of these blocks in different fabrics, then matted, framed, and hung them together to make a “hard-edged Ninepatch.” I had a “recipe” to create a sense of depth and layering: a light batik center, surrounded by two darker fabrics, and finished with an even lighter batik. 12½” x 12½”, $14 + tax and postage If you’re still with me, thank you so much for looking. Keep in mind that I’ll have periodic studio sales in my newsletter, “Christine’s Color Connection.”

So as I end my role as an “active Alchemist,” let me say that it’s been a delight spending time with you. I’ll be following the blog along with all of you, enjoying every bit of creativity and inspiration that Heidi, Mary, Sandra, and Jane share. Yay, AA!






Franken Patterns

Mary Boalt

When looking for a definition of Victor Frankenstein’s monster, I found this: In an unorthodox experiment, an obsessed scientist assembles a living being from parts of exhumed corpses. I couldn’t think of a better way to start this blog!

As wearable artists, we too can become obsessed with assembling disparate parts, incongruous elements that turn our garments into something that brings life to our wardrobes. My sister, a rather new sewist, has become a master at fearlessly blending different pattern parts to make what suits her. She calls these “Franken Patterns”. Don’t we love that option? To leave sleeves off of a coat and make it a vest? Or to add sleeves? Change necklines? Add darts or pleats? Take off a collar or add two collars? Paint, dye, bleach or bead the fabric? And don’t even get me started on pockets! Plus we may even go digging in our graveyard of thrift store scraps to find the perfect details for our creations. Oh what a lucky lot are we!

I’ll start with a pattern I have used many times. Vogue P954. Sadly out of print. Added to that pattern is Sandra Betzina’s drawstring collar from Vogue 1515. Some fabrics that come my way are just asking for some scientific experimentation. This black rayon/tencil like fabric wanted to be bleached. Check my collection of bleach ideas on my Pinterest page. The coordinating rayon was a remnant from Fabrix in San Francisco.

My bleach of choice for this project.

Next up: Marcy Tilton’s Vogue 8934. I lengthened it by quite a bit. Long enough for a tall monster. I left the pleats out at the hemline. A different sleeve has been reset into the armhole. I was inspired by a coat made by Carol Lee Shanks who used tone on tone patches in a most elegant way. It’s very difficult to photograph black. 

And now for the triple decker pockets. There are pockets in the side seams. And there are zippered pockets with leather pulls on top of the large deep patch pockets. Hiding places for snacks!  Monsters get hungry.

Here’s another Marcy Tilton pattern, Vogue 9287. This pattern has a most unusual pocket. It’s not just a patch pocket. Fun to add this little gem to your repertoire of sewing tricks. I’ve been wanting to make a jacket from mixed men’s suiting and have been collecting them for awhile. I chose the collar, front band and pocket to add artwork. The circles are made from hand stamped silks (students from my classes will recognize the stamps), men’s ties and checkered taffeta all placed under black silk organza and top stitched in place. Although I can’t remember the brand of the round buttons, they came on a card and can be purchased at a fabric store. They weren’t anything special. The rectangle part came from a bin of odds and ends. I think from Fabrix. They fit! A monsterous surprise! A hardware store might turn up some unknowing parts for a button in your collection.

Last September Sandra Betzina was the guest speaker at Artistry in Fashion at Canada College. I was inspired to try one of her dresses. Vogue 1552. Be sure to make this in something drapey.  I used a navy ponte knit.

This is probably the most complicated piece of jewelry I have ever made. But in the end, all the pieces are where I wanted them and hopefully it doesn’t look like a giant bolt through my chest! Thank you Victor Frankenstein for helping us all be bold in our desire to create.

And for those of you wanting to spend a few days in a peaceful setting indulging in creating art, the Artistic Alchemy website has the new retreat and class descriptions up and running. We already have quite a few sign ups! Be sure to secure your place as class sizes are limited.

And continue to carry on creatively!