Destination: Transparency!

by Christine Barnes

The past month has been a whirlwind of travel, but gosh, it has been FUN. I’m calling it my California Coastal Color Tour because I taught a different workshop for guilds in San Diego, Arroyo Grande, and Santa Cruz. For this post I’d like to show you what twenty diligent (and cheerfully rowdy) Santa Cruz students did with my “Transparent Circles” pattern. The original quilt, made of shot cottons and Marcia Derse prints:I refer to this kind of transparency as “layered,” which is different from parent/child transparency. Here’s an overview of how I make the blocks, using the upper left block in the quilt as an example.

I piece four smaller squares of light fabrics and four larger squares of corresponding dark fabrics. Using the template below, I cut out a freezer-paper circle (double layer, for stability) and mark each quarter line with a small slit. I then trim the light unit of squares a scant ¼ inch beyond the freezer-paper circle and press the raw edge over and onto the shiny side of the paper. Finally, I appliqué the circle to the larger pieced unit, lining up the seams, and cut away and remove the paper from the back.You make “in and out” blocks, using the same eight fabrics. I love seeing how different the block looks with the light and dark fabrics reversed.

Circles in progress . . . .Brenda’s blocks, with help from Lori. Notice that the colors are in the same location in each block. So cool!What fun to see some of the different blocks. Happy students, successful circles. That’s my traveling buddy Kari toward the back.Meryl (my facilitator for the trip—thank you so much) with her first block. The dark green and orange Grunge fabrics give the block a lovely texture.

Could there be a cuter picture? Pat, my hostess (we loved staying with you!) and her blocks made of Gelato ombrés. She’s the first to try Gelatos for these blocks, and I think they are awesome.

The next day we had breakfast at the home of a local wearable artist. I way taken by the arrangement and color of these elements in her courtyard.Pat and Lori then took us to Back Porch Fabrics in Pacific Grove, a wonderful, must-visit shop on the corner of Grand and Central streets. Who can forget that location?We were in for one more treat the morning we left, Gayle’s bakery, a Santa Cruz landmark and a feast for the eyes and the palette. If you aren’t hungry when you go, you will be when you look at the array of pastries and goodies!Owner Gayle Ortiz did the picassiette (broken pottery mosaic) on some of the tables, as well as one wall.

I don’t know about you, but I see a fabric design in this . . . .We headed home, with new memories, friends, and fabrics. And as often happens after I teach a class, I want to make the quilt again, this time with Grunges and Peppered Cottons. Thanks so much for tuning in this week. For my next post I’ll have tales to tell from another coast—the coast of Florida!
















Heidi’s Pattern Meets a Vintage Tablecloth

by Sandra Bruce

I’ve just returned today from Visalia, CA where I taught my Material Matrix workshop and had a great group of enthusiastic quilters. All 16 worked hard and had fun too. Thank you, Valley Oak Quilters! I’m doing a segue today for my post………..wearable art.

I love Heidi’s patterns! This one is my favorite, so far, the Terrific Tabbard. It is flattering and so comfy. She will be teaching her patterns at our retreat at Zephyr in September, come and you can make one of her fabulous designs, this is only one of them! See her “Workshops” page for information.

I have made one already, but I came upon a vintage tablecloth and decided it would make a great Tabbard. It wasn’t wide enough to get the 3 pieces out of, so I added a grey and white polka dot on each side. I also used the polka dot for the inside. (I never met a polka dot I didn’t like 🙂

It has a wonderful graphic in the center that I planted right in the middle of the back.

Once I got the grey panels on each side in just the right positions (so that the seams wouldn’t show later) I put it on my long arm, with a layer of plain white cotton in the middle, to make it lightweight. I just had fun with it, and stitched lots of loops.

Here’s a good shot of the whole piece. I had outlined where the 3 pieces would be cut out so I’d be sure to have enough stitching in all the necessary areas.

I decided to add some applique in the center of that big circle, so I just improvised with the quilting knowing I’d be adding something later.

I brought it home and cut out the pieces. I was happy with the way it was looking. Kind of wild, in a kitchy, retro kind of way.

I fussy-cut a pocket for the front, just the right size for my cell phone.

My fussy cut was close…..close enough! I had planned to use the grey polka-dot for the binding so I finished the pocket and sewed it on.

On the back, I cut out one of the groups of strawberries and hand-appliqued it on. Perfect to fill that space.

I was just about to cut out the binding from the grey polka-dot when I got an idea…………..I found this Christmas red fabric and decided it was perfect for the binding, and thought it really pepped up the vest!

It took a very long strip to go around, as I had lengthened the vest quite a bit and widened the sides so they would overlap instead of just meeting.

I took it with me to Visalia and did some hand work on it, adding loops and sewing on polymer buttons I made. The buttons are not perfect, but they will do until I have a chance to make more custom ones.

Here it is, yay! I think I will add something to the pocket later, since it is not bound in the red, to make it blend in better.

And the back….it’ll be a very fun piece to wear in the summer, and I wonder if it will be identifiable as a vintage tablecloth! The fabric was such a pleasure to work with.

Before I sign off, here’s a picture of me with my mom Charlotte, summer of 1956. In honor of all moms, I wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day!


The Evolution of a Reluctant Painter

by Mary Boalt

I never set out to be a painter. I can’t draw. It just sort of crept up on me the way extra calories do. I think it started when my sister, a paper artist, started sending me unsolicited rubber stamps. “No!” I complained. “I don’t want a new hobby.” “I have enough craft supplies already!” “Where am I going to put this stuff?” After attending three Design Outside the Lines retreats sponsored by Marcy Tilton and Diane Ericson, I started investing in stencils, silk screens and paint. All of these supplies could still fit in a drawer. I was safe. It was still manageable. Under control.

Then I was asked to teach painting on steam a seam at a fiber artists/quilters dream store in Sacramento. And to keep the “beast” well fed, they sold Diane’s stencils, Lois Ericson’s stamps and Jacquard paints. Right in the store! Right under my nose! In mass quantities! These new tools were taunting me and whispering  in my ear, “You need me. Take me home. Think of what cute things you could do with me!”

Soon Rubbermaid totes full of supplies were being wheeled into the classroom on a dolly. I sincerely believed that my students deserved to have plenty of supplies to work with. Heaven forbid they should get bored with a stale assortment of toys to play with.

But the turning point came when Gayle Ortiz of taught me how to paint graffiti style on canvas, cut it up and sew it into purses. OMG! The heavens opened up and a blinding light struck me. This was way too much fun. The ability to design ones own fabric! And no “mistakes” can be made when it’s graffiti style.

Christine, Heidi and Sandra saw what I was doing and must have thought that I knew how to paint. So now here I am having the best time exploring new ways to put paint to canvas and showing others what I’ve learned. I now own:

80 stencils

55 foam and rubber stamps

3 sets of alphabet stencils

8 Diane Ericson stencils

20 silkscreens

21 texture plates

5 Gelli plates

6 sets of foam alphabet stamps in different fonts

a large assortment of pool noodles, furniture feet and other found objects for stamping

several roller graphs and GALLONS OF PAINT

So in preparation for the Pine Tree Quilt Show I have been painting up a storm. My contribution to the booth will be large canvasses ( enough for two totes ), half canvasses, purses and patterns. Enjoy the photos.  And please stop by our booth May 6 and 7 at the Nevada County Fairgrounds to say hi and to see what new treasures Heidi and Sandra will have.

I still have just a couple of spaces left in my retreat class. So if this looks interesting and you would like to let loose your inner painter, we would love to have you join us. I have plenty of toys for you to play with!

“Off The Grid” Vest Pattern—How it Came to Be!”

by Heidi Emmett

Once upon a time, I took the Urban Ombre’s quilt class from Christine. It was great fun. It was the first time I had seen the Diawabo ombre’ from E.E. Schneck in grey or is it gray?Throughout the class I kept thinking, all these fabrics together would make the coolest vest. But what design? So, I took my blocks, along with everyone’s scraps (I ASKED them first), and put them on my design board and began to think.

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Later, Christine said she was doing a lecture at the E.E. Schenck Trends Show (a show for shop owners from western states and the Asian Pacific The show is located in Porland, OR). Since Schenck sells the grey background fabric Christine was showing her quilt and then she said, hey, that vest idea you had, that would be great, I’ll take that too, so we can get your name out there. O.K., that sounds good, when is it? 

In a month. Whaaaaattt?! I have done NOTHING! The little pieces were falling off the design board, or covered by other projects that were creeping in.

An hour later, I stood at my ironing board, fabrics spread out and I said a prayer. I had a nice chat with God and said, Help!! I walked over to my little garment rack of purchased pieces (whether from a “Real” store or the thrift shop)all for ideas for future project. I pulled out a super short jacket that had bad fabric and design, but the collar!! and while that jacket had a skinny front band, I liked how it connected to the collar.  

I whipped out my sketch pad and started with rectangles. I knew I wanted a long, lean, look to this vest pattern. The rectangles kept coming to mind. 

I also wanted to showcase the interesting fabrics on the front, so I made the front panels really wide . Those pieces, the rectangle  shaped log cabin blocks, and the “sticks” (remember those pieces people discarded?), again they are all rectangle shapes.  

It all came together so smoothly (remember that prayer at the ironing board?). I was sewing up a storm and it was time to add the front panel pieces. WAIT A MINUTE!! They are too short at the bottom, no, no, NO! (Oh, dear, I just told the world that I made a major measuring mistake). And NO TIME to make new front panel pieces. 

Upon further trying it on, looking, thinking, I came to the conclusion that I LIKED it that way! Who knew? I like it being “off” at the bottom edges (hint, hint, Off the Grid).  You will be happy to know that yes, I finished it in time for Christine to take up to the Portland show. She said it was a big hit. Yea….

I use Terial Magic on the strips used for the blocks and sticks. I love how this product keeps things from fraying while I”m raw edge stitching them down.

It’s so fun to use Marcia Derse prints, and other ombre’ fabrics. The blocks have their edges turned under and are edge stitched to the gray ombre’ background fabric. 

I use glue (the bottle in the picture is basting glue), but I also use basic school glue (like Elmer’s). You can see the subtle change in the background fabric. I really enjoy turning it this way and that, darker portions verses lighter sections. It’ what YOU like. That’s why I call for 3 yds. for the background (room to play). 

Notice please that I use a zig zag stitch (rectangles again), and it also encases the raw edge of the fabric. 

And I do, what I call, “Shadow quilting.” They are always done in a rectangle shape . I like the look and it adds more quilting to the piece. 

I do any all over quilting in gentle curves because it’s easier on the eyes (if they were straight it’s too hard to sew perfectly straight) and adds movement. 

Look at the SUPER COOL necklace my 93 year young friend, Lila Sugg made for me (she is a MASTER sewist). It is so perfect with my vest (a secret, shhh…the gorgeous chunks of turquoise are made from potatoes).  Google that one, people! 

My workshop is called “Pick a Pattern.” I have at least 9 patterns to choose from or you could pick some from my NEW book! It’s out now! Buy it from me, your quilt shop, or Amazon. I’d love to see YOU in my workshop this September at Zephyr Point.

And listen to this, E.E.Schenck now carries my patterns and my book! And I have been asked to come to the next Trends Show and present a trunk show on my Art to Wear patterns and book. Sharon, the buyer, said that “Art to Wear” is coming back in a big way in the quilting world and I’ll be right there!  Hugs, Heidi

Going in Circles (It’s a Good Thing)

by Christine Barnes

Have you ever searched for something (typically without success) and in the process found things you’ve been looking for for ages??? That’s what happened to me earlier this week, when I unearthed a number of experiments and leftovers from different projects. Many were circles blocks, which makes sense because I’ve made seven—yes, seven—circles quilts. Sigh, I just can’t seem to resist!

I teach three circles workshops, the most popular one being shadowed circles on background triangles. In the examples below I used a Kaffe print on a background of Gelato ombré triangles. The triangles in each block were cut from different areas of the same ombré. That’s the magic of the Gelato ombrés, with their shifting colors and values.Different backgrounds really bring out the different colors in the circle.I first started pairing Kaffe prints and Gelato ombrés for “Sassy Circles II.” (It’s now a pattern; email me for info.)A few years ago I was appliqueing Kaffe circles onto Kaffe shot cottons (in the lower left) and Caryl Bryer Fallert ombrés (upper right). I loved, loved the ethereal quality of her ombrés. And after a trip to New York City, I just had to make a modern circle on a background of gray Painter’s Palette and white Grunge.By then it was clear to me that I had a bad case of “circle fever.” If you recall my “Pop Beads” quilt from our 2015 retreat, you’ll recognize this block made of Peppered Cotton solids and neutral prints. I made more colorful blocks for the quilt, but I sure had fun piecing the background for this block. Circles quilts have a lovely bonus—leftovers. The four triangles below were cut from scraps of the ombré border fabric I used in my Elegant Circles quilt. (Scroll through the Gallery to see the quilt.) Now I want to make yet another circles quilt using four triangles for each block background, and perhaps aboriginal prints for the circles.I’ve kept the bonus circles (the fabric cut away from the back of the quilt) for future projects. I think it’s time to put them to good use. I’d like to play with more pieced circles; these have been pressed over freezer-paper circles.I made my “Transparent Circles” quilt out of shot cottons and Marcia Derse prints. (I’ll be teaching this quilt in Santa Cruz next month.) Because the shot cottons are rather loosely woven, it’s easy to align the seams in the circles with the seams in the background.And finally, my students continue to amaze me with the circles they create. Here are two examples from my visit to the Friendship Quilters of San Diego. Many thanks, ladies!Big blooms really lend themselves to circles:Circles spill over into the rest of my life, too. Heidi gave me this gorgeous shawl several years ago, and every time I wear it I get compliments. (Merci, Heidi!) Let’s see . . . how can I make this into a quilt?I treated myself to this shawl from “The Great Put On” in Mendocino, CA, where you’ll find wonderful wearables.Hey, I challenge you to consider circles for a future quilt. They are highly addictive, and they work with so many different kinds of prints. Did I ever find what I was originally looking for? Nope, but I’ll search again and probably discover new old treasures. See you next month, when I’ll unveil my “Gypsy Wife” quilt.

p.s. My Zephyr workshop is full, but get in touch with me (  if you’d like to be on the waiting list.


















The Story of Zahra

by Sandra Bruce

The inspiration for subjects of my Matrix quilts come from many sources. I always have my eye open for possibilities everywhere. I read online daily, and ran across a photo essay by a photographer, Muhammed Muheisen, of Syrian refugee children. below is a link to it:

I was captivated by these little faces. How much beyond their years they all look. As a mother they are difficult to look at. I knew right away that I wanted to do the face of Zahra Mahmoud, a 5-year-old refugee from Deir El-Zour, Syria. Her eyes! I knew they would be very challenging to do. Here is the original photo:

My first task was to get permission to use the photo, and it took a bit of detective work. I went to Facebook first, as I had seen that Muheisen had a page there. I located his page and wrote him a message asking for permission to use his photo. His reply was that he worked freelance for Associated Press, who owned the photo. After several phone calls and emails, I finally got the right department at AP and received permission, which came with a fee of course, to use the photo to make one quilt (not to be sold) and also use on my social media. Once I got the contract and paid the fee I got busy working. Here is the crop I decided on.

My deadline of May 1st came about coincidentally with finding Zahra. I planned to enter her into a competition assembled by Susan Brubaker Knapp, Jane Dunnewald, Judy Coates Perez, and several other quilt artists of The Artist’s Circle, called “Threads of Resistance”. Here is their site:

With only 2 months to complete a 34″ by 58″ quilt I knew it would be close, but I finished it in a record 5 weeks. Here are some progress shots. The first 1/3rd went easily and quickly. I fudged the background color as I knew the color in the photo would be tough to match and there was no time to go look for it or even to dye my own.

I certainly have a lot of fabric that looks like this!

With the eyes being the critical part, I did cheat a bit and went down the side of the quilt for a while. (I usually work consistently left to right, top to bottom).

I knew there was the Sonoma Quilt show coming up, and I was fortunate to be the Featured Quilter there. I planned to work on Zahra while there, no time to lose! I also knew that I should get the eyes done first, as I needed every bit of concentration I could muster to do them. No distractions, no music, no radio, total quiet.  I got busy and got them done. So, the really amazing things about her eyes: when I first got the high res photo from AP and I enlarged it on my computer to get a closer look at them, I could see the reflection of Muhammed taking the photo, of people in the background, of the blue sky, sand……it gave me goosebumps. I had to simplify those things but still give the impression of what was there. Lots of piecing, despite simplifying!

Here’s the back of one of her eyes.

The Sonoma Show was great! I had a wonderful time, and people were very interested in what I was doing. I accomplished 2 blocks during the weekend. Here is the set up.

I also taught my Matrix class to a great bunch of ladies, including Arlette, who flew up from Houston to take it, and 2 ladies who were back for a second class to make a different sample piece. By the way, I am returning to Sonoma the weekend of June 9-11 to teach Material Matrix again, and my quilt Color Dance as well. For info call Broadway Quilts at 707-938-7312.

Back to Zahra….once I was back home the rest of her went pretty fast as I was in high gear.

Almost done!

Top done. Onto the long-arm. I think I used every shade of pink thread I had.

The finished quilt. The title: “Zahra, Age 5, Syrian Refugee”. She is done, and entered into the competition. I have also entered it into the Pine Tree Quilt show coming up on May. I am happy with the outcome, and at the same time, sad for all the children like Zahra, who have had to endure what no child should have to. In my quilt my love goes out to her.





I Don’t Lie, I Embellish!

by Mary Boalt

Do you get excited by the unexpected addition of hardware on clothing? Perhaps something unusual for closures? Or something ordinary used in an unordinary way?  I’m a sucker for all of it. The weirder the better. I love those clever details that make a garment unique.

Let’s start with some images from Pinterest and go from there. I’d love to know what kind of staples these are. I would definitely start stapling my clothes together.

Or these! What cool buckle/clips!

And now let’s move on to grommets with a kind of jump ring to connect the pieces. Or not.

Or laces.

And this from Diane Ericson. I’ve used grommets before but not quite like this. This darling idea is going on the list of things to try very soon. This type of grommet is extremely easy to install. You can find them in the drapery section at Joann.

And now for things that I have tried. These parachute clips will be revisited on another garment. They were easy to add and I like the way they work.

This is Butterick 6381. I added the hanging pocket.

This one keeps the hanging pocket closed.

This is a Marcy Tilton pattern from Vogue. #8934.  It’s a preprinted stretch denim that I found at an outlet store in San Francisco a few years ago. The idea to use carabiner clips came from my friend Helen. She has been known to sew door hinges onto her garments!

The back features a giant “snack pocket” with the upper flap piped with zipper teeth.

And speaking of zippers…..I found these zippers at the same place I bought this fabric. My sister, who lives near Phoenix, takes me to SAS fabric warehouse. We humorously refer to it as the Topless Bar Fabric store since it is around the corner from….you guessed it, a topless bar. But hey! Fabric can be purchased by the pound there! What’s not to like about that?

Zippers closed.

Zippers open.

Again, zippers used as trim on the outside of the pocket opening.

I bought this bicycle panel from Diane Ericson and then went to work adding the hardware; zippers, brass jumbo hook and eye tape and iron on metal dots.

This is the zipper that goes to no where. It’s just trim.

This is jumbo hook and eye tape. And a shirt “borrowed” from my husband.

Grommet tape down the sleeve.

No piece of zipper goes to waste. This extension is inserted in the collar and wraps around and snaps in place to keep the collar closed.

This is The Peony Vest from The Sewing Workshop.

Interesting button found at Ben Franklin in Grass Valley. It’s layered with a copper button that was gifted to me.

And the addition of grommet tape with jump rings. This comes in black or white at Sugar Pine Quilt Shop in Grass Valley.

Here’s another of Diane Ericson’s fabric panels. This time the Snap To It Jacket pattern from Louise Cutting was used. Along with lots of snap tape and the addition of another hanging pocket. Yup! Gotta love those hanging pockets… idea gleaned from a Diane Ericson pattern. Can you say “groupie”?

Snap tape in the split cuff.

One more. And yes, it’s another Diane Ericson jacket. The Ventana. I used cafe rings and clips for the front closures as well as for the side flaps that wrap around to the front. It’s a very interesting pattern that just screams for cool hardware.

Have you been inspired to put some hardware in your next garment? Use zipper teeth as piping? How about some drapery hooks or grommets. Although I can’t quite bring myself to use door hinges, there is some garter tape in my stash that’s calling my name.