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!

 

 

 

 

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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 (cebarnes@sbcglobal.net)  if you’d like to be on the waiting list.

 

 

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Let’s Hear It for Low-Volume Fabrics!

Christine Barnes

It’s another cold, raw spring day in Grass Valley, perfect for staying in and sharing my thoughts with you. My wild cherry trees are in bloom, and today wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen snow falling on the white blossoms. I call them my popcorn trees.

In this post I’d like to focus again on low-volume fabrics—how to spot them and use them in your quilts. The term is from the modern-quilt movement, and it means “quiet” colors and prints, used mostly as backgrounds or negative space. They are generally light in value, which makes them recede. Some are colored, but my faves are fabrics that have widely spaced black or gray motifs on a white or cream background. A picture is worth lots of words, so here are some examples. When possible, I’m adding the selvage info for those who want to seek out these fabrics. I included my fabric bracelet from the deYoung Museum to give you a sense of scale.

This print is by the designer Bonnie Christine, for Art Gallery Fabrics. It’s from the Hello Bear Collection, and the name of the design is “Summit in Dawn.” I’ve seen it on the Hawthorne Threads site. It’s more of a “medium-volume” fabric because of the colors, but I had to show it because I love it!Next is an open-and-airy, large-scale print from Contempo Studio’s Daily Zen collection, Michele D’Amore designer, by Benartex, style 1738. The background is creamier, not really white.Another design by Daily Zen, Michele D’Amore, style 1735. Love the openness of it.Also from the Daily Zen collection by Michele D’Amore, but alas, the selvage is gone. If you find this fabric, please let me know—I’ll give you extra credit. Remember the bird Woodstock in the Peanuts cartoons? To me, this looks like one long rant by him! The partial selvage reads “For Your Nest,” by Moda, style 48203. I love this random pattern of pale gray lines by Marcus Fabrics. The selvage says Studio 37 Fabrics, Nancy Rink Designs, Getting to Know Hue, style 9720. It comes in the opposite colorway of white lines on a gray background, and it’s gorgeous.I have no info on this pale gray-and-white stripe, but I believe it’s from Riley Blake. (This photo looks yellowish—the lighting was stange the day I took it.)And here’s how I used that stripe in a Gypsy Wife block, as the lowest-volume fabric. This block/quilt is one of the projects for the retreat.Note that the other two fabrics in the block above are anything but low-volume. I chose them because they separated and “stood up to” the colorful triangles but didn’t take over. There’s no selvage info for this large white-on-gray dot, but the smaller dot is by Michael Miller, style CX-2490, Dumb Dot. Michael Miller fabrics is a great source for dotted fabrics.I hope I’ve “spoken up” for low-volume fabrics enough to entice you to add them to your stash. They’re hard to find, but so worth the hunt.

One more thought: My retreat workshop is now full, but feel free to contact me if you’d like to be on the waiting list. You never know . . . .

Also, I’ll be showing more low-volume prints and my Antique Modern quilt top in my next newsletter, “Christine’s Color Connection.” You can sign up on my Home page, or by texting COLOR4Q to 22828. See you when we “get together” again!

 

 

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A Fantabulous Field Trip

by Christine Barnes

stella-chile-detailYes, you are correct: “fantabulous” isn’t a word. It’s my combination of fantastic and fabulous, as if I could somehow make something wonderful even more wonderful by gluing the two words together. But a field trip to San Francisco with Heidi, Kari, and Patty was so delightful that it “broke the fun meter,” as Patty said.

First stop: FabriX on Clement Street. Oh my gosh, you should go. Marcy Tilton buys there occasionally, so you know it’s good. Here my buddies (and Patty’s husband Bob, our driver) posed long enough for a pic. We were so excited!1-at-fabrix-outsideThis shot doesn’t do justice to the store. It’s crammed with amazing fabrics, and the prices are great.2a-kari-and-pattyin-fabriNext up, and the main attraction, the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park for the exhibit “Beyond the Surface: Worldwide Embroidery Traditions.” As we walked through the lobby toward the exhibit, I was awestruck by “The Earthquake in Chile” from American artist Frank Stella, which commemorates a devastating earthquake in Chile in 1647. Seeing all that color on such a large scale was exciting, though the subject matter was anything but cheerful. I saw ideas for fabric design in this ginormous (now that’s a real word) painting. I took this photo with people to give you a sense of the size.6-mura-with-people

6b-mural-mid-range-2We took in the embroidery exhibit, which was fascinating, but alas, the light was low to protect the textiles, and it was a challenge to take photos. Below are gloves and a hat on display, and one of the many drawers of textiles under glass. The exhibit runs through August.4a-gloves-drawer-pulled-out-hat

3-embroidery-wide-shotOK, that was interesting, but what next? The de Young gift shop is always a treat. I wanted, really wanted one of these glasses because, well, the colors make me happy. Isn’t that reason enough? But I resisted, knowing the sign that said “please ask for assistance” meant that they were beyond my budget. I did give in to a little bracelet of fabric beads.5-sf-gift-shop-glassAs the infomercials say, “But wait, there’s more.” We entered an exhibit of Stella’s prints, and again I fell in love with the color. And again I saw fabric patterns.8-stella-prints-1

7-stella-print-39-stella-bands-horizontalIt just got better in this room of studio glass and other pieces from the de Young’s American Decorative Art Department. To be honest, my brain was a bit fried by then and I forgot to “take notes” with my iPhone. It was enough just to look.10a-glass-craft-room

glass-on-table-lateThis Chihuly piece was exquisite. No other words needed.12-chiluli-greenglass

12a-rainbow-glassI fell in love with this ladder decorated with paint and broken glass. The closeup reminds me of Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings.13-ladder-and-glass

13a-ladder-mid-size-looks-like-paintingOn the way out there was even more studio glass, and I couldn’t resist this luminous piece. I’m calling it “butterscotch” because I forgot to get the title or artist’s name. Sigh!16-butterfinger-glassOur fantabulous day was made even better by the gorgeous weather. Check out the blue-blue sky and these Victorians, taken as we drove to Stone Mountain & Daughter in Berkeley for more fabric indulgence. But that’s another story, and you’ll see what Heidi and I create from our finds another time. Thanks so much for looking. It was great fun to have you along for the ride!17-victorian-houses

 

 

 

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Through the Magic of Stripes

by Christine Barnes

The poet Robert Burns wrote in his poem To a Mouse, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” It’s true for quilters, too, and I am living proof. This is the story of my crooked path to a new plan for a quilt.

By now you know that I adore plaids. I also love triangles, and the best way to create triangle squares is with Thangles, strips of paper that have solid and dashed lines for sewing and trimming. They are magical and so easy to use.

I paired a number of my plaids with Grunge semi-solids and set out to make 8′ finished blocks. I liked the first block a lot—the contrast between the plaid and semi-solid fabric makes the design read. These are just the four “raw” units, not yet joined.0-plaid-block-no

Then, I confess, I neglected to follow my own advice and started pairing fabrics and sewing triangle units like crazy, without auditioning. Big mistake. Most of the resulting units were too blended, too contrasty, or just plain chaotic. Trust me, you don’t want to see them! On the phone with my friend Kari, she said, “You mean you didn’t practice what you preach?” Ouch. Count on a friend to speak the truth.

Chastened a bit, I changed gears and decided to work with my other favorite fabrics, stripes, of which I have many. Below is a shot cotton solid and a yummy woven stripe. I rough-cut the fabric strips 5″ wide and 11½” long. Notice that the stripe is running lengthwise—this is very important.
1-strips

Enter Thangles for 4″ finished units (the package is on the right, below). I love them for the precision and ease—no more cutting triangles and trying to pin and sew them on the bias. Here’s how to use them:

1. Layer the fabrics with a Thangles strip and pin through all layers. You would normally layer the fabrics right sides together, but because both of my fabrics are woven, it doesn’t matter. You only need a few pins, one at each end, and two perpendicular to each solid diagonal line. Just enough to keep things from moving.2-thangles

2. Shorten your stitch and sew precisely on the dashed lines. How short is short enough? I put mine down four steps from the default, but you’ll need to experiment to find what’s right for you. Once you sew the first set of strips and start to remove the paper, you’ll know if the stitch needs to be shorter. 3-sew-on-dotted-line

3. Trim the excess fabric along the side edges, the top and bottom, and the center line. 4-thangles-shapes-sewn-trimmed

4. Fold the paper triangles back along the stitching lines, crease them with your thumbnail, and tear the pieces away. Here I’ve folded back just two of the paper triangles. 5-remove-some-paper

5. Tear off all the paper pieces, including the short strips between the stitching lines.

7-side-by-side-units-with-paper-scraps

6. Cut the triangles apart between the stitching lines.

7. Press the seam allowances open. I press using a seam roll because it keeps the seam from stretching on the bias and generally makes the process go better and faster. Mine is made by Dritz and was inexpensive. (It’s plaid on the other side.)8-pressing-on-seam-roll

8. Voila! You have four 4½” triangles units, which will finish to 4″. I don’t trim the dog ears at this point; I find them helpful when joining the units.9-four-unts-pressed-open

9. Now the magic happens. Because you cut the original striped fabric lengthwise and used Thangles, the stripes are automatically perpendicular to each other. I love seeing how the block looks at this stage. The four units in the image below are not yet sewn together. See how the diagonally opposite triangles relate? They are actually identical.10-raw-units-arranged

10. Now back up and sew the top and bottom units together to make two rows. Tip: It’s not necessary to pin through the diagonal seams perfectly. If you sew and trim carefully, things will naturally line up at the outer edges and you’ll have good “points.”

Also, when I join the rows, I pin the outer edges carefully and let what happens at the center intersection just happen. I do not like to “ease” one section in and “stretch” another section out. Life is too short. With stripes, your eye won’t notice any slight misalignment.11-join-the-rows

11. Join the rows to make a block with “spinning” triangles. I call these a cheap thrill because Thangles do the work for you. And you end up looking sooooo smart.12-finished-block

I now have nine different blocks, and I’ll show you the setting in a future post or newsletter. If you don’t already get “Christine’s Color Connection,” you can sign up on my website Home page or on your smartphone by texting COLOR4Q to 22828.

There’s a bit of snow on the ground this morning. Stay cozy and warm in this “bleak midwinter.” It’s a great season for sewing!

‘Tis the Season to Be Busy

by Christine Barnes

20-david-artSeasonal greetings, friends and followers! As I sit here in my living room, wearing my cozy slippers and watching the crackling fire, I wonder what to share during this crazy busy season. I had in mind a preview of my latest quilt project, but I usually take my photos outdoors, in wonderful natural light, and that hasn’t been an option for at least a week. We have been soaked by a series of strong storms, and my outdoor “photo studio” (really just a flat surface on my deck) is very soggy. Next time.

So I decided to tidy up my photo files and discovered some images I’d completely forgotten. Funny how photos seem to multiply if you don’t pay attention. What follows is truly a potpourri. Some are about color, others are just, well, things I liked enough to snap a pic or two. Want to see what caught my eye? Read on . . .

I recently spotted these candles in the SERV booth at the Methodist Church Craft Fair in Nevada City. SERV International is a nonprofit organization that provides clean water, nourishing food, and safe shelter in Africa. The colors of the candles reeled me in—you know how much I love yellow-green. And such a nice balance of warm and cool color. A future palette for a quilt perhaps? (The angels are pretty darn cute, too.)0-candles

I smiled when I came across this photo of the late, great Jeffrey. He was easily bored by quilting, but he did like to hang out with me in my studio. What a slacker!02-jeffy-boredI never tire of solids, and this line-up for a class I was teaching was visually delicious. I call them color canapes.03a-better-squares-of-solids

This is what happens when you pop a mug of hot tea into the freezer to make quick iced tea. These frozen bubbles remind me that science is exquisite, with a beauty that goes beyond anything I could ever create.9-frezzing-tea-bubbles

I seem to like the bird’s-eye view. Below is my one-and-only paper-bead attempt, collected in a glass given to me by a dear friend. I have a Pinterest board on paper and fabric beads that I’m eager to learn from. Soon, I hope. . . .31-paper-beads

Experimenting with Peppered Cottons, to take advantage of the gradation of dark-to-light values in my fave gray ombré. Alas, a table runner that never came to fruition. (You can just see my sketches below the fabrics.)018-icy-gray-ombre-runner

Sigh, another project that has languished in my UFO cubby. Alexander Henry dots and Painted Canvas semi-solids wouldn’t seem like an obvious combination, but that’s why we play around in our fabrics, right?06-alex-dotted-circles-in-squares

My trip to Las Vegas in October was a delight. One student’s arrangement of Gelato ombrés and Kaffe circles was so appealing.024-circles-on-gelato-2-line-up

I also taught Modern Color in Las Vegas, and these two exercises got “extreme extra credit” for using multiple stripes in one Rolling Stone block.26-my-alltime-fave-rolling-stone-lv-stripes

 

28-second-faver-rolling-stone-block-lv-stripesHere’s a transparency mock-up idea that I hope to pursue someday:39-modern-trans-block-plaidAnd here are four of those units, oriented with the light corners toward the center. Once again, my “plaid gene” is active.40-modern-trans-layout-2

A boot block (8 x 8 inches, I believe) made for a friend’s quilt. When Kaffes and Gelatos get together, it’s a party, guaranteed!04-boot-block

I guess I like those colors because here they are in a bowl of Christmas ornaments. Memo to self: next year, get a tree.05-xmas-balles-close-up

With that I leave you to get back to all the tasks of the season. I wish you happy, happy holidays spent with the people you love. And a New Year’s resolution to do and make more of whatever gives you joy!

 

 

 

 

 

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When It’s Good to Go “Whacky”

by Christine Barnes

To those of you who also follow my Color Connection newsletter, forgive me for repeating parts of my last newsletter. What a crazy month it has been, all good, and after my last teaching gig of the year, in Paradise, the new-idea folder in my brain needs to be refilled. So allow me to offer a short tutorial on one of my favorite blocks, a design that is as versatile as it is simple.

This is my go-to block for creating luminosity and transparency. You may have seen my Luminaria quilt and perhaps have the pattern. Or maybe you’ve taken my transparency class and have played with this design. Take a look at these two sample blocks.

whacked-block-single-2 whacked-block-single-1If they look difficult, with lots of piecing and different shapes, I assure you they are not. Here’s why, and how:

1.   For my blocks I cut the center squares 6½” and the borders 4″ wide and a bit more than 10″ long; that is, four strips cut across the WOF, after you have barely removed the selvages.

2.   Lay out the strips as shown below. Notice that they “spin” around the center square.Spinnin borders tutorial A

3.   With right sides together, pin the first strip to the center square, starting at the midpoint of the square and letting the end of the strip barely hang over. (The hangover is a smidge too big in the illustration.) Sew (do not backstitch), then trim the hangover, open out the unit, and press the partial seam allowances open. Seam allowances pressed open make it easy to join the units later.

spinning-borders-tutorial-bf4.   With the unit right side up, add the second strip to the left edge. Open it out and press the seam allowances open. Trim the hangover along the edge of the square. No need to trim the hangover at the outer edge.

spinning-borders-tutorial-cf5.   Add the third strip to the lower edge in the same manner.

Spinning borders tutorial D6. Add the fourth strip to the right edge, keeping the end of the first strip free. No need to trim the upper hangover; it’s difficult to do because of the partial seam.

spinning-borders-tutorial-ef

Here’s how the “real thing” looks  after the fourth strip has been added.

ca-strip-4-added-copy7.   Fold the first strip down and use a ruler to line up the free end so it’s square with the fourth strip. Finish the partial seam and press the seam allowances open.

da-square-up-last-orner-copy8.   Trim the hangovers at the ends of the strips to complete this basic block.

Spinning borders tutorial F9.   Now the magic begins. Slice the block as shown below, making the first cut 3¾” from the left seam (NOT the outer edge of the block). Without moving the pieces, turn your board from the upper right corner clockwise, to the right, to make the second cut, again 3¾” from the left seam. A rotating 17″ x 17″ rotary mat is ideal for this step.

whacking dims

Tip: I use two rulers, one placed 3¾” from the left seam and one 2¼” from the right seam. Then I play with the rulers to split any small errors in my piecing.

Here are four groups of four blocks each, after the basic blocks have been whacked. final-blcoks-cut-and-stacked-up-f
And some of those units mocked up. Not sure what I’ll do the next; the circle is just an idea.final-of-four-blocks-mocked-up

 

For my Transparent Squares quilt, I made eight basic blocks, whacked them, and recombined the units. It always amazes me how rich and complex these blocks look when sewn into a quilt. You know me by now—I love modular designs! (The gray borders are cut from Gelato #714, available in my Store.)

transp-squares-for-aa-nov

With that, I wish you a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and your friends. And gratitude for the gifts—so many gifts!—we’ve all been given.

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