Summer Play

by Christine Barnes

Gardeners pore over seed catalogs, and fashionistas wait eagerly for the Fall fashion issue of Vogue. Me? I pull out my big book of 501 block patterns because, as you may have noticed, I adore traditional blocks made in today’s fabrics. I also look for opportunities to simplify a block to make it more modern. That’s my idea of a relaxing afternoon—looking at block designs and playing with fabric.

When my good buddy Heidi (I believe you know her) gave me a half-yard of this fabulous Anna Maria Horner print called “Fibs and Fables,” I thought it would be fun to do a three-block series, with each block having a different-size center square. 

I chose “The Crayon Box” for my first mock-block.

My supporting fabrics—a red-violet Marcia Derse, a yellow-green Grunge, and a slate-blue/gray by Parson Gray. I tossed in a low-volume background fabric, “Rush Hour” by studio e fabrics. (it’s a bit difficult to see, but it’s under the yellow-green square.) I challenged myself to use the same supporting fabrics in each block.

 

With a center that’s only 3 x 3 inches (the block finishes to 9 x 9), you don’t see much of the AMH fabric. The supporting fabrics seemed to overwhelm the print and confine it.

I started to deconstruct the mock-block (one of the benefits of gluing over sewing!) and really liked the simplicity—an example of “less is more,” I thought. How about using fewer pieces of the magenta and yellow-green, with a low-volume background fabric to open up the design? The simplified version is airier, with the possibility of rotating blocks to create an original quilt plan. 

Returning to my original idea of varying the proportions of the fabrics, I brought out one of my favorite blocks, “Cypress.” This block is also 9 x 9, but the center is 4½ inches, or half the width of the block and 50 percent larger than the center of The Crayon Box. I love seeing more of the AMH print. You also see more of the magenta print, but less of the yellow-green and slate-blue/gray. The Rush Hour background keeps everything light and airy.

Next up, the block “Counterpane.” This version is 10 x 10 inches, with a 6-inch center that reveals even more of the print. Blocks like Counterpane are perfect for showcasing gorgeous, splashy prints, while the small triangles make effective accents.

 

So now you know what I do on hot summer afternoons—I “play with my blocks.” And, no surprise, some of them actually turn into quilts, like the two new projects for my Zephyr workshop.

Hoping you are staying cool. And for those of you coming to my Zephyr workshop, I hope you’re having fun poring over your stash and deciding which fabrics you want to play with!

p.s. To my students, I’ll be in touch!

A Detour, Short and Sweet

by Christine Barnes

I’m home from my teaching travels, and after so many weeks on the road, my own bed never felt so good. (Naples was wonderful—thank you Judy and Linda! I’ll write about it in my next post.) I’ve been working away on the project quilts for the retreat. One of them is based a block that is so versatile that I just had to try it with transparency.

The block is known as “Antique Modern,” which seems a bit of an oxymoron. And here’s my quilt top, which I’ve named “Aerial,” after the name of the sashing fabric. If you don’t follow my newsletter, you can click here to see the April issue and read the story behind choosing the fabrics.Every time I looked at the block, I thought, “I wonder if . . . .” So yesterday I took a quick detour from my “Crazy Anne” quilt for the retreat to play with the design.

I fell in love with this mini harlequin print when I was at Rosie’s in San Diego in April. The three pink solids you see are from the width of one ombré, which I folded to show the color and value range. I know, I’m a broken record, but ombrés have SO much potential.The result isn’t quite as transparent as I had hoped. Some ombrés aren’t that successful because they tend to be too opaque. Never mind—the center fabric carries the day for me, and the black-and-white “stripe” makes it even more modern.Then I asked myself, “What would happen if I eliminate the center square?” Instead of rectangles surrounding a center square, you see a large, open area with a whole new set of possibilities.For this version I needed three fabrics—a light parent, a dark parent, and a child. The lightest fabric is actually the lighter area of a yellow-green/olive ombré. The dark green is the wrong side of a Grunge. (Hey, all’s fair in love and quilting.) The “child,” a Loni Rossi print, looks like a combination of the two parents, as if the light and dark colors were combined but not completely blended.I layered and glued the cut pieces to “fool the eye.” The real thing, when sewn, is much more convincing because it’s flatter. (This pic was taken in the evening, so the color is off.)

The finished mock-block.

That was fun, like reading a few chapters in a novel when you should be studying for finals. Next week it’s back to my retreat projects and full speed ahead on Zephyr. As always, thanks for looking and reading. I hope your summer is off to a great start—and that it includes a little color play with fabric you love!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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!

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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!

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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!