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 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.






by Sandra Bruce

Happy Saint Paddy’s Day! I am not Irish, I’m half Scottish, half British….I think. My Ancestry DNA test results are due back any time so I’ll let you know if it changes after I see them! In any case, today’s post is brought to you by the color green. It was my favorite color for a long time, and I realized today how many things I have made for myself or acquired because they are green. Here are a few….but first! Heidi had her book signing last Saturday at Sugar Pine Quilt Shop. Her new book is called “Fashion Quilted Accessories” and we are excited about her latest achievement. I went by to pick up one of her books and she was wearing her quilted vest that is adorned by my polymer buttons. Congrats Heidi!

On to my collection of green things! This is one of my favorite pairs of earrings, I made them different from each other which sometimes makes people stop and take notice. It’s fun to wear them. They are polymer mixed with regular beads.

Spring is here! This orchid just bloomed and I love the touch of green inside the blossom. I have been puzzled by those root-looking things that poke out of orchids. A woman told me recently when I asked her about it that it’s the same as when we’re in bed and we like to have our arms out of the covers! That made me laugh and it’s a nice way to think about it. Any orchid pros out there? Let me know if you have an explanation 🙂

Also in the same vein, this plant in a mosaic pot that lives in our kitchen made with celadon-colored pieces of plates. Mosaics are a creative way to cover plain pots and make them special. I especially enjoyed putting the plates into a paper bag and banging on them with a hammer to create the shards. Good therapy!

This pincushion was made from a teacup and saucer I found in a fabulous thrift store last summer. I made a bunch and saved this one for myself while giving the rest away as gifts. I’m going to make more to sell at the Pine Tree Quilt show boutique in May. Very easy to do and who can’t use another pin cushion?

Oh my, my bin of green fabric is overflowing!

A Vogue pattern, made into a blouse using rayon I dyed, screen printed, and sewed beads along the neckline.

A wonky log cabin quilt, in many shades of green.

I kept a few leaves on my design board from one of my recent quits, “Lemon Tree in Tuscany”.

I think I make more green polymer buttons, pins and earrings than any other color, and I don’t know why, it just happens.

Since I’m teaching polymer clay at the Zephyr Retreat in September I’ll show you a  bag of mostly black and white polymer I made recently. Woo-hoo! I am so excited to have that time coming up this Fall to be surrounded by polymer for a few days. I have only 3 spaces left in my class if you are thinking about taking it, c’mon and join us!

I have been feverishly working on a couple of deadlines aside from my long arm business and teaching. I am making a new Matrix portrait quilt for a competition whose deadline is May 1 and I only started it a couple of weeks ago. Also I am preparing for Meet the Teachers with NCQC (Northern California Quilt Council) on April 8th and I am going to be announcing a brand new class I’ll be teaching, called “The ABC’s of Stitching Words” and I’ll be talking more about it in weeks to come. Stay tuned!

Have a great St. Patrick’s Day and don’t forget to wear green. 🙂



by Sandra Bruce

Imagine this: you wake up to a view of Lake Tahoe in the crisp Fall air, head to the Dining Hall to have coffee and breakfast with some great folks who share your love of creativity, then stroll over to your classroom where you’ll spend the day with a few other like-minded souls, making wonderful things with polymer clay: buttons for wearables, beads and other jewelry pieces, art books, or any other thing your heart desires. After lunch, take a break in the afternoon to walk down to the lake, or take a nap, or chat with your friends. In the evening….more polymer perhaps? One of our programs, shopping in our store, or watching a sunset. Sound good?? Read on!

This year I am teaching a polymer clay workshop, where a beginner or even a more experienced polymer fan  can spend the week learning many techniques and go home with some goooood stuff! I can hardly wait myself for a solid chunk of polymer time!img_9191

Let me show you just a few examples of what is possible. Here is a necklace made by a student after a 1-day polymer class. She made the beads and then took them home and made the necklace. Stunning!! These polymer beads are made with the “Mokume Gane” technique which I will be demonstrating.


Another visual of some of a student’s work at the end of a one-day class:img_3441

You can even make a little figurine. I made this in a workshop with teacher and polymer artist Dayle Doroshow. My little Italian cook resides on my kitchen shelf.img_3451

Here is a purse I made and then I made the button to go on it. Buttons can be made in almost any shape, size and color(s) to match a purse, sweater, jacket, blouse, or any garment. Knitters and crocheters, you too!


I bought this blouse recently, it had a very boring set of white shell buttons on it, so I replaced them and here is the blouse now. Voila!p1020423

Necklaces are so easily made to go with an outfit, since you can make the colors match and get it just the way you want it. I’ll bring my jewelry-making supplies and we will make some one-of-a-kind pieces.


Big beads like this are fun to make, and very “Frida Kahlo” inspired!img_7476

Earrings can be long, short, fancy, simple….what’s your favorite?p1030984-filtered-copy



So that you can see the “magic” of polymer clay, I’ll show you one of the easy techniques, step-by-step:  There’s no waste with polymer clay. Look below, here is a little pile of scrap pieces. The colors don’t even look like they go together, do they?

img_7795The scraps get chopped into little bits.


Then, a log is created in your hands, of the bits.img_7797The log is twisted, for a minute or two….then flattened….

…..and VOILA! Striped buttons! I love this technique.


Canework is the “backbone” of polymer clay work, I like to say. We’ll be making them in many styles.


You can see how easy it is to get carried away making things with polymer. Really and truly!


Making gift “books” is a wonderful idea. The front and back covers are polymer, with blank accordion pages inside to write on. Very unique!img_1917

I could go on and on, as there are endless possibilities. If you want to see more, I encourage you to go to my Pinterest account, and on my Polymer board I have over 3,500 pins of polymer clay. Techniques, videos on “how-to”, and many beautiful pieces created by all the polymer fanatics out there (I’m one too!) Check it out! You can find me under my name, then the polymer clay board.

So, if this sounds fun to you, if you want to try polymer or continue your love of the craft please consider signing up on our “workshops” page under my name. I am happy to gear the workshop to what you want to make. I guarantee you will have a ball and enjoy yourself in this beautiful, inspiring place. Class size is limited and I already have sign-ups so make your plans soon!

A Collection of Name Tags

by Sandra Bruce

Happy New Year everyone! The photo above is the classroom at Eleanor Burn’s Quilt in a Day shop in San Marcos, CA where I taught a few days ago. Great ladies and much enthusiasm there. And Eleanor is quite a lady, I met her. Such energy she has.

I’ve just returned from my first teaching gig last night, I visited the Surfside Guild and El Camino Guild in Southern California. We’ve been having incredible rainy weather here at home in Grass Valley, and it was merely sprinkling down south. I must admit it was nice to be in warmer climes, but am thankful for the rain we received, even if it was, well…..a whole lot!

I have had a lot of fun seeing the name tags that ladies wear at the guilds I visit. They are so full of personality. I started taking pictures of some of the ones I liked, and I’m going to make my blog post today about them.

I have a few myself that I’m quite partial to. This one came from a workshop years ago, that I saved. very simple, but endearing!

This one I wear to my local Pine Tree Quilt Guild meetings. You all know I love sock monkeys, don’t you? I had one as a child that I still have, put away somewhere. We need a sense of humor as quilters.


Kari Hannekel made me this one for me, isn’t it cute?


This one is super simple but I like it.


Who can resist this pieced one? It has a zipper at the top, so she can put stuff in it.


I don’t know how to knit or crochet, but this name tag impressed me for it’s delicate detail.


I love this one. Look at the cat’s expression. And those feet…..


Some ladies have fancy machines that can do this beautiful embroidery.


Here’s another fancy embroidered one.


Simple, but oh so sweet.


This one cracked me up….”A bird, a plane, no, it’s Jennifer”! Jennifer is a young pilot who had this one made for her.


Sewing machines are popular motifs. And putting on pins is common, too.


I guess some are made afresh each year!


This guild, the Citrus Belt Quilters, has a fabric lanyard in common that everyone uses, and then embellishes with their own name and goodies. Beth bought one of my polymer buttons and sewed it on right away!


You can see that some get pretty elaborate!


Simple embroidery, delicate and sweet.


Critters abound!


A big smile from a quilter with a very embellished lanyard. Quilters are just the best bunch of ladies (and sometimes gentlemen!)


By my next post I hope to have “Sushmita” done, my latest quilt. Stay tuned and have a great rest of January. Stay dry and warm!


The End of 2016

by Sandra Bruce

The year is almost up! Did it ever go by fast, in many ways. I have been reflecting on all the ways I am thankful for my year, in all its ups, downs, triumphs, and lessons!

First, thanks to the 22 guilds who invited me to come teach and lecture this year. I enjoyed the traveling and experiencing the shops, scenery, the quilters, and their quilts. I taught Material Matrix, Color Dance, with a little polymer clay thrown in the mix. Here’s Genelle, Radean, and the group from Pacific Grove. Big smiles!

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img_1061Each location has quilt shops, history, and museums to be proud of, and of course restaurants. I think my favorite museum was the Getty in Southern California.img_0433

I would be at a loss to count all the quilt shops I went into this year!img_0377

I had the privilege of working on some really interesting and creative quilts this year from my long-arm customers. Traditional, art quilts, and many in-between.img_1698img_1289

I took a couple of workshops myself. There’s always room to grow and learn something new. Judy Coates-Perez was especially fun with Heidi, Christine and Mary at my table! I really liked the end product of my class, a collage to be stitched.


And speaking of my co-horts, there was the day in July (also my birthday!) when we drove down to Meet the Teachers in Fairfield  and got stuck in a horrible traffic jam, making us very late. Well, we managed to go with the flow and were still able to present to the group.


I did manage to squeeze in some polymer time to make buttons, they’ve been very popular when I go teach. I acquired a pasta machine with a motor….wowie! Is it a pleasure to use!



Our retreat at Lake Tahoe, was of course a highlight of my year. We’ll be announcing next year’s plans very soon, yay!


I marvelled at the power of social media all year. I posted a photo of my quilt, “Winston”, completed in the Spring on my Sandra Bruce Creative page on Facebook and was amazed to see so may shares, comments, and people reached.

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6 months of this year was devoted to making “Lemon Tree in Tuscany”. Of course the work time was sporatic, but slowly and surely it was finished. I put the grid on the diagonal, just to try it. That, plus the amount of detail proved to be really challenging but rewarding. Next……………….


……I have begun “Sushmita”, from a photograph of a young girl by Howard Koons, taken in India. I keep going back to faces, they intrigue me the most.

Of course, the Houston show was very much a highlight! Heidi’s “Terrific Tabard” vest pattern also did a lot of traveling this year 🙂img_1800

I was really happy to have the opportunity to see a show of Chuck Close’s work, in northern Washington. I took a road trip with my son, Matteo, and it was wonderful to see Chuck’s work with his young eyes and comments.

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We did make it to the top of the Space Needle, with my CODA friend Kathy. Space Needle selfie!


I am thankful that the fire we had this summer in Grass Valley was put out pretty quickly. It was the closest that a fire has come to our house in 26 years and I don’t care to repeat that experience. We have brave and smart firefighters who risk their lives when fires occur. Heartfelt thanks to them.


I’ll sign off with wishes for all our readers a safe and joyous holiday season and New Year. I  have sincere hope for our planet and the people we share it with, for peace and understanding. See you in 2017!

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The Houston Show 2016

by Sandra Bruce

I’m still pinching myself after my return from the Houston Quilt Show. It was the most fabulous collection of quilts I’ve ever seen! Trish Morris-Plise and I went together, very fitting as we both had Matrix quilts hanging in the show, side by side, in the “Hands All Around” exhibit. This collection of quilts, around 30 in number, will travel around the world for the next year, showing at other quilt shows. Trish’s “Portrait Noir” and my “Chuck Close Two” hung together. Also my quilt “Claire” was accepted in the Portrait Division.

I’d like to show you some of the many pictures I took over the 4 days. I apologize firstly about 2 things: the quality of my “old” iPhone, and the fact that I cannot identify a few of the quilts. I have very limited space on my phone, and there’s no way I could have taken pictures of all the name tags as well as the quilts.

We stayed at the Hyatt which was a good choice, not to far away from the show, only a quick bus ride away.


Here we are in front of our quilts.


The show was hung and presented beautifully. Here is Claire.img_1800

The place was huge!!

img_1532 The vendor area was the size of 9 football fields, and it took me a whole day to walk systematically up and down each aisle. We had to rest our feet after so much walking!


For the rest of this post I’m just going to show you quilts to feast your eyes on. Many are just jaw-dropping. Enjoy!img_1621


“Baltimore in Bloom” by Sally Magee of Texas


“Old Denim Square”, by Noriko Nozawa of Japan


“The A-E-I-O-Ewes” by Janet Stone of Kansas


“Suwon Hwasung”, by Mikyung Jang of South Korea


“The Venetian”, by Jan Soules of California


“Cynara” by Susan Binachi-Himmelman


“Unknown Man”, by Maria Landi and Maria Azara of Brazil


“Flowered and Feathered Frenzy” by Susan Cleveland of Minnesota


“Fire in the Stone” by Kimberly Lacy of Colorado


“Moonflower” by Molly Hamilton-McNally of California


“Another Weekend” by Martha Wolfe of California


“Paint the Town Red” by Diane Rusin Doran of Maryland



It was sure tough to leave……….back to reality.img_1628