On the Road Again

by Sandra Bruce

My life has gone back into “normal” speed, now that my injuries are healing. I’ve been visiting guilds and working on projects as my arm and ribs would allow! In January, when I could still not do much, my friend Trish came over and cut out some fabric for me. I’d had this adorable Alexander Henry fabric for months and wanted to make a one-block wonder quilt from it. Look at this Christmas fabric in 40’s colors! Cute little gnomes and their abodes!! Love it!!IMG_0315
So,  even if I couldn’t cut fabric I could play with these triangles on my design wall.IMG_0308
A trip to Santa Barbara and the guild there became possible with my friend Michelle’s driving and class assistance. What a beautiful place to live. Here’s a happy student from the Valley Quilters with her work in progress. Great smiling face!IMG_0374

Yeah, I could live here, no problem.

A trip to Roxanne’s in Carpenteria was definitely on the “to-do” list. Look at this collection of Kaffe’s….(oooooo…..aahhhhh)IMG_0377
With no sewing for so long I couldn’t bear to wait any longer to start on my next Matrix quilt. Even when I couldn’t cut I organized my fabrics and got the photo ready. This is “Winston”, to be.IMG_0408
Next trip: Burbank, and the Valley Quilters. I was so lucky to have a free afternoon at the Getty Museum.IMG_0422  


My favorite exhibit……tapestries. Most were centuries old, but I loved this modern one that was made for the exhibit.IMG_0424
Back at the long arm! “Chuck Close Two” is being quilted.IMG_0447


Road trip to Gualala to speak to their guild, the Pacific Piecemakers. Two trips to the ocean in one month, I’m in heaven.
Lastly, a get-together with my FTDF (Friends to Dye For) where I made polymer buttons and earrings for solid hours on end. This is one slab I created.IMG_0479
I ended up with almost 300 buttons. Can’t wait to drill them!


Here’s where I am with Winston. It’s gone fairly speedily up till now but I have eyes in the next row, that’ll slow it down. But it will be done soon!IMG_0497


I hope if you have been thinking about taking my Material Matrix class at Zephyr that you will sign up soon. Contact me for any more info. It’s been a while since I posted it, so here’s a list of where you can find images and an interview about my process. Happy creating!!

An interview with a blogger on Facebook about my work:  http://www.13woodhouseroad.com/2012/10/inspiring-quilters-sandra-bruce.html






A Year in Pictures

by Sandra Bruce

Happy New Year to you all! Here’s to a great 2015 coming up. Today, just for fun, I’m posting my 2014 via a series of pictures. Here we go!

First, just a few shots of customers’ quilts I enjoyed quilting over the year:

IMG_7008IMG_7757Robin’s Self-Portrait….she’s a writer, in addition to being a quilter. You can see more about her here: http://robinmartinezrice.comIMG_7347

Trish’s very fun Princess Fishy IMG_7433Jane’s hippo from the Zephyr workshop IMG_8129

There’s always something new to be learned. I took a thread class from Cindy Needham.IMG_6350

I enjoyed visiting many quilt guilds in 2014. I learned so much from them all, and hope I inspired a few! I was surprised at how many Featherweights there are out there. Here’s one painted a special purple! Marty belongs to EBHQG.IMG_6924

I made so many samples in 2014!


Here’s “Octavius”, a close-up of his eye.


His suckers were made with silk organza I dyed outside on a nice warm day.


Also in the summer I took a “one block wonder” class from Cathy Stone, along with my friend Ray who came up to visit. This is a great process if you’ve never made one. Mine has red cardinals on it (made into a Christmas hanging) and Ray used an Alexander Henry print that was just made for this technique. My blocks, before sewing the rows together:IMG_7426

Ray, organizing his blocks:IMG_7997

At the July Northern California Quilt Guild’s “Meet the Teachers” I was happy to see my friend Therese May. You can check out her web site here: http://www.theresemay.com         She and I used to be neighbors and I credit her for getting me on the path to quilting!




Ahhhh…………Fall, and our much-needed rain!!!


Road trip to Oregon and Washington.  I taught in Sisters and Bend, great guilds and enthusiastic quilters!!


I watched my friend Wendy Hill make these beautiful little pies. She has inspired me as a quilter and lover of fabric.IMG_7905

Here’s Heidi when we were getting ready for the Zephyr workshop. We’re gearing up for the 2015 workshop, news and sign-up info coming soon!


This is my son Matteo, up in the air on his bike. I put it in here to see if you were paying attention (just kidding!) Yes, he is responsible for my growing number of white hairs!


My “Christmas on Emerald Court” class was a monthly class in 2014, and I’ll be repeating it in 2015, coming up soon in January. Please let me know if you are interested in taking it! Here’s a couple of shots taken over the months.


Here you can see one of my students’ finished tops on my long-arm, with mine on the wall in the background.

IMG_8275We, Heidi and Christine and I, had a polymer day with a couple of other friends. Here’s Heidi capturing Christine’s lovely makume gane polymer.


December is the time of year for oranges in California. Some friends in Sacramento let me pick to my heart’s content from their tree! They were incredibly big, juicy and sweet!


Christmas at my house. We don’t let a lack of a mantle or chimney keep us from hanging our stockings. Dearly departed loved ones get theirs hung too, in their memory.


Before I end, I want to show you one of my favorite Christmas gifts this year. My son made me a “coupon” for a massage (after a long day at the long-arm my feet will be happy for this!). Using Photoshop, he made this very funny gift. Those of you who have read the “Outlander” series, or seen the TV version will laugh as hard as I did.IMG_8389

In closing, after a great 2014 I am looking forward to an even better 2015, filled with lots of quilting, teaching, traveling, and of course, the Zephyr Point Retreat with my fellow Artistic Alchemy ladies! Cheers!!IMG_8379p.s. Christine here, to congratulate Laurie P. for winning our first giveaway, an ombré and Lustrous Squares pattern kit. Have fun with those fabrics, Laurie! And to everyone who commented, a big thank you for your thoughts. Stay tuned for more giveaways in 2015!


by Sharon Alves

I had a post ready.  However, I was so excited that one of my designs won a blue ribbon at the Springtime in the Pines quilt show in Grass Valley, CA last weekend.  So, I thought that I would share it with you today.

2014 Quilt  Show-2


This quilt was designed to be the Opportunity Quilt for 2015 for the Pine Tree Quilt Guild.  I was asked to create the design and a group was formed to make the quilt.  The group was made up of an eclectic group of quilters – each with their own unique style and talent. Sandra Bruce, Deirdre Campbell, Ingrid Cattaneo, Lynda Lasich, Melissa McGinnis, and Cathy Stone, all members of the Pine Tree Quilt Guild, made this quilt a work of art.  We called ourselves Moss Rox after a wine that both Ingrid and I both appreciate.

I started this design by thinking circles.  Those of you that know me know that I think that everything is better with beads.  I was thinking of circles that could be embellished with beads.  So, I started doodling.

Original SketchWith Sandra’s help it worked into this – the final design.  The quilt was designed to showcase the many facets of quilting and quilt art.  Machine piecing, pintucking, paper piecing, applique, smocking, beading and machine quilting were all used on this quilt.

Sketch3Now the creativity begins.  Although we did labor with the fabric selection, once we had that worked out, the quilt started taking shape.  First Ingrid Cattaneo pieced the large flower, and Lynda Lasich did the beautiful pintucking on the stem.  Cathy and Lynda both did the wonderful applique.

photo 1

Photo by Ingrid Cattaneo


photo 3

Photo by Ingrid Cattaneo

Deirdre Campbell did the paper piecing on the leaf.  Deirdre and Melissa pieced the border.

photo 4

Photo by Ingrid Cattaneo

Cathy and Ingrid did the smocking on the flower centers.  Ingrid and I did the beading.

photo 2

Photo by Ingrid Cattaneo

Sandra Bruce and Cathy Stone did the quilting.

As you can see, the final product is quite different than my original sketch.  I have discovered that it is liberating to just let your quilt speak to you, and let it unfold.  Give yourself the freedom to change your perspective.  At one point we all stood back and said “that’s enough.”  Your quilt will tell you when it is finished.  However, I did get my circles with beads.

It was such a wonderful experience to work with all of this talent, and I wish to thank them all for making this quilt a success.

I have reduced the size of the original pattern and I am preparing a pattern for this design.  It will be available on my website in about a month.

Why Do We Take Workshops and Classes?

by Sandra Bruce

Recently I spoke at my local guild, Pine Tree Quilt Guild in Grass Valley, CA and taught my workshop the next day. It is very gratifying for me to teach my technique and watch ladies grab the concept and say things like, “I know I’ll use this again sometime in another application”, or, “I have a newfound appreciation for what you do, and I love this technique. I learned something new today!” Here’s Gabby, happy with her success!:


Granted, we may not be interested in every class that comes along. But it’s funny how even in a class we think won’t be the most gratifying we do sometimes learn, even if it’s not immediately applicable, and it can pop up in our brains at a later time when the knowledge can benefit us in some way. The world of quilting is rich with knowledge, and how will we know our potential and find what “rings our bell” unless we try new things? Even ones that seem scary, daunting, or not necessarily the most interesting at the moment?

To give you an example, for a very long time I shied away from anything that involved curved piecing. Without even knowing anything about it I avoided any project that would require it. It just had to be hard, right? One day an opportunity came up to take a class from one of my favorite local teachers, Cathy Stone, in curved piecing, so I took it, gritting my teeth for the worst. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had made a mountain out of a molehill and in truth, there really wasn’t much to it. It opened a whole world to me, and in hindsight if I hadn’t learned how to do that I wouldn’t’ve been able to develop my Material Matrix technique which depends heavily at times on curved piecing.


Another example, also a class with Cathy Stone, involved taking a photograph and adapting it to fabric, using fusing as many quilt artists are doing today. I very much enjoyed the class. What did I learn? That while I enjoyed it, and learned how to reproduce a photograph with accuracy, that it wasn’t something that “rang my bell”. However, I knew that someday the technique involved would come in handy. And it has! Also, it showed me that reproducing a photograph precisely with perfect edges is actually the opposite of what I want to do. And that’s OK too. This is how we learn. This is how we find out what we want to do as quilters and artists.

In classes we sometimes learn something that isn’t what we thought we’d learn. It’s even possible that we can learn something about ourselves that we didn’t know before. Something as simple as making a new quilting friend in class can ultimately guide us in a direction that pushes the envelope for us (I’ve heard this more than once). There are so many benefits to taking a class or workshop. Every time we learn, we add to the sum of what we know, what we can do, and who we are as quilt artists. Lucky are ladies who have quilting sisters, actual or not. Happy sisters Cathy and Bobi!


In a nutshell, I say:  LEARN SOMETHING NEW!

I believe Artistic Alchemy, consisting of myself, Christine Barnes, Heidi Emmett and Sharon Alves, fosters this belief, and we as a group hope you will learn something new about yourself by taking one of our workshops. We learn from you, too. Actually, we 4 learn also from each other, and that makes us tighter as a group, and as a result, I believe, better teachers.  I myself vow to take more classes and keep my “little grey cells” working!


In closing, please leave a comment if you wish, we love hearing from you. It helps us know what you, our readers, are interested in, and how we can better teach what you want to learn. Suggestions always welcome.

Happy Easter and Spring, everyone!




Sandra Springs Into Spoonflower

Today is officially the first day of Spring and flowers are everywhere.  I think it’s a great time to take a look at Spoonflower. I’m going to give you a quick tutorial on how I turned black-and-white ink drawings into a quilt, using the wonderful Spoonflower printing services. Before I get going, for any of you who don’t know what Spoonflower is, it is simply, a company that will print your artwork onto fabric. I have used it several times with much joy and satisfaction and look forward to some free time when I can create more.

Some quick facts and great things about Spoonflower:

  • They have 12 kinds of fabric, from several cottons,  to knit, jersey, silk crepe de chine and even canvas, starting at $15.75 per yard
  • There’s no minimum order
  • Swatches are available for $5.00
  • Printing is eco-friendly
  • They even have wallpaper and gift wrap!

So, here’s a little lesson on how this works. First, you need to create your artwork. In this case, I’m using flowers I drew with brush and black ink, and scanned into my computer. In my illustration and lettering work, I mainly use Adobe Illustrator, but it is not necessary to use this program. You just need to be able to upload your artwork in a form that is acceptable to Spoonflower (there’s plenty of help on their site). Here are the flowers in their raw form:

black and white flower art

Then, I had fun playing with the colors and placement. I tried repeating, adding shadows,  and altering the colors.  For example:

Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 7.59.26 PM

I played with the layout, added a background color, and here’s the finished art, combining all the flowers:

Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 9.03.32 PM

Here’s where Spoonflower comes in. You simply go to their website, upload your artwork, and decide how you want it configured onto the fabric. This is what it looks like on your screen:

Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 7.54.18 PM

Knowledge about “dpi” (dots per inch) and scale are helpful. You can reduce the art for repeats, and even change the placement of the repeat. For example:

Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 7.53.10 PM

Here’s the cotton fabric (almost 2 yards) on the design wall of my studio…..

IMG_1960 copy

….and here’s the completed quilt. It is titled, “My Imaginary Garden”.

P1040104 copy

I have had several designs printed by Spoonflower, and have made them “public”, which means that anyone can go to the site and purchase my designs with the fabric of their choice. I get a small percentage which can be converted into “Spoondollars”, which means more free fabric for me, yay! My next hurdle in using Spoonflower is learning the correct way to do a repeat, so that my design can be printed without seeing the “tiling”, meaning the image flows and you can’t see where the repeat happens. I very much want to learn this technique and it is on my “to do” list! So far I have avoided it by making my image large enough to print it in one image across the width of the fabric. A lady from Paris ordered my “Big Buddha” fabric and made a dress from it! I was delighted to see a picture she sent of herself in the dress. Another Spoonflower customer bought my “Big Buddha” on canvas and had it stretched onto a frame so she could hang it in her dining room! Many possibilities!

This is basically it. I encourage you to go take a look at the website. You can put in a keyword to find existing fabric that people have designed that you can purchase. For instance, if you put in the keyword “underwater” you will find my “Big Star Maiden” design, along with 252 other underwater designs. I think the sky’s the limit when it comes to utilizing this service for one-of-a-kind fabric for quilting projects, and clothing too.

Before I sign off, I want to announce that an article I wrote is coming out in the April/May issue of Quilting Arts Magazine, in the “Spotlight” section. It is an issue about making portrait quilts and I feel very honored to have been included. I hope you’ll check it out and consider talking my class at Zephyr Cove this Fall.

Happy Spring, and don’t forget to smell the flowers!


Playtime is Underrated

Happy New Year everyone! Where did 2013 go? I am looking forward to 2014. There are so many exciting things happening in 2014, and one of them is our September retreat at Zephyr Cove. The only New Years resolution that I made was to allow myself more time for quilting and beading. Monday I took a class on Polymer techniques for beads and buttons from Sandra Bruce. Now, I will also need more time for polymer.  I love the unexpected colors and shapes that emerge during the process.

This is why I love designing quilt patterns. I experiment for a while on my computer and eventually an unexpected design will emerge.  It’s almost always something I didn’t expect.  From here, I develop the design.  One of the interesting processes that I do with my pattern design is use gray scale before I start to pull colors. This allows me to see the effects of light and dark and how they transform the design.

This is how I started my Mardi Gras Pattern.  This is the outline of the block.

Mardis Gras BlockI finished the block and played with arrangements.  Once I had the blocks arranged, I started experimenting with the gray scale.  It really shows the difference value will make. Do you see the different shapes and how the design changes as the gray scale changes?

Mardi Gras - Sample 3 Mardi Gras - Sample 2Mardi Gras- Sample 1Then I started filling in with color.

mardi gras - on pointAnd I wound up with this.  (I wish that you could see the quilting.  Sandra Bruce quilted it.  It is Beautiful!)

mARDI GRAS - QUILTI had a great time doing this with my Anacortes pattern. This is the block that I started with. Anacortes-3 I played with both the block arrangement and the gray scale.

This arrangement was fun. (And I may still do another quilt with this layout.)

Anacortes-2However, I loved all the different designs that emerged when I created this block and     gray scale arrangement.

Anacortes-1Here is the final quilt. How many different shapes do you see in this quilt?  (The quilting on this quilt was done by John and Karla Rogers of Precision Quiltworks.  The quilting is beautiful!)

cdPlaytime and options are underrated. As we begin 2014, allow yourself the freedom to try new things.  You never know what will emerge.  Logic takes you from A…..B .  Imagination will take you anywhere.

Before I close I really must show you the fabrics that I purchased yesterday at my favorite quilt shop, Sugar Pine Quilt Shop in Grass Valley, CA.  I saw these fabrics and just knew that I needed to create a summer quilt for my bedroom.  Aren’t they just yummy?  A new pattern will be forthcoming.  So, stay tuned. I will show you the progress as it unfolds.

fabric photo_2Have a happy and creative week!


Luminosity—a Very Special Effect

9a AA DecNew Year’s greetings from me, Christine, to all of you! I hope you’re enjoying (or recovering from) the holiday festivities and are looking forward to a fresh year. If you aren’t already relaxing, I invite you to do so now while I show you one of my favorite special effects, luminosity. In my first post I wrote about luster—the sense of light striking the surface from above or from the side. With luminosity, the light and warmth come from beneath the surface.

I stumbled on the concept of luminosity while playing with transparency. As I was working on a mock-block exercise, I said to myself, “Oh my gosh, that block looks, well, it looks luminous!” As I worked with the concept more, I came up with a luminosity recipe—when you surround a relatively small area of warm, medium-value, intense color with a larger area of cooler, darker, duller color, you can create the illusion of glow. I can’t begin to tell you how much quilters respond to this effect—when it works, we all say, “Wow!”

Let me begin by defining value, temperature, and intensity. Value is about how light, medium, or dark color is. Temperature is about how warm or cool color is; yellow, red, and orange are warm, while green, blue, and violet are cool. Intensity is about how bright or dull color is; neon green is intense, while sage green is low-intensity.

The three fabrics on the right below pulsate with warmth and light, making them great for creating luminosity. Surrounding them with the three fabrics on the left would enhance their luminosity.  (The middle two fabrics got into the act because I loved them.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWoven plaids like the one below look luminous on their own. When you fussy cut them to isolate the warm color, then surround it with cooler color, it’s as if candles burn brightly beneath the surface. 3 AA DecThe same woven plaid, in a different colorway, used just in the center of this block. (This image looks so soft because I framed the block using nonglare glass.)4 AA Dec“Airy” batiks are great for suggesting luminosity, and the colors can be a mix of warm and cool. The dappling in the center batik also suggests distance because a light-value fabric will recede when surrounded by a darker-value fabric.

5 AA DecLuminosity can be just about light, without the illusion of warmth. In this block, the lighter-value batik looks far away, as if you’re looking through a cut-out in a dark stripe square.

6 AA DecThis cut-and-paste block shows how a combination of different fabrics—woven plaid, woven stripe, batik stripe, and ombré—makes a luminous block more interesting. 8 AA DecAnd finally, sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between luminosity and luster. Look again at the pillow at the start of this post. Do the circles suggest light striking and bouncing off the surface, or light and warmth emanating from beneath the surface? (The circles are cut from a Caryl Bryer Fallert “Gradations” ombré, and the solids are Kaffe Fassett shot cottons.)

What about the blocks below, where the ombrés and Marci Derse prints switch places?0 AA Dec These are the things I love to ponder, and I hope you find them just as enticing. I’d love to hear what you want to learn about color. Let me know your thoughts, your questions, and I’ll explore them in future posts. The New Year is the perfect time to play with new colors and concepts. Let the creativity—and the fun—begin!