Complicated and Intimidating? Definitely Not!


Hello, I’m Sharon and this is my first blog post ever.  As you look at our group picture, you will see that I’m the one who isn’t wearing a sewn garment.  Actually, when we took this picture, Sandra said,  “Look, we’re all just about the same height.  Except Sharon.”


I love to organize retreats, so I am very excited to be part of the Artistic Alchemy group! The energy and talent in this group is unparalleled. Each one of us has a unique style and can share a different perspective. It has also become a great friendship, and I feel fortunate to have Christine, Heidi and Sandra as personal and professional friends. I am so looking forward to our 2014 retreat at Zephyr Point.

My career has been in fire protection engineering. This is a discipline that requires precision and working within close tolerances. Even though the process requires precision, I must be able to communicate how the process is to be completed, and I must communicate that information clearly. So, when I started designing quilt patterns, that is the approach that I took. I wanted to design a unique quilt, but make the process uncomplicated and definitely not intimidatingI’m short and blonde – how difficult could I make things? I enjoy precision and precision piecing, and my patterns are designed to give you an extraordinary look.  One of the principles that I discovered early in my career was that if the project appeared daunting, start in a corner and work out.  If you take it a step at a time, all of a sudden it is no longer intimidating.

I have decided to teach two projects at the retreat this year:

I will be teaching FyreWyrks I, which is a contemporary Lone Star design.

Alves-1We will first break down the color placement so you can get your star to sparkle.”  Then we will build the components until, all of a sudden, you have a beautiful star. We will strip piece the star points, and I will show you how to block your points so they will easily fit together. The outer points are paper pieced. The pattern is also designed so that there are very few Y seams. Once your components are built, it all goes together flawlessly .

The second project that I will be teaching is my Anacortes pattern.

cdOne of the great things about this pattern is that I provide template sheets.

template sheetAll you need to do is pin the sheets to your fabric and cut on the lines. There is no need to cut individual templates, which can be extremely time-consuming. Color placement is key with this pattern. If you look at the  quilt you will see different patterns and shapes emerge.  We will work with color placement first.  Once you decide where you want your fabrics, the rest is simple. The templates are all designed to fit together easily. Once again, it is a matter of building the components.  With the exception of the border, this is a one block quilt.

I love fabric and I love color!!  Give yourself options and enjoy playing with fabric and color. The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the process.  You will walk away with a stunning quilt!

It has been a lot of fun writing this blog. I’ll catch up with you again in a few weeks. I’ve got a some new things in the works. You can sign up for my newsletter on my website. You can also go to my Engineered for Quilters Facebook page. I will be launching a new contest very soon.





A Blog Is Born


  • Greetings! Sewists, Quilters, Beaders, Wearable and Polymer Artists and Friends!

This blog marks the official beginning of a new group consisting of myself, Sharon Alves, Christine Barnes and Heidi Emmett, otherwise known as Artistic Alchemy. We are recently formed and very excited about teaching and sharing what we do with you. Look around on our blog for lots of info about us and some of our plans coming up. We’re most excited about the retreat we’ve planned for September 2014 at Zephyr Cove in Lake Tahoe. Sign ups are now available, so think about joining us!

For my first blog entry I’d like to talk a bit about my process, “Material Matrix”, which I will be teaching at Zephyr Cove. The beauty of a longer workshop such as this is that there is time to get in-depth and really sink your teeth into a new technique. Participants will be able to work on a photograph of their own choice, turning it into a beautiful quilt and learning a fun process that will be useful in other applications as well.

You’ll want to go to my website, Flickr or Facebook page for more in-depth info, but I’ll give you a quick overview here about my technique (info at the end of this blog as to addresses, etc.). I am inspired by the painter Chuck Close who does wonderful huge gridded portraits of people. The first time I actually saw one in person it reminded me immediately of a quilt. Here is one of his self-portraits:


As a member of MAQ (Mountain Art Quilters) I decided to try a quilt inspired by Close for a challenge entitled “Self Portraits”. Never one to start small, or even to make a sample first (I can’t imagine!), I dove in and made an 80″ square quilt from a photograph of my face, using 1,600 2″ squares. I started at the top not really knowing what I was doing but was immediately hooked. 4 months later, my quilt top was done and I finished it on my long arm by quilting words about myself into it, thereby making it truly a self-portrait. From that point on I made several more quilts using the same method, getting smaller and smaller until I made an 18″ square piece I call, “Sew Ready” which I use to teach my method to guilds and quilt shop classes. Now I’m stoked (a new term I picked up from my teenager) to make another really big one, stay tuned for news on it, I’m still designing the image and collecting fabric. Blues and oranges! Here is my Self-Portrait quilt:


Just a few more words about the process….it is a practice in “seeing”, as it is necessary to focus on one square at a time and interpret it in fabric. Hand-dyed, commercial prints, solids…they all work! It’s so fun and rewarding to do this, and let ourselves be “wonky”, so the lines don’t match up exactly and our eyes do the work of putting together the image. In my workshop we talk about what makes a good photo to use and how to grid it, color and value, curved piecing, ideas about quilting, and more.

Here’s Trish, who took my class one weekend and was so inspired she finished her top in 3 days! She went on to make 2 more fish quilts. She’s hooked too!

Trish and her fish quilt

One more class sample…..this is Pat, and the kangeroo she photographed on vacation, turned into a quilt! She presented it at MAQ for the challenge, “Animals”. Wonderful!


Before I forget, here are some links to places where you can see more of my work:



An interview with a blogger on Facebook about my work:



So for now, I’ll say “Cin-cin” and toast my fellow Alchemists…I’m looking forward to a long and creative relationship with these 3 ladies for whom I have so much respect and admiration. Can’t wait!!!