BEYOND NEUTRAL BLOG TOUR – A WINNER

Just a quick hello from me today to announce the winner of my Beyond Neutral giveaway.  Thank you everyone who entered!  I really enjoyed reading through your comments and learning what inspires you.  Whilst there were many great answers, my favourite came from Karen, who said…

“I’m so fortunate to live in the Maine woods with the ocean just a few miles away. All I have to do is turn my head in any direction and see all the inspiring colors of nature and the gorgeous geography of granite boulders, blueberry barrens, rocky coastlines, hills and mountains, rivers–it’s all here. Multiply all of this beauty by 4 very distinct seasons (plus mud season) and the possibilities are endless. John’s book is truly a revelation!”

Congratulations Karen!  I’m intrigued to find out more about ‘mud season’!  I’ll be in touch to arrange delivery of your prize.

BEYOND NEUTRAL BLOG TOUR

Readers old and new alike, welcome to my stop on the Beyond Neutral blog tour.  Now, you must excuse me if I suddenly yell out for smelling salts or a paper bag to breathe into.  You see, this is kind of big deal for me.  Regular readers of this blog will know how I’ve talked about John Adams, AKA Quilt Dad, at length.  He was the first male quilter I stumbled across whilst navigating the then-scary world of quilt blogs some years back, and as if my collaboration with him in the #NGAQB wasn’t enough, I now get to talk about his amazing new book!  How much of a groupie do I feel right now!

All images courtesy  of Martingale and Brent Kane

Beyond Neutral does exactly what it says on the tin.  For so many quilters, the background of their quilts are always destined to be some shade of white, grey or cream.  How refreshing then to see a book full of quilts that challenge that norm.  Sixteen quilts, each inspired by the beauty and wonder of nature.  The natural world is my go-to source for inspiration (Vegetable Patch Quilt anyone?) for so many of my own projects and John’s book looks to nature’s palette to inspire his bold and exciting colour choices; so far beyond neutral that neutral’s still packing its bags!

Any quilt that cites grass, trees, waves or rocks as a source of inspiration is going to be a hit with me.  There are so many great quilts in the book that I struggled to pick a favourite.  The beautiful locations and gorgeous photography make each quilt jump from the page and demand you make it before all others.  It’s no surprise that Pacific Crest became the cover star.  I was in love with it the moment I first saw the book.  The dynamic piecing coupled with John’s ballsy fabric placement creates a real sense of  movement and a quilt that truly wows.  Beginner quilters needn’t shy away from these designs either.  John’s clear and concise instructions along with simple piecing make the quilts in Beyond Neutral approachable for all skill levels.  The countless options for fabric selection makes each quilt so versatile and open to interpretation you’ll probably want to make more than one version of each!

Another that pulls at the heart-strings is Fox River.  Simple yet strikingly effective, the unusual pairing of woodland-themed prints with cool teals and yellow-greens makes for a visually intriguing quilt.  The eye is drawn across the top by intersecting lines of solid fabric that punctuated the prints in a most non-traditional way. I love it!

With so much quilty goodness, I couldn’t possible keep it all to myself!  The lovely people at Martingale are offering one reader their own digital copy of Beyond Neutral.  To be in with a chance of winning simply leave a comment on the post telling me what inspiration you take from nature, the more creative the better!  I’ll pick a winner in a weeks time.  Good luck!

This giveaway is now closed.  Thanks to all who entered!

NO GIRLS ALLOWED QUILT BEE – AUGUST

Hooray!  it’s September and I’m now officially caught up with my bee blocks.  August’s blocks were actually made after September’s but in the spirit of returning some structure to my increasingly hectic life, I’m at least going to blog about them in the correct order.

Taking the lead last month was Mr. Shauan Abels who, for some months now, has been a honorary Brit, staying at an RAF base on military service.  We’re hoping to meet up before he returns to the US at the end of this month and discuss all things quilt, Tula Pink and what really goes on in the navy!  As has become tradition for the members of the bee, here’s a few tidbits about Shaun which, owing to his tardiness in replying, some of the other guys made up.

1. Shaun likes big butts and he can not lie.

2. His drag queen name is Dixie Normous.

3. His favourite pants are quilted leather assless chaps.

4. The real reason he moved to the UK was so that he could freely perform “Baby Got Back” as Dixie Normous, while wearing his quilted leather assless chaps. You should see his tip jar!

5. His favourite pick up line is “Helllllo, sailor!” It works.
6. His first real job was slinging chicken wings as a Hooters girl. He still gardens in his orange shorts.
7. He considers Tula Pink a personal hero, second only to Nicki Minaj.
A little more interesting than the your usual bio, wouldn’t you agree?  Don’t forget to check out Shaun’s work, including the progress on his Tula Pink City Sampler, on Instagram, where he posts as slabels.  After a bit of a false start involving a copyright issue, Shaun scrapped his original block plans and made his month a free-for-all!  Once again the choice was ours.  We could make what we want, as long as it finished at 12.5″.  I thought for quite a while about what to make before deciding that I wanted to incorporate two elements; one, Shaun’s love of Tula Pink and two, his association with the navy.

For my first block I went for improv curved piecing, using blues and greens to represent the sea.  I fashioned some paper boats from a text print and scattered them upon the waves.  I have a few ideas about future quilts that involve curved piecing so this was a good opportunity to practice.  It went well, once I got into the swing of things, and wasn’t nearly as daunting as I expected.

For block number two I used triangles as my inspiration after a comment Shaun had previously posted on my September blocks (coming soon!).  Again I couldn’t stay away from improv piecing, and really had no plan beforehand.  I chose some great Tula prints from her Accacia and Foxfield collections and mixed them up with  some scraps of solids and co-coordinating prints.  I love it when I get let loose with my block making and these two were great fun.  There’s something about a quilt that has so many different elements coming together from so many creative minds that really excites me.  I can’t wait to see this one finished!

There’s only September’s block for me to tell you about before it my turn.  How exciting!  I’ve already let the guys now what I want so hopefully I’ll start to see the fruits of their creative labour on Instagram very soon.  The bee hashtag is growing each day!  Be sure to follow along on with #NGAQB.

NO GIRLS ALLOWED QUILT BEE – JULY

I’m slowly but surely working my way through my HUGE to-do list, even though new things keep sneaking their way onto the bottom of it!  Quite high up were my blocks for July, August and September’s #NGAQB gentlemen.  Mr July is the lovely Ryan Walsh of Ryan Walsh Quilts, who can be found on Instagram as ryanwalshquilt.

In his own words, Ryan is…

“…a self-taught quilter and quilt designer who enjoys taking classic quilt designs and updating them with a modern twist. He’s employed full-time as a NYS Licensed Funeral Director and manages a funeral establishment in his hometown. A busy dad, the majority of his quilting adventures occur in the late hours of the night after his kids are in bed!

Ryan uses quilting as a vehicle to satisfy his never-ending need to be creative. His work is based around combining traditional piecing methods with free-style construction techniques. As a way to challenge his ability, Ryan participates in several online bees and quilt related swaps every year.

When he’s not quilting, Ryan also enjoys photography, embroidery, collage, crocheting, sightseeing and spending time with his family.  Ryan currently resides in the Catskill Mountain region of Upstate New York with his children.”

Mr. July requested Knee Socks blocks from a pattern by Elizabeth Hartman of Oh, Fransson! fame.  I’ve been an avid follower of Elizabeth’s blog since I started quilting.  I used her Mod Mosaic block tutorial when I made the Dinosaur Quilt and was looking forward to trying my hand at these.  The block finishes at an impressive 24.5″ so we only had to do one.  Ryan asked for a scrappy rainbow look with low volume fabrics for the background.  I had great fun rummaging through my endless scraps and picking out little groups of colour.  The great thing about the scrappy version of the block is that scraps as small as 1″ wide can be utilised, and there you were thinking those were destined for the bin!  Heed my advice, keep everything!

Some old favourites joined the block party for his month, including snippets of Tula Pink and Heather Ross.  My love affair with crosshatch continues into these blocks too with Carolyn Friedlander’s widescreen serving as the background.  As much as I love this block and it’s boldness, I do have a confession to make.  My block actually came out a 1/4″ too small.  I’d love to lay the blame at someone else’s door but alas, your boy did bad.  You see, I realised when I’d finished that I didn’t press my seams open, despite what the instructions instructed me to do, and this block has a lot of them!  Add all those up and it’s obvious where my extra length went!  Because he’s great like that, Ryan said he’d make it work, which was good, because by that point I’d scratched it from the to-do list, and once something’s off that, there ain’t no way it getting back on!

Remember to follow along on Instagram with #NGAQB.  The guys are really stepping up their game and making some awesome things!

365 DAYS LATER…MY FIRST YEAR AS A QUILT BLOGGER

Today marks the first anniversary of Quilts From The Attic and a day I’m so proud to have reached.  When I created this blog I never imagined that the path it set me on would lead to such an inspiring and creative destination.  This little corner of the internet has all at once been a place where I can laugh, whine and seek solace in the company of people who are just a crazy as I am about all things quilt.

Looking back, I see how much I’ve grown into my quilting boots.  My first post was about the Dinosaur Quilt, a quilt which is still very close to my heart, being the first I made just for me.  That early exposure to improvisational piecing and a strong dislike for maths inspires many of the quilts I make today.  I’m drawn to random, I love sewing and cutting with abandon and have complete disregard for patterns or the final product.  That’s not to say I don’t have a vision, but I like to see where the fabric takes me, where the piecing take me.  More often than not it’s somewhere completely unexpected.  Back then, everything was a lesson.  Of course, it still is today, but I like to think that this journey has been one on which I’ve learned.  Over the past 12 months I’ve written patterns, taught quilting classes, become part of a quilting bee and attended a retreat – all things I would never have imagined possible a year ago.  Again, totally unexpected.

I guess that word really sums up what today means for me.  I never expected to have people actually be interested in what I make and say.  I still get a fuzzy feeling, even a year on, every time I get a new follower or someone leaves a comments.  My 29 Instagram followers that I had when I started the blog seemed perfectly normal.  Now, approaching 1500, I can’t help but smile inside.  Seriously, it BLOWS MY MIND!  The quilting community has become a close friend and every day I connect with more amazing people.

So thank you.  If you’re reading this or have liked a post, have commented or entered a competition, thank you all so very much.

Now, let’s celebrate with a little giveaway!  If you’re not already a follower, please consider becoming one, then leave a comment on this post telling me what you like most about the quilting community.  I’ll draw a winner in a week and put together a little custom fabric bundle as a prize.  Good luck and thanks once again for all your encouragement and support.  Here’s to the next year!

SIGNIFICANT OTHER SEWING

Oh my!  Has it really been that long since I blogged?  August has been and gone in the blink of an eye and I’m still waiting for the computer to wake up.  In my defense, it was summer, one of the best we’ve had for a long time, and what’s August for if not long, lazy days and holidaying in France.

I came back from Paris itching to sew.  It was bad enough that it had almost been 2 weeks since I turned on my machine, but for that machine to be a brand-spanking-new-barely-out-of-the-box machine, well, there were buttons I was just dying to press!  I have a list as long as my arm of things I need to catch up on, most pressingly my #NGAGB blocks, which I’m currently 3 months behind.  I hope to put foot to the ground and peddle my way through those in the coming week, as well continuing to work on a few other projects I have on the go.  I’ll share more of those with you soon, but first let me show you all something that was finished before I went on holiday.

We recently had a new addition to the family.  The BF’s sister gave birth to a little girl last month, quite the curiosity for her 2 brothers, and, rather than buy a gift, he wanted to make her a quilt.  I was excited when he asked if I would show him the basics.  My mind immediately thought ‘fabric shopping trip’ but hopes were instantly dashed when he asked to browse my stash to see if there was anything there he might like.  So we ascended to the attic where I nervously watched him purvey the shelves.

“This is nice,” he said, picking up a piece of my coveted Heather Ross Mendocino.

“Oh, there’s not enough of that to do anything worthwhile with,” I blurted out, before hastily pushing the fabric to the back.  “You can choose anything from here, look, all of this, look how pretty it is!”

I’d successfully averted his gaze from Tula Pink, Architextures and Botanics, and whilst he picked pinks and purples prints from the shelves I’d sanctioned, I couldn’t help wondering if I was a terrible person.  That lasted about 5 secs.

It’s mine, my precious!

After flicking through the pages of a few quilt books, he decided upon a square in a square block, opting to keep it simple as he lost his quilting virginity.  Working together wasn’t all plain sailing.  We disagreed on fabric, size and block layout.  It was hard for me to step back and remember that this was his quilt and it had to be made his way.  But I persevered and slowly it came together.  I gave him a quick tour of the machine and he got to work; cutting (though not all of it), sewing blocks (“this part is boring!”) and even messing around on the design wall.  My inner improvisationalist wanted random, and had to sit tight-lipped as he attempted a more formal arrangement.  After a few tweaks we came up with a layout we were both happy with, and he sewed the blocks together.  At the end of the day we had a completed top without tears, bloodshed or any fabric casualties.  Hooray!

The following morning we basted, made possible by my willingness to relinquish a piece of fabric I’d been saving for a backing of my own, before taking it in turns to quilt the top.  We choose a pre-set design, one of the nice features of the new machine, and the whole quilt took about 2 hours, allowing for tea breaks.  It surprised me that we’d got to the binding stage without the need for any shopping.  I got thinking about how much fabric I actually have and how many quilts there are waiting to be made on those shelves.  Though there were some binding options, he wanted a deep purple, but that was the only thing bought.  A quick hand sewing session once at his parents saw the quilt done and ready to be gifted.

I really enjoyed giving him a glimpse into, up until then, a world I rarely shared with him.  It was fun watching from a distance, seeing how he pulled fabric (often haphazardly with complete disregard for my folding) and arranged the blocks.  I’m not sure if he’s caught the bug but I definitely saw a smile of satisfaction as he admired his completed quilt.  Would I do it again…hmmmmm…perhaps!

NO GIRLS ALLOWED QUILT BEE – JUNE

Quick, somebody call the police, because I have been robbed…of time!  Where in the world did July go?  Was it something I said?  Please, come back!  I swear I’ll be better, make the most of you and give you the attention you deserve…no…you’re truly gone and you really can’t turn back the clock?  Damn!

I can’t believe that we are over half way through the bee.  I’m disappointed in my self that I’ve fallen behind, but hey, life’s an attention seeker.  This weekend, having cleaned and re-organised the attic a while back, I was ready to jump back on board and tackle some of the guys’ blocks.  technically I’m still behind, with July’s fabric still languishing in a pile, but for now let’s talk about Mr. June, AKA Chris Jones (a wonderful Welsh surname) and his block du mois.

Chris was originally an extra member of the bee but owing to another member’s need to leave stepped up to take June.  Like all the others, he gave the group this FAQ so that we might get to know him better.  Read on!

Do you have any nicknames, or go by any other name?

I used to be heavy into online gaming (Everquest and World of Warcraft) so I have a few character names that people still call me. Typically, Chris is good enough to get my attention. I’ll answer to just about anything you call me though.

Did you go to College? What did you study?

I started college with the expectation that I would get a biology and chemistry degree, and move on to work in a hospital as a phlobotomist or in a research lab. I was three classes shy of my biology degree when I took a psychology class on a dare. That one class changed everything that I had planned for my life; I ended up graduating from college with dual degrees. One in Psychology with an emphasis in Depth and Archetypal psychology, and one in Sociology with an emphasis in Anthropology.

One day I’ll make it back to school and get my Masters in counseling. I want to either be a licensed counselor, or teach psychology and anthropology on a college level.

What do you do now?

Right now I’m a SQL Developer/Data Administrator for an online book company (nope, not that one – not that one either). I’ve been with the company for fourteen years; I started with them two weeks after I graduated college. I started in the Customer Service department, and quickly moved up to CS Manager. I’ve held a position in just about every department within the company, and if I haven’t worked there, I work closely with them to generate reports or import data.

When did you start quilting?

I didn’t actually pick up quilting until I was in college and living with my mom’s family. She has a strong lineage of quilters, and I thought I might enjoy it. I grew up with my grandmother, who was a seamstress. She taught me how to sew, crochet, cross stitch, embroider and many other things.

When I graduated from college, I stopped quilting for a while. I was sucked in to the world of MMORPG, and barely had time for anything else but work. I picked up quilting again at the suggestion of a great friend at work. She introduced me to hand-piecing and I was in love again. I’ve done quite a few small projects, but I’ve yet to actually quit a top yet. I’m hoping that I’ll get to take some valuable time-off soon and try my mom’s new long arm or free motion quilting machines.

What other hobbies do you have?

Outside of sewing/quilting, I love to cook, can, and garden. I just picked up canning this year, and I love it. There’s nothing more awesome than taking the things that you grow and preserving them to eat throughout the year. Though I don’t typically eat it, I love making jam, the stranger the flavour profile, the more fun. So far I’ve made mulberry jam, strawberry balsamic jam, grape jelly, wild berry (strawberry, blueberry, mulberry) and apple butter. I’m trying out recipes for pineapple rum jam and mulled red wine jelly. They will likely be part of the family Christmas presents this year.

Do you have pets?

Yep, I have three furbabies that are the love of my life. A scottie named Finnigan, a Cairn named Ursula and a German Shepherd named Zahara. Ursula and Zahara were both rescues. We’re currently taking Zahara through obedience school right now.

What is your favourite animal?

Definitely a wallaby, with a giraffe coming in a close second. I want to make it to Australia one day so that I can see wallabies bounding around the countryside. (And I promise not to be freaked out by the drop-bears :))

What is your favourite color?

Orange, definitely orange. From pumpkin to safety vest, I love it all.

If you could pick your own name, what would it be?

For a long time I wanted to change my middle name (no, I won’t tell you what it is, but if you guess correctly, I’ll let you know) to Xavier. I’ve always loved that name, and I’m not really sure why.

Which season is best?

Fall will always have a special place in my heart. I love the color of the season. But now, because I really enjoy planning gardens, and digging in the dirt, I’d have to go with spring. The smell of the air right after a spring rain….it’s invigorating.

If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be?

I’d love to see my grandfather again. He was such an amazing person. He was a short-order cook in the army, a recorded musician that wrote music, played the guitar, banjo and fiddle, and spent the greater portion of his adult life as a taxi driver. His routes ranged from around the block to across the country. He loved life, and never had a cross word for anyone. He, like my grandmother, really taught me how to “be” in this world and I love him for it. I’d love to see him again.

How would you best describe yourself?

I never know what to say with this question. I think the best thing that I can say is that my Meyer’s Briggs personality type is INFP. I’m introverted, usually very quiet and reserved, or in my own world. Feelings and emotions are important to me, and I am usually overflowing with them. I like to daydream, and don’t like strict rules.

If you could be any fictional character,who would it be?

I can’t narrow it down to one. I’d like to think that I’m equal parts Mindy Kaling, Aquaman, and Captain Jack Harkness in a candy-coated Lord John Grey shell.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

I probably have too many to mention here. I have a touch of an OCD streak that rears its ugly head from time to time. Right now the biggest thing that bothers me are leaves. I was out in the snow raking them the other day because I couldn’t stand seeing them all over the ground. As far as peeves from others, though, I don’t like people who use others for their benefit. Gets in my craw every time.

Do you have siblings?

Yep, I have a half-brother and a step-sister. Both are grown, though my brother still lives with our parents.

What kind of music interests you?

I will listen to just about any type of music, except modern country. I just can’t get into it. As far as favourites…the sugarier the pop, the better. As of late I’ve been bouncing between Bollywood hits and electronica.

What book/movie/tv show can you not live without?

TV is a guilty pleasure of mine; I watch way too much of it. I’m a card-carrying fandom member for Supernatural and Teen Wolf – can’t miss an episode. I don’t read as much as I should, but I like fantasy, historical fiction and romance books. Bernard Cornwell, Gregory McGuire, and Diana

Chris blogs at adandyman and is Kailichi on Instagram, Pinterest and twitter.

For his month Chris choice a diamond stack block.  I have to admit that when I first saw this I was a little worried.  I mean come on, look at all that bias.  In the end it wasn’t that bad, although my second block came out decidedly better than the first.  Chris had no specific colour requirements, only that the first border around the diamonds be white, other than that, the crayon box was ours to command!  I naturally gravitated towards my colours of teal, mustard and purple, throwing in some favorites such as an Architextures crosshatch and some Tula Acacia Foxfield.  Though I bitched at the beginning, these weren’t that bad to make and I think I’d happily do them again…maybe…with wine…and hard liquor.

The #NGAQB hashtag is blooming now, so be sure to check out all the marvelous male-made things.  Also, I think we’re going to have our first completed quilt top soon.  Mr.January, Sandy, has finally gotten around to making his last few blocks.  Yay!