NGAQB II – SO FAR

The second incarnation of the #NGAQB is well under way. You may remember my last NGAQB post, where I shared my center with you and explained my fabric choices and what I was hoping the other members of the bee would add to it. Well, from what I’ve seen posted in Instagram, I can tell you that my expectations have been more than met! I asked for improv and boy did I get it! If you haven’t been following along, now’s the time! I can tell that there are going to be some stunning quilts once the rounds are complete.

In the bee, I always receive quilts from Molli Sparkles, so it was both an honour and a slight worry that I was to be the first to add to his center block. Perhaps starting block is a better word, since there’s no obligation to keep the block centered. When we started we were told and encouraged to add to all sides or add to one. As you can probably guess, this really appealed to my improv-inclined brain!

Molly had used an amazing paper pieced pattern of a unicorn for his starting block. The minute I saw it I was totally blown away by his fabric choices and was so excited to dive into my own stash and see what I could find. In my mind, I wanted to create a kind of improvised forest in which the unicorn could gallop, unbridled and free. I used a lot of Kona solids in vibrant pinks and purples, along with some Anna Maria Horner, Lecien L’s Modern and Cotton and Steel. I hacked and slashed fabric before piecing it into long-ish strips, adding some freehand curved seams for interest. The piecing was very freeing and of the moment and I soon had enough to add to unicorn block. I decided to leave the top edge, in the hope that the next person to receive this would continue working upwards, taking inspiration from my long thin strips and adding to the magical forest feel!

The next block I received belonged to Quilt Dad. Like Molli, John had paper pieced his starting block, this time a trio of feathers. Once again, I was so inspired by the colour palette and excited to see that John had used one of my all time favourite prints, a wood grain by Joel Dewberry, albeit in a tiny role.  I wanted it to be the star! I had a little left in the stash and was determined to use it!

For John’s block, Molly had added a first round of epic beauty! I was a little scared to continue, lest I ruin it. I took inspiration from the Totem Pole Quilt I made for a past swap.  I pieced long, improv strips and attached these to the quilt log cabin style.  This was a real scrap-busting exercise as I had a lot of red pieces that were perfect for this, including some of the new Blueberry Park collection by Karen Lewis and some snippets that had been waiting for their moment to shine longer than is polite to mention!  Fun, simple sewing for both of these blocks, and I loved every second!

I’m so excited to see how these and all the other quilts in the bee evolve!

NGAQB II – MEDALLION ROUND ROBIN

True to my word, I held off from joining anymore swaps for about, oh, I don’t, five minutes! In my defense, the latest thing to lure me with its charms is the second incarnation of the No Girls Allowed Quilt Bee, which this time takes the form of a round-robin-style medallion swap.  Pretty hard to resist, right?

You may remember last year when the hashtag #NGAQB popped up all over Instagram.  It was such a fun and creative experience that there was no way I couldn’t be involved the second time around. This year, John Adams took charge to round-up seven male quilters to partake in what promises to be an awesome swap.  No different to any round robin you’ve seen before, each month will see one quilter add to another’s quilt before sending it on. Fun, fun and more fun!

I’ve spent the last few days pulling fabric and making my centre ‘square’ (a term I apply very loosely). I’ve chosen a saturated palette of deep teals, mustards and red-purples (surprised?) with accents of greys, blacks and beige neutrals.  I went for an improv approach, sewing and slashing with abandon to come up with something I hope the others guys will find inspiring.  I want each future round to reflect the quilter who added it, and instructed them that anything goes!

This first part is en route to Scott, along with a bunch of fabric, some I used and some I didn’t.  I hoping that snippets of the centre block’s fabrics scattered throughout the quilt will add some continuity and bring all the additions together.  The pile is full of Tula Pink, Alison Glass, Carolyn Friedlander and many more of my favourites. So much great stuff to play with!

As for my first addition, it’s going to be on a Molli Sparklified unicorn. Yes, you heard right. I’ve already got an idea of what I want to do and cannot wait for it to arrive.  Watch this space!  Have any of you experienced a round-robin swap?  Tell me all about it!

NO GIRLS ALLOWED BEE – DECEMBER, AND THE FINAL POST

At only a modest two months late we find ourselves at the last post of the 2014 No Girls Allowed Quilt Bee! It’s fitting that the bee should come full circle, ending with the founding father, Molli Sparkles.  Mr Sparkles needs no introduction, having already left his glittery stamp on the modern quilting world in far more impressive ways than I could describe here.  I count myself so fortunate that I was able to connect with Joshua way back when, and am both pleased and proud of where our interaction has taken us.

For the final month of the bee, Joshua requested hash tag blocks in a rainbow of tone on tone colours.  Now, as the tutorial so helpfully suggests, a test block is indeed a mahvelous idea; if you haven’t nailed down that exact quarter inch seem, your block isn’t gonna grow up to be the right size.  Trust me; I have an orphan block stuck to my design wall to prove it.

Once I sorted the seam issue, I sewed up a storm, choosing to focus my fabric selections on the teal and yellow areas of the colour wheel. Since I made blocks for Mr.  I’ve grown quite an attachment to fabric arranged in colour order, so it was great fun to pull these. Tula makes an appearance, as does some great small-scale prints that seem to be the staple of my stash.  I can’t get enough of fabric like that!

If these blocks seem familiar, you’ve probably seen a ton of them crop up on Instagram as part of the Sew For Sydney movement Joshua initiated to help victims of the Sydney terror attacks.  It was a real call to arms, with hundreds upon hundreds of blocks from all over the worlds being sent to help the cause.  What a great bunch you all are!

And with that the bee comes to an end!  Mark me off the list gentlemen, I’m officially up to date.  What fun the whole experience of being in a bee has been!  I’d stumbled upon the word many times in the early days of my foray into quilting, and was eager to be involved in one.  Well, I couldn’t have wished for a nicer bunch of bee mates.  I’ve learnt so much from these guys and can’t wait to see what they all get up to in the future!  I hope you’ve all enjoyed taking this journey with me.  Be sure to keep your eyes open for the finished quilts over the coming months.  They’re going to be ace!

NO GIRLS ALLOWED BEE – NOVEMBER

Now that I’ve finally completed all my bee commitments, it’s time to get the last few block written about and posted here.  Though these are for November, I actually made these blocks last, for reason you’ll soon discover.

Mr November is Scott Hansen, who can be found on Instagram as Bluenickelsudios and in the blogsphere here.  For his month Scott requested something which, at first, sent a shiver down my spine.  He asked for Union Jack blocks, based on a tutorial by fellow bee member and all round fabulous Molli Sparkles.  He wanted the flags to be made using ‘Liberty-inspired florals’, and since I had no actual Liberty to hand, I had to do a little shopping.  The life of a quilter is often hard!

Now, since improv piecing entered my brain and took over the controls, blocks like this, with long cutting lists and precise measurements, are something I’ve avoided.  That’s not to say I was drawn to them in the first place; all that measuring and maintaining of accuracy just isn’t for me.  I get too stressed, too worked up with precision.  Now you see why I avoided making these until the last days of January!

I finally bit the bullet and got down to it, feeling terribly guilty that I made Scott wait so long already.  After all the hype, they really weren’t that bad.  Yes, accuracy is needed, and yes, your seam allowances has to be on point (though one of my blocks was a hair breadth shy of the final size) but as I began the second block I actually found myself enjoying the process, probably for no other reason than the end was in sight!

Anyway, Whilst I won’t be making these blocks again in hurry, I’m happy to contribute to Scott’s vision, which I think is going to look awesome.  These fabrics aren’t something I’d usually be seen at a checkout with, but I did enjoy picking florals and matching them to solids.  I love the contrast between the two blocks and hope that Scott will too.

NO GIRLS ALLOWED QUILT BEE – OCTOBER

With the new year comes the end of the No Girls Allowed Quilt Bee.  I have to confess that I still have one month left to make, and two to write about, and that’s not including my own month, October.  The bee has moved along as a leisurely pace and there’s been no pressure from anyone if blocks have been running a little late.  I’ve already received a few of mine and I have to say that they are looking amazing.  My brief was quite simple; improve block using solids and prints inspired by my favourite painting, and one which I’ve yet to see in person.

I’ve been enamoured with Salvador Dali’s ‘The Persistence of Memory’ since I was in school.  Despite having visited New York City three times, I’ve always managed to miss seeing the painting at MOMA.  So, I thought I’d ask my bee mates to help me make my own version.  The idea is still forming in my head and I’m planning on waiting for more of the blocks to arrive before I start thinking about layout.  Watch this space!

NO GIRLS ALLOWED QUILT BEE – SEPTEMBER

With the last month of the first No Girls Allowed Quilt Bee fast approaching, I thought it was high time that I caught up on these blog posts.  In my defense I’m only two months behind, and October is mine.  So that just leaves September, and the amazingly creative Mr Giuseppe Ribaudo.  G is one of the nicest people you could ever (virtually) meet.  His Instagram feed is a thing of beauty and if you aren’t already following him, leave here and go take care of that first.  He can be found as giucy_giuce.  Go on, I’ll wait…

Ready?  So, as I said, he is such a talent and his quilting output is a thing of enviable beauty.  I only hope that as I travel my quilting journey I’ll match the smallest part of his awesomeness!

For his month, G requested complete and total scrappy chaos!  We were tasked with making any blocks, any size; one behemoth, or several smaller; squares, rectangles or triangles were all fair game.  The only real request was that the blocks were in colour order and any background was neutral or low volume, so as to achieve a scrappy, tea-stained looked.  I was in my element and couldn’t wait to get started!

I had no end of scraps to rummage through, and began but pulling a few from each section of the colour wheel; solids, prints and some amazing wood grain that I jump at the change to use.  Then I just got down and dirty with the sewing machine, sewing this to that with a vague plan forming in my improv-induced creative coma.  It was great fun!

These blocks were so addictive, I could have easily carried on making them all day.  I made the first two, yet my appetite for rainbow piecing wasn’t quite sated, so I made one more.  The rectangular one is long, finishing at around 24″.  I so excited to see how G fits all these pieces together.  From what I’ve seen of the other blocks this is going to be one awesome quilt.  This last photo is a homage to G and includes not only my feet but one paw of a certain pug.  He loves getting in on the bee action too!

I was surprised my how resourceful ones stash can actually be.  When I saw the block instructions called for tea-stained fabrics, I was thinking “am I gonna have to do a spot of home dying here?”.  Surprisingly, I had a lot more neutrals than I thought.  The lesson learnt?  You don’t always have to run to the fabric shop…sometimes you can walk!

October is my month of the bee and I can’t wait to see what all these amazingly talented guys come up with for me.  I’ll be sharing the details of what I’ve requested soon but for now, I’m off to work of my November blocks.  Remember to follow along on Instagram with the #NGAQB hashtag.  Sandy, Mr January, has just had his top long arm quilted and the results are stunning!  Go forth and drool!

Thanks for visitng!

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!