Friday Feline

Stinka scratching postIt’s Schoolhouse today at Quilt Market. I’m a little sad to be missing all the excitement. On the other hand, it’s been nice not to have the rush of sewing, followed by the rush of traveling and all that entails (both money and energy drains). It feels right to be sitting here enjoying some sunny afternoons with Stinka, writing patterns and thinking about what needs doing before the end of the year.

Speaking of patterns, I’m almost done with the next one for the shop. I love this one! I just need to simplify one step, get some photos for the pattern cover and then I’ll list it. The bag is incredibly practical and there are two size options. Here’s what the smaller one looks like.Travel Companion small top viewI’ll give you all the details when I put it up in the shop. Of course, I’ll have plenty of other photos to show you as well. I’m calling this one Traveling Companion because its boxy shape is suited to the type of packing a trip requires–whether that trip is a day trip or a weekend getaway.Travel Companion small

A large version of the bag is debuting at Quilt Market in Jane Sassaman’s new Prairie Chic collection. More on all of that gorgeous fabric in a few days. So many pretty things to share. I can’t wait.

Have a Happy Friday!

Pattern Design With A Draw Program – Post #4

color choices1Having tools isn’t always enough.  Sometimes you need some suggestions, ideas or even a friendly shove in order to get the creativity flowing. When beginning any new project, especially brand new projects with tools you haven’t used much, there can be a moment of frozen hesitation. Some of us are lucky enough to whiz by those without a backwards glance. But for most, it takes some thought.

When using a drawing program to create a pattern, you are faced with numerous decisions and an unthinkable amount of choices. I find the best way to avoid getting overwhelmed in a thing is to break it down into manageable parts. No need to conceptualize your grand masterpiece, although if that’s your personality, go for it. Just start. One click after the next. The beauty of a digital design is the ease with which you can change things. It actually encourages you to go a little crazy.

So let’s break this down to manageable parts. First, decide on the style. Do you want an orderly piece with easy to figure patchwork pieces? Or do you want a piece with that Art School flair, full of negative space and oddly combined shapes? You don’t have to decide this immediately. You can wait until you have shapes on the page and see what they’re telling you. But if you do decide, you have narrowed your focus and can devote your attention to the other decisions.

Second, choose some colors. You’ll be surprised by the way color choices will affect your attention. If you’re feeling a bit “mehhhh…” about the design, change up the colors and see if that improves your opinion. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. Other times, it will be the impetus to move you in a new direction. Just remember, it only takes a click of a mouse to make a change. You don’t have to open a tube or clean the brush.

Of course, choosing colors can be a quandary in and of itself. If you get stuck, remember color palette generators. They’re a great tool for inspiration and for seeing things you don’t see at a glance. Check out the websites of paint brands. They inevitably have swatch groups they’ve chosen for coordination. Or pick up a Color Index if you want something a bit more design related but only want to spend about $20 instead of $500.

Just because we’re playing with solid colors in our pattern doesn’t mean you have to use solids in your final project. Look for prints that “read” strongly in the color family you’re using. Those prints will make good choices for your piece. You will need to audition others as some prints will “read” more strongly when set with different colors.

If you’ve decided to make the less traditional pattern you may be facing a small crisis despite color choices. It can be puzzling to figure out what “works” and what doesn’t. Because I’m intuitive designer, I go with what looks right to me. I don’t keep a list of rules in my head, although I’ve learned a few of them in art class in Jr. High and High School. I just start playing. Here’s how my inner dialogue might go during this stage of the process:

“Hmmm…I don’t like that rectangle. What if it moves over here?”

“Oh…no. That’s worse. Yuck!”

“Okay. What about making it smaller and putting it over here? And then taking that triangle and flipping it over on its back?”

“Yeah, that’s it. But all this blank space….B.O.R.I.N.G! Maybe a little square?”

“Or maybe a big square? Maybe both. Just move this one over a little and then put that one over there….”

“Ha! I think that might be it!”

Yes, that’s really the kind of things that go on in my head during the process. Along with a few other random thoughts like “Where’s my coffee?” and “Is Stinka still in the house?” As you can see, I’m really just playing and seeing what works. I encourage you to try doing things this way. It will make the process more enjoyable.

If the thought of that type of designing makes you break out in hives, don’t worry. Just keep two basic art composition rules– the Rule of Thirds and the Rule of Odds–in mind as you work. Without going into a lot of detail, the Rule of Thirds breaks up the composition into sections–three across and three down, just like a Tic Tac Toe game.  You want to avoid lines which cut your design into quarters. The Rule of Odds is about the number of objects framing the subject. Odd wins. Humans tend to find odd numbers for comforting, reassuring, etc. Hence, more interesting. Google “rule of odds” and “rule of thirds” for more exhaustive information.

There truly is no substitute for play. That’s the big secret, really. If you approach all those choices as part of the fun, you’re halfway there. Get serious about playing and there’s no telling what you might do.

And The Winner Is….

5thbdaybashwinnerThe Random Number Generator has selected the winner. Check your Inbox, Terrie. You’ve won the giveaway!

Thank you for all your comments, suggestions and compliments. Blogs are taking a backseat to quick and snappy social media outlets like Twitter, Instagram and of course, Facebook. It’s easy to see why. Blogs take more time, more energy and a lot more thought to maintain. But it’s precisely those things that make a blog, and blogging, valuable to me. It’s much more satisfying to have a lengthy conversation which is what blogging really is–as opposed to a quick shout out and a wave, which is what you get from Twitter, Instagram, et al.

Those avenues can have value. I’m not opposed to them. I’ve just realized that this is where I’m happiest. Blogging is more meaningful for me and so it is especially gratifying to know that it’s also meaningful for you. That you’re finding things here that inspire you and make you wonder and think. Thank you for being part of the conversation!

A few of you mentioned a desire to see garments. Some of you would like more How To’s and skill building posts. And of course, continuing posts of Stinka seem to be a priority for most. Fortunately, all of those things are on my radar for the coming year. It’s going to be another fun filled, colorful year for the blog, I assure you.

Pattern Design With A Draw Program – Post #3

It’s time to take the pattern design and make it useful. Post #1 and Post #2 gave brief explanations of how to use a draw program to create a design. Turning that design into something real is the best part. It’s where your hard work starts paying off. It’s also where we get to do Math. Yeah, I know. Math! Don’t panic. Everything’s going to work out.

Let’s start with our easy block from Post #2. First, determine the finished size of the piece you want to make. For this example, I’m going to make a 6 1/2″ block from the single unit (three HST’s and one square). Next, breakdown the individual elements. In this block we have four equal sections making our job simple. Here’s how it all comes together:Draw SS3aNOTE: If you right click anywhere in the image above, you can save or print this information. Please feel free to do so if you find it helpful.

If you were keeping your drawing to scale, you’re already ahead. You can simply note the size of each piece and multiply. For instance, let’s say your solid square is 2″ x 2″ and you’re working in 1/2 scale. Multiply 2″ by 2 and you get 4″. If you’re scale was 1/4, you would multiply by 4 to get 8″.

We started with a simple block for this example, but the same process applies for other blocks. Determine the size you want your project to be, separate your design into individual elements and figure out the math for each piece size. An important reference tool for quilting, and one I find indispensable, is C&T Publishing’s All-in-One Quilter’s Reference Tool. It includes Magic Cutting Numbers which comes in very handy for the type of work we’re doing here.

But what if you have something asymmetrical, something abstract, more “modern”? No problem. It will take a little more effort but the result will be well worth it. You’ll have a few extra decisions to make along the way, but if you’ve gotten this far, you’re fully capable. As before, if you’ve been keeping your drawing scaled, you’re ahead of the game.Draw SS3cI’ve decided on an 8″ square. I’ve figured the sizes for the pieces around the edges. However, there’s a trouble spot with that pink rectangle. It’s time for some design decisions. There are multiple options for handling this area. The red lines show seam options.Draw SS3dPersonally, I prefer Version 1 which is applique the pink rectangle on top of the pieced section. One reason I like this version is the added bit of dimension you get. But you could use any of them and it will still look nice.Draw SS3eNow work through the math for all of your pieces. Remember, no seam allowances right now. This is the moment when you realize how handy it is to work your design in scale and not just willy nilly shapes. Much easier to let the program tell you what sizes these shapes are–even if you need to do a bit of stretching, shrinking or rearranging to make it work.

Once you’ve figured it out, it’s time to add those seam allowances (1/4″ to each side or 1/2″ to each dimension) and figure out the sequence for piecing. Here’s how I’ve worked up this piece:Draw SS3fDepending on your design, you may need to break up some pieces into smaller units to make the piecing easier. Decide where you want the seam and then treat those two pieces as separate. Notice pieces D and I in the example above.  Once you’ve finalized all your decisions and done all the math, you can start cutting and sewing.

Now, let’s say you work up an 8″ block but decide you really want this to be a wall hanging. The easiest way to enlarge it is to work in multiples of your design, in this case, multiples of 8– 16″, 24″, 32″, 40″. Go back to the finished piece sizes to do the multiplication. Then add the seam allowances to your new piece sizes. Do not multiply the cutting sizes or you’ll have a mess. Remember, seam allowances don’t multiply.

We’ve covered a lot of ground in these three posts. Most of it centers on the mechanics of things. We really need one more post to round this out. So, next week, I’ll be back with a post about the creative side of all this. I’ll include some thoughts on color and fabric choices, as well as a few tips for the “artsy”, asymmetrical, modern look.

I hope you’ve found these posts interesting. If nothing else, you’ve seen behind the scenes of some of the work around here.  If you’ve caught the bug and want to do a lot more of this, I would recommend purchasing Serif DrawPlus or PagePlus. Their software is an incredible deal when compared to Adobe’s Illustrator and InDesign. They’re also far more intuitive and user friendly. I love them and use them all the time. If you want something with a little more muscle but still want free, check out Inkscape. You’ll want to watch some videos and tutorials though, so you don’t get overwhelmed by all capabilities.

Pattern Design With A Draw Program – Post #2

In the first post of this series, I walked you through the basics of drawing shapes in OpenOffice Draw. Today, we’ll create a design using various shapes, select a portion to use for patchwork and fine tune the details. Don’t over-think your selections. Just start putting shapes on the page.Draw SS2a

For this example, I’ve chosen eight shapes without regard to size or exact placement. They’ve been colored in one of four colors. At this point, nothing is certain. Everything can be changed–size, placement, orientation and color. Shapes can be added or deleted. Right now, the page is full of potential.

You can see the beginnings of a patchwork here. There are half square triangles waiting for some sort of order to be imposed. The rectangles are possible borders or sashing.  This is the time for experimentation. By changing the upper yellow triangle to green and moving it down, I’ve created a trio of triangles around a square.Draw SS2bNow I want to move the far rectangle in line with the edge of the triangle. When I do that, the rectangle is behind the square, as seen below. I could change the size of the square to solve the problem. But you can also change the order in which shapes are stacked.Draw SS2cTo do this, select the shape you want to edit. Then go to the bottom tool bar on the right side and click on the “Arrange” icon. See the image below. Choose from one of the options that pop up. Draw SS2eIn this case, I’ve selected the rectangle to bring forward. So I choose “Bring to Front” and the rectangle is now on top of the square. But I’d like to play with this little patchwork section all on its own. First, I save the file and then I start editing–taking out the rectangles and the green square. Next, I resize the triangles to match the size of my square. I’m ready to treat these elements as one piece–as a Group.Draw SS2gTo group objects, click in the area outside the set and move your mouse to cover the entire space occupied by your shapes/objects. When you release, you’ll see the green points around the outer edge. Go to the uppermost toolbar. Select “Modify”, then “Group”. Now your set of shapes will be considered as one shape and can be manipulated as such. (To ungroup an object, select it, go to “Modify” and then choose “Ungroup” from the drop down menu.)

I want some repetitions of this group. I simply select the group and then cut and paste it. (To do this you can either go to “Edit” in the uppermost toolbar and choose the “Cut” and then “Paste” selections from the menu; or you can use Control+C, Control+V to do the same thing.) After making three copies, I arrange them neatly but without any other modifications.Draw SS2hLooks just like a patchwork block, doesn’t it? Simple set up of squares and half square triangles. You’re actually good to go with this. But let’s just play around a little more. For instance, what would this block look like in a repeat pattern? (Answer: see first row below.)Draw SS2mOr maybe we could tweak it and turn the upper right block 1/4 turn to the left and the lower left block 1/4 turn to the right. The second row shows you how the block changes, as well as how it looks in a repeat. Three other possibilities are in the last row.

To keep things simple, I’ve maintained the colors from the original set. However, at this point, you could start playing around with color changes and come up with even more interesting patterns. Just remember, to change an individual shape that’s currently grouped, you need to ungroup it. Then you can select individual triangles or squares for color changes. Oh! I should tell you, Control+Z is your friend. Seriously. Control+Z will undo what you just did. So if you just moved a piece by accident…Control+Z. Hit “Delete” and immediately changed your mind? Control+Z.

Now, let’s go back to our original page but make different changes. Delete one green triangle. Add one blue rectangle. Rearrange the shapes.Draw SS2nI like the grid the blue rectangles make but the colored shapes inside it need some help. So, I’ll fix that and also shorten up the rectangles.Draw SS2pEasy peasy! Add white borders so the design floats and you’d have a wonderful pillow cover.

In order to keep things simple, the shapes in these examples are all clearly defined with no overlap (with the exception of the rectangles above, but that piecing is a cinch to do). You’re not limited to such orderly designs. Triangles can overlap rectangles that nest inside squares. It’s all up to you. The piecing will get more advanced when you do that, but I’ll be talking about that in the next post.

You may be feeling like that proverbial deer in the headlights right now. The blank white page can be very intimidating. To get past that, start with these simple guidelines:

  • Draw a minimum of three different shapes
  • Have at least two of each shape
  • Choose three colors for your design

Now you have a starting point. Mix it up. Change it around. Ask “what if?” all the time. When you have something you like, save it. And then keep playing.

Next time, we’ll work on turning your drawing into a pattern you can make and show off. You can do this!

Pattern Design With A Draw Program – Post #1

Over a series of several posts, I’ll be showing you how to use a drawing program to create a patchwork design and turn it into a pattern. If this doesn’t interest you, just skip these posts. I won’t be offended. This type of activity isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

I’ll begin with an overview and some basics. The next post in the series will cover design stuff–placement, color, editing for ease of use, etc. In the last post of the series I’ll go over how to turn your design into a pattern so you can make it “in real life”.

Let’s get started. Remember, I’m using OpenOffice Draw , a free open source program, for these posts. (Use any drawing program you like, but get acquainted with it first.) The first box to pop up in OpenOffice asks you to choose which type of file you want to open. Select “Drawing” and then open a new file. You’ll have a blank page in front of you like this:Draw SS1aI’ve noted the places you need to pay attention to: Line details, Fill details, Magnification, where to find the shape size and the two buttons for Text and Shapes. These are pretty self-explanatory. The Line and Fill details in the upper toolbar will change the appearance of the border (outline) of your shapes and the color of your shape itself.

Magnification will zoom in or out. Choose a magnification that is comfortable for you. As the design evolves, you may need to change the magnification both in order to see more details and to get the big picture.

I usually work in 1/4 scale (1 inch = 4 inches). Use whatever scale works for you. Just be sure to make a note of the scale so you don’t forget. You can see the size (width x height) of your shape on the very bottom of the window.

The two buttons, “Text” and “Shapes”, are exactly what they say. If you want to add text, click this button. For making shapes, click the little down arrow to the right of the “Shapes” button. Then click on the shape you want to make. (Square, rectangle, triangle, etc.)

Ready? Let’s put some shapes on the page.

  1. Click on the little arrow to the right of the “Shapes” button (found on the bottom toolbar). Select the square. Your cursor now looks like cross hairs.
  2. Click and hold anywhere on your page, dragging the cursor to the size you want to make. Release. You now have a square.

Draw ss1bYou should have something similar on your screen. My square is 2″ x 2″ with a gray outline and blue fill. I don’t love the fill color, but I’ll change that in a minute. First, let’s add a few more shapes. How about a few triangles.

    1. Click on the “Shapes” button again, but this time select the triangle. Again, your cursor looks like cross hairs.
    2. Click and hold anywhere on your page, dragging the cursor to the size you want to make. Release.
    3. Repeat to make a second triangle.Draw SS1c
      Notice there are two types of triangles in the Shapes options. Choose according to your preference. Add rectangles or more squares. It’s up to you. Remember there is no right or wrong here. We’re just playing.

So what if you want to change things you’ve already drawn? Easy. When it comes to size, you have two options. You can select the shape by clicking on it. When you hover the mouse over one of the points, you will see a double-headed arrow. Click and drag to increase or decrease. Or, if you want precision, select the shape by clicking on it. Then double click the bottom bar where the size is shown. This will open a dialog box.Draw SS1gEnter the width and height you want for your shape. Click “OK” and it’s fixed for you. If you want to, you can play with the position by entering values for the X and Y axis. However, it’s much more fun just to drag and drop them where you want them.

Ready to change the color from that drab blue? Me too. Draw SSeSelect the shape you want to change by clicking on it. Then go to the Fill drop down box. Scroll through and select a color. It’s that simple. I usually leave the outline on my shapes while I’m working with them. It just seems easier on my eyes. Feel free to remove them. Just select a shape, go to the Line drop down box (where you currently see a straight black line in the box) and change it to “none”.Draw SSfOnce you’ve added some shapes, changed up the sizes and colors and moved things around a bit, save your document. You may want to create a file just for your practice documents. The files are small and you can create and save, create and save, create and save all day long if you want to.

If you are interested in more information about using OpenOffice Draw, or want to see videos of it in action, just Google “OpenOffice Draw tutorials”.

In the next post, we leave the boring stuff behind and start getting serious about shapes and color, creating a design you can use for patchwork.

Blog Birthday Bash!

Last week, I mentioned a celebratory giveaway for the blog’s 5th birthday. Over the weekend, I managed to put together a fun package to celebrate. bday bash giveawayThe package will contain three charm packs (one Joel Dewberry True Colors, one Kaffe sampler and one mix of solids by Free Spirit), two small spools of Coats & Clark all purpose thread (one in bright pink for EPP work), a package of 1 1/2″ jewel paper pieces, a small package of Clover clips, some Renaissance Ribbon (two lengths of Jane Sassaman designs, one length of Amy Butler design and one length of Parson Gray design) and a handful of J&P Coats embroidery thread in bright, happy colors.

I’m so grateful for each and every one of you–even those of you who never comment. I hope you enjoy the time you spend hanging out here. If I’m doing things right, you’re finding inspiration, eye candy and new things to consider. Thank you for joining me for this part of my creative journey!

To have a chance at winning this eclectic mix of goodies:

  1. Leave a comment on this post before the deadline to enter. Tell me what you’d like to see more of here on the blog. (Instructional posts, crafty projects, garment projects, cat photos, my musings on life, whatever. Now’s your chance to give some input.)
  2. One comment per reader. Duplicate entries will be deleted.
  3. You have until 12:00 midnight Pacific Standard Time on Friday, October 17, 2014 to enter.
  4. International entrants are welcome.
  5. Winner will be selected by Random Number Generator.
  6. Winner will be notified by email and will have until October 24, 2014 to respond. If winner does not respond, a new winner will be selected by Random Number Generator and notified by email.

Good luck!

Friday Feline & Home Free!

Stinka ears backAll done! The sample sewing whirlwind has blown itself out, the last box shipping out today. It feels good to be finished with all those projects, to be without a huge looming deadline. It will probably take a few days for me to realize I can slow down and drink less coffee. That’s okay. I’ll use that nervous energy to clean up around here. You wouldn’t believe the mess.AMH EPP stackOne thing I’m really, really looking forward to….my EPP project with my Anna Maria Horner stash. This will be my slow sewing project for the rest of the year. Doesn’t that stack look inviting?TPMoonshine (1024x799)I’m also looking forward to a few fun projects in Tula Pink’s Moonshine. Great Fall colors in this group, perfect for showing off my new bag pattern (which is nearly complete).

Image from Generation Q

Image from Generation Q

Next week, I’ll begin a series of posts explaining how to use a simple draw program to make your own designs for original patchwork. Earlier in the year, I made these pillows for Generation Q’s May/June issue using written code. It was far too complicated and archaic (in my opinion) for someone who is a visual, hands-on designer. There is an easier, quicker and much more fun way to create designs like this. And that’s what I’m going to show you. Because you can do this! Even if you aren’t a big fan of solids, the underlying process will jump start some new ideas for your sewing time.

As I guide you through the process, I’ll be showing you screenshots from OpenOffice Draw. Don’t worry. It’s free open source software. All you have to do is download it. There are plenty of drawing programs out there. If you already have one and are familiar with it, great. You’ll be able to use the steps I give you, but you’ll need to be familiar with the toolbars, etc. in that program.

It’s going to be fun! I hope you’re ready to try something new. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Are We There Yet?

I feel like I’ve been on this sample making binge for a bit too long. The sewing marathon thing I’ve been doing for months seems to have used up too much of my brain power. And the proof of that…..the blog had a birthday last month! Well, so did I but the blog turned five! Five years of blogging!!! Talk about losing track of time. geraniumsWhen I hit “Publish” on that first post, I had no idea where the path would lead. I didn’t have any grand plans or big dreams. I just wanted to put myself out there, take a chance and see what came of it. It did take some encouragement from Jane to get me motivated, I’ll admit. I’m so glad I listened, and heeded, her advice.

Five years later, I’m up to my eyeballs in fabric, madly sewing samples and making up patterns on the fly. By the end of this week, the furor will have died down and I’ll be able to breathe again. Maybe at that point I’ll be able to think more cogently about the last five years. There’s a lot to look back on, so much to be grateful for.

I’ve decided we will have a delayed celebration. I’m squirreling away some things for a fun giveaway, as I have time and clear thinking. Hopefully, by next week sometime I’ll have that all together. Including my mental faculties. (Between all this crazy sewing, the excessive heat and allergies, it’s been a doozy.)StarLanding embr WIP (861x1024)I’m dying to show what I’ve made for Market. Just a few more weeks! In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at some embroidery which will be making an appearance in Free Spirit’s booth.

Okay, let’s cross our fingers and hope for a drama free week!

Friday Feline

Stinka chair back (786x1024)Friday again?! How can this be? And nearly the end of September?! Holy cow. TP design rollProjects are piling up here. And not just the Market sample projects either. This design roll of Tula’s Moonshine is on the To Do List for when things calm down a bit. There’s a stack of flannel and voile waiting for me as well. But all that has to wait because today….thirteen pounds of fabric will arrive on my doorstep! Yes, 13 pounds worth of sewing to do in the next 2 weeks.

Time to download a couple books from, brew some coffee and get started! Happy Friday!