I'm often reluctant to work with a curated selection of fabrics. I'm not sure why, but the thought of being limited to a specific collection, no matter how extensive, causes me anxiety. It doesn't matter who the designer is; it could even be me, but my first reaction is an inner clenching.

I was a bit surprised when Vicki from The Fabric Society contacted me to discuss a promotional post for some of their fabrics and I  enthusiastically agreed to participate. 

Though I'm usually a believer in the ideal of sticking with plan A, I also see the value in pushing beyond my comfort zone and that, oftentimes that leads to new discoveries.

It certainly did this time.

I didn't really have a design in mind when I chose a variety of colors from their collection of Fresh Solids. Frankly I was hoping that something would come to me.

I lived with the fabrics for a bit, mostly because I was in the midst of QuiltCon prep when they arrived, until I came up with this simple and graphic design.

After a bit of play with concept as well as pairing colors, I was ready to piece the top together, a super-quick process.

Then this little top was off to the long armer, bound and ready for it's close-up. The whole 40" x 40" quilt took about a week from design to finished product.

When I look at this design my head fills with other possibilities and variations, many of which you will be seeing in the weeks to come. None of it, however, would have been possible if I hadn't ignored my instinct to fear the limitations of working with a set group of fabrics and embraced the opportunity to create in a new way.







Keep your eyes open when you're driving along.

Those were the words of advice Aunt Rena imparted to me after I told her about this:

This is a Vintage 15-91 Singer sewing machine complete with cabinet.

We found it on the side of the road.

The other day, my boyfriend went for a run in our neighborhood and came home to report that there was a sewing machine in a cabinet about 1 mile away perched on the edge of a curb outside someone's house. 

"Do you want to go check it out?" he asked.

What do you think I said?

We drove over and found the cabinet on the curb, obviously discarded by someone. I opened the cabinet to reveal what I instantly recognized as a vintage Singer. The drawers still contained several machine feet, bobbins, as well as the owner's manual.

He asked me if I wanted to take it home.

What do you think I said?

Yesterday I plugged it in and discovered it still works. 

Today I called the local Singer servicing center and asked if they worked on vintage Singers?

What do you think they said?

I'm taking it in on Monday and, if all goes well would like to refurbish the cabinet as well as the machine, though that's not a must.

Mostly, I want to sew something on this machine. We were fated to be together. So many other folks could have found this machine, though they might not have been folks who sewed. They might have brought it home to admire and display it for all its vintagey coolness and that's not a bad thing. I, however, want to do more than just bring it home. I want to give this old and sadly discarded machine a new life and new work. I want to make a modern quilt or an indie garment pattern using this machine. 

And, when I do I'll think about all the other people that might have used this machine in the past. Maybe it helped a newlywed make curtains for her first home or a mom sew a much-desired halloween costume for her son or a special quilt for an elderly friend. Who knows what this machine crafted in the past, but, hopefully, we will be crafting together in the future.

A few years ago my uncle gave me my grandmother's Shabbat candlesticks. They had been gathering dust in a box set off in some long-forgotten corner. The sale of his apartment prompted him to sort through the box and there they were. 

I never knew my grandmother. She died when my dad was 18, but I'm her namesake and have always had a certain curiosity about her.

The first time I lit candles using those candlesticks I thought about how she had been the last person to use them and how amazing it was that we two, who shared not only a genetic connection but the exact same name (both first and last), were connected over time by these candle sticks. 

That's sort of how I feel about this sewing machine. I don't know and will never know who used it before and what they made, but me and my creations will be connected to them in a roundabout way.

If that doesn't put a smile on your face, I don't know what will.

I'll keep you posted about the machine as it is brought back to life.

Too Tired to Tinkle

That title is a reference to Gillian Flynn's novel, Gone Girl. Let me know if you get the reference.

I was listening to On Writing by Stephen King today. I almost always listen to an audio book or podcast while I'm working. Sometimes I do so furtively because I secretly don't think I should when my assistant is around, but I love the way being told a story gets me into the flow of working. 

Anyway Stephen noted that his most productive working time is in the morning and I have to agree. If I had written this post this morning it would be chock full of insight and pithy phrases. if I had written this post this morning I would effortlessly transition from one topic to the next and find a way to connect them all. 

But, I didn't write it this morning or even this afternoon. 

It is 8:39 CST and I'm putting fingers to keyboard after a full day of crafting and dyeing and erranding and teaching. So, I'll just post a pretty picture and say goodnight, Gracie. (Please, please, please tell me you remember George Burns).

Picked up this quilt, the first of my Gingham Quilts, from the longarmer today. Straight line quilting is so perfect for this design.

Picked up this quilt, the first of my Gingham Quilts, from the longarmer today. Straight line quilting is so perfect for this design.

Creating and Letting Go

A few years ago I was teaching a dye workshop to the members of the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild when one of the students told me that she suspected that I had coined the phrase/design concept of working with "low volume" fabrics. I responded that I had and that I was happy to see how interested folks were in this idea. If you're curious about the original article, check out Quilting Arts magazine issue #38 dated to April/May 2009. 

When I wrote the piece I never suspected that this technique would become as ubiquitous as it has, spawning numerous other articles, online and in-person workshops focused on the process as well as books. While I'm happy that people enjoy exploring these fabrics and crafting with them, I'm rarely mentioned as the originator of the concept as it applies to modern quilting.

Mostly, I don't least I don't think I mind...because I've always believed that an idea can be copied, but my creativity is unique to me. I'm relatively confident I'll come up with something new. Also, I know that I riff off of other people's work as well. For instance, I've designed several improvisational quilts, both for my books and for articles and even for an online class, yet I did not invent the concept of improvisation. I discovered it in books and magazines like everyone else. 

I've just started working on a quilt design,

 influenced by the amazing art quilts of Eleanor McCain (I've mentioned her a couple of times in my weekly newsletter), that I'm calling Gingham, a title I didn't even come up with but was penned by a follower on Instagram. 

So, the cross pollination might just be as ubiquitous as the term "low volume". 

Yet, despite being aware of both generating and receiving influence, I look over my shoulder, not because I worry about being copied, but because I worry about copying. Sometimes I take sabbaticals from looking through books, magazines, and the internet, but other times I intentionally immerse myself in other people's images and ideas. 

And then, sometimes this happens:

If you're scratching your head and wondering what the hell "THIS" is, let me explain.

Last night I was drawing in my sketchbook, fleshing out old ideas and exploring new ones, when I had a thought, rather I posed a question, " What would a quilt look like if the image was a black and white outline of a block rather the block itself?" Believe it or not, that drawing is me jotting this idea down with the intention of returning to this concept soon or at least soon-ish. 

Then I woke up this morning, checked my instagram feed and saw this.

Don't get me wrong, I love this design. It's clean and modern and very clever, but, it also reminds me of what I was sketching last night. And, while I understand that it's plausible, even probable, that many folks might come to a similar concept independent of each other, I still felt the wind go out of my sails just a bit. 

Will I still pursue this idea? Probably. I think there are many ways to interpret the concept and I recognize that my first drawing and my final design may be only distantly related to each other. But, I will look over my shoulder more vigilantly with this idea than I otherwise would. Is that legitimate or even necessary? I don't know, but I know I will be extra-aware because I want to protect my own creativity. I want to ensure, at least for myself, that my designs are the product of my explorations within what I have deemed acceptable parameters of influence. Maybe those parameters are too loose or stringent for someone else, but they're mine and I know where the boundaries exist.

Which circles back to why I'm not bothered by my designs, concepts, or techniques having lives of their own that don't necessarily include me anymore. My creativity spawned something, others brought their creativity to it and made it their own. The something, whether it was conceived back in 2009 or yesterday, is not what is precious. What's precious is the creativity behind that something. 





Setting my Intention

 I can't possibly begin this post without noting my more than 30 day absence from this space. I'm still sewing and dyeing and teaching and, hopefully, selling, but I'm not writing as much as I should. Why? There's inevitably a multitude of reasons, but, if I look at it honestly I see that it comes down to two things: good quality pictures and prioritizing writing.

I can't always take the kind of beautifully styled pictures I want and, unlike an operation that has an in-house photographer, I can't assign that task to someone else. But, I can prioritize writing as a daily practice ( I do a lot of yoga and that phrase, daily practice, is so typical yoga-speak). Yet, despite its potential new age bent , I'm drawn to that word. It implies that perfection is not only unattainable, but undesirable. The point, the goal, is to keep trying, to stay curious about the possibilities, and keep practicing, all the time knowing that you'll never be done and don't really want to be. Isn't that the way we should approach making if not life in general? 

Another oft-repeated yoga term is "setting an intention". It refers to a goal, sometimes small like remaining present in the moment, sometimes more lofty as in cultivating joy, but always simple and clear. I enjoy beginning my yoga practice with an intention and I'd like to do that for my writing practice as well. 

So, here it is: 7 days of blog posts. I should say 7 consecutive days of blog posts.

My dad, a retired doctor, often recommended as he prescribed a medicine that his patients take an initial double dose to kick-start the healing process. In that spirit I'm starting my practice with a similar immersion. Starting today.

I can't guarantee pictures. I can't guarantee great prose, but what I will guarantee is I will appear in this space everyday between today, March 27, through Saturday, April 3.

What will I write about? What pictures will I post. I don't know...exactly. But, I do have a new quilt slated to be finished by Wednesday and I'm always making fabric and I'm in the midst of adding paper patterns to my store and considering what workshops to offer in my studio(feel free to chime in on this). I also have questions and concerns about how much time servicing social media takes up daily (especially ironic considering my just-stated intention) and maybe a few interesting and craft-related stories. Also, I've still to write about my experience vending at QuiltCon last month. In other words, if I take the time, if I prioritize writing the way I do making, I have plenty to say.




Found in my Fridge

If I could name one bit of  business feedback I've been getting from my customers and nosy friends for a while now it's that I should create and sell a line of hand dyed solids. Honestly, I don't know why I didn't jump right on this idea, but, in the better late than never category, this week (yikes, is it that soon?!) I will be premiering my line of hand dyed solids by offering two different fat quarter bundles as well as some single solid fat quarter hand dyed cottons

I've also worked up a design for the Summer issue of Modern Patchwork, again in my hand dyed solids. I've got loads of plans for these babies including expanding the color selections almost as soon as they premier, but first I'd like to create a few quilt patterns to support this fabric collection. 

My initial thought was to turn to my Pinterest Inspirations board and quickly pinned several items that I felt could be re-interpreted for this purpose.

But, then another thought came to mind: maybe I've crafted quilts in the past that could be re-worked and sewn in these new fabrics.

Basically, I checked the refrigerator before I went shopping.

Here's what I found(other than I've got to stop buying more butter; there's already 4 boxes):

This quilt is a blast from the super past and originally designed and created in hand dyed stripes, but could definitely be adapted to working with solids.

Frankly, I'm a little embarrassed I didn't think of this quilt pattern right away. 

I originally designed it a couple years ago and sell the pattern both in paper and PDF form, so re-making it in my new solids would be a breeze, especially because the palette is pretty limited and the blocks are larger and piece together quickly.

I've always loved this design and even re-worked it with rounded corners for Modern Patchwork Magazine a few issues back, but, again, this would be simple to do in hand dyed solids and it would give me an opportunity to explore this concept in new ways. I'd like to expand the size even further adding enough" rounds" to make the single block big enough to fit a bed or make a quilt top that features 4 of these super-sized blocks.

How simple is this?

This quilt was inspired by the knitted Super Easy Baby Blanket created by the uber talented gals at the Purl Bee blog several years back. I made this first version to promote the commercial solids that were released alongside one of my Moda fabric collections. 

I think it would be even more amazing in hand dyed solids and if the widths of the various bands were varied a bit more. One thing I would definitely repeat: the intense machine quilting on the surface.

Another pattern that I sell, both in paper and PDF, that would be perfect in either exclusively solids or, as pictured, primarily solids with a few prints mixed in.

Originally created for my second book, Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color, Design, and Inspiration, this version features Kaffe Fasset's shot cottons. I've taught this quilt design as a class many times, so could probably re-do it in hand dyes in my sleep. Though, you're not supposed to operate machinery while sleeping. :)

If I did more than a cursory search, I could come up with more and just might. For now these seem a good place to start in terms of crafting supporting patterns for my solids or...maybe even starting a fabric/quilt pattern-of-the month/quarter club. I would love, love to hear your thoughts on that.

Look, Ma: I really love writing my newsletter!

I'm not alone here, but keeping up with my blog sometimes feels like a chore. 

And that's a mystery to me because I don't feel that way about keeping up with my weekly newsletter. In fact, I love writing my newsletter and it must show to some degree because folks write to me to tell me how much they enjoy it. 

When I started the newsletter, Fresh from the Dye Pot, I decided that it was not just going to be about email marketing my stuff. I wanted it to be a forum to share ideas and inspiration with those people who had allowed me to make a weekly appearance in their inboxes.

So, while I do chat about new items in my store or my upcoming retail shows, I also have a quote of the week and discuss that quote. Additionally, I include links to websites, books, articles, and images that I find inspirational. And, by inspirational, I mean that, whatever it is, I want to try it. I've linked to books I've read, recipes I've made, and podcasts I've listened to. Writing this newsletter has forced me to be on the lookout for interesting stuff. I'll publish an issue and go right back to my search. Actually, I often don't include all my "points of interest", opting to save a few for a later date .

Working on my newsletter is just plain fun. I even craft a new banner image, always including my logo, for every issue.

Check out this week's:

The theme, yes, my newsletter has a weekly them, was process and I happened to take a series of in progress shots of a quilt top I was designing, so I created my banner from those images.

I'd love to say that I have every newsletter from today until the sun goes super nova planned, but oftentimes the theme is driven by what's new in my studio or what I'm reading or the inspirational bits I gather. In other words, it's completely true to the moment. How perfect is that?

I will say though, I give myself several days, crafting, gathering, editing to create the newsletter. That keeps me from feeling pressured and generally makes the process more of a discovery than anything else.

So, what's my point? You mean other than, hey you, on the other side of this screen, please subscribe and read my newsletter( here's the link)? Well, i guess the point is: a) you never know what you're going to enjoy until you try it and b) I'm so happy to have yet another creative outlet in my life and I wanted to share that with you.

Now, please subscribe to my newsletter. :)

Also, look for things here at the blog to reflect the set-up and style of the newsletter. I've found a writing format that I enjoy and I'd like to share it here as well.




The "I Hate Waste" Principle

I hate waste, really hate it.  

Of course I hate it in the global, community-wide sense of wasting energy or resources, but where it really gets me is at home. 

As an example, the other day I bought some buttermilk for a specific recipe. I'm usually loathe to do that because I find that buying an ingredient, particularly one that only comes in a larger amount than is needed for a single use and is purchased for a given recipe, will lead to waste. What am I going to do with the rest of the buttermilk? But, I hate waste, so last night I searched the internet for a buttermilk-based salad dressing to accompany our salad. I'm much more of a simple vinaigrette dressing girl, but, like I said, waste and me, we're not friends.

My disdain for waste is not all bad though; it fuels positive change in my life. I have a monthly contract at my yoga studio where, whether I go once a month or 5 times a week, I'm charged the same amount. I can't stand to waste money even more than buttermilk, so I go at least 4 times a week. I know this about myself. committing , especially financially, to something will spur me to do that something.

That's why I signed up and pay monthly for Seamwork Magazine. Published by the super-creative folks at Colette Patterns, this monthly, online magazine features interesting articles and simple, quick-to-sew, but stylish clothing and accessories patterns. Anyone can read the magazine; it's on the internet. But, if you want to access the patterns, then you pay a monthly fee of $6 (Hello! Super-cheap!) and receive two credits per issue. So, every month, you can download any two patterns from their pattern catalogue. Also, if you don't use your credits in a given month, they roll over to the next month. It's a great deal! By the way, something being a great deal doesn't negate the "I hate waste" principle; I hate it whether it's a little or a lot and I know that sentiment will help me keep my resolutions to sew for my self using my hand dyed and patterned fabrics.

Confession: this is not the first Seamwork pattern I've made in my hand dyed cotton lawn, but the other one, the Akita top, was made in 2015 so doesn't really count. 

My daughter and I have differing picture-taking ideals. She wants me to take pose properly; I want to act silly. This is our compromise.

My daughter and I have differing picture-taking ideals. She wants me to take pose properly; I want to act silly. This is our compromise.

For starters, I love Colette Patterns. They're easy to follow, well written and illustrated, and feature clothes that I want to make and wear. That last point is essential to honoring my "I hate waste" principle.

The flowy nature of the York top sold me on this pattern which pairs beautifully with this cotton lawn. 

I patterned about 2 yards of base fabric in my Wasabi Peas print and dyed it a juicy coral color. Honestly, this color is a bit outside my personal palette, but, I created the fabric before I decided to sew with it and I didn't want it to go to waste. I love the top, so the "I hate waste" principle yielded two positive outcomes: crafting for myself and pushing me outside my usual color preferences. 

My favorite part about this top is its attention to detail. Both the above and previous picture show off those features, a terrific cuff detail and a sweet peek-a-boo keyhole at the back.

I currently have 5 patterns downloaded to my Seamwork library and not all will work with my handmade fabric, so some fabric purchasing will happen, but, with the help of the "I hate waste" principle my goal to sew for myself in 2016 will be met. 

What about you? What helps you to keep a resolution or start (or end) a habit?

Friendship Bracelets For Everyone!

I don't remember what inspired me, but one day, not too long ago, I made friendship bracelets for myself and my youngest daughter. Maybe I just wanted a super quick finished item so I could experience that glow that comes with something new and handcrafted or maybe I was thinking about projects using my a stitch in dye scrap bundles, but, either way, I made friendship bracelets. And I wear every day.

So, I decided to share my process with you all in hopes that you too will craft a few bracelets for yourself or a loved one this holiday season.

Here's what you'll need:

By the way, materials listed are for one bracelet. You probably have tons of friends, so adjust accordingly.

  • Two strips of cotton fabric measuring 7 1/2" x 1 1/2"
  • 1 standard hair tie, cut in half
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Sewing machine
  • Coordinating machine sewing thread
  • Small to medium sized button
  • Coordinating hand sewing thread
  • hand sewing needle

Remember to press your bracelet flat.

That's it! These bracelets take no more than 5 minutes to make. They're great stocking stuffers and last minute gifts and they can be made with precious, hand dyed (hint, hint) fabric because you're just using a wee bit.

If you make one, please email me at and let me know how it turned out and how it was received.

New for 2016:

I will be hosting a free course via my weekly newsletter. That is I will teach a brand new, modern quilt pattern, covering materials, step-by-step instructions, as well as a list of resources for the quilt pattern all in once-a-week digests via my newsletter. 

If you're already a subscriber, you don't need to do a thing. Come the beginning of February you'll start receiving the course. If you're not currently a subscriber and would like to get this course as well as all my special "subscriber only" goodies, then sign up via the form at the bottom of the page.

Instagram Inspiration

For a while now I've pondered the idea of how I can "craft" my instagram feed, that is the entirety of the images I post there. I came to this question because I wanted to create something beautiful and, frankly, something that would help me promote my work in an attractive and interesting way. 

Like most folks on instagram I began with just posting whatever was new. Images of fabrics, quilt designs, and finished creations comprised the bulk of my feed. Lately though I've wanted to do something more, something different. 

To that end, I did a bit of research, looking at a range of feeds and asking myself why they do or do not appeal to me and have found one essential ingredient that all the feeds I'm drawn to have in common: cohesiveness.

Each of the feeds I'm about to mention have pictures that all "hang" together. 

For instance, take a gander at @local_milk. It's easy to pinpoint the palette of this feed, a soft gray with bits of color interspersed. The images primarily focus on simple, domestic scenes and many of the pictures are taken from above or at a close distance. 

Compare that with this feed, @emfratson. I love both feeds and they're equally effective and attractive, but for different reasons. There's a broader range of colors here, though all the images still have a similar color feel. Additionally, there's a greater variety of subject matter among the images in this feed.

I'd invite you to check out those two as well as these, @nikoleherriott, @runnerkimhall, and @sundaysuppers.

Though I'm still working on mine, thinking about my feed and looking back on it has given me an opportunity to re-discover some images.

Some of which are very obviously related to my work:

Others say more about what makes me smile.

And some that can only be labeled, "For the Love of Charlie".

It wasn't until I did the review that I discovered these three themes and, I think, as I work on unifying my feed, I hope to maintain a focus on these three types of images.

If you all have recommendations for instagram feeds that inspire you and you think might inspire me or others, please, leave a comment here and share the beauty.