Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Autumn Interlude

, I'm alive and well. Quilt show season is over, and it was a good one. The newest patterns all sold well, and I nearly ran out of my initial order of periwinkle templates (placing an order tonight).
I'm bowled over by the response to this template /pattern set- not only how well it's selling, but the response from quilters has been GREAT! They love how easily the pieces fit perfectly together.

Random Acts of Scrappiness- I was unable to take a decent photo in time for the shows, but the virtual quilt picture I substituted in the meantime didn't appear to hurt sales. This is a scrappy or fat quarter-friendly quilt, and I offer it as a laminated pattern.

Focus on Fun is another easy laminated pattern. Two yards of a fun focus fabric and a bunch of scraps make a huge "lap" quilt.

Jelly Donuts is a quilt for the slightly more advanced quilter. One jelly roll, two border fabrics, and VIOLA! The hardest part about making this quilt was coming up with a name for it.

     Branching out into a small line of wool felt kits was an opportunity that just happened to come my way, and I was able to take advantage of it. I named the line "Pearl Prynne's Pretties" after one of my favorite characters in American literature- the little girl in "The Scarlet Letter".

Merry Beluga Christmas!

     I came home to a couple days off, then back to work, working for two while my co-worker was on vacation. Now my mind is racing thinking about new patterns. My 2016 season starts in early March, and I have a couple projects in stages of "almost done"- quilts that just didn't get done in time for my fall shows. I'm forcing myself to complete one before I start a new project.

     Remember my late spring purging project? And how I "organized" my scraps?
     I did manage to use up quite a bit of scraps. I made one quilt top (in my TBQ- to be quilted-pile) that ended up being 80" square. I made a pile of smaller items for a friend's holiday crafts open house this weekend- six table runners, two baby quilts and an apron, plus a pile of Kanzashi ornaments. I made a couple of blocks for a group quilt. I took the uglies to quilt shows to use for demos. I remade Jelly Donuts in scrappy Christmas prints...  

Monday, August 3, 2015

Just Call Me Bunny*, or, What are Siblings For?

     Eight p.m., a summer evening in a coastal New England town. The phone rings. "What was the Final Jeopardy question?" a male voice asks.
     "Who was T.E. Lawrence?" I reply.
     "Did you get it right?" he asks.
     "Of course."
     I picture the person belonging to the voice, with the twinkling blue eyes and Tom Selleck dimple on his chin.
     "Do you think the good folks at No Such Agency are listening in?" I ask.
     On cue, there's static on the phone lines.

     This is a typical conversation between us, one that plays out at least once a week. Craig will call me with some oddball question, usually something to Google, because my brother isn't on the internet. Now that my reputation as a walking, talking Googler of useless information has spread, I also receive such phone calls from my parents. Whereas my brother's calls are usually requests to locate parts for obscure power tools, my mother's questions are more likely to involve some long-dead actor of the '40's, often to settle a bet with her sister. Mom is always right, and I think her sister has yet to make good on the bets.

     Occasionally, I feel the need to reciprocate.
     "Hey, Craig, are you busy?"
     "What do you want?"
     "If I send you a printout, would you make me some templates?"
     "How many?"
     "Just two- a set of two."
     "How many sets?"
     "Just one- for now."
     "How many do you REALLY want me to make?"
     "How many do you want to make?"
     "Well, I'm not going to make you 600, if that's what you're asking."

     Today the templates arrived in all their shining plexiglass glory. It's time to play!

*and if you don't get my reference to Bunny, you MUST watch the movie pictured above. Google it.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

June Cleaver's dresses, taming the scrap pile, and some thoughts about creativity...

    In my last post, I showed an assortment of vintage fabrics, each piece approximately 11" x 18". I had them for several years, and they taunted me every time I'd look at them. Thanks to the fact I go NOWHERE without a notebook, graph paper, and isometric graph paper, I finally worked out a design on my lunch break. There is nothing like a peanut butter sandwich to get those brain cells hopping!
     Here's "Wiggle Room". The pattern will be available soon.

Wiggle Room

     The past few months have been incredibly busy for me; I've been putting in a lot of extra hours at work, as well as teaching, traveling to out-of-state guilds, and working on new patterns for the upcoming autumn quilt show season. There were days when I'd leave the house before dawn, and wouldn't return until after 10 pm.  And I loved every minute of the insanity. It was truly one of the most creative periods I have ever been through (and it goes on...).
    Why? I discovered decades ago that the busier I am, the more ideas pop into my head. And creative energy fuels physical energy. I am undergoing...


    Why now? Even before I started the pile of quilts that are now awaiting quilting, I realized my quilts are taking over my house. Yes, I can keep them reasonably neatly boxed up, but quilts for trunk shows are one thing, quilts for my booth at quilt shows are another, and there is some overlap. This isn't a major problem if, like this year, I have trunk shows but no quilt shows in the early part of the year, and all my quilt shows (but no trunk shows) are jammed together in the fall. I repack once and that does it. That's not usually how it goes though. So, I need to get my quilts in a more easily accessible location so I can repack as needed. I also want to be able to visit my antique sewing machines more often, but they've been hiding in abject terror.

Lady Macbeth, my sweet lass from Scotland

     What is going/has gone in the purge? Carloads of books and magazines, hobby and craft materials that no longer interest me, some never-used household items, non-quilt fabric. Gone, gone, gone, without shedding a tear. And there is still quite a bit more to go.

     I don't have one (gasp!). I have scraps. My scraps and (more likely) other people's scraps. I discovered years ago that purchasing fabric without a definite project in mind is a kiss of death for that fabric, a guarantee it will never be used. And, dare I say it, I don't even LIKE fabric shopping! So, no stash for me.
     Yes, I have scraps. I have scraps of scraps. I have bins of scraps, boxes of scraps and bags of scraps. Scraps on the floor. Scraps in underbed boxes.
     Scraps engender scrap quilts. So, it's probably time to think about doing another scrap quilt book. With that in mind, I've been slowly organizing my scraps.

I started with the bin of scraps from my Quilts of Valor workshop days. I had actually twice donated unfinished tops and bags of fabric to QOV groups that had booths at shows where I was vending. How much could I have left? Here's what I posted on Facebook:

      "I thought I possibly had enough left for one very scrappy top, and I would cut the pieces, bag them, and save them for when I wanted an easy project.
In addition to discovering I had two quilt backings, two tops only lacking borders, the finished blocks for another top, and blocks for half of yet ANOTHER top, I also had more fabric than I thought. I sliced and diced for the past three or four nights, and organized and bagged up the pieces. The photo shows the results:
Fabric to finish the rest of the blocks for that fourth quilt top, plus... three Disappearing 9-patch tops, two Strip Twist tops, and one Rail Fence, one bag of hundreds of 2 1/2" squares, five outer borders, four inner borders, six bindings,and three pillowcases. And I still have some fabric left." 

Since I posted that, I have filled up another grocery bag with appropriate fabrics from among my other scraps.

QOV kits

     Fueled by the success of organizing the QOV fabric, I decided to tackle some of my smaller scraps. Trimmed, folded and ironed it doesn't look like a lot of fabric, but there is enough for several quilts here.

She slices, she dices..

           As I go, if I see fabrics that "play nicely together" colorwise, I am putting them in plastic bags for future projects. The fabrics in the bags here are some of the fabrics I am using to reproduce a late 19th century scrappy quilt in my collection. I have a bag with cute modern baby fabric scraps, a pile of purples,  a bag of scraps, spanning at least 50 years, that coordinate with two focus fabrics in bright tropical prints. I'm trimming off uneven edges, and cutting those cut-off pieces into 2 1/2" squares and strips of whatever length.
     Happy Quilting,



Friday, May 1, 2015

...but wait, there's more!

     Since you ALL know I love working with other people's scraps, you'll also know I'm ecstatic to finally have an idea for this group of fabrics. I refer to them as WWJW, what would June (Cleaver) wear?- because they remind me of 1960 shirtdress fabrics, and can't you just hear Eddie Haskell telling Mrs. Cleaver the blue in her dress matches her eyes?
     Now that we've officially established the fact that I'm older than dirt, just like these fabrics, stay tuned to see what I plan on doing with them. There will be hexagons, and this will be the second of my "Faux Moderne" quilts.

     These are actually fewer than half the fabrics in the original batch I won several years ago from my guild's Ways and Means. The pieces are pinked around the edges, and all measure 11" x 17". I suspect they may have been fabric samples, possibly from an area textile mill.
     I sorted the fabrics into three batches, cool colors (above), warm colors, and oddball pieces. The oddballs went into my scrap bin, but the warm colors were quickly pieced into the Strip Twist lap quilt pictured below, a great free pattern from Bonnie Hunter. I was one piece short of being able to have enough pieces for the last block, so I improvised with the appliqu├ęd center. The green borders were another vintage Ways and Means treasure. I've been hand quilting this on and off for a few years in an allover (and what was I thinking???) Baptist fan pattern. Bonnie saw the unfinished quilt top when she visited my guild; I WILL have it done before she comes back next year!

A Tale of Two Jelly Rolls

    A while back, a friend sent me a box of fabric, which included three Moda Jelly Rolls. This immediately got the creative juices flowing- how easy it would be to come up with three new patterns, each using one Jelly Roll.
   Wrong! It was harder than I thought, and it took me a while to come up with even one design. But, that one quilt top is done and a picture will be forthcoming when I finally quilt it.
    The remaining two Jelly Rolls are identical- an older line called "Wildflower Serenade". Very traditional, nothing really wrong with that, but do I really want TWO quilts made from the same fabrics? Suddenly it clicked. Each Jelly Roll has 40 different fabrics. If I could split each roll into two sets of 20 fabrics each, separating by color, I would have two new (totally different) colorways to work with. Here is what I did:

    I took out all the red strips, the dark blue strips, and all but two of the ecru strips. I'm not sure what I'm doing with this strip set yet, so it will go back in a box. I used a flash- the colors are darker than pictured here.

     That left me with an unusual variety of colors- lighter blue, black, dark purple, the two darkest ecru from each roll, and dark green. My pattern (a tessellating star design) will have stars from each strip tessellating with a common background fabric. I decided against an off-white in favor of a light color, and this soft golden yellow fit the bill.  There will also be a narrow inner border of this so the darker stars will appear to float. I had originally put the dark blue strips in this pile and the green with the red and ecru, but thought the red/green/ecru combo would look too Christmasy. When I swapped the dark blue and green I was happier with both combos.
     I chose a lighter green subtle vine print for the outer border, but in going through my stash, I found a couple yards of this great border stripe fabric I had bought on clearance a couple years ago- perfection!
     After the craziness of the past few weeks, it's lovely to have time to work on new projects.
     I had almost back-to-back trunk shows/lectures at two guilds in Massachusetts, and was frantically working on getting my newest pattern ready to come along with me. Of course I ran out of pattern envelopes and my laminating machine (an old freebie I got from a former co-worker) died. That's par for the course, but I WAS able to pick up the pattern covers at the printers on time and they came out lovely, if I do say so myself, considering I only took a couple of photos, not my usual eight or nine.

      So, I was able to debut the pattern as planned; this is "Critterville", a "large" version of a miniature quilt I made years ago. This came about as a result of a workshop I teach called "Sixty Degrees of Separation", in which I show you how to use the 60 degree marking on your ruler to make triangles, diamonds and hexagons of any size. I generally don't use single lines of fabric, but "Under the Sea" by Quilting Treasures was so doggoned cute I couldn't resist. It is up on my web site, and is also available as an e-pattern on Craftsy, if you need instant gratification.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Springing into Spring- Let's Celebrate!

  After several days of raw, rainy weather, today finally felt like spring. And how better to celebrate than with a giveaway? 

    Martingale, Island Batik, and Ackfeld Manufacturers (makers of these adorable mini quilt stands) are sponsors. As an Island Batik Ambassador, I have a copy of "Little Gems" to give away to one of my blog followers; you also have a chance of winning prizes from Island Batik and Ackfeld.

   This is my version of Daisy Daze, made from Island Batik fabrics. The bright colors are from the "Full Bloom" line, and remind me of my multi-colored portulaca. I chose to make this pattern for the blog hop because I just love the little yo-yos, but truly, all the patterns are so cute that you'll want to make every one of  them. The title is so perfect; every pattern is a gem. 

So how do I enter to win? It's easy. Comment below, telling me why you deserve to win. Make it funny; everyone needs a few laughs. Then follow this blog. On April 20th I will choose a winner by random number generator.  And don't forget to go back to my previous post where you will find contact info for ALL the Island Batik Ambassadors who are participating- you can enter there too!

Good luck! 

Friday, April 10, 2015

A new giveaway...

Welcome to the Little Gems Blog Hop!

 Little Gems is the most recent book by Connie Kauffman published by Martingale and just released this February. The book features 15 mini paper pieced quilts.  Quilts measure 12" x 12" and can be made with a small amount of fabrics.

Island Batik is one of the sponsors of the Blog, and 8 of the Island Batik Ambassadors are taking part.  Each Ambassador selected one project from the book Little Gems and has recreated it using Island Batik fabric.  Be sure and check back each day to see the quilts made in new colorways with these beautiful batiks.  Look for a special prize of a bundle of Island Batik fabrics!

Martingale is another one of our sponsors.  They are giving away a free ebook at each Ambassador's Blog.  Be sure and go to each site to enter.

Ackfeld Manufacturer is our third sponsor for the Blog.  They create the great wire stands for each "little gem" you see in the book.  They are giving away a free stand - be sure to enter for that- all the "gems" look great displayed on the wire stands!

Our Blog Hop is 11 days of interesting projects, beautiful fabrics and great prizes.  Be sure to visit a new site every day.

April 8
April 9
April 13      Ackfeld Wire hosted by
April 15
April 16
Sunday April 12th is my day.  Come back to see my "little gem", made from one of the patterns in Connie's book, with lovely Island Batik fabrics. Each blogger will have one book to give away, so you have 11 chances to win, and then there's that great fabric and the gorgeous little stand. Winners will be announced April 20th.
 See ya' Sunday!

Letters from Pothole Heaven

     The weatherman is forecasting a springlike day tomorrow, and after nearly two months of this:
it's nice to see the ground again with little green things poking up.
     Of course there's the happy upside to winter weather- snow days (unless, of course, you have children who would otherwise be in school). Snow day = sew day. I had lots of sew days.
     I took a workshop with Thomas Knauer and made a Braille quilt. Here's my Big Bang quilt. I really need to take a better picture, but I snapped this in a hurry to get it out to TK himself right after finishing it. The bright triangles spell out "star stuff" in Braille, and I have baby planets being born, which were fun to make. The quilting is a line from Carl Sagan's Cosmos, "We are star stuff which has taken its destiny into its own hands." I love, love, LOVE this little quilt!

     I finished a quilt top I started in a workshop with Anita Grossman Solomon in 2013. The pattern is Anita's Arrowhead, and since taking the picture, I have completed the remaining blocks and added a border. I made it longer than the pattern specified so it will cover my tall husband. This will go over our brown leather sofa.

     The snow considerately worked around my schedule so I was able to do a trunk show and lecture for Shoreline Quilters in Branford, Connecticut in early March. They got to meet Tacki, the Decorating Diva in all her tacky glory, but as I say on my web site, you have to invite me to speak at your guild to see her "in person". I have two guild events coming up in Massachusetts this month-
Linsey Woolsey Quilt Guild April 13th and Silver City on April 20th. I have a new kids pattern I'll be launching next week.  No picture until the big day itself.


Friday, January 23, 2015

And the Winner Is...

... Julie from Texas!

Julie had two colorways of Island Batik fabric to pick from; she chose pink and purple.

Have fun with your prize, Julie! Thank you all for joining the Sock Hop blog hop, and thank you Island Batik for providing the wonderful fabrics!

Giveaway to be given away tonight

     Thank you for participating in the Sock Hop. I hope you will hop on over to my friend Nan's blog for her pattern today. Nan has created a pattern for a small kennel quilt for shelter animals- please see The Quilt Pattern Magazine for more information.
    By the way, the kennel quilts are the same size as my placemats, so by adding batting, you can turn "Besties" into a kennel quilt.
    Because I have to work today, the winner will be announced this evening.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Island Batik Sock Hop pattern ... and a giveaway!


Friendship Star is one of those super-simple blocks every quilter should know how to make. Here, we are making a set of four placemats from fat quarters of Island Batik's gorgeous "Full Bloom" line of fabrics. Placemats measure 12" x 18". You will want to keep two for yourself and give two to your BFF.  Here's how to make them. And at the end of the pattern I tell how you can win some fat quarters of your very own!

                                                "BESTIES" Friendship Star Placemats

Materials and supplies

Four green fat quarters for background
One gold fat quarter for stars and contrasting strip
One red fat quarter for stars and contrasting strip
One yard of fabric for backing
Neutral color all-purpose thread
Pencil or water soluble fabric marker


Please cut fabrics in order listed. You will have plenty of leftovers for coordinating mug mats or to save in your scrap stash. When I refer to WOF (width of fabric) you are cutting across the wider dimension (approx. 22") of your fat quarter.

Label your background fabrics B1, B2, B3 and B4. Label your star fabrics S1 and S2.

From EACH B fabric:

1. Cut one strip 5" x WOF. Cut two 5" squares from this strip
2. Cut one strip 4 ½" x WOF. Cut four 4 ½" squares from this strip.
3. Cut two strips each 2 ½" x WOF. Trim each strip to 2 ½" x 12 ½".

From EACH S fabric:

1. Cut one strip 5" x WOF. Cut two 5" squares from this strip
2. Cut two strips 4 ½" x WOF. From the first strip cut one 4 ½" square and three 1 ½" x  
    12 ½" strips.  From the second strip cut one 4 ½" square and one 1 ½" x 12 ½" strip

Sort fabrics into piles for each placemat.

Pile 1: All B1 pieces, two S1 5" squares, one S2 4 ½" square, and two S2 1 ½" x 12 ½" strips.

Pile 2: All B2 pieces. All S pieces the same as Pile 1.

Pile 3: All B3 pieces, two S2 5" squares, one S1 4 ½" square, and two S1 1 ½" x 12 ½" strips.

Pile 4: All B4 pieces, all S pieces the same as Pile 3.

Starting with Pile 1, make placemats as follows:


1. Layer 5" B and S squares, right sides together. Draw a diagonal line as shown (solid line on illustration). Stitch ¼" from each side of the drawn line (dashed lines on illustration). Cut along drawn line. Press to set, press seams toward darker fabric. Square up to 4 ½" square.


2. Stitch pieces into rows as shown. Take care to position your star points so they "spin" in one direction. Press seams to set, then press seam allowances in top and bottom rows towards the center. Press seams in middle row out.

3. Sew rows together. Press seams to set, then press seams in one direction.

4. Sew a 2 ½" S strip to right and left side of block. Press seams to set, then press toward outside of placemat.

5. Sew a 1 ½" B strip to right and left side of placemat. Press seams to set, then sew toward outside of placemat.

Repeat for remaining three piles of fabric.

Place lining fabric right side up on table. Lay placemats, right side down, on top of lining fabric. Carefully rotary cut lining even with placemat. Pin layers together.

Stitch ¼" around edges of placemat, leaving a 4" opening. Trim corners and turn right side out. Press. Topstitch close to edge, enclosing open edges as you stitch.


How to win a packet of four Island Batik fat quarters- each will give you one chance, doing all three will give you three chances. 

Follow this blog, if you do not already do so.
Follow Six Gables Designs on Facebook, if you do not already do so.  
If you have a funny story about you and your BFF, share it in the comments below. 


Where's Barbara

     2015 is shaping up to be an incredible year, if incredible can be defined as "I'm so flippin' busy I don't know whether I'm coming or going, but I'm sure having a blast doing it."
     This is one of those "alternate years", when all the quilt shows where I vend are scrunched together into a few hectic weeks in the fall. This year I also happen to have a number of guild events all scrunched together in the late winter/ early spring.

Schedule for first four months of 2015:
Jan. 21, Clamshell Quilters, Waterford, CT, vending night
Mar. 2, Shoreline Quilters, Branford, CT, trunk show/lecture
Mar. 21, Ninigret Quilters, Westerly, RI, workshop, Sixty Degrees of Separation
April 13, Linsey Woolsey Quilt Guild, Attleboro Falls, MA, trunk show/lecture
April 20, Silver City Quilt Guild, Taunton, MA, trunk show/lecture

     Tonight is my first "event" of the year. I'm heading out to vending night at Clamshell Quilters in nearby Waterford, CT. I had hoped to finish a new bag pattern in time for this event, but when it became obvious it just wasn't going to happen, I decided I could wait to launch it at my next trunk show in March. So... Shoreline Quilters of Branford, CT, you will be the first to see this up close and personal. Put your thinking caps on, because when I post the finished pieces in the near future, I will be having a contest - the "Naming Barb's New Bag Pattern Contest". Grand prize to be announced.

     Tonight is meatloaf and roasted veggies night- one of my standbys for nights when we won't be eating together. I take a large baking dish (roasting pan for more than a few people) and drizzle in a tablespoon or so of olive oil and a liberal sprinkle of your favorite dried herb blend (Italian or Greek seasoning, Herbes de Province, etc.). Cut potatoes and carrots in chunks (I don't peel my potatoes, but I DO peel the carrots); If your carrots are fat, cut your chunks in half lengthwise. Dump in the pan, mix, and push to the two ends of your pan. Make your favorite meatloaf recipe (beef, turkey, whatever) in form into a loaf in the middle of the pan. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, turn potatoes and carrots, and continue cooking until done (about another 20 minutes). Serve with a green salad.

     The lovely fat quarters that have been taunting me for nigh onto a year are finally being put to use in a quilt that is a mashup of traditional and modern aesthetics. No sneak preview yet- this will take me a long time to make. I'm waiting for a snowday or ten when I can stay home from work and stitch to my hearts content. I'm participating in Beth Helfter's Drop and Give Me Twenty this year. If I commit to twenty minutes a day during February, I just may make some headway on this. Sadly, these gorgeous fabrics have been discontinued, but if you google "Sabine Rinehart Magic Garden" you will see photos of these fabrics.

     Sunday night is my Third Annual Superbowl Sunday Craft-a-Thon. For those of you who have never participated in this Facebook event, let me explain. You have my permission to spend a few hours doing something crafty. You can quilt, knit, bake... even write books if that's your thing. During the evening we post pictures, share our progress, and have a lot of fun. I had lots of prizes during my fall Craft-a-Thon; this one will have a prize or two, but I'm keeping mum about them until they are awarded. Come join us.

     Tomorrow is "my" day on the Island Batik blog hop (or as it is called, "Sock Hop"). It's the first time I've shared a pattern on my blog- I wanted something quick and easy that could be made by stitchers of all levels. So...come back tomorrow for my pattern "Besties".