Friday, April 17, 2015

Quilt Lovely - An Interview with Jen Kingwell

You all know Jen Kingwell's patterns: The Circle Game, Steampunk, Chain Reaction, Gypsy Wife and more. Her work is very recognizable for her inspired use of multitude prints and detailed piecing. Although I own several patterns, having won them at the Fat Quarterly Retreat in 2013, I have yet to tackle any. The closest I've come is borrowing a set of templates for Steam Punk!

When given the opportunity to take a peek at Jen's first ever book, I jumped at the chance. She's a quilter I greatly admire.  Imagine my delight when I found out I could interview Jen for this blogpost - yay! I did a little research online and learned a bit more about Jen's style and technique by watching these great videos filmed recently by the Fat Quarter Shop at QuiltCon. I follow Jen on Instagram so I knew that she'd recently returned home to Australia, and her quilt shop Amitie Textiles, after living in the Middle East for a couple of years.  The Nosy Parker in me really just wanted to know how she managed to stay creative while isolated from her shop, her people and her home!

Mrs. Bannister's Stars, from Quilt Lovely by Jen Kingwell

Krista: Congratulations on your gorgeous fabric line Gardenvale and inspiring book Quilt Lovely, Jen! Both are firsts for you and seemed to have happened around the same time. Did your design work require a lot of discipline and planning to keep on schedule? Did you start out knowing you'd spend your time in the Middle East working on the book?

Jen: Thank you Krista. I'm really happy with both. I had no idea the path I was going down. Sometimes ignorance is bliss! I had to be very disciplined( not my greatest strength). After I had decided what I was doing I did set a schedule and I worked to that. I think for me that was the hardest thing. I'm an organic designer and quite often things start with a very loose idea and just grow. I frequently fall out of love with things as I go along and they have a rest in a drawer or the bottom of the cupboard but with the book I didn't have time to change my mind. Maybe that was a good thing but it hadn't stuck as I've just sidelined something I'm not happy with this week!

Krista: You've owned Amitie quilt shop for 15 years and been immersed in quilting through teaching, selling fabric, designing patterns and running the business. How did the past 2 years living in the UAE affect your quilting?

Jen: I would never have embarked on the book and fabric range if I was in Australia. Always so busy with "things". I had the luxury of time in Al Ain. The first year we were there we lived in a hotel. I didn't even make the bed! So spoilt. I stitched from day light to dark. It's always inspiring to be surrounded by new things. I think the colours of the desert will be popping up in a few projects in the future.

Flea Market Dash from Quilt Lovely by Jen Kingwell

Krista: Much of my own quilting experience and joy is shared with others through participation in my guilds and retreats. I've seen stunning examples of hand work shared online by Middle Eastern women. Did you work alone while in the UAE, or were you able to connect at all with other like-minded expats or local women?

Jen: I worked alone. We lived in an area where there were not a lot of expat women. Most who were there worked. It was a very "local" city and ladies in the UAE to my knowledge are not so interested in handcraft as in other parts of the Middle East. I did join the Abu Dhabi quilt guild and there were a few local ladies in the guild. The highlight of my week was to drive to Abu Dhabi to stitch with my little group, a mixed bunch! All from the UK and Scotland. These women were my lifesavers. They had all lived there for quite a while and advised me on all things UAE! More laughing and eating was done than stitching. It was so worth the 3 hour round trip.

Krista: I really enjoyed listening to you and learning from your experience while watching the Fat Quarter Shop videos you filmed recently at QuiltCon. Now that you are home in Australia, will you be teaching regularly? Is teaching a passion of yours?

Jen: I had such a great day with the Fat Quarter shop team. I will be teaching quite a bit this year both here in Australia and overseas. I really enjoy meeting so many great people as I travel and I always seem to learn as much from them as them from me I think.

For the Boys from Quilt Lovely by Jen Kingwell

Krista: There is a certain vibrant, scrappy aesthetic in the work of many Aussie quiltmakers that I recognize and have always admired. What do you think is the main influence for this common approach in Australian quilt design?

Jen: Our quilting community is small here in Australia. Our quilting stores are smaller also and many years ago before online stores you could only purchase what your quilt stores carried. Store owners didn't have the luxury of space to stock whole ranges so you "chose" your collection. A mixed bag of fabrics and I think many of us have grown up and developed this as our style.

Krista: The online quilting world moves quickly and there is often a feeling of urgency to make quilts and move on to the next thing. The beautiful quilts in your book are a wonderful reminder that patience pays off in the form of heirloom quilts - you even hand quilted your work instead of having everything longarmed in a hurry. What advice can you give to people in the 'just get it done' mindset about the value of slowing down?

Jen: I love this question. When I sit down to hand stitch it's like an enormous exhale for me. I swear I can feel my blood pressure lowering. I started to hand stitch many years ago when my girls were small. I'm a midwife by trade and worked, so in the evenings I wanted to sit with the family and share the days news.....the sewing machine was never appreciated! So hand stitching it was and I just loved it. It's easy, very cost effective as you need little equipment and it's very sociable.

I also love the " quiet" of hand stitching. A comfy chair, your favourite music and a window, needle, thread and fabric. That's all you need. It's hard to put into words the joy I get from hand stitching in particular hand quilting. It's like " meditation".

Thank you for kindly answering all of my questions, Jen!

Jen's fabric line Gardenvale is available now as precuts and I think shops are receiving yardage as soon as next week.  It is truly a scrap quilter's dream fabric range and I look forward to adding some to my stash as a way to expand into more floral and blender fabrics. I love that the line is named for the location of Jen's shop in Melbourne - how perfect!

Hocus Pocus Fat Quarter Bundle Deb Grogan for RJR Fabrics

When I receive a new book, I immediately skip all the pre-amble and head straight to the project photos. I love the matte finish paper in Quilt Lovely and the gorgeous photos of the quilts out in the real world.  I did take the time to read Jen's Appendices to learn more about her thoughts on value, colour and scale. She's got great advice at the back of this book.  There are several pillow and quilt patterns that are immediately do-able for the intermediate (or confident beginner) quilter. However, with rather a lot of travelling in my future, I am contemplating a slow hand-piecing project instead. I don't do "quiet sitting" very well (my elementary school report cards will back me up here), but if I'm trapped on an airplane I might as well be productive. Sometimes it is a good idea to bust out and try a challenge. I will keep you posted!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Power Nap

Here's my latest finish: Power Nap.

Power Nap by Poppyprint

This quilt was constructed using the fun Quilt As You Go (QAYG) method. It is mostly made of upcycled old work shirts of B's, some linen, chambray and a few shirt-stripe scraps from my bins. I thought it would be fun to add the red in the centre of the log-cabinish blocks as the "power tie" to the shirts.

Power Nap by Poppyprint
I even left a cuff button on - can you see it? I sewed the placket closed before piecing that sleeve into the block.

Marianne Haak visited the VMQG and gave us a trunk show and workshop. She is definitely the most experienced person I know using the QAYG method. Check her blog for detailed tutorials on every step of the process and admire her gallery of quilts. If you want to create a large quilt on a small machine, then this is a great way to go.  All of the blocks are quilted individually, squared up, then joined with strips. If you are creative with your piecing and plan a little bit, you can hide your joining strips very well!  I used skinny strips to join the blocks into 3 rows, then wider strips (stuffed with a strip of batting) to join the rows and elongate the quilt a little bit so that it wasn't perfectly square. It ended up about 58" x 62".

Power Nap by Poppyprint

The first two blocks that I built in the class were very random and improv. I made a few more like that and then decided to make corner blocks in a more traditional dark/light log cabin. I like to organize my chaos a little bit ; )  All of the blocks were quilted with Aurifil 40wt thread in cherry red. Most of them have a spiral, but one I quilted with straight lines. I didn't like how the straight lines were pulling and distorting the stripes in the shirt fabrics, though, so I went back to spirals.

Power Nap by Poppyprint

Our friend, neighbour and investment guru turned 50 last weekend and his wife threw him a great party that we really enjoyed. There were strict instructions for no gifts, but I'd already decided to give him this quilt after discovering he likes to take a power nap at his office most afternoons. That's why I called it Power Nap instead of my original idea of Power Tie.  It is always a little nerve-wrecking giving a quilt away, especially to a guy. I took it over the next day in time for him to spend the afternoon on the couch watching the Masters. Luckily he not only loves it, but he also appreciates the time and effort that has gone into it. Win!

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Supertote for Superknitter

Ever have that feeling that you're being watched? Ever since my Mom figured out how Instagram works, I've had to clean up my act, haha. When B and I travelled to Italy last fall and my parents stayed here to keep the kids alive, my mom was all like "hey, how can you see pictures of the trip?" to our kids.  A few days into our travels, I got a notification on my iphone home screen: SUPERKNITTER is now following you. I instantly knew it was my mom (after all, she is Superknitter) and I laughed. She loves that she can keep an eye on her kids and grandchildren now. It's super cute because she leaves very sweet comments on all of our photos.

MG Supertote by Poppyprint

I made her a Supertote a few years ago, but because she carries everything and a kitchen sink with her everywhere she goes, a new one was required. She and my dad cruise around in a classic white MG convertible (that she gave him for their 25 wedding anniversary, and in which he drove me down the driveway to my front yard wedding ceremony).  They are part of a fun MG club that has organized drives a few times per year to various small towns and car shows. For ages she's been searching for MG-themed fabric and finally someone designed one on Spoonflower!

MG Supertote by Poppyprint

Now Superknitter can knit in style at the show 'n shines. Did you know at the big rallies they not only give trophies for cars, but last year she won a crafting award for a gorgeous cross stitch she did of their car (I'll try and get a photo to share)?  I used fusible fleece for interfacing this time to give the tote extra body. I also top-stitched and stay-stitched the handles like crazy so they wouldn't rip away from the bag. Those kitchen sinks are heavy!

MG Supertote by Poppyprint

I thought I might as well have fun and included the measuring tape fabric so that the tote didn't become too car-ish. After all, it will contain everything from hand quilting to knitting to cross stitch at some point. I used darker linen this time to help keep the bottom of the bag from showing too much dirt as I know it has to travel on the floor of the car at Mom's feet.

MG Supertote by Poppyprint
I just put elasticized pockets on one side and regular pockets on the other.

This is truly a Super Tote and I've been lugging mine everywhere, including to QuiltCon, London and Inuvik! It holds a ton of stuff and is really comfortable to carry. If you'd like to make one, get the pattern from the lovely Anna Graham of Noodlehead here.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Three More Exciting Stops!

Thanks for everyone following along the Make It, Take It blog tour this week. There have already been a few lucky winners and there are still a few chances for more free copies of the book.

I had the good fortune of an invitation to speak to the Whistler Quilt Guild last Tuesday night. I shared a presentation on Modern Quilting, showed several of my quilts as examples and then shared all of the projects from the book. I had a lovely evening with the friendly women of the guild and was thrilled that they gave me a bonus free lift ticket for the next day!  It was my first day on the slopes in two seasons and it felt great to feel the quads burn again.  Thank you to my friend (and retreat regular) Ellen and her boys for a lovely day and delicious lunch.

Spring skiing under Bluebird skies, Whistler, BC

With all those mountain views on my mind and fresh air in my lungs, I forgot to post about the tour stops that day!! Tuesday featured projects from two of the loveliest friends I have through quilting, Leanne and Felicity. All of us have had the pleasure of hanging out together in Vancouver last time Leanne came to town on business. In fact, Leanne's trip happily coincided with both of my guild meetings that week so she came along twice!  Leanne was also witness to my first real-life encounter with Liberty of London fabrics IN LONDON (luckily she didn't have to catch me while I *almost* fainted). Read all about Leanne's unique project in the book, Half Moon Needlecase, here. It combines two of her favourite things: improv and matchstick quilting. While I was in Whistler, Ellen was excited to show me a 1/4 page ad in the latest Fons & Porter magazine featuring this project!!

Felicity is a super fun local quilting pal and the co-president of the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild. She's an excellent public speaker and very entertaining meeting host!  A couple of years ago, while sitting with Felicity at our  meeting, I noticed she was busy tacking down a binding on some interesting placemats. I offered to help out and while I was sewing a lightbulb went off. These would be a wonderful retreat project for my book! Her woven strip technique is so great; you could adapt this process to make a quilted base for so many things, like a table runner, tote bag or low-volume background for an applique quilt.  It's hard to find a great placemat pattern for a round table, so I'm stoked there is one in Make It, Take It!! I was loving the styling of this picture at the photoshoot (Yes, I devoured those raspberries and, uhm, I may have brought that candy with me for the long drive home from Seattle).

Martingale - Make It, Take It (Print version + eBook bundle)
Photo: Brent Kane, Martingale Inc, all rights reserved.

Felicity also spent a fun afternoon at my dining table testing the Rainbow 'Round the Cabin group-quilting activity in the book.

Also joining in today is the sweet Ayumi of Pink Penguin.  I can't remember our initial online meeting but I know it was early on in my blog-following life. I was lucky to discover Ayumi's blog and all of her incredible free tutorials, many of which I've made over the years. She's an extremely generous designer who's aesthetic I admire greatly (check out HER amazing book) .  I have hopeful plans to visit her in Japan one day so that she can be my personal guide at the Tokyo Festival of Quilts. It was no surprise that her projects made the cover of the book (and the cover of Martingale's trade magazine released last November) as they were an instant hit with the staff at Martingale. I think the Big and Little Totes will be made and enjoyed by everyone who has the book. I used Ayumi's very own recently-released Lighthearted fabric (for Kokka) to make my version of the Little Tote.  Check out Ayumi's post and enter to win a digital copy of the book here.

Almost there, folks. The tour wraps up tomorrow with Christina and Kristie. Soon it will be your turn to show us all the great projects you've made from the book!

The Orange Grove Quilt

In my blog hop kick off post, I wrote about 3 of my projects in Make It, Take It. You can also find more background information on the inspiration behind the book in this post.

My final project in the book is Orange Grove, a 71" square quilt featuring a modern layout and colouration of the very traditional Pinetree block. This block has long been a favourite of mine and for years I've thought about creating a modern version with bright, colourful pine trees set on point (very different from the typical forest green and brown trees that you see in older versions).

Martingale - Make It, Take It (Print version + eBook bundle)
Photo Brent Kane for Martingale, Inc. All rights reserved.

 It was long-arm quilted by the amazing Krista Withers. Her masterful quilting really shines in the negative space of this quilt!  In particular, I love how she created quilted 'ghost blocks' between the pieced trees - first by outlining the square with a 1/4" echo frame and then filling each one with a unique design.  I was so happy that she included her signature moon motif in the upper right corner. This quilt could be coloured in so many fun ways; it would look amazing in multicoloured shot cottons.  I've got a full set of blocks in rainbow colours made by my Stash Trad bee-mates that I look forward to piecing into my second version.

Longarm quilting by Krista Withers

In the book, you'll find a tip box describing an exciting retreat activity you can do with these blocks and others.  You'll also get to feast your eyes on amazing details shots of Krista's quilting, which is truly breathtaking. Seriously, when I hold up this quilt at trunk shows people literally gasp!

Longarm quilting by Krista Withers


Friday, April 10, 2015

Selvage and Stars

It's another day on the Make It, Take It blog tour which means more chances to win your own copy of the book! Two more lovely friends and contributors are sharing. Cindy is giving away a digital edition as well as a hard copy. Check out her fun selvage project plus a couple of extra sweet makes from the book here.  A machine mat is super useful at retreat; not only can it help with vibration on long banquet tables (for those of us that like to sew at turbo speed), it also allows you to quickly slide your machine to one side, clearing table space for cutting & organizing.

Martingale - Make It, Take It (Print version + eBook bundle)
Photo Brent Kane for Martingale, Inc. All rights reserved.

I just love the handy vinyl pockets on Cindy's cute machine mat!

Also up today is the prolifically talented Lynne Goldsworthy of Lilysquilts (yup, her name is Lynne, not Lily, however I'm sure she answers to both).  Although she lives miles away in the UK, I got to meet her and her family a couple of years ago when I travelled over for the Fat Quarterly retreat.  With four busy teenagers I don't know where she finds the time, but Lynne is a member of the Fat Quarterly team, she supports many publications and fabric manufacturers with her gorgeous traditionally-inspired modern quilt designs and even makes all the quilts herself!  I'm so happy she was able to share her Lonestar Circle quilt in the book....beautifully made with luscious Oakshott shot cottons.

Martingale - Make It, Take It (Print version + eBook bundle)
Photo Brent Kane for Martingale, Inc. All rights reserved.

Shame Lynne couldn't be in Seattle for the photo shoot. Instead you get me holding her quilt! One day we'll have to figure out a way to get her over to this side of the Atlantic.  I took her quilt with me on a recent trip to the Arctic and took a fun photo for her - have a look at her blogpost and don't forget to leave a comment there to win a digital copy.

If you can read Spanish (or like a quirky translation) then check out this fun post. My book was reviewed by the lovely Alejandra in Mexico! I cannot tell you how much I love the title of her post: Escapadas con Amigas.  I love Mexican food and always serve homemade salsa fresca at my day retreats; perhaps I should consider renaming Quilt By the Bay. Escapadas con Amigas sounds like the best day ever! After all, isn't that what retreats are all about? Escaping the laundry and dishes to sew with girlfriends?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Krista Connection

The Make It, Take It bloghop continues today with more chances to win a copy of the book and more opportunities to learn about the inspiration behind the projects!  You can read about Krista Fleckenstein's handy Crafter's Apron here. I just love all of the prints she paired with Essex linen, resulting in a super-stylish apron you can wear at home or on retreat.

Martingale - Make It, Take It (Print version + eBook bundle)
Photo: Brent Kane for Martingale Inc., all rights reserved.
Keep your readers, scissors & marking tools handy!

Krista Withers is sharing her work in the book today (here) as well.  She's written a two page essay in the book outlining her Ghost Quilting technique and explaining how she goes about planning, auditioning and marking quilt designs. You'll see her masterful quilting on the Stepping Stones table runner and the Orange Grove quilt, both found in the second section of the book.

Longarm quilting by Krista Withers
Have a look at Krista's blog for process photos and a lot more quilting!

I hope you're enjoying learning more about each designer's project on the tour this week. The support and excitement for the book has been amazing. I thank you!!!