Working at a Fabric Store

Confession…quilting doesn’t pay the bills yet, but I am still hoping!  In the meantime, I have a part time job at a local shop.  3 days a week, I am the friendly face you see behind the cutting table, ready to help in the stash acquisition phase of your project!  Here are some funny things that I see while working at a fabric store.

pixabay stock photo fabric

Do you make any money?

The number one question that people ask is how I can take a paycheck home when I am surrounded by fabric. Doesn’t it get spent right away? Probably the same answer that the ice cream store clerks might give you, “I’ve built up immunity.”  Just kidding! My trick is that I only work while my daughter is in school, so I am usually rushing out the door for carpool duty at the end of my shift. No time for shopping!

Is it boring?

No, rather than getting bored, I’d have to admit it can be OVER-stimulating to see all the wonderful new lines of fabric and start dreaming of new projects.  All I have to do is grab half a dozen bolts of fabric, planning to cut fat quarters, and that will guarantee a line forms at my cutting table.  But truly, I prefer to cut a multitude of eighth yard pieces for a customer than try to occupy myself tidying bolts for the seventy-third time.

Biggest Surprise Working at a Fabric Store?

Shoplifters!  Really, who does that?  I want to believe that quilters are the best of humanity, but I suppose there are all kinds of people, honest and dishonest, in any group.  I was shocked the first time I found an empty bolt shoved behind other fabric, in a totally different area, and my co-workers told me that someone must have taken whatever was left. Granted, this is a large store and the shelves are set up sort of like cubicles so we don’t have line-of-sight over all the merchandise.  But still, I wish people would just do the right thing, even when no one is looking!

Do you get paid to sew if you are working in a fabric store?

This may be true in some shops, but in my case, I am just a clerk.  I stock and re-stock fabric, provide basic customer assistance and cut fabric for customers.  There is an employee who quilts on location in the shop – she gives lessons on the longarm and quilts samples in-store sometimes.  As employees, we can make samples for display but that is done on our own time at home.  And truthfully, I have a huge UFO list so I don’t volunteer for that task!

Best part of working in a fabric store

The best part of working in a fabric store is FABRIC!!!  Even though I don’t take much home with me at the moment, I am inspired every day.  I love helping customers find just the right fabric for their project, especially if they are trying to match something and I can suggest a fabric that makes their eyes light up.

Hopefully, you have a local quilt store in your area that has friendly, helpful staff and provides inspiration and education on your quilting journey.

Related Post: Shop Hop Guide

New Pattern – Angel Wings

Have you ever seen a knit baby blanket that had a halo and wings? It makes an awesome backdrop for newborn portraits.  I decided to make a quilted version. Introducing a new pattern: Angel Wings.  This baby quilt pattern gives you step by step instructions for a crib-size quilt that would be a lovely shower gift.

Angel Wings quilt in pink fabric

I use alot of 2-1/2″ squares in my patterns, and this quilt follows that trend!  This quilt is so versatile – make it as scrappy as you want! The wings are 2-1/2″ squares while the white “body” is a single unit.  The background can be pieced in small or large units.  You can easily customize the background of this baby quilt pattern to match the nursery colors or a theme such as sports, cartoon characters or hobbies.

I made a second version of the Angel Wings baby quilt in blue, as a gift for a close friend.  This quilt is ideal as a picture backdrop.

Angel Wings as backdrop for baby

You can purchase an instant download right now and get started on an heirloom quilt for the next bundle of joy.
PURCHASE NOW

Design your own Sampler Quilt

Sampler Quilts are a great way to showcase your favorite technique or build some new quilting skills.  Many designers offer Block of the Month programs that become sampler quilts.  Maybe you have started a few projects and now have a drawer full of “orphan blocks.”  Don’t wait any longer – it is time to design your own sampler quilt!

Here are two important questions to consider –

Do you have blocks made (or planned) that are one size or a variety of sizes?

Do you have a finished size in mind (lap, twin, queen)?

The answers to these questions will set the course for your sampler quilt journey.  Let’s sit down with my friends* Bernie and Jan to see how they planned their sampler quilts.

Block Sizes in Sampler Quilts

Block size is a key factor in any quilt.  Larger blocks are faster to make, and it takes fewer blocks to finish a quilt.

Bernie says, “I am making a charity quilt. All the blocks will be the same size. I am going to have fun choosing different patterns for each block.”

Jan takes the opposite view. “It will be interesting to make blocks of various sizes.  The design challenge to make them all fit is exciting!”

With a consistent size block, Bernie can use a traditional layout such as straight rows or an on point setting.  See examples of these standard layouts in this post. Jan knows it is more difficult to combine blocks of different sizes.  Working with variable block sizes can be made easier by including negative space or choosing blocks that “play nicely” together, such as multiples of 3 or 4.  For instance, a quilt with 6-inch and 12-inch blocks will combine easily, as will 4-inch and 8-inch sizes.  If you are comfortable with y-seams or partial blocks,  you could certainly build a quilt that includes 6, 8, 9, 10 and 12 inch blocks.

Putting the different sized blocks into rows is one way to solve the challenge.  These flower blocks were 3, 6 and 12 inches, so I made rows of large, medium and small flowers. row quilt with variable size blocks

You can also design your sampler by randomly placing the largest blocks, and filling in with smaller sizes.  Here is an example from the Keepsake Quilting catalog.  Notice the filler blocks use flying geese, pinwheels, or even a plain swatch of fabric.

sampler quilt with variable size blocks

What size quilt do you want?

Size does matter!  Will your sampler quilt be used in a crib, couch, or king size bed?  Are you giving it to a child to snuggle or for a 6-foot tall man in a recliner?  Think about the final destination.  Sampler quilts with their intricate details beg to be admired, so perhaps there is wall space in your home to put this project on display.

Bernie says, “Quilts of  Valor is my preferred charity and they request quilts that are 60 x 70 inches.”

Jan says, “I’ll just play with my blocks and be happy with whatever size it turns out to be!”

Bernie is working towards a specific sized quilt, with consistent blocks.  It will be easy to find 12 patterns to make a traditional sampler quilt.  Jan is taking an improvisational approach to a sampler quilt with various block sizes. Kris shares a similar journey on her blog, Coloring Outside the Lines.

Design a Sampler Quilt

Once you have made the important decisions about block size and quilt size, you are ready to sew!  But where do we start?  Maybe you have a few favorite blocks in mind, like I did for this table runner “My Favorite Stars”:

star sampler blocks

Another terrific resource is the Quilters Cache.  Marcia has organized a library of quilt blocks that include cutting and sewing instructions.  The block patterns can be sorted alphabetically or by size.  When I planned my 92 Stars sampler, I focused on the 9 inch blocks and found over 40 patterns to include in my quilt.

I’d love to see your sampler quilts!  Please email me a photo for our gallery or use hashtag #samplerquilt on Instagram.

Click here to download a plan for a sampler quilt with variable size blocks.

Sampler Quilts – An Overview

The sampler quilt, a collection of different blocks set in straight rows, is what many people imagine as a traditional quilt.  Sampler quilts are popular projects for beginners because they build skills with a variety of techniques. Many designers offer Sampler Quilts as Block-of-the-Month (BOM) programs, allowing busy quilters to take small steps in creating a larger project.

Sampler Quilts – Examples

For many years, I joined the Block Lotto challenge.  Each month, Sophie picks a new block design and quilters from all over the world make that pattern.  At the end of the month, several winners are drawn and participants send them their blocks.  When I played along, I would make several blocks to send plus an extra for myself.  Then, at the end of the year, I would have 12 blocks ready to make a sampler quilt.

Sampler Quilt from Block Lotto patterns

In 2014, all the Block Lotto patterns were rectangles.  I made patriotic versions, added borders and donated the finished quilt to Quilts of Valor.

Annemarie of Gen X Quilters designs fantastic sampler quilts with modern layouts!  Her 2017 BOM, Chocolatier, is divine.

GenXQuilts Chocolatier pattern

Sampler Quilt Layout

Making sampler quilts can become addictive, especially with the abundance of BOMs available online.  To avoid the boredom of piecing the same layout over and over again, try an alternative setting.  Instead of a straight layout, put your blocks on point.

example straight layout for sampler quilt

 

Add cornerstones or make a pieced sashing to create stars like Marti Michell did in this example.

Quilt by Marti Michell

Why make a Sampler Quilt?

Sampler Quilts are a perfect starting point for beginners.  You can learn a variety of techniques as you make your first quilt.  When I teach a table runner project to new quilters, we start with rail fence blocks, then progress to square in a square, nine patch, friendship star and flying geese.  Along the way, we practice accurate cutting, sewing consistent seams, matching points and working with half square triangles. (Quilt is straight…photographer was at an angle, LOL!)

sampler blocks beginner project

For more experienced quilters, samplers are a great way to try new techniques.  Want to try paper piecing or applique?  Commit to just a few blocks rather than a full quilt to see if it is something you enjoy.

Join me next week for tips on designing your own sampler quilt!

New Year – New Quilt: Choosing Colors for a new project

Out with the Old, in with the New!  I am intrigued by Pat Sloan’s latest quilt along – the #SolsticeChallenge, so I have the challenge of choosing colors for quilts.Pat Sloan 182 Day Solstice Quilt Along

Thinking about the passing of time and changing seasons, I was inspired to base my color palette for this quilt on the daily temperatures here in Phoenix, Arizona.

My Colors for #SolsticeChallenge

Color choice based on temperature

Before looking at fabric, I decided on this range of temperatures with their assigned color:

96 – 100+ (farenheit) = Red                                                 90 -95 = Orange

85 – 89 = Yellow                                                                     79 – 84 = Dark Green

73 – 78 = Light Green                                                            67 – 72 = Turquiose/Teal

60 – 66 = Dark Blue                                                               >59 = Purple

It will be fun to see how this quilt develops!  Pat is releasing a new block pattern each Wednesday and I will make my version according to my color chart.  Both weeks 1 and 2 we have had a high temperature of 70 degrees, so I am starting with my turquoise fabrics. Here is block one from Dec. 21, 2016:

Block 1 for Solstice Challenge

The TV news people have dubbed this a “Chamber of Commerce” forecast – the tourism industry loves to advertise our beautiful winter days in contrast to the northern parts of the US that get freezing temperatures and lots of snow.  The first three months of the challenge may be boring, then we will see the jump…we have had 100 degree weather in April!  Of course, the daily variation can be more interesting than just one temperature reading per week.  For instance,the high temperature on Christmas Day was just 55 degrees!

Choosing Colors for Quilts

I love picking fabrics for a new project.  Most of the time I start with a specific color, then move to my stash to pull specific fabrics. Rebecca at Bryan House Quilts details her process for selecting fabrics with a color scheme here.  For a recent project, I pulled some purples.Choosing colors for quilts

There is no set formula for choosing colors for quilts, no matter what “they” say!  My theory is to trust your instincts and work with whatever looks good to you. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. I talk about making color decisions in my book Monochromatic Quilts: Amazing Variety. Once you decide on a broad color family or theme, then the fun begins as you pick fabrics and decide what looks good together.

using a focal fabric to choose colors for a quilt

Sometimes the fabric will lead you to other colors, such as the purple and gold tones in this multi-color green print.

How do you choose colors?  What palette are you using today?  Leave me a note in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

2016 Year in Review

Times flies when you are having fun!  2016 is quickly coming to an end, which puts many of us in a reflective mood.  Before we turn the page to a new year on the calendar, let’s take a moment or two and look back over the past twelve months and the major accomplishments of True Blue Quilts.

2016 Instagram Favorites

Visit 2016bestnine.com to see your most-liked posts from Instagram.  Here is what they showed me:

TrueBlueQuilts instagram 2016

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.  Please read my full disclosure here.

Top left: My Beaded Curtain quilt pattern is available as a PDF download.  I sketched the original idea while on a long flight in 2014, and brought it to life last January.

Top center: I designed my Swirlpool quilt to feature the Lil Twister (TM) ruler. I love these easy pinwheels so look for more Twister patterns in 2017!

Top right: I took a self portrait for the #mycreative2016 series on Instagram. Notice my longarm in the background – Welcome to my office!

Middle left shows the detail stitching on Beaded Curtain.  I explain this free motion quilting design in this post.

[Related Posts: I share new quilting designs on Free Motion Mondays!]

 

Middle center is a quilt made by a friend from Sew Pro. Sherri blogs at Rebecca Mae Designs, and this sweet winter-themed quilt was published in Simply Modern magazine.

Middle right is my Rainbow Twister quilt.  See details here. I told you I love the Twister pinwheels!

pinwheels with lil twister ruler

Bottom left: Have you tried free motion quilting? These are some easy loop designs.  I haven’t posted much about this quilt, because it will be included in my next book.  Stay tuned!

Bottom center: Two Fabric Bargello, a kit from Susie Weaver, is stunning in person!  The plan is to hang this in my bedroom…someday…when I get it quilted!

Bottom right is a variation of the Yellow Suns quilt from my book Monochromatic Quilts: Amazing Variety.  A student chose a black and grey palette, which looked very sophisticated.  She gave it to me for quilting so I got to enjoy it for a few extra days!

Best Quilt Projects of 2016

I had some great finished in 2016.  My longarm notes tell me I quilted 46 quilts this year!  Most of those were for longarm customers.

Another satisfying moment for me was becoming an online quilt teacher.

Quilt classes on Skillshare

Join me on Skillshare.com to learn how to make a baby quilt, placemats or this Sudoku quilt.  More to come on this platform in 2017 as well.

The absolute best part of 2016 was starting another quilt book with my mom.  She taught me how to use the Angle Play templates, and we are working on several patterns for release in 2017.

Sample quilt blocks with Angle play templates It is a wonderful partnership!  I am so blessed to live about 20 minutes from her, so we can get together and sew about once a week.  Shopping her massive stash is an added bonus!

Tis the Season to decorate with Christmas Quilts

Have you done any holiday decorating yet?  I like to watch “The Sound of Music” while I decorate my tree, and sip a cup of egg nog under my Christmas Quilts at some point in the last days of November, but this year is rushing by.  It’s my own fault…I wanted some extra holiday cash so I started a seasonal job.  The downside is that I am working from 4pm to midnight which doesn’t leave much time for holiday fun!

Disclaimer…this post contains affiliate links.  My full disclosure policy can be read here.

Turning 20 at Christmas

let’s get to the good stuff! I have a few holiday projects to share.  First is a classic quilt pattern  – Turning Twenty.

Turning 20 quilt in Christmas fabric

I was trying to collect Christmas batiks, but I never found enough, so this quilt turned into a eclectic mix of holiday fabrics.  It features lots of holly and snowflakes,  with a few snowmen and ornaments thrown in.

Here is a closer look at the fabric.

fabric for a Christmas quilt

I made a pieced backing from 16″ square, cut from the leftover fabric, but I did not line things up very well.  Please look away if you are OCD…there are no straight lines on the back!

pieced backing for a quilt

I found a great holiday pantograph for the quilting that features poinsettias.

pantograph quilting poinsettias

My mom and grandmother always have fresh flowers for the holidays, but I worry about my cats and potential harmful effects, so we make do with our fake Christmas tree and wooden Nativity scene.

Christmas Quilts – Bargello

An easy pattern for the busy holiday season is bargello.  I made the strata for this wallhanging with 2-1/2″ strips, then cut them to varying widths and offset the strips to form the wave.

bargello quilt for ChristmasThis would make a fun pillow too!  Hmm, my 2017 project list is already growing!

Other Holiday Sewing Ideas

Every year, I wish I had a coordinating family set of Christmas stockings.  That needs to be on my July agenda if I have any hope of finishing before Christmas 2017!  Amy at Diary of a Quilter has a cute tutorial that I have bookmarked.

What about special holiday placemats?  Check out my Stack-n-Slice technique on Skillshare! (This link gives you a discount on premium membership.)

Shopping on Cyber Monday?  Please visit my quilting friend Sherri at Rebecca Mae Designs for some gift ideas and sweet savings!

Read about my Christmas Quilt with free motion designs here.

 

Free Motion Monday – Shadow Quilting

Shadow Quilting Designs

I invented the term “Shadow Quilting” to refer to the places where I use free motion quilting to copy the block design in the negative space of the pattern.  Of course I saw a beautiful example of this somewhere on the internet last week and now I can’t find it! In my search for additional examples, I visited Judi Madsen’s blog, and she wrote a whole book on this technique. Look for Secondary Designs with Judi Madsen, due out in December 2016.

Shadow Quilting, using block designs in negative space, is gaining popularity in modern quilting circles.  Negative space and alternate gridwork are core principles characterizing modern quilts as defined by the Modern Quilt Guild. I am delighted when I look closely and find replicas of patchwork illustrated solely with thread.

Shadow Quilt a Checkerboard

Checkerboards are an easy design to “shadow.”  Once the grid lines are stitched, you can choose from many designs to fill alternate squares.  I like the simplicity of lines or spirals.

shadow quilting checkerboard diagram

Shadow Quilting with Shapes

In the quilt I am currently working on, there are bold triangles and diamonds in the border.  I decided to use these elements to anchor the free motion designs in other areas.  I first stitched the shape, then added the swirls inside and finished with the outside fill.

shadow quilting with shapes fmq-shadow-designs-fabric

shadow quilting diagrams

Another example from Judi Madsen’s gallery is the Tree of Life quilt.  She created frames in the negative space, then filled them with grids and flowers.  Judi is a master at using rulers with her free motion quilting, and she stitches shadow blocks in many of her quilts.  As with any skill you want to improve, it takes practice, practice and more practice!

Free Motion Quilting – Piano Keys

A simple example of Shadow Quilting is a piano key border.  This can be as simple as straight lines, or more intricate with arches.

fmq-piano-keysfree motion quilting piano key borders

What patchwork blocks are in your quilts that can be mirrored in the free motion quilting?  Please send pictures to info@truebluequilts.com so I can build a gallery of inspiration!

More you might like:

From Sketchbook to Finished Quilt

My “graffiti” style

Download a practice workbook of free motion quilting designs HERE.

 

Inspiration – Sew Pro Stars Blog Hop

Welcome to the Sew Pro Stars Blog Hop!  Here you will find a variety of sewing projects inspired by the information and interactions from Sew Pro 2016.

Sew Pro Stars Blog Hop

What is Sew Pro?

In September, I took a bold step in building my quilting business. I traveled from Phoenix to Chicago to attend the Sew Pro convention.  It was a gathering of sewing professionals to meet, mingle, and learn some business-building strategies.  The organizers, Brenda Ratliff of Pink Castle Fabrics, and Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness, planned four tracks of lectures. Attendees could choose from pattern designers, fabric designers, authors, and bloggers.  Lecture topics ranged from publishing tips and intellectual property rights, to technology tools and the travelling teacher life.  When I returned home, I knew I wanted to continue the collaboration with the wonderful people I met.  I reached out to my fellow sewists on Facebook, and we agreed to share during this blog hop.  Please visit everyone and prepare to be dazzled by the amazing creativity and talent!

Sew Pro attendee True Blue Quilts

At Sew Pro, our keynote speakers were Pat Sloan and Tula Pink.  I came home with pages and pages of notes just from those two speakers.  The conference was jam-packed with great information about the opportunities for quilters and sewists in the larger fabric industry.

Tula Pink sharing the Elizabeth fabric line

Inspiration

As I pondered how to express the lessons from Sew Pro within a fabric-based project, I explored Pat Sloan’s website.  She is a powerhouse in the quilting world, hosting a weekly podcast as well as designing quilt and writing books!  You may have heard of one of her little projects…the Splendid Sampler, a 100-block quilt along that has thousands of participants. From the Splendid Sampler patterns, I found the perfect block to represent Pat and the Sew Pro conference: #61 Traveler, coincidentally published on the weekend we were all in Chicago!

traveler block with slow and steady fabric

Tula Pink is an amazing artist.  I love her color sense and the whimsical animals she designs.  The Traveler blocks were made with fabrics from her Eden line.  Also, I am featuring two prints from her new line, “Slow and Steady.”  The hare is a tribute to my mom, a collector of porcelain rabbits, who inspired me to quilt when she opened a fabric store.  The snails remind me that building my business is not a sprint.  The Traveler blocks signify life’s journey…my trip to Sew Pro and all the places quilting has taken me.  I can’t wait to see what comes next!

But Wait…there’s more!

To make the Sew Pro Stars Blog Hop extra-special, let’s have a giveaway (or TWO!)!

First, for subscribers to my newsletter, Loose Threads from True Blue Quilts, I am offering the scrap pile from the above project.  It includes 5 fat-eighth size pieces of Tula Pink fabric and a copy of  any of my single patterns (shown here).  I will conduct a random drawing from the list of subscribers on Saturday, Nov 19 at 12 noon Arizona time.

 

** A winner has been drawn!  winner for blog hop prize
Congratulations Vanessa!  Check your email for details 🙂

Secondly, enter for the grand prize package by following this Rafflecopter link.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Visit the other quilters and sewists on the Sew Pro Stars Blog Hop:

Monday Nov 14

Lisa Peterson – Lisa and Lorelai

Sherri Noel – Rebecca Mae Designs

(you are here) Andi Stanfield – True Blue Quilts

Tuesday Nov 15

Vanessa Behymer – Vintage Barngirl

Pam Cobb & Lynn Rinehart – The Stitch TV Show

Sherry Shish – Powered by Quilting

Joanne Kerton – Canuck Quilter

Lisa Nielsen – Lisa Lisa and the Quilt Jam

Wednesday Nov 16

Carmen Ross – See Carmen Sew

Anne Beier – Hudson Valley Quilts

Jessica Caldwell – Desert Bloom Quilting

Pamela Morgan – Sweet Little Stitches

Thursday Nov 17

Maryanna Powell – Marvelous Auntie M

Cathy Smith – A Quilting Chick

Lissa LaGreca – LovinglyLissa

Paula Mamuscia – Creations by Paula

Friday Nov 18

Becca Fenstermaker – Pretty Piney

Holly Stockley – Lighthouse Lane Designs

Teri Seal – Day Moon Quilts

Trinia Braughton – Penguin Feats

Deanna Wall – Stitches Quilting

Productive Retreat

Quilting retreats are the best!  Working from home gets lonely, so I am always excited to join other quilters for a day of sewing or taking a class together.  Last week, I joined my church’s Quilting Retreat and we had a blast.

The hostess planned simple meals and turned on Netflix while we worked. One gal sewed bindings, another hand quilted, some baby quilts were finished and many borders sewn on.

Quilting Retreat Project 1: Easy Pillowcase

My first project was a Halloween pillowcase for my daughter. The fabric was purr-fect for my cat lover.  I used the All People Quilt Roll It Up pattern. This will double as her Trick or Treat bag before it goes on the bed.roll it up pillowcase with halloween fabric

Quilting Retreat Project 2: Charity Quilt

Next on my to-do list was to finally sew my split nine patch blocks into a quilt top. It took me several years of stitching these blocks in between other projects to have enough for a 60×72 quilt.

quilt blocks

I spent some time playing with half square triangle designs in EQ7 and settled on this one.

Quilts of Valor split nine patch

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Quilting Retreat Project 3: Something for me!

By day three of the retreat, I was ready to tackle my final project.  At a quilt show last spring, I fell in love with the Two Color Bargello quilt (find the pattern and kits here). It comes in many colorways, but blue is my favorite so I decided this would be a new quilt for my bedroom.  It needed borders, so I improvised the inserts of the focal prints with the ombre and black fabrics.

two color bargello in blue

A very productive retreat!  And sharing stories and laughter with good friends is even better.  I highly recommend going on a quilting retreat.  If travel to a camp is not in your budget, follow the low-cost option that my church group uses. Someone opens their home, everyone brings their machine and a folding table, buy pre-made pasta for lunch and dinner and you are all set for days of stitching fun!