Monday, December 26, 2011

'Tis Better to Give: Part 2

Well, the Christmas cards didn't happen (sorry if you were expecting one!) and I was wrapping until the wee hours of Christmas morning, but somehow I managed to finish the projects that I was making for my mom and sister AND I finished binding them before noon on Christmas Eve.  Now that they've actually seen their presents, I can finally share photos of them:

My mom's present - 12 1/2" x 13 1/2".
The pattern is "Carolers" by MH Designs.

My sister's present:  9" x 19 1/2".
The pattern is "Winter Snowmen" by MH Designs.

My mom's and sister's reactions were, as ever, one of the best parts of my Christmas and I spent several happy moments with them discussing the cuteness of the patterns, my fabric and color choices, and possible locations for displaying the quilts.  It was, as I'd hoped, wonderful to give.

My mom and sister were also feeling creative this year.  My mom made this charming miniature quilt ...

Actually my mom made two of these sweet quilts,
one for my sister and one for me.

And my equally talented sister painted beautiful signs for both my mom and I...

I love their handmade gifts because every time I see the quilt I think of my mom and every time I glance at the sign I think of my sister.  Their gifts look beautiful in my home and, as a bonus, my juices are flowing and now I'm feeling inspired to create miniature quilts and paint signs.

And I forgot to mention the icing on the cake -- my mother also gave me a fat quarter bundle of Lynette Anderson's "Secret Garden" fabrics and my sister also gave me a gift certificate to Keepsake Quilting.  I've got to be honest.  When you're getting beautifully crafted creations from people you love AND thoughtful gifts of fabric to support your habit, it's pretty darn fun to receive.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Welcome Casey

I'd like to say that the Christmas cards have been sent, the shopping finished, and the presents wrapped.  I'd like to say that I've been a quilting machine and that for once, I won't be binding on Christmas Eve.  I'd like to be humming Christmas carols and baking in the kitchen.  And I'd really like to be writing a post that is remarkably witty and subtly inspirational.  But alas, the Daly family has grown by one and today I'm running around after a puppy with a bladder the size of a thimble.

Casey joined our family on Friday.  I haven't cared for a baby for almost 10 years and it's been twice as long since I've had a pet other than our fish Jaws and Schmoopie.  After the chaos of the past weekend, I'm beginning to despair that I will ever be ready for Christmas, much less make it back to my sewing room.  But despite the fact that I'm typing this post one-handed because Casey wants to be held again, I can't deny that she is very sweet.  And of course my husband is smitten and kids are already in love.  We may not experience the peace of Christmas this year, but hopefully (fingers crossed) we'll have plenty of joy!

May your homes be filled with peace, joy, and love this holiday season.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Be Not Afraid: Part 2

Well, I did it!  After years of wanting to paint, but being afraid to try, I just finished a 6-week painting class.  Here's what I learned:
  • As a painter, I make a better quilter.
  • Big white canvases scare me.
  • Being the only beginner in a 3-student class is very intimidating.
  • Painting is hard work.
  • I can not create with someone standing behind me watching.
  • I can survive 3 hours a week of humiliation and still go back for more.
  • Let your brush do the work.
  • Painting with a palette knife can be a liberating experience.

My instructor really liked this still life of random objects
that I did with a palette knife on day 3.  He told me that I
wasn't experienced enough yet to understand some of the
good things happening in this painting.  I'm still confused.

  • I babble and giggle when I'm nervous.
  • I don't know who my influences are.
  • Other painters are nice enough not to laugh at your creative missteps.
  • If I could do it again, I would take more Studio Art and Art History classes in college.
  • People can tell by your brush strokes if you are confident.  I shudder to think what my brush strokes say about me.
  • Don't get too precious about your work.
  • Don't think, just paint.
  • Mixing paint to make the color brown is tough.
  • Every painting has the color brown in it.
  • Buy brown paint.

Midway through the 6 weeks, I realized that, sadly, I don't appear to have a hidden talent for painting.  There were moments when I mixed a color I liked or accidentally made an effective brush stroke, but I think painting, like any other worthy endeavor, takes a lot of practice.  With three kids, a busy life, and my little quilting habit, it may take me a long, long time to become a better painter -- not to mention, I'd still like to try rug-hooking, stained glass, the piano...  But I'm still happy I took the class.  There may not be enough time in my life to be good at everything, but hopefully there will be plenty of time to try it all.  The medium and the end result don't really matter as long as you keep on creating. 

This, at least, is recognizable,
but I still have to add the wick.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quilt Therapy

After a weekend spent trying to squeeze in a celebration for my husband's birthday, selling Christmas trees for a hockey fundraiser, and driving my sons all over the state of New Hampshire for their 5 hockey games (yes, I'm a hockey mom), I awoke on Monday morning to chaos.  My husband was out of shaving cream, one son had run out of his flavored toothpaste, the other couldn't find comfortable pants to wear on his field trip (the horror!), and while writing a check for school lunches (one week late) I discovered that I had neglected to make note of the last 4 checks I'd written and that I had absolutely no memory of writing them.

We left the house late and had to follow a bus all the way to school only to discover upon our arrival that my youngest had forgotten his saxophone.  I did manage to remember my dentist appointment (don't know what I was thinking schedule a cleaning on a Monday morning), but during the drive there I came to the shocking realization that Christmas was less than three weeks away, that I had yet to send out Christmas cards, that I'd barely made a dent in my Christmas shopping, and that I'd made even less progress on my Christmas quilting projects.  After my appointment (and the scolding I received for not being more consistent with my flossing), I drove home for the saxophone, delivered it to the school and finally returned home to start my day at 10:30 with absolutely no energy, a pounding stress headache, a to-do list the length of my arm, and only 4 hours before it was time to pick-up the kids, supervise homework, and get to hockey practice.  Pretty standard stuff.

I managed to call my sister (I'm a master procrastinator), clean the kitchen, and start a load of laundry before the panic began to set in and I found myself roaming the house asking:  What should I do next?  How am I ever going to get it all done?  Why doesn't my family help more?!?  And then in a brief and unusual moment of clarity, I decided to sew.

The minute I plugged in the iron and sat down to my sewing machine, I could feel myself beginning to relax.  My breathing and heart rate slowed, and instead of running in circles like a headless chicken, my mind grew quiet.  As I focused on the pieces of fabric in front of me, I finally calmed down and the horrible feeling of being overwhelmed began to recede into the background.

Forty-five minutes later, the phone rang and the spell was broken.  It was time to get back to reality.  I still had more to do than I could possibly accomplish in a single day, but everything was different.  Just a few minutes of quilting had stopped the downward spiral that would probably have ended with me drowning my sorrows in ice cream and wine (post 5:00 pm, of course) after having accomplished nothing all day but talking on the phone, surfing the internet for crock-pot recipes, and plucking my eyebrows.  My little session of quilt therapy helped me to regain my footing and I was able to return to the demands of my life with renewed determination, a sense of humor, and maybe a bit of optimism.  Not bad for a few minutes of quilting.

But I still can't remember writing those checks!

Monday, November 28, 2011

'Tis Better to Give...

Finally!  At long last it’s time to put away the autumnal colors – yes, I’m officially a little sick of orange now – and time to pull out the red and green!  It’s time to unabashedly listen to Christmas music while decorating the house and eagerly searching the sky for snowflakes.  It’s time to fill the house with the good smells of baking and the magic of secrets.
And it’s time for my annual debate:  to make gifts for my mom and my sister Vicki, or to buy them.
The pros of making gifts:
  1. Making gifts is the perfect excuse to spend the month of December sewing – guilt free.
  2. Making gifts is economical:  I save the gas money that I would otherwise spend driving from store to store looking for the perfect gift and I don’t have to pay for shipping (unless of course I drive around looking for the perfect fabric or find the perfect fabric on-line).
  3. Making gifts reminds me of how productive I can actually be when I’m not procrastinating.
  4. Making gifts often helps me come up with new and inspired ideas because I’m creating for someone with different tastes and because I’m so strapped for time that I don’t have time to over-think the process.  Me over-think?!?
  5. While creating, I get to anticipate how my mom and sister will respond to their gifts.  Because they are both crafty (and especially nice), their reactions never disappoint.
  6. Making gifts enhances my Christmas spirit.  I would so much rather spend a Saturday in my sewing room creating “wholesome” gifts rather than fighting for a parking spot and elbowing my way through the throngs at Wal Mart, frantically trying to buy the latest electronics at the lowest advertised price, only to discover that they sold out just before I got there.  Yes, I went Black Friday shopping this year and I may be a little bitter.
The cons of making gifts:
  1. Spending the month of December sewing keeps me from doing housework, shopping, wrapping, Christmas cards, etc. – although is this really a con?
  2. Making gifts tends to take a bit of time.
  3. It can be a little difficult to give away one of my creations.  By the time they are finished, part of me wants to keep them and run out at the last minute on Christmas Eve for gifts (except by then, the only gifts available are flashlights, 5-Hour Energy, and windshield scrapers).
  4. It occurs to me that my mom and sister might actually be tired of homemade presents and are too kind to tell me that they’d love a nice sweater or a pair of earrings or even some oven mitts. 
  5. I’m always sewing binding on Christmas Eve.
If I’m not mistaken, the pros seem to outnumber the cons.  But because I know my mom and sister are among the readers of this blog, I probably shouldn’t disclose my decision.  Oh, and Mom and Vicki, if you’d like a new pair of oven mitts for Christmas this year, now would be the time to tell me.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Give Thanks

The countdown to Thanksgiving has begun and like many of you I'm expecting a houseful for dinner.  That means only 3 days to clean my house, redecorate a room or two, and prepare myself emotionally for the big day.  Clearly today is a good day for a short post.  But for once I planned ahead and for the month of November, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I've been making note of some small moments/things in my life for which I'm grateful.  Here are some of the highlights...

  • Listening to my two sons singing "Moves Like Jagger" in the kitchen every morning while they get ready for school.
  • The unbelievably cute turkey that my daughter crocheted for me (without a pattern!).

    Mr. Gobbles
  • Encountering my neighbor who had esophageal cancer and having him remark to me, "Looks like I may be one of the lucky ones."
  • Walking downstairs after tucking my youngest into bed and hearing him say "goodnight Jaws" to his fish.
  • Drinking my cup of tea every morning with my oldest son snuggled up against me on the couch.
  • Having my teenage daughter inform me that she suffers from "chronic happiness."
  • That my 3-year-old nephew finally ended his week long hunger strike -- and that my sister survived it!
  • Dunkin Donuts pumpkin muffins.
  • Walking through the woods with my daughter and listening to her plans for the future, including:  designing portable water purifiers, going on a cruise, and becoming a "Mythbuster."
  • Discovering that my 11-year-old son had created a suggestion box thinking he could actually change the way my husband and I parent him.

  • Stepping out from a nice, hot shower to find that my youngest son had written "Brian was here" on the fogged up window.
  • Having my rock-solid husband reassure me that he is "sound as a pound."
  • Living close enough to Keepsake Quilting that my mom and I were able to drive there today (yes, we may have listened to Christmas music) and load up on fabric, even though I should have been dusting, painting, baking, mopping, etc.  Priorities!!

So there it is, a glimpse into my small but very rich life.  It's amazing how quickly my list grew once I started paying attention -- I do believe there's a lesson in there!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Best Quilts for Fat Quarters - Chance to Win!!!

Strap yourself in.  This may be a longer post than usual because today I get to tell you about Quilters Newsletter’s special issue, Best Fat Quarter Quilts.  On newsstands now, (or follow this link to purchase) the issue is chock full of beautiful projects created with everybody’s favorite pre-cut, fat quarters.  Even better, two of my quilts are featured in the magazine!

On page 79, you’ll find my quilt Autumn Leaves.  Autumn Leaves is made with only 5 fat quarters and a few extra scraps from Deb Strain’s “Saltbox Harvest” collection.  I originally ordered the fabric for my mom for her birthday and naturally had to order some extra for myself.  When the fabrics arrived, I thought the colors were stunning, but I wasn’t quite sure how to use them.  I knew I wanted to keep them together in a project and it clearly needed to be fall-related, but sadly the fabrics sat on the shelf for almost 6 months while I hemmed and hawed (yes, that’s right, “hemmed and hawed”) about them.  But when the call came from QN to submit a design for a fat quarter quilt, I knew exactly what to use.
Autumn Leaves

The "sunflower" center.
Autumn Leaves is my ode to fall, but I may have gotten carried away with the whole leaf theme.  The tree of life blocks are made of “leaves” in red and orange, the corners of the quilt feature maple leaf blocks, and the borders are adorned with simple appliqué leaves.  Even the pattern on the fabrics is, you guessed it, leaves.  This quilt wasn’t exactly difficult to name.  My favorite part of the quilt is actually the star block in the center because I think it looks like a sunflower.  Autumn Leaves looks lovely as a wall hanging in the magazine, but I actually have it displayed on my kitchen table – perfect for November.

My table runner Pansies is found on page 92 of the magazine.  I’m always looking for ideas for seasonal quilts and last spring I was inspired to design the block for this quilt by the pansies I planted in one of my flower beds.  I love pansies because of their brilliant color and I thought the petals of the flowers would be easy to translate into geometric shapes. 


The original Pansies.
While shopping for the fabrics for Pansies, it occurred to me that I should try making the quilt with batiks.  For years I’ve been resisting using batiks because I was concerned that my fabric budget wouldn’t extend to both traditional and batik fabrics (so much fabric, so little cash).  I decided to make the quilt with traditional quilting fabrics and simply mention to the folks at QN that I thought it would also be beautiful in batiks.  To my surprise they responded “We’d love to see it in batiks!”  So I actually made this quilt twice – should have listened to the little voice in my head.  But having made this quilt twice, I can attest to the fact that it’s fun and pretty simple.  The other great thing about Pansies is that it can be made with as many pansy-colored fat quarters as you like (designer’s tip:  buy more!).  By the way, I LOVED the gorgeous colors of the batiks and yes, my batik stash is growing.

So there you have it, the stories behind Autumn Leaves and Pansies.  And for those of you who have been patient enough to read to the bottom of this post, here is the good news:  you have an opportunity to win a fabulous prize package courtesy of Quilters Newsletter and its partners.  Included in the package:

·         A copy of Best Fat Quarter Quilts
·         Wonder Clips from Clover
·         A selection of appliqué and quilting needles from Clover
·         Simplicity Studio Simpli-EZ 30-degree triangle
·         Simplicity Studio Simpli-EZ Jelly Roll Ruler™
·         Sidewinder Portable Bobbin Winder from Wrights

Wow! What a fantastic prize package! To enter to win, go to the Quilters Newsletter blog and in the “Comments” answer the question related to this blog post. Enter by midnight Mountain time, Sunday, November 20. The winner will be notified by Quilters Newsletter. Good luck!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not

I've been suspecting it for a while, but today it became all too clear.  I am a hoarder.  No, not the kind you see on reality TV, but a fabric hoarder.

I think it all started back when I used to scrapbook.  I hadn't yet begun to quilt and for a couple of years scrapbooking was my craft of choice.  My favorite part of scrapbooking (other than the photos of my kids, of course) was the beautiful papers.  I loved the colors, the textures and the patterns, and I bought as much as my small budget would allow.  They looked so pretty stacked up and ready to go that I didn't want to use them and if I did, I saved all of the scraps.  When I discovered the joys of quilting, my interest in scrapbooking waned, and now I'm left with a ton of paper and a big plastic bin full of scraps.  I should probably give it away or at least let my kids use it up, but I don't.  Someday I plan to make a dent in that 9 year backlog!

I'm even worse with my fabric.  I love some of my fabrics so much that I can't bear to part with even the smallest pieces.  And when I'm cutting, if I end up with a scrap bigger than 1" square, I throw it into a basket to save.  After all, I make a lot of scrap quilts and I paper piece and you never know when you might be able to fit a small scrap of fabric into a quilt.  Unfortunately the volume of my scrap stash now threatens to surpass my fabric stash and it is so disorganized that I don't know what I have, I can't find what I need, and if I do find a scrap I can use, it's crushed almost beyond repair.

A sampling of my scrap baskets.

The small triangles in question.

I love my scraps, but this morning, while tidying my sewing room, I made a discovery and it occurred to me that my little habit might be getting out of hand.  Last spring I made a quilt using a fat quarter bundle of fabrics in blue, red, and cream.  The quilt had a lot of star blocks and after trimming the seams I was left with hundreds of triangles which I promptly threw into yet another basket.  Over time I inadvertently covered the basket with fabric, wool, and pattern ideas and there it sat for months, until I excavated it today -- I really must tidy more. 

Very small triangles.

The problem is that these triangles are small, really small, so small even I can't believe I saved them.  The smart, time-saving, healthy thing to do would be to throw away the triangles and maybe even some scraps from the bottom of my first scrap basket (circa 2003).  After all, I've got mountains of laundry and bathrooms that need cleaning, not to mention two Halloween quilts that I need to wrap up (still working on that whole finishing thing) -- honestly I don't have time to mess around with these tiny scraps.  To the garbage can!  Hurrah!  Freedom!

But, oh, they are so pretty!  And now I'm getting an idea for a miniature Flying Geese quilt.  What to do, what to do?  If I commit to using them on my blog, I have to follow through (rationalization)... I can always do the bathrooms tomorrow (procrastination)... besides, if I use the scraps, I'm not a hoarder, right? (rationalization)...

Okay, I'm keeping the scraps.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Seems strange to use the title "Winter Wonderland" for a post written on Halloween.  That is until I look out my window at the 6 inches of snow that still remain on the ground after Saturday night's nor'easter.  Instead of jack-o'-lanterns on my front lawn, I've got two snowmen and a snow-manatee (complements of my creative daughter).  The snow has me in a winter frame of mind so today I'm going to introduce you to my Winter Wonderland quilt.

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland is a scrappy table runner featuring pine tree borders and snowball blocks in shades of ivory and blue.  The simple piecing and big stitch method I used for quilting made this project fast, fun, and easy to create.  Good news!

But the best news of all is that this quilt is featured in the American Patchwork & Quilting 2012 Calendar!  That's right, call me "Miss January!"  I guess if you're not exactly calendar girl material, having one of your quilts in a calendar is definitely the next best thing.  I've gotten a sneak peek at the calendar and it is gorgeous.  The quilts and the photography are stunning and the calendar comes with patterns/instructions for each of the featured quilts.  Look for the calendar at your favorite quilt shop or, to order, call 1-800-826-4707.

So while it may not officially be winter yet (all evidence to the contrary), it's never too soon to start a project for your winter table -- or to treat yourself to this beautiful calendar.

Oh, and by the way, Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Be Not Afraid

To paint, or not to paint?  That is the question that has been dogging me for a month.  I’ve been thinking about taking an art class and today I must decide.

I’ve always wanted to try painting.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE quilting, but sometimes I’m impatient with how long it can take to see the end result of a project and while there are some amazing landscape and art quilters out there, so far I am incapable of capturing a scene or an idea in fabric.  My grandfather was a wonderful painter, as are two of my aunts, a cousin, and my sister-in-law (check out her work).  Their work inspires me and fills me with envy and I fantasize about what it must be like to be able to render a beautiful landscape or still life.  Secretly, I also wonder if some of their talent has rubbed off on me.

The only drawing my instructor liked.

 A couple of years ago I dipped my toe in the water and signed up for a drawing class thinking it was a logical first step towards painting.  At first I thought I was doing pretty well.  My instructor, however, repeatedly asked me "What is it going to take to get you to let go?"   This, of course, really helped me to free myself.  

Yes, it's an apple.
I tried another baby step – this time a pastel class.  I thought using color might be the key to unlocking my creativity (not to mention I got a deal on the class because I signed up with two women from the drawing class).  Turns out pastels weren’t my thing.  Apparently my paintings were a bit "overworked" and "muddy."  I decided to take some time off and focus on my quilting.

But lately I’ve been wondering if it might be time to give it another try.  A local gallery is offering a fall class on acrylic painting.  The course fits into my schedule, the instructor said that even though I'm a beginner, I will "have a blast!" and everyone I've asked thinks I should take the class (I tend to live my life by committee).  No brainer, right?  The truth is, I’m afraid.

What if I spend fabric money and quilting time on the painting class and I don’t like it? What if, despite my carefully cultivated background in drawing and pastels, I’m terrible and I embarrass myself in a room full of expert painters?  Worst of all, what if the bubble bursts and after all these years of hoping I might be able to paint, I learn that I can’t; like how I used to think I would always be able to pull off the short haircut I had when I was 16, only to cut my hair and discover to my horror that 20-some-odd years had left their mark on my face and a pixie haircut just didn’t work anymore.  Years of hair growing ensued.  I’m not sure I could take another blow like that.
Anyway, I’ve managed to put off the decision for several weeks, but over the weekend I had a conversation with my daughter that finally tipped the scales.  My daughter has been planning to join her school’s Drama Club, until she found out last week that she would have to sing as part of her audition.  She is 13, with all that entails, and even though she really wants the chance to do a fun activity with her friends, she doesn’t think singing is her thing and she may not try out.
I found myself alone in the car with my daughter on Saturday and while I had a captive audience (trapping your child in the car is so effective!), I gave her the following advice:  "You should try it, you might like it and you might be really good at it!" and  "Even if you aren’t amazing, it would probably be so much fun!" and "I’d hate to see you let your fear of looking foolish keep you from trying something new!" and, my personal favorite, "You won’t grow as a person if you don’t try something new." 
In the midst of parenting, it occurred to me that I had an opportunity to lead by example.  So I’m finally going to sign up for an actual painting class.  Hopefully I will be able to let go and have fun and be inspired with new ideas that I can carry over to quilting.  Maybe I'll discover that I do possess a hidden talent and I’ll turn out to be the next Picasso, or maybe I’ll discover that I should stick with painting house trim.  Either way, at least I’ll be facing my fears and in so doing, I hope I can inspire my children to do the same.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Finishing

It's a beautiful fall day here in New Hampshire.  The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and falling leaves are dancing around on a light breeze.  It's the perfect day to work on a fall quilt, especially given my recent obsession with the color orange.  Except I spoke with my mother this weekend and she happily informed me that she was starting her Christmas quilting projects.  Suddenly, even though I'm knee deep in orange and black fabrics with two Halloween projects on the go, my Christmas fabrics have started calling to me.  Ordinarily I would set aside the orange, haul out the red and green, and fire up the EQ7.  But not today and here's why.

The other day I met a woman while talking to a friend in the pick-up line at my children's school.  The woman was glowing and excited, having just returned from a fabric shopping spree.  Instead of quilting, she sews clothes for her children and accessories for her home, but apparently the fabric high is just as good.  I recognized a kindred spirit until she said, "I've got $150 worth of fabric in the car, but it's ok, I'm a good finisher."  Yes, you read that correctly, and I'm not referring to the $150.  She called herself "a good finisher."  I was startled and I've been thinking about it ever since.

I wouldn't say I'm a bad finisher.  I'm especially good if I have a strict deadline.  I'm also pretty good about finishing gifts -- although there was that year that I gave my father a piece of denim and two dowel rods for Christmas (it would have been a handy log carrier) and, if memory serves, I once gave my sister purple fabric and a pattern for a blouse that I never made (isn't it the thought that counts?).  I've got about a dozen UFO's, a handful of unmade kits, and several stacks of fabrics and patterns collected for future projects that I've been carting around for years.  OK, so clearly I'm not in this woman's league.

And it's got me wondering what it would feel like to be a better finisher.  Imagine buying fabric without guilt knowing that you would use it in a timely fashion, thereby freeing yourself up to buy more fabric.  Imagine how much fun it would be to start a new project with the decks and design wall cleared.  Imagine what it would be like to fill others with inspiration (and maybe a little envy) by calmly proclaiming yourself a "good finisher."

Of course the lazy, non-finishing, bargaining side of me is asking whether quilting might be less fun if I force myself to finish before starting something new.  And I wonder if you lose the idea, the creative spark, if you don't immediately follow the energy.  I don't know.  What I do know is that this woman seemed dynamic, happy, and confident and it's worth a try.  So today instead of pulling out the Christmas music and getting a jump on a gift or two, I'm going to resist temptation and finish what I've started.  And when the Christmas fabrics in my closet begin to whisper, "J-e-n," I'm going to whisper back, "Shhh, not yet...                                                                        ...maybe tomorrow."

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Apple Blossoms" free pattern

Well, it's Columbus Day, Canadian Thanksgiving, and Monday.  The kids are home from school, I woke up to find the phones dead and the internet connection not working, and it's sunny and 75outside.  Seems like a good day for a short post.  To compensate, here's a link to a free pattern for one of my quilts.

It's called "Apple Blossoms" and it's a table runner that I designed to accompany an article I wrote entitled "Zen and the Art of Binding."  The article was featured in the June/July 2011 issue of Quilters Newsletter, but the free pattern was a web extra and it's still available.

"Apple Blossoms" features super simple piecing, embroidery, and rough-edge appliqué.  I came up with the idea for this quilt while binding another, but it was really inspired by the first chartreuse leaves of spring and the blossoms on the apple tree in my front yard.

I made the double-sided apple blossoms by fusing together scraps of pink fabrics.  After I cut out the blossoms, I attached them to the quilt using french knots.  This gives the quilt added dimension and texture -- in other words, it's fast!  With handling, the blossoms fray ever so slightly giving a shabby chic look that I really like, but if it doesn't work for you, you can give them a quick trim or try making them out of felted wool.  Have fun!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Orange On My Mind

My mother has always loved the color orange.  She has even been the proud owner of not one, but two orange cars.  But I never took her love of orange seriously.  After all, she was also a big fan of avocado green.  When I was growing up, even our colander was avocado green.  I'm sorry to say that a couple of years ago I broke that avocado green colander in an unfortunate pasta draining incident.  Yes, it was an accident, but I digress.

This year, I've decided to work on my quilts seasonally.  Let me clarify.  Usually I try to work seasonally, but I tend to fall a bit behind and after just finishing a Valentine's Day project two weeks ago (7 months late), I've vowed to finish my projects before the holiday or season arrives.  So now that it's October, I'm working on my first ever Halloween project and I am LOVING the color orange!  Who knew!  Orange has all of the happy qualities of yellow and then some.  It pops next to purple, it sings next to green, and pair it with black and it instantly evokes Halloween.  For a girl who usually quilts with muted reds and browns (think Kansas Troubles fabrics), orange has been a revelation.

That's one of the things I love about quilting - it changes the way you look at the world.  I decided to make a Halloween quilt and orange was the obvious choice.  Because I'm a scrap quilter and one orange simply will not do, I get to shop for several shades of orange - yellow orange and red orange, pumpkin orange and rust.  Then, of course, there is the fun of choosing fabrics to complement the original color, in this instance, I was drawn to black and purple (but not just one shade of purple...). Then it's on to washing and pressing the fabrics and cutting them into small pieces.  Before I assemble a single block, I'm intimately acquainted with a color and by the time I finish a project, I'm in love. 

So now that I've discovered the joys of orange, I'm seeing it everywhere - in pumpkins, mums, pine needles, and falling leaves.  I'm imagining orange paired with blue, with red, and with yellow.  My cutting table is littered with orange fabrics and the orange stack in my fabric closet has quadrupled in size.  I'm a convert.  Just don't tell my mom.

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Despite the fact that it's 80outside today in New Hampshire, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  I just received my copy of Quilters Newsletter's Best Quilts for Christmas and I'm starting to get that holiday feeling! 

Of course it may just be excitement because two of my quilts are featured in the pages of this delectable special issue.

Check out page 70 for my O Holy Night wall hanging.  I made this sweet little quilt as a Christmas present for my mom just last year.  It was so fast and so much fun to make that I gave one to myself too!

My Cranberry Christmas table runner is found on page 75.  Simple piecing and easy wool appliqué give this quilt a warm and cozy feel.  Better yet, I used only a few "Christmas" fabrics, so it looks great on the table all winter long.

Best Quilts for Christmas is currently available on newsstands.  If you haven't yet picked up a copy, it's also available on the Quilters Newsletter website.  And don't forget to check out Quilters Newsletter's blog for your chance to win beautiful fabric.  Maybe Christmas will come early to your neck of the woods too!

Monday, September 19, 2011

You Never Forget Your First Love

My love affair with quilting began 8 years ago.  I was searching for something to do with my hands at night, while being able to both spend time with my husband and recover from my days of chasing around 3 kids under the age of 5.  I thought quilting might fit the bill.  Fortunately, my mother had been quilting for a while and was more than happy to share her expertise and her sizeable stash.  After searching through several pattern books, I finally decided to make a bow tie wall-hanging.  My mother informed me that with inset seams, the bow tie block was not really for beginners, but I was convinced that I possessed an Amish streak and that I would simply do the entire quilt by hand -- templates, piecing, quilting and all -- problem solved.

I planned to make a small quilt, 4 blocks by 4 blocks, with a simple border.  But, oh, the fabrics.  I had no idea.  I couldn't limit myself to only 16 and, needless to say, 16 blocks soon turned to 64 and I discovered that collecting fabrics for a quilt is half the fun.

The first block
After making templates and cutting out pieces for the 64 blocks, reason prevailed and I began to sew.  The first block took me three nights to piece by hand and I decided that I wasn't Amish after all.  I realized that if I wanted to finish this quilt before my youngest was in college, I would need to pull out my sewing machine.  So I set up shop in the dining room which, alas, prevented me from spending time with my husband, but my priorities were beginning to shift. 

I worked every night on those 64 blocks.  I got the hang of the inset seams and learned that the iron was actually my friend.  As I generated block after block, laid out the quilt top, and added the borders, I fell in love with the process and a quilter was born. 

When it came time to quilt, I decided to give handwork another try.  And after a few lessons and several missteps, I finally got the hang of it.  My stitches weren't very small and I was extremely slow, but my husband was happy to see me on the couch again and I began to enjoy the rhythm of hand-quilting.  Several months later, yes, months, I finished the quilt and I LOVED IT!  I loved the pattern, the fabrics, the quilting.  I loved knowing that I had taken a few scraps and made this gorgeous creation.  I loved knowing that I could do it again and that the possibilities were endless.  I was hooked.

My first quilt
I've gone on to create many more quilts, but that first quilt is still special to me.  Even though my tastes and skills have evolved and I've moved three times since I made it, my bow tie quilt still graces the wall of my home today.  You never forget your first love.

Monday, September 12, 2011

And away we go...

My name is Jen Daly and I'm a quilt designer who likes to write.  I've been meaning to start a blog for a while, but between having three kids home for the summer, the mountains of laundry, and the whisper of my inner critic, I've managed to put it off.  Until now.

You see, this fall, Quilter's Newsletter magazine will publish a special issue entitled Best Quilts for Fat Quarters.  I'm happy to say that two of my quilt designs will be featured in the magazine and, to put the icing on the cake, QN has invited me to participate in a promotional blog tour!  Finally, the excuse (oops, I mean the "impetus") I need to set aside the housework and start my blog!!  Check back here later in the fall for the tour and perhaps a chance to win a prize...

In the meantime, welcome!  This blog will be a place for me to share my work and my thoughts on quilting and life.  I hope you enjoy!