Freespirit Friday-Folk Art Hearts

January 18th, 2018

It is just a few weeks before St. Valentines Day. This is a holiday which is perfectly situated in the deepest heart of winter for us Midwesterners. This is a time when we need a bit of hand holding, a little encouragement and a big dose of color.

So for this weeks FreeSpirit Friday we are featuring my Simple Silhouette-Folk Art-Bleeding Heart pattern. This series of 18” quilts was designed to showcase your favorite fancy fabrics. 

Our first heart is made with my latest FreeSpirit collection, Folk Tales. The border fabric is called Flowered Coverlet and the background is Indispensable Dots. The solid black silhouette and red heart are FreeSpirit’s Designer Essentials Solids. We used my 12 wt. Sew Sassy threads for quilting (matching 50 wt in the Bobbin). It really adds a zip of electricity.

The next hearts are made from vintage Sassaman fabrics, some of which you may have buried in your stash, too. This one is made with an Early Bird border and again 12wt thread for the quilting. This piece has a nice flowery traditional look.

Finally, we have a heart stitched from the Hot House Garden collection. This piece is actually part of a larger quilt that hangs in my living room. It is definitely a nod to Mexican folk art, which I love.

There is still plenty of time to whip one of these little gems for your Valentine, so sort through your stash and get stitch’n!!

FreeSpirit Friday – Lively Pillowcases

January 12th, 2018

If you have followed this blog over the years, you know that I am a believer in the healing power of pillowcases! There is nothing that can lift your spirit, make you feel prosperous and totally transform a tired bedroom than new pillowcases.

We must have thirty sets of pillowcases in our linen closet, one for every occasion and temperament. Going to bed and waking in the morning is a treat at our house. Even my husband likes to change the sheets so he can pick his favorite cases for the week.

And I have to admit that they are all ironed, as well. I love crisp clean pillows. Ironing the cases is almost as fun as sleeping on them. Ironing pillowcases is restful therapy for me, a colorful time-out to readjust my attitude during stressful times.

This week for FreeSpirit Friday, we have our latest batch of lively cases made with my Folk Tales collection. We chose fabrics with white and blue, always a refreshing color combination and used my “Pint Size” Pillowcase pattern which is designed for beginning stitchers. Each case is made with three coordinating fabrics. We save the contrasting one for the fun flange.

I hope these pillowcases brighten your day and inspire you to add some new color in your life!


Introducing FreeSpirit Friday

January 5th, 2018

This week I am initiating a new blog feature called FreeSpirit Friday. The idea is to share all the awesome projects being made with my FreeSpirit fabrics. So this will be a weekly tour of the wonderful ways to use those “personality” prints to brighten your world.

My current collection FOLK TALES is just arriving at your favorite quilt shops this month and what better way to spend a winter day than fondling colorful fabrics and stitching up something delightful. These new designs celebrate classic textile patterns from around the world.

This week in the midwestern United States we are experiencing severe weather; the wind chill has been -20F degrees for two week running! The landscape is white and quite forbidding, so this colorful project was the perfect antidote!

A cup of tea is the ideal symbol for domestic comfort and hospitality. So today we set the scene for warmth and contentment. I think the rooster fabric, called Kerchief, is a perfect choice for our tea cozy. It is classic country chic. But the details are what make this cozy really fun, specially the quintessential “yo-yo” topped with felt baubles. The zip of striped trim at the base adds some pep, as well.

We could not resist  a striped lining, as well. This pattern is easy to make and suitable for any happy fabric from your stash. It is one of my Pint Size patterns which was designed for beginning stitchers. It would be a nice DIY gift with a stack of fun fabrics for an aspiring seamstress. The treasured teapot, by the way, was a hand painted gift from my nephew many years ago.

We have also made some snappy napkins as supporting characters. They really play well together! FOLK TALES comes in three color ways, although we are focusing on the purple group this week for its sunny stimulation and reassuring cheerfulness. You can see all the color ways on my Home Page.

Stay tuned for another inspiring idea next week on FreeSpirit Friday!


Spring Fever Wearables

August 30th, 2017

The Spring Fever collection is still taking pride of place in the studio these days. This season we decided to try a few designs in different scales. I naturally gravitate to large scale patterns for their drama and their easy applications to quilting. But I also like having some smaller scale designs for projects like garment sewing. So in this blog post you will see a bit of both.

Our first project is this shirtwaist pattern, Vogue Bill Blass #2961. The body of the dress is in the mini version of Queen of the May in the blue color way with accents of Sassy Stripes. In fact, even the pockets are lined with stripes. This summer frock reminds me of favorite Laura Ashley dresses from the early 1980s… pastel, pretty and romantic.

Here you can compare the two different scales side by side. The larger print of Queen of the May, Mexican color way, in a lively tunic top, vintage New Look 6374. The mini version is made into a feminine blouse, Simplicity 5634. They both are very wearable. I love the contrasting striped belt on the left and rounded collar with snappy orange piping on the right.

The comely culottes are made with my Over-the-Top Dots design which graduates from red to yellow, an ideal use for that fabric!

So the choice is yours, but my vote is for a bit of both large and small prints!

Childish Diversions

August 10th, 2017

Today we are feeling a bit childish! Summertime always transports us back to the carefree days of childhood. So we naturally started some projects with kids in mind. Of course, a new baby in the family is also good incentive for stitching up some cute little gifts.

We pulled some happy FreeSpirit Sassaman fabrics from our stash to work with.

This little jumper is a classic! Butterick pattern 5283 is vintage, but you may be able to find it on line. The “mini” version of Queen of the May from the Spring Fever collection makes a very feminine statement. It is delicate, sunny and rather old fashioned. But the geometric pattern of the little blouse makes a nice contemporary contrast. I’m wishing that I had one in my size!

These next tiny togs, New Look pattern 6651, also vintage, use prints from the Scandia collection. This pink and red fabric is called Heart to Heart, very pretty and a bit sassy. This little dress is perfect for your favorite itsy-bitsy Valentine.

This was a fun print to play with, Cardigan from the Scandia line. The pattern has been fussy cut to take advantage of the different parts of the design. The checkered collar and sleeve bands are nice pint-sized details. One of the best things about baby clothes is that they don’t get much wear and they often get handed down from child to child. In years to come these little outfits will bring back lovely memories. Welcome to the planet, little one!

Quilt Progress Report

June 15th, 2017

Hello everyone! It has been a while since I have posted on my blog. It seems that Instagram has become my main social media outlet these days. So for those of you that don’t go that route, I am reposting some process shots of my most recent appliqué quilt project.

When spring comes to the Midwest the natives take a deep breath and buckle their seat belts, because once things start growing they can’t be stopped. In a matter of weeks the bare gray landscape is transformed into a mass of undulating greenness. This quilt is a celebration of that energy of growth and portrays several of my yearly spring favorites, Bloodroot and Trillium.

I started by designing six prototype leaf patterns, each approximately 12” to 14” wide. I picked stacks of green hand dyed cottons (lots of Cherrywood) and some dupioni silks. Each leaf graduates from light colors at the top to dark at the bottom to suggest depth in the shadowy woods.

You can see one of my leaf patterns in the picture below. Each was assembled in sections with a quarter inch underlap built into the design. The parts were Tacky Glued very sparingly to hold them together for easy portability. As I made each leaf I placed it on the table covered with white paper. I like to work flat these days because it is easier and more spontaneous to move the pieces for composing. The stems and flowers here are made of construction paper, just to test out the possibilities.

I almost always make my shapes first without a definite composition in mind. As the shapes begin to interact the composition evolves.

I also like to make contrasting shapes, because contrast creates DRAMA! The spiral represents growth, energy and movement and it is a symbol that I use often. So why not give them a try. I have lots of cardboard spiral templates in my collection and I picked the largest ones in the drawer. Yep! These big round shapes definitely add some energy! You can see that I am toying with some construction paper Trillium and Jack-in-the-Pulpit, too.

Next I laid in a trial background of two dark browns. I chose this color because I always see these plants peeking through a carpet of dark dead oak leaves. And brown seemed richer than black, in this instance. The Trillium are filling in the corner and two spirals have been cut in deep blue fabric. I have also made some sprouts to add to the upward momentum and to supply another contrasting shape. Note the two leaves on the right that will get rejected. They are now in my file of “orphan” shapes and perhaps will appear in a future project.

A purple spiral and more sprouts have been added. The composition is settling in. Now It just needs tweaking and the flowers and stems to be made in fabric.

Here is the final composition, 64″ X 34″. The sprouts have been angled to look more natural. All the spaces are filled and arranged from front to back to give a feeling of depth and layers. This is all laying on a table! How the heck am I going to keep track of all the pieces and then put this thing together? The answer is to make a tracing of the entire composition on large sheets of tracing paper (I use Gold Threads tracing paper on rolls).

Of course, I have a photograph, too. So now can I take the composition apart and put it back together again in sections? I hope so, as it would make my job much easier. I use the photograph to determine the least obtrusive way to dissect the background into smaller workable sections.
Ideally, I want to hide my background joints under my appliqué, so no one can see them. I’m afraid I have created a logistical nightmare. But here is my final working map for the different sections. There will still be lots of layers to keep track of. But I enjoy a good engineering dilemma!!

But before I start work on the sections, I need to do the inner embroidery on all of my appliqué shapes. For this quilt I am using a simple satin stitch to finish all the edges and adjusting the width of the stitch to taper off toward the outer edges. Each shape has it’s own stitching formula… all the Bloodroot leaves are stitches the same way and all the Trillium leaves are done the same, etc. After all the shapes are embroidered, I can begin assembling the sections.

I decide to begin construction in the bottom left corner. Using my tracing as a blueprint, I cut the background to size and back it with interfacing. All my appliqué shapes are already backed with interfacing, too. Then the blue spiral is attached with a matching color straight stitch and then finished with satin stitch, except where other shapes need to be tucked underneath, like the sprouts here. After each shape is attached and finished with embroidery, the fabric behind it is cut away.

Then on to the top left corner with the Trillium. Always using my tracing as a guide, the stems were attached first since they are behind everything else. Then the leaves were stitched down, always working from the background up. “Straight stitch, finish with embroidery and cut away from behind” is the mantra for each shape as it is put in place.

Now the two left sections can be put together.

Here we have the right and left sections shown in relation to each other and the center section still to be made. Followed by the almost completed right side.

After the middle section is completed, all the units can be combined. First the center and left areas are stitched, then the right side is slid into place and stitched. Now it is just the top most details that are waiting to be added and the top will be finished!

But you will have to wait for the next installment because I will be busy teaching and it may be a few weeks before I can get back to my project. But if you would like to join me for a creative and restorative retreat this summer, you can work on your own exciting project! I will be doing 5 day workshops with the wonderful folks at Quilting Adventures at the Jordan Ranch in Schulenburg Texas, July 9 to 13 and the bucolic Madeline Island School of the Arts, La Pointe, Wisconsin, July 31 to August 4. I would LOVE to see you there!

Scandia Star Pattern

March 12th, 2017

This has been a busy week after returning from a fun visit to The Quilter’s Studio  and the Annapolis Quilt Guild. I packed and shipped ten FreeSpirit Quilts, 5 garments and mannequins for  AQS Lancaster Quilt Week in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Of course it had to be on one of the windiest days of the year and the boxes and I could barely get from the car to the door of FedX. Now I am packing supplies for my classes in Lancaster, March 29 – April 1. So my focus has been mostly practical.

But it occurred to me that I have not shared patterns for two of my Scandia quilts. This one is called Scandia Star and is made from one of my favorite Le Moyne Star designs using Jan Krentz’s fast2cut Diamond Ruler. I have made this pattern about a dozen times, see Patchwork Sassaman Style. This patterns just loves symmetrical prints. And it is surprisingly easy to construct, Y-seams on this scale are a piece of cake. Here it is made with the purple Scandia colorway, which has a rich and somewhat subdued pallet for a Sassaman fabric. You can download the Scandia Star pattern here.

The quilt above is called Edelweiss. It makes me think of Scandinavian tile stoves, Swedish flags and yellow Baltic summer houses. Yellow and blue have always been a favorite color combination, very refreshing! This quilt is made of 10″ 45 degree triangles in the blue Scandia colorway. This quilt will be displayed at the Lancaster show, so perhaps you will get to visit it in person. You can download the Edelweiss.pdf pattern here.

Teaching travel ramps up this week. Please check my schedule because I’d love to see you in class!

Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day

February 24th, 2017


Susan’s Delicious Irish Soda Bread
Caraway & Currant
Rosemary & Cheddar

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda

Mix all the above with
2 tablespoons butter

Add 1-1 1/4 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar
Or 1-1//4 cups buttermilk

For Caraway & Currant add
3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 cup currants or raisins

For Rosemary and Cheddar add
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Pat into an 8” round pan and make 1/2” deep crosshatches the top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30- 35 minutes.

These bread covers were made to keep our tasty bread warm. We used Leaf Dance fabric in the top photos and Scandia fabrics in the lower pictures. They started as 17″ squares of fabric with half circles cut out on each side. The corner detail can be plain or fancy. Place right sides together and sew around the edges with a half inch seam. Leave a few inches open. Clip the seams and turn it right side out. Whip stitch the open edge closed.

Thanks, Susan, for all your help in the studio! You are invaluable!

Scandia Ribbon Project

January 13th, 2017

Happy January! I just wanted to share these traditional dish towels ornamented with my new Renaissance Ribbon. They were designed to coordinate with the new FreeSpirit Scandia fabric.

Such a classic domestic object never goes out of style. The ribbon really enhances the folky farmhouse feeling that blue and white always evokes.

I have included this picture of all the Scandia fabrics to get your imagination kick started for other sewing and decorating projects. Perfect for St. Valentine’s Day, don’t you think?

a kick of color

December 27th, 2016

Winter is officially here, the longest day of the year has passed and we are headed back to the light. But that journey still extends through a few more months of cold and snow. So, we Midwesterners are always hungry for a dose of color to add some zest to the gray days. Well, here is a kick of color to get you through the last week of the year. These projects are all made with fabric from my Cool Breeze collection for FreeSpirit, designs so cheerful that they’ll make you grin in spite of the gloom.

First up we have this graphic lap size quilt, 48” square. The pattern is based on a traditional square in a square block with sashing and borders. It combines all three color ways of the Cool Breeze fabrics.

The block begins with 6” fussy cut Butterfly square (cut 6 1/2”). The butterfly is surrounded by half square triangles from the Dapper Dandy design. The dandelions are then framed by half square triangles of Plaid fabric, fussy cut so the stripes change color with the right angle of the shape.

These blocks are framed with fussy cut sashing of Over-the-Top Dots. The blue color way of Pinks make the border along with some more fussy cut butterflies in the corners.

The piecing is very easy, it is the fabric which makes it look so fancy. And the beautiful quilting my Carol Ann McCandless is the icing on the cake. She has a steady hand and a good eye! She has also perfected the technique of using two threads through the needle of her long arm machine to make the heavy line of stitching that I love. Wouldn’t this make a happy baby quilt?

We liked this little quilt so much that we had to make some matching pillowcases, too! The body of these cases are Cool Breeze fabrics and the others are “vintage” Sassaman from my stash. If you have your own Sassaman stash, you will find that the fabrics play together nicely from season to season.

But wait! A good quilt top deserves a good backing, too. Here is the back. It was pieced with 6 1/2” strips of Plaid fabric in all three colorways. Then the pieced strips were cut again into crossways strips and rearranged before they were sewn back together. After that the side borders were added. I think I like the back as much as the front!

Holy cow, we can’t stop now! Here’s a super pieced pillow to top it all off.
The four blocks are composed of fussy cut squares of the Pinks fabric, blue colorway, for a kaleidoscope effect. The blocks are framed with sashing.

The pillow top is quilted with 12 weight Sew Sassy thread. The back has simple overlapping halves and some nice big buttons for closures. It is bound with bias strips of the Plaid fabric. Diagrams for both the quilt top and the pieced pillow are below. The pillowcase pattern can be purchased in is my webstore.

All fabric is from FreeSpirit

Cool Breeze Butterfly Quilt top yardage:

Butterflies – blue, pink – PWJS 086 – 1/4 yard each
Butterflies – yellow – PWJS 086 – 1/2 yard
Plaid – blue, pink, yellow – PWJS 090 – 2/3 yard each
Dapper Dandies – blue, pink, yellow – PWJS – 1/4 yard each
Pretty Pinks – blue – PWJS 087 – 2/3 yard
Over-the-Top Dots – blue – PWJS 089 – 2/3 yard
Over-the-Top Dots – yellow – PWJS 089 – 1/2 yard