and then it was Spring

You know how it is when you neglect something for so long that it is embarrassing to get started again?  Since my last post featured snow, this one will be a quick recap on some spring activities and hopefully get me motivated to continue blogging on a more regular schedule!

The end of February brought a trip to Savannah and a wonderful time connecting with friends at QuiltCon East.Bonnie and Hans in Savannah

If you missed out on the fabulous quilts on display, Kristin Shields has provided a series of posts highlighting many of the amazing quilts. Check out her excellent recaps by category and enjoy her beautiful quilts, as well.

Besides viewing quilts, I was inspired by the many lectures I attended. It was a privilege to hear long time friend, Anna Boenish @quiltingqueerly share her creative journey and personal insights into leading an intentional life.

It was my first trip to Savannah and I enjoyed the architecture and riverside attractions in this historic city.Bonnie and I downtown Savannah

ferry in Savannah

March brought a visit to the Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum in LaConner, WA to view a collection of quilts by Gwen Marston. I really enjoyed spending the day with friends and the opportunity to view Gwen’s quilts in an intimate setting.

High Desert III, 2008, Gwen Marston

In April, quilting friend, Stan Green, had a solo exhibit at the Sequim Museum and Arts Center. It was a wonderful opportunity to see a retrospective of his beautiful work.

Stan Green with “Taboo”

Spring colors get my creativity flowing and I enjoy watching the plants awake from  winter.new leaves

If you follow @pennylanequilts over on Instagram, you can find photos of my quilting projects during the spring. Now that I have “broken the ice”over here in blog land, I’ll share details on some of those projects soon. Thanks for being patient with me. It is so hard to sit down at the computer when there are stitches to be sewn!

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snow day

Our winters are mild, so snow days are a novelty. This week I took advantage of a sunny morning and a lovely, snowy backdrop to take a few quilt photos.

hand quilted by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Zig Zag Chevron (HSTs from charm squares, hand quilted)

One of my goals for 2017 is to improve my photography skills. Of course, this means learning how to use editing software. I’m trying to check out some of those helpful tutorials in the process.

blue and green baby quilt by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
My first finish of 2017: baby quilt made from charm squares + a wonky star

The photo pictured above was edited for Instagram using a mobile app.

Hourglass Bedazzled by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Hourglass Bedazzled, improv piecing, hand dyed fabrics, machine quilted

This quilt was the last one I completed in 2016. It is my most complex quilt to date that uses improvisational piecing, and I hand dyed all of the fabrics. I don’t think I ever properly documented it, but a few photos appeared on Instagram during the months that it was in process.

On another note, QuiltCon is right around the corner! Our newspaper, the Sequim Gazette, was kind enough to write an article about the local quilters who will have quilts in Savannah. They even sent a photographer out to capture me in my own environment. Those of you who are curious and  have bugged encouraged me to include photos of myself on this site, can check it out.

It is snowing again today, so I’m off to curl up with a cup of tea and some hand quilting.  I’m on the home stretch quilting the mini for my partner in the MQG swap.

 

 

confidence

My goals for 2017 include learning how to free motion quilt, specifically on our Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen machine.

A few years ago, a friend and I decided to purchase a used  sit down midarm. Neither of us had much experience with free motion quilting, but we figured we would just jump in and learn on the new machine. For a few months we practiced, watched videos and quilted a few projects and quilts.

However, life “happened”, and our priorities shifted. My friend moved away for a year and I focused my energies on my walking foot, straight line quilting. The poor machine sat neglected and unused for about a year and a half. After awhile, I felt a bit intimidated about getting started again. Would I remember how to use the machine? Could I effectively adjust the tension? Was I willing and interested enough to begin practicing again?

Then we came across a notice from Road to California announcing that David Taylor would be teaching a couple of classes using HQ Sweet Sixteens. One class focused on finding your own tempo and rhythm for free motion quilting, and the other emphasized using a variety of threads , adjusting tension and choosing needle sizes. Just what we were looking for to ease us back into the process.

Road to CA David Taylor class
waiting for class to begin in a classroom full of HQ Sweet Sixteens

David’s classes were entertaining and informative. A series of exercises helped us practice techniques, and the Handi Quilter reps were there to assist with the machines. That quick trip to Ontario gave us helpful hints, experience and confidence to come home and get started again.David Taylor demo

Practice exercise using glitter thread
Practice exercise using glitter thread

My goal is to spend at least a few minutes each day practicing and to start building muscle memory. It is one of the daily quilting tasks that I keep track of in The 2017 Quilter’s Planner to hold myself accountable. As an added bonus, each week the planner features a fmq motif to practice and Stephanie Palmer @latenightquilter is creating short videos to introduce the designs. I was super excited to see that she demonstrates using a HQ Sweet Sixteen!Daily chart for quilting

Each day brings a new opportunity for practice, my confidence is growing and I am actually starting to have some fun in the process!fmq practice

Stay tuned for progress reports. Now it’s time to go practice!

getting ready for quiltcon east

The first week of the new year began with getting a couple of quilts prepared for QuiltCon East in Savannah and getting them shipped. I am very excited to have two quilts juried into the show this year.

The first one is titled “jubilant” and it is entered in the Small category.

"jubilant" by Marla Varner
“jubilant” (28″ x 30″) hand dyed cottons, Essex yarn dyed linen, matchstick quilting

The second quilt is called “Trestle Nestle” and it is entered in the Handwork category.

Trestle Nestle by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Trestle Nestle (56″ x 51″) hand quilted, white linen and Kona solids

The shapes for this quilt were inspired by a local trestle on a trail where I enjoy walking and cycling.

Railroad bridge trestle
Railroad Bridge trestle on the Olympic Discovery Trail, Sequim, Washington

Sleeves and labels were attached, and instructions printed.

labels for trestle nestle and jubilant by Marla Varner

It always seems to take me longer than I expect to prepare for shipping! The first hurdle is finding a box the correct size. In the past, I have been happy with a box that I was able to purchase at the UPS store, but they didn’t have any in stock this time around. (The recommendation by shows is that you put the quilts in a new box because boxes can become weakened when used.) Since I wasn’t able to locate a new box, I ended up reusing a box, but I reinforced it with a LOT of packing tape.

Then there is the plastic bag to keep your quilt safe from the elements. Recently, I have been using XLarge Ziploc® bags. They are sturdy, reusable and measure 2 ft x 1.7 ft.xlarge-ziploc

It always makes me a little nervous when I drop that  package off at the post office. I sent it with a signature required, so I will be tracking it today and making sure it arrived safely!

It won’t be long before I will need to get myself ready to travel to Savannah.

going_to_quiltcon_2017_zpsdlm8kkng

out with the old, in with the new

I wish I didn’t have to begin another post with, “it’s been awhile…”, but it surely has been a long dry spell without a post! I managed to have more commitments than time this fall. The outcome was that I accomplished a lot, but some of those deadlines were a bit stressful. So, I have been setting priorities and goals for the coming  year in hopes of avoiding that particular pitfall.

quilters-planner
Thanks to Jennifer Strauser @DizzyQuilter for The Quilter’s Planner and extra goodies!

In reflecting on my work and personal habits, I see that deadlines help me create a sense of urgency and actually get things finished, but I need to allow enough time and flexibility in my schedule in case life throws me a curve ball. The Quilter’s Planner is the tool I’m using to help me get organized. I’m very excited to have something so beautiful to track my projects, quilt show deadlines, learning opportunities and business events.

It was helpful to look back at this year and to see what was accomplished.

2016 Recap:

Exhibited quilts at:

  • AQS Quiltweek, Grand Rapids
  • AQS Quiltweek, Chattanooga
  • AQS Quiltweek, Des Moines
  • NOFAF, Sequim

Vendor at:

  • Irrigation Festival Arts & Crafts Fair
  • Port Townsend Studio Tour
  • Bainbridge Island Museum of Art Pop Up Art & Craft Fair
  • Jamestown Annual Holiday Craft Fair
  • North Olympic Fiber Arts Market
  • Opulent Evening

Retail outlet at Molly B’s Salon, Sequim

Blogging:

  • participated in 2016 New Quilt Bloggers group
  • took a class on WordPress at the community college
  • wrote a tutorial for the Cloud9 New Block Blog Hop

Giving quilts:

  • donated pixelated heart quilt to Quilts for Pulse (Orlando MQG)
  • donated 2 quilts for Project Linus (Vulture Peak Patchers)

Goals for 2017:

Learning:

  • develop free motion quilting skills
  • learn to use the HQ Sweet Sixteen midarm
  • practice photography skills
  • attend lectures at QuiltCon East

Exhibiting:

  • exhibit at QuiltCon East
  • enter new venues
  • participate in SDA events

Selling:

  • limit vending to 2-3 major events per year
  • explore selling online

Creating:

  • dye new fabric
  • improvise a major piece
  • hand quilt a major piece
  • limit items to sell, providing time for personal art
  • keep a better record of finished projects
  • participate in my first mini swap, the 2016 MQG Modern Mini swap at QuiltCon East
  • participate in my first virtual bee: @Molli Sparkles and the Honey Pot Bee

Sharing:

  • post to Instagram and Facebook at least 2x per week
  • post to blog at least 2x per month
  • create some tutorials to share

Donating:

  • continue to create giving quilts

Finding Balance:

  • schedule time to develop healthy habits
  • balance business and personal creating time

Now my goals are public and I aim to hold myself accountable! I’m linking up with Yvonne@quiltingjetgirl and her 2017 Planning Party.

2017-planning-party

 

 

leftovers

A confession…I love leftovers, both food and fabric! They give me an opportunity to be creative, I feel virtuous for not being wasteful and sometimes they even save me a little time.

Here are a few recent finishes that began as orphan blocks, trimmings or bits and pieces floating around the scrap bin and design wall.

Some leftover strips became a table runner.

linen table runner by marla varner
Essex yarn dyed linen + commercial solids for the stripes

A few orphan blocks became a pillow and a table mat.

improv pillow by marla varner
orphan blocks + Essex yarn dyed linen
table mat with skinny stripes by marla varner
another orphan block + Essex yarn dyed linen

And sometimes everything “clicks” and a few units that have been marinating for a long while are the impetus for something that keeps me exploring, and revising, and reworking until it makes me very happy!

"jubilant" by Marla Varner
“jubilant”, hand dyed cottons, Essex yarn dyed linen, matchstick quilting

So, the moral of the story is… save all those leftover bits because you never know when they will be just what you need to get your next project started!

(The table runner and place mats in the featured image began as some odds and ends from the recent Riley Blake challenge.)

Coral Reef (Hand Quilted category) Blogger’s Quilt Festival

A friend encouraged me to participate in the Blogger’s Quilt Festival, hosted by Amy of Amy’s Creative Side. I’ve decided to enter one of my favorite quilts, Coral Reef, in the Hand Quilted category. This quilt was completed a couple of years ago, but it will always be a special finish for me. It was made before my blogging days, so this post is an opportunity to share its story.

Coral Reef by Marla Varner

It began as a pile of half square triangle units created while at a retreat with some local quilty friends. (The nearby Seattle MQG members had recently hosted a bicolor challenge which is what got me thinking about trying a two color quilt.)  After much arranging and rearranging on my design floor, I decided on the final layout.

When it was basted, I started machine quilting it, but after a few lines of quilting, I changed my mind and decided it would be more fun to hand quilt. So I dug out all my aqua and orange threads, put it in my hoop and started stitching. It was the perfect canvas for dense hand quilting with a variety of thread types and weights. (It was also a great excuse to buy some new threads!)  I took an improvisational approach and made up the designs as I went without marking. It was so.much.fun!

Coral Reef, detail, by Marla Varner
The texture created by the quilting is my favorite feature of the quilt.

Planning to attend QuiltCon for the first time in 2015, I decided to enter the show, so I worked feverishly to finish it up before the deadline.

It was accepted and I was very excited to have it in the exhibition! What a thrill it was to learn that it had been chosen to receive the Coat’s Award of Quilting Excellence and to see it hanging there at the show. (My husband was even impressed to learn that it was possible to make money with a quilt.)

Coral Reef, Marla Varner, QuiltCon 2015

That prize money was used to start a small home business, penny lane quilts. To see my current projects and upcoming events, you can also find me hanging out on IG at pennylanequilts and on Facebook at penny lane quilts.

penny lane banner

Coral Reef was exhibited in our local North Olympic Fiber Arts Festival last fall, and is currently traveling to some AQS Quiltweek shows in Grand Rapids, Chattanooga and in the upcoming Des Moines, Iowa event. I’m looking forward to having it back home soon!

The backing fabric is a beautiful floral from Amy Butler's Lark collection.
The backing fabric is a beautiful floral from Amy Butler’s Lark collection.

This quilt remains one of my favorites, not because it won a ribbon, but because of all the hours that I spent lovingly stitching its layers together. I know many of you have seen this quilt before, but I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about it. I currently am hand quilting away on another quilt, but Coral Reef taught me that I need to pace myself with hand work. Hopefully I will have the new one finished well before any deadlines…we’ll see!

quilt-bloggers-festival-fall-2016

2016 Cloud9 new block blog hop

Welcome to the second day of the 2016 Cloud9 New Block Blog Hop!cloud9newblockbloghopbutton-700x700

It is so exciting to be part of the block hop, sponsored by Cloud9, and hosted by Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl, Cheryl of Meadow Mist Designs and Stephanie of Late Night Quilter! There are almost 70 bloggers designing blocks using the fat quarter bundle of lovely organic Cirrus Solids generously provided by Cloud9 fabrics. The hosts chose this palette for the hop, called “Berry Harvest”.  I decided to use four of the colors, leaving “Lilac” out this time around.color palette for New Block Blog Hop

My block, Woven Berry Basket, is an improvisational block based on the traditional basket weave design.  It uses a free form cutting technique (a.k.a cutting without a ruler).woven berry basket, 2016 Cloud9 New Block Blog Hop, marla varner, pennylanequilts

The goal of this tutorial is to introduce you to this technique. There are two main principles that I use in improv piecing:

  • if it is too short, add on
  • if it is too long, cut it off

Your block will not be exactly like mine, but I will describe a process that you can use to make one that is similar in design.

Tips for improv piecing:

  • A rotary cutter with a 60mm blade is my preference for free form cutting
  • Set the stitch length on your machine a little shorter than usual
  1. Cut 4 strips 5 in x 18 in  (approx) Here’s your first chance to cut without the ruler!
berry basket weave tutorial, marla varner, pennylanequilts
free hand cut the equivalent of 4 strips approx 5 x 18 (notice the cut is straight-ish)

2. Free hand cross cut strips that vary from about 1 in – 2 .25 in width from each strip

basket weave tutorial, marla varner, pennylanequilts
I like to cut each strip individually, some are slightly angled, but most are straightish

3. Stitch 9 pairs of strips together, varying the colors and widths.

berry basket weave tutorial, marla varner, pennylanequilts
chain piece 9 sets of strips, no need for pins, just go slowly and align the edges as you go

4. Press seams to the darker fabric

berry basket weave tutorial, marla varner, pennylanequilts
variety of widths and color combinations

5. Add a third strip to each set, again varying the color placement and width of strips.

woven berry basket, marla varner, pennylanequilts

6. Lay out the 9 units in an alternating vertical, horizontal pattern.

woven berry basket, marla varner, pennylanequilts
To end up with a 12.5 unfinished block, we will aim to have each unit be at least 4.5 in on each side before assembling. (I trimmed the ends to even up the units.)

*At this point, you will need to start making decisions based on how your units are sized. I will attempt to describe how I solved the puzzle.

For the first row, I decided to cut the bottom off the middle unit, and add a strip to the third unit.

row 1 piecing
If it’s too long, cut it off and if it’s too short, add on!

I followed the same procedure for the second row:

second row assembly
a strip added to the middle unit

But when the units were assembled, the second row was shorter than the first, and I was aiming to have each row approx 13 in wide so that I would be able to trim it down to 12.5 in. What to do? Add on!

second row
I used the cutting mat measurements to see if the overall width was about 13 inches

To assemble the rows, I trimmed the top edge of the second row, then overlapped it onto the bottom of the first row (right sides facing up). Using that cut edge as my guide, I trimmed the bottom of the top row to match.

assemble rows
*use the ruler to stabilize the edge, but do not use it as a cutting edge

Follow the above procedures to assemble the third row and attach.

Can you see how I am cutting along the edge of the row, not along the ruler edge?
Can you see how I am cutting along the edge of the row, not along the ruler edge?

If your block is big enough, just trim to 12.5 in square and your block is complete. If it is too small, improvise! You might add some strips to form a frame, and then trim.

trim block to 12.5 in
Success! Trim to 12.5 inches and you’re finished.

Here is my finished block:finished blockThe thing I like best about improvisational work is that you are engaged making design decisions throughout the process. *Warning: this may be addictive!  As I work, I find myself asking lots of “What if?” questions:

  • What if I cut the strips wider (or thinner)?
  • What if I used 5 colors?
  • What if I only used 2 colors?
  • What if it was scrappy?
  • What if the units were smaller and I made a 4 x 4 grid?

I hope you will give this a try, and that you will enjoy the process as much as I do. If you make a block, I’d love to see it! For those on Instagram, tag your photo @pennylanequilts and use the hashtag #wovenberrybasket.

Thanks for stopping by! I’d love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions you may have.

And don’t forget to enter the Giveaways!  Visit each of our wonderful hosts for the chance to win 3 separate fat quarter bundles of beautiful Cloud9 Cirrus Solids.

Be sure to check out the rest of the stops on the hop. You’ll be glad you did!

September 12, 2016 hosted by Yvonne @ Quilting Jetgirl

 

September 13, 2016 hosted by Cheryl @ Meadow Mist Designs

September 14 hosted by Stephanie @Late Night Quilter

time to regroup

The past few weeks I have been focused on preparations for a local studio tour that was held the last weekend in August. Here are a few pictures of our set up at the beautiful home studio of Diana Cronin and her Egg & I Pottery in Chimacum, Washington during the Port Townsend Studio Tour.

Gail Hustedde and Diana Cronin
It was so fun to spend time with Gail Hustedde and Diana Cronin during the studio tour!
Gail Hustedde pottery
Some of Gail Hustedde’s beautiful pottery on display and an explanation of her soda firing process
Diana Cronin's colorful pottery on display at her home studio, Egg & I Pottery
Diana Cronin’s colorful ceramic pottery on display in her Egg & I Studio

We enjoyed chatting with all the visitors, and their interest and support were much appreciated!

This week I’ve been busy recovering from the tour. There were a few custom orders from the show to complete, the remaining items to sort and inventory, as well as cleaning up the studio after those weeks of furious making.

In the process of cleaning up, I purged lots of old magazines, books and yes, even some fabric!cleaning-up

This week’s main goal is to write and test a tutorial for a block to be presented next week as part of the New Block Blog Hop sponsored by Cloud 9 and featuring their wonderful organic Cirrus solids. This is my first attempt at a tutorial, so lots of learning opportunities for me! Here’s a hint: it will involve improvisational piecing, and will be written for people who are new to improv, so be on the lookout for that post one week from today.

color palette for New Block Blog Hop

There are about 70 participants who will be presenting a pattern or tutorial for a 12 inch (finished) block made with the beautiful Cloud9 fabrics. On September 12-14, be sure to check in at each of the hosts’ blog posts for a list of blog participants and a chance to win a bundle of Cirrus Solids! At the end of the hop, the featured blocks will be collected and assembled into charity quilts.

Off to the drawing and cutting board!

small improv projects

The past couple of weeks have found me busy creating inventory for an upcoming studio tour. For those of you in the area, it is the annual Port Townsend Studio Tour , and I will be located at the Egg & I Pottery studio in Chimacum, thanks to my talented friend, Diana Cronin. For more information about the tour and to see Diana’s colorful ceramic pottery check out the links.

Art PT poster

I thought it would be fun to have some items that would coordinate with Diana’s pottery, so I have been busy making coasters and mug rugs.

stack of mug rugs and coasters

I played with bright scraps of fabric and improvisational piecing to create these colorful accents for the home. Some improv, straight line quilting was added for the finish.

bright mug rug and coaster set

mug rug, coasters

If you have been thinking about trying some improvisational piecing, or if your scrap box is overflowing, you might want to give a small project a try.

mug rug, coasters

Now I’m off to work a little bigger and make place mats. With any luck, I’ll have those to share by the end of the week. Hope you have time to play this week, too!

Marla Varner

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