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!

tiny squares

What can you do with your smallest scraps?  Sometimes I cut them into 1.5 inch squares that I’ve found  to be useful for lots of projects.

business card holders

card holder display

pouches

pincushions

patchwork pincushion

checkbook covers, coin purses (and a card holder)

gift set

Someday, who knows, maybe I’ll make a postage stamp quilt out of these cute little squares!

2016 New Quilt Bloggers Blog Hop

2016 New Quilt Bloggers

This is the last week of the 2016 New Quilt Bloggers Blog Hop. Be sure to check out these folks from the Sewcial Network:

button created by Beth@Plaid & Paisley

Blog Hop Week 4 – July 18th
Jennifer @Dizzy Quilter
Seven @The Concerned Craft
Mary @Made By Marney

Amanda @Quiltologie

And then visit Yvonne @Quilting Jetgirl to enter to win some amazing prizes. Tomorrow, July 21st, is the last day to enter. (My apologies for the late posting, but I had a major computer crash this week.) Continue the fun by meeting the other new quilt bloggers. Links available at  Cheryl @Meadow Mist Designs and  Stephanie @Late Night Quilter.

 

2016 New Quilt Bloggers – Blog Hop

Welcome to week three of this year’s blog hop!

My name is Marla Varner, and I’d like to introduce you to:

penny lane quilts “modern with a hint of vintage”

Last summer, I decided to start a small business to sell hand made, quilted items and Penny Lane Quilts was born. (I live on Penny Lane, hence the name.) At this point, I sell at a few arts and crafts fairs, some local shops and I do some custom work, as well.

My tagline, “modern with a hint of vintage” refers to creating modern quilts and products on vintage machines. I’ve been quilting for over twenty years, so I guess I’m a little vintage, too!

I live in beautiful Sequim, Washington. The  Olympic mountains greet me each morning and the nearby waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca are all that separate us from Victoria, B.C.

view of the Olympic Mountains from my studio windows
the view of the Olympic Mountains from my studio windows

My quilting adventures began over 20 years ago when a friend suggested taking a class at our local quilt store. That shop has long disappeared, but my love of quilting has only grown. Over the years I learned a variety of skills as I created  traditional quilts. During this time, I also collected vintage Singer sewing machines including a few treadle and several hand crank machines.

handcrank Singer sewing machine
Singer 201 hand crank

But a few years ago, I began creating improvisational quilts and dyeing my own fabrics and my quilting took on a more contemporary look. I joined the Modern Quilt Guild in 2013 to connect with other quilters interested in taking a modern approach to their quilting.

Detail from All the Colors in the Box

At QuiltCon2015, I was so excited to be attending my first big quilt show and convention. I was doubly thrilled to have two of my quilts juried into that show and to see them displayed in the company of so many wonderful quilts. I was shocked, thrilled and a little overwhelmed to discover that my quilt, Coral Reef, had won an award.

detail of quilt Coral Reef by Marla Varner
Coral Reef and ribbon from QuiltCon 2015

I missed last year’s show, but I’m registered and excited to be attending QuiltCon East in Savannah next February!

Baby quilts are always fun to make and I try to keep a few on hand to sell or donate. The size is just right for machine quilting and I enjoy simple patchwork piecing. Here is one of my favorites.

Spring Frames
“Spring Frames” exhibited at QuiltCon2015

There are lots more photos of my projects in the galleries, including household items and personal accessories. Go to the menu and check them out!

card holders
business card holders

If you are interested in following along here, I’ll share my process, my current projects and maybe even some helpful tips.

Speaking of helpful tips, here are a couple in honor of the blog hop:

Blogging tip: For technical advice, do an internet search. It works ALMOST every time! When that fails, ask family and friends. The advice and feedback that I received from my hive mates and mentors was invaluable! I am so grateful to you all.

Many thanks to our son, who created the blog's new header!
Many thanks to my son, who created the blog’s new header!

Quilting tip: There are MANY ways to achieve your desired result. Do some research and then discover what works best for you. Maybe you will come up with an original way that works best of all!

A few fun facts:

  • I can play the accordion, although I don’t very often.
  • Flamingos seem to collect at my house.
  • Sometimes I live in a horse trailer.

A question for you:  I love hand work…quilting, applique, English paper piecing, etc. Do you love to slow stitch, too? If so, what’s your favorite type of hand stitching? If not, I’d love to hear your favorite technique.

PRIZES!!! The blog hop is supported by our wonderful sponsors, with lots of giveaways each week.

Visit our wonderful mentor and host, Yvonne, to enter!

Host: Yvonne @Quilting Jetgirl

button by Beth@Plaid & Paisley
button created by Beth@Plaid & Paisley

I hope you’ll visit the fellow bloggers from our hive this week, and show them some encouragement, too!

Blog Hop Week 3 – July 11th

Sharon @Yellow Cat Quilt Designs
Amanda @This Mom Quilts
Laurel @Quilts By Laurel

Marla @Penny Lane Quilts

Here are the other bloggers in the Sewcial Network:

Blog Hop Week 1 – June 13th

Amanda @Gypsy Moon Quilt Co.
Paige @Quilted Blooms
Tish @Tish’s Adventures In Wonderland

Melva @Melva Loves Scraps

Blog Hop Week 2 – June 20th

Carole @Carole Lyles Shaw
Anne @Said With Love
Beth @Plaid and Paisley

Jennifer @RV Quilting

Blog Hop Week 4 – July 18th 

Jennifer @Dizzy Quilter

Seven @The Concerned Craft

Mary @Made By Marney

Amanda @Quiltologie

Many thanks to our mentors  who gave us so much valuable assistance and guidance!

Visit the other hosts to find the rest of the new bloggers and the chance to win some great prizes on their sites, too!

Cheryl @Meadow Mist Designs
Stephanie @Late Night Quilter

Comments are welcome and appreciated!

an invitation

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“Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Following the tragic shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Orlando Modern Quilt Guild put out a request for quilts. “The goal is to gather enough quilts to help not only the victims who survived, but the families of victims who perished, as well as first responders, nurses, police officers, etc.”

For additional updates and information, follow the Orlando MQG on their blog.

On Instagram, check out #quiltsforpulse to be inspired by the many quilts being created.

“Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes.” Ella Wheeler Wilcox

rainbow pixelated heart, Marla Varner, pennylanequilts
I started with a Kona Snow and a Moda Grunge charm pack , then added from stash.

The weight of tragedies can be overwhelming, particularly when the tragedy is the result of violence. My hope in participating in this project is that the tangible outpouring of love sends the message that there is much more love than hate in this world.

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” Henry David Thoreau

While creating this quilt, my thoughts were with those affected. My sincere hope is that this gift from a stranger will give some small comfort. I hope that the recipients will be reminded that they are surrounded by people who care.

orlando-top-pieced
The top is pieced and ready for quilting. I plan to invite a friend to help me finish it.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” John Lennon, Imagine

Follow the links above to see how you can contribute. Or, find another charity who gives love and comfort through the making of quilts and share a little hope.

pillows, what’s not to love?

Pillows are one of my favorite projects to make. Each one is its own little composition, and it’s a great way to create something decorative and  functional  for your home. I think they make great gifts, too.

pillow, hand dyed fabrics, Marla Varner
improv piecing and hand dyed fabrics

If you want to try a new piecing technique,  a bit of free motion quilting or even some hand quilting, a pillow is a much smaller commitment than a quilt. Last month I experimented with some worn out jeans and some thrifted shirts.

upcycled denim pillows, Marla Varner
upcycled denim pillows
pillows made from upcycled shirts
pillows from upcycled shirts

Orphan blocks can find a new home in a pillow. A bit of special, long hoarded fabric can be featured in a place of honor. Experiment with a new color scheme and see where it takes you.

pillow, hand dyed fabrics, MarlaVarner
improv piecing with hand dyed fabrics
pillow made from hand dyed fabrics
improv piecing with hand dyed fabrics

What’s your favorite quilted project?

made in America

A customer recently inquired about purchasing the small “Made in America”  quilt that I created for  American Made Brand’s “Tiny Quilt Challenge”. This little quilt has been touring and will be busy until sometime in 2017. You can view a virtual tour of this exhibit here.

"Made in America", Marla Varner, penny lane quiltsSo, I offered to make another, similar quilt for her. This time I took a few photos of the process to show you how I created “Made in America.2″

I began with a wonky star block, using 2.5” charm squares. Various blues and whites give a little variety to the colors.

piecing a wonky star, penny lane quilts

Next, I began creating the stripes using several reds and whites for variety. Basically, I just cut a line with my rotary cutter.  I laid this on another strip (right sides up) and used the first cutting line as my guide to cut the next piece.

I continued this process creating the short stripes section and the long stripes section. Then I just cut the three sections in a way that would allow them to fit together.attaching the star block to the stripes

made-in-america-adding-stripes-webThe last thing I did was to add a border of white around the flag, leaving extra room for trimming after quilting.

The white stripes were quilted with dense machine quilting, allowing the red stripes to stand out.dense machine quilting on the stripes of "Made in America" , Marla Varner, penny lane quilts

The white star was hand quilted using a variegated white perle cotton #12.detail of hand quilting

I used a single, straight fold binding to reduce the thickness since this quilt will be framed.

As I put the final stitches in this little flag, my thoughts turned to Memorial Day, a day of honor and remembrance.

 

English paper piecing (EPP)

Last night, while watching a wonderful MQG webinar featuring Anna Boenish, I was reminded of the many benefits of English paper piecing.

photo courtesy of Anna Boenish
photo courtesy of Anna Boenish

First of all, it’s portable. I keep my kit ready to go and it’s the project that I throw in my bag when I know I’ll have spare moments waiting for an appointment, riding a ferry, watching a ball game or being a passenger on a road trip.

English paper piecing kit of Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Ready to go: paper pieces, fabric strips, scissors, thread, thread conditioner, clips, needle book, thimble and a pouch by @sew_fantastic

Secondly, because you only need  a few materials and hardly any space, it’s ideal for stitching in any location. Indoors or outdoors, you can literally use this technique anywhere!

plus units for epp plus quilt laid out on the sofa of our horse trailer
Starting my epp plus quilt, viewed here on the sofa of our horse trailer while camping in Arizona

Another great benefit is that EPP, like other handwork, lets you be social and visit with friends and family while still making headway on your project.

EPP is also a slow process. Now this could be seen as a benefit or a drawback, but in my opinion, slowing down is often a good thing.

If you have a design that requires precise or intricate work, EPP is definitely a way to accomplish this. It is also well suited to fussy cutting.

i-spy-web
My “I Spy quilt”, still a work in progress

I had never really thought about it until I listened to Anna’s talk, but another thing that appeals to me is that you can begin without a plan. In fact, some of my traditional quilts were actually improvisational using this technique.

English paper pieced star quilt by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Star quilt English paper pieced with 30’s reproduction fabrics, pieced in the 90’s, hand quilted and finished in 2011

I often make units and just keep putting them together until they morph into something.

stack of epp plus units by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Stack of plus units ready to assemble

That’s how my current project is evolving. The template pieces for my epp plus quilt were created by Mollie Johanson and she provides a free template and tutorial on her blog Wild Olive. Check out  #eppplus on Instagram for photos of folks using this pattern. You might even see pics of me basting in the truck while heading over Snoqualmie Pass.

Getting ready to add some more plus blocks
The current state of my epp plus quilt,  May 20, 2016. Getting ready to attach more plus units.

If you are interested in learning how to English paper piece, just do a search of the topic. There are great resources and tutorials available.

And, if you’re a MQG member, but missed Anna’s webinar, log into the Community section of their website. Under the Resources tab, you’ll find a list of all the past webinars available. Just one of the perks of being a member! You can also find her work, and the unique ways she uses English paper piecing on her website Quilting Queerly or follow her on Instagram @quiltingqueerly.

it’s been awhile

After a long hiatus, I am working on this blog and intend to post more often! Here are a few of my quilting adventures from the past eight months.

Last fall, the Bainbridge Island Modern Quilt Guild hosted their 3rd annual Bainbridge Quilt Festival. This is a one day, outdoor show, which takes place on the second Saturday in September  in downtown Bainbridge. The festival is a celebration of quilts and quilters, and if you’re from our area consider joining us this year!

Bainbridge Quilt Festival 2015
Quilts by Stan Green and Melissa Carraway displayed along Winslow Way during the 2015 festival

In October, the North Olympic Fiber Arts Festival held their 10th annual exhibition and three of my quilts were on display. The festival includes a Fiber Extravaganza that celebrates the fiber arts with workshops, demonstrations and a fiber arts market in addition to the well-curated show at the Museum and Arts Center in Sequim.

penny lane quilts booth
Penny Lane Quilts booth ready for customers at NOFAF fiber arts market

 

fiber artists demonstrate their skills on a beautiful sunny day in Sequim
Fiber demonstrations during the 2015
Fiber Arts Extravaganza

Our winter was spent camping in the desert in Arizona with our horses. Lots of horseback riding, reading, hiking and sightseeing filled our days.

4 horseback riders and saguaro cactus
Sunny and dry, but not always warm!

But with my trusty Featherweight and some hand stitching to occupy my time, I managed to complete a few projects.

stitching on a featherweight outside of my horse trailer
Stitching outdoors at the Silver Bit Ranch

My membership in the Arizona Quilt Guild and the Vulture Peak Patchers allows me to participate in their events. This year that included a bus trip to the AQS QuiltWeek – Phoenix show, volunteering at the Desert Cabelleros Western Museum, participating in the guild’s show and attending an annual three day retreat called Sew Wickenburg.

vintage quilt from the collection of the Desert Caballeros Western Museum
vintage quilt from the collection of the Desert Caballeros Western Museum

Now that we’re back home, I’ve been busy in the studio with lots of new projects in the works. Stay tuned for updates. I promise it won’t be eight months until my next post!

summer dyed

Our weather  has been perfect for dyeing fabric! Here are a few photos to share  from some recent dyeing sessions.

2015-06-21 20.18.02
First, the fabric is “scoured” by washing in warm water with soda ash and Synthrapol. It is then dried in the dryer.
2015-06-22 12.05.25
It’s helpful to refer back to notes from previous sessions.
2015-06-22 09.59.37
A journal (complete with fabric swatches) helps to inform choices for new color experiments.
A dust mask and rubber gloves are necessary safety precautions.
A dust mask and rubber gloves are necessary safety precautions.
Some beautiful fabrics waiting for the soda ash fixative to be added.
Some beautiful fabrics are waiting for the soda ash fixative to be added.
Each pie was placed in a plastic bag while it cured.
Each piece was placed in a plastic bag while it cured.
These fabrics were first rinsed outdoors in cold water to get most of the excess dye removed.
These fabrics were first rinsed outdoors in cold water to get most of the excess dye removed.
Then they were given another rinse indoors with hot water.
Then they were given another rinse indoors with hot water.
Ready for the final wash and rinse in the machine, adding Synthrapol to remove excess dye.
The final wash and rinse is in the machine, adding Synthrapol to remove excess dye.

And what could be more fun than sharing the experience with great friends?

I can’t wait to see what everyone creates with their new fabric choices!

introducing: penny lane quilts

Welcome to penny lane quilts, where I’ll share my creative process and give you a peek inside my studio.

I love piecing on vintage machines,

1946 electric Singer 201

cutting fabric into little pieces,

2015-05-07 16.13.25

hand quilting,

varner.marla.Coral Reef. detail

and looking out my window.

the view out my window

If you find something that interests you, I hope  you’ll stop by often and leave a comment now and then.

Marla Varner

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