Temperature Quilt 2021

After seeing all of the temperature quilts appearing on Instagram, I couldn’t resist joining in on the fun. I love these daily projects that slowly accumulate over the course of a year. Both of my squircle quilts were made in this fashion.

Our weather is rather mild here in Sequim, so when I made my key, I chose to do 3 degree intervals except for our most frequent range where I used 2 degree intervals. Despite living in Western Washington, our weather is drier due to the rain shadow effect from the Olympic Mountains. A neighborhood weather station on Weather Underground gave me a very local source of data. Each morning, my husband recorded the data for me, making it a collaborative effort.

I used my quarter circle templates from Jen Carlton Bailly for the daily units. The convex shape represents the highs, the concave the lows and the smaller curve shows the amount of precipitation. I traced all of the shapes, cut them out with scissors and pieced them by hand. To provide movement to the design, the blocks are rotated based on their relationship to the previous day’s high temperature.

A calendar layout makes it easy to find specific dates. The blocks were assembled by machine each month allowing me to take them down and free up space on the design wall. On January 1st, I had all the blocks assembled.

And then it stalled. I couldn’t decided where to put the key, how to do the borders, etc. Finally this weekend I dedicated some time to do the work I’d been avoiding and I now have a finished top!

Postscript: I had a lot of scraps from the concave pieces that were just the right size to do a smaller version for 2022. I’m using the same rules as last year without the precipitation component. These units finish at one inch and are pretty cute if I do say so myself. Here’s a photo for size comparison.

Crevices

The quilt I’m sharing today is very different from Tiny Bubbles, in style, technique and process. I’m thrilled to announce that it is also headed to QuiltCon in Phoenix next month.

Crevices (40″ x 45.5″) machine pieced, hand quilted

Crevices began in a virtual workshop with Maria Shell @talesofastitcher which focused on freehand curve and circle techniques. The class was a sampler, but I was particularly intrigued by a technique Maria calls “braided curves”. I pieced a lot of these rectangular units using a controlled palette and began the task of creating a composition.

After about a month of manipulations on the design wall, I decided to edit out many of the units. As I worked, an image of light streaming into a canyon emerged in my mind.

Representational art is not my style and I struggled with how to create the abstract feeling of sunlight on geological structures without it becoming too literal. The palette also felt constrained, so I began adding in new shades as I pieced in additional curvy lines. This exercised my brain in such a good way!

Thread basting is my preference when hand quilting because I don’t like to snag my thread on pins.

The large, curved spaces invited me to add texture by hand quilting. It was so relaxing to stitch these wavy lines using a variety of perle cotton threads.

Originally, I had planned a faced edge, but in the end I decided to go with a pastel binding. I like the way it frames the piece, bringing the lighter shades from the center of the quilt out to the edges. (In real life, the binding is much straighter than the photo would suggest, I promise!)

And what did I do with all the pieces that were edited out of this composition? I created another quilt.

Placing the strips in a horizontal orientation, images of mountains, streams and valleys emerged. For this piece, I challenged myself to work quickly and intuitively, restricting myself to using the leftovers from Crevices. Meander is the result.

Meander (38″ x 36.5″) machine pieced, machine and hand quilted

Improving my free motion quilting skills is an ongoing goal of mine. I explored some organic filler designs and used many motifs from Christina Cameli‘s book, Step-by-Step Texture Quilting. Lots of thread changes and adjusting the motifs to fit the shapes took all of my concentration. About half way through, it was beginning to feel flat and stiff from all the dense quilting. Adding in sections of hand stitches softened the texture.

And what did I do with the leftovers? I still had lots of odd bits that I was determined not to add to the scrap bins, so potholders to the rescue! I donated these to the Friends of the International Quilt Museum to sell in the gift shop as a fundraiser.

Whenever I take a technique workshop, I feel that it shakes things up in my studio. Since I rarely use strip piecing techniques, creating these large units initially felt very quick and satisfying. However, I found it challenging to shape them into compositions. Every quilt teaches me something new!

Tiny Bubbles

It’s been just over a year since my last post and there are a few projects I would like to document here. First up is Tiny Bubbles which began in August 2020 with a sew along hosted by Leslie Tucker Jenison and Michele Muska. We used Jen Carlton Bailly‘s smallest template to create tiny quarter circle units which Jen calls “curvelets”. Each unit finishes at one inch.

With no plan in mind, I liked the idea of hand piecing little blocks from my overflowing scrap bin. (Note to self: if you want to use up scraps, making little units is not a terribly efficient way to do so!) It was the first summer of the pandemic and I enjoyed tuning into the weekly Instagram Live chats with Leslie and Michelle. My process was to make a few units each day, watching them accumulate on the design wall.

At the end of the sew along, I began piecing the curvelets into 4 1/2 inch blocks, forming four circles made up of 16 units. I decided to assemble by machine because I’m not THAT crazy and I still wanted to see how large I could make the final piece before losing interest.

As you can see from this photo, there is some serious shrinkage going on here. The assembly required lots of pinning and careful piecing. Each day I continued to add more curvelets to the collection.

Life continued on in this way until June, 2021, when Jenn McMillan hosted the #100daysummersewalong to encourage any handwork project. I decided to participate and add one 4 1/2″ block a day consisting of four 2 1/2″ quarter circle units. During this time, I continued to assemble the smaller units into blocks.

One morning I came into the studio and the wind had blown over my portable design wall. My friend, Sarah Hibbert @quiltscornerstone thought it looked like they were trying to say something. I decided to put them back on the board and spelled out this “HELP” message. (It’s been a long two years of trying to entertain myself, what can I say?!)

At the end of the summer I decided it was time to reassess and come up with a plan. Looking back at my photos, it looks like I rearranged and added more blocks for about a month before I actually completed the top. Those poor little blocks were about worn out from all the action!

Basting time! I used a gray peppered cotton for the backing which is nice for allowing the quilting to show.

A straight line grid was quilted using the walking foot on my domestic machine. Then I hand quilted around the larger units using perle cotton thread.

Tiny Bubbles was accepted into QuiltCon 2022 in Phoenix and I am happy that people will be able to see it in person to appreciate the scale of the small units. This is the description that I sent with my entry:

 Quilted during the pandemic, these tiny bubbles kept me occupied while isolated in my own small bubble. All of the quarter circles were traced from templates, cut with scissors and pieced by hand. The curved units were then assembled by machine.

Quilt details for those enquiring minds:

44″ x 44″

completed October 2021

curved units hand pieced

assembled on machine

292 (2 inch finished units)

368 (1 inch finished units)

1320 pieces of fabric

Rear View

It’s been exactly a year since my last blog post on January 4, 2020. As much as I would like to fast forward to the present, I decided to document some of my projects from the past year. In future posts, I’ll give more details on some of the quilts which are still in progress.

In January, I began a 100 day project, creating one letter per day.

Over the course of the year, I participated in three swaps and created mini quilts using these little freeform “junction” blocks.

It was an honor to receive the “Quilting Excellence” award at QuiltCon 2020 in Austin. (To read more about “For the Love of Squircles” see my last post.)

“A Squircle a Day” went on a road trip to the southwest in late February, and was my hand quilting companion until its completion in August.

Many masks were donated to our community and given to keep friends and family safe.

A couple of patchwork baby quilts gave me the opportunity to practice some free motion quilting.

I participated in the “littledrunkmonday” sew along hosted by Leslie Jenison @leslietuckerjenison and Michele Muska @michelemuska making little “curvelets” using Jen Carlton-Bailly‘s @bettycrockerass templates. This is all hand pieced and is a long term project. The final size and shape is yet to be determined.

Since early March, we have spent all of our time on the farm with occasional trips to town for groceries and supplies. We are so grateful to have such a beautiful space to call home.

Also among my blessings are the people who encouraged, motivated, inspired and comforted me through the events of the past year. I am eternally grateful for your support and friendship.

Celebrating friendship with Sophie Zaugg @lunalovequilts and her “Love” quilt at QuiltCon 2020.

Wishing you all peace, health and happiness in the year ahead.

For the Love of Squircles

First of all, I’d like to welcome the new readers to the blog since my last post. This quilt was largely responsible for my long absence! I am just adding a label and preparing to ship to Austin, so it is time to tell its story.

The quilt began as a daily project in January of 2018. After piecing my first squircle quilt using print fabric in 2017, I decided to repeat the process with solid fabrics. This time I pieced the background of each block before using needle turn applique to attach the squircle shapes. All of the fabrics came from my scrap bin, and were pieced and stitched randomly, with no particular design in mind.

At the end of the year, I had my 365 blocks plus the 13 extra to again bring my array to 18 x 21. Unlike the previous quilt that was assembled as I went along, this time I had 378 blocks to arrange on the design wall. Looking back through my photos, it looks like I arranged and rearranged them for over a month!

arranging the squircle blocks

I began piecing the blocks just before heading to Nashville for QuiltCon and finished piecing mid-April.

piecing the squircle quilt

By the middle of May, it was basted with a fluffy Hobbs Tuscany wool batting and an extra wide peppered cotton backing. I loved the way it felt once it was basted and couldn’t wait to start hand quilting!

preparing to baste For the Love of Squircles

Fortunately, I  had stocked up on WonderFil Eleganza perle cotton #8 while I was at QuiltCon.

My goal was to have it completed by the December 2 deadline for  submissions to QuiltCon 2020 in Austin. Here is my hoop on the first day of quilting.

squircles quilt hand quilting, Marla Varner, penny lane quilts

After quilting for a few days, I estimated that I would need to quilt an average of three hours a day to make that deadline. That seemed doable! I worked on it steadily throughout the summer and tried to make up for lost time when I was away from home on other adventures.

By September, it became obvious that I had miscalculated, and I began quilting all day every day. This is not something I would recommend, as it takes a toll on the body.  I tried to  consistently  take breaks, do hand and shoulder exercises, change chairs and positions which all helped to keep me stitching. I also listened to a LOT of audiobooks. There were many days when I abdicated all but the most pressing of daily responsiblities. And here is my hoop on the final day of quilting.

last day of quilting For the Love of Squircles by Marla Varner penny lane quilts

Late November found me trimming and attaching the binding. Trying to get good photos on gray, rainy days was a stressful part of the submission process. A goal for this year is to improve my photography set up.

My diligence paid off and the quilt submission was in before Thanksgiving…a new record for me! Many thanks to Audrey Esarey @cottonandbourbon for suggesting the name of the quilt to me. (She is a rising star in the modern quilt community…I highly recommend you check out her amazing work.)

For the Love of Squircles by Marla Varner penny lane quilts

It was so exciting to get the news that it was accepted to QuiltCon and I am looking forward to traveling to Austin again. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Summertime

The summer adventures brought new experiences, challenges, skills…and awards!

In July, my husband and I traveled to Sisters, Oregon for Quilter’s Affair and the annual outdoor quilt show. We enjoyed a week of relaxing, camping, hiking, exploring and volunteering.

Smith Rock State Park

Our horse trailer (with bikes this time instead of horses) was our home base at the city’s Creekside campground. It is conveniently located to restaurants and we confess to starting each morning with a walk to the Sisters Bakery for coffee and a treat. I may have eaten a scone every morning and tried all the flavors. The marionberry was hard to beat!

I attended two classes. The first was with Jen Carlton Bailley  making blocks with curved piecing using her acrylic templates. This was a totally new skill for me and Jen had lots of helpful hints for achieving accuracy.

fabric prepped and ready to start cutting using Jen Carlton Bailley's templates

In the other class with Sarah Fielke  we created improvisational letters. Both of these classes really made me think! I haven’t had time to continue these explorations, but I hope to soon.

We volunteered to hang and take down quilts for the one day outdoor show. It takes lots of people to pull off this event!

Best of QuiltCon 2019 traveling exhibition at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt show. “Modern Times” by Jenny Haynes (@pappersaxsten) in foreground.

The day following the show, the ladders were out again and we helped hang and take down Carolyn Friedlander’s quilts over at the Five Pines Lodge. She was the featured quilter and gave a lecture and guided tours along the peaceful paths. It was special seeing her wonderful quilts all together in this setting.

Carolyn Friedlander’s quilts hanging at Five Pines Lodge, Sisters, OR

Carolyn Friedlander’s Eads quilt hanging at Five Pine Lodge

Upon returning home from Sisters, I finished the preparations for my lecture and hand quilting class up at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington. These events were in conjunction with the Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century exhibition at the museum which I wrote about in my last post. The museum staff was absolutely gracious and so supportive.

photo courtesy of Marilyn Isaak

I admit to being nervous as this was my first foray into speaking and teaching, but I really enjoyed meeting new quilting friends, talking about quilts and sharing my love of hand quilting.

Look at these dedicated hand stitchers!

In August, I found time to focus on my own hand quilting. I have some show deadlines that will require daily stitching progress.

hand quilting squircles quilt, marla varner, penny lane quilts

 

And speaking of shows… in August, my quilt “At the Junction” placed first in the Modern category at the American Quilter’s Society (AQS) Quiltweek show in Grand Rapids. (If you want to learn this quilt’s story, I wrote a post about it here.)

cutting the first long seam at the junction Marla Varner penny lane quilts

This week I learned that  “At the Junction” had also placed first in the Modern Category at the AQS Fall Paducah show. What an honor and thrill! This contest has a unique feature. It takes the first place quilts from each of the fifteen categories and lets the public choose the top seven awards, including the $20,000 Best of Show. There was only a 24 hour voting period.

You can imagine the excitement when the results were posted and I learned  my quilt had placed “4th Overall” and won a major award.  (There may have been some happy dancing here on Penny Lane.) Many thanks to all of you who voted and supported this quilt! I am very grateful and would like to thank all the sponsors who make the awards possible.

pho
photo courtesy of Cassandra Beaver, “At the Junction”, Fall Paducah 2019

If you are curious,  the complete awards results are listed here. AQS also put the award ceremony with Victoria Findlay Wolfe on their QUILTTV YouTube channel if you’d like to see all of the award winners in each category as they are announced. For those unable to attend, it is a wonderful way to participate virtually. I am so inspired by all the wonderful quilts and the amazing attention to detail by these talented makers.

“At the Junction” will travel on to the AQS Charleston Quiltweek , September 25-27, for one more show before returning home.

After all the excitement, I am ready to get back in the studio to explore new ideas and focus on some hand stitching!

Modern Quilts exhibition at the Whatcom Museum

The traveling exhibition for Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century is at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington this summer. They have  partnered with the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum  and the Bellingham Modern Quilt Guild to provide lots of opportunities to explore modern quilting. All the details, including lectures, workshops and special events are on their websites.

The opening reception was a  preview party for members on May 31. I arrived early and enjoyed this wonderful showcase of quilts made by the Bellingham Modern Quilt Guild members lining the hallway of the Lightcatcher Building.

Bellingham MQG quilts at Whatcom

The reception was very well attended and I enjoyed meeting members of the Bellingham guild as well as the staff from the Whatcom and LaConner museums. The highlight was having my sister-in-law and niece join me for the festivities.

family with Trestle Nestle by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Trestle Nestle, Marla Varner and a glimpse of Skewed Symmetry, Katie Pedersen

The exhibition includes 63 quilts from the book, Modern Quilting: Designs of the New Century. The gallery is spacious and beautiful. Just look at the reflections on the shiny floor!

Chess on the Steps, Krista Hennebury; Tessellation 4, Nydia Kehnle; For Tanya, Emily, E.D. Coffey and Miriam C.K. Coffey;  I Quilt, Kathy York

Migration Quilt, Kristi Schroeder and Lee Jenkins; X Quilt, Stacey Sharman; Trestle Nestle, Marla Varner; Skewed Symmetry, Katie Pedersen

The American Context #68, Double Elvis, Luke Haynes; Welcome to Colorful Colorado, Katie Larson; Merge, Kamie Hone Murdock

These are just a few of the beauties on display. I hope you will have the opportunity to visit and see them all!

The Bellingham Modern Quilt guild has a display called Modern Twist and their minis showing modern interpretations of the sawtooth star block.

Ask a Quilter! Guild members are demonstrating techniques and answering questions each Saturday afternoon from 2:30-4:30 in the gallery.

Bellingham MQG members (Breathe, Leanne Chahley; Jumble, Betsy Vinegrad in background)

There are also docent-led tours scheduled each week.

On June 8th, I made the trek up to Bellingham again to hear a panel discussion entitled Material Men Speak. Geoff Hamada, Scott Hansen, David Owen Hastings and Matt Macomber presented a sampling of their quilts and it was so interesting to hear them talk about their work. The event was held in the Old City Hall which is also part of the Whatcom Museum.

There is still lots of time to see the exhibition and participate in upcoming events. Luke Haynes will be at the museum on July 13-14 for a lecture and a workshop. (Rats! I’ll have to miss this one because I’ll be off having quilty fun in Sisters, Oregon.) But, I’ll be back later in the month. On July 27, from 2:00-3:00 I’ll be giving a lecture, “Modern with a Hint of Vintage”, in the Old City Hall rotunda. The presentation will include a slideshow and I’ll bring lots of quilts, too. The following day, July 28, from 10:00-2:00  I’ll share my passion for hand quilting in a workshop. We will learn about batting, needles, thread and ergonomics as well as ways to use hand quilting to enhance your work. This is suitable for any level of experience and I would love to have you join us!

squircles quilt hand quilting, Marla Varner, penny lane quilts

I’ll leave you with one more photo of the gallery. If you live in the area or are visiting this summer, come celebrate Modern Quilts at the Whatcom Museum.

Score for Strings: City, Sherri Lynn Wood; Lawn Diamonds, Sarah Schraw and Krishma Patel

 

Hand Quilting: Try it, you’ll like it!

What’s not to love about hand quilting?! It’s tactile, portable and you only need a few basic tools and supplies to get started.

squircles quilt hand quilting, Marla Varner, penny lane quilts

I began hand quilting in the mid-90s because I had a quilt to finish. My sewing machine wasn’t  adequate for piecing, let alone quilting, and I liked handwork. Besides, most of my mentors hand quilted. I loved the fact that I could visit while quilting at weekly gatherings with friends. And slowly, but surely, quilts would get finished.

The texture of hand quilting has always appealed to me. There is something about the process of manipulating that quilt sandwich as you pull your thread through it, that makes it so soft and drapey.

Kinetic, Marla Varner, penny lane quilts, hand quilting

Sometimes, just adding a bit of hand quilting seems to make the quilt more personal.

hand quilting detail, Marla Varner, penny lane quilts

A mini for a challenge is another good place to try some hand stitching without committing to a larger project.

Marla Varner, red, white and blue challenge, Bainbridge Island MQG

Two of my hand quilted favorites appear in Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century which I wrote about here.

MQG book with quilts

The MQG has a travelling exhibition of quilts from the book. I am very excited that it is coming to the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington, June 1 – August 25, 2019. One of my quilts, Trestle Nestle, is included in the exhibit.

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

The Whatcom Museum has many events planned to coincide with the exhibition this summer, so if you are in the area, check out all their offerings. If you are interested in seeing more of my quilts or learning about hand quilting, I will be involved in two of the events:

Modern with a Hint of Vintage (lecture) July 27, 2:00-3:00

Hand Quilting Intro and Inspiration (workshop) July 28, 10:00-2:00

If you’re already a convert, what do you like best about hand quilting? If not, I hope you will consider hand quilting as an option on your next project. Try it, you might like it!

 

Baby Quilts

When I first began quilting, many of my projects were baby gifts for family and friends. They remain one of my favorite items to make. I think the attraction lies in the fact that they are small and will get lots of use, so there is no pressure to be too fancy or difficult. For me, fun color combinations, simple piecing and quilting make them relaxing and satisfying projects. Here are two that I recently finished.

red, white blue

The first one is for my niece’s  son. Dad is in the Navy, so I decided to go with a red, white and blue theme. I used my favorite design, a simple charm square quilt with a wonky star.

The charm squares came from a variety of different fabric lines and I supplemented with a few fabrics from stash.

Since this quilt had quite a few white fabrics in it, I used a Hobbs bleached, 100 per cent cotton batting.

It is quilted with straight lines half an inch from the seam lines  using 40 wt Aurifil cotton thread. The star block was the perfect spot to add a bit of hand quilting with some 8 wt Wonderfil perle cotton.

hand quilting around star on baby quilt

For the label, I just folded a charm square in half diagonally and stitched it in with the binding.  It is such a simple way to create a nice, durable label that will stand up to lots of washing.

label on ba

Before gifting, I like to wash the quilt in a fragrance-free detergent so it is ready to use. This also  allows me to make sure that there are no problems such as color bleeding and it  removes the sizing since the charm squares are not prewashed before piecing.

The second quilt combines freeform plus blocks and charm squares. The plus blocks were made using the same method that I used in my “At the Junction” quilt, but this time I squared the blocks up to five inches to match the charm blocks.

baby quilt plus blocks and charm squares

It is quilted with a wavy grid using an aqua 40 wt Aurifil cotton thread and has Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 blend inside which gives a nice soft loft and drape.

charm squares and plus blocks

I used visible stitches with perle cotton to do the hand side of the binding. Next time I am definitely going to attach the binding by machine to the back of the quilt so the hand stitches will show on the front. (Unless I forget, of course!)

binding on baby junction, Marla Varner, penny lane quilts

 

 

 

Kinetic

Back in April, 2017, I learned that my friend Daniela, BlockM Quilts,  would be visiting Seattle (from Germany) and planned to take a workshop with Katie Pedersen , SewKatieDid. I jumped at the opportunity to join Daniela at Katie’s studio for the Psychedelic Baby Quilt Block/Modern Improv Strip Piecing Workshop.

After viewing many of Katie’s wonderful quilts using this block, we each came up with a plan and began creating strip sets.

beginning strip set penny lane quilts

After the strips were pieced, we cut blocks from each set.

Daniela BlockM Quilts working on psychedelic baby quilt blocks
Daniela arranging a new strip set

psychedelic baby quilt blocks
When the blocks are cut, they create lots of “waste” triangles as seen in the center of the photo

Back home, I created a few more blocks and decided on a layout for my quilt.

psychedelic baby blocks for my quilt

After deciding to hand quilt, I gathered my perle cotton threads and began the lovely, SLOW process of adding texture to the quilt.

detail of hand quilting, marla varner, penny lane quilts

detail of hand quilting from the back side of Kinetic, Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
detail of the quilting from the back

I tend to hand quilt in spurts, here and there when I have time. It is the perfect portable project. This quilt has traveled on  long road trips and made an appearance at several  events. Every stitch helps move the project along.

hand quilting during port townsend studio tour Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Stitching and enjoying the view at Egg & I Pottery during the Port Townsend studio tour.

When the quilting was eventually finished, I decided to use yarn dyed linen  for the binding. I tried something new (for me) and did some visible stitching to attach the binding on the back. It was fun to change thread colors as I went around the quilt using 8 wt perle cotton.

binding detail using perle cotton

All it needed was a name and a label and just like that (lol), a finished quilt almost two years in the making.

label for Kinetic, Marla Varner, pennylanequilts

Kinetic, by Marla Varner, Penny Lane Quilts
Kinetic (43.5″ x 58″)

Kinetic view of back Marla Varner, pennylanequilts

Love this view with the sun shining through the layers. I think it looks downright psychedelic!

sun shining through Kinetic, Marla Varner

Now that this one is finished, I am free to start playing with those leftover triangles…

leftover triangles from Kinetic

 

Marla Varner

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