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!

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

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

“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.

Marla Varner

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