Category Archives: inspiration

In Memory

This past week, Pat Oden, a dear friend and mentor passed away. Her inspiration, encouragement and support had a huge impact on my own work. In fact, she completely changed the course of my quilt making.

After moving to Sequim, Pat joined our small quilting group which met weekly to hand stitch together. From the very first time I saw her quilts, I was intrigued by her freehand improvisational piecing, her use of gorgeous hand dyed fabric and her abstract geometric aesthetic. Pat had attended several Nancy Crow workshops over the years. She credited her time studying at the Barn as foundational to her work. It was such an honor for her to have a quilt accepted into Quilt National 2011. I encourage you to see a sampling of her beautiful work in the galleries on her website.

A treasured piece created by Pat

Pat taught me how to cut without a ruler, how to dye fabric, how to face a quilt and so much more. She encouraged me to exhibit my work. First locally and then in larger shows. I am forever in her debt.

She was also a wonderful friend. We shared many happy times and a few hard ones, too.

I am so very grateful for the time we had together and so very sad it was too short.

to laugh or to cry?

Writing this post feels a bit like a plunge into icy water, but I’m going to break the ice and get back to blogging.

Laughably, my word of the year was “focus”, but my focus only lasted until February! So here goes with a review of my goals for 2017 and a plan for new beginnings in 2018.

Review of my 2017 goals


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

It was a terrific year for learning.

January: A friend and I went to Road to California to take a couple of classes on free motion quilting from David Taylor. I practiced every day for almost two months. It was just beginning to be fun when I fell out of the habit. This will be a priority in 2018.

February: The lectures at Quiltcon East in Savannah were informative and I appreciate all those who share their experience and inspiration.

March: A trip to LaConner, Washington to view Gwen Marston’s wonderful exhibition was definitely inspirational!

April: I loved taking Katie Pedersen’s (sewkatiedid) Psychedelic Baby block class in her wonderful home studio along with  Daniela (blockmquilts) from Germany. I treasure the time we spent together and that quilt is currently being hand quilted.

July: Maria Shell (talesofastitcher) has a wonderful blog that I have followed for years. When I discovered that she would be teaching at Quilter’s Affair in Sisters, Oregon, I jumped at the chance to take some workshops. Her improv work is so unique and she is a gifted instructor. Marla Varner, penny lane quilts, Maria Shell workshop, work in progressI finished a small piece that began in her workshop and I am contemplating how to use the new techniques in my own work. 

September: At the AQS Fall Paducah show in Kentucky, I was privileged to attend a lecture by Maria Shell and learned more about her journey as an artist.

These were all wonderful experiences, but they may have contributed to my difficulty focusing. The creative part of my brain has been just dancing with possibilities!


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

Two quilts exhibited at QuiltCon East in Savannah, “Trestle Nestle” and “jubilant”. It is an honor to have quilts selected and humbling to see them with all the creative work on display.

My quilt, “Hourglass Bedazzled” was a semi-finalist in the first Fall Paduchah show.marla varner, Hourglass Bedazzled, Fall Paducah 2017 We had always wanted to visit Kentucky, so my husband and I decided to take a long road trip. Our combined love of horses and quilts led us to so many interesting sights along the way. A highlight for me was visiting the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. There I had the privilege of attending a “Behind the Scenes” tour, and met the members of the Lincoln MQG and the regional SAQA group. 

sew day at IQSCM with Lincoln MQG
Lincoln MQG sew day at IQSCM

The Bainbridge MQG had a “Red, White and Blue” challenge to coincide with Bainbridge Island Fourth of July festivities.Marla Varner, red, white and blue challenge, Bainbridge Island MQG

Our local Surface Design Association group had two main exhibitions this year. These innovative artists are such an inspiration and they use fiber in so many unique ways.

Marla Varner, pennylanequilts, Byways, no. 1
Byways, no.1, 24.5″ x 23″

The Port Gamble Fiber Festival and the North Olympic Fiber Arts Festival gave me an opportunity to exhibit and to sell my work. Each year I am inspired by the variety of textiles on display and by the innovative work of our local fiber artists.


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

This year I was a vendor at two major events, but also at three smaller venues. I did not explore online sales, but I did begin selling at the Lamb Farm Kitchen Shoppe in Sequim. 


  • 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

Okay, here’s where all those classes, traveling and vending took their toll. I did not dye any fabric, or finish a major quilt. But by midnight tonight I will hopefully have finished the top for my “squircle a day, 365” project, which has really been fun. (I’ll share more about that in my next post.) I participated in the mini swap at QuiltCon, where I received a wonderful mini from Sandra Kaye @sandieloves2quilt. 


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

I averaged posting to IG just over two times a week, but realized that posting to Facebook that often didn’t feel comfortable. This is only my fifth blog post. Yikes! And tutorials never materialized…


  • continue to create giving quilts

In February, I donated a couple of blocks to Quilts for Quebec, and I have two quilts finished and ready to donate in the new year.

Finding Balance:

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

As discussed above…the struggle is real!

So here’s to the New Year and my goals for 2018. Many are the same, but I have cut back expectations in some areas to facilitate more production in the creating department!

Goals for 2018


Free motion quilting – Focus on regular practice


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


  • limit vending to 1-2 major events per year
  • continue retail at Lamb Farm Kitchen Shoppe


  • start a new “squircle a day, 365” project, using solids and improv piecing this time around
  • improvise a major piece
  • hand quilt a major piece
  • limit items to sell, providing time for personal art
  • keep a record of finished projects
  • participate in my second mini swap,  at QuiltCon West, Pasadena
  • submit mini challenges to Curated Quilts


  • post to Instagram  at least 2x per week
  • post to Facebook at least 2x per month
  • post to blog at least once a month

Finding Balance:

  • schedule time to develop healthy habits
  • balance business and personal creating time
  • use my Quilter’s Planner more effectively this year to help organize and track my habitsplanner page from The Quilter's Planner 2018

I’m linking up with Yvonne (quiltingjetgirl) and her #2018PlanningParty

Thanks to this wonderful, supportive community that encourages and supports each other. I appreciate you all. Happy New Year!

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 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!