Category Archives: modern quilting

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

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

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.

summer dyed

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

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First, the fabric is “scoured” by washing in warm water with soda ash and Synthrapol. It is then dried in the dryer.
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It’s helpful to refer back to notes from previous sessions.
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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!