Category Archives: modern quilting

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!

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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

 

At the Junction

It’s February which means it’s almost time for QuiltCon, the Modern Quilt Guild’s annual show and convention. I thought I’d share the backstory of, “At the Junction”, which will be on display in Nashville.

Back in May, I took a Free-Form Blocks workshop from Sujata Shah at Quilted Strait. We explored Sujata’s method of cutting several layers of fabric to construct a variety of unique blocks.  I was looking for some faster improv techniques, as well as to spending  time with Sujata and her gorgeous, colorful quilts. Her book, Cultural Fusion Quilts: a Melting Pot of Piecing Traditions, is a wonderful resource if you want to learn more.

Sujata Shah showing cutting techniques

The first day I used a wide variety of solids to make some of the sample blocks. The second day I decided to limit the palette, thinking I would make a baby quilt out of the blocks I had created in class. (Apologies for the poor indoor lighting, but this is how my design wall looked at the end of the second day.)free-form blocks workshop

However, the block that captured my attention was this one, so when I came home, I separated these out and they became the starting point of a new quilt.beginning of At the Junction by Marla Varner

(Not to worry…all those other blocks found their way into pillow covers, placemats and table runners and they gave me lots of free motion quilting practice, too!)pillows from free-form blocks Marla Varner penny lane quilts

free-form placemats Marla Varner penny lane quilts

I decided to go with the primary colors and kept making blocks (they were rather addictive and I needed some improv therapy time). Before I knew it, the design wall was full. This was the end of September and I began to think it might be possible to make the QuiltCon entry deadline of November 30.At the Junction all the blocks pieced Marla Varner penny lane quilts

At this junction (see what I did there?) I needed to make a decision whether to square these blocks up before assembling or to do my usual  freehand cutting and puzzling the units together. It had grown larger than any of my other improv pieces and I knew it would be a challenge, but my cheerleaders over on IG encouraged me to not take the easy road!

I pieced it in sections, adding a “safe zone” around the edges so that I wouldn’t lose any of the blocks when I trimmed up the finished top. At the Junction in progress Marla Varner penny lane quilts

Of course, that became harder as the sections got bigger. The final few seams required crawling on the floor, all my cutting mats and some painter’s tape to hold the pieces in place. (In the bottom left corner is a laser square that was a valuable addition to my tool chest!)cutting the first long seam at the junction Marla Varner penny lane quilts

By the middle of November, I had the top pieced, basted and ready to quilt. This was the largest quilt I have machine quilted and I had doubts about tackling it on my domestic machine. Originally I planned to quilt it about half an inch apart, but before I knew it, I started quilting much closer than that!At the Junction Marla Varner penny lane quilts

It was a lot of wrestling and wrangling, and some long hours at the machine. It took almost seventy hours to quilt and I used ten different colors of Aurifil 50 wt. The thread colors graduate and overlap from lighter to darker shades.At the Junction Marla Varner penny lane quilts

The dense quilting made blocking essential and the laser square was a big help during this step, too. Soon the binding was attached and all I needed was a sunny day for photos! Well, that didn’t happen, but I did get my entry submitted.

That looming deadline sure helped this quilt get finished! It was challenging and I spent way more time on the floor than was good for this old body, but it helped my skills evolve. I love this quilt and it really felt good to finish a large quilt…it’s been awhile.

I’m looking forward to attending QuiltCon, meeting up with friends and being inspired by all the modern quilts on display. Maybe I’ll see you there?

 

 

Interview with Pat Sloan, American Patchwork and Quilting Podcast

It was so much fun chatting with Pat Sloan on her podcast today! I appreciate her enthusiasm and love listening to her weekly interviews.

We briefly discussed a wide range of topics including my quilt making journey, the sewing machines I use, dyeing fabric, hand quilting and my business, Penny Lane Quilts .

Listen to the podcast now to learn a little more about what I do here on Penny Lane.  I hope you enjoy the show and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Many Minis

Mini quilts are such a wonderful way to try something new! I have made several over the past few years, participating in guild challenges, swaps and magazine submissions.

When I discovered Curated Quilts, I was immediately drawn to one of their features . Each issue has a challenge to make a mini quilt with a specific palette that fits a certain theme. Their second issue’s theme was “Log Cabin” and this was the palette.

You can go here to see all of the wonderful minis that were submitted. I love the log cabin block, so that wasn’t too much of a stretch for me, but the colors were definitely a different combo. I decided to explore some of the improv ideas that began in workshops with Maria Shell @talesofastitcher last summer. Here is the mini that I submitted and I was very excited to have it included in the magazine. If you haven’t seen a copy of Curated Quilts, yet, check it out! It is definitely a quality, no advertisement publication.

Summer Cabin, mini quilt, Marla Varner
Summer Cabin (14′ x 14′), machine quilted

The past two years I have participated in the MQG swap and I love the #makeaminimakeafriend concept. Check out the hashtag on Instagram to see many of the quilts that were created and swapped.

A fun feature of this opportunity is that you have the option of swapping in person at QuiltCon. Last year in Savannah, I received a wonderful mini from Sandra Kaye @sandieloves2quilt . That mini started her on a whole new “Happy Dance” adventure and she made a larger version which won a big prize at QuiltCon 2018 in Pasadena!

Sandra Kaye with her two versions of Happy Dance, QuiltCon 2018 Pasadena

This year I made “Confetti” for my new friend, Jules @julesquilts, who said she liked pink! You can see the design is a continuation of the ideas I used in Summer Cabin.

Confetti, mini quilt for MQG swap 2018 Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Confetti, MQG swap 2018, machine and hand quilted

It was so fun to meet her in person. She made a beautiful mini for me using her hand dyed fabrics and it is quilted with her elegant stitches.

How grateful I am for these two new quilting friends! I love all the little quilts that I have received from friends over the years. They decorate our home and are daily reminders of our friendships.

Today I am working on a mini for the Bainbridge Island MQG’s annual challenge. The theme this year is “Log Cabin” and it is a good opportunity to finish up an idea that has been languishing on the design wall since last summer.  (And it’s another project where I can practice my free motion quilting skills.)

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a mini (or two) in your future. They are small, but they might lead to something big!

 

 

Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century

How exciting it was to receive this book in the mail! Each day I spend a little time enjoying the quilts and thinking about their makers.

Modern Quilts: Designs of a New Century is a beautiful, hardcover book that celebrates modern quilting in the context of the Modern Quilt Guild. It was curated by Riane Menardi, Alissa Haight Carlton and Heather Grant. The retrospective includes over 200 quilts, a brief history of the modern quilt movement and descriptions of characteristics found in modern quilts.

MQG book with quilts

Two of my quilts were selected for the book: Coral Reef and Trestle Nestle. It’s a bit of a thrill to have them included and to see them in the company of so many quilts I admire.

Coral Reef appeared at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin,  the first major quilt show that I entered or attended. What a surprise it was to win the Quilting Excellence Award that year! All those lovely hours of hand quilting make this one of my all time favorite finishes. You can read the rest of the story about Coral Reef in this post.

Double Elvis, Luke Haynes and Coral Reef, Marla Varner MQG book
(The American Context #68) Double Elvis by Luke Haynes (left), Coral Reef by Marla Varner (right)

The large format of the book allows the quilts to take center stage.

Trestle Nestle was selected to go to Savannah last year for QuiltCon East 2017. Improvisational piecing and hand quilting, my favorite techniques, are used in this quilt.

Modern Quilts book open to Trestle Nestle by Marla Varner
Trestle Nestle (left), Not Easy Being Green by Mary Ramsey Keasler and Homespun by Mary Kerr, quilted by Donna Ferrill James (right)

The motif was inspired by a local railroad trestle on a wonderful walking and cycling trail near my home. Here it is on Christmas day, decked out in its festive finery.

Christmas Day at Railroad Park, Sequim, Washington

It has been so interesting to read the backstories of many of the quilts included in the book. Below you’ll find  links to all the sites in case you’ve missed some along the way.

12/13/17 Amber Corcoran Fancy Tiger Crafts
12/14/17 Heidi Parkes Heidi Parkes Art
12/15/17 Melissa Cory Happy Quilting
12/16/17 Penny Gold Studio Notes
12/18/17 Shruti Dandekar 13 Wood House Road
12/19/17 Amy Friend During Quiet Time
12/20/17 Paige Alexander Quilted Blooms
12/21/17 Angela Bowman Angela Bowman Design
12/22/17 Lysa Flower Lysa Flower
12/27/17 Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill Whole Circle Studio
12/28/17 Jacquie Gering Tall Grass Prairie Studio
12/29/17 Christa Watson Christa Quilts
12/30/17 Heather Black Quilt-achusetts
1/2/18 Kristin Shields Kristin Shield Art
1/3/18 Krista Hennebury Poppy Print Creates
1/4/18 Cinzia Allocca Deux Petites Souris
1/5/18 Suzanne Paquette Atelier Six Design
1/6/18 Yvonne Fuchs Quilting Jetgirl
1/9/18 Ben Darby Hunts Patch Quilts
1/10/18 Nicole Daksiewicz Modern Handcraft
1/11/18 Kristi Schroeder Initial K Studio
1/12/18 Kathy York Art Quilts by Kathy York
1/13/18 Marla Varner Penny Lane Quilts
1/15/18 Brigette Heitland Zen Chic
1/16/18 Stacey Sharman Hello Stitch Studio
1/17/18 Stacey O’Malley SLO Studio
1/18/18 Kim Soper Leland Ave Studios
1/19/18 Steph Skardal Steph Skardal Quilts
1/20/18 Cheryl Brickey Meadow Mist Designs
1/22/18 Shea Henderson Empty Bobbin Sewing Studio
1/23/18 Katie Larson Katie Larson Studio
1/24/18 Katie Pedersen Sew Katie Did

(Thanks to Yvonne@Quilting Jetgirl for sharing this nifty table with all the links!)

When you purchase directly from the MQG, 100% of the profits and royalties of your purchase benefit the Modern Quilt Guild, a non-profit 501(c)3.

This weekend I’ll be at a retreat with my friends from the Bainbridge Island MQG and I’ll be taking my copy of the book so they can enjoy it, too. I’d love to hear your comments and I’ll reply just as soon as I get back home.

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  winter.new 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!

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.