Category Archives: Traditional quilting

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

 

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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.

Squircles

In 2017, I decided to try another daily project. (I once tried the 100 day project, but only made it to Day 10…!) Inspired by some wonderful circle quilts by Sophie @lunalovequilts, I thought I could commit to creating one squircle a day for 365 days. I’d always wanted to try needleturn applique, so this seemed like a simple shape to practice that skill.

It was through Sophie  that I also found the #quilty365 page on Instagram, and a little more research lead me to this post by Audrey of Quilty Folk.

I decided to make it scrappy, and since I have over 25 years of scraps, I tried not to duplicate any fabrics. It was very entertaining to pair up interesting and unlikely fabric combinations for each block. (The background squares were cut at 4 inches, and the squircles were made from a 2.5 inch square.)

small design wall filled with squircles, Marla Varner
squircle blocks filling my small design wall

Each month I sewed the blocks into nine patch blocks. I didn’t want to have all of them to assemble at the end of the year! When the small design wall was full, we made a larger design wall.  Now I was able to lay out the blocks the full width of the quilt and I began to assemble the nine patches into rows. (Even though I wasn’t doing much manipulating of the blocks for design purposes, I needed to have the blocks up so I could see which fabrics had been used.)

For the most part, I completed a squircle a day. There were a couple of times that I got behind, like when I left my hand sewing kit in a hotel in Nebraska on our road trip to Paducah! But whenever I got off track, I tried to catch up as soon as possible.

My goal was to have the top assembled by midnight on New Year’s Eve and I am proud of myself for finishing with a few hours to spare! To make my layout (18 blocks x 21 blocks) work, I needed to make 13 extra squircles. That makes a total of 378 squircles x 2 background fabrics = 756 different scraps used. (Ooops, subtract 2 because a couple of duplicates sneaked in when I wasn’t looking!)

squircle a day top, 2017 Marla Varner, pennylanequilts

2018 brings an opportunity to do something new with squircles, so stay tuned to see version 2.0, using solids and pieced background blocks. So far, so good at completing a squircle a day in this new year.

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

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.

it’s been awhile

After a long hiatus, I am working on this blog and intend to post more often! Here are a few of my quilting adventures from the past eight months.

Last fall, the Bainbridge Island Modern Quilt Guild hosted their 3rd annual Bainbridge Quilt Festival. This is a one day, outdoor show, which takes place on the second Saturday in September  in downtown Bainbridge. The festival is a celebration of quilts and quilters, and if you’re from our area consider joining us this year!

Bainbridge Quilt Festival 2015
Quilts by Stan Green and Melissa Carraway displayed along Winslow Way during the 2015 festival

In October, the North Olympic Fiber Arts Festival held their 10th annual exhibition and three of my quilts were on display. The festival includes a Fiber Extravaganza that celebrates the fiber arts with workshops, demonstrations and a fiber arts market in addition to the well-curated show at the Museum and Arts Center in Sequim.

penny lane quilts booth
Penny Lane Quilts booth ready for customers at NOFAF fiber arts market

 

fiber artists demonstrate their skills on a beautiful sunny day in Sequim
Fiber demonstrations during the 2015
Fiber Arts Extravaganza

Our winter was spent camping in the desert in Arizona with our horses. Lots of horseback riding, reading, hiking and sightseeing filled our days.

4 horseback riders and saguaro cactus
Sunny and dry, but not always warm!

But with my trusty Featherweight and some hand stitching to occupy my time, I managed to complete a few projects.

stitching on a featherweight outside of my horse trailer
Stitching outdoors at the Silver Bit Ranch

My membership in the Arizona Quilt Guild and the Vulture Peak Patchers allows me to participate in their events. This year that included a bus trip to the AQS QuiltWeek – Phoenix show, volunteering at the Desert Cabelleros Western Museum, participating in the guild’s show and attending an annual three day retreat called Sew Wickenburg.

vintage quilt from the collection of the Desert Caballeros Western Museum
vintage quilt from the collection of the Desert Caballeros Western Museum

Now that we’re back home, I’ve been busy in the studio with lots of new projects in the works. Stay tuned for updates. I promise it won’t be eight months until my next post!

introducing: penny lane quilts

Welcome to penny lane quilts, where I’ll share my creative process and give you a peek inside my studio.

I love piecing on vintage machines,

1946 electric Singer 201

cutting fabric into little pieces,

2015-05-07 16.13.25

hand quilting,

varner.marla.Coral Reef. detail

and looking out my window.

the view out my window

If you find something that interests you, I hope  you’ll stop by often and leave a comment now and then.