Tag Archives: improvisation

snow day

Our winters are mild, so snow days are a novelty. This week I took advantage of a sunny morning and a lovely, snowy backdrop to take a few quilt photos.

hand quilted by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Zig Zag Chevron (HSTs from charm squares, hand quilted)

One of my goals for 2017 is to improve my photography skills. Of course, this means learning how to use editing software. I’m trying to check out some of those helpful tutorials in the process.

blue and green baby quilt by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
My first finish of 2017: baby quilt made from charm squares + a wonky star

The photo pictured above was edited for Instagram using a mobile app.

Hourglass Bedazzled by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Hourglass Bedazzled, improv piecing, hand dyed fabrics, machine quilted

This quilt was the last one I completed in 2016. It is my most complex quilt to date that uses improvisational piecing, and I hand dyed all of the fabrics. I don’t think I ever properly documented it, but a few photos appeared on Instagram during the months that it was in process.

On another note, QuiltCon is right around the corner! Our newspaper, the Sequim Gazette, was kind enough to write an article about the local quilters who will have quilts in Savannah. They even sent a photographer out to capture me in my own environment. Those of you who are curious and  have bugged encouraged me to include photos of myself on this site, can check it out.

It is snowing again today, so I’m off to curl up with a cup of tea and some hand quilting.  I’m on the home stretch quilting the mini for my partner in the MQG swap.

 

 

leftovers

A confession…I love leftovers, both food and fabric! They give me an opportunity to be creative, I feel virtuous for not being wasteful and sometimes they even save me a little time.

Here are a few recent finishes that began as orphan blocks, trimmings or bits and pieces floating around the scrap bin and design wall.

Some leftover strips became a table runner.

linen table runner by marla varner
Essex yarn dyed linen + commercial solids for the stripes

A few orphan blocks became a pillow and a table mat.

improv pillow by marla varner
orphan blocks + Essex yarn dyed linen
table mat with skinny stripes by marla varner
another orphan block + Essex yarn dyed linen

And sometimes everything “clicks” and a few units that have been marinating for a long while are the impetus for something that keeps me exploring, and revising, and reworking until it makes me very happy!

"jubilant" by Marla Varner
“jubilant”, hand dyed cottons, Essex yarn dyed linen, matchstick quilting

So, the moral of the story is… save all those leftover bits because you never know when they will be just what you need to get your next project started!

(The table runner and place mats in the featured image began as some odds and ends from the recent Riley Blake challenge.)

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

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.

 

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.