Tag 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!

Modern Quilts exhibition at the Whatcom Museum

The traveling exhibition for Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century is at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington this summer. They have  partnered with the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum  and the Bellingham Modern Quilt Guild to provide lots of opportunities to explore modern quilting. All the details, including lectures, workshops and special events are on their websites.

The opening reception was a  preview party for members on May 31. I arrived early and enjoyed this wonderful showcase of quilts made by the Bellingham Modern Quilt Guild members lining the hallway of the Lightcatcher Building.

Bellingham MQG quilts at Whatcom

The reception was very well attended and I enjoyed meeting members of the Bellingham guild as well as the staff from the Whatcom and LaConner museums. The highlight was having my sister-in-law and niece join me for the festivities.

family with Trestle Nestle by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Trestle Nestle, Marla Varner and a glimpse of Skewed Symmetry, Katie Pedersen

The exhibition includes 63 quilts from the book, Modern Quilting: Designs of the New Century. The gallery is spacious and beautiful. Just look at the reflections on the shiny floor!

Chess on the Steps, Krista Hennebury; Tessellation 4, Nydia Kehnle; For Tanya, Emily, E.D. Coffey and Miriam C.K. Coffey;  I Quilt, Kathy York
Migration Quilt, Kristi Schroeder and Lee Jenkins; X Quilt, Stacey Sharman; Trestle Nestle, Marla Varner; Skewed Symmetry, Katie Pedersen
The American Context #68, Double Elvis, Luke Haynes; Welcome to Colorful Colorado, Katie Larson; Merge, Kamie Hone Murdock

These are just a few of the beauties on display. I hope you will have the opportunity to visit and see them all!

The Bellingham Modern Quilt guild has a display called Modern Twist and their minis showing modern interpretations of the sawtooth star block.

Ask a Quilter! Guild members are demonstrating techniques and answering questions each Saturday afternoon from 2:30-4:30 in the gallery.

Bellingham MQG members (Breathe, Leanne Chahley; Jumble, Betsy Vinegrad in background)

There are also docent-led tours scheduled each week.

On June 8th, I made the trek up to Bellingham again to hear a panel discussion entitled Material Men Speak. Geoff Hamada, Scott Hansen, David Owen Hastings and Matt Macomber presented a sampling of their quilts and it was so interesting to hear them talk about their work. The event was held in the Old City Hall which is also part of the Whatcom Museum.

There is still lots of time to see the exhibition and participate in upcoming events. Luke Haynes will be at the museum on July 13-14 for a lecture and a workshop. (Rats! I’ll have to miss this one because I’ll be off having quilty fun in Sisters, Oregon.) But, I’ll be back later in the month. On July 27, from 2:00-3:00 I’ll be giving a lecture, “Modern with a Hint of Vintage”, in the Old City Hall rotunda. The presentation will include a slideshow and I’ll bring lots of quilts, too. The following day, July 28, from 10:00-2:00  I’ll share my passion for hand quilting in a workshop. We will learn about batting, needles, thread and ergonomics as well as ways to use hand quilting to enhance your work. This is suitable for any level of experience and I would love to have you join us!

squircles quilt hand quilting, Marla Varner, penny lane quilts

I’ll leave you with one more photo of the gallery. If you live in the area or are visiting this summer, come celebrate Modern Quilts at the Whatcom Museum.

Score for Strings: City, Sherri Lynn Wood; Lawn Diamonds, Sarah Schraw and Krishma Patel

 

Hand Quilting: Try it, you’ll like it!

What’s not to love about hand quilting?! It’s tactile, portable and you only need a few basic tools and supplies to get started.

squircles quilt hand quilting, Marla Varner, penny lane quilts

I began hand quilting in the mid-90s because I had a quilt to finish. My sewing machine wasn’t  adequate for piecing, let alone quilting, and I liked handwork. Besides, most of my mentors hand quilted. I loved the fact that I could visit while quilting at weekly gatherings with friends. And slowly, but surely, quilts would get finished.

The texture of hand quilting has always appealed to me. There is something about the process of manipulating that quilt sandwich as you pull your thread through it, that makes it so soft and drapey.

Kinetic, Marla Varner, penny lane quilts, hand quilting

Sometimes, just adding a bit of hand quilting seems to make the quilt more personal.

hand quilting detail, Marla Varner, penny lane quilts

A mini for a challenge is another good place to try some hand stitching without committing to a larger project.

Marla Varner, red, white and blue challenge, Bainbridge Island MQG

Two of my hand quilted favorites appear in Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century which I wrote about here.

MQG book with quilts

The MQG has a travelling exhibition of quilts from the book. I am very excited that it is coming to the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington, June 1 – August 25, 2019. One of my quilts, Trestle Nestle, is included in the exhibit.

Trestle Nestle by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Trestle Nestle (56″ x 51″) hand quilted, white linen and Kona solids

The Whatcom Museum has many events planned to coincide with the exhibition this summer, so if you are in the area, check out all their offerings. If you are interested in seeing more of my quilts or learning about hand quilting, I will be involved in two of the events:

Modern with a Hint of Vintage (lecture) July 27, 2:00-3:00

Hand Quilting Intro and Inspiration (workshop) July 28, 10:00-2:00

If you’re already a convert, what do you like best about hand quilting? If not, I hope you will consider hand quilting as an option on your next project. Try it, you might like it!

 

Baby Quilts

When I first began quilting, many of my projects were baby gifts for family and friends. They remain one of my favorite items to make. I think the attraction lies in the fact that they are small and will get lots of use, so there is no pressure to be too fancy or difficult. For me, fun color combinations, simple piecing and quilting make them relaxing and satisfying projects. Here are two that I recently finished.

red, white blue

The first one is for my niece’s  son. Dad is in the Navy, so I decided to go with a red, white and blue theme. I used my favorite design, a simple charm square quilt with a wonky star.

The charm squares came from a variety of different fabric lines and I supplemented with a few fabrics from stash.

Since this quilt had quite a few white fabrics in it, I used a Hobbs bleached, 100 per cent cotton batting.

It is quilted with straight lines half an inch from the seam lines  using 40 wt Aurifil cotton thread. The star block was the perfect spot to add a bit of hand quilting with some 8 wt Wonderfil perle cotton.

hand quilting around star on baby quilt

For the label, I just folded a charm square in half diagonally and stitched it in with the binding.  It is such a simple way to create a nice, durable label that will stand up to lots of washing.

label on ba

Before gifting, I like to wash the quilt in a fragrance-free detergent so it is ready to use. This also  allows me to make sure that there are no problems such as color bleeding and it  removes the sizing since the charm squares are not prewashed before piecing.

The second quilt combines freeform plus blocks and charm squares. The plus blocks were made using the same method that I used in my “At the Junction” quilt, but this time I squared the blocks up to five inches to match the charm blocks.

baby quilt plus blocks and charm squares

It is quilted with a wavy grid using an aqua 40 wt Aurifil cotton thread and has Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 blend inside which gives a nice soft loft and drape.

charm squares and plus blocks

I used visible stitches with perle cotton to do the hand side of the binding. Next time I am definitely going to attach the binding by machine to the back of the quilt so the hand stitches will show on the front. (Unless I forget, of course!)

binding on baby junction, Marla Varner, penny lane quilts

 

 

 

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

 

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.)

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!