Tag Archives: MQG

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

 

Advertisements

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!

 

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?

 

 

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.