The Very Wonderful Nick!

As I have mentioned often, my friend Beth now owns Island Quilters on Hilton Head Island. We became friends when we were both posted in Singapore with our husbands. We shared so many common interests and I helped her learn how to quilt. In January I went to the store to talk with the customers about my great passion for hexagons, specifically English Paper Pieced ones. I was wandering around the store the day before and she asked if I had heard of Laura Heine. I said no and she said, I have a pattern of hers that I think you would like, and she handed me Nick. We both love Santas and as we were oooohing and aaaahing over him I blurted out “Shall I make a store sample for you?”. She immediately said “yes!”. I have been wondering ever since if I was set up, but no matter, I was delighted to have that assignment.

I have done some fused quilts over the years, but Nick is made using a collage technique. The pattern is basically a coloring book page – Nick is an outline – and the quilter is free to fill him in as desired. Laura Heine evidently came up with this technique to use up some of the many floral fabrics that she had in her store. I used to buy florals, but now they are not the fabrics I gravitate to. Kaffe Fassett’s fabrics are perfect for this technique and I did snag some of Beth’s scraps.

Because I knew I wanted to share Nick with you and because I suspected Beth would like me to talk with her customers about Nick, I took a lot of pictures. I hope you will enjoy seeing him emerge.

Fusible web works much like double stick tape. You peel one side off and iron it on the fabric. You peel the other side off when you are feeling ready to place the piece. (The fabrics in the photos that are curled still have the backing on.) Fusibles have improved a lot over the years and now they are more like Colorforms and can be moved around a lot before permanently fusing them to the background. I started with his face and I did some auditions…

If you look at this picture, you can see that there are 5 areas of white – the hat trim, his eyebrows, his mustache and his beard. I worked hard to make them different. The hat trim is creamy with a small red and green print. His eyebrows have a white newsprint fabric, his mustache is a very white and black print and his beard is an assortment of creamy prints. I even found a white poinsettia print in a quilt store that worked in his beard and on his face.

Then I started to fill in, up and down and up and down. It’s hard to decide when to stop.

This is what the studio looked like for several weeks! It is very hard to be neat and tidy and it’s one of many reasons I am grateful to have my own space.



I did a little talk/demo at Island Quilters recently. I told the ladies to take one of my business cards and e-mail me their Nick, done or in progress, for the next blog post. Ladies, I am waiting! We all want to see your wonderful version of Nick.















Snapping & Snipping the Zinnias

I love zinnias! For me, they are the official flower of Summer. I bought two kinds to plant this year and planted them all over. I can never have too many zinnias! I always buy assorted colors because I enjoy the surprise of what comes up. I know a woman who buys the same three colors every Summer and I think “what’s the fun in that?”. When you have so many colors, cutting the flowers for arrangements is such a treat. But I’m not a Type A, for sure.

The zinnia plants are huge this year! Whether it’s the South Carolina weather or the fertilizer I apply once a week, many of them are over 5 feet tall.

Zinnia season

First I snap pictures of them. I am planning on designing some quits a la Melinda Bula and I need references. I have a quilt top using her zinnia pattern ready to quilt, but I have some ideas of my own to try.

Red zinnia

One of the zinnias is your garden variety (;-D), but the second kind I planted are called peppermint stick –  a variety I discovered years ago. It’s an heirloom that doesn’t germinate as well as the others, but I love the shibori-like look of them. Each one has its own pattern. Some have the tiniest marks

Barely Peppermint

and some have bold stripes

Bold peppermint

and this year a half and half colored one has appeared! Each flower is perfectly divided in half as is the middle. It’s a curious one for sure.

Half and half zinnia

There are some whose seeds I am going to collect for next year because their colors are so amazing. This magenta color doesn’t seem to photograph well – the color is much more intense than this…

Magenta zinnia

After photographing the flowers, then I snip them to bring indoors to enjoy. I’m wondering how many more week of Summer-like, zinnia friendly weather we have…


Summer Garden Quilt Completed

I spent Monday finishing up the seed packets. I pulled out all my alphabet stamps and stamp pads and fused and cut fabrics. It was fun. I looked at an online seed catalog now and then for interesting titles or descriptors. I wanted the packets to be fairly realistic.

Making seed packets

Then I wrote my “planning list” on the yellow legal pad. It actually was quite easy since the fabric had been quilted; it didn’t shift as it would have had it just been the fabric. And then I sprinkled the seed packets on the sheet. As I mentioned, the packets are two layers of fused fabric so they are stiff enough to hang off of the edge. Tiny stitches tied on the back of the quilt hold them in place.

Planing a Summer Garden

I am pleased with the results! In the voting last night at the guild meeting, I did not win a prize, but I did like mine the best. ;-D  And isn’t that all that matters?

Quilt Guild Challenge Quilt

I have joined a local quilt guild and they announced the theme and rules for their annual challenge quilt a few months ago. I’ve had it on my mind but was diverted by house projects and then the month of December. The quilts are due at the March meeting, so I thought I should get moving on my idea. I have not been feeling well, but the idea of a new project perked me up.

The title of the challenge is Express Yourself and must contain words. It can be any shape measuring from  12″ – 30″on a side. I had several ideas, but as I was looking through the January seed catalogs, the idea of seed packets popped in my head. This is the first year in forever that we are planning a vegetable garden! Another design source for the idea may have come from The Hudson Valley Seed Library. Every year they sell lovely collectible seed packets designed by artists. There are a variety of interesting techniques I can incorporate into this idea, fusing, beading, hand drawing or rubber stamping to name a few. I pulled out some vegetable, fruit and floral fabrics that I thought might work. The unbleached fabric they are sitting on will be the packet base.

Seed packet fabric choices

The standard size of a seed packet is 3.5″ x 4.5″. I cut a piece of paper to see if that was a feasible size to make mine. I have a selection of alphabet stamps and wanted to make sure that the letters would be the right size for the envelope – and they are. Then I looked through my fusing fabrics – I have quite a selection because every teacher I’ve taken a class with likes a different brand! I picked out the one I like the best (with no markings, I’m not sure what I’m using) and ironed it on the sunflower fabric. Cutting out fused fabric is going to be fun, not to mention it’s a quiet, stress free project for me to do when I’m feeling poorly. My plan is to make several seed packets and then determine what they should be fused to….

Sunflower seeds

I continue to have problems with the quilt I’m trying to get done for the show. I don’t like to complain, but it’s been one thing after the other. The worst problem has been trying to get the tension correct for the free motion quilting. My Bernina store won’t do private lessons, so I’m on my own here. I finally googled machine-quilting-tension and read a bunch of blog posts on the topic. Many suggested putting the top tension at 0, and leaving the feed dogs up while using the slide-y thing. That has helped, though I don’t understand why this would make a difference!

Problem quilting

I thought I was buzzing along with the background quilting the other day, but then I decided that the variegated thread I was using “showed” too much. The “star” of the show, should be the stars, not my (poor) quilting. In the front of the picture is the variegated thread and in back you can see what I did with white, which looks like shadows rather than being so prominent. So I ripped out the offending thread. I cannot tell you how much I have ripped out. Now I think my machine doesn’t like the white thread. {:-0} I was tying in ends yesterday and noticed a lot of skipped and gobby areas on the back…. So I pulled out that section and am heading to the quilt store when I post this to look for some other brands of white thread. At this rate, this quilt may not be done for this years’ show!

More About the Zinnia Quilt

Here is Melinda‘s lovely pink zinnia to inspire me. And here is mine at the end of class, ready to be put on the background fabric.

Out of my suitcase comes the pattern, instructions and the roll containing the partially completed zinnia and already fused fabrics. I move the zinnia to the background fabric and fuse the middle of it – petals will still need to be moved to arrange the highlight fabrics. I clear a table and sit down with the directions and the rest of the pattern pieces and fabrics…..there’s lots more cutting to be done!

Looking between the pattern and the flower, trying to decide which petal is which is making my eyes cross. I decide to number the petals with stickers and mark the pattern with red marker so I can easily see what petal I am working on. Look at all these bitty pieces…..lots and lots of them. I decide to cut each color and carefully place it on the petal.

As I move from petal to petal, I am placing the tiny pieces, moving them about and trimming them when I think they look odd. It’s not easy to do as most of the petals have so many highlights. Huh.

After some fiddling around, I realize that all the tiny pieces need to be on each petal and then I can arrange and cut them to fit. So (below) you can see it – all the little pieces are on the corresponding petal and it looks like the camera didn’t focus. What comes next is fiddling, making each piece look like it belongs on the petal. Melinda suggested in class that we be freer about cutting and placing the highlight fabrics…. I get that idea, but it’s not my pattern or my colors. For this first attempt, I am pretty much following her pattern.

I bring it upstairs to the kitchen table to watch/listen to the Sunday games. And then I realize that the light in the kitchen is better. However, I need to keep the cats from helping. Their little hairs get on everything….

And here it is, ready to quilt! It’s amazing how the highlight pieces make such a difference! Fusing makes me nervous – the top seems so fragile.When I get it quilted, then I can store it and feel like it is safe. I am pretty pleased with my zinnia!

And now, back to the livingroom quilt……

Melinda Bula’s Zinnia

A lot of designers are in high dudgeon over Pinterest and what they perceive as a greater opportunity to rip off their patterns. I have found Pinterest to be a great source of inspiration and information, though it can be an amazing time waster! It was on someone’s board that I discovered Melinda Bula and I can’t understand how I have missed her quilts. Her flower designs are exquisite, with layers of shading and highlights that make them sing. I like her realism and longed to take a class with her – – –

– and my wish has been granted! I have just returned from the Fall Quilt Festival in Houston and two days of classes with her. Zinnias are a favorite flower of mine. They come in so many wonderful colors and when I grow them, they are the foundation of my summer flower arrangements. When I received the Houston show brochure, I hurriedly scanned the classes and saw that the zinnia class was being offered, once, and I got in. Here is a bouquet of three! Can you see why I was delighted to take this class?

A kit and fabrics are provided and though I normally dislike fabric packs, this was a good thing. I would have wasted time fretting over value choices. Melinda hand dyes the fabrics and because of her knowledge of the pattern, puts together some interesting combinations. First I needed to get fabric samples on the value chart as a reference.

After using Steam-a-Seam 2 to fuse the fabrics, the next task was to pin the pattern pieces on the fabrics. You can see there are about 10 values and many, many petals.

There was lots and lots and lots of cutting. I had two pairs of scissors and switched using them so I only got a hot spot and not a blister. There was a lot of cutting.

After lunch and a much-needed break, it was time to create the flower. Using one of the Steam a Seam papers to cover the pattern guide, I placed the petals according to the flower map. The petals are coded in several ways, which makes this step easier than you might think. It’s sort of like color by number but seriously more fun!

As I mentioned, we all had different fabric kits. This is my table mate with her middle done and her zinnia on her background fabric. She worked in her room during lunch so she got lots completed.

Melinda is a tireless teacher and was incredibly supportive and generous with information. She also told lots of funny stories while we diligently cut or placed.

It was a long but wonderful day. Thanks Melinda, I can’t wait to finish my zinnia!