Ever since I started this blog I wanted to do a feature on fellow designer Darcy Ashton. Darcy lives in Oklahoma and even though we’ve never had the chance to meet in person, she’s been an inspiration, a mentor, and a friend. Darcy runs a one-woman publishing company, as do I, and has been a great help to me with the benefit of her experience.

A Darling Little DogIf you’ve been a quilter on this planet, you’ve seen Darcy’s distinctive and highly successful books featuring remarkably realistic-looking animals done up with buttonhole stitching. Amazingly, most of them are made up of only one piece of fabric.

Her resume includes such titles as Grandma’s Bunnies, Claire’s Cats, Butterfly Dance, Aquatic Creatures, Darling Little Dogs, and Beautiful Big Dogs.

Darling Little Dogs coverAquatic Creatures coverButterfly Dance cover

When I asked Darcy how she managed to balance running her very busy design and publishing company with family life, she replied, “My one-woman business came about because of my family life.”

Darcy had worked in graphics at several companies until the time her two small children came around. Then she learned that her current employer was closing and she’d be out of a job. Admitting that it was “actually a bit of a relief,” Darcy purchased her computer workstation from her former employer and settled at home to raise her kids.

Darcy came from a family of quilters, so it’s something she’s been doing for a long time. At a family reunion, her dad was given an unfinished quilt top to bring home to Darcy. It was started by Grandma, and as Darcy puts it, “One of the blocks had a rusted needle still parked in the block where she had put it down and never picked it back up. It had been set aside in the bottom drawer in her sister’s house and there it had waited patiently for nearly 60 years for her to get back to work on it.”

That UFO changed Darcy’s life. Guess what was on it? Bunnies! Adorable appliquéd bunnies with embroidered details. Darcy finished Grandma’s bunnies and put it up on her wall. Then, she says, every time she looked at it, she wondered why they didn’t have any tails, and why their whiskers were so long. Pretty soon she was re-drawing the bunnies and making her own quilt.

Without Darcy’s income, the family started to run on a tight shoestring. And, having worked for years, Darcy also started to feel the desire to have something to think about and work on in addition to taking care of her children. She got the idea that she could start teaching appliqué. When she went down to her local quilt shop with her bunny quilt to ask the owners if she could teach a class, they kept getting interrupted by quilters wanting the patterns!

That was a light-bulb moment for Darcy. With all of her experience working in graphic arts and publishing, she was very well prepared to put out a book of patterns, and published a limited number of Grandma’s Bunnies. The first printing didn’t last long. Word of mouth spread so fast and so far that before she knew it, Darcy was reprinting and selling far and wide.

Then quilters wanted cats. So Darcy published Claire’s Cats (named for her daughter) and hasn’t stopped producing amazing books since!

cc2_cover.jpgThe original Claire’s Cats has been so popular that when Darcy recently came out with Claire’s Cats Volume 2, there was such an overwhelming demand for the first volume to go with it that Darcy decided to reprint it once again. If only I could get into such a predicament!

Darcy sent me Beautiful Big Dogs (I am a dog person, you know) and Claire’s Cats Volume 2 (okay, I also have three cats) to take a look at. Besides the incredible patterns, these books are just jam-packed with information, tips, and options for making the critters and dressing them up in different ways. I especially liked the section on different ways of making the eyes. And, now I know how she does her appliqué! (You can use either hand or machine techniques.)

Darcy prefers to support our wonderful independent quilt shops, so ask for her books at your favorite shop. She also sells her books and patterns from her website, Ashton Publications if that’s a better option for you.

Darcy recently started a blog at www.DarcyAshton.vox.com, and take it from me, she’s quite the photographer as well.

To top things off, Darcy has graciously permitted me to post one of her free patterns for download! Here’s the bonus pattern from CC V 2. Enjoy!

Last thoughts: Darcy says, “You should not be ashamed of your UFOs. Leave something behind to inspire the next generation. If one of your unfinished projects lands in the lap of a young girl years after you are gone, you could be spreading the seeds of the next generation of quilters.”

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Syliva Landman Rassmussen has been working a lot with all those gorgeous, unusual fabrics and trims that we love, but our pocketbooks cannot always afford. If these luxuriant, spendy fabrics are calling to you, Sylvia has devised a solution with her SheerFabric Elegance kits. Here’s what she has to say about them:

“Do you enjoy the current fashion in embellishing clothing, quilts, and appliqué? My theory is that too much is…well, just wonderful! SheerFabric Elegance Kits make it easy and economical for you to create gorgeous, elaborately embellished designs on wearables, quilts, and needle work.

Hard-to-find sheer fabrics such as silk organza, tulle, lamé, laces, brocades, re-embroidered sheers studded with sequins, flower petals, leaves, shiny rayon floss, fords, threads, and woven trims are color-coordinated and packaged in small amounts. Avoid having to buy whole or half yards of these precious fibers in the few colors available in shops!

SheerFabric Elegance kits are being offered at $25 or 2/$45, including postage, at a special introductory price, until March 1, when they will sell for $30 or 2/$55. See Sylvia’s Web site Order Form for details and to place your order at www.Sylvias-Studio.com.”

Hurry to Sylvia’s website to take advantage of the introductory special!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Here’s a fabulous guest post by Diane Dixon of Metro Quiltworks about how your choice of thread can work a little magic on the look of your machine appliqué. Thank you, Diane, for this wonderful article!

Let’s Have Some Fun with Thread Color!

Thoughts about thread choices by Diane Dixon of Metro Quiltworks

The color of thread can be a very important feature for you to consider with your next appliqué project. The way the thread color interacts with the fabric can make the stitching either stand out in a bold contrast, or it can create subtle outlining of the appliqué piece without much contrast at all.

Some basic points to consider:

Matching thread color to fabric color:
Do you want the thread color to match the color of the fabric? This will create a subtle look that blends well with the appliqué pieces and may emphasize the overall look of the project since the thread color blends much more into the background.

Here’s an example of a lily flower having the thread in the same color family as the fabric. By using the blue thread in the center, the flower is more formal and contained. Notice the use of yellow thread on the yellow petals. Although both fabric and thread are in the same color family, there is still a subtle contrast because the fabric is lighter in some places than in others. Subtle, but not dull! Also, the lily pads are sewn with green or brown stitches to keep the pieces from getting too “busy” since the batiks used here are quite wild.

lilypad.jpg

Contrasting thread color to fabric color:
Do you want the thread color to contrast with color of the fabric? Using contrast can create a wonderful visual look that can define edges and give excitement to individual appliqué pieces.

Here is an example of two pears on a plate. The purple stitching in different shades really defines the green pear from the green plate. Notice the yellow stitching on the green leaf, the outside plate stitching, and the effective purple on the stem as well.

pears.jpg

In the close-up of the red floral appliqué example, there’s a combination of techniques to make this flower sing! Notice the center has a bright red center that uses the same thread color on both the center, and on the interior petals. By using the same thread color on different fabrics, another subtlety comes out. The bright blue stitching on the outside petals, and the red on the green leaf brings all of the colors to another level!

redfloral.jpg

I sometimes enjoy using this technique specifically with smaller projects such as miniature wall hangings, pillows, or table runners because the thread choices really stand out in a more intimate piece – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try this out with larger pieces as well!

Thread colors play important roles and can change the look of any project. Don’t be afraid to go for it and have lots of fun!

Diane Dixon

Kay here again — be sure to visit Diane’s website to check out her colorful contemporary patterns for quilts, table runners, and wall hangings at Metro Quiltworks – A fresh look at quilt design. Thanks again Diane! I’ve been a “matcher” so far but now I’m inspired to try mixing it up!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

… just barely. The DH had a hectic day and got to the flower shop 20 minutes after its official closing time. But there was still a trail of men going out the door with bouquets, so though they were sweeping the floors, Dana was able to pick up the beautiful flower arrangement he had ordered. His record stands.

flowers.jpg

seedlings.jpg

“Seedlings” — for next year!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Happy Valentine’s Day! The chocolate has been bestowed, and now I’m anticipating the bouquet. This has been a tradition throughout our 18 years of marriage, chocolate for him, flowers for her, and he hasn’t missed one yet. So although there aren’t any flowers yet, the day is young :).

Here’s another of my favorite blocks from Growing Heart to Appliqué.
I call it “Fly Away.”

fly-away.jpg

Freezer paper on top, hand appliquéd, hand-embroidered stems.

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

It’s a very cool day! I was summoned to the printers at 1:00 to conduct a press check of the color pages in Teapots 2 to Appliqué.

Everything looked great, so I signed off and did a little happy dance. Such a fun time, when a new “baby” is about to come home. But at the same time it’s a nail-biting period, until you actually have a book in your hand.

This is my seventh book, all with the same wonderful local printing outfit, Community Printers of Santa Cruz, California. They are so knowledgeable, friendly, and supportive — they’ve helped me a ton over the years.

Stay tuned! I’ll let you know when T2 is out. If the crick don’t rise, it should be available at quiltpuppy.com on March 1.

Here’s another sneak peek.

back3.jpg

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Here’s another block from Growing Hearts to Appliqué. A fun one, yes?

seed-packet.jpgWhen brainstorming on a theme,”growing hearts” or whatever, it’s so wonderful to let your imagination roam free and think up all sorts of notions about how to portray your ideas.

For this crazy design, I used freezer-paper templates on top, and I hand-embroidered the letters. The little black heart seeds are inked on with a permanent fabric marker.

And don’t faint, but maybe you can see that this quilt is hand-quilted. It still happens now and again.

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Just got my email newsletter from Connecting Threads and found out that Karen Kay Buckley, due to popular demand, now has a set of templates to make larger circles.

Go to Connecting Threads and do a search for “perfect circles” and both her original set and the new one should come up.

And, if you missed it from my earlier post, take a look at Susan Brubaker Knapp’s photo tutorial on how to use the templates.

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Valentine’s Day is coming up. I’ve already got the heart-shaped box of chocolates for the DH stashed away. Like many quilters, hearts are a favorite motif of mine. I love them so much that I published a whole collection of heart designs, Growing Hearts to Appliqué. Here’s one of my favorite blocks, which I call “Cutwork.”

cutwork.gifTo make this, I used freezer-paper templates on top. In this method, you trace the shapes onto the paper side of the freezer paper, cut them out on the drawn line, then iron the templates to the right side of the fabrics. Cut out the shapes, adding a 3/16″margin all the way around. Then you can baste them in place using a tracing-paper overlay as a placement guide, either leaving the templates on as stitching guides or taking them off for good old-fashioned needleturn. There’s been a lot of appliqué under the bridge since I made this, but I think I probably left the templates on for the straighter parts and removed them to work on the intricate parts.

I’ll put up some more of my growing hearts blocks as the month goes along.

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Syliva Landman Rasmussen, esteemed quilt designer and writer and fellow appliqué enthusiast, has posted a review of what she calls “the most fabulous book on the subject,” Luminous Landscapes by Gloria Loughman. Sylvia sent me a snippet of the review, below.

“Gloria Loughman, author of one of February’s books, Luminous Landscapes, begins her book’s acknowledgments by listing her husband, Tony. ‘What a partnership we shared as we worked together on this project,’ she writes. One lingering, inspiring visit with this stunning book in hand justifies her mention of him as photographer for her book. C&T Publications, known for outstanding photos of quilts, further enhances this book, making it truly an art book with Tony Loughman’s skilled photography. The uninitiated to the quilting world, leafing through the pages of inspiring landscapes in the book, may mistake the realistic photos as coming from magazines such as National Geographic or travel magazines.

Luminous indeed are Gloria’s quilts. So thorough is she as she explains and shares her technical secrets, that the “Table of Contents” alone outlines them in perfect sequence. Quilters all know that design is the primary issue when planning a new quilt and this is where Gloria begins her book. The first quilt in the book appears to be a group of fantasy trees from another world. The quilt, Kimberley Mystique, depicts the most unusual vegetation and trees knotted and twisted in all colors of the rainbow. However, they do not come from another planet. The mysterious, fantastical trees grow in Gloria’s native Australia.”

Be sure to go to Sylvia’s Studio to read the entire review. “There’s much to say about it!” reports Sylvia.

Thank you, Sylvia, for sharing a bit of your review. There will be more good stuff coming from Sylvia later this month!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

There are 29 days in February this year. The way my adorably geeky husband Dana explains it, this happens every 4 years, except when the year ends in 00 (like 1800 or 1900) when it doesn’t, except every 400 years, when it does. Thank you, Pope Gregory XIII, for your venerable calendar that keeps this all straight.

When Dana and I lived in Ohio, February meant the first stirrings of spring, as I saw the little snowdrops come up and felt I might make it through the winter. Now, even though we live in California, February still means early spring to me.

quilted-spin-2.gif

In honor of the promise of spring, I thought I’d put up a picture of my little row quilt, A Spin in the Garden. The pattern is available on my website, Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs. I just love the chubby bunnies. In fact, people always refer to this one as “the bunny quilt.”

Over at Quilt Puppy, I like to run some sort of special each month. For Leap Year February, I’ve got a really fantastic one! Save 20% on the bunny quilt pattern, and in fact, your entire purchase! That’s right, through February 29, 2008, everything is 20% off, and the savings are calculated right in the shopping cart.

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day too!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs