I read about this in American Patchwork & Quilting: an online Color Sense Game sponsored by Pittsburgh Paints. I played the game, so much fun!

And boy was it right. Here’s what the game declared me:

Almonds and Honey! Really? Then I clicked on some of the accompanying palettes to see what they would look like in a room.

Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what I painted my house in Ohio.

(Not to mention that load of fabric I just got in Reno.)

And ooh, I just love this:

I’m an Almonds & Honey!

Go see what you are!

In other news, this coming Monday afternoon I’m going to be a guest on American Patchwork & Quilting Radio, hosted by the wonderful Pat Sloan! I’ll remind you again before then, just wanted to give a quick heads-up. Pat is so much fun to talk to… she’s fascinated by everything and makes you feel so welcome.

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

The speaker at my guild’s meeting last night was Rose Hughes!

Rose is the author of Dream Landscapes, which was previously featured here on the blog.

Now Rose has published a beautiful followup book, Exploring Embellishments: More Artful Quilts with Fast-Piece Appliqué.


I just so happened to have a copy with me last night, which Rose graciously signed for us! That’s right, courtesy of That Patchwork Place we have a fantastic giveaway to a lucky winner of the book personally signed by the author.


Rose’s lecture was all about color, and about each quilter’s personal color journey. We had the treat of seeing her color-drenched, fast-piece appliquéd and embellished quilts in person as she displayed a trunk show of her work. On her website, Rose has a free Color Discovery Lesson. Check it out!

Exploring Embellishments focuses on the embellishment side of Rose’s work, taking us through all different types of fascinating doodads. Some were a surprise to me! I was familiar of course with buttons and with seed beads and bugle beads, but I never knew about coin beads or pressed glass/lampworked beads. They’re beautiful! Rose also urges us to consider a range of natural materials and found objects. Basically, anything that has a hole in it or that you can get a hole through, you can use to embellish your quilt!

I had never heard of air-dry clay. How very interesting! Rose also has good times with Angelina fibers, chenille sticks, wool roving, and the Mysterious Substance called Lutradur. You’ll see how to use these materials and more to fabricate your own unique embellishments.

Each project in the book is an embellishment learning experience, starting with Fast-Pieced Appliqué to create a colorful, interesting background.

roses-dogCollectively these darling little quilts are called “The Truth About Cats and Dogs.”

starry-nightThe embellishments create the sparkle and glow of a moonlit “Starry Night.”

wildflower-walkWool-felt and wool-roving flowers.

To enter the drawing to win the book, leave a comment here on the blog before 7:00 p.m. California time on Friday, April 15. The contest is open to U.S. and Canada addresses only. If you’re subscribed by email or feed reader, remember to click over to the blog itself to leave your comment.

By Kay Mackenzie

Sarah answered the call! Recently, when I put out a call for contributions to the blog, regular reader Sarah Vee of Ontario, Canada, got in touch right away. I’d delighted to turn the blog over to her today for a terrific guest post about blanket-stitch appliqué. Go Sarah!

sarah-veeSarah Vee of Sew Joy, whose motto is “I have found happiness in making quilts – and joy in sharing my quilt making.”

Sarah: I have been a patchworker for most of the time I have been quilting. Almost 14 years now! I shied away from the “A” word for many years, even though some of the first quilts I fell in love with were in the Baltimore Album style.

Eventually I started to try it a block at a time. I made a wedding wallhanging with one large appliqué block –- no one could really tell if I had left anything out — and I did, almost half of the leaves!

When Kay’s book Easy Appliqué Blocks: 50 Designs in 5 Sizes came out, I was lucky enough to win a copy. Who could resist the possibilities! Around the same time, my sister sent my daughter a container that held all of her embroidery floss from doing cross stitch for many years. She was putting it aside to focus on quilting.

embroidery floss

My daughter never had a chance! I claimed the box of thread like it was my first box of 64 crayons! I was no longer daunted by the delicacy of appliqué – I had colour on my side.

I put my first blocks from Kay’s appliqué book into a larger pieced quilt for one of my nieces. Instead of having my stitches blend in with my fabrics, I outlined them in black like a colouring book.

picnic quilt

I use the blanket stitch because it’s easy (once you get the hang of it). You can change the size of the stitch to work on any piece, and you can work it by hand or machine. You can use it to secure pieces that are fused and also ones that are not.

I’m by no means an technical expert on supplies or technique. I use what I have, look at lots of pictures – and try stuff. Just take a quick look at these photos I took while working on my latest quilt. You’ll see how I made the colours and blanket stitch work for me to create my Bunny Lady quilt.

closeup of carrot top

The basics: I’m using DMC embroidery thread. I use two strands because that seems to give the thickness I need to cover the edge of the fabric. I use a needle that works for me — not sure if it’s the ‘right’ one. The eye isn’t so small I can’t see to thread it, but not so big that it leaves a hole when going through my quilt top. It’s a medium-length needle so that the thread doesn’t glide out of it too easily.

Tip: Use a fairly long strand of thread. You don’t want to re-thread the needle any more times than you need to – just don’t make it so long that it tangles after every stitch (this isn’t quicker – trust me).

To start: Bring your thread up from the back right at the edge of your piece to appliqué. The length of the next stitch determines the length of your blanket stitch – how far it goes into your appliqué. Put your thread into the fabric and bring it back up almost right on top of where you started.

On the leaves I used smaller stitches closer together because I had to turn a lot of corners, and the leaves are fairly small. On the carrots, I took larger stitches because there was more open space in the middle of the appliqué pieces.

You work this stitch counterclockwise (at least I do because I’m right handed). Hold your thread across the edge of the piece working to the left.

carrot closeup

From where your needle just came up, take a stitch down and to the right that lines up with your first stitch into the appliqué. Bring your needle up at the edge of your appliqué and go over the thread you are holding in place. Pull the stitch snug (but don’t make the piece pucker).

This space defines how close together your stitches will be. On smaller pieces, or going around a corner, you probably want them closer together.


Keep going until you’re done, or almost out of thread! Make sure you leave a long enough tail so you can make a knot on the back.


You can see how I had fun with colour. I used different shades of orange on my carrots. Changing the colours made it more fun to go around so many carrots –- and also gives the up-close viewer a visual treat. The carrots in the border were not fused down, just pinned in place until I secured them with the blanket stitch.


The bunnies and carrots in the quilt top were fused, then stitched. I used bright, fun colours on them too. I used a fairly large stitch on the bunnies so it would be more visible.

I hope this was helpful and encouraging. I stared at many magazine diagrams and pictures of beautiful quilts before I finally tried my hand at appliqué and the blanket stitch. You’ll never know the possibilities until you try. Thanks Kay for providing so many possibilities with your designs and inspiration-packed blog. I’m looking forward to including appliqué on many more quilts.

With Joy,
Sarah Vee

Kay: Thanks a million, Sarah, for your article sharing the joy of appliqué! You’ve gone from “A” word avoider to appliqué enthusiast, because you found your method! I love those patched bunnies… reminds me that I have some randomly pieced hunks of patchwork sitting in the UFO pile awaiting their final destiny! Hmm…

FYI, Sarah is hosting a Placemat Party Blog Hop from Monday, June 28, to Friday, July 2. Visit her blog to find a new hostess each day celebrating the release of Sarah’s first pattern, “Eat with JOY! Placemats”. There will be prizes, fun, refreshments, and hostess-gift ideas for summer parties. Sounds like summer fun!

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

Melinda Bula, author of Candy Cane Lane (our featured appliqué book from last August) is a master of fusing realism into her fabulous floral art quilts.


In this visually rich book, the author shares her process for creating colorful, shaded, detailed, realistic flowers in fabric and thread, and encourages us to start with our own photos of the flowers we’d like to render. “I want you to experience the same thrill I get when I create,” she says. “Everything you need to know about making Cutting-Garden quilts is in this book, and even if you don’t feel like you have an ounce of creativity in you, I assure you that anyone can make these quilts with amazing results.”

For those who’d rather start with some training wheels, Melinda includes five patterns to get you going, with easy-to-follow steps and a fabric key to help with color selection.

The book starts out with a gorgeous gallery for your inspiration. The gallery also serves to show the author’s progression through the development of her techniques and understanding of color and depth.


Then Melinda writes about the creative process (stop stomping on your own creativity!) and emphasizes the need for a place to work. Then, on to fabulous fusible appliqué, going through supplies, subject matter, making an outline drawing, enlarging it, creating a color palette, finding just the right fabrics, using the fusible web, making the appliqués, and putting it all together!


Look at all those different subtle colors that went into making white flowers!

Another thing that Melinda is fantastic at is threadwork as part of developing the fabric art. She tells you everything about it, from batting to presser feet (foots?) to thread choices to tension. There’s information on tacking down the edges of the appliqués, then moving on to adding shadows, highlights, and other thread details. (I can testify that this is a gorgeous part of the process, as I was lucky enough to be a quilt holder when Melinda came to speak at my guild, and oooh.)


Visit the author’s blog, Melinda’s Cutting Garden.

I have a copy of Cutting Garden Quilts to give away, courtesy of That Patchwork Place. Leave a comment by 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 6, to enter the drawing. U.S. and Canada only please (unless you’d be willing to pay the shipping).

To those of you who are subscribed by email, click over to the blog itself and scroll to the bottom of the post to leave your comment there.

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

whimsiesMary Lou Weidman is one of my most favorite admired quiltmakers and authors. Her Whimsies & Whynots: A Playful Approach to Quiltmaking has been on my bookshelf for years.

And so it was with great pleasure that I received a copy of Mary Lou’s latest book Out of the Box: Unleash Your Creativity Through Quilts from Martingale & Company as our featured appliqué book for this month.


Mary Lou’s quiltmaking style is one of riotous, colorful fun, personal meaning, and brave and fearless fabric choices. (It was through her that I first noticed and learned to appreciate the color “cheddar.”) This book is an inspiration to anyone who is willing to be inspired, and Mary Lou writes at length about the process of discovering your inner artist, inviting play and discovery, and listening to yourself instead of to your friends and/or critics.

Every day you have at your disposal the ability to think big, think colorful, think happy, think with large imaginative images, think clever, think expressive, think funny, think lofty, think about the past, think about the future, and think things that no one but you can think of. You have the ability to think ‘out of the box’ and to share your wonderful thoughts and your imagination with others in the form of art, in this case, quilts.

How different is that from the quilting rut of choosing colors and fabrics that “go” with our living rooms, of fretting over “perfect” precise blocks, of fearing the quilt police so that our childlike creative voices are stifled?

What is out of the box? “Push the lid open and jump out!” says Mary Lou, and she gives us a checklist of 24 sample items to test our position in relation to the box. After administering this self-test I discovered that I am not quite out LOL, but I can peep over the lid.

This book holds quite a bit of wisdom, more reading and thoughtiness that your average quilting book I’d say. It’s a process book rather than a product book. I really appreciate that approach. When I’m in my booth at quilt shows, I’m often asked, “How long did it take you to make that?” or, “How long would it take to learn to do that?” Wow, that’s a really product-oriented type of thinking. I want to reply, “Does it matter, if you’re enjoying yourself?”


Mary Lou emphasizes the need to think and daydream, and this struck a chord with me as well. Often, what happens to me during shows is that when I have some down time… slow periods on the show floor, or upon waking up too early in the morning… I seize a pen and paper and write down long list of thoughts that flood into my brain. The inspiration and energy that comes from being at a quilt show turns on a tap for me and I love it when the daydreaming flow of creativity starts. Mary Lou says we need to set aside time for this every day to doodle, think, and imagine.
(Yes, you really can find a half an hour each day.)


There’s a list of creativity stoppers to watch out for (like, ‘there is only one right answer’), pages and pages of inspiration exercises and sources found in our everyday lives, how the author shops for fabric, a section on words in quilts, and lots of information on color. How about being shown the eight styles of fabric! This was an eye-opener for me and something I especially enjoyed.

Then there’s an extensive gallery of the author’s quilts and short-story quilts made by her friends and students. Martingale has done their usual fantastic job on the photography… kudos Brent Kane!!! The quilts burst from the pages. Mary Lou finishes up the book by talking about the making of short-story quilts and how you can derive them from your own life. She shares “secrets” of scale, theme, focus, design elements, drawing, creating patterns, and also shares her own methods of appliqué. Borders, quilting, finishing, and embellishing (‘the icing on the cake’) are also included.

Out of the Box is quite a pep talk and an energizing boost! If you’d like to win a copy, leave a comment before 7:00 p.m. California time on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. (U.S. and Canada only.) Tell us why you need this book in your quiltmaking life!

The winner will also receive a copy of my book Easy Appliqué Blocks: 50 Designs in 5 Sizes. Thank you Martingale!

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

A couple of years ago I blogged about Sheril Drummond’s quilt Remembering Barbaro.

Last October at PIQF she had the most amazing, huge butterfly quilt called “Flights of Fancy.”

Flights of Fancy by Sheril Drummond

Flights of Fancy by Sheril Drummond


I checked Sheril’s blog Serendipity and was delighted to learn that she is now offering patterns and on-line classes to help others achieve the stunning look of her quilts. While you’re there be sure to send virtual scritchies to the Cavalier King Charles spaniel :).

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

To celebrate my birthday on December 17 (not to mention the holiday season), I’m doing a super-duper, extra, extra-special, double-the-appliqué giveaway! Because you see, these things are as much fun for me as they are for you.

I happen to have copies of both Artful Appliqué: The Easy Way from the year 2000 and still in print, and the brand-new Artful Appliqué II: Introducing Scrappliqué and 12 New Floral Designs by Jane Townswick, provided by Martingale & Company / That Patchwork Place. I’m putting them together and giving you guys an opportunity to win them as a package deal. How festive is that for an appliqué enthusiast?

Artful Appliqué by Jane TownswickArtful Appliqué:
The Easy Way

“Having been a die-hard patchwork fan for many years,” begins Jane in the introduction, “I thought there was very little reason for appliqué quilts to exist — until Nancy Pearson’s “Techny Chimes” stopped me dead in my tracks.”

I’m right there with you on that one, Jane. Here’s a page from my inspiration scrapbook. That’s Techny Chimes on the lower right.


“Beautiful hand appliqué is as individual as a fingerprint,” Jane continues.
I really appreciate this sentiment of encouraging individuality and de-emphasizing the need for exact copying and perfection, which IMO takes away from the pleasure of the work.

In the book Jane presents many unusual (to me) and innovative techniques for creating motifs — partial stitching, modified cutwork, and unit construction. (Just goes to show how different brains work differently.) These methods enable tiny, rich details that still have turned edges.

The appliqué information also shows how to achieve precision where precision is important, and individual, artful results where precision is less important.

Leaves don’t have to be green, did you know that? I know that, but I mostly forget it when I reach for my fabrics. You’ll see some stunning results in the book’s gallery of quilts where the quilters have reached past the green box.

The gallery includes many beautiful quilts made by Jane and her students. The author then includes 16 appliqué blocks, each one with complete skill-building instructions. It’s easy to see why this one is still in print after nine years, it’s a classic.

artapp2Artful Appliqué II: Introducing Scrapliqué and 12 New Floral Designs

I just received this one from Martingale so it’s hot off the presses! I can tell from the cover that the floral designs are even more free-form, natural, and detailed. Never fear, Jane takes you step-by-step through her way of mastering this realism. She does advises beginners to consult one of her previous books or another reference book for the basics of appliqué.

In this book Jane introduces Scrapliqué, a technique for creating mosaic-like fabric compositions for your motifs without having to stitch tiny pieces together. There’s also information on unit appliqué, where you can stitch an entire flower before stitching it to the background. Jane explains several advantages to this strategy.

The book has sections on color blending, free-form stems and branches, and a unique way of stitching sharp points. There’s a gorgeous gallery of quilts and 12 floral blocks with step-by-step instructions and photos. You’ll find anemone, camellia, iris, lady’s slipper, pansies, sweet peas, and more! All so detailed you wouldn’t believe it.


Martingale recently published an interview with Jane on their blog. Be sure to go and read that for more information on the artist.

Leave a comment before 7:00 p.m. California time on Thursday, December 17 (my bday :) ), for a chance to win this fantastic combo platter. U.S. and Canada only, unless you’d be willing to pay the shipping.

Happiest holidays to you!
By Kay Mackenzie

I met Gloria Foley a couple years ago at my home guild’s quilt show when she came into my booth and spotted my Baskets to Appliqué designs. Gloria is the proprietress of The Victorian Quilter, a traveling quilt-show shop specializing in patterns and fabrics with that romantic, Victorian patina.

Gloria gave me an order on the spot for a batch of the books and told me of her plans to make a sample to hang in her booth. Since that time she has become a wonderful friend and a mentor to me, sharing her knowledge of area quilt shows and giving me great tips. Every time I would talk to her or see her at a show she would tell me that the baskets were coming along. Last spring I saw the blocks, completed but not set together yet. They were just gorgeous… soft and rich looking.

Well, at the recent River City Quilt Guild show in Sacramento, I checked in with her during setup and there was the quilt, finished and up on the wall.

Victorian Baskets by Gloria Foley

Victorian Baskets by Gloria Foley

Wow!!! Look at that red setting. Talk about punch! It looks so different from mine, I love it! Gloria used needleturn appliqué and, instead of a dogtooth border, she used prairie points in the border.

Sixteen Baskets by Kay Mackenzie

Sixteen Baskets by Kay Mackenzie



At the Sacramento show, people had fun walking back and forth between our booths to look at the two versions.

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

Daily blogger Pat Sloan put up a post showing some of the antique appliqué quilts that were displayed during Festival in Houston. They are so amazing.

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

The item that I ordered from Keepsake Quilting to use for the new designs arrived. There’s your second clue. :)


Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

Just put up a post on my Show & Tell Center showing a Baskets to Appliqué quilt made by a shop for their BOM program. For a treat, go look at this gorgeous treatment of the basket blocks.

Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Today I’m writing about my favorite quilt as part of the Bloggers Quilt Festival put on by Amy of
Park City Girl.

My favorite quilt is usually the one I just started :) but if I had to pick just one, I’d have to say that it’s my Sixteen Baskets.


Here are the reasons why:

In many ways I think this is my best work. It’s hand appliquéd, back during the time that I favored the freezer-paper-template-on-top method (before I learned back-basting). The tiniest motifs are machine appliquéd or hand embroidered.

Each of the blocks is my original design… they’re published in my book Baskets to Appliqué. It was an exciting, emotional, fulfilling process developing the concept for each basket, and I still remember that time…. the mischevious kitty, the fat quarters rolled up, the nod to Baltimore, the pastel eggs inspired by Janet’s chickens who gave us eggs exactly those colors.

This quilt is also hand quilted. I took a picture that’s unevenly lit on purpose to try to get the quilting to show up. I love hand quilting and don’t get the chance to do it as much as I used to.


I love the soldier blue and the dogtooth border. (Also that it’s called a dogtooth border, because I love dogs.)

So that’s my favorite quilt. Thanks for visiting to see my entry in the Bloggers’ Quilt Festival! Visit Park City Girl every day through April 24 and get a ringside seat for other bloggers’ favorite quilts! It’s quite a show!

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Congratulations to Kim B., who won my prize from Pat Sloan’s Orange Pile Challenge blog hop!

In addition to Growing Hearts to Appliqué, I’m throwing in a half-yard of that fun Pat Sloan fabric.

Thank you so much to all who hopped over from the OP. You left comments that made me feel all warm and fuzzy. Many of you seemed to covet the book, so here’s what I’m doing…

For all you hoppers, through March 31, 2009, receive 25% off Growing Hearts over at quiltpuppy.com. Enter the coupon code ORANGE in the shopping cart.

Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Nuttin! Orange and silver are two words for which there is no exact rhyme in the English language. A fabric company should put out an orange fabric with metallic silver highlights and call it “Nothing Rhymes.”

Today I’m ruminating about the color orange as part of Pat Sloan’s Virtual Weekend Retreat and OP Challenge. What’s an OP you might ask? Orange Pile! Your pile of orange fabrics from your stash! There’s a blog hop going on with prize giveaways, a free block pattern, photos of work in progress, and a tutorial. Click the OP logo in the left-hand sidebar and you’ll find out all about it.

What’s orange in nature? Lots of things. Oranges. Tangerines. Papayas. Pumpkins. Carrots. All of these grow with green leaves, so it seems that green goes with orange. However, to me, an orange and green combo just always has a “food” connotation, like food-service industry.

California poppies. Chrysanthemums. Nasturtiums. Still with the green leaves, but commonly pictured against a blue sky. Orange and blue… a nice combination.

Ginger tabby cats. Parts of calico cats. Pomeranians. Monarch Butterflies.


My calico cat Maikai.

Orange and black, besides being two colors in the classic calico triad, just means Halloween. Orange and brown occur often together in the coats of animals. A touch of orange is fantastic for depicting critters. Go see the giraffes on the home page of appliqué artist Nancy Brown’s website.

I happen to like orange, and when I say that I mean in my stash and in my quilts. Supposedly I can’t wear true orange, me being a ‘classic winter’ and all. But when I really think about it, orangey-red is really one of my favorite colors! Witness the color scheme for this blog (which I designed myself). My car is ‘red-orange metallic.’ I’m far more drawn to the orange side of red than the purple side.

free-flowers.gifI try to pull a splash of orange into my appliqué whenever I can. Here’s my improvisational, scissor-cut wall quilt Free Flowers. It just wouldn’t be the same without the orange and the pink.

Basket block from Growing Hearts to Appliqué
When I pulled fabrics for the blocks in my book Growing Hearts to Appliqué, I mixed orange into the reds.

One of my very favorite color combinations is orangey-red and tealy blue. Can you see it in this quilt block? They’re opposite each other on the color wheel, so they’re complimentary, and they look fabulous together.

Last year I stopped by In Stitches, an exceedingly cute quilt shop in Red Buff, California. The owner, Erda Fleming, told me that they had a program whereby the first fabric purchased by a customer would become the Bolt of the Day. I was the first one in the door so I got to proclaim the Bolt of the Day. Here’s what I chose.


Pat Sloan fabric!

Note the orangey-red and tealy blue. No wonder it was my favorite!
When I designed the cover for Growing Hearts I used this color combo too.

Growing Hearts to Appliqué by Kay Mackenzie

Have you guessed it? This book is my giveaway for the OP Challenge! Leave a comment on this post to enter the drawing for Growing Hearts to Appliqué. The winner will be drawn this evening, California time.

Don’t forget to visit Pat Sloan’s blog for the rest of her virtual weekend retreat on all quilty things orange!

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Fabulous quilt designer Pat Sloan has put forth an OP Challenge.

What’s an OP? Orange Pile! Your pile of orange fabric from your stash! How fun.

Pat has already started putting up some notes for quilters who are participating in the challenge. If you’d like to join in the fun and “orange along,” just click the OP logo in the sidebar for all the information.

As part of the OP Challenge, Pat is hosting a virtual weekend retreat from Friday, February 20, through Sunday, February 22. There’ll be a blog hop with prize giveaways, a free block pattern, photos of work in progress, and a tutorial. It should be great fun, as it seems Pat really knows how to throw a party! I’ll be one of the bloggers on the hop and I’m already planning my prize giveaway.

my-op.gifHere’s my Orange Pile. I like orange. This doesn’t even show the orangey-reds.

Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

blog-tour.jpgWelcome to my stop on the Color Mastery blog tour! I’m Kay Mackenzie, an appliqué enthusiast and writer, and this is my blog devoted to appliqué — any kind! I’m privileged today to publish this interview with Maria Peagler, author of the new book for quilters, Color Mastery: 10 Principles for Creating Stunning Quilts.

Kay: Maria, we met by email through our mutual photographer Gregory Case. Then, amongst the throngs of people at Spring Quilt Market 2008, fortune put us shoulder-to-shoulder not once but twice. I so enjoyed our conversations, and marveled at your calm self-assurance at this huge project of putting out a book about color for quilters. Please tell us about the experiences in your life, both artistic and professional, that prepared you for this journey.

Maria: Color Mastery is my eighth book, and the second I’ve published independently. Because I’m a veteran at writing and publishing, the whole idea of giving birth to this wonderful book for quilters on color was thrilling, and I couldn’t wait to get started. My expertise in writing was instructional design and curriculum development for computer training companies, which basically means I developed classes for highly technical subjects, and made them easy to understand. So you’d come to my class and after one day, go back to work with skills you needed. I’ve taken the same approach to color: one day with me and you’ll really see color differently.

Art has been a part of my life from childhood. My mother was an artist and a musician, and I loved watching her hands with a paintbrush and playing the keys of a piano. I’ve always expressed myself with words and images, and really see them as connected.

Kay: From that background, how did you get started as a quilter?

Maria: I was quite fortunate to have a good friend, Debbie Gerbers, invite me to her quilting guild. Debbie and I both sewed and were newlyweds in our twenties, but I really had no interest in quilting. What I didn’t know is that Debbie belonged to the East Cobb Quilters’ Guild, a nationally-known quilt guild whose members’ quilts have been in Spike Lee films, the Atlanta Olympic Games, and is home to many professional quilters. So when I attended the first meeting with Debbie, I was shocked to see women who were artists. I remember thinking during the guild’s show and tell: I’m in. Whatever it takes to learn how to do this, I’m in.

Kay: That is so cool. I can tell that you found “it” that day. How was it that you became especially interested in color in quiltmaking?

Maria: For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved color. When I was a young girl growing up in the psychedelic 70’s, I loved all the colorful images around me, and I adored drawing and painting, and wanted to be an artist. My parents encouraged me to do something more practical, so I followed my other love of books and writing. When I became a quilter, it was really the color and gorgeous fabrics that appealed to me. I delighted in selecting fabrics and colors for my quilts, but was frustrated by my results. I would sit in my quilt guild meetings and be really disappointed that I couldn’t get the same outstanding results I saw from other, more accomplished, quilters. And so I tried to learn color theory and the color wheel, but I just didn’t get it. It was only once I became a watercolor painter that I understood color theory and how differently it applied to fabric and quilts.

Color Mastery by Maria Peagler

Kay: How did all this come together to inspire you to write a book for quilters about color?

Maria: I was teaching machine quilting in a local shop in Dawsonville, Georgia, called Sew Memorable. Dawsonville is a gorgeous town near the base of the Appalachian Trail, and has many artists and crafters. The shop owner, whose favorite color is brown, was getting a lot of requests from quilters for a color class, and asked me to develop it. I wanted quilters to see color results in one day, without having to wade through a lot of color theory that doesn’t apply to us. I developed an entirely new kind of color class for quilters that was quick, immediately hands-on, fun, and at the end of the day quilters would have a finished quilt top.

And it worked! Quilters who were previously intimidated by color theory were having so much fun and finally understanding how color relationships work in quilts, they forgot all about being frustrated with color theory. I developed my own exercises and projects, but found I was spending a small fortune in paper, ink, and materials. So I decided it was time to put it all in a book. I knew I had something unique in the Color Mastery premise.

Kay: Can you describe what it has been like for you writing this book and marshaling it through the publishing process? How long from concept to print?

Maria: I published Color Mastery through my own “indie” publishing company, and was able to develop a really unique quilting book because I had no limitations on what I wanted to do. First, I didn’t self-publish; many self-publishers do everything themselves, and from experience, I know what I do and don’t do well. So I hired a photographer, book designer, illustrator, and two editors to be on my creative team. Second, I developed a series of exercises that allow quilters to use their own stash to really “see” colors in fabric the way artists do, and show them how to use that new color knowledge to design their own color palettes. Third, I designed quilts that really extended the book’s color exercises, but the projects don’t look like exercise quilts: they’re lap quilts, table runners, wall quilts, and doll quilts. All practical, and in a range of styles from funky, to feminine, to masculine. Fourth, I acted as the book’s sales and marketing team, getting the word out to the quilt industry about this new concept in teaching color to quilters.

The entire process took about 1-1/2 to 2 years, from concept to the book being in quilt shops.

Kay: How do your current publishing efforts fit in with family life?

I have two school-aged sons, and being a mother has been the greatest joy of my life. I don’t want to miss a single moment of their growing up, so I work around their school schedules. Sometimes when I’m gearing up for a big promotion or a deadline I end up working at night after they’re in bed, but my husband owns his own business and understands the life of an entrepreneur.

I’m also aware of being a role model, for not only my own sons, but other students in this area as well, as an author. I live in a rural county where most families live within severely limited means and college is a luxury. I never imagined when I was a child of being a writer: I didn’t know anyone who was a writer, and I’m the first person in my family to attend and graduate from college. I visit the area schools and talk to students about being a writer and getting published, and encourage them to follow their dreams. (Some parents attended these too – I think it’s the great American dream to write a book!)

Kay: You sent me an advance copy and asked if I would like to write a blurb. I was delighted to do so. Here’s what wrote itself, from the right side of my brain, without effort: “I’ve attended several lectures on the color wheel, but none of them made me start thinking about color the way that Maria Peagler’s Color Mastery did. All of a sudden I had fresh eyes, and looked at everything around me with greater understanding. This book is an instant classic.” I’ve been tickled pink to see my blurb appear on your Color Mastery blog and indeed on the Amazon.com detail page for the book! Tell us a little bit about why your book takes us beyond the standard color wheel lecture.

Maria: Most color wheel lectures left me cold, with too much emphasis on rules and limitations of using the color wheel. I wanted to show quilters what I had discovered about using the color wheel, that it’s really a launching pad for unlimited color options and innovative color palettes. I stress how important it is for quilters to keep a color journal, where they start collecting images and ideas for color palettes they love (and those they don’t). Without knowing your own color style, color theory ends up making formulaic quilts. The most common observation I hear from my students is this: “I was making the same quilt over and over again. I didn’t realize what a color rut I was in!” Once you combine your own color vision with color theory, you’ve unlocked the door to endless color options.

I do spend a lot of time on teaching the parts of color theory that are essential to quilters, but I do it in a way that gets quilters working with their fabrics right away, so they can visualize color palettes with their own fabrics. I also stress using the color wheel as a tool: it’s not the focus of my quilts, nor am I a slave to it. I make the color wheel and color theory work for me in my style of quilts.

Kay: I have to tell you that one startling revelation in your book changed my fabric choices forever… for the better! My jaw dropped when I read that the Impressionist painters did not use black, brown, or gray in themselves. After that, I was making a wall quilt, and when I would have reached for gray (because that’s the true color of what I was depicting), I reached for blue-gray instead. It looked fabulous! Would you expound a little more on this topic?

Maria: Some of my favorite parts of the book are the artist’s secrets, where I show quilters how to use color in their quilts the way great masters throughout time have. While I love using black in my quilts, I never realized how much more colorful a quilt would be by using a darker color in its place, like dark blue. It really does work, and gives a quilt far more vibrancy than if you use a simple black. It’s also a great example of how you can use value to increase the color potential of your quilts. Most quilters think of value only in terms of light vs. dark, but it can have a far greater impact on the color in your palettes.

And if you dye or paint your own fabric, you can make a much more colorful version of black by combining dark red, dark green, and dark blue. While I don’t dye my fabrics, I use this technique often in my paintings and sketches, with gorgeous results.

Kay: It strikes me that Color Mastery is coming along just when we quilters need it more than ever! In light of our current ‘economic downturn,” your book helps quilters understand how to wring every last bit of color from, of their stashes. In addition, the exercises reveal what’s needed in the stash, so that the quilter can shop for fabrics wisely and judiciously.

Maria: The emphasis on our fabric stash in Color Mastery really resulted from a need. I wanted to convince quilters that outstanding color results were possible with everyday fabrics, and so I turned to my stash to prove it. I made all the quilts in the book from my limited stash, knowing that if I could develop innovative color palettes for gorgeous quilts using only fabrics I had on hand, any quilter could read the book and go into a quilt store and select fabrics with ease. And, I knew from my classes that using your own fabrics for color exercises helps quilters to better understand color, as they’re using the fabrics that have meaning for them. Looking at a mock-up block that uses someone else’s fabrics teaches little about color.

Kay: Maria has made a sample chapter from her book available for download! (One of the perks of having one’s own publishing company.) :)
Visit colormastery.com.


Maria: Thanks Kay, for hosting me at your All About Appliqué blog on my Color Mastery blog tour! I so admire you and other women authors for the creative work they do. And I can’t imagine a better business than quilting in which to write and be an entrepreneur! I love the whole notion of quilts being an art form you can wrap up in and share with loved ones.

Kay: It’s been my pleasure. Readers, ask for Color Mastery at your favorite quilt shop, or order from Maria’s secure distributor AtlasBooks or from Amazon.

Also, be sure to also check out the guest post that Maria did here last October on “Color and Appliqué.”

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

My 6th Grade Shoes by Penelope Tucker and Ronda K. Beyer was another one of my favorite quilts at PIQF. That’s putting it mildly. Actually I had a little “moment” when I saw it.


See, what you don’t know is that this design is one of my all-time most worshipped. The blocks are from Fairmeadow by Jeana Kimball, a quilt that completely captivated me as an early quilter. Here’s my Fairmeadow book from like 15 years ago, long out of print, battered, scuffed, and much loved.

Fairmeadow by Jeana Kimball

I made my own Fairmeadow back then, slavishly collecting fabrics that replicated Jeana’s as closely as possible, and enjoyed every minute of the appliqué.

I heard a couple of years ago that my friend Pam Crooks was working on Fairmeadow in a hand appliqué class taught by her bud Penny, and now I finally got to see Penny’s version. According to the show description, “Penny was inspired by her beloved 6th grade shoes — lime green and turquoise — while selecting fabrics for this quilt. It reminded her of hot summer days in California in the 1960s. Excited to begin quilting, Ronda added her own design elements with her longarm machine.”

And guess what… this quilt won the PIQF 2008 award for Best Machine Workmanship! Congratulations Ronda! And thank you, Penny, for making this delightful rendition of the the blocks. Here are just a couple, and you can see the incredible quilting.


Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

It was easy to choose my favorite quilt from all the entries at the recent Pacific international Quilt Festival.

Paws down, it was Pup Art by Nancy S. Brown of Oakland, California.

Pup Art by Nancy S. Brown

In the quilt description, Nancy wrote that she loves animals and they are almost always the inspiration for her quilts, and that Charles Schultz got it right when he said, ‘Happiness is a warm puppy.’

I contacted Nancy and she graciously sent me a little more information about this happy quilt. “I like to make animal portraits with hand appliqué but don’t get to use bright colors (which I love) very often in them. I have been telling my students for years that you can make animals in any colors as long as you keep the lights and darks where they belong. I finally decided to take my own advice. I chose puppies as a theme after making a baby quilt with a blue laborador on it and of course, I just love puppies. I dyed most of the fabric myself and overdyed some black and white prints to add some texture.”

Here are a few of the colorful pups from the quilt, which, as Nancy says, “celebrates those wonderful, bouncy bundles of joy.”

And, it wasn’t just me who was captivated by the puppies. I was delighted to learn that Pup Art won the 2008 PIQF Viewer’s Choice Award!

When I visited Nancy’s website at nancybrownquilts.com, I was reminded of one of her earlier quilts that I had fallen in love with when I saw it at PIQF. Be sure to check out all of her incredible quilts, especially Sunday in the Park with Mittens and look for the papillon in the front row! (Little dog, big fluffy ears.) Unbelievably, Nancy tells me that the papillon in that quilt belongs to a friend of hers and his name is Willie too!

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

This is quite thrilling. Maria Peagler, author of the forthcoming book Color Mastery, has consented to do a guest post!

Our mutual photographer Gregory Case put Maria and myself in touch with one another, then we found ourselves shoulder-to-shoulder more than once at Quilt Market in May, where much chatting ensued. I was privileged to see an advance copy of Maria’s beautiful book and to write a blurb for the jacket.

Here’s Maria now to clue us in on how to begin our journey to appliqué color mastery.

I’m delighted to be with you here today at the All About Appliqué blog. Thanks, Kay, for inviting me to share about my favorite topic: color. I’ve been quilting for over 15 years, doing piecing and appliqué, and hands down my favorite, and most challenging, part of the process is selecting the color palette for a quilt. For too long, my color results were hit or miss, until I developed my own unique approach to color based on my experience in other artistic mediums, like watercolor (shown below) and colored pencil.

Watercolor by Maria Peagler

When I started as a quilter, I didn’t really understand how to use color effectively in my quilts, so I copied what other, more experienced quilters did. Here’s a block I completed in a Harriet Hargrave Machine Appliqué class. I can’t tell you why I chose these colors, because they certainly don’t reflect my style. I was simply doing what I thought appliquérs were supposed to do.

Because it didn’t reflect my style, I never did anything with it. I believe that’s why we as quilters end up with so many UFOs. We had a great idea that we didn’t quite know what to do with or it didn’t end up as we had hoped.

Fast forward ten years, and here’s my appliqué style now:

What made the difference? Two things really:

  1. Knowing my own color preferences and style
  2. Understanding the DNA of color and how to manipulate it for outstanding results

How did I get there?

It certainly wasn’t overnight, and I really had to find my own way. I tried many of the color books out there for quilters, but nothing struck a chord with me. They were beautiful books filled with gorgeous quilts, but I couldn’t relate to any of them. So I started my own color adventure.

First, I kept a color journal. I filled it with photographs of quilts, gardens, furniture, decorating, children’s clothes, artwork, and anything else that had colors that spoke to me. I needed to find out what I loved and why, and this exercise really helped me. I now have about five of these journals and I refer back to them frequently. Knowing my own color style gave the confidence to use a black background on this Christmas appliqué quilt.

Second, I begrudgingly learned color theory. That wasn’t my intention, but I took a watercolor painting class and quickly learned I couldn’t get the results I wanted without understanding the color wheel. It took a lot of practice and many color wheels for me to finally understand why the color wheel is important and how it is a visual map to how colors interact: the closer together colors are on a color wheel, the less contrast they have. The farther apart colors are, the higher their contrast.

For appliqué, contrast is important to make the appliqués stand out from the background and from each other. In the poppy quilt shown below, I used low-medium contrast to define the poppy petals, and high contrast colors (red vs. green, directly across from each other on the color wheel) for the poppy to stand out from the background.

My top three tips for getting outstanding color in appliqué quilts are:

  1. Start keeping a color journal to develop your unique color vision.
  2. Make a color wheel using your own fabric stash. I have a fun and easy tutorial on how to do this here.
  3. Play with appliqués made with colors in varying amounts of contrast to see which color combinations you like best and give your appliqués great definition.

My quilting style transformed after learning color theory, as I had the confidence to not only develop my own color palettes, but my own designs as well. Now that I understood how to marry my color preferences with color theory, I also included my love for drawing and sketching into my own quilt designs.

My background is in technical writing and instructional development, so after finally “getting” outstanding color in my quilts, I immediately thought, “Why hasn’t anyone ever explained colors to quilters this way? Quilters don’t need to know everything about the color wheel, just the stuff that applies to fabric!”

So, I wrote the book I had wished for as a quilter trying to understand color. It’s for experienced quilters who have a stash and like doing quilts that are stunning, but simple to construct. Focus on the color, not on complicated piecing or appliqué instructions. And it has a fun appliqué project I’ve done in two different color harmonies so you can see the stark difference a color palette makes in the same quilt. The book is Color Mastery: 10 Principles for Creating Stunning Quilts, and will be in quilt shops in February.

It’s been so much fun stopping by and chatting with you Kay! I look forward to your book coming out in March and it will certainly be in my quilting library.


Kay here… visit the Color Mastery website to read more about Maria’s upcoming book.

Until next time,
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.


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.


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!


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,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs