Awhile ago, a reader suggested that I might highlight the work of incredible appliqué artist Deborah Kemball. I agree! I don’t know Deborah but I have been admiring her gorgeous work and have been collecting references to her as I come across them.

Deborah is the author of the very successful and lovely book Beautiful Botanicals.

In an interview in the newsletter of The Appliqué Society, I learned that Deborah does all of her work by hand, including the quilting. I was truly gratified to learn that she works quickly because she is not a perfectionist! If she’s unhappy with anything she makes it work later with embroidery or an additional motif.

At the 2011 AQS Lancaster Show, Deborah’s Midnight Garden won First Place in the Appliquéd Quilts, Hand Quilted division. You can see this beauty on Deborah’s Gallery page.

It’s one of two quilts in her pattern pack Twilight Garden Quilts.

Deborah currently lives in Chile and has started to include information about her techniques on her blog. We will all continue to look forward to more beautiful appliqué from this gifted self-taught quilter.

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

Over the weekend I was in Reedley, California, for their semiannual quilt show. Reedley is not far from Fresno. That’s right, Fresno, where the hot sun turns grapes into raisins. It was 99 degrees on Friday. My neighbor Donna and I nearly suffered heat prostration trying to get everything loaded in and set up.

I was delighted to be there, though, because the amazing Janice Whittington was one of the featured artists!

Jan Whittington

Jan Whittington

Jan’s daughter Shamara runs Second Chance Fabrics, a genius concern that rescues unused fabric out of quilters’ stashes and gives it a second chance! Jan helps out at the booth at shows, and mom and daughter have become buddies of mine.

Part of Jan’s display was a collection of Biology Quilts. Let me see if I can get the story straight. Jan’s husband Nathan, Shamara’s dad, is a high-school biology teacher. When they moved to a new building, the high ceilings made the room echo. Plus, the articulated cow skeleton couldn’t come along, so the space that had been dedicated to it in the new classroom was now bare. On top of that, the school administration sent down a decree that there could be no nails in the new walls.

Now you know what a quilter does with bare spaces and echoing halls. Jan immediately started on a series of quilts to go in that new classroom. The rebel in her came out. She went down there herself to put the nails in the walls. “They’re not MY boss,” she says LOL!

Here are some of the pieces in her amazing biology series.

poster

Octopi for Nathan

Octopi for Nathan

Inspired by her husband’s many coastal class field trips.

The Bug Collection

The Bug Collection

The first quilt Jan made to help baffle the echoes.

Wee Beasties

Wee Beasties

My personal favorite. Now how many people do you know who’ve made a bacteria quilt?

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Here’s another of Jan’s quilts that I just loved.

Aztec Rose

Aztec Rose

From the Aztec Rose Garden pattern by Colette Belt. Longarm quilted by Cynthia McGunigle of Mac Quilting, Fresno.

aztec-close

Beautiful pattern, beautiful colors, beautiful appliqué.

Well done Jan!

By Sunday the temperature had gone down to “only” 85. The local residents said they were grateful for the cool weather.

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie
Kay

I’m delighted today to turn the blog over to appliqué author, designer, and teacher Cheryl Almgren Taylor.

Cheryl Almgren Taylor

Cheryl Almgren Taylor


Cheryl: I am excited to be a guest on Kay’s site today and want to thank her for the invitation to be a part of her blog.

I have loved quilts since I was a small child but never ventured into quilting until 2000. I had been sewing since I was 13 so I had some basic skills down. But I discovered, like many of us, that quilting is a whole new world.

I got into designing because of my grandson Michael and my love of storybooks. I spent 14 years teaching in the elementary grades and loved “read aloud” time with the kids. Several years ago I wanted to make Michael a quilt that would go with his favorite story Going On a Bear Hunt, and this led to the creation of a whole series of quilts that coordinate with childrens’ books. I was surprised and delighted when Martingale & Company (That Patchwork Place) chose to publish my designs in a pattern series entitled Storybook Snugglers.

There were six patterns in this original pattern series from 2007, with two quilt designs in each pattern–one easier version and one more detailed. There are still some patterns available from Martingale.

Monkey Business by Cheryl Almgren Taylor

Monkey Business by Cheryl Almgren Taylor

deck-halls

Last summer my first book Deck the Halls was published featuring a collection of Christmas quilts.

Editor’s note: If you haven’t seen it, check out the post from last November, when Deck the Halls was our featured appliqué book.



Cheryl:
Although I love pieced quilts, I am especially drawn to appliqué. Applique enables us to make shapes that are just not possible with piecing, and you don’t have to worry about your quarter inch or matching points! I especially love using batiks and fussy cutting shapes so that the design has shading provided by the fabric. I also like to use a variety of fabrics in the same tonal range when repeating a shape, rather than making everything match. I think it gives more interest to the design. When I’m designing I am almost always telling a story (at least in my head) and my favorite technique is fusible-web appliqué finished with machine blanket stitching.

Wrapped Up in Love from Deck the Halls

Wrapped Up in Love from Deck the Halls

For those of you who have never ventured into the world of fusing, here is some advice I think you might find helpful.

First off, purchasing fusible web can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you are looking for. There is everything out there in fusible land, from fusible interfacing to fusible batting. If you have never ventured into this department before, you can become overwhelmed and confused. And depending upon where you are shopping, the store clerk may not know a piece of fusible web from a French fry. The item you want to purchase is paper-backed fusible web. Brands that may be familiar are Heat ‘n Bond, Wonder Under, and Steam a Seam (as well as many others) and I highly recommend a lightweight product.

When using fusible, remember that if your design is asymmetrical you must trace the pattern in reverse on the paper backing of the fusible product. Also remember to trace each piece separately. If you have a large pattern piece, cutting the center portion out of the fusible will create less stiffness in the finished design. My books and patterns all have a section that gives detailed information on this process.

Another important thing you should know about lightweight fusible web is, that it’s a temporary bond. It must be stitched down around the edges or it will eventually float away. This is not true for all fusible webs—only the lightweight type. However, using a heavier fusible makes a stiffer quilt and I don’t recommend using them.

And now we get to the fun part of fusing—finishing the edges! There is such a choice of fabulous threads out there in different weights, colors, and fibers. It’s awesome! So the first thing you have to decide is what element you want the threads to play in the finished product. Do you want them to recede into the background or pop out as a design element? Do you want them to add some pizzazz or blend in? This is an important design element in your quilt and you will be happier with the finished quilt if you decide how this element should look just the same as you select your color choices.

I have developed some personal choices that work for me, but please bear in mind that I don’t work for these companies, receive compensation from them, or guarantee their products. I’m just sharing my personal experiences with you. My “go-to” thread for finishing appliqué edges is Mettler 50 wt. Silk Finish cotton thread in a matching or coordinating color. The thread is thick enough to make it viewable, but it doesn’t distract from the design. If you want your thread to recede a little more, consider using a 60 wt. Mettler or a 50 wt. Aurifil, again in a matching color. Using YLI silk threads in a 50 wt. can give a beautiful, subtle sheen to edges but since the thread is a finer consistency, you may want to be selective in its usage. If you want your thread to pop out and become a design feature, try a slightly darker hue or be bold with a darker thread choice. Using a thicker 40 wt. thread will also make the stitching a dominant part of the design and some people even use a 25 wt. thread, which will be very thick. It will give you a primitive, country feel. Finally, when you want a little glitz, consider a Sulky rayon/polyester or metallic thread. These threads can bring glamour and pizzazz to your work.

I hope this advice is helpful and has inspired you to launch into a new appliqué project. I can only say that if you’ve been afraid to try fusible web before, give it a try. It’s a very user-friendly technique.

Happy quilting!
Cheryl

Kay: Thank you Cheryl! It was a treat learning more about you, and your appliqué wisdom is much appreciated. We’re “like this” in so many ways. Can’t wait to see what you do next!

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

At the Pacific International Quilt Festival last fall, I was delighted to see that a fellow PVQA guild member had won a big whopping prize!

meri-ribbon

Best of World! It’s a big world, and I was so impressed!

You can click on the photo to get a larger view.

I asked Meri to tell us something about herself and her work.

Meri ~

I was born just outside New York City in 1945 to a family which, on my father’s side, has had literally generations upon generations of artists (I have never met a Henriques who wasn’t one sort of artist or another!). I received a BA in Fine Art from the University of California at Berkeley, which wasn’t terribly useful when it came to making a living! Fortunately, my husband does that for us, so I’ve been able to live the life of a housewife and non-starving artist.

Meri

Meri


In past years, I’ve worked on building costumes for the San Francisco Lamplighters under the guidance of the brilliant designer Melissa Wortman, and I’ve costumed shows for the now-extinct Bay Shore Lyric Opera Company in Capitola.

In 2006, I took my first trip to Guatemala on one of Priscilla Bianchi‘s wonderful Guatemalan tours, and fell in love with what I’ve come to think of as the ‘Rainbow Country’. My first Guatemalan quilt, ‘Las Mujeres Azules de Guatemala (the Blue Ladies of Guatemala)”, a result of that trip, was just published in Lark Books 500 Art Quilts.

Las Mujeres Azules de Guatemala by Meri Henriques Vahl

Las Mujeres Azules de Guatemala by Meri Henriques Vahl

I made a return trip with Priscilla in the fall of 2008, and the ‘Flower Market’ (the first quilt shown here) was the result. Here’s a description of my process. I began by putting the quilt back face-down on my worktable. Over this, I spread a layer of natural cotton batting, and then took out my scissors: I was ready to start creating…

The main central picture in the ‘Flower Market’ quilt is a fabric collage using recycled Guatemalan belts and huipiles (woven blouses), Guatemalan fabric, some cotton batiks, and a few flower prints that were cut into very small units. Because I couldn’t find all the flower prints I needed, for example chrysanthemums, I fused cotton fabrics onto Wonder Under and then cut them into narrow strips and ironed them down (just in case I sneezed or the cats got into them!). I also included short lengths of yarn in several places for flower stems, and layers of dark blue tulle (in the flower buckets, for example) to create shadows. Note: there are no seams in this area – it’s all raw edges.

For the faces, I took the photographs I was working from to Kinko’s and blew them up in black and white to the size I wanted, then traced the outlines onto tracing paper, which I then reversed, drawing the image onto freezer paper. Now I had a reversed image.

Next, I ironed fine off-white cotton onto the freezer paper and drew the faces with Aquarelle Caran d’Ache colored pencils using a very interesting layering technique that dates from Medieval times: I first drew the outlines in dark blue pencil, then shaded in the shadows; then came more pencil over-layers of tan, rose, brown, yellow, and black around the eyes. Once I had achieved the effects I was after, I used Sharpie permanent pens to add accents to the eyes, eyebrows, mouths, etc. I also used this same coloring procedure to draw the small baskets and any flowers and fruits I didn’t have store-bought fabric for.

Once my picture was complete, I carefully spread a single layer of black (yes, black!) tulle over the entire surface, added lots of pins to hold the pieces in place, and then spent hours and hours free-motion quilting over the whole thing, to ‘trap’ everything in place. The stitching (finally!) completed, I squared up the picture and then added the borders, using the usual traditional piecing techniques.

I have taught this fabric collage technique in the past, and will be teaching it again at the Monterey Peninsula Quilters Guild on July 11, 2010, and also doing a presentation the next day for the Guild (I believe non-members are welcome to take their classes and attend the lectures). It’s a thrill to see my students take off on their own exciting explorations with this marvelous liberating and fun technique! Since there is no piecing involved, anything goes — and wonderful landscape can be achieved in just a brief couple of hours!

And, I can’t wait to go back to Guatemala and find out what else happens!

Kay here ~ thank you so much Meri for talking us through how your create your stunning quilts. I’ll also look forward to seeing what your next trip inspires!

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

I got a note from Lynn Miller in Arizona.

“Wanted to mention the person who inspired me the most with applique, Laurene Sinema. She is in the Arizona Quilters Hall of Fame. Laurene is no longer with us, but she is not forgotten. I hoped you might give her a mention sometime on your blog. She was a wonderful, kind, caring person.”

51EPPYSF0QL._SL160_I knew the name was familiar, but it wasn’t until I looked her up that I remembered Laurene is the author of the classic Appliqué! Appliqué!! Appliqué!!!

What a great title.

Laurene is also the author of Primitive Folk Art Designs From Antique Album Quilts as well as several more books on appliqué and redwork. She’s a co-author of the popular Hooked on Hankies.

hooked-on-hankies

The AQHF article tells of Laurene’s many important contributions to the quilting scene in Arizona and around the world. She opened the first quilt shop in Phoenix, founded the state-wide Arizona Quilters Guild, and served as president of the Arizona Quilt Project. She was instrumental in the redwork revival when she helped coordinate an exhibit one year at International Quilt Market.

On the Quilt History website, Laurene is remembered as “warm, upbeat, and sharing.” Her legacy lives on in her books, patterns, fabrics, and the memories that many quilters have of her talent, energy, and inspiration.

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

laura.jpgArt quilter Laura Wasilowski of Elgin, Illinois, is a founding member of the Chicago School of Fusing. In fact, she’s the Dean of Corrections.

Kay: To me, the CSOF is more about a state of mind that an ivy-covered institution. It’s standing up tall and saying, “I fuse and I’m proud.”

Laura: The mission of the Chicago School of Fusing is to encourage the technique of fusing to create art work. We know that it is the quickest way to get from that idea in your head to the implementation of that idea in fabric. Fusing gives you endless possibilities for making art.

Kay: Were you always a confirmed fuser?

Laura: No, I started out as a piecer as a teenager but as an adult I wanted to make pictorial art. Fusing allowed me to make those organic shapes so important in picture making.

Kay: The readers are going to want to know what’s your favorite kind of fusible web.

Laura: I use paper-backed Wonder Under #805 (regular weight). The release paper that comes with it is so important in creating fused art quilts. You can use the paper for collage building, pattern transfer, protecting the quilt top, and storing fused elements or large fused shapes. It always releases a fused fabric.

Kay: You prefer to use hand-dyed fabric, yes? You dye your own and also offer it in your Artfabrik store. Tell us why these types of fabrics are better for the fused quilts.

Laura: A hand-dyed or batik fabric works best for these raw-edged fused applique quilts. First, there is no finish on these fabrics so they will adhere better (but wash out the starch in a batik fabric). Most importantly, the color penetrates all the way through hand-dyed and batik fabrics so the edges of fabric elements show the color. A printed fabric will have a white background and you will see that white edge around each cut element.

Kay: You also offer beautiful hand-dyed thread. How can it be used?

Laura: I love hand embroidery with my hand-dyed threads. It adds that extra hit of color, texture, detail, or pattern to the surface that cannot be done with fabric. It draws the viewer closer and brings the quilt to life. These threads can be used for any of the needle arts — crochet, knitting, weaving, needle punch, needle point, couching, machine quilting, and bobbin work.

Kay: How do you finish the edges of the motifs in your quilts?

Laura: They are not finished. Steam-setting the glue keeps the fabric permanently adhered to the other fabrics and batting.

Kay: How do you quilt them?

Laura: I first stitch by hand through just the batting and top layer. Then I free-motion machine quilt through all the layers. My Janome 6500 is a work horse and does beautiful free-motion work.

Kay: You’ve authored two books and a DVD. Tell us a little bit about each one.

fusing-fun.jpgLaura: My first book, Fusing Fun: Fast Fearless Art Quilts, is a great book for new fusing enthusiasts who want to learn as much as they can about the fine art of fusing. There are six projects with variations, basic fusing terms and instruction, a section of binding and display, and a gallery of fused art work by other artists.

fuse-and-tell.jpgFuse and Tell Journal Quilts shows readers how to translate their stories or ideas into fabric. From sketches, to photos, to design triggers, each of the six projects helps you make the quilt in the book and tells you how to make your art work using those techniques. The wrapped binding is introduced along with tips on bias fusing, working with cheesecloth, and improvisational design.

dvd.jpgThe DVD, Laura Wasilowski Teaches You to Create Fused Art Quilts, has a project from start to finish, a tour of my sewing and dye studios, and a gallery of quilts with commentary. And as the Dean of Corrections I go over the rules of fusing from the Chicago School of Fusing. I also sing the fight song sung by the Iron Maidens as they go into battle.

Kay: You’ve been on Simply Quilts and on The Quilt Show. Were those fun?

Laura: Yes, the hosts and crew made it really easy and inviting. As a ham, it was right up my alley! It was also an opportunity for me to hone my teaching skills and to be able to articulate what I do in a short amount of time.

Kay: I hear you’ve become a Serial Quilter. Tell us about this process.

Laura: I have a tendency to work in a series. I’ll take a theme and make quilt after quilt based upon that idea. For instance, in the blue chair series I have my blue chair reading a book, putting its feet up, down at the beach, and plugged in (the Blue Electric Chair). This way I only have to come up with one idea and can make many versions of it before moving on to the next idea.

bluebook-1.jpgbluebeachchair.JPGblueelectricchair.JPG

Kay: You travel a lot for workshops and lectures. How do you enjoy this lifestyle?

Laura: I enjoy meeting new people and seeing new parts of the world. The airports I could live without, but it’s part of my job.

Kay: What are you working on now?

bettysbloomers13.jpgLaura: Hand-stitched small quilts (see Betty’s Bloomers #13, above), new patterns, dyeing fabric and thread, preparing for workshops and vending, and keeping my head above water until December when my teaching season ends and I collapse into a puddle of colorful water on the floor.

Kay: You’re a bit of a songbird. Would you care to leave us with the lyrics of one of your compositions?

Laura: Sure, here are the lyrics to one of my favorites:

*A Sewer from North Illinois*
(sung to Sweet Betsy from Pike)

There once was a quilter from North Illinois,

She exercised often and ate lots of soy.

But a hot flash it killed her as she sewed her last seam,

They found her there clutching her sewing machine.

So take all her fabrics and pile them high,

Take all her quilt tops that reach to the sky,

Take all her needles and bright colored thread,

I hope that I get them,

Now that she’s dead.

Thank you, Laura, for that inspirational ditty, and for visiting All About Appliqué.

Until next time,
Kay
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.”

pup1.gifpup3.gifpup4.gifpup2.gif
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,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

I met Holly Mabutas a year and a half ago at a quilt show in Hollister, California. When I saw Holly’s Eat Cake Graphics booth, I was instantly captivated by her darling appliqué style.

eat-cake-booth-1.jpg
eat-cake-booth-2.jpg
eat-cake-booth-3.jpg

We became friends right away. I’ve been bugging her to give me an interview because I’m fascinated with her story of rubber stamps and appliqué designs. Here’s Holly and Puppy Tucker, the star of her blog, Sprinkles of Thought.

holly-and-tucker-shot.jpgKay: Holly, how did you get your start in cartooning?

Holly: You know, I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t doodle. I do remember seeing my mom do a little sketch of our dog when I was young. I was fascinated watching the pencil lines come to life and wanted to be able to do the same.

I started out by trying to duplicate the drawings in my coloring books. With a lot of practice I got better, started drawing my own ideas and from there I guess started developing my own style. I don’t really have a formal art background – I took a few art courses in junior college – I’ve just always loved to draw. And I guess when you do something you love and practice over the course of a lifetime you’re bound to get better at it. :)

Kay: Where do you think the inspiration comes from for your adorable style?

Holly: I’ve always loved the cute and whimsical world of art. I was a HUGE fan of the comic strips Calvin & Hobbes and Bloom County. I also love children’s book illustrators – and have quite a few books (is that bad to admit for someone over 40 whose children all have fur and tails). I also think that I’m drawn to whimsical stuff because with everything going on in the world I want to focus on something happy, so that’s what I draw.

Kay: Tell me how you started up your rubber-stamp company.

Holly: I actually worked in a rubber stamp store in Los Gatos, California, for quite a few years. I was in there all the time and they asked if I’d like a part time job – I jumped at the chance, of course I never really did see a paycheck. Then I was approached by an acquaintance of my mom’s. She wanted to know if I might like to go into business, again I did a happy dance and said yes.

Eat Cake Graphics came about when my business partner and I decided to go our separate ways. I actually “opened” (although there were no balloons or fireworks) in January 2000.

So here I am, eight years later with over 600 images and still trying to figure out the ins and outs of online shopping carts – good grief does it ever get easier!

Kay: Tell me a little bit about how you segued into quilt patterns.

Holly: I never really thought I’d be designing quilt patterns! I walked into a quilt shop in the mid/late 90’s and saw a quilt on the wall using a technique called appliqué. I thought it looked fun so I signed up for a class. It was fun but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon another appliqué technique, using a gluestick, that I really became hooked (probably more like obsessed). In one of the ongoing monthly classes I was asked if I could come up with some simple blocks to go along with a project we were stitching. I said sure.

I think it was then the light bulb went off and I thought, hey, I really like seeing what my little sketches could become in fabric. I took some of my stamp images and on my computer played around with the layout, took the printout to a local copy shop, enlarged it, came home and started playing with fabric. It actually worked and when I showed it to people they asked about a pattern…and well, here I am.

Kay: Thank you, Holly, for giving us the back story. Here are some of my favorite of Holly’s patterns.

windy-wintry-day.jpg
Windy Wintery Day

dont-drink-and-fly.jpgDon’t Drink and Fly

home-in-the-middle.jpgHome in the Middle

Holly gave me her pattern insert with instructions for her turned-edge gluestick appliqué method, and in my next post I’m going to give it a whirl. I’m always interested in learning new ways to appliqué! This one combines glue-stick prepared-edge with hand stitching. Stay tuned!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

When I started a blog about appliqué, I said to myself, “You outghta be a member of The Appliqué Society.” So I joined up. I’ve received three newsletters so far, which have given me some sense of what the organization is all about. This from the TAS website:

    “The Appliqué Society’s mission is To Promote, to Teach, and to Encourage the Love of All Types of Appliqué in Quilting. We work to educate and promote public interest in the world of appliqué, as well as encourage and inspire creativity. The Appliqué Society (TAS) and its members want to ensure that the art of appliqué will continue through the generations.”
The ABCs of Words on Quilts, Pamela Humphries, author of Award-Winning Appliqué Birds, and Ricky Tims, author of Rhapsody Quilts. Within each interview there’s always a question or two about the designers’ techniques, which I’ve found truly illuminating in each case.

There are free patterns, as I said in many cases lovingly hand-drawn, features on specific topics in appliqué, product reviews, etc. In three issues I’ve picked up at least six tips! I’ll share just one of them, to give you an example. Member Jan Walter from central Illinois contributed a darling Santa pattern, and gives advice about the white beard and mustache: “For iron-on appliqué, back your whites by ironing a medium-weight interfacing on the back before ironing on the fusible web.” Thank you, Jan! We’ve all struggled with what do do about shadow-through with white appliqué pieces.

TAS has many noted professional members among its midst, who do a lot to support the organization by contributing patterns and articles. TAS membership also gives you the opportunity to join or start a local chapter, and stitch with like-minded quilters.

You might enjoy belonging to the Society as well. Visit the TAS website.

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

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

There were certainly many fabulous quilts at the Pacific International Quilt Festival a couple of weeks ago. To my eyes, one of the very most striking entries was “Remembering Barbaro” by Sheril Drummond of Lexington, Kentucky.


Here’s the caption from the show: “Upon moving to Lexington in 1990, I soon became aware of the traditions surrounding the horse farms and the racing industry. When Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby, everyone was so excited to have a winner from this area. When he broke his leg during the very next race we were all saddened, and watched his valiant struggle for the next several months. Unfortunately, his struggle was in vain and when he passed it touched everyone’s hearts. This quilt is in his memory.”

My husband and I were following Barbaro’s story as well. Before I loved dogs I loved horses, and still do, so you can see why this quilt grabbed my eyes as I came around the corner at the show.

I contacted Sheril and she graciously permitted me to shine a spotlight on her piece, and to tell a little bit about her and her work.

Sheril has been quilting for about 20 years now. When she moved from northern California to Kentucky, she joined a Newcomers group, which led to a quilting group, need we say more? Sheril says that after she learned the basics she found she was not content with traditional quilting and felt moved to produce her own designs.

Her latest technique is a stained glass effect, beautifully evidenced in Barbaro.

To create her pattern, Sheril draws a basic shape, then divides it into sections with lights and darks in mind. The sections are fused onto a background, and the edges are finished with a machine blanket stitch. Sheril uses a variety of fabrics, some commercial, some hand-dyed, to wonderful effect, don’t you think?

In the last four years Sheril has been entering her work in some of the larger shows, and has had pieces accepted into Quilt Festival in Houston, the AQS show in Paducah, the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, and Quilt Expo in Nashville.

You can see more of Sheril’s stained-glass art quilts on her Serendipity blog. Sheril is thinking of publishing her patterns in the future. She currently teaches her methods in an all-day workshop; contact her at “shedrum at surfbest.net” if you’re in a group that would be interested.


Here are some students working in a class with Sheril. She’s the one sitting down on the right.

Thank you, Sheril for remembering Barbaro, and for creating these wonderful works of art.

Until next time,
Kay