Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Meet my Guest Blogger - Sandi Blackwell

I am so pleased to introduce my Guest Blogger this week - Sandi Blackwell.

Sandi is a West Virginian and has been a home sewer for most of her life.  She started quilting in 1992 and has since received numerous awards for her quilted works.

In 1996 she began her own custom-order quilt business named “Stitched Buy”.   Her work has also been displayed or sold all over the United States, Europe, South America and Asia.

Her first published work was a pattern in the “Miniature Quilts” magazine in July, 2000 and was featured on the cover. Since then she has had several patterns published in quilt magazines including Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks - Volume's 3 and 8. 

She has also been selected as one of the quilt designers for the “Quilted In Honor” program, which was launched nationwide in late 2013.  She has also designed quilts for Rockland Industries and currently Island Batik.

Sandi is also a quilt author.  Her first book "Square-agonals®; A New Angle on Quilting" was  released in September of 2010.  It is based on a new technique “Square-agonals®” that she developed.  In November 2011 she released a series of new patterns using the Square-agonals® technique and continually adds new patterns.  She now has a series of quilting books.  “Square-agonals®, 12 Easy Pieces” was released in October 2012 and “Simply Sensational Square-agonals® Quilts” was released in May 2013. She tours both the United States and internationally teaching and lecturing on her technique.  See more of her books in the interview.

She is also an educator on quilt cruises and quilt tours.  Her newest endeavor is filming classes for Craftsy.com!  Her first class “Sensational Square-agonals®”  was released in March 2014.
Following is my interview with Sandi.

Nan: How long have you been quilting?  

Sandi: Over 25 years, I have sewn all my life but started when my children were small.  It was something I always I knew I would start, just didn’t know when.  Little did I know it would become an obsession and take over my life as well as my family’s!  

Nan: What were some of your first quilt projects?

Sandi: I started making miniatures and simple patchwork quilts for my young children.  When I started I had no access to any teachers, I was self-taught and on a limited budget, so many of my original projects no longer exist!  My favorite first projects were memory quilts for my children, using fabric related to their favorite things.

Nan: How did you happen to come up with the Square-agonals Idea?  Was it a fluke or had you been working on an idea?

Sandi: Square-agonals® is a simple creative technique to create an on-point quilt without cutting any corner or setting triangles, no math calculations, and no sewing in diagonal rows.  It is a technique for all quilt levels.

I am a West Virginia artisan and I sell quilts to major artisan centers in West Virginia.  My most popular line is a simple patchwork set on point that is then "aged" to look like an old quilt.  Sometimes I make as many as 30 items at a time, ranging from table mats to lap quilts.  I was convinced there had to be an easier and quicker way to create all these on-point quilts.  So I set out to find it.  I made paper quilts and cut and twisted and turned and reassembled until I happened upon the now “Square-agonals®" technique.  I showed my husband (of 40 years) what I discovered and he informed me I had just used a branch of mathematics called "Dissection of a Square"!

So I did discover it on my own but it was already discovered and proven hundreds of years ago. So I took this method, applied it to quilting, and tweaked it to create hundreds of designs.

Nan: How often are you on the road to teach classes? 

Sandi: Since my first book came out in 2010 I travel more and more every year.  I travel all over the country and have done some international venues.  For 2014 I have events booked once or twice a month including a quilting cruise!  I am already booking into 2015 and beyond.  I love to travel and teach my technique.  My favorite events are quilt guilds and retreats and of course quilting cruises!  I design all the time so I always have new projects available for workshops.

(Sandi's  Second and Third books)

Nan: Do you have any special events planned for the rest of the year? 

Sandi: My son is getting married in May and my daughter in August, so my special events are the weddings and their wedding quilts!  

In my quilting life the big event was filming my Craftsy class “Sensational Square-agonals® and I just returned from my quilting cruise to the Caribbean.  I will be teaching/lecturing/vending at The Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana in July.  I will also be traveling to some new states for guild events.  My goal is to teach in every state!

Nan: How can readers purchase your books? 

Sandi: My books are available through quilt shops, so ask your local shop.  They are also available through my web site (www.stitchedbuy.com) and direct from my publisher Landauer Publishing, (www.landauerpub.com/).I also have a line of patterns available on my web site.  Each of the patterns has three size options so it gives the quilter more than one project in each pattern.   Along with my patterns I have created two notions to help make my technique even easier.  They are a cutting guide tape and an arrow guide tape, also available through your local quilt shop or from my web site.

Sandi, thank you so much for being a Guest Blogger! Sandi also has a very special offer for you. She wants to give away her Craftsy Class to one lucky winner. So please leave a comment and tell me what you enjoyed most about the interview. You need to leave a comment by midnight on June 2. I will choose a name by Random.org and notify the lucky winner. 

But wait, there is more, if you don't win, Sandi has offered a $5.00 discount off of her Craftsy class to all of my readers, so you see everybody is a winner. I will share that code once the winner is announced. So start talking and leave your comments now.

I hope you enjoyed this blog today.  Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter as I offer specials every month. Just add your name to the list

Until next time...


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Everything Old is New Again...

I have had the privilege of teaching my good friend's daughter how to quilt. She asked me when she was 12 years old. She wanted to make a quilt from start to finish. I loved the journey of teaching new things to one so eager to learn.

Our first visit to a fabric shop was a magical time. Her mother just rolled her eyes as the daughter and I went from bolt to bolt touching, feeling, oohing and ahhing! She quickly had the store mapped out and knew the locations of all the colored prints and solids, the batiks, the animal prints etc. We were amazed how she had everything organized after a quick run through. 

There was a special sale that day featuring a scrap pile. You could buy all the scraps you wanted for a certain price, but they had to fit into a small box that was provided. (Of course you could use as many boxes as you wanted, but you had to pay for each one.) It was amazing to see the many ways fabric was folded and stuffed into a box as no one wanted to pay for more than one, but that is another story.  

We started digging in the scrap pile and the big find for my little sewing friend was the "Thirties" fabrics. She just went crazy each time she found another pattern in the pile. She soon had 10 or 12 women helping her search for her "magical" fabric. It was quite a sight to behold. Now I thought her favorite fabrics would be bright florals or animal prints or colorful batiks, but I was wrong. We did end up buying quite a few boxes! 

Well time has passed and she is now 16. She has made 4 or 5 quilts, some for herself, others as gifts. She still loves fabrics and when we visit the fabric stores, the same scenario is played over and over again.  

In early December, we were shopping for fabric and we came upon this darling Christmas fabric with Santa Claus. Only this was a Santa Claus from the old story books way back when. My young teen went nuts and had to have it. She couldn't wait to add it to her stash. For Christmas, her mom took the fabric and made the cutest apron for her and she absolutely loves it.
It is delightful to see that old things which bring back memories for some can evoke such joy in the younger generation. It is like they almost want to get back to basics that they have never known, as the world has changed so drastically. Maybe they just want to get back to "Square One". Whatever the attraction, it is nice to know that my young friend likes and appreciates old things so there is hope for me! 
I have lots more to tell so if you enjoyed this, please follow me and don't forget to sign up. for my newsletter. Just add your name to the list.
Until next time...


Monday, May 12, 2014

Welcome my Guest Blogger - Barbara Douglas

I am so excited to welcome Barbara Douglas as my guest blogger today.

Barbara has been quilting for more decades than she wants to contemplate. Beginning at the tender age of 8 with a cardboard square, a pencil, scissors, and a needle and thread, her grandmother started her on a path that would stay with her throughout her life.  She describes herself as an eclectic quilter because she enjoys a wide variety of quilting styles; pieced, appliqué, and art quilting, she loves it all. Designing is a passion; seeing if she can make her vision work in fabric is a challenge that she can’t resist exploring. But, by far the most favorite part of her quilting career is teaching. Mentoring, and encouraging brings her the greatest joy in quilting; for sharing the passion, passing on the tradition, (traditional, or not so traditional) is to her what quilting is all about. Alas the tradition skipped the next generation in her family, but settled on three of her six grandchildren.

 Please join me in welcoming, Barbara!

Quilting has been a hobby, a business and a passion for many years, but most of all, it has been an incredible journey.

Oh my life is ordinary enough. Laundry has to be done, dinners cooked, husband cared for, adult children to still be a mom to, and grandchildren tracking in mud while bringing me a bouquet of dandelions. I get stopped at crucial points in a project to go pick up the car at the mechanics, all the normal things in life that we all have to do. 

Then one day a friend emailed me. She works in an office; she is a real people person, so during the off season in the tax world her days can be long and slow in the office. She was bemoaning the fact that while she is sitting in the office not having much to do, she could have been sewing on her quilt at home and how blessed (her word) I was to have a job that allows me to be quilting every day. I was going to write back with a list of woes of my own; that many days my job is just a job, as well. Then I stopped myself; she didn’t need me to be trying to one-up her in job-woes, and it really started me thinking, why would I be complaining when I AM incredibly blessed in being able to work in a job that I love. 

As the old saying goes, I started counting those blessings. Bear with me, as this may sound a bit scattered, but this incredible journey has not been on a long, straight and boring highway, starting at Point A to just to end up at Point B, but rather on curvy and interesting paths; up breath taking rolling hills, and into deep verdant valleys.

I am an eclectic quilter for lack of a better word. I love traditional quilts, I love art quilts. I love quilted handbags and clothing. I love looking at them, designing them and making them all. I love color. I know that many designers find their ‘voice’ and create their treasures in similar palettes and designs. Me? Not so much… my ‘voice’, at best… is ‘all over the place’, My ‘voice’ is eclectic, and it suits me, even if it is all over the place.I have had several quilts travel around the country in national shows. 

I was honored to have my Morels in May hang at International Quilt Festival/ Market. 

I have had the privilege to film with Martha Pullen. 

My book Singular Sensations was on the publisher’s ‘best sellers’ list. 

Wow!  Wow!  Listing all of these blessings sounds incredibly wonderful.  And they are! As I write this I am absolutely awed by the opportunities that I have had!  I am awed, because, these are things that other people accomplish, not little Barby Jo, who was scared of her own shadow.  All in all, though, as wonderful as these opportunities have been, the best part of my job and my real passion in quilting, are the people!  Yes, the people - Quilters! 
I have met, taught and worked with people from around the country and around the world. Each sharing in this same passion we call quilting. This boggles my mind! I get to mingle with people everywhere who love the same thing as I do. 


From teaching beginner quilters, to encouraging more seasoned quilters to step out of their comfort zone, or just interacting with quilters, this all feeds me with creative energy. Each encounter encourages me to go forward, to build upon the foundation laid for me many decades ago by my mother, who taught me to sew, and my grandmother who started me quilting.  And… it encourages me to continue to encourage others. 

Even having a bad hair day is a good day when I am able to share my passion and fun with other quilters. Lesson learned: Even if you leave home without your hair dryer and curling iron, quilters will have fun with you anyway!

 Working with people in the industry has also been an incredible part of the journey. You haven’t lived until you stand before the ‘Greats’ in the industry, tongue tied and in awe! Then you realize they are people just like you, looking for another thread to try, or dropping proud tidbits about what their children are accomplishing.  I even had the opportunity to work with the Dutch Ambassador to Spain, whose other job is General Manager of a European thread company. What? How was that even possible! 

Today, I have the opportunity to work for a quilting magazine, The Quilt Pattern Magazine as a copy editor. I get to have sneak previews of upcoming new patterns and articles by new designers and seasoned quilters who love doing what they do, as well. Working with the staff at TQPM, who share the same passion as I do, is such a joy, how great is that?

I have not yet reached Point B of my journey and I suspect it will continue to be on paths that curve around mountains with awesome vistas, because I choose to continue this journey with that view in mind, but more importantly I know that I will continue to encounter people of various cultures, who will share with me the beauty of their work, and their own passion in quilting, and that excites me more than anything else. We quilters are a blessed group of people, doing what we love, QUILTING!

Even with all the daily grind of running a business, with all the interruptions by my family, my friend was absolutely correct: I am one blessed Quilter! Thank you for sharing a small part of my journey with me.   

Barbara Douglas www.stonecottagequilts.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stonecottagequilts

Thank you Barbara for sharing your fascinating journey with us.You are truly blessed and so are we hearing your story.  You have captured the passion that we quilters feel.

I will be introducing June's Guest Bloggers in my newsletter so sign up. And don't forget there are specials offered with every newsletter, so add your name to the list.
Until next time...


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Welcome My Guest Blogger - Sharon Kirkpatrick

Today I have the pleasure of introducing, Sharon Kirkpatrick, my Guest Blogger.

Sharon has been sewing since she was 6 and has quilted for 30 years. She taught quilting for 20 of those years and also set up the Quilt Pattern Tester group on Yahoo. This is a pattern-testing community to support and compliment designing. The group has over 250 members. Sharon loves the history of quilting and will share her thoughts today. She is the Article Editor of The Quilt Pattern Magazine. 

 Please join me in welcoming Sharon.

One thing I think quilters often forget, if they ever knew, is how old the art of quilting is and what our quilting roots may are.  There are so many theories about the start of quilting.  Many say that the beginnings of patchwork came from Eastern Europe / Asia as the nomadic tribes began patching together animal hides in patterns, using the colors of the skins to produce designs.  Embellishment may have been developed there, too, as they sewed pieces of pretty stone, feathers, and even bones to their apparel as decorative additions. The results would be warm as well as decorative.  There are those who say that certain designs were indicative of which tribe or family made the article of clothing.  Some feel that quilting fabric together originated in the colder climes of the same area, where two or more fabrics were layered together to create warm clothing for defense against the chill.

The fact is, quilting has been around in some form or other for at least 5000 years.  There is a museum, I believe in Egypt, with a statue of King Menes dressed in finery, topped with a vest that appears to be layered and quilted together.  So, we know there was quilting being done for royalty at that time.  It was at the most basic level - layers of fabric of some sort being held together with stitching.  And, from all of these humble beginnings, quilting has now become an art form.  Amazing!

I wonder what the quilters of centuries past would think of the variety of fabrics, colors, patterns, tools, and machines available to us today.  There are so many things I would hate to be without – my sewing machine, my rotary cutter and mat, my stainless steel scissors (and if I ever catch anyone cutting paper with them, well…you know what I mean!), my leather thimble, quilting needles, patterns and books full of new designs – not to mention the internet, where you can find information about anything to do with quilting, as well as buy it there.

I sometimes think of the pioneers in this country, carrying bits of fabric to their new homesteads and saving every scrap to use again.  For me, that’s where the modern form of patchwork began.  I read an account of a woman living on the prairies who had certain patterns she made over and over with her fabric scraps.  Her husband had cut templates for her from wood so that she would have them to use whenever she needed them.  She put two layers together with stitches that could come out easily, because she filled her quilts with layers of sweet-smelling grasses from the prairie, and those grasses would need replacing from time to time.  And that reminds me: add batting to the list of marvelous modern inventions!

Obviously, we’ve come a long way, baby!  With a rotary cutter, a mat, and a good quilting ruler, we cut many pieces at once.  Instead of painstakingly putting together every little piece of a quilt with an endless stream of running stitches, we chain piece on our machines, putting a lot of block components together in quick succession, and then assembling all of the blocks into a quilt top.  Instead of sitting at a quilting frame or with a hoop for weeks, taking tiny little stitches all over the quilt, we pay to send the quilt off to that great longarm quilter from the guild, who will quilt it all together in a matter of a few days and sends it back to us to bind.  And, that, too, we do on the sewing machine. 

We can make scads more quilts in much less time than our earlier counterparts, and that makes us seem infinitely more productive. And, maybe we are, but, perhaps we are comparing apples to oranges.  Before all the fancy tools came along, quilting was a much slower undertaking, but the quilts created were beautiful.  Everything was once done by hand, and that took lots of time.  That’s something that we don’t do much of any longer, yet one of the most satisfying things in the world for a quilter to do is to produce something entirely by hand.  The more society becomes hi-tech, the more creating something with one’s own hands becomes a luxury.  I doubt many of us do that without balking because of the time involved.

And so, I offer you a challenge that I hope you will accept at some point.  I challenge you to make something by hand.  It needn’t be a big project; a pretty pillow, maybe, or a small wall hanging would be very nice.  Start by picking out a design you like – preferably something with both piecing and appliqué. Make a template for each component and cut each one out.  Sew the components together and do the appliqué by hand, taking small stitches as you go.  If you have never done appliqué by hand, now is a good time to give it a try.

When you have the top all finished, layer it together with backing and batting, get a good thimble and a quilting needle, and find yourself a comfortable chair with good light.  I like my big wooden rocker with the fat cushions.

Now.  Just sit there and stitch your project together with the quilting pattern of your choice.  As you take each stitch and watch your creation take life, take a few moments to think of the thousands and thousands of people before you, men and women, who have done this pretty much the same way through the centuries.  It is a link to all those who were putting together clothing for necessity and for love.  Some of those were making tiny things for a new baby, or a quilt to fit a wedding bed, or to send off a quilt with a loved one who was moving west to settle and would be too far away to visit easily for many years. 

Whatever your project was or is, you are part of a long, long line of creative and talented quilters, and many more will follow you in the future.  I wonder if those quilters in the future will think about us and see our marvelous modern tools as terribly old-fashioned? No matter.  There is something comforting about being a part of something that is both so old and so new.  We are connected, you and I, to all of them, and the heritage is a good one.

Rocky Road to the White House
In-progress hand-sewn project

If you take this challenge and give this a try, I would love to hear from you and see your creations.  Leave a note in the comments or send me a post!  slksanders@yahoo.com

Piece be with you!

Thank you Sharon, what an interesting article. You have given us much to think about and appreciate regarding our quilting. I love the challenge you presented and I hope many will take that challenge and keep us appraised.

 I will be introducing June's Guest Bloggers in my newsletter so sign up. And don't forget there are specials offered with every newsletter, so add your name to the list.
Until next time...