Wednesday, 23 July 2014

WIP Wednesday - The Kate Spain Charm-Along

My friend Midge recently hosted an Aussie-only (it's only fair, c'mon!) Kate Spain charm swap. Now, I always say I'm an equal opportunity fabric employer, but if I am completely honest, Kate's design aesthetic has never really grabbed me by the hips and made me want to do the lambada. That doesn't mean I don't respect the talent, it's just all those florals never did much for me.

That's exactly why I went and signed up for two spots in Midge's Kate Spain Charm-Along. I knew I needed to explore what all the fuss was about. I wanted to be challenged by fabric that I would never have chosen myself. If I expect myself to grow as a quilt maker, as an artist, as a human being even, I need to step outside my comfort zone and face these types of challenges head-on, adorned with my fiercest tiara.

So I received 224 charms from what seemed like every Kate Spain range in the history of ever. Upon closer inspection, some of them I really, really love! It's also interesting for me to see Kate's growth as a designer, because (at least in my humble opinion) her designs have become more sophisticated over the years. I've also been pleasantly surprised to see much more saturated colours than I expected. This has been a great experience for me to re-assess a designer that I had written-off as not being for me. Oh but now, Kate, baby, I'm ready to make sweet, sweet quilty love!

So what am I making? Well, after going through about thirty-seven pages in my sketch book, and over-designing to the n-th degree, I've now backed the eff off, and have decided to let the fabric do the talking. I've started making 289 HSTs measuring 4.5" (I've thrown in some extra yardage), which will allow for a 17x17 grid, with a finished quilt size of 68" x 68". The final design may not be epic yet, but what this experience is doing to my aesthetic certainly is.

Ms Midge

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

#NGAQB - June

Oh, it's July, you say? Well, forgive me, my dears, but I just sent my June #NGAQB (No Girls Allowed Quilt Bee) blocks today. Thankfully, Mr. June, Chris Jones, is quite the forgiving dandy, and didn't mind so much. In the vein of all of our previous King Bees, read on for more about this one-of-a-kind male quilter. You'll find his full social media contacts, and a link for the Diamond Stack Block tutorial at the end of the post.

When did you start quilting?

I didn't actually pick up quilting until I was in college and living with my mom's family. She comes from a strong lineage of quilters, and I thought I might enjoy it. I grew up with my grandmother, who was a seamstress. She taught me how to sew, crochet, cross stitch, embroider and many other things.

When I graduated from college, I stopped quilting for a while. I was sucked in to the world of MMORPG, and barely had time for anything else but work. I picked up quilting again at the suggestion of a great friend at work. She introduced me to hand-piecing and I was in love again. I've done quite a few small projects, but I've yet to actually quit a top yet. I'm hoping that I'll get to take some valuable time-off soon and try my mom's new long arm or free motion quilting machines.

What do you do professionally?

Right now I'm a SQL Developer/Data Administrator for an online book company (nope, not that one – not that one either). I've been with the company for fourteen years; I started with them two weeks after I graduated college. I started in the Customer Service department, and quickly moved up to CS Manager. I've held a position in just about every department within the company, and if I haven't worked there, I work closely with them to generate reports or import data.

What other hobbies do you have?

Outside of sewing/quilting, I love to cook, can, and garden. I just picked up canning this year, and I love it. There's nothing more awesome than taking the things that you grow and preserving them to eat throughout the year. Though I don't typically eat it, I love making jam, the stranger the flavour profile, the more fun. So far I've made mulberry jam, strawberry balsalmic jam, grape jelly, wild berry (strawberry, blueberry, mulberry) and apple butter. I'm trying out recipes for pineapple rum jam and mulled red wine jelly. They will likely be part of the family Christmas presents this year.

Do you have pets?

Yep, I have three furbabies that are the love of my life. A scottie named Finnigan, a Cairn named Ursula and a German Shepherd named Zahara. Ursula and Zahara were both rescues. We're currently taking Zahara through obedience school right now.

What is your favourite color?

Orange, definitely orange. From pumpkin to safety vest, I love it all.

Which season is best?

Fall [Autumn] will always have a special place in my heart. I love the color of the season. But now, because I really enjoy planning gardens, and digging in the dirt, I'd have to go with spring. The smell of the air right after a spring rain ... it's invigorating.

If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be?

I'd love to see my grandfather again. He was such an amazing person. He was a short-order cook in the army, a recorded musician that wrote music, played the guitar, banjo and fiddle, and spent the greater portion of his adult life as a taxi driver. His routes ranged from around the block to across the country. He loved life, and never had a cross word for anyone. He, like my grandmother, really taught me how to “be” in this world and I love him for it. I'd love to see him again.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

I probably have too many to mention here. I have a touch of an OCD streak that rears its ugly head from time to time. Right now the biggest thing that bothers me are leaves. I was out in the snow raking them the other day because I couldn't stand seeing them all over the ground. As far as peeves from others, though, I don't like people that use others for their benefit. Gets in my craw every time.

What kind of music interests you?

I will listen to just about any type of music, except modern country. I just can't get into it. As far as favourites...the sugarier the pop, the better. As of late I've been bouncing between bollywood hits and electronica.

What book/movie/tv show can you not live without?

TV is a guilty pleasure of mine; I watch way too much of it. I'm a card-carrying fandom member for Supernatural and Teen Wolf – can't miss an episode. I don't read as much as I should, but I like fantasy, historical fiction and romance books. Bernard Cornwell, Gregory McGuire, and Diana Gabaldon are a few of my current go-to authors.

How would you best describe yourself?

I never know what to say with this question. I think the best thing that I can say is that my Meyer's Briggs personality type is INFP. I'm introverted, usually very quiet and reserved, or in my own world. Feelings and emotions are important to me, and I am usually overflowing with them. I like to daydream, and don't like strict rules.

Chris Jones
IG:  kailichi
Twitter: @kailichi
Pinterest: kailichi

Diamond Stack Block Tutorial

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sunday Stash #85 - The Intrepid Thread Empire

It's no secret that I love crack fabric dealer, Intrepid Thread. Julie's shop always has all the best pieces that meet my diverse, aesthetic sensibilities. Y'all know I adore colour, but I love sophisticated neutrals just as much. 

Well, a few weeks ago, I did some pro bono graphic design work for Intrepid Thread because it is something I like to do in that little bit of spare time I have. So colour me happy, when this fat quarter bundle of Parson Gray's new line, Empire, showed up on my doorstep. It was Julie's way of saying thank you, and it was totally uncalled for, but very much appreciated! 

Coming very soon on my quilt to do list is a quilt for Mr. Sparkles, using the wide array of Parson Gray pieces I have collected. It's going to be a winter quilt, so fortunately, I have until next year to get this sucker finished. If anyone in the world deserves a quilt, it's him, so I need this one to be epic. 

If any of you have suggestions for a masculine quilt for a guy named Mr. Sparkles (I know, right?) feel free to leave it in the comments. I'd love to find an elegant pattern that I can put my own stamp on, because you know I insist on making it my own! To get us all in the mood, I'll leave you with this latest David Butler memes!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

TGIFF - Union Jack Surprised!

It's a good thing y'all have seen the full frontal of this Union Jack Surprise quilt. I went outside to take pictures of it yesterday and nearly got blown away. I've been known to be called a friend of Dorothy, but not because of the weather! It's not normally this blustery cold in Sydney, so I'm blaming the Union Jack Surprise quilt for bringing this typical London weather to town.

I've already debriefed you on the Bee origins of these blocks, but in case you are new around here (:::waves!:::), three-quarters of these Union Jack blocks were made by bee-mates in two separate bees. I then made ten additional blocks for a total of forty blocks. The brief was simple: Go colour crazy! But the best part? They were all made from a tutorial that I created! 

The hardest part? Setting those flags on point. That was somethin' else, let me tell you! I'm so glad I did it though, because it really gives this quilt a point of difference, and a whole lotta movement. I wanted to ensure this movement was reinforced by the quilting, so when I went to my long-armer extraordinaire, QuiltJane, my brief was simple: "Jane, sweetie, baby, darling, honey pie, the quilting needs to be simple, simple, simple, with lots of ripple, ripple, ripple." 

Well, and did QuiltJane deliver, or what!? The contracting and expanding straight line quilting is called Modern River, and she used Aurifil 50wt, colour 2024 White. You'll be happy to know I pieced the quilt together with this as well. Aurifil me up, y'all! 

You've probably noticed the whole quilt is backed with Echino. For those not in the Echino fan club (yet), it's a cotton / linen blend made by Kokka in Japan. I have generally seen it used more as home decor fabric, and for pouches, bags, and the like. However, I had generated quite a stockpile from my few trips to Japan last year, and just thought, who better to use this rather expensive fabric on than my daughter?

Plus, she loves animals, she loves London, she loves purple, teal, pink, and orange. Seriously, could these Echino prints have been any more perfect for her? It was definitely meant to be! I put a call out to my Instagram friends (IG: molli_sparkles) to see if I was crazy using this as the back. Most were all like, "Gurl, you be crazy not to do it!" Well, that was all the incentive I needed!

See how well it plays with the colours on the front, too? I am absolutely thrilled with this combination. While the quilt feels heavier because of all that Echino on the back, I'm interested to see how its warmth factor will be with the cotton / linen blend. The batting is Matilda's Own (cotton), so I'm hoping it will still suit for year-round loving!

Oh, oh, oh! I almost forgot, the binding! Everything else about this quilt was scrappy, so I didn't want to break tradition. I made a scrappy binding to suit! It was really engaging to pick out a variety of fabric strings to wrap around this Union Jack Surprise. I hand stitched the binding down in one afternoon sitting. I never thought I would say this, but I'm really falling in love with hand stitching binding! 

So a final thank you to all the bee mates who contributed to this quilt, which turned out to be the most  magnificent gift for my daughter. It was gifted to her last night as an early birthday present, and she was most impressed! Now, let's just hope she stretches out some in the coming years!

Title: Union Jack Surprise
Size: 69" x 112"
Quilting: Long arm quilting, Modern River, by Quilt Jane using Aurifil 50wt, colour 2024 White
Binding: hand stitched with Aurifil 50wt, colour 2024 White
Backing: over-sized patchwork using six, cotton/linen blend Echino prints purchased in Japan
Favourite Part: Giving it to my daughter.

Linking up with TGIFF and Crazy Mom Quilts!

Sometimes you just call it what it is.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Sydney Craft & Quilt Fair 2014 - A Winner & A Recap

First things first, let's announce the winner of the rainbow fat quarter giveaway that celebrated my first exhibition show at the Sydney Craft & Quilt Fair 2014. Y'all know I love a rainbow about as much as I love that glitter in your eye, so I'm thrilled to be sending this Molli Sparkles bundle to:

You know what is so awesome about Kacey? She wasn't a no-reply blogger! Goodness gracious, great balls of fire, Little Richard and I implore you: How To Stop Being a No-Reply Blogger. (Yes. You, sitting there thinking, "Man, I wish I could have won this. I don't know what the hell Molli is talking about with this no-reply blogger stuff, but this bundle had my name all over it." Please, click the link!)

Kacey, I'll be in touch to get your deets! Air kisses, pixie dust, and confetti cannons for your win! Now, as for the show itself ... I just, I can't even. When you walk into a giant exhibition hall and the first thing you see is this:

How do you even respond? If you're like me, you respond by putting little sparkly, star stickers all over your billboard! Mmm hmmm! If you're like some others, you respond by saying, "Who the hell is Molli Sparkles?" Oh, and don't you worry, I let the world know who this piece of fabulousness is!

It took the better part of a day, but between myself, Mr. Sparkles, and my father-in-law (who is forever christened as "K.Spark") we set up my booth at the front entrance. I showcased fifteen projects in my six-by-seven metre space (twenty-by-twenty-three feet). I also brought along my Juki, my hats, and my glitter collections. I chose to leave the weaves at home because I didn't want any of the No Chintz ladies across the aisle to decide they needed to let their hair out!

The entire show was fantabulous of course! I spoke to so many engaging individuals, and even had a chance or two to give some Truth Tea to some not so engaging individuals if you catch my drift! (The Molli Sparkles booth is a Quilt Police exclusion zone, thank you very much!) Then one morning on my way to the fair, I was getting ready to walk out the door, last sip of coffee, and what do I see!? Um, the weather girl wrapped in a Molli Sparkles original?! No! It couldn't be! Yes! Yes, it is! Do you see her teeth chattering? Nope, she is all smiles!

Each floor talk I gave was well attended, with lots of questions and discussion afterwards. If you happened to be there, and have any follow up questions or feedback about them, feel free to drop me a line. I love discussing this stuff, so hit me with it. If you're wondering, "Am I a member of the Glitterati yet?" Girl, you're membership card is in the mail! For those that couldn't be there in person, I made a little three minute video to show off my booth. I hope you enjoy it!

Yes, it really was, WO-WO-WO-WOW! Oh, and if you think this is the tip-toe-tappin'-top of Molli Sparkles: you ain't seen nuthin' yet. (But, I might just need to take a very short nap first!)

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sunday Stash #84 - Seeing the Future

I'm doing something a little bit different with Sunday Stash this week: I'm seeing the future! I've been waiting for the duration of the Sydney Craft & Quilt Fair to do some shopping, and at the end of today I am being let loose. You see, Mr. Sparkles has agreed to come into the show and watch the booth for a few hours (he may even sign a few autographs if you ask nicely) while I go prowling around the stalls. Just don't let him pass himself off as me using my snazzy, new business cards!

The only definite things on my shopping list are the Block_Loc rulers. They tempted me at last year's show. I was thiiiiiis close to buying them, but splurged on some fabric (that I still haven't used) instead. So this year, they are mine! I'm definitely getting the HST version, but will probably walk away with a flying geese one as well. If you've never heard of them, check out the video below, because I'm already a fan.

I'm sure there will be some other goodies fall into my clutches, and you'll just have to wait for a future Sunday Stash for those. For now, rest assured, this time next week, I'll be on a trimming spree like you've never seen!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Shoespiration & A Quiet Play Pattern

If you've been to the Sydney Craft & Quilt Fair this week you have probably noticed I've been rockin' some pretty serious kicks. These gold lamé Converse All Stars are a favourite of the thirty-odd pairs of shoes I have. They run a close second to the diamond-encrusted Louboutins I wear for casual Fridays!

So many people have looked around my booth and asked, "What's with all the shoes?" because I brought them all with me to add a personal touch to the visual experience. I just have to say, "You never know when you're going to need a costume change!" Seriously, my Chucks are another way I express myself. I adore the colourful options that are available, and I never get bored with creating interesting colour combinations with whatever bright outfit I happen to be wearing that day. I've even used them for quiltspiration! 

So to help me commemorate my footwear, and my time at the Sydney Craft & Quilt Fair, I asked my friend Kristy from Quiet Play to help a sista out. I was all like, "Girl, Mama needs some new shoes." Kristy was totally on board, "Molli, hold tight, I will lace you up, like you've never been laced before." Well, that's one I hadn't heard, but it left me intrigued by that saucy minx!

Well in typical paper-piecing-queen fashion, may I present to you Kristy's special gift to me! A paper-pieced pattern showcasing my Converse High Tops! Well hello there, sexy, this is almost as good as the real thing! Now I can make them in whatever colour my heart desires! Kristy is offering this pattern to you from her blog for only $2.95 (<-- less than a coffee, and definitely less than a pair of Converse!) 

I'm obviously in the throes of a few other things, so I haven't had a chance to make it for myself yet.  Kristy was a total show-off and whipped this up in a night though! Rest assured, you're gonna see this in every colour of the rainbow once I catch my breath! If you'd like to join me, make sure you go grab yours so we can turn this world into our own sneaker heaven!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Truth Tea With Sugar, No Lemon

That title pretty much says it all, but I wanted to take a moment to clarify my position on Truth Tea. I originally spoke about the niceties of quilt blog land when I asked what happens If You Can't Say Anything Nice? It resonated loudly with a lot of you. There were very polarising opinions about the feedback that should be thrown about in not only quilt blog land, but through social media in general. Quite robust discussion--I must say--and without being intentionally condescending, I'm proud of us for having such an open dialogue about it!

My new wannabe best friend, Brooke, at april | two | eighty recently released a blog post called, To Be Honest. In it she details some self-imposed misconceptions and insecurities that quilters have, some quilters' self-empowerment anthems, her own version of Truth Tea, and then a kick-ass, pastel quilt. Seriously, you should read her blog post! Why I bring this up, is because I want to make sure no one is confused about my intentions of Truth Tea. Like Brooke, I want you to say "Whatever..." to anything or anyone who makes you "...feel less than amazing." Truth Tea should lift your spirits, give you energy, and make you want to be the best creator you can be.

This is exactly the crux of Truth Tea: being able to say what is on your mind without fear of recourse for having a considered and valid opinion. Truth tea is not about being an online bully, and projecting your opinions about the creations onto the creator. Once upon a time I called some of the scrap vomit quilts I was seeing all over blogland, "fugly." It was a flippant, jocular remark. I still think a lot of them are fugly, but I could have chosen a word less loaded with colloquial insult. At no point was this an implication of the makers, but of my own taste buds. As Brooke says in her To Be Honest post:
"what it all comes down to is this, plain and simple: be you, be proud of it. if you're an artist, make what you feel like making. if you don't have enough time, feel good about what you do have time for. don't be ashamed of your work or your favorite things, and don't be ashamed if you feel like you're not fitting the mold - make your own!" 
And that goes for anything I say, too. Your voice is just as powerful as mine. I'm no more special than you, and we are all full of stars.

Like so many of you said in the original post's comments: know your audience, and respect the time and place you want to give some Truth Tea. For instance, if a person is blogging about their limited skill sets with zipper installations :::waves::: add some sugar to that tea, and hold the lemon! Ask permission before giving specific feedback, and you'll find it is so much more well received. Start with the positive, and work your way to the opportunities. Eliminate the words con and negative from the entire discussion.

But all of you know this, because you're always so nice! So that leads me to the other side of the discussion. Truth Tea gets really watered down if you throw out superlatives like they're last season's Manolo Blahniks. I'm so guilty of this, too, though, because really, I DO LOVE SO MANY THINGS. I see bright colours, or shiny bits, and rainbows, and I just want to eat them all up, and give their creators the biggest hugs for bringing such beauty (that I appreciate), into the world. Alas, here's the impasse: when the time comes, how do you elevate that which is truly special past what you have already raised to the roof?! Currently, I don't know either, and perhaps it just a result of the current cultural phenom of "Likes" and conveying emotion in 140 characters or less.

I will leave you with this story: Grandma Sparkles has an older brother (my Uncle Junior) who I will always remember as the happy recipient of her sweet, homemade pies. I'm talkin' chocolate, lemon, pecan, cherry, apple, coconut, blackberry, pumpkin, you name it, and Grandma Sparkles can make a fabulous pie out of it. Anyway, after the pie was eagerly consumed, the question would always be asked to Uncle Junior, "Did you like the pie? On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate it?" To which he would, without fail, always respond, "Eh, I'd give it about a seven or eight, the pecan might get a nine." Now, once you've had Grandma Sparkles's pies, you know they're worthy of at least a twelve on a bad day. So I would ask, "But they're soooo good, Uncle Junior, why only a seven or an eight?" And he would say to me, "If I gave her a ten, she'd have no reason to try to improve!"

That's just some food for thought. Now, can you refill my glass of Truth Tea to go with that pie, please?