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Akemi Shibata- Quilted Bags and Gifts

We are overdue for a Japanese Quilting Study Group adventure! I recently learned of a new-to-me Japanese quilter, Akemi Shibata, and got her book, Quilted Bags and Gifts. It’s a delightful book.

I LOVE how she pairs taupe fabrics with little pops of saturated color. It’s a gorgeous combination. She uses lots of red and turquoise especially. There are 36 projects in this book, each one cuter than the last.

 

And she features hexagons in so many of her projects. In the very first project description of the book, she says “In fact, I love English paper piecing hexagons so much, that I often forget to stop and eat lunch while in the midst of sewing these cute little shapes together.” Woman after my own heart!

 

I am working on several quilts with Lecien Fabrics for Spring Market (so stay tuned, that means some super-cool FREE patterns for you!), and I wanted to do something special with the leftover scraps.

So many fun choices, but I decided to make Akemi Shibata’s Two Way Hexagon Purse.

 

Once I had the pattern chosen, I couldn’t wait to start prepping hexies. Look how well the hexies fit onto the triangle scraps!! She uses EPP for this project, but I’m going to hand-piece them instead.

So excited to see how this starts that I forgot to eat breakfast this morning. .. . marking hexies and sipping coffee. My happy place.

If you’d like to follow my progress, please check out my instagram feed, I’ll be posting lots more there.

 

 

Now I’m ready to start sewing hexies together.  Even though it has an inset zipper, the pattern has lots and lots of diagrams and it looks achievable. If it works, I think I’ve got the fabric to make two! Now I’m off to find coordinating fabrics for the rest of the purse, and hardware.  Do you have a go-to source for purse supplies? Please share in the comments, I’d love to know!

Happy Stitching!

2018 Patchwork Planner & Calendar Review

Happy February! Anyone else wondering how January has already passed?! Today I wanted to share with you a little about a lovely planner just for quilters! It’s called the 2018 Patchwork Planner & Calendar, created by Becky Jorgensen of Patchwork Posse.

Just in case you don’t have time to read this whole post, I’ll tell you the best thing about the 2018 Patchwork Planner & Calendar up front: it has everything you need to keep up with your projects, without being overwhelming or including lots of random pages you won’t ever use.

Every January I buy a planner with the intention of getting organized. Big ones, small ones, expensive ones, cheap ones.  They all have on thing in common: I fill out the pages for January, and the rest of the book stays blank. Why? I think I get bogged down in the idea that I have to write on every page, whether it helps me out or not. So I love the streamlined, achievable feel of this planner. February is already filled out, and I’m feeling encouraged instead of stressed.

Let me show you what I mean. First up, you get a page to check out the whole year in one glance. Between projects for Market, a yearlong swap, and my APQ Resolution goals, I already have a lot of my year planned out.  This helps me stay on track to keep up all year.

 

Next, check out the monthly pages. I love the project tracker.  I usually end up hand writing something like this for every project, losing it, and rewriting it several times throughout the year. Now I just have to fill it in once! I love checking off boxes as I complete each step of a project. It’s all about “degrees of doneness”, and seeing those checks reminds me that I’m accomplishing something, even when the project as a whole seems endless.

And now, perhaps my favorite page in the whole calendar. A reference page! Y’all. It’s awesome. I don’t know how many times in a year I google “standard quilt sizes”, but it’s in the triple digits. Same for precut sizes. You’d think by now, I’d have these memorized, but I’m constantly trying to remember yardage dimensions. And I’m typically pattern drafting on the go, playing with an idea while waiting to pick up my kids, and I don’t often have easy access to google.  I have a suspicion that this page of the planner will be dog-eared and ragged by the end of the year. But it looks pretty now, doesn’t it?

Finally, I wanted to show you the swaps pages. Have you ever done an Instagram swap?  They’re LOADS of fun, and you meet such delightful people.  I did two last year, and am looking forward to participating in a few again this year. But often, the swap rules and information are on a specific IG post, or a direct message. Finding the information when you need it can be tedious. Now I have a place to write it all down as I receive it, and can keep up with due dates, addresses, and hashtags all in one easy spot.

 

It’s like Becky’s a quilting mind-reader. Or perhaps after managing a 700 member quilting group for years, she’s just really in-tune with quilters.

 

And she’s currently offering  a special pdf download bonus to go along with her 2018 Patchwork Planner & Calendar. I would encourage you to pick one up, it’s not to late to plan for a great year of quilting!!

 

Happy Stitching!

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS- And yes, I should add a disclaimer that Becky sent me a copy of the planner so I could review it for you. Would I buy one on my own? In a heartbeat. It’s a terrific resource, and significantly more affordable than other planners on the market. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I don’t do paid advertisements, affiliate links, or anything else to undermine the content here.  If I share a product, it’s because I think it’s terrific, and I would recommend it to my friends and family face-to-face.

 

 

 

Book Review: Cotton and Indigo From Japan

Happy New Year! As you may have seen on my Instagram, I have been spending a lot of my time lately snuggled under extra blankets, hot drink and good book in hand.  One of my favorites has been Teresa Duryea Wong’s new book, Cotton and Indigo from Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a book to savor. The photography is gorgeous, the stories and information are fascinating. . . . When Teresa’s first book came out, I read it cover-to-cover in one sitting.  This one I made myself spread out over a couple of days so I could enjoy it a little longer. If you know anyone who loves all things Japanese, they will enjoy this book.  While the book talks quite a bit about quilting, it’s also a wonderful insight into many intriguing aspects of Japanese culture.

I also attended one of Teresa’s lectures about the book last fall.  I’d never been to a guild meeting before! At the time, I was wishing I had brought pen and paper to take notes on her lecture, but all the wonderful information is in the book too. Check out her website for a lecture near you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She also brought an amazing quilt to share.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teresa made it from her own collection of lovely indigos and Japanese fabrics, and she hand stitched it in the chiku-chiku style. (What is chiku-chiku? Check out the book to find out! Me, I just might have to learn the technique, because chiku-chiku is loads of fun to say!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s on your reading list right now?

Happy Stitching!

 

Christmas Round-Up

I hope you and your loved ones are enjoying a lovely holiday!  My kids finished up school today, so I’m taking a much-needed break, and dedicating the next week to baking, decorating, and crafting with my kids and family.  I’ll be back to regular blog posts in January. Until then, please enjoy this round-up of tutorials and patterns for Christmas celebrations, drawn from my past 6 and a half years of blogging!

Quick Craft Tutorials

Perfect for last-minute gifts!

Bowl Cozy Tutorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hugs and Kisses Coasters

Mug Rug from Sizzix Big Shot Scraps

Kanzashi Flower Candle Coaster

Christmas Quilt Patterns

Buy now, get Christmas fabric on sale next week, and start quilting for a finish by 2018!

Tumbling Snowflakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colossal Peppermints

 

 

Peppermints and Snowflakes 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Whirlwind
Yummy!

My own Coconut Bundt Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing you the very best of this Christmas season.  I’m so grateful that YOU are a part of my quilting journey!!

Happy Stitching!

Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Winner and SALE

A huge thank you to everyone who stopped by for the Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks volume 16 Blog Tour!! So much fun!!!

Congratulations to Diane P., who won a copy of the magazine!

And my new shop means that I can join in the fun of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday with a special TCQ coupon code.  Just enter “turkey17” in the shop to enjoy 30% off ALL my digital patterns AND digital pattern bundles. After purchase, your downloads will be immediately available, so you can get right to the fun of picking fabric and starting a new project.  I can’t wait to see what you create!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing you and yours a very lovely Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for YOU!

Happy Stitching!

 

 

 

 

Millefiori Quilts 3 Book Review

Have you been eagerly anticipating the release of Millefiori Quilts 3?  I have been stalking my mailbox since I received the e-mail that my copy shipped, and this week, it finally arrived!  And boy, was it worth the wait.

Basic information about the book

This is not a method-based book, and if you’re new to hand-piecing complex shapes, or English paper piecing, you’ll probably want to get a basic book on those methods to go along with Millefiori Quilts 3. However, the book is absolutely chock-full of lavish, inspiring quilt photographs, easy-to-follow full color diagrams, and thorough block explanations.  If you’re making your own templates, you’ll appreciate that each quilt’s template set fits on a single page. Just remember to add your preferred seam allowance around each template!

Regardless of your favorite shape, you’re bound to find a quilt that suits your preferences.  All the basic blocks in the patterns are radial. Four quilts are based off of pentagons and five-pointed stars, nine of the designs feature hexagons, four of the patterns are similar to the traditional Jack’s Chain combination of squares and hexagons, and one uses 8-pointed stars and octagons. This adds up to a total of 18 spectacular designs to fussy-cut and piece, a true hand-sewist’s dream book.

 

Differences from Millefiori Quilts 1 and 2

Three main differences immediately set Millefiori Quilts 3 apart from its predecessors, Millefiori Quilts 1 and 2. First, Millefiori Quilts 3 is written entirely in English, while the two previous books have French and English instructions side-by-side. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the mix in the first two books, but the third is undeniably easier to read and follow the diagrams.

Second, Millefiori Quilts 3 comprises quilts that have fewer block variations.  For example, in the first book, the famous La Passacaglia has eleven different rosettes, each repeated in varying quantities throughout the quilt.  In the similar quilt, The Can-Can, in book 3,  there are two rosettes, and a handful of color variations to make from each.

Finally, Millefiori Quilts 3 gives an overall simpler impression than the first two books.  There is minimal instruction on piecing and cutting techniques, placing all the emphasis on the book on the patterns themselves.  It’s like a graduate level course in complex piecing.  The instructor knows the students understand the basics, and provides minimal guidance so the students can have time to explore and create.

 

Starting a project from the book

While you can make your own templates from the pages in the book, all of these quilts have more patches than I can even comprehend cutting individually. Paper Pieces to the rescue! They have already created paper packs and acrylic templates for each quilt in the book. I especially love that they make their acrylics in two sizes, one with a 3/8 inch seam allowance (ideal for English paper piecing) and one with a 1/4 inch seam allowance, perfect for hand-piecers like me!  I think I’m going to make Ietsie Pietsie Pizzicato. Anyone know what that name means?  I stumped google translate trying to figure it out! But I dearly love this amazing combination of 10-pointed stars and Jack’s Chain blocks.

So for me, the only choices left are what fabrics to use? Do I pull from my stash and play with fussy-cuts? Or do I really try to let the shapes shine, and make this all out of, say, ombre fabrics? Which would you use?  Stay tuned for progress pictures!!

 

Happy Stitching!

 

Playing with the Sizzix Big Shot Pro

Well, helllloooo friends! Long time no post, I know.  Spring Market, end-of-school and start of summer have all blended together in my world for one heaping pile of craziness.  I hope you’re following along with me on Instagram and Facebook.  I actually posted a couple of Facebook Live videos during Market (with the hubby’s help!), and I’ve been trying to post a little progress to Instagram daily.  Sometimes those quick and easy networks are more manageable than a full fledged blog post.

And most of my time on the computer has been spent working with a web designer to set up my very own online store! How cool is that?  I had no idea how much time it would take to format images and get everything all set up just perfectly, but stay tuned!  It should be live in a couple of weeks, and I’m just delighted with how it’s working.

But for today, I wanted to share a little bit about a new tool that’s been invaluable to me lately.  At schoolhouse, I attended a couple of presentations about new Sizzix dies.  I was so thrilled when I won Kid Giddy’s new doll backpack die! Seriously, it’s the cutest little backpack ever.  But the die’s not made for my little Sizzix Big Shot.  So what’s a girl to do? After much deliberation, I decided to “go big or go home” as we say in Texas.  I bought a Sizzix Big Shot Pro. And the two new Kid Giddy doll clothes dies.  And a rag quilting die for good measure.

 

Now I’m making backpacks for all the Our Generation dolls in the house (of which there are 8!)  And, a backpack for kiddo #5.  He wants one in black for his toy lion. My oldest daughter has been making doll clothes with the other two dies.  She’s made a top and a pair of shorts already!

 

Another doll backpack finished! I quilted the fabric for this one before assembing, and I love the extra sturdiness.

A post shared by Emily Breclaw (@thecaffeinatedquilter) on

The next backpack in progress– love that you can run a quilt sandwich through this die to make a quilted backpack.

And that rag quilting die?  I wasn’t sure if it would work well.  When you run fabric through the die cutter, the square comes out ALREADY FRINGED. Then you just layer with batting, sew an “X” through the layers, and sew together like any other rag quilt.  Then you toss it in the wash and YOU’RE DONE!!  No hours spent cutting the fringe along every single seam.  I’m not kidding.  It’s that easy.  I spent two hours on this baby quilt.

This die might actually help me make a dent in all my boxes of fabrics that people have given me to make quilts for others.  And it will certainly help with culling my bins of batting scraps.  From now on, I’m just going to precut batting scraps that are too small for other projects into 6” squares for rag quilts.

Now, of course, I’m wondering what other dies may make my cutting life easier.  I might need to get the one for cutting 2 1/2” squares, those seem to be the most used scrap shape in my studio. Do you have a die cutter?  What are your go-to shapes for it? I’m also looking for recommendations for a permanent table for this machine.  It’s currently sitting on the dining room table, and that’s not the sturdiest set-up.

Happy Stitching!!

New Pattern: Quandry

Happy Thursday, Friends!  Today I’m so excited to be sharing with you a new pattern, Quandry!

This is an intermediate level foundation paper pieced pattern.  I provide step-by-step directions, lots of diagrams, cutting templates, and of course the printable foundation paper templates.  But if you’re completely new to paper piecing, you may want to look online for basic tutorials to get started.  I love this tutorial from Fresh Lemons quilts.

Quandry measures 53” by 71”, and makes a gorgeous wedding gift.  I need to make a third quilt from this pattern, as the two shown in the pictures have already found new homes with newlywed family members. (I can assure you, this is a MUCH easier wedding gift to make than a double wedding ring!  All straight seams, but you still get the lovely effect of curves!) Isn’t it fun how changing the background fabric from light to dark makes different elements pop?

You can purchase a digital copy of Quandry from UpCraftClub or Craftsy.  This week, it will be discounted 25% in both shops.  For those of you in EU countries, please use the UpCraftClub website, as they are equipped to handle VAT.

What colors will you use to make your Quandry quilt?  Please share in the comments below, and be sure to tag your instagram pictures with #quandryquilt, and tag me, @thecaffeinatedquilter, so we can all see your beautiful work!

Happy Stitching!

Daylight Company Slimline LED Table Lamp and Wafer Light Box Review


At Quilt Market last fall, I met the lovely folks from the Daylight Company.  I almost walked right past their booth, as I’ve had my trusty OttLight for over 10 years, and have been quite content with it. But I’m so glad I did not walk past. These products have been true game changers for me.  Read on to find out why! (And if these sound good to you, there’s a special discount code at the end of the post, just for you!)

Slimline LED Table Lamp

Since I bought my Janome Artistic SD, I’ve been trying to figure out a good way to light the space.  The incandescent light that comes with the machine is cheaply made, and installation requires splicing wires. I got little stick-on LED lights to light under the arm, but that’s not where I need the light. I’ve used an Ott Light floor lamp, positioned to the left of the needle, but it’s always in my way, and wobbles when the quilt knocks into it. So, not the best circumstances for quilt lighting.

All that changed with the Daylight table lamp.  I was able to set the light up in under five minutes, and it came simply packaged with easy-to-follow instructions.  At first, I worried about the clamp.  I thought it might eventually vibrate loose.  I’ve quilted five quilts with this lamp, and the clamp has not budged a bit, so it’s quite secure. On my first quilt, I intended to switch between the Ott Light and the new light with every bobbin change, to see if the light was really different. But I quickly abandoned that plan, as the Ott Light simply was not bright enough after using the Daylight.

Some features I love about the Daylight lamp:

-Very slim design, so it doesn’t interfere with my ability to see the quilt.

-Super bright light, making it easier for me to see the thread and subtle tension issues

-Comfortable light, even though it’s bright,my eyes don’t feel strained even after a couple of hours sewing.

I even started hand sewing at my quilting table because of that light.  I know, it looks silly to have hand piecing by a midarm quilting machine, but the light is simply THAT GOOD.

Wafer Light Box

Confession: I did not previously own a light box of any type.  My idea of using a light box was taping a paper to a bright window, holding fabric on top of the paper and tracing. Was it comfortable? No. Cheap? Yes. Frustrating? Absolutely. I have five kids. Let’s just say, that if I’m trying to trace something precisely  onto fabric for embroidery or applique, my chances of achieving that on a bright sunny day while the kids are around are nil. Most of the time, my opportunities for tracing something onto fabric were between 11 pm and 1 am.  And it’s kind of tough to find a sunny window at that time.

I LOVE the Wafer Light Box.  It’s thin, and lightweight, so it stores easily. Just like the LED lamp, the light is bright but easy on the eyes. I used it to trace lettering for a baby announcement quilt.  (At night, I might add!). It was super-easy to see the paper through the fabric, and tracing went quickly.  Last time I used the bright window method, I discovered the light was insufficient to trace onto saturated fabric, like the Moda Grunge  that I adore using.  However, I could see the lettering no problem through the same fabric using the Wafer. My kids love using the Wafer for their school projects too. It even has a dimming feature, so you can adjust the light to whatever intensity works best for you.

In the picture above, I have an applique layout under the fabric. Then I can lay the pieces out on the fabric exactly where they need to go.  I’m still learning on the applique, but this is SO much easier than trying to line up the patches any other way.

I’ve been using both this light and light box in my studio for several months now, and I’m absolutely thrilled with both of them. The folks at the Daylight Company gave me both of these products to try out. But if you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you know I don’t review products unless I use them myself. So, if you’re interested in trying out their products, you can go to the Daylight Company website.  Using the code TCQ0217 will give you a discount on the Wafer 1 lightbox, the Wafer 2 Lightbox and the Slimline S LED Table Lamp. (This is a little smaller than mine, the Slimline LED table lamp- but that one’s out of stock right now).

Now, back to work on that applique!

Happy Stitching!

Studio Organizing with Purpose

Over New Year’s weekend, I decided to start organizing my studio.  As you can see from the picture below, it was getting a little embarrassing, and the mess was completely killing my creativity.  What started with simply trying to put fabric away turned into a complete studio overhaul. Along the way, I discovered that the more I tried to turn my studio into my “private quilt store”, the better I was able to understand how to put things away in a manner that made sense for me.

before-picture

Organizing Fabric

I started out with seven 56-gallon tubs filled to OVERFLOWING with fabric. I did not sort all of it.  That would have taken me months, and I probably would have gotten discouraged along the way and quit.  To start, I dumped out three bins worth of fabric. One of those bins became my “warm” color bin, the second my “cool” color bin, and the third my “neutrals and prints” bin.  Then, my daughters and I started sorting the piles of dumped out fabric back into the bins.  I gave away some fabric that I knew I would never use.

As we came across large pieces of fabric (more than one yard), we folded it over magazine boards.  I got this idea from So Sew Easy. My husband was going to the comic book store anyway, and he got this pack of 100 boards for about $13.  I think about 50 folded bolts fit into this 56 gallon tub.

folded-fabric-minibolts

For smaller pieces of fabric, we used the folding video tutorials from In Color Order, and made a little display of fabric in a wire bin from the Container Store. Just like with the larger fabric folded bolts, I picked fabrics for the small bin that I wanted to use sooner than later.

small-folded-fabric

Over the years, I have accumulated a precious stash of Alison Glass fabrics, and I wanted to keep these together for an upcoming project.  So I arranged them all in a pretty basket, along with the EPP papers I’ll be using.  This looks much more inviting than the previous pile on the floor!

alison-glass-basket

Finally, I dealt with a bin of fabric for an ongoing baby quilt project. Each year, my kids’ school makes baby quilts for moms in crisis pregnancies. I make two quilts a year, and the kids bring in special fabrics for the quilts. They usually bring in much more than the recommended 8” square. After doing this for 10 years, I have a huge stash of baby quilt fabric.  I keep meaning to go through it and make additional baby quilts, but the magnitude of fabric overwhelms me.

In the spirit of making my own private quilt store, I pulled out my favorite quick-quilt pattern, Yellow Brick Road.  Then my girls and I chose fabrics from the donation bin and made six “quilt kits.” Each ziploc has enough fabric to make a baby quilt from the Yellow Brick Road pattern.  Now, whenever I need an easy, mindless afternoon of sewing, I can pull out one of these bags and make a quilt without having to worry about choosing and measuring fabrics.

homemade-quilt-kits

 

Now, my fabrics are “organized enough” to motivate me to start sewing.  And all of the bins close without sitting on them!  Once I go through some of the “featured fabrics” shown above, I’ll go back to the bins and fold and sort more to feature. I love how manageable this system feels, and how inspired I am everytime I see the pretty fabrics on my new shelves.

Organizing Projects

Confession: I have enough UFO’s to complete TWO APQ resolution pages. Yes, 24 UFO’s. That has to change, and I am bound and determined to whittle that list down this year. Again, I have to “see” what I’m working on to stay motivated.  So I made a couple of mini-design boards by pinning batting to artist canvases.  I also use leftover lids from broken plastic bins to store projects I’m working on.

project-boards

During the overhaul, my husband got me a set of sturdy wire shelves to store fabric. Now I can just pull out the bin I need (instead of unstacking boxes all the time). Even better, the shelves have just enough room to slide a project board on top of each box, so I can keep my UFO’s in sight, but not too cluttered.

Organizing Notions

Last but not least, I FINALLY found a way to organize my most-used rulers. These are usually out on my sewing counter, or propped up on the floor near my sewing counter.  Which means I’m always losing them, tripping over them, or worse, cutting my toes along the edges of them. (true story). I bought some inexpensive coffee cup hooks at World Market, and hung them from the sides of the new shelves.

hanging-rulers

Now they’re easy to find, and impossible to trip over. I also hung a roll of masking tape on one of the cup hooks, which I guesstimate will save about 20 minutes per quilt.  Everyone in the house uses masking tape, so I can never find it when I’m ready to baste a quilt. Now my roll is hung high enough that the kids will never snag it.

So that’s my studio makeover.  I estimate it cost me about $70 for the shelves, magazine boards, and cup hooks. Here’s how the studio looks now:

after-picture

 

Still far from perfect, but FAR more inviting and accessible than it has been. I love my new private quilt “store”, and spent the entire past weekend in it, sewing with my girls.  Now, to tackle those UFO lists. .  . .

What’s your favorite way to organize your quilting space?

Happy Stitching!

emily