Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Keepsake Quilting is offering “Round Red Barn”

The spring 2009 Keepsake Quilting catalog includes my “Round Red Barn” pattern! It’s on page 38. Unfortunately, they list the maker as “Susan Knapp,” without my maiden name in the middle; this is what I use professionally. This is partly because there is another Susan Knapp who designs quilt patterns through The Quilt Branch in Magnolia, Ill. I’m hoping to meet her at the Spring Quilt Market in Pittsburgh, Pa., this May.

Keepsake Quilting offered my “Heart’s Desire” block-of-the-month design a few years ago, and they are a fantastic company to work with. I’m thrilled that they are carrying “Round Red Barn.”

A little winter

Monday, January 26, 2009

No dream too big, no step too small

I created this little graphic to remind myself to dream big. For too long, I’ve been listening to that sour little voice whispering in my ear … don’t get your hopes up … it might not work out … you really think you can do that?

I don’t want to live like that.

Most of the time I can drown out the voice, be optimistic and forge ahead. The voice is only strong when I am weak, tired, worn down.

I belong to a group of artists in the Charlotte area concerned with improving our business and marketing skills. Last week at our meeting, my friend Nancy repeated this line, which she had heard at a conference, and its message really resonated with me: Think big, but work small. Begin. Take it step by step.

It is good to dream big.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Needleturn appliqué class scheduled

I haven’t been doing much teaching lately because I have some big things going on (that I can’t tell you about yet…), but I have just scheduled one beginners class in needleturn appliqué at the Quilters Loft Company in Mooresville. I’ve really missed teaching; it is rewarding to turn people on to a new technique.

Beginning Needleturn Appliqué
Friday, March 13 and Friday, March 27
10:30 a.m to 2:30 p.m.

In this class, you’ll learn all you need to know to get started on needleturn appliqué –including making bias vines, reverse applique, and making templates and positioning overlays — while stitching my “Spring Valentine” pattern (above). You’ll be making perfect circles and sharp points in no time!

I designed this pattern specifically for teaching beginners. In the first class, we cover the organizational part of needleturn appliqué, where you make the templates and positioning overlays, and learn how to use pressing bars (also called bias bars). Then students go home and do everything to get ready for the next class two weeks later. At this class, we get down to the nitty-gritty and learn how to stitch.

To sign up or get more information, contact Quilters Loft Company at (704) 662-8660.

Come! – I’ll soon have you sharing one of my favorite addictions!

Monday, January 19, 2009

We become what we are

I joined Facebook (a social networking site online) this weekend, and it has me strolling happily down memory lane. I got out my big musty envelope of report cards, and my photo albums, and my yearbooks and have been having lots of fun and laughing a lot. I even discovered that two of my high school friends, actors and musicians, are friends with fiber artist Elin Waterston because of their connection to The Affordable Floors. Weird! (Postnote: Make that three friends... she even knows the guy who played Rolf to my Liesl in our high school’s 1981 production of “The Sound of Music.”)

I grew up in Mt. Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh, but left the area after I finished college. At the same time, my parents moved, and I did not go back to my hometown much after this. As a result, I lost touch with all but a few of my high school friends. Facebook is helping me reconnect, nearly 30 years later.

What is so amazing is to find people doing pretty much what you expected (with a few exceptions, of course). Which got me thinking... how much are we set/fixed/decided when we are 16? and how much changes after that?

One of the most intriguing things I dug out was this, my “Vocational Interest Inventory” from junior high school. (Thanks, Mom, for saving all this stuff.)

I ranked as high as you can get for “Aesthetic-Cultural” (which includes fields/professions such as crafts(wo)man, writer, communications, actor, dancer, interior decorator, painter, photographer, sculptor and architect), and next highest for “Service” (teaching, communications, medicine, nursing, psychology, counseling, clergy, law, social work, law enforcement).

Yep, it’s all there. I was never going to be an archeaologist (my career of choice in elementary school), or a vet (junior high), or a geologist (sophomore year in college). My lowest score was “Manual,” which confirms my belief that I was never meant to be a custodian, gas station attendant, or member of the armed forces.

I am what I am.

I am what I was (even if I didn't know it at the time).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Beading: A new obsession?

I was inspired recently by the work of some Fiber Art Options friends, Nancy G. Cook and Janet A. Lasher, who do gorgeous beading on their work. Fiber Art Options is a group of Charlotte area fiber artists. We all have different styles, and use different techniques and materials in our work, but have in common our love of fiber art.

I went home and pulled out my beads and started playing. The blue circle in the upper right corner is built around a metal washer. I can see why so many people love beading. It really is addictive. Probably a good thing that I am busy with all my other projects, or I’d be in deep.

Still, it made me want to try more, and maybe take a class in beading. I’ll put it on my “to do” list.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thoughts on thimbles

I have a “thing” for thimbles, especially old, silver ones with intricately carved designs. And for thimble cases, and all the beautiful little “accessories” you use to quilt. I think I make more beautiful stitches when I use beautiful tools. I certainly feel happier when I use them and look at them. And if you are going to spend hundreds of hours hand quilting, why not use a lovely object to do it?

My mother gave me the antique thimble in the photo above, which was her grandmother’s, I think. See the wonderful silversmith’s markings just above the bottom rim? And those wonderful swirls like the stars in Vincent VanGogh’s painting? I adore it, but it is a little small for my finger, and it has a slightly domed top, which is not ideal for hand quilting.

I spurged a few years ago and purchased the silver thimble in the photo above. It is made by by T.J. Lane, a silversmith who works with her daughter and son-in-law (who are based in western North Carolina). The thimbles are made entirely in the United States, a rarity these days. Even though it was expensive (I think I paid about $60, and prices have gone up since), I have not for one minute regretted the decision to purchase it.

I adore this thimble. It fits perfectly, it is beautiful, and the flat top with the little rim holds the needle and pushes it in and out smoothly with every stitch I quilt. It looks old, and interesting, and it is hand made. (I am increasingly interested in purchasing hand-made items of quality, and not machine-made, mass-produced items that are often of inferior quality.) When I am not using it, it is still a thing of beauty.

A little while after I purchased my thimble, I bought this pretty silver thimble case to wear around my neck when I am quilting. This way, if the phone rings and I have to get up and leave my project, I can stick the thimble in the case and take it with me, so the cats don’t decide to play with it.

Here is Max, reclining in his bed (my younger daughter’s doll bed, purchased from a Tennessee artisan by my mother). He thinks it was made just for him.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Working by hand

I just finished about five days of heavy machine quilting, and boy, am I ready for some hand work! So I am working to finish up my knitted “Booga Bag,” which will be felted and probably given to my daughter, and on hand quilting “Bohemian Bouquet.”

Here are a few photos of the hand quilting in progress. I’d already quilted “in the ditch” around the motifs in several blocks, using black thread that barely shows up at all, but does make the appliquéd pieces puff out nicely. I was eager to start the background quilting, which will either be diagonal lines every 1/2" in one direction (if I’m lazy), or a grid of diagonal lines in both directions. I decided to use red thread, because I’d like the quilting to actually show here! What do you think about how it looks?

Next, about the Booga Bag: This is a knitted bag by Julie Anderson, and you can find her pattern at

My friend DeLane Rosenau, who is an excellent quilter, helped some of the Pandoras and friends who were not knitters get started on this project. DeLane posted about her Booga Bag on her blog and included before and after photos. I have finished the main part of the bag, and am casting off. I've started on the i-cord that will be the straps. I can't wait to felt it! It will go in the washing machine, perhaps through several cycles, and will come out much smaller and thicker. I may make a fabric lining with pockets for the inside.

I used Ironstone “Colorchanges” yarn that is 53% wool and 47% acrylic, but still felts beautifully. It has gorgeous blue/green/teal/purple variations.

My 8-year-old daughter has been watching me knit this and has gotten interested in knitting! I am thrilled. I got her started on some scrap yarn and she is doing beautifully with the basic knit stitch, and hardly dropping any stitches at all. So I bought her some pretty yarn and circular bamboo needles for Christmas. My mother’s mother, my “Nanny,” taught me to knit when I was in sixth grade and had broken my leg and had a cast from my toes to my thigh. I didn’t come back to it until I was spending my junior year of college at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and was surrounded by more beautiful wool than I had ever seen in my life, and more knitters!

I bought some local wool and a pattern for an Aran sweater and started out, with the help of several helpful Scottish hallmates! I have not done much knitting since I started quilting, but I still love it. And today, there are more tempting yarns than ever.

My mom, Ellie Brubaker, made the Booga Bag below in 2007. Isn’t it darling? I hope mine comes out as cute.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Evil creatures

This is the sad tale of a quilter and three evil creatures determined to make her life a living hell. The first evil animal, below, goes by the innocent-sounding name of "Sophie." Looks sweet enough, right? Read on...

Today, as I was working away in my studio, I got a call from a large, well-known quilting catalog interested in carrying one of my patterns. Hurrah! I scurried from my studio to my office, which is at the other end of the house, switched phones, and answered questions from the very pleasant company representative.

We were just finishing up, and I was writing down the company address, when Sophie went nuts. "Woof! Woof! WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!" So loud that I could not hear the man speaking on the other end of the phone. "I'm so sorry!" I shouted into the phone, running away from Sophie and the window, out of which I could see a couple walking a sweet looking, obedient, quiet Labrador. Dangerous trespassers, Sophie thought, apparently. "Woof! Woof! WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!"

There was stunned silence on the other end of the phone. "Um... Wow, that's a really big dog," he said. No, actually she's a fairly small dog. She just has a really loud bark. Especially when the phone is a few feet from her mouth. We will see if the order actually comes through.

Here are the other two evil creatures, below. Awww, those darling kitties, all curled up together in the sun? What could they possibly do? Read on...

The black cat, aptly named "Trouble," has developed a habit of waking us up at about 4 or 5 in the morning because her kibbles are apparently stale. Never mind that my husband patiently fills up her bowl before bed, and makes sure that she is there to witness the event. Never mind that we are sound asleep, it is entirely dark outside, and her bowl is mounded high. The kibbles are stale, and new kibbles must be prepared. Immediately. Or else Trouble walks on our eye sockets.

The other cat, Max, is smart. Very, very smart. Too smart. And evil. He has decided that the important quilting project I am working on is actually a mat on which he must wipe his paws. Repeatedly. Especially after a trip to the litterbox, or outside in the mud after a rain. He is very sneaky, and can pounce up on my work space before I even hear or see him coming. He seems to think it is a wonderful game.

All evil creatures have been banished from the studio for the duration. I am engineering a soundproof studio with doors that lock.