Friday, December 30, 2011

An old teapot for a New Year

Yes, it has been a while since I posted. You probably know why. Trees, cookies, relatives, hams, gifts, garlands, malls … chaos! Lately I have not had much time for blogging, or much time in the studio. I hope that things will get back to normal in the New Year.

I did find time – and a few rare moments of quiet – for a few sketches, and I am sharing one of them with you here. This is my favorite teapot. I use it nearly every day in the winter, as I am a big tea drinker (I picked up the habit during my junior year abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland). It is by Furnivals, a china company in Staffordshire, England; the pattern is called “Denmark.” I bought china in this pattern for my first apartment. I can still remember that day. (Admittedly, I have a bit of an obsession with china, but that is another story for another day.)

A few years ago, I chipped the spout. (If you look closely at the drawing, you can see it.) And I cried. But I love this teapot, and I kept using it. Sure it has some crazing, a chip, and some tea stains I can’t seem to get out. But it is mine. It is part of me now. And perhaps I chose to sketch it now because it is kind of a metaphor for me, for my life. Fitting for one of the last few days of 2011. 

“And now let us welcome
the new year full of things
that have never been.”

– Ranier Maria Rilke

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Anniversary Quilt

Earlier this year, a wonderful old family friend commissioned me to make a quilt for his wife that would commemorate their 50th wedding anniversary in June. I told him I couldn’t do it by June, but could have it ready by Christmas. Well, it is going in the mail today!

I’ve been so busy finishing this up that I haven’t done any give-aways recently, but there are more coming, I promise! And some good ones, including Lyric Kinard’s Bead it Like You Mean It DVD and Ana Buzzalino’s new DVD offering from Quilting Arts/Interweave! Stay tuned.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Susan’s So Thankful Give-Away #17: American Patchwork & Quilting tote

Oooh, don’t you just love the beautiful orange and white fabric in this tote bag by American Patchwork & Quilting? It is today’s give-away. American Patchwork & Quilting magazine was one of the first quilting magazines I subscribed to when I started quilting, and I still love it. I think they do a great job of including projects for all levels and types of quilters. The directions are always clear and easy to follow. I also think it is very well designed. Visit to learn more about the magazine (psssssst! there are some great give-aways going on over there, too).

Make sure you check out the page on their 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge. Quilters all over the country are making pillowcases through this program; they are passed on to people who need to feel some love – such as foster children, cancer patients, and victims of domestic violence. 

When I was in Houston for International Quilt Festival this fall, I visited the project’s booth, where they were very busy helping attendees whip up pillowcases. They were already up to 869 pillowcases; all were going to Houston Children’s Charity

Here’s your chance to win! Leave a comment after this post and tell me where you live, and the things for which your town or area is known. I’ll pull a name at random at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15, and send you the tote bag. AND THE WINNER IS… Jennifer!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Susan’s So Thankful Give-Away #16: IQF-Cincinnati Tote Bag

This is the official tote bag of the 2011 International Quilt Festival – Cincinnati.  It is made from recycled water bottles and other recycled plastics. You can use it until it wears out, and then recycle it again. 
It is spacious and sturdy, and features a beautiful contemporary quilt called “Basket of Tulips” by Andi Perejda, Joan Bruce, Barbara Collins and Rene Jennings. This quilt was featured in the special exhibit “In the American Tradition 2010.” It is featured on the front and back, and there are baskets of flowers from the quilt on the sides.

One of the things I love about this tote is that is structured inside. It has a section inside that folds out with spaces to hold three large bottles. The bottom is also reinforced.

Here’s your chance to win! Leave a comment after this post and tell me if you have been to a big quilt show, and if so, which one and what you liked best about it. I’ll pull a name at random at 9 p.m. on Wednesday Dec. 14, and send you the tote bag. AND THE WINNER IS: Salsy!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Aurifil’s Designer of the Month: Sharon Pederson

Sharon Pederson’s free “Aurifil Christmas Tree” Pattern

Designer, author and teacher Sharon Pederson is Aurifil’s Designer of the Month for December. I met Sharon in person this fall at International Quilt Festival in Houston. (She was shooting video for The Quilt Show, and she interviewed me in front of one of my quilts.)

Sharon’s “Rose of Sharon” quilt (below) is absolutely spectacular, and represents a partnership between Electric Quilt, AccuQuilt, Alex and Ricky of The Quilt Show, Aurifil, Bernina, Island Batik, and designers of 850 blocks from quilters in 11 countries. The result was a quilt that has helped raise a lot of money for Alzheimer’s research through the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative. You can read all about it on Sharon’s website.

Pat Sloan has interviewed Marianne on the Aurifil blog. (That’s where you go to download the pattern for her free Christmas tree project!)

Learn more about Sharon here:

To learn more about Aurifil thread on Facebook: 

Each month this year, a different designer has been giving away a free pattern on the Aurifil blog (my month was January). Remember – if you make any project from the design team, load a photo to our Aurifil Flickr group; this puts you in the running to win a fabulous Aurifil thread prize!

There are fun things planned for next year, too, so please stay tuned!

Each month this year, I’ve given away a pack of Aurifil minispools (like the one shown above) when the new project is announced. Just leave a comment after this post telling me if you are making a quilt for the holidays – either for yourself, or as a gift.
I'll pull a name at random on Saturday, January 7 at noon EST. The sampler pack includes great colors in different weights.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Interview: Debra Gabel of Zebra Designs

A few weeks ago, I had a give-away of Debra Gabel’s new book, Quilt Blocks Across America. I always enjoy reading interviews with artists and designers, and I thought you might find a chat with Debra insightful.

Debra, I’d like to start by getting a little background information on you. Can you tell me about yourself? Born in New York, I started sewing as a child, and quilting as a teen. After several professional moves around the U.S. in adulthood, we finally settled in Maryland. Armed with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Graphic Design, I worked for many years as an Art Director in the packaging industry. My independent graphic design business, Mixed Media, has operated since 1988. After rediscovering quilting in the late 1990's, I started teaching quilting locally in 2000.

I have steadily built up my own pattern line that includes 30+ beautiful florals,  24 birds, 12 butterflies, 12 Bible stories, 12+ Holiday Houses, over 70 signature stamps, several baby quilts, and many unique quilted projects and art quilts. I now teach and lecture nationally at guilds and quilt shops in the U.S. I enjoy and have had success entering and showing in national shows, and have had quilts published in calendars, quilt books and on web sites. My intentions are to continue lecturing and teaching, to evolve into an international quilter/speaker/author and to travel the world through quilting.
Prairie Point Stocking
What was your very first quilting pattern, and how did it come about? My first pattern was my Prairie Point Stocking pattern. I designed this pattern in 1999 for our new house. It was just for personal use. I could not find a nice affordable pre made stocking so I decided to make my own. I made 5 stockings for my family and brought them to my local quilt shop for show and tell. Well, that show and tell ended up providing my first teaching opportunity. The owner asked if I had a pattern and would teach a class. I had to make a "real" pattern with directions for my class. That was the beginning of Zebra Patterns even though I did not know it at the time. Being a graphic designer the layout, photography and pattern making was very natural and easy. However - writing out those directions was not on my “favorite things to do” list for sure. And guess what … It has NOT moved up on the charts in my life to this day! I love everything about patterning, except all the written copy! UGH!

Baltimore stamp design by Debra Gabel

How do you think your background as a graphic designer has influenced your style?
Being a graphic designer is the reason so many of my patterns include type. I LOVE LOVE LOVE typography. I love bold graphic messaging. My signature stripes are included in most of my work. I tend to use bold jewel tones and design my patterns with “simplified reality” as my main intention. Being a graphic designer I pay close attention to line and composition. I design with an artist’s eye in a quilter’s world. I have been using computers and design software since 1984. I used the original Illustrator software. It was AMAZING to be able to draw perfect circles and lines without a radiograph back then!

Debra’s new book

What was your very first job? your worst/most unpleasant job?  My first job was babysitting at 12 years old. Funny, but that is where I learned to do raw edge appliqué. I was and still am a high strung individual. I would always need something to do when the children were napping while babysitting. I worked for a lady who was a quilter. She found out that I was artistic and asked if I wanted to help her with her professional craft business. She made pillows and totes with Raw Edge Appliqué way back in 1974 and sold them on the ACC circuit! No fusible — just limited calico fabrics and pins. When the children were resting I would cut out appliqués from cotton. That is how far back I go with raw edge appliqué. I worked with her though out high school and college.

My most unpleasant job … hmmm … that is an interesting question. I usually find something fun and interesting in everything I do and have done. That said, I do recall an unpleasant experience that was a bit bizarre. I was around 16-17 years old and I worked in a sporting goods store part time. I sold sports equipment and restrung tennis rackets. I made good money doing the stringing but I was required to cover the floor if we got busy. One day a large woman walked in looking for a pair of tennis shoes. She told me she was size 8. She picked a pair of sneakers and I sat down to help her try on the shoes. I put on the first shoe and she said gruffly “I will do the other one!” I thought hmm that is strange because I do not think this woman can even reach her feet ~ Well she bent over and started twisting her knee. A few brisk turns and her leg came off below the knee! Oh MY! I was not expecting that! I just sat with my mouth open. I think the lady enjoyed my reaction as she looked at me and gave a half smile smirk. The good news is that she did buy the shoes and I did get my commission. That was not too much fun at the time - but is quite comical now! 

You produce an amazing number of designs. You just put out Quilt Blocks Across America, and Quilt Blocks Around the World is coming out soon. How do you get so much done so fast? I used to be a designer of handled paper shopping bags, gift wrap and gift boxes. I worked as art director for a few large paper and packaging companies. I had the pleasure of designing several national lines of gift packaging. I got quite quick at designing on a computer as early as 1984. As mentioned earlier I designed art with Adobe Illustrator on a little Macintosh! I have been using computers since then to do design layout and production art. The computer make things go so much faster than hand drawing and if you know how to do it, you can design and be creating almost camera ready art at the same time. 

I am also a self diagnosed ADD and OCD person. I just try to harness all the energy and obssession into design. I really think about designs all the time. That is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that I look at the world a bit more scrupulously that the average Joe. I get an idea, might write it down, but have that idea in my head. Once a clear direction is worked out in my head I go right to design. When I sit down to actually create a pattern I get it done quickly because the whole thing was already “baked” in my head. It becomes a simple task to translate the idea digitally. All of that saves a bunch of time. 

So the answer is “with focused obsession and 25 years of experience it comes naturally to me.” I also work fast and confidently. I am a production junkie. If I am producing and creating I just get more and more fired up. 

If you weren’t doing what you do now as a career, what would you like to do? Tell me five jobs that you might consider (setting aside things like your age, need for training, etc.)  Hmm....I am doing exactly what I want to be doing and should be doing but to answer the hypothetical question here goes…
I could picture myself as:
  • a psychologist - love all that head shrinking analysis and I like to help people figure out problems.
  • a teacher of smart highly motivated students
  • quilt shop owner - I would love to make the most inspirational quilt shop in the world!
  • interior designer for really rich people (LOL)
  • a costume designer for Cirque du Soleil – and if talent does not count I would be one of those little bendy Asian girls in Cirque who puts her feet on her head like a pretzel.
What was the last movie you went to see? Book read?
The Help. Great movie!
Last book.... The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I read and re read that book often.

What would you most like to accomplish – on a professional or personal level – in the next 5 years? Professionally, I would like to continue to grow my business to be able to hire several employees. I have always wanted a business where people LOVED to come to work, a place where creativity, sharing and personal/professional growth are premier. I would like to get out my fabric lines and continue to author books and patterns. I would like to be traveling internationally lecturing and teaching.
Personally, I would like to continue to learn, grow, and create every possible minute.
“It’s a New Day” by Debra Gabel
Everyone, make sure you check out Debra’s gallery of art quilts on her website here. And if you want more information, visit:

Facebook: Debra Ogden Gabel
Facebook Page: Zebra Patterns

NOTE: Debra is giving away a copy of my book, Point, Click, Quilt! on her blog here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Anniversary Quilt

Earlier this year, I was commissioned to make a small quilt commemorating the 50th anniversary of Ruth and Morris Williams, who are dear family friends. I have known them since I was born, and they have been friends with my parents for nearly 50 years. 

I was very honored when Morris called to ask me to create a quilt that he could give to his wife. He requested that it be embroidered with the words “Ruth and Morris” and “50+ years,” and with the names of his two daughters and their husbands and children. He originally asked me to complete it by their anniversary date in the spring, but my schedule wouldn’t permit me enough time to complete the applique, so we settled on a Christmas delivery date.

I designed the quilt using colors – blue and gold – and images – pink tulips and yellow roses – that are symbolic to their family. I also included some Ohio Star blocks, since Ruth went to the College of Wooster in Ohio. I used solid color fabrics suggestive of the decorations for  furniture, barns and quilts of the German settlers of eastern Pennsylvania, as the Williams have spent most of their lives living in Pennsylvania.

The center and corner blocks are hand needleturn applique, and the entire quilt measures about 46" square. I am getting ready to baste and quilt it, and I’ll post more photos as I do.

Susan’s So Thankful Give-Away #15: The 3-in-1 Color Tool

Today’s give-away is Joen Wolfrom’s spiffy 3-in-1 Color Tool. This is a color-planning tool that helps you choose great combinations – based on the Ives color wheel for accuracy and perfect color matching. There are 24 color cards with hundreds of color swatches, plus two value finders (red and green) that help you determine value and contrast. 
My friend Nancy G. Cook reviewed The 3-in-1 Color Tool on her blog if you want to know more about it.
Joen now has a new version of this tool called the Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool (Updated 3rd edition), so you get some idea of how wonderful – and popular – this tool is.

Here’s your chance to win! Leave a comment after this post and tell me your favorite thing to bake for the holidays. I’ll pull a name at random at 9 p.m. on Monday Dec. 12, and send you this tool. AND THE WINNER IS: Linda Moran!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Susan’s So Thankful Give-Away #14: Random Arts’ Wholey Paper

I spent much of today taking a class at Random Arts in Saluda, NC. Saluda is a great little town up in the mountains about 2 hours drive west of Charlotte; it has some wonderful shops in its historic downtown, and an amazing number of gourmet restaurants for its size. 
Random Arts is a shop that offers “assorted goods for creative mindfulness,” mostly mixed media supplies, including tons of delicious antique/junky tidbitsephemera, vintage papers,  paper packets for altered books, collage art, mixed media, book arts & book binding, rubber stamps, hand made papers, stamp pads, art supplies, die cut packets, assorted vintage playing cards… you get the idea.
I was there to take a soldering class to make little pendants. First, we created small collages, put them between thin layers of glass, and taped the edges with copper tape. I used an image of one of my art quilts on one side:

And a little collage on the back:
After this, we soldered over the copper tape. My results were not too great. In fact, I think I was the worst student in the class… but it was really fun. I bought supplies and will “try, try again” until I get better results. I think I was supposed to be gliding the solder on, and I was pressing too hard, so that I actually melted the copper tape! Anyway, here’s how mine turned out:

This is the second workshop I’ve taken at Random Arts; I took a great class with Jane LaFazio there last summer. Since then, the shop has moved into its new digs, a craftsman style bungalow with a bright orange front door, and lots of space inside to spread out. It is such a welcoming and fun place... you can spend hours looking at everything, and absorbing the creative vibes, and getting great ideas. 

Can’t get to Saluda? Some of the shop’s goods are offered on their website and their eBay store.
Lots of cool stuff!
Hello? Hello?
A birdcage holds rolled sheets of music
The spacious new classroom
Painted pendant banner with necklaces
Paper globes atop a bookcase
Tree branches decorated with paper leaves and other lovely things
Window treatment with mixed media flowers

Here’s Jane (below) with one of her new products: Wholey Paper. The package contains rare, vintage punch paper. She has no idea what its original use was; do you? It could be computer punch paper, but I'm not sure. It would be great for altered books, printing, texture, stencils, weaving, or plaster embellishment. When I told Jane about my give-away, she kindly offered up a pack for me to give away!
Owner Jane Powell with her “Wholey Paper”
A pack of Wholey Paper
Look at what you can do with Wholey Paper!
Here’s your chance to win! Leave a comment after this post and tell me if you do any mixed media projects that need Wholey Paper. I’ll pull a name at random at 9 p.m. on Sunday Dec. 11, and send you the pack. AND THE WINNER IS: usagypsy!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Susan’s So Thankful Give-Away #13: Quilting Arts and Stitch magazine

Yep, it’s two more magazines! Both are published by Interweave. The first is the October/November 2011 issue of Quilting Arts, and the second is the Winter 2011 issue of Stitch
If you read my blog because you love or make art quilts, there’s a pretty good chance that you also read Quilting Arts magazine, which is the best magazine out there dedicated to art quilting (in my humble opinion!). But you may not have checked out Stitch, which includes projects for modern sewers, such as garments, home decor items, and crafts. I simply love the Wool Petals Pillow on the cover! It is one of a bevy of projects in this issue made with wool felt.

Here’s your chance to win! Leave a comment after this post and tell me about your favorite quilting or sewing magazine. I’ll pull two names at random at 9 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 10, and send you each a magazine. AND THE WINNERS ARE: Claudia Becker (QA) and Kimberly (Stitch).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Susan’s So Thankful Give-Away #12: 101 Patchwork Projects & Quilts

Today’s give-away is a copy of 101 Patchwork Projects + Quilts, a special publication by the publishers of Quilting Arts magazine. The hefty 196-page magazine retails for $19.99, and includes two projects I designed. The first is a dog bed (that’s my dog Sophie on it):

The second is a business card case:

Here’s your chance to win! Leave a comment after this post and tell me about a tradition you keep during the holidays, and why it is important to you. I’ll pull a name at random at 9 p.m. on Friday Dec. 9, and send you the magazine. AND THE WINNER IS: QuiltingGranny!