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Welcome to My Stars Quilts

We at Kansas City Star Quilts are pleased to announce our newest book-publishing imprint, My Stars. We’ll be bringing you beautiful and inspiring modern quilting books by top authors, with top-notch photography and compelling designs.

Our first book under the new imprint is a compilation effort that will come out in September. We’re leading up to the publication of this book by running Q&As with the authors every week on this site.

From here you can visit our bookstore, go to our other blog site and learn how you can submit a book proposal (buttons on the top menu).  Also, read some fun blog posts and get to know our authors. Enjoy!

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‘Optical Illusions’ Q&A: Melissa Corry

optical illusions coverLeading up to the publication of our latest My Stars book, Optical Illusions: Innovative Designs for the Modern Quilter, we are conducting interviews with the 10 designers who appear in the book.  The compilation effort will be out in September.

Today’s designer is Melissa Corry. Her optical illusion quilt, Old Dutch, was inspired by a field of windmills.

Old Dutch detail. Melissa was inspired by the dizzying effect of a field of windmills to create her illusion.

Old Dutch detail. Melissa was inspired to create her illusion by the dizzying effect of a field of windmills.

Melissa started quilting about 10 years ago. In the last few years, her hobby has turned into a passion. Starting a blog to share that passion seemed the natural thing to do. That led to creating her own designs, which she shares as tutorials, published works and her own patterns. Melissa loves designing and finds inspiration everywhere. She, her husband and their five little children live in Cedar City, Utah. To follow her daily quilting adventures, check out her blog, Happy Quilting.

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How did you learn to quilt?

Melissa Corry

Melissa Corry

I learned to quilt from my mother. When I found out that we were moving across the country for my husband’s schooling, I figured I would have some quiet nights all on my own while he studied. So I asked my mother to teach me the basics of quilting so I would have a hobby to keep me busy on those quiet nights. I made a few quilts for friends and family and then, in 2010, I discovered the online quilting world and learned everything I could about quilting from fellow quilters, and soon hobby turned to passion.

How do you approach quilt design?

I always find I can design best when I am not trying to come up with a specific design. You know, when I am just staying open to the amazing design all around me. When I see something that inspires me, I normally grab a small scrap of paper or napkin, or whatever I can find handy, and scratch out a rough sketch. Then, after mulling the idea over, I turn to graph paper or EQ7, depending on the complexity of the design, to really start working out the details. Then once the design is finished, I am just itching to put it into fabric, and so I go looking for ways to make that happen, whether it is a tutorial, a pattern or a published quilt.

Melissa Corry's Back to Basics quilt has been accepted to the Modern Quilt Guild Exhibit for International Quilt Market in Houston. www.craftsy.com/user/496522/pattern-store

Melissa Corry’s Back to Basics quilt has been accepted to the Modern Quilt Guild Exhibit for International Quilt Market in Houston. http://www.craftsy.com/user/496522/pattern-store

What’s your favorite color to work with?   

I love purple! I sew in a purple sewing room with purple minis on the wall.

What’s the strangest inspiration you’ve had for a quilt?

My In Your Neighborhood pattern was actually inspired by two sort of strange things. The shape of the block was inspired by a lamp I saw at a friend’s house, and then the layout of the blocks was inspired by my kids playing with dominoes. I kept telling them that wasn’t the way to play dominoes, but they said trying to fit them all in a box was more fun. So I tried to fit a whole bunch of different size blocks in a box, and it indeed was fun.

In Your Neighborhood, by Melissa Corry

In Your Neighborhood, by Melissa Corry

What drew you to modern quilting?

It mostly found me. Once I was willing to step outside my comfort zone and give it a try, I quickly found I loved it.

What was your first modern quilt?

Back in 2010, when I first discovered the online quilting world, a sweet friend was expecting her fourth child. I told her I would love to make her a quilt and if she had anything in mind to let me know. She brought me Anna Maria Horner’s book, Handmade Beginnings, and requested the quilt on the front cover. I was so scared! I had never made anything that didn’t tell you exactly what pieces to cut, improv was a whole new world to me. This quilt really forced me to work outside my comfort zone, and I loved it! I appreciate that friend for giving me my first steps into modern quilting.

Melissa Corry's queen-size Starburst was one of her longest WIPs, because it had to wait two years to be quilted. Melissa says it was worth the wait.  www.craftsy.com/user/496522/pattern-store

Melissa Corry’s queen-size Starburst was one of her longest WIPs, because it had to wait two years to be quilted. Melissa says it was worth the wait. http://www.craftsy.com/user/496522/pattern-store

How many UFOs do you have right now? (Be honest!)

Well, if you are counting projects that I have started and not finished, I have six, I believe, three waiting to be quilted, and three in some process of piecing. If you are including projects that I have planned in my head to get started on, quite a few more.

#5 - Melissa CorryWhat’s the next quilt you plan to make?

There are actually five or six nexts. I have two upcoming tutorials planned, two baby quilts, a boy and girl version, for a magazine that the fabric is on its way for, and two designs that I would love to make into patterns, if I can squeeze them in.

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Our next Optical Illusions Q&A:  Jessica Toye, Sept. 3.

Colors to dye for

By Tammie Schaffer

Tammie Schaffer

Tammie Schaffer

In the last few years, ombre fabrics have been showing up everywhere. Whether you call it gradient, dip dye or ombre, it’s been prevalent in home décor, fashion, cake decorating and even hair and nail colors.

Using ombre fabrics is a trendy way to add some dimension to your quilt top.  It’s also a wonderful exercise in playing with color. But using these variegated fabrics for a quilt benefits from a little planning.

I asked Vanessa Christenson of V and Co., whom I jokingly refer to as the “queen of all things ombre,” for advice on using these fabrics. She really helped spread this quilting craze with her line for Moda, Simply Color, and its gorgeous gradient tones. She’s continued the trend with her recent fabric designs, such as the ombre stripes in Color Me Happy. She also designed several awesome quilt patterns made especially to show off the different colors and get the most from the fabric.

Courtesy Vanessa Christenson

Photo courtesy Vanessa Christenson.

Vanessa’s favorite thing about using ombres is the amazing looks you can get by using them, she said. She recommends that you lay out all of your fabric pieces so you can see the look it will give before you start to sew. But most of all, just have fun with the different colors, she said.

Ombre stripes for Moda Fabrics, Courtesy Vanessa Christenson.

Ombre stripes for Moda Fabrics. Photo courtesy Vanessa Christenson.

For myself, I love that I can buy a single yard of fabric but have several colors to play around with. And the best part is knowing they go together, and there’s no question that they will work with each other. It’s a fun way to add depth and dimension to a quilt made from solids. I think this is especially true when it’s a monochromatic design, because the colors seem to glow against one another.

Stephanie Adams shows how amazing these fabrics can look in her Interlace Nuance quilt. She is working on a pattern for this quilt, and it will be available through her SavyGirl Design Studio.

Interlace Nuance quilt, by Stephanie Adams of Savy Girl Design Studio. Courtesy  Stephanie Adams.

Interlace Nuance quilt, by Stephanie Adams of Savy Girl Design Studio. Photo courtesy Stephanie Adams.

When you’re planning a quilt, look over your cloth and determine how the dye was applied. Some have the darkest color along the center fold, with the lightest along the selvages.  Others might incorporate more than one color, such as these jelly roll strips by Gelato by E.E. Schenk.

Gelato fabric. Courtesy  Christine Barnes.

Gelato fabric. Photo courtesy Christine Barnes.

Measure how wide the transitions are to decide how you can cut your pieces.  Do you want the transitions to show? It all depends on the look you want to achieve.

Ombre baby quilts by Amy Smart. Photo courtesy  Amy Smart.

Ombre baby quilts by Amy Smart. Photo courtesy Amy Smart.

The ombre effect is not used just for solids. Moda has a line of marble ombre dots. Riley Blake also has ombre dots set against a white background. The latest line from Sweetwater, called Elementary, has a shaded print in three colors.

Anchors Away is a free pattern available at Denise Bane’s blog, I Am A Quilter. It uses the Navy ombre strips from Vanessa Christenson’s Color Me Happy line for Moda.

Anchors Away, by Denise Bane. Photo courtesy Denise Bane.

Anchors Away, by Denise Bane. Photo courtesy Denise Bane.

If you can’t find an ombre in the color you want, you could always dye your own fabric. There are many tutorials available online, including one at Craft Thyme. You can experiment with different fabrics and dyes to achieve the look you are after.

There are lots of beautiful quilts and clothing online that represent this trend. You can see more of them at my “ombre everything!” Pinterest board.  What about you? Have you used these fabrics to create something amazing? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Tammie Schaffer is a freelance writer who lives in Richmond, Kansas. She writes every other Friday. Visit her at craftytammie.

‘Optical Illusions’ Q&A: Karen Hansen

optical illusions coverTo celebrate the upcoming publication of our new book, Optical Illusions: Innovative Designs for the Modern Quilter, we’re highlighting each of the 10 designers who appear in the book. We’re starting with Karen Hansen. Her optical illusion quilt, Surf’s Up, was inspired by experimenting with leftover Bulls-eye blocks. In September, you will be able to see her quilt in Optical Illusions.

Surf's Up detail. Karen used raw edge appliqué to create her optical illusion.

Surf’s Up detail. Karen used raw edge appliqué to create her optical illusion.

Karen started quilting in 2000, quickly transitioning from traditional patterns to designing her own modern and art quilts. She has taught workshops at local shops and guilds, and her work has been published in various books and magazines. Her quilts have won prizes in local shows and have been juried into the American Quilter’s Society show in Paducah, Kentucky. Her commissioned works are displayed in churches and homes.

Karen lives in Overland Park, Kansas, with her husband and three cats. She is a member of the Blue Valley Quilt Guild, Kaw Valley Quilt Guild, Kansas City Modern Guild and Studio Art Quilt Associates.

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Karen Hansen

Karen Hansen

How did you learn to quilt?

I taught myself to sew as a child, making doll clothes on my grandma’s treadle machine and later made many of my own clothes. After attempting to make a quilt later in life (2000), I took a class to learn the correct techniques.

How do you approach quilt design?

I make a very rough sketch and then decide which colors, designs and techniques will best portray the subject or idea I have in mind. Then I pull fabric from my stash and place swatches on my design wall, trying out various patterns. In the case of a geometric design, I usually begin by doodling on graph paper.

Day at the Beach

Day at the Beach

What’s your favorite color to work with?

Over the years, my favorites have changed from more muted colors to pure brights, but some form of teal or turquoise is my default color. It goes well with almost any other color.

Steeples of Light

Steeples of Light

What’s the strangest inspiration you’ve had for a quilt?

I was asked by a church to create four abstract wall quilts depicting the stages of a person’s spiritual journey – Introspection, Enlightenment, the Dark Night of the Soul and Unity with God – to be used as meditation pieces at the church retreat center. Creating them was a challenging and interesting journey in itself.

What was your first modern quilt?

City Surfaces, for the Kandinsky Challenge hosted by the Kansas City Modern Quilt Guild.

City Surfaces

City Surfaces

What drew you to modern quilting?

I like the clean lines and bold colors of the quilts, but I especially enjoy the women in the Kansas City Modern Quilt Guild. It is such fun to see these younger women’s enthusiasm, creativity and developing skills.

How many UFOs do you have right now? (Be honest!)

About a dozen, but some I never plan to finish – I should pass them along.

Ada's Blocks

Ada’s Blocks

What’s the next quilt you plan to make?

In my living room, I have a wall quilt of daylilies I made in a Ruth McDowell class a few years ago. I want to replace it with something more contemporary.

Our next Optical Illustions Q&A:  Melissa Corry, Aug. 27

 

Modern panel quilts?

By Lisa Calle

Lisa Calle

Lisa Calle

Quilt panels are a staple of contemporary quilting – definitely not traditional, but also decidedly “unmodern.” They seem to be the go-to choice for baby quilts and holiday quilts because the oversized panels make for quick quiltmaking and can make quite an impact with large-scale design.

But as more manufacturers and fabric designers go toward the modern end of the spectrum, I’ve noticed a selection of quilt panels popping up that catch my modern-loving eye. And it made me wonder: Can panel quilts ever really be modern?

The new line of modern fabrics from Cotton + Steel, a division of RJR, is making big waves in the modern fabric world. Cotton + Steel’s debut collection includes a panel of handkerchief-style prints by first-time fabric designer Kim Kight. It’s the perfect example of a modern panel that could be used as is – simply treated as a large block of fabric and floated on a larger background of negative space.

Kim Kight Homebody Hankies panel. Image courtesy Cotton + Steel Fabrics, www.cottonandsteelfabrics.com.

Kim Kight Homebody Hankies panel. Image courtesy Cotton + Steel Fabrics, http://www.cottonandsteelfabrics.com.

Carolyn Gavin is a veteran designer with Windham Fabrics whose collection typically features modern, hand-drawn-style florals with bold color palettes. Her latest line, Petite Fleur, includes a panel that could be used as-is, but it also would also benefit from some careful rotary cutting.

arolyn Gavin Petite Fleur panel. Image courtesy Windham Fabrics, www.windhamfabrics.net.

Carolyn Gavin Petite Fleur panel. Image courtesy Windham Fabrics, http://www.windhamfabrics.net.

I confess to having purchased both of these panels (and a few others – I’m experimenting) and I’ve put some thought into how I will use them. There are several approaches to making a panel more modern.

One is to fussy cut and break it up. This is the obvious approach when dealing with a panel that has boxes or squares of prints. Simply treat it as a cheater, and cut it up to use as a focus fabric or sweet little bits of fussy cutting throughout the quilt.

But perhaps an even more interesting approach when dealing with panels without obvious borders between the prints is to simply go the modernist’s favorite route of adding negative space.

panel-quilts-03Adding some simple piecing – bold strips of flying geese, for example – is another way to modernize a basic panel. The simple piecing would, of course, work best with fussy-cut-friendly designs.

Attic Window – House on a Path by Jamie Bazer on Etsy www.etsy.com/listing/39726599/attic-window-house-on-a-path.

Attic Window – House on a Path by Jamie Bazer on Etsy, http://www.etsy.com/listing/39726599/attic-window-house-on-a-path.

In window-frame quilts, quilters take panels that show a landscape or other more photo-realistic scene, cut it up into equal units and add sashing to form window panes. The example above is not necessarily modern, but I can imagine this style with a modern landscape as the background.

I’m a big fan of 1970s wall murals of forests and sunsets, but with the ability to print digitally with companies such as Spoonflower, the sky truly is the limit. Custom digital printing gives all of us the power to turn any high-resolution photo into a panel perfect for your next quilt.

Lisa Calle is a freelance writer who lives in Dallas. She writes every Monday. Visit her at Vintage Modern Quilts.

A new way of looking at things

Need inspiration for your next project? How about an optical illusion?

Optical illusions have long been a part of quiltmaking. There are many examples of traditional blocks and quilts that form all kinds of illusions – tricking the brain into thinking it’s seeing optical illusions coversomething it’s not. Whether it’s the 3-D effect of the Tumbling Block or Kaleidoscope; the dizzying effect of Ocean Waves or Wheel of Mystery; or just the interesting where-does-it-begin-and-end effect of Robbing Peter to Pay Paul and Monkey Wrench, these are all optical illusions quilters are familiar with.

And that was the basis for the idea behind our newest book, Optical Illusions: Innovative Designs for the Modern Quilter.

We challenged nine modern quilters to create a quilt with a strong optical illusion that is distinctively modern. And our designers didn’t let us down. Each put a modern spin on an optical illusion that is are sure to become a classic in its own right.

As a bonus, the venerable Angela Walters contributes advice for quilting optical illusion designs. Her tips, illustrated by quilting throughout the book, will help as you consider how to quilt your next modern quilt.

Join us in the next few weeks as we talk to each of the designers and show you some of their incredible work. Then, in September, we’ll roll out the book and show you each designer’s modern spin on an optical illusion.

 

Thread matters

By Lisa Calle

Lisa Calle

Lisa Calle

Thread is one of those things you learn an awful lot about the longer you sew.

I started out as a garment and home décor sewer, and I was accustomed to using polyester thread, or at least a poly/cotton blend. But once I entered the quilting world, I quickly learned that synthetic materials are frowned upon by a large majority of quilters.

Cotton fabric, cotton batting and cotton thread are the way to go. I’ve often read the advice that you should use the best materials you can afford, and I’ve taken that advice to heart. (Just ask my husband! He’ll vouch for me.) There is even a school of thought among some quilters that polyester thread is just too strong for cotton fabric and will damage and fray the quilt over time.

Not all quilters are against synthetics. Many appliqué artists use monofilament, a clear type of plastic thread that is certainly not from nature. (And it might also earn you the wrath of your sewing repair person, because it can be pretty hard on your tension discs.)

But by and large, cotton is the thread of choice in the quilting crowd. I’ve even found, as I’ve worked my way up the sewing-machine ladder, that the higher-end sewing machines are downright intolerant of certain types of thread. My Pfaff will split thread to the core if all settings are not just so when I’m doing free-motion quilting. Some brands it won’t tolerate at all. Oddly, the German-named brands seem to work just fine for her. My Bernina is a bit more forgiving, and my Singer Featherweight is such a doll that she doesn’t seem to mind any old type of thread.

thread-matters-01Choosing thread is definitely a matter of trial and error. Some do create considerably more lint than others, which you will really notice if you free-motion quilt on your domestic machine. I’ve read that threads made from extra-long staple Egyptian cotton (just like fancy sheets) create less lint.

A dear friend who is a longtime quilter made the switch from cotton to polyester for quilting once she started to use a long arm. She found that after years of working with cotton exclusively, the polyester performed better on the long arm. So type and brand truly do vary by machine.

I’ve been thoroughly converted to all-cotton, and I’ve found that a 50-weight thread is just about perfect for piecing and quilting. My go-to colors are bright white and a pale gray, which seems to blend with just about any fabric I can quilt it over. If I’m feeling like a bit of a show-off, I’ll use a heavier 40-weight to quilt my project, because the heavier thread shows up more and lets the quilting become an extra layer of texture on the finished product.

Light gray thread blends with a white background and prints.

Light gray thread blends with a white background and prints.

There are some controversies and highly debated practices when it comes to thread in the modern quilting world. Variegated thread or even the outright changing of thread colors while quilting are hotly debated topics. Modern purists don’t like to see heavy quilting or thread-color changes. Truth be told, they don’t like much beyond basic straight line quilting, but they will tolerate a very simple allover design.

Not being a purist myself, I like to experiment with quilting designs and thread weights. Mixing hand-quilted perle cotton with machine quilting is one of my favorite looks. And at the end of the day, that’s the wonderful thing about this modern quilting movement. We’re the no-rules quilters.

Lisa Calle is a freelance writer who lives in Dallas. She writes every Monday. Visit her at Vintage Modern Quilts.

Don’t judge me

By Tammie Schaffer

Tammie Schaffer

Tammie Schaffer

Hang around quilters long enough and you’ll hear about the quilt police. Most of the time, they’re invoked in jest, to laugh off a mistake in a quilt. But did you know there are actual quilt police? They are quilt show judges. And they have a tough job.

Maybe you are entering a quilt in a fair for the first time. Or perhaps you want to submit a quilt in one of the QuiltCon 2015 challenge categories. What criteria would you need to meet?

judge1
Each show has a specific set of guidelines. You can see a general example above from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Be sure to review the rules for entry. Most fairs have a stipulation that the quilt must have been completed within the last 12 months.

Some (OK most) quilt shows require an entry fee. Here’s why: Those shows cost money to produce and promote. The organizers might have to rent a space, cover advertising costs, offer prizes, and carry insurance on the event and the quilts. I think it also encourages people to submit their best work.

If you are a first-timer, I would recommend entering a fair. There are generally lots of categories, and depending on the size of the fair, you might not be competing against a lot of other quilts. Sometimes, they have a group just for rookie quilts. The prizes might be small, but it’s a gentle first step. The judges are usually kind, and there’s no fee to enter.

Here’s an example of quilt categories from the 2014 Anderson County Fair in Garnett, Kansas.

judge2Keep in mind that the judges will look at all the components of your quilt. They will determine whether you used accurate seam allowances and whether you cut off any of your points. They will examine the quilting to see that your stitches are consistent and even and whether the stitching enhances the quilt’s design. They will inspect the binding. They will see whether the backing complements the front. If there is appliqué or beading, is it attached correctly and securely?

They are looking for the best of the best, and that requires a lot of elements working together.

Sometimes amazing quilts can be knocked out of a winning spot because of simple things that get overlooked. To improve your chances of success:

•    Be sure your quilt is free of lint and pet hair. That lint roller only works if you actually use it.
•    Trim any loose or stray threads. Look over your quilt two or three times. And don’t forget the back.
•    Do a proper quilter’s knot when you begin and end your quilting. Back-stitching detracts from the quilt’s appearance and can cost you points.
•    Make sure your quilt is clean and fresh. Once the quilt is up for judging, a small stain becomes that much more noticeable.
•    Remove all of your markings.
•    Make sure your quilt lies flat, without waves or distortions. Did you know that the judges measure quilts to determine whether the edges are even and symmetrical.
•    Label your quilt. Some shows require this.

You might ask yourself why would quilters want their work to be inspected so thoroughly? The answer is that it’s a wonderful chance to get constructive criticism about your quilts, and it can help pinpoint areas where you could improve. For me, that would be the corners of my binding. I can rarely get that perfect miter.

Photo courtesy Cathy Heck

Photo courtesy Cathy Heck

Prizes are another incentive to enter quilts in shows and fairs. The top quilt often goes home not only with a prize ribbon but also with a cash prize. At QuiltCon 2015, best in show will receive $5,000.  There are more than $10,000 in prizes, with lots of categories, such as improvisation and modern traditionalism. A complete list is on the QuiltCon site.

If you’ve made a quilt you love, don’t be afraid to show it off. Even if you know it won’t pass inspection by the quilt police, odds are it will make you smile to see it on display.

And for some insights into being a judge, read My Stars executive editor Jenifer Dick’s blog about serving as a quilt judge at her country fair.

Tammie Schaffer is a freelance writer who lives in Richmond, Kansas. She writes every other Friday. Visit her at craftytammie.