QuiltCon 2019: Show Recap

I had the privilege of attending QuiltCon 2019 in Nashville last month. Now that I’ve had some time to re-integrate into reality, I’ve put together a recap of my first-ever quilt show experience!

Mary Fons, editor of QuiltFolk, starts a tour of the Sherri Lynn Wood exhibit.

From the moment I set foot in the registration lineup, I knew that I was amongst my people. I belong to a number of communities, but as with many other subcultures, there is a way that quilters are that no one else understands. I was warmly welcomed by people whom I have never met or had any pre-existing relationship with. Any awkwardness of “Um, I don’t know you,” is thrown by the wayside and you are automatically called “friend.” I know this is not true of all quilt shows, but I certainly felt this sentiment at QuiltCon. To quilt is a need that resides deep within us: It keeps us sane, afloat, human, and adds so much value to our lives. This as a common denominator is the start-up of friendship.

Lectures

I had a show lecture pass so I could pop into any and all of the lectures that were ongoing. I took away a lot from each: Mary Fons, Sherri Lynn Wood, Heidi Parkes, Ginny Robinson, Sarah Bond, Megan Callahan. I was thoroughly moved by Mary Fons lecture, “The ‘F’ Word: Why Quilters Don’t Talk about Feminism.” Her sensitivity and  in approaching a potentially contentious topic was admirable. She remarked that as a quilting community, we have built a “safe space” — so why can’t we talk about ideology and differences in our belief systems? 

Mary Fons: “The ‘F’ Word: Why Don’t Quilters Talk About Feminism?”

Sherri Lynn Wood’s keynote lecture traced, in reverse chronological order, her trajectory as an artist. At the time of the lecture, she was in a creatively stagnant phase, having not produced any work for about six months. This was comforting to hear — not every moment of every day can be creative and productive. Not even every week or month. Her stories were what I needed to hear. Every artist’s journey is long. The long-game is where the magic happens. A special exhibit of her work was on display and it was great to see the work both before and after hearing her speak about it.

Silver Lining by Sherri Lynn Wood

I had the opportunity to jump in on a guided tour of some quilts by Mary Fons before the show floor opened on the last day of the conference. She walked us through the Childress Collection exhibit (Marjorie Childress is a prominent collector of antique quilts) and Sherri Lynn Wood’s work. As Mary started taking about SLW’s work, the artist herself was lurking about taking photos of the exhibit! She end up taking over the tour and we got to hear from the artist herself about her residency at the Recology Centre in San Francisco, where she made everything and gathered all her tools from a dump. 

Sherri Lynn Wood and Mary Fons

Classes

Beginner Lino Printing with Karen Lewis

I banked them all of my workshops together on Thursday and Friday to free up my Saturday and Sunday to walk the floor and meet with people. I took a wide range of classes including “How to Quilt a Minimal Quilt” with Season Evans, “Beginner Lino Printing” with Karen Lewis, “Improv Applique Curves” with Nydia Kehnle, and “Quilting Mashup” with Sarah Thomas. I was so excited to meet all four of these artists/designers and learn such diverse skills. Some people space out their workshops so they have sufficient energy to give to them. Not me! I could have taken workshops all day, everyday. In fact my Friday was three workshops, three hours each and I felt like I could keep going…

My first longarm class – Quilting Mashup with Sarah Thomas a.k.a. Sariditty

Exhibits

There were so many wonderful quilts to see. With over 300 on the floor, it truly was an inspiration. There were two that I was dying to see in person, and they didn’t disappoint:

Something’s Are Not Easily Seen: Poverty by Kathryn Upitis
Hunt by Carolyn Friedlander. The careful craftsmanship of this quilt up close was perfection.

Among the Youth Category, there were many social justice quilts coming out of the Social Justice Sewing Academy. I had a fly-by greeting with fellow HGSE alumna Sarah Trail, who heads up this organization. As a creative person, I want to see other people see themselves as creative, especially young people. Because when you can say, “I create,” it means that you have a voice. You have agency. You can make change and not just consume what is available to you.

Activist ABCs by Bianca Mercado, Social Justice Sewing Academy. 1st Place, Youth Category.

I also love this quilt by Zoe Sutters, who started when she was four. She won a 3rd Place ribbon for this work (she’s now six!):

The City Zoo by Zoe Sutters. 3rd Place, Youth Category.

One of the most rewarding things was to watch artists talk to attendees, just by happenstance. They were like impromptu artist talks. I was walking around with Laura Preston of Vacilando Quilting Co. and these teenagers were admiring her quilt. I had the opportunity to say, “Here’s the artist – talk to her about it!” 

Laura Preston of Vacilando Quilting Co. talking to some young show attendees.

This happened again with Karen Bolan, who’s intriguing 3D flying geese had everyone wondering, “How’d she do that??” Karen showed us and then again, I jumped at the chance to say to the next spectators, “Talk to the artist about it! She’s right here!”

Karen Bolan talking about her Folded Flyers.

Some trends that I noticed:

Trend #1: Straight line quilting, which may be a marker of modern quilting at this point!

One of my favourites with straight line quilting: Catching Modern Dreams by Stephanie Ruyle. 3rd Place, Piecing Category.

Trend #2: Curves. In the words of Libs Elliott, “curves are the new HST.”

Modern Times by master of curves, Jenny Haynes.
3rd Place, Modern Traditionalism Category.

Trend #3: Tiny Piecing. Kitty Wilkin is a master of tiny piecing and her 100 Days project and new sampler pattern highlight this skill.

100 Days of Sew Smaller by Kitty Wilkin, Special Exhibit.
(I’m not touching it, just holding my hand up to it for scale.)

And here is the Best in Show – a group quilt headed up by Leanne Chahley (@shecanquilt):

Smile by Leanne Chahley with Stephanie Ruyle, Felicity Ronaghan, Kari Vojtechovsky, Melissa Ritchie, Diane Stanley, Marci Debetaz, Debbie Jeske, Karen Foster, Hillary Goodwin

Charity Quilts

Here are our guild members in front of our charity quilt:

Inset by the Maritime MQG.
L to R: Gillian Noonan, Shelly Stephen, Julie Delnegro, me.

There were so very many of these wonderful collaborative pieces. Amongst my favourites was the Brisbane MQG’s quilt, which acknowledges the indigenous owners of the land on which they now reside.

Brisbane River Dreaming by the Brisbane MQG

Craft South

Lastly, I had the opportunity to attend a live podcast recording at Craft South. Stephanie Kendron interviewed superstars Anna-Maria Horner, Kim Eichler-Messmer, Tula Pink, Sarah Nishiura, and Carolyn Friedlander. It was an inspiring experience, to say the least. You can read all about my experience on the Craft Industry Alliance blog

“The path is less important than keeping on going,” said Horner. “And if it stops making sense, stop doing it.”

— Anna-Maria Horner
Modern Sewciety podcast host Stephanie Kendron with Anna-Maria Horner, Kim Eichler-Messmer, Tula Pink, Sarah Nishiura, and Carolyn Friedlander. Photo courtesy of Jenni Smith.

Listen to the podcasts here:

Live Modcast from Craft South: Heidi Parkes & Tara Faughnan

Live Modcast from Craft South: Denyse Schmidt, Sarah Bond & Sherri Lynn Woods

Live Modcast from Craft South: Sarah Nishiura, Anna-Maria Horner & Kim Eichler-Messmer

Live Modcast from Craft South: Carolyn Friedlander & Tula Pink


I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn from my peers at this conference. My attendance at this conference was made possible through a professional development grant through Arts Nova Scotia.

Our Song II – A Collaborative Quilt

As the crowdfunding campaign for Our Song, Your Reflection was unfolding in May and June of this year, I asked a few quilting friends — new and old! — to each make a star block. It could be paper pieced from the original pattern, their own star invention, or a traditional block. With each block, I asked them to share what community means to them. While there was wonderful diversity in their star blocks, it was clear that all of them greatly valued their communities as vital to their quilting practice. Support, inclusion, encouragement, and connection were key words that came up again and again.

Our Song II – a collaborative quilt.

Read about each individual block in “What Does Community Mean to You?” Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.

Everyone sent their blocks to me and I had a great pile of happy mail to open from across Canada, the United States, Switzerland, and Australia. And there was one more block to add before I embarked on putting them altogether into one quilt – mine. I chose a traditional friendship star – such simplicity and expression in this little block. The friendship star ended up “leading” the swan in the final design.

I had given the participants a small range of colours to choose from and the subtle variety in colour was a wonderful challenge to assemble into a cohesive whole. I was pretty scared at first, but I finally had to jump in and learned that the only scary thing about this project was the jumping in! I found my process was the most painterly experience I’ve had in my quilting life. (I felt a bit like Neil Buchanan from Art Attack! Remember that show?) As you can see, I used a wide variety of solid scraps to blend the colours together. There was a modularity to the grid of the design – the blocks measured 2″ x 6″ or 6″ x 6″ finished, which allowed me to use standard 2 1/2″ strips to do some filling in.

What was important to the creation of this quilt was laying it out on the floor instead of on a design wall. This gave me the option to casually drop a crumpled mess of fabric to fade the colours into one another. I found this to be a really creative and invigorating process after a loss in “sewjo” over the summer.

The inclusion of a swan was an obvious reference to the original Our Song, Your Reflection quilt, but without the lone star behind it. I’m happy announce that I will be releasing this 20″ swan block as a separate pattern – one that is less daunting than the whole Our Song pattern. It will be released on Oct. 11, 2018 as the “Our Song Swan”! Stay tuned.

For the water that the swan sat on, I used triangular scraps from the first #oursongquilt to signify the otherwise calm water being disturbed by the swan’s presence. These little bits also helped the colours transition from blue to yellow-green.

Straight-line quilting was all I had the time for and I took a bit of a risk — I used a 28wt Aurifil thread in a peachy colour (2315). It’s a heavier weight of thread than I’m comfortable using so I crossed my fingers that it would look OK and not be too obvious.

I used the same type of blending method for the binding. A handful of colours to continue the design of the quilt right to the edge rather than to frame it.

The backing was a bit of an unconventional choice – Carolyn Friedlander’s Snake in Ash from her Gleaned collection. There was no clear connection colour-wise to the front of the quilt, but the design spoke “feathers” to me (rather than snake!) so I found it to be fitting.

I’d like to thank the following people for lending their time and energy to this project. What a joy you were to work with!
Alyce Blyth of Blossom Heart Quilts
Mathew Boudreaux, Mister Domestic
Shannon Fraser of Shannon Fraser Designs
Krista Henneberry of Poppyprint
Lisa Hoffman-Maurer of Sew What You Love
Adrienne Klenck of Seam Work
HollyAnne Knight of String & Story
Stacey O’Malley of SLOstudio
Kim Soper of Leland Ave Studios
Silvia Sutters, A Stranger View
Julia Wentzell of Briar Hill Designs
Kitty Wilkin, Night Quilter
Your Reflection, by Meaghan Smith from the Our Song, Your Reflection project. Keep an eye out for Our Song II at the end!

Part 3: What Does Community Mean to You?

This is the third instalment of people in our community sharing their ideas of what community means to them. Through the Our Song, Your Reflection project, I wanted to share stories of how community has helped, influenced, transformed the work and lives of quilters/artists/businesspeople. I invited a some to make star blocks and tell us their story. I will be assembling these blocks into a collaborative quilt later this summer.

HollyAnne Knight of String & Story says, “I love that the quilting world still lives by the wisdom that ‘many hands make light work.'”

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Andrea over at @3rdstoryworkshop is in the middle of an amazing community project and asked me to share my reflections on the quilting community. ✨ I love that the quilting world still lives by the wisdom that “many hands make light work.” I see that in our community’s immense generosity (you might remember that I also interviewed Andrea just last week over @quiltsforcure about childhood cancer) and even in my recent undertaking: #summerstashbustingchallenge (talk about people coming out of the woodwork to cheer for each other and make progress together!). In short, dear quilters, you are amazing and encouraging folk! 💗 ✨Here’s a bit more about Andrea’s project: "A collaboration between Andrea @3rdstoryworkshop and songwriter @themeaghansmith, #oursongquilt celebrates community and the passions that connect us. You can get the song, pre-order the quilt pattern and fabric kit, get limited-edition swag (enamel pin!), and share your community's story in the music video through this project! Link in @3rdstoryworkshop profile." ✨Bonus: if you’re interested in foundation paper piecing (the technique I used to stitch this little block), just hop over to my blog for a new post! 💃🏽 (Link in profile)

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Pat Sloan, an established leader in the quilting community, says,  “The community of quilters uplifting each other is strong and we are more mighty because of it. I can not even count the number of designers, industry folk and quilters that have become my family, my community.”

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Have you every had a year where a theme seems to be coming up over and over again? That has been my year. It’s like the moon & the stars have aligned and my life this year is celebrating community. In January my husband and I celebrated our 18th year running our small family design business. We took a leap of faith, left the corporate world and hung out our shingle. That first leap would not have been possible without community. I had quilters introduce me to people in the business in the late 1990’s. I had shops help me by supporting my work. As I have gone along through the years, I have found that the stories and the work of others inspires me. The community of quilters uplifting each other is strong and we are more mighty because of it. I can not even count the number of designers, industry folk and quilters that have become my family, my community. When Andrea of @3rdstoryworkshop told me about her collaboration project with songwriter @themeaghansmith, and how it celebrates community and the passions that connect us, I got goosebumps. I’m thrilled to share it so you can get in on the fun! I made this unit to send to her… Swipe to see her amazing quilt❤️ Andrea and I will chat on my Podcast Monday June 18 and she’ll tell me how this came about. You can learn about it, get the song, pre-order the quilt pattern and fabric kit, + get limited-edition swag (enamel pin!), and share your community's story in the music video. Click on the link in her profile at @3rdstoryworkshop so you can join in #oursongquilt!" , . Psstt..I have a confession…. I might have bought a kit.. because I seriously believe in community and this quilt is AMAZING. Andrea is collection blocks to use in another quilt and I’m shipping mine off to her. . . . #community #quiltersofinstagram

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Lisa Hoffman-Maurer states it simply:

Lysa Flower talks about how she dreamed of being a part of a movement, and then found quilters.

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@lysaflower reflects: "As I sewed my blocks, I thought about my community. I remember in art school, sitting in Art History, learning about the different movements. I longed for something like that. Artists meeting in cafes, encouraging each other, discussing different techniques, sharing information, swapping pieces of art work… . Jump ahead to 2010. A little tweet about the @vancouvermqg starting up landed in my lap. Shortly after that I co-founded the @fvmqg… and as luck would have it I'd have the chance to almost yearly visit the @lamqg. I've traveled twice to @themqg #quiltcon and to @quiltmarket. I had no idea back then I was joining a movement, all I knew is I wanted to PLAY! And this doesn't even include the huge community on @Instagram! . I'm so grateful for each community and the unique people in them. I'm grateful for the ALL the things they've taught me, their humour, their encouragement, their talent and their friendship.” . Thank you for sharing, Lysa! . #oursongquilt #quiltersofinstagram #quiltingcommunity #quilt #quilts #modernquilts

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Krista Henneberry of Poppyprint has become a human connector through the work that she does. I’m so glad I met her last year; she has become a mentor to me.

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I made this sweet little twinkly star block for @3rdstoryworkshop ‘s #oursongquilt project (more info below). Swipe to see her beautiful quilt design. I met Andrea & other members of the @_maritimemqg last year in Halifax while on a teaching tour. They certainly represent a fun, positive quilting community! ⭐️⭐️⭐️ What does the quilting community mean to me? Well, that’s a very long list. This community is where I create, work, relax, travel, learn, teach, share, collaborate, volunteer and organize. It’s where I feel supported, understood and appreciated. Through my retreat business, teaching and guild affiliations, I’ve found a secondary calling as a human connector; I enjoy watching personal & professional relationships flourish after I’ve made introductions and appreciate when others do the same for me. ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ A collaboration between Andrea @3rdstoryworkshop and songwriter @themeaghansmith, #oursongquilt celebrates community and the passions that connect us. You can get the song, pre-order the quilt pattern and fabric kit, get limited-edition swag (enamel pin!), and share your community's story in the music video through this project! Link in @3rdstoryworkshop profile. #aurifilartisan #aurifil

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Part 2: What Does Community Mean to You?

A few more people in our community share their ideas of what community means to them. Through the Our Song, Your Reflection project, I wanted to share stories of how community has helped, influenced, transformed the work and lives of quilters/artists/businesspeople. I invited a some to make star blocks and tell us their story. I will be assembling these blocks into a collaborative quilt later this summer.

But first, we could not talk about quilting and community and not talk about our local quilt shops (LQS). They are a meeting place. This is mine, Patch Halifax.

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What's your LQS (for non-quilters, local quilt shop)? I'm sure it has built community around you, like it has for me. This is Chris; she owns my local quilt shop @patchhalifax. We are colleagues. We are friends. She is part of my community. . "I will be eternally grateful for the friendships that have grown within the quilting and sewing community @patchhalifax. I certainly feel like my life has become much happier because of those friendships, but it's also been such a joy to watch other people develop and grow friendships after having shared in the experience of making. I will never forget when two of my dearest quilty friends each told me separately that they were hanging out with the other for a quilting date and it was like watching a pair of teens start dating. So. Much. Joy." . In partnership with Chris, we're able to offer kits for #oursongquilt. Pre-order yours here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/our-song-your-reflection-love-community/x/18098535#/ . Photo: @emmapoliquin . #community #quiltingcommunity #quiltersofinstagram #sewist #sewistsunite

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From Shannon Fraser of Shannon Fraser Designs: “It warms my heart to know that we continue to lift one another up in our individual creative journeys. I’m amazed at the talent we have and our willingness to share our learnings.”

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You know how much I love our community, so when Andrea of @3rdstoryworkshop invited me to help support her new Our Song, Your Reflection project – a collaboration between herself and songwriter @themeaghansmith that focuses on celebrating the importance of community and the passions that connect us – I was totally in! . The lovely connections I’ve made with friends who just get me, the support and encouragement I’ve received and the kindness I’ve seen shared are just some of the reasons I adore being a part of our community. It truly is a place of #communityovercompetition and it warms my heart to know that we continue to lift one another up in our individual creative journeys. I’m amazed at the talent we have and our willingness to share our learnings. It just brightens my day that I’ve found my creative home – I just wish I could hang with more of you in person. Plus, where else can we go to talk about our love of fabric without someone getting that glazed over look in their eyes?! 😉💕 . This stunning star is one element of the gorgeous #oursongquilt Andrea designed (swipe for a full picture of the quilt). You can get the song, pre-order the quilt pattern and fabric kit, get limited-edition swag (enamel pin!), and share your community's story in the music video through this project! Link in @3rdstoryworkshop profile. . #quiltingcommunityisawesome

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From Mathew Boudreaux of Mister Domestic: “To me, the quilting community is an utopia of acceptance and inclusion, where uniqueness and individuality are celebrated. You do you absolutely. ”

From Kim Soper of Leland Ave Studios: “Does a craft make us more compassionate? I truly believe it does, and here is why: we all feel a need to belong to something greater than ourselves.”

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You guys are really special. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year through your words, your generosity, and your interviews — it’s that the quilting community is full of amazing, wonderful people. That’s why I gladly said “yes” when Andrea Tsang Jackson @3rdstoryworkshop asked me to participate in her project Our Song, Your Reflection – a collaborative effort between herself and songwriter @themeaghansmith, celebrating community and the connections we build through our crafts. One of the questions I ask in #TheCreativityProject2018 is whether or not having a craft makes us more compassionate. I truly believe it does, and here is why: we all feel a need to belong to something greater than ourselves. We all want to feel that our lives mean something, and that we are contributing to this world in a meaningful way. Having a craft, and being a part of a crafting community, is a way to create that connection to something beyond ourselves. When we are connected in community by something that we pour our hearts and souls into, we are connected in a powerful and meaningful way. Having that meaning in our lives gives us the courage to be present for others and gives us the love and self-value that we can then pass on to others. Without craft, and the crafting community, there would be less connection and less compassion in the world. I truly believe this. This is the 6.5 inch star that I made as part of the collaborative quilt Andrea is going to compile to accompany the #oursongquilt. You can see a full picture of the original quilt if you swipe right. And if you go to the link in Andrea’s profile @3rdstoryworkshop you can get the song, pre-order the pattern, purchase a fabric kit to make the quilt, and so much more. #bettertogether #creativelifehappylife #modernquilting #quilting #quiltingcommunity #lelandavestudios #3rdstoryworkshop #community #whyiquilt #whyicreate #makersofinstagram

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Stay tuned for more odes to community. This is Our Song.

Part 1: What Does Community Mean to You?

Through the Our Song, Your Reflection project, I wanted to share stories of how community has helped, influenced, transformed the work and lives of quilters/artists/businesspeople. I invited a few people to make star blocks, specific to the #oursongquilt design or their own take on it, and tell us a bit about what their community means to them. I’m so inspired! I will be assembling these blocks into a collaborative quilt later this summer.

From Alyce Blyth of Blossom Heart Quilts: “I know that for me, the quilting community means everything! It’s brought me lifelong friendships with other creatives who understand this passion to create, and as an introvert, having such a meaningful way to connect with other people has opened up the world to me.”

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When Andrea of @3rdstoryworkshop asked me to be involved in her new project, I was thrilled! I was (and still am) rather obsessed with her Elsewhere Bee quilt, so I'm honoured to be included in her new collaborative project with songwriter @themeaghansmith and make this block for #oursongquilt. ✨ The project celebrates community and the passions that connect us. I know that for me, the quilting community means everything! It's brought me lifelong friendships with other creatives who understand this passion to create, and as an introvert, having such a meaningful way to connect with other people has opened up the world to me! 💫 To find out all about this amazing project that involves a quilt (swipe to see the quilt!!), pattern, a song, and swag (hello, enamel pin!) and more, check out the link in @3rdstoryworkshop profile.

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From Stacey O’Malley of SLOstudio:  “I started making quilts in 2014, when I had moved far away from family and friends. Finding the quilting community – both online and in real life through guilds – has brought me many friends, inspiration and motivation – the community has been a network of support and encouragement for sure!”

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I made this ✨ star block to participate in a new project that Andrea @3rdstoryworkshop launched last week – the #oursongquilt which celebrates our community. 💖 . . I started making quilts in 2014, when I had moved far away from family and friends. Finding the quilting community – both online and in real life through guilds – has brought me many friends, inspiration and motivation – the community has been a network of support and encouragement for sure! Thank you ☺️💖! . . . Andrea collaborated with songwriter @themeaghansmith to create the #oursongquilt ➡️ swipe for the pic of the beautiful lone star swan quilt! You can pre-order the quilt pattern, hear the song and share your story in the music video through this project! Check out the link in @3rdstoryworkshop profile for all the details. #quilting

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From my local pal and fabric designer, Julia Wentzell of Briar Hill Designs: “This project is about having a community/tribe/chosen family, where we feel like we belong, and we all lift one another.”

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✨✨What does having community mean to you? Two friends of mine have collaborated on a special project! I met Andrea through the @_maritimemqg and we easily became friends. @themeaghansmith and I have been friends for 20 years, and I’ve always admired her big heart and incredible songwriting skills. They’ve collaborated on a project where Andrea’s quilt and Meaghan’s song speak of the same message- Having a community/tribe/chosen family, where we feel like we belong, and we all lift one another. Except for my University days which, (I’ve said this before) was like a fairy tale, I’ve spent most of 3 decades sewing solo. Choosing to join the Maritime MQG, teaching @patchhalifax and sewing with friends @seam_work have been such a delight for me. Being with people with the same passion makes easy friends, (friends who totally feel your pain when you need to use a stitch ripper, or the joy of perfect points, #amiright ?) That’s what the message of Andrea’s quilt, and Meaghan’s song are -seeing your reflection in the light of another. Check out @3rdstoryworkshop feed for more info. 💛 #oursongquilt #igquiltcommunity #quiltyfriends #quiltyfriendsarethebest #quilt #quiltblock #community #shininglikeastar

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From local business owner and quilting teacher Adrienne Klenck of Seam Work: “As I taught others to make quilts I saw that I have a strength that I did not know I had — I’m a good teacher! In classes I started to see my passion for making and what it does for me (it soothes my depressed mind in more ways than I can count) in the reflection of others and it made my heart sing.”

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Andrea @3rdstoryworkshop and songwriter Meaghan Smith, have collaborated on a project that celebrates community and the passions that connect us. Our Song, Your reflection has really got me thinking about community. I used to be a solitary sewer but that all changed five years ago. I started the @_maritimemqg and then started teaching @patchhalifax All of a sudden I had found my people! My new community was made of up strong and inspiring men and women who all spoke my language, the language of making and doing for others. This was inspiring enough, but then something else happened, as I taught others to make quilts I saw that I have a strength that I did not know I had, I’m a good teacher! In classes I stared to see my passion for making and what it does for me (it sooths my depressed mind in more ways than I can count) in the reflection of others and it made my heart sing. That song gave me the courage to open Seam Work with the dream of making that generous community even just a little bit bigger! Check out @3rdstoryworkshop feed for more info. 💛 #oursongquilt #igquiltcommunity #quiltyfriends #quiltyfriendsarethebest #quilt #quiltblock #community #shininglikeastar

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From Kitty Wilkin (a.k.a. NIght Quilter): “What would life be without the ability to create beauty, inspire others, collaborate to help make the world a more beautiful, peaceful, and nurturing place for all, and to share in the wonder and beauty of the natural world with like-minded people!?”

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60/100 of #100daysofsewsmaller for #the100dayproject is a miniaturized #oursongquilt block, along with its regular sized friend. A while back, Andrea @3rdstoryworkshop asked if I would want to participate in a project celebrating our community of makers, and of course my answer was a resounding yes! ✨I'm grateful to have found this wonderful community of quilters, since living in rural Maine, there aren't any guilds that meet near enough to me to make it possible for me to attend as a mom of little ones. When I began my blog NightQuilter and later joined Instagram, I was newly a mom of 2 (and now 3!) and the few minutes I spent quilting and creating each day helped feed my creative soul and keep me sane. Being able to connect with other quilters was such a lifeline in those wee hours of the sleepless nights, and now I consider many of those early quilty connections my dearest friends. What would life be without the ability to create beauty, inspire others, collaborate to help make the world a more beautiful, peaceful, and nurturing place for all, and to share in the wonder and beauty of the natural world with like-minded people!? I'm so happy to have found my tribe, and I'm happy to help spread the word about this project that celebrates community and the passions that connect us.💕 . A collaboration between Andrea @3rdstoryworkshop and songwriter @themeaghansmith, #oursongquilt celebrates just that–community and the passions that connect us. You can get the song, pre-order the quilt pattern and fabric kit, get limited-edition swag (enamel pin!), and share your community's story in the music video through this project! Link in @3rdstoryworkshop ‘s profile. 💕 . Swipe to see the full quilt created by Andrea, and visit the link in @3rdstoryworkshop 's profile to find out more!✨ . I love this photo of big and little… the large 2”x6” Our Song Quilt star block with the shrunken 1 1/4” block paired with the big and little spools of @aurifilthread (1148-Light Jade) that perfectly match the Capri Kona cotton by @robertkaufman I used for the blocks. 😍💎✨ . #sewsmaller #the100dayproject2018 #quiltingcommunity #aurifilthread #matchymatchy #bigandlittle

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“Irrational”: In Our Own Words Quilt

On International Women’s Day of this year, Kim Soper of Leland Ave. Studios kicked off a project called the “In Our Own Words” quilt: “We are workers, caretakers, survivors and creators who deserve to have our voices heard and our merits celebrated. We are strong, powerful, beautiful, talented, kickass… the list is endless.”

The word “irrational” has been used as a way to describe women in modern sexism. She’s emotional, she’s hormonal, she’s irrational, she’s crazy. For centuries, we’ve prioritize rationality over all else. We see rationality as a superior way to live. These have led to many amazing scientific discoveries and many other benefits to the world. But what have we lost by holding so firmly to reason?

I am an intuitive person. I come to ideas holistically. I can often feel that something is right, whether it’s quilt related,an outfit combo, or even a moral choice. With my quilt block, I want to re-appropriate the word “irrational”. I have really come to embrace the way I think. I’m wired to see a big vision and then figure out how that vision fits all the smaller parameters of the problem at hand after. It’s not totally irrational, but it’s not rational either.

I love hand lettering, so I welcomed the chance to figure out how to stitch my word. I’m not the most experienced at embroidery, so I drew out the 3.5″ x 6.5″ block on a larger piece of Kona white and used an embroidery hoop to help keep my fabric taut. Using a back stitch for the thinner parts of the letters and a chain stitch for the broader part of the “brush stroke.”

Back of the block

I had a professor in my first year of undergrad affirm that intuition was a legitimate way to come to a design solution. This felt completely foreign to me — someone telling me that it was okay to have a conclusion based on a vision rather than a well-laid argument that was synthesized. She went on to say that “post-rationalization” was ok. Why was this post-rationalization step necessary, after she told me that my design work was legit the way it was? I’ve come to understand it better in the many years that have passed since that conversation.

When I’m communicating or teaching, these are times when an emotion or intuition needs to be explained. If I’m trying to have someone else understand what I’m doing or how I’m feeling, I need to be able to explain it to them. If I’m trying to appeal to their rational understanding rather than their emotional empathy, I need to show them what I mean.

For example, I have a way of putting colours together,I’m told. Like many others, I just do it without thinking. But if I’m teaching students how to put colours together, I have to rationalize it so they can understand it. I can’t give them my intuition; I can only give them tools and a process to think through what they’re doing. In giving them that understanding and equipping them with tools, they can eventually do it on their own.

My block says this: I like being irrational. It makes me me. It makes humans human. We’re not robots or algorithms. We are human.

Our Song, Your Reflection

I have teamed up with award-winning songwriter and musician Meaghan Smith to create Our Song, Your Reflectiona celebration of community through music and quilting. The project gets to the core of what makes us tick as creatives — connecting people and connecting with people through our art. The project is structured as a crowdfunding campaign that invites contributors to be a part of the “Your Reflection” music video, to increase offerings associated with the release of the song and the quilt pattern, and to celebrate the “us” in our communities.

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Flying Buttresses

American Patchwork and Quilting’s Challenge for QuiltCon 2018 was Flying Geese. The prompt asked participants to modernize a traditional flying geese block with any variation, and make it into a modern quilt using modern quilting elements. Finished quilts could be any size. That is a generously open challenge!

As artists, we often stare at blank canvases or design walls and think, “I want to create, but where do I start?” I love prompts like these that have a clear starting point, where a solution and a finished quilt are required (and a deadline is attached!).

For those of you wondering what “modernizing” could mean, here is a non-exhaustive list that the challenge suggested:
  • Using modern color palettes including high contrast and graphic areas
  • Improvisational piecing
  • Minimalism
  • Expansive negative space
  • Alternate grid work
  • Scale

To me, in the broadest sense, modern quilting allows you to break any and all of the rules you might associate with the craft. I used what could be considered a “modern colour palette” – a monochromatic neutral scheme in grayscale. For the challenge, I wanted to create flying geese without constructing any flying geese blocks. I have always been fascinated with origami and how two-dimensions can become three through folds. Pin tucks achieve this in fashion but, not being a garment sewist, I never had a reason to try them. When you pull pin tucks in a certain way, you can get triangles that look like a flying geese.

For months, I had it in my head to make flying geese this way and even did some test in June. But with the busyness of the following months, I didn’t have time to work on it. On Instagram , some of you saw bits of the quilt come together at the eleventh hour. I started it 10 days before the QuiltCon deadline. I hemmed and hawed about starting it so late in the game, but I decided to take the plunge. There were many pieces in 2017 that I made for clients, or out of obligation, or in servitude to a pattern design. But this one was just about exploring new ideas, trying out some new techniques, and developing myself as an artist.

I didn’t have time to take the exploration much further than a very regular rhythm of geese in a row, but the final design was about flying buttresses in Gothic cathedrals with referred to another fabric manipulation in quilting — cathedral windows. I looked at a lot of historic architectural drawings of cathedrals and the design of the Flying Buttresses quilt reflects that aesthetic.

I tried to keep the overall layout simple. This was my first attempt at quilt-as-you-go panels. I constructed a row of geese in a strip with batting and backing attached right away. Then using strips of darker fabrics, I joined the panels together. It was a bit messy, but I ventured forward anyway, being mindful of my time.

I’m happy to say that this 25” x 24” piece will hang in the Flying Geese Challenge category at QuiltCon 2018 in Pasadena.

A Hamilton Bundle for the Design Star Challenge

Round 3 of the Stash Fabrics Design Star Challenge is on, and I picked a relatively personal subject this time. Beth at Stash Fabrics gave us the prompt of “Man Quilt.” What immediately came to mind was plaid, navy, forest green, taupe and brown. Totally legitimate choices, but not my style. She went on to explain, “Curate a bundle for the man in your life – brother, father, husband.” I don’t get overly personal here at 3rd Story Workshop, but when the prompt asks you to think about a significant person in your life, it gets personal!

My husband is not one to have strong likes or dislikes. He’s not loud. He’s quiet and unassuming. But one thing that he is very passionate about is… Hamilton, An American Musical. He knows all of the words — all 20,520 of them. He has a Hamilton quote for every situation. He has listened to it every second he is in the car without the kids for the last two-and-a-half years (explicit lyrics!). We had the privilege of going to see it this past summer at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. It was a mind-blowing experience — as a friend described, “Exactly what art should be.” The costumes, the emotions, the innovation, the limits that were pushed in terms of casting, convention, staging and choreography… It was so much more than I could have imagined having listened to the soundtrack.

This bundle is inspired by the themes, songs and characters of the story. Some of the elements include writing with a quill and ink, New York City, graffiti, cobbletones, The Schuyler Sisters, battles, guns and ships, and It’s Quiet Uptown. I would make a quilt for him with these fabrics in a heartbeat.

Here’s the “set list” (L to R, top to bottom):

I really wanted to make the colour palette have personal significance as well. Our home is fairly neutral, above is a shot of our bedroom which was featured in The Coast’s 2017 Homes Halifax publication. Black, white, texture, wood. I searched for fabrics that could interpret the themes in a colour palette that would suit our home. The Stash Fabrics “Design Wall” tool is very useful in helping you visualize a bundle together, but weights them all equally in dimension. I would probably use the brighter colours in smaller quantities in proportion to the black and white.

My work is intentionally separate from most other parts of my life. Through this exercise, I was able to connect my quilting to my husband, who is outside this quilting world.

Quilt Charrette, No. 1

When I was in architecture school eons ago, I participated in the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s annual student “Charrette” competition. It was a weekend-long intensive project that called for little sleep and fun times with my comrades. My team never won.

The term “charrette” comes from the word for cart in French. According to Wikipedia, “its use in the sense of design and planning arose in the 19th century at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where it was not unusual at the end of a term for teams of student architects to work right up until a deadline, when a charrette would be wheeled among them to collect up their scale models and other work for review. Their continued working furiously to apply the finishing touches came to be referred to as working en charrette, ‘in the cart.’” I remember that feeling of intensity and  pressure – clock ticking, adrenaline rushing.

Last weekend, I spent a day at White Point Beach Resort in Queens County, Nova Scotia with my favourite quilty people of the Maritime Modern Quilt Guild. I packed some “work” — commissioned work and projects for my upcoming Halifax Crafters Spring Market, and then I packed some scraps for a to-be-determined “fast and fun” project when I got bored with the obligatory list. I would give myself an hour or an hour-and-a-half to deal with the bag of scraps: a quilt charrette. This time though, my charrette was self-imposed and the stakes were however high I wanted to make them.

The scrappy strips are cuts from squaring up fabric after I prewash it. They live in a plastic grocery bag in a bottom drawer; I’ve photographed them here in a lovely acrylic box to spare you the reality. There are many colours in that bag, so I picked an assortment of teals and off-whites, many of which show up in my Emerald Gemology pillow and wall hanging. I also brought along a small chunk of off-white.

My friend Jeannette of Seam Work is running a charity project this year to furnish each of the 72 residents’ rooms at Glasgow Hall Long-Term Care Facility with a handmade pillow. At best, this would be an item I could replicate and attempt to sell at a craft market or in my shop; at worst, a lovely resident at Glasgow Hall would have some colour and cheer in their room. The parameters for my quick project were now set:

  • Limited colour palette (teals, off-white)
  • 16” x 16” pillow cover
  • Gender neutral, to suit any female or male resident of the care facility
  • Time limit: 1.5 hours

I improv-pieced the strips together as fast as possible, cutting strips and further dividing them if I found the scale to be too big for the overall effect. Once I developed a composition wide enough to accommodate the pillow size, I joined it up with the chunk of off-white. Voilà, a landscape. I saw fields; most of my Maritime-inclined peers saw waves.

The sky called for some cloudy treatment, so I sketched in my notebook a free-motion quilting pattern, which I had to redraw onto the fabric with a Frixion pen because I couldn’t pull it off otherwise. I can’t say I pulled it off well in the end, but they are recognizable as clouds and I will continue to practise this pattern. I hope it will become my next favourite FMQ design to use, after wood grain.

Anyway, I liked the results of this charrette so much that I made another one. It turns out that this project might open doors in my work, maybe to a new audience — stretching my process, but still in my voice.