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Wonky Star Swap

Let me give you 10 reasons why wonky stars are the best:

  1. They’re fabulously quirky and adorable
  2. They are quick to sew
  3. They are forgiving – don’t like matching points? No problem!
  4. They are economical (say scrap buster!)
  5. They are flexible (size up, size down, on the fly, easy math, all at the same time)
  6. They play nice with others
  7. They’re cheerful (look at one without smiling, I dare you!)
  8. They’re jazzy with just enough individual personality and a touch of structure
  9. They great for beginners and seasoned quilters – keep them simple or take them up a notch!
  10. They’re just amazing. That is all.
wonky star sample
Wonky star samples courtesy of @Gus.Rocco…aren’t they great?!

 

I love wonky stars. I have since forever and I’m not alone so I’m excited to open up a wonky star swap!  Instagram is where it’s happening, it’s worth signing up for the quilty community if you’re not already active, so hop on over and check out #wonkystars2018, a few people signed up and got right to work making stars!

If you’re already a fan, just sign up here. If not, read on so I can convince you that this wonky star swap is the best. thing. ever!

I’ll send all the necessary details via email once the signup form closes and I’ve divided up the swap groups, but here’s the basic 411:

If you’ve never done a block swap, trust me, this is a great one to start with! If you’re not already a converted wonky star lover you should check out my dedicated Pinterest board, Quilts: Wonky Stars

I’m aiming for groups of 12-15 swappers so it won’t be too many to make and we’ll still receive a fun variety of blocks to start up a wonky quilt. If you’re up for a double dose (making and receiving two sets) I’ll have a spot on the form for you to indicate.

wonky star quilt
Wonky star quilt from @WombatQuilts & PMQG…love!

 

Like I mentioned above, wonky stars have the perfect blend of individual personality and common structure  to create the ultimate jazzy  perfection. So here are the parameters we’ll be working with in our swap:

  • Background fabric: white or print that reads white
  • Star fabric: bright colors or prints that read as a color (the star does not have to be all one color)
  • Block size: any size block will do! This will add to the wonkiness of your finished quilt, you’ll get to be creative with sashing and such to piece the stars together.
  • Pattern: basic sawtooth star with wonky points, here’s a great tutorial & finished example from @wombatquilts and another tutorial  from @sstaum with great variations…I want to try them all! If you want to get creative and nest 2-3 together, or arrange more than one star in a block that’s great – the wonkier the better!!!

You must have a public Instagram profile with some signs of quilty activity and you must be following me @ByLanceR for important updates and such. Please watch #wonkystars2018 and join the conversation – it’s part of the swap experience! Instagram swaps changed my quilting journey they’re addictive and such an amazing way to expand your creative and friendly horizons. I’ve written before about how every quilt has a story. there are already people from seven countries signed up to swap blocks – think of the stories your quilt could tell with blocks from all over the world!

Of course we know life happens, if it looks like you won’t be able to fulfill the commitment, please communicate with me so I can let your swap friends know – nobody wants to end up short in the end. And it goes without saying, once you’ve received your blocks, please be sure to post pics and thank your swap-mates!

Important dates

There are just a few dates to note. Don’t be intimidated by the check-ins, they’re standard for a swap and they’re how our community really comes together. Just follow the hashtag #wonkystars2018 (and be sure to add it to all your pictures). It’s like a wonky star party up in there, so jump in and make some new friends!

  • December 1, 2017: Signup closes – quick, get on over there and sign up, it’s EASY….you know you want to! Also, INVITE ALL YOUR QUILTY FRIENDS!!!
  • December 4, 2017: Swap details sent to participants. You will receive the names and shipping information for 12-15 swap friends and you will send your stars directly to them. In return you will receive #happymail for days as your swap friends each send you a star!
  • December 15, 2017: Fabric pull. This is a simple photo to show the fabric you’ll be working with on this swap – this particular swap is great for scraps – pull out those bins & bust a few scraps!
  • January 15, 2018: Sewing progress – at least one completed block shown. But really, we want to see all that wonky goodness, so keep those pictures rolling!
  • January 29-30, 2018: Shipping (pleeeeease don’t be late!). Again, we all know life happens, if something comes up and you can’t ship on time, just let me know. Whatever you do, DON’T FLAKE!
wonky star sample
Look at this fussy cut block from @HardKnocksArts …adorbs!

 

I *think* one block should only require one stamp (stock up on stamps before they increase on January 21!). Flakers are no fun so please proceed only if you can commit to making and shipping 12-15 blocks by the end of January.

If you have more questions about Instagram swapping, here’s a great post on etiquette and such. Or leave a comment here and we can chat about it. Or just jump in & sign up! The quilty community is waiting for you!

Also, because I love you and don’t want you to miss a good quilty thing, be sure to check out this amazing bundle of patterns & tutorials from my friends at Ultimate Bundles (yes, I’ve worked with them in the past and I’m an affiliate now, but only because I’m a huuuuge fan of what they do!). This is over 200 patterns, tutorials, and ebooks on all manner of handicrafts: QUILTING(!), sewing, applique, embroidery, knitting, crochet, and weaving.  And we’re talking top name designers – Alison Glass, Yvonne Fuchs…be still my heart! Also, you get a six month subscription to Make Modern Magazine and if you order by midnight on November30 you get a free Craftsy class to boot! Awesome! Check out the Handmade with Love Bundle & get creative with me in 2018!

Alaska improv quilt detail

Every quilt has a story

One of the aspects of quilting that impressed the art deep into American culture is its storytelling nature. Every facet of a quilt is meant to tell a part of a story, from the blocks, to the layout, the fabric, the quilting…players in the maker’s memoir. When a quilt is extracted from a box, buried deep in a basement or attic for a generation, fascination ensues as the lucky finders wonder about the materials and workmanship. Who made this? Why these fabrics…this design? If they’re lucky, there might be a bit of information scrawled on the label: the maker’s and the recipient’s names, the date it was made and where. Every quilt has as story.

Some quilts stories are about a fabric or color combination or pattern that caught the quilter’s fancy. Others mark an important event or milestone. I made this quilt as a part of an Instagram swap with the theme of “Mini with a Story”. Typically, a mini swap is about using preferences and clues from the recipient to make a secret project they’ll (hopefully) love. This one, however, was different in that I got to use my own discretion to design a mini quilt to tell my own story.

“Out of Alaska”

This mini illustrates the first half of my life, and that of my parents and grandparents, under Alaska’s stunning sky. I incorporated a skyline of high rise building, magnificent in its own way, to represent the current leg of my journey in Chicago. The piecing is improvisational in nature, while a typical pattern can be lovely, I wanted to show my penchant for carving my own path. This is my story, after all.

I loved the adventure of creating a new material, piece by piece.  I worked in small sections adding bits and combinations to create something usable from scraps of solid and low-volume blues. The textures and the play of the shades of blue were a delight to work with. I started by laying out small cuts in the way I thought they might work for my scene, to act as a sort of sketch to guide the improv. I do I wish I’d used a greater variety of shapes; I think the combination of squares and rectangles worked well enough for this piece but when I recreate a version of this for my home I’ll definitely remember to vary the bits I used for the sky.

Alaska improv quilt layout

Once the top was completed, I used a combination of free motion motifs to bring the scene to life. In the sky, I used a line of lazy eights in a variegated thread to draw a line of dancing northern lights, and a shiny gold thread for the eight stars that represent Alaska’s flag. Throughout the sky I drew swirls and waves in two different shades of blue and on the buildings I used a flat black thread in a variety of angular meanders to portray the urban textures. The quilting is, by far, my favorite part of this quilt, both to create and to look at.

I used two fabrics to piece the binding, a navy speckled with white stars for the sky and a black and white grid to coordinate with the lower half.

Alaska improv quilt detail

I’ve done several mini swaps, the swap community on Instagram is a fabulous place to find quilty people, so this isn’t my first go-round with sending off something I’ve made. This is, however, the first piece I designed from start to finish, and it’s the first I’ve done specifically to tell my own story, so this one was a little tricky to let go of.

But, mail her off I did and nervously waited for my partner to receive it. Words can’t even describe my delight when I received word from my partner that not only did she love it, but would be hanging it in her husband’s office in honor of his own childhood in Alaska. I cried when I read that. What a perfect end to this quilt’s story.

Alaska improv quilt finish

 

 

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Creating a Beautiful Life

I’ve been a quilt maker since I was fairly young, all the ladies I knew at that time were quilters. I think I was 15 when I joined the ranks and made my first quilt. I was young enough to not be intimidated by the 1″ postage stamp pattern that I insisted upon making. My mom, in all her wisdom, convinced me to start with one block and go from there. Wise indeed. That quilt ended up as a charming, quirky, sampler lovingly hand-quilted by the sewing bee of my grandfather’s childhood church. It’s not what many would call fabulous but it’s an important part of my journey.

Garden Quilt
My first quilt, circa 1993, age 15.

Because I began quilting in my formative years and grew into it as I grew into adulthood, I never learned to appreciate what a creative force it has been for me. It was always there and I was always making at some level. And all was good…until it wasn’t.

When we needed my quilting room for a nursery, when it was necessary to pack up all my supplies and relocate them into nooks and closets, that thing which both facilitates and fuels my own unique expression was shoved away as well. If maintaining a creative practice is like tending a garden: pulling the weeds and pruning the plants for optimum beauty, then I had let my garden grow fallow. While it led to a low point in my own journey, it also enlightened the path for the rest of my journey. I can no longer deny the importance of a creative practice. And not just any creative practice – I’ve tried lettering, painting, pottery, crochet…none of which make my heart sing. When I returned to quilting after a five-year hiatus, I knew I was home.

So, what is it to “create a beautiful life” and what does this have to do with quilting? It’s about the obligation we have to feed our souls with that creative expression that makes us come alive. That thing that you could gladly stay up all night to do, make, practice? That’s the thing. You must do it. We are created in the image of a creative God which means we are wired to create. It is our job to pursue that thing we’re meant to create and get on it. Find a way to practice it daily. Do away with the notion that being creative takes a great amount of time, dollars, space, or talent. Stop making excuses and make something beautiful.

A beautiful life is one lived slowly, in pursuit of creating rather than consuming. I make my family’s bread and other staples because by slowing down and taking the time to make these things by hand, we are given the gift of knowing the ingredients, feeling the textures, smelling the smells, tasting the freshness, and anticipating the goodness. I make quilts for the same reason – it’s slow, it touches so many senses, it nourishes the soul and cares for the body. It goes deep.

A beautiful life is one spent observing the small, beautiful things that occur naturally all around us. Where I live, this often means building a muscle of shutting out the noise and clutter, ignoring the constant hustle, slowing and making space to go deeper. When you make something you are forced to go deeper, whether it’s brief or ongoing. But to be deep is to savor and appreciate, to focus on finer details and force the weight of a daily grind to take a back seat. That is a beautiful life.

It’s not about physical surroundings. Or the aesthetics of the thing being made. But the intentional act of making. The daily practice of honoring the creative aspect that makes our heart sing. This doesn’t come naturally and it isn’t taught in school. It’s a practice. What is your thing? What can you be more intentional to practice, even just moments at  time, every day?  I dare you to start. Dive in. Don’t hesitate. And definitely don’t compare yourself to what’s found on Pinterest.  Close the computer. Put away the devices. Take up your fabric, your paint, your pieces, your ingredients, and make something.

Pause. Breathe. Sit in the gratitude that’s to be found in the making. And then set your hands to work and your mind to rest.

Ponder that thing you create. Dream up a way that you can practice this thing every day. Is it a page? A piece? A few moments at an instrument? A new recipe? The same recipe pursued to perfection? As you begin the practice, be sure to note the difference it makes. Is there a new lightness to your step? A clarity you hadn’t felt before? A new joy? Progress? The simple act of reflecting on your practice is bound to bring you deeper.

So let’s do this, shall we? Make a beautiful life with me. What’s your creative thing? I’d love to hear about it! 

This post is a part of the 2017 Quilt Bloggers Hop. I’m excited to spend the next several months exchanging insights with a group of talented quilt makers and bloggers. For more quilty goodness, be sure to stop by and check out these others who are also sharing this week:

Leanne @shecanquilt : She Can Quilt

Yvonne @quiltingjetgirl : Quilting Jet Girl

Beth @CookingupQuilts : Cooking Up Quilts

Jess @SewJess: Sew Jess Handmade 

Amanda @ Quiltologie : Quiltologie All Things Handmade

Abigail @CutandAlter: Cut and Alter

Rose @ SomethingRoseMade: Something Rose Made

Stop by and say hi (there’s prizes!), bloggers love to hear from you. And stay tuned for more great posts from the group over the next several months.

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Saved by Art

creative

I spent many years building a foundation of quilting experience. In that process, I lost my touch with a true creative process and took my art for granted. In the end I wasn’t joyfully making and pouring my soul into something new, I was just producing an iteration of someone’s preconceived ideas.

So I quit.

I used my entry into motherhood as the excuse to walk away from my heart song. I had no idea how important it is to a soul to faithfully cultivate a creative practice. There is something within us, as created beings, that needs to create. The medium isn’t important, but what is important is to know which medium it is that makes your own soul sing. I’ve tried so many, from pottery to lettering, gardening to crochet, and more. I can confidently say I’m a quilter. Quilting just fits like a native language.  That’s an important thing to discover for yourself.

I was blessed for many years to have a room of my own for making. Who doesn’t want to shut the door on an in-process creative mess?! But babies came along and that room as called to serve a different process. And so I thought the thing to do was to box up my tools and focus on other things. I had no idea that doing this also meant that I was shutting away a piece of essence. And at such an important place in my story.

How grateful am I, then, for a renewed connection. An undeniable, visceral connection.

There’s a reason that art is treasured. But I think we forget, while treasuring the pieces that are made, that we should also treasure the act of making art. Each of us. No matter what that art is. There’s a soul-filling mindfulness that encompasses all of the senses when we set out to bring life to an idea.

Find your thing. Dive deep, and gratefully listen for the heart strings. And then carefully cultivate a daily, intentional practice of making something beautiful.

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Find Your People

____ is better in community.

Life. Dinner. Quilting. Everything is better in the company of friends. This is known, but it doesn’t always come easy. I’ve found community of all sorts particularly elusive here in the suburbs. But a vibrant quilting community? Mythical.

For over a decade after leaving my hometown, in which everyone I knew quilted, I practiced alone. But in retrospect I chalk up that solitude as one of the factors that led to the loss of my quilting mojo. Don’t go alone, friends.

I used to think that joining a guild was something reserved for those better than me. Admittedly, that’s no only undefinable, but it’s just not true. I don’t know why I had this idea about guilds. An early assumption it’s time to put to rest, for sure.

But since I’ve come back, quilting 2.0, I have made the most amazing discovery. Quilters have converged on social media! It’s fabulous! Apparently while I was busy having babies, Flickr and Instagram birthed vibrant yet virtual quilting communities and I am having the most amazing time, being inspired and exchanging feedback and advice with quilters from all over the world.

Do you swap? Yes! I knew it. I’m the last quilter on earth to discover swaps.

On the off chance that you’ve never participated in a swap via social media, please consider this your cordial invitation to join. I participate on Instagram, but they’re to be found on the other social media platforms as well. How fun is it to receive a set of guidelines from someone else, being forced to work with colors and concepts I wouldn’t normally choose, to make a gift for another maker, and to then receive a gift that’s lovingly made for me….super fun.

I’ve completed two swaps so far, not my usual style for sure, but I’ve learned something from each piece. And I’ve certainly gained a new kind of confidence as I’ve sent my works off to strangers and anxiously waited for public feedback. But it’s so great. Quilters are gracious, grateful, encouraging, and kind. So, I’m preparing to send off a third this week and I’m brewing seven more with deadlines this spring. Seven. Somebody stop me.

Here’s where it gets even more fun. Via my community on Instagram, I was tipped off to a list of local guilds, and I’ve since found a place in a vibrant, in-real-life community of quilters. It’s a quirky yet sweet quilt-loving group of nearly 300 women who are my people. In a way I don’t fit in, I’m younger than most and my style isn’t quite as traditional as most, but sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your quilt’s name.

Find a community. Quilters are nothing if not hospitable and eager to include and embrace more quilters. Sign up, join the conversation, show your work and be a part of something.

 

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Book Chat: The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters

Quick note: this post contains affiliate links. All this means is if you buy a product I recommend, the seller shares a small percentage of the sale with me, without affecting your price. I only recommend things I use and love myself. 

Most quilters begin by choosing a pattern and a set of fabrics, follow some instructions, resulting in a lovely and functional piece. I did this for many years and in so doing built a strong foundation of skill and taste. But in working through the works of others, I did not build a voice.

Enter improvisational work. I don’t know why this style has drawn my attention at this time when it’s never resonated before. It’s fascinating actually. So I’ve been reading up on what makes improv work and I’m excited to tell you about The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood {affiliate link}. Improv Handbook

My friends: this is a book for every quilter. Even if you think improv isn’t your thing, there’s much to learn from the author’s approach to creative quilt making.

“At the least it requires a willingness to take risks and make mistakes”

The Score

One of the first concepts she presents is the score. This is the set of parameters the artist determines at the outset of a work and can range from colors and materials, to size, tools, scale, process, time, and more. The myriad possibilities are in themselves inspiring, and the challenge of working within a prescribed framework is both freeing and supportive. She talks about pushing limits and breaking rules as the way to innovation.  Make a list of the facets of your project and then challenge yourself with a new score.

I’m looking forward to working up a piece with a score that involves only scraps from my past projects, using scissors, and working up to 60″x 60″…stay tuned!

I realized that, like the author, I’ve seen my quilting evolve from my earliest works which were perfectly lovely, but prescribed and relatively uninspired. I played carefully to the patterns and choices of someone else, never testing my own footing, building a repertoire of technique and a strong foundation. But “as I became more skilled and familiar with techniques, materials, and process, my quilts often became static and self-conscious. Once I figure things out I’m tempted to strive for perfection”…yes! In that pursuit of perfection I lost sight of my own creative process. I’m not sure I ever even saw it, actually. I was too busy reinterpreting the work of others to have my own ideas. I lost my way and stopped quilting.

Cultivating a Beginner’s Mind

Since I’ve rediscovered my connection to making quilts, I’ve gotten to see with what Wood calls “beginner’s eyes”. Unintentionally at first, but now it’s an intentional part of my practice. I set out, on purpose, with openness and eagerness. She encourages makers to focus on questions rather than answers and to respond with an attitude of not knowing. How easy is it, after so many years of making a particular thing, to think we have the answers?

She writes about working with a spirit of willingness and curiosity. It’s easy to settle into a particular style. A groove. A rut. This can be a fine thing when we’ve determined a specialty or a niche. But if we’re settled in a complacent place, then we ought to accept the challenge to willingly explore and experiment in new and unfamiliar territory, letting go of self-consciousness and working within a comfort zone.

Most important is her advice to cling to awe, wonder, and gratitude and celebrate mistakes. This book has definitely changed the way I quilt.

Buy this book

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Creative is Brave

I’ve been working on a creative practice. It’s been incredibly life-changing. Not that what I’m creating is amazing in any way. That’s entirely not the point. It’s just about practicing creativity. That’s it. The goal is to practice. Like anything else, when you practice creativity, in whatever medium in which you work, you get stronger. Exception isn’t an accident. Intention is the impetus for improvement.

We have the unfortunate experience of being makers in an age where consuming and comparing the work of others is almost unavoidable. When we consume and compare we stifle our own voice a little more each time. Look around, be inspired. But before you consume, sit down and create.

To bravely practice your art is to put aside the fears that stand in the way of moving forward. It’s easy to hear reason after reason why you shouldn’t.

“I’m not good enough”

“My work isn’t as beautiful as theirs”

“They’ll laugh”

“They’ll judge”

“I can’t”

Oh, but you can. Find your thing. Sit down. Be brave. Just start.

#30minutesaday

 

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The Art of Daily Practice

When I set out to make quilting my life, I couldn’t just drop everything and quilt. Daily demands don’t simply fall into line just because you decide to change career paths. As much as I’d love to spend my days fondling fabric and churning out fabulously original designs that sell for thousands…I had to figure out how to fit quilting around freelance work, household chores, and motherhood in crazy, suburban 2017.

Balance is always good.

There’s old advice for writers that says something about leaving your work with a sentence unfinished. This way, when you sit down again and start to write, you can pick right up where you left off. There’s no searching for the next flow of words. The words will flow. It’s actually relatively transferable.

I used to look at quilting as project to be done in big blocks of time. But in order to make it a sustainable part of my life I needed to reframe it to fit into little pockets here and there. And perhaps the occasional large chunk of time, seized after bedtime. Enter #30minutesaday.

 

 

Just like exercise, brushing teeth, and eating your vegetables, building a creative practice is a fundamental part of a healthy life. Not that I do all of those things every day. But I know that I should.

In thirty minutes, an active daily practice, I can try new techniques and play with new ideas that may not be ready for a full-blown project. I work on multiple projects simultaneously, brewing several while moving one forward, moving on another one the next day. I get to appreciate short, immediate results and the challenge of new parameters – an immediate gratification that’s motivating, even intoxicating. It’s changed the way I create and made me a better, stronger quilter.

Try it. Just a few minutes of daily practice leads to growth, change, forward momentum.

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I Sold a Quilt and Everything Changed

I’ve quilted for years, given gifts, dabbled with selling little things. But I didn’t consider that I could make an actual income via quilting until very recently. It’s hard to sell a quilt for what it’s worth when the market is flooded with products from over seas where makers are paid cents on the dollar. While I assumed there’s no buyers to be found, I stumbled on one in an accidental conversation. And that changed everything.

There I was, thinking out loud and processing my lack of satisfaction with my career choices, pondering this daydream of being a “real” quilt maker. My friend, the faithful listener, says, “I’ll buy one.” Just like that. Sold. All of a sudden my dream of being a working professional has come true. In a way I’m a little ashamed that this changed everything. I was no more or less a maker before or after the transaction. But I felt totally different. Inspired. Activated. Legitimate.

Now I understand the value of a patron. I quilt like it’s my job now. All of a sudden I’ve been given the chance to do what I love to do. I’m a long way from a full time income, but there’s forward motion. The validation spurs my pursuit of mastery which girds my confidence and fuels my vision for the next project, the next idea, the next.

I’ve concluded everyone should have a patron. Obviously. Find that thing you love and then find someone to pay you to do it. Boom.

Ok, it’s not quite that simple. I stumbled on my first commission and the life-changing artist-patron experience. I wish I’d been intentional about making it happen years ago. Ah hind sight. But now that I’ve seen what it is to live this dream, I won’t go back. It can’t be unseen. If only I’d known this then.

If you’re an artist who hasn’t found your patron, here’s three simple changes to make that could change everything:

  1. Declare it – Think like an artist. Talk like an artist. Plan your day like you are the artist. Because if it walks like a duck…
  2. Make it – Intentionally. Mindfully. Gratefully. Do the diligent work of creating.
  3. Show it – Make something and show it. And then do it again. Be brave. Own it.

There is a market for you. Make like it’s your job. Just start.