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Quilt & Sew

  • Talking with Mary Jane Carey About Christmas Sparkle

    You guys!  It's time!  Happy Friday After Thanksgiving!  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you're ready for me to talk about Christmas-related goodness for the next month.  I've been waiting for this since January!  I love Christmas decorations, Christmas foods, Christmas projects--everything Christmas, except for "Little Drummer Boy."  I wanted to start off by talking with Mary Jane Carey, the designer of the amazing projects in Christmas Sparkle.  My sewing skills leave a lot to be desired, and I haven't seen that many seasonal quilts.  I mean, there are pillows and a runner and some wall-hangings in this book, but there are also some full! size! quilts!  And they are quite lovely.

    Mary Jane Carey was also quite lovely, and I had a wonderful time emailing her about Christmas Sparkle and learning a little bit more about her work.  Enjoy! 

    Why Christmas?  Instead of choosing a theme of something more general like 'winter' or 'spring', what is it about this particular holiday that made you want to open The Christmas Shoppe and design Christmas sewing patterns?

    For my whole family, and especially my dad, Christmas was such a joyful time.  Dad was like a little kid and would get up earlier than my sister and I wanted just to start the day.  We had what might be thought of as a "meager" Christmas by today's standards because we didn't have lots of presents under the tree.  It was more about family and lots and lots of homemade cookies that my mom made. So naturally I am drawn to Christmas things.  I've designed quite a few Christmas patterns and I don't think I'll ever get tired of it.  The Christmas Shoppe is the retail side of my business and Holly Hill Quilt Designs is the name I use for designing patterns and also for the fabric lines I have done with Henry Glass & Co., Inc.

    I don't normally think about quilts as something that would sparkle.  What made you want to add some flair?

    When I designed the cover quilt from Christmas Sparkle I just knew that the Christmas tree needed something shiny.  I wanted to make it look like there were red lights on the tree so the crystals worked out nicely.  They definitely sparkle and now I'm addicted to putting crystals on quilts.  My husband recently asked me if I was going to put "those things" on everything and I said, "Yes, I'm thinking about putting them on your recliner."

    What advice would you give to a new sewer?

    Just have fun.  Don't be afraid to experiment.  Not every quilt you make is going to be a masterpiece.  There will be duds--I've made them myself--but sometimes trial and error is the greatest teacher.  And it doesn't have to be perfect.  If you admire antique quilts, you will see that quite often the points aren't perfect, etc.  But that doesn't mean they aren't beautiful and created with love by someone.

    What would you say about sewing to someone who doesn't sew at all?

    Go to your local quilt shop or Adult Education at a local school and take a beginners class.  Even if you don't have a sewing machine, you might be able to "borrow" one from the quilt shop.  You can see how you like it.  But beware: quilting can be an addiction so be prepared to love it and give up having a clean house and sometimes good homemade food.

    Do you have a favorite design from Christmas Sparkle?

    I am particularly fond of the cover quilt [Starry Cabins] and the Christmas Tree pillow.  But then again,  the Holly Log Cabin quilt (pictured above) has yo-yos and I do love those too.

    I think all of the designs are amazing, and so full of Christmas cheer.   I would highly recommend trying some of them out if you love sewing, or Christmas, or attractive projects.  Really, who wouldn't want to just flip through this book sometimes?!  (That's what I do.)  
    Big, big thanks to the very gracious Mary Jane Carey for doing this interview and letting me know a little bit about her approach to her craft and her personal connection to this designs for heirloom-quality masterpieces.
  • I Found Out Where Quilt Squares Come From!

    I know where quilt squares come from!  I'm still working on the Jennifer quilt pattern from 3 Times the Charm, Book 2.  The block-making process was going well until my bobbin ran out of thread and I made the very sad discovery that I bookmarked the wrong tutorial for winding a push button bobbin.  But before I ran out of thread, I did sew together enough fabric squares to finally understand what the instructions meant when I was reading about how to make the quilt blocks.

    The quilt is made up by arranging two types of blocks.  It's really that simple.

    First you take a base pattern block and a charm pack block (or a square from your own fabric stash):

    and draw a line diagonally across your base color block.

    Then you sew two lines on either side of your drawn line, at whatever seam allowance is called for in the pattern.

    80 pieces of fabric, just waiting for greatness.

    I took a picture right before I made the cut, and then I just held my breath for a while because I'm not too steady with straight lines and rotary cutters.

     I know, I know.  Why am I making a quilt out of more than just plain squares? I don't know!  I guess because I like pretty fabric!  Plus, why not?  Quilts are cool!

    Now look!  Two squares!

    When you arrange them like this, you get one type of block.

    And when you arrange them like this, you get another!

    My mind is blown by this pretty simple process.  Admittedly, it doesn't take much to impress me but COME ON!  This is pretty impressive. 

    I'm totally excited about doing this dozens more times!  I know I'll be fine, even with the straight lines and the rotary cutter.  Practice makes perfect, and I have a great lung capacity.  If I hold my breath, and maybe set my tongue just right, I'll get a freshly wound bobbin in that machine and I can really get started on this awesome project.

  • You Can't Hurry Love, or Quilts, or Anything Else

    My crafting weekend was not as productive as I had hoped.  But I must say, my expectations were pretty out of control.  I didn't factor in a day trip, or feeling sick, or spending time on the phone with a friend, or that some of my projects might bore me or take longer than expected.

    Especially that last one.

    I'm still working away on my little quilt project from 3 Times the Charm.  I picked the Jennifer quilt because that's my name.  Also, I like the pattern. But mostly because that's my name. 

    I didn't use a Charm pack because I don't have one, and because I have plenty of scraps.  However, ironing fabric and cutting out 80 squares and marking 40 of them takes a while.  A looooong while.

    Then I had to remind myself that I don't have backing for this quilt.  And that I don't 'believe' in machine quilting, so I'll be stitching this little creation by hand.

    And I don't have an intended recipient. 

    And this is craft.  It's supposed to take a while.  There are plenty of fun and quick crafts, and goodness knows I love a good simple crochet dishcloth because that's the epitome of fun and quick. 

    But most good things take a while.  I'm trying to teach my little girl how to hold a pen and use her indoor voice, and that obviously didn't go so smoothly on the very first try.  I'm going to start some knitted blankets soon and I'm going to have to resign myself to the fact that those certainly aren't going to be done in a weekend.

    Knitting and crocheting through my stash takes time.  Sewing takes time.  Doing anything worthwhile--and doing that worthwhile thing well--takes time. 

    This isn't quite the quilt post I wanted to write after a long weekend, but that's okay.  It's going to take a while to work on this quilt, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.

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