Tuesday, February 9, 2016


This week, I'm between projects with deadlines and focusing on workshop preparations.  A few more examples need to be organized to inspire my students in my new workshops this winter like this scrappy Dresden Star.
I'm also thinking quite a bit about "creativity" -- it came up in conversation at my retreat last month.   I interrupted a conversation about it not being important to finish projects with "never finishing projects has a negative impact on your sense of creative ability" or something like that.  The process quilters in the room reacted pretty quickly arguing that I was off base and as a recovering process quilter, I get that.  
Then yesterday in my weekly chair yoga class, the word came up again.  The instructor had each of us draw a card out of her new deck of affirmations.  The idea of these cards is to introduce each of us to new ways to affirm ourselves in positive ways.  Mine was "I believe in the process of life."  Interesting.  One of the other students drew out "I am creative" and after she shared it with the group, she pointed out that Mary (me) should have gotten that one because "she's creative and I'm not".  Well, she missed the point.
For the past 10 years, I've been working hard to transition from jumping around from process to process into a quilter who moves through my projects from start to finish in a pretty steady flow.  I'm not sure I'll ever make a complete transition -- I'm still easily distracted by interesting ideas but I hope to maintain a more middle of the road approach as the years pass.  The quilts I've made during the past decade are some of my favorite -- mostly because I learned so much in the process of finishing them -- and partly because I have the satisfaction of finishing them!!
So how do you build a sense that you are creative?  
Three approaches have helped me immensely in this area.

First, I find that technique classes are more helpful to me than project oriented classes.   I even prefer to teach technique classes that give my students basics and then help them find ways to customize that technique to their own work -- it's harder than teaching project classes because I have to guide students rather than saying this is wrong or right.  But my own experience and their feedback help me keep my mouth shut and focus on mentoring.
Around the turn of the century, I was fortunate to be able to attend teacher workshops with C&T Publishing authors several times.  The purpose of the workshops was to introduce teachers to the principles and ideas of the newest books so that we understood better how to use them as teaching texts.  It was very exciting to understand a book from the author's point of view.
I get the same sense of excitement and insight from the classes I've taken on Craftsy over the past few months -- to learn directly from the authors is an excellent opportunity.  I'm somewhat overwhelmed by the variety of classes they offer -- they just announced their 1000th class and you can use this LINK** to go look some of them over if you've never checked it out.  They are offering discounts on some of their classes to celebrate through Thursday, 2/11/2016.  I'm currently working my way through Amy Johnson's Quilting with Rulers on a Home Machine and the Tea Breads classes from King Arthur Flour!
Second, I'm learning that narrowing my scope and concentrating on the aspects of quilting that appeal to me the most is very helpful.  It has cut down on the number of projects I begin and because of this I build greater skill in those aspects and finish more projects.  Both of those aspects -- improved skills and more finishes -- has boosted my sense of success as a quilt maker. 
I find that when I feel good about what I'm doing, I feel creative. 
Finally, I glean so much inspiration from the virtual quilting community.  Between reading blogs and following Instagram, I get lots of inspiration and have broaden my perspective on how to approach my work!  I also appreciate all the support that comes from other quilt makers who follow me and leave encouraging comments regularly.
All the photos today are some of my favorite creative successes over the past decade!!
They make quite a collection and I rotate them through the house -- on beds and hanging -- year round!  I'm awed by them quite often wondering where the ideas arose. 
So now I'm wondering what do you do on a regular basis to build a sense of creative success?

Mary Huey

** This is an affiliate link and when you use it to access Craftsy, I may receive compensation if you make a purchase.  I appreciate your support for my work by using this link.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Two Finishes!!!

My teaching samples for the Lake Metroparks Farmpark Quilt Show are finished and will soon be hanging in the visitor center!!  I stitched the binding to my Glitter lap robe over the weekend at my retreat.  I love that I was able to finish it -- it's too pretty to become a UFQ!!
I'm very pleased with the Dresden Star sample.  It was made from an assortment of "layer cake" pieces of Moda's Good Karma that I won during an Instagram giveaway earlier this winter.
I decided I'd try an outdoor photo shoot once I arrived at the Farmpark -- lots of fences!!  By the time I arrived, there was a light dusting of snow -- made the photos even better!!

I used (almost) every bit of the stack of 10" squares.  For the border, I trimmed all the bits and pieces to the same width strips.
Then I used my Marti Michell 60 Degree Triangle Ruler to cut them up -- just pick any horizontal line and trim the right and left sides. 
Don't forget to trim off the corners of the "polygons" -- it makes matching them easy and keeps the row straight!  I joined them end to end randomly and made four strips for my borders.
It was my intention to make the pieced border the final one but it didn't "feel" finished.
Much to the astonishment of my stitching sidekicks for the weekend, I decided on one more border of white!  Surprise!!  It's works!
One of my quilting friends who finishes everything she starts in one continuous stream most of the time sat with me for a bit on Sunday and we imagined quilting designs so when I got up Monday morning, my brain was in gear!  After quilting the stars, I started to experiment with ideas for the background diamonds.
In the end, I stumbled onto a way to mark and stitch "mazes" that worked really well!!  And I'm going to walk you through it for two reasons -- first, so I can "remember" how to do it again and second, in case you'd like to try it.  First, you have to promise to let me know if this doesn't make sense -- if it doesn't make sense to you, it won't make sense to me in a couple months!!  And I'll have to edit this post!!

Sketch it out on paper first.  Begin with a drawing of the shape you are going to fill with the maze.  The first step is to divide the space into an odd number of segments.  This is trial and error -- I divided my diamonds by 7 and 9 -- decided 9 was too dense so went with 7.  I find it easier to do this with a metric ruler -- centimeters are easier to break down than inches. 
I made dots across the space and then parallel lines going both directions to make a grid. 
It worked best for me to stitch the inside of the maze and then around the outside -- my red line shows where I entered the diamond and the direction I traveled.
The markings on this diamond correspond to my red lines on the sketch above.
That was all I marked on each diamond.  I experimented with marking more but found I got confused about where I was going.
In this drawing, you can see the full maze.  I entered along the red arrows, then exited along the black pathway and back to the edge of each diamond.  Once I reach the edge at the end of the maze, I stitched in the ditch to the next diamond where I repeated the maze process. 
To mark the starter lines, I laid my small ruler on the sketch and noted how far from the seam line those first three lines needed to be drawn -- it was 7/8" from each side. 
I used my straight edge tool to keep the lines straight and kept the presser foot centered between the first lines and seams as I stitched back out of the maze.  After a few diamonds, the process became quite smooth and only having the first three lines eliminated lots of confusion about where to go!
I quilted this piece with Aurifil 40wt cotton, yellow -- you get the feel for it in this photo.
And these two quilts represent two finishes from my list of goals for the First Quarter of the 2016 Finish-A-Long!!  Wahoo!!   Three down and three to go!!

Number four is cut and patiently waiting for me in the studio!! 
I'm off to stitch!!

Mary Huey

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

After the Retreat

Today I've been quilting a teaching sample and unpacking from my annual student retreat.  I'm guessing we have been doing this weekend in January for over 10 years -- you can see what a lovely space we have and most of those windows look out over winter farm fields in Ohio Amish country.
It was a productive weekend for all of us.  As everyone arrived on Thursday, I had them write down their goals on individual slips of paper.  As the goals were reached, they deposited them in a basket for a drawing to win a small (finished) quilt from me at the end of the retreat. 
We averaged 3.6 goals achieved!!

I finished this quilt top which is a workshop sample for Dresden Stars.  That's what I'm quilting today so we'll get back to that another day.
Many of us took turns taking advantage of the large empty tables in the center of room to complete some tasks that require more space than we have at home.  I basted two of the borders to my Value Proposition Quilt from Karen H's last sew along.  This pattern is now available in her Craftsy Shop. 
This elaborate braid quilt kept returning to the center tables as Syd set the bands together and added the borders -- spectacular isn't it?  It's from French Braid Transformation by Jane Hardy Miller.
Monica took the record for the making the most of something -- 22 burp cloths -- her first grandchild is due any minute and while she was making him some, she just got carried away.
I was delighted to see this gem that Caryn started in my first Hexagon and Allies Seminar a couple years ago.  So inspiring!!
These cups were inspired by Jan Mullen of StarGazey's pattern, Cuppa, back at the turn of the century (LOL).  I think she was one of the first Aussie designers to get American quilters excited.  This is Syd's collection from her Friendship block exchange group which has been together for over 25 years.
And here are some bands of blocks going together for my Marie's Scraps pattern -- I love seeing other interpretations of it! 
Without a doubt, Prudie provided the most entertaining project and by the end of the weekend, everyone was participating in it one way or the other.  She is making "bras" based on Lori Holt's Support Group pattern -- here are the "jugs" -- each block has a sassy theme.  The laughter generated was a real blessing to us all!!
And finally, Jan (peaking out at the left) brought back her HUGE Storm at Sea to show us.  She started it in a workshop with me using Marti Michell's template set and it came with her to, let's just say, several retreats.  Now it's finished!! 
It's always so much fun to see the variety of fabrics my students are using!  This I Spy will soon be some lucky boy's treasure.
I'm thankful for this group of quilters -- they've been following me around for a long time and provide lots of inspiration and encouragement!! 
I hope all of you have similar quilting friends!
Back to the quilting!!

Mary Huey

Friday, January 29, 2016

Workshop Teaser -- Jen Kingwell's Glitter

As soon as I saw Jen Kingwell's book, Quilt Lovely, I recognized that this delightful block which she has named Glitter would be a perfect workshop project using the y-seam technique that I teach.  Participants need to have already taken a basic workshop on the technique with me or used my DVD, Set-In Piecing Simplified to learn it.

I started out with this little group of 4 blocks and have been adding to them all summer and fall -- what fun it is to pick out the fabrics!  Each block is it's own little quilt-let!
One of the skills that is part of the workshop is learning to make templates and set them up for easy, accurate cutting and matching! 
I decided to make a lap size quilt -- there are 66 blocks.  I have not seen anyone put borders on this quilt but I auditioned it just to be sure and decided not to add them.
Last weekend I layered it up with Tuscany Wool batting -- love the loft of that batting -- and began to quilt.  I wanted to keep the quilting simple -- easy for me to complete and easy for my students to duplicate if they want.
My first idea was straight line channels from top to bottom.
As it lay on my work table, the long ovalish shape where the blocks come together caught my eye and I decided to emphasize that with the quilting.
After laying down a grid of horizontal and vertical lines, I used my favorite pumpkin seed motif to create a flower that fits gracefully into the oval.  The best part of this quilting design on this quilt was that every line started at an edge and ended at an edge -- no threads to bury!!
This weekend, I'll bind the quilt at my annual January quilting retreat and then send it off to the Farmpark to hang with the other workshop samples! 
There are open spaces in the workshop and you can register by visiting the Lake Metroparks website HERE.  You already have plenty of fabric so all you'll need to purchase is Jen's book, Quilt Lovely.

Don't live in near me?  My DVD, Set-In Piecing Simplified, will take you step-by-step through the process of learning this exciting method of y-seam piecing.  Just last week, Michele in Kentucky wrote this note to me after purchasing the DVD -- "Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I had a chance to watch your DVD today and used your technique to finish a quilt that was headed to the trash.  I think it has been in a box for at least 3 years.  The instructions left a lot to be desired and I was struggling with all of the y seams.  After watching the DVD, I wanted to practice on something right away.  I pulled this quilt out, followed what you did and everything fit together and the top is now done and ready to be quilted.  The DVDs was fantastic and I'm so glad I ordered it."

It's exciting to know not only was Michele able to understand the technique from the DVD, but she was able to rescue a doomed UFQ!! 

I hope you are able to do as much stitching this weekend as you want!!

Mary Huey

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Workshop Teaser -- Dresden Stars

It took about 2 minutes for me to get excited about the possibilities of cutting this block with Marti's templates and piecing it using the y-seam technique I teach.

It will be one of my workshops during the Lake Metroparks Farmpark Quilt Show which opens on February 12, 2016.  This workshop will be Saturday, February 20 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  If you live in Northeast Ohio or Northwest Pennsylvania and would like to join me that day,

My first sample is a single block that is centered in a big (silly) six-pointed star.  One of the topics we'll be discussing during the workshop is figuring out a setting for this block so I am currently working on a larger sample with seven full stars and four half stars.

As good fortune would have it, I won a sampler packet of Moda's Good Karma fabric line by Stephanie Ryan (love that Instagram!!) a month ago so I had this up-to-date group at hand!!  It came as a bundle of 10" squares.
After pressing all the pieces and gazing at them for a bit, I started to sort and shuffle the pieces into possible pairs.
It didn't take long to cut all the pieces I needed.
And with the chain-piecing approach to y-seams, I soon had little piles of diamonds ready to set together into the stars.
There was a pleasant evening spent picking out motifs and creating the center hexagons by basting them EPP style for applique to the finished blocks.
The blocks are now on my work wall being moved around and shifted this way and that while I work up a setting for a small quilt.   
It will be a bright quilt for sure!!

I think the blocks would also look great in 1930's reproductions -- I wonder if the quilt Karen showed me was from that era?  It's a perfect scrap quilt for sure!

Once I get all the kinks out of the instructions, I'll offer a pattern for all you Michell template lovers!!
Now I need to get back to the studio and play with this layout some more.

Think about joining the workshop!!

Mary Huey