Book Review – Urban and Amish by Myra Harder

Since I’m away at Quilt Market this weekend, I thought it would be fun to share a book review with you! This is a tiny taste of what it’s like to be at market: checking out the new books, meeting some of the authors, and getting inspired to come home and sew. :-)


Urban and Amish: Classic Quilts and Modern Updates is written by Myra Harder and published by Martingale/That Patchwork Place. (Yes, I’m a little bit biased towards Martingale since they are my publisher, too, so expect to see me sharing more of their awesome quilting books!)

All images are courtesy of Martingale. The beautiful photography is by Brent Kane.

The premise of the book is that the author starts with 8 traditional Amish designs and reinterprets them into a modern urban aesthetic, resulting in a total of 16 designs you will love to make. Here is just a sampling:

storm_at_seaOcean Waves, 71 1/2″ x 71 1/2″ – the Amish Version

modern_stormSouth Pacific, 88 1/2″ x 96 1/2″ – a Fresh Interpretation

In the two quilts above, I love how the block design is the same, yet the borders and choices of fabrics create a dramatically different result!

In the two quilts below, Myra has chosen to reinterpret one of the most traditional and beloved blocks into something a little more urban.

nine_patchAmish Nine Patch, 54 1/2″ x 65 1/2″

modern_9patchSouthern Comfort, 86″ x 107″

I think my favorite paring from the book is the classic trip around the world and a re-imagined trip to New York. The quilts are dramatically different, yet they share similar construction techniques.

trip_around_the_worldTrip Around the World, 60 1/2″ x 72 1/2″

new_yorkTrip to New York, 50 1/2″ x 71 1/2″

I think the possibilities with these quilts can go even further. I can just imagine making the “Amish” versions in print fabrics, and the “Urban” ones in more traditional colors. As with any Martingale book, Urban and Amish includes clear, concise directions with plenty of color diagrams to keep you organized.

Myra has even included a section about Amish vs. urban fabrics, plus snippets of inspiration for each quilt and a section on finishing in the back of the book. Urban and Amish runs a total of 80 pages and can be found on line from Amazon or Martingale, and hopefully at your favorite local quilt shop. Enjoy the eye candy!

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I’m Off to Market – and Ready for a Giveaway!

I’m headed off to the trade show, the International Quilt Market in Houston, Texas. Jason and I have a strategy for the show – he will be the planner, setting up appointments to meet with our vendors, organizing our budget for new precuts, and making sure we both eat and rest well.

amybutler_meIt’s fun to meet up with “Sew”-lebrities at Quilt Market!

I’ll get to do the “fun” stuff – rub shoulders with quilting celebrities, meet up with online friends, and attend presentations from some of the top designers in the industry. Jason told me he’s perfectly happy to stay out of the limelight while attending to business, so together we’ll make a great team!

I’m sure I’ll pick up a bunch of freebies while I’m there, so I thought for this week’s giveaway, I’ll offer up a mystery bag full of market SWAG!! Be sure to follow me on instagram @christaquilts starting on Friday for some sneak peeks!

20141020_market_pinTo enter, just leave a comment telling me what you would want to do if you attended market, or who’s new designer lines you’d love to see!

The giveaway will remain open through Monday, Oct. 27th at midnight Pacific Time. I’ll draw a winner’s name at random sometime Tuesday morning (after I’ve recovered from the trip) and will mention it on the blog later that day.

Have a happy quilting weekend!

Posted in Giveaways, Miscellaneous, Quilt Events | Tagged | 300 Comments

Christa’s Quilt Along – Abacus Week 5: Machine Quilting

Welcome to another installment of my Abacus Quilt Along! Today is when the magic happens. It’s time to machine quilt, which I think is the most fun part of the quilt making process. It took me only 1 3/4 hours to machine quilt – so fast and fun! :-)

I’ve written several blog posts about getting started with machine quilting, including many of my favorite tips and tricks. Click here to read them all!

machine-quiltingMachine quilting wavy lines with your walking foot is super simple and fun!

Step 1 – Practice Quilting on a Scrap (1/4 hour)

I always, always, try out my quilting idea before I quilt the whole quilt. More often than not, I’m disappointed if I skip this step. What I see in my head may not translate well in fabric, so it always helps to make a small practice piece. It can be as simple as two scraps of fabric with a small piece of batting. Or sometimes I will make up a complete block using the same fabrics and thread as in the quilt.

illustration_3_abacus_quiltingOne of the biggest unknowns when machine quilting is how the quilting thread will look on a wide range of fabrics. I’d rather try it out on a smaller piece to make sure I’m happy. I think the grey Aurifil 50 weight cotton thread and uneven lines of quilting look great on both the light and dark fabrics. So now I’m ready to move onto the real quilt.

Step 2 – Quilt the Anchor Lines, AKA Stitch Near the Ditch! (1/2 hour)

Whenever I begin quilting a piece, no matter how large or small, I always start by quilting a series of anchor lines across the surface of the quilt. This helps stabilize the quilt for more quilting later. For Abacus, I stitched my wavy anchor lines right next to each of the vertical seams, moving the quilt slightly from side to side, letting the lines wobble a bit.

If the quilt is well basted, it doesn’t matter where you start. I usually start quilting in the middle, and move to the right across the quilt, stitching each line from top to bottom. Then I rotate the quilt ninety degrees and finish the other half in the same way.

Anchor-QuiltingRight now it looks like a bit of a mess, but I know from my practice piece that once all the lines are filled in, it’s going to have some incredible texture.

Step 3 – Quilting the Wavy Lines (1 hour)

I quilted wavy lines using my built in even feed. That’s the same thing as using a walking foot. I increased the stitch length slightly and moved the quilt from side to side as the machine stitched, creating the waves.The feed dogs are up as normal and I’m wearing Machingers gloves to give me a better grip on the quilt.

machine_quilt_1Once the anchor lines are quilted, I filled in the spaces between the rows with more wavy lines. I quilted a few lines on the left, then a few lines on the right, all the while aiming for a very organic (messy) looking texture. I let the number of quilted lines vary per row, and used the width of my foot as a rough guideline for spacing.

For those of you who can adjust your presser foot pressure, I set mine all the way down to zero. This really helps eliminate tucks and puckers.

machine_quilting_abacusIn the picture above, I have quilted all the anchor lines and completely filled in the wavy lines on half of the quilt. I rotated the quilt, now I’m ready to finish quilting the other side!

Voila! Quilting finished! Next week I will show you how to square up the quilt and bind it.

abacus_quilting_finishedIf you are enjoying this quilt along, please share your progress on my flicker group or on Instagram #abacusqal.

Remember, I encourage you to work at your own pace. However, if you finish your quilt (or even just the top) by November 10th, I’ll be happy to feature it on my blog in my parade of quilts! :-)

Click here for all of the Abacus Quilt Along Tutorials.

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Christa’s Soap Box – Is Modern Quilting Just a Fad?

Is Modern Quilting a Passing Fad?

(No time for pics – words only today!)

I certainly hope not! Two recent instances have inspired me to explore this topic a little more, and to shout out an emphatic, “NO!”

(1) Recently I attended a local fabric trade show. I noticed one of the big distributors (a larger wholesale company that sells and distributes many different fabric brands to retailers such as myself) wasn’t carrying a certain newly created company’s fabrics with a modern flair (think horses and strong geometrics).

When I asked why not, they told me they had seen many fabric fads come and go and they weren’t hopping on that bandwagon any time soon. I was in shock. I was wondering where these people had been. Did they not see the huge spring market debut of this particular company? Did they not get online and hear the buzz and excitement surrounding this new company’s fresh ideas?

(2) I was recently emailing a friend and lamenting the fact that one of the larger quilt show venues I participated in this year is not including modern categories as much in their shows next year. At first I thought it was due to poor participation in that category this year. Upon further examination though, I found out the powers that be thought that modern quilts are just a passing fad. What the what?!

Tell that to the thousands of people that will be attending QuiltCon next year, and the thousands more who have created a vibrant online community that is not going away any time soon. Like I and thousands more are going to suddenly wake up one day and think, “Nah – I’m bored of these bold, geometric quilts. I think I’ll quit quilting.”

Seriously, what are these people drinking??

I totally get that the word “Modern” may be a little overused these days, and I acknowledge that the debate is still raging as to what may or not be considered a modern quilt. In fact, when I was doing some research on writing a book, I learned that some publishers feel that putting the word “Modern” in the title may alienate or split their target audience before they even open up the book to take a look. (Let’s save that discussion for another day.) So some of the hesitation to embrace modern quilting may stem from the fact that these large companies are looking to their bottom lines and are worried about the numbers.

However, I think the very same growing pains that the modern community is going through right now is exactly what happened in the art quilting community some 20+ years ago (um, yeah, I was there!) Although I’m not an art quilter, I certainly can appreciate the vibrancy of the art quilt community, the empassioned quiltmakers that are a part of that community, and the hugely profitable segment of the quilting market it has become.

Don’t these people learn from (quilt) history?

Posted in Soapbox | Tagged | 40 Comments

Craftsy Class Winner

Congratulations to Sue A. who won the Craftsy Class, “Creative Quilting With Your Walking Foot” by Jacquie Gering. Thanks to all of you who participated! My friends at Craftsy told me that 407 of you entered so that’s quite impressive. Sue – they will be in touch with you shortly with the free link to claim your class.


If you are new to my blog, be sure to check out my review of Jacquie’s class here. And for those of you who have yet to check out what Craftsy has to offer, my recommendation would be to try a free mini class and see what all the excitement is about. :-)

Have a happy quilting weekend!

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Fabric Friday – New Tonga Treats

I’ve always had a thing for batiks. And even though there is currently some debate, or shall we say “thoughts” in modern circles about the use of batiks in modern quilts, I certainly love them! (They are some of Jasons’ favorites, too, and he keeps pushing me to use them more!)

This week we just received a treasure trove of new Tonga Treats from Timeless Treasures: precut batik fat quarters, charms, strips, squares, and six-packs! Take a look:

20141017_hawaiiThe Hawaii colorway features the popular combination of aqua and red, with a pop of peach, cream, teal and light blue for sparkle. I especially like the geometrics – they remind me of free-motion quilting designs!

20141017_cabanaCabana reminds me of the beach with surf and sand colors of blue, green and warm tan!

20141017_reefReef includes gorgeous tones of purple and blue. Hmm, do you see a theme here? I think whoever named these groups wanted to get away for a little vacation, don’t you think?

Click here to see all of the luscious Tonga Treats!

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Christa’s Quilt Along – Abacus Week 4: Basting

Good news: Abacus is now available as a stand alone pattern for just $4.95! Click here to purchase. (You don’t need the pattern for the quilt along, but I know many of you would prefer to print it off and keep by your sewing machine.)


Basting is probably everyone’s least favorite part of the quilt-making process, and I think I know why. Recently I helped my friend make a small baby quilt and we basted it on her kitchen floor because she didn’t want to scratch up her table. What an awful process! I would never do that again, LOL!!

spray_basting_5Tables are the best for basting – use one, two, or your kitchen table – just not the floor!

Yes, it takes up a lot of room to baste on a table, and in my friend’s case, you may not want to scratch up your table. I suggest getting some plastic folding tables like those above that can be stashed in a garage or closet. Or keep some large pieces of cardboard to protect your kitchen table if needed. You don’t need a huge table – you can move the quilt around as needed, but please, get up off the floor! :-)

For today’s basting tutorial, it took me a total of 1 1/4 hours to safety pin baste the three layers. Click here for my tutorial on spray basting (outside or in a well ventilated room – on a table!)

Step 1 – Prepare your batting and Backing Fabric (1/2 hour)

You want to make sure there are about 2-3 extra inches of backing and batting around all 4 sides. My quilt top is 32″ x 32″. Therefore my batting should about least 34″ x 34″ and my backing should be about 36″ x 36″.

table_baste_1Dining Room Table Basting – Checking to see that my backing is bigger than my top.

If using cotton batting, give it a quick press to work out any wrinkles. You want the quilt sandwich to be as flat as possible. Also, starch your backing fabric before you baste to make it extra slippery. This will come in handy when machine quilting.

Step 2 – Pinning the Quilt (3/4 hour)

Lay your backing right side down on a table. Tape down the edges of the quilt with masking tape or painter’s tape. You can also use binder clips if your table isn’t too thick. You want the backing to be secure but not taut. Only tape down the backing, not the other layers.

table_baste_2All 3 layers ready to go for basting! I will smooth out the wrinkles next.

Lay your batting on top of your backing. Get someone to help you if possible, so you can lay it down smoothly. Add your top, right side up. Before pinning, take a few minutes to smooth out the layers with your hands or a long ruler.

table_baste_3Using a ruler to smooth out the wrinkles and align the rows into place.

Starting anywhere on your quilt, drop a bunch of safety pins on the top to work with. I recommend using size 1 nickel plated safety pins. I left them open from the last quilt so they are ready to go. The usual recommendation is to pin about 5″ apart. However, I find that I get fewer tucks and wrinkles when I pin closer, about 2″-3″ apart. For this quilt I only pinned in the background sections, not in the circles.

table_baste_4Pin an entire section, then go back and close the pins. This quilt was small enough that I pinned the entire top before closing the pins. A Kwik Klip comes in really handy for this. Click here to see how to use one.

Work you way across the quilt, pinning one section at time. When the quilt is fully pinned, remove the tape and check the backing to make sure you haven’t pinned in any tucks. Then trim off some of the extra batting and backing so there’s less bulk under the machine.

table_baste_5Now you are ready to quilt! There, now,  that wasn’t too bad, was it? Remember, I encourage you to work at your own pace. However, if you finish your quilt (or even just the top) by November 10th, I’ll be happy to feature it on my blog in my parade of quilts! :-)

Click here for all of the Abacus Quilt Along Tutorials.


Posted in Christa's Quilts, Quilt Alongs | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Win a Craftsy Class: Creative Quilting With Your Walking Foot

For this week’s giveaway, you get a chance to win one of my favorite Craftsy Classes: Creative Quilting With Your Walking Foot by Jacquie Gering.

20140530_creative_quiltingI love to encourage others to quilt their own quilts and so does Jacquie! Along with an excellent introduction and overview of the basics, in Creative Quilting With Your Walking Foot, Jacquie provides step by step instructions on working with decorative stitches, radiating designs, quilting with curves, turning designs and quilting with text. She also demonstrates her signature matchstick quilting which looks amazing on modern quilts!

Winning this class will be a perfect complement to those of you doing my Abacus quilt along (although the giveaway is open to everyone). I used walking foot techniques to quilt a series of gently wavy lines that add such rich texture and are extremely easy to do!

Wavy-QuiltingMy machine has built-in dual feed which acts just like a walking foot.

It’s so fun to explore all the possibilities with straight, or gently curving lines. Whenever I teach machine quilting to a group of students, I always start them off with walking foot techniques so they can get comfortable and achieve success right from the beginning. It helps build up their confidence for more finicky techniques down the road.

Christa and Jacquie at QuiltConJacquie Gering is one of my modern quilting heros!

One of the things I love best about Jacquie’s class is that you have her right in front of you, sort of like a personal tutor. You can ask her questions via the Craftsy interactive platform and she’s really good about responding quickly. You can also pause or rewatch sections of the class over and over as many times as you like. That is the beauty of online learning!!

quilting_detailI used decorative stitch quilting on Modern Logs – all done with the walking foot!

Here’s How to Enter the Giveaway

Good luck and happy quilting! Post sponsored by Craftsy. :-)

Posted in Giveaways | Tagged | 14 Comments

Fabric Friday Feature – Denyse Schmidt Hadley, Amy Butler Glow, and Kaffe Fassett Limited

It is with great pleasure that I get to share the latest designer precuts with you! They are all from Westminster, which distributes both the Free Spirit collection and the Rowan Line.

20141003 HadleyHadley by Denyse Schmidt for Free Spirit

Isn’t Hadley just awesome? It features modern geometrics and florals in a slightly darker palette, perfect for fall! Who says brown can’t be a great modern neutral?

20141003_ab_glowAmy Butler Glow from Rowan

Amy Butler’s prints are what first turned me onto modern fabrics. Her penchant for combining color, print and texture are simply unparalleled in the fabric industry!

20141003_kaffe_limitedKaffe Fassett’s Limited Edition

Kaffe Fassett’s fabrics have been a favorite of mine for years! The riotous color and bold designs make any quilt or fabric project sing!

Click here to shop all precuts and drool over your favorites. :-)

Posted in Fabric | Tagged | 3 Comments

Christa’s Quilt Along – Abacus Week 3: Sewing the Top

For today’s Abacus Quilt Along, we will be sewing together our quilt tops! Be sure to click here for links to the rest of the tutorials and supply list. It took me a total of 2 hours to complete this week’s lesson. Feel free to jump in at any time!

 finished-topAbacus quilt top – you can tell it’s real from all the wrinkles! :-)

Step 1 – Sewing the Rows (3/4 hour)

For ease in construction, lay out all of your machine appliqued and trimmed blocks in order on a design wall or other large flat surface.

Block-layoutLay out your blocks in order on a design wall or take a picture with your phone!

Sew matching bead blocks together in pairs, chain piecing for faster assembly. Sew all blocks from one color into a row for a total of 8 rows of beads.

Block-pairsBe very accurate when you sew your 1/4″ seams so that you don’t cut off any of the circle. Press your seams open to reduce bulk. This will also help the circles align better.

When placing your blocks right sides together, try to match up the circle positions as closely as you can. You may need to sew more slowly and use pins to ensure accuracy.

Block-pairs-sewnYou want the edges of the circles to just barely touch without catching any of the circle fabric in the seam allowance.

Sew all of the beads together first, then add the background strips to complete each column. The diagram below shows the position and cut length of each background strip.

Background-Strip-NumbersStep 2 – Quilt Top Assembly (1 1/4 Hours)

 Sew together pairs of columns to complete the quilt top. When joining rows, be sure to pin at block intersections. I also pinned in the middle of each block, matching up the two circles in the same position.

Optional: If you want to ensure perfect alignment, you can use a larger machine basting stitch to sew a few stitches only where each of the horizontal pins is below. Once you are happy with the alignment, you can go back and restitch the entire row.

Abacus-Bead-rowsJoin the columns together into pairs, and then into halves to complete the quilt top. Stay stitch 1/8″ around all the edges to secure the seams while quilting. Quilt-Top-AssemblyAbacus Quilt Top Assembly

Just for fun, I designed an alternate solid colorway for Abacus, which I call Parfait.  I think it would look great in prints, too.

Abacus - New Kona ColorsPlay around with different fabric combinations and see what else you can come up with!

I encourage you to share you progress on your own blogs and leave a link in the comments below. If you don’t have a blog, you can always share your pictures on my flickr group, or on instagram (#abacusqal), or via good old-fashioned email! :-)

Next week we will baste the quilt together. It’s easy peasy and will give everyone a chance to catch up, although you are never behind because the goal is to work at your own pace!

Posted in Christa's Quilts, Quilt Alongs | Tagged | 3 Comments