Fabric Friday – Riley Blake’s New Penny Rose Brand

Have you seen Riley Blake’s newest brand of fabrics? It’s called Penny Rose and features reproduction fabrics like 30’s and traditional Civil War prints. For Penny Rose, what’s old is new again!

Here are some of the latest Penny Rose collections, now available in our precut store: pennyrose_paperdolls

 Paper Dolls by Sibling Arts Studio

pennyrose_aesopfable

Aesop’s Fable by Erin Turner

pennyrose_milksugar

Milk, Sugar, and Flower by Elea Lutz

Aren’t these so sweet? What do you think of the new brand?

Contain It! Blog Hop and Book Giveaway

It is with great pleasure that I get to share a new book I just came across. It’s called Contain It! English Paper Pieced Accessories by mother & daughter team Linda and Laura Chaney from Prairie Sewn Studios. First I’ll tell you about it, and then give you a chance to win your own copy!

Contain_it_cover

Now, usually I don’t make 3-D items, but several containers in this fascinating book definitely have me tempted to make one! In reality, I will probably choose one or two and have my mom make them for me – she loves this type of sewing and there are some really great containers in here!

cubesPage from the book showing a gallery of cube containers.

The projects are arranged in order of difficulty including: flatwork practice projects like mug rugs and table mats, cube containers, concave & convex containers, scalloped bowls, heart containers & boxes, star containers and boxes.

starsPage from the book showing a gallery of star containers.

Linda and Laura are very thorough in their directions and each of the projects includes full sized templates. There’s also a great section in the front of the book that goes over suggested fabrics and needed supplies to successfully make the containers in the book. The containers can be sewn by hand or machine and layout/assembly diagrams (called an “octopus”) are given for each project.

Be sure to check out each of the blogs on the hop this week for more perspectives on Contain It!

BlogHop200x300

The Giveaway

For your chance to win a copy of Contain It!, leave a comment below letting me know if you’ve ever made a quilted container before. Entries are open to US residents through this Saturday, April 18th at 6 PM Pacific Time. I’ll email the winner and update this blog post with the winner’s name.

My Newsletter

If you are new to my blog, don’t forget to sign up for Friendly Threads, my weekly email newsletter! I go a little more indepth and behind the scenes there, and it’s a great way to keep in touch. :-)

Save the Date – Paper Pieced Quilt Along Coming May 6th!

Do you remember this design I shared awhile back?

20140411_modern_dresdenOriginally titled, “Modern Dresden” I’m working on a better name for this art-deco design.

The time has come for me to make a quilt based on my sketches, and I’d like to invite you to quilt along with me, from start to finish. I’ve realized the best way for me to get something done is to set up a schedule and stick to a deadline.

I’ve also noticed a resurgence in the popularity of paper piecing and I know so many of you are eager to learn! I’m happy to share this fun technique with you. So let’s tackle this together shall we?

Modern Dresden in PurpleHere it is in purple.

I’m still finalizing my design and filling in all the details. In fact, my version will look completely different than the those shown above, but I will include a few different layout options.  I will launch the quilt along May 6th and it will run for 12 straight weeks. It will also include every step to complete the quilt including basting, machine quilting and binding!

Be sure to join my facebook group, Quilt With Christa to see all of the in-process sneak peaks before the quilt along launches on May 6th!

For those of you who would like to share on Instagram, I will be using the hashtag #decoqal for this one. You can also share pics from any of my previous quilt alongs with the tag #christaquiltsqal.

One more thing – which color scheme do you prefer – orange or purple? I think I’m going to go with a red, orange, and yellow colorscheme. Although my pictures above show only a few blocks, I’m going to make 48 of these block units below and set them into a very unique layout! As with any of my quilt alongs, you can sew at your own pace and make the quilt in your own size!

deco_dresden_block

 8″ finished block unit. Put 4 of them together for a larger 16″ block!

Who’s excited to quilt along with me?

Craftsy Class Review: Free-Motion Quilting with Lines, Curves and Loops

I have a confession to make: one of the perks of being a Craftsy writer is getting to view some of their top classes so I can review them and tell others what I enjoy. I think I need a sign that says “will work for quilting classes!” :-)

It’s even more exciting when I get to take my friend’s classes, too! I first met the fabulous Debby Brown when I took a feather quilting class from her at Road to California in 2014. Let me tell you – she can rock a feather like no other! I was immediately drawn to her warm, friendly teaching style and this gal really knows her stuff. So without further ado, let me tell you all about Free-Motion Quilting with Lines, Curves and Loops.

fmq_linesloops

Class Overview

The class is broken down into 7 different video lessons, each under 1/2 hour so they are presented in easily digestible chunks of information. And the best part is – you can watch them in any order! (Tip – I like to watch a session before I begin my day’s sewing to really get me in the mood!)

Debby includes great tips like setting up your home sewing machine and how to control the tension. She even shows starting and stopping in detail plus how to easily create temporary guidelines to help balance the motifs.

fireworks

Debby’s fireworks sample – this would look fantastic on a modern quilt!

Debby then goes onto show you how incorporating simple letter shapes can make for better free-motion quilting. I use a lot of e’s and o’s to create circles in my personal work, but I never really though about i’s (lines), c’s (curves), j’s (curls) and s’s (swirls)!! Yes, she really does walk you through how to turn letters your brain already recognizes into useable (and pretty) free-motion quilting textures! Within each of these basic shapes, Debby includes several easy-to-quilt free-motion textures to try.

My favorite tip that Debby shares is one that I teach my own students: draw first, then quilt! That helps your brain recognize the stitching path and makes it much easier to know where to move when it’s time to quilt. She also includes a few bonus tips and tricks like using free-motion quilting to mimic the look of machine applique, plus trapunto techniques and bobbin work.

Debby rounds out the class by teaching you how to combine motifs to create amazing custom textures. I love it! Complete supply lists are included in the class materials and you can ask questions for Debby at any time via the Craftsy platform.

My Favorites

My all-time favorite motif I learned from Debby is how to quilt swirly feathers. I’m really not much of a feathers gal, but I love this one! It’s so funky and fun and actually pretty easy to stitch.

Swirling Feathers

 My practice sample when I took Debby’s class last year.

I also really like her in-depth section on quilting linear motifs with free-motion. When you know how to do that, the sky really is the limit when it comes to fun free-motion quilting.

Of course, the best part about this class is that you can watch it anytime, on your schedule. Debby is such an amazingly talented instructor that she can’t possibly give enough in-person classes for everyone who wants to learn from her. So I’m extremely grateful that I can watch her class at my convenience, day or nite! In fact, for several of the motifs I found myself using the Craftsy 30-second repeat option so I could watch her form the stitches over and over again.

On Sale Now!

As I was watching and reviewing Free-Motion Quilting with Lines, Curves and Loops, I got the heads up that it is on sale now, along with dozens of other courses, this weekend only. So be sure to sign up while you are thinking about it!

In fact, be sure to click here for all Craftsy classes on sale. Then be a good student and engage with your fellow classmates and share pictures of your work!

 

Christa’s Soap Box – How to Deal With the Trolls

It makes me very sad in the quilting community when I hear about nasty comments left for well-meaning bloggers and professionals in the community. I was recently discussing with a designer friend the impact that one hurtful email or thoughtless comment can have on a person. My response to her was “the upside of this means that you are now big enough and successful enough to be a target.” What is it about the internet community that allows us to easily say mean things online that we would never do face-to-face? (This is rhetorical – you don’t have to answer.)

I am definitely not immune to criticism either (yep – it’s true!), but I try to take it in stride when it happens. Here are a couple of tips on how I handle these situations when they occur.

  • Be professional – as much as I want to take the the internet to vent and call out the offending party, I don’t. What may be written as a response in the heat of passion will be there permanently for all to see. Instead, I try to analyze the comment or criticism and see if there’s anything I can learn from it. Usually it doesn’t call for a response. (At least not yet. Hopefully.)
  • Just delete it – if the comment is left in a public place like a blog, instagram or facebook, etc. it’s ok to delete. It really is! And in some cases, you can block a user from having access if needed. The way I look at it is that this is my sandbox, and you are coming over to my place to play. I won’t invite you back if you aren’t nice. :-)
  • Let it go, let it goooo! (cue up the Disney soundtrack) – if you really do need to get it off your chest, vent to a friend, spouse, or partner in private and then let it go. The more you stir the pot, the thicker it will get! If you need to, you can always write a scathing response to get it out of your system, then immediately delete what you just wrote. Now, doesn’t that feel better?
  • Go make something – quilting really is good therapy. Whenever I’m having an off day, or if something gets to me, I really do feel better after a 15 minute sewing session. Strangely, blogging also has that same effect sometimes. If I can jot down a few random thoughts for a future blog post, it makes me feel more productive and vocal in my craft.

Here’s wishing you a very happy, productive, quilty day!

I Love Writing about Free-Motion Quilting!

In my latest Quilt as Desired column for the National Quilting Association, I was able to explore how background fills can add depth and texture to your quilts. I love quilting textural designs that add a lot to the quilt with little to no marking.

nqaqad_fillerExcerpt from Quilting Quarterly by the National Quilting Association, Spring 2015 Issue

Speaking of NQA, you still have until April 10th to enter your quilts (especially your modern ones) into their show that will occur June 18-20 of this year. I will be teaching Modern Machine Quilting, along with two other classes and can’t wait to encourage others to give it a try.

I’ve also written a series of articles for Craftsy including tips to get you started free-motion quilting and 5 ways to trouble shoot your fmq.

As I get out there more in the world of quilting, it’s been fun to share my knowledge in different venues. Sometimes I worry that I may repeat a little bit of what I have to say. But then, it makes my day when a kind reader emails me to say, “If it wasn’t for ___ (insert name of venue or website), I never would have found you. Thanks for the tips!”

That’s truly what keeps me going! :-)

Fabric Friday – Sharing the Moda Love

I try to balance my Fabric Fridays by sharing new arrivals from all of the different manufacturers we carry in our precut store. Sometimes I can’t help but go a little overboard with a certain company from time to time. Moda is definitely the top dog when it comes to precut offerings. They are our top-selling brand, I think because they have done such a fantastic job offering so many choices and getting the word out about their fabulous designers. So without further ado, I will share a little Moda precut love today:

poemsfrompebbles Poems from Pebbles by fabulous designer (and new friend) Malka Dubrawsky

I’ve been a fan of Malka’s amazing geometrics even before I met her in person at quilt market last fall. We immediately hit it off and then were able to reconnect at QuiltCon earlier this year. Her style is so great and I’m actually working on a scrappy quilt now, incorporating some of her bright cheerful precuts. I just love them!

malka_quiltconMalka Dubrawsky in her colorful booth at QuiltCon 2015.

Speaking of geometrics, I can’t get enough of Quattro! It comes in all the standard precuts we carry: charm packs, layer cakes, jelly rolls and fat quarter bundles. Isn’t it just heavenly?

quattroQuattro – in 2 sizes by Studio M for Moda.

Another modern line I’m dyring to try out is Mixologie, also by Studio M. In addition to regular cotton, it also comes in a linen fat quarter bundle, shown below. I still have yet to try linen, but I just love the texture!!

mixologie_linenMixologie in linen – don’t you just love it?

Finally, take a look at Moxi. It’s the perfect springtime combination of reds, pinks, yellows, teals and greens! MMM that puts me in the mood for yummy Easter candy…..

moxiMoxi by Studio M.

I don’t know what you have planned for the weekend, but I’m ready to sew (and maybe indulge in some sugary sweet treats)!

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at My New Branding

Christa-Quilts-lede

Hey guys, you may have noticed my new blog design. It’s all thanks to a lot of hard work from Design by Lindsie. I asked her to join me for an in-depth behind the scenes look at what it took to make these changes. This is a rather long and detailed blog post, but full of great info I wanted to share. So take it away Lindsie….

Hi! This is Lindsie Bergevin, Christa’s graphic designer. I wanted to stop by today and share with you an inside peek of the creative process we went through to create Christa’s branding, visual materials and website update. I also hope to share a few tips for those of you who want to go through a similar process.

It starts with a brand, not a logo

We all know how important a logo is to your business — it is the essence of your business in the simplest form. Everything your business represents is communicated in the logo. But too often we business owners get hung up on this and forget that there’s something more important.

When Christa contacted me to help her with the visual aspects of their business, the conversation started with discussion about her logo. She had a wonderful illustration she wanted to keep using in her new business identity, and incorporate it into her logo. But before I started in on that, we first talked about her branding.

What is branding? It’s not a logo. Or a color palette. Or even a website.

It is a message. And it’s one that you communicate to your customers whether you realize it or not.

Before I even start designing anything for my clients, I have found it essential to discuss the message they want to communicate. Having a clear idea of what your business is all about, who the audience is, and how you are going to approach them, are essential when you are creating the branding for your business.

To start the conversation with Christa, I asked her a few questions:

  • Tell me about yourself and your business
  • Who is your audience?
  • Who is your competition?
  • What colors inspire you?
  • What are some words that describe the message you want to communicate, words that describe the visual identity of your business?
  • What elements do you want incorporated into your visual identity? What do you not want?

What message do you want to communicate to your customers? What message are you communicating right now? Are they the same?

Branding is about creating a customer experience. When you apply branding, you are developing a perception about your business. Design is part of this process, but branding also includes elements such as naming, marketing strategy, advertising, public relations, market research, customer feedback and more. All of this helps you make decisions to run your business.

The fundamental idea behind having a brand is that everything a company does, everything it owns and everything it produces should reflect the values and aims of the business as a whole.

The visual identity then, is the application of your brand onto visual materials that your customers will see. It’s how you communicate your message.

That’s why I ask all of those questions. The answers to those questions, in particular the list of words that describe the business, drive every design decision I make in the creation and execution of the visual identity. I want each aspect I design to communicate the message of the branding.

For Christa, the list of words that she came up with to describe her business were:

  • Modern without screaming “Modern!”
  • Warm
  • Clean
  • Straight
  • Approachable
  • Trustworthy (Be a coach/Best friend)
  • Honest and upfront
  • Where to go to learn all about quilting
  • A modern quilting cheerleader

This provided a great starting point for us as we started in on the logo development.

Creating the logo and visual identity pieces

Before (left) and after of Christa's logo.

Before (left) and after of Christa’s logo.

When you work with a graphic designer to create your visual identity, it should be a back and forth process where you, as the client, are presented with an array of options that you pick from, then are narrowed down and refined by the designer, and then you pick again. These rounds of options are important to explore the design possibilities and give you say in how the logo is developed and what variations are created in the final suite of logos.

A selection of the logo comps we explored during the development phase. First row explores a B&W logo in various placement options, 2nd: font choices, 3rd: font weights, 4th and 5th rows: color variations. Above left is her color palette based on a photo she took of a few items that inspired the colors she wanted to use.

A selection of the logo comps we explored during the development phase. First row explores a B&W logo in various placement options, 2nd: font choices, 3rd: font weights, 4th and 5th rows: color variations. Above left is her color palette based on a photo she took of a few items that inspired the colors she wanted to use.

Christa and I went through six rounds of logo development, and while she probably didn’t expect going into the process that it would be that involved, I think the end product is a testament to her dedication and willingness to explore the options and really hone in on the versions she wanted. She’s happy with her logo and it embodies her — a win win!

The final variations of the logo include 4 sizes, all in color, b&w and reverse options. This provides Christa with flexibility to use the logo in virtually any application.

The final variations of the logo include 4 sizes, all in color, b&w and reverse options. This provides Christa with flexibility to use the logo in virtually any application.

I start off designing the logo and visual identity basics like fonts and color palette, and then apply that to the various collateral my clients need. Not everything has to be created, and each client has different needs.

Visual identity pieces usually include:

  • Logo
  • Stationary – letterhead, business card, envelopes, etc.
  • Marketing collateral – flyers, brochures, books, websites, etc.
  • Products and packaging
  • Apparel
  • Signage
  • Messages & actions
  • Anything that visually represents the business
Christa-Quilts-marketingvariations

A look at the comps I created for Christa’s business cards and QuiltCon button. She chose the vertical double-sided card option with matching button.

Start with what you need to get rolling, then work with your designer to develop items as needed. Your designer should also provide you with high-quality, vector files of each of your logo versions so that you can apply your identity to pieces (with and without a designer) down the road if need be.

Website updates

When I started with Christa, she already had a successful business going, with a busy shop, active social media followers and this awesome blog. Big changes weren’t in order, just a visual update. We are in the process of updating logos throughout social media and other locations online. Her newsletter got a new banner and next up is a redesign of her quilt patterns.

Friendly Threads Newsletter before and after application of the branding.

Friendly Threads Newsletter before and after application of the branding.

For this website, though, it needed a visual refreshening. Christa is using WordPress.com for her site, and the software has a variety of themes that allow varying degrees of customization. Prior to the redesign, the site was using a basic WordPress theme that didn’t have much personality. (It didn’t communicate her branding and message very well.)

Before: The old site used generic typography in the banner and throughout the site and dated colors in the menubar.

Before: The old site’s theme used generic fonts that didn’t pair well together, an understated title in the banner and dated colors in the menubar.

That was my task — to find a better theme that supported her message, and then customize it as well as I could. I found success in the Selah theme, and used WordPress’ Premium Design Customization options to further tweak the colors, fonts and CSS styling of various parts.

After: The new site feels cohesive in its use of typography, colors, large photos and more white space.

After: The new site feels cohesive in its use of typography, colors, large photos and more white space.

The new site has a wider main area, allowing for bigger photos, and a wider sidebar, too. We cleaned up the items on the sidebar, getting rid of outdated buttons and adding a widget of her quilt designs that refreshes on each visit to the page.

A new banner also was key to making the site feel fresh and new.

Christa-Quilts-headers

A few of the banner options Christa considered before deciding on the current banner that highlights her quilt Abacus.

A few tips

For those of you just starting a business, or those who want to retool their current one, congrats! Hopefully you have realized what message you want to communicate and are ready to get to work. Do you have a logo? How about a website? Here are a few tips for improving your site:

  • Add a custom banner that showcases your logo and communicates your branding. It’s the first thing your readers will see, so make it count.
  • Use the theme options and customization options to your advantage. You will be surprised what you can accomplish with the right CSS and plugins.
  • Test your site on multiple browsers and devices. Each show sites differently and you may not be aware something is broken until you pull up your site in different places.
  • A successful site can be built with either WordPress.com or self-hosted WordPress.org setups. It all comes down to theme selection and customization. You can find a way to make your site what you want. You may just need to find someone to help you get there.

If all of this seems overwhelming, please don’t stress out and feel that you have to know everything to make your business successful. Find someone to help that knows what you don’t know. I promise it will be worth your time. Each of my clients came to that realization before finding me. They each realized that their time was worth more doing what they did best (creating their products and running their businesses) than it was getting frustrated trying to figure out how to do things they didn’t know as well.

So a little plug for my fellow graphic designers and web developers out there: Hire a professional. They can help you achieve your goals and you’ll both be happier doing what you each do best.

Teaching in Las Vegas – Come Take a Class With Me!

I’m excited to announce the next round of classes I will teaching here in my hometown of fabulous Las Vegas! They will take place at The Christmas Goose Quilt Shop and you can register for any of them by calling the shop at 702-877-1158.

Here’s the Schedule:

April 29 (Wednesday) 6-9 PM String of Pearls

20140404_stringofpearls_dqnChrista With String of Pearls (66″ x 66″) at the DQN Quilt Show in 2014

One of my favorite quilts of all-time, String of Pearls allows you to showcase a favorite set of fabrics all in the same quilt, with plenty of negative space to feature fun machine quilting. During this one session class, we will learn how to make the blocks and set them together. Cost is $20 plus pattern purchase from The Christmas Goose.

May 30 (Saturday) 10:30 – 5:30 Modern Machine Quilting

modern machine quilting samplesSamples of modern machine quilting on actual quilts!

Join me for a full day of quilting fun! Bring your practice sandwiches or orphan blocks and learn how to let go of perfection while you quilt fabulous walking foot wonders and free-motion favorites on your quilts! Cost is $50.

June 25 (Thursday) 10:30-1:30 Charming Chevrons

Charming Chevrons

Charming Chevrons by Christa Watson, 48″ x 56″

The one that started it all – Charming Chevrons was my first modern quilt, made in 2012. We will learn how to make the smaller version shown above, but you can easily make it in any size simply by adding more charms! Class will cover construction of half square triangles and possible setting ideas. Cost is $20 plus pattern purchase from The Christmas Goose.

Won’t you join me? I look forward to seeing you!

(For even more content and a peek into other things happening at Christa Quilts, be sure to sign up for Friendly Threads, my weekly email newsletter.)

Christa’s Soap Box – Just Do It.

No pictures – words only today! :-)

A friend of mine recently pointed me to an interesting entry on Seth Godin’s blog: the difference between commitment and technique.

When I read it, it hit me like a ton of bricks because it perfectly embodies one of my philosophies but I didn’t quite know how to phrase it. In a nutshell, he states that we need to focus more on teaching commitment rather than getting hung up on technique. I think technique is important of course, because it’s important to learn the fundamentals, especially when it comes to quilting.

But so many people get frustrated and give up when trying to machine quilt their quilts (especially free-motion) because they expect their efforts to be perfect right away. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. It takes commitment and a willingness to put in hours and hours of practice over a period of time. Honestly, my first quilting efforts were pretty awful, but I stuck with it, because it was a skill I wanted to learn and master.  If we give up when things get hard, we will never accomplish what is in us to do.

So here’s my plug for commitment – if you really want to learn to do something, keep going and push pass the “it’s not working for me” stage. When you do, you’ll be greatly rewarded with a huge sense of accomplishment and satisfaction with a job well done!