Christa’s Soap Box – I love Blogging! (with Highlights from our Vacation in Mexico)

I just returned from a fun, but busy two weeks away from home – one week teaching in North Carolina, and the following week on a family vacation to the Riveria Maya in Mexico (near Cancun). I’m interspersing some pictures of our family vacation with my thoughts about blogging so you have something interesting to look at while you read.

Family Vacation in Mexico

Snorkeling at Xcaret, a natural theme park in the jungle of Mexico
We also visited two other eco-parks: Xplore and Xel-ha and they were all amazing!

While I was away on vacation, I had one of those moments of clarity that only happens when I’m away from my machine or relaxing and doing something else. Last year I wrote a post about my need to simplify social media. I followed it up a few weeks later with another post about what it was like a few weeks in. Now that a significant time has passed I realized what channel I enjoy the most – blogging!!

I enjoy being able to go in depth about thoughts I have, and being able to share multiple pictures to tell a more complete story.  I still share in-the-moment experiences and projects on Instagram and Facebook (find me on IG @christaquilts and my FB group ChristaQuilts) but I love being able to think about and express longer-form thoughts here on the blog. In fact what I usually like to do is gather the pictures and snippets I’ve shared on IG or FB over a period of days or weeks, and then turn that into a more complete story here on the blog.

Snorkeling in Mexico

Our family motto is work hard – play hard! We work a LOT so we can enjoy fun family vacations on a flexible schedule. Near the end of our trip it got very rainy and windy but that didn’t stop us from having a great time! The waters are warm and the views are spectacular!

When it comes to my thoughts on blogging, I’ve resisted the urge to follow the standard monetization model: churning out daily content to increase page views and qualify for google add revenue. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that model and plenty of bloggers earn a successful income doing that. (It’s also one of the reasons there’s so much free content out there – to attract more viewers and clicks.)

For me, the blog is more of a way for to document my quilting life (and occasional personal life) in real time. Of course I’ll still blog about new product announcements, workshops I’m teaching and quilting events I’m attending because after all, quilting is my full-time job and marketing is a huge part of that. But my favorite posts to write are process posts, sharing tips and techniques along the way while I’m creating. I also enjoy penning the occasional thought-provoking soapbox post, too!

Jason hamming it up in the Sea Turtle exhibit

My husband Jason, hamming it up at the Sea Turtle Exhibit

You’ll also notice I don’t do as many giveaways either. Although they are always fun and generate lots of traffic, it’s really too much to keep up with the flood of comments. I much prefer the thoughtful interactions we can have when you all leave comments or email me directly on a post of substance. I do try to respond to each comment personally (which you won’t always see in the comments section unless it’s something that everyone else needs to read, too).

Because I’m one of those people who tends to think out loud, blogging also helps me process things and get them out of my system. So it really IS true that quilting, or even writing about quilting is great therapy!! Since I recommitted to the blog at the end of last year, I’ve found that it’s easier to do consistently the more often I try.

Baby Sea Turtle

I fell in love with Sea Turtles on our vacation – the babies (above) have the most beautiful patterns on their shell! I’d never seen a full grown one (below) in real life until now – they get huge!!

Big Sea Turtle

It’s hard to tell the scale of this turtle but this one is at least 10x bigger than the baby. There was an even larger one but I missed getting a pic – trust me – they are huge!!!

When writing my blog, it takes me a long time to finalize each post, adding links and images where necessary and double, triple, quadruple checking for typos each time! But I heard once that if you “create before you consume” you feel a whole lot more productive. That seems to work for me as I usually try to start a blog post in the morning as part of my routine before I get into the flow of my workday.

It usually takes me a couple of days to knock out a blog post – so once I quit worrying about trying to blog daily and settled on 2-3 posts per week, I felt that’s something I can easily manage. That means if you see a week where I’ve only managed to write once, you’ll know there’s something big happening behind the scenes, or I’m just way behind on my work, LOL!!

Running in the Jungle

I did manage to get in a bit of exercise while on vacation. Our resort had lots of winding pathways that were perfect for jogging through the lush jungle. We saw all kinds of critters, too: iguanas, monkeys, coati and even racoons!! But alas, they were all too fast for my camara!

I try to keep a running list of topics I want to write about and will keep an editorial calendar so that I can be thinking about what I want to convey before I sit down to write. By keeping a running list, I can also pick and choose what I feel like writing at any given time. For example, I’m writing this one just as I returned from vacation, but wrote two more “evergreen” posts ahead of time while I was on vacation. They were faster and easier to crank out in in small snippets of time. Because I’ll have lots of catch up sewing to do when I get back, knowing I have a couple of posts in the queue waiting to go lets me relax and start writing more without feeling like it has to be done RIGHT NOW!!

Blogging is actually very similar to how I design and quit: I’ll think about something for awhile, block out time to work on a project, and then settle in for the actual work time without distractions. Also, when I’m not trying to cram something in last minute – either blogging or quilting – I can be more relaxed about it and enjoy the process more.

ziplining

Another thrilling part of our adventure was zip-lining through the jungle – most times it ended in water which was refreshing after a fun, heart-thumping ride!

Every now and then I hear about people lamenting the downfall of blogging and others questioning whether or not blogging is still relevant when there are so many other choices. Just like with anything else in life, writing a blog or even reading a blog isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok, too!

Ironically what I’ve found is that be because fewer people are blogging these days it actually allows my blog to be seen more, unlike the “blogging boom” of a few years ago when everyone was doing it. Because there’s not such a drive for me to monetize the blog – or stress about whether my “SEO” is “MIA” –  I can can focus more on being a quilter who blogs, not a blogger who quilts.

Hammock Time!

Proof that we’re not working ALL THE TIME though sometimes it might seem like it!

And with that said, now it’s time for me to unpack, do some laundry, and start thinking about the next quilt. It was a fabulous vacation, but now I’m excited to be home and I’m ready to get back to my sewing machine!!

Introducing Tic-Tac-Toe on the Cover of Fat Quarter Favorites

I love it when I get to reveal a quilt that I worked on many moons ago! Meet Tic-Tac-Toe, a fat quarter quilt featured on the cover of Fat Quarter Favorites – a new collaboration book from my publisher Martingale/That Patchwork Place that releases today!

Fat-Quarter-Favorites

This was one of those “secret sewing” projects that I worked on last year. I shared a few sneek peeks on my Instagram account while making it so if you scroll back through a year’s worth of posts, you can see some of it in progress, LOL!!

The book features 13 original designs by a dozen different designers all based on fat quarters (plus additional background fabric where needed).

I was in such a hurry to make this quilt that I forgot to take many in-progress pics, but here’s a shot of me “scrunching and smooshing” the quilt through the machine as I quilt:

Scrunching and smooshing to machine quilt

It helps to have a wider throat space on my BERINA so there’s more room for the quilt!

I only saved on detail pic where you can see the quilting while I added and pressed the binding. I quilted it with a dense allover free-motion square spiral design – one of my favorite “modern machine quilting” designs! (It’s similar to “boxes” – another fave design but you go round and round a couple times to get the spirals.)

square spiral design machine quilting

For the pieced design, I played around with the idea of combining blocks that look like X’s and O’s. It took several tries to adjust the proportions so they felt right. The O blocks came pretty quickly, but it took awhile until I was happy with the X blocks. I originally started with bigger center stars and they evolved into the design shown here. I extended the gray lines all the way to the borders to give it a bit more movement and overall I’m pleased with how well it turned out!

Tic Tac Toe by Christa Watson from Fat Quarter Favorites

Tic-Tac-Toe by Christa Watson, 76″ x 76″

Once I have the basic design in place it also takes me a bit to refine the sizes so the fabric yardage is used more efficiently. That’s why a lot of times, you’ll see me do scrappy bindings, so I can use up a bit more of the fun prints in the quilt!

If you like my design click here to see images of all 13 quilts from the book – I’m sure there’s something for everyone!

A Plethora of Stepping Stones Quilts: Student Work from my Latest Workshop

Last week I taught a week-long class at John C. Campbell Folkschool on how to make a complete quilt from start to finish. Everyone made the same quilt from my Stepping Stones quilt pattern – but as you can see in the group pic below, they all look so different – and so fabulous!

Students' Stepping Stones Quilts

A Colorful Plethora of Stepping Stones Quilts

Last Saturday, I flew to Atlanta, Georgia along with my mom, Jason and two of my kids. My mom and the kids stayed with my aunt and uncle for the week while Jason and I drove over to the Folkschool. He took a photography class while I taught quilting, and we both had a fabulous time!

Fabric Cutting for Stepping Stones Quilt

Cutting in Progress. Each student chose their own fabrics and they were all fabulous!

My students got to work right away, cutting their fabrics to make their quilts. I love how most of them chose bright colors, but I’ve seen this design worked up in a wide variety of fabrics and it always turns out great!

Stepping Stones Quilt Blocks in Progress

Quilt blocks in progress – some students sewed theirs together randomly while others took time to carefully arrange each piece and either way works great!

It was fun to see the blocks going up on the design walls in the studio space. There was plenty of room to spread out and most students had their quilt tops pieced by the second day.

stepping stones quilt in progress

Quilts in progress decorated the walls beautifully all week!

They were excited to try out my spray basting technique and we had a gorgeous spot to baste, just outside the studio door in the lush green hills of Brasstown, NC.

spray basting

Can you imagine a more beautiful place to baste a quilt??

Once the quilt top and back are sprayed outside, we brought them in doors to assemble on a couple of work tables.

Basting: smooth the batting

The trick to good basting is to smooth out each layer of the quilt! A long acrylic ruler helps.

Although there were lots of quilts to baste, we made a party of it, helping everyone get theirs done so the process went very quickly!

Quilt Basting - pressing the quilt

Another trick is to iron the quilt once it’s basted to set the glue and smooth out wrinkles.

During class, I did a mini-lesson on both walking foot quilting and free motion quilting. and the students picked which techniques and designs they wanted to try, based on their skill level and ambition.

Machine Quilting in progress

Students learned how to “scrunch and smoosh” a real quilt underneath their machines.
Walking-foot quilting detail of the quilt above is shown below:

walking foot quilting detail on stepping stones

I was so proud of them for going outside their comfort zones and trying out different techniques. Those that wanted to do custom quilting practiced on a sample block like I suggested so they could see how the design would work with the thread and fabrics they chose.

custom quilting on stepping stones

One student’s custom quilting design. Although it’s taking her much longer to quilt this intricate design in each block, the results will be well worth it at the end!

Once the quilts were quilted, it was time to bind. I taught them how to apply an even 1/4″ binding by starting with 2″ strips. They were even willing to finish it by hand and most of them added the final stitches on the last morning before the closing ceremony.

Hand binding stepping stones

You can get a LOT of binding done while chatting hanging out!!!

Although class time went for 6 hours a day Monday-Thursday and 1/2 day class on Friday, most of the students took advantage of bonus sewing time in the evenings. I also worked on an upcoming project during that time (which I’ll reveal shortly) and we all had a grand time! It really was like an intimate quilting retreat. None of the students knew each other before class but were BQF’s (best quilting friends) at the end of the week!

It really felt like quilt camp for adults and I have to say I had just as much fun as they did!!

Finished Stepping Stones Quilt

First quilt!! It’s never too late to learn!!

It’s rare that I get to teach an intense in-person class like this but it’s such a joy to see them all do such a fabulous job. We even had one sweet quilter that had never made a quilt before and hadn’t even touched a sewing machine in over 30 years. But with help and encouragement of the class, she had a fabulous finish and was so proud of it!!

Fiber Arts Studio at John C. Campbell Folkschool

The Fiber Arts Studio wouldn’t be complete with out a Barn Quilt Block!!

We were very lucky to call the Fiber Arts Studio at the Folkschool our home away from home for a week. This is the third time I’ve been able to teach here, and it just gets better and better! (See my previous two classes here and here.)

Students' Stepping Stones Quilts

Folkschool Quilt Class, June 2018

Just remember – if you decide to have fun making your own version of Stepping Stones quilt – I’m here to cheer you on!!

What Really Happens at Quilt Market: My Experience at Spring 2018 in Portland, Oregon

Quilt Market wrapped up a couple weeks ago but I finally feel settled enough to blog a little bit more about my experience as I debuted my second fabric line and my latest batch of quilt patterns.

(Click here for my latest post all about the newest quilts and patterns.)

Christa Watson Contempo booth Quilt Market 2018

My booth was next to Cherry Guidry,another Benartex Contempo designer – she introduced a beautiful collection of neutrals called “Words to Live By.” A friend made four skirts from me from my fabric and I paired them up with a fun pair of shoes each day!

Here’s a shot of the full booth where you can see all five quilts that were on display. Sparkling Stars took center stage and got quite a lot of attention. You can see the cool version of Surplus Strips on the ladder with Heather Black’s gorgeous Pearl Pendants quilt.

Fandangle by Christa Watson for Benartex

The warm version of Surplus Strips (on the right above, near the Contempo sign) did double duty: it added color to the side of the booth, and also covered up a functional bookcase full of fabric samples for the sales associates.

The table was decorated with Sylvia Schaefer’s fabulous Pinwheel Rings quilt, and it served as an overflow sales station for those sales reps who “worked the floor” rather than staying in the Benartex area the whole time. Although I mostly took pictures when no one was around, just imagine people milling through the booths entire time, talking shop, placing orders and oohing and ahhing over all the beautiful new things.

Bags by Annie Unrein made from Fandangle

By Annie bags and containers were scattered throughout the booth showcasing her latest patterns and adding a colorful touch while being very functional for me. I used them to hold business cards, pattern giveaways and hidden items like snacks and my phone – stuff I need easy access to but don’t want to have sticking out in public!

Annie and I have a great deal going – I send her sample of my newest fabrics, and she makes up a bunch of samples showcasing her new patterns and my new fabric. I get to use them in my booth when they debut at market and then she takes them when she travels, and sets up for trunk shows. My mom has even spotted things made from my previous line, Modern Marks in some of her newer videos so it’s fun to see them “out in the wild!”

What Really Happens at Quilt Market

2 Days Before Show Time

So now that you’ve seen my booth, I’ll give you a play by play of my experiences each day. Two days before the show opens is booth setup. Fortunately the amazing folks at Benartex have a team that designs, builds and decorates the booths. The pics below are during setup: crates are shipped in, flooring is laid down, curtains are hung on poles and furniture is arranged.

For two days, the show floor looks like a disaster zone in everyone’s booth and then it all comes together magically at the last minute! That’s my hubby Jason in the shot below looking on and being so grateful he doesn’t have to build my booth!!

Quilt Market Booth Setup

1 Day Before Show Time

Below – I’m wearing my first day outfit – a skirt made from the red colorway of Baubles and bits. I stopped by to check up on booth setup and they were pretty much done with everyone but my corner.  My quilts were the last to be hung because I had to share them at a few pre-opening marketing events first.

Christa with Fandangle outfit

The day started off with a breakfast meeting with the Benartex sales reps. The designers attending were able to show our quilts and tell the reps a little bit more about the inspiration behind the designs as well as talk about the patterns we created to help support the line. They have much of this information already in their sales books that they show to shop owners, but getting to present to them in person allows them to get to know us better and tailor their visits to quilt shops to better meet their needs.

Many of the sales team represent several different fabric companies, so it’s a lot of information for them to take in and remember. Although shops can stop by any booth they like and place orders at quilt market, most buying and selling happens through fabric company sales reps, so anything we fabric designers can do to help our collections stand out will give us a better chance of quilt shops purchasing them for their shops.

Showing Fandangle to Benartex Sales Reps

After meeting with the sales team, it was time to prepare for schoolhouse. This is a set of 15-30 minute education sessions aimed at helping shop owners understand the benefits of carrying our products in their shops. My session was teaching how to host a quilt along to help shops sell more patterns and fabric. Of course the hope is that they’ll decide to carry my things, but I make sure my tips will work for anything they choose to carry in their shops.

Schoolhouse Schedule

I was a little nervous that no one would show up for my session since it was the second to last one of the day. By this time, everyone’s been on their feet all day and it can start to be a little tiring. Plus there are about 15-20 sessions happening during the same timeslot, so attendees really have to pick and choose which ones they want to see.

Fortunately every seat filled up and it was standing room only. Everyone who attended got a little goody bag with a free pattern to entice them to carry my fabric. I won’t know how the first round of sales for Fandangle went until I get my first royalty report after the fabric ships, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that a good number of shops decide to carry it!

Quilt Market Schoolhouse

Show Time!

The show floor of quilt market is open for 3 days so it can be a bit of a blur! That sounds like a lot of time but it goes by very quickly, especially when it’s spent talking about fabric non-stop! But because quilt market is also a very social event, its great when some industry legends stop by to chat, too. Below I was able to catch up with Luana Rubin, the amazingly talented owner of eQuilter.com. We first got acquainted at a BERNINA ambassador reunion and I love following her work and travels on instagram.

Luana Rubin of EQuilter

In this photo I wore a skirt made from the cool colorway of Sparkling Squares.

During this whirlwind time of hanging out in the booth and talking to folks as they stopped by, I had a few meetings (more about that later…) and several machine quilting demos. During my demos I explained how several of my designs from Fandangle were actually inspired by some of my favorite machine quilting designs in my latest book, Piece and Quilt with Precuts. And here’s a hint to file away for now – although swirls didn’t make the cut for Fandangle, they’ll definitely make an appearance in the future…. so stay tuned!!

Machine Quilting Demo

It’s always great to meet up with fellow designers and see what they are working on, too. On the last day of the show, Aurifil organized a group picture for some of the designers who were attending that also have Aurifil thread collections. I’ve been chatting with Aurifil about my next thread collection and I’m really excited about what we’ve come up with so far. If all goes well, I’ll be debuting that one at fall market so there’s always fun stuff happening behind the scenes!!

Aurifil Thread Designers

Just a few of the Aurifil thread curators – Aurifil got a ribbon for best notions booth!!
On the last day of market I wore my Baubles and Bits skirt in the teal colorway.
It was fun to wear my fabric each day!

I’ll end this post with some pretty shots of my fellow Contempo designers’ booths that were in the same quad area. It was fun to see their pretty quilts hanging up all weekend and getting to know some of them better! In order below they are Cherry Guidry of Cherry Blossom Studio, Amanda Murphy, Amy Friend of During Quiet Time and Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle of Modern Quilt Studio.

The next big industry event I’ll be attending is BERNINA University in Chicago at the end of June. It’s like a mini-version of quilt market but exclusively for BERNINA dealers. I’m excited to meet many of the shop owners who didn’t attend quilt market, and I’m looking forward to teaching some hands on BERNINA classes while I’m there. I can’t wait!

QuiltCon 2019 Catalog Just Released – Here’s What I’m Teaching

I’m excited to be teaching at QuiltCon once again February 21-24 in Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve been to every QuiltCon since it began and this will be my third time as a member of the faculty. I’m most excited about the fact that although I’ll be plenty busy teaching 3 workshops and a lecture, I’ll still have plenty of time for all of the social events, too.

QuiltCon 2019 CatalogClick here to get the complete QuiltCon 2019 catalog.
Member registration opens June 26 and general registration begins July 10.

My QuiltCon 2019 Teaching Schedule

DSMQ200 Walking Foot Wonders, Thursday Feb. 21, 9-5

Learn to stitch beyond the ditch and unleash the power of your walking foot to quilt modern or traditional designs. Walking foot motifs to be taught include: wavy lines, decorative stitches, irregular grids, several different spirals, straight‐line designs, and more. You’ll leave class armed with the confidence that yes, you can quilt your own quilts! This is a hands-on machine class with machines provided for each student.

Walking foot Quilting Workshop


QDR010 Plan Your Quilting (A), Saturday Feb. 23, 2-5 PM Or
QDR011 PLan Your Quilting (B), Saturday Feb. 23, 6-9 PM

How do you get from “quilt as desired” to a cohesive quilting strategy? Students
will practice sketching quilting motifs on paper, then learn strategies to apply those designs to an actual quilt top. Students will each have a chance to create several different quilting plans using images of their own quilts printed on paper, as well as learning how to create quilting plans for a wide variety of quilt designs. This is hands‐on drawing workshop.

Plan Your Machine Quilting


lec22 Infusing Modern into Machine Quilting, Sunday Feb. 24, 10:15 AM

This informative lecture is full of examples from previous QuiltCons, demonstrating how the modern aesthetic can apply to the machine quilting process. Learn how negative space, minimalism, graphic geometry, improvisation and other hallmarks of the modern aesthetic can be incorporated into your machine quilting work.

Attendees will gain a better understanding of why many modern quilters choose to employ an abundance of straight line and “industrial looking” designs rather than quilting overly ornate and perfectly symmetrical motifs. Suggestions on how to incorporate graphic and linear free‐motion quilting as an alternative to straight‐ line quilting will also be explored.

The last time I taught at QuiltCon I was part of a panel lecture/discussion about managing your fabric stash with the lovely and talented Judy Gauthier, Rossie Hutchinson and Mary Fons.

This QuiltCon is shaping up to be one of the best, yet! There are loads of meetups and mixers and the class catalog offers the widest variety of lectures and workshops they’ve ever offered. I’ve got my eye on a design workshop I want to take, and there are plenty of lectures I’m interested in, too!

I hope you’ll make plans to attend, whether or not you take any workshops. QuiltCon is unlike any other quilt show I’ve attended – there’s definitely a party atmosphere there and half of the fun is the socializing! Leave a comment if you plan to attend and let’s get this party started early!!

The Patterns are Here! The Patterns are Here!

I got some happy mail this weekend – a shipment of my latest print pattern releases. The quilts below are all made from my Fandangle fabric which ships to stores in July, but I’ve written the patterns so that they will look fabulous in any fabrics you choose! I’ve blogged a lot about the quilts already (see links below each image in case you missed it), but now I’m excited to tell you what makes the patterns themselves extra special.

Sparkling Stars Quilt

Sparkling Stars quilt by Christa Watson made from Fandangle fabric

Sparkling Stars designed and made by Christa Watson, 70″ x 70″

For starters, all of my patterns are full color throughout. They are professionally printed, folded into a half-sheet size booklet, and staple-bound by GotPrint.com. I select high-quality glossy paper for the insides and the covers are slightly thicker which makes them a little more sturdy.

Because I purchase them in a higher volume, I’m able to get a quantity discount which I pass on to you all in the form of a lower price point. The MSRP for my print patterns is $9.95 which is much lower than the $12-$14 price I’ve seen for similar quality patterns.

Sparkling Stars PatternSparkling Stars Covers – Click above image to enlarge
Click here to purchase the Sparkling Stars Quilt Pattern

For Sparkling Stars, I included a very detailed materials list so that you could replicate the look in similar colors even if using different fabrics than I did. I also included detailed diagrams and charts by colorway so that it’s easy to follow along and not get lost.

Here’s an example of one of the many full-color illustrations that are included in the pattern:

Sparkling Stars Blocks

If there’s enough room in the pattern, I’ll usually throw in a closeup image of the quilting for inspiration. As an FYI, patterns need to be formatted so that they use up 8 or 12 sides (4-6 full pages). Most of mine tend to be on the longer end so that I can put in as much detail as possible.

I work with my graphic designer Lindsie to lay out the text, photos and illustrations, and if there’s extra room, I’ll throw in an extra diagram, tip, or quilting suggestion. I want you to have as much fun making these quilts as I did, and I try to pack as much helpful info into each pattern as I can!

Spiral quilting detail from Sparkling Stars

Quilting detail included in the pattern – inside front cover.

Surplus Strips Quilts

Surplus Strips Quilt Warm

Surplus Strips Quilt in the Warm Colorway of Fandangle
Designed and Made by Christa Watson, 67″ x 82″

Surplus Strips Cool Colorway of Fandangle

Surplus Strips Quilt in the Cool Colorway of Fandangle
Designed and Made by Christa Watson, 67″ x 82″

Surplus Strips Quilt PatternSurplus Strips Covers – Click above image to enlarge
Click here to purchase the Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern

For Surplus Strips, I wanted to show how you could use up leftover 2 1/2″ strips sorted by colorway to create a dynamic, scrappy looking quilt. In my patterns, I’ll try to include different methods of using your fabric (either yardage, scraps or precuts) whenever possible so you can make the best use of your stash!

Quilting Detail of Triangle Trinkets

Detail of the Triangle Trinkets motif quilted on the cool colorway.

I’m really excited that I was able to include machine quilting diagrams and detailed images in this pattern. Because many of the prints in my fabric lines are based off of my favorite machine quilting motifs, it was fun to include a different allover quilting design for each colorway.

Machine quilting detail of Surplus Strips

Do you see how the quilting design is the same as the Paper Cuts print? So fun!!

Pearl Pendants Quilt

Pearl Pendants Quilt by Heather Black

Pearl Pendants, designed and made by Heather Black, 60″ x 72″
Click here to read more about Heather and this gorgeous quilt.

It was really fun to collaborate on Pearl Pendants with my talented friend Heather Black of Quilt-achusetts. She designed and made the quilt using Fandangle plus Contempo Colorweave coordinates.

We both co-wrote the pattern and it was fun to go back and forth to ensure that the pattern was easy enough to understand and follow. My husband, Jason, who is NOT a quilter was very helpful in proof-reading to make sure even a novice could understand how to make this stunning quilt!

Pearl Pendants Quilt Pattern by Heather Black and Christa WatsonPearl Pendants Covers – Click above image to enlarge
Click here to purchase the Pearl Pendants Quilt Pattern

My favorite illustration included in the pattern is the very detailed chart of blocks which specifies exactly how many of each unit to make to get the same look. We included plenty of step by step diagrams so that you’ll have no problems making this fun quilt while practicing your curved piecing. Of course you can easily substitute the colors below for completely different fabrics, and it will still look great!!

Pearl Pendants Chart of Blocks

The pattern also includes full-sized templates to make the blocks in two different sizes, or you can use a specialty curved ruler if that’s your preferred method.

Heather has become quite proficient at quilting on her longarm and she loves to combine hand-guided work with a bit of computerized work in the quilting detail shown below:

Quilting Detail for Pearl Pendants

How to Purchase Christa Quilts Patterns

(1) Anyone can purchase my complete line of print patterns at shop.christaquilts.com.

(2) PDF versions of my entire pattern line are available in my Craftsy shop (click here).

(3) Quilt shops and other retailers can contact me via email christa@christaquilts.com for wholesale pricing information and exclusive specials.

(4) My fabrics and select patterns are also available wholesale through Checker Distributors and Brewer Sewing.

If you are a quilting instructor and wish to teach a class from any of these patterns, please contact me to get the wholesale pricing discount. I’m happy for others to teach from my patterns (or books) as long as each student purchases their own copy.

Sparkling Stars in the Benartex Contempo Booth at Quilt Market

Here’s Sparkling Stars hanging in my booth at Spring 2018 quilt market. Be sure to catch my next post where I’ll share all about my quilt market experience!

Sparkling Stars Quilt Part 3 – Spiral Quilting

Today I’m finishing up the making of Sparkling Stars, one of the brand new quilt patterns made from my brand new Fandangle fabric collection. Fandangle means embellishment or ornamentation and rather than embellishing my quilts with baubles and beads, I do it with fabric and thread!

Spiral quilting detail

Spiral Quilting Detail on Sparkling Stars

Marking the Center Spiral

Because I was on a tight deadline to finish this quilt, I chose a really fun walking-foot quilting design that looks great and is easy to do. I went with the large continuous spiral which is one of the designs I teach in my quilting classes and also in my book with Angela Walters, The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting.

Marking the Center Spiral

The trick to this design is to mark the center spiral, and then follow it around with the edge of your walking foot until the entire thing is quilted. I like to use a small circle shape to start. A spool of Aurifil thread works great by the way!!

Aurifil Variegated Thread

Speaking of Aurifil thread, I used  variegated 50 weight cotton #4650 Leaves for the quilting. I’ve really been enjoying using variegated threads on colorful quilts because they add an extra bit of texture and dimension to my quilts. In this case, it really emphasizes the “sparkling” effect.

Spiral Quilting

Machine quilting detail variegated thread

Yes, I had to rotate the quilt about a bazillion times, but once you get past the first few spirals it goes very quickly. It really helps to use a hands free system (knee-lift) or hover feature if you have one so that you can keep your hands on the quilt at all times.

I don’t ever stress too much about perfection in my quilting. If it wobbles a bit while quilting, I know that once my face isn’t two inches away from the quilt, it won’t be noticeable. Another walking foot quilting tip is to lower the presser foot pressure while quilting (not all machines can do this so check your manual). I also increase the stitch length to 3.0 to help compensate for friction and drag on the quilt.

Scrunching and smooshing the quilt

Rather than using a walking foot, I use the BERNINA dual feed that’s built into my 770 QE. It allows me to get the same result, but I can use different feet. I use the 20D foot – the open toe embroidery foot – for straight line quilting, and the 37D – 1/4″ patchwork foot – for attaching my binding.

Binding the Quilt

I use skinnier strips cut at just 2″ for my binding so that they finish at 1/4″ on both sides of the quilt. Click here for my binding tutorial for a previous quilt.

Attaching the Binding

I will press the binding to the back of the quilt and then keep it in place with about 200 binding clips all the way around the perimeter. I know some people like to use just a few clips and that works too!

Securing The Binding

When I bind, I keep the quilt away from me and bind from right to left. I use a thimble to protect my finger and push the needle through with the middle finger of my left hand. I think it’s interesting that there’s no one right way to do it. Some people do it holding the quilt in the opposite direction, while others stitch from left to right. As long as you are comfortable stitching, that’s the important thing!

Binding a Quilt

I know that binding by machine goes a lot faster, but there’s something I love about snuggling with the quilt at the end for a little hand-stitching. It’s like my reward after all the work it takes to make a quilt! Plus, I just really really like the way hand binding looks.

The final step in my quilt making process is to photograph the quilt. Thankfully Jason does that for me since I do NOT like that part, LOL!! We use my design wall to take flat shots that will be used for the cover of the quilt pattern. The hardest part is getting the lighting right! Later on, we’ll do pretty styled shots outside, but that’s a completely different process.

Photographing Sparkling Stars Quilt

I hope you’ve enjoyed the making of this quilt! You can now purchase the pattern by using any of the links below. And if you make one, be sure to share and use #sparklingstarsquilt on social media so I can see your progress!

Purchase the Pattern, See Previous “Making Of” Posts

 

Sparkling Stars Part 2 – The Quilt Top

I recently made Sparkling Stars to help promote Fandangle, my brand new fabric line at quilt market. The fabric will ship to stores at the end of June, and the pattern is currently available now in print or PDF.

Click here to read part 1 – making the quilt blocks.

Sparkling Stars in Progress

I decided to name this quilt Sparkling Stars as a nod to one of the prints I call “Sparkling Squares.” The collection name Fandangle means embellishment or ornamentation so I thought it would be fun for the fabric and quilt names to go with that theme.

Once the quilt blocks were sewn and pressed, it was time to sew them together to make the quilt top. This process went together rather quickly because I was able to refer to the image of the quilt top I had created in EQ8 for color placement, shown below.

Sparkling Stars Quilt Design

Here’s a tip when sewing lots of blocks into rows: sew the seams in opposite directions between blocks so that your blocks and rows don’t warp or bow to one side.

For example, refer to the top row in the image above. When sewing block pairs together, I kept the turquoise or teal blocks on top as I sewed the row together. There are a total of 4 vertical seams to sew per block row. By keeping the teal/turquoise on top, it ensured that I switched directions each time I joined the blocks.

Sparkling Stars by Christa Watson

After I completed the rows and added the borders, I pressed the entire top again from the front and back. Pressing often really helps ensure a nice flat top which is essential for successful machine quilting.

Hobbs quilt batting in cotton and wool

Whenever I make a quilt, I like to take a picture of the batting I’m using in the quilt so that I can remember what I used. For Sparkling Stars I chose Hobbs batting in cotton/wool.

This is one of my favorite battings for quilts that will be on display. The cotton gives the quilt drape and stability while the wool allows for good stitch definition and it doesn’t hold crease lines. I basted the quilt using basting spray and my design wall.

Click here for my spray basting tutorial.

Sparkling Stars Quilt PatternClick on the image above to enlarge

You can now purchase a copy of the Sparkling Stars quilt pattern. The PDF is available as an instant download through my Craftsy shop. The print version can be purchased now and will ship by the end of the month – once the boxes arrive from the printer. I can’t wait!!

Click here to purchase the PDF version of Sparkling Stars quilt pattern.
Click here to purchase the print version of Sparkling Stars quilt pattern.

Variegated Thread on Sparkling Stars

I chose Aurifil 50 weight variegated thread #4650 Leaves to quilt it since there was so much color. I’ve been experimenting with using variegated threads for machine quilting and really like them.

Stay tuned for part 3 where I show how I quilted it!

Sparkling Stars Quilt Part 1 – The Design and Sewing the Blocks

Now that I’m back home from quilt market, I have time to share about the process of making Sparkling Stars, one of the quilts from Fandangle, my new fabric line from Benartex/Contempo.

Sparkling Stars Design

Whenever I make an original quilt, I first create it in Electric Quilt Software using the actual fabric swatches I plan to use. If it’s a scrappy-looking quilt, I won’t worry too much about color placement while I design. However, for Sparkling Stars, I took quite a while re-arranging the colors until I was pleased with how they looked.

Sparkling Stars Quilt

Click here to purchase the Sparkling Stars PDF Quilt Pattern.
Click here to purchase the Sparkling Stars Print Quilt Pattern (Ships by 5/31).

I knew I wanted to use all 20 fabrics from Fandangle, but in a cohesive way. So I literally tried every fabric in the line in each part of the star blocks above until I was pleased with the final color arrangement. (I usually don’t save the “reject” versions because they are numerous and I don’t want to get confused by multiple images of the same file I’m working on.)

Fandangle Cut Units for Sparkling Stars

I love a pretty stack of cut units!

I planned the design months before I received fabric samples so that I could get the pattern written ahead of time. I knew time would be short in making the quilt so I tried to get as much work done ahead of time as I could. Once I start on a quilt, I’ll make it pretty quickly from start to finish since I’m usually working on a deadline.

Sparkling Stars HST's

Stacks and Stacks of HST’s in progress…

Making the Blocks

I try to assembly line my process, so I’ll cut everything ahead of time, then sew all the sub-units at once rather than constructing a quilt block by block. It’s much more efficient and I can pattern test as I go by doing it this way.

Sparkling Stars in Progress

I keep similar units together to stay organized.

As you can see, there are a lot of pieces that go into making this quilt so I try to be as careful as I can during every step of the process. I sew with a consistent quarter inch seam, press my seams open, and trim my units as needed to the correct size. By taking care during each step of the process, it ensures the final blocks will go together smoothly.

Sparkling Stars Quilt Blocks

Sparkling Star Quilt Blocks in Progress

When the sub-units are complete, I stack them up and lay them out in order next to my sewing machine so that I can chain piece as much as possible. I also take pictures as I go so I can look at a reduced view of the quilt blocks to make sure nothing is turned the wrong way before sewing together.

For these particular blocks, I made sure turn turn the “Beaded Curtain” print so that they were all facing the same direction. The rest of the prints are non-directional so they didn’t matter.

Seams Pressed Open

I sew with a shorter stitch length and press seams open as I go for best results.
Then I’ll pin the units together as I sew to get accurate seam joins.

Rather then sewing the blocks into rows, I sewed them into 4-patch units so they’d be easier to manage. It also allows makes me feel like I’m getting more done since it’s a lot of pieces to sew! The biggest tip is to just sew one step of ALL the blocks at a time and then take a break so it doesn’t get too monotonous.

Sparkling Stars Blocks in Orange

These blocks will sparkle and glow in the final quilt!

When the blocks are complete, I’ll press them with a hot, dry iron on both front and back. This ensures nice flat blocks which will be much easier to machine quilt!

Sparkling Stars Quilt Blocks

There are a total of 25 blocks in 6 different fabric combinations.

I wrote up the quilt pattern so that it would be extremely easy to follow along either using the same fabrics I did, or using similar colors to get the sparkling effect. Fandangle will start shipping to stores at the end of June, but you can pre-order bundles of the prints and yardage of the grays (along with the quilt pattern) over at shop.christaquilts.com for a limited time.

Sparkling Stars Quilt Blocks

While I’m not offering kits, you can get the enough fabric to make this quilt when you purchase 1/2 yard bundles of both the cool and warm colorways; plus 3 yards of the light gray, and 2 yards of the dark gray. There will be a little left over that you can use for other projects.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I show how I put the quilt top together!

Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern PDF Now Available

I’m having a great time at quilt market this week, sharing Fandangle with the wider quilting world! I was excited to get the PDF version of Surplus Strips finalized before I left, and it’s available for purchase now from my Craftsy shop.

Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson of Christa Quilts

Surplus Strips Materials List

The print version is being printed now and should be available by the end of the month.
If you missed my process posts about making these quilts, check them out by clicking the links below:

Surplus Strips Part 1 – The Blocks

Surplus Strips Part 2 – Quilt Top and Basting

Surplus Strips Part 3 – Machine Quilting and Binding

Surplus Strips Cool

Surplus Strips in the Cool Colorway

Machine Quilting Detail

It was so fun to make this quilt using both the warm and cool colorways of Fandangle. You can make this quilt using yardage like I did, or you can go super scrappy with leftover precut strips.

Surplus Strips Warm Colorway

Surplus Strips in the Warm Colorway

Machine Quilting Detail

The most fun part was quilting them using designs from the fabric, which were inspired by my quilting! How’s that for circular logic?? f you make this quilt, be sure and share on social media #surplusstripsquilt. I’d love to see your progress.

Click here to purchase an instant PDF download of Surplus Strips.
Click here to order the print version (ships by the end of the month.)

Click here for my complete pattern library.