Deep Into Winter

Being a bit of an introvert, I relish winter months here in upstate NY. Short on daylight and long on snowfall, these months practically beg for hand work, hot drinks and quiet reflection. My sketchbook is brimming with new quilt designs, my work table is heaped with fabrics of all kinds, and the dye pots are simmering away. I'm most productive when I don't have to leave my studio for days at a time, much like having a few snow days in a row!

So far this year, January saw the release of my free EPP template, Striped Octagons, and I've been floored by the positive response it has received. For those of you who have featured it on your blogs, reposted it on Instagram and shown off your talent at #StripedOctagonEPP, thank you from the bottom of my heart! I love interacting with you, and look forward to seeing this talented online community spread its wings. 

With February in full swing, and your positive messages fueling me to charge ahead with more quilt designs, I'm knee deep in pattern design and testing! Pictured here is a test run for one of those new patterns. It's during this stage that I work out design flaws and make construction notes. As I'm stitching, I'm asking myself, is this a pleasure or a pain? Is this shape awkward to stitch? How does this fabric respond to this technique? Is there a better way? It's YOU I have in mind as I'm testing and scribbling notes. Your happiness stitching any of my patterns is paramount. 

Freezer paper for reverse applique. Nice!

Freezer paper for reverse applique. Nice!

The colors used for this test pattern seem to be an excellent remedy to the cold winds blowing around outside my window. Well, that and connecting with all of you! For now, I have a few more samples to stitch up before releasing this beauty later this year.  

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A Spectacular Year

Overall, 2016 has been a positive year, and looking at both the highs and the lows provides the perspective I need to plan 2017.  Before I get to the milestones, I'll say that this year saw the passing of my beloved uncle and my father-in-law. Shortly thereafter, my constant companion, Stanley, whom you may recognize from his IG cameos, also left us. Loss of loved ones always reminds us what really matters. 

Having said that, I've given all I've got to this little business, and am happily seeing the fruits of my labor. I have nothing but excitement and eagerness about the year ahead. My company is two years old now. My first year, 2015, was filled with all the necessary tasks for a small business start-up: defining my mission and setting goals, intensely researching and developing product, marketing, branding and building a website. My first year was fully funded out of my own pocket. I'm proud to say that 2016 has seen my business fully funded by online sales and vending. I'm grateful to each and every person who showed their belief in what I'm doing by making a purchase or sharing a kind word, or both! You and my love of textiles are the reasons I do what I do.

2016 milestones: what a spectacular year! 

January-May saw the release of 13 natural dye colors on three substrates. Pre-cuts were added to the product line. Oh, and there was that ridiculously cold, February photo shoot when I thought my camera wouldn't survive, let alone my fingers.

A glimpse of the joy and talent in Enchanted Paper Cutting. Shiny happy faces!

June: Teaching Enchanted Paper Cutting Workshop at Squam Art Workshops! While there, I took a remarkable book making workshop with the completely delightful Rachel Hazell, as well as  sewed Sarah Waldo Jagger's Ondawa Wrap with her personal guidance. Vending at the Art Fair went above and beyond my hopes. New friendships and outpouring of support through sales and kind words sent me home on cloud nine.

At the end of June I drove to the Vermont Quilt Festival, where I met the very talented and sweet Trista Dufresne, @trista_deee! Another highlight was seeing the festival founder's private collection of antique quilts was my favorite exhibit. Maybe this will be the year I actually begin sewing my tiniest scraps?

July: I attended AQS in Syracuse and found a supplier for Japanese yarn dyed wovens. Since then, I've been able to find these fabrics a little easier in the US. I've been stitching my own sampler, a few blocks at a time, and I'm considering offering the sampler as a pattern. Working with these fabrics is an entirely different experience than traditional quilting cottons. I'm a huge fan of Yoko Saito, and would love to take one of her workshops. Some day. 

Fabric colors from left to right: Tobacco and Journey; Lagoon, natural and Golden Age; Lagoon and Lake. Glue basted and copier paper templates.

For much of the year, and mostly under the radar, I've steadily made progress with English Paper Piecing. I've been teaching myself. I've been testing various wrapping techniques; exploring a variety of fabrics, from my own hand dyed fabrics (photo above), commercial cottons and Japanese wovens; and trying a wide variety of templates, from plastic to copier paper. I'm putting myself through these rigors with an eye on offering workshops, templates, patterns and/or kits. More on this in 2017.

Sugar Maple leaf from the back yard.

September-October: I produced my first limited collection of eco-dye fat quarters (a few are still in my shop) using India Flint's method with a few of my own modifications. These fabrics have been so well received, and I'm grateful for the feedback and sales. I will offer them again in the fall of 2017. Seeing what you'll make with them is the BEST!

My design is a reproduction of an antique quilt shown in the book, Infinite Variety: Red and White Quilts.

Also in the fall, I participated in Sherri Lynn Wood's #MakeDoChallenge. My quilt is awaiting quiet winter evenings for quilting. I have to say, my eyes have been opened to the process of reverse engineering a quilt. I learned a great deal starting with only a set amount of fabric and then figuring out a design, size and construction techniques. This is just the way that I went about the challenge. We're spoiled by today's quilt designers who provide all of this information in their patterns! This is a great challenge with no deadline, and I encourage any quilter  to give it a try!

In Havanna with my mom.

October - November: Visiting Cuba with my mom. This trip inspired a new quilt collection that I'm just beginning to work on, hoping to make the patterns available later in 2017, or 2018. 

November: I enjoyed working with paper, scissors and ink on Sunday mornings throughout Rachel Hazell's online PaperLove e-course. Working outside my norm was beneficial in many ways. Thank you for a splendid workshop, Rachel! 

Eco-bundle example from my one-day workshop. 

December: Presented and vended at the Quilters Consortium of NYS year-end meeting. I had the best time meeting with and showing my work to so many talented quilters from across New York State. What a fantastic way to wind down the year! 

2017 Goals:

  1. Design and make quilts for everyone, not just children. Taking a look back on the year has shown me that my original model focused solely on children is too limiting for me as an artist. I need room to spread my wings and explore the wealth of design ideas in my head and stitch the stories waiting to be told from my heart.
  2. Strike a better work-life balance. Working from home, I tend to work seven days a week. I love what I do, so that's not a complaint, rather, an observation based on a need to take better care of myself. Sundays will be my day to recharge, turn off the computer, and stay out of the studio. 52 Sundays. Let's see if I can stick to that!
  3. Share my knowledge of the natural dye world and stitching. Spread the joy of coloring cloth safely, naturally, beautifully. I'm aiming for early February to offer dye kits for sale in my shop. I'm working on finding a location for teaching stitching to youth in my community. 
  4. Make at least one quilt during the year for the #MakeDoChallenge. As quilter Sherri Lynn Wood says, imagine if every quilter made even one quilt a year from found fabrics the positive impact that would have on our landfills, water and soil. 

I'm ready for 2017! Are you?