Are you anxiously waiting for spring to arrive? You are not alone! The residents of Longyearbyen, Norway, have lived in darkness since October 25th. That’s 3,000 hours with no sunshine at all!
But on March 8th, the sun will finally peek over the horizon, and the townsfolk are ready to par-tay with a week-long festival called Solfestuka. Choir children dress like sunbeams, folks feast on sunshiny pastries, and a few brave souls dress in swimsuits and sunglasses!
Of course, no celebration is complete without a quilt, so Jenny has whipped up a gorgeous new pattern to welcome the springtime sun.
Skylight is a quick and easy layer cake quilt made with Moda’s gorgeous Spring Brook collection.
Almost 20 years ago, the tiny, rural community of Gee’s Bend was brought into prominence when their quilts were discovered to be works of art, not just the simple bed coverings they’d always believed they had been making. Their quilts were purchased by collectors and displayed in art museums across the country causing quilting to be elevated from folk art to masterpieces. In one of the first reviews of their artwork in 2002, Michael Kimmelman of the The New York Times called the Gee’s Bend quilts “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced” comparing them to renowned artists like Henri Matisse and Paul Klee.
The exceptional modern art style of Gee’s Bend quilts might be attributed in part to their unique community. Their isolated town is nestled in a crook of the Alabama River, surrounded on three sides by water without a bridge or ferry. Being a close-knit group of only a few hundred, the quilters of Gee’s Bend have passed on their knowledge and skill to subsequent generations, untouched by outside influences, allowing their patterns and variations on patterns to live on. In their insular community, they have taken traditional quilt blocks and molded them to fit their own preferences with astonishing results.
Another reason the Gee’s Bend quilters’ style is so unique is their utilitarian spirit. They are a make-do group of women who have taken old work clothing, worn out blue jeans, scraps of corduroy left over from a sewing contract with Sears in the 70s, and just about any kind of fabric they could get their hands on, to make their incredible abstract quilt designs. Without the means to simply buy fabric, they made their scarcity into a feast for the eyes.
They design innately, inspired by their surroundings and what they have on hand, creating organic quilt compositions that go far beyond the precise, mail-order quilts they had once produced back in the 1960s for the Freedom Quilting Bee to sell in department stores like Bloomingdales and Saks 5th Avenue. They allow their quilts to wibble and wobble. The colors alternate as they see fit. They don’t have straight borders. These quilts don’t play by the “rules.”
It’s such a pleasure to marvel at the improvisational prowess of the Gee’s Bend quilters—a surprising addition of yellow blocks in a mostly blue, brown, and maroon quilt is a welcome sight. A half-log cabin quilt with blocks turned this way and that feels so freeing. Rows and rows of blue jeans with faded knees turns into a master work when discarded work pants are pieced together just as they are, allowing them to speak clearly of their origins.
In the Gee’s Bend quilts are innumerable variations of the well-known “housetop” quilt block, that many of us might recognize as “courthouse steps,” a variation of the log cabin. They take this block that is built strip by strip, and add vibrant centers or ignore the centers altogether, focusing more on the contrast of light and dark in the strips themselves. They add a few pieces of striped fabric for interest wherever they please. Patterns and solids are used in wildly varying combinations and the colors just seem to work.
After taking in such freely interpreted designs, we hope you feel yourself filled with the desire to play with fabric again, cut it without squinting at the markings on a ruler, and sew it together without a pin in sight. Why not? There are no mistakes to be made when you simply allow yourself to create.
Souls Grown Deep
Ever since their quilts have been discovered to be the works of art they truly are, the quilters of Gee’s Bend have experienced a renaissance of creativity in their community. Those who had long since put down the needle and thread have picked it up again in the fervor of renewed quiltmaking, and those who had never been interested in the art of making quilts before suddenly found themselves longing to be a part of this vibrant group of quilters. All were welcomed in and during the past 20 or so years, more quilts have been made than ever before. And they’re just as beautiful and inspiring as we remember.
To help this community continue to promote their art and to protect the livelihoods of these quilters, Souls Grown Deep has partnered with Nest to help the quilters of Gee’s Bend. The Nest team has spent time in Gee’s Bend with the quilters there, building relationships and getting to know these wonderful women to help them market their world-renowned quilts and make sure their unique stories are heard.
Gee’s Bend has an average annual income of $12,000 and more than half of their population struggles with poverty. Many don’t have internet access in their homes and as a result, it has hindered their ability to connect with those outside their community and reach a wider audience to sell and to display their quilts. Souls Grown Deep, with their partner Nest, is working with these wonderful quilters to help them receive fair payment for their quilts and build a strong foundation for future financial success.
Spring is just around the corner and there is no better time than the present to start planning all your creative seasonal projects! Whether you’re using your quilt for a picnic blanket (we promise that’s ok to do!) or decorating your house with floral themed wall hangings, spring is the perfect time to let your creativity blossom. Go bold with bright colors, such as vibrant sunshine yellows and meadow greens, and craft from the world around you.
If you’re looking for some inspiration to beat those winter blues, check out some of our favorite spring projects and new lines of spring fabrics to start warming your creative spark. While we patiently wait for the sun to melt away the snow, get stitching on these spring projects so that when the time is right, you’ll be enjoying the outdoors as soon as possible!
Spring is so full of color and is meant to be fun, so let yourself be a little whimsical with your fabric choices! A Blooming Bunch is a collection that’s just bursting with fun flowers, plaid prints, stripes, and other floral prints in bright and happy colors that will not only give your Bloom and Grow quilt the perfect spring palette, but will keep it lighthearted and fun as well!
Tulips are a symbol of spring and the perfect block to make any quilt a spring staple. These gorgeous tulip blocks are created using 10″ squares of precut quilting fabric and come together in a flash, creating a beautiful flower block with both petals and stem. Create this project using your favorite floral fabrics and you’ll have a quilt that is so full of life that your garden will be jealous!
This quilt features a bold design that is uniquely fit for spring, so select a fabric that is bright and bold as well! Artisan Batiks Hummingbird Lane Ten Squares by Lunn Studios for Robert Kaufman are a gorgeous collection featuring colorful florals, foliage prints, and of course, hummingbirds in batik styles. Not only will your quilt be full of color, but closer inspection will reveal a world full of fabulous spring elements inside each bloom!
Turn your fabric stash into art! These fun-to-do, no-sew foam core quilt boards are for all ages. Using the back of a small seam ripper, just tuck your pieces of fabric into the precut grooves of the adhesive backed quilt board. In no time at all, you’ll have your very own handcrafted piece of Easter home decor.
Easy precut fusible appliqué! Kit, designed by Sue Pritt, includes her pattern and batik fabrics for the background and precut fusible appliqué shapes. You add the inside and outside borders, binding and backing. In no time at all, you’ll be celebrating the return of spring with this beautiful cardinal themed kit.
Get crafty with this adorable wool felt Easter egg project! The kit, designed by Barri Sue Gaudet, for the 6 appliqué and embroidered wool felt eggs includes a pattern, wool felt, and cotton floss. Share this project with the little ones in your life and make your Easter egg hunt extra special this year.
A classic such as this deserve classic elements, consider using an Easter Egg Hunt Fat Quarter Bundle by Natalia Juan Abello for Riley Blake to not only add a traditional soft color palette, but for the ease of cutting your fabrics from a fat quarter. Not only will you appreciate the evolution of quilting while you prepare this project in traditional fashion, but the subtle bunny rabbits, carrots, and colorful eggs on light springy colors will give this quilt both a modern and classic feel. Plus, the line is just so darn cute!
This easy applique project can become a work of art by using Moody Bloom! These fabrics from the Create Joy Project for Moda Fabrics, feature digitally printed watercolor florals and colors that will make your next project a bouquet of beauty. Not only will your dresden flowers burst with color, but the variety of colors in this floral watercolor fabric will allow you to keep the pots subtle while the flowers steal the show.
Set your table with these floral place mats adorned with peonies, butterflies, and other foliage and enjoy them every time you sit down to dine. Exclusively for Missouri Star, this digitally printed panel kit contains a pattern and Botanica fabric for the top, binding, and backing, by Michel Design Works for Northcott.
Try your hand at watercolor quilting with this easy piecing kit that includes pattern with graph and the precut 2″ background squares that are presorted by value. You provide the borders, binding, and backing of your choice.
Designed to teach sewing and creating for the next generation of makers, each Cut Sew Create kit has skill building levels from beginner to intermediate to advanced. This intermediate kit, by Stacy Iest Hsu for Moda, includes instructions and 100% cotton panel to make a Easter basket tote plus 3 stuffed bunnies.
Fun fact: Jenny Doan used to be terrified of dresdens. (Dozens of little pieces. Loads of top stitching. Scary, scary, scary!) But then…she finally gave ‘em a try. And guess what? She fell head-over-heels in love!
Over the years, Jenny has stitched up dresden plates, dresden bouquets, and even dresden turkeys! (22 different projects in all! Watch the entire playlist HERE!)
For this month’s Triple Play tutorial, Jenny and the girls created 3 gorgeous dresden quilt patterns made with jelly rolls, layer cakes, and charms. Click HERE to watch the video – we can’t wait to hear which quilt you like best!
You’ve gathered your supplies, you’ve studied your basic skills, and you’ve even put together your first quilt block, but what comes next? Using templates and notions to create one-of-a-kind quilting designs is even more simple than you may have imagined. In fact, if you’re using a ruler to line up your cuts, then you’re already experience in the process! The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a template as “something that establishes or serves as a pattern”, so that handy ruler you’ve been using is the first step in mastering the template process!
The most familiar template for all of us is the trusty 5″ x 15″ ruler. This simple straight line device is used in quilting to cut an even and straight line, but they come in a variety of different sizes! If you’re sewing a big project, consider using a bigger ruler. Many quilting rulers are designed exclusively to feature one inch blocks in a transparent plastic so you will always be certain that you’re cutting and measuring precisely.
This is just the beginning of the world of templates and notions! Consider the Dresden Plate block for example, it’s a time-honored traditional quilt block that demonstrates expertise in crafting and has long been a staple of the quilt world:
“The popular name for this quilt, Dresden Plate, reflects the romance of the Victorian Era with its love of elaborate decoration on household items and décor. Dresden, Germany was a center of 19th century romanticism movement in art, one that included the fine decoration of porcelain. The plates were embellished with elaborate design using flowers, fruits and foliage. The beautiful plates would surely have been admired by women of the early 20th century.”
The fun doesn’t stop at just dresdens! Templates and notions are designed to make your quilting career easy and approachable. Whether you’re quilting with curves or using a notion to push out the corners of your project, take some time to research the available options to streamline the process. There is no limit to the ingenuity being utilized within the crafting world, so the next time you’re dreaming up some inspiration for your next project, consider challenging yourself to improve your skills by adding a new element to your quilting with a template.