designer challenge

The 12 Days of Ruby Star

It’s no secret that we have mad love for Melody Miller here at FQHQ.  Not only is she an unbelievably sweet & genuine person, but she is an amazingly talented surface designer whose fabric collections for Kokka Fabrics have been the buzz of the modern quilting community for the past several seasons.  From the ingenious viewfinder reels and cameos of her debut collection, Ruby Star Rising, to the oversized bees and cross-stitching motifs of Ruby Star Spring, to the typewriters and captivating florals of her newest collection, Ruby Star Shining, we’ve fallen in love with the deep, rich colors and eclectic vintage-modern-funky-urban-retro-whimsical style of her designs.  And it’s all printed on an absolutely gorgeous heavyweight linen-line fabric that is truly versatile — whether it’s a quilt, a bag, or some home decor items, Melody’s fabrics make items that you will literally love to touch and hold.

This holiday season, we’re thrilled to collaborate with Melody on a Designer’s Challenge that we’re calling The 12 Days of Ruby Star.  In the spirit of the season, we wanted to showcase the versatility of Melody’s fabrics  by sending little bits of her 3 collections to a handful of Fat Quarterly readers and challenging them to make a small item that would also make a perfect gift idea.  So it’s a win all around for you — not only will you be inspired by the creations made from Melody’s fabric, but you will also have access to over a dozen free patterns and project ideas from some of our community’s most creative and prolific crafters.

For the next 12 days — from now until Christmas — we’ll be posting free project ideas from a wide variety of Fat Quarterly community members.  There will be some familiar faces but, in the spirit of Fat Quarterly, we’re also excited to introduce some new names and faces of sewists whose work you might not yet be familiar with.

It’s not too late to whip up some hand-crafted gifts for your friends and loved ones, so we hope we can provide you with some fresh, new ideas.  Of course, if you make anything from our guests’ tutorials, please be sure to add them to the Fat Quarterly Flickr group.

We can’t wait to see what you make!  We hope you enjoy the 12 Days of Ruby Star!

Aurifil Designer Challenge – Erin

A big thank you to Erin from Why not Sew? Quilts for taking part in our Aurifil challenge. We love what she came up with and I am sure you will too!


I was thrilled to be chosen to participate in Fat Quarterly’s Aurifil Thread Challenge. When I received my package of the threads I went straight to my sewing room to get started. We were allowed to use one, some or all of the thread. For me I knew I had to use them all. That was what the challenge meant for me.

I decided on a Modern Crazy Quilt design. I’ve always loved all of the different stitches that traditional crazy quilts have and thought it was a perfect design to showcase all of these fabulous threads.

The two threads that instantly caught my eye were the thicker 12 weight threads. In my pack I had a green colored 12wt. thread and a white wool 12 wt. thread. I really wanted to showcase these.

I used the green for the feather stitch on the quilt blocks

and also for the machine stitched binding.

I used the wool thread to raw edge applique each block to the linen background fabric using a blanket stitch. The wool was incredible. I loved everything about it. It was thick, showed up well and sewed like a dream.

With the bit of wool thread that I had left I hand quilted some big stitches between the blocks. The thread was great for hand quilting too! All of the threads were excellent to work with.

I used the 28wt. variegated thread for the herringbone stitch. It showed up well and sewed wonderfully. I used the 40 wt. thread for the honeycomb or smocking stitch. It was a lighter weight but it showed up really well. I also used this weight for some of the piecing to see what that would be like. No problems at all. It’s definitely  a good thread for piecing. Lastly I used the 50 wt. thread for a decorative swirl stitch. It showed up well and has a nice delicate look. I also used this weight thread for some of the piecing and it was great. I could see this thread also being of good use for subtle quilting stitches.

All of the Aurifil threads that I used had different characteristics making them extremely versatile. I am so happy that I had the chance to work with them. Thanks Aurifil, Fat Quarterly and Lynne for organizing this exciting challenge.

Designer’s Challenge: Pennants for Olympic Athletes

Something BIG is happening in London in 2012 … and no, this time we don’t mean the Fat Quarterly Sewing Retreat!

London is not only the host city of our first-ever live community event, but it’s also the home of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games!  In honor of this event, we’d like to call your attention to a fun, quilt-related activity in honor of the games, and issue a special Fat Quarterly Designer’s Challenge.

Quilts 4 London is asking quilters from around the world to take part in a wide-scale community project.  They’re looking to gather 14,000 handmade pennants to give to athletes as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.  Yes, something you make will be given to an Olympic or Paralympic athlete!

Here’s a little more about the project:

The Quilts4London Project started in June 2009 with an idea to produce something as a gift for all the athletes taking part in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. The idea of pennants (traditionally exchanged at friendly sporting events) seemed perfect and the concept was born.

Although initially created by a group of Quilters (hence the name) it has now blossomed into a National and International project of creative, imaginative and beautiful textile pennants all of which will go towards the target of 14,000 pennants needed to give one to each competing athlete.

Image from the Wombourne Quilters blog

The Quilts 4 London site has all of the information you need about the specs and details of the pennants.  Don’t have time to make a pennant?  The group is also looking for volunteers to make braids & rods.  They’ve extended the deadline to February 15th, 2012, and have a pretty specific list of guidelines that are worth a read.  We think this would be a GREAT opportunity for Modern Quilt Guilds, sewing circles, and virtual quilting bees.

While the images shown above of sample pennants are wonderful, we sure would love to see our modern quilting community’s take on these Olympic pennants.  So much so, in fact, that we’re issuing a Designer’s Challenge to help this effort.  Think you can earn a perfect 10?  Between now and February 15th, when you make an Olympic pennant and upload it to our Fat Quarterly: Community & Inspiration Flickr group, your work will be featured here in the FQ blog and in an upcoming issue of Fat Quarterly.  Not only that, but we’ll select Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal winners who will receive fabulous prizes.

We can’t wait to see what you create!

Gen Q Music Monday: Break Out!

Do you enjoy our Designer Challenges?  You know, the ones where we ask Fat Quarterly readers to create something based solely on a single piece of inspiration, or using a specific material, or by trying a new technique?  Well, our friends at Generation Q Magazine have just launched their fun new challenge series, Music Monday.  The idea is that the team at Gen Q will select a music video and have their readers show off what it inspired them to create.

Their first pick to kick off the challenge?  A blast from the past called “Break Out”, by Swing Out Sister.  Remember this one?  Check out the video below (and behold the awesome sewing sequence that kicks it off!), and then head over to the Gen Q blog to read more details about the rules, their Flickr group, and the announcement of their guest celebrity judges for the first challenge.  (Here’s a hint: IT’S US!)

So what are you waiting for?  BREAK OUT!

Aurifil Thread Designer Challenge

Do you use Aurifil?  Do you like it?  Which weight threads do you prefer?  Aurifil have provided us with ten sample packs for a Designer Challenge so we need ten willing volunteers who are up for a challenge.

First here’s a quick round up of the five threads you will get in the sample pack and what you might use them for.

50wt – orange spool – 100% cotton – the lightest weight Aurifil thread.  Ideal for machine and hand piecing and hand applique. Can also be used for machine and hand quilting for a more subtle look.

40wt – green spool – 100% cotton – slightly heavier.  Ideal for machine quilting.  Can also be used for hand and machine piecing and hand and machine applique.

28wt – grey spool – heavier again.  Ideal for machine and hand quilting when you want the thread to show more clearly on your quilted.  Also for raw edge applique finishing on the machine or by hand.

12wt – red spool – comes in cotton or wool – ideal for embroidery, cross-stitch, hand blanket stitch and similar decorative stitches.  Can also run through the machine for a very strong quilted look – on my machine straight line quiting is fine with the 12wt but FMQ is a bit of a struggle but not impossible!

So we are looking for readers to participate in this Design Challenge.   You can make whatever you like with these threads.  Something pieced.  Some applique.  Some FMQ or straight line quilting.  Some cross stitch or embroidery.  Or a mixture of all of those.  Leave a comment on this post and ten readers will be picked, notified and sent a sample pack of five threads.

Shades of Grey Scrap Challenge: Melanie O’Brien of A Sewing Journal

Today we wrap up the Shades of Grey Scrap Challenge, sponsored by the lovely Jan DiCintio of Daisy Janie.  Our final designer is Melanie O’Brien (@Obrien_Melanie) of A Sewing Journal.  A Sewing Journal is your daily dose of sewing and quilting inspiration, featuring a wide variety of sewing projects ranging from quilts to clothing to home decor, along with sewing pattern reviews, book and magazine reviews, interviews, shop and studio tours, tutorials and more.  Melanie does a great job in making sure that her site is chock full of both information and inspiration, and you can learn more about both her and A Sewing Journal here.

We hope you enjoyed this Designer’s Challenge!  We’re always on the lookout for creative souls to take our challenges.  Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, where we usually put out the calls for participants.

Now, let’s see what Melanie did with her scrap bag!

As the former owner of online fabric shop, Modern Organic Fabrics, I held on to some of my favorite fabrics from the shop. So when I received the Shades of Grey scrap pack from Jan, I knew I wanted to use it with some of the organic fabrics from my stash. I felt like going in a direction of muted colors rather than high contrast with the greys. I settled on some organic shirtings (the solid greys and purples) and an herbal-dyed organic cambric (the peach color). I wasn’t concerned with the differences in weight and hand as my goal was a sort of harmony in color.

I had originally set out to make a mini-quilt. But a lack of time caused me to switch course and make a long-promised music book tote bag for my oldest daughter. Of course, I switched course after cutting out a bunch of rectangles, so that guided my design for the tote. Like many of you, I don’t have as much time as I’d like to sew. That causes me to consider the usefulness of each and every thing I make. My home is decorated in tones of whites, browns, beiges and yellows. I just couldn’t figure out a place to display a grey and purple mini-quilt in my home. This was causing me quite a bit of dismay and I felt it better to create something I (or my family) would use and love. That was the other reason behind switching to a modern tote bag design.

Shades of Grey is suited particularly well to being cut up and assembled in patchwork. The variety in form, shape and scale of the patterns create a wonderful movement. I loved pairing it with the muted solids where it creates just the perfect amount of interest without being overpowering or loud.

The pattern I used for the bag is the Parent’s Tote Bag from the book Linen Wool Cotton by Akiko Mano. It’s one of my favorite tote bag designs for not only is it simple to put together but I like the overall aesthetic of the floppy bag with gussets. The colors, sizes and patchwork were completely improvisational where I played around with the rectangles until I found a combination I loved. My 10-year-old daughter is thrilled with the colors and the sophistication of the patchwork.

By |September 25th, 2011|designer challenge|0 Comments

Shades of Grey Scrap Challenge: Candi Weinrick

We’d like to welcome Candi Weinrick (@candiweinrick) of Raccoon Creek Quilts to the blog today.  Candi is an amazing quilter, an officer in the Philadelphia Modern Quilt Guild, and today’s designer for our Shades of Grey Scrap Bag Challenge!  We first met Candi when she was helping out Julie Herman of Jaybird Quilts in her Quilt Market booth in Salt Lake City and were immediately drawn to her fun and infectious spirit.  We hope you’ll visit Candi’s blog and get to know her, too!

Let’s see what Candi did with her scrap bag …

Im a lover of traditional blocks with modern fabrics. The fabrics from Daisy Janie are a perfect modern fabric to go with a simple block which I felt would show off the prints to their best advantage. And Hello – I love grey fabric! I chose not to add any fabrics because I really wanted to hold myself to what was given to me (exception being backing and binding). I opted to make a wall hanging because one of the solid fabrics is this fabulous {what I like to call} martini olive green and my sewing room is that same color. I have the perfect spot to hang it!

I decided to sew the fabrics into 9 patches and make value play an important role in each block. I normally dont hold myself to following the rules of value or negative space. The way I decided to twist it up was to go with a 3 in, 6in and 9in layout. Meaning the largest block would be 9in sq and all other blocks had to be divisible by 3. I ended up making 10 – 3in blocks, 5 – 6in blocks and 2 – 9in blocks. Since I had limited fabric I sewed the two 9in blocks first. I also only had a small amount of the solid red so I knew I had use that in the 3in blocks. I had lots of 1.5″ squares floating around the sewing room.

The wall hanging is 18 inches wide by 24 inches long {18 and 24 both being divisible by 3}.

Deciding how to quilt the hanging was probably the hardest part. I really wanted to do free-motion but I’m horrible at it so I opted to do some straight line quilting. I didnt want it to be heavily quilted. I used blue painters tape to put my first line down across the corner and then used a 4″ ruler to make sure my lines would be evenly spaced. After the quilting was finished I attached the binding by machine.

Now I just need to properly hang my new quilt.

By |September 24th, 2011|designer challenge|5 Comments

Shades of Grey Scrap Challenge: Lucie Summers

We couldn’t be more excited to introduce today’s featured designer, Lucie Summers (@lusummers) from “a very flat part of England”.  Lu (as she’s known to her friends, which now include all of you) is a surface pattern designer who blogs at summersville and sells some amazing things (including her original artwork, fabric, mugs, and notebooks) in her Etsy shop.

Lu’s appearance on our blog couldn’t have come at a better time as, just this week, she shared the exciting news that she’s the newest designer for Moda Fabrics!  Yes, you heard that right.  Before too long, you’ll be able to get your hands on Lucie’s debut fabric line for Moda, “summersville“.  The colors and prints are brilliant, and so perfectly Lucie.  We couldn’t be happier for her.  And we hope she’ll remember little ol’ us when it comes time to pass around some early samples of the line.   ; )

But enough about summersville (for now).  Let’s see what Lucie created with her scrap bag of Daisy Janie‘s Shades of Grey …

I was so excited when my package of scraps arrived from over the pond – a little package of deliciousness! in with Jan’s beautiful Shades of Grey pieces were some hand dyes in perfect colours for me – teal and light turquoise – just lovely. I’m also a fan of chartreuse with grey and found some suitable hand printed pieces I had hoarded away by the equally lovely Shannon Lamden of Aunty Cookie, just right for adding extra flashes of saturated colour. I decided I really wanted a scrappy look to my cushion with lots of texture so chose one of my own fabrics, Scratch, to complement my selection so far.

Then I got to work! I knew I wanted to have a play with Seminole patchwork, so I cracked open some books, learnt the basic technique, then threw the rule book out of the window. I didn’t want any matching points, so had a great time chopping and sewing my strips so create a very loose zig zag. I lined the cushion with chartreuse green felt – this gives the cushion a little more body, and makes a nice stable yet soft surface for the simple quilting. Plus, if you happen to look inside, it’s a nice little surprise – such small things make me happy!

Shades of Grey was super easy to work with – crisp and soft, and the abundance of grey tones made it a pleasure to mix with other prints and colours. I’m thrilled to bits with the resulting cushion which lives pride of place on an old leather chair – the perfect place to curl up in comfort with a book and a cuppa!

By |September 21st, 2011|designer challenge|12 Comments

Shades of Grey Scrap Challenge: Michelle Southern of Kinetic Quilts

Today’s Shades of Grey Scrap Challenge contribution comes to us from another talented Canadian, Michelle Southern (@KineticQuilts).  Michelle is the owner and “head quiltress” (love that title!) of Kinetic Quilts, a unique business in the quilting industry.  A self-professed “galpreneur”, Michelle launched Kinetic Quilts in 2010 with the idea of making unique, handmade quilts with a twist: an innovative online quilt label system that she developed herself from scratch. Every one of Michelle’s quilts (including the project she made for this challenge!) is tagged with a claim code that the quilt owner can enter into the Kinetic Quilts website, and receive information about fabrics, batting content, and photos of the quilt being made.

Proving yet again that Fat Quarterly readers are the most creative bunch around, Michelle brought us yet another completely original idea for a scrap project.  Let’s learn more about Michelle and take a look at her fab table runner.

This really was a project where I was completely working outside of my comfort zone – and I totally loved it!

Quilt Block

When I saw the Shades of Grey fabric for the first time, I knew I wanted a quilt block that showcased the large-scale, bold patterns in as big a way as possible. Although I looked online and through every book available I couldn’t find what I wanted. I ended up drafting the pattern myself for a 9″ paper-pieced block. You should know that I do not particularly enjoy paper piecing. The fact that I deliberately chose paper piecing AND also drafted my own pattern for the block should make it pretty obvious how badly I wanted to use this block for my project.


I have never worked with a grayscale colour scheme before, and finding a background fabric that worked for me was baffling. I had to audition every fabric in my stash (along with every colour, print, and solid in my local fabric store – I was there for hours) before I found that this green batik was the only one that I truly loved. I’d read that some quilters consider a solid black in quilts “bad luck” and so I usually tried to avoid it simply to avoid offending anyone. Using this solid “true” black was another first for me.

Fabric Design

The Shades of Grey line has wonderful, big and bold patterns that I love but made me realize I would typically choose smaller patterns or batiks for my quilts. So I got a crash course in working with blocks, settings, and layouts with large-scale patterns. The fabrics were also much thicker and had more stretch than I was used to so I had to make allowances for this. And stripes – oh my goodness, there were striped fabrics in my scrap package! I cut the stripes into a thin outer border and conquered my fear.

Pieced Backing

To keep with the “scrap” theme of the project I pieced the backing using every last available piece of the Shades of Grey fabric – even for such a small project it was a challenge for me to take the scraps and make them into a single useable section that I could use for the backing.


Lastly, when I quilt I tend to use cotton or mono-filament thread. But again, I went flying into the arms of danger and chose a shiny, wrapped rayon thread to quilt the table runner with because it gave just the tiniest bit of sparkle peeking out from its place in the ditch.

Outside of all this fun fabric adventure, the scrap package was sent late, and my sewing machine seized during the project (along with two others I managed to find but could not get working). I also ended up at my doctor’s office on a heart monitor the day I had wanted to send in my completed project. I can’t believe I got it done but I am in love with the results. Every time I look at this table runner I am reminded of what we can do with our creative ideas when we have the chance to challenge ourselves. Although some people said they saw shamrocks within the blocks and fabrics, I definitely see Lily Pads – launching points for our froggy selves to jump from whenever inspiration strikes.

Thank you to Fat Quarterly and Daisy Janie for the opportunity to be a part of this Designer’s Challenge! All in all it was a fun project to be involved in, and I hope that in reading this you will make your next piece one in which you go outside of your OWN comfort zone! For more information on the products used with this table runner, enter the code 30gL6Nde at my Online Quilt Label System on my Kinetic Quilts website (

~ Michelle Southern
Kinetic Quilts

By |September 19th, 2011|designer challenge|2 Comments

Shades of Grey Scrap Challenge: Cara from Cara Quilts

Today’s fun scrap project comes to us from our friend from the north, Canadian quilter Cara Wilson (@caraquilts) of Cara Quilts.  Besides being a prolific quilter, sewist, and pattern designer, Cara is the originator and hostess of the fun (and addictive) Talkin’ Tuesdays program on Twitter.

Don’t know about #talknt?  It’s a live chat that Cara hosts each and every Tuesday evening on Twitter, bringing together dozens of like-minded quilters for fun conversation and sharing.  You can almost always find members of the Fat Quarterly team hanging out with Cara & the gang on Tuesday evenings.

We knew Cara would create something great from Daisy Janie‘s Shades of Grey scrap bag, and she didn’t disappoint.  Below, Cara not only describes her fun project, but gives enough tips so that you could make your own.  Let’s have a look at Cara’s fun & funky lunch bag.

A great thing about scraps, especially strips and squares, is the ability to sew them together to create new patchwork yardage! This is a great way to make really unique projects, whether they be bags like this or applique. When you have scraps from one project, especially if they are from a fabric line or the same designer, makes it really easy to make beautiful projects instead of just tossing the scraps, be they tossed to the scrap bin or the trash.

The fabrics I received were Daisie Janies absolutely gorgeous organics. These have such a beautiful, strong feel to them. I would never have guessed in a million years that they were organic, environmentaly friendly from start to finish. The are totally top of the line quality and worth every cent.

For this challenge I was lucky to be given several larger pieces, along with some smaller scraps. Because Daisy Janie is all about being environmentally friendly I wanted to keep that theme in mind when I went to work on my project so decided to make a re-usable lunch bag.

I simply cut and sewed pieces together until I had a large rectangle, the exact size is just dependent on what size and shape of containers you like to take in your lunch, and folded it in half lengthwise. I then sewed down the long edges and marked 3″ up and in on both sides. Drew a line connecting the marks and sewed on the line. I trimmed off the triangles and turned it right sides out again.

Because I wanted this to be easy to wipe clean for the occasional spill I made up a liner with laminate fabric, exactly the same way I did the bag, except leaving a 2-3″ gap for turning.

I also wanted a handle so grabbed some more of the scraps and sewed them into a 5″x 15″ strip. The length just depends on how long you want it to be, a hand handle or a shoulder strap. I folded it like bias binding, the folded it in half again, so the raw edges where encased, and sewed down both sides.

With the outer shell right sides out I placed it inside the liner, which is right side in, so the rights sides where facing each other, and place the strap in between the two, with about 1″ sticking up past the edges, and sewed all around the edge. Turn right sides out and stitch the gap closed.  I like to add top stitching to my bags to help keep their shape.

Going with the whole lunch accessories you could also make reusable napkins, a coffee cozy or utensil bag.

Remember just because you have scraps doesn’t mean they have to stay that way!

By |September 18th, 2011|designer challenge|4 Comments