Mandalas to Embroider – book review

Mandalas to Embroider by Carina Envoldsen-Harris is a beautiful collection of easy-to-embroider mandala patterns.

I love stitching mandalas so much! (You can find instructions for stitching freestyle mandalas here. And here’s a mandala sun I made using this round graph paper.)

The book is great for beginners, with a short spread about materials and a few pages showing how to do some basic embroidery stitches – all you need for these pretty designs.

There are patterns for 12 large mandalas and 12 small mandalas – and they’re all iron-on transfers.

And – I love this thoughtful detail – the book has a pocket in the back cover to hold those transfer pages after you cut them out.

I love it when the publisher of a book really thinks about how it will be used.

I was going to stitch one of the tiny designs and maybe wear it as a necklace. I love this group – all named after artists. 🙂

But in the end, the paisleys sucked me in. 🙂 I decided on Paisley Constellation.

There’s a two-page spread for each design, showing the pattern, a color chart, stitch guide and the finished design all in one place. I love that!

Here’s a closer look at the information page.

See how clearly everything is laid out?

Of course, I ignored it completely. 🙂

As soon as I got my design transferred (just a super easy iron-on) and hooped in the purple hoop I decided on a bunch of cool colors for a watery-ish look.

I always start stitching the biggest outlines first.

After I was almost done I decided that it need a little pop of warm color, so I made the flowers dark pink, and decided on a light pink for all the little stars.

Here’s my finished hoop!

I’m so happy with how it turned out!

The one thing the book doesn’t have is instructions for finishing your hoop art. But I’ve got you covered. 🙂

There’s a video here showing how to frame art in a hoop – without using any glue.

And there’s a post here showing how to cover up your messy back when you frame it in a hoop. This is especially nice for a project like Christmas tree ornaments, where the back can actually be seen. And all the small designs in the book would make FABULOUS Christmas tree ornaments.

My mandala was so much fun to stitch – I’d love to do another in a completely different colorway. You can transfer each design about 10 times before the ink runs out. That’s a lot of stitching fun!

Get Mandalas to Embroider here. And have fun with it!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

This post contains affiliate links. That means I make a little commission if you buy something after clicking through.

Giveaway: "Mini Knitted" Book Series + Interview with Sahiyo Ishii

Mini Knitted Books

I have an amazing opportunity for you today! Search Press (the publisher of the adorable Mini Knitted series) is giving one reader 5 books, including:

Keep reading for details on how to enter! Sachiyo Ishii is the author of 4 of these books, and she’s joined us to tell us a bit about herself and her process!

Each book is packed with projects (more than 25 patterns per book), using a variety of techniques with simple knitting stitches.

Interview with Sachiyo Ishii


Sachiyo is the prolific author of 4 of the Mini Knitted books, and I was delighted that she took the time to come talk to us! Welcome, Sachiyo!

How did you begin knitting? And when did it take a professional turn?
I took up knitting in my 30’s after my second son was born. I could not knit a stitch until then. I thought dressing my boys in my handmade clothes was trendy and very Yummy Mummy, but soon discovered that knitting requires skill and patience. With my friend’s help, I did achieve my very first piece, but the stitches were messy and uneven, and the sleeves came out in different lengths.

It seemed to me that I had a very long way to go until I would be able to knit a decent garment. I almost gave up knitting altogether, however, I discovered that you can make small toys with basic skills. I practiced published patterns for some time and then, I started creating my own to add personality. I knitted many animals and proposed my current publisher, Search Press the idea of the knitted animal park. It is great to find a channel that I can put my effort into.

You’ve written so many books! Where do you find your inspiration?
I get inspiration from everywhere. When I walk in town, looking through books and magazines, shop windows, everywhere! I am constantly thinking of new designs no matter where I go or what I do. Illustrations and cartoons, felted work and sugar craft are a good source, too. They are already in simplified forms and it is easy to make them into my craft projects.


What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy attending fitness classes and swimming. When I get stuck with a project, swimming can be the best solution to get a fresh idea. I don’t do enough but I like visiting craft shops and fairs. I guess I cannot completely be free from crafting.

What is your favourite yarn/knitting needle/craft supply?
For many years, my favourite yarns are Rowan. I love felted tweed especially. It is such a delight to knit with quality yarn.
I have been using bamboo needles since I took up knitting. They are less slippery and keep stitches well and the best of all, they feel great in hands. If you are still new to the skill, bamboo needles are must. I have been using Clover Takumi needles.
My favourite is Clover products. My mother loved them for many years and recently I inherited them all. Some are bought over 30 years ago but still in very good condition.

Is there a favourite piece you’ve made? Perhaps for yourself?
It is hard to say since I have many favourites, but I love the knitted carousel. I have a whole set of amusement park in knitting and would love to do a book someday. Most of my creations are for myself except occasional gifts to my friends. It is great to be an author. You get to keep all samples!
knitted carousel Sachiyo Ishii

Thank you, Sachiyo!

Find Sachiyo!

Website: www.Knitsbysachi.com
Instagram: knitsbysachi
Facebook: www.facebook.com/KnitsBySachi/
Ravelry: sachiyo-ishii
Pinterest: knitsbysachi
Twitter: Knitsbysachi

The Crochet Wildlife Guide Review + FREE Penguin Pattern + Giveaway!

I am so excited! I love showing off a great book to you… and there are so many goodies! Keep reading to grab a FREE download of the Chinstrap Penguin by Philip Ha (aka Sir Purl Grey) AND enter to win a digital copy of the book, The Crochet Wildlife Guide.

The Crochet Wildlife Guide

You may have heard me say this before on the blog, but I get a lot of amigurumi books across my desk and for many of them, I say, ‘oh, ok. This has some cute patterns.’ And it ends there.

And I’ll admit it, my books are among them.

Much of the bare-bones nature of many books you see is completely driven by the publisher’s desire to save money. Cute illustrations? You have to pay an illustrator for those. Step-by-step detailed instructions? Nope. That takes too many pages. Fancy shaping techniques? Oh, no. That doesn’t appeal to a wide-enough audience.

For a crocheter who wants extra information either because they’re a beginner (and need the help and explanations) or are adventurous and want to try something new (hence, needing explanations of new and complicated stitches), this formula can be very frustrating.

Needless to say, when a book comes to me that breaks the mold, I jump out of my chair with glee!

The Crochet Wildlife Guide

The Crochet Wildlife Guide is a self-published book by Philip Ha and Jeff Wiehler, and the book is filled with creative crochet ideas and an artist’s touch. I was impressed by the coverage of basic crochet techniques as well as detailed instructions and illustrations for each animal.

The Crochet Wildlife Guide bird

Each project contains a diagram (as shown above) that allows you to see each piece and how they are put together. These photos are often what takes a good pattern and makes it amazing and easy-to-follow. (It’s why I include step-by-step photos in all of my individual patterns… no matter how many words you have, sometimes, you just need a photo!)

I was also enchanted by the darling illustrations in the book (including this table of contents).

The Crochet Wildlife Guide table of Contents

The patterns included in the book walk the line perfectly between wildlife-realism and kawaii cuteness. Amigurumi like the red panda on the cover, have little details so the animal is instantly identifiable and unique, but not fussy and still cute with wide appeal.

The book also includes a table of the skills required for each pattern. This is such a great idea… you can identify the project that’s just right for you!

The Crochet Wildlife Guide difficulty levels

Throughout the book, the authors emphasize places where you can become your own designer, by highlighting small changes you can make or pointing out the design techniques used to create a particular shape.

The Crochet Wildlife Guide Bat

The photography, with animals photographed in nature, is lovely as well.

The book is available for purchase in digital or print form, from The Crochet Wildlife Guide website or from Amazon.

FREE Chinstrap Penguin Pattern

Free penguin crochet pattern

Phillip and Jeffrey have given us a pattern that didn’t make the book for FREE so that you can get started on some crochet cuteness right away!

Click here to download the pattern:  Penguin pattern by SirPurlGrey

Happy stitching!

Review: The Spoonflower Handbook

I purchased this book with my own funds. The links to Amazon are affiliate links. As with all of my book reviews, this post is 100% my honest opinion. I have received no compensation and I did not agree to publish a positive review.

Bringing fabric design to the average person

Traditionally, printing fabric was something that required huge machines and required minimums in the thousands of yards. If you wanted to sew a dress with that great fabric idea you had… you would have ended up with 49,999 extra yards sitting in your garage.

That is, until Spoonflower came along. It’s a website that allows you to print your own fabric, with no minimum order. It’s amazing.

I actually didn’t think much about how revolutionary the site was until I attended the launch for The Spoonflower Handbook at The Textile Center with Stephen Fraser (co-founder of Spoonflower) and Becka Rahn (surface designer, author and sewing teacher).

Corkscrew tie
Check out this tie! My father-in-law collects corkscrews, so for one Christmas, I designed a fabric with a drawing of the specific type of corkscrew he specializes in. I had it printed at Spoonflower back in 2011 and sewed a tie!

I listened to Stephen talk about the technological hurdles they’ve conquered in the quest to allow normal people to print their own fabric in small quantities… and wow. I’m glad they figured it out. And I’m glad it wasn’t me!

The thing I love most about Spoonflower is that it’s become the best site for indie-designed fabric anywhere in the world. You see, you can upload your own design and have it printed. But, you can also allow your design to remain on the site so that others can order it, too! And the designer earns a cut of each sale. It’s fabulous.

And the result is that you can find beautiful fabric in almost any niche. Seriously. Where do you think I found Tour de France fabric for the pillows on my sofa? (And you can check out my tutorial for sewing removable pillow covers!

Tour de France pillow from Spoonflower

I head over to the site whenever I want a fabric that’s a little something special. I know I’ll find what I’m looking for!

The Spoonflower Handbook

All that was lead-in to my review for The Spoonflower Handbook. I was excited when I found out about this book because I had just been making my fabrics willy-nilly. I know nothing about surface design.

Spoonflower cover

I want to applaud this book for being a rare one that dabbles across a number of categories. It covers the basics of using the Spoonflower site, basics of surface design (aesthetic principles and software options to create the designs) as well as sewing projects for using the finished fabric from Spoonflower.

A creative person will have a blast with this book, since it focuses on creating finished projects where you’ve had control over every step of the process. You can create a 3-D plush toy where you picked the colors, drew the fabric and sewed the shapes.

While comprehensive, this book is an overview of these various categories, and makers experienced in any of these areas may find the information too basic. For example, this isn’t a book with very intricate sewing projects. Most of the projects are composed of sewing two pieces together: a tea towel, a simple quilt, a pillow, a shower curtain, etc. The information about how to use the site is wonderful to have in one place, but much of it is information that could be gleaned by searching the information available online. If you’re looking for a book about surface design or to learn how to sew, then there are other books that would better serve you.

Inside Spoonflower handbook

I feel very inspired by the book. Even though I used Spoonflower before, designing fabric wasn’t a part of my creative process. I planned a project and then just bought some fabric. Now there’s a little seed in my brain: making the fabric is part of executing the project.

Since I’m on the more novice end of sewing, thinking about sewing in this way brings my understanding of the craft in line with how I think about my knitting. When I want to make a sweater, I consider yarns (color, content, the ply, etc.) at the same time as I’m shopping for patterns. For example, if I want to make a cabled sweater, I would pick a yarn with smooth definition. But if I am looking to knit with alpaca, I would select a pattern for a sweater with more drape to take advantage of the properties of the yarn.

I’ve already given myself a homework assignment to create a new fabric… now that’s a good book!

Book Review – All Points Patchwork

All Points Patchwork book review

I may have mentioned once or twice here that I really love handwork. 🙂

I love the feel of the fabric and thread in my hands.

I love the little pop I hear when the eye of the needle with the doubled-over thread passes through the fabric, followed by the low shush of the thread.

I love that I can take it anywhere.

I love the slow, meditative pace – and the fact that it allows me to sit and watch TV guilt-free. I’m “working” while I watch. 🙂

I can not believe that it has taken me this long to try English Paper Piecing.

I got interested a year or two ago when I started seeing fun projects popping up on Pinterest – but then I heard that Diane Gilleland was writing a book and I decided to wait for that. I’ve read Diane’s books before and they are always amazing and comprehensive and inspiring.

All Points Patchwork is available now – and it’s everything I knew it would be!

Quite simply – it’s the best craft book I’ve ever read. Even better than Anatomy of a Doll – the book that got me interested in 3D sewing.

Like Anatomy of a Doll, there are no projects – it’s pure instruction and inspiration from start to finish – exactly what I look for in a craft book.

Let me show you what I’m talking about. . .

I love that the front of the book shows a block with some of the pieces flipped over. On the back of the book you see the same block, entirely from the back (so you can see the construction details) and the most basic instructions for English Paper Piecing.

All Points Patchwork book review

Really – that’s all there is to it. Choose a shape and cut it out of paper. Baste some fabric around the shape. Join the bits together.

If it’s that simple, why do we need a whole book?

Because Diane teaches you EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW.

EVERYTHING.

The pros and cons of different template materials.

Where to buy pre-cut templates.

How to design your own blocks – on the computer with high-tech drawing tools or on paper with nothing more complicated than a compass and a straight edge.

Different basting techniques.

I could go on and on and on. It’s all in here.

And she doesn’t just throw the information out there. She anticipates any possible problem you might have and helps you fix it. I love this bit on getting the perfect, invisible whipstitch seam, with good and bad seams shown, along with several troubleshooting suggestions.

All Points Patchwork book review

The tone throughout the book is warm and encouraging – like she’s sitting on the sofa next to me helping me learn this new craft. Just what I need!

The book isn’t just for beginners, though. She includes more advanced techniques too, like how to add a pieced, finished edge to your work.

All Points Patchwork book review

So fabulous for a table runner or mug rug where the back will be seen and where you don’t want to square off the edges!

Or this bit, where she shows two different ways to baste diamond shapes, and then explains when she uses each method. Throughout the book she shows exactly what she’s doing (with really terrific photos), and also explains why. This is so rare – and so helpful!

All Points Patchwork book review

After a general intro with all the basics, she moves on to more detailed sections for each type of shape you might use. This, to me, was the real meat of the book.

For each shape she shows how to draft it by hand, and exactly how best to baste it.

All Points Patchwork book review

Then she shares a couple of pages showing sample layouts, the different kinds of arrangements that each shape lends itself to.

All Points Patchwork book review

Finally, she gives tips for how to join individual pieces and larger units together.

All Points Patchwork book review

She does this for hexies, diamonds, jewels, triangles, tumblers, octagons, pentagons and even curved shapes. It’s so comprehensive!

And then there are the “Project Inspiration” pages. They’re scattered throughout the book, and each one shows a finished project, with suggestions for fabric choices and alternate ways of using it.

All Points Patchwork book review

This lovely book cover, for example, is a great way to showcase tiny scraps of favorite fabrics – really setting the bits off surrounded by a frame of solids – and would also be good for placemats, a pillow, or a table runner.

Or this one, showing a softie made with EPP fabric.

All Points Patchwork book review

Basically, she’s showing us how to create fabric using EPP, then showing us how we can use that fabric with any of our favorite patterns!

I’m not sure I ever would have thought of using EPP for a softie, but now that I’ve seen this image, I can’t stop thinking about how great Bailey Bear or Bartholomew Bunny would look with this technique. Their construction is very simple, just like this little guy, and I’m going to have to try it now.

(If you don’t have a favorite pattern for a project, go to www.allpointspatchwork.com where Diane has collected links to tons of different patterns and organized them by category. Handy!)

Most of the projects shown are small, or are larger projects with smaller bits of EPP incorporated into them, like this quilt.

All Points Patchwork book review

These are a few EPP appliqués added to a whole cloth quilt, and she also reminds us that we can add them to a store-bought blanket, or even use them as patches to give a second life to a stained or worn quilt. I love that!

But I also love this. . .

All Points Patchwork book review

It’s a feature of someone who actually made an entire hexie quilt – in less than a year! She shared exactly how she did it – a totally doable approach for anyone who wants to tackle a big project.

All Points Patchwork is a craft book designed for the way most of us actually use craft books. It’s got. . .

  • Instruction! All the information we need, and a lot we didn’t even know we needed – the kinds of tidbits that you pick up from your mother or grandmother, or from years of practice and trial and error.
  • Clear organization with a solid table of contents and index.
  • Beautiful illustrations – terrific photos for all the how-tos and clear diagrams for all the layouts.
  • Inspirational eye candy – also beautifully photographed, and with extra tips for how to take each project in your own direction.

I just finished my first EPP project – this doll quilt.

my first EPP project!

It was so much fun to make that I already started a new project last night – and you can bet there will be more projects to come – including some free patterns here at Shiny Happy World. I know I’ll be referring to this book again and again for years to come. It’s an incredible reference book for anyone – of any skill level – interested in EPP.

Get All Points Patchwork here. And get it now. The first free pattern is coming soon and summer is the perfect season for hand work. 🙂

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

Why I Use Wool Felt

Why I Use Wool Felt

This is why I use wool felt.

I designed the pattern for this little gizmo cozy (it’s free here) in February 2011. I’ve been using it to protect my MP3 player in my purse ever since.

That’s 3 1/2 years this little thing has been tumbling around in my purse and look at it! It still looks great!

Why I use wool felt - a side by side comparison

The photo on the left is from the day I finished it in 2011. The photo on the right is from today.

The corners have gotten a little smooshy and rounded. The threads of the embroidery are a bit more embedded in the felt. The edges of the applique aren’t as crisp. The big lazy daisy flower in her hair is definitely looking a little flattened.

But there’s no pilling! If this were made of cheap acrylic felt I would have thrown it away long ago because it would have looked so grubby and terrible.

How do I know this? Because when Jo was little I made her a felt board. Not knowing any better, I used cheap acrylic felt from the craft store. Honestly, I didn’t know there was anything else!

Jo wasn’t any especially grubby or rough kid, but within DAYS those felt pieces started to look terrible. They pilled awfully. They seemed to pick up and grab onto every speck of dirt or dust. And in no time at all they had lost almost all their cling. The feltboard quietly disappeared and I didn’t work with felt again for a long time. Why put a lot of work into a material that’s going to look awful almost right away?

And then I discovered wool felt. Online – of course – because there’s not a single brick and mortar store in my area that carries it. People wrote about how durable it was compared to the acrylic stuff. How it doesn’t pill. They didn’t mention how nice it feels in your hands, and how pretty embroidery looks on it, but I discovered that on my own pretty quickly. 🙂 I fell in love with felt! I couldn’t buy it locally, so I started carrying it in my shop.

I’ve made a lot more felt projects since then – so many things that I had to create a whole section in my shop for felt patterns! But it all started with this little gizmo cozy. 🙂

If you’ve never used wool felt before, give it a try! There are a bunch of free felt patterns here. Enjoy!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

 

 

I Turned Abby Glassenberg’s Duck into a Bluebird – and You Can Too!

Bluebird - made by Wendi Gratz of Shiny Happy World with a pattern by Abby GlassenbergRight after I finished the Bird Quilt I was still kind of obsessing about birds. That’s when Abby from While She Naps made a new version of this duck pattern with safety eyes instead of felt eyes. I loved the look and immediately saw a blue bird in my head.

I had to make that guy a reality – and I had to make him out of Cuddle Fleece. Bright blue Cuddle Fleece! 🙂

Abby sent me the pattern and I cut out the pieces – and then they sat on my work table for a while because life intervened. As it does.

But yesterday I finally got this guy sewn up – and I’m so happy I did! Isn’t he a cutie?

I’ve made Abby’s patterns before and they’re always excellent. On this guy I particularly like the shape of the head and the smooth curve of the body. Abby really does a lovely job with gussets and darts! She also got the neck just the right width – thick enough that it will take years of love to get floppy, but thin enough to still give the bird a good bird shape.

And the beak is very expressive! It’s sewn into a curved seam which makes the beak “cup” a little – which allows you to flip it up or down for different expressions which hold really well. Nice!

It’s so interesting to me as a designer to see how other designers solve problems! We all do things a little differently and I have to remind myself while making to follow the instructions instead of branching off my own way. 🙂 That’s where the learning comes in, after all.

That said – I did make a couple of changes. . .

I’m not crazy about the way topstitching looks on Cuddle Fleece, so I usually avoid it. I went ahead with it here on the beak because I thought it would need it to help define the shape – but I left it off the wings and tail and just stuffed them lightly. I think they still look very cute – I like the flippy tips quite a lot. 🙂

I moved the stuffing opening from the base to the back. The original opening was on the curved edge at the base of the bird and I really struggle with ladder stitching around curves. Yes – the back of the doll is more visible – but it’s a straight seam and I know I can make a completely invisible ladder stitch if I’m working a straight seam, so I was ok with that opening being in a more visible spot. That’s all about me knowing my particular skill set – not any criticism of the pattern. 🙂

If I make the pattern again I think it would be fun to try a patterned quilting cotton for the beak and feet. You’d still get the cuddliness of the fleece in the body, but with a pop of pattern and a different texture. It could be super cute!

Want to make your own? The fun thing about birds is that they come in so many lovely colors. Go crazy! And get the pattern here.

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

Book Review – Stitched Blooms

Stitched BloomsWhen I was working on the Finished Stitches project, I contacted Lark Crafts about contributing a copy of Stitched Blooms – a fun new embroidery book by Carina Envoldsen-Harris of Polka & Bloom – as one of the prizes.

They offered to send an additional copy for me to review. Why thanks! I’d love to!

It always takes me a while to write a review because I like to live with the book for a while and, whenever possible, make one of the projects.

Want to see what I made?

This fun Dala Horse!

Dala Horse Ornament from Stitched Blooms

This isn’t exactly one of the projects from the book. That’s where my review comes in.

Stitched Blooms has a very nice introductory section with all the basics you’d expect – a thorough discussion of tools and materials, a nice stitch glossary, and information on how to transfer a pattern – though she doesn’t include my beloved Magic Embroidery Stuff. 🙂

It has a really comprehensive section on color theory with very specific information about how it relates to embroidery and some helpful suggested Color Exploration Exercises. Lots of great color information from an artist I always associate with skillful use of color? Awesome.

Stitched Blooms also has some really fun (and different) projects that use your stitching. I especially like these luminaries. . .

Embroidered Luminaries from the book Stitched Blooms. . . and these pretty tea towels.

Mehndi Tea Towels from the book Stitched BloomsI’m planning on stitching a few of these up for myself on my favorite colorful tea towels. 🙂

But here’s what really sets Stitched Blooms apart. It includes 300 motifs (that’s a lot!) you can use – all on a CD so you can easily resize and recombine them. Fun!

Dala Horse from the book Stitched BloomsI decided to make this Dala Horse – with a few variations, of course. 🙂 The one in the book is quite large – more like a stuffed animal. Mine is a Christmas tree ornament. Here’s what I did. . .

  1. Blow the dust bunnies out of my CD drive. I don’t think I’ve ever used the thing.
  2. Pop in the disk and find the Dala Horse. Easy.
  3. Open it in GIMP (my photo editing software – kind of a free Photoshop) and resize it. Easy.
  4. Duplicate the image and reverse it (so I’d have both sides of the horse) and then do the same thing with the saddle. Nice! It all fits easily on one page.
  5. Print it out on a sheet of The Magical Embroidery Stuff (aka Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy).
  6. Cut the pieces apart (leaving extra around the edges). Peel off the backing and stick the pattern down to some nice wool felt. Oooh. . . soft!
  7. Stitch all the designs in front of a nice crackling fire.
  8. Cut the pieces out around the edges and soak off the stabilizer. Let them dry flat overnight.
  9. Applique the saddle pieces to the horse pieces.
  10. Sew the horse pieces together and stuff them with a few pinches of stuffing.
  11. Get fancy with some DMC Memory Thread to make the reins.
  12. Add a hanging loop for the tree.
  13. Take pictures so I can show it to you! Here it is again. 🙂

Dala Horse Ornament from Stitched BloomsIt was so easy to pull the image off the disk and play with it! And so much fun!

I hope you enjoy Stitched Blooms too! You can get it here or wherever books are sold.

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi_Gratz_Shiny_Happy_World

 

Getting My Quilting Mojo Back

Getting My Quilting Mojo Back

I used to be a quilter – with a capital Q. I entered my quilts into shows and sold them in galleries. I liked making the quilts, but I hated everything else about the process. I hated writing Very Serious Artist Statements. I hated entering quilt shows. I hated worrying about how much time I was spending on a quilt, knowing that that was pushing up the price. I didn’t like thinking about my designs in that way.

So I stopped. And I started Shiny Happy World and I didn’t make a single quilt for a few years.

Buttonholes Quilt PatternI started making cute toys instead of expensive quilts. And then I started designing patterns for those cute toys so other people could make them too. And that was awesome!

But then I made a quilt. I made the Buttonholes quilt and it was really fun to design a quilt pattern especially for beginners – with no places where the seams needed to match up and no stress whatsoever.

And then I made the Scary Squares quilt and had the Most Fun Ever. And then there were a few more quilts – including the Puppies quilt which I love, love love. Scary Squares quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World

And all of a sudden I realize I have my quilting mojo back. And you know why? Because I’m making quilts that I LOVE. These quilts will never appear in any gallery. They’ll never win a prize in a show. But they make people smile and they keep people warm and they’re really fun to make. I’m not stressing about points or matching seams – I’m playing with color and shape and cuddly monsters and cute puppies. And I love it!

Why did this come as a revelation?

12_puppy_applique_patternsI reviewed Quilting Happiness here, and in responding to some people’s comments about the book and the review, it really made me think about my own quilting journey. I feel like I fell into this trap of always pushing my skills – always making more and more complicated quilts – until I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. I was designing for the galleries and the judges and my own weird internal measuring stick.

It’s like I had to give myself permission to make quilts that were “below” my skill level. Where does that come from? I have the technical skills to make a mariner’s compass quilt. Or a Baltimore Album quilt. That doesn’t mean I HAVE to make one! Making one (for me) will be stressful and sweaty and I’ll probably say a lot of bad words. I can do it – but it won’t be fun. And I want my quilting to be fun, dang it!

I’m writing this because I know a lot of you have struggled with the same thing. I read it in a lot of private emails after I posted my Quilting Happiness review. You don’t need my permission – but I’m giving it here just in case hearing it from another source helps.

You do not need to challenge yourself with every project you make. If you want to learn a new skill – awesome! But don’t feel like you have to. It’s ok to just make things for the joy of it. You can make beautiful, stunning, gorgeous quilts for the rest of your life without ever worrying about chopping off points or matching seams.

There. I’m off my soapbox now. 🙂

Starry Night quilt in progress - 10 starsAnd now that I have my mojo back, I’m planning a LOT of new quilt patterns for next year. Most of them will be of the easy peasy Buttonholes variety – with no fussy points and no seams to match. A few of them will be skill stretchers, like the Starry Night quilt. (Update – I’ve pulled the Starry Night pattern temporarily while I reformat it to be released as a regular pattern. Sign up for the newsletter to make sure you know when it’s in the shop.) I hope all of them will be fun – and that all of you will make things you love, whether those things are simple rag dolls or complicated quilts. Think about what makes you happy when you sew and follow that path!

Have a wonderful day!

Happy sewing! Or quilting! or stitching! Or whatever you love to do!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi_Gratz_Shiny_Happy_World

Book Review – Quilting Happiness

Quilting_HappinessWhen I read a book to review it, I read it with a notepad next to me so I can capture my thoughts as I go along. My notes for Quilting Happiness – a terrific new book by Diane Gilleland and Christina Lane ended up being a long list of things I loved.

So let me tell you what I love about Quilting Happiness. . .

I love the title. My business is called Shiny Happy World. How can I not immediately pick up a book called Quilting Happiness?

I love the quote mentioned in the dedication. “You’ll never notice it on a galloping horse.” That – in a nutshell – sums up my quilting spirit. It’s something I often tell my students when they fixate on a tiny “mistake” in a big, beautiful quilt.

I love the list 5 Things About Quilting That Makes Us Happy.

Quilting_Happiness_listI really connected immediately with both authors of the book – but especially with Diane’s last point. “Give me some hand quilting to do, a cup of coffee, and a Doctor Who marathon, and I’m one happy woman.” That’s exactly how I feel about all hand work – quilting, embroidery, finish work, etc. Although I’d also add in Sherlock, Downton Abbey, the Phryne Fisher Mysteries and lots of other favorite TV shows. 🙂

I love the many quizzes sprinkled throughout the book. They can help you articulate what kind of quilter you are – something I sometimes find difficult to do. And I love how the results of the quizzes point you to specific quilts in the book. It’s a fun “Choose Your Own Adventure” way to work your way through the projects.

I love that every single project has very specific suggestions for quilting each quilt.

Quilting_Happiness_Ideas_QuiltingSo many books just say “quilt as desired.” That’s not helpful at all! And not only does the book have specific suggestions – it has multiple suggestions for every project! And they range from simple line stitching to more complicated free motion stitching and even some hand quilting and tying suggestions. That is fantastic – and very unusual!

I love that the instructions for each quilt are super clear – with excellent diagrams.

I love that there are detailed instructions for cutting the fabric. A lot of books will tell how many of each shape and size to cut, but leave it up to you to figure out the most efficient way to do that. This book breaks it down step by step. It tells you how many strips to cut of each size, then exactly what pieces to cut from those strips. Very nice!

Crazy_Strips_Quilting_Happiness I love this Crazy Strips quilt. I think it’s my favorite in the whole book. It’s pieced improvisationally, but within a structure. That helps keep things balanced and can be less overwhelming to someone just getting started with that kind of loose approach.

I love the range and variety of projects. There are bold, dramatic, modern quilts. There are traditional quilts made with vintage-style fabrics. There are quilts for beginners and quilts for more advanced stitchers. There are small projects like pillows and tote bags, and there are large bed quilts. This is an especially great book for beginners who know they want to try quilting, but maybe aren’t sure what kind of quilts they want to make. They can take some of the quizzes to get pointed in one direction, then stretch their skills as they learn.

I love the “Happiness Practice” exercise about Finding Inspiration Guides. It’s a great guide to studying a quilter you admire – breaking down just what it is about their quilts that really works for you so you can apply that to your own work without copying them directly. What a terrific exercise!

I love the general instructions at the end of the book. They’re very clear and cover all the basics – how (and why) to square up your fabric, piecing curves, basting and binding your quilt and more. It’s a great reference.

Haphazard_Chevron_Pillow_Quilting_HappinessI love this Haphazard Chevron Pillow. It’s similar in many ways to the Crazy Strips quilt I mentioned above – in that it’s irregular piecing within a structure. But it’s a smaller project and one I could realistically tackle right now.  So I decided to make one for myself!

I strayed a bit from the instructions (of course) – not because they were unclear – they’re terrific! But I have overflowing scrap bins, I knew my daughter would really like a rainbow pillow, and I wanted to try a quilt-as-you-go technique I’ve been toying with. So here’s my Scrappy Rainbow Chevron Pillow. 🙂

Scrappy_Rainbow_Chevron_Pillow_quilt

My pillow form was a bit larger than the one in the book, but I used the same suggested range of widths for the strips I cut so it would have a similar effect.

I love it! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

Are you ready for some Quilting Happiness of your own? Get the book here.

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
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