Summer Lab updates

September, here we come! What a busy end to summer! Just a few quick updates about what has been going on here in the Stash Lab…

Studio space in the house has been under construction and I’m almost moved in! Actually, I’m moved in, I don’t even have that excuse, but it’s still (a mess) kind of a work in progress. A full blog post with pics in the future, I promise!

Some of the biggest events to hit our household this summer involved these two…00560016-x25216688556197491552.jpg

I couldn’t resist, how cute were they?! My not-so-little, little guy turned 21 this summer and my baby girl graduated from high school! I’m so proud of them both. Big changes ahead!

There were fun, event-filled teaching trips this summer, first to Annie’s Star Quilt Guild in Chico, CA. What an amazing group. True caring and support among those quilters, many of whom or whose neighbors lost their homes in the tragic Paradise Fire last year. And a very special treat for me, they made my quilt, Stamp of Approval from Stash Lab for their Opportunity Quilt. It was beautiful and I was beaming with quilt-parent pride! Annie's Star opp quilt

Then a whirlwind trip last week down to Salem, Oregon for some time with the MidValley Quilt Guild. Double meetings, a Big String Star workshop, and lots of fun in between! There’s some serious concentration going into these string blocks but it was fun, I promise!20190829_1546245739792926417913942.jpg

I think I’m going to re-name this month “September Scramble”! I’ve made plans for Fall Quilt Market in Houston – so now I have to get my new patterns finished up! More on that soon as well and some sneak peeks for sure.bc084103-c424-409b-ab82-5e1d8ea2dbf1

But to close out, if you haven’t already spied this cute, new addition to our home on Stash Lab Quilts on Facebook or Instagram, let me introduce you to Winston!20190804_1710152295633628281465222.jpg

He’s just 3 months old now and full of fur, teeth, and puppy energy! This picture is from his first day home and he’s DOUBLED in size in the last month! Pushing 20 pounds now. He’s a mixed doodle, mom’s a Golden Doodle and dad’s an Australian Labradoodle. We’re just trying to keep up! Right now he’s learning his studio manners so he can hang out with me. Fingers crossed!

In between, I’ve actually gotten some quilts done – shocking, I know! I hope whatever your summer plans were, they included some quilting and creative time as well. We all need it!

Happy end-of-summer quilting,


Low Volume Light Love

You probably already know how much I love low volume fabrics. They are easily my favorite fabrics to work with and I tend to sneak as many into every project that I can. And that goes beyond quilts! Whenever I find a new way to feature my favorite fabrics, I do. So let there be low volume light!

Last spring for quilt market, I featured low volume scrap strips on a lamp shade for my display table. After market, I gifted it to a friend (who happened to have lent me the lamp base!) How could I not? I loved it so much, I decided to make another one for my work desk in my studio space. After the chair project, this was a snap!

Any lampshade will do but white or some other light color would be best and the straighter the sides the better. So look for a drum style shade instead of a flared one. You can use a flared one but your fabric strips will just need to be wider to cover it and most of my scrap strips are my beloved 1 1/2″ wide strips.

You’ll need:

  • lamp shade
  • roll of wrapping paper (to trace your template)
  • fabric strips of your choosing – low volume only for me! as many as you need to go around your lampshade
  • twill tape ribbon or similar to trim your shade
  • spray adhesive (not basting spray)
  • Add-a-Quarter ruler, or other acrylic ruler with marked 1/4″
  • hot glue gun
  • your normal sewing supplies

So pretty easy, especially if you’ve done some paper foundation piecing. The first step is to make your paper template. I like to use a roll of cheap, flimsy wrapping paper. It can be any color or design because it will get torn out after sewing all of your strips together. Flimsy wrapping paper can be frustrating when you’re trying to wrap a gift but tears away beautifully for this project. Lay out the wrapping paper and roll the lamp shade a full turn, tracing the top and bottom as you go.

Cut it out along the traced lines.

After you cut out your template, test it out by wrapping it around the shade to make sure it’s covered. You can overlap by about an inch and trim more later if you want to.

Next, we need to mark sewing lines on the template. You have two choices: you can either draw your stitching lines with a ruler or you can fan fold and make creases to mark your stitching lines like this:

How close together you draw or fold your lines will determine how skinny or wide your fabric strips will need to be. With almost every lampshade, there will be a slight flare at the base. If you don’t pre-mark your lines and just sew straight cuts of fabric together, you would end up with your fabric slanting all the way around.

Time to sew! Begin somewhere in the middle of the paper template. Place two fabric strips right sides together so that they cover one section and extend over the next crease by at least 1/4 inch. Your strips should be long enough to extend 1/2″ beyond the template at both ends. Pin in place. It should look something like this. Stitch on the marked line, in my example, the crease line.

When you turn it back over, it will look like this.

Remove the pins, and flip over the top sewn strip. Give it a press with your iron – NO STEAM for now! Depending on how flimsy your paper, using steam would be asking for trouble. You should now have something like this.

Turn your piece back over and fold back the next crease or marked line on your template. I like to use my trusty Add-A-Quarter ruler when I’m doing this kind of foundation piecing. Placing the ruler 1/4″ beyond the fold, trim off any fabric excess beyond the 1/4 inch to get ready for your next strip.

Lay your next fabric strip right side up on the table and place the template piece on top, aligning the strip edges.

Again, open the template over the layer pieces and pin the three layers into place. Sew again on the next marked line.

Keep adding your strips using this flip and sew method on the paper foundation both directions until your paper template is completely covered.

When the foundation is covered completely with your fabric strips, give it a nice hot press with the iron. Look at all that low volume loveliness!

Time for the trim along the top and bottom lines of the template. Scissors or rotary cutter make quick work of this.

After you tear away all of your foundation paper, you’re ready to cover your lampshade. Position your fabric piece on the lampshade to see how it will lay. Take away and spray the surface of the lampshade all over with the spray adhesive (you might want to do this outside or be sure to cover your work surface and ventilate well.) Lay your pieced fabric piece back on and smooth over the surface of the lampshade, working out any creases as you go.

Ready for the final trim! Measure your trim ribbon to fit and cut to size. Using your glue gun, run a bead of glue around the top edge a few inches at a time and attach your ribbon trim. Repeat for the bottom of the shade.

I found binding clips to be helpful holding my trim pieces in place as I worked my way around with the glue gun.

All you have to do now is put your shade back on your lamp base and flip the switch. Ta-dah! Low volume light love! Now comes the hard part: deciding where to put it 🙂



Have a seat!

So not a quilty project but a fun, creative one for my quilting space to share with you. We’ve recently been doing some minor remodeling of the downstairs for my new studio space (more on that later) and I’ve been looking for fun and funky furniture to live in that new space. Nothing sedate, nothing bland. Colorful and bright need only apply!

I found a couple of garage sale chairs that I thought would be good candidates for reupholstering. After looking into professional upholstery, I decided this was definitely going to be an opportunity-to-learn-DIY-project!


YouTube videos I found particularly helpful and encouraging: one from Miss Mustard Seed about how to upholster the back of an open frame chair. Another one great video about how to make the double cord piping was by Broadway Upholstery School.

I found some home dec weight fabric and collected all of my supplies, including a new electric stapler. I was in no rush to get started but then on a recent weekend the power went out and since I couldn’t sew, I figured it was a great day for deconstruction of the chairs!

Deconstruction in process.

After I reached the point of no return, I decided they needed the paint freshened up. Power still out, great time to spray paint!

Smurf Blue to Caribbean Blue in one day!

After tearing them apart and repainting, I tackled the backs first, making the piping. I thought the busier print would be a good choice for my first attempt at the piping to hide my first-timer errors. In hindsight, good choice.

On to the chair seats. Much easier than the backs if only because I could use the worktable and didn’t have to be a contortionist with the staple gun.

Piping under construction.

Now that they’re done, I’m so glad I gave this project a try. Are they perfect? No. Do I love them? YES. Things I learned doing this project:

  1. Upholstery takes more time than you think.
  2. It takes more fabric thank you think.
  3. It takes way more staples than you can imagine!

But I’m pretty sure there are no other identical chairs out there and these are all mine. It makes me chuckle to imagine someone coming across these in a future garage sale years down the road, rolling their eyes and saying “what was this person thinking?!” Ha! Pretty sure I’ll stick to quilting, but I’ll enjoy sitting in my new chairs while I do!

Happy quilting,


Simply Stars

Sometimes, the simple way is the best way – or at least a little quicker! That’s my thinking with my newest pattern, “Simply Stars”.

This new pattern might look a little familiar – it’s a variation on my string quilt project “Rock Star” featured in the String Theory Lab Manual. A re-boot, if you will! Similar layout, different finished sizes, and no string piecing but using single fabrics instead. Here’s the Rock Star string quilt version…

The new pattern uses different striped fabrics for the star points, giving a similar effect of the string version, but with about 10% of the effort or time! Simply Stars can be made in two sizes, 70 x 90 twin size/large throw or 35 x 45 crib size/small throw, making it a perfect option for a quick baby quilt gift! This project comes together quickly, no matter which size you choose!

This pattern is so versatile and can look great in so many fabric variations. The pattern cover image is the large version done in Kaffe Fassett brights and here’s the crib size version I did in Kaffe pastels (did you know there are pastels? Yes indeed!)….

Choosing a multi-directional neutral print for the background makes this come together in a snap. The wavy echo Quilting was done on my domestic machine using my handy walking foot – love that thing!

Want to see the back?

I’ll spare you and leave out the cute-as-a-button puns for now but pretty hard to resist!

While I’m not at Spring Quilt Market this time around in Kansas City, Simply Stars will be and is currently available to shop owners through Checker Distributors. Or you can get it directly from me here.

That’s it for now! Happy spring quilting!


A boulder, a book, and a few other things…

Just south of town there’s a giant spray-painted boulder referred to locally as “Blue Rock”, “Graffiti Rock”, or simply “the Rock.” It’s the unofficial billboard for the masses: team cheers, memorials, prom proposals…You name it, this boulder announces it to the world and has been doing it since at least 1966!


So, what does this boulder have to do with quilting? Well, it’s a stretch but it’s a great analogy of life, my life and the boulder of life I’ve been living under for the last 4-5 months. Sometimes you’re on top of the boulder of life, sometimes you feel like you’re underneath it! And I think if I were to connect the boulder with quilting, it would be that sometimes we have a great amount of creative energy and mental space to create, and sometimes we just don’t. And that’s o.k. Some may ask, Tonya, where have you been? What are you working on? Why aren’t you posting three times a day on social media? Your last blog post was in OCTOBER!

Well, my personal boulder would have several things written on it over the last few months and it would say something like this:

Sell house #1, buy house #2, pack house #1, move to house #2, sell a house #3, pack house #3, move house #3 across 3 states to join house #1 at house #3, break out in shingles, survive the holidays,  and sadly say goodbye to puppy #1 after almost 14 years as a member of our family.

Now as complicated and stressful (at least to me!) as all of that sounds, there’s LOTS of good in all of that, with the exception of losing the puppy. It just took a few months of focus, or should I say, distraction, to get there.


Sugar Shack, by Tonya Alexander

I’m happy to say I made it through the muddle, life is returning to a better balance, and we’re in a beautiful home, including a dedicated sewing space! Yeah! While I’ve been under my own personal boulder, a new book came out that included one of my favorite projects, Sugar Shack. (See, I did finally bring it back around to quilting!) And with all of my house-related drama lately, it seems pretty perfect!

Martingale just released a big, beautiful new book of lap quilts and it’s called, you guessed it,  The Big Book of Lap Quilts. Sugar Shack is making it’s second appearance, first being featured in another Martingale title called I Love House Blocks as part of their popular Block-buster series.


Sugar Shack is a project perfect for fat quarters and uses some easy half square triangle piecing for the roof line making it a quick and easy project. So if lap quilts are your thing – they are one of mine – then you’ll want to check it out. You can visit my shop page or ask for it at your favorite local quilt shop, they’ll be glad you did!

Other fun things are happening, visiting quilt guilds, teaching workshops and classes, and even finding a little time to sew with friends. More about all of that another time. But for now I think I will close with one more pic of the BEST. DOG. EVER. We miss you, our beautiful Seamus. Thank you for being a such a beloved part of our family. You were a blessing and made our lives full of unconditional doxie-love that is hard to imagine ever replacing…

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Until next time, happy scrap quilting my friends – on top of all of the boulders of life!


Pressed Leaves…Homeward

Making a pattern more than once? A rarity for me – but not this one! I’ve made so many of these table runners from my pattern “Pressed Leaves” I’ve lost count! It features a traditional leaf block in a not-so-traditional setting. It’s pretty quick and easy and looks great in every color combo of fabrics I’ve seen. And the perfect project to get you in the mood for Fall!20180804_0936351274309439.jpgThis time though, I had the pleasure of using a beautiful new fabric line by Natalie Barnes from Beyond the Reef Patterns for Windham Fabrics called Homeward. When I saw the beautiful mix of bold, saturated color and low volume prints, I knew my next “Pressed Leaves ” runner was on its way! The fabric line includes a great range based on a beautiful floral focal print…20180804_2043321664419046.jpgI chose to mix up several of the low volume white/gray/black prints in the line for my background. The leaf blocks practically made themselves I had so many great combinations of prints to pick from. From the looks of this photo, I need to clean my design wall!I added my go-to favorite quilting on this project – an echo quilted wavy line using the walking foot on my domestic machine. Choosing scrappy binding from all the bits leftover means you don’t have to pick just one! There are so many great choices in this line and it will look great on my dining room table.Thank you Natalie and Windham Fabrics for a beautiful line! Look for Homeward as well as my pattern “Pressed Leaves” at your favorite local quilt shop!Happy fall quilting,





Hungarian Picnic

Summer, sunshine, picnics in the park – what could be better? Well, I would add happy memories to that list and for me, some of those are showcased in “Hungarian Picnic”, my latest project for Quiltmania’s Simply Vintage magazine. I’m happy to share that it’s featured in the Summer 2018 issue!

Hungarian Picnic, image courtesy of Simply Vintage, Summer 2018

Now, I don’t usually think of my quilting style as “vintage” and this is my first time in this particular edition by Quiltmania, but I guess if I think of vintage like good old Webster does as “of old, recognized, and enduring interest, importance, or quality” I’ll go with it! I think the folks at Quiltmania were spot on yet again with the photography and styling of this project. It evokes warm memories for me – and of a very special time in my life when I lived in Hungary.

I don’t have the honor of actually being Hungarian, I’m more of a voluntary adopted daughter! I was there teaching English for a year after college but really spent most of my time soaking in all of the “gulyas leves” that I could, learning about a beautiful, rich European culture, and loving the spirited and generous people I was surrounded by.

Hungarian Picnic, by Tonya Alexander/Quilted by Tracey Fisher

One of the simplest things that reminds me of that time of my life are the beautiful motifs found in Hungarian embroidery and pottery. My luggage was full of both when I made my way home and I always find the colors and forms inspiring. This project seemed like the perfect way to feature some of those.

Each region in Hungary is represented by it’s own unique style of embroidery. This design is inspired by and is reminiscent of iconic motifs notably from the area of Kalocsa. See the little red pepper in the border? That’s the tell-tale sign of Kalocsa embroidery and it’s symbolic of Hungary’s probably most famous export – paprika!HP_1

Project construction features quick and easy, scrappy nine-patch blocks set with a single “solid-ish” background fabric. I chose to do wool felt applique for a rustic but bright and colorful applique border – stitched by hand during the summer on my front porch, no less! You could, of course, substitute any favorite applique technique, switch out for cotton fabrics, fuse, needle-turn, take your pick!


I am an absolute convert to free-form feather motif quilting featured on this project by Tracey Fisher. I think she was a little skeptical when I said I wanted feathers all over this since she knows traditional feathers aren’t my norm, but fortunately she obliged and added her amazing talent and free-form styling. Now I can’t imagine it any other way! I think the feathered quilting echoes the embroidery forms across the field of grid nine patch blocks in a particularly pleasing way for me.

So, if you already subscribe to the always beautiful and inspiring Quiltmania publications, you’re in luck, you hopefully already have your copy. Or, look for Simply Vintage at your favorite local quilt shop before they sell out –  they’d love to see your smiling face 🙂

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Happy summer stash quilting,


A visit with Pat Sloan on the AP&Q Podcast!

Got scraps? Great! Let’s talk about them, shall we? I just had the chance to visit with the lovely Pat Sloan on her American Patchwork & Quilting Podcast. We chat about our mutual love of scrap quilts, working with scrap fabric strings, and one of my favorite topics – low volume fabrics 🙂

Come and join us! You can check it out here on Pat’s site….or here on American Patchwork & Quilting!

American Patchwork Quilting Pocast episode 389 Tonya Alexander

Happy scrap quilting!


Time for a little String Theory!

And yes, we’re talking science – SCRAP SCIENCE that is! One of my favorite subjects to be sure. The longer I quilt one thing has proven to be true – the scraps keep multiplying and they keep getting smaller! I have been on a solid year full of string quilts – strings for me being skinny 1 1/2″ cut strips of fabrics. The result is my latest project – the String Theory Lab Manual and I’m thrilled to share it with you!LMS_String Theory Covers

String Theory includes patterns for 6 different projects, all featuring these skinny strips of fabric. It’s amazing what you can do with all of these lovely little bits. We also talk a lot about low volume fabrics, storage ideas, and general construction tips and tricks. For me, it all started with this project, Rock Star…

Rock Star

This one also includes the optional project for the Big String Star that I teach in workshops and has been so much fun. On to the next project, Calliope!


Calliope is my version of a traditional plus quilt on scrappy string steroids! What makes this quilt work visually with all the different fabric scraps is the technique of color-blocking and I talk a lot more about that in the book. Next up, Domino, a curvy log cabin table runner. There are actually two version in String Theory but here’s version #1…


And Ombré Loco, for serious scrap enthusiasts with a bucket of favorite color scraps over-flowing. The best thing about this project is how it can be adapted for ANY favorite color out there!

Ombre Loco

Next up, Exit Stage Left!

Exit Stage Left

And last but certainly not least, Simple Gifts, a quick and easy table topper that can be personalized for any favorite holiday colors.

Simple Gifts

One more for good measure, is this Simple Gifts alternative, these cute little throw pillows. I couldn’t resist! How can you ever have too many throw pillows? Especially when they’re this cute!

Simple Gifts alternate project – pillows!

O.k., here are the details…look for String Theory at your favorite local quilt shop or ask them to get it! They can order wholesale directly from me or through the following awesome distributors: Checker, EESchenck, Brewer Sewing, and Petersen Arne.

Or, you can order directly from my new shop page ! You can also check out my other latest patterns available now too. More about those later. I think that’s as much scrap happiness as we can handle in one post for now!

Happy string quilting,


Family Tree

Family trees come in all shapes, forms, and sizes and so does this “Family Tree”, my latest project for Quiltmania’s Simply Moderne magazine. I’m happy to share that it’s featured in the new Summer 2018 issue!

Family Tree, image courtesy of Simply Moderne Summer 2018

Now, I know typically family trees aren’t this bright or bold, but when I think of all of the colorful characters and fun family memories that make up my own family tree – this doesn’t seem so far off! Really, it’s about the vibrant colors of life that it represents.


I dove deep into the scrap bucket for this one using an assortment of bright prints as well as solids for the leaves and nested them in a mix of black/white print fabrics. The stack of black/white fabrics on my stash shelf was the result of a fun shop-hop fabric hunt. I love a mission – especially when there’s fabric shopping involved! Mixing brights with black/white prints is a go-to combo that will always look great, no matter which colors you choose.


For carefree summer quilting, I opted for fusible applique and finished with a machine blanket stitch in matching threads for the leaves. The bright pop of hot pink of the flange binding adds another layer of interest to this project and keeps the black print fabrics from feeling too heavy or serious. It’s a surprisingly simple technique and a fun one to try if you haven’t before.

The quilting was a bit of a lark on this one. I echo quilted around all of the leaves and then changed up the quilting motifs in each of the squares.  Black and white fabrics are very forgiving so give yourself permission to mix them up and try something new – remember, this is supposed to be fun!


So, if you already subscribe to the always beautiful and inspiring Quiltmania publications, you’re in luck – check your mailbox and it should be there any day. Or, look for Simply Moderne at your favorite local quilt shop on shelves soon – they’d love to see you’re smiling face 🙂 FamilyTreeCouv-SM13-GB

Happy summer scrap quilting,