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!

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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…

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Domino

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!

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Ombre Loco

Next up, Exit Stage Left!

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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.

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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,

Tonya

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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,

Tonya

Spring Market – Portland recap

Wohoo! I’m celebrating! I attended Spring Quilt Market in Portland last week (industry trade show) and had my own vendor booth for the first time and WOW! So much work, such a big learning curve, but so much FUN!

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First of all, no one does this kind of thing alone and I had all kinds of great help – from product production, graphic design, long-arm quilting, hauling, set-up, booth coverage, experienced neighboring vendors, tear-down, and even pizza and ice cream consumption. Most importantly amazingly encouraging friends and family – I had all kinds of help along the way and I’m so grateful.

I hardly had a chance to leave my own booth and walk the show floor. But I’ll share what I can! Picture heavy but here are some glimpses of my week…

the view down my aisle before the show floor opened…

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click on any of the images for a closer look…

 

 

and then there was a fun open-house shopping event at EE Schenck (an industry distributor) at their facility in Portland…and look what was on their shelves!

I met so many great shop owners, industry professionals, quilt lovers all. There’s probably no better way to summarize my week than with this display from RJR Fabrics. This is what it’s all about…

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Happy stash quilting,

Tonya

Trying something new – silk!

One of the things I love about quilting is the variety and creativity in the medium. While I love my scrap quilts, it’s also fun to try new things, stretch and grow, too. I had the opportunity recently to take a silk fabric painting class with Janet Lehwalder and it was so fun! So different than anything I had tried or imagined either – and sometimes that’s the best part of taking a class!20180428_114537

So, if pressed to describe painting on silk fabric, I’d say it’s kind of like watercolor painting crossed with Easter egg dying. The process is so easy Janet even teaches elementary school students the technique – so I knew there was hope for me!

Janet’s knowledge and experience is so deep. She’s such a great example of someone finding the art form that speaks to them and making it a lifelong passion. Not only was it a class on a new technique and medium but also a great exercise in color mixing and using the true primaries – yellow, magenta, and cyan – to make all the colors we used.20180428_160508 (1)

There’re a lot of steps and I wouldn’t begin to attempt a tutorial here – more like an exploratory look 🙂 so here are some pics of the process…

 

 

Here’re some of my classmates’ works in progress and one of Janet’s completed projects with beautiful bead embellishments.

 

 

I tried a traced design with a resist medium and then adding the paint and then one free-hand all-over design on a silk fat quarter. Supposedly, you can even cut it up and quilt with it when you are done, but I can tell you I love it too much already to ever cut into this baby!

 

 

So, check out Janet’s work, take her classes if you have the opportunity and try something new! You will enjoy the process, add a new skill to your arsenal,  and leave with a beautiful piece of hand-painted silk.20180506_140047

Happy stash quilting,

Tonya

Class Full

“Class Full.” Those are delightful words for a teacher offering a class – a bummer if you were trying to get into the class too late! Do you take classes at your local quilt shop, at conferences, or with your guild? Classes can be so much more than learning a specific technique or quilt pattern. As a teacher and as a student myself, here’s what I love about them:

  • shared passion, excitement for our craft and truly the art of quilting
  • support and encouragement from other quilters
  • idea overload – in a good way!
  • a different perspective
  • learning a new project, the actual content of the class itself…

I wanted to share some student projects from some recent Big String Star classes I’ve taught. It’s a class based on this larger project, Rock Star – scaled down to wall-hanging size.

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Rock Star by Tonya Alexander

So much fun…

Aren’t those student projects beautiful?! Creativity has no bounds and I love that and am so inspired by them. The one thing I would add to my list of favorite things about classes is this:

  • There is nothing more satisfying for a teacher than to see their students’ unique and creative projects come to life!

So take a class, meet new friends, learn a technique, and most of all, HAVE FUN!

Happy stash quilting,

Tonya

New for Spring!

Oh my, oh my, oh my! I feel like my hair’s on fire! I’m getting ready for Spring Quilt Market which will be in May in Portland, Oregon. (Quilt Market is the industry trade show for designers, publishers, fabric companies, etc. to introduce their products to shop owners and retailers.) So exciting, but no small amount of work, I will admit!

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I’ve been to market once before but this is the first time I’m going as a vendor and will have my own display booth. While I’d like to say I’m busy sewing, that is only one small part of the process of bringing a product to market. There’s a whole lot of computer time put in before then! One of the exciting mile posts for me is seeing the products coming together and the cover reveal! So I want to share with you my pet project for Spring…..String Theory!

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So this is the draft cover, there are still some tweaks being made but it’s still pretty freaking exciting to me! I’ll share more sneak peeks of the projects inside soon but honestly, I just couldn’t wait any longer to share with you 🙂

Happy stash quilting,

Tonya

Spring forward – with Spring Strings!

The arrival of Spring is fast approaching and this weekend we get to spring ahead and reset our clocks to take advantage of more beautiful spring sunshine! Sounds like a great time for a scrappy spring table top project – like my recent “Spring Strings!”

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The pattern for “Spring Strings” is featured in the current Spring 2018 issue of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine.

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My friend, Creative Director of PQ and fellow-Martingale author, Jeni Gaston likes to remind me that primitive is not a color – it’s a style and feeling that can work with many different color palettes – which is encouraging for me because I love bright, saturated colors. For this project I pulled together some of my favorite wool fabrics in blue, green, and magenta. I layered them on a scrappy background of low-volume scrap strips – or strings – and the combination was so fun!

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A quick and easy blanket stitch around the wool applique shapes is a hallmark of primitive style and it made this project relaxing and fun to do. So, pull out your bucket of scrap strips, pick out some fun wool in your favorite spring colors, and enjoy making your own version of Spring Strings!

Happy stash quilting,

Tonya

Quilt rescue

Have you ever come across a quilt top flimsy in a thrift shop and walked by thinking some poor quilter passed away and her family gave all of her unfinished projects away to the thrift shop?! The nightmare of all quilters with UFO’s – including me! I will admit, I have more than once.  Now I find the shoe on the other foot – not as the quilter, but as the designer. One of my own projects was recently found – and thankfully rescued!

So, quilter Beth emailed me after she came across this in her local thrift shop…

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A lovely Dresden plate project that reminded her of something very familiar to her…maybe this?

Kaffe’s Garden at Night, Stash Lab

 

The one on the black background is my project “Kaffe’s Garden at Night” from Stash Lab. And here’s what I’m thinking of as the daytime version that quilter Beth found…

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Quilter Beth’s quilt top rescue

 

There is some beautiful work done there. Now, my heart cannot let my head believe that the quilter who started this lovely project gave it away in frustration – not at this point! Surely it was snatched from her work shelf when she was no longer there to protect it. Quilter Beth rescued the project, took it home, and made her own additions and now the project is complete.

Quilter Beth’s beautiful finished project

 

I think it turned out amazing and I’m sure wherever the original quilter is now, she would be proud! I love that folks take my projects and change them to make them unique and make them their own. I love it when a project turns out so beautifully and you can glimpse the spirit of the quilter. I love that this project found its new home with Beth! And we can all sleep better tonight knowing that there is one less orphan project languishing in the thrift shop shelf! Nicely done!

Happy stash quilting,

Tonya

Happy New Year!

The new year brings new beginnings, resolutions, clearing out the old and in with the new, or in my sewing room, that means a new scrap project! If you’re looking for a scrap buster to feature your favorite color (or the color with the biggest pile of scraps!), you’ll want to check out my current project for American Patchwork & Quilting in the February 2018 issue. This is “Plaid to Meet You”!

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Used with permission from American Patchwork & Quilting® magazine. ©2018 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.

 

I can’t take credit for the project name at all. The beautiful photo styling and editorial was done by the great folks at APQ. I was simply referring to this project as my version of Buffalo Plaid. I’m sure you know what buffalo plaid is even if you didn’t realize that’s what it was called – think red and black plaid on hunting shirts. That’s a buffalo plaid!

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traditional buffalo plaid print
My version takes a bit of a twist in the color category. Sorting through my scrap strings (which I keep sorted by width and color family, my smallest being 1 1/2″ wide), I came up with a big pile of grays left over from another project. (Can you guess which one?) What to do with them? Here were some of my auditioning fabric pulls I was considering before I landed on the final purple/gray combo.

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meh…
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too something…
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closer…
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now we’re talking!

Now, even thought the Kaffe Fassett purple/teal Spiral Shells fabric on the left didn’t make it in the final version, it definitely helped me pull together thoughts about the quilt. Sometimes it’s like that, you think something will be there and then further down the line, it gets edited out. In this case when it came time to pick the main purple and gray off-set square fabrics and border, the shell fabric came out.

My stash of scrap strings was pretty light on purples so I spent time scavenging the scrap table at my guild meetings and in friends’ sewing rooms to come up with enough to reach my scrappy vision. Long after the decisions were made, the sewing was complete, and the quilt shipped off to APQ, Pantone came out with their color of the year predictions – yep, you guessed it – ultra violet! Purely coincidence, I guarantee it.

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Here’s a shot of the big spiral quilting in progress using the walking foot on my domestic machine…and yes, the backing is a beautiful modern toile by Jennifer Sampou called Black & White Scenic Onyx for Kaufman Fabrics. I’ve been hording it for just the right project! You can also see the two main purple and gray fabrics I used for the squares alternating between the grid blocks, Kaffe’s Guinea Flower (purple) and Kaffe’s Ferns (gray) from Free Spirit.

This project would be so easy to adapt to your own favorite color-way. Basically gray + pick your color. Or change up the gray to a different neutral. How about taupe? black? white?

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APQ, February 2018 issue

So whether you are wanting to clear out some scraps for the new year or love your scraps all year long, I hope you’ll enjoy making your own version of “Plaid to Meet You”!

Happy Stash Quilting,

Tonya

Calliope, a scrappy plus quilt

Can you hear the calliope music playing in the background when you look at this quilt? I can! That’s what inspired the name, that and the bright cheery colors that make up my scrappy string version of a plus quilt.

I dove into the scrap bin and sorted a bunch of scrap strips of various lengths, all cut 1 1/2″ wide into color groups – pink, blue, green, yellow, orange, and white (low volume).  These I joined into strip sets to cut my blocks. Instead of the pluses being constructed of a single fabric each as they would be in a traditional setting, I used my strip set blocks. Scrap burner for sure!

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Now, for the plus design to come through you have to pay attention to block placement to let the colors work together to make the secondary design. I like to use good old fashioned graph paper for this step. Then it’s time to lay out the blocks. A design wall works great.

 

 

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these are the “bones” of the quilt, the flimsy top before it was layered and quilted, hung up in the window. Kind of like stained glass, don’t you think?

The beauty of a project like this to me is that the overall design is so much more than any of the individual scraps on their own – they are so much more effective together.

Insert an over-sized plus into the grid for variety and visual focus.


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And one more closeup of the beautiful quilting by Tracey while I was attaching the binding. She matched the thread color to each plus, adding great texture while helping define the identity of each plus. Perfect.

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You can find Calliope and other fun patterns in the current Sept/Oct 2017 issue of Modern Patchwork.

Happy stash string quilting,

Tonya