Brenda Riddle’s Ambleside fabrics evoke a lush country garden. Surprisingly, she creates her verdant designs near Tucson, Arizona, in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. But her early, mobile years provided her with plenty of exposure to more leafy landscapes.
Brenda’s Seedlings quilt, in process
Brenda (or Bren, as she’s known to friends) grew up in San Diego, where her mom taught her to sew. “I made most of my own clothes back then and loved it,” she says. She spent her college years in Minnesota and the San Francisco Bay Area, studying architecture, interior design, and art. After working in those fields and spending a year with a hunger-relief organization in southeast Asia, she moved to Arizona to get a teaching certificate. “I thought I’d be here for two-and-a-half years, but that was 23 years ago,” she says. She taught art and design at a private school for 15 years, and six years ago left teaching to focus on her design career.
“From the get-go, I’ve always loved interiors, even in high school and before,” she says. “I’d make a new bedspread, a pillow, and change my furniture all the time.” She describes her style as cottage farmhouse, balanced with a rustic look. “My house has a light, airy feel with softer colors, but I also like crispness,” she says. “That’s what I love in quilts, too.” She believes this affinity comes from the quilts her grandmothers made and that surrounded her when she was little. “I’d see them stacked on the linen closet shelves, scrappy quilts with light-colored backgrounds. When I see that in a quilt, I’m immediately drawn to it.”
Star of Wonder blocks
Around 2004, Bren’s love of fabric led her to ponder opening a quilt shop. She visited Quilt Market and noticed people walking around with bags stitched from Seaside Rose. “I didn’t know anything about fabric companies at that point, but I knew I had to find out who’d made that,” she says. She visited Moda’s booth and became an ardent fan. The quilt shop never materialized, but over the years, even as she designed fabric for other companies, she describes Moda as “a magnet.”
One of Brenda’s counted cross-stitch patterns
“They work so well as a team, they work really hard, and it shows,” she says. “They ran with my designs and I’ve been on cloud nine ever since.” She recently got her sample yardage of Ambleside, and was delighted. “When you see the precuts and how they’ve arranged the colors, it’s exactly how I wanted it to be. One of the honest-to-goodness blessings is their attention to detail and presentation. As a designer, you couldn’t ask for more.”
Brenda’s buddy, Bailey
Brenda’s currently working away on her Quilt Market samples in her home studio. She lives with her “buddies,” her father and her little dog, Bailey (for more about both, visit Bren’s Little Acorns blog). Along with fabric, she also designs quilts and needlework, and she’s started Quilted Comfort, an organization that provides quilts for seniors who live at the care centers her brother manages, and who have no visitors.
Bren is grateful to have quilts in her life. “Quilting is obviously a creative outlet for me,” she says, “but it’s also a connection to the women in my family who came before and I hope, those who come after—one of my nieces recently requested a special quilt. Quilts have a utilitarian purpose, but they also comfort people and bring them joy.”
We are excited to announce the release of 318 Patchwork Patterns by Kumiko Fujita. First published in Japan, this incredible book became wildly popular with quilters around the world. Now available in English, 318 Patchwork Patterns features over 300 original patchwork and appliqué blocks from designer Kumiko Fujita. This collection shows off her amazing talent for constructing detailed, realistic-looking motifs with deceptively simple shapes.
Designs are included for a variety of themes, such as holidays, letters and numbers, animals, flowers, food, and more. These beautiful motifs will inspire you to create countless projects…the possibilities are endless!
To celebrate the release of the book, we stitched up a few blocks using some of our favorite new Moda fabric lines, including Best Day Every by April Rosenthal, Modern Neutrals by Amy Ellis, Persimmon by Basic Grey, Miss Kate by Bonnie & Camille, and One For You One For Me by Pat Sloan. It was so much fun to experiment with all the different prints and patterns. Moda’s Layer Cakes are great to use when making these blocks since they contain an assortment of coordinating fabrics that are perfectly sized for these patchwork designs.
#3 cake block: Amy Ellis’ geometric brown and cream print was perfect for the cake layers
#133 dog block: Pat Sloan’s grey curlicue design evokes the texture of dog fur
#42 sewing basket: This Basic Grey fabric mimics the woven texture of a basket
#89 ring block: April Rosenthal’s yellow striped fabric suggests the shiny reflection of light bouncing off a gold ring
#5 ice cream block: Combine a variety of bright colors and playful patterns to represent different flavors of ice cream
#49 lipstick and nail polish block: This pink, aqua, and gray color scheme was inspired by Bonnie & Camille’s Miss Kate collection
318 Patchwork Patterns will be released on October 15, 2014 and is available now for preorder. Ask your sales rep for more information. And don’t forget to stop by the United Notions booth at Quilt Market to check out more samples from the book!
Marianne’s awarded her first Quilt of Valor, Valiant Eagle, to Dan Collins, a Viet Nam veteran just her age. He told her “I use this quilt every day. I’m cold because of Agent Orange, so I lie under my quilt when I watch TV.”
When Marianne Fons met Quilts of Valor founder Catherine Roberts, she surprised herself by asking what she could do to help the foundation. “There are so many great causes that quilters support, but I’d never said that to anyone before,” says Marianne. So Catherine shared her two fondest wishes—she’d love for the first lady to stitch a quilt in the White House, and she longed for fabrics exclusively produced for QOV. Marianne didn’t think she could help much with the first wish, but realized she might convince fabric companies to create the patriotic fabrics of Catherine Roberts’ dreams.
“Pinwheels Plus” was awarded to Mark, a young man from Marianne’s hometown of Winterset, IA. A friend whose son graduated in the same class told Marianne about Mark and his service.
Marianne is cofounder, along with Liz Porter, of the popular Fons and Porter’sLove of Quilting magazine and the public television show of the same name. Putting her industry connections to good use, she invited every quilting fabric company to consider producing QOV lines. Nine companies, including Moda, took up the challenge and introduced their QOV fabrics at the October, 2010, Quilt Market. At that point, 40,000 quilts had been presented to service men and women “touched by war”—today that number is nearly 106,000.
“If you take out your calculator and estimate $150 times 100,000 quilts—that’s millions of dollars,” says Marianne. “My role is to educate and share with people in the industry the impact that our 10,000 volunteers have. They buy fabrics, make quilts constantly, award them to veterans, and turn around and make another. There are people who have made more than 100 quilts.”
Marianne awarded her brother-in-law his Quilt of Valor when he retired as a Major General from the Army a couple of years ago. He says it’s his go-to covering for afternoon naps.
While turning a profit is important, the motivation behind QOV fabrics goes much deeper. In the 2012 Quilts of Valor documentary, Moda’s founder and CEO Mark Dunn notes that Americans have an obligation to welcome armed forces members home and to provide them comfort. Moda’s first QOV fabrics were designed by Minick and Simpson, while the two newest will be Sandy Gervais’s Red, White, and Free and Because of the Brave.
This was the first Quilt of Valor made by Marianne’s daughter and IPTV co-host Mary Fons. Marianne awarded it to a young man named Neil, who was severely injured in the line of duty.
Marianne Fons involvement with QOV has two motivations. “It allows me to express my patriotism in a way I’m comfortable with, and it involves more people in quilting,” she says. “I think the foundation’s mission and what its membership does, is so meaningful.” Marianne was at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, DC, in May for the presentation of the 100,000th Quilt of Valor, and at a ceremony in her home state of Iowa where a quilt was presented to veterans who served in wars in Korea, Viet Nam, and Iraq. “It was three generations, and it was important to each of them,” she says. “I’m always especially moved to present a quilt to a Viet Nam veteran, because they’re my age, from my generation. Some say it’s the first time anyone has thanked them for their service.”
This past spring, Quilts of Valor Foundation commemorated the award of the 100,000th Quilt of Valor. Marianne was honored to present a quilt to a young woman undergoing treatment at Walter Reed Military Medical Center.
Since joining QOV, Marianne has made eight quilts to give to veterans (some have been featured in Fons and Porter’sLove of Quilting magazine, which publishes a QOV-appropriate pattern in each issue). “Before this, I didn’t give away my quilts very much, but now I’m giving them away left and right,” she says. “If you haven’t made a Quilt of Valor, make one today. You can make one yourself or help a newbie make one. Once you’ve awarded one, you’ll want to do it again and again.”
It’s actually been many years ago now that I received my first lessons in quilting from my grandmother, and many of the tips she shared with me on that sunny afternoon are bits of information I use daily in my quilting…twenty some years later. Here is a round-up of my favorite tips and tidbits to share with new quilters: these are review for seasoned quilters but are simple steps that can make a big difference for new quilters just joining in and learning all about this amazing past time.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
This was the first thing I learned from my grandmother and one of the tips that helps me most in my daily quilting. It’s a simple rule, but it really does work. A good start…including accurate cutting and measuring…is essential to a good finish.
Know Your Seam Allowance
My grandmother also told me to use a 1/4″ seam allowance for all of my quilting (unless directed otherwise by a pattern), but it was a few years later while taking a class at a local quilt shop that I learned what this really meant. A wonderful teacher showed me that my seam allowance was actually a thread or two bigger than 1/4″ which resulted in some of my piecing being just a bit off (those 1/16″ inch variations can really add up in a big quilt)! So measure your seam allowance periodically to make sure you’re on track. You can adjust your needle to the right or left if necessary, obtain a 1/4″ seam guide, or use painters tape to mark the true 1/4″ line on your machine.
Keep it Together: Pin and Mark
Somewhere along the line pins seem to have received a bad reputation. While it does take a little longer to pin…the results can be wonderfully surprising. Although it isn’t necessary to always use pins, if you’re having trouble with matching seams or getting a lot of different points to match up, pins might be the best solution. While I don’t always use pins for simple chain-piecing, I always use them if there is something that needs to be lined up.
Properly marking is important, too. Use a pencil to mark on the wrong side of light fabrics or chalk for darker fabrics to mark lines for half square triangles and corner square (“flip and sew”) corners. While it often looks like it’s going to be just fine if you “eyeball” it, marking can also improve accuracy by leaps and bounds.
Fabric preparation is another step some quilters like to skip: after all, most quilters love fabric so much they just want to jump right in and sew. But your fabric may need pressing before cutting, and this can be especially important when using pieces from fat eighth and fat quarter bundles. Just think of it as a little extra time you get to spend with the fabric!
Some quilters like to use steam when pressing their fabric for the first time. This can cut down on shrinkage later on–an important step especially when working with lots of pieces or smaller pieces. An additional step many quilters use is to both starch and press their fabrics before beginning any project. Whether or not to pre-wash your fabrics is another decision to make before beginning. Although I pre-wash only when I’m going to use fabric for garment construction, there are many others who pre-wash all of their quilting cottons.
Handle with Care
Fabric can be stretched, and if your fabric is stretched enough your blocks might end up distorted. Use care when handling bias edges: don’t fear working with triangles for half-square triangles, quarter-square triangles, and flying geese … just handle with care to prevent stretching.
I do have one final tip, and it’s my favorite one to share. Enjoy yourself while you are sewing and quilting. Your projects are yours, and they should bring you great joy while you’re working…quilting is the best hobby!