Sunday, November 18, 2012

 Slow down, and enjoy the ride

Quilt-in-a-day, fast-fun-and-easy, weekend wonders, jelly-roll-races. So many projects are all about how quickly we can complete them. Sometimes that's a very good thing, especially when there's a deadline to meet. Birthdays and babies, weddings and graduations, events coming at us left and right on the calendar. None of us has a surplus of time these days, so there is certainly a place for quick projects.

But if quilting is what we love to do, why would we want to rush through it? Shouldn't we try to make the enjoyment last? With that thought in mind, I'd like to put in a good word for the long-term project. I'm not talking about a quilt that takes two weeks or even two months to complete. I mean a real long-term commitment, a relationship. Something to nurture, something that evolves and grows under our hands, and becomes dear to us through prolonged contact.

Block-of-the-month projects are a step in the long-term direction. At the outset, we know it's going to be at least a year before we see anything resembling a completed quilt. If we are committed from the beginning to follow through, we dutifully complete each month's task (even if we're up past midnight on the night before the next class). It's fun early on, but something else inevitably comes along, causing us to set aside the comfy and familiar in favor of the shiny and new, leaving us with a pile of blocks that never gets put together and finished. How sad and anti-climactic. Ask me how I know...

my pile from 2011's $5 block-of-the-month -
out of the box for the first time in almost a year...
Then there are projects that are long-term simply because we only work on them once in a while. I belong to a small quilting group, I guess you could call us a “bee.” Some members have bee-specific projects, worked on only at our monthly gatherings. For at least two years, my friend Cheryl brought the same hand-quilting project to the bee. Hand-quilting is by its very nature a long-term project, one that encourages us to slow down and savor the process.  All those stitches lovingly applied one-by-one bond us with the finished article in a profound way, I believe.

So imagine our delight when Cheryl finally looked up from her work one night and said, “I think it's done!” Her patience and persistence, and her acceptance of that project as a long-term effort finally paid off. She knew, and so did we, that it would be done eventually, and so it was.

Cheryl's hand-quilted "Rabbit" quilt
But my favorite kind of long-term project is the one that has no predetermined end. It begins when we become captivated by an idea, a technique, a vague vision of what might emerge. As we construct and assemble the elements, the vision becomes clearer. It needs time to marinate in our brains, to take shape in our hands. It benefits from an unhurried pace, developing complexity and character as it grows.

I am in the midst of one such project. By now my friends are well-acquainted with my obsession for pieced hexagons, made entirely by hand, using the English paper-piecing method. When I began the project last summer, I had no idea how far I would take it. Over 70 blocks later, I'm still not completely sure. Countless hours of stitching, and I've enjoyed every minute.

Each block has felt like a tiny project on its own, instead of a tiny part of a big project, with the accompanying sense of accomplishment when I complete each one. Looking at that stack of blocks, I can now begin to see what the completed quilt might look like. And I like it!

Hexies on the design wall -
seeing the full effect for the first time
But don't expect to see a photo of the finished quilt anytime soon. I plan to take my time, and enjoy every minute of this ride, until I too can look up and say to my friends, “I think it's done!”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Quilter's Gathering

Hello everyone!
I just wanted to thank you all for your wonderful encouragement and support during my experience as a contestant during the McCall's Design Star 2012 contest.  I didn't win the final round, but the journey along the way was awesome!

Great news! The New England Quilt Designers will be vending at one of my all time favorite quilt shows from November 1st to the 4th.  We will have a booth at "A Quilter's Gathering" this year.
This is a large juried show that also has some special exhibits. There is a HUGE vendor's mall as well.
Please come see the show and stop by our booth to say HI!
"A Quilter's Gathering" will be held this year at the Radisson Hotel Convention Center on Elm Street in Manchester, NH.  You can go to to find out more information about teachers,vendors, special exhibits, directions, etc.
See you next weekend at the show!
Kristi Parker
Chicken Soup Designs

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Design Star Quilt Challenge

 I was looking through a McCall's Quilting Magazine last spring and happened upon an offer to all designers to participate in the 2012 Design Star Challenge.  There weren't too many details given, but all I had to do was send in a photo of a completed quilt.  So, I went ahead and sent in this photo (above) of my "Autumnal Equinox" quilt.

The general public had to vote for their favorite quilt, up to once a day, for a designated voting period. After approximately two weeks, one of the McCall's Quilting editors contacted me and said I was officially in the contest as a "professional" category contestant.  "Oh boy...", I thought, "what have I gotten myself into?  It's not as if I don't already have enough to do already!"

After accepting the challenge, I was told to make a quilt top that used the "Storm at Sea" block.  The only other guideline was that it had to be at least 24" square or larger.  I dug around in my stash of fabrics and found lots of pretty blues, purples, and teals. I love the Storm at Sea pattern, so I blew it up and then incorporated my other favorite block, Mariner's Compass into it.  Here's how it came out.

I named this one "Lost at Sea" because I made it as a tribute to my great grandfather who was a sea captain and had a harrowing time while lost at sea.  He finally made it back home and married the love of his life (I guess if he hadn't, I wouldn't be here to tell his story!)  My great grandmother made him promise to never go out to sea again!
 I've learned a bunch of stuff during this whole of which is that you must have good  lighting when you take a photo of a quilt!  The colors in "Lost at Sea" are much more vibrant than they look....I blame it on the poor lighting!
So once again the public voted and my quilt was chosen.  The field of 35 contestants was narrowed down to 15.  I was anxious to see what the next challenge would they sent us 1 yard of just about the ugliest fabric I've ever seen.....
The rules this time were that at least 20% of the quilt top had to utilize this stuff.  UGH.  I hung it up on the wall and stared at it for a very long time.  WHAT was I going to do with this stuff?  But then I looked more closely and look what I saw.....  an alien monster!!!!!!

As soon as I saw him, the ideas started flowing!  I stayed up one night into the wee hours of the morning playing with this fabric.  I wasn't sure that the general public would like my idea, but I had loads of fun putting this one together.  I named it "Family Reunion on the Garden Planet LuLuThi".  (LuLuThi is the name of the fabric). 
I had a blast making these little monsters doing all kinds of fun activities at their family reunion picnic.

Of course I had to put a clown in there as part of the entertainment!
Anyway, I was quite surprised when this one "made the cut" and I was moved on to the final round of the contest.  There are now 9 of us competing in the professional category and 9 competing in the amateur category.
For the last round we were given the theme "Opposites Attract".  This quilt was supposed to be at least the required minimum of 24" square and totally finished. They gave us a bit more time to work on the project since it had to be quilted and bound and sent in to the McCall's headquarters.  Did I take advantage of the extra time???.  No, of course not!  It happened to fall upon the beginning of the school year, so my life was crazy hectic (I am a teacher, too).  I have also been very involved with the preparations for my oldest son's upcoming wedding, and Autumn is my busiest season for clown the quilt contest sat on the back burner for a while.  I basically designed, pieced, appliqued, and quilted "Fire and Ice" in about a week. I didn't get much sleep, but I got it done and in the mail on time.

The inspiration for this one came from a fond memory from this summer when my youngest son and I laid down on the dock up at the lake and watched meteor showers.  I don't think that it is physically possible for an icy comet and a fiery meteor to come close enough to collide  in space, but just think of the awesome display in the sky if that were to happen!  I had the most fun quilting this one. I used metallic threads and did it all free motion.  I wish the quilting details showed up in the photo!

One of the unexpected perks of all this was that the McCall's people sent "goodie boxes" of some really nice prizes (like luscious fabric...yum) to contestants after completing each round.  I wasn't expecting that...but it was a really nice surprise.  I think the grand prize is a sewing machine, but I never had that in my sights from the beginning.  I just did it for the fun of it.  It got my creative juices flowing.  The only stressful part was during the last round when I had so much other stuff on my plate.  I have had many friends cheering me on as I have gone through this challenge and I appreciate their support very much. One of the nicest things that happened is that I have also met a new friend.  Julie is another one of the contestants and we seem to think along the same creative lines.  We have developed an on-line friendship, and I hope to meet this talented lady in person someday.

Folks can vote for their favorite quilt every day up until October 21st.  Here is the link to my submission.
 I will post the final results after October 23rd.
Thanks for your interest and your votes!
Kristi Parker
Chicken Soup Designs

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The thrill of seeing your design through the eyes of another!

Last month one of our intrepid NEQDC designers, Beth Helfter, posted an article about how great it feels when a designer sees one of her quilt patterns transformed into a fabulous finished quilt by someone else.  It is hard to describe how it feels to experience your own design as seen through another quilter's eyes -  their color choices (ones you might never have thought of), their placement of dark and light fabrics which can completely change the feel of the design, and so on.  It is an awesome experience!  I always ask quilters who purchase my patterns to send me photos of their finished projects.  I wish more people would do that.  I would love to have a whole page on my website of examples of my patterns made by other quilters.

Above is my own "Here Comes the Sun" - a pattern I recently published. (All of the fabrics used in this quilt are from the Marblehead line, designed by Ro Gregg for Fabri-Quilt.)  I had asked my good friend Trudi to test the pattern using her own fabric choices.  See how different her finished top looks from mine!  What beautiful colors and the use of the center panel sets the tone for the entire quilt.  (I hate to say it, but I think I like her quilt better than mine!)  Thank you Trudi for doing such a great job!  (I am very lucky - Trudi has offered to test future patterns of mine as well.  Woo Hoo!)

By the way, you can see members of NEQDC and all of our fabulous quilts, patterns, notions and other "quilty" goodies at the Maine Quilt Show, in Augusta ME next weekend, July 26-29.  Hope to see you there!

Cary Flanagan
Something Sew Fine Quilt Design
Come visit me on Pinterest!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hello everyone,
I am pleased to be chosen as one of 15 entrants in the next level of the McCall's Design Star Challenge.  In the professional category, a "Storm at Sea" block had to be incorporated into the design.  The pool of talent represented is admirable.  Please go to the link and check out the quilts!  You can vote for your favorite EVERY DAY from now until July 8th.  Enjoy the beautiful quilts and perhaps get inspired along the way!
My quilt entry is titled "Lost at Sea" in honor of my great-grandfather.  You can read the story that inspired the quilt (posted under the photo.) Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Want to make a designer's day?

It's really quite simple. Send her/him a photo of a quilt you have made from one of her/his patterns. It seems so simple, but it rarely happens, and that makes us kind of sad. Allow me to help dismiss your most common excuses:

1. "I don't know Cool Designer, so they might think I am stalking them." Most designers print their email addresses right on their patterns, or have websites with links to get a hold of them. If we didn't want to hear from you, we would use pseudonyms and live in the backwoods of Alaska totally off the grid. And trust me, nothing says "I have arrived" quite like a taste of stalkerdom, after all.

Take this adorable rendition of NEQDC member Terri Sontra's "Once Upon a Bunny Hill" pattern, made by Kresti L of Minnesota. One fine morning, Terri opened her email and there it was. Terri loves the way Kresti did the bunnies in a velveteen fabric, giving it texture and softness. Terri has never met Kresti, but Kresti made her day 1000 times over. And no restraining orders were taken out.

Judy Damon, NEQDC member, found this version of her "Inspinity" pattern in her inbox one morning. Made by Cathy, it made her day. Judy may not know Cathy, but now they are forever connected through a fun pattern. Cool.

2. "I changed the design a little and I think they might be mad." Did you buy our pattern from a shop or direct from us? Fantastic. You liked something about it, and were inspired enough to buy it and use it in your project. Most designers expect and encourage a little riffing here and there - it's what makes your quilt YOUR quilt. We want to see what inspiration we gave you and how you ran with it.

NEQDC's Barbara Chojnacki shared with me these photos of her "Sunny Day" table topper, both made by Katherine B. Barbara was thrilled to see these and to see how Katherine's choice to switch the fabric tones within the design resulted in two very different looking quilts, one with more of a "star" look and one with more of a "box" look. Cool, huh?

For my part, I had been told by a fellow quilter, Danielle F,  that she had made my "Syncopated Ribbons" design and had created some pyramid blocks to add to it as the cousin who was to receive it had spent a semester in Egypt. Danielle finally sent me some photos yesterday and I could not be more excited by what she came up with for those blocks. They are SO cool and look like little Egyptian postcards.

3. "I can't find my camera/I don't have a quilt rack to hang it on/It has been raining for 25 days straight so I can't go outside and take a photo in natural light/I'm too hungry right now/etc". Life happens, hotties. I too have lost my camera for days at a time, but most cellphones take fantastic photos these days. I have been known to thumbtack my quilt to the side of the garage for lack of quilt rack. When it rains, take a close up of some of the detail while it lies on your living room floor. And for the love of all that is holy, eat a good breakfast and you won't be starving to death and unable to function. See? No problem is too small for me to solve for you.

Danielle does not appear to have a quilt rack. But she has a deck with a railing. Worked for me!

I also love that Danielle shared that she knew she wanted to make this quilt in pinks and oranges, and as it really is a scrap buster, she asked for pink and orange scrap donations from her guild. She got so many that she only had to buy TWO fat quarters to finish the top. And she had enough leftovers to pass on as a "quilt starter - kind of like those sourdough starters from the 70s that people added potato peels to and they never died" to another guild member who loved her SR quilt so much they wanted to make it in those colors too. I love when quilters work together.

Judy Damon also shared this "Lava Lamps" quilt, which was apparently taken while spread on the floor or a table. It may not be ideal as a pattern cover photo, but in terms of making Judy happy to see it, it sure works.

As members of NEQDC, we also get really excited when we see patterns designed by ourselves or other members done up into quilts and hanging at the various shows we attend. Barbara Chojnacki shared how excited she was to recently see two of Terri's patterns, "Once Upon a Bunny Hill" and "Discovery" both hanging at a show in Western MA. She assures us both were beautiful and Terri would have been very proud of the makers.

I hope I have convinced you that it is worth sharing your creations with the designer of the pattern. So find those cameras and send one today! Right after you have lunch.

Beth Helfter, EvaPaige Quilt Designs

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Countdown to May 20th

NHSQA Spring Meeting
Sunday May 20th, 2012
1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
(Registration opens at 12:30)
Guest Speakers will be
How do six quilting strangers come together and form a successful Co-op? Come hear how the New England Quilt Designers Cooperative was formed, how we work together and gain some insight on what it takes to make it as a quilt pattern designer. You'll see some great quilts, hear some funny stories and meet some very talented ladies too. Opportunity to purchase the Designers' patterns, notions and quilting supplies will be available at the end of program.
About our presenters:
The New England Quilt Designers Cooperative is a group of six individual quilt pattern designers, all based in New England, who pool their resources to vend at quilt shows and do guild presentations. Each designer has their own unique style and between them all, cover just about every skill level and technique.To go to the NEQDC Website click HERE
This event will contain a brief business meeting, vendor sales, election of officers, quilt community announcements and member show & tell.
Courtyard Marriott Portsmouth
1000 Market Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801
For driving directions click HERE
Join us for a fun afternoon!
Admission is FREE to members - $10 to non-members
Free parking - handicap accessible
Anyone wishing to join NHSQA please see our membership information page or you can join our group at the admissions table prior to the meeting.
For more information, please contact us at either the email or postal mail address listed below.
For More Information Contact:
Email us:
Write to us:
New Hampshire State Quilters Association
PO Box 395, Concord, NH 03302-0395

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Strippidee Do Dah! A contest!

 Have you ever made a strippie quilt (a quilt that is pieced in rows)? Three strippy quilt patterns by Six Gables Designs will make their debut this weekend at the Cross Town Quilters show in Southwick, Massachusetts. They are Strip Ease, Easily Bamboozled, and a still to be named pattern (the one with birds in trees). I'm at a loss for words, probably for the first time in my life, and need help with a name for the quilt. Therefore, I'm offering a copy of the pattern to the person who comes up with the best catchy name. Contest ends at 11 pm Eastern Standard Time this evening (Sunday, April 29) and I am the sole judge. Please, nothing wintery or Christmasy, even though the sample photo has a holiday feel.

Strip Ease

Easily Bamboozled

Name me and win me!

Thank you!

Barbara Chojnacki
Six Gables Designs

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mommas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Ruler Inventors; or, Sleeping with Euclid

Although I doubt any of us ever wanted to grow up to be a quilt designer, here we are. It's been an amazing journey so far, and unexpected things have happened along the way. I should have seen this coming when I found myself in a special "new math" class (the OLD new math- way back in the early '60's) back in 2nd or 3rd grade. This is what happens to middle-aged math geeks who quilt.

Barbara Chojnacki

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Design Inspiration

Being able to express myself through quilting and other artistic endeavors feeds my soul.
I think if I did not have the opportunity to be creative on a regular basis, I would feel sad and unfulfilled.
One of the most frustrating things about being a creative person is that there are so many ideas spinning around in my head, but not enough time to do something with all of them!
People ask me "Where do all those ideas come from? What inspires you to design?"
For me, inspiration can come from almost anywhere. Often it is from nature. I look closely at flowers and other plants to find magnificent colors, interesting textures, intriguing patterns, and a myriad of shapes.
Man made objects can also spark an idea for me. Whenever I go into a big city, I enjoy searching for interesting architectural elements on buildings. People think I am taking random pictures of stately edifices, but really it is just more fuel to feed the creative fire!
I'm always paying attention to decorative details on common, everyday objects. Think about possible quilt designs that are inspired by this antique glassware!

My cousin loved the decal on an old dish that had belonged to my great-grandmother, so I made a quilted wallhanging for her, using that old design.

Sometimes I fall in love with a fabric that inspires an entire quilt. The red squiggles in this fabric made me think if oak leaves in the fall, and from that, "Autumnal Equinox" was born!

One of my favorite ways to brainstorm a design is to do the following:
1. Put four small bags in front of you.
2. On individual pieces of paper, write down as many COLORS as you can. Place them in the first bag.
3. Write down the names of as many QUILT BLOCKS as you can think of and put them in the second bag.
4. In the third bag, do the same for SHAPES.
5. In the last bag, put in slips of paper with all kinds of THINGS written upon them.
6. Pull a piece of paper from each of the bags. Do some brainstorming to incorporate all of those ideas into a quilt design.

It is fun to do this with a group as a design challenge. Everyone's block or quilt will come out differently, even though the design elements that were picked are the inspiration for each project.

Years ago, I did this exercise with my guild. We picked teal (COLOR), nine patch (QUILT BLOCK), circle (SHAPE), and fish (THING). Can you find all of those requirements in my kitty quilt?
If you ever get stuck for an idea, the method described above is a great way get your brain jump started again!

There are all kinds of websites that come up if you search Google for "design inspiration". One of my favorites is You could spend hours and hours poking around on the pages of this site!

I hope I've sparked some inspiration in you for your next quilt! Send me an e-mail about what inspires you at

Happy Quilting!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Quilter's Sampler

The members of the New England Quilt Designers Cooperative are very excited about the upcoming Quilter's Sampler! The Sampler will be two days jam packed with classes, lectures, and the opportunity to shop the vendor's mall! It is being held this year on May 10 & 11 at The Courtyard by Marriott in Nashua, NH.

Go to and click on the link for the Sampler. You can check out detailed descriptions of all the classes and register on line. Here is the short version of what the NEQDC members are offering:

Beth Helfter will be doing the Thursday lunch lecture and teaching classes about embellishing quilts. Beth is a lot of won't want to miss this!

Judy Damon is taking on the lunch crowd for the Friday lunch lecture and also teaching. One class is about crazy quilting, and another is for those of us who don't know what to do with our boxes and bins full of scraps.

Cary Flanagan is teaching her "Cut, Shuffle, and Go" method of quilting. The technique isn't difficult to do, but you will be amazed at the awesome results!

Terri Sontra will be teaching some more creative ways to embellish quilts. You can also make her delicious "Chocolate Truffle Scarf".

Kristi Parker will be teaching an applique class that is done entirely by machine but the end result looks as if it done by hand. The picture above shows some examples of the technique.

We hope you can join in all the fun! In order to sign up for classes you must register before May 1st

See you at the Quilter's Sampler!

Friday, February 24, 2012

We've added a new show!

You can find Barbara Chojnacki of Six Gables Designs manning the booth at the Greater Hartford Quilt Guild show on October 13th in Enfield CT. For further info or directions please visit the guilds website . If you go, be sure and wave to Barb!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2012 Schedule

Wondering where you can find us this year? All over the place!

March 17-18 Pioneer Valley Quilt Guild
Westfield State University
Westfield, MA

March 24-25 Thimble Pleasures Quilt Guild
Blackstone Valley Technical School
Upton, MA

April 21-22 Narragansett Bay Quilt Guild
N. Kingstown High School
N. Kingstown, RI

May 4-5 Bedford Friendship Quilt Guild
St. Elizabeth Seton Church
Bedford, NH

May 10-11 A Spring Sampler (classes & lectures)
Courtyard Marriott
Nashua, NH

June 1-3 Quilter's Unlimited
Dulles Expo & Conference Center
Chantilly, VA

July 26-29 Maine Quilts
Augusta Civic Center
Augusta, ME

August 4-5 Clamshell Quilt Guild
Connecticut College
New London, CT

November 1-4 A Quilter's Gathering
Radisson Hotel
Manchester, NH

Whew...I'm tired just typing it out. We might add a show or two along the way - if we do, we'll be sure and let you know. Hope to see you out and about during this year's quilt season!

Terri Sontra
Head Moose
Purple Moose Designs

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fifth Anniversary Celebration!

Last Friday night the members of NEQDC were all together again for only the third time since the group first formed five years ago. (Another great photo of smiling happy faces! Left to right: Barbara Chojnacki, Beth Helfter, Kristi Parker, Judy Damon, Terri Sontra and Cary Flanagan.)

We presented a program at the Amoskeag Quilters Guild in Manchester, NH. Each of us described how we became designers, showed a selection of our quilts, described our different design styles and talked about what it is like to be part of the group. We also talked about the business side of NEQDC - how we vend as a group at guild and regional quilt shows. At the end we had an opportunity to vend our patterns, books and notions and had a really nice display of our larger quilts hung in the background.

This presentation was a lot of fun and we were well received by an almost standing room only crowd - more than 85 members of the guild were there which is a really good turnout for a bitterly cold January evening!

Before the guild meeting we all met for dinner to visit with each other (lots of giggling!). We rarely get to meet informally like this, since we live all over New England and we really enjoy each others' company. But we also started brainstorming ways we could expand what we offer as a group in addition to vending at shows. Stay tuned as we work out details - we have some really great ideas in the works!

I am so honored to be part of this talented and fun group of 'designing women'!

Cary Flanagan
Something Sew Fine Quilt Design