Sunday, February 26, 2017

Behind the Blue Dahlia

Parlez vous francais? Unfortunately, I don't much either short of what I can remember from high school, but luckily I think the language of quilts translates. This is my project "Blue Dahlia" which appears in the current issue of Simply Moderne No. 8. Fortunately for me, they also publish an English version!
Blue Dahlia featured in Simply Moderne No. 8, Photo courtesy of Quiltmania
Dahlia inspiration
Dahlias grow better than dandelions here in the Pacific Northwest, so you can probably see where the inspiration for this project came from. They come in so many varieties, shapes and colors, it's hard to pick a favorite. (There's also a film noir movie from 1946 called The Blue Dahlia starring Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd, but the plot is kind of creepy and that's not where I drew my inspiration!)

This is my first time working with the folks at Quiltmania and I have to say, it is a beautiful publication. If magazines are your thing, you will find lots of lovely projects in this issue including a new one from Liza Prior Lucy and Kaffe Fassett, Rana Heredia for Sewn Into the Fabric, Pam Goecke Dinndorf for Aardvark Quilts,  as well as a great technical lesson article series by Kathy Doughty and many more. I am so excited to have the opportunity to share the pages with these wonderful designers. Be sure to look for it at your favorite local quilt shop.
Simply Moderne No. 8, Photo courtesy of Quiltmania
While this is an applique project, I designed it specifically to be a to-go project. It may look like it's all one big applique, but it's actually not. The multi-directional print of the background fabric (which is Modern Background Paper collection by Zen Chic for Moda) allows it to be divided up and when pieced back together, the block lines blend right in. The petals are appliqued on individual squares so you can prep them and take them with you in smaller project pieces. Most of the fabric for the applique petals are from Cotton + Steel's Bluebird Collection. The scrappy binding is also from Bluebird.
Blue Dahlia, 60" x 60"
As for the three magenta petals, there is no deep meaning, just that they remind me of the random beauty of nature and how occasionally a few petals don't get the memo and decide to do their own thing! The amazing quilting on this was done by was such a joy to even stitch on the binding and enjoy the beautiful detail of the quilting...

up close and personal with Tracey's beautiful quilting detail...
front quilting all crinkly and cozy after it's first wash...
backing fabric after the wash, Tula Pink Free Fall 108" wide - I LOVE this fabric for backing.
Since this post is already a little picture-heavy, I'll wait until next time to share a tutorial with you on the applique method I used on this project. Until revoir!

Happy stash quilting,


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Got LVF?

Don't worry, it's not a disease. Well, maybe an addiction. We're talking quilt code for low volume fabrics (LVF's). Call them quiet, call them light, but never call them boring! With lots of white stuff on the ground outside at my house today, I thought this a timely topic!

I love them. Low volume fabrics, the more the better: creams, whites, grays, peaches, doesn't matter. They're the fabrics that are the contrast to your medium and dark fabrics. It's the contrast in your blocks that do the work to pull your eyes across a geometric design. I use them so much I'm always shopping for more to replenish my stash. Here's a sample of a recent haul, both whites and grays.

I tend to use LVF's in a couple of different ways. Option #1, and the favorite of my scrappy-loving heart: use a lot and mix them all together. Like this...

"The Perfect Setting", featured in American Patchwork & Quilting, December 2015. Image courtesy of AP&Q.

Close up on the LVF 60 degree triangles.
Option #2...pick one and use it more exclusively to give each block a more defined identity. Like this...
Here's one block out of my project "Cavanaugh Crossroads".

Here are 9 blocks all together in Cavanaugh Crossroads. Each block uses a different LVF. (I'm sure some of you may be stressing because I mixed true whites and creams together in this project, but I'm not! Do what you love!)
Option #3 is to pick one LVF and use it in the whole project like this...
"Pressed Leaves"
More often than not, I mix them all together, the more the better. For me, the best part about LVF's is that you can pull a whole bunch of them out of your stash and mix with abandon and get great results.
"The Big Spin" from Stash Lab. 
No matter which way you choose to use them, one thing is certain: You can never have enough or too many! I'm always on the lookout for great LVF's when I'm in my favorite local quilt shops.They are so versatile and work beautifully with a variety of scraps. Leave a comment and share your favorite way to use them. It would be reassuring to know I have good company in my love of LVF!

Want to see more and more often? Follow me on Instagram @tonyaalexanderquilts or on Facebook at Tonya Alexander Quilts.

Happy LVF stash quilting,


Sunday, January 22, 2017

I Love Churn Dashes!

For my first post in the new year, I am very happy to share my first collaborative project with you today with Martingale, Block Buster Series: I Love Churn Dashes. It was fun to be a part of this and I really enjoyed seeing how my fellow 14 designers started with the same traditional Churn Dash block and made such uniquely personal projects. In case you were wondering, we don't see each other's ideas or work before the book comes out either! It's amazing to me that it comes out the way it does, each project so individual and re-imagined by each designer.

Here's my project, "Little Boy Blue", 48 1/2" x 48 1/2"
I know, I know...not my usual color-palette, and it's even flannel! Sometimes you have to go outside your box and learn something new and boy, did I ever have learning opportunities on this one!
"Little Boy Blue" by Tonya Alexander
Quilted by Tracey Fisher
At first, I thought I would just share this project with you like any other, add some pretty pictures, some commentary, etc. etc. I have been dragging my heels on this post because there is so much more behind what started out to be just a simple little baby quilt.  Make no mistake, I love how my project turned out and I really love the book. I can also honestly say at this time last year I had just completed this project in the late night hours before the publisher deadline and truly thought it may be one of my biggest oops!

The design was good, the piecing was no problem. It's a nice weekend-sized baby quilt project and would be great in many colorways. I even loved my idea, but along the way, I had so many opportunities to learn from my own process mistakes. Humbling, yes. Discouraging, a little bit along the way. Satisfying in the end, absolutely!
Quilt testing in progress. This is the official quilt-tester in my house, Seamus.
Things I learned on the way to the finish line:

1. Pre-wash flannel in hot water and dry on high heat
This part I at least got right. I had the fabric colors/prints in mind before I actually found them and they turned out to be flannels. I hadn't really worked with flannel a lot before this project so I did some homework. The best advice I found, flannel can shrink a lot and at different rates. Working with flannel is not the time to forego the pre-washing step. You will save yourself a good amount of shrinkage in the end.

2. Baste, baste, and baste some more
Initially, I planned to quilt this with my walking foot on my domestic machine. I was going to do three large spirals that intersected and overlapped. Well, the first one was no problem. The second one started to bunch up and pleat as the circles came together. I pin-basted but not as much as I should have. I didn't take into consideration the give of the flannel under my walking foot and the amount of shifting and distorting the flannel was capable of. An let me tell you, it's capable of a lot, even with high-quality flannel fabric. Lesson here, don't take short cuts in basting. Whether you pin, spray or thread baste, take the time to be thorough and do it right.

3. When something isn't going right - STOP!
Or should I say, stop, re-evaluate and adjust. The quilting was turning into a hot mess on this and I just kept pushing along, thinking is would somehow work itself out. You can see even in the early picture above, the problem was already beginning. See that bunching up at the top? Yeah, well, that got a whole lot worse before I had the good sense to finally stop. I was so discouraged by my own stubbornness in not stopping when I should have, I didn't even take any pictures. You'll have to take my word on this one!

4. When the going gets tough, call in reinforcements
Your quilting peeps are one of your best assets and can serve you up equal parts of advice and encouragement. I called my good friend and long-arm quilter, Tracey. I told her my tale of woe and that I was going to give up and start over, considering my looming deadline, could she quilt it in like 10 minutes? She calmly talked me off the ledge. She said, "No, bring it over and let's see what we can do."

She finally convinced me we could pick out the quilting with a seam ripper and recover. I've known her a long time and she's an amazing quilter, but I did not believe her. Shows you what I know. We spent about an hour together "un-sewing" and then she took it into her capable hands and turned the quilting into something great - this time on the long arm. (So I will only take about 1/8 of the credit for quilting on this project. Let's just say there is more un-quilting to my credit on this one that actual quilting by me in the end!)
Tracey's final touch, beautiful all-over spiral quilting.

The best laid plans...
5. Be flexible and be o.k. with change
Even the final version didn't finish exactly as planned. Originally, I had designed it to be square but was forced into another design decision when it came time to square it up. Because of the shifting during the quilting, there was no way those corners were going to be square no matter how I trimmed them. Tracey suggested lopping off the corners. It solved the corner problem and added to the final design element of the corners mimicking the corners of the Churn Dash block. In this case the outer border is actually the largest Churn Dash and the angled corners made sense! Win-win! 
Quilt-tester comment: "It's o.k. Mom, I still love you..."
Presto, a year later, and I can now say I learned so much on this project and I am happy to share it with you. I share this with you in hopes to encourage you not to give up when things aren't quite going right. The project wasn't the problem - I was! But if you're willing to step back, accept some help, and be flexible and willing to change your plan, it's possible to have a happy ending. I hope you'll check out Block Buster Series: I Love Churn Dashes on the book shelf at your favorite local quilt shop or retailer and enjoy all the great designs.

Happy flannel quilting,


Friday, October 28, 2016


Maybe I'm a teensy bit behind on posts this year - what can I say? But I do have stuff to share today and a few minutes committed to actually getting something written and posted so let's do this!

I have a fun little project being featured in the new Quilts and More magazine, Winter 2016, available in your favorite quilt shop and on newsstands now. This is "Playground "...
"Playground", by Tonya Alexander, Images used with permission by Meredith Corporation and Quilts and More magazine, copyright 2016.
This project was inspired by a couple of things - first, trying to use a couple of charm packs in a single project. The fabrics used here are from a line called "Radient Girl" by Lecien Fabrics. The fabrics were playful and fun and I was pretty sure a kids quilt was going to be the result.
"Playground", by Tonya Alexander, Images used with permission by Meredith Corporation and Quilts and More magazine, copyright 2016.

Second, my inspiration came from here...
Have you seen these? (not the sewing machine, but the little metal etched silhouette!) Maybe your grandma had something similar. Mine did and I remember it being on her wall my whole life. It was mounted on a plaque along with all my cousins', with our names etched on each one. When she passed away, my mom and aunt split the big one up and framed them individually so all of my cousins and I got our own silhouette. It's so special to me. It kind of makes me sad because I miss my grandma, but it also makes me happy because it reminds me that I am actually just one small part of a big, wonderful family. 

Other quilty details, this project took two packs of charm squares and about a yard of solid white. Fusible appliqué was my method of choice on this project and each silhouette was cut from a charm square. The nine patches in the center were also made from cut up charm squares. I quilted it on my domestic machine, stitched in the ditch through the center and echo quilted around the silhouettes.
Quilts and More, Winter 2016
So, if you have some spare charm squares hanging around your stash and need a quick and easy baby quilt or child's wall hanging, "Playground" may be just the thing!

Happy Stash Quilting,


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tri-monthly blog post update!?

Wow. Don't blink! Three months just flashed by since my last blog post! Lest you think I have been completely slacking off or fallen off the face of the earth, let me give the short list version of what's been going on and then some pics:

In a nutshell:
  • Celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with my super supportive and fabric-tolerant husband
  • #1 son graduated from high school
  • Hosted the out of town family for mini reunion (for said graduation)
  • #1 daughter wrapped up her freshman year of high school
  • Year end dance weekend performances (for said daughter)
  • Broke down and bought a new car (the week before graduation, because you know, I had lots of free time)
  • Murphy's law, washer and dryer broke down a week after the car purchase so ended up buying those too (the Friday of graduation)
  • Fiscal year end at my day job, always fun and exciting
In my quilt world:
  • My Stash My Style giveaway completed
  • Cleaned out and rearranged my sewing room
  • Had one project published in a magazine
  • Shipped two projects off for publication
  • Shipped another project off to France (super excited about this one, more to come!)
  • Went on annual retreat at the lake with great quilting buddies 
  • Two guild presentations and workshops
Here are some quick pics I'll offer up as evidence for my blogging absence:
Fuzzy focus, but proof positive it happened!

(I don't think he'll read this so I think I can sneak this pic of me and the graduate!)

Me and hubby selfie at graduation - being unknowingly photo-bombed by my #1 nephew.

"The mess" in progress - maybe a future post with more before, during and after pics.

Student work from a recent string workshop - super fun!

My "So Charming" table runner, featured in Quilts and More - made with a pack of charm squares (I used Hello Darling by Bonnie and Camille for Moda plus a solid) quick and easy summer project.

Here's where you can find it - Quilts and More, Summer 2016

The only shot I can show you of the project off to France. LOVE the Tula Pink wide back and amazing quilting by Tracey. I can't wait to share more of this one with you.

My Stash My Style with Jeni Gaston finished up. 

Congrats to our drawing winner Laura of Slice of Pi and her wonderful project.
Well, at least I feel a little caught up now and cleansed by my confessions :) While I'd like to promise more regular blog posts, I know I may not live up to that. I can only say I will try. BUT you can always find me and my happenings more regularly on Instagram and Facebook. Now I'm ready for some new projects! I do have some ideas in mind and I've been having fun adding to my stash to make them happen.

Happy summer stash quilting!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Making it my own #mystashmystyle - round 2!

I've been having so much fun with the #mystashmystyle contest with Jeni Gaston. Have you started yet? Well, don't hesitate because the process is fun and the results may surprise you!

Today I'd like to share my second re-envisioned project from Jeni's book Primitive Style. Don't worry, you only have to do one to enter the contest, either from Primitive Style or my book, Stash Lab, but you will be tempted to try more!

So for this project, I started with Jeni's original project called "Cozy Home".
"Cozy Home" by Jenifer Gaston, image courtesy of Martingale.

The original is designed as a journal cover and that's what I started out to make. But as I was pulling fabric from my stash closet, I came across some flea market frames and had a light bulb moment! I decided to keep the design the same but trim down the size to be a framed project instead. Eureka!

Here are the changes I made to this project:
  •  like "Resting Place", I used cotton fabric instead of wool. 
  • Switched to fusible applique with top-stitching on my machine. 
  •  I trimmed it down and framed it instead of completing it as a journal cover. I used a standard 8x10 frame and it fit perfectly.
  •  This time I skipped the quilting step (so no batting) though because I thought it would be fine framed without.

Top-stitching in process...

And voila! Here's my version of "Cozy Home"...

I love how this turned out. Wouldn't this make a thoughtful house-warming gift? Hmmm...

And just for fun and because it's spring, here's a sneak peak at the fabric bundles that will be included as part of the prize pack for #mystashmystyle - straight out of my stash...will you get a chance to win?! I hope so!

Happy stash stitching,