Monday, March 28, 2016

Week 13: Gotham Quilts!

Hello everybody! I'm Ivete of Gotham Quilts (on the right in this photo, with my business partner Andrea) and I'm so excited to be taking over this week!

Andrea and I are the "fabric nerds" who own Gotham Quilts, a shop in NYC and online which we started in August of 2014. We're modern quilters who love color, low volume, negative space, and anything Tula Pink does (ok that last one is mostly just me, I'm a serious Tula nut!).

Andrea and I met years ago when I signed up for a learn-to-quilt class and she was the teacher. I fell so hard for quilting that I finished 3 quilts during the 6-week class! We've been friends ever since, and at some point we started talking about what kind of quilt shop we really wanted and we felt like NYC very much needed. After lots of planning and research, we started Gotham Quilts in 2014 and we opened our virtual doors in August of 2014 at

After we were open online we started searching for a space in NYC so we could teach classes too, which is Andrea's passion. It turns out that looking for a commercial space is even more difficult than looking for an apartment in New York City! It took us 6 months but we finally found a perfect space, and in the fall of 2015, we opened our studio in the heart of NYC on W 37th street:

This week I'll be posting about our quilts (include our free quilt patterns!), a little about NYC, and I'll also be covering the Brooklyn Quilters Guild Quilt Show which is happening next weekend. We'll be there vending in our booth and also walking the show floor to see and take pictures of all the wonderful quilts our fellow New Yorkers have made!

My first quilt

This quilt is the first quilt I ever finished, and of course I made it in that first class with Andrea. And of course it's full of Tula Pink fabrics as well!

I had just learned what a half-square triangle (HST) is, and that you don't have to make a quilt perfectly symmetrical or "even" all the time. I picked two coordinating solids that worked with the Tula Pink Parisville charm pack I had, made a who stack of HST's, and then played around with the layout until I had something I was happy with. I quilted it with simple diagonal lines and even though it's a bit on the small size, I still have this quilt on my couch and use it all the time.

Here's a photo of the back:

Isn't that Kaffee Fassett print perfect as a coordinate for the front?! Oh and that's my dachshund Arnold posing on the quilt back... he loves quilts as much as I do!

Why do I quilt?

I sometimes get asked "why do you quilt?" (actually, I'm more frequently asked to explain what I even mean by "quilting"!) and I have a hard time giving a short, sweet answer. I end up rambling about how much I love fabric (the colors! the adorable prints! the thrill of finding a coordinating print that works perfectly with the fabric I already have!), how much I love the quilting step (the texture! the challenge! the thrill of adding a second layer of design to the pieced top!), and how much I love this community (the quilt guilds! the blogs! the thrill of meeting others with whom you can gush about that perfect fabric match!).

Is there anything you want me to talk about during this week? If so leave a comment and let me know!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Week 12: Quilting for Charity

I wanted to take today to talk a little bit about charity quilting. There are many, many opportunities to give a quilt to someone in need, and today I want to focus on the organization that is near and dear to my own heart.

West Coast Mennonite Relief Sale (WCMRS) weekend is just around the corner, next Friday and Saturday. While there is a LOT of fabulous food for sale, along with used books, plants, antiques, collectibles, fair trade items, a 10K race and 2 mile fun run, the main money is raised through the auctioning of handmade items (over 500 quilts, afghans and comforters).

This sale is held every year (there are several similar sales held through the United States and Canada) to help fund Mennonite Central Committee, whose mission is to spread relief, development and peace in the name of Christ. It is an incredibly well-respected charitable organization. In fact, nearly 90 percent of all money donated goes to the work of MCC.

Where is this work carried out? In the words of a former West Coast director, "All those places you wouldn't want to go for vacation? Those are the places where MCC is present."

MCC has an ongoing presence in many, many countries, and is always one of the first responders whenever there is a disaster happening anywhere in the world. A partial list of the places where MCC has a current presence includes Burundi, Chad, Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Ukraine, Bolivia, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine & Israel, Syria...the list goes on.

In fact, as I checked the website,  one of the first articles included the following information:

"Since the Syrian war began five years ago in March, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has spent about $34.6 million to relieve the suffering of Syrians, Iraqis and people in neighboring countries who have been impacted by violence."
That help includes:
140,014 hygiene kits.
126,207 people receiving emergency food assistance
 30,345 relief kits.
 28,716 school kits.
Mark's cousin, Ione, and I partner every other year to make a large quilt for the auction. The total cost of making the quilt comes out of my own pocket--fabric, batting, quilting, etc. I make the quilt top and the backing, and then Ione works her magic with the machine quilting. Over the past 13 years, these quilts have raised a significant amount of money, all of which has gone to the work of MCC.

It is always an ongoing topic of conversation as to what style/color of quilt will bring the biggest amount from bidders at the auction. The answer to that remains a simple one: it only takes two people who each want any specific quilt and bid against each other until one finally gives up. Over the years, again and again, we have found that there is no way  to predict which quilts will bring the highest bid. We have seen exquisitely hand quilted beauties go for a price that doesn't even cover the cost of the fabric. We have seen small wall hangings that inexplicably go for a really high price--maybe someone is sentimental because a close family member or friend worked on it--you really never can predict.

The first quilt collaboration was this Shoofly quilt (84x96).  Ione had made at least one of these before, I fell in love with it, asked if she would consider quilting it if I made one for donation. She did a beautiful job, and the variegated thread really popped against the black. This quilt sold for the highest amount that year (2003): $3,400!
In 2004, we collaborated on Stars Over Ohio (86x113). Each star had the same focus fabric, and all the blocks were some kind of variation on the Ohio Star. It sold for $3,100; I believe it was the second highest that year.
California Kaleidoscope (108x108) came next, in 2007.  It was made from a single fabric with a repeating symmetrical pattern, designed by Paula Nadelstern. Each of the blocks was made from the same fabric--I just placed a plastic template on a different part of the fabric and cut eight identical wedges. It took a lot of fabric--but so worth it! It sold for $2,100.
 2010, California Flower Garden, had 3,460 pieces! (size 110x112). It sold for $3,700.

Color Box was completely paper pieced and auctioned in 2012 and sold for a personal best, $5,900!
In 2014 I made a quilt that I mostly called Swooning with Oakshotts, but changed to Amish Stars for the auction program. The fabric was the incredible Oakshott. I can't say enough about Michael Oakshott, who gave me a very generous discount on the fabric after I told him a little about MCC and its work around the world. He took my word for the plans for this quilt totally on faith, even though I told him it would be two years before it would be auctioned off! It sold for $3,500.
Here are a two images from the auction from 2014, early in the morning before the Fresno Pacific University special events center filled up with people.

I never get tired of making quilts and I'm glad there is an outlet for me that fills my need for creativity as well as helping those less fortunate. 

This is the quilt that will be up for auction next weekend, Moccasin (108 x 108", pattern by AnneMarie Chany of GenXQuilters, along with lots of fabric choice help from Kristi Owens of 71 Stitches (@71stitches).

A closer shot of the center:

I hope it brings thousands of dollars, because this is one of my favorite pictures--another face of MCC at work. 
These women live in South Sudan, a country ravaged by unrest, and who are trying to rebuild their lives after decades of civil war. MCC is partnering with the Episcopal Church of Sudan Mother's Union Women's Empowerment Project to help women learn sewing, life skills and small business management. THIS is one of many places where funds from next week's quilt auction will go. We will sit in a comfortable building, raising our bidding numbers, and it is easy to forget about the hardships endured by people in our local communities and worldwide.

I hope you will stop by my blog (Live a Colorful Life) after next weekend and you can find out how much the quilt sold for.

Thanks for letting me share bits of my life with you this week. It has been a wonderful experience. 

Post by Cindy Week #12: Cindy comes from a heritage of quilting, going back several generations. She has been quilting for twenty-plus years. Besides making quilts for family and friends, Cindy regularly donate quilts to help raise money for disaster relief at an annual auction in my hometown of Fresno, California. Find Cindy on

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Week 12: From Start to Finish

I was originally going to do a post about how quilting became more than a passing creative phase for me. It has long been a part of my heritage, an important part of my Mennonite Brethren roots. Also, for me, it can fill whatever need I have--whether I just want to play with pretty fabric and sew squares together to take my mind off some sort of stress, or whether I want to do more intense and complex patterns. Sometimes I need to chain piece without having to concentrate, sometimes I want to fussy cut just the right fabric for some hexies. Is that how it is for you as well?

Today I decided to focus on inspiration. What inspires you?

For years, I made quilts only from published patterns. There is not a thing wrong with that. I just didn't have the confidence to branch out. I'm very much an "in the box" kind of person.

And then one day I was having lunch with friends at a favorite Mexican restaurant. I looked down at the floor and thought, "That would make a GREAT quilt block!"
That piece of linoleum was the springboard to what would become my first published pattern, Charm Parade, which coincided with the time the first precut was just coming into into its own.
Realizing what had developed from a floor in a restaurant made me start looking at simple things all around me. This booth upholstery in our local Chick-Fil-A fast food restaurant

became Neon Ninja Star,  a quilt that was later published in the book, Modern Bee: 13 Quilts to Make with Friends.
An online church logo
morphed into First Call for Fall.
This ad for tile in a magazine

became Bullseye.
Another ad, this time from the flooring company, Flor,
became a fun quilt called Lanyard.
The Kona color card and a set of Pantone note cards inspired me to make
One in Every Color.

This pick of the week app from Starbucks

turned into Missing a Cog.

These Pattern Play block cards purchased for one of our grandsons

became Pattern Play.

A poster by Animodul, discovered by good friend, Dani,

became one of my most favorite quilts ever, Animal Planet. Of course a lot of that probably has to do with the cute 4-year-old who is now the owner.
And this very unassuming upholstery
ultimately gave me the idea of two sizes of the traditional Bear Paw block, and resulted in another favorite, Delta Breeze.

So. Where do you find inspiration? My challenge is to look at the most common things all around you. You never know what will spark your creativity.

Post by Cindy Week #12: Cindy comes from a heritage of quilting, going back several generations. She has been quilting for twenty-plus years. Besides making quilts for family and friends, Cindy regularly donate quilts to help raise money for disaster relief at an annual auction in my hometown of Fresno, California. Find Cindy on

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Week 12: The View from My Machine

Before I tell you how quilting became more than a passing phase, I thought I'd show you where I spend my time.

When I originally started quilting, my machine was on a card table in my office. But I kept looking at the one room in the house we very rarely used--the living room. It was the prettiest room in the house, but we hardly ever went in there. Mark was the one who suggested that I take over that space as my sewing room. Love that man. :)

My main sewing machine is a Juki TL-2010Q, straight stitch only. It's a work horse with a large throat space. And some pretty stickers.
I  have an Elna eXcellence 740 for those times that I need more than a straight stitch.  I also have three Singer Featherweights, two black ones (one from 1947, and another from 1952--the year I was born), and this special little green one, Bonnie, the only machine that I have named.
This is the view when I'm sewing on the Juki. You can see across the entry hall into the dining room, which has a quilt on the wall and a quilting ladder made by our daughter-in-law, Christa.
I'm fortunate to be married to someone who has worked in the cabinet industry for nearly 30 years. My cutting table is a former display unit. It's the perfect height, has a granite counter top and plenty of storage.
There is a lot of natural light because of the large front window. This was taken early one morning--normally the sun doesn't shine directly on these quilts.
On that side of the room are some cool theater seats.
And beneath the seats are some great storage bins I have purchased from Christa. She is a sales representative for a company called Thirty-One so I have a few of these, with some custom embroidery. I always joke that when I think of a new phrase, I place an order for another bin.
Here are two of my favorites, especially Oh Scrap.
It's not only my favorite. It is also the favorite of little people, who love to toss scraps all over and then bury themselves. Wow, that's a lot of scraps....It is clearly time to turn some of them into a quilt.

Quilting books, fusibles.
A favorite corner.
Part of my stash. I won't show you all of it, although I will mention that when we have company, sometimes Mark takes them on a "tour" of my stash. Let's just say I've been collecting fabric quilting for a very long time.
 A current project on the design wall.
Mark's high school trombone turned into a quilt hanger.
I spend many happy hours in this space, and I try not to take it for granted. I also know you don't need a large space to create many beautiful things. Michelle from Week 11 demonstrated that very well. 

Where do you sew? Do you have organizational tips? I'd love to know.

I hope you have enjoyed a little tour around my sewing space. See you back in a couple of days.

Post by Cindy Week #12: Cindy comes from a heritage of quilting, going back several generations. She has been quilting for twenty-plus years. Besides making quilts for family and friends, Cindy regularly donate quilts to help raise money for disaster relief at an annual auction in my hometown of Fresno, California. Find Cindy on