Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Who knew Adobe Reader could be so much fun?

If you've ever wanted to print your PDF foundation patterns (or any other PDF file, for that matter) at the exact size you need from your home printer, then wait no more. The latest version of Adobe Reader, Adobe Reader XI, lets you do exactly that and lots of other cool printing tricks. I've been playing around with it a little today, and want to share what I've found so far with you (though there's probably lots more to discover). It's been a BLAST! If you don't have the latest version, download it for FREE from Adobe's website here.

Here's the new printer dialog box:

Notice all the new options under Page Sizing and Handling -- Size, Poster, Multiple, Booklet. Let's first look under the Size button.  The Shrink oversized pages radio button is the default. However, to print ANY foundation patterns, you'll want to click the Custom Scale button. The default percentage is 100%, but this can be changed to whatever you want (even down to 1% up to 1000%). Here, I've changed it to 50%, and the preview window shows the result. Then just click PRINT and Bob's-your-uncle.

Custom Scale works really well for reducing pages, but not so great for enlarging more than 10% or so, depending on what you're enlarging and how it's placed on the page. The page WILL be enlarged to your input percentage, but only the very center portion of the enlarged page will print. The rest of the page image is chopped off at the margins and lost (i.e. not printed on other pieces of paper).

A better (but still not perfect) option for enlarging is the Poster button:

In this example, I'm enlarging my Circle of Geese pattern unit to make a 24" block, a 200% enlargement of the original 12" block. I've input this number into Tile Scale. As shown in the preview window, the page will be tiled over 8(!) pieces of paper. The default Overlap is .005 in, but I recommend somewhere between .25 and .5 inch to allow for your printer's no-print zones -- experiment to see what works best for you. I also recommend ticking the Cut marks and Labels options because these can help when taping the pages together. For what it's worth, I didn't see any effect in toggling the Portrait and Landscape buttons.

Personally, I find the Poster option less than entirely satisfactory for pattern enlargement.  It results in considerable paper-wastage and often chops up the pattern pieces into more bits than necessary, only to be tediously cut out and taped back together. But when that creative fever hits at midnight and you can't / don't want to find an all-night copy shop, this will certainly do the job. It's also likely your local copy shop will be able to use the Poster option on their equipment to directly print on larger sheets of paper than letter size or A4, with better results than photocopying. So all in all, this new feature IS a big step in the right direction.

Finally, don't overlook the Multiple and Booklet options for other types of PDF files you might want to print. These would be great for small books as favors for kids' parties, quickie photo albums, digital art booklets, event programmes, ... 

What, you're still here reading?! Go update your Adobe Reader to the latest XI version, and check all this great stuff out! :-))  I'd love to hear what you discover in your experiments!

P.S.  When I have to tape together paper foundation pieces, my all-time favorite sticky-stuff is Pritt brand permanent adhesive roller.  It goes on cleanly without buckling, and withstands ironing brilliantly.  You can find it at office supply and scrapbooking stores AND it's even widely available in Europe. 

P.P.S.  If you can print to a PDF printer program (e.g. PDF Creator, among others), you can use the Poster option to "print to PDF" enlarged patterns as described above. When you go to print out the paper foundations, you can choose to print only the pages with pattern sections. In my Circle of Geese example above, I only need to print 4 pages for a complete foundation unit, not all 8.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Walk in the Woods

Today my son and I took a walk through a wooded park near Geneva, one of our favorite places to go.  I took along my camera, just to see what it would make of a drizzly October late Sunday afternoon.  The lighting was grey and bleak, but it was sooo good to finally get out of the house!

At the frog(-less) pond:

There were tons of mushrooms of all kinds:

but what really got my attention were the dried out seed heads, which reminded me of fireworks.  The three photos at the bottom were taken with the flash.  The first flash photo was taken by accident, since I'm not so familiar with the camera.  But then I saw what it did and kept going...

 Have a great week!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Does size matter?

BLOCK size, that is! (tee hee)  Adolescent humor aside, I have been considering block sizes in my patterns lately.  Though all my patterns include a scaling chart to allow copying the pattern in a range of sizes, my usual full-scale ready-to-print-and-go size is 6 inches finished (6-1/2" with seam allowances).  There are some exceptions, of course, but generally I choose a 6 inch size because it's easy to draft and easy to fit on standard 8-1/2 x 11" or A4 paper sizes.  For digital PDF patterns, other paper formats just aren't feasible, since most home printers (mine included) can't manage larger paper sizes.  And personally, I enjoy sewing smaller blocks since I usually make smaller projects like wall-hangings.  So my 6" standard seemed reasonable.

Recently a quilt magazine asked me to submit a block. They asked for a sewn 12" sample block with corresponding 12" foundation pattern.  I knew exactly the design I would send in, since I'd been working on the idea for awhile.  But I'd drawn the pattern to my usual 6".  To sew the block, there were 2 choices:  I could enlarge the 6" pattern on a copy machine like my customers do, or I could enlarge it to 12" in my drawing software.  Since I had to send the printed foundation with my sewn block, though, it only made sense to redraft it as a 12" block. 

Fortunately, even for the 12" block, most sections of this design were small enough to fit on a standard page.  But one section spanned the full 12" width.  I had to split the section into two pieces to fit on the page and attach the two sections together before starting to sew. I used a Pritt permanent adhesive roller which held up to pressing beautifully, unlike many tapes which shouldn't be ironed over.  The process was a bit fiddly, but not too bad.

This little episode has caused me to ponder what size most quilters actually prefer their block patterns - is the 12" block still the gold-standard?  Would it be more convenient for my customers if the ready-to-print size of my designs was 12" instead of 6"? What about single-section designs (e.g. Birdie Bird and Yin & Yang) -- at 12", these would have to be broken down into four sections to fit onto standard printer paper -- would quilters find it a real nuisance to cut and glue those sections together?

I would love to hear from you on this topic! What block size(s) do YOU generally work with? Take the poll at the top right side of this page!

By the way, I sent off the finished block to the magazine and am waiting to hear back from them with fingers crossed!  Can't tell you yet what the design is (hint, it's NOT the one pictured above, which is still a work-in-progress), but it turned out really cute and would be perfect for winter projects and kids' quilts!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Hearts, Roses and Scotties

To me, absolutely the best part about designing quilting patterns is seeing finished items made from my designs. It is soooo cool to open an email to find that someone's sent me a photo of their latest creation! I get more than a little thrill knowing that my design provided a creative spark for its creator.

Whether it's an unexpected choice of colors and fabric prints, or how the design is incorporated into an item (not just quilts, but all kinds of things!), I am constantly surprised and humbled to discover what clever and original things people do with my patterns. This is why I generally design block patterns, as opposed to complete quilt designs -- blocks are literally building blocks (pun quasi-intended) for quilters. They provide a basic starting point for a quilter to build her project upon, while leaving plenty of creative space to develop and express her own ideas and tastes.

Two quilters recently sent me photos which help illustrate my thoughts on this. The first is Suellen M.'s quilt made for her mother's 90th birthday, using a variety of PBN heart blocks with some Rosie's Roses scattered around. A true labor of love, each block is beautifully unique. I love how she uses a different set of colors and fabrics in each block. Click on the photo for a better view - Suellen's workmanship is exquisite.

Diane S. created the totally adorable door banner at left for her daughter and son-in-law who own a Westie and a Schnauzer. Diane says "The eyes are googly eyes. I just glued them on with a little fabric glue. The nose is felt. The pattern was easy to follow. It's the first time I ever did foundation piecing, but the instructions you sent me to on the web were easy. I made some of the typical beginner mistakes, but I corrected them and went on with the project. Thanks again for a very cute pattern."

The red, black and white color scheme with lime and yellow highlights is perfect for this project. The googly eyes give the Scottie blocks such a mischievous personality (click on the photo for a better look), and the overall feel is modern and fun. A thoroughly successful project, even more so for being Diane's first attempt at paper piecing.

Many thanks to Suellen and Diane, for their generous permission to post these truly inspiring photos!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Have you heard? I'm talking about Craftsy, of course! If you haven't checked it out yet, waste no more time! This wonderful site is dedicated to all things crafty, in particular on-line classes and workshops in just about every major area of crafting - sewing, jewelry, knitting, food, gardening, weaving, and of course, quilting.

A class you won't want to miss is the Craftsy Block of the Month with Amy Gibson. You can sign up any time, watch it any time, go at your own pace, and best of all, it's FREE. I'm even more excited because Amy will be demonstrating paper piecing with my Circle of Geese block in the October 2012 installment. Woo hoo! Craftsy is constantly adding new classes, so sign up for their free newsletter to get the latest offerings and news.

You can indulge in instant gratification shopping in the Craftsy Pattern Shop. The PDF e-patterns are from small independent designers, including yours truly :-) Once you pay for them via PayPal, they are instantly downloadable! How cool is that? Need a handcrafted wedding gift for Saturday? No problem! A costume for the kindergarten play by tomorrow? Easy peasy. The only thing left for Craftsy to offer is the TIME to take all the great classes and make all the terrific projects...

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Sherrie recently sent me this photo of her beautiful wall hanging based on my Sunflower block, made for a friend's birthday. She enlarged the pattern to 43 x 26", and says "I love using paper quilting patterns. It makes the job so much easier!"

I love Sherrie's choice of colors, and the simplicity of the white background and borders really makes the sunflowers pop and glow. The inversion of the smaller leaf on the center block adds just a little unexpected twist - as does Mother Nature every day, every where. Lovely work, Sherrie - thanks for sharing!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Oh Baby Oh!

Who can resist sharing a photo of a sweet baby lying peacefully on a quilt? Certainly not the quilter who created it! (The quilt I mean, not baby Hailey, who was created by friends of mine :-) )

It's the first quilt I've finished in quite some time now. The cheerful, bright fabric came from Moda's Oh Cherry Oh! line, a pre-cut "Turnovers" triangles pack. It's now out of print, as I learned recently when trying to find enough fabric for the border and backing. But E-beth Designs over on Etsy had the wonderful aqua zigzag print, which then inspired the zig-zag quilting. A quick, easy project that couldn't be simpler or cuter!

My shiny new Ikea pizza wheel made marking the quilting lines a breeze. With a 24" ruler, I just ran the pizza wheel where I wanted to quilt. This produces a nice straight crease that lasts long enough for quilting, with no need to mess with masking tape or worry about washing out marking pen/pencil.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI)

Today I received an email from Suzi, who purchased one of my patterns with the idea to make a little quilt for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI).  If you haven't come across the AAQI in your travels around the web (or even if you have already!), I hope you'll take a few minutes now to explore their interesting and well-designed site, and consider supporting their work in whatever way you can, however small.

The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative was founded by internationally-known quilter Ami Simms, with the mission to raise awareness of and fund research for Alzheimer's Disease.  Since its beginnings in 2006, the AAQI has raised over $500,000. It is a registered non-profit charity, staffed entirely by volunteers.  Many quilters make and donate little quilts (they must be 9" x 12" or smaller)  for auction or sale, with all proceeds going towards Alzheimer's research.  There are many other ways to help (35 and counting) too!  Even if you don't have time to make a quilt or money to buy one (though it's a fantastic way to purchase an original art piece for a very modest amount), you can still contribute simply by spreading the word about AAQI through Twitter, Facebook, your local quilt guild, and telling your friends and family. 

Suzi used the Rosie's Rose block to make The Yellow Rose of Texas (8.5 x 8.5"), in tribute to her mother, Doris, who had Alzheimer's.  Suzi hand-dyed the cotton fabrics for the rose, and, if you click on the image, you can see her teeny-tiny hand quilting stitches.  The unusual red, white, and blue background adds so much to the Texas spirit of the quilt! 

Many thanks to Suzi for sharing her beautiful work, and giving me an opportunity to promote this very worthwhile organization.  You can read more about Suzi's quilt here (as I write, the quilt is still awaiting categorization for auction or sale, so the link may have changed by the time you read this -- I'll try to keep up with it).

Please feel free to use any Piece By Number pattern (whether purchased or freebie) to make a quilt for donation to AAQI, or any other charitable organization;  you don't need to contact me for explicit permission.  A mention of Piece By Number as design source is much appreciated, but not required.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

New designs: Swiss Daisy and Edelweiss

Added a couple of new patterns to the shop last week, the first in admittedly quite some time.  (The day job is taking up way too much of my life lately...)  Swiss Daisy, left, grew from two quite different inspirations.  The first was a camera lens aperture:  the very delicate, overlapping metal leaves that can be adjusted to let in just the right amount of light for a photograph.

The second inspiration was Mary Ann Beattie's extremely clever paper piecing pattern of a sunshine (apparently no longer on the web), in which she cut through the foundation during the construction to allow all the sunshine's rays to be sewn with a single foundation unit.  This got me thinking about the possibilities of cutting the foundation to achieve certain designs, and I wondered if some variation of this idea could be used to create the camera aperture design.  A little drafting in EQ, some experimenting with fabric at the machine, and eureka!  A center octagon, framed by overlapping triangles, becomes possible to sew using a single foundation piece, with no applique.  How cool is that?

Having gotten this far, I decided to develop the design into an 8-petaled flower, rather like a daisy. I found that alternating blocks of light and dark daisies yields a fascinating reverse swirling effect, a near-tessellation of larger flowers.  These larger flowers evoked for me the elusive, delightfully irregular edelweiss blossoms, flowers I have only seen for real at local nurseries but never in the wild, despite my living in Switzerland for more than 13 years.  So I named the block "Swiss Daisy", because a cluster of these special daisies transform so easily into a meadow of edelweiss.  (Though truth be told, real daisies in Switzerland are no different than daisies in France, Germany, or Italy. :-)  )

But what if a quilter wants only one edelweiss blossom, for example, for a flower sampler quilt? This possibility led me to draft the Edelweiss block, with its darker green corner diamonds suggesting leaves. Sweet! The block is effective in many color schemes, with often a more geometric than floral feel depending on choice of color or fabric design.

I love how the one design led so naturally into the second one, yet both blocks stand on their own as distinct designs with different possibilities. They share some similarities in construction techniques, though Edelweiss can only be constructed in multiple units, whereas Swiss Daisy is a true single-unit foundation pattern (a multiple unit version is also given in the pattern).  (Note:  both patterns are for intermediate- to advanced-level paper piecers.  For more images of the blocks and quilt possibilities, see Swiss Daisy and Edelweiss.)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

99 Bottles

My son and I got to singing that old camp favorite "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" (and some of its even sillier variations) while goofing around recently.   Later that day, I was trying to come up with some new block design ideas, and inspiration struck -- a new kind of bottle quilt!  Drafting the bottle pattern was quite easy.  Less obvious was how to arrange the bottles to make a reasonably proportioned quilt while still incorporating 99 blocks (3 rows of 33 bottles just isn't a useful proportion for anything but a looong table runner!).  I'm pleased with this layout.  The 99th bottle, of course, does not fit on the shelves, and so it sits on the "floor".  I guess that's the one that got taken down and passed around.

If you want to make your own quilt, click here for the PDF pattern plus the dimensions of the bottles, sashings and borders (but no instructions) to make a quilt about 67 x 76".  The bottle labels are perfect for using large scale and novelty prints -- fussy cut them to resemble real beverage bottle labels.  You could even add the names of your favorite beverages with fabric markers or embroidery.  I chose the same bottle green color for all the bottles, to show up on a black background while not overly competing with the labels, but of course other color schemes could work just as well.

If you make something with this block, be sure to add a photo of it to our Flickr group  :-)

EQ7 users can download the EQ7 project file here if you'd like to play around with layout ideas and fabric choices. (I had to zip it so you can download it - hope that's not a problem for anyone.)

*clink*   Cheers!