Friday, September 23, 2016

Jumping in Circles

I must admit that I didn't intend to enter any quilts into the Bloggers Quilt Festival this year. I'm spending time with family in Scotland at the moment, and every moment is being spent catching up with friends and family or soaking in the joy of being home. Blog writing time is at a minimum.

But it suddenly occurred to me that I haven't shared my Jumping in Circles quilt.

I thought I'd enter it into the Original Design Category.


This quilt was designed and sewn for the Quilters Companion and can be found in issue 81.

I couldn't resist an Australian themed quilt for an Australian magazine. Especially since I have received many requests for Australian birds and animals over the years.

While I was drawing the design, I realised that the kangaroo would be perfectly suited to being a repeating design. I love the way that they chase each other round and round.

I am glad that I didn't make the background a single fabric. Each of the four quadrants has different fabrics, giving each of the individual kangaroos their own personality. The four background fabrics also add interest to the centre of the quilt, which could have seemed a bit empty.

Quilt Stats:


Pattern designed by: me and available in The September edition (issue 81) of the Quilters Companion. (If you can't get your hands on a paper copy, you can buy a digital copy from Zinio or Apple Newsstand).
Quilted and Pieced by: me
Finished dimensions: 40" x 40"
Fabrics used include: Lecien Modern L, Karen Lewis Blueberry Park, Carolyn Friedlander Doe

This issue of Quilters Companion also includes a feature about me. I haven't yet had a chance to read it as I am in Scotland and my copy of the magazine is in New Zealand, but my 5 year old son has seen it and is super impressed. He says I'm famous now!


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Woodland Winners

I feel that I have to start this post by apologising for taking so long to post the winners.

I initially intended to choose the winners and post their prizes out before I left for Scotland. Unfortunately time slipped away from me and other commitments got in the way.

I then decided to announce the winners as soon as I arrived in Edinburgh, but although I had a fairly uneventful journey, my suitcase decided to do a bit of sightseeing and it didn't arrive in Edinburgh until 4 days after me. That bag contained a couple of the prizes and I thought it safest to wait for them to be returned to me before disappointing someone with a prize that was lost in transit.

Luckily, my luggage was returned to me after 4 days and I have now had a chance to pick some winners. They are a mixture of random winners and favourites. You didn't make it easy for me!  There were some seriously cute projects lurking on the #woodlandqa hashtag.

The winner of the Aurifil large spool collection of Karen Lewis Threads is:

Would you believe that this is her first quilt!?! I love everything about this quilt and think Tonya did an amazing job.

The winner of the $50 Fat Quarter Shop Voucher is:
Allison paired the woodland block with Lillyella's Forest Floor Pattern 
I love the reverse applique leaf detail which she added and the quilting is beautiful.
Well done Allison!
This next winner made me smile! Kathy created a series of beautiful pouches with the woodland patterns and they are all beautiful, but I especially love the way that this wee mouse is peaking out of a mouse hole! Well done Kathy.
For interpreting the pattern in such a fun way you win the Lecien charm packs.
Marilutiz (Marilu) wins the prize for the most fun use of the patterns. She made a noisy baby book . Go and have a look at her wee video of it in use, it's great!
Your prize is a Fat Quarter Shop $25 voucher.
Tara (Hudson_mae) sewed a beautiful set of cushions. She used a combination of hand quilting and machine quilting to give the blocks texture. My favourite is the badger, what about you?
Well done Tara- you win a $25 Fat Quarter Shop voucher.
Amy sewed a really fun bolster cushion with her blocks. The wee mouse looks so cheeky peeking around the corner don't you think!?!
Well done Amy, you are the winner of a massive scrap pack of Cloud9 Cirrus Solids fabric.
Shelly of LimeandJupiter sewed this beautiful cushion. She is yet another person to use these patterns as her introduction to paper piecing. Well done Shelly, I can't wait to see what you go on to create!
You are the winner of a $30 voucher for my tartankiwi pattern store.
Karin produced this beautiful wall hanging. She is the winner of a $30 voucher for the Tartankiwi Pattern Store.
Holly created this beautiful mini quilt. Great job Holly! You are the winner of a Karen Lewis Scrap Pack.
Elisabeth sewed this beautiful pouch for her kindle. I think I may have to make something similar!
Well done! You are the winner of a six month subscription to Make Modern. I hope you enjoy reading it!

 Last but not least, Ali's liberty woodland creatures stole a place in my heart. Aren't they just the cutest?! You are the winner of a 6 month Make Modern subscription.


Thank you so much to everyone who participated in this quilt-along. I really really enjoyed seeing the beautiful items that you created. I will definitely think about repeating a quiltalong using this kind of format as it was a high fun, low stress kind of a format.

I will leave messages for all the winners on your instagram posts, but in the meantime, feel free to email me (you can find my email in the sidebar of this blog) so that we can arrange the delivery of your prizes.

Finally I would like to thank all the generous sponsors who got behind this quilt-along. I really appreciate your generosity and your enthusiastic support.

Please make sure that you support the sponsors.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Woodland Quilt-Along- A Finish

We are now reaching the point in the Woodland Quilt-Along that more and more finished items are beginning to arrive on the woodlandqa hashtag. It is great to see the creative way that you are using all the patterns.

I have managed to finish my first project. I'm really pleased with the result. I stepped out of my colour comfort zone and used a combination which I would not normally use. I am really pleased with how well it came together. The fabrics are all Cloud9 Cirrus Solids and they are beautifully soft to sew with.
I am having severe camera woes today. Sorry for the terrible photo. I will do my best to get a better photo before next week.

I hope to find the time to make something with the extra 4 inch blocks that I made up using the Lecien Modern L Charm packs, but time is marching on, my trip to Scotland is coming ever closer and my to-do list seems to me growing at an exponential rate!

Weekly Paper Piecing Tip

This week's tip has to do with fabric choices.

Choosing the right fabrics for your block can be vital for giving your animals texture and life. If you use the wrong fabrics, details of the design can disappear or the fabric design can overpower the block and your animal can become camouflaged.

I tend to think that in general it is important to match the scale of the fabric to the scale of the pattern.

For small scale patterns (4 or 5 inch) -, you want small scale prints or solid fabrics.

For medium scale patterns, use solids, small or medium size designs. If you use medium designs, consider whether the fabric is being used in the foreground or the background and whether the fabric design is represented in forgiving tone on tone shades or bold and dramatic colours which may detract from the block.

The fun thing about largescale blocks, is that you can use large scale, medium scale or small scale prints. You can also use solids to give a dramatic effect. I would suggest that large scale prints should be used with care though, think about the placement of these fabrics and the effect that you want to achieve.

See the raccoons and zebra fabrics that I used on this big bear (30 inch block)? I would not have used these on a smaller pattern as they would have overwhelmed the design.



Remember that entries for the quilt-along close on Sunday 28th August at 6:00pm NZT (remember that we are ahead of the rest of the world so please don't get caught out!

For more details about the quilt-along, pop over to this page.
For more details about the prizes hop over to this page.
For a summary of all the Woodland Quilt-along prizes, hop over to this page.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Interpretting Patterns

My older brother studied music at university and composition at Music College. He went on to work as a classical music composer for a time and worked on some major commissions.

After attending a performance of one of his pieces, I remember having a discussion with him about the creative process. I asked him how he felt about handing his music over to other people to perform. Whether it upset him if they interpreted it in a way that was different to what he had put down on paper.

His answer stuck with me. I can't remember the exact words that he used, but he said that once the music was written down on paper, his work was done. If he had done his work well, then people would interpret his work in the way that he wanted. Basically he said that he wrote the music down and then set it free in the world.
My version of the mini seahorse on the left, Amazing Seascape mini quilt by Lydia Cheney (@mamabeelydia on instagram)

When it comes to my patterns, I often think back on that conversation. My job is not only to draw a pattern, but to give instructions which will help others to interpret it as well as they can.

That said, if people interpret the pattern differently to me, it's generally not wrong, often it is better and blows my mind! The photos in this post include a few examples where people have taken my patterns and run with them. They have put their own spin on the designs and given them a more personal meaning. I think that the finished results are all the better for it!

My first patterns were sort of thrown together, but as I have written more, I have adapted the information that is given and how it is presented. I do my best to give guidance but not orders as to how you work with my patterns. That is why I include several different diagrams. Not everyone's brain works the same way and I think it is important to give options.

It is deliberate that my patterns aren't shaded. It is not because I am being lazy. It's because I don't want to limit your interpretation of them.

Once upon a time, I sewed a lamb pattern that someone else had designed. The pattern was designed as a black sheep, but I wanted to sew a white sheep. The coloured paper templates did nothing but confuse me. They limited my creativity and encouraged me to interpret the pattern in exactly the way that the designer had.
Boxer on the left, my original boxer mini quilt as seen in issue 37 of Love Patchwork and Quilting. Boxer on the right altered to reflect Amanda Castor's (@Materialgirlquilts on instagram) beloved dog.

I don't want people to sew exactly what I sew. I WANT them to give the patterns their own spin. Honestly, there is no greater compliment that you can pay me!

These days I will sometimes add colour placement advice to my patterns where I am confident that it is necessary, but I will do it with letters not with shading. This way, it is less distracting and you can easily choose to ignore it. For example, the zebra patterns are a lot of work. Marking the colours to be used in the black and white stripes seemed like a logical thing to do. I did not however give guidance on how to shade the colourful background. Use all your scraps, have fun with colours! I don't want to limit you to specific number of fabrics. Have fun, go wild, do what works best for you!
On the left is my original Singing in the Rain mini quilt. I didn't release the eiffel tower pattern, only the figures. On the right is a beautiful mini created my Debbie Grozzkopf (@mumziepooh on instagram)

To me the greatest compliment is when someone takes my pattern and interprets it in their own way. I think that I mentioned about the creative chain in my last post. I am not the last link in that chain. The person who sews the pattern is the last link and it is not fair for me to steal all credit from them. That said, their finished item is not possible without the earlier links on the chain. It's a symbiotic relationship which needs cherishing not shaming.

The people who sew my patterns build on the foundation that I gave them. They choose the colours and the fabrics. They decide which fussy cuts to include, they work neatly or not. I may be the one who writes the patterns, but I am not necessarily the best at interpreting them.

I am more than happy for people to enter their interpretation of my patterns in shows. They don't need to ask my permission (although if they do ask, I will happily say yes and cheer them on from the sidelines!). The only thing that I ask is that they credit me as the designer, not because I want to steal their thunder but because that way other people can find the pattern and have a go at it if they wish. We all benefit by being open and honest about our sources and inspirations.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Copyright/ Copywrong

 
I've been thinking about design, copying, and originality a lot recently (with a side sprinkling of copyright law to complicate the matter). I have been specifically interested in where the borders between "inspirated by" and "copied from" lie.

I will admit that this blog post has languished, half written, in my computer for a wee while as I have wrestled with the question of whether or not to post it. It makes me feel kind of vulnerable to write, but in general I think it is no bad thing to be honest and to share my successes and failures on this blog.

Seeing the Modern Quilt Guild's post on Derivative quilts, and Gnome Angel's post on imitation in the latest Love Patchwork and Quilting, I thought that my personal views and experiences were topical and perhaps relevant.

You see, it's all very well for quilters, artists and crafters to get up on their high horses and scold people that "copying is bad- don't do it!" I think we would all agree with that sentiment, but sometimes the borders between copying and being inspired by things can be very fine. We are part of a community which grows and breathes through taking old ideas and reinventing them. The trick is to do that in an honest and respectful way.

I think that the Modern Quilt Guild tried to approach this subject, but I am not at all convinced that they initially got it right. I am very glad to see that a resulting discussion is flourishing and I definitely look forward to seeing how that discussion progresses.

I am worried that the current Modern Quilt Guild's heavy handed approach will scare people away from sharing their inspirations and put them off the idea of entering quilt show. To me, the term "derivative" pours scorn on an age old tradition of building on the works of others before us.

Depending on the angle that you approach the issue from, your perspectives can be very different. It's also likely that the exact legal interpretation of terms such as copyright  will vary depending on the country that you live in. We live in a complicated international marketplace where a myriad of different laws are at play and as such each time that I think that I wrap my head around these issues, another perspective or angle pops up.

The majority of what has been written specifically about copyright and quilting refers to US law, but I live in New Zealand- so does it apply to me? Is US law a good framework for me to work around? I'm in New Zealand, so surely New Zealand law applies to be, but what if I send my quilt to a show in the States, which laws apply then?... AAAARGH! STOP IT!! My head hurts!!!

Every design has to start somewhere, there are very few people who can pluck a completely original idea out of their head every single time that they sit down to create. It is natural for us to be influenced by the colours and images that we see around us in every day life, but the degree that we are influenced and the form that this inspiration takes in our work are crucial.

The animals that I sew are not necessarily native on New Zealand, so I am forced to make do with finding inspiration from images rather than seeing and experiencing the animals and birds in real life. I am not that super talented person who can sit down and draw a perfect representation of a wild animal off the top of my head and as such, my designs are often based on photographs. I need a framework to build my design on. I love the detail that using wildlife photography allows. In the majority of cases, the final design looks nothing like the original photo, especially when the design is interpreted in beautiful multi-coloured fabrics.

I am pretty confident that nobody would ever be able to tell which photograph the original zebra design is based on. I changed the dimensions of the face, altered the number and dimensions of the stripes, I added some details and took other details away. I made the face look a lot more symmetrical than it is in real life. In short, I made the design work in fabric.

Was I inspired by the image? Definitely!

Was I copying- no. The zebra face may have been based upon a wildlife photograph, but the resulting zebra, the background riot of colour and the resulting quilt were far removed from that original photo.

Is this a derivative quilt because I used a wildlife photo to give me the bare bones of the zebra design? - I would say no!


Other times the interpretation of the photo in my design is more exact.  When I compared the barn owl element in my latest quilt- Hunted, with the photograph that it was inspired by, I felt a pang of guilt. The interpretation seemed too literal and I felt that anybody who used the correct search in google images would find the image straight away. I had purchased a copy of the photograph, not just downloaded it from the internet, but still it didn't feel right.

Granted, the barn owl was not the sole subject of the quilt, but it dominated the composition to such a degree that I felt I needed to ask permission of the photographer.

I listened to my gut and contacted Graham Jones, the photographer. I explained that his photo had inspired a quilt and asked if he had any objections. Luckily his mother and sister-in-law are both avid quilters and he was really excited by the idea. He has been nothing but supportive.

Was I inspired by the image- definitely

Was I copying- I don't know, you tell me. I guess that strictly speaking I was.

Is this a derivative quilt- perhaps, I don't know, maybe!?

Did I need to contact the photographer? Some people around me have said that it was overkill and unnecessary. I feel happy with my decision to play it safe (although I must admit that I would almost certainly have felt differently if he had given me a different answer.)

Would I be upset if I paid to enter this quilt in an international quilt exhibition only to be told that it is a derivative and that it is not eligible for either judging or prizes?
You bet!
A lot of time, thought and energy went into creating this quilt and just because the major element is based on a photograph does not take away from the skills involved in turning it into a quilt pattern.
Or the construction.
Or the fabric choices.
Or the quilting.
Or any of the other skills involved in creating it.


The last scenario is one that I am not proud of.

When I was designing my recent series of three dog mini quilts for Love Patchwork and Quilting, I REALLY wanted one of the dogs to be a Scottie dog. I wanted to offer an alternative to the traditional scottie dog quilts that you find.

I searched the internet for hours but couldn't find a suitable photo to base the design on. Nothing showed the amount of detail that I needed or a clear enough silhouette. Finally, I saw a random bad quality clipart. It was uncredited and I don't know why, but the usual filters in my brain which stop me from using other people's artwork were bypassed. I am generally very careful to avoid paintings, drawings and original artwork of any kind.

I didn't think to do a simple search to find the artist who created the clipart, I just went ahead and used the image telling myself that nobody would know.

I created the quilt design, sewed it, sent it to the magazine and didn't think about it.

The day after the magazine was released, I received a totally unrelated email from somebody wanting to use a very close replica of one of my other designs in their new business logo. I'm not going to lie, I didn't really like the idea of my design being used to sell her business. That said, since that quilt design was loosely based on a photo, I wasn't sure that I had a right to complain. It felt like I was a link in a creative chain and it didn't feel as if I had the right to object. I discussed the matter with various people around me and most were very indignant on my behalf. I felt conflicted and didn't know what to do.

It got me thinking about copying and permissions and that whole rabbit warren of issues.
While doing that, I suddenly realised that without thinking, I had stolen someone else's artwork (the Scottie dog) and passed it off as my own.

A brick grew at the bottom of my stomach and I felt bad.
I felt really bad.

After stressing all day, I decided to take responsibility for my actions. I did an internet search and discovered that the bad quality image that I had used was a copy of the work of Ann Kallal of Maggie Ross Dogs.

I will admit that I was more than a little bit intimidated to email her, as her website had a very prominent copyright message which preached respect. I sent her an apologetic email and offered to make amends. I was quaking in my boots that I might have inadvertently dragged a magazine (to which I was a first time contributer) into a legal battle- yikes!

I was blown away by the long and generous reply that I received from Ann. She explained about the issues that she has with big Chinese companies stealing her images and selling goods. She was flattered that I had used her image and more than happy for me to keep using it as long as I credit her for the original design in future mentions. Her only request was that instead of sending the Scottie dog mini quilt to her as I had offered, that I donate it to an animal welfare auction. I am more than happy to carry out this request (if anyone knows of a suitable auction please let me know!).

I wish that I had remembered to ask permission earlier or that I had used a different image, but it was a good learning experience for me.

I still don't know exactly where the line lies and suspect that everyone that I ask will give me a different answer. I am kind of proud to say that once I realised my error, I tried to act with integrity, I just wish that I hadn't got myself in that situation in the first place. For me at this time it is a moral issue. Treat others as I wished to be treated.

Was I copying- yes
Is this a derivative quilt- yes
Will I do this again- no.

Going forward I will always do my best to use copyright free images or possibly to combine a few images to make a completely unique view. Where these things are not possible, I will continue to credit the photographers when I feel that it is relevant.

I guess that some of you will wonder how I dealt with the logo question. Well with the whole Scottie Dog mess fresh in my mind, I felt that I was in no place to take the moral high ground and object to the logo. I contacted the lady and gave her my blessing to use it.

I feel as if there is a lot more that can be written on this issue, but I am not a lawyer and I do not have all the answers.


For me personally, the key is to act with discretion and grace. I want to treat artists, quilters and fellow creatives in a way that I would want them to treat me. As a general rule of thumb, I will listen to my gut and do what it tells me, follow my own moral code.


We do not create in a vacuum so lets give credit where it's due and get on with creating beauty!
I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas on the subject.

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