Meet UPPERCASE's QuiltCon 2015 Correspondent, Linzee McCray

Alas, I can't be in two places at once, so while I'm over here in Australia, Linzee McCray is in Austin experiencing QuiltCon and will be our correspondent on the scene. -Janine

Linzee McCray

Linzee McCray

Greetings! Linzee McCray, here. I’m a quilter, knitter, embroiderer, and a former weaver and spinner. I’m also a long-time writer and editor who’s had the good fortune to focus on textiles, fiber, and craft for nearly a decade. So I’m especially excited about covering QuiltCon 2015 for UPPERCASE.

I pitched my first modern quilting story in 2009, when I noticed that while traditional quilt guilds had been around for decades, blogs and Flickr were changing the status quo. If modern quilters—those interested in functional quilts influenced by modern design—couldn’t find like-minded sewists down the street, they sought them out online. In January, 2009, Jacquie Gering’s virtual quilting bee, Project Improv, drew 225 participants via her Tallgrass Prairie Studios blog. In October of that same year, the first Modern Quilt Guild meeting took place in Los Angeles. Quilters from geographically diverse regions, including Denyse Schmidt on America’s East Coast and Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr in the Midwest, were designing quilts with a modern feel, too. All this coincided with a rising interest in handmade goods and DIY.

Linzee's string-pieced quilt

Linzee's string-pieced quilt

Not surprisingly, fabric-lovers are a tactile bunch, and the opportunity to both touch quilts and meet face-to-face with other quilters spurred the growth of the Modern Quilt Guild. Today, there are more than 100 groups around the world, as well as many individual members. In 2013, the Modern Quilt Guild organized the very first QuiltCon in Austin, Texas, to bring many of them together.

Mod Nine Patch Pattern by Elizabeth Dackson, pieced by Linzee.jpg

Mod Nine Patch Pattern by Elizabeth Dackson, pieced by Linzee.jpg

I missed that first QuiltCon, which is why I’m especially looking forward to this year’s speakers, workshops, and exhibitions. If you can’t make it, I’ll share some of the excitement and eye candy with you.

Vintage feed sack crazy quilt

Vintage feed sack crazy quilt

If you will be attending, I hope to say hello in person. In addition, I’ll be doing a demo on Friday at 12 noon in Exhibit Hall B, sharing information about UPPERCASE, including a special QuiltCon subscription discount, and expanding on the story about feed sacks that I wrote for the latest issue. Join me to learn more about this remarkable bit of history, which touches on issues of recycling, early marketing to women, and of course, fabric. (Feed sacks so fascinate Janine that she had 10,000 tiny pieces of vintage feed sacks applied to each cover of issue #24. Janine is sending along 10 copies of that issue—come to the demo for a chance to win one!)

3 days, 300 quilts

Rosettes made by   Elizabeth Hartman

Rosettes made by Elizabeth Hartman

It's QuiltCon this week! Linzee McCray will be there representing UPPERCASE and will be sending in some blog posts from Austin. For event goodie bags, I've provided 1500 copies of both the current issue and favourite back issues. 

The 300+ quilts that I judged with Carolyn Friedlander and Stevii Graves will be on display. I learned a lot about quilt-making in the process of judging, from the practical to the subjective. I've not actually finished my own quilt yet; I was there as the "outsider" to judge from an design perspective, but when I do dive headlong into quilting (which is inevitable) I will have a lot to live up to!

Three days, 300 quilts

  • Dark fabrics show through light colours. Press your seams towards the dark and use white batting under white fabric to get a clean look.
  • Binding matters! A poorly applied quilt edge can really make a difference in the perception of the overall quilt. There were some impressive examples of binding where the maker had matched the binding colours to the design. Unfortunately, there were also submissions where the binding was literally falling off. Facing the quilt was also an effective design choice.
  • Machine quilting motifs should work to enhance the piecing and be harmonious... or completely contrasting with purpose and intent.
  • Pet hair is never a good idea. A few entries caused fits of sneezes! A few entries were quite full of hair or threads and hadn't been properly cleaned before submission. It's hard to judge an entry when no obvious care was put into the submission.
  • Creating a dynamic and unique composition is harder than it looks. The modern aesthetic pushes the use of negative space in interesting ways.
  • Though pre-bundled fabrics have lovely colour and pattern combinations, unless it's a fabric challenge to specifically use a particular collection, try to mix up the fabric selections from beyond a single source.
  • An extremely high level of craftsmanship and technique is possible—and breathtaking to see—but perhaps was more rare than I was anticipating considering we were viewing quilts to be judged.
  • Be inspired by a variety of sources — quoting "Pinterest" as a design source is not very impressive. My favourite entries had interesting and personal descriptions of how the quilt's inspiration came into play.
  • There was a deep appreciation and respect for all the quilts that were submitted, by the judges and from the entire team at QuiltCon (who where impeccably organized and efficient).
  • Quilts in which the personality of the maker shone through were the most pleasurable to look at—and the most memorable weeks later. 

Calling Card: A Gathering of Stitches

A Gathering of Stitches is offering some amazing retreats next year! Participants will have the opportunity to work intimately with some really talented and generous teachers in 2015. 

Sherri Lynn Wood of Daintytime will be spending two intensive days teaching a small group to quilt with curves, April 30 and May 1, using the extensive facilities of AGOS. Wood’s first book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters will be published by STC Craft in March of 2015.

In July, Amy Butler and Heather Jones will lead a small group through their colour stories, and how to translate them into quilts. This exclusive retreat will take place at the luxurious Point Lookout resort in Northport, Maine.

The dynamic trio of Carolyn Friedlander, Chawne Kimber and Rebecca Ringquist take up residence at the Medomak Retreat centre in Washington, ME, in August, for a long Slow Stitching weekend. Slow down and connect to needle and thread or floss in a summer camp setting with a small community of stitchers.

For the garment sewists, Lauren Taylor of LLADYBIRD will spend four days exploring the joys of making clothing at AGOS. Start the Fall with new skills for creating your very own handmade wardrobe at this September workshop.

Thank you to Samantha Lindgren for her support of UPPERCASE magazine through the purchase of this Calling Card ad.

Make Something Monday

Feedsack quilt block by reader Lisa Courtnage

Feedsack quilt block by reader Lisa Courtnage

Happy Monday and Happy December 1st! There's no denying that the end-of-the-year rush is on. Today, let's just catch our breath and get back to doing what we love... making things! 

Today's the day to create a good old-fashioned made-by-hand gift. It doesn't have to be something complicated, just something simple showing your recipient that you took some time. Time is precious; showing someone that you took time out of the busy season to make something heartfelt is powerful and will be appreciated.

Create something that comes from YOU. It could be a handwritten card, a little embroidery on a hankie, some cookies made from scratch, a simply sewn pin cushion, an ornament made from found objects, a collage of pretty pictures, a finger-painting made with your child, a handmade notebook of blank pages with a found-paper cover... just take a look at an issue of UPPERCASE and I'm sure an idea will come to mind.

Stay away from DIY posts and Pinterest! These days, it is too easy to get bogged down into the perceived perfection of Pinterest and the tyranny of step-by-step craft instructions. Today's the day to unplug from these distractions. Comparing yourself to others and following directions can be so detrimental to genuine creativity. Use your own ideas, your own resources, your own ingenuity... you will make something that is from you and your heart.

Make something out of nothing. Be experimental. Be silly. Creativity comes from letting yourself go a little bit. If you worry about stitching a straight line, today's the day to zigzag. Just gather up all your creative supplies onto the table and see what emerges.

Enjoy the process. Making things is a lot of fun! Share what you're up to on Twitter and Instagram #makesomethingmonday #uppercasereader. 

A huge thank you to UPPERCASE reader Lisa Courtnage for the beautiful quilt block made of vintage feedsacks. She writes, "I saw your request for feedack fabric on your blog. I found a vendor while at the International Quilt Festival in Houston who was selling charm squares of feedsack fabric (5 inch squares) so I snagged a few packs. I have enclosed 419 one-and-a-half-inch squares. Also made a mini-quilt block with the leftover scraps... that is how quilts were made back in the day!" Once again, I'm amazed and inspired by the generosity and talent of UPPERCASE readers. Thank you, Lisa.

My son was with me at the office when I received Lisa's package of feedsacks. He was instantly enamoured with the quilt block and wanted it for his teddy bear. I have other plans for the block, so I suggested that we make teddy his own special blanket. All my sewing supplies are here in the office so Finley selected a favourite feedsack square from Lisa's packet and we went to work. My mother-in-law had recently downsized her fabric collection and I acquired some of it, so the blue and white fabric was at-the-ready. The train fabric was purchased from a thrift store on a car trip home to Saskatchewan some summers ago. Finley helped by sitting under the table and pushing on the sewing machine pedal or by taking out the pins as needed. Within an hour, we had a cute but wonky tiny blanket and a happy mother and son. We'll both cherish the blanket for the stories of how the fabrics were chosen and the fun we had putting it together. I think teddy liked it, too.

Speaking of quilts, I'm excited to tell you that I'll be one of three judges for next year's QuiltCon! I look forward to spending three days surrounded by beautiful quilt designs.

Have a lovely day making something!

Reworks Recycling Challenge: Catalogues

Thank you to everyone who entered Rework's Recycling Challenge: Denim. Solita has selected these earrings by Trashn2Tees as her favourite submission.

"These earrings are made from tiny denim shards are cut into 2x2 cm squares and placed by hand onto ear wires to create these stunning and light weight earrings. Trashn2Tees has diverted more than 476,000 pounds of clothing with our designs and established nationwide clothing recycling drop offs across the United States."

The next challenge:


With the holidays coming, we always seem to end up with a lot of catalogues. We might flip through the catalogues a few times but eventually they end up in our recycling bins within a pretty short time frame. Let's see how creative we can get by recycling these catalogues into something useful or beautiful. Here a few ideas from Pinterest to get those creative ideas flowing.

To enter the challenge, please email good quality digital photographs of your creation (800 pixels wide at 72 dpi) to Entries must be submitted on or before January 30th to qualify for the challenge. Entries must also include your name, contact information and a brief description of your creation. If you have any questions about this challenge, please direct them to Solita at the email listed above. UPPERCASE is not involved in the administration or adjudication of this challenge.

Solita and Reworks has a Kickstarter campaign on now to create a maker space within their shop which is in the heart of Calgary's Inglewood community:

We are carving out the back third of our shop to provide a maker space to supplement our artists' existing home studios. The space will be available for makers to meet, share ideas, and develop in a common space. They will have access to higher end tools such as a Janome serger, air compressor, and upholstery stapler that are often beyond the means of a single individual, but which become so useful in the hands of many people in the right environment.

Blanketed in Simple Stripes with Purl Soho yarns

Purl Soho's crocheted  Super Easy Baby Blanket  

Purl Soho's crocheted Super Easy Baby Blanket 

Purl Soho is a gorgeous shop in New York City that I'm happy to say has been a regular stockist and supporter of UPPERCASE for many years. (Here are some pictures from my visit there last November.)

Their products are always carefully selected and they really excel at COLOUR. Beautiful colour combinations showing real sophistication—subtle differences in shades, beautiful gradations, unexpected pairings... the Purl Bee, their inspiring blog, showcases various projects using Purl products and for those of us admiring and shopping from afar, offers an up close appreciation of their fabrics and yarns through great photography and really accessible patterns. Here are some simple striped patterns that are easy for beginners and meditative and satisfying for expert crocheters and knitters.

On a cold winter's day, I'd love to be encircled by this gradient cowl.

And I'll curl up under a striped blanket... or perhaps I'll just snuggle up to these skeins of yarn that look warm and inviting just like this:

The Purl Bee offers plenty of free patterns and inspiration and you can shop from the comfort of home via their website. Copies of UPPERCASE are available as well.

Look for an ad from Purl Soho in the winter issue of UPPERCASE. Thanks, Purl Soho!

Calling Card: Blackbird Letterpress

Blackbird Letterpress is the name of Kathryn Hunter's creative and prolific letterpress company.

Kathryn Hunter started Blackbird Letterpress in Lafayette, Louisiana, in her friends' house in 2003. Blackbird began with the purchase of a Chandler and Price "Old Series" platen letterpress (circa 1904) from a long-time printer in Hammond, Louisiana. The movable type came from a printer outside of Chicago. One crisp October weekend (well, crisp in Illinois, not necessarily in Louisiana), Kathryn and her friend flew to the big midwestern city, loaded a couple tons of type and cabinets and other goodies out of a basement into a moving truck, and drove it back to Bayou Country. A collection of vintage printer's cuts came from a long-time printer in New Iberia, Louisiana (the trip was luckily much shorter that time). Blackbird Letterpress currently works out of a mural-clad building in Baton Rouge, which they share with a metalworking business and two frisky guard dogs. 

Their Etsy shop is stocked with Christmas cards, paper ornaments, perpetual calendars and handmade notebooks. Blackbird Letterpress can also be commissioned for custom letterpress projects and beautiful wedding stationery.

Thanks to Kathryn for her Calling Card. (If you'd like to be featured in a Calling Card post and have your ad in the Winter issue of UPPERCASE and on the blog sidebar, I have three spots left!)

Enter the Calligraphy-themed fabric design contest on Spoonflower!

Spoonflower is an easy digital printing service that turns your fabric (and wallpaper, and wrapping paper!) dreams into reality. I'm excited to be partnering with them for a fabric design contest (scroll down for details). In issue 21's Surface Pattern Design Guide, I chatted with Spoonflower co-founder Stephen Fraser. Here's an excerpt:

How many yards of fabric are typically produced by Spoonflower in a day?

We produce over 2,000 yards of fabric per day.

The weekly design challenges yield some impressive results, both in quality of design and the sheer number of participants. How are contest themes determined?

Picking contest themes is a lot of fun, and between the suggestions people send us and our own creative team we never seem to run out of ideas. I’m proud to say that we’ve held close to 300 weekly design challenges at this point and have yet to repeat a theme. The biggest challenge is not in coming up with new ideas but coming up with ideas that balance accessibility with our desire to inspire original work. “Vintage” is a fun idea, for example, but at this point we know that if we did a contest with that theme, the likely result would be a lot of people submitting vintage artwork they found on the Internet. It would be hard to separate the work of skilled artists trying to make their own work look vintage from actual vintage art being submitted by people who are just good scavengers of old artwork. So instead of “vintage,” we might try “vintage gadgets.” Having said that, most contest themes we choose have strengths and drawbacks. In the interest of encouraging people to think of our contests as accessible and fun, rather than cutthroat competitive, we moderate the entries very lightly. This is invariably frustrating to the more competitive artists who participate, but I think it’s a good balance of interests most of the time.

What makes a successful design?

I think what makes fabric designs successful is texture, which is ironic given that we sell fabric over the Internet, where its impossible to feel the texture. But in digital design—just as in the brick-and-mortar world, where the texture of fabric is a primary factor—texture is one of the things that makes a surface design stand out. You can see this in the work of Holli Zollinger, one of Spoonflower’s most successful designers. Her artwork is not flashy and her colours, from a digital standpoint, are quite simple and restrained, but she really incorporates texture successfully into colour and pattern in a way that is beautiful and pleasing. The other sorts of designs that are successful, at least in commercial terms, are niche subjects. These are narrow and specific subjects, which means that while they may not have huge audiences, they are easily located by people searching on Google. Because the competition for this sort of fabric is limited, they can often sell successfully in the marketplace.

Do you have advice for aspiring surface pattern designers?

Don’t be afraid to experiment! Fabric is like pizza—even a 'bad' design printed on pretty cotton is still kind of nice!



Create a monochromatic pattern using varying shades of black, white or grey with calligraphy as a theme. The winner will be profiled in an upcoming issue of UPPERCASE. The deadline for entry is Tuesday, November 11, 2014. Visit the Spoonflower website for details on how to enter!


made by our readers curated by UPPERCASE on Etsy
illustration curated by UPPERCASE on Etsy
home curated by UPPERCASE on Etsy

Do you have an Etsy store that you'd like me to include on my Etsy pages? Tweet your shop name and url to @uppercasemag or leave it in the comments below.

New Craft Coalition: Meet the founders

New Craft Coalition was founded by three enterprising women crafters, Kari Woo, Laura Sharp and Natalie Gerber. "We are makers, moms, entrepreneurs and firm believers in the power of art, craft and design to change not only our communities, but the world. Our current mission is to bring a carefully curated collection of independently produced, Canadian art, craft and design to the people of Calgary twice annually, with other plans unfolding all the time!" 

Laura Sharp, above, creates her wares under the name White Owl Ceramic Studio. Her work is distinct with her graphic black and white, hints of turquoise and love of birch motifs. "I mostly attend art and fine craft shows and sell my work to an audience already won over by the greatness of handmade objects. I enjoy meeting all the people who have invested in my work, their feedback, encouragement, and support has been absolutely priceless.  I look forward to many more years of growing, developing and dreaming." 

Kari Woo's jewellery is a study in simplicity and quality. Kari used to co-own INFLUX Jewellery, one of my neighbours in the former Art Central. She has since moved to Canmore with her family and makes things from her home-based studio.

"In 1993 the I found the art of jewellery making, literally by accident," says Kari. "While recovering from a serious snowboarding injury I enrolled in my first jewellery class on a whim. It was love at first make! Now, two decades later, I am still at it and I still love it. My aim is to create substance and meaning through design. Patrons know my work through two distinct collections of sterling silver jewellery that offer the wearer versatility, comfort and simplicity."

Natalie Gerber designs home wares and hand bags using her own surface pattern designs. You might recognize her from the UPPERCASE Surface Pattern Design Guide (issue 21) and I also photographed her and her studio back in issue 13.

"As an artist, designer and maker I am inspired to create functional design for everyday living. While craftsmanship is important to my creative process, so too is function. I combine my love for illustration, surface design, clean lines and hand-printed fabrics with conscious material choices and in-studio practices.

My South African background influences my aesthetic, while inspiration is drawn from styles that include Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern design. From detailed sketches to mark making and loose line drawings, I explore the above within my work and transfer the imagery onto textiles through silkscreen printing."


The show opens today at 4pm at the Festival Hall in Inglewood. I'll be there with the latest issue of UPPERCASE plus some good deals on back issues and other print products. See you there!

New Craft Coalition: Sarah Pike Pottery

As you can see from my previous posts, there are some pretty talented ceramicists showing at New Craft Coalition this weekend. Sarah Pike will be visiting us from Fernie—you have to admire artisans who travel to shows with vehicles full of breakables!

Sarah writes:

I am interested in pottery with personality, beauty, and attitude. The marks of process, the slight distortion or off-round from a gentle hand, or the fingerprints on glaze and slip are all a part of the language with which my pots exclaim, "I was not machine-made, I was not mass-produced, I was made by fingers and hands, in a small studio, by an artist listening to music, dreaming and making." Because in a time of mass-production, consumer culture and waste, the handmade object brings us back to the intimacy of human nature.

New Craft Coalition: Kalika Bowlby

Kalika Bowlby is a ceramicist living in Nelson, British Columbia who will be bringing her wares to Calgary for the New Craft show. (How perfect is her name, for a potter?)

"I love living in a small mountain town but visiting big, bustling cities. I wish I could ride my bike every day, make every meal feel like a celebration and that each thing I make would be better than the last.I feel blessed to be both a mother and maker, to use my hands to make and share objects that become part of others lives. Hopefully, these objects will survive the ebb and flow of life because I think that things get better with age, use and understanding."

New Craft Coalition: Juliana Rempel

Juliana Rempel is another ceramicist showing and selling at New Craft Coalition this Friday and Saturday. About her work, Juliana writes:

Recognizing ceramics undeniable connection to life, the home and to the mundane activities of our everyday, I look for potential in these objects as registers of information and as the archetypes of our lives. We are comfortable with ceramics as both a material and as an object, allowing permission for it to become part of our personal space. This established relationship we have developed, holds the potential to be taken out of a comfortable home context and disjointed, dislocated and to be re-introduced as something other then utilitarian.

In a gallery, ceramics becomes a representation of the objects that are the silent bystanders of our lives, the symbols of our day. By dislocating our expectations of them, questioning our understanding of them and utilizing them for their symbolic value I introduce these objects in a gallery context, ultimately questioning our understanding of ceramics and bridging the gap between art and life.

New Craft Coalition: Cathy Terepocki

These gorgeous ceramics are by Cathy Terepocki, a regular exhibitor at New Craft.


Cathy writes:

From a young age, I developed an appreciation for materials and an awareness of how things were put together. I grew up around handmade objects, in a culture where things were used and re-used. Materials were recycled to create something new. Fences were mended, sweaters darned, old shirts and dressed made into quilts. When I travelled through third world countries I was always struck by the innovative ways things were repaired and everyday materials were re-purposed to extend the life of something that would otherwise be discarded. 

One of the constants throughout my practice has been combining print-making techniques with ceramic processes, primarily pattern and imagery. Recently I have been bringing mixed materials into my pieces, particularly re-used materials. In both cases I am particularly interested in components that have had a past-life or for the narrative quality they construe. In addition they add texture and richness to the pieces. Re-contextualizing these elements also gives them new meaning and elicits new appreciation from the user. 

The forms I use are usually wheel-thrown. The surfaces are developed by building up layers of print including basic mono-printing techniques when the clay in wet, in-glaze or laser decals after the pieces are glazed and repurposed commercial decals to finish off the piece and provide one more layer of complexity, beauty and nostalgia.

I have a 'thing' for following ceramicists on Instagram. I love seeing all the works lined up pre and post-firing. Follow Cathy here.

New Craft Coalition: Carole Epp

More cuteness will be in store for shoppers at New Craft Coalition. These functional ceramics are by Carole Epp, another artist from Saskatoon exhibiting this weekend.

From Carole's website: "Her line of functional work explores narrative and whimsy. Inspired by the chaos, the noise, the blur, the wonder, and the creativity of life with two small boys at home. She started making dishes for her first son as an aside to the functional pottery she was already making and now years later it plays a huge part of her studio practice. The dishes illustrate storybook images that can insight smiles and memories for young and old alike."