As temperatures drop from what seem like a never ending days of heat, my thoughts invariably turn to the upcoming holidays and hand-made gift making. Not large items, but small gifts that can be tucked in as an unexpected surprise. Recently I was asked to review two new books which, as it happens, is very timely for those gift making thoughts swirling about in my head right now.
I first met Olesya Lebedenko during the 2019 Houston Quilt Festival. As usual, we were holed up in a windowless classroom for the day taping interviews with artists for TheQuiltShow.com. It's a tightly scheduled day of artists coming and going, and allows us to capture as many interviews as we can in one fell swoop. At one point early in the day, Ricky Tims mentioned to me that an artist would be dropping by to show us her new book Sewing Scrap Blocks with Character. These serendipity moments often lead to unexpected gold nuggets, as was the case with Olesya Lebedenko.
After lunch, when the very apparent lack of caffeine really began to take it's toll, in walked a smiling, petite young woman wearing long lavender streaked dreadlocks decorated with wooden thread spools. Her smile and effervescent personality were charming and infectious. I was eager to spend time getting to know more about her and the book she had written.
As makers, we have generate a lot of. It's the nature of the beast. Scraps on the worktable, scraps on the floor, scraps that have fallen on the cat laying at my feet and scraps in little piles on the cutting area. Many that are too small to use usually end their life in the trash. In 2018, feeling that there could be a use for what she calls "treasured little bits", Olesya challenged herself to a 365 Days of Quilt Scraps Challenge (#365daysquiltscraps) by designing a 3 1/2" (9cm) block a day using these small bits leftovers. The idea behind the project was that often, we overlook the potential that the little gems of scraps, when sewn together, can become.
Where did she find all of her idea? Inspiration came from the world around her. Morning coffee, the neighbor's cat, falling leaves, baby animals, seasonal holidays, winter hats and a whole cast of other adorable little characters. I mean really, who hasn't felt like Homer first thing in the morning before that caffeine kicks in? And any cat owner can certainly attest to seeing this view of 'the fluffster' on any given day. It wasn't long before others began to take notice of her daily Instagram posts.
Olesya has us looking at scraps as fun treasures that can become charming and delightful bits of fun tied up in a little 3 1/2" block. Line them up in rows in a small wall-hanging, create a story with a few on pillow, or add them to a larger project as an unexpected bit of fun. They are definitely going to become an addiction. Once you've made one or two, I guarantee, you'll be hooked.
Many of you may have done your share of small pieced critters, but it's Olesya's addition of hand stitches, small beads and touches of paint and pigment that bring these whimsical characters to life. No longer are the characters static, but they have a life and personality. Which is what makes them so darn adorable. I know, excuse the gushing, I'm a sucker for characters with a bit of quirky personality.
The blocks in the book are designed for the confident quilter who enjoys a bit of a challenge. Care has been taken to include tips on fabric selection, decorative stitches, adding beads and painting details. While clear and easy to follow step-by-step illustrations guide you through the process from start to finish. As a visual learner myself, this is a great addition for me.
Blocks are built using the transfer paper method, but can be adapted for paper piecing, if you prefer. To avoid frustration while you're getting the hang of the process, I would suggest practicing with designs with fewer units before tackling the more complex. If you are intimidated by working on such a tiny scale, simply enlarge the patterns until you are more confident. The idea is to have fun and relax. Remember, you're only working with scraps that might have ended up in the trash to begin with. If one isn't perfect...that's okay. Just keep plugging along.
Once you've made a few of the characters it's time to find fun places where they will live. Make an entire quilt or use individual blocks to make pincushions, mug rugs, wallets, quilted totes, tea cozy, sewing machine cover or framed mini quilts. You get the idea; any where you can insert a small block, these charming characters will work.
I'm off to dig through my stash of scraps because Sewing Scrap Block with Character by Olesya Lebedenko offers over 60 delightful, whimsical and charming little characters that come to life in just a 3 1/2" square. Now which one to start with is definitely a dilemma.
Stay tuned for next week's book discovery.