Sew Karen-ly Created...

If you have arrived here via a link (such as to a tutorial) click on "Sew Karen-ly Created" to return to the latest blog post. I invite you to my website to see a gallery of quilts and patterns available for purchase.
Comments are always appreciated, simply click the word "comments" at the end of each post to leave your message. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday 20 January 2024

"A High Tide Floats All Boats": 2023 Hoffman Challenge

Last year when Hoffman California Fabrics announced the fabrics for their annual design challenge, I knew right away I had to have them!  They were an enticing selection of watery greens and blues, just begging to be sewn into something with a seaside theme. To top it all off, they were batiks;  how could I possibly resist? 

The prestigious Hoffman Challenge is an annual , long running event;  you can read more about it at this link. This is the second time I have entered the challenge, the first being in 2015.  My entry that time was also juried in as a finalist, and travelled around North American for the duration of 2016.  It was a wonderful experience to be part of this show, and I was excited to try it again.  Here are the fabrics to be used for the 100 year anniversary challenge:

My first hurdle - and this was no small one - was to source the fabrics from a quilt store in Canada. I am a strong believer in supporting local whenever possible. The collection was to arrive in shops at the beginning of April. I began my hunt shortly after Christmas, contacting shops first in Nova Scotia, then the Maritimes, and finally in all of Canada, to see who had it on order.  Not having any luck, I broadened my search and contacted the Canadian distributor for Hoffman Fabrics, who supplied the name of a shop who had ordered them, but when contacted, the shop denied having any knowledge of such an order. Disappointing. This was now late April, and time was running short, so I finally gave up and purchased the fabrics online from The Fat Quarter Shop in the U.S., who put them in the mail immediately. No complaints about the service, and no issues at the border...which sometimes happens. I had already purchased the accompanying Aurifil thread collection, and I couldn't wait to match them to the fabrics.

While searching for fabrics, I had sketched a general blueprint on the computer of where I was headed.
I stitched a practice piece from similar colours to get the proportions of the little sail boats.  Although my sketch had looked fine, I didn't feel the sailboats showed up well on the pale background, so I tried again.  You'll also notice I changed the orientation of the boats.
This one suited my eye much better (but the sail boats are too large.)
My  plan was to free motion embroider whitecaps on the top of the waves, but I was unsure which weight of thread to use.  Doing trial stitching with different weights on water soluble stabilizer was a great way to "audition" the whitecaps on the waves.  
I just laid the thread embroideries on top of the fabric, and decided 28 weight Aurifil thread gave the look I wanted.  

With these many hours invested and my plan of action decided, it was now time to start the real thing. I began the process all over again with the challenge fabrics.  The centre Mariner's Compass in this quilt is 10" across, so there are lots of tiny pieces to work with.  Much patience was required, and many days ended in frustration, trying to get the points as sharp as possible.
The letters were a nightmare, both to cut out and to stitch.  Leave it to me to choose a skinny, curly font.
The choice of batting was not a simple one;  the finished quilt is small (36" across) so I didn't want anything thick to overwhelm, but it also needed to show the stitching, and hang perfectly straight.  I ended up going with a single layer of Hobbs wool batting.

Even though it's not a large quilt, it took hours of free motion stitching.  My eyes ached from working all those tiny pebbles, but I do like how they look.

My original plan was to take photos of the quilt at high tide by a wharf where ships were tied up.  I've taken such shots in the past at Advocate Harbour, but the tide table was not in sync with best light and the deadline for submission was imminent. I ended up taking the shots at the lighthouse park in Five Islands, N.S. High tide was around 7 am so we were in place early.

You can read the warning sign for the high tides in the background.
You will have to take my word for it because they don't show well...but there are actually three boats "floating" by in the water.  If you look closely, you can see the white foam streams. :)   If you are curious to know, the islands in the background, l-r, are Moose, Diamond, Long, Egg, and Pinnacle.
The Artist Statement submitted with my quilt reads as follows:

Living on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, home of the world’s highest tides, the title aphorism is well known. Even JFK knew it! The design is inspired by the watery blue batiks of the challenge.  The quilting is free hand, free motion (not marked) to mimic the rise and fall of an uneven tide. Centre compass is 10-1/4”, quilt perimeter is 129”.

The Hoffman Challenge 100 Years Exhibit opened this past week at the Road to California Show in Ontario, CA.  I am grateful to internet friend "Darlene Sewista" for taking and sharing these pictures from the show.


  1. Congratulations. It is a great tribute to Nova Scotia.

  2. Interesting to read the background story!

  3. I love the quilt...and all that went into it. Such a work of love and such an honor to be in the exhibit!

  4. That’s beautiful, Karen! I enjoyed hearing the thought process that went into the quilt, and seeing the various iterations. Congratulations!