July Designer of the Month Alyssa Thomas

I’m Designer, Author, and your host for this program, Pat Sloan.  This year we challenged each designer to create a block inspired by the Aurifil Color BuildersWe assigned each month a color/city and challenged the Designer to work their magic using either the city, the colors, or both as inspiration! Each designer has their assigned box + coordinating Kona Cotton Solids from Robert Kaufman for each shade of thread. We also provided Robert Kaufman Essex Linen in Charcoal to supplement the solids for their blocks.

For July, we’re traveling to the incomparable rolling hills of Tuscany as sunset. Rich orange hues spread out across the sky at sunset — it’s perfectly romantic!

I’m thrilled to welcome Alyssa Thomas of Penguin & Fish to share a bit of Tuscan inspiration with us. Alyssa and I became friends years ago with our fascination with embroidery. I loved having her in our Splendid Sampler one Book. She created the most amazing embroidered crochet block to honor her grandmother. When we were doing that project she started doing daily sew along videos to make all the blocks for the splendid sampler. After that project was completed she continued to do her daily videos and they are so much fun — you really need to go watch them (every week night at 8:30pmCST!)

You can follow along with Alyssa via her website, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.

Missed a month from our Color Builder series or curious to check out our past Designer of the Month programs?


We have a Challenge portion of our Designer of the Month interview. Each month we select one random winner to receive 3 boxes from our Color Builder series. All you have to do is making the challenge block that you download below and share it at the link! Details at the end plus last month’s winner!

Let’s get to know Alyssa!

Where do you live and what is your favorite spot there?

I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota with my husband, Jon. Our favorite spot to go is Pizzeria Lola in south Minneapolis. It’s been so sad not to go there during Covid. I can’t wait to get back there (once it’s safe to). They are locally owned and make wood fired pizza that’s the BEST! Pro tip: snag a seat at the bar. You get your pizza right away and get to watch them get made in the big oven. My current favorite is the Iowan which has prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula and garlic for the win!

Do you have a GREAT tip on either storage, organization, sewing, stitching?
Everyone needs an emergency craft kit! I keep one in my car so if I get stuck and need to pass the time, I can get crafting. The project right now in my emergency craft kit is an English paper piecing project. I am using clothing scraps for this one. The project is in a small, plastic bin and inside I have the next bits of fabric I’ll need, templates, glue, thread, scissors, needles, and a Ziploc bag for the fabric and thread snippets. Everything is there ready to use in case of a crafting emergency.

Have you had a ‘light bulb’ moment in making?
No knot embroidery. Instead of making a knot on the back of my embroidery when I start a row of stitches, I weave in the ends of the floss instead. I do this with an “away knot”, a strategically placed knot that’s away from my stitches that I later remove and weave into the backs of the stitches. I weave in my stitches when I’m at the end of a piece of floss as well. With no knots on the back of the embroidery there’s nothing to get my floss caught on and the back turns out perfect, clean, and frustration-free.

Alyssa you stitch on video every day. How did that get started and how do you stay motivated to continue stitching all these years? 
I started my nightly LIVE streaming show about 5 years ago. Before the show, I was only working on my business and wasn’t sewing or crafting anymore. I just plain wasn’t making time for it. BOO! I also knew that I wasn’t great at keeping up with new habits for very long. “Consistency” was my word for that year because I’d always start things but wouldn’t follow through and that needed to change. 

The LIVE streaming helped me with both problems. With the LIVE streaming, I get to craft for an hour every evening, and because people come and sew, chat, and keep me accountable for being there, I’m able to keep consistent with it. 

Getting to hang out with an amazing group of people every night was an amazing bonus that I’m truly grateful for! I work on various projects and I take requests. This year, each project has its week that we work on it. Week one of each month we work on the Granny Square quilt by Lissa Alexander. Week two we work on the Splendid Sampler 2 quilt and using the Quilt-As-You-Go process. Week three we stitch up my Penguin & Fish embroidery-of-the-month. And the last week we sew the new block for the Aurifil Designer-of-the-month quilt. 

This month we’re switching it up and I’m sewing July’s Aurifil block starting this evening at 8:30 pm central time. I hope you join me and sew your block with me this week. I broadcast on Youtube and Facebook every evening at 8:30 pm Central time.

You have created kits that are sold in Target’s craft sections, what was that like to see them there for the first time?  
It felt and still feels AMAZING! I started crafting by making a cross-stitch Christmas ornament that I got from my local JoAnn Fabrics. That one project was the entry point for me to the world of crafting that I love so much. There’s joy, achievement, patience, calm, excitement, tradition, art, and creativity all tucked into every craft project. I think the more people make things with their own hands, that happier the world will be. I am thrilled that by having my kits at Target a new crafter might take that same leap into crafting.

What does your studio look like, and what would you change in it?
I suppose it depends on who you talk to. 99.9% of my sewing and crafting happens during my Live Streams in our tiny dining room, so I would consider that my studio.

But, I do have fabric, supplies and “rescued” vintage sewing machines all over the house and also at our warehouse. So maybe everywhere is my studio. My dream studio would be a huge barn with one wall all windows for natural light. There would be every type of tool and machine there. There would be easels for painting, a long arm sewing machine, a woodshop, a weaving loom. All the things to make all the things!

What’s on your playlist?
I have the worst / non-existent playlist. No music, podcasts, or audiobooks. I love all of those, however, anything with words takes away my focus when I’m trying to work. When I need to concentrate, I listen to “lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to” from Chilled Cow on YouTube. I totally recommend it.

Are you a Dog or Cat person? 
Cat person! I don’t actually own a cat, but I have a cat tattoo and my parents have a cat that I get to visit. If you’ve watched my nightly Live Streams for a while, you’ll have seen Chad the Kitty pop up in all sorts of projects. He made his way into my Splendid Sampler 2 quilt and I made a pom pom portrait of him. He makes a cameo on my Live Stream every now and again. He’s the best!

What is your Favorite quote, and why?
“Make it 80% Good.” Too often we put too much pressure on ourselves to make things perfect and this can get in the way of getting things done. The fear of perfection can also stop us from even getting started. Telling myself that I only need to make a project “80% good” helps me make quicker decisions, be OK with small invisible-to-anyone-else mistakes and takes the pressure off of making. It allows practice and learning to happen, I can finish projects faster, and it makes time spent making more enjoyable.

What else would you’d like to share? 
This year I started an embroidery-of-the-month stitch-along. Each month I get time to design a new embroidery pattern and share it with my community.

It’s available for purchase to whoever wants it for that month only and we all stitch it together during my LIVE steams on Youtube and Facebook. I love hearing when people are successful embroidering for the first time or weren’t sure they would be able to finish but did because we were all stitching together.

My favorite thing though is seeing everyone’s different interpretation of the same pattern. I love seeing the different stitch and color choices. Even if the same stitches and the same colors of floss from the pattern’s supplies bundle are used, you still see each individual’s unique “hand” at work. It’s exciting and keeps me inspired to make more work.

We’ll be stitching this month’s embroidery-of-the-month right when we finish sewing up my Aurifil block this month. 

Tell us about your Tuscan inspiration…
I’m so happy I was able to work on the block for Tuscany. Right away I knew I wanted to make a block that represented a Tuscan farmhouse in the “golden hour” of sunset, surrounded by cypress trees, in fields of lavender.

What could be more wonderful? I’m imagining the farmhouse is my giant “she shed”. I’m lazily sewing a wonky feather design with a long arm quilting machine and drinking a glass of spicy red wine (not too close to the quilt in case I spill). A sun-warmed breeze of lavender wafts through the open window. Past the cypress trees, the rows of lavender reach across the Tuscan hills until they end in a sea of poppies. Birds chatter in the setting sun while my machine hums. DREAMY!

Visit Alyssa at:
Website: penguinandfish.com
Youtube: youtube.com/penguinandfishmovies
Facebook: Penguin & Fish – facebook.com/penguinandfish
Facebook Group: Penguin & Fish Crafters – facebook.com/groups/penguinandfishcrafters
Instagram: penguinandfish

Each year I make the Aurifil blocks in a totally different set of fabrics. For this month, I have to thank Carolina Asmussen for stepping in to offer me a bit of help! I’m still recovering from an accident that left me with two broken wrists. All is healing well, but after two surgeries, I still have a road of healing ahead!

CLICK TO MY Website for a few tips on making this block

Enter your block via the link below by August 14, 2020 to be entered-to-win a SET of 3 Aurifil Color Builder Thread sets!

Click ——>An InLinkz Link-up

1 Watermak-Needle-Black

Join our Aurifil Family
EACH MONTH we will pick one random winner that has made a block.. that person will receive a special Aurifil thread prize! Winners are all contacted email

Our random number picker selected Quilting Mod’s block! You’ve been emailed, so please check your email and respond at your earliest convenience!

CLICK to see all the great versions for last months HERE

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