Quilters Lead Pieceful Lives.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sailing Away

It was exactly a year ago that I made a quilt for one of Mari's many nephews called "Cars, Trucks, etc.". For new nephew Rory, the theme this time is boats.  She asked for "something nautical" and colorful, with a red border.

I hunted around and found this pattern. At 60" x 60" it was too big for a baby quilt, so I reduced the number of boats and changed the size of each block from 6 x 8 to 5 x 7.

The colorful sails allowed me to dig into my stash to find just the right colors and patterns. I decided to alternate each boat's sail with a semi-solid looking batik and a bright multi-colored /patterned fabric. The hulls and masts were chosen for harmony and aesthetics. Coincidentally, the pattern also had a red border, so that made it easy to visualize the finished quilt. So I bought an identical looking polka-dot fabric on-line.  I purchased the sky and water fabrics locally.

Note the monogram on the middle boat on the bottom row.

Quilting was basic and minimal. Free-form light, puffy clouds frame the sails. Wavy blue lines fill the waters below.
I found a great all-over mini-sailboats fabric for the back. Looks like clear skies and calm seas ahead!


Monday, November 14, 2016

Dream Girls

The original request from my friend Mari for this quilt was for pink ballerinas. I figured that there would be tons of ballet or dancer fabrics, and there were many, but they were either not in pink or were just not cute enough. So I broadened the search to include princess fabrics, and was able to find a nice complementary pair. Thus the name: Dream Girls.

I added in some other fabrics from the same pattern set and came up with this design for the front:

Note that all of the fabrics include built-in sparkley threads!  A first for me.

The quilting is stiple around the ballerina and princess figures, and ditch stitch around the borders.

The back is made of another fabric from the princess series, and includes frogs (princes in disguise?) and unicorns, because.....why not?

Now it's up to Kalia to decide if she wants to be a ballerina or a princess...............or both! Dream on!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Animals Down Under

This is my 150th quilt!!!!!

I made it for a friend who has a friend whose children (and the granddaughter recipient) are temporarily stationed in Australia. So they wanted something with an Australian theme, in pinks and pastels.


Do you know the names of all the animals? 

The pattern is from "A Quilter's Ark", one of my favorite pattern books. I have made a number of quilts from here, including two Noah's Arks (here and here).

This one has pink stiples around the animals to make them pop, and then gray and lavender ditch stitching around the inner and outer borders and binding respectively.

And 15 years ago, I made this same quilt for the husband of a co-worker, using North American Animals!
Same pattern (quilt #17!), different animals; completely different feel. That's one of the joys of quilting: the unlimited range of fabric patterns and colors.

Friday, September 30, 2016


Here is still another commission from a traveling companion from our Morocco trip last December. This one is for Kaylee, her 6 year old granddaughter, who was described to me as "half Caucasian, half Chinese. Her middle name (Gi-Mei) means rose season in Mandarin". So my friend wanted something with pinks and flowers to fit a twin bed.

I presented her some options and we settled on a wonky pinwheel pattern that I found in a book called "Cut-Loose Quilts", by Jan Mullen. I have made several patterns from this book, but when I started to scope out this one, the directions did not make sense. So I sent an email to Jan (who lives in Australia), and, believe it or not, she responded to me the same day. She said that "...this is arguably the most difficult [pattern] in the book", so that made me feel a little better. She then explained in detail just how to do it. The main idea of her book is to just cut and piece without making exact measurements. Thus, the pinwheels are asymmetric! But, out of many disparate pieces comes harmony.

Next, the fabric. After deciding that the "spokes" of each pinwheel would be the flowers, and the "background" would be the pinks, I figured that I would be able to use a lot of fabrics from my stash. Well....I was able to use some, but, with 135 blocks to make, not nearly enough. My goal was to make sure that no flower or pink in one block was touching another block with either of the same fabrics. Since most blocks are surrounded by 8 others, this became quite a challenge! However, I am 99 and 44/100% sure that I achieved this goal. (For those of you of a certain age who get that reference, kudos! For everyone else, click here).  If anyone can find a place where this isn't true, please comment with details. And, for all you eagle eyes out there, look for one block with a flower fabric used in no other block!

So we went to Quilter's Heaven and was able to get a nice variety of pinks and flowers. But, it was still not enough to satisfy the "no repeats" requirement I had imposed. As we were looking through all the choices, we came upon a cute fabric with just the right sized butterflies. Of course! Makes perfect sense!! With all of those flowers, there have to be some butterflies in the area!  So there are several butterfly spokes scattered throughout the top. We also got a lovely pastel dots fabric for the back. And one of the fabrics we found, yellow with small roses, was perfect for the outer border as well!

Our next stop was to Second City Quilts, where, with the help of co-owner Gabi,  we were able to get enough different flowers and pinks to finally make it work. All told, there are probably at least 30 different fabrics in the quilt.


Yes...it is large (but still twin bed size); it took two of my assistants to hold it up for the picture! If you zoom in you can see that the spokes and backgrounds on each block are different sizes, so there is no matching to do when assembling the rows.  Since it is a large quilt, and I do my own machine quilting, I decided to make it in sections. Notice that the body is 9 blocks by 15. So I choose to do three sections of 9 x 5 blocks each.  So I first pieced each section (block by block and joining into rows), including both the inner and outer borders. Then each section was sandwiched (with extra batting and backing on the edges to be joined), and quilted. Then the 3 sections were stitched together. For a full explanation of how to do this, click here .

How to quilt it? Since the blocks are wonky, some options were naturally eliminated. I first thought I would do stipling in the background sections, but since they are so small (each block is only 6" x 6"), it seemed like there was not enough area to work with. So I finally decided to just ditch an "X" on the two main axes of each block using a bright pink thread. This makes a wonky pattern on the back.

Here is a close-up showing the wonky blocks, the borders (note the roses!), and the monogram:

Hope you like it Kaylee!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Shimmering Spectrum

My neighbor commissioned me to make a wall hanging for his downtown Chicago office. He wanted something "colorful but not wild, and not 3D". I did some web surfing and found a dozen or so patterns for his review. He picked one called "Through the Lattice".  I have made over 140 quilts, and would you believe that this one and my previous one (Mandeville Kaleidoscope) are the only two that have used charm packs!?!?!?! What are the odds?

So, like the previous one, the basis of this quilt is a pack of pre-cut fabrics. But whereas Mandeville's were shades of all solids, this one features a really unique and fascinating set of fabs.

There are 7 rows of 9 columns each, a total of 63 blocks. Overall, they make a beautiful spectrum, going from dark on the left to light on the right. But wait! There's more!!!

If you zoom in and look closely, you will see that the 7 fabrics in each column are all the same pattern! That is, while the colors change, the pattern of the fabric is the same. Moving across, you can see that each row has the same hue; only the value changes as you go left to right. And the final, really amazing thing, is that each and every square has highlights of gold! That's where the "shimmer" comes from!!

So it was really a godsend that they all came pre-selected.....can you imagine trying to find and organize something like this on your own? (ALERT: that was a rhetorical question. It would obviously be extremely hard to do!). 

The actual block piecing process was also quite similar to the one used in Mandeville. In this one, I had to take each charm piece and cut it diagonally. For half the blocks I then sewed the pieces back together with a black strip in between. Then (gulp!), I cut that sewn set on the other diagonal, and re-sewed it together with a white strip. The other half of the blocks was done in the same way, but reversing when the black and white strips were used. So when arranged, the black strips go seamlessly (quilting humor!) from right to left, and the white ones do the same from left to right.

So with all these colors, how to quilt it? Initially I thought I would do stipling in the colored parts of the blocks with gold thread. This would highlight / reinforce the gold speckles throughout. But doing so would mean that the colored parts were sewed "down" and the diagonals would be "puffed up". I definitely did not want to add any emphasis to those diagonals. So, like many times before, I decided to use clear monofilament thread. I ditched along the diagonal seams. Strictly functional (and basically invisible) on the front. 

But it makes for a beautiful pattern on the back!

(That strip at the top is the hanging sleeve.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mandeville Kaleidoscope

My daughter Emily just moved into a new house on Mandeville Street (in New Orleans), a few blocks from where she was sharing a rental for the last several years. Here is a photo of the outside:

A mixture of bright colors is a common feature of many NOLA houses, and hers is no different (FYI: the door color is Bermuda Onion!). And it's hard to see, but that is a Cubs welcome mat!

So naturally she asked me to make her a quilt with lots of colors!

She wanted a comforter for her full-sized bed. As usual, we went back and forth looking at a lot of patterns, and finally settled on one called "Percolate". It features 26 different colors of Kona cottons (some in the layer cake package come with one square of each, others with two), made into half-square triangles, and then sliced and diced with silver strips.

Here is how each block is made:
First, the pre-cut colored square is sewed RST to the Snow background square.

Then, it is cut on the diagonal, opened, and pressed:

So each color square makes two blocks.

Next, 3 cuts are made. Each block then has a 1", a 1.5" and a 2.5" strip of silver inserted. So even though there is a "pattern", each block (and each quilt) is unique, since the placement of these strips is entirely up to the person making the quilt! Some of the blocks are cut parallel to the diagonally-sewn seam; others are perpendicular. Sometimes the strips are all on one half of the block; others are on both sides.

Here is how this one looks before the strips are sewn in....

....and after...

...and then trimmed to 9.25" x 9.25":

In all, there are 90 blocks (9 across by 10 down). The arrangement of the strips in the blocks forms a large off-centered multi-colored fractured diamond, looking just like a kaleidoscope!

As I mentioned above, the colored squares come pre-cut in a charm pack. That means that there are precisely the pieces of fabric needed for the blocks. Anyone who has ever made a quilt knows that mistakes are made. Whether you measure wrong, or cut a piece too short, or the straight-edge or rotary cutter slips, something always goes wrong. That's one reason why we buy extra fabric! But with this one, there was no margin for error. One wrong move would have meant disaster; there was no Plan B. So I had to go to another level of concentration and diligence. Luckily, I made all 312 cuts cleanly and correctly.

Since it is a comforter, and we all know how hot NOLA can get, my BQF Donna suggested that I use wool batting instead of the usual poly-cotton. This makes it fluffier and lighter. The only downside is that it makes it a little harder to quilt. I wanted to do minimal quilting to not counteract this fluffiness, so I ditch stitched on each side of the silver strips. Thus the quilting reinforces the overall diamond shape.

Here is the finished product, held on the front porch by Emily and her mom:

See the diamond? The center is on the left, below the mid-point.

And here it is in situ with colorful pillows:

Happy Home Emily!!!!!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Anna's Alphabet

This is the second quilt I've made for our friends Pam and Steve....for their second grandchild. The first was a boy, Will. This time it was a girl: Anna!

So we wanted to make something sweet and girlie...and guess what?! We found a darling collection called "Sweet Baby Girl" from Riley Blake. Dots and flowers and frogs and monkeys and....an alphabet!

Then we found a pattern called "Rumble In The Jungle". We modified it to give more space to the alphabet fabric and to use the set of fabrics we had selected.

Here it is:

I did stiple quilting in white, since most of the background color is white. Did not quilt on the green monkey and frog fabrics, nor on the sashing, so they all pop out.

Then my design consultant said that "it must have a lace trim".  So we hunted for just the right one and finally found one that had the exact same color orange woven in!!! Serendipity. So that was machine-sewn right over the binding.

A monogram patch in the corner and it's ready to go.

Have fun, Anna!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Frisky Friends and Fronds

Believe it or not, another Morocco travel-mate also has a grandchild on the way, and requested a quilt! She asked for something with elephants, and teal and gray.


I found this pattern (which is a free download!). It also included the most darling fabric collection , so that is what I used.

Here is the back: more elephants!!!!!

The pattern had an error that, luckily, I found early in construction. It did not require the purchase of any additional fabric and was easily corrected. I also made some other mods to the pattern.

For the quilting, I wanted to make the trees and animals pop, so I did shadow stiple quilting to reinforce the tree edges, and then just random stipling around each animal. All was done in white thread. Then I did a gray ditch around the inner border.

Think there are enough elephants?????  :-D

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Dots A Lotta Monkeys One and Dots A Lotta Monkeys, Too

The daughter (and sister) of our Morocco travel mates is expecting twins, so they asked me to make TWO quilts!  The specifications were minimal: some pastels and animal prints. So I looked for a pattern that would allow me to feature both. Found this one from Riley Blake, which features large on-point blocks. Then I found a great theme fabric: Mini Monkeys in Primary. That was paired with four colors (plus white-on-white) from the Small Spots collection.  

I used the same color of one of the small squares in One quilt as the setting triangles in the Too quilt (and vice versa).

While the pattern is the same in both, I chose to quilt them differently. The first was sort of shadow-quilted on the white-dotted fabric, going through the 8 small squares in the pieced blocks. The same pattern was repeated in the monkey squares. It was replicated in the green setting triangles. All were done with matching thread colors.

The second was quilted by completely avoiding the white fabric and just quilting horizontal and vertical lines through the small squares (and small monkey squares), and right through the large monkey squares. Again, this pattern was continued into the setting triangles on all four sides.

I hope the twin "monkeys" love these quilts for many years! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Go, Chicago!

Yes...another quilt for Mari's family!

This one is for Henry, who is the brother of Sebastian (see Sebastian's Ark).

This time the request was for a sports-themed quilt, specifically one with the Chicago teams. So I hunted around on-line and found that Jo-Anns had fabrics featuring the Cubs, Sox, Bulls, Bears, and Blackhawks. I also found a cute navy-blue sports-equipment pattern for the back.

I then created a design which consisted of 9 blocks, 3 x 3. Five of the blocks were just 9" x 9" squares, one for each team. The other 4 blocks were log cabins, made up of a fussy-cut center square from a team, and "logs" of the other teams surrounding it.  Then, there was a border of 3" x 3" squares of the 5 teams.

First, I cut out the 5 big squares, then I cut the 3x3's for the border. Next, I made the first log cabin block. Pin it to the wall....take a good look....UGH! It was horrible!  The colors of the various teams (white and black Sox, blue and red Cubs, black and orange Bears, black and red Hawks, red and white Bulls) were so strong and so incompatible, that the whole thing was a disaster.

OK....maybe if I put some sashing in between the blocks it would break up the in-your-face colors and soften it a bit. But what color to use that I didn't already have? Either green or yellow!  I found a nice yellow with tiny white dots in my stash. Cut a few strips....pinned them up.....no improvement.

Time to reassess. I sought counsel from a good quilting buddy and also from my live-in advisor. The end result is that I went back to square one.  Since I needed to use the team fabrics, and their colors are so robust, it was obvious that a different approach was required.  So I did a complete 180!  I decided to put horizontal strips of the fabrics on the back, and integrate the sports-equipment fabric on the front!  I found the same fabric in a lighter shade, and reused the pattern from "Play Time", but stuck with the 3x3 arrangement.  I needed a third fabric for the border and sashing, and found the perfect multi-colored dots at Quilter's Heaven

All ready to start over and.....wait!  It suddenly dawned on me that there is a sixth pro Chicago team: The Fire (yes....soccer!). Since I had to go back to JoAnn's to get more fabs from the original teams (not enough left over to do what I wanted), it was no extra effort to get the Fire fabric (which they of course had!). I adjusted the dimensions of the front a little bit to allow for the 6th fabric on the back, and it worked perfectly! I was able to get a full repeat (or more) of each team. And by arranging it this way, the colors actually balance and work! I think the front came out very nice too. Add the "Henry" monogram and, finally, here it is!