Some finished quilts to share

Terri W. has sent me some lovely quilts to finish, and I can share a few now that they’re back with her!

the first is an Echino improv quilt, based off a tutorial by Elizabeth Hartman (Terri added a mini border and sashing, and it turned out beautifully).  She wanted something simple so as not to distract from the quilt, and I decided to center the squares around the cornerstones, and fill with improv squares around them.  Each square is unique.

I loved this echino quilt  ! Here's the front... I used the squares as my center point, but each square is different, and the fill around them all is different, too. Neutral thread doesn't compete with the awesome blocks. And the back!

The next quilt had a really cool textured fabric with dots, which made for a really interesting quilt top, I thought.  It had a band of stars, and I wanted to emphasize that design, as well as emphasize the raised bubbles of the white fabric. As I was quilting it, I couldn’t help but think of one of my fabric books, A Wrinkle in Time.  I think you’ll see why!



The last quilt I have to show is a HST Ziggy, and I wanted to do something a little different than following the bands of color.  For this one, I wanted to emphasize verticals, and to do that I crossed over the bands, trying to create a sense of long lines and angles.  The curvy zigzag lines helped break it up a little, and not feel so homogenous.

This one arrived back to its home today! A little bit of a different take on chevrons. Thanks for letting me quilt such a fun top

Of course, my favorite quilt was the simplest one to quilt, made entirely of shirting squares!  I am seriously bummed, though… I forgot to get a picture :(


Great video on how to spin seams with Cristy Fincher

Technique and knowing how to do things properly when piecing is important to me. I’m always reading and practicing new techniques to see which ones work for me, and which make the best finished quilt.  I know it sometimes seems like a Catch 22, that I’m a modern quilter who loves improv but also loves accuracy and perfect points, but I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.  If you want to break the rules, it’s best to know what you can break without ruining the integrity and durability of your quilt.

That’s my I’m sharing this video!  My friend Cristy Fincher (her blog is here) over at Purple Daisies just posted a fabulous video on how to spin seams over on youtube.  In it, she shows how to glue baste and spin seams both, which is a double whammy of excellentness.

It is seriously worth your time to check it out.  Please leave Cristy a comment!

A quick post, with pictures!

It’s been pedal to the metal over here, between getting designs prepped for Quilt Market next month, finishing revisions for the book, reviewing a project in a different book, submitting to magazines, and getting back into customer quilts.  While some of it is still under wraps, I have a few things to share from the last couple of weeks, like this custom quilting job:


A custom quilt, she asked for visible quilting to show the thread path.

A custom quilt, she asked for visible quilting to show the thread path. I chose a leafy feather thing, since it played up the central vine motif. Swirls in the center.

and a secret project where I just got to play.  This is the back!

babybackWe went to a family wedding where the kids both requested I make them bowties

Our only vacation in over a year!  It was a much needed break.

Our only vacation in over a year! It was a much needed break.

I decided to break into my hoard of Denyse Schmidt fabrics, finally, and make a quilt for myself.  Well, at least *plan* to make a quilt for myself…

5? 6?  lines with various scraps thrown in.

5? 6? lines with various scraps thrown in.

I made a table for my Studio die cutter

One cobbled together table from those cube shelves. I had a cutting table we made of the 3x3 cubes a few years ago, , but it was too tall for my 5'4" to cut comfortably. Made me sad.


And have been writing like a madwoman.  School started, so everyone is readjusting, but loving the new year.  What are y’all up to?

(oh, definitely go check out this amazing tomb at Amphipolis, probably linked in some way to Alexander the Great.  It’s stunning! Also check out this incredible underwater site where the Antikythera device, what may have been a type ofcomputer, was found).

Crayola Washable Markers and Quilt Marking, Technique of the Week

It’s been a hot topic on the professional longarm forums lately: what do we use to mark quilts?  Blue pens that are water soluble?  Purple pens that disappear in air?  Washable pencils?  On a whim, I decided to try the new “ultra clean” Crayola Washable markers, and to run a little experiment.

My hypothesis: Crayola markers will come out of everything.

My supplies:
washed and unwashed fabrics (washed white solid, unwashed peach solid, batik, red solid)
Crayola markers
cold water for soaking, with and without soap.

Just getting started with the prewashed Kona white.

Just getting started with the prewashed Kona white.

I tried to think of the most common ways we use marking tools, and the most common ways we washed.

  • With and without pressing (I ironed the crap out of the heat set ones, on the highest setting for cotton)
  • Cold vs. warm water
  • With and without soap
  • Heavy vs. light markings
  • prewashed fabrics vs. fabric straight off the bolt
  • fabrics that might get bleached out vs fabrics that might stain

I made 8 samples of these on the white fabric, and then tossed them in to the water, and walked away (actually, we went blueberry picking, so I was gone for an hour or two).

In the water!

In the water!

And when I came back and rinsed the pieces (the water they were in had turned grey), they looked like this, whether they were heat set or not, washed in plain or soapy water, or whether they were in hot or cold water:

Not bad, huh?  Winner winner chicken dinner!

Not bad, huh? Winner winner chicken dinner!  These were ironed after washing, to dry them out and make them lay flat.  No marks came back.

Then I tried them on fabric straight off the bolt, and instead of making light and dark marks, I scribbled the hell out of that fabric. I still heat set.  And this time, I just used cold tap water, without soap.


Noooooooooo! Not what I was expecting, honestly.  I ironed all of these, to make them lay flat.  

My excitement and hopes were dashed.  The unwashed fabrics held on to their markings! And not only that, it looked like the ink that had come out in the water had redistributed itself all over.  do note, though, that the ink had no negative effects on the dark fabrics.

I didn’t want to give up, though.  I took the un-prewashed pieces and used cold water with soap.  And less than a minute later, this was the result:

Ink free!

Ink free!  well, except for the Pigma pen ink.  And yes, these were ironed after the initial soak, but not ironed after washing with soap.

While I wold not use this on a customer quilt, I would totally use these Crayola markers on my own; I always prewash my own personal-use fabrics, and I always wash my personal quilts after they’re done.  They’re cheap, every color I tried (all ten of them int he box) comes out, and they are impervious to heat setting.

I didn’t try the following, but want to:

  1. What happens with more luxury-type fabrics like silks or Radiance, or wool?
  2. What happens after sitting in the sun for a while?

Let me know if you try it out, I’d love to know your results!  More information is always good.  Happy quilting, y’all.  Hope this helps!

What is (and isn’t) Modern Quilting, to ME

Quilts are done for the book, first draft of the manuscript has been turned in, and the revision process is just getting kicked off.  I have a few more minutes in the day, though, to think about other things, and this topic has been on my mind a lot, since people are still talking about it and trying to define what it is: “modern quilting”.

It’s kind of a rambling post, one that I am continually processing and reprocessing, so I’m putting it into a list of ideas of how I feel about it right now.  I’d love it if we could get a conversation going, here, about what modern quilting is, and is not, to you, and how modern quilting fits into your life.  As for me, I’m kind of finding myself moving on from identifying as one thing or another, and these are the things I, personally, am thinking right now.

  • I’m not really interested in the aesthetic side of things so much, questioning whether it is or is not modern, whether it’s minimal or not, what fabric it uses, whether it’s going to fit neatly in a category according to its looks. That’s boring and unhelpful. To me, modern quilting is less about that than it is about what those quilts do and are for; modern quilting is about utility.
  • When we talk about modern quilting, we seem to talk about it in a bubble, as if it suddenly appeared one day and was its own separate entity, and the overall movement guided by the MQG actively seeks to set itself apart and maintain a kind of boundary between itself and other quilt types.  I’m not all that interested in that, myself, except for feeling that it can possibly scare people off of learning to express themselves fully through their art, trying to keep their work “modern”.   Make what you love.  Make as much of it as you want.  Don’t give a rat’s butt about anything except but making what makes you happy. And if you watch all the lectures from QuiltCon 2013, that’s what nearly every keynote speaker says.  Follow your own Muse.
  • What seems to me to be missing when we talk about modern quilting is how it fits into the world around it.  Modern quilting is part of a larger movement of people interested in DIY and homesteading, “curating” their homes and lifestyles, having their hand and work literally evident in the homes they are creating around themselves.  Modern quilting is, in part, a diary in cloth of many women and men who are teaching themselves quilting skills to make things to be part of their life stories.  As they grow in their skills and learn new techniques, you can see it change and shape the quilts they find interesting and desirable, through the popularity of circles and fussy cuts, diamond and stars.
  • We also talk about modern quilting being driven by the online community, and it is, but I worry that we miss the larger picture.  In my area, the people who love modern quilting and enjoy it for its freedom and liveliness and beauty are all quilters who have been quilting for decades.  They are all older than 50.  So many people think modern quilting is the quilting for the “young and hip”, and don’t see or know the number of people who love it but aren’t active online.  I remember at QuiltCon seeing so many, many women and men who don’t necessarily fit the “modern quilt blogger/mom/DIY/craft maven” profile.  And it pains me that we don’t acknowledge them for a number of reasons: modern quilting, in the overall scheme of things, is a small segment of the quilting world; many of these quilters have much to teach and offer; it’s seriously poor judgment to limit ourselves to profiling modern quilters based on age.
  • Modern quilting also fits into a continuum of quilt history.  As a historian it kinds of annoys the heck out of me that many modern quilters seek to divorce themselves from quilt history.  Like our grandparents and great grandparents, we are quilting our way through a recession that hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression.  Our quilts are often scrappy and made to see hard use, decorative as hell, but not meant to be carefully hidden from view.
  • As a professional modern quilter, it concerns me that we ignore the quilters that came before us because they aren’t “modern”, who have much to teach us about working within the industry.

Craftsy’s “Dog Days of Summer” Sale, classes up to 50% off

Folks, if you’ve been wanting a Craftsy class, this is a great weekend for it, since all the classes are up tp 50% off.  I’ve taken a LOT of classes with Craftsy (56!  many watched, but not all), and can recommend the following as being excellent:

Sewing and Quilting
Kimmy Brunner’s “Machine Quilting with Templates”
Debbie Caffrey’s class on rotary cutting, “Cut to It”
Deborah Moebe’s “Design & Sew an A-Line Skirt”
Cindy Needham’s “Design It, Quilt It”
Angela Walters’ “Free-Motion Quilting with Feathers” and “Machine Quilting Negative Space
“Wendy Buter Berns “Pictorial Quilting Techniques” (great tips on how to baste for domestic machine in this one)

Other Stuff
Robert Danhi’s “Authentic Thai Cooking”
Peter Reinhart’s “Artisan Bread Making”
Molly Stevens’ “Secrets of Slow Cooking: Mastering the Braise” (THIS CLASS IS AWESOME)

And of course, my second class “Creative Longarm Quilting” is also on sale!

Disclaimer: Y’all, I am a Craftsy affiliate.  That means if you use my link for your classes, I get a small percentage of the purchase you make (this is true for any Craftsy instructor, just FYI).  I only recommend classes that I have taken myself, and which I like and have learned a bunch from.  


An Apology* for Required Summer Reading

I’m finishing up work on my own book right now, but I thought I’d throw this out there.  It’s about summer reading in junior and senior high, and reading things that are otherwise not going to cross your radar.  It’s pretty much taken directly from a comment I left somewhere else, but I thought it interesting enough to share, because I also think it applies to our quilting work, learning to do the things we don’t necessarily care for so we can be better disciplined and able to do all the quilty things.

In my teaching career, I’ve taught 5th through 12th grades (history and Latin, at the same time!), and college kids as a TA (history and Latin). In my personal experience, the kids that were best able to handle the college workload and make the most out of their education were the ones who could manage to do the work they found not to their liking all the time, which, frankly, will turn out to be a good deal of what they’re asked to do. They were the ones who realized that they didn’t have to like what they read or the exercises they had to do, so much as be able to understand it and apply what they learned.

And, most significantly to my mind, they were most often the ones who realized that the key to a good college education was often tied to the ability to stretch their mind by learning and doing things that are outside of the things they are comfortable or just like to do. Their answers were uniformly more thoughtful and creative, and more often showed a greater degree of insight and interest in the world around them. In group work, they were the problem solvers and leaders.  They were doing the drudge work, but making the effort to see how it could benefit them beyond the grade in the classroom.  The benefit to them is not only in terms of the material they learned, but also the active practice of discipline.

On a different more existential level, one of the reasons literature is assigned–in both history *and* in English classes–is because as a human being our individual experiences are self-limiting based on what shape our lives have. Reading literature is a way to learn about the human experience, through facing problems and loves and fears and dreams that we may never experience directly ourselves. Relating to a character or not can sometimes provide guidance as to who we are and what we value most about ourselves and our larger world.  Through reading, we can learn compassion and empathy, and also how to distance ourselves emotionally from characters that disturb us.  We learn to think about why we are drawn to some things and not others.  We learn who we are.  By reading things we’d otherwise not expose ourselves to, we stretch ourselves in new ways. So.  That’s why I think summer reading is necessary and important.

* I use the word “apology” in the sense of the ancient Greek ἀπολογία (literally “apologia”), which was first used as a literary device by Plato in the 4th c. BCE: It means to make a defense of your beliefs through the systematic use of information.

Come join me tomorrow!

Come join me tomorrow for a Bernina Webinar, where I talk about what I think about when I work out how I’m going to quilt a top!   This is a quilting design discussion, and applicable to domestic or longarm machines. Denise will also be talking about the QuiltMotion later in the show.

You do need to register in advance, but there are three different times you can attend.  Should be fun and informative!  Happy quilting, y’all.