Monthly Archives: July 2012

Free (!) Quilt Patterns

Whenever I despair of the crap on the internet, I remember all the great free patterns kind souls have made available.  And then I don’t feel so blue.

Here’s a few goodies on my to make list:  Unusual patterns available as PDFs.  Pattern for an improvisational quilt, if that’s not a contradiction in terms.  Another improv quilt.  Go to the end of the post for a picture of the finished quilt.  This swirly number gets my juices flowing.

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My Checkered Embroidery Career

Until about a year ago I would have doubted your sanity if you suggested I do hand embroidery.  You see, I was traumatized as a young girl by an embroidery needle, a toaster cover from W. T. Grant stamped with a blue pattern, and a determined mother who insisted I hand embroider Christmas gifts for my aunt.  It was NOT a pleasant experience.  And I was forced to work on a mixer cover, too!  I recall the pattern featured a cuckoo clock with a demented looking bird popping out of it. The toaster cover sported a rooster.  Here’s one similar to my childhood nightmare. (And someone’s asking $19 for it.  Maybe I should tell my aunt.)

Then, I signed up for a Craftsy course called “Stupendous Stitching” which called for some extemporaneous hand embroidery, using big stitches and perle cotton.  Well, once I didn’t have to deal with floss that refused to separate (and why on earth is it made that way?) and those trite blue stamped patterns I kind of got into it.  Lazy daisies, French knots, stab stitches, fern stitch – bring them on.  And I got to decide where to put my stitches.

Here’s a pillow I made using that class’ techniques – couching, machine decorative stitching, hand embroidery, and quilting.

Lest you think I hate fine embroidery, I don’t.  I know one woman whose work is exquisite.  She wins blue ribbons.  It’s just not my thing.

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Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects

Blasts from the Past

It’s hard to remember a time when a quilter’s biggest problem wasn’t choosing among a plenitude of fabric, but was finding all cotton fabric suitable for quilts. And then the choices usually were between little calico prints.  So, SQ was surprised to uncover some old fabric that didn’t fit that description when she was going through an enormous fabric donation to her guild.  Actually, one piece is redolent of its period, so let’s get that out of the way first.

Here’s a piece of Thimbleberries fabric from 1995.  The line is called Christmas Valley.  Now, I know some folks love this fabric, but why would anyone want to use this dreary stuff with all the wonderful fabric out there?  And I own fabric from the 90s so I know it wasn’t all this drab.

Now that I’ve maligned the Thimbleberries lovers, let’s move on to a fabric line I never knew existed – Nancy Crow’s for John Kaldor.  I assume it’s from the 1990s as well.  I don’t know about the plaid one, but I love the wavy stripe and the purple/violet piece that’s practically a quilt in itself.

Finally, the trove contained three pieces of fabric from Jeff Gutcheon’s American Classic line.  Each is quite different – a small print, a delicate floral, and an eyeball numbing swirly number.  At one time, maybe the 1980s?,  Jeff and his then wife Beth were big names in the quilting world.  Jeff has pretty much left Beth and quilting behind to concentrate on his music.  I gather this line was one of the first expressly made for quilters.

Update 8/29/13:  Here’s a link to a piece about the death of Jeff Gutcheon.

Please get in touch if you know anything about these fabrics and/or are interested in adding them to your collection.  My guild would be happy to entertain offers.


Filed under Commentary

Reflections on the Quilting Life

When I reorganized some bookshelves I found an old copy of Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life.  A former boss had given it to me, and had even inscribed it. Always looking for an excuse to stop working, I started paging through the book and was struck by how applicable Dillard’s comments on writing were to quilting.

She talks about how hard it is to jettison work you’ve labored hard over even though it’s a failure.  How reluctant you are to abandon it because you know how much work was involved.  She says writing is life “at its most free…because you select your materials, invent your task, and pace yourself.”   All this sounds like the frustrations and joys of quilting to me – at least quilting when you’re making it up as you go.

Here’s just one of the quilts I refused to call DOA even when I should have.  I kept adding things, thinking just one more bit would make the difference.  Well, it never turned the corner.  At least I really love the backing material.


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Old … er … Vintage Sheets

Recently I’ve noticed that some quilters are using sheets as quilt backings and fabric for tops.  And they talk about vintage sheets. This makes me all too aware of my vintage as I remember some of these patterns as brand new sheets.  Ah, those pink and orange combinations.

Age aside, I’m intrigued that newer quilters are happily dipping into these thrift shop finds.  As a newbie quilter I remember being admonished to never use sheets in my quilts as the thread count was all wrong.  Well, it might be an issue for hand quilting, but few quilters outside Amish communities do that anymore.

So, I guess I should have hung onto those sheets.  On second thought, no, I’ve moved too much to haul around yet something else I might get around to using.  I do wonder, though, what happened to the pillowcases I used to have that were just like the huge yellow flower on the lower left.

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Improv Mashup

Every so often I pull out one of my plastic tubs of fabric scraps (I use the clear containers pre-washed fancy lettuce comes in) and start sewing some bits together without any plan.   It’s totally random, depending on my whim as to which colors spark each other.  Then, I put these assembled bits, which usually measure anywhere from 4 inches to 10 inches, away to “age.”  At some later date I pull these out and see what I can make of them.

This is a great way to pretend I’m working on a quilt when I’m clueless about some larger project.  Right now I’m avoiding quilting a 60 inch square piece since the weather is hot and I’ll have to drape the thing over me as I quilt.

Here’s my latest improv WIP cobbled together from an aged assemblage and some pin weaving I did with my Different Drummer group.  I’m auditioning some reddish purple fabric as a final, asymmetric border. I may or may not couch the yarn swirls.  Funny how I feel more relaxed when I’m just using scraps.  No worries about “ruining” that expensive yardage I bought at the quilt show.

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Filed under In Process

Paper Piecing Wizardry

If you’ve looked at my finished quilts page (you have, of course) you know I do paper piecing.  I turned to that method after my efforts to evolve into a perfect piecer hit a brick wall at barely adequate on the piecing meter.  So I was excited to come across Deb Karasik’s website.  This lady is not afraid of color in her paper pieced creations.  Exuberant is the word that comes to my mind when I look at her work.  Now, I’d love to show you samples of her work, but I’m somewhat intimidated by the notice on her website about reproducing the pictures without Deb’s permission.  Just click on the link above and see for yourself.

Anyway, besides selling tools and patterns of her work, Deb offers some free stuff.   Scroll down her home page to get to that link.  Free patterns, hubba, hubba.  I really want to make “Turning Over A New Leaf” and have downloaded the PDF files.  Bet I could make one for each season – pale green, dark green, reds/yellows, don’t know what I’d do for winter.

I’ve given myself permission to post a picture of one of my paper pieced quilts.  It’s from a Nancy Mahoney scrap quilt book.  And I’m sure you noticed it’s also about leaves.

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Modern Quilting: Compare and Contrast

Over the past few weeks I’ve been devouring two new books on modern quilting, specifically “Quilting Modern” and “Modern Patchwork.”  I own the former, thanks to a gift, and have borrowed the latter from the library.


These books are modern in more than their sensibility.  All the authors started as bloggers and developed followings as they honed their quilting skills and designs.  Also, the books have been marketed online through a network of quilting blogs, another modern touch.  No, the SQ was not one of those blogs.

To cut to the chase, both books offer quilters good introductions to modern quilting.  They give lots of quilt patterns, plus instructions on the mechanics of quilt construction.  “Quilting Modern” presents more individual techniques that can be used in other quilts, stresses improvisation, and has 21 projects.  “Modern Patchwork” presents 12 specific quilt patterns that contain techniques you could use differently, but that aspect isn’t stressed.  The latter is directed at intermediate quilters who are ready for more than wonky log cabins, but want to make stylish quilts that fit in a more modern home.  I’m paraphrasing the author.

My feeling is the “Modern Patchwork” quilts would be more technically challenging to make.  They are much “sewier” i.e., precise piecing of curves, curved machine applique, etc.  The author says her goal was to create patterns that “promote precision piecing and thoughtful fabric selection.”

Given that statement, I guess you can figure out which book the SQ prefers.  However, for many quilters “Modern Patchwork” will provide unusual, pleasantly challenging sewing possibilities.  And that’s not a bad thing.

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Filed under Books, Modern Quilting

Quilting Makes the Quilt

It’s really hard to see the quilting in most pictures of quilts, which is frustrating.  I look for all the examples I can get as it’s the quilting that can take a quilt from fine to fabulous.  Since I’m not even up to novice level at free motion quilting I’m always excited when I come across pictures of quilting that’s achievable with a walking foot.  Thank you, Google and Bing image searches, and modern quilters who think straight lines are just fine.  Of course, nothing beats seeing the quilts in person.  I guess that’s why my quilting friends are always up for road trips to shows.

The quilt at the top was exhibited at FAVA in Oberlin, Ohio, this year. The picture shows only part of the quilt.  The one on the bottom was featured on the Pink Chalk Fabrics blog.

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Filed under Inspiration

Achieving Color Effects

I just came across Vicki Welsh’s take on how quilters can achieve color luminosity.  And here’s her take on color intensity and saturation.  Vicki is a dyer (the picture above is a sample of her hand dyes) so I trust her on this.  I find it easy to recognize these effects when I see a quilt, but hard to figure out how to make it happen in my own quilts.  I know the saturated colors in Amish quilts make me worry they will vibrate off the wall.

I think I need to revisit Joen Wolfrom’s books on color theory.  I recall she has lots of examples of quilts with luminosity.  Dang, I’ll just have to look at more quilting books.


Filed under Inspiration