Monthly Archives: May 2013

Make Your Own

fabric, that is.  That’s what a friend and I did last week, using acrylic paints, oil pastels, and Derwent Inktense pencils.  We tried rubbings, stampings, and painting.  It was just like being a kid again, splashing in the blowup wading pool.  Lots of “let’s try this,” “you can’t hurt that ugly fabric,” and “stop hogging the periwinkle paint.”


leafprint-spongeddripclothFrom the top left,  spiderweb fabric printed with rubber bands and colored with yellow marker; dyed damask tablecloth stamped with acrylic paint; dyed homespun tablecloth stenciled with acrylic paints and Inktense pencils; dyed damask tablecloth stamped with painted leaves and sponged on paint; and an old pillow case used underneath painted cloth to catch the drips.

I hope my mother isn’t rolling over in her grave at my desecration of her damask table linens.  The fabric is a bit stretchy, but it has a lovely sheen woven into the patterns.

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Here We Go Again

Another natural disaster has brought on yet more quilt donation drives.  I’ve written about this before, and really haven’t changed my thinking since then.  I completely understand the desire to help by donating an object created with good intentions and imbued with positive symbolism – warmth, handmade, etc.  However, it’s one thing to donate quilts and other hand sewn items to local charities and relief efforts; but a different matter to send such donations hundreds and even thousands of miles away.  Where will the donated quilts be stored until they’re distributed?  Will they be a useful size? Will the recipients even have a place to keep them?

Rationally, it would be more cost effective to donate money to the people of Moore, Oklahoma.  Shipping costs alone probably run at least $5-10 a quilt. Wouldn’t it make more sense to donate that amount to a disaster assistance fund? Or, if you’re really intent on giving quilts, contact Oklahoma guilds and send them some funds or materials to make quilts. The Oklahoma City Modern Quilt Guild is developing a plan to create auction quilts.

Then, there’s the question of how much the recipients can use a quilt as opposed to other items. Next, there’s the aesthetic issue.  Some of the donated quilts are beautiful, but others look like they were made from old, cheap fabric. I cringe every time I hear a quilter say some fabric is good enough for a charity quilt.  If I lived in Moore I don’t think I’d value a quilt made with colors and fabric I disliked.  Same thing with those pillowcase dresses people keep sending to Haiti and Africa.  Do they make anything a boy could wear?

I’ll reiterate my suggestion – make quilts in aid of natural disaster victims and auction them off online or in your community.  Then, send the proceeds to whatever aid group you’d like to assist.  That way the givers get to make something tangible and the recipients get to choose the kind of assistance they need most. 


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Happy Birthday, Little Brother

Since today is my brother’s birthday I’m showing three of the four quilts I’ve made for him over the years.  I don’t dare make him any more, but the ones I’ve already given him are hanging in his house. (I checked when I visited him last weekend.)

grays“Grays” was my attempt to use colors that wouldn’t trigger a guy’s puke reflex. To really man it up I used a snakeskin pattern fabric for the binding.

joelsquilt2006This medallion type wall hanging, done in 2006, is the last quilt I made for him.  I e-mailed photos of its construction to my brother to make sure he liked the colors, design, etc.  I had a more elaborate border planned but it didn’t suit him.  The colors were chosen to go with his bedroom walls.  It looks good hanging there.

adventuresinparadise“Adventures in Paradise” commemorated a sailing trip my brother took in the South Pacific.  I think he finds it too pink (what other color can you use for tropical sunsets?) but he  has it displayed in his home office.

The fourth, and earliest, quilt I made for my brother was done pre-digital cameras. When I saw it last weekend I cringed when I examined its construction – the inner border is a double line of 1.5 inch squares and THEY DON’T LINE UP.  And the polyester batting I used is bearding like crazy. Yet I like the design so I hope he squints a little when he looks at it so those numerous imperfections get lost.

My gift to him this year was tickets to a Broadway show called “Old Hats.”  We both laughed so hard my cheeks hurt and his voice became hoarse.  It’s not really a play, but a combination of skits, songs, and clowning; starring Bill Irwin and David Shiner.  I highly recommend it.

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Something Old, Something New

I’m one of those quilters who loves books about quilting, though not necessarily books of quilting patterns.  While I love learning about new books on C&T Publishing’s blog, I also like to turn up books at remainder and used book sales.

A routine scouting expedition through a library used book shop unearthed Kaffe Fassett’s “Passionate Patchwork” from 2001.  I’ve read lots of his books, and even his autobiography, but for some reason I had never come across this one.  I read Kaffe’s books for the sumptuous photographs and descriptions of the design process.  Though I like many of his quilt patterns, I’ve made up only one of them.

Passionate Patchwork

In this book the first five chapters talk about the quilts in general – their inspirational starting point, how the colors were chosen, and further ideas for different ways to make them up. Kaffe’s enthusiasm and passion for color just bubbles throughout these chapters.  If his words don’t spark some creative ideas then I pity you.  Twenty-four patchwork patterns follow, as do general quilting instructions.  My advice is to skip the last and just use your preferred construction methods.

Patterns that particularly appeal to me include Shirt-stripe Boxes shown below (which is very modern quilting in sensibility), Nona (modernish again,) Baby’s Corrugated Quilt (a precursor to “Quilting Modern”?) and African Weave Throw. Yes, all these patterns use stripes.


As for the something new, I discovered Sherrill Kahn‘s “Mixed-Media Master Class” on C&T’s blog and tracked it down in an odd area of my local library. I think the cataloguers threw up their hands about how to classify it and stuck it under Arts – Miscellany.


Kahn is a former school art teacher, so she knows lots of inexpensive ways to make patterns on paper and fabric – masking tape, rubber bands, Styrofoam meat trays, old white candles, and colored tissue paper are a few of the materials she uses.  Probably the most expensive materials she uses are Derwent Inktense pencils.  After I marked 10 techniques I wanted to photocopy, I decided I’d better buy this book.  I think they’ll be great to try with my Different Drummer group.

Sherrill-KahnAbove is one of Kahn’s paper creations.  She often uses the pointy end of a paintbrush to score the surface.

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But I Don’t Like Brown

Every quilter has colors she’s instinctively drawn to or tends to avoid.  It takes considerable effort of will for me to work with beiges, greens, and browns. I love them outdoors but not in my quilts.  I’ve been forcing myself to use more greens, or at least buy more green fabric.  I do have a collection of neutral fabric awaiting my future low volume quilt. Please don’t ask when work on that will start.  So, that leaves brown.

I don’t mind reddish brown or purple brown or even gray brown when used sparingly, but until recently I haven’t even owned brown brown fabric.  That changed when I found two brown fabrics on sale for $3 a yard, and my penny pinching triumphed over my aversion to brown.  One of the browns is part of the grunge line, which I always buy whenever I find it in a color I don’t already have.  The other could be interpreted as a stripe, and I love stripes.

That stripey fabric found its way into a table runner that evolved from a demo I did on cutting and sewing pods a la “Quilting Modern.” Of course the stripes gave me grief as I wanted them to run all the same way, which required care in constructing each pod.  Try as I might, I can’t go against my granny’s lessons on matching stripes and plaids.  I tried to lighten up all that brown with aqua quilting lines.


Another piece I finished recently also contains a lot of brown but, since I was trying to capture the feel of a western canyon, it was entirely appropriate.  And I got to play with many permutations of brown.

CanyonNow I need to find some uses for my remaining 3 yards of brown fabric.

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The Occasional Wednesday Salon

As a sort of regular Wednesday event, I plan to feature quilt artists who have caught my eye.  I don’t want to get too formulaic.  I may stray outside the quilting world, but my intent is to focus on folks who work with fiber – the cloth/thread/yarn kind, not the kind that helps your colon.

nests framed-Chursinoff

My inaugural artist is Kirsten Chursinoff, who describes her work as textile art.  Well, that does sound better than fiber art.  Kirsten is actually trained as an artist, with a diploma in Textile Arts.  Since Kirsten is Canadian and attended Capilano College in Vancouver, I don’t know if a Canadian diploma equals a United States bachelor’s degree.  But no matter.  She comes at art from an early interest in embroidery, and her pieces are small and delicate.  I’d never create anything like this, but I do respect subtlety.

According to her website, Kirsten cuts shapes of fabric and collages them in a “crazy quilt” or “mosaic” style, to a cotton canvas base. She pieces it all together with free-motion machine embroidery.  Once the initial design is pieced together, she adds hand embroidery stitches (she is especially fond of the French knot), and couching.  She uses beads and will sometimes paint her backgrounds after doing the embroidery. Apparently she doesn’t use batting, but builds up layers to add dimension.

Here’s some shots of Kirsten’s process.

process-ChursinoffKirsten received cheesecloth speckled with paint from sister which she sewed over to create fabric used in her marine life pieces.

reverse-side-ChursinoffThe reverse side of her Vibrant Fuchsia 2 piece shows how she carries the thread from one unit to another, and the canvas backing she uses.

She seems to work in series – flowers, birds, marine life, shore life, etc., with a few non-representational pieces thrown in.  Much of her inspiration comes from the natural world.  I believe she works a lot from her own photographs.



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Filed under Art quilts, Inspiration

Another Way To Finish Quilt Edges

I changed my mind about how to finish the edges of “Canyon” once I discovered Gloria Loughman’s technique for a thin inner border and a wide binding.  Originally I had planned to face this quilt as it’s a contemporary or art quilt, and your usual and customary narrow folded binding just wouldn’t work.  Then, I realized that a skinny line with a wide binding might give it some pop.

You can find a full description of Gloria’s method in her newest book, “Radiant Landscapes.”  I bought a copy because I had enjoyed her previous books.  While I’m not much taken with her tiling technique as illustrated below, I found her suggestions for painting cloth and finishing quilts to be useful.  I think this and other binding treatments may also be in her “Quilted Symphony” book.


The finishing method I chose requires you to square off your quilt as usual, but leave at least a few inches of batting and backing around your quilt once you quilt it. You’ll add a narrow border and a wide binding.  You sew narrow (about one to 1.5 inches wide) strips of your inner border fabric to your quilt sides and then top and bottom, making sure the strips are the same distance from your batting and backing edge all the way around.  Don’t guess, use your ruler. These strips get pressed toward the quilt edges.

Loughman binding

Next, you pin your folded binding strips (mine were 5 inches wide, then folded in half to measure 2.5 inches),  lining them up so the cut edge parallels the outside edge of the narrow border.  After you sew on your binding, you will be folding it over the quilt edge.


Before you sew on the binding you decide how wide you want your narrow border to be. You’ll position the wide binding accordingly. If you want a really skinny border, sew a 1 1/4 inch wide strip to the edge of your top. After sewing you’ll have a 1 inch wide strip.  If you position the cut edge of your binding 1/2 an inch in from the outer edge of that strip you will end up with a 1/4 wide strip once you sew on the binding, if you use a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Gloria’s technique calls for a 1/8 inch wide border.  I made mine 1/2 inch because I felt it looked better.  Just be sure to allow for your seam allowance. The photo above shows my wide binding positioned 1/4 inch in from my narrow border’s outer edge.

Once you pin the binding to the quilt front, (here’s the slick part) you turn over your quilt so the backing side is up.  This is the side you’ll sew on the binding from, using the stitching line of the narrow border as your guide to a parallel line.  I pinned from this side, removed the pins from the top side, and adjusted my needle position so I could get a 1/2 wide inner border.  Use whatever works to get the narrow border width you want.  Sorry the border stitching line doesn’t show up in the photo.  I told you that backing fabric concealed all my stitches!


After you sew the wide binding to the quilt sides, press the binding toward the edge and fold it to the back.  Doing this gave me a binding that measured about 1.25 inches wide. Hand sew the binding down, and then follow the same method to do the top and bottom binding.  It’s your standard butt edge binding method only wider.

wide binding

This method appealed to me because I find it difficult to get a straight line for narrow borders, and because I like the wide binding.  Having the batting under your seams helps stabilize your narrow border, as does cutting your strips much wider than your finished border width.

If you want a much wider, 3.5 inches say, outer frame, then try Gloria’s technique for a narrow border with wide facing edge.

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It’s Raining Fabric

The other day I came home to find a package from Vicki Welsh propped by my front door. I chortled with glee as I ripped open the package, which I knew contained a bunch of hand dyed Catena fabric scraps I had won on Vicki’s blog.  Somehow she had managed to stuff all this fabric in a USPS priority mail envelope!  I’m impressed at her stuffing abilities since three days ago I barely fit two small (tiny even) quilts in the same size mailing envelope.


What especially delighted me were all these moody payne’s gray scraps.  I hope to make a quilt depicting moonlight reflected on clouds so these bits of fabric will be a great starting point.  I’ve been contemplating a gradient in these colors that Vicki offers in her Etsy shop.


But wait, there’s more.  Here’s a large pile of fabric rectangles Vicki had sewn together but hadn’t used.  And another pile of rectangles that hadn’t been sewn.


Then there are narrow strips of all sorts of colors.  What a range!

And, if that weren’t enough for one day, I happened to stop by the Friends of the Library shop and lucked into these two books, which cost me a total of $1.60, including tax.  I don’t think the Deb Karasik book had ever been opened.


Yup, if fabric is involved it’s easy to make me happy.  Thanks for making my day, Vicki.

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Resisting the Siren Call

Now that it’s May, I’ve been out in my yard assessing the depredations of winter and deciding what projects to tackle.  It looks like I face utterly unexciting but necessary tasks like spreading aged compost, trying to eradicate invasive vetch, and edging and mulching the beds.  I want to plant colorful flowering plants, but I must steel myself to ignore those aisles in the store and proceed to the bags of mulch.

I face a similar temptation when I go to a quilt shop.  My eyes greedily take in all the bolts of wonderful new fabrics, while my feet trudge to the rolls of batting kept in the back.  Yes, I really need batting and interfacing and stabilizer and thread, not yet more fabric.  But the heart wants what it wants.

So, it’s rationalization time.  It’s easier for the yard than the fabric.  I know that any annuals and many perennials I plant will become an expensive gourmet salad bar for the many deer that swarm my yard like vermin.  They gnawed a young magnolia tree in half over the winter, and kept a Japanese maple in bonsai form.  Let me know if you’d like a list of the 10 plants in my yard deer won’t touch.

more tops to be quiltedtops to be quilted

As for the fabric, I’m a Fabriholics Anonymous chapter of one, trying to keep from buying more.  Each day I visit my pile of unfinished quilt tops in the hope I can do enough work to move a few to the next step.  Occasionally I get to move one to the to-be-bound list.  I’ve been fossicking through fabric I already own for border and binding material.  Right now the count stands at two with binding in progress done(!), two sandwiched and awaiting quilting, four ready to be sandwiched and quilted, and one in need of borders.  Sigh.

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How NOT To Do Free Motion Quilting

As I’ve previously admitted, I have issues with free motion quilting.  I really haven’t progressed much beyond my first attempts in the late 1990s, and expectations of free motion skills have increased exponentially since then.  On the other hand, I’ve become adept at the use of my walking foot and machine decorative stitches.

However, sometimes a quilt simply has to be free motion quilted.  Case in point is my “Canyon” which measures 30 inches wide and 62 inches long.  I wrote about it some months ago, but have finally screwed my courage to the sticking point and started quilting it.  First, I stitched in the ditch with invisible thread and my walking foot along major horizontal and vertical seam lines.  Next, I stitched some curvy lines in variegated thread, again with my walking foot.


With the day of reckoning at hand I took off the training wheels and began the free motion work after studying pictures of Brice Canyon and the Black Canyon. I decided to forgo marking as the top’s design has several tiers of blocks set a various angles that I thought I could use to inspire my quilting.  The lines I wanted to quilt were craggy with occasional outcroppings of low, dusty green bushes.  I wanted to use thread color to emphasize sunlight on the canyon walls.  I’m talking major abstract walls here.


I’ve been at it now for a week and am so glad I chose a backing fabric that conceals everything.  No quilt judge or competent free motion quilter will be allowed anywhere near this stunning example of bad free motion quilting.

  • Uneven thread tension? Check
  • Uneven stitch length? Check
  • Too much drag on the top because part of the quilt fell off the table? Check.
  • Strange squiggles to represent vegetation? Check.
  • Too much quilting on one part?  Check.
  • Unwillingness to rip out bad stitching?  Check.

My rationalization is to call what I’ve done thread sketching.  God knows I followed no regular pattern, and have used at least 8 different threads so far.  I plan to quilt it more, figuring it’s already messed up so I might as well go for broke.  I may even blend some of the fabrics with my paintstiks.

My major victories?  I haven’t broken a needle or the thread.  Yay me.


Filed under Techniques