Monthly Archives: June 2013

Converging Visions Exhibit

Every so often us folks in the hinterlands get to enjoy a local fiber art exhibit.  That’s the arty stuff, with nary a quilt show judge in sight checking for binding errors.

Recently, a friend and I attended the opening of Converging Visions at Summit ArtSpace in downtown Akron.  The show, which runs through July 27, features eight artists who began Contemporary Fiber Artists (CFA) in 1994. The group’s original intent was for continued and varying dialogue in the arts, support for each others’ artistic goals and encouragement of creative development.

Anatomy of a Matisse by Kathryn Levy

Anatomy of a Matisse by Kathryn Levy

The media on display range from cloth, to beads and stones, to metal, to paper; with some knitting thrown in.  I may have accidentally left out some of the materials used or simply not been able to identify them.  Inspiration came from artists such as Mondrian and Matisse, backyard tomato plants, winter, current events, and medical imagery.  And while many of the items were designed to hang on walls, others could be worn.

So Sew by Jean Evans

So Sew by Jean Evans

Abracadabra by Jean Markowitz

Abracadabra by Jean Markowitz

Abracadabra flipped

Abracadabra flipped



There are workshops and demos associated with this exhibit, as described at the Summit Art Space website.  And it’s all FREE!  But wait, there’s more.  If you go to the exhibit, take the elevator to the third floor to visit the studios of local artists (one is local art quilter Connie Bloom) and take in a display of fanciful millinery in an exhibit called Millinery As Sculpture.

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Filed under Art quilts, Quilt Shows

Free Patterns From Fabric Companies

A recent cleanup of my sewing room bookcase unearthed lists of online sources for free quilt patterns. I had forgotten about them because of all the junk piled on top of them. I checked out some fabric company websites and found a few patterns that appealed to me.  A big disclaimer here – fabric companies give away patterns that use lots of their fabrics (imagine that) and the patterns can be a bit tricky to adapt to other fabric you may want to use.

Makower UK has some different quilts, such as Byzantium and Sansui.


FinalHexagonBlue_300dpi_Jo1Free Spirit offers many patterns, including a few that break free of the usual quilt themes of flowers and cute.  Fabric designers include Tula Pink, Denyse Schmidt, and Anna Maria Horner. Try Curious Nature or Chocolate Lollipop. Oh my, I’m back to circles. I’ll warn you that the free projects page on this website takes forever to load.

CuriousNature_freespiritChoclollypopsMy last featured website, Michael Miller, offers more than the usual number of patterns that appeal to me.  Building Blocks (the middle quilt below) looks fun for fussy cut fabric; and This Way and That Way, Neon Gray, and Park Slope Triangles all look doable with fabrics in my stash. They are all available as PDF downloads.

thiswaythatwaybuildingblocksneongrayparkslopeHope you find inspiration looking at the possibilities on these websites.


Filed under Project Ideas

Serious Design

EBarton_Petergate“Petergate” by Elizabeth Barton

Elizabeth Barton’s “Inspired to Design” isn’t for the faint of heart.  Outside of a brief description of how to dye fabric gradients, the book contains no patterns or construction techniques. It’s filled with ways to sharpen your analytical ability to design original quilts.  Most of the book concerns everything that happens before you even bring your rotary cutter near your fabric.  Barton’s bottom line – if your design is weak, no amount of sewing/embellishing/quilting can save it.  You can follow Barton’s art quilt thoughts at her blog.

Here are some thoughts I took away from this book:

Re: using photos for design inspiration – The design shouldn’t be a direct copy, but a translation, filtered through how you see and feel something.

Re: strong designs – “…you don’t want to make a quilt that rambles along like an old house that has had bits added on over the centuries. …All the beads in the world won’t transform a poorly structured design into something elegant and meaningful.”

Re: critiquing your design sketches – first let them mature a few days on the design wall.  Intuition goes just so far; it may tell you something’s wrong but not why or how to fix it.  Principles for evaluating your designs: unity and harmony, variety and tension, balance and proportion, repetition, rhythm and movement, and economy. Barton illustrates these principles with her own work.

Re: need for tension or variety in a work – “Without some tension, a work of art is like a meal of white fish in a white sauce with white mashed potatoes and cauliflower, And white bread on the side.”  A quilt with the exact same block in the exact same colors, repeated over and over, lacks tension.

Re: quilting – “You can’t save a weak quilt top with quilting; don’t even try….The quilting should enhance the design, not try to rescue it.”

So the next time I start throwing fabric onto the wall I need to stop, step back, and force myself to design on paper first and evaluate that design.  If I follow this advice, I have a feeling that improv piecing will become an illicit thrill for me.

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Home Machine Quilting Show Droolworthy Quilts

Thanks to Christa at Christa Quilts, I can ogle yet more quilts!  She took lots of photos at the May HMQS show held in Utah.  While all the quilts show quilters totally strutting their stuff, I was most captivated by these modern quilts.

2013_hmqs_coloringoutsidethelines_PriceColoring Outside the Lines by Mary K. Price reminds me of Jean Wells’ work.  I believe there’s big stitch quilting in at least the light colored blocks. I like the way a few of the blocks pooch out into the border area.

2013_hmqs_5htsquared5 HTP Squared by Jen Carlton Bailly plays right into my current obsession with circles. Note the transparency effect.

2013_hmqs_fracturedpi_ChinFractured Pi by Lisa Chin veers into art quilt territory.  The quilting is simple but effective in continuing the theme, and I like the little bits of prints thrown into the wedges.


Filed under Art quilts, Modern Quilting, Quilt Shows

Nobody Here But Us Chickens

My mother in law passed away last fall, and the family has been disposing of her belongings over the past several months.  Because we’re looking at downsizing our household over the next few years, my husband elected to take only one piece of his mother’s furniture, a secretary desk.

Then he started to think he might want the chair that was used with the desk.  So, we arranged to pick up the chair at a recent family reunion (we live 4 hours away from my MIL’s place.) As we left the reunion my sister in law, who’s done much of the clearing out of my MIL’s effects, said she had put a package for me in our car.

When we arrived home at midnight we hauled the chair and the package into the house.  And, yes, this is where the chickens come in.  Here’s the contents of that package.


Now, my sister in law knows full well that I’m not a geegaw person so these birds are a white elephant joke gift.  They used to reside on top of my MIL’s refrigerator, the icing on the cake of a kitchen so jam packed with tchlotkes that you were hard pressed to find a square six inches of available counter space among the birdhouse cookie jar, the matching bird shaped salt and pepper shakers, the toaster, the cereal boxes, the mostly unused large coffee maker, the phone books, the inspirational plaques, etc.  I’ve put them out to pasture on my screen porch.

It turns out the last laugh may be on my sister in law.  I looked up the name on the bottom of one of the white roosters and found these guys were made in the 1940s and are being offered by online sellers for $20 to $40. And that could buy some chicken feed or fabric and thread.

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Short Story Quilts

Lately I find myself creating the quilting equivalent of short stories.  By that I mean small projects that take no more than a few days to design and piece, and often finish.  Some are inspired by other quilts I’ve seen, some by random bits of fabric on my table or partial tops, and some by what I’ll charitably call a vision.

They are respites from more thought-out projects that I’m stuck on.   Or projects that I’m afraid I’ll screw up if I push them too far.  Unfortunately, the only way I seem to know if I’ve gone too far is to do just that.  You know, your work gets too fussed at, too mannered.  It’s hard to critique your own work, and it’s even harder to find other folks comfortable with doing that for you.  But that’s a subject for another time.

These little projects allow me to be looser, to have a “what the heck” attitude.  Most often I use fabric leftovers, so there’s no worry about wasting “good” fabric. Here’s a sampling of my current stories.



In my quest to conquer circles I had made up Weeks and Kerr’s pattern for large joined half circles.  I was stuck for how to use the resulting blocks, and I had all those cut out half circles left.  Then I saw a quilt made of appliqued half circles and decided to use that approach for “Partial Eclipse” and “Broken Circles”.  The latter is a table runner – I’m making lots of them as a way to protect my cherry tables.  The former awaits quilting.  I think it’s time for me to try some quilted circles, or maybe just one.Neutrality

Originally “Neutrality” was to be a pillow that I planned to big stitch quilt for a demo I’ll give in the fall.  The idea comes from Moda Bake Shop, and is a version of the disappearing nine patch block.  My block arrangement became pretty random and then I decided I really didn’t want a 20 inch pillow. I started to extend the little squares outside the big square.  Then, I found some chambray I cut off old pillowcases and that got added.  Chambray’s hot now, right?

Boxed-upI’ve shown “Boxed Up” before, but it’s now completely finished.  I quilted rectangles on it using various decorative machine stitches, and then stapled it to an old canvas.  Beats the heck out of binding a quilt, even a small one. It now adds a certain flavor, of what I’m not sure, to my upstairs hall.

It’s about time I get back to those book length projects I’ve been avoiding, quilter’s block be damned.

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Filed under In Process

Quilt Canada 2013

Sadly I wasn’t able to attend this year’s Quilt Canada as it was held in British Columbia.  Luckily, Luana Rubin of eQuilter was there and took lots of pictures.  Enjoy!  Either Luana was drawn to the portraits and nature scapes or there were many of them on exhibit.

31-The-Four-Elements_detail_JessopDetail from “The Four Elements” by Margaret Jessop.

I enjoyed the 2012 Quilt Canada show, which I took in as part of a Nova Scotia vacation, and I’m hoping to see the 2014 show, to be held in St. Catherine’s, Ontario, Canada.  That’s the Niagara region, for those of us unfamiliar with Canadian geography.

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Occasional Wednesday Salon

Purposeless browsing on Pinterest led me to Uta Lenk, a German cloth dyer and art quilter.  I followed the trail of this quilt to her website.

Linienspiel_XVI_Uta_LenkWhy this quilt?  One of my back-of-the-brain project ideas involves arcs and circles.  When I saw this picture I realized that Lenk had already developed my vague idea with dancing arcs and curving lines that look like ribbon unspooling. It’s part of her large Play of Lines series.  Here are some of her other works that caught my eye.  It looks like she uses her own hand dyes. She sells her dyed fabric on her website, but all the information is in German, a language I don’t know.  Well, I do know the German for bra.  It’s bustenhalter.

linienspiel_XXV_Uta_LenkLinienspiel_XIVMuch as I enjoyed looking at Lenk’s gallery of work, what really wowed me was her blog.  It’s filled with her photos of possible inspiration.  Check out her photos of boat lines reflected in water, or these of what she calls found art.

Foundart2_Uta_LenkFoundart1_Uta_LenkApparently Lenk was introduced to quilting when she was an exchange student to the U.S.  She moved gradually from traditional quilting to art and contemporary quilting.  Now she quilts full time and teaches, though you’ll need to go to Germany to attend one of her classes.

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Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

At a recent modern quilt guild meeting there was talk about difficulties in finding the next quilting project.  One person likened it to being on the final pages of a book and having nothing else waiting to read.  I was dumbstruck as this isn’t a problem I have. In fact, I suffer from project ADD – too many projects going at one time.

Right now I’m fussing with a half circles project on my design wall that was inspired by this photo from the Empire Quilt Guild. I found the photo through that mega time sink Pinterest.

half circles-Empire quilt guild

Then, there’s various in person and online quilt challenges, block exchanges, and mystery quilts. One of my guilds is doing a two color 12 by 12 challenge.  I don’t have any of the details yet, but I’ve got my paint chips (the source we’re to use for the two colors) and have already done one run through my stash for matching fabric.  Funny that the pieces I pulled are the two florals I own.


I still hope to make something modern with the African wax batik fat quarters I bought last year in Nova Scotia.  That source is not as far fetched as it may sound.  There’s a group of black quilters in Nova Scotia and I was at Canada’s major quilt show. Anyway, I’ve been toying with large, wonky blocks surrounded with solids for this one.  Some of the quilts in “Quilting Modern” (yes, I do use that book a lot) are possible inspirations.

Then, there are photos from trips close to home and far away that spark ideas for colors and/or design.  I recently saw the Bethesda Arcade in Central Park and loved all the recurring arches and squares.  The group photographed below calls itself Tribal Baroque. They combine classical music and Native American and Tibetan chants; and play violins, whirl tops (I’m sure there’s a correct name for them) and jiggle leg bells.


And tickling the back of my brain is a vague scene of moonlight on clouds tangled in bare tree branches. This idea came from the view out my kitchen window one night just before the trees leafed out.  I even have some fabric scraps that are just perfect for this, thanks to Vicki Welsh.

I’ve started a Pinterest board of potential sources of inspiration – quilts, animals, landscapes, even hunks of rocks.  So yeah, getting ideas isn’t my problem; developing them is.


Filed under Inspiration