Monthly Archives: April 2015

Recent Dabblings

Besides work on two longer term projects that I tweak a bit each day, I’ve tossed off a few palate cleansers made with scraps on hand.

Spring @ 60 MPH is now done. I even washed it to get rid of the Elmer’s school glue I used in the binding process. I combined walking foot and free motion quilting and now wish I had done all walking foot quilting. My FMQ is a lot better on a 16 square than on a larger piece.

Spring@60MPHThis qualifies as my most frugal quilt of the year as I used mostly 2.5 inch strips I had, and a piece of fabric I was given for the back.

My FMQ was better on a small improv piece I call Dappled. I used scraps I had sewn together previously, plus binding leftover from another project.

DappledThen, I did more work on two improv pieces I started about a year ago. The one shown first, My Brain On Xmas, is weird enough to have left my husband speechless.

My Brain On XmasThe “brain” fabric is a paintstick rubbing of a kitchen trivet. The dog fabric is a bit of Indonesian print I’ve had since the 1970s. Yes, there’s Christmas fabric in there. All the blue/green/yellow fabric was hand dyed.

I began the other improv piece at the same time, as you can see by the shared fabrics. I hope to use an empty frame with a mat to display a small quilt, and this piece was the only one with a chance of fitting the frame. I’ve added strips to make it fit the mat opening. So much for carefully considered design.

Idea for frame



Filed under Completed Projects, In Process

Nips and Tucks

One aspect of my translucent fabrics workshop I haven’t done much with is fabric manipulation. I decided to remedy that by taking out some library books on fabric folding.

As I endeavored to follow the illustrated directions I had a flashback to a childhood Christmas present – a pack of origami paper with a book of directions. I lusted after that crane and loved the brightly colored paper squares with the one white side. Despite all my efforts at careful measuring and folding, my results resembled nothing more than fun house mirror versions of the crane, the swan, etc. I couldn’t even make a good pinwheel.

Some things don’t change. That includes my ability to follow directions for careful folding and tucking. I’d start out fine and get to step 3, where I was to rotate my piece 90 degrees. Then, the illustration would show a triangle that wasn’t mentioned in the written directions. What? To add to the confusion, the photographs used dark purple batik fabric where I couldn’t tell the right from the wrong side.

The only book I was able to follow, probably because no rotation was involved, was Rami Kim’s Folded Fabric Elegance. Kim works mostly with silk and makes intricately detailed clothing with all sorts of cunning pleats and folds. It’s not to my taste but I admire the amount of work that went into the creations.

Book coverIt turns out I’m capable of folds and tucks. My continuous prairie points turned out almost like those in the book.

Prairie points with instructions 2And I do like the effect of harlequin tucks.

This panel could find its way into a bag or a dimensional quilt. Who knows, maybe someday I can achieve 3D effects like June Barnes does.


Filed under Project Ideas, Techniques

Cute As A Button

I just had to share some of the buttons members of my guild ogled the other night during a presentation by a member of our local button club. Who knew the rules of the button police were even stricter than those of the quilt police?

If you’re interested creating a button collection, as opposed to having a tin of jumbled old buttons, try some of these websites: National Button Society, antique and vintage button descriptions, Buttons in Time. Some of these sites have many links to other, more specialized sites. And there’s probably a button society in your area.


Filed under Everything Else

Another Modern Take On Tradition

I finally got my hands on Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s Double Wedding Ring Quilts: Traditions Made Modern. Ever since I saw her 2013 QuiltCon best of show winner quilt I’ve wanted to know how she made it. Her book answers that question, sort of. I now know this quilt began as a failed quilt top that was chopped up.

best of show quilt con 2013 by victoria wolfeAlthough Wolfe’s quilts are derived from the traditional wedding ring, they use that pattern as a jumping off point. She does, though, include one quilt that is completely traditional, perhaps to show she has those chops. I had to laugh and wince that in college her art quilts were criticized as craft, not art.

Wolfe_Forever_GardenWolfe now lives in the Big Apple, but grew up in Minnesota. Her roots inform her quilts as she interprets items handmade by her grandmother – polyester quilts, crocheted doilies, etc.

This is a very personal book that gives a glimpse into Wolfe’s thought process as she designs. It’s definitely not a pattern book, though you could make your own version of many of the quilts. Paper templates are included. Wolfe strongly encourages her readers to make their own quilts in response to what inspires them and to use failed quilt tops as made fabric. She also urges her readers to build on previous ideas but modify them with each quilt.

It’s also not a book for the novice sewer. There are lots of curved seams, flanges, and the like. General instructions for piecing double wedding ring quilts and for making fabric Wolfe’s way are included. I gather Wolfe uses her AccuQuilt Go cutter to cut out all those finicky arcs and melons.  Amazon is asking $80 for that die set alone, and the cutter costs at least $250. That’s not in my budget and I don’t see myself cutting out a lot of arcs and melons by hand.

I hope the book will help me take ideas from a inkling to a quilt. Wolfe pulls bits from her inspiration pieces, but doesn’t try to copy them. And what she pulls often surprises.

From a photo of her grandparents in front of their garden she focused on the irises and produced this.

Wolfe_Field_of_FlowersWhich turned into this.

Wolfe_Iris_by_NightMy only real beef with this book is its inclusion of polyester double knit as a viable quilting material. I don’t care that her grandmother made quilts from it, that stuff is evil. Talk about a sauna effect.

Would I make up any of these quilts? Wolfe uses one pattern a few times that seems more doable than some of the others. I like the idea of supersizing the squares.

Wolfe_Strings_of_Florid_BloomsI like her touches, such as emphasizing some quilting lines with hand embroidery and having the pattern fade in and out.

Wolfe_Greatest_Possible_TrustWhile I wouldn’t buy this book I’m glad I read it. I love the glimpses into “what was she thinking,” “why did she do that?”

Wolfe’s artistic approach is uniquely hers. I consider her a fiber artist rather than a modern quilter. If you’re at the point of wanting to design your own quilts but aren’t quite sure how to begin, this book would be helpful. For each quilt in the book Wolfe addresses ideas carried over from previous work, the goal for the quilt, adding layers and, most importantly, pushing it further. Those cues apply to any original design, not just wedding ring quilts.



Filed under Art quilts, Books

All My Pretties: Confessions of a Silk Hoarder

My silk collection began with a bolt of inherited peach silk crepe that resided in a steamer trunk for many years. Then, as I attended big quilt shows I began buying bits of silk dupioni. Here’s what’s left of a 25 piece collection.

DupianiDupioni colors are wonderful, but the fabric just loves to shred. It needs to be backed with fusible knit interfacing or cut on the bias.

I continued to seek out silk yardage at various shops and shows. The left hand piece is shot silk and the right hand one is organically dyed silk from Laos (bought in Canada.)

Shot silkLaotian silk

But why stop at yardage? I didn’t and started buying second hand designer silk scarves. These will need to be backed with fusible interfacing before I use them.

Bill Blass scarfNorrell scarf

Once I began dyeing fabric I decided to dye that bolt of silk crepe, even though you’re not supposed to use Procion MX dyes on silk. I went with what I had. First, I used a bubblegum pink dye to intensify the pinkness. Another time a few yards were treated to ice dyeing. It does seem I have a lot of pink and purple silk.

Dyed silk crepeIce dyed silk

And once people learn of your interest in silk they donate to the cause. Here are sari silks and a silk batik from a friend.

Green sari silkNavy pink sari silk Batik silk

My latest silk purchases have been a silk/cotton mix fabric called Radiance which I hope to use with some of the silks above.

Radiance fabricI also have cut up silk ties. Here’s how I used some of the tie fabric.

Tie sticksNote I haven’t included silk organza, another aspect of my fascination with silk.  I’m afraid there’s still more, but I can handle just so much confession at one time.



Filed under dyeing, In Process

New Spring Quilt

I gave myself permission to make a new quilt top since I had been so good about practicing FMQ. In fact, I have a plastic container full of awful work to show for it. My husband has learned to steer clear of my sewing room when he hears the muttering start. All he says is, “So, I hear you’ve been free motion quilting.”

But not only did I make a new top, it’s my favorite kind of work – all play with color and freehand cut curves. The concept comes from the latest AQS Magazine pattern by Timna Tarr.

Timna Tarr pattern AQS

It’s really more broad instructions than a pattern, and even the instructions are wrong. I found that out after I had cut about half the strip sets. Here are the instructions in question. Somehow the sets are supposed to grow magically by half an inch once they’re cut.

Instruction error AQSIt just means my quilt will be a bit smaller than planned.

After rooting around in my container of 2.5 inch strips and raiding other scrap collections I assembled a lot of blue, green, and light colored strip sets. Then I made some wavy cuts the length of the strips and sewed the segments of the set together.

IMG_5567After that I chopped them up and began laying them out on my design wall (aka a flannel backed vinyl tablecloth.)

IMG_5564I’ve played around with the layout and have been sewing the bits together. It’s shocking to see how much shrinkage there is once the horizontal seams are sewn.

Top shrinkageMy working title is Spring @ 60 MPH.



Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Project Ideas

Free Photo Bounty

I’ve been accumulating links to sources of copyright free images, so it’s time I collected them in one place. Many thanks to the bloggers and friends who have shared these sources.

For the Big Kahuna of public domain images try our government. My friend Diane found this site that “lists resources for high-quality public domain photographs.” Mind, that doesn’t mean you can use them restriction free. Check the individual images for details. Barbara, the site’s webmaster, covers a lot more than public domain photographs, so you may want to browse some of the other sections of this site.

Blogger Nina-Marie offers a list of websites with free photos.  Some will require you to attribute the photo source(s), but you should do that anyway.  Some will ask you to set up a free account. Here’s an image I found through a search for fire escape on Pixabay.  Yes, I’m making a quilt with a fire escape. “You can use any Pixabay image without attribution in digital and printed form, even for commercial applications.”

town-69701__180 fire escapeA search for bridge on turned up this striking new bridge in Boston. There may be a quilting design in those cables.

Zakim BridgeMelanie over at Catbird Quilt Studio wries weekly posts about creativity resources. Through her I found the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s searchable online collection and old illustrations on Reusable Art.

To use any images from the Met’s online collection you need to look for the symbol OASC (Open Access for Scholarly Content.)  You’ll find it by clicking on the image you’re interested in, and looking under the image. I’ve tried to plow through the verbiage but ended up confused.  Here’s my takeaway regarding personal use, from the website:

“Can I download an image with the OASC designation for personal use, for use in a lecture, or for other educational purposes?
Yes, OASC images and other images on the Museum’s website can still be downloaded according to the authorized uses specified in the Terms and Conditions. In addition, digital images of selected works of art from the Museum’s collection may be licensed by educational institutions for study and presentation purposes from Scholars Resource.”

The bottom line with the Met’s online collection is that anything less than 70 years old is almost certainly not usable legally.

On Reusable Art I found a drawing of a sweet gum leaf and fruit done by Mark Catesby in the 1700s. I think it would be charming printed on silk organza.

Catesby_sweetgum_drawingFinally, if you want to Google for an image, you can limit your search to different levels of usage rights by clicking on search tools once you begin your image search. I limited my bridge search to “labeled for noncommercial reuse” and found the Rock City, Tennessee, swinging bridge from Flickr. Are those people huddled on the bridge planks about halfway across?

Rock City Swinging Bridge Flickr

Happy searching. Let me know your favorite sources of public domain images.


Filed under Commentary, Inspiration, Project Ideas

It’s A Flange; No, It’s A Binding

Sometimes it seems I find new techniques through a just in time method. About a week ago I came across a video that shows how to combine a flange and a binding that’s all machine sewn. Maybe I should pay more attention to the McCall’s Quilting website as it seems to contain gems like this.

When I contemplated how to finish the edges of a small quilt I call (At The) Feet of Klee, I recalled this video and decided to try it out. I’d already pretty much destroyed the quilt with my usual free motion quilting, so it seemed destined to be a guinea pig.

Flange binding

I followed the instructions, mostly, but found that the fabric used definitely affects how easy it is to sew on this special binding. My choice of a shot cotton that’s both heavier and more loosely woven than “normal” quilting cotton made for an extra bulky binding. I compounded that by using felt as my batting.

Lining up the different fabrics where the binding ends join was a bit tricky, but the third attempt worked. It would have helped if I put that fabric join somewhere else. If I had it to do over, I’d increase the width of the flange fabric so I could make a wider flange.

binding ends join

I think this piece will join my not ready for the big leagues drawer of work. I learned that I love quilting on silk fabric, but don’t love quilting on felt. However, the felt makes a stable, flat base for a small quilt.

Feet of Klee bound2



Filed under Art quilts, Techniques