A Little Redecorating and a New Class

Now that this house is a whole year old, I’ve decided to rearrange the furniture a little. Okay, it’s not startling. I didn’t change the color of the paint. But I did add a page tab for classes and presentations I teach. At the same time I changed the order of the other page tabs.

I’ll be teaching a new class in the fall, designed for beginning quilters. It will be a real-world class, not online. The class will be held at Inspirations in Hills, IA. Beginning on Thursday, October 16 for five classes, students will learn some basic medallion techniques.

You’ll learn to make puss-in-the-corner, snowball, half-square triangles, flying geese, and variable stars. We’ll cover multiple methods for half-square triangles and flying geese, so you can use what works best for you. You’ll improve your seam allowance, getting those corners to match and points to show. You’ll chain piece, press, and assemble all of those elements to make a medallion quilt top, ready to finish. (The class will not include quilting and binding the top.)

Use your choice of fabrics, in as few as six colors/patterns. Pattern information with yardage and supply list will be available prior to the class.

This class is for beginning quilters but should NOT be your first quilt. You should know your machine, be able to sew a decent ¼” seam most of the time, and be familiar with rotary cutter techniques.

Here is my sample of the class project:

I’m excited about the new class, and excited to offer new quilters a different vehicle for learning than the standard sampler.

If you know any quilters who would like to join me, feel free to forward this information to them. I’d love to have them join the fun!

You can also find me on Facebook at Catbird Quilt Studio!


Traffic merged to one lane before me, polite Iowa drivers taking their turns to cross the overpass, single file. As we crossed, I noted the license plate of the car in front of me.

I solve puzzles, sometimes hard ones, but this one was easy. “Use your gift.”

It got me thinking about gifts generally, and how we use them. Everyone knows anecdotes about a mother, aunt, or grandma who would receive presents — table linens, bath towels, cologne — and put them away. The gift was “too nice” to use. Maybe you’ve done it yourself. Did you get china as a wedding present? Do you use it?

Why do we keep our best gifts hidden away? There could be a lot of different reasons. Fear might be the big one. Fear that we don’t deserve such a gift, fear that someone might think we’re showing off, fear that we don’t know how to use it or display it, or that it doesn’t fit in with our other “stuff,” fear that we might ruin it…
To read more, click here.

Medallion Sew-Along Track 1 Finishes

It occurred to me recently that I hadn’t shown you all my finished Sew-Along samples together. I started six samples for what I’ve called “Track 1,” which had prescribed center block and border sizes. And now all six are done. They are SO different from each other, even though the templates were the same!

Here are the basic template instructions from Track 1:
Begin with a 15″ center block. Leave it with a straight setting or turn it on point.
The first border set, whether you set your block on point or straight, takes your center to 24″.
The second border set added a 4″ border, taking the border to a total size of 32″ finished.
The third border set added a 2″ border, followed by a 6″ border. This takes the finished size to 48″.

More borders were optional. As you can see below, I did add more for three of them, and I made one smaller.

To see photos of the finished quilts, click here!

Good News, Bad News…

I submitted a short story this morning to the quilting magazine, The Quilt Life. It’s the production featuring Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims. One thing I enjoyed about it was the approach, looking at quilting from multiple angles. It was NOT just a pattern magazine.

So… I emailed the story in and immediately received an automated response — thanks but don’t call us, we’ll call you.

And about ten minutes ago I received another email. This was from the Editor-in-Chief. Imagine such immediate feedback! I was stoked!

She said, “HI Melanie, I love it!”

And then she said, “Unfortunately, the American Quilter’s Society has decided to cease publication of The Quilt Life. The October issue will be the last one.

You could shop it around to other quilt magazines and get a response, I’m sure. Good luck!”

Well, so the good news is, she LOVED it!

Trying Things Out

How many ways can you arrange half-square triangles in a border? A LOT! Here are just four.

Can give a cool effect, but probably not what I want for this quilt.

This one I kinda like…

Not actually wonky — these are just blocks I’ve overlapped.

Maybe too “sharp” looking?

I think I’ll wait until I’ve built the next (last) border before deciding which of these I’ll use. Or perhaps I’ll pick another way to set them!

Explosive and Stable at the Same Time

FFF, 42″ x 44″. Unquilted, July 2014.

I’ve been working on this, off and on (and mostly off) for … a long time. I started with some beautiful African fabrics I bought at a quilt show (years ago). With those as inspiration, I found a number of other “domestic” prints. (Just how domestic our fabrics are is a matter for another post.)

The center star was the first part of this project. I built it, faced it with lightweight fusible interfacing, and appliqued it to the background. It is appliqued rather than pieced into the background to retain the stripe of golden dots across the top. Next I rimmed that with 1″ half-square triangles that includes an African print. And that is how it stayed, waiting patiently for me to begin again.

Maybe that’s when it started to scare me. This isn’t my usual style, though it IS my usual format lately, a medallion. At every step I’ve had to remind myself that nothing needs to be permanent. Any portion put on can be taken off again. It is not so precious that it can’t be changed. And so I framed the center with black, and tipped it off-square, and loved it. And it waited again until after I began the Medallion Sew-Along last fall.

Someday, somehow, a very odd geometric print appeared in my stash. Of citrus green on black, it features interlocking circles and angry cats. And it became the next frame on my slowly-building quilt top. I followed that with different fabrics on each side, separated from the center with a very narrow red line.

More waiting…

The same African stripe used to build the center star became the next border. At that point I wasn’t sure if it was done. So I did what I usually do: I asked someone else. My sister Cathie said “no,” not done yet. It still needed some heft to offset the darker center.

And I asked Jim. He said “it needs blue.” Blue? There’s no blue here! But in fact, there is a blue-purple in one border and touches of blues in another. He has not failed me yet, so I tried blue. Whaddya know, blue was the thing to brighten and strengthen everything already there. But blue all the way around? Too strong for me. So I used blue print on one side and stitched solid blues into an uneven piano keys border made from scraps. And I chose yet another print for the fourth side.

Busy! But … intriguing… To corral it all, I ringed it with red and black print, echoing the red star center and the red line used earlier.

One more line of blue, this time all the way around. It’s a tone-on-tone with stars, the perfect Americana touch to complement the African fabrics and feel. This quilt will be for a friend, explosive and stable at the same time. The stars are another hat tip to him.

The final border is another African print of black and cream, edged with the same brilliant orange found near the center.

I really had to talk myself through this. What was scary about it? Mostly the worry that if I “ruined” the African fabrics, I wouldn’t be able to replace them. Also, because it will be a gift, I want it special enough to honor my friend. The next intimidation factor I’ll need to overcome is quilting it. I think that will be less frightening, if only because the design is so busy, quilting will hardly show!

Thanks as always to Cathie and Jim for their encouragement and advice.

What’s the most recent “scary” project you’ve done? Why were you hesitant? Did you work through it? Were you happy with your results?

You can find Catbird Quilt Studio at Facebook, too.

Laughing At Myself

and I deserve it. My last post commented about quilters who put up eye candy of an array of fabrics, claiming they will use it to make a particular pattern. I don’t work that way, always changing pattern and/or fabrics while the quilt is in process. But…

Today I went to Inspirations, one of my favorite local quilt shops, and bought

I intend to use these fabrics to make that pattern:

And these fabrics to make that pattern:

In my defense, I’m developing a class on medallions for beginning quilters. Rather than step them through a sampler, I’ll teach construction of blocks and units in a medallion format. So these fabrics for that pattern will allow me to make samples in two different colorways.

Note the units and blocks they can learn: variable star, half-square triangles, and puss in the corner blocks. Of course the star requires flying geese. And I don’t know about you, but figuring out sizing for corner blocks — even plain ones — baffled me when I was a new quilter. I think it can be fun, challenging, and help them create beautiful quilts.

So yes, today I am laughing at myself. But there’s a method to my madness!

Did you make a sampler as one of your first quilts? What block or technique gave you the most fits as a new quilter?