Not Twelve

Not Twelve, 48″ x 60″.

This is not twelve seams, as you can see. However, it is the same format as I used for the previous VA hospital quilt, and it measures 48″ x 60″, also. While I started with the same plan, the colors I chose would not play nicely together. The strip of half-square triangles down the middle highlights all of the colors and made it work.

Here is a close-up that shows the colors and patterns more clearly.

The VA’s patients are both male and female. I think this quilt would suit either a man or woman just as well.


In religion and mythology, in the stories we tell, in how we mark time and distance and measure progress, twelve is a magic number. Think of all the twelves…

Twelve Apostles
Twelve Sons of Norse
Twelve Sons of Jacob
Twelve Tribes of Israel
Twelve Knights of the Round Table
Twelve Dancing Princesses
Twelve Brothers
Twelve Angry Men
Twelve Years a Slave
Twelve Days of Christmas
Twelve Drummers Drumming
Twelve Months in the Year
Twelve Years in the Chinese Calendar Cycle
Twelve Hours in the Half-Day
Twelve Inches in a Foot
Twelve Steps

And so many more!

Here is a small project that uses twelve. There are twelve seams assembling this quilt top.

I’m making this quilt for our local VA hospital. My guild distributes about 200 quilts a year within the community, and many of them go to the VA. They have requested quilts that measure about 48″ x 60″ (both numbers evenly divisible by 12.) Your local VA hospital may have different needs. If you’re interested in making quilts for them, please check with them directly.

As you can see, the piecing is just strips. It took me longer to choose the beautiful fabrics than to sew it together.

The “center” of the quilt measures about 33″ x 45″. The borders add another 15″ in each direction. You can use any combination of strips, and it’s a great way to use some of those amazing fabrics you don’t want to cut up!

I’m planning to make at least a couple more. If you want to do this kind of a project, really get creative in your color combinations. The next one I have in process will use a brown, teal, and purple border and include a chartreuse and gold fall colors fabric for the interior strips. It sounds weird, admittedly. But I think it’s going to turn out really well.

Special thanks to Jim for taking the picture and putting up with me so well when I grumble! xoxoxo

Curved Piecing with Debbie Bowles

Last month I had the privilege of taking a workshop with Debbie Bowles. If you don’t know Debbie, I encourage you to take a long look at her website. Debbie has a unique way of using space in her quilt designs, breaking out of the mold of traditional blocks. In fact, Debbie was modern before modern was a thing!

The workshop was on curved piecing, and Debbie was a wonderful teacher. Her calm, pleasant manner helped us feel at ease. She was very efficient in her lessons, and kept track of us while we worked to answer all questions. She showed us various settings and blocks for the small lessons we did, letting us envision how we can incorporate curved piecing into our own work.

Here is a video that shows the basic process. Having a really sharp rotary cutter is important. You’ll notice Debbie doesn’t use pins. In fact, you don’t need them and using them simply slows things down. With all of her blocks, you trim to size after sewing.

Here are a couple of photos of blocks I made in her workshop.

Two blocks, each made with 4 fabrics.

Two more, each made with only 2 fabrics.

This technique isn’t only useful for blocks. I’m more likely to use it for borders than blocks. Also think of how fun quilt backs could be with curved piecing.

Do you ever used curved piecing for block quilts? For borders? Do you pin? Do you have any tips to share?

Block Therapy

When I was a little girl, I didn’t play with dolls. I played with blocks and Lincoln logs and Legos. My siblings and I made forts and stepping stones and weapons with those great big cardboard blocks! When I was a little older I loved drawing floor plans, imagining the kind of home I’d have when I was grown up and rich. It would be a castle of magnificent proportions, with long hallways of rooms and secret stairways and a great hall for dining. The same kind of geometric thinking that led me to those pleasures also led me to quilting.

Over the last year and some, my quilts have almost all been medallions. I love medallions, but I love block quilts, too. The repetition of shape is soothing, both to view and to create.

I will make many more medallions. But the way I like to make them, using my Design-As-You-Go methods, they require intense focus.

To gear up for that again, I’m doing some block therapy. Every month my local guild requests members make a particular block. Blocks are used to make donation quilts that are distributed within our community. Usually it’s a pretty easy pattern. This month the request is for Shoofly blocks. To me, these are one of the cheeriest blocks there is, perfect for my therapy.

To combine block building with stash busting, I chose two colors I haven’t used much lately: bright pink and navy blue. I have the first seven done and have started cutting for more. In total I’ll make at least ten and maybe twelve.

I enjoy the transformation of fabric bits and pieces into something useful and beautiful. The rhythm of pressing, cutting, stitching, pressing, stitching, pressing is soothing. I don’t choose to do all my quilting this way, as I enjoy the hard brain work of more challenging quilts. But for now, this is nourishing and comforting.

The first four.

Block therapy.

Which blocks do you make as your therapy blocks?


On Our Way Back Home

We’ve been away from home for nearly three weeks. Over that time we’ve experienced highs and lows. While we were in Enid, OK a little more than two weeks ago, our son learned his next Air Force assignment. He will go to Joint Base Lewis-McChord to fly C-17s for the United States. It’s the assignment he and his fiancee hoped for, and we are thrilled for them.

After Assignment Night, Jim and I headed to Taos, NM for a vacation. If you’re interested, you can read about some of our time there. This post has a review of one of our hikes, as well as links to some other outings.

While we were in Taos, we also learned some personal news, actually three separate and important things. Grief, anger, and disappointment all played into our time there, as well as the exhilaration and excitement of the beautiful setting. It was a time of very mixed emotions.

Wednesday we drove back to Enid. Thursday we were joined by our two daughters. Our fabulous future daughter-in-law, her parents and sister arrived later in the day. The big occasion? Son’s graduation from undergraduate pilot training was Friday.

He was the deserving recipient of multiple awards, and humble enough he doesn’t want me to share that. Of course, the most important “award” is the opportunity to fly for the United States. To say we are proud of him is a tremendous understatement.

With ALL THAT going on, my mind has not been on quilting much, understandably. Finally last night the thoughts started to flow again. After no sewing for three weeks, it will feel wonderful to be back in my studio.

First things first: I’ll bind a quilt that is otherwise finished. And I plan to make a pile of 9″ shoofly blocks for my local guild’s donation projects. After that? I think I’ll make quilts for the local VA hospital. My guild donates around 200 quilts a year. Most of them go to the local hospitals, including the VA. Our VA wants quilts that are 48″ x 60″. (Yours may have different requests, so you should check with them directly.)  I’ve been working on some simple designs to meet that need, and will share them in a few days.

There are still twelve weeks left in the year. That is twelve weeks to enjoy the journey and try new things.

It will be good to be home.

Roller Coaster

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve experienced a pretty full range of emotions. Achievement, pride, excitement, grief, anger, disappointment, happiness, and love. A number of different events, some very personal and some family-oriented, have contributed to this.

I need to take a break from this blog for a bit, while I process some stuff. It may just be a few days, it may be longer. But no doubt I’ll be back.

Thanks for hanging in here with me.

Finding Value

Color, value, and pattern all factor into the ways we experience the interplay between patches and blocks.

Value is the relative lightness or darkness of one fabric patch to another. Some would argue that value is more important than color in impact on the quilt design. I’m not sure I’d go that far. To me, color and value are partners, along with the other elements of design. Because some people perceive one more easily than the other, as a quilter you need to be aware of both. Both color and value contribute to the elements of shape and line, to give the total impression of contrast and visual interest.

For those of us who are not color blind, differences in color are pretty easy to see. But value is much harder for many quilters. Value can be obscured by saturation, or by “brightness.” For example, here is a quilt I found interesting. This is my XOXO quilt. Look at the values in the Xs and Os in the last border. Is the pale blue background lighter in value than all the other patches?

XOXO, Medallion Sew-Along Track 1, finish #6. 48″ square. Finished June 2014.

What about the solid medallion I showed you a few days ago? To me, the colors give strong contrast, but the values do not. Are the values the same or different? What is darkest? What is lightest?

Unquilted sample

Prints can make it difficult to discern value differences. To me, this one is darn near a “low volume” (muted, low value-contrast) quilt.

A more modern take

Here is a quilt I made for Jim many years ago. Both value and color seem to be in a narrow range here. Are they?

There are various tricks quilters use to discern value when it isn’t obvious.

  1. Array a group of fabrics from darkest to lightest. Squint or take off your glasses. Are you sure they are in value order? Rearrange if needed. Turn the lights down most of the way, so the room is dim. Now how are they?
  2. Use a colored filter. Viewed through a filter, fabrics generally reveal value differences as the color disappears. However, a red piece of fabric will still show as red if you use a red filter, and green fabric will still show as green through a green filter. To get this to work for all your fabrics, you need multiple filters. That isn’t always convenient, or even easy to remember.
  3. Use a scanner or copier to photocopy fabric swatches, then print in black and white. With the color removed, you can see only value.
  4. Easier (these days) is to take a photo of a set of fabrics. Using either the camera’s own setting, or a photo-editing application, view the picture in black and white. (One photo editor I use is PicMonkey. This is a free service for basic needs, though you can also buy access to an upgraded version.)

Here are the four pictures from above, shown with color removed. The black and white reveals value differences more clearly than you may see with just color. For XOXO you can see there is one block in the top border and one in the bottom border with no value contrast. In black and white, the block almost disappears. The bright pink fools the eye with color contrast, though. You can also see the middle border disappears, because there isn’t enough contrast in the half-square triangles’ values.

In the solid medallion, the fuschia (hot pink) is actually lighter in value than the background grey. And in fact, there is reasonably good value contrast.

This looks low volume (muted and low contrast) in color and in value. The larger prints lead to some of that effect, as the edges between patches blur. My preference, generally, is for stronger contrast than this.

This really is all the same color and value. The main differences are in pattern. It was a deliberate choice I made as an early quilter. Technically it may not work, but in person on Jim’s office wall, it looks darn good.

As I looked for online resources about value, I found them much less available than about color. One of the better blog posts I found was from Piecemeal Quilts. This Skillbuilder Series post talks about color, value, and pattern. There are some helpful photos that show the affects of changing value combinations.