Trunk Show

In this area we’re blessed to have several quilt shops. One of my favorites is Inspirations, in Hills, IA.

There are so many reasons I frequent Inspirations. It is a welcoming shop where the owner and employees know many of the customers by name. The shop is in an old storefront building on a corner. All the fabrics are on the main floor, well-organized by type and color. The fabric selection includes 1800s reproductions (and friendlies), batiks, 1930s repros, and a delightful assortment of bright children’s and modern fabrics. The high ceilings show off samples, providing inspirations as the name implies.

One reason I love it is because of the second floor. The large room upstairs has tables along the sides, providing room for quilters to work. They come in small groups and large, reserving time with the owner, Nancy Lackender. Classes are held there, as well, including ones I teach.

The upstairs has windows on three sides, filling the space with natural light reflected by the white walls. It has the feel of an art gallery. In fact, it serves as just that. Every month a different quilter’s work is featured.

This month, my quilts are shown. All of them were created in the last three years. Click the captioned photos to see bigger versions. All photos by my dear Jim Ruebush. 



Greeting visitors on the stairs. The Housework Fairy quilt is on the right. Stained Glass is on the left.


XOXO. Lots of quilt love at the top of the stairs.


The whole room, facing the back of the store and the stairway to the left. That’s me in the middle, wearing my Air Force Mom ball cap.


The left side of the room. Jim’s quilt is the nearest one.


The right side of the room. XX’s Quilt is the nearest.

Thanks for joining me for my trunk show. It’s kind of a thrill for me to see several of my favorite quilts all at the same time. I hope you enjoyed them, too.

More Fun with the Economy Block

I keep playing with the economy block, which I first wrote about in January 2014. Apparently other people do, too. It’s my most-viewed post by far, with at least several hits every day. In fact if you google “economy block”, this is the result:

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 9.31.52 AM

Yep. Two hundred and six MILLION results, and mine is number one. Okay, now that I’ve bragged…

The first post showed you how to make the economy block ANY SIZE with my tutorial and cheat sheet. The second showed you 17 different arrangements of the block with alternate blocks. They range from simple to fairly complex.

This week I’ve played with the economy block as the center of a bigger block. Below are two blocks. Each is sized to be 1.5 times the size of the economy block in the center. For example, with a white center below of 4″, the economy block is 8″. The points on the outside add another 4″ (2″ on each side). The total finished block size is 8″ x 1.5 = 12″.

Here is a block EQ7 calls a “Contrary Wife Variation.” I’ve also seen it called Union Square. Wouldn’t it look great as the center of a medallion quilt? ;-)

Union Square block

Union Square straight set

Union Square or Contrary Wife variation, straight set with sashing.

Union Square on point

Union Square or Contrary Wife variation, set on point with sashing.

EQ7 calls this one the “Double X, No. 4″ block. I think it looks a little more delicate than the one above. Also the cornerstone in the sashing helps create a wonderful secondary design.

Double X block

Double X No. 4 block

Double X str set

Double X straight setting

Double X on point

Double X on point setting

I’ve shown these in one color set, but it’s easy to imagine them in a range of colors, with more than three colors per block, or using lots of fabrics (scraps.)

There’s a lot more, but this is enough for today.

Branching Out

Months after the challenge was issued, weeks after inspiration finally sparked, on Monday I finished my quilt in solids. None too soon, as the guild meeting was that evening.

The challenge required use of only solid fabrics (no prints, stripes, shot cottons, mottled hand-dyes, tone-on-tone, etc.) of at least three colors. Entered quilts must be finished, meaning they need to be three layers, quilted, bound, and labeled.

The guild has about 150 members, and about 20 quilts were entered in the contest. In size they ranged from about 18″ across to about 72″. In style they tended to “modern” or “art,” though all were quite different from each other. There was one big sampler, one expertly appliqued medallion, one “Aviatrix” medallion without the butterfly outer border, a couple of “twister” wall-hangings, a lovely art quilt on fading memories (one of my personal favorites). One member, Meredith, is a talented hand-quilter and entered two wonderful pieces. Both were in muted colors but different personalities, and her intricate work was beautifully integrated in the total designs.

Some of the quilts were designed by their makers. Others were modifications of other designs, and some were from patterns. Some of the quilts were quilted by their piecers/appliquers; others were not.

Our challenge is always a friendly affair with two winners. One is chosen by the judges, the committee that develops and issues the challenge, and one is chosen by the viewers. The range of designs would give an unbiased voter pause.

My quilt did not “win” in either category. However, I’m very pleased with it in general. I’d like do-overs on the quilting, in particular, but here are the positives:

  • It is my design, my piecing, my quilting, my binding, my time, my tools, my love.
  • The design is new for me, especially in terms of how I used space,
  • yet it still looks and feels like me.
  • I challenged myself to try new things on the top, the back, the label, and the quilting,
  • and I met that challenge fearlessly.
  • The design is successful in its unity, its balance,
  • its color and value use,
  • and its subtle asymmetries that keep it interesting.
  • It is fun to look at.
  • And it was fun to make,
  • except the quilting, which wasn’t.

Branching Out. 45″ x 54″. Finished July 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.


Branching Out back. Photo by Jim Ruebush.


The label stitched into the binding. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Do You Actually Use the Quilts You Make?

Melanie McNeil:

This post on using your quilts made me smile. If you comment, please do so at the original post. Thanks for taking a look.

Originally posted on Wildflower Child Creates:

You bet we do!

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When I finished my first quilt, I was rather hesitant to use it. I mean, it was a lot of work and it would get dirty and need to go through washer and dryer cycles. My kids would definitely abuse it (I mean, you should see the things they’ve done to the couches, rugs, clothing, toys and shoes!!)

I knew I wanted my quilts to be useful but looking at all that work (and hello – quilting isn’t exactly cheap!) made it hard to let go. For awhile, my quilts made a lovely stack in the den. I remember my husband asking, “Is it okay if I use one of those quilts?” and I cringed a bit inside at the thought.

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Fortunately, I have gotten over that fear. My family now uses quilts like crazy. They have been on road trips (my dad laughed when I packed…

View original 276 more words

Around the Corner — Flowers for Kate

My friend Kate commented on a quilt illustration I drew in EQ7, shown in my last post with two other designs. The three designs all use the same strategy.  The first main border wraps blocks around the center’s corners, leaving the middle of the border unpieced. The effect seems to strengthen and extend the center block.

This is the quilt design she commented on:
wraparound corners 2She said, “I like the second one, with the bear paws. Depending on the colours you used, it could either be spiky and rugged or feathery and delicate.”

Huh… Let’s see what happens when I change the colors…

wraparound corners 4

I changed the colors, but that’s not all. The center block now is 4 blocks, separated by a narrow sashing. In the borders, the tulip blocks touch each other, rather than being separated by the narrow spacer blocks that give the bear’s paw effect. And besides the lighter, brighter colors, the change in blocks gives a more feminine tilt, too.

Otherwise the design is the same. The total size for both is 72″; border widths and lengths are the same; and the basic layout is the same.

Which one do you like better? Do you have other ideas for the same border device? 

Around the Corner

I’m trying to finish my Branching Out challenge quilt before Monday’s guild meeting. Once I’m done with it, I won’t get to do much quilting for the rest of the month or into August. These are a couple of weird, fragmented months, and I have much to do besides sew.

In the meantime, I continue to look for inspiration and ideas. While rolling though some googled images the other day, I noticed a handful of medallion quilts that had something in common. For each, the first border wrapped blocks around the center’s corners, leaving the middle of the border unpieced. The effect was to strengthen and extend the center block.

I drew some examples in EQ7 to save as reminders, and possibly as designs. They have a western or southwestern feel, masculine and rugged, but the idea is valid regardless of style or format. It could work just as well for a block quilt’s borders as for a medallion.

The first two illustrations don’t use exactly the same effect as the googled images, since they both have a narrow first border, followed by the block-wrap. In addition, my drawings repeat the corner design, which wasn’t used in what I saw elsewhere. Drawing in EQ7 leaves some “piecing” lines where I wouldn’t actually piece. Also all of the sizing isn’t exactly how I would make it in real life.

wraparound corners 1 wraparound corners 2 wraparound corners 3

This is the center block.
wraparound corners 3 block

This kind of corner gives a couple of positives. First, I like the way the fancy corners connect the rings of the quilt differently than with a more typical border/corner design. Second, the length of the border isn’t dependent on the length of the blocks in it. For example, in the second quilt above, the grey-blue strip between pieced brown blocks acts as one long spacer strip, and its length doesn’t need to be a multiple of the pieced block length or width. That makes it easy to adjust for odd border lengths.

Though these corners are a little showy, they don’t call attention to themselves, but contribute to the unity of the whole quilt. The repetition of the corner treatment in each design adds to that effect.

I don’t know if I’ll ever make any of them, but they have design elements that are worth remembering.


Leftovers from the Fairy Quilt

Bunnies for Baby

Bunnies for Baby. 40″ x 50″. Finished June 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

In April and May I offered my Medallion Improv! class. To help demonstrate the range of challenges and opportunities medallions provide, I started two quilts. One was Marquetry and the other was the Fairy quilt.


Marquetry was easy for me, but I struggled with the Fairy. The “template” I provide for my students is a medallion with six borders. After finishing the third border, I tried two different possibilities for the fourth. First, I made 32 puss-in-the-corner blocks, with the intention of alternating the value placement all the way around. They were lovely little blocks, but they took focus away from the center block. [Note about sizing: the border length, not including corners, was 35″. Using 7 5″ blocks on each side covered the length. 4 x 7 = 28 blocks. Add 4 corners for 32.]

That left me with 32 lovely puss-in-the-corner blocks, which wouldn’t be used to frame the fairy. As you can see in the photo at the top, they became part of a baby quilt instead. To 32 pieced blocks, I added 31 alternate blocks. 32 + 31 = 63, which is perfect for a 7 x 9 block layout.

It was easy to decide what to use for the alternate blocks. Last year I bought some bunny fabric from the clearance shelf. The illustrations are from the book Guess How Much I Love You. The colors were perfect to go with the pieced blocks.

Bunny cloth

As mentioned above, I actually made two attempts at a fourth border. Besides the puss-in-the-corner blocks, I also made strips using halved variable stars. They were a lot of work! At the time, I didn’t have any idea how I would use the strips. However, they quickly found their place. When I began a round robin with my sister, I realized the strips would work well for the first border, once cut to length.

I don’t mind trying multiple options for my medallion borders. I’ve found the rejected attempts, such as the two borders shown above, have their own place. Knowing this makes it easier to stay positive rather than getting discouraged.

What do you do with rejected blocks or borders?