This has been an oddly low-stress year, from the standpoint of deadlines. Other than Georgia’s graduation quilt, all my finishes have been on my own timeline. Even so, I’ve been pretty productive and have been learning and practicing new skills.

I have a lot of experiments and works in process, too, but here’s where we are so far with finishes for the year:
1. Fierce Little Bear
2. VA hospital quilt
3. VA hospital quilt
4. Charlotte’s Kitty
5. The Old School House
6. Georgia’s graduation quilt
7. Where Are the Birds? (landscape tree quilt)
8. ¡Fiesta!
9. Hands and Hearts
10. Shirt (YES! I made a shirt! See below for a tiny bit more info.)

Today I’m going to show you ¡Fiesta! It’s a quilt given to a friend who retired recently. And yes, that is Spanish punctuation with the inverted exclamation mark at the beginning of the word.

¡Fiesta! 62″ x 62″. Finished June 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush

I started this quilt after visiting my sister Cathie at the end of March. Cathie was preparing for a gallery exhibit of her quilts, and in an extraordinary burst of energy and creativity, she made several smaller pieces in a few weeks. One captured my interest from its very simplicity. She had a pieced center, set on point and surrounded by a piano key border. That structure was set on point again.

Inspired, I chose an orphan block made in a workshop last year.  I liked the block, but not enough to make several more for a block quilt. I didn’t put it on point as Cathie arranged her center block, because I didn’t like the strong “cross” or “plus” impression it makes that way. I framed it with a line of red, and then strong corners to give an on-point look. Next came the same piano key border idea. The piano key patches are from my scrap drawer.

Since I was designing as I went, the next task was to choose something from my stash to create corners. To offset the relatively dark values in the piano keys, I chose a light/medium gold print. It includes red and white in the floral design, tying back to the colors already used. To return the center to an “X” arrangement instead of “+” I turned it a second time with the green.

But wowee, that’s a lotta green! And I didn’t want it to look like a baseball field. I’ve been experimenting with appliqué this year to ramp up my skills. This was the perfect occasion to add appliqué.

I tried different stitch styles and zigzag widths, as well as various types of thread, and methods for fusing. Though far from expertly done, it adds a little whimsy and breaks up those large fields of green.

The narrow outer border contributes more fun and repeats the striping provided by the piano keys. And as always, the binding, in red with musical instruments on it, gives the final border touch.

I quilted it with a light celery green. Actually, that was where the only tough going came on this project. I actually started quilting it with red. I got through one pass and knew I hated it. It was too strong, showed up too much. UGH. After removing the quilt from the frame, I “skinned” it, took a blade (Exacto style) and pulled the backing fabric away from the batting, and cut the threads. Though it was still a slow process, it was so much faster and easier than using a seam ripper to slice one thread at a time. After that was done and we got back from our Maryland jaunt, I put the parts back on the frame and started again. It was well worth the effort.

The quilt was a gift for Lisa, a friend Jim and I met when traveling to Cuba in 2015. ¡Fiesta! is a great name for it for three reasons. First, the feel is fun and festive, nothing very serious about it. Second, the strong, clear colors remind me of Fiestaware dishes. And third, being with Lisa is always like being at a party. She is just fun to be with. When Jim and I gave her the quilt, she told us she didn’t have any other quilts except a vintage, family one, so this is extra special for her. 🙂


Number 10 on the list above is a shirt. I’ll show you more after I have a photo. For now I’ll tell you, making clothing is not my thing. However, I had a purchased shirt I loved, and last year I used it as the model to make a similar top. That inspiration shirt is made of rayon, and recently it went through the wash and dryer. You may know, rayon feels luxurious, but it can shrink if machine dried. 😦 It’s all okay — I’ve worn it so much it was looking a bit shabby anyway. So I used the home-made shirt as a model for a new one. The new one has a V-neck (with facing!) and French seams. Go ahead, ask me how many times I’ve used French seams before. Yeah. NEVER. And it was splendid. I LOVE this new shirt, and it fits perfectly. And it is prewashed quilting cotton, not rayon, so should hold up to the occasional tumble through the dryer.


16 thoughts on “¡Fiesta!

  1. snarkyquilter

    Where’s the mariachi band? My favorite parts of this quilt are the pale blue and mustard 4 patches at the corners of the center block and the yellow and white print corners of the white diamond. And french seams on a shirt? You are an overachiever.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks, Joanna. Those little blue patches you mention are 1930s repro, with little Scottie terriers on them. So cute! 🙂 Actually, one of the best things about the quilt, in my opinion, is some of the fun fabrics that can’t be seen except up close.

  2. KerryCan

    Whatever approach you’re using with your quilt projects, it clearly agrees with you! And I am very impressed with the shirt idea–sewing clothing is a complete mystery to me!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I saw a lot of clothing made when I was a child, as my mom was an expert seamstress. I even took a sewing class in high school and made a couple of garments, and have made a few more since then. But it never really captured my imagination, and when I was teaching (university) and working at the bank, the corporate-style clothes I needed were far beyond my skill! This was a really easy project, but between the value of fabric and my time into it, it was a fairly expensive new shirt. 🙂

  3. katechiconi

    Bravo on two forays out of your comfort zone, appliqué and dressmaking. ¡Fiesta! is lovely, and I particularly like the way I perceive the scale of things exploding outwards, from very small pieces in the central block to much larger on the outside. I hope you’ll share photos of your finished shirt, including those French seams!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Ah, thank you! Honestly I didn’t see the quilt quite that way, with the ever-increasing sizes. It’s often good to see things with new eyes, so I appreciate your comment. Yes, the shirt. Will wear it this evening, along with my enhanced hair color. 🙂 Maybe Jim will take my picture.

  4. Kerry

    I’m really rubbish at clothing. The last time I tried was a dress for my daughter – and thankfully my mother-in-law stepped up to the mark and finished it properly. I’m always impressed with people who adapt patterns to make more clothing. Looking forward to seeing your shirt!

    As for the Fiesta quilt – what a happy and bright one it is. I see the green as grass for the flowers and brighter colours. Lovely.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      We all have different talents, don’t we? My clothing skills are at the very beginner level, so I’m pretty impressed by people who are good at it. Thanks for your nice comments.

  5. jeanswenson

    I really like the way the light/medium gold print corners draw the eye from the center, onto to the piano key border. It makes me perceive a very slight swirling motion – very cool!


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