Category Archives: Medallion Quilts

A Good Way to Start the Year

A good way for me to begin is without obligations or deadlines. While they serve their purpose in motivating me, they also can suck the fun out of things. Forcing things when the mood isn’t right can make them feel like a chore instead of a pleasure.

For example, right now there is a quilt on the frame, and I could work on it. It’s mostly done, but I don’t have great ideas for how to proceed. Since I don’t have a deadline for it, I’ll let it wait until I have a plan. Then it will be more fun.

Instead of quilting, now I am sorting. I’ve never been great with paperwork. When I worked at the bank, often I would just stack up EVERYTHING that was out, and then could sort through it one more time, getting rid of some things, filing others, and actually acting on the ones that needed it. Shockingly enough, using this method (which, granted, would drive some people nuts) rarely resulted in things being done too late.

Most of my paperwork these days is the basic household type (daily dealing with mail — most of that goes in recycle right away!) and a bit of quilt-related things. I still have trouble with the quilt stuff. I LOVE PAPER! It can be so hard to get rid of. Have a stack of unneeded copies, printed on only one side? Yeah, for some reason I think there’s a great use for that somewhere down the road. (There is in our printer, or cut up into notepad-sized pieces and clipped together.) How about the paper labelling on a roll of batting? It’s about 14″ wide and 15 yards long. Yep, I want it!! And in truth, I use it, so it’s all okay.

A couple of weeks ago as I cleaned my studio, I pulled my work trick. I stacked up ALL the paper stuff on my countertop and put it in a pile in the middle of the floor. That way I’d have to see it and step around it every time I was in there. This week I brought it up to actually sort. In the best case scenario, everything in the stack will get recycled, filed, or acted on. (In truth, that won’t really happen, but it will improve!)

Two of the things in the pile are pads of paper. One is tracing paper and the other is graph paper. In the old days, before I used Electric Quilt (EQ7 and now EQ8,) I did all my design work on graph paper. I still do sometimes. The graph paper pad has some of my early designs sketched in. Here is one of the most complete:

It might not look like much, but it’s the design for the first two medallion quilts I ever made. About ten years ago, I made quilts for my oldest two granddaughters with the same design but different colors. The print fabric is a vibrant butterfly print. Here is one of the quilts:

A bed quilt for a granddaughter. 72″ square. The longarm quilter asked whose pattern I used. I didn’t even know what she meant. I didn’t know you could buy patterns. I designed it myself. Made in about 2008 or 2009.

It’s pretty simple, and though I’d do some things differently if I were making it today, overall it’s a solid design.

Now on to the next part of the pile — the dreaded guild notebooks! In truth those might be easier for me, as there is not much emotional attachment to any of the paper here.

~*~*~*~

Before finishing my paper sorting, here are a few stats:

2018 was my fifth full year blogging here. I published 72 posts, about half as many as I did in 2014. Last year, Catbird Quilt Studio had 34,333 visitors and 61,170 views, a 37% increase in views over the prior year, even with a 27% decrease in number of posts.

The top five posts last year for views were:
Economy Block ANY Size! (With Cheat Sheet)
Design Theft or Outright Scam
Update: Facebook-Ad Quilt Scams
How to Set a Block On Point
Round Robin Rules

Only the two on quilt scams were written and published last year!

Here’s a picture with some stats. I actually rarely look at these numbers, so this is kind of interesting to me. (Interesting but not important…)

Total posts since starting this blog, 666. Total words 314,545. That’s a few novels, isn’t it? hmm… 

How are you spending your New Year’s day?

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Where Do You Keep All Your Quilts?

If you’re a quilter like me, and haven’t managed to sell or give away all the quilts you’ve made, there’s a stockpile somewhere in your home. Where do you keep your quilts?

There are quilts on my walls and my floors,
On beds and tucked into drawers.
Still I will make them
Though my offspring won’t take them.
They already have quilts galore!

About a month ago I asked my children if anyone wanted a Christmas quilt, not this year, but next year. Crickets. No one even answered. Well, okay, I guess the answer is “no.” Each of the grandchildren has at least two quilts, and for various reasons, some have more than that. The grown-ups apparently have as many as they want, too, including some table runners and other decorative small items. Christmas stockings? Those are all made, at least until the new baby is born next year.

So I store quilts. I have a bunch on walls, some favorites of Jim’s and mine. Most of the rest are laid flat on a bed downstairs. Of course, when someone comes to stay the night, the quilts all get folded up and moved! It’s quite the process and feels like moving so many dead bodies from one room to another.

There is one quilt I’m about to send off to a long-time friend. Long-time, 25 years since we met, and though we haven’t lived in the same community for most of that time, we’ve stayed in touch.

He grew up in New Mexico, and after time in both Iowa and North Carolina, he and his wife recently moved back to New Mexico. I made this quilt in 2014, prior to visiting the state for the first time. It’s called “Southwestern Sun.” It’s about 60″ square.

With bars, flying geese, and hourglasses, the construction was very simple. Even the center block is just a fancy nine-patch. The apparent complexity is from the use of color and value. For example, alternating light orange and dark rusty orange in the final border gives a sense of three-dimensionality. The geese in multiple directions provide a sense of movement.

In some of my medallions all the corners are different and only relate to their respective borders. In this one they are patterned, drawing the eye outward with the repetition, alternating plain rust squares and two other, more complex blocks. Repeating with alternating designs creates a rhythm.

Another thing to note is the use of multiple fabrics of the same colors. There are several of each light orange, rusty orange, dark green, lighter green, and blue. If you use at least two of any color, you have invited another and might as well use it. When you do, you make the quilt more interesting, because there is more to look at. All of the fabrics except the back were from my stash.

At the time I felt like the colors were very strong. Since then my palette has become more saturated, so this doesn’t seem unusual to me any more.

Once this is gone, I’ll still have plenty of quilts to enjoy. At this time of year we bring Jim’s quilt up to use on the couch. Tiny whole-cloth lapquilts, made while practicing machine-quilting, are ready at our kitchen table to keep us warm there. Quilted placemats take their turns on the table.

Where do you keep your quilts? Do you use them? Do you give them away or sell them? Tell us in comments. 

 

 

What About That Rooster?

Joanna commented on my last post that it was an interesting bait and switch, titling the post with “Rooster” but blogging about geese. Yeah, that was not really on purpose. By the time I finished showing you the flying geese quilt top, it seemed like a big enough post already. This one is actually about the rooster.

Though I put a couple of recent photos in Instagram, when you last saw it on the blog, I’d assembled portions of the appliqué but had not fused it all together. Here it is, both before and after being fused to the background fabric. Click either picture to see them bigger. 

It’s worth spending a moment here to talk about execution. Over the last few months, I read a lot of different blogs and tutorials about fused and other machine appliqué. For me it was like reading a lot of recipes for one type of dish, and then making my own plan based on what I’d learned.

Whatever this quilt is when done, it won’t be a cuddle quilt or bed quilt. It’s not likely to ever be laundered. I don’t need to worry about finishing the edges completely with stitching. That gives more flexibility for method. Here are a few bullet points, with whatever commentary applies:

* I used Wonder-Under brand fusible web. Honestly, I haven’t tried more than a couple of brands, so I can’t tell you how it compares to other types of fusible.
* For some of the larger pieces, I cut the centers out of the Wonder-Under before fusing to the rooster fabric, leaving just an outline about 1/2″ wide. That reduced the heft and stiffness of those pieces.
* I fused small components together to make bigger parts (shown in the photo above,) using parchment paper as my pressing sheet. Once the pieces are pressed together, they can be peeled off as a group. Some people recommend Teflon pressing sheets, but I used parchment paper; it worked fine and it’s very inexpensive.
* Previously I’d drawn an outline of the rooster on tracing paper, along with a couple of marks to show where the background seams were. That made it easier to place the big parts when I was ready to fuse to the fabric. However, I purposely oriented the rooster a little less upright than my original drawing. That was easy to do since I hadn’t fused all the parts together yet.

After attaching the full rooster to the background fabric, I tried a lot of ideas for how to frame it. Initially I figured to create a narrow line of dark coral, all the way around, and then bordering that with hourglass blocks. None of the color combinations I tried really rocked me.

Many iterations of color later, I left the room. While Jim and I had dinner that evening, I tossed out some questions. You know, what if? What if I don’t use a narrow border of coral? What if I don’t use a narrow border at all? What if I just put one wide strip border around it and call it done? What if …

One question seemed worth pursuing: what if I made a checkerboard border? What if I used three layers of checkerboard, like 9-patches? Or maybe simpler, just 4-patches? Again I auditioned colors. I chose a bronze batik (used in many other projects, and I’ll be very sad when it’s gone) and the same blue print used for the rooster’s head.

The finished patches are 1 1/8″ squares. Rather than work with the tiny pieces individually, I used strips of blue and bronze, cut along the grain for better stability. If you cut across, width of fabric, you can get substantial bowing of the pieced strip.

That’s my progress so far.

¡Fiesta!

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.

The Old School House

Some old buildings fascinate me. I love the lines of old train stations, small-town Carnegie libraries, and one-room school houses. For many years I’ve fantasized about turning a school building, of the style common in the Midwest and seen in television’s “Little House on the Prairie,” into a home.

There’s another style of school building more common in early New England, two stories with straight lines of brick or clapboards, and symmetrical windows. Buildings like these appear often in embroidery samplers from the early years of our country, worked by school girls expected to learn domestic arts, rather than academics. Here is a charming example from wikipedia:

These buildings hold a different romance for me, and I wanted to make one for myself. About mid-way through creating the top, I posted about it (and thoughts on the term “improv”) in this post.

And more about it here. In the photo below you see the center framed four times, through the dark red paisley. I could have maintained the square shape with the rest of the borders, but elongating the quilt would emphasize the tall, narrow shape of the school. To lengthen the shape, I added borders to top and bottom.

By mid-March I had the top finished, including a bit of additional embroidery. By the way, I loved doing the embroidery! It was free-style, improvisational all the way, with no hoop. There is more embroidery in my future, no doubt!

The finished quilt pleases me enormously.

The Old School House. 51″ x 64″. March 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Though I had several dozen flying geese in double pinks, reds, browns, and teals, (after all, the quilt was supposed to be a strip quilt of geese, not a medallion quilt with a house,) I opted to simplify the colors by using only pinks and reds. Using a wide variety of fabrics for them makes them a bit more interesting.

With all the warm colors, I chose to repeat the cool colors with the teal triangles and the olive green narrow strip, as well as in the star points.

Notice how simple this construction is! The only obviously pieced borders are those with stars and with geese. The rest are plain strip borders. (The print second border, just outside the line of teal, is actually pieced in many places, as I eked out the length from scraps.) No one needs to be an expert to make something like this. They just need to know how to make things fit well enough to lie flat.

As with Fierce Little Bear, some of the detail is in the quilting, rather than in the piecing or format. I used white thread to create some airy detail in the sky, and green to draw more wispy leaves around the tree and to expand the globe of flowers on the right. The roof got lines in rust, and the window details were emphasized with the texture of pale golden tan thread, similar to the window backgrounds. I also quilted lines across the house in the manner of clapboards. Click on any picture to open the gallery for a closer look.

I’ve been enjoying my projects so far this year, both those finished and those still in process. I’ll keep sharing the finished ones as I get posts written, though in truth, I’ll probably skip writing about the VA hospital quilts.

Thanks for taking a look!

Finished in 2018:
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?
8. Fiesta!