Thank you!

This week I had the great pleasure of presenting to a quilt guild elsewhere in Iowa. It is an honor to be invited and a privilege to share my enthusiasm for quilting.

I have done presentations for groups and had not a single person thank me afterwards, not even the person who booked me. It feels odd, and awkward, and a little disconcerting, to walk away like that.

However, I’m happy to say, that did NOT happen this week. Instead, I had the most lovely reception and expressions of thanks afterwards, from many people! Truly, it was very gratifying. And I just want to say publicly “thank you” for the thank yous! I left feeling great about our day together.

(If you liked the person who presented at your meeting, be sure to thank the person who booked them, as well! They like to know they’re doing a good job, too.)

While I’m at it, I’d also like to thank all of you, my readers. Some of you have stuck with me for as long as I’ve been here, and others of you are new. Some of you comment and others don’t. Maybe this is the first post you’ve read here (or maybe it’s your last!) Thank you. Thank you all. It means a lot to me.




A Look at Some Medallion Quilts

I’m still on the road, so I’m sharing an older post. It’s a good follow-up to yesterday’s on petting older quilts and remembering the lessons they taught. This was first published more than four years ago, very early in my “medallion period.” Since then, I have studied design more carefully, and my opinions on some of these quilts has evolved as my knowledge has. Even so, it is fun to see some of my early medallions.

While working on developing the Medallion Sew-Along, I thought about what makes a successful design. I haven’t studied design formally, but when we talk about quilt design, we usually talk about elements such as line, color, value, size, shape, and texture. And we talk about how those elements are used, including principles such as balance, repetition, contrast, movement, and unity.

I decided to take a look at a few of my quilts and consider what design aspects work well and what don’t. (All are my original designs.) I welcome your thoughts on them, too. Don’t worry — you won’t hurt my feelings! We all have different taste. But besides looking at mine, take a look at some other medallions, either online or in books, and really think about why the design does or does not appeal to you.

One of my earliest quilts. I designed it. 72″ square.

As the caption says, this is one of my first quilts. I found beautiful, bright butterfly fabric and went from there. What works: the butterfly blocks create movement and unity with the focus fabric. The colors contrast well with the background. Colors are balanced across. What doesn’t work: it’s a little clumsy looking. The squares in the pieced border are simplistic and might look better if they were half-square triangles.

To look at more quilts with a critical eye, click here.

Taking the Show on the Road

Today I’m off to present to a guild. I love preparing for these meetings! Each time is a treat: the audience and space is new to me, the way I think about my quilts evolves, and I get to pet my quilts as I choose which ones to bring.

One of the things I enjoy about choosing my quilts is seeing how much they have changed over time. The differences might not be apparent to other people, but I can tell. In late 2012, a mere five years ago, I made the first quilt I think of as from my “medallion period.” (If Picasso can have a “blue period,” surely I can have a medallion period!) It was for my dear Jim, made at the end of a year that was hard for both of us. I always include this quilt in my trunk shows, for sentimental reasons and to illustrate design issues.

Extra-large lap quilt for my husband Jim, made in late 2012. It’s about 69″ square. 2012.

Since then I’ve made dozens of medallion quilts. All of them taught me lessons. For example, I learned that

  • the center block doesn’t need to be intricate, it just needs to be bold with multiple shapes and colors, and some decent value contrast;
  • placing the center on point makes the quilt a lot bigger in a hurry;
  • when you put it on point, it’s better to have the setting triangles too big than too small;
  • it’s easier to add new colors in the inner and middle borders than in the outer ones;
  • try arranging half-square triangles in a variety of ways, since placement of value and line make a difference in their effect;
  • spacer borders and blocks are your friends.

Dizzy. 60″ x 60″. One of my most recent quilts. 2017.

Besides lessons about design and construction, I also learned a few things about patience and persistence, and about asking for help.

Quilting, in any format, is good for developing patience, a trait that hasn’t always come easily to me. Consider the process of making a quilt, and all the steps required. Even when it all goes well, you have to be willing to work through the fabric prep, cutting, piecing, pressing, assembly, sandwiching, quilting, binding. You know this is the short list! And when things go wrong, besides the swearing and throwing of things, there’s also unstitching, sometimes yards and yards of unstitching! Or building different blocks, or cutting different strips, or taking the whole thing apart and starting over. Yes, I did that on the Garden Party quilt.

Garden Party. 2015.

I’ve also learned to ask for help when I need it. My tendency is to push through challenges without asking, not always a good decision. But Jim is my willing “consultant,” and I ask him for help frequently. Learning to trust his opinion (because he’s almost always right!) makes it easier to ask for others’, too. When I teach my class, a big portion of class time is in “workshopping” the students’ projects, allowing other students opportunity to advise and comment on the works in progress. They learn to evaluate the project and the process; while they do, so do I. Student comments have made an impact on multiple quilts of mine. And I’ve received tremendous help from my sister in learning to see color better.

I always hope I can convey a small portion of this in my guild presentations, along with the fun and excitement of designing and making these special quilts.

Do you enjoy looking at your past quilts? What has quilting taught you? I’d love to hear your comments.

State of My Messy Studio

It’s gotten away from me.

And while this isn’t terrible and wouldn’t bother a lot of people, I don’t like stepping over piles of fabric or digging through paperwork. I don’t like having scraps take over the end of my cutting table. Mostly I don’t like the feeling of being a bit out of control. It is a bit out of control.

In truth, I’ve started cleaning up already. It’s pretty easy to put fabric away since I store it (mostly) by color. Some of that is done. And the books are reshelved; because they are usually on the shelf by subject, they are easy to put away.

The papers always baffle me, but soon they’ll be sorted, too. I hope. 🙂 How do you deal with your paperwork? I have a few different sets right now: the class I’m teaching; guild presentations I’m scheduled to do; my guild’s program committee; my guild’s president stuff; my guild’s bylaws stuff; and random stuff… I know how to deal with them once I’m done with them, but it’s confusing when they’re still being used… And none of that includes the old laptop and three flash drives that need to be cleared, nor the digital photos that need to be sorted and filed. Aargh…

What is your biggest storage or organization challenge in your studio? What is easiest for you to control? Do you have some tips to share? 





Jim and I have always entertained ourselves with word games. We trade homophones and puns. We used to play Scrabble and do crossword puzzles together. On one road trip shortly after we met, we passed the miles by making up limericks. The limericks with which I was familiar at the time often had a bawdy intent. I won’t give you an example, as when I googled an opening line, the results were much more explicit than I bargained for.

A limerick actually is a form of verse, which depends on the rhythm and syllables, and not on the subject matter. For example, the nursery rhyme “Hickory Dickory Dock” is a limerick.

Hickory dickory dock
The mouse ran up the clock
The clock struck one
And down he run
Hickory dickory dock.

According to,

Typically, the first two lines rhyme with each other, the third and fourth rhyme together, and the fifth line either repeats the first line or rhymes with it. The limerick’s anapestic rhythm is created by an accentual pattern that contains many sets of double weakly-stressed syllables. The pattern can be illustrated with dashes denoting weak syllables, and back-slashes for stresses:

1) – / – – / – – /
2) – / – – / – – /
3) – / – – /
4) – / – – /
5) – / – – / – – /

Subject matter is not important; form is.

Inspired by a friend, I thought about writing new limericks.

Quilt judges, they value precision
When making a contest decision
“Not me!” said one quilter
“I’ll cut mine off-kilter”
To all of the judges’ derision.


The star is a favorite design.
Ohio and evening are mine.
Yes either will do
Of scraps or of new
A quilt that will sparkle and shine.


The rotary cutter is cool.
But it is a dangerous tool.
So sharp is the blade
That a slip of it made
Me feel like a darn bleeding fool.

Can you add any limericks to the list?