Tag Archives: Guild challenge

Red and White Quilts, Part 1

My quilts are done. I am ready for the quilt show. That’s good, because it begins today!

Our show will feature more than 200 quilts, exhibited in the beautiful First United Methodist Church of Iowa City. Small wall-hangings to large bed covers, quilts of every size and color will be a feast for the eyes. The most prominent color will be RED, with our special exhibit of red and white quilts.

I have six quilts entered in the show, including two red and white ones. Both of these quilts are new this year. In 2012 I made one other red and white quilt. Believe me when I say I doubt I will make another.

Here are the three quilts.

Fire & Ice
This quilt was inspired by a photo I found in the archives of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. You can find out more about the inspiration and my process here and here. My quilting process is described here. This quilt will be part of the special red and white display.

Fire & Ice. Approx 68″ x 68″. Based on IQSC Object Number 1997.007.0797 from the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, a quilt from 1800-1820. May 2017. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Hibiscus Mountain
The other red and white quilt I made this year was easier and more fun. In some ways that makes it more satisfying, and in some ways it makes me “like” it more. However, I will be happy to give this quilt to a loved one. I won’t be giving Fire & Ice away.

You can read about this quilt’s process here. The design is called “Delectable Mountains,” and it is an old design, too. In the US, quilts in this style have been made since the early 1800s. I’ve also seen pictures of a red and white Delectable Mountains quilt in the Welsh tradition.

Hibiscus Mountain. 73″ x 73″. Delectable Mountains format. Finished spring 2017. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Hibiscus Mountain won’t technically be in the red and white display, because of the colors in the hibiscus print. However, we will have the “other” red and white quilts, such as this, grouped together adjacent to the display. I’m not sure the general viewer will discern them as different.

Circles of Love
My guild has an annual challenge, and in 2012 it was to create a red and white quilt, using only red and white. I entered this quilt, which uses a wedding ring block. While the block is traditional, I designed the setting. If you look at the “points” of the large center, you can see they are shaped as hearts, to emphasize the wedding or love theme.

When I finished the top on April 15 that year, I posted in Facebook about it: “I never cried on finishing a top before. This was not fun… I don’t like the rigidity in color format. Once a block was done, it was pretty, but every other block was just the same. So there was no joy in execution… 1521 pieces. More than any quilt I’ve made. Almost all of them were triangles…”

Circles of Love, also known as the hunger quilt. A friend “purchased” it from me, giving the price to a local food pantry. It’s about 70″ square. 2012. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

As now, I declared then I’d never make another red and white quilt. I could change my mind again, as I did this spring. The strong contrast, both of color and value, make red and white quilts exciting to see. However, I really don’t like using white. It gets grimy, and it shows varicose veins, the stray threads that are unavoidably trapped when quilting. Fire & Ice seemed to take forever to complete, with one character-building challenge after another. And the quilt show drama about the red and white issue took a lot of the fun out of completing it. Whatever. It fer sure won’t be any day soon that I’ll make another.

Still, I’m thrilled with how these turned out, and I’m proud to enter them in our show. And now, on to the next challenges and opportunities.


Iowa In My Mind

My local quilt guild has an annual challenge. At our July meeting, members bring their entries to share. This year’s challenge was to create a quilt inspired by Iowa. “What does Iowa mean to you? Corn and prairie grass? The Old Capitol Building? Family and friends? In 2016, Iowa will be 170 years old and we thought we should show everyone what Iowa means to us through our quilts. There is no size or technique limit to this quilt.”

I created the quilt below. You can click on it to open in a new tab and see the detail, including the words.


Iowa In My Mind. Approx 31.5″ x 20″. July 2016. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

The quilt was inspired by Iowa, but also by my son and how he sees Iowa. As an Air Force pilot, early this year he flew across the state. Later while we instant-messaged, he described his view:

it was funny looking north across Iowa
I could see the thousands and thousands of straight lined fields
well, the roads around the fields
‪each field being exactly the same size‬
everything just in its perfect place
we spent a night in Maine
the people there reminded me of Iowans
so friendly
fairly chatty, but with nothing too significant to chat about
th‪e land is not like that everywhere,
and the people are not, either‬
but the Iowa in my mind is

I wanted my design to include his thoughts. In addition, I had already pieced the background fabric and thought it could be a good starting point for construction. When considering how to use that background fabric, I thought of creating a quilt in the shape of the state. I asked Jim if he could make an outline for me of the state, which I could use to shape my quilt. He did.

Though the words are the centerpiece of the quilt, I wanted to include more details that would be meaningful to Son and to others. The wind turbine refers to his work on wind energy while in college, and the fact that Iowa leads the nation in the percent of energy created by wind. The left and right bindings are blue to indicate the rivers bordering the state. The line dividing north and south is Interstate-80, created with a hand-stitched yellow dotted line, as well as machine-stitching for the outer lane markers and quilting. Other quilting includes both straight lines for the rows of crops planted in fields, and the curves of hills across large parts of the state.

Using a pieced background, including words (Sharpie marker), bias binding, painting, fused appliqué… Most of the elements of this quilt were new to me. While I had trouble figuring out how to execute many, I kept plugging away until it told me it was done.

And boy howdy, good thing it finally told me! I finished on Monday morning. My guild meeting was Monday evening.

With no size or technique limit, the challenge entries were varied and impressive. When the group spent time examining the quilts and artists’ statements, I simply felt pleased with what I’d accomplished.

And then the winners were announced. I won! I won the Viewers’ Choice award. Honestly I can’t tell you when I’ve been so pleased with anyone else’s assessment of my work. Until I shared the photo with Son. Son said, “That’s probably the coolest quilt I’ve ever seen!” 🙂 And that was even better.


Putting It Off

Why do you put off working on a quilt project? Here are a few possibilities:

* I don’t have the supplies I need
* Parts of the project got scattered, and I don’t know where they are
* I don’t know how to do the next step
* I don’t like what I’ve done so far
* It’s boring or tedious or just plain hard
* Non-quilting parts of my life are taking my time and energy
* I’m mad (or something) at the person it is for
* I got distracted by a different quilt project (ooo! shiny!)
* The deadline is coming up, so I’m waiting to do my best work under pressure

If you have a lot of UFOs, any or all of these reasons might apply.

I never have many UFOs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t put stuff off. I’m doing it right now, in fact! The reason? I don’t have the supplies I need (good textile markers,) and I don’t know how to do it. And I have lots of other things I could choose to do instead. The fact that there is a deadline looming doesn’t make me delay; it just adds stress to it!

The other day I mentioned my guild’s annual challenge, to be presented in less than two weeks. This year the challenge is to create a quilt inspired by Iowa. There is no size or technique limit. However it must be quilted through three layers, bound, and labeled.

I have a start on my project, and I have ideas for how to proceed. The photo below shows a map of Iowa lying on top of pieced fabric. I used blue tape to draw a “dead body” outline around it, so I know the basic outline within which I’ll work. My plan includes some text, as well as at least one wind turbine. But the other elements are harder to envision. And in truth, I don’t know how to execute my ideas!


What does that mean? I can keep putting it off and miss this opportunity to try new things. Or I can get busy, learn how to write text on fabric, play with sizes for wind turbines, and have some fun! What’s the worst that would happen?

Why do you put off projects? What great (or lame) ideas do you have for my Iowa quilt? Do you have advice or encouragement for me? Let me know in comments.

July — What a Month!

For several months I’ve put together a review listing projects I’ve worked on and finished, reading and writing I’ve done, and other things that happened during the month. This month has held so much, it’s hard to know where to start. So I’ll start at the beginning.

July began with health concerns for one daughter and ended with health concerns for the other. Fortunately, things are looking up for both of them. In the middle of the month, Son had a go at illness with puking, but his issues seem to be resolved, too. (!!!) Other than the health issues that really had nothing to do with Jim and me except our worry, it was a busy and rewarding month.

On the quilting front, I finished my newest project, Branching Out. I made it for my guild’s annual challenge. This year the challenge was to create a quilt in only solids of at least three colors. Once inspiration hit, the design and execution of piecing went easily. Quilting was another story, but the quilt is done and I’m happy with it.


Branching Out. 45″ x 54″. Finished July 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush. To see the back, go to the linked post.

Last week I began a new quilt, all of 8″ hourglass blocks. It will be in a 10×10 layout, finishing at 80″ square if I don’t add borders. The fabrics are old-fashioned pretties that have been in my stash for a while, things I’m not replenishing these days. All the blocks are cut and 10 of 100 have been stitched completely. The other 90 blocks are in two parts each.

I randomly paired dark fabrics with lights to create each half-block, and I’ll randomly match up those half-blocks also. There are about 20 different light-valued fabrics. The darks are in reds, teals, greens, and purples. Once all the blocks are done, I’ll lay them out (this is a floor project) and balance them for color. Then comes assembly. It isn’t a project I’m in a hurry for, and it might be the end of August or later before it’s finished.


The view from the front of the building. You can click on the photo to see it bigger in a new tab.

A fun thing for me in July was to have my quilts displayed at a local quilt shop. Inspirations in Hills, IA, exhibits local quilters’ work on the second floor. I had 11 of my medallion quilts displayed there. Even more fun: in August I’ll have seven more showing there!

As to reading and writing, I didn’t do a lot of either in July. I am working on a new guild presentation and got a good head start on that. But blog posts have been few and far between. One Jim and I wrote together is on the new WordPress Reader format. If you are a WordPress blogger, please take a look. Even if you don’t use Reader, your audience may. There are some valuable tips in the post.

So I didn’t get a lot of quilting done, nor did I write much. What else was going on? It was a month filled with family time. We enjoyed more time with our older daughter than we almost ever get. Our younger daughter and her husband and five children came to Iowa in the middle of the month. The primary reason was a big family reunion of Jim’s family. He is one of nine siblings, and all of them and spouses were able to join in, as well as most of the off-spring. There were 87 people at our daughter’s house on the first reunion day, and only a few less than that on the second day (fortunately, NOT at her house!) Son was able to join in the fun, as well, so we were able to have all three of our children and all seven grandchildren around for a bit of time.

At the end of the same week, our young ‘uns and a passel of other loved ones were at our home for dinner. There were about 20 of us here for a precious, memorable evening.

And for just a little more excitement, Jim and I had the thrill of seeing a funnel cloud in mid-month. In contrast, at the beginning of the month, we had some of the finest July weather ever for the annual Iowa City Jazz Festival. Three days of music on four stages, all free all the time. Come on by next year!

It was not a typical month by a long shot. And, Jim Fetig, this was not a typical monthly review. No lists, no enumerations, no big analysis. I got this…

My life is full and I am very blessed.



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.