Tag Archives: Mindful quilting

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?

Branching Out — The Challenge

My local guild has an annual challenge. In the eight years I’ve been a member, I’ve participated a couple of times. For the red and white challenge in 2012, I entered this quilt using a wedding ring block. I designed the setting.

The red and white challenge quilt, 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.

I didn’t win. My guild has very talented members.

Really, the goal isn’t to win. It’s to challenge yourself, in the process building skills and creative power.

This year’s challenge, issued last September, is to create a quilt from all solids, using at least three colors. I use solids, but generally I mix them with patterns of one type or another. Last fall I made a small quilt all in solids. It is pretty but not very interesting.

In fact, solids are not very interesting to our eyes. They are flat and don’t provide any sense of depth, rhythm, or contrast. Unlike patterns, they don’t hold attention, as we quickly determine there is nothing more to see.

There are a number of ways to make solids more interesting in a quilt. One is by covering them with beautiful quilting to add texture and pattern, as the famously solid Amish quilts do. Another is to use them in unexpected ways. Unusual color combinations or arrangements of elements can hold interest, even when the fabrics individually do not. In a block quilt, that could mean an unusual layout of the blocks. In a medallion, using asymmetric borders might draw us in. A lot of solid modern quilts successfully break the grid altogether.

I don’t want to spend time making an uninteresting quilt with uninteresting fabrics. I’ve had a hard time feeling inspired to begin this challenge. That changed recently when I saw a photo on a blog. Notice the quilt hanging on the left, obscured by the chandelier.

Look at the photo on the far left, behind the chandelier. https://sewkatiedid.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/a-summer-workshop/

I don’t know if it is made in solids, and it doesn’t matter. The arrangement of elements — color, value, shape, line — is unexpected, interesting, and held my attention. I sent the photo to my sister and said, “I want to make THAT quilt! Except of course I don’t want to make someone else’s design.”

Challenge: design and make a quilt in all solids of at least three colors. How can I use solids in a new, interesting way? Seth Godin writes:

This is a challenge I can meet. I will try to pull a hat out of a rabbit, turning the question upside down, to do it backwards, sideways, or in some way significantly more generous or risky.

I have a plan and last week I began construction. Since then we’ve had company a couple of times, slowing me down. In a few days I’ll have a finished top and will show you the work in progress.

How do you challenge yourself? Do you seek out new problems? Or do you try to solve problems in new ways? 

Son’s Liberated Baby Quilt

This morning Jim and I cleaned a room, the room our son refers to as mine. When we moved to this house, my room was intended as a guest room, as well as for my sewing and crafts. It is again the guest room, but it no longer holds my studio. Now the family room and his room hold my long-arm machine, domestic machine, and all my quilting supplies. His room is no longer his, though he won’t officially recognize its change in status.

The room we cleaned this morning has Son’s remaining belongings, a bed and a dresser. One of the other remnants of his life with us hangs on the wall. It is a small quilt I made for him, what I call his baby quilt. In fact, I made it when he was 20, a few short years ago.

His life has changed dramatically since I made this, going from college student to Air Force pilot, from Iowa to the Pacific Northwest, from in love to engaged. My life has changed, too, as has my quilting.

When I made this quilt, I wanted to try new things. I had a Gwen Marston book (the first of the several I now own) and wanted to try the “liberated” style. I did not love the process of making the quilt. It did not feel “free” to me but both chaotic and contrived.

My evolution in quilting makes this more comfortable now than it was then. Last summer I finished a quilt that uses some of the same liberated approach.

African star 1

African Star. 42″ x 44″. July 2014.

Truly liberated quilting need not be “anything goes.” Nor does it need to include contrived, even patterned (or paper pieced!) “wonky” stars. Liberated quilting at its best is mindful quilting. Rather than mindlessly following someone else’s pattern and rules, we can make decisions thoughtfully. We can follow recognized design principles to break the rules. We can create for ourselves. Sometimes that means perfect points and evenly spaced blocks. Sometimes it does not. We are liberated when we choose for ourselves.

Quilted, Not Bound

I finished quilting DeLight. For the binding, I hope to find a yard of bright purple that’s the same color as the second narrow border. Yes, I looked in my stash already. It’s not there.

At 96″ square, it’s big. Usually we hang quilts on a galvanized steel pipe in our basement to get pictures. We’ll see if we can get that to work out once it’s bound. In the meantime, I put it on our king-sized bed. Jim took the picture standing on my dresser. Even so, he couldn’t get quite high enough or far enough away to get the whole thing in. 🙂


WIP Wednesday — Fire

Fire, not fully assembled, and more borders to go. 64″ to this point. Don’t know why it imported the photo sideways…

I don’t have a final name for this, but it isn’t finished, so that’s okay. Most likely its name will refer to fire. I’m thinking “Don’t Look Back.” If I choose it, I’ll tell you why later. 🙂

This design started easily with the variation of the Odd Fellow’s block in the middle. It’s a 32″ block. The star-in-a-star-in-a-star is so distinctive and gave the quilt a great start. I also knew I’d want a sawtooth border following that, but originally I assumed I’d turn the big block on point and choose a different configuration of the sawteeth. That quilt must be waiting its turn for another time.

I’ve monkeyed with the design past the bright purple strip border, too. I haven’t often used two borders that interact, especially not with a variety of blocks. (The next border, not built yet, will play with the last border you can see.) And of course, no matter what I draw in EQ7, the fabric I have changes things.

I’m happy with how this has started and eager to see how it progresses.