Tag Archives: Quilt guild

The Muslin Mock-Up

I’ve been working on lots of parts of my quilty life the last couple of weeks. The biggest project has been toward completing my Fire & Ice medallion quilt in red and white. In my last post I described my intended process for quilting it. That process included designing the stitching, , transferring the design to Golden Threads paper, and quilting a muslin mock-up. It’s DONE! I think the design is very pretty and I hope it translates well to the pieced top.

I was inspired by traditional Welsh quilting designs, as well as Gaelic/Celtic motifs. These photos give a sense of the design. Lighting is everything, isn’t it? :/

And these should give some idea of the process. Jim was a big help in thinking through drawing and transferring the design. First we spread the quilt top on the table and covered it with plexiglass. Jim put a clamp on either end so the plexi wouldn’t slide while we worked with it. We experimented with different markers and methods of drawing arcs. You can see the outer border in these two pix.

Once I was happy with the designs for the borders (outside border above, corner blocks, and the hourglass border,) we removed the quilt top and placed a piece of batting under the plexiglass. The batting was simply to put a light background under the plexi so the blue lines would show. Then I traced the designs onto the Golden Threads paper.

I cut more pieces of paper to stack with the traced ones, and I stapled each stack together. The staples keep the pieces of paper from shifting.

Each stapled stack of paper had the pencil tracing on top. I used a basting stitch and no thread in the longarm to punch the design through the whole stack. I made enough to do both the practice quilt and the real thing. One thing I found was that pinning the papers to the quilt made the paper warp and pucker. After a couple of times like that, I simply stabbed long pins through, clear up to their heads. There were enough of them to keep the paper from moving much, and the paper stayed flatter to the fabric.

The next two pictures show the muslin on the frame, after quilting the first border and also after removing the paper. In truth, it took as long to remove the paper as to quilt it. The paper tears away pretty easily, but of course you have to be careful not to stress the stitches too much. Also it comes off in big pieces and tiny shreds. I brought a vacuum cleaner in with hose attachment, and cleaned up the little bits with that. (I also vacuumed everything in the room once I was done, as I’m sure lots got away.)

You can see by the picture above that the quilted lines are not smooth and crisp as they are in the blue marker drawing. I chose to do the spirals as roses, so that was intentional. As for the rest, the longarm is large and heavy and hard to maneuver smoothly. I am not experienced with rulers, so wasn’t able to perfect them that way. While I wasn’t thrilled with the look at first, I quickly decided to embrace the wobbliness. As long as it covers the quilt evenly, it doesn’t look like a mistake. ūüôā

Next to do on this project is to load the real deal, change the needle, change the thread to white, and get started quilting. The actual quilting time is not huge, so I hope to have it quilted by the end of the week.


The Perfect Set-Up

Remember the fun we have as the year turns, defining our resolutions or choosing a word of the year? For the last few years I’ve tried the “word” game. When it’s working well, I have my word in mind often, and consider how to move my life more in line with the word’s intended values.

This year, I’ll admit, I haven’t thought much about my word. Actually, it’s two three words, “challenge and opportunity.” My intention is to see barriers or obstacles — and problems! — as chances for creativity and growth, and to face opportunities bravely, even when they are hard. But while I haven’t thought much about it, I’ve been living it. My quilty world has been rife with opportunities for growth, for re-engagement with my guild, for creativity in my quilting, and for cultivating speaking and teaching gigs.

One personal challenge I set was to create a special red and white quilt for my guild’s upcoming quilt show. I’ve shown you the unquilted top already.

Creating the top presented challenges of its own, including interpreting the original quilt in a way that would honor it, learning to paper piece those triangle borders, and appliquéing various parts of the motif.

Originally I planned to have it quilted professionally. For various reasons, including encouragement from my brother, I decided to do it myself. As you can see, it is a challenge and an opportunity! 

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on a plan, including both design and implementation. For the stitching design, I’m inspired by Welsh hand-quilting motifs. My draft includes double arches and spirals, among other traditional elements.

Implementation is multi-steps. To start, I’m drafting the design with markers on plexiglass sheets, overlaid on the quilt top. I’ll transfer the design to a product called “Golden Threads” paper, a specialty tissue paper intended for quilting right through, and tearing away. If this works, it will allow me to avoid marking on the quilt top itself. I’d rather not, as I don’t want marking to stain the white fabric.

I’ll test the Golden Threads paper with a first go, which will also allow me to practice the shapes. I have a muslin whole-cloth top the same size as the red and white top. It won’t have the same effect without the piecing, but I’ll be able to tell whether the whole plan will work or not.

The muslin backing is loaded on the longarm frame, and I have batting the right size, as well as the top. Within a few days I’ll start quilting it. I’ll do the borders at each end (top and bottom,) and stabilize it through the middle with basting. Then I’ll take the whole thing off the frame and turn it 90¬į, reload it, quilt the other borders, and quilt the middle. IF it all works okay (learning as I go, I’m sure,) I’ll use the same process on the real deal.

Wow. This is the perfect set-up for challenge and opportunity. Wish me luck.

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. ‚ÄúWhat 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.‚ÄĚ

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 appliqu√©… 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!” ūüôā And that was even better.


Medallion Design Basics Presentation and Trunk Show

A week ago I had the pleasure of presenting to the DeKalb County Quilters’ Guild in Sycamore, IL. My topic was medallion design basics, including examples of design concepts such as unity, balance, movement, and value. I also discussed the components of the medallion format, including the center block, the first borders, intermediate borders, and last borders. Each has a role to play in creating a cohesive design.

Besides the slide show, I brought 11 quilts with me. I asked the guild members to notice a few things generally. In particular, few of my center blocks are very spectacular themselves, though generally they are bold in their sizing and values. Most of my blocks are pretty simple, variations on Ohio Stars or churndashes or the like. None are elaborate Mariner’s compass blocks, or intricately appliqued designs. Those are wonderful centers for medallions, but you don’t need fancy to achieve a great quilt.

What do you need? You need something interesting to look at. The center block is the natural focal point. The borders around the center direct the eye to and from it with differences and similarities in shape, color, and value. Repetition of shapes, especially when varying sizes, creates interest. Repeated similar colors or patterns, with some variations, make us seek out just what the differences are. Diagonal lines are effective in giving a sense of movement, and half-square triangles are an easy way to provide that motion. Variations are as important as repetitions. Too much of one leads to chaos; too much of the other leads to boredom. As with all else, balance is key.

Jim joined me at the meeting, helping to set up and tear down. He also took the following photos.

quilts on racks

Before we began, three of my quilts hung.


Three quilts from my Medallion Sew Along, with good examples of balance, value, color, and shape.

beginning the talk

Great audience of 75 or 80. They use a church hall for meetings.

my medallion

Me pointing out one of my un-spectacular center blocks. Not fancy but it works well!

In addition, Doris Rice, a member of DCQG, allowed me to share her photos. Her complete blog post can be found here. Thank you, Doris! So lovely to meet you.

Flip side

The Flip Side. They also like the back.

Garden Party

Garden Party

Stained Glass Too

Stained Glass Too. Another un-spectacular center, gussied up.

wide view

Quite a contrast in styles.

I enjoyed meeting the guild and sharing my quilts with them. If your guild is interested in a session on medallion quilts, give me a holler.

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.