Tag Archives: teaching

Presentations in 2017

I still have openings for presentations and workshops in 2017. And it’s not too early to book for 2018! I’m located in east central Iowa and can travel.

Contact me at catbirdquilts @ gmail.com for more information or to schedule guild presentations or classes.



Medallion Quilts Design Basics

What challenges do medallion quilts present? Learn the basics of medallion quilt design principles, including unity, symmetry, balance, proportion, and movement. Find out how to achieve these with color, value, shape and size, line, and placement. Mixed presentation including PowerPoint slides and trunk show. Approximately 1 hour.

The Underground Railroad Quilt Code: History, Mystery, or Bunk?

Were quilts used to help slaves escape? What codes might have been used to convey information to fugitive slaves? What was the legal, economic, and political environment during the Underground Railroad years? This class looks at pre-Civil War history and existing evidence on the quilt code. Approximately 1 hour.

The Mill Girls, Revolutionaries in America

Who were the Mill Girls and where did they come from? What part did they play in changing America forever? How did the textile industry in which they worked propel slavery in the U.S.?  Learn the fascinating stories about how these girls and young women drove the industrial revolution in America,  led the labor and women’s rights movements, and helped bring quilters to where we are today. Approximately 1 hour.

Collaborative Quilting and Round Robins

Most of us collaborate in our quilting, using patterns designed by others or creating with partners. Round robins are group projects that pass through the hands of a number of quilters. Round robins are fun and challenging, stretching quilters’ creative powers. Learn about the joys and challenges of collaborative quilting, including sample rules for round robins. Approximately 1 hour.


UntitledHaving Fun with Economy Blocks

Learn to make Economy blocks the size you want for a setting you love. Using them alone, you can create fun and stunning scrap quilts. Brainstorm other ways to use these versatile blocks and begin to see the possibilities. You’ll learn how alternate blocks can create a sparkling secondary design. You’ll see other settings such as in borders, medallion centers, or as the beginning of a great modern quilt. This one-day workshop is fun for quilters of all skill levels.

Medallions for Beginning Quilters

Can you measure and cut accurately and sew a pretty good 1/4″ seam? Have you noticed all the modern medallion quilts around and want to get in on the fun? Or maybe you love the history and beauty of traditional medallions. Join me to learn some basic medallion techniques. You’ll improve your 1/4″ seam, chain-piece, press, and construct five basic blocks. We’ll cover multiple methods to make half-square triangles and flying geese, so you can choose what works best for you. With blocks in hand you’ll assemble them into a medallion quilt top. This 5-session class is for confident beginners.

Medallion Improv!

This Design-As-You-Go class will show you strategies and techniques to customize a medallion quilt. Whether you love modern style, traditional, or somewhere in between, your imagination and favorite fabrics will create a quilt unique to you! You’ll learn how to create a center block to serve as your focal point and inspiration; choose and size borders to enhance the center block and each other; and lots of tricks for dealing with color, shape, value, balance, and unity. This 5-session class is for the experienced quilter who isn’t afraid to design her own quilts or change patterns to suit her own vision. Class size is limited due to extensive discussion time needed.

Contact me at catbirdquilts @ gmail.com for more information or to schedule guild presentations or classes.


May Review

My goodness, it’s hard to think we’ve just stepped into a new month. But frankly, I had enough of May. Good things happened, bad things happened, a lot changed, a lot stayed the same… At times the stress level was more than I cared to deal with. But deal with it we do, right? I am learning better ways to “deal” all the time. Is that maturity on the menu? I’ll take a double order, please!

In the monthly run-down, this time I’ll start with some good things that happened in the month.

Good Things We Celebrate
1) At the beginning of the month Jim and I traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Our fabulous future daughter-in-law was awarded her master’s degree that weekend. Besides celebrating with her, her parents (who live about a mile from us), and her sister, we also enjoyed seeing our son.
2) Speaking of our son, he had good news, too. He’s now been in the Air Force for two years and was promoted to First Lieutenant. Much more exciting than that, he completed his C-17 training and now is qualified as a co-pilot on one of the largest airplanes in the military.

1) Last month I started two quilts and finished two quilts. I started Marquetry in April and finished it in May. This was one of two projects I began for the Medallion Improv! class I taught recently.  Marquetry was fun and went together more easily than some.

Marquetry. 87″ square. Finished May 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

2) My other class quilt was the fairy. I used the long-arm to quilt small posies over most of the surface. I am hand-quilting an outline around her. My stitching is bad. (Yes. Really.) But it will be a wall-hanging and anyone who sees the bad stitching on the back will deserve it, for having looked. She is not done. Hopefully I can finish the project in June.

3) I built two sets of borders for the fairy quilt that I didn’t use. One was a set of puss-in-the-corner blocks. I made 32 of them and pretty quickly knew they were wrong for it. But they were lovely little blocks! I matched them up with 31 unpieced alternate blocks to make a sweet baby quilt. No pictures of it yet. When I have pix, I’ll share.

4) My last big project for the month currently is unnamed. I have to build the final border of half-square triangles and finish assembly to complete the top. I hope to have a finished quilt within a week or so.

Readin’ and Writin’
1) I wrote and published 11 posts in Catbird Quilt Studios and 1 post in Our View From Iowa.
2) I celebrated my 300th post on this blog!
3) Much to my surprise, I’ve been able to keep on my goal of reading approximately two books per month. Last month I read Linchpin by Seth Godin.  I love Seth’s blog. He primarily writes about creating a more valuable product. That includes knowing who your customer is, how to raise support, giving without expectation of returns, and the importance of shipping — actually getting product to your customer. He discusses some of the issues that keep us from achieving these, including fear. Unfortunately, the book read much like a bunch of blog posts strung together, rather than as one cohesive whole. I probably won’t read other books by him, but I don’t think I wasted my time reading Linchpin.
4) The other book I finished in May was delightful. Odd and the Frost Giants is a fable of a boy from the far north, whose village cannot break free from winter. Neil Gaiman wrote this story full of beautiful imagery and suspense. Though it sounds like a children’s book, I wouldn’t recommend it for children younger than double-digits. Adults surely will enjoy it.

1) I try to incorporate experiments in my quilts. The fairy quilt has several experimental elements, including the hand-quilting. My current project is full of them, too. Once it is done, I’ll tell you about a few of them.
2) A lot of my cooking is experimental. One meal I enjoyed in Ann Arbor was a black bean tortilla wrap. I tried to imitate it at home, and we enjoyed them enough to make them again. I will say, using stronger cheese and a little avocado really makes them better!

My life is full and I am very blessed.


Last evening I finished Marquetry. (Thanks to Kate for this quilt’s name. She said it reminded her of inlay marquetry. When I saw the photos she linked, I knew it was right.)


Marquetry. 87″ square. Finished May 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

I started this quilt for my Medallion Improv! class. When I teach (and blog,) my goal is to help quilters make their quilt, not mine. So for the class I started two quilts of vastly different styles. Doing so, and making my quilts along with theirs, helps show that the process works regardless of style or fabrics used.

The class template is for a 60″ quilt. This gives a guideline for people to follow if they want, but at least half of my students go rogue, either ignoring the template altogether or deviating at some point. Both of my quilts deviated this time, because it was the right thing to do for the quilt. Marquetry is substantially larger at 87″ square. I did follow the template through the first 60″ (the large red/light half-square triangles) but it wasn’t done yet.

A few process/evaluation comments
The overall feel is exactly what I hoped for. With the dark reds and black Jacobean print, the quilt could have been very serious and dreary. What I wanted was joyful and bright, and that’s what was achieved. The cheddar (orange) color adds zing, and the strong value contrast (lots of cream/white/light values) keeps the quilt from getting gloomy.

The proportion and balance are good with Marquetry, better than I achieved in XX’s Quilt, below. And Marquetry is happy, while XX’s seems very serious.

One of the design issues I faced was the HST border in greens and creams. The first time I tried their placement, I ran them in a sawtooth around. (No! I did NOT sew them together like that! This is a thing you try before stitching!) But I hated them and thought I would scratch that border altogether. But HST can be placed many different ways, so always try a few out before deciding what to do. Once I set them in their tumbling pattern, I knew they would work just fine, and in fact echo the hourglasses near the center.

One of the few “weirdnesses” to note is something other people might not notice. In general, I am careful with my corners, because corners are a focal point in medallions. The diagonal lines they create draw attention, so that attention should be positive, not negative. In this case I didn’t coordinate the corners at all. I made each corner only relative to its own border. As your eye moves outward from the center, most every corner is different in design. Though I mention this, in fact it doesn’t bother me on this particular quilt. There is enough (deliberate) busyness of design that the corner differences don’t stand out. Yep. I guess that’s why it works okay here.

I started with an economy block for the very center, which I made late last year. The fussy-cut medallion print was from a yard I bought in Boulder City, NV, after Jim and I visited Hoover Dam in 2011. I’ve used it in a similar way in two other quilts, also shown below. Note, also, that I used it in outer corners in all three quilts. Likely I won’t use it this way again. 🙂


Marquetry. 87″ square. Finished May 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

XX's Quilt. 75" x 75". Begun with a medallion print purchased in Boulder City, NV. Finished in February 2015.

XX’s Quilt. 75″ x 75″. Begun with a medallion print purchased in Boulder City, NV. Finished in February 2015.

A wedding quilt, about 78″ square. February 2013.

My verdict? Success! This quilt makes me happy to look at it. It uses really simple blocks but looks complex. I think it was a great example for my class.

April Review

I’m still on my break (and probably will be for another two or three weeks) but thought I’d touch base with my monthly review for April.

1) At the beginning of April I began teaching Medallion Improv! It’s a 5-week workshop on creating a medallion quilt without a pattern. The participants are just as involved as I am in discussing their work and brainstorming ideas to solve challenges. Though they all are experienced quilters, they learn about how various design elements work together to create a whole composition. The usual question is on what to do next, to fix a technical problem or to repeat a color or change proportions. In talking through what they’ve done and what’s next, we all improve at seeing what is there, as well as the possibilities.

2) I began two projects to do with the class, so they could see my struggles with, and answers to, the same types of challenges they face. My projects have very different natures on purpose. The first is very traditional, in the sense that it is in muted colors and uses traditional blocks and styling.

The template we use for class creates a 60″ square quilt. Once I saw how this one was going together, I decided I want it bed-sized, rather than buddy-sized. This photo shows you the 60″ version. I’m still debating about how to finish it, which will determine its final size. Thanks, Jim, for the photo.


Class project, currently unnamed. 60″ so far, but not done yet. Photo by Jim Ruebush

3) My other project is less traditional. This one created puzzles every step of the way. The fourth border in my template is 5″ wide. I made two different versions of that width border. Ultimately the fairy didn’t want more borders. She was done with three. This also is unquilted. At only 35″ square, I can use an unpieced length of yardage for the back, which saves a step.


I Found the Housework Fairy But She’s Not Coming Back. Unquilted. 35″.

4) At the end of April my “small group” met for lunch and a little shopping. We are very fortunate in this area to have several quilt shops within a short drive. We stopped at two, and I think everyone made a small purchase or two. I bought a fat quarter and a half yard, both on sale.

Readin’ and Writin’
1) I wrote and published 16 posts in Catbird Quilt Studios and 1 post in Our View From Iowa. And I worked on several things for upcoming posts.
2) I read (enough of) On Becoming An Artist by Ellen J. Langer. She writes about mindfulness as it applies to creativity. The book is about 225 pages of text, which is at least 50 pages more than needed. A professor of psychology at Harvard, she discusses her research in laymens’ terms. While there were some interesting nuggets there, I didn’t get a lot from the book, really. It’s good to have a public library, so we can read without investing more dollars into individual books.
3) I love story quilts and have long intended to make one. I’m getting closer, with the Garden Party and even the Fairy, shown above. Perhaps the best-known story quilter is Mary Lou Weidman. I enjoyed her book Out of the Box again, both reading text and marveling at the photos. A thing to note: most of the quilts she shows are medallion quilts. 😉
4) After having trouble downloading and accessing library books on my nook, I found the key to making that work again. Recently I finished Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. In truth, I was ambivalent about the book, whether to finish or not, clear up to the last page. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it. But it did keep my interest.
5) Another e-book I’ve started is The Art of Non-Conformity, by Chris Guillebeau. I downloaded it as part of my test to see if I could make the process work. It’s a self-help book offering encouragement to live your dreams. If this one is worth my time, it will be in leading me to think more deeply about my priorities.

I Found the Housework Fairy But She’s Not Coming Back (shown above) is full of experiments. From the curved insets in the center block to the floating plus blocks, to the half-blocks on point in one of the unused borders, I tried several new things. I’ve also explored a number of border ideas for the reds/black/cheddar/green quilt. As mentioned above, I’m still debating how to finish that.

1) I spend a lot of time by myself and a lot of time on the computer. But RPT (Real People Time) is important to me. Tuesday I enjoyed some time with a dear niece, and I’ve had some social time with other people over the month, too.
2) Jim and I continue to get out, walking most days in our neighborhood. Also I’ve started climbing stairs. My studio is in the lower level of our home, so I’m up and down the stairs all the time anyway. But now I’m adding 20-30 or more extra flights a day, on purpose. The hardest part is keeping count. All the walking and stair climbing are satisfying in their own right, but they also help prep me for some hiking we’ve yet to do this year.
3) All the hard work must be paying off. I had my annual exam recently and am (as expected) really really healthy.

My life is full and I am very blessed.

March Review

My goodness, time flies! Here we are with a quarter of the year done. But that means there’s still a lot of time left to work on projects of all kinds. Besides quilting projects, what I work hardest on is being a kinder, more patient person, who listens more carefully, pays attention more completely, and responds more thoughtfully. I believe I’m making progress but certainly have plenty of work to do.

March saw progress in other areas, even though I was gone from home almost half the month. Jim and I took a road trip to South Carolina early in the month. We saw family and a friend, hiked, and visited the National Quilt Museum in Paducah. We ate a lot of wonderful food, enjoyed some good laughs, and experienced a wide range of weather. And I took another trip last week.

Here’s a little run-down of what I did get done.

1) Finished my Garden Party (Tree of Life) quilt, which I started in February. Tuesday I finished quilting it and got the binding done by machine. I don’t have fresh pictures of the finished project, but here is the top before quilting. This quilt has an owner (who will receive it as a gift,) but Jim and I are going to enjoy it for a while before sending it away.

Garden Party, aka Tree of Life. 62" x 68". Center panel by Julie Paschkis for In the Beginning fabrics

Garden Party, aka Tree of Life. Top prior to quilting. 62″ x 68″. Center panel by Julie Paschkis for In the Beginning fabrics

2) Finished my bonus quilt called “Stained Glass Too.” It is a bonus because I started it using 12 hourglass blocks left over from anther project. I started this in February, too. I finished the binding by hand last night.

Stained Glass Too. Top prior to quilting. 66" x 70"

Stained Glass Too. Top prior to quilting. 66″ x 70″

3) I attended the Chicago International Quilt Festival on March 26-27, with my sister Cathie. We enjoyed seeing all the exhibit quilts. Some didn’t capture our imagination, but many were inspiring. We also shopped in the vendor area and I picked up some loot! Fun for the future!

Readin’ and Writin’
1) I wrote and published 16 posts in Catbird Quilt Studios and 2 posts in Our View From Iowa. And I worked on several things for upcoming posts.
2) I read all the time but mostly online. However I did enjoy a book while on vacation, John Grisham’s The Summons.
3) I heard from the publisher about my book proposal. They are not interested. I haven’t decided what to do next, and am not in a hurry to decide.

I can’t think of experiments other than how I did the binding on the Garden Party. I use double-fold straight-grain binding. I tip I saw on a video said to press the strip into fourths, I guess quadruple-fold. When machine finishing, it gives the fold for turning the binding to the other side, making the machine stitching simpler. You don’t need to fight the strip while trying to get a straight line of stitching. There were things I liked about the process and things I didn’t like. Not sure if I will use it again.

1) I was the featured speaker for a local organization’s monthly meeting. My topic was the Underground Railroad Quilt Code.
2) I worked on prepping for my Medallion Improv class, which starts tomorrow. It’s a fun, five-session class that teaches my Design As You Go method for creating medallions. Many quilters never work without a pattern, or at least a traditional block and setting. Medallions are a great way to expand your skills and your vision.
3) Jim and I visited the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY. On our way there we stopped to see Superman in Metropolis, IL. And once we reached South Carolina, we hiked with our friend Ben.

Between travel and my projects at home, my life is full and I am very blessed.