Browsing Tag


Solve Crime in the Ancient Pyramids in 2020!

Quilting club heads to Egypt

When I dreamed up the Murder Mystery Quilt, I never imagined even for an instant all the places it would take me.  Around the world, it turns out.

The short origin story of the Murder Mystery Quilt, when I tell it at cocktail parties to people who don’t sew and who think quilts are something they dig out of Gramma’s closet or see in a museum display, goes more or less like this: there’s a product in the world of quilting where portions of the quilt are sewn without ever seeing the finished design, like making a puzzle without the box top lid, but the word “mystery” always made me think, “If I’m going to make a quilt and not know how it’ll turn out, I should at least be solving a MURDER mystery!”  And thus I developed the idea of sewing a quilt to solve a crime.

Murder Mystery Quilt 2020


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Quilt and Solve Crime in 2019!

MMQ pistol wide 2019 blog post

Four years ago, I had a wild idea.  I didn’t really think anyone would go along with it, if I’m being honest: who on earth would think a MURDER mystery quilt was a fun idea?

Not just me, it turns out.

Mystery quilts have been around forever, of course.  The idea that you’re building a quilt block by block, but without knowing for sure what the end result will be, is exciting and challenging in equal measure.  It asks us to trust the designer, trust the process, and maybe surrender a little of the perfectionism and second-guessing that plague anyone who works to create something new and beautiful.

Screen Shot 2019-01-23 at 6.07.22 PM

For a long time, I would ask, sort of as a gag, “Why make a mystery quilt when you can make a MURDER mystery quilt??”  In my head, in ways I didn’t really confess to others (because I haven’t always gotten good results out of wearing my heart on my sleeve, and this seemed like one of those times when sewing was about MORE than sewing), I liked the idea that not only would we then be surrendering the gremlins in our heads that poke insecurity and uncertainty into our creative endeavors, but that also the pieces could go together to answer questions.  It’s all for fun, it’s all pretend, but y’all: there are days when I will hitch my wagon to ANY illusion of certainty and control in this unsteady world.  Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

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The Murder Mystery Quilt: Sew It to Solve It

FOR THE 2020 PROJECT, VISIT The Murder Mystery Quilt SITE!

In the first grade, when I was six years old, my class did a unit on Ancient Egypt.  I was, as most children are, completely mesmerized.  The story of Howard Carter and his tenacious pursuit of discovery was–and remains, nearly 100 years later–absolutely captivating.  I adored hearing my teacher read, quietly and with appropriate pauses, of those moments when Carter at last, decades after beginning his search, approached the entrance to what he believed to be the greatest tomb in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings.  I held my breath as Carter and his workmen punched a small hole in the plaster to open up a tomb that had been sealed for millennia.  And I gasped when Carter’s financial sponsor for his quest asked if he could see anything by the light of the candle he thrust through that opening, and Carter replied, “Yes, wonderful things!”

quilted sewing machine cover

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Organic Acorns Quilt Finished!

I’ve decided to call this quilt Organic Acorns, after playing with some other ideas.  I really enjoyed sitting down with this half yard bundle and not thinking too much, just laying the fabric on the floor and using giant chunks and smaller chunks and seeing what happened.  If a piece was too short, I added a bit; if it was too long, I lopped it off; and I moved bits around until I was satisfied.  It’s still pretty rectolinear, and doesn’t have any wonky lines, but the process was such an easy, unplanned one that the “organic” name seems to fit.

The back was the same process: I had a couple yards of the acorn print and knew I wanted to use it for the backing, and then simply filled in with the smaller bits left over from the front in order to get to the right size.  Easy, peasy.

No matter how long I look at it, the yellow continues to be my favorite part.  It’s just the right shade of yellow, obviously.  And so I picked up on that and used a yellow chevron print from Moda for the binding.  In some ways, I can see that using a chevron that way was a waste–you can’t even tell it was chevrons and not stripes–but I love that the angles change over the body of the quilt, and the color was so perfect.  Plus, so much of this quilt is large pieces of fabric that the white balance with the yellow seemed just right for the binding.

Somehow, just that little splash of extra yellow on each edge makes the whole quilt so cheerful and sweet!

For the quilting, I knew I wanted to try a couple different things, but couldn’t decide which: either a large, chrysanthemum-y floral design or a wavy line, both of which I’d seen recently and was super intrigued by.  And then I had a brainstorm: why not use both, together?  Part of me thought that might be too much and overwhelm, and then I decided, “Big deal.”  And I love how it turned out.

For the flowers, I used the Flower Power design from Angela Walters‘ new book, Free-Motion Quilting.  So easy to do, and you can make the flowers any size you choose!  It was fun to see how the smaller ones, in groups, varied from the biggest ones, which I let just grow and grow and grow.  For the wavy lines, I used my walking foot and the #4 stitch on my Bernina, stretched out to the longest stitch length.  Very simple, even if all the stopping and starting to make the lines appear to lie behind the flowers was a little tedious.

It has already been washed and dried and is super crinkly and fabulous.  Note to self, though: be sure to trim ALL the bits of thread before putting it in the wash next time–what a tangled mess all those missed threads became!  I had to lay out the wet quilt between the washer and dryer and go back and get the ones I hadn’t caught the first time around, and it was such a pain.

One of my favorite parts now, as I get to stand back a bit and look it over, is these bits and pieces that surprise me, where I had smaller leftovers and just used them whole in random places.  So fun to find little treasures like that tucked away in spots around the quilt.

And who could ever get enough of these acorns??  I think I have mentioned before that my graduate thesis was an experimental analysis of acorns as a staple food stuff in the prehistoric Southeastern United States.  (And it was every bit as fascinating to read as it sounds, I can assure you.)  So acorns–and by extension, oaks and squirrels–have become a recurring symbol around my house.  This quilt is for ME and me alone–first time I’ve been able to say that!

See how great that yellow is along the edge, and how it makes all the colors in the rest of the quilt pop?  I love the quilting step the best, but I suspect that my true gift when it comes to making quilts lies in choosing the binding–it’s the one part where I usually feel really confident and pleased about my selections.  A bit of an odd super power, but there it is, all the same.

I meant to finish this whole project when we were away at the lake last week for the Fourth, but after packing and dragging all my supplies plus my machine, I discovered I had left my power cord and foot pedal behind.  Such a rookie mistake!  And a total bummer, since I was really looking forward to having this quilt to lounge upon while we were there.  Ah, well.  The hammock was just as good.

What was the last project that YOU made just for you and only you?  The last time you jumped in and just started sewing without over-thinking or planning it a whole bunch?  I hardly ever let myself do that–what a relaxing project this was.  And I think that the feeling I got while making it will stick with it–my new relaxation quilt.  Woot!

Essential Quilting Begins Today!

The Essential Quilting e-course started today, and I am thrilled!  We’re doing so much more than just “learning to quilt.”  The class covers all the foundational skills, but also targets a lot of quilting concepts that I think get overlooked and that we would all benefit from thinking about more analytically–like how to choose fabric and put them together, how to use varying scales of print to make a harmonious whole, different settings to use for your blocks that go beyond rows and columns, and which binding technique will give the finished result you’re looking to achieve.  I want every student who takes this class to come away and feel as though they’ve not just had an online class, but really have gained the experience and confidence to tackle any quilt out there–we’re learning curved seams and inset seams and matching seams and triangles and all kinds of awesome stuff.

I have just a couple spots still open–wouldn’t you like to join us?  Register here and snag them today before they’re gone, and I’ll see you in class!  We’ve got folks from six countries on four continents, and it is a very, very cool group.  You’d make it even more awesome!

Essential Quilting E-Course Now Registering!

Over the past two years, I have taught the Your First (Modern) Quilt class to dozens of (amazingly cool, smart, awesome) women, and it has been incredible amounts of fun.  Last year, I taught the class as an e-course, and this year I was inspired to offer it again–but this time, with a new format and some fun twists!  This class is a four-week online quilting course that covers all the foundational basics, from choosing fabric and cutting it straight through sewing a perfect seam allowance and working with triangles and curves, all the way up to the quilting stitches and the finishing touches.  It includes not just video, audio, and tons of images in daily lessons but also printable bonus patterns, interviews, live chats, and a ton of support and loving inspiration.  I really hope you’ll dive in and join us–June is going to ROCK OUT.  See all the details on the Essential Quilting page, and snag a spot while you can!

Domestic Bliss Quilt

My Domestic Bliss quilt top is finished!  And it has already been on vacation!  We headed up to the lake this weekend, following my appearance at the Festival of Alabama Fiber Arts in Montgomery, and spent the first few days of the kids’ Spring Break enjoying this shockingly unseasonable weather at the waterfront.

This is the 1600 quilt, which is almost obnoxiously easy to stitch up.  We did it for the Whipstitch Winter Sewing Retreat this year, and sincerely: my retreat quilt top took about an hour and a quarter to stitch the entire quilt top (which makes me think it’s a great option to make a teacher gift for that teacher who’s wonderful but you don’t have weeks and weeks to make a more complex quilt to gift–just a thought as we zoom toward the close of the school year).  I did not angle the ends of my jelly roll strips (you can still get yardage of this collection!), just stitched them straight-on, but I did cut off the 18″ on the end of the first strip, to stagger the joins across the body of the quilt.

The back was just a handful of Domestic Bliss half-yards that I had on hand when I completed the quilt top and was too ready to keep going to head to the shop and buy yardage of a single print.  I love a pieced back, anyway, and think this one turned out especially well.  I pin basted the whole thing together while re-watching Season 2 of Downton Abbey on Netflix.  Oh, yeah.

See how perfect it was on the lake this weekend?  The weather was obscene–85 degrees every day–and the sky was a picture-perfect blue.  The ducks kept swimming past the dock, and the children even SWAM.  IN APRIL.  Craziness.  Our eldest wanted to lay out and get some sun (with lots of sunscreen, naturally), so I dug out a pillow I made for Stitch by Stitch whose colors work with the quilt and voila: instant beach.

I wanted to try a new quilting design on this one, and had one in my head that I was trying to work out.  Then my dear friend Kim sent me a link to Denyse Schmidt’s new book, and whaddya know?  That was the exact design I’d been searching for!  (I think I must have tucked it away in the back of my brain after seeing some images from the book at the Heather Ross retreat in January, but now that I have the book, I find the pattern completely captivating.)  I learned this weekend from a lovely quilter named Agnes that this is called a wishbone pattern, and it was seriously fun and simple to quilt with free-motion.  Lots of practice, though, to get all those swooshes evenly sized, which is one reason I was grateful the 1600 quilt is such a quick one to piece: I didn’t mind doing some experimenting on a quilt that hadn’t required a huge time investment to piece, and the visual busyness of the jelly roll strips and these prints was sure to hide any errors.

At first, I thought I could free-hand the whole design, and just swoosh it out without needing any marking or guidelines.  But that first row sure does slant to the right a good bit, and I wanted them to be more even than that.  So after row 1, I took the whole quilt and marked 4″ increments down the length of it.  From there on, I swooshed between the lines, making a much more even result.  There was a little 2″+ section leftover, so on the edge of the quilt, I free-motioned in our little girls’ names in cursive along the edge, since this will be their “backup” quilt in their room.

Fabulous weekend, and if I do say so myself, fantastic quilt.  It’s small–about 48″ x 55″ or so–but it’s just right for sitting under to read or lying on to read or tucking around your legs as you read…  Clearly, I am in Vacation Mode, where all I want to do is READ.  (Checked off on this lake visit: a re-read of all three of the Hunger Games novels.  Woot!  Thanks, honey, for letting me lollygag!)

And what could be better thanks than seeing your child giggle with delight at her new quilt??  All those years I thought I’d never be a quilter because it was “for old ladies” and I couldn’t imagine where it would fit in my life–I laugh when I look back.  Because now, I laugh when I look forward and see what a big part of my sewing and my family quilts and quilting have become.

Domestic Bliss Quilt Top for the Meetup!

I am frantically trying to complete the quilting on this Domestic Bliss jelly roll quilt so I can take it with me tonight to the meetup and sew on the binding.  Will I see you there?

Also: couldn’t resist sharing this image, which I discovered on my camera when I uploaded these photos.  Our son would be the one behind the camera, finger on the button, despite ceaseless warnings to keep his sticky little hands to himself.  Clearly the youngest is unconcerned, but I suspect the elder is working up the vocal support to remind her brother of just how much trouble he’s about to be in.  This is what the mice do when Mommy’s out of the room!  Ha!

WIP: Man Woobie

Thrifted: five men’s dress shirts in various muted shades.

Assembled: a quick quilt top, from 11″ squares cut from the larger sections of the shirts.

Quilted: with grey perle cotton.

In progress: but honestly, not really loving it as much as I’d like.  Something’s not quite right.  There seems to be a very fine line between “muted and manly” and “unattractive,” and I think this one has its foot firmly planted on that line.  I wanted to do something that was outside my comfort zone–which is to say, that wasn’t electric-bright colors and whimsical dots–and this certainly is.  As a result, it’s harder for me to evaluate whether I’ve achieved success.

The plan: to keep pushing on through, in the hopes that when I get to the other side, I won’t hate it but rather that something will reveal itself to me.  My default, fall back plan is that if the hand quilting fails to capture my imagination and redeem the palette (which I admit is so far outside of my own Spring palette that I can’t be sure I even know the names of these colors), I’ll take out the hand quilting and machine quilt in a wide chevron.  Because everyone loves a chevron.

Other options I considered for this project:

  • all flannel shirts
  • all seams flat fell, with no backing or batting–just a single layer of flannel with reinforced seams
  • larger pieces cut as wedges from the sleeves, then assembled at angles
  • whole-cloth man quilt, made from a single cut of flannel

LIVE Quilting Event on Saturday!

This Saturday, from 12-4, a sewing event that you’ll love: LIVE quilting!  We’re bringing three quilters into the shop for the afternoon, each of them working on quilting a project from start to finish: we’ll baste, we’ll quilt, we’ll talk, we’ll snack, it’ll be awesome!

I have had so many students over the years who were intimidated to begin piecing and quilting, and it was this stage that scared them the most: actually putting in the quilting stitches.  So few of us grew up in homes where we saw quilting take place in front of us, and were able to ask the questions we want to ask but don’t want anyone to know we don’t know the answers.  Like, where do you PUT all that quilt when you’re tucking it under the machine?  And, can you really do a good job quilting on your home sewing machine?  Or, what are the different types of quilting, and why would I choose one over another?

We’ll have a hand-quilter, one quilt being stitched using straight lines and a walking foot, and another being polished off with free-motion quilting (it’s all the rage with the cool, modern quilting kids).  With light refreshments on hand (or bring your own!), we’ll answer questions, let you look and lurk, hang out and chat, and enjoy one another’s company while these quilts get quilted.  It’s such a cool opportunity to meet other folks who are Your People, to spend a soothing afternoon hearing the hum of the sewing machine, and learning things maybe you didn’t know already.

Saturday, November 12, 2011 from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

Whipstitch Atlanta: 1000 Marietta St, Suite 102, West Midtown

Totally FREE and open to the public!

The Hardest Sewing I Have Ever Had To Do

This is the block the Trust Circle of do.Good Stitches made for October.  It’s the Greek Cross design, using the tutorial over at Fresh Lemons.  And it was so, so hard for me to sew.

I am the ninth member of my family to attend Florida State.  Our chief football rival?  The University of Florida.  Their colors?  Orange and blue.

My husband is the third generation of his family to graduate from the University of Alabama.  Their chief football rival?  Auburn University.  Their colors? Orange and blue.

It’s gotten so bad that I actually feel GUILTY anytime I sew orange fabric to blue fabric.  And this block–well, let’s just say I made both of these when my husband was out of the house and very promptly put them in an envelope to ship off to this month’s quilter.

Anybody else ever run into Football Guilt when sewing?  It feels silly, and yet: I can’t seem to shake it.  Fortunately, these blocks are going to a good cause, and I was more than willing to set my prejudices aside for a child who will love this quilt.  Like when you get a shot at the doctor: you know it’ll hurt, but you know it’s worth it in the end.

September do.Good Stitches Quilt

September was my month to be the quilter for the Trust Circle of do.Good Stitches, and this here’s the finished product.  I think it turned out rather well!

I asked for Card Trick blocks in blues and greens, and was really excited about what everyone produced.  The sashing was tough, I won’t lie–I would have gone with a default Kona white or snow, but some of the blocks were backed in near-whites, and a white sashing was washing those out and making them disappear.  Instead, I used a Robert Kaufman tone-on-tone yard-dyed green for the sashing and binding, and really love the depth it gives the blocks.

Backing is primarily a Keri Beyer print from a couple of years ago, along with some classic Amy Butler and a little square in the lower right corner containing a machine-appliqued heart and one of the do.Good Stitches logo labels Rachel sent over.

Our circle benefits foster children, and I’m hoping that any little boy or girl would feel the love that all of us put into this quilt!

Space Still Open in Modern Quilt E-Course!

There are still spots left in the Modern Quilt online class starting next Monday!  Read the full description here.  The e-course is primarily video instruction, along with photos, downloads, and some amazing audio interviews with folks like Elizabeth Hartman of Oh, Fransson!; Rachel of Stitched in Color; Sarah Fielke of Material Obsession fame; Amanda McPorkchop of Ms. McPorkchop Quilts and The Frosted Pumpkin; and Ashley from Film in the Fridge.  I know!  So many folks who are doing huge things in modern quilting right now, and you’ll ONLY hear these interviews as part of the online modern quilting class.  Check out the full list of traditional blocks we’ll be making as we work our way through learning core quilting skills, then register and hold on to your hat!  Woot!

Circa 1934, Subtle Announcement, and a Shameless Plug

It might be hard to tell, but this is a new quilt top using Circa 1934 from Cosmo Cricket.  I loved this collection at first sight, largely based on my unnatural interest in typefaces, and am so glad I scooped up some half yards when it came to the shop.  The green in these prints is very close to the green we’d like to paint the walls at the house that we CURRENTLY HAVE UNDER CONTRACT (see what I did there?), and with my husband’s (also unnatural) love for the Alabama Crimson Tide, this looks to be a nice way to tie his mantuary color scheme together with the wall color we’ve selected.

The vintage typewriter keys will be right at home with all the books we’re hoping to add to his basement man-shrine.  I dream of having my own smooshy chair in a cozy corner, under this lovely quilt, enjoying some chicken wing dip on a Saturday evening in the late fall while the Tide whoops UP on whomever they happen to be beating playing that week.

I would cheerfully show you more, but this is one of those projects whose destiny is already determined, and the full reveal will have to wait until I’m given permission to release photos and details.  Until then, this is really and truly the best I can do.

Shameless plug: you can totally make this very quilt using the skills you’ll learn in the Your First (Modern) Quilt e-course!  The class really isn’t just for first-time quilters–we get into more advanced blocks like the Dresden Plate, the Drunkard’s Path, and Tumbling Blocks, which lots of experienced quilters are too shy to try.  There’s still space left to brush up your quilting skills with an online class, and I’d love to have you there!

Yummy.  Am already itching with anticipation to show you the whole thing, but I really don’t like getting in trouble, so I’m going to be a good girl.  Mostly.