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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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!

On a Whim? On a Lark? Quilt Top

I’m thinking about calling this quilt something like “On a Whim” or “On a Lark,” because it was a total surprise that I put together a quilt top today–not what I was planning on doing with my afternoon.

I saw this fantastic acorn fabric months ago and ordered a half yard bundle near-instantly, what with my long-standing love-affair with all things acorn.  Actually, this is the SECOND bundle I ordered, since the first went to my old home address and the dude who bought our house refuses to forward our mail OR ship it back to the sender, and now has three half-yard bundles, an art print and a trivet shaped like a button that shipped from Germany that don’t belong to him, all ordered before I remembered to update my PayPal address–but I digress.  The main print with the sweet houses and squirrels is precious, and I got four yards of the acorn print because yes.

It has been sitting on the shelf since I got it, waiting for me to have an idea of how to use it all.  I knew I didn’t want to cut up the super cute squirrel village print, and I’ve been toying with the idea of a large-scale pieced front: mostly fat quarters or half yards all stuck together, similar to how I’ve done some of my favorite quilt backs.  This seemed like a good chance, and since the shipment of fabric I was waiting on to work on another project hadn’t arrived, I had some time to kill.  So why not play a bit?

I began by just laying out half yard chunks, planning to stitch them to one another and leave them nearly whole.  But it was lots of big pieces, and there wasn’t any variety in the sizing, which I like to see.  So I figured I’d make a few strip-pieced sections and match them up with some larger chunks, like the houses, which I knew I wouldn’t cut up.  Maybe I should call this “Organic Acorns,” since I don’t usually do a ton of organic or improvisational piecing…

Some of the strips are horizontal–the ones in the upper right corner–and some are vertical (in the left, above), and I worked to keep the one-way prints running the same direction with all of them.  Then I married the chunks with strips to larger pieces, trimmed them to length, and made four large sections that each run horizontally, right to left.  Anytime a piece of fabric wasn’t long enough or wide enough, I just tossed in another small strip until it was the size I needed.  It was really fun, actually, to not have a plan and to just pick up a print and chop off a bit and add it into the mix.

The zigzag was a little bit of an accident: I had a large section to fill at the bottom, and didn’t want to do more strips like I’d done above.  I didn’t want one large piece, either, since I felt the design needed some balance.  So the HST zigzag came out, and I totally love it.  To a certain degree, I think it makes the quilt, and seems like a leftover block from another project that got stitched in at the end–but in a good way.

I’m still deciding how to quilt this, but I suspect it will be some kind of organic cross-hatch pattern with my walking foot.  And no, this won’t be given away or shared with anyone–it’s ALL MINE.  The backing is yards and yards of the acorn print, and I love every scrap of it.  Plus, I think that someday, when my basement studio is all done, this will be spectacular for sitting on the cushion I plan to put on top of the under-window bookcases for sewing and reading.

Can’t you just feel the breeze when you look at it?  I really love the results.  Anyone have opinions for a name?  I’ve never bothered to give my quilts a name beyond the fabric collection I used to create them or the name of the block design, but I think this one really demands it.  Suggestions welcome!

Psst!  If you haven’t seen it already, there’s a giveaway through Sunday over at Film in the Fridge for a spot in my Essential Quilting class!  I’d really love to have you join us and get your quilt on this June.  Enter the giveaway or register today before it’s all filled up!

TARDIS Quilt, I Knew You Existed.

When I’m sewing, I often will hit my Netflix Instant account and re-watch programs I’ve seen and loved as I work.  I have exhausted most of those–I’ve gone through all the episodes of Monk three times, in order; all of Psych, also three times, also in order; I’ve watched most of Bones a second time; and notably have seen every single episode of Murder, She Wrote ever aired (with the exception of a Magnum, PI crossover episode that Netflix continues to deny me).  With those out of the way/completely memorized (maybe not the Mrs. Fletcher ones, but the rest), it was time for something new.  So I dipped my foot into a pool I had not yet experienced: Dr. Who.  And the water is warm, my friends.  Very warm indeed.

(After enough episodes, you’ll actually start thinking in a British accent.  Try it–you’ll see I’m right.)

I had known of Dr. Who back in the day, when it originally aired, but never watched it for one reason or another.  When these new series came out, I watched chunks of one with my oldest, the Amy Pond seasons.  But it wasn’t until I started at the beginning of these newer episodes that I really, truly got hooked.

Fair warning: everything beyond this point is unabashed geekery.  Feel free to run away if you’d like and I’ll see you tomorrow with something less dorky.  Mostly.

On a whim today, I did a search for “TARDIS QUILT,” mostly because I was thinking how cool it would be to have a quilt that’s also the TARDIS.  As I did my Googling, I had a sneaking suspicion that I was not the first to have this idea.  I was not disappointed.

Behold, my friends: the vast array of TARDIS quilts in the universe.  Time Lord, you are no longer alone.

From Wendymoon (a long-time blog friend in these parts–hello, Wendy!).

Maybe my favorite, this mini-quilt version from gatheredthreads, via Mr X Stitch

From Crafty_Tardis (this one comes with a sonic screwdriver pillow)

From SewHooked, along with link to the pattern she used.

There is, of course, a whole world of Dr Who crafty patterns and ideas.  I’m waiting for the Rose Tyler quilt, because as much as I love Amy Pond, Rose was something special.  You geeks know what I’m talking about.

Welcome to the mania, people.  I quote the Bloggess:

An Embarassment of HSTs

I’ve got three separate HST projects going on at the moment.  Which either means I am a complete, obsessive nutcase or a wild-haired genius. Either way, lots of triangles over here.

It mostly started with Ellen Baker’s Quilt Blocks, which just came in at the shop.  I wanted some yardage, but didn’t really know which prints and how much of each, so I settled on a couple of charm packs (I really wanted a jelly roll, so I could make another one of these, but since I don’t really need another one of them, strictly speaking, I thought I’d leave the jellies for you people–you’re welcome).  With 84 squares five inches to a side, it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to HSTs, to paraphrase my grandfather.  The hop, skip and jump part, not the HSTs.  Unless that’s an engineering term, in which case I suppose he might have said that.  But otherwise, very unlikely, as I don’t believe he ever quilted.

I’m not entirely sure where this is going yet (the quilt or the post, to be honest), only that the background is Kona cactus, because.  I mean, it’s basically my signature color.  Matches Gutermann 712 perfectly, and I think we all know I buy that by the case, literally.  Plus, it goes so nicely with all the colors Ellen chose to put in her collection.  I do think it was sweet of her to create an entire fabric collection in my color palette, don’t you?  These really ALL are my favorite colors.  So no matter what direction I decide to go with these HSTs–I’m really just fiddling now–I have a good feeling about this one.

I’m also playing around with my summer citrus quilt fabrics, inspired by this print.  I was at the shop on Saturday while Holly was there–have you met Holly?  She’s awesome, and the best up-seller on the Whipstitch staff.  For reals.  The lady can convince you to buy “just a couple more yards” of pretty much anything, and I include myself in that statement.  I already loved this citrus print, but when I pulled it out and bemoaned the fact that I didn’t know what to make with it (I SO do not need another skirt that I have no top to go with), her eyes got all huge and she gushed googly happiness all over it, and before you knew what had happened, I’d pulled a bunch of prints to coordinate and was planning a quilt.  It was lovely.

So now I’m three rows into a zigzag quilt.  Can you believe I haven’t made one of these before?  It’s totally about time for me to get on this one.  But I wanted to mix it up, so I’m adding a micro-zag to one side of all the larger zigs, in a really sharp, citrusy yellow that I wouldn’t ordinarily choose (it doesn’t play nice with Kona cactus, for one thing), but that in this case is just the ticket.  I haven’t even trimmed these bits, I was so ready to see how it would all come together–you know that feeling where you’re not quite sure it will work out, but then you roll the dice anyway, and you start to realize it will work out, and you get so excited you’ve done half the work without realizing it?  It was like that.  With snacks.

I still have at least three other fabrics to go, and hope they turn out as well as the ones I’ve begun with.  I especially like that Malka Dubrowsky checkered-picnic print–yummy. The yellow zags really pop against the white, too, and I’m so pleased with them that I don’t even mind that they get cut off a bit in the inner corners when the pieces come together.  That’s what I’m telling myself for now, anyway.

And last but for reals not least, I’m working on a whimsically primary-colored HST quilt using the brand-new Summersville, some Konas, and a cross-hatch print that I adore.  Shock of all surprises, it’s yellow–Whipstitch yellow, to be exact, which I’d like to point out for the thirteen millionth time is the TRUE color of the year, no matter what Pantone says, and was named by Country Living magazine as the “neutral to have these days.”  So there–who’s ahead of the curve now, suckas??

I’m only two blocks into this one, but I am really liking where it’s headed.  The colors in these fabrics are so delicious, and the prints are so light-hearted.  I’m using the Potager block design from Modern Blocks (which we carry at the shop, bee tee dubs), and think the bright colors and very subtly textured background make it feel super mod and somehow updated-kindergarten-y.  If that makes sense.

These two quilts now officially bring my color count of yellow-based quilts to three, if you include this one (and I certainly do).  And while I’m singing the praises of the ladies at the shop, I should mention that Diana pointed out I ought to combine all my yellow scraps into an all-yellow quilt when I’m done.  Yes.  Yes, I should.

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.

Apple Cores

Perfect Pants update: pink version made, loved, and worn to school today; retro jeans version muddied and in the laundry as we speak.  Photos soon!

In the meantime, I’m working on a stack of quilt projects.  I’ve been sewing on the Bee bee rows I’ve gotten so far, plus making more blocks for the Your Second (Modern) Quilt class sample–right now it’s a foundation-pieced block and it’s lovely–and planning the quilting lines on both the Man Woobie and the 1600 quilt I made at the Sewing Retreat (I’ll be quilting the latter of those live in Montgomery on March 31 at the Festival of Alabama Fiber Arts–details soon!).

In the 28 remaining minutes of my day, I’ve also stumbled across some acrylic templates that I just had to have.  It started with the Modern Quilting Bee I’m doing this year with some of my very favorite ladies.  This month was my month to plan the quilt, and I’ve asked them all to make the Retro Flowers blocks for my quilt, in a red-and-white version inspired by the Infinite Variety installation last summer. When I bought the Retro Flowers pattern, I saw there were also templates available through Tabslot on Etsy–along with a pile of templates for other quilt projects.  Naturally, I got pretty much all of them.

The Apple Core was the one that begged to be cut out first.  I love the curved edges, which is weird a little, since in most of my life and decor I lean toward 90-degree angles and straight lines, but in clothing and sewing I love me a curved seam.  This Apple Core screamed at me, mostly because I love the way the patchwork goes together: short end to long side, one core at a time, to make a row, then sew the rows together using another curved seam.

Each template is a heavy-duty clear acrylic, perfect for using with a rotary cutter.  I folded my fat quarters into fourths, then cut through all four layers at a time when making my Apple Core pieces.  I used my 28mm rotary cutter, based on the logic that the smaller blade would make it around those curves more smoothly and consistently.

These are not fast seams to sew, sadly.  You don’t whip through an Apple Core quilt.  But they’re super satisfying, the way the curves come together and make a slowly undulating edge along each side of the row that will be sewn to the next row.  I think I’ll end up making these fabrics staggered as I work across the quilt, so that each print stairsteps itself, rather than having the quilt top be scrappy.  I have an awful lot of scrappy projects going right now, and I’m craving something that has a larger-scale organization to it.

That’s such a big part of what appeals to me about quilting, I think: that I can flit between multiple projects without feeling flaky, because so many of them take time and are created in stages anyway, so it’s simple to do a little here and a little there as the project works itself on toward completion.  I mean, foundation piecing is fidgety work, and can be tedious–the results are completely worth it, and every block is a stunner, but I don’t know that I could make an entire foundation-pieced quilt top in one go.  It’s fun to break it up with other ideas and shapes, like mixing in a little Apple Core now and then.

Of course, the unfortunate side effect is that I have far fewer finished projects to share with you.  I’ll have to factor that into my equation at some point.  But maybe not today.



Glue Batik Wall Hanging: Sewing with Kids

So, two things: first, I can’t find my back-up camera charger.  I bought it to replace my actual camera charger, which I had misplaced.  Eventually, the original charger showed back up, but then the spare went missing.  Then the spare showed up, but we packed to move.  So now, I have two chargers, but can’t find either, because apparently they’re in one of the two dozen boxes that we have not yet found time to unpack.  Which explains why these photos were taken with my phone.

Second, the Sewing with Kids series has been on semi-hiatus, ever since we sold our house and moved to the rental where we lived for six months before buying our current home.  But I am even now planning NEW Sewing with Kids lessons, to debut after Spring Break (which around here coincides with Easter Week this year).  Stay tuned!

And all that brings us to today’s project: I’m working on a school auction project this year for our son’s class.  I end up doing a lot of these each year, but most years in the past, I’ve primarily been in charge of securing the fabric for the project, and the other mommies have taken on the bulk of the actual work.  Which is awesome.  This year, though, we really (REALLY) love our son’s teacher, and have just learned that she’ll be leaving at the end of the year to move out of state, and I wanted to do something more for her and the class.  So I’m on point for the Glue Batik Wall Hanging they’re creating–it’s a 2-to-5-year-old class of 24 kids, all of them contributing to the quilt.

When she first came to me with the idea, our son’s teacher sent me this link, which she found through Ellen at The Long Thread.  I told her, “Actually, I know Ellen, like, IRL and stuff.”  I can’t be sure, but I think his teacher was suitably impressed.  The project is pretty simple, and involves tracing a shape in glue on fabric, then painting over it, and then washing out the glue to make a “batik” look.  Then the squares get sewn together into a wall hanging.  (Ellen is doing glue batik for her kids again this year, too, and has made the wise choice to limit the color palette–note that she points out the dyes dry lighter, so making them saturated makes for a bolder finished product.)

The biggest challenge, really, has just been the trimming. I haven’t traditionally been someone who always, always took the time and care to trim each block before I assemble the final quilt top, but a lot of these pieces had gotten skewed and un-square (is that a word?) as the children worked with them, so trimming was an absolute necessity.  Thankless work, but had to be done.

Right now, I’m at the sewing-together phase.  Bless his teacher and her two classroom assistants, they did all the glueing and dyeing without me being there, so all I have left is to assemble the final pieces.  I can tell you that our boy loooooved making his square, and will tell anyone within 60+ square miles which one he did, super proudly.  (Note: this photo is not his.  He’s three.  His is mostly blobs, but we still think it’s the best one there.)

I’m off to find the perfect green fabric for the insets and border, and then we’re heading to the finish line, just in time.  Anyone else ever make one of these and have a suggestion for the best way to secure it?  I’m feeling like tying is the way to go, but want to be sure I choose something to really set off the work the children have done.


Have you found Quiltr yet?  Fantastic little time waster.  Import images of your own fabrics to create quilts digitally–either for enjoyment or to audition fabrics for your future projects.

The whole thing is the brainchild of Dorie Schwarz, a quilter and web developer.  And I think it’s genius.

Currently, she has a selection of traditional quilt designs to choose from, and she’s adding more as she goes.  These are especially great, I think, if your big roadblock to quilting success is in the PLANNING stages–where you really need to see the fabrics in place before you use them.  I like it the way I imagine I would like a video game, if I played one: just to wander around and select colors randomly and see how I feel about them together. I made these in just a few short minutes of play time:

I don’t have photos of my fabric on Flickr right now, but if I did, I could pull those into Quiltr and arrange them in the quilts digitally, moving them around until I was happy.  As it was, I used the built-in color wheel of infinite colors to play with some ideas fairly randomly.  You can save your designs, and upload them to Flickr when you’re done–cute!  Now, I am for sure not interested in seeing quilting go all-digital, to where those of us who love, love, love the planning of sewing projects can suddenly do all the planning and none of the sewing, but I do think Quiltr is a huge contribution in terms of how it lets us play and experiment and maybe gain some experience with shape and color in less time than it might take to build a thousand quilts.  Since I’m always a big proponent of success at sewing to spur one on to more sewing, I think that could be a giant win for so many of us.  Love!

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

Tony Danza at the Victoria & Albert Museum

I have mentioned before my Tony Danza wall quilt.  It has been a work-in-progress for a little over two years now.  And by “work-in-progress,” obviously I mean I haven’t really started it but I sure do think about it a lot.  But I fly out in just two weeks (!!) for the Heather Ross sewing retreat, and then in February Whipstitch has our own sewing retreat, and my Big Plan is to use that time to finish this project that, let’s be honest, has no real purpose in the world except my own amusement.  And what else are retreats for if not to indulge, yes?

The idea is based on the Power Phrases that I use in my sewing classes, and that I included in Stitch by Stitch.  The first power phrase is “You’re the Boss!”  Taking control of your sewing machine and not letting is sass you is core to the Whipstitch way of thinking, but then, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.  I want to sew something to reflect that.  Enter: Tony Danza.  Is it all coming together now?

I’m using the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Patchwork Generator to create a pattern for the whole thing–it’s a great little tool that allows you to upload any image and turn it into a quilt pattern, PLUS you can vary the number of fabrics and complexity of the design.

 Upload any image, including one from the Victoria & Albert’s own archives, which are extensive and lovely:

In my case, it was a Tony Danza image I downloaded from Google images.  (Do note: I am free to use any image I choose because I don’t plan to sell this piece; be sure to double-check any copyright laws as they might apply to pieces you intend to make for sale or profit.)  The uploaded image will display like this:

Then, make your selections:  you can crop the image, you get to choose how many colors will be included in the final patchwork (more colors = more fabrics but also more detail, so it’s a judgment call) and how many total pieces (same deal–you get more detail with more pieces, and I might be wrong, but I think only the “advanced” tab gives you the option of triangles in the form of HSTs).

Naturally, I chose 20 colors and “advanced” because I intend this piece to be both big and detailed.  From there, click through to find your image has been pixellated, if you will, into a patchable, quiltable pattern.

You’ll also get a by-color listing of how many triangles and squares of each fabric ought to be cut–no counting, just follow their list and you’re ready!

Plus, the V & A give suggestions and links at the bottom of the page for how to get your best results from your project:

Next for me is to match the colors to my Konas and do some fine-tuning–I plan to hand-quilt and embroider some detailing into the finished quilt, so you can really tell it’s Tony (not to mention appliqueing on the words “You’re the Boss!” in curly 80s-style script), but I don’t love how mushed up his mouth is here, so I plan to fiddle a bit with the colors to make his face a little more clear.

Once the fine-tuning is done and the pattern is really ready, I’ll cut out my squares so I can take just the pre-cut pieces with me to Palm Springs!  Woot!  God willing, I’ll at least have the quilt top done by mid-February, so that I can get well into the hand-quilting and embroidery by Easter.

Tell me: if you were going to “quiltify” one image, what would you choose?  Would you use the V & A program to make your pattern?

*Also, I was flattered to have been included in the Sew, Mama, Sew Reflections and Predictions series this month.  Check out all the great contributors and posts, including mine!  I hope if nothing else, reading all of us chatter about what we love most and hope for in the coming year will get you inspired to think of your own best and worst from 2011.  You can even win a prize!

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!