Tuesday, July 31, 2018


The purpose was to have a hand in making quilts to share with others, and I did it with Faith Circle of do.Good Stitches for nearly 7 years, designing and finishing over a dozen quilts, and making blocks for at least 75 others, and it was a very good thing.

But even good things come to an end, and I've let my bee mates know I'm stepping away. A bittersweet twist is that due to a variety of reasons, Faith circle will be merging with Cheer circle to become the new Unite circle. So it's the end of an era, so to speak.

One of the great things about do. Good Stitches is that there are several roles one can play, and I played them all. Beginning as a stitcher, I became familiar with how the bee worked, gaining confidence along the way. Being a stitcher, you also get to make quite a variety of quilt blocks and designs, as every month it's something different.

Eventually I stepped up to quilter, meaning I would take the lead twice a year in planning our group's quilt and eventually bringing it to a finish. All the quilts shown in this post are those that begun with my imaginings, brought to fruition with my bee mates' blocks, and finished with my quilting and binding.

After a few years in that role, the opportunity arose to become host of the circle, and I've served in that role for the last few years.

As I scroll through these quilt photos, I remember quite clearly how utterly proud I was of that first one, HST Love. I was still pretty new to modern quilting, and just the fact that we used all solid fabrics was still very new to me.

As I began to embrace improvisational piecing, I encouraged my bee mates to dabble with it too. Ha. They were brave souls and humored me, and goodness, I think they even sometimes enjoyed it.

So now it's time to say goodbye to something that has been a very meaningful part of my creating for a long time. Bittersweet for sure.

See this page if you'd like to find out more about do.Good Stitches.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Setting in an Improv Layered Circle

It was a bit of a faux pas when I shared the making of an improvisational layered circle with McKinney MQG a few months ago, that I didn't come prepared with instructions for how to incorporate that roundness into a frame or larger block. So here's how I do it.

Lay the pieced circle on top of the 'background' fabric.

Draw around your circle shape with a removeable marker, making a few tick marks - top, bottom, and each side works for me.

With a pin, mark the 'top' of your block and background. Since your circle is likely to be unevenly shaped, it's important that it fits into its frame correctly.

With a small rotary cutter (I suggest 28mm), cut inside your marked circle, estimating 1/4", which will be your seam allowance.

Turn your background in on your circle, repinning at the 'top' and then securing with a pin at each of your other guide-markings.

Sew the two pieces together, gently bringing raw edges together as you sew, and distributing the fabrics smoothly between each quarter. If need be, lift your pressure foot up to redistribute your fabrics, then continue sewing.

Once you've stitched all around, press your seam toward the background, then press from the front side as well. A little steam will help smooth out the perimeter, and any other minor rippling will disappear with quilting.

Here you can see my circle block in my final quilt. Hope you enjoy trying the technique for yourself!

Linking Up with the Fall 2018 Tips and Tutorials Festival!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summer Sampler 2018 :: Vatican

Finally! This week's Summer Sampler block is from a place I've actually been! Vatican was designed by Melissa/Polka Dot Chair after a tile floor she saw in the Vatican. I went back through all my Rome photos and didn't see this floor, but it was great to reminisce just the same!

I'm not 100% sure I chose correctly in picking the solid aqua for that large half of the block. It really stands out when all the blocks are together, but I like it alot in the block by itself. It'll all work out. My favorite part though is that dark blue, where the design doesn't match up. Not sure why but I like it! Needless to say, this block was a breeze, and now I'm looking forward to next week!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Underground Maps

On June 6, 1889, the entire central business district of Seattle was destroyed by fire, and it was unsurprisingly, a turning point in our city's history. In the wake of the fire, the downtown buildings were rebuilt 20 feet above the original street level.

It was the network of underground passageways [aka areaways], that came to mind when I read Silvia/A Stranger View's Bee Sewcial prompt, Underground Maps. Silvia shared a pin board, Beesewcial Subway Map, and it seemed to give me permission to go anywhere, so underground Seattle it was.

One of the unique details of the bygone days that are still very much visible today are the purple pavement lights - basically 'skylights' in the current sidewalks, which once provided light to shine down to the businesses below. I represented these sidewalk prisms with very tiny piecing. Each 'skylight' finishes at 1".

My block measures 16 1/2" x 19 1/2", and it really is a fairly accurate representation of Seattle's remaining underground network. Believe it or not, this historical area has been a tourist attraction for over 50 years. Silva asked us to 'take her places,' and I think Seattle's underground was a unique and worthy destination.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Vintage Pink II

As I shared in a previous post, the original pink quilt came to me via Louise/@imfeelincrafty, who had acquired several bags of vintage quilts in various stages of disrepair. Here is what the quilt looked like when I received it - overall quite sweet, but on closer inspection, it had ragged binding, holes in the sashing where it had once been tied, and its batting was bunched up inside.

It was near-impossible to free those patchwork blocks from their sashing, and when I did release a few, they were odd-shaped and extremely faded. That led me to reworking the quilt rather than simply repairing. I trimmed off the binding and literally cut the patchwork out of the quilt. There was definitely some point-trimming and wonkiness that resulted in that process, but I felt the character of the blocks was still kept intact.

The blocks were set in a new setting, separated by squares of Kona Pink. Though I would have loved to have reused the quilt's original filler - two layers of flannel plaid blanket - there were too many holes in it. So I used my typical Warm & Natural and quilted a free-hand orange-peel design. Though in retrospect, I wish I'd marked all the curves for a little more perfection. Oh well....

The backing was pieced with more solid pink, a couple of Aunt Gracie prints that coordinated well, and white-on-pink polka dots. I rounded the corners just for fun.

The quilt measured 42" x 55" when I got it, and 36" x 42" in its new form. I'm not sure I did it total justice, but considering it was my first time working with vintage fabrics and quilt blocks, I think it's ok. At any rate, it's sweet, and can now be enjoyed for years to come.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Summer Sampler 2018 :: Pagoda

The further in we get, the more I love it. This week’s Summer Sampler block, Pagoda, was designed by Lee/Freshly Pieced, inspired by the architecture she saw during a trip to China.

It was nice to have a break from the paper-piecing, though at one block a week, that's totally been doable. Anyway, one little tip - a Hera marker works so good at marking half-square triangles!

Hard to believe we are half-way through making our sampler blocks! I'm hard-pressed to choose a favorite but I really am liking them as a collection.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Maker's Thought

A woman walked into my dayjob office yesterday, and at once admired the quilts hanging on my walls. She mentioned that she had quilters in her family but had never quilted herself. I encouraged her to tell me more, and she shared that at age 12, she won first place in a Singer Sewing Machine Contest for a dress she had made. This was a two-week event where she'd go every day to sew for a couple of hours. I likened it to 'sewing camp' and she nodded in agreement. So I was duly impressed! And then she told me, 'After I won first place, my mother and grandmother took the dress entirely apart because it wasn't perfect, and sewed it back together again." I think my mouth was hanging open at this point. She went on to say, "I don't remember feeling particularly bad about it, but sometimes I wonder if that's why I no longer have any interest in sewing." YA THINK?

My eyes were a little misty as we parted ways, and I could not for the life of me imagine how that must have felt to have your winning project disassembled because it wasn't good enough. And it made me oh-so-thankful for a girl scout leader, a home-ec teacher, a grandma, a mom, and eventually a family, who have valued my skills (or at least my attempt at them!) at every stage. A variety of  objectives are wrapped up in my sewing and my quilts, but perfection, to be honest, is not one of them. A striving to do good work, oh yes, but the delight in the process, and the knowledge that it is good enough must have the last word.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Summer Sampler 2018 :: Castillo

For this week's Summer Sampler 2018 block, I found myself switching stitch lengths over and over. It was 1.4 for the paper-piecing, 2.0 for the seams, and up to 4.0 for test-construction. Do you know that little trick where you sew/baste a few long stitches over those intersections that are tricky to match up? Then you remove your block from your machine and check how well you did. If great, then move the length back to 2.0 and stitch the seam. But if not, just do a little tug to remove the stitches and try again. That technique helped SO much with this block, as there were many places that needed matching.

The block was designed by Faith/Fresh Lemons Quilts, inspired by the aerial view of Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida. Is it bad that I'd never heard of it? Well it's the only 17-century fort in North America. And appropriately so, discovery is one of the best things about a road trip, don't you think?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Root of Improvisation

As I cut into a stack of Cotton + Steel over the weekend, it was inopportune and impulsive. But I've had in mind to use some of my extensive C+S stash, and had finally decided it would be fun to make another giant plus quilt using Leanne/@shecanquilt's tutorial. And as I cut 5" squares and put them on the design wall, choosing both fabric and placement as I went, it dawned on me that THIS was beginning improvisation.

Yes, there are many techniques out there - I even have some tutorials here on the blog - that are great ways to dabble with improvisational piecing. But the crux of the matter is.... traveling outside the box. Before one ever gets to a sewing machine, there's a way of thinking, of letting loose, basically a sense of figuring it out as you go. It's not knowing where you're going but being ok with that, assuming you'll make changes along the way, and taking the risk that it won't even turn out at all.

All that to say... I hear all the time that folks want to try improv, or they're afraid of improv, etc. etc. And really the first best way to test the waters is to go to the root of it all and in some small way act spontaneously. Where in this situation, I'm following a tutorial for the cutting of the squares and general design, in my fabric selection and placement, I'm totally ad-libbing, making decisions and building moment upon moment.

Profound? Not really. But for those who are intrigued with improv but hesitant to try, that's where I'd suggest you start. Just risk it, be present and thoughtful, and discover as you create what comes next. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Color Strung

Color Strung is a cherry reminder of a really enjoyable and insightful class at QuiltCon last February. In Color Play with String Quilts with Tara Faughnan of Tara Faughnan Quilts, we explored alllll sorts of color combinations, rethinking our thoughts about color and daring to go further.

As you see, my quilt's palette is not my norm, nor anyone's really. But I love that it came from a place of color exploration. As Tara said, "Color gets all the credit, but value does all the work." Hmmm.... I'll keep thinking about that one for a while, I'm sure.

For backing, I was lucky enough to find a generous length of an older Valori Wells' Novella floral that was very nearly large enough. Though there's a strip of contrasting fabric (not shown) along one edge, the primary backing fabric does indeed make its own statement.

When it came time for quilting, I debated for a while, then chose a design from Walk by Jacquie Gering. Might as well try another something new, right? It's called The Simple Diamond and I really like the way it echos the lines of the quilt but not too closely.

It's a little hard to see, isn't it? Trust me, it suits. And it was really pretty simple to execute. It did require some marking - the grid was done with my Hera marker, and for the little dots needed for the diamonds, I marked on a leap of faith with a FriXion pen. I used Aurifil 50wt 4651 (Bari) which is a variegated thread - a little yellow/gold, off-white, and light purple - that just nestled on in.... nothing too obvious, but it added a little interest for sure.

Binding was chosen on a whim. I dug into the ole stash and some Free Spirit Flamingo spoke up, and I think it's a nice fit.

So this quilt was the second of two I put on my Q2 2018 Finish-A-Long list back in April, and I'm cutting it close to link up my finish. But it's done! Gosh that feels good!

This project was on my 2018 Q2 Finish-A-Long list!