Sunday, December 28, 2008


Today's free quilt pattern is Weathervane. After the last week, I couldn't pick a more appropriate pattern. We've gone from 10" of snow to 60 degrees and rain, then back to freezing cold.

I had a great Christmas. My daughter Katy came from Chicago for a whole week. We put her back on the train this morning. The train was only one hour late, but since she was leaving from the East Lansing station (she often travels from Battle Creek) it wasn't too bad. While she was here, we went shopping with Colleen. Katy found so many clothes, she couldn't carry them all on the train and I'll be sending her a box of stuff tomorrow. Colleen and I were also lucky. I've got a whole new wardrobe and since I really hate to shop, that is a major achievement.

On Christmas Eve I got a real treat. Tom, Katy, Colleen and I went to visit my cousin Kathy in Northville. She hosts a Christmas Eve party for all my relatives on my father's side of the family. I have have 16 cousins, 6 aunts and uncles (still living) and too many second and third cousins and cousins-in-law to count. I usually host my in-laws on Christmas Eve so rarely make it to the party. Yesterday all the in-laws came and that was fun too. Now I have way too many leftovers and cookies!

Till next time.... Happy Quilting!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Floating Hearts

Today's quilt block is Floating Hearts. It is an original design that was inspired by the Bear's Paw pattern.

I'm feeling really good tonight. One of my goals is to finish all my UFO's and my quilting and blogging buddy Cindy Mielock (check out her blog, Lavender Pie) has offered my an opportunity to do that while helping a young mother have a happier holiday. It seems she wants a homemade quilt. I have literally hundreds of blocks waiting to be made into quilts, so I'm donating enough to make a queen size quilt and a child's quilt for her 4 year old. Cindy is lining up helpers to piece the top and get it quilted, bound, etc. I'm going to have to do this more often.

My father-in-law has moved to an assisted living center, so we've been cleaning out his house. My daughter wanted a beautiful teal colored hutch cabinet that was her grandmothers. The problem is she lives at home and my house is so packed with furniture it was hard to make room for the hutch. Long story short... the moving entailed emptying shelves of fabric. While working on this task it hit home that I have more fabric than I can ever sew. I also own more quilts than I can ever use. Cindy's request for quilt blocks has given me hope that I can sew and give away the results. I know that making quilts for charity isn't a new idea, but for many years I just couldn't part with anything. Now, not only does it seem easy but it feels great, too!

Another milestone this week. My daughter Colleen (the hutch owner) has finished her first quilt. It is 84" x 101". She used charm squares from my stash. Both she and a friend each made quilts and still didn't make a dent in my charm squares. Colleen hand pieced the nine patches and machine pieced the blocks together. She machine appliqued stuff all over the top. While making the quilt she liberally used a reducing glass, so you can see her on the quilt looking at her quilt. I machine quilted it and bound it off. She's been using it on her bed and I'm very proud of her.

Till next time.....Happy Quilting!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bachelor's Puzzle

Today's pattern is Bachelor's Puzzle. I like it because it's easy to piece and has a 3-D effect. I've been working on reorganizing my web pages, so if you haven't been able to get one of the patterns this evening, that's why. I think I've got them all done now, so they should all work. If one of the links doesn't work, just drop me an email so I can fix it.

This weekend I'm going to St. Charles, IL. It is a small town just outside Chicago. We've got tickets to see David Brenner on Friday night and will be meeting friends too. On Saturday we'll all be taking the train into Chicago to visit Katy. I'm hoping to see the Christmas windows at Macy's and stay in the city long enough for it to get dark and see the lights on Michigan Ave. I'm hoping the driving will be good. The northwest corner of Indiana and the southeast corner of Michigan is a real snow belt and can get quite treacherous.

The Spartan basketball team defeated IU-Fort Wayne tonight. It was only on the radio, which tees me off, after all the hub-bub about the Big 10 Network. They claimed they were going to carry all the games that the networks didn't carry. Oh well, at least we won. Saturday is the Penn State game. If Ohio State loses to U of M (this will be one of the few times I root for U of M) and we beat Penn State we go to the Rose Bowl! Go Green! Go White!
Till next time...Happy Quilting.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Finishing the Desert Sampler

I've given all the blocks for the Desert Sampler quilt. Project Page 1 gives instructions for finishing the top. Next week I'll start a new quilt, Sampler with Art Square Corners. The blocks will again be 12" so they are compatible with the Desert Sampler blocks. The setting is made using 3 strips for the sashing and Art Squares for the cornerstones. The finished sizes of the sashing is 3" x 12" and the cornerstones are 3" x 3". This makes the Quilt Layout Chart still useful for quilt planning. If you choose to make more blocks and a larger quilt, the Fabric Yardage Chart and Quilt Layout Chart are helpful.

I'm watching an old movie again. It's called "We Live Again" made in 1934 and stars Anna Sten and Frederic March. It's based on Leo Tolstoy's novel Resurrection. Frederic March is an aristocrat who falls in love with, then ruins a peasant girl. There are scenes in the girl's bedroom and there is a quilt on the bed. The movie is in black and white so it is hard to tell the colors, but it might be pastels. The pattern is a broken dishes, alternating with a plain block, all set on point. The quilt is also tied. The story is set in 1875, so the quilt is probably not historically accurate. I'm enjoying the movie more than usual because we just got a 50" HD TV. Very fun, especially for sports. The TV is in the basement which is also my sewing room, so I'm one lucky quilter.
Till next time....Happy Quilting.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Best Friend

The last free quilt pattern for this lap size quilt is called Best Friend. It's a variation of the Bear's Paw pattern. I think this is a great name for a quilt pattern because so many quilters have found their Best Friends through this activity.

It's the night before election day. I'm hoping to vote at 7am so I can get to work. The MSU Museum has the quilt exhibit To Honor and Comfort scheduled to ship either tomorrow or Wednesday. I've packed most of it, but need to be around to make sure everything gets picked up okay. So hopefully the voting lines won't be too long.

My daughter Katy lives in Chicago. She works just a few blocks from Grant Park where Obama will have his rally tomorrow evening. They are expecting 1,000,000 people! Katy thinks she'll stop by early in the evening on her way home to get a taste of the party. I'm anxious to hear what Chicago is like, especially if Obama wins.

Tom and I went to the MSU football game last Saturday. We won in the last seconds. I'd like to say it was a fun game, but we trailed most of the game, which wasn't fun. But the weather was gorgeous, and the end was fabulous. This weekend is Purdue and if we win we'll be 9-2!! Go Green! Go White!

Time for Saturday Night Lives Election Special and I do love the Sarah Palin parodies.
Till next time.... Happy Quilting.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Coffee Break

Today's free quilt pattern is Coffee Break. This is an ori
ginal block and I really like the way it turned out. I'm a coffee girl. Every morning I have one cup of instant with caffeine. I love Nescafe because that's the brand my father always drank. My husband think's I'm crazy, but the stuff he makes is too weak.

This morning I began machine quilting my second President's Quilt. I've been struggling with the quilting pattern. I really wanted a feather pattern, but couldn't find a feather template that would fit, so I altered a feather from a Sue Nickels and Pat Holly book. I tried many different tools to carve my drafted feather into template plastic but none of them worked. I finally ordered some quilting paper. I traced my feather onto the paper, then hand basted the paper to my quilt. I know that sounds like a lot of work, but I don't mind extra work if the result is good. The first picture shows the quilt after I quilted, but before I tore off the paper.

The second picture is harder to see. It's after I quilted and after I tore off the paper. So far I'm pleased with the result. In fact I think it looks so good, I 'm ready to use contrasting thread. I don't want to count the number of times I have to do this because that will be too discouraging. I didn't have too much trouble tearing away the paper. I think I will just trace, quilt, and tear paper, one feather at a time, otherwise any one part will be overwhelming.

The Michigan State/Michigan game just started so it's time to go (Green!). Till next time....Happy Quilting!

Monday, October 20, 2008


This week's free quilt pattern is Mosaic. It is a variation of the very common Ohio Star block. Its history is the perfect example on why it is impossible to come to a definitive name for any quilt block. I found more than 40 blocks that were either named Mosaic or had Mosaic as part of their name. Click on the free pattern to see four pages of blocks all called Mosaic.

Saturday was a beautiful day for football. Tom and I went to the game and were disappointed with the score, but we did have new whitewalls on the Tandem! It's a green Schwinn with white S's, vintage 1967, it's a great ride.

Till next time....Happy Quilting!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Town Hall

I love house blocks. I think for my next block exchange quilt I'm going to choose a traditional red and white school house. It's also fun to change a line or two here and there to come up with a new building. I call this one Town Hall, but add a bell or cross and you have a school or chapel. The construction is also fun because all the shapes that are cut are rectangles. By drawing on diagonal lines that you stitch on, then cutting away the extra you get great shapes with no biases to stretch.

What a beautiful weekend here in Michigan. On Saturday I gave a quilt tour at the MSU Museum to some members of the Greater Ann Arbor Quilt Guild. We had a really good time. On top of the $15/per person fee, they made a generous donation to the Museum. Thanks Ann Arbor Quilters! After the tour Tom (the husband) and I took a bike ride on the River Trail. They've just added a branch that goes from the Potter Park Zoo to Hawk Island Park. The ride was about 15 miles and very fun. We got home just in time for the MSU football game against Northwestern which we won! All in all a great day.

Today was my annual visit to the Country Wood Mill in Potterville. There's nothing like fresh cider and a donut.

During this week I started to practice machine quilted free hand feathers. They weren't great, but they weren't as bad as I thought they'd be. I also purchased some papers you can trace on, then machine quilt over. I'm not sure whether I'll like them, but I know my free style machine quilting is not as good as I want it to be, and I'm anxious to finish some projects.

Till next time.....Happy Quilting

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Hull's Victory

It's Sunday afternoon, my favorite time to quilt. After this blog I'll be machine quilting some stars. I just bought two new light bulbs for my Bernina, but they aren't working. I've rigged up alternative lighting until I can get the lights repaired.

Today's free quilt pattern is Hull's Victory. I think the Hull in the title refers to Isaac Hull, captain of the Constitution aka "Old Ironsides." It seems Isaac was a little on the hefty side and split his trousers during the battle. You can read more on the free pattern.

Yesterday was a beautiful day for football as Iowa fell to MSU, Go Green! Inside the stadium is always 15 degrees warmer than outside the stadium, so 50 degrees is great football weather.

On Thursday I went to see Barrack Obama speak at MSU. It was three hours of waiting before he began speaking. It was cloudy, but did not rain and I enjoyed being in a crowd of so many college students all interested in voting. In person Obama is much more engaging than he appears on TV. All in all, a fun week.

Till next time....Happy Quilting!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friendship Stars

Today's free quilt pattern is Friendship Stars. It's a variation of a pattern my friends and I made using 1, 6" star per block. I drafted 4 blocks to bring it to 12". I love the way the triangles make the stars weave in and out.

Yesterday a roofing company dropped off shingles for our roof. Maybe in two weeks we'll have that job done. We've been lucky there's been no rain.

This morning I conducted a quilt tour for MSU's Evening College. I chose 10 quilts that represented a brief history of American quiltmaking. The class was full and I met many lovely people. There were 14 women and one man. The man had brought his wife for a surprise adventure. He knew she liked quilts and so he signed them both up for the tour! I think he's a keeper.

If you'd like to take the tour, just click on the quilt name to view the quilts.
The first quilt was a Wholecloth made c1780.
Next was a Broderie Perse c1820.
Quilt #3 brought us into the 1850s with a 4-Block Pot of Flowers applique.
Next we saw a Civil War era Railroad Crossing quilt.
Then a wonderful 1870s Ducks in the Pond made in Birmingham, Michigan.
For the 1880s we saw a Crazy Quilt made in Elsie, Michigan.
A Redwork based on Nursery Rhymes represented the 1890s.
A LeMoyne Star made on a farm in the Thumb was from the turn of the century.
A Memory Bouquet made in Detroit was from the 1930s.
Our last quilt was the Missouri Tree Rose made by Mary Schafer and her friend Betty Harriman in the 1970s.

If you'd like to see the quilts in person you can organize your own quilt tour. Go to our Behind the Scenes Tour page to get started.

Michigan State beat Indiana today. Go Green, Go White!

Till next time.....Happy Quilting!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pretty Pastel Sampler

This is Susan Smith. She's standing in front of a quilt made from patterns from my book Block By Block. She is the president of the Pass Patchers Quilt Guild of Beamont, California. Susan gave this quilt to her daughter for a silent auction for the White Oak School in Baltimore, Maryland. The school is a special education school and this was auctioned at their Fall Family Fun Fair.

It was sent to me by Geri Yeakel of Redlands, CA, one of her fellow guild members. In March of 2006 this guild began using my patterns for a block of the month group. I hope they continue on using the free patterns on this blog. I'd love to see other quilts from these (or any other patterns!) Just email them to me and I'll put them up.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Spools and Bobbins

Wow, it's been a busy few weeks, but I finally got a new pattern written. It is called Spools and Bobbins and is an original pattern. Page three of the pattern shows my influences and explains how this pattern came to be. As always it is a free quilt pattern. Just click on the name Spools and Bobbins and you will be sent to a free PDF that you can either print or save to your own computer.

Last week when Hurricane Ike hit Houston, it also hit Lansing, Michigan. We had a roof leaf in our bathroom right before the storm. Three days of hard, heavy rain soaked our insulation and our bathroom ceiling caved in! My daughter was home and called to say the dog heard the crash and ran to her room for protection! So much for a brave guard dog.

I watch a lot of old movies. My favorite TV station is Turner Classic Movies. Last week I saw two movies with quilts in them. When Harry Met Sally is a great movie starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. In one scene Harry and Sally are watching Casablanca on TV, each in their own apartments, in bed, while talking on the phone (a send up of Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson and Doris Day). Sally is tucked under a Windblown Tulips quilt with yellow tulips. The other movie was My Bill starring Kay Francis from 1938. It's the story of a mother of four with money troubles and how her son Bill saves the family. Bill befriends a crabby old neighbor lady. In one scene the lady is lying under a log cabin quilt. It appears to be a silk one, where one half of each block is black. The strips are very narrow. In another scene the old woman is lying under a Dresden Plate quilt. I can't tell the colors since the movie was in black and white.

Last Thursday the guest speaker at our quilt guild was Patsy Thompson. She specializes in machine quilting and does excellent work. I admired her skill, but wasn't inspired to make quilts like hers. The more I quilt the more I realize how traditional I am. However, the more I watched, the more I realized how many good techniques she was describing and how much of it I could incorporate into my work. I especially want to learn to machine quilt feathers without marking them. I am now inspired to get out the muslin and scraps of batting and practice, practice, practice. Thanks Patsy!

The next pattern will by Friendship Stars.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jack in the Box

It's a beautiful Saturday morning and I'm taking a break from pin basting my quilt. It will be machine quilted in strips. Boomer is reclined at my feet beside the computer. When I move to stand at the bar to pin baste, he moves so his head is right between my feet. He's so loyal when I don't need him and so active when I want him to behave!

While blogging and basting I'm watching the Katharine Hepburn version of Little Women from 1933. Beth has contracted scarlet fever and is sick in bed. The story takes place during the Civil War and the quilt on the bed is a Double Wedding Ring. Not historically correct, but it's hard to blame the art director when this pattern was advertised at the time as from the Colonial Era. During Beth's death scene the quilt is an Ocean Waves. Since the movie is black and white you can't tell the colors, but it seems a little more accurate to the time frame.

Today's free quilt block pattern is Jack in the Box. I did a little research into the history of the pattern and it appears to have been first published in the 1930s. Check out the free pattern to see the full results of my research.

Tonight is the first football game of the Spartan season. Go Green!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Today's free quilt pattern is the Windmill. This block is easy to piece and has many triangles which makes for many pattern possibilities. I think my example turned out a little busy, so experiment with the values yourself. I'd love to see variations of this block, so send me images of what you come up with.

I did a little research on the history of the pattern name, Windmill. I used Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, Electric Quilt 5 and Block Base 2, to come up with 28 patterns all called Windmill or with Windmill as part of their title. Some of the blocks had the same construction, but different shading. Some had the same shading and different construction. Some had the same name and different geometries, and some the same geometry and different names. Check out the free Windmill pattern to compare the blocks, their shadings and their sources.

This has been a very busy two weeks for me. I just got new responsibilities at my job at the MSU Museum and the Museum just finished it's Great Lakes Folk Festival. Not only have I not updated my blog, but I haven't sewn either. I'm still working on making a quilting template for my Ohio Star President's quilt that is set in a streak-of-lightening setting. I've hit a snag. The cutting tool I was planning to use needs sharpening. So I bought a tool that burns wood and said it burned plastic, too. I've been trying it and although it melts the plastic, it doesn't make a large enough groove for a marking pencil to fit. Back to the drawing board!

Next week the pattern will be Jack in the Box.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Star in a Broken Wheel.

Today's free quilt pattern is Star in a Broken Wheel. Broken Wheel is a traditional pattern that I've always liked. When I drafted it to 12", it seemed a little empty, so I added a Sawtooth Star in the center, making it a Star in a Broken Wheel.

Today's topic is Getting Stuck. Everybody has their favorite parts of quiltmaking. Mine is drafting and sewing. I don't mind cutting and I like quilting, whether by machine or hand. But the part of quiltmaking that is the most trouble for me is choosing a quilt design and marking the quilt. I have dozens of unfinished projects that all stall when it comes to quilting. I'm trying to finish these UFO's, so I've got lots of quilt marking to do.

My current project is a streak of lightning, strippy quilt using 7 1/2" Ohio Stars. The blocks were given to me by members of the Capitol City Quilt Guild as a thank you for being their 20th president. I received the bocks in 2005, so 3 years in my UFO pile is not too bad. I set the blocks with triangles to make 7 strips. Then I put them aside to piece a quilt top for my friend and colleague at the MSU Museum, Lynne Swanson. It is a Center Diamond with Flying Geese (Lynne's favorite pattern) border. It was a fun project to draft and sew, but I think the real reason I did it was to avoid the next steps in my president's quilt. In 2009 the guild is having a quilt show and they want to display all the president's quilt for our 25th anniversary so I'm going back to that project.

How do you get past a block? For me, I sat down on Saturday with a pile of books with quilting patterns in them. I'm going to machine quilt it and I know I'm going to quilt the stars by stitch in the ditch. The hard part is the streak of lightning triangles. I always have an image in my mind of what I want, but my skills in drafting quilting designs is very limited and rarely measures up to my imagination. For this quilt I was thinking of a flowing feathered plume. The problem is a streak of lightning is really rectangles set perpendicular to each other. So to the books. I finally found a pattern I liked that almost fit in Sue Nickels and Pat Holly's Amish Patterns For Machine Quilting (Dover Needlework Series). The pattern is an arched plume with a tulip at one end. The pattern was not as long as I needed so I spent much of Sunday adding a pair of feathers to each end to get the length I wanted. To make sure the pattern was the right size I began sewing some of the strips together. The pattern fits.

Now I have a pattern I like and the next step is marking the top. When I machine quilt, I divide my quilt into units, quilt them and then put them together. This means I have to mark the top after it's basted to the batting and backing. So, I need a stencil. Pepper Cory taught me to cut stencils, so this afternoon, I'll be transferring the design to plastic and carving the grooves for my marking pencil. Once I get my first strip marked and quilted, I'm hoping I'll be unstuck. When the quilt is done I'll post a picture.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Party Basket

Today's free quilt pattern is the Party Basket. It is an original block that I designed. I love basket patterns, but most of the traditional baskets look best on point and I wanted to make a basket for a 12" block. I also wanted to have the basket full without using applique. That's how I came up with this pattern.

Today's topic, Time To Quilt.
I work Tuesdays-Fridays. Everyday, while at work I think of all the quilting I can do when I get home. The day ends, I ride my bike 4 miles home, cook dinner, wash dishes and watch TV. No quilting. On Fridays I think of three days off and all the quilting I'll get done. Saturday mornings Tom (my husband) asks what do you want to do today. My answer is always the same, "Whatever you want, but if you don't have any ideas I'll sew all day." Last Saturday we walked Boomer, got groceries, then went to Big Rapids and rode bikes on the Rails to Trails path. We rode 26 miles! My longest ride so far. I got home about 6:30, scrounged leftovers for dinner, did dishes and watched TV. On Sunday, I spent about three hours re-illustrating the Party Basket pattern. The original illustrations were done by hand, but now that they're being published on the web, the illustrations had to be drawn on the computer. I did a little sewing. My current project is a Center Diamond quilt with Flying Geese borders. The Center Diamond is done, and I pieced about 50 of the 120 Flying Geese units. This morning I helped my daughter get ready for class. She's taking classes at the local community college and has a cold, so was a little slow to start. Then I washed dishes (my dishwasher has been broke for about 5 weeks and the new one is coming today!). I vacuumed the kitchen floor, so the dishwasher installers don't have to sit in dirt and while the vacuum was out, did the living room, dining room and other miscellaneous places Boomer has been. It was fairly cool so I weeded half of a garden bed with the help of Boomer. I pull two weeds and he drops his ball in my weed bucket. I throw the ball and it goes on this way until one of us is tired. I usually poop out first, as I did this morning. Now it's 9:45 and I'm ready to sew, but I want to get my Blog done.

Now the story of my days is not very exciting, but I was thinking of all the little things (housework, errands) and big things (husbands, kids, pets) that distract me from what I really want to do QUILT!

How do you find time to quilt? Do you squeeze it in anywhere you can? Sew a little everyday? Is it a priority that comes before more mundane chores? Do you take handwork with you? My fantasy is to have a fabulous sewing room (mine's not bad), a brand new Bernina (mine's 12 years old), a great fabric stash (done) and unlimited time to work (not anytime soon). I don't know if this will ever come true, but I feel lucky to have found a hobby that has captured my interest for 34 years.

Time to go, I get to quilt until the dishwasher is delivered!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Anvil

Today's free quilt pattern is The Anvil.

The topic of today's blog is the naming of quilt patterns. The names given to quilt block patterns are not as old or as definitive as some quilters think. The first named pattern I know of was the hexagon, from Godey's Ladies Book, 1835. It was rare in women's magazines to find patterns for quiltmaking until the 1890s. At that time the Ladies Art Company began publishing and naming patterns. Connie Chunn is a quilt historian who has done extensive research on the Ladies Art Company and lucky for us, she shares it on her web site, Ladies Art Company. Quilt blocks continued to be advertised well into the 1960s, most notably in the Kansas City Star. Ruby Short McKim, Eveline Foland, and Nancy Page (the pen name of Florence LaGanke Harris) were some of the designers whose work were syndicated all over the country. The Magic Vine was one of Nancy Page's most popular patterns and a free version can be found at the Sentimental Stitches website. Patterns were named after places (Road to Oklahoma, Indiana Puzzle), historical figures (Lafayette's Orange Peel), household objects (Churn Dash), etc. In the 1920s and 1930s, the names were given romantic histories by authors Carlie Sexton, Marie Webster, Ruth Finley and others. There is no evidence in wills, household inventories or diaries that these names were used by colonial settlers or westward pioneers.

Publishing patterns began to wane during and after WWII. During the 1950s and 1960s, patterns were exchanged through Round Robins, where pen pals traced and traded blocks originally published earlier. Mimeographed catalogs from Barbara Bannister and others offered reprints of the syndicated newspaper patterns. Homemade quilt newsletters Aunt Kate's Quilting Bee and Nimble Needle Treasures were the precursors of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine. The bicentennial began a renaissance in quiltmaking. Now we have many magazines, websites, and pattern companies to provide patterns.

This brings us to The Anvil. I drafted the pattern after finding it in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. The pattern in Brackman had seams in the center square. Brackman's pattern was from an unknown source. I had no luck finding a reference to this pattern in the Kansas City Star, so I don't know where it originated. Finding the definitive name for a quilt pattern is impossible. Many patterns that are geometrically the same were given different names (Churn Dash, Hole in the Barn Door). Different geometric patterns were also given the same name (Corn and Beans). Add to that the infinite variations made by individual quilters and the quest becomes even more impossible. Brackman's Encyclopedia is currently the best compilation, but by no means a complete resource.

When I know the history of a quilt pattern, I will include it with the free pattern. However, I have only scratched the surface of this topic. If quilt pattern history interests you I recommend the following websites for a start: Barbara Brackman: Quilt Historian, American Quilt Study Group, Quilt Patterns & Their History (includes free patterns!), and the Quilt History List.

Next week: Party Basket

Monday, July 7, 2008

Block By Block Quilts, Getting Started

When quilt historians of the future look at the quiltmaking trends of the late 20th century, the Sampler quilt is going to stand-out. Over the years I have drafted many blocks to the size of 12”. I like this scale in proportion to bed quilts and because it divides easily by both 3 and 4, it’s perfect for 4-Patch and 9-Patch blocks.

In the early 1990s, I taught a block of the month quiltmaking class at a local quilt shop. After the first year, I designed the blocks for the class. In 1995, these blocks were turned into my book Block By Block. The book is now out of print but you can still find it at, eBay and some quilt shops. After Block By Block was published, I continued designing blocks and sold them to quilt shops all over the country for their block of the month classes. The quilt on the left, I called the Desert Sampler and it is comprised of both traditional and original blocks from the pattern service.

I will be offering the blocks from this quilt on these posts. But before we start on the blocks, here are some thoughts on how to choose fabrics. Choosing fabrics can be very scary, especially for beginners. If you've been quilting for a long time, you're used to placing stripes next to polka dots, and after awhile, all fabrics look good together. But if you're new, one of the easiest ways to pick colors is to find one fabric you really like and use it to choose your other fabrics. I call it the bold fabric. The next fabric to choose is your background. This is the place your eye rests and makes the pieces in your blocks standout. After that you can add at least 4 accent fabrics. These should not be as striking as the bold fabric, and will be used to make the bold fabric look good. Don't worry if the accent fabrics don't all go together. They don't have to be used next to each other or in the same block. The main fabric I chose for the Desert Sampler is used as the border and in the large pieces in the blocks. I chose a peach tone on tone for the background, because it was the same shade as the background in my bold fabric. The accents include, brown, royal blue, rust, and a yucky green. They all appear in the bold fabric and I probably wouldn't have thought of putting them together if I hadn't loved the bold fabric. Don't be afraid to add more fabrics to the ones I suggest here. The backgrounds can be many different peach tone on tones. The same goes for the accents. I prefer to use as many fabrics as I can. I, like many of my quilting friends, have a huge stash of fabrics that I like to draw from. I also believe that if you choose many fabrics and one is wrong, it won't show much, but if you choose only three fabrics and one is wrong, you have trouble. Make sure you consider scale and value in your choices. Mix up small scale prints, with medium scale prints, stripes, plaids and geometrics in your accents. Going from light to dark in value also adds interest.

To start the project I've got some free handouts for you. The Desert Sampler is a lap size quilt with 12, 12" blocks. The Layout Chart shows you how to arrange the 12" blocks with sashing and cornerstones to create quilts sized from Wall to King. The second handout is a Fabric Yardage Chart for all the sizes given in the Layout Chart. My next blog will be the first block in the quilt, The Anvil. There will also be instructions on putting the quilt to together and information on borders for the different sized quilts in future blogs.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Savanna's Quilt Part 3

This is the last part of the free quilt pattern, Savanna's Quilt. Instructions on how to make the borders are found by clicking Savanna's Quilt Part 3. I love pieced borders and use them often in my quilts. It fascinates me to go from one color to another without using straight lines. I don't know what the name of this border is. I saw a picture of an Anne Orr style basket quilt from the 1930s that used this style for the final border. I call it Dental Border because it reminds me of a design used in moldings made by woodworkers.

Pieced borders can be tricky. For the borders to turn the corners successfully, measurements and construction must be accurate. In the course of quiltmaking many things affect the outcome. First the math in the design must be right. Next, measuring, cutting, sewing and pressing all have an impact.

In my instructions, you will find measurements given for every stage of construction. This will help you remain on track before going to the next step. When I design a pieced border, I almost always have a floating border between the body and the pieced border. I like the look of the body being separated from the pieced border and it's a place where you can make adjustments if your measurements are off. For instance, if you've finished the body of the quilt and it is too large, you can make the floating border narrower to accommodate it. If the body of the quilt is too small, you can make the floating border wider to accommodate it.

Another problem can occur in the pieced border itself. Most pieced borders are long and it's very easy for a small error in each seam to multiply into a problem when fitting it to the quilt. While sewing the pieced units together, stop and measure after a few to see if you're on track. If you still end up too long, choose a few seams over the length of the border to re-sew with a slightly large seam allowance. This will be less noticeable than if you just lopped off the end of the border. If the border is too short, you can do the opposite and choose a few seams to re-sew with a narrower seam allowance.

Pieced borders are one of my favorite things to design and sew in a quilt. This is an easy one and I hope you enjoy making it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Savanna's Quilt Part 2

Part 2 of Savanna's quilt is ready. Just click Savanna Part 2 for your free copy. As I was writing this pattern I was thinking about my favorite ways to applique. First, I'll admit that applique is not my favorite part of quiltmaking, but I have managed to do a nice job when I need it.

In the early 1990s I ran a quilt retreat in Northern Michigan. Being the retreat organizer, I got to choose the teachers who were hired and I hired some of the best appliquers. When I read my Quilter's Newsletter Magazine I don't see these ladies names often, so I want to share them with you. They are all active and still doing amazing work. Please check out these talented women: Elly Sienkiewicz, the queen of the Baltimore Album style quilt and a great storyteller; Pat Campbell, the woman who converted Jacobean embroidery into gorgeous applique; Jeanna Kimball whose simple designs exuded a wonderful animation; and Charlotte Warr Andersen whose pictorial and portraiture quiltmaking is second to none. I hope you enjoy their websites.

They also offer wonderful products that make appliqueing more enjoyable.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Savanna's Quilt Part 1

One of life’s great joys is girlfriends. 27 years ago I met my two best friends, Jennifer and Kristen. We had all just had our first babies and met in a Mother-Baby class. The class started with 8 mothers, 8 babies and 1 nurse. Now 3 of us mothers still meet each week for a lunch we call Baby Day. We have 7 kids aged 23 to 27. Our first grandchild was born to Kristen’s daughter Jenny on January 27, 2008. Jenny named her Savanna Marie.

Now, there is no better way to celebrate a new baby, than a baby quilt. And, as I’m still trying to finish up UFO’s, I designed this baby quilt around a set of appliquéd heart blocks given to me by another friend, Leanna Brunsell. I alternated the heart blocks with a scrappy old block called Thrifty. The last inspiration was a quilt I saw on eBay that had a nifty, easy Dental Molding border. Add it all together and Savanna’s Quilt was born. I have turned the project into a free quilt pattern! The pattern will be in three parts. Click on Savanna, Part 1, the Thrifty block, to download the first two pages. In the next two weeks you can download Savanna, Part 2, the appliquéd heart and Savanna, Part 3, the borders.

For anyone near Morehead City, North Carolina, make sure and attend the Quilt Flap. To quote Pepper Cory from her blog, it's "a glorious show-n-tell... showing strange-n-wonderful quilts from my collection." Also attending are quilt preservation and repair experts Lynn Gorges and Janice Pope. Bring yourself, your old quilts, and your camera.
When: Saturday June 21, 2008
Where: the auditorium of The History Place, 1008 Arendell St., downtown Morehead City NC.
Starts: 8:30 AM till 10 AM socializing, register etc. The real thing begins at 10 and goes to noon. recommences 1-4 PM.
Make sure and go to Pepper's Blog to learn more about this excellent quilt adventure.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pearl's Stars

This is my latest finished quilt. Titled Pearl's Stars because I finished it for my friend Pearl Yee Wong. Pearl works with me at the MSU Museum and is a great photographer. When I decided to start blogging I knew I wanted good images of my quilts and made a trade with Pearl. If she would photograph my quilts, I would make her one. She agreed. The results of both our efforts are on the left; my quiltmaking and her photography.

I finished the top in the late 1980s. I drafted many of the traditional star patterns myself and included many stars from my favorite contemporary quilt block maker, Judy Martin. These blocks were found in her Ultimate Quilt Block Book. I'm also a big fan of pieced borders, so I added some 4 1/4" squares on point. The top was not lying as flat as I like so I put it away (for 20 years!) When I approached Pearl about my project, I showed her this top and she said she liked it; so I made a few alterations so it would lie flat and machine quilted it for her.

Like many quiltmakers, I have an abundance of UFO's (un-finished objects). And it's not enough that I have ones that I've started myself, but I've bought tops and blocks on eBay and at yard sales. For the last two years I've been trying to finish these up. Some projects I still like and others just need to be put out of their artistic misery, but the practical side of me just can't do that yet.

Finishing another quilter's work whether it is an anonymous person or a close friend is a noble act. Quilters' Hall of Famer, Mary Schafer finished an amazing amount of work by her best pen pal Betty Harriman. You can see the fruits of this labor at the
Great Lakes Quilt Center
website. She also finished many tops and made quilts from vintage blocks from anonymous makers. The Sunbonnet Sues in Canoes are a local Lansing, MI group who finished quilts made by their friend Gail Hill. When Gail passed away from breast cancer, they finished some of her projects for her sons.

Hope springs eternal and I'm planning on sharing more finished UFO's in the coming blogs. I'd love to hear from you about your UFO's. Pearl's interest in the star top was the motivation I needed to complete it. If you're stalled and need encouragement, or if there's some problems that you don't know how to fix, share it here and we can move another quilt to the finished project, ready for show and tell pile.