WIP–Red/White Blocks, Etc.

It’s Work In Progress Wednesday!

Nothing fancy today–just the red/white squares for my mini-challenge.  Three are in, and I need to get these made and sent off to those who have already finished.  Thanks, ladies for meeting your August 1st deadline early!

My tip for the day occurred to me while I was trimming up bulky flying geese units for this block.  Sometimes on seam-heavy patches, if the ruler is sliding around a lot, leave part of your hand halfway-on and halfway off the ruler (my lower thumb, above) in order to anchor it better.  Then you can successfully trim up the unit.

And then there’s this. I got it back from CJ Designs (my quilter) as we’d worked out that she’d quilt some and I’d quilt some.  I’d been putting it off for a while because I didn’t quite know how to begin.  Yesterday I went to Leah Day’s Free Motion Quilting Project website, looked at some of her designs and clicked on her videos of how to make those designs happen.

This one’s called Curvy Key.

I like this one too: Overlapping Arches.

But I woke up this morning thinking about this one: Lollypop Chain.  If you have never been to Leah’s site, click on the Lollypop Chain link and watch her quilt up her sample.  She is amazing (and so is her quilting).  So maybe I’ll try this one.  Ruth McDowell suggested taking some transparent paper (doctor’s examining table paper, architect paper, or those waxy deli squares you can buy that they use to grab things with) to try out the quilting.

Draw out your design on the paper and place it over the area you want to quilt.  This does two things: let’s you “see” the quilting on your quilt before you decide, and also puts it into your muscle memory, so when you do start to quilt, it’s not completely foreign.  It also wouldn’t hurt to first try the design on a scrap quilt sandwich before you begin on your quilt.

Now I’m off to go look around at what you all have been doing!



I’ve been in Washington, DC this past week, visiting friends.  My sister joined me for one day (one MUGGY day) so we stayed in the National Gallery of Art for the most part, taking it all in.  But everywhere I went, I saw the grid.  The underlying architecture of the quilting world, even if we distort it, or break it, or deconstruct it.

The roof of the National Portrait Gallery, and the wall of the courtyard that caught the light.

Sol LeWitt’s stack of blocks.  Almost looks like a bunch of HST there on the right side.  Good luck with the left side.

The iconic image of the the last election, but hey–don’t you see the Orange Peel block there on his upper left cheekbone?  (I enlarged it for you.) This version of the image by Shepherd Fairy is a derivation of what was used in the campaign, and incorporates what is said to be “decorative papers.”  Hmmm. Why can’t they acknowledge quilting blocks?  (Can you tell I just finished reading Jennifer Chiaverini’s latest book: The Master Quilter?)

The carpet in our last hotel.  Reminds me of Ricky Tims’ way of splicing two different interesting whole-cloth fabrics into a “convergence.”

And look! Three blocks!

I spent one day with Rhonda, one who joined in the Red/White Challenge and who took me to the Lorton Workhouse where we enjoyed a lovely day filled with all sorts of inspiration and art.  We saw a watercolor of a lovely pot of flowers by Marni Maree and the title was Sixteen Things About Me. Sure enough, we could spot little artifacts that represented her hidden in her painting.  So Rhonda and I got thinking about doing a small quilt, but lowering the number to say, ten objects, working them into our designs.  In another gallery we saw a quilter who made extensive use of raw-edge applique.  So we added that “rule” to the budding challenge we were thinking up.  But we stopped short of deadline or any other rules, because she’s working on the dotty quilt I have waiting for me to finish with (yes, I got it back from the quilters), and then we’re already doing the appliqued Lollypop Tree blocks together.  The goal: one a month.  But if you think you’d like to join us in this idea of a challenge, leave a comment and propose a size.  Maybe we’ll move it up in the queue.  Or maybe it sounds like a lovely thing to do NEXT spring.  Afterwards we enjoyed lunch together in Occoquan, Viriginia at the Blue Arbor Cafe, where I had an amazing lobster roll. Tons of lobster, but as terrific as that was, the time visiting with a good friend was even better.

Here are all the red/white blocks together so far.  When we were traveling, we stopped the mail, but it gets delivered tomorrow, so I can then wash and iron the red fabric and get my blocks done!


Munich’s Garden Gate

Because the experts always say to have a better chance of accomplishing a goal, I have started thinking each week what I want to finish.  I realized that this week, because my red fabric for my Red/White Challenge hadn’t arrived (my planned finishing item), I would have to think of something else.  It was this quilt.

We went to Munich in 2004, and I shot 300 photos, digitally.  And some time in April 2005, I erased them all.  (!)

But I had already planned to use this photo for the center for a project I was working on with my guild: a medallion quilt, so had moved it to my desktop.  It’s the only remaining image. I carried on, blowing it up, figuring out the flowers and what colors I wanted them, as I had carried home a sack of scraps from a small fabric shop in Munich that made dirndls for Oktoberfest.  We had been there shortly after that season, and they sold me the bag for about 25 bucks.  Many of the fabrics in this quilt are from Munich.

Here’s the central medallion, almost finished.  Then the hard work of figuring out the borders–always a dance.  I invested in a couple of used books, and slowly, border by border, I built the quilt.  We were on sabbatical in Washington, DC at the time, and I was able to finish my quilt top before we left to return home; I quilted the top all the way across America, finding more thread in Albuquerque when I ran out.

It sat, quilted, for a while and when I came across it again, I decided to add more quilting.  Back at it with the blue painters’ masking tape until I finally got fed up with it all and started drawing light lines of pencil on the top.  I finished that quilting, then it sat again, until I started the photography project.  I dug into the stash, found the binding, made the label and finished stitching around it in time for this week’s Finishing School Friday.  I HAD to have something finished!

When I went out to photograph it, the wind was moving the quilt back and forth, and it flicked into the sun, creating this translucent effect.

All the hand quilting–think of it as if every state along I-40 has a bit of itself in this quilt!

The labels, all stitched down.

Five years later, we went back to Munich, and this time I didn’t erase all my photos (back it up, people, back them ALL up!).  I didn’t ever find the original gate, but I did see this grillwork alongside a building near the dirndl shop, near the beer garden downtown, with the same central motif.  It felt like I was seeing an old friend.


First Quilt Ever

Sometimes it’s wise to pause in the headlong rush to completion and busyness and take stock of where you are before you jump off the cliff again, and summer is often a good time to do just that.  I’ve mentioned before that I began to photograph all my quilts.  First I had to make a list, and as people talked to me, I would pencil in another and another.  It’s like forgetting one of the children, but I think I’ve about got everyone.

Occasionally I’ll post about them, and as I do, I’ll catalogue them on my page Quilt Gallery–Body of Work.  Here’s the first quilt I can ever remember making: a whole cloth quilt made from some densely woven Holly Hobby print.

I was pretty clueless about this quilting business, but I had slept under handmade quilts on occasion so our family was not bereft of something original.  I picked out this fabric, layered it over a plain yellow backing with some lumpy batting and put it in a hoop and stitched around nearly each figure.

Why lumpy quilt batting?  They were all lumpy in the early 1970s–big polyester wads that you had to unfold and unfold and smooth out and then stitch fairly closely so it wouldn’t shift in the washing of the quilt.  Decorative edges were the norm; this one has 2″ eyelet ruffling with rounded corners.  I’m pretty sure I stitched it onto the top, then folded the backing over to meet it and whipstitched the edges together.  I wrote about this in an earlier post, and defend its homeliness.

The back.  So different than what’s au courant now.

And here’s the place where I couldn’t figure out how to stop or start–a nice little nub of thread under one of Holly’s shoes.  I think it was about another 5 years before I really figured out that beginning/ending of the thread thing.

I realize that looking at my first quilt is like that old saying about my child’s precious and lovely, and yours is coarse and picks its nose, but I hope that by showing this, you’ll be realize that everyone is somewhere on the quilting spectrum–from beginner to master quilter.  This is where I began, and if you post or write about your first quilt, come on back here and leave a comment so we can see how far you’ve come!


Churn Dash

The first block is finished from the Red/White Challenge!

Sara finished up her Churn Dash block and sent it to me, and she was very happy to have completed her square (she’s a beginning quilter).  I think it looks beautiful–there’s something so simple yet lovely about these two colors put together.

I think the vibrancy of the red, which acts as a dark value, really makes the red/white combination pop.  That old saying “color gets the credit but value does all the work,” applies in this instance.  We think it is because of the red that the block looks so crisp.  But it’s the deeper (a darker value) red that is doing the work, as you can see in the block below.

I’ve simply lightened the red to a medium color.  The block is not nearly as vibrant or interesting.

Red also has its own stories and folklore, from the popular red and green Baltimore Album quilts, to this story, related in the book Wild by Design (Berlow and Crews):

“[A quilter] recalled an instance from her youth in the early twentieth century, when she and her mother traveled to the dry goods store to buy some fabric for hope chest quilts:

‘We had picked three pieces of remnant blue and was just fingerin’ some red calico.  We was jest palnnin’ on enough for the middle squares from that.

‘Just then Papa came in behind us and I guess he saw us lookin’.  He just walked right past us like he wasn’t with us, right up to the clerk and said, “How much cloth is on that bolt?”

‘The clerk said, “Twenty yards.”

‘Papa never looked around.  He just said, “I’ll take it all!”

‘He picked up that whole bolt of red calico and carried it to the wagon.  Mama and me just laughed to beat the band. Twenty yards of red.  Can you imagine?’ ”

And in honor of men who buy red bolts of calico, and help us in all we do, Happy Fathers Day!

——-Update———Two Red/White Challenge Blocks are In!———-


Lollypop Tree Block Three

Yep–I made it to Friday!  Here’s Lollypop Tree Block Three, on a yellow check.  I’m discovering that the more I do these, and am familiar with the different swoops and swirls of the fabric stash I have, the easier it is.  I learned on this block the importance of contrast–light against dark–as well as the idea of balancing geometric/angular designs against the curvilinear/floral designs.  I was kind of worried about that upper middle flower petal.  Although I like the rosebud is intriguing, it does look washed out in the above photo.  It’s a little less so in the real-life version, however.  It cracks me up how many circles I’ve had to make.

Block One has 4 ovals and 27 circles.
Block Two has 2 ovals and 33 circles.
This block has only (!) 2 ovals and 15 circles.  This was faster to lay out and faster to sew.

Total Circle Count: 75 thus far.

I have to say, I really like the softer yellows and the hot pinks.  Making these blocks gives me a chance to explore the world of color in a new way.

And P.S. My husband calls this the Avatar quilt, after all the strange vegetation shown in that movie.  (A botanist at our local university was the consultant, so we feel we have a home-grown tie to all those wild looking plants.)