Free Quilt Pattern · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt


Anne of Springleaf Studios recently wrote to me, including a photo of her poppy quilt:

Anne is an amazing colorist; seeing her quilts is always a treat, as they are rich in color and perfect in value. She wrote that she enlarged my Poppies pattern a bit, and added circles for the centers. I love her version, and it made me think of the first version of this quilt (patterns are free and downloadable; see below).

From ages ago, this was the first iteration. My distantly related niece knew I was a quilter and wanted to make a quilt for her mother, who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer; they wanted poppies. I drew it up, heard that she finished it, but it wasn’t until much later that I was able to get a photo of it for my archive. (I wrote about the process earlier on this blog.)

This is a more traditional poppy block, with the red petals and the black center, but I’m in totally in love with Anne’s version. Hmmmm, I think I’ll have to add that to the list. I also have a lot of Kaffe prints and need to use them up.

The first freebie Poppies pattern was written in 2017; this week I re-wrote the pattern, and included the more traditional setting which is over in my PayHip shop. I’m happy to share with you.

(Fabric companies picked up my pattern for Remembrance Day, 11 November)

Another way I share is by not having advertising on this blog. As some of your know, we’ve been re-doing our kitchen, We thought about it about a decade ago, then more earnestly in 2020 (haha!) and this year the time had finally arrived for us to update. The other night I was trying to figure out how to use our new Breville Smart Oven to cook some potatoes and I jumped online. It was like jumping into a pool of advertising, swimming upstream looking for the content/recipe/can I use the convection? So the only money that comes to me now is through the patterns; this is just a choice I made. Maybe I’m crazy (possibly–to do a kitchen remodel might be proof), but I very much like writing and visiting with those who find this blog.

Here are some more poppies — this time in California Poppy orange — a welcome visitor in March.

I mentioned that my friend Judy passed away mid-February and her memorial open house was March 17th. While cleaning out, her daughter found a completed batik quilt and backing and wondered if I could help her get it finished for her father? I contacted Jen of Sew-Mazing Quilting and she turned it around in no time flat. I got it bound (we took off the last border and used that for the binding — no one will ever miss it), and delivered it to them on March 16th.

I’m sure all the guys in the kitchen tearing out my kitchen cabinets wondered what in heavens name we were doing.

Hmmmm…the usual. Quilting!

The Poppies Pattern is found in my Pattern Shop.

300 Quilts · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Quilt Finish

Quilt Finish: Aerial Beacon

To get across great distances, way back in the day, early airplane pilots would focus on visual landmarks, or sometimes lit bonfires if they needed to find their way in the dark: “In February 1921, an airmail pilot named Jack Knight put this to the test with his all-night flight to Chicago from North Platte, Nebraska. Knight found his way across the black prairie with the help of bonfires lit by Post Office staff, farmers, and the public” (from here). When I found this Aerial Beacon block, it sent me gathering information about this idea: that there were physical beacons to guide those airmail pilots before we had modern navigation. Really? I’d never even thought about this.

An early map showing one of the routes across the United States.

Many aerial beacons were atop tall city buildings. This is from a vintage postcard of Chicago.

Some aerial beacon were little huts with a number painted on the roof. They were next to the tall beacon, with a concrete arrow pointing on to the next one. These are still found in the United States on hilltops, beside cities, although there are very few extant arrows.

This quilt began with these French Bee fabrics by Renee Nanneman. I kept trying to think of names for the bees, and thought up “sky pilots.” Nope. That’s an established term for clergymen/women, which I also didn’t know. So I kept looking, and then found this:

A traditional block, which would let the bees show off nicely, as well as the coordinating fabrics. I loved those four big triangles; sort of like propeller blades (another reference to flight). So I made my first block, wondering if could I even do this? I chose to make this a foundation paper-pieced block, so as to get those snappy points and to keep everything in place (pattern coming next year some time).

ultra-high radio frequency waves (RFID, or radio frequency identification)

Then, thinking about the idea of RFID waves, and the communications that replaced the aerial beacon huts, I referenced them with a waved border made with bias binding. It was a good exercise to figure it out, and I love how it looks.

Jen of Sew-Mazing Quilting went the extra mile in the quilting. I had many strong colors in the blocks and a very light border and backgrounds and I asked her to use Superior’s MicroQuilter thread in silver (7007). Bob Purcell (who founded Superior) told me it was their best blender, and he was right.

late-night sewing

I did begin making the blocks way back in October, first thinking about a design with nine blocks. But there was so much fabric left from each French bee color, that I made more. And took trips to Utah. And tried to sew. And took trips to Utah. And I kept trying to write the pattern, because it was such a fun block. And took a final trip to Utah. Then unlike those early pilots ferrying mail, in the next few weeks I felt more than once like I had lost my way. This quilt spent a lot of time wadded up in the corner, as I just didn’t have the moxie to work on it.

I even had the backing ready to go as I dithered and dithered about whether I should quilt it myself or not. I finally realized that given my current state, you-know-what would freeze over before I got around it it. When Jen returned the quilt, it sat some more time. Finally this past week, I found my way to binding it. (Binding is a lot less stressful since learning this trick.) And then I indexed it: Quilt #273.

the back of the quilt, held by the best Quilt-Holding Husband, at a local park

Since I often write about my own life on this blog, I will share that I have often wondered how I would react when my mother died. I thought about it off and on in my life, sometimes thinking I’d be perfectly fine and then other times thinking I’d be a total wreck. My mother lived to be 94, so she had been with me my entire life and really, truly, I liked her a lot. Yes, we had our differences, and no, she was not perfect, but in her later years (before it got really hard for her), we had an easy camaraderie. The truth is many days I am perfectly fine, and at other moments, in other days, I’m quite tender around the edges, breaking into tears. You probably know how it goes. When I was a teenager, Dad got all the credit, but I came to realize — and even more now that she is gone — that she did all the heavy lifting of relationships, of sending me little gifts, of checking in with me. I always knew she was my best cheerleader.

I had a chance a couple of years ago, after a presentation with the Utah Valley Quilt Guild, to go up to her condo and give her and Dad and one of her friends a mini Guild Presentation. Her eyesight was failing then, but we passed around the quilts so she could look at them up close and feel them; she enjoyed it all. She apologized that she didn’t have more of her friends there, but that wasn’t who the show was for.

It was for her, my mother, now my very own aerial beacon.

Other posts about this quilt:

Bias Binding Fun

the label, a simple one this time
Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Quilt Patterns

Continuously Hung up In Bias (aka Failing Forward)

Not that kind of bias. I had to teach that subject when I was an English teacher, and it was a struggle getting the ideas of Preferences vs. Bias into college Freshmen Heads, as well as why they should avoid bias if they can help it.

So you know I’m working on this new pattern, and in one section it calls for a lot of self-made bias, kind of like a self-made woman, but less flashy. I knew I needed about 1044 inches, so I thought–sure, I’ll do it all in one swoop.


If I put this into the pattern like this you would all get out your seam rippers and come after me. Thinking about this, I wound it on a large envelope (above), winding and winding and winding.

So the basic drill is cut a giant piece of fabric after doing math that involves square roots (!), then slice off a chunk on a 45-degree angle and sew it to the other side. NOT like the arrangement in the first photo, but more like the arrangement in the second photo. Two bias edges on either side and cross-grainy bits on the top and bottom.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. (Samuel Beckett)

Usually, then you draw lines parallel to the bias edges the width you want your continuous bias. I looked at several websites, but Ann of Obsessive Quilter had the best explanations I’ve seen. Thank you! I was swimming in a sea of geometry and square root equations. She has three versions of the next steps, and I liked (and tested out more than once) her method of cutting strips:

Using rotary cutter was the selling point. None of that 1000 inches of using scissors for me!

So lovely, I hung it on the wall <cough>. Then proceeded to get it all tangled.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. Winston Churchill

Untangled and getting ready for the next steps, which are a hybrid of Ann’s. I tried this two more times to make sure I could do this and write it up so you can do this. Instructions will be in the pattern. Which is coming. [Because of recent events, November was obliterated.]

One fails forward toward success. ~ C. S. Lewis

This Quilt Is A Mess, from ages and ages ago — a real genuine failure

Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward, a quote attributed to John Maxwell, was ringing in my head as I cut and cut and tried and tried to master continuous bias. I only seemed to get stuck — not really a failure — but I tried to learn from each of my stuck places. Trying to make all the quilt’s continuous bias all at once? Not a good idea. Figuring out how long the bias needed to be? Thank heavens for scientific calculators (an iPhone tipped on its side while in Calculator mode).

But over and over it’s the user of this pattern I think about. I love the design, although it didn’t come easily. I try to write detailed patterns with clear directions and probably too many illustrations, some drawn in Affinity Designer, and when my skills fail (there’s that word again), I turn to photography. I keep trying to fail forward.

A circle made of my bias tape, then machine appliquéd

Sara Blakely, the woman who invented Spanx, had a question asked of her (and her brother) every night when she was growing up: “What did you fail at today?” When there was no failure to report, Blakely’s father would express disappointment. “What he did was redefine failure for my brother and me,” Blakely said. “And instead of failure being the outcome, failure became not trying. And it forced me at a young age to want to push myself so much further out of my comfort zone.” However, Ron Friedman notes that “Failure, per se, is not enough. The important thing is to analyze the failure for insight that can improve your next attempt.”

I fail a lot in regular life, but after hanging around a sewing machine for the better part of my teenage and adult life, the sewing failures are fewer. However they do arrive in new ways.

Like continuous bias.

P.S. If you want my 1044 inches of 1-1/8″ bias tape (using high quality quilting fabric), please leave a comment. If there are more than one of you who want this, I’ll draw a name from a hat. Bias tape has been distributed.

P.P.S. There is a sneak peek of the quilt in my PayHip shop; the quilt is currently at the quilter and will be revealed soon. It went up because the people at PayHip offered some new designs and I jumped, redesigning my site.
Above is one of the photos. (And no, we didn’t carry the quilts to Italy, Berlin and Spain. I inserted them with my Affinity Photo software…but it is kind of fun to see them like this!)

Gridsters · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Quilt Finish

Autumn Leaves • Quilt Finish

“When all that cautions the eyes toward the imminent
slide of autumn to arctic winds, the canopy of English elm
and sycamore leaves like colored coins fall and widen
a hole letting more light spill in, heaven’s alms
to earth…”
~from the poem “Washington Square,” by Major Jackson

And Denise Levertov’s poem asks Autumn: “can you pull me / into December?”

But wait, Denise. I’d like to stay here awhile, and enjoy the recent fall color all squeezed into this quilt:

Autumn Leaves • Quilt #269 • 50″ square

This was a group effort from Gridster Bee, a collaboration, much like when the forests in winter climates all talk to each other: “You do red this year,” says one. “I’ll do gold and brown. How about you do crimson?” and so on until the forest is “liked colored coins” that will eventually fall and widen. While more blocks than shown arrived, I had to widen the quilt to let that light spill in, so some are saved for another project, letting heaven’s alms fall to earth in more than one spot.

It started with these two, and morphed into a Pattern Lite, which you can grab here for under the price of a slice of pizza or a basket of beignets at our local beignet place. While you are there, don’t forget to snag the SpiderWeb pattern, which is free until the end of October.

Pattern Shop:

Last year around this time, I had a different quilt slung on the fence, and was working on two autumn-themed pillows Mr. Pumpkin and Crossed Lillies; seems like working with these colors is an annual festival.

The back, showing all the signatures of my beemates: Patti, Shelley, Bren, Carlene, Laurie, Melanie, Robin, Susan, Carolyn, Ramona, and Meredith. I am so grateful they all contributed. And gosh, I know I’m missing a label (coming soon), and double-gosh, the back almost looks like a Modern Quilt!

Portfolio of Group Quilts

And to honor — and catalogue — all the collaborations I’ve done, I added a new category to My Quilt Index tab, above: Portfolio of Group Quilts. I only have my quilts listed (not the group’s quilt), although I have done posts about the others in the past.

Here’s to roads diverging into yellow woods, and copper woods, and crimson–

Free Quilt Pattern · PatternLite · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt

Spiders, Quilty-Style

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wiens-web2.jpg
Beach Umbrellas made by Cindy Wiens of LiveAColorfulLife

Check out this gorgeous quilt from Cindy. It has a block that is a familiar patchwork pattern: and it’s a free patchwork pattern from a reworked patchwork pattern. Cindy of Liveacolorfullife and I chat back and forth occasionally and we happened to strike up a conversation about this block, from March 2015 Mid-Century Modern Bee:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is mcm-march-2014.jpg

We were trying to remember how we made these blocks for Cindy’s turn as Queen Bee in the Mid-Century Modern back in 2014, but when we headed to the linked blog that had the instructions — it was No Longer in Service. She was trying to finish up her quilt, so we tried another place. No Longer in Service. Somehow I think of the internet as being eternal, like a good book, but obviously the joke is on me for that one.

So I started drafting things in my Affinity Designer, then I dug up an old handout for the small quilting group we had Before Covid, and combined them. So I have another free pattern for SpiderWeb for you, but since it’s under the PatternLite series, it will be found over in my Pattern Shop. I’ll have it on 100% FREE! until the end of the month, where it will be my usual PatternLite price: less than a fancy drink at Starbucks.

While it is for free, consider clicking on Follow as a thank you, and to keep up with my shenanigans. Cindy and I are doing this in tandem, so she’ll also have it on her blog, LiveAColorfulLife — so head over there and read about her goings on and follow her, too. Cindy is an amazing quilter, and has done the hard work and compiled a visual list of all her quilts. Number 219 is one of my current favorites, but there are others that have caught my eye.

To find the free pattern: click on link below.

Click! SpiderWeb block pattern in three sizes, on PayHip (my pattern shop).

But from Spiderwebs, we must move on to October’s beginnings, which includes these two motifs: black cats and pumpkins. These are pillow tops that I’m sending to another DIL, who loves Halloween. I hope she likes them. She has a nook in her upstairs bedroom that we would all covet: a large Palladian window with a loveseat, filled with cushions and pillows. I was thinking about those when I made these, two from my collection of Riley Blake Pillows from last year that I saved for her.

I included this homemade card. Download the blank and send some to people you love:

Lastly, we passed the Autumn Equinox on September 22, so the days are getting longer. So are the shadows of my silverware.

Happy October, everyone!

P.S. One year we lived in Alexandria, VA and the leaf colors that year were spectacular. I would bring home fistfuls of beautiful leaves, lay them out on my flatbed scanner to scan and save them. These are some my husband brought home one day. No–we don’t have gorgeous fall color here, but come January — we have a few trees that will turn red. All of you who live in fall color territory are so lucky!

300 Quilts · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Quilt Finish

Sunflowers for a Daughter-in-Law • Quilt Finish

Sunflowers for Kim, Quilt #268, 62″ square

It takes a lot of steps to make a dance, a lot of pages to make a book and a lot of pieces to make a quilt.

Relationships are similarly intricate, especially the relationship between a mother-in-law (MIL) and her daughter-in-law. In my first marriage, I tried to develop a relationship with my new mother-in-law, but she and I were just too different to make it. When the son of this woman and I divorced, we made a deal: I’ll take the children to see my parents, and you you take the children to see yours. Within eighteen months time, we’d split the property, I’d met my Real Husband, and he and I married and moved to Southern California.

A few months later, I tasked the children with cleaning out their closets, and one of the kids handed me an unopened envelope from the former MIL. I opened it gingerly, and in it she took me to task for moving her grandchildren away from her, and for generally ruining most everything. I don’t know what happened to that letter, but now, thirty-plus years later, I recognize how right she was. I did move away, I did take the children some distance. But I also recognized her sorrow and from then on sent her school pictures, short notes, had the children write letters, trying to keep up a connection that her son was unwilling to do. I never saw her again in person, but mourned her when she died.

When my sons married, it was my turn. I have found in moving through the world, you either love your mother-in-law or she drives you crazy. There doesn’t seem to be too many in the middle. Sometimes we love our MILs because they raised our husbands, and we give them the respect owed to them for bringing us this wonderful human. Other times we wondered what in heavens’ name they were thinking to raise someone who _________ (fill in the blank). Sometimes we form a close enough bond that we move in sync, and there is no competition. However, mostly as a MIL, you bite your tongue. Eat your words, if needed. If the occasion calls for it, follow Emily Dickinson’s advice: “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”

As far as the MIL game goes, I’ve had two, one mentioned above, as well as a near-saint who was supportive and yes, raised the Best Quilt-Holding Husband in the trade (one among many of his fine talents and qualities). Between handing over my sons to their wives, as well as watching my mother and her MIL, my sisters, my friends and their MIL relationships, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve made all kinds of mistakes, but hope for forgiveness. and try to practice that as often as I can. Whatever your relationship is with your mother-in-law/daughter-in-law, there are a lot of pieces that have to come together to make it work.

I have made quilts for all three of my daughters-in-law (besides the wedding quilts); one carted both quilts off in their divorce; I’m waiting for the new love in my son’s life to let me know what she would like. I don’t know if they like their quilts, but I like thinking about these women: strong ones, smart ones, women who like to laugh, women who are partners to my sons. Women who raise interesting children, and sometimes include me in their lives, for in this new century of no social rules, I am the “away grandma” as my son reminds me and contact can be sporadic. Yes. It’s my turn.

This quilt is for Kim, a daughter-in-law who loves to laugh, doesn’t hold grudges, is a great mother, a fine partner and wife for my son, and doesn’t let him get away with too many shenanigans, while escaping when she can for hers. She always has a game ready for us to play, welcomes us to her home, and is easy to talk to. She loves sunflowers, those being the flowers she carried at her wedding, some twenty years ago. Happy Anniversary, Kim, for making me your mother-in-law, then redeeming me from that awful fate.

And many thanks to my Quilt-Holding Husband, who found us this wonderful mural backdrop, and to Jen, for her fine quilting using an E2E of Baptist Heart Clams.

This updated pattern is found in my PayHip Pattern Shop. If you have already purchased this PatternLite Pattern, thank you. The newest version can be downloaded using the email you received when you bought it.

(PatternLite Patterns: costs less than a pumpkin-spice drink at the local coffee shop.)