Uppercase Fabrics, Kevin Umana, and Creativity Breakout


This post is the story of two creatives, well, maybe three.  One is an artist living and working in Los Angeles.  That’s Kevin Umaña, up there.Vangool

Another is Janine Vangool, a graphic artist and editor-in-chief of Uppercase Magazine in Canada, who recently released a line of fabric through Windham Fabrics (photo of Janine from *here*).

And then there’s me, but you know what I look like.


And it’s also the tale of two quilts and a quilt block (which is at the end, by the giveaway from Uppercase and Janine, so keep reading).KevinUmanaIGfeed1

Some time ago, my nephew linked me over to Kevin’s Instagram feed, as he knew I am slightly passionate about quilts and designs, and I’m especially in love the the “grid.”  Apparently Kevin loves it too, as well as color and shape and repeated lines. (All these images are posted with his permission.)

I had sort of been in a creative slump, slightly burned out, not really knowing what to do next besides bee blocks and the Same Old. Idly scrolling through Kevin’s feed one afternoon, I found a few designs that interested me; he and I began to correspond, and then collaborate.

Stitch-IlloAbout the same time, Uppercase Magazine‘s Janine Vangool announced that they were producing an Encyclopedia (images from Uppercase’s website), and the one that interested me was her Stitch-Illo, one of three that was launching the Encyclopedia series.  Since I’d missed submitting to her Compendium (which is always on my nightstand), I went right to her website and started choosing pictures to submit, planning on getting the submission in early. Everything was going along swimmingly until I hit this question: “What makes your work unique?”


No matter what I wrote, it sounded trite and useless and idiotic and banal and cliched, and believe I re-wrote the answer to that question about 50 times. I felt dead in the water.  (I’m sure Kevin wondered what happened to me.)  It was like coming up to a mirror and instead of seeing a reflection of my image, it was like seeing past me into an empty sewing room, forty million quilts stacked to the ceiling, but they were all somebody else’s vision or creation or idea.  Nothing unique anywhere.

That question rattled around in my head while on a trip with my husband, and where it rained nearly every day, giving me lots of time to think.  I slowly reviewed all the quilts I had pictures for while sitting in my hotel room, wondering; do we all make the same quilt, over and over?  Not our own same quilt, but the One of the Moment, currently seen on everyone’s Instagram feed, or splashed all over the quilty magazines?  Where was my unique?  If someone saw one of my quilts, would they say, “Oh, yes–that’s Elizabeth’s!”  And if I really had a unique, what was it?  What did it look like?  How could I tell it from someone else’s?

And in my more cynical moments, I’d say, “Well who cares, if it’s unique?  Doesn’t matter enough that I’m a maker, that I express myself with cloth and sewing and cutting and stitching?” Really helpful, right?


Back home, I began looking at Kevin’s designs again.  In college we were encouraged to do “imitations” of writers, using their form in order to get the meter and the words under our creative nails, as a way of training up a writer. It was a form of limiting, giving us structure, but not letting us off the rails, so to speak.  So I decided to allow Kevin’s form to give me structure. And I chose to limit my fabrics to a (delightful) bundle of Janine’s Uppercase fabrics, which I’d purchased at Market.

The first experiment (above) with Kevin’s work was almost an exact copy.


Umana Cross Quilt 2

But the second quilt took off on its own.

Crossroads Center Block

The center cross morphed.
Crossroads_frontfinal Crossroads_detail

Somewhere in here, the experiment sparked an original idea.  And when I quilted, I kept seeing more.Crossroads_3 Crossroads_2 Crossroads_1

Crossroads, after Umaña • Quilt #165

Until finally, I’m here.

I won’t tell you what I wrote for Uppercase, because in a way, it’s really irrelevant to the idea of this particular story.  What resonates is that challenge laid down in those words of the application, one that I think about to this day.  I’m incredibly grateful to Kevin for allowing me to collaborate with him, and to borrow a little from his light when I needed it.

I’m also grateful to creatives who make fabrics for me to use, such as the excellent line shown in this post.  All fabrics, with the exception of the solid white, are from Janine Vangool’s Uppercase Fabrics line.  Yes, even the wee metallic letters in the sunglasses below, an echo of Kevin’s at the top of the post.


 (Chuck Nohara block #345. Pattern for the Crossroads quilt coming soon to Craftsy.)

And finally, the cheesy way to close out a conundrum: let somebody else do the talking for you.

I narrow-mindedly outlawed the word ‘unique.’ Practically every press release contains it. Practically nothing ever is. (Fred Hechinger)

Every person born in this world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique and every man or woman’s foremost task is the actualization of his or her unique, unprecedented and never recurring possibilities. (Martin Buber)

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. (Margaret Mead)

Nobody can be exactly like me. Even I have trouble doing it. (Tallulah Bankhead)

Giveaway Banner

Uppercase Giveaway

When I saw Janine at Quilt Market, her booth was handing out free Uppercase Magazines.  Since I’ve been a subscriber for several years, I mentioned to Janine that with the free magazine I could instead do a Giveaway on my blog, and she handed me another magazine, her fabric catalogue and the charm pack of her fabrics to sweeten the pot.  To enter, please leave a comment.  Blog followers get double their chances (shameless promotion), but it’s not necessary to follow to win. 

NOTE: Giveaway now closed.  Thanks to all who entered.

And finally…

Giveaway Step 6_OCT

…congratulations to the winner of the Dresden Carnival book, Beth T, who wrote about making a squared Dresden plate block for her niece’s quilt.  I’ve sent you an email and I’ll get that off to you this week.  Thank you to all who entered.  You have lovely Dresden Plate Memories!

Starry Compass Rose


Starry Compass Rose
Quilt # 156

Starry Compass Rose EQ7 sketch

I’d like to tell you the background about how I went to Quilt Market.  I was contacted by Paintbrush Studios in November of 2015 to see if I would design and make a quilt for them using their Painter’s Palette line of solids.  At first I was like, who is this? but soon got to corresponding with Anne, a delightful woman with a great sense of humor.  She turned me over to Deena in the design department, and I sent over a rough sketch.  Then another.  We soon had several renditions flying back and forth over email, which meant not only did I have to design a quilt for them, and sew it, but I also had to learn how to express myself in EQ7 (cue: grimace).  I learned it “enough” and produced the sketch you see above.StarryCompassRose_booth3

Of course, all this is stuff I couldn’t mention on the blog, but I worked on this steadily from late November until mid-February when I sent off to them a quilt top, binding, backing and a label.  Someone else would quilt it.StarryCompassRose_booth1

As a thank-you for this experience, I made them Focus, a small quilt to hang in their booth at QuiltCon. While at QuiltCon, I screwed up my nerve to ask Sue and Deena if I could get a pass to see the quilt at market, and they arranged it.StarryCompassRose_quilting5 StarryCompassRose_quilting4 StarryCompassRose_quilting3

But I was most interested in seeing my quilt, all quilted up by Denise Marieno, at Quilt Market.  I was sad to see it go in February, but ecstatic to see it now, hanging in the Painter’s Palette booth.  I checked on the progress several times on Thursday as they set up their booth, watching as they moved it from an inner spot, to an outer spot.  They were very happy with the result, as was I.  Denise did a terrific job of quilting it.StarryCompassRose_quilting2 StarryCompassRose_quilting1 StarryCompassRose_booth2 StarryCompassRose_label

So now it’s gone, and who knows when I’ll see it again, but oh, what a high! to see it at market.  I hope I can work with them again sometime, as I thoroughly enjoyed the process and the people at this company.

I’ve spent my life in unheralded endeavors: a young bride having babies, a mother at home, a student, an adjunct professor, but no one praises your skill at loading a dishwasher, managing a complicated carpool schedule, or compliments you on the nice comments you leave on student papers.  So to come into Quilt Market and to see my quilt hanging there as a professional quilt designer was an experience I won’t soon forget.  It was like someone patted me on the head and said “You did great,” that my skills were recognized, instead of just giving service or being a cog in what passes for Higher Ed these days.  I certainly don’t regret being a mother-at-home, nor of my years of teaching.  I don’t regret being an older student, trying to fit in with the 20-somethings who were writing edgy short stories that included drugs and sex, while all I could come up with is little stories of mothers and fathers and families that somehow always included a quilt somewhere.

But to round that corner that first morning and see this quilt?
Oh, so satisfying.

tiny nine patches

Next post: Day One of Market, going to Schoolhouse, a Tumble, and a Giveaway

Microscopy for Four-in-Art Feb 2016


This microscopic image is cocaine.

I found it while researching images for this quarter’s Four-in-Art challenge of “microscopic.”  The overarching theme is color, so of course, I was drawn to this as an idea for a quilt, hating what I’d already started piecing a couple of days ago.  As any good grad student knows, the best way to postpone the inevitable work on a deadline is to do more research.

The image of cocaine is from a website run by Michael Davidson, who recently passed away.  But he would take the images from his laboratory’s microscope and use them to make neckties.  I thought we could keep going and use them to make quilts.


This is nickel oxide on sodium chloride, an image from his website.  After exploring his butterfly gallery, I moved on to the pharmaceutical section, and noticed that not only were Mr. Davidson and his team a whiz with microscopy, they also had a sense of humor, as witnessed by the last line in the description of caffeine:


To quote: “Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant most commonly found in the coffee we drink every morning….Symptoms of overdose include insomnia, restlessness, tremor, delirium, tachycardia, and running of the mouth.”


Taxol, a drug used in chemotherapy.  I’ve pinned quite a few of these to my Pinterest Board Art Quilts, as they will become the inspiration for this quarter’s efforts.

serendipity illusNot only was wandering through the internets a way to spark my creativity for this month’s looming deadline (to be published on Feb. 1st), but also I allowed myself to goof off do the research because of an article recently published in the New York Times about Serendipity, or more specifically, “How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity,” by Pagan Kennedy.  She talked first about the word’s origins, noting that we “think of serendipity as something like dumb luck.”  But it was coined in 1754, when Horace Walpole noted that he “had been entranced by a Persian fairy tale about three princes from the Isle of Serendip who possess superpowers of observation.” In writing a letter to a friend, “Walpole suggested that this old tale contained a crucial idea about human genius: ‘As their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.’ And he proposed a new word — “serendipity” — to describe this princely talent for detective work.”  So, as Kennedy notes, the word meant “a skill rather than a random stroke of good fortune.”

She quotes Sanda Erdelez, a University of Missouri information scientist, who divides serendipitsts into three groups: ” ‘non-encounterers’ ” or people who see “through a tight focus, a kind of chink hole, and they tended to stick to their to-do lists when searching for information rather than wandering off into the margins. Other people were “occasional encounterers,” who stumbled into moments of serendipity now and then. Most interesting were the “super-encounterers,” who reported that happy surprises popped up wherever they looked. The super-encounterers loved to spend an afternoon hunting through, say, a Victorian journal on cattle breeding, in part, because they counted on finding treasures in the oddest places. In fact, they were so addicted to prospecting that they would find information for friends and colleagues.”

So, maybe in “researching” my Four-in-Art quilt, I’m just really being a super-encounterer, finding that “happy surprises” pop up with each click of the mouse button.

Or maybe, I am just putting off the inevitable: getting the work done.


Four-in-Art Microscopy.  Coming soon to a blog near you.  Premiering February 1st, 2016.


P.S.  Pagan Kennedy has written a new book, titled Inventology.  The blurb from her website says “Inventology is a must-read for anyone who is curious about creativity and imaginative leaps.”


A New Purse/Tote Bag

I went looking for a new purse the other day.  I’m headed up to Utah to help celebrate my father’s 90th birthday and needed a new purse so I won’t embarrass myself with my three other fabulous high-fashion sisters, who buy purses like this:


I suppose I could do that, but it would eat up my fabric budget for about six months a year. I first pawed through the ranks of ho-hum-department-store purses, then saw a few of these:Purse_chips Purse_fringe Purse_milk

My nieces and a few younger quilters thought they were terrific, but when you are up against Prada, you know Betsey Johnson is going to be just too out there.  (But I did kind of like the milk carton.)  I realized that a purse I had purchased in 1988 looked just like the $150 purses on the rack that I liked, I decided to take that one with me.  But at the very least, I still wanted a new tote bag.Totebagblue_1

The fabric is called Geishas and Gingkos from Lonni Rossi, and it’s not only cool on the print side, but I flipped some around for that peek-a-boo pocket in the front, too. It’s probably the first time I haven’t thrown the fabric in the back of the stash cupboard, but instead turned into something current.
Totebagblue_2 Totebagblue_3

I used Two Pretty Poppets Stand Up & Tote Notice, whose name I tried mightily to figure out, but never did.Totebagblue_4 Totebagblue_5

I wasn’t in love with this pattern, but I can’t really fault it in anyway either.  Her directions are pretty good, with lots of photos, but it took me a day of working up my courage to jump in with printing off the PDF, aligning everything, re-tracing it for a pattern (which often didn’t align with the other part of the pattern) to figuring everything out.  It does earn points for that very cool  front pocket, the interesting angled top and pretty good directions.  I wish it had a picture of all the pattern pieces with their names and what to cut out of what; I kept the PDF patterns close by while sewing. You’ll probably have an easier time of it, so give it a try before you pass judgement on it.
Totebagblue_6I couldn’t figure out how big it was in real life, even though the dimensions were all listed.  I found out only later, that the medium (the size I made) was just about 1″ too short to fit my iPad in below the snap closure.  I can get it in sideways, so I’ll probably do that.  I also change up the pockets in all the patterns I make, so mine are a bit different.
Totebagblue_7 Cool front pocket.  I spliced it so I could enjoy the purple flowers from this fabric line, but used the backside of the fabric at the top.
Totebagblue_7aIt calls for foam in the middle.  I used Soft and Stable from ByAnnie.Totebagblue_7bWhen sewing the lining in, I found this problem again: mis-matched size of pattern pieces.  I made it work.  No big deal.

Totebagblue_8So, I’m all ready now except for the fact that I’m now obsessing about what to wear.

Cross-X Swap, January Update

KristaDecOct Blocks

Krista sent me these too close to Christmas to post (and besides, no one was reading any blogs that week anyway), so here they are on the New Year, now that we’ve all put away our decorations, celebrated, vacuumed and have actually resumed some sense of order in our lives.  Or at least pretend we have.

CrossX all Together 12_13

We are in the (I can never get this right) the Plus and X Friendship Swap.  Or the X and Plus Swap.  I just call it the Cross-X swap, as noted in the title, and all our blocks — thus far swapped — are on my pinwall, above.  Cool, huh?

Cross-X So FarB

As of this post, she is all caught up, but I’m now 4 blocks behind for January.  I can just hear her saying “Neener, neener, neener!”  I’ll catch up, Krista, I promise.  I notice that usually we try to make the background all the same, but in her blocks sent for January, she’s varied the backgrounds.  I’m trying to decide if I like her new twist, but she’s very creative and a really wonderful swap partner, so I need to be open to new ideas.  We try to blog the last Fridays of each month and hey–it’s only the 10th, and I need to get out several blocks promised for a cooperative group quilt, two bee blocks, and I’m working really hard on my Amish With A Twist-2 quilt, too.

Quilt Frolic_front

Quilt Frolic has a new home. During Christmastime, all our children and grandchildren came home, and my youngest, Peter, and his wife, Megan, stayed with us the entire week while waves of family moved in and out of the two other available rooms.

Quilt Frolic_binding

I had this quilt on their bed, and one morning Megan was relating a conversation she had with Peter about how much she like this quilt.  “I mean, I really like it,” she said.  And she asked my son if she thought she could, like, borrow it, or even have it.

Quilt Frolic_back

Megan, that is music to a quilter’s ears!  I gave it to her on the spot.  I was thrilled that she liked it well enough to want it, and I think she was thrilled to take it home.  Megan really liked the fabrics in it–a combo of Amy Butler and some Anna Maria Horner–a kind of fabric that suits Megan well.  She did get it into her teensy little carryon for the trip across the United States, to their home on the East Coast.

Quilt Frolic_label

I am glad that this quilt has gone to someone who loves it!

‘Twas the Week Before Christmas

Well.  Almost the last week before Christmas (ten days to go, says the Advent Calendar on our fridge).

Dec MCM Bee Blocks

Given that I’ve been >>sick<< with ick and asthma and blah for too long, and that I have TONS of stuff to do, I leapt into action and made my bee blocks for December for Mary at Molly Flanders.  I mean, that is the prudent thing to do, right?

Dec MCM Bee Blocks_2

It was actually quite restorative working with old-fashioned prints and calming neutrals.  A whole lot more fun than trying to get the last of the Christmas decorations up (but I did finish them today, thank you very much).  I enjoyed the process.  One thing that our bee does, which I like, is that we make each other a signature block with our name, our blog name and our location and send it along with the blocks.  I have a row of signature blocks on the back of my Santa quilt (which has been idling all these past couple of weeks on my sewing room floor while I have graded and rested) which makes me smile when I see them.

Blocks all done

And maybe it’s because I have signatures on my brain.  Here are all the blocks for my signature quilt put up on my pin wall. They lack the sashing and the borders, but what fun to see a flower garden of my friends!

Mistake on block

Whoops.  I had to fix one of them.  Mind you, that block has been like that for nearly eight years, and I’m just now noticing it. What’s fun about working with signature blocks is that you think about the person who’s name you are holding.  Kendy would have a fit if her block were wrong, as she was always perfectly put together and perfectly modulated in all comportment.  (Look it up–I kid you not.)

Tracing Toni's NameI had one more signature that I had to get, and I couldn’t just contact her and get it lickety-split (more on Toni in a later post).  So I found her Christmas card from a few years back, enlarged her signature and traced it onto a prepared fabric square (a square of fabric that had freezer paper ironed to the back of it).

Toni's Block

Toni’s square, all bordered in greens.  She would be pleased.

Often at Christmas, all the relatives gather, or we go to their houses.  If you want to start a signature quilt, have a stack of squares ready for them to sign.  Choose a block with a wide open space for writing, and a simple frame for that signature.  Then cut the center square about an inch larger than you’ll need it, back it with freezer paper.  I drew the 4″ center square directly onto the freezer paper, so that it would show through and give people an idea of their boundaries.

I used a Micron .05 pen for people to sign their names.  Those who I couldn’t get (who lived too far away), I sent the block to them and had them write their name lightly, but legibly with pencil, and then I traced it in the Micron pen when it came back to me (I included a SASE so the blocks would come back).  I only had one that never returned to me, but then that woman get could get her dander up quickly, and she carried a grudge longer than anyone I’ve ever seen.  She was still wonderful to me, though, and I loved her.  I’m sorry she didn’t return the square.

Yes, all this quilt is women.  Relatives, friends, mentors, and the latest batch of my granddaughters.  At some point, I realized I had to cut off the additions, otherwise it would never be done.  So, with the exception of my granddaughters, I stopped adding, even though there are still people who are important to me without their names on my quilt blocks.  I love looking at it.  I drop it at the quilter tomorrow, and since my granddaughters are coming for Christmas, she has promised to have it done by the 23rd.  (I’ve already made the binding!)

Why did I start this?  Because of Toni.  I’ll tell you more about Toni, and why she was the inspiration for this quilt in another post–probably after Christmas, after all the company’s gone home!

Bee Blocks & Winner of Project Folio

Project Portfolio_chair

First, while my husband and I were watching Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway in Three Days of the Condor, I leaned over to him and said, “Give me a number between one and sixteen.”


Five it is.  Cindy, you are the winner.  I’ll mail off the portfolio tomorrow.  Thank you to all my very fine readers and followers.  You are such lovely people!

I must admit that I did want to give it to my newest follower: my daughter, Barbara (Hi Barb!), but I’ll make her a new something or other for her work-out clothes (what she said she’d use it for) and send this white one to Cindy.  Congrats!

Arrows Aug ABLbee 2

Secondly, even though it feels as if I haven’t touched a machine much this month, I did get my Bee Blocks finished.  Above is the one for Always Bee Learning.  We were sent some some fabrics, a link, and we were off to making arrows.  It was a real brain-stretcher, but I finished mine and sent them off to Megan.

MCM Aug Block 1 MCM Aug Block 2

And for the Mid-Century Modern Bee, Mary asked for some Cross-X, or X & + blocks as I’ve seen them called, in pinks.  So I followed her linked tutorial at Badskirt’s blog and sent them off.

And now, the to pull the biggest rabbit out of the hat: figure out how to start sewing my projects again.  With this disjoint summer, a bad beginning to my school year (it will get better), and some time away from the sewing machine, it’s like being on a boat being carried down stream from the dock, slowly, and you can see your picnic lunch there in the middle and you are getting kind of hungry but you can’t figure out how to get to it.  Okay, bad analogy, but I think you all know the feeling.

I look at my list of things I want to sew and nothing interests me. I love reading blogs and seeing everyone’s fun projects, and think, I could do that.  But if I do everyone else’s project, how will I find time to do mine?  It’s a double-edged sword, this living in a world of blogs and Instagram and it’s hard to turn off the input in order to find the creative project that is uniquely mine.

My father, aged 87, goes most mornings down to his painting studio on the second floor of a building in his downtown.  There, he thinks, starts his routine, puts on his music, paints, pauses.  Of course, I can only imagine this because it is done in solitude, but every October he opens his studio for a painting sale in his studio, proving that he accomplishes, produces, Gets Stuff Done, sending out more paintings into the world.

I find my challenge to still myself — to enjoy the social media-fied quilt world, yet also to let that project that is interesting to me find its way forward.  I’ve been tempted by another Polaroid Swap, a recent Signature Swap, this winter’s Scrappy Trip-A-Long, and the Medallion Quilt among other recent popular quilts.  But I also know through historical evidence that our quilting grandmothers searched the newspapers for what others were doing, and through imitation, linked themselves together through common projects.

LIke them, I do quilt what is in my universe.  I often think of Nancy Crow, a quilt artist I admire from afar who has seemed to produce what is important to her, to follow her own stream of thinking and creating without regard for what is the most popular.  Perhaps she, and my father, are at one end of the spectrum while the social media/Instagram/blogging crowd, of which I am a part, is at the other end.  No answers here.

Just searching for those oars that will get my boat back to the dock, back to my sewing machine, back to my quilty world.



Our Four-in-Art theme this round is Owls, under the year-long theme of Nature.  When Betty chose it, I went blank.  Then she wrote about it, I did a search on Flickr, and ideas starting percolating.  Slowly.

Owl RingsSocks

This chick has owl rings and owl socks, but is not the same person that owns the collection up above.  I found out my daughter liked owls, as does my niece, one of my husband’s colleagues and Suz, of Patchworknplay.  I had no idea there were so many owl enthusiasts in my life.



This card was from my granddaughter when I had my surgery. More owls:

OWL flying OWL harry potter OWL pins OWL1

But how to move an owl idea into a quilt?  What aspect to focus on?  I looked up the meanings of owls, the folklore and those were all over the map, fragmented.  Sometimes they are good, other times they portent evil or bad things, sometimes they bring luck, in other cultures they spell disaster.  Just about anything can be pinned on an owl.

The only “experience” I’ve had with an owl was when we were traveling in Canada around the Sunshine Circle (Vancouver and above).  We were standing waiting for the ferry to take us across one night.  The sun was fading into pinks and golds and it was pretty quiet up there near Comox that evening.  I was focused on the water and thinking about where we had to get to before we could stop traveling, when all of a sudden I heard a whoosh–a rush of air.  I spun around and an owl was just moving away, its wings unfurled and climbing toward the sky. It was eerie, out of nowhere.  No wonder these birds get pinned with all sorts of intents and purposes.

OWL ps desktop

This was my computer desktop yesterday, with all sort of bits and pieces of my owl scattered over the screen.  Whenever I approach these art quilt deadlines, I feel like a child being dragged kicking and screaming toward home.  Deadline, I moan to no one in particular.  I’d better get crackin’ because I know my Four-in-Art-mates will have theirs ready.

But one thing leads to another and to another and pretty soon I hear my husband arrive home and I’ve been working and veering through a creative journey for hours, absorbed in my task.  And then I can’t wait to get back to where I’m headed–which of course, I have no real idea of where it will end.  For now, I know only the next step, and that’s where I’ll go.


(from *here*)

We’ve decided to open our group up to four more quilters to participate in our art quilt adventure.  You do not need to be an artist (hey–I’m not), but only want to stretch your creative wings.  We have four art quilt deadlines a year: February, May, August and November.  So far, the quilts are experimental in size: 12″ square. You’ll need to have a blog or a Flickr site, and a sense of adventure.  We welcome beginners, but most of us have some years of experience either in handcrafting or sewing.  I think we went this direction just because we wanted to try something new.

Leave a comment if you are interested, along with a comment as to why you might think taking a jump into this kind of creating is where you want to tread.  Make sure I have a link to either your blog or your Flickr site, so I can get a feel for what type of quilter you are.

Creating is a do to list

Block of the Month: Starts and Re-starts

AWAT2 Strip Sets

I’ve been working on Amish With a Twist–part II, having sewn up some strip sets before I went under the knife for foot surgery, then cut them apart:

AWAT2 Strip Sets Cut

While this is how the pattern recommended we proceed, but when sewing them together I found lots of repeated colors.  Think carefully about where you sew your lights and mediums, trying not to have the same order of colors from bottom to top, otherwise you’ll find yourself with the problem I have below:

AWAT2 blocks2

So yes, today I’ll be unpicking and re-stitching in order to break up the two yellows.  What you see up on my pinwall is where I got a bit smarter and laid out the strips and the stars and the sets, and could mix and match before sewing them up in a rush.

AWAT2  blocks1

Actually, when you open that first package, I’d recommend making yourself one of these:

AWAT2 Swatch Card

A swatch card.  I wrote the name of the color on each clip of selvage, then also coded them as to whether the pattern designer considered it a “medium” or a “light,” as shown by the pink or yellow lines next to the swatch.  While it was true that I was cutting these out while hanging out with my three younger grandchildren, and I was trying to follow the plots of their multiple episodes of Witches of Waverly Place streaming down on Netflix as their mother took a nap, I was also pulling out my hair over which color was which.  The pattern does include a color chart, but as we all know, print colors can vary from actual colors.  So, do your best to sort out which is what color and go forward.

I’m past the initial confusion and aside from the bit of re-stitching I’m going to be doing in a minute, I’m enjoying this process.  I’ve never done a Block of the Month (BOM) before, and it’s kind of fun to get a package and a pattern on your doorstep.  It is fun to pick and choose colors in the fabric shop, I admit, as well as patterns and ideas, but this summer, given all the sturm und drang (aka “storm and stress”) of the surgery, family trips, and other sundry complications in my world, it will be nice to have part of the creative process simplified.  This is my inspiration (the finished quilt top) and I look at it often:


Hopefully, if I stay on track and don’t get too far behind (yes, I’m three blocks behind already!) I’ll have a gorgeous quilt like this one.


Zucchini Cranberry Walnut Bread

On a side note: for those of you with tons of zucchini in your gardens, I finally got a handle on an interesting zucchini bread recipe, with dried cranberries and walnuts.  Recipe *here.*

Christine’s Philadelphia

At the last post, we were in the bakery section of Bottega Louie and I had a big surprise for my sister Christine.

ChrPhilly all wrapped up

 It was  Christine’s Philadelphia, a quilt celebrating her life and her newly adopted city.  She moved to a Philadelphia row house this past year, after ten years in transition.  First, she raised all her children, then began a new section of her life as an artist, returning to school.  Settling in to this life was not for long, as her husband died of cancer in a quick and wild two years.  She went on a mission for our church to New York City, and resumed a friendship with Doug, who had also lost his wife.  They married after her mission and she moved from the West Coast, where she’d spent most of her adult life, to the East Coast (Delaware), then finally to a lovely home in Philadelphia, within walking distance of art museums.  She resumed her art, but one more mishap: while biking to her studio one evening, she was hit by a car, but has now mostly recovered from that accident.  She is taking on new challenges all the time.  So you can see why I wanted to make her a quilt.  I had lots to cram into one tiny creation of mine.

She was surprised.  And I think, delighted.

ChristineESE Row Quilt

I’d been planning it and working on it for a few weeks, and when she came out for her son’s graduation, I knew I could give it to her then and see her face, and then mail it back later (which I’m doing).

Christine's QuiltSketch labeled

This was the sketch I made in QuiltPro.  I knew that I wanted to alternate bold solids (for the roofs) with other patterns (for the houses).

Christine's Row Quilt labeled

This was the quilt, all sewn and smoothed up on the pin wall.  I think I was able to execute the vision I had fairly successfully.  I also wanted to emphasize the chevron effect, but didn’t want a steep 45-degree angle on the roofs, instead I went with something more sloping (drawing my own pattern to get this done). I often thought about making this just in solids, like the sketch, but I’m all about richness and texture in my quilts.

Pulling fabrics

This was the first pulling of fabrics.  I was worried about mixing the moderns (used mostly for the houses and the row above, as well as the sky) with the densely colored, floral Kaffe Fassett fabrics.

ChrPhilly on pinwall 1

I sent a photo of this around to some friends and asked them what they thought.  Cindy of LiveAColorfulLife said, “Oh, go for it.”  So I did.   (Like all my junk on the sides of my pinwall?  Sometimes I treat it like a giant cork board.)

ChrPhilly on pinwall 2

Swapping out roofs on the right side to see if I like the orange down on top of the yellows any better.  I don’t.

ChrPhilly on pinwall 3

But I tried the whole row and added in the doors and windows.  You’ll notice there’s a bold blue sky piece which disappeared in the final version.  I keep trying to refine my design as I go, snapping a digital picture, evaluating, moving things around, and repeating the process.

First glimpse on wall

I am not a fan of when people say “Oh, I am working on this but I can’t show you.”  Then just don’t show me.  I hate keeping quilt secrets, but I had to keep it secret from my sister as it was a surprise, so I tried this sideways artsy shot on Instagram one day, hoping it would disguise the basic design.  I didn’t want to put it anywhere on my blog since she’s a faithful reader.

stitching on windows

I formed the windows and doors over a piece of stiff paper (like what is in a calendar) so they would be all the same size, then topstitched them down.

lined up for piecing

I sewed the narrow roof/house sections row by row; here’s one row lined up for stitching.

ChrPhilly piecing 2

Then I would add the house, then the sky. The “row” on the right is all done.  I’ll do another post on sewing those Y-seams, but later.

ChrPhilly pressing

I like this shot.  It reminded me of the AMH feather block I’d done for my Mid-Century Modern Bee.

ChrPhilly piecing 1

I pressed the seams open — a rarity for me.

ChrPhilly top

I took it outside to photograph the top, and just by draping it over the fence, I could see how valuable that deep plum-colored roof was to the whole composition.  This partly influenced what color I chose for the binding.

Christines Philadelphia Quilt Front

Christine’s Philadelphia, front

Christines Philadelphia Quilt Back

I rigged up a clothesline on my back fence to take photos, as my husband wasn’t home and I wanted to get it ready to go with us to the graduation.  I used a Jane Sassaman for the backing (above), and my quilter was lickety-split on the quilting (thanks, Cathy!).

ChrPhilly detail 1

ChrPhilly detail 2

Christines Philadelphia Quilt Label

I didn’t want the quilt label to stand out too much on that background, so printed it on yellow.

Giving Christine the quilt

Here we are again, in an uncropped photo.  You can see all the bakery goodies in the background.

ChrPhilly on sofa 1

When you sew on a quilt that is destined for someone, you spend a lot of time thinking about that person, in essence sending good vibes out into the universe for them, I think.  I remembered the time she had mononucleosis when she was going to Stanford, and moved home (my dad was a professor there so we lived in the area). I was in high school at the time, and we shared a room while she convalesced.  She hates it when I say this, but she has served as a great example for me and my other sisters, as all four of us are close together in age.  All of my sisters are amazing.  I am beyond lucky to be able to say this, and I know it.  I made a quilt with Cynthia, made one for Susan, and now, with this one, they all have one of my quilts.

And with each quilt, I send them my love.


This is Quilt #115 of 200 quilts, and I’m publishing this post on my mother’s 85th birthday.  Happy Birthday, Mom!!

(Don’t worry.  A long time ago, I made her a quilt too.)