Michael Miller CHALLENGE

I like a good challenge as much as the next woman. In fact, I’m happiest if I learn something new from each project.  So I was happy to accept the current Michael Miller/Modern Quilt Guild challenge using Michael Miller’s (MM’s) spring pastel solids.

Michael Miller challenge

Michael Miller sent this package of Cotton Couture solids to all contestants.

Like a lot of modern quilters, I don’t use pastels much.  That’s the first reason this was a challenge.  I decided that, since black is a great background color for brights, something dark but not black would be a good background for pastels.  So I ordered cotton couture in indigo, eggplant, grey, and charcoal to give me a choice.  After trying out each one with the fabrics provided by the MM people, I chose charcoal–always a favorite color for me!

The next challenge was trying to find somewhere I could buy additional yardage of these particular fabrics.  Most places that carry Cotton Couture were out of them!  So I decided I needed to design something using just what came in the package, plus my charcoal background :-)

I designed the quilt with Electric Quilt 7 (EQ7) as usual, so I had an easy way to try out lots of different ideas.

I’m a big fan of star blocks, so I experimented with the 16-patch star often called Ohio Star, and finally settled on this version, in which the block is divided into four quarters that are rotated and combined in various ways.  Here’s the EQ drawing:MM4

And here’s a picture of the almost-finished quilt.  Binding it is an additional challenge, since I don’t want the binding to show but I want the corners to be square (which is difficult if I do a pillowcase binding).  I’m counting this as my November finish ;-)

My quilt for the Michael Miller/Modern Quilt Guild challenge

My quilt for the Michael Miller/Modern Quilt Guild challenge

And please check out my Quilt Alliance donation quilt on Ebay.  Here‘s the link.  I’m so happy that it’s doing well!  If you don’t know about the Quilt Alliance, check them out through this link.


Heads up!

The Ebay auction of Quilt Alliance quilts is on! My quilt is included this week. All proceeds benefit the Quilt Alliance, so check it out HERE.  And check back again for the next 2 weeks, as there are 2 more groups of quilts yet to come!

modern art quilt

Whirlwind, my 2014 Quilt Alliance challenge quilt

Holiday Hints–Just a few!

If you’re thinking of gifts for quilters, or for yourself, here are a few hints based on either things I’ve found useful or would like to try. (Please note: these are my personal opinions for which I received no compensation of any kind.)

1. Very large square ruler. A friend recommended this, especially for Large squaresquaring up quilts. It’s great! You can buy it here or here, and you can see a tutorial on how to square up a quilt here.  The big square ruler is a great help.  The largest I’ve found is 20-1/2″ square.

2. Curved ruler. I don’t have one of these yet, but I’m intrigued by Allison’s post showing a ring quilt made using this ruler. Looks like lots more fun than the usual way of making ring quilts! And of course there are many other possibilities for new designs with these curves.

Quick Curves ruler

The Quick Curve ruler is available at Connecting Threads, among other places.

And here’s a picture of Allison’s quilt.

Metro Hoops Quilt

This quilt was made by Allison at Cluck Cluck Sew

The pattern is Metro Hoops, by Sew Kind of Wonderful, the company that also makes the Quick Curve Ruler.  Allison’s review of the quilt pattern and ruler is here.

3. Batting tape. I use this stuff a lot to join scraps of batting. Sometimes I have the piece I need for a quilt, IF ONLY it were a few inches longer. Just use this to add a few inches and you’re good to go. I’ve also joined two fair-sized scraps near the center to make a piece big enough for a quilt. I’ve had absolutely no trouble quilting through this stuff, and it doesn’t feel or look different once the quilt is finished. You can find it here or in many local stores.

4. Finally, no quilt can be made without CHOCOLATE!  So be sure to ask for chocolate for the holidays to keep your quilting efforts fueled ;-)

P.S.:  Here are a couple of things I’ve tried that didn’t work for me.  Maybe you’ll have better luck, but I say borrow from somebody else and try before you buy:

This looked like a good idea but it was no better than just holding the rulers together while I cut.

This looked like a good idea but it was no better than just holding the rulers together while I cut.

Kwik Klip

This does help with pin basting, but probably is no better than the spoon I used for years

Out With the Plaid!

Several of the blogs I read have been focused lately on purging unwanted fabrics from the stash.  It sounds like a good idea. Mind you, I still think it’s important to have a good stash. But at this point it should be a little more curated than it is!

fabric stash

Lots of stash–how much fits my current needs?

We’ve all got fabric we don’t want. Maybe it was a gift, maybe we’ve just moved past the aesthetic phase in which we bought it, maybe we ordered online and it wasn’t quite what we expected. Whatever. It’s taking up space and heaping on guilt: maybe we’ll need it some day: waste not, want not and all that :-(

There are several things to do with unwanted fabric, including:

  • Donate the fabric
  • Make donation quilts
  • Cut it up small enough to use for its color only
  • Add some fabrics you like better to make another quilt
  • Make something like wrapped clothesline bowls where the fabric will look different
  • Use it for quilt backs
  • One woman even tore her unwanted fabric into strips and made rag rugs.  Yikes!

So here’s my first de-stash: Fabrics that don’t have a nice “hand”, or feel. Maybe they’re cheaply made, but maybe not. Anyway they don’t feel good so I don’t want to work with them.


My first de-stash pile

And here’s my second de-stash: Plaids. I’ve made multiple plaid quilts and enjoyed them, but enough is enough already!  The plaids will go to my sewing buddies if they want them; otherwise I’ll donate them.


These plaids have to GO!

So now I’ve put the fabric that doesn’t feel good, and some of the plaids, into my “bad fabric” box to use for tearing strips to tie up my tomatoes, cut into “bridges” for continuous piecing, etc

The discard bin

The discard bin

And what about you? Any plans to de-stash? How?

Around the World Blog Hop

I’m happy to be part of the Around the World Blog Hop, a chain-letter type project in which bloggers tag each other to keep it going!  Here are my answers to the four questions:

What am I working on?  My current project is the Michael Miller Challenge for QuiltCon.  It is challenging in several ways that I’ll elaborate on in a future post.  Meanwhile, here’s a picture of the progress so far.

Pieced quilt, Michael Miller Cotton Couture fabrics

Quilt in progress for the Michael Miller Challenge

How does my work differ from others of its genre?  I enjoy making quilts with bold colors (one of the reasons the MM quilt above is a challenge with its pastels).  I value good design over intricate workmanship and believe difficult quilts should be re-designed to make them easier.  I focus first on the visual impact of the overall quilt, then on the details. Which is probably how I have more than once committed to making a quilt before I’ve quite worked out the details on how to do it.

T shirt quilt

This T Shirt quilt for a friend was not really planned ahead

Why do I write/create what I do? I write to make contact with other people and to promote quilting and quilters.  I create for fun and to challenge myself.  My idea of a good project is one in which I learn something new.  Even if it’s a difficult lesson sometimes. The blocks below were made in a class.  I enjoyed the class and learned a lot, but one of the things I learned was that I didn’t want to make any more of them ;-)

Yin Yang quilt blocks

Yin-Yang blocks from a class

How does my writing/creating process work?  I read/observe/learn everything I can and then work on a problem off-and-on until a solution comes to me.  Then I make the quilt.  I’m sorry to say I can’t really verbalize it any better than that.

Around the World:  I was tagged by my friend Melanie.  Check out this post about the worst quilt book she owns!.  And I’m tagging Ann at Sew Messy, who is a pattern designer; Ann doesn’t yet sell her patterns on her site, but she has some fun pictures, so stay tuned.  I’m also tagging Lyric at LyricKinard.com, who is an art quilter and teacher. Check our Lyric’s website and classes for LOTS of new ideas!

Please tune in tomorrow…

I’m participating in the Around the World Blog Hop, and my post is supposed to launch tomorrow, so please check back!

Meanwhile, here are some blogs I enjoy, if you’d like to check them out:

SewMessy.wordpress.com  Isn’t that a great title?

catbirdquilts.wordpress.com  You may recall that I linked to Melanie’s articles on color last week.

quiltineering.com  Rachel is about to move to Japan, so look for interesting blogs coming up.

redpepperquilts.com  Rita has lots of beautiful pictures of her quilts.

lyrickinard.com/blog  Lyric is primarily an art quilter, so she has lots of ideas you won’t find in the usual quilt blogs.  A lot of her techniques could be used to zip up traditional quilts.






Tidbits: One may be for you

1.  Here is some beautiful fabric that just arrived from the Michael Miller company!  It’s for my next magazine project (for Modern Quilts Unlimited).  I love to use batiks for the “solids” in my quilts because of the texture and highlights they give to the design.

Michael Miller batiks

Michael Miller Batiks

2. Who wants these selvages I’ve been saving? I know the author of one of the blogs I read commented that there is a selvage quilt in her future, and I’m pretty sure there’s none in mine.  Comment or e-mail me if you want them.Selvages

Melanie, whose blog is

Melanie, whose blog is Catbirdquilts.wordpress.com

3.  For those who may want  more traditional lessons on color than the ones I’ve provided in my design series, my friend Melanie in Iowa has some nice posts.  You can find them here and here.  I think you’ll like them!

Zippy Star quilt by Mary J Puckett

Zippy Star I, which was sold at the Asheville Quilt Show

4. Woo!  I recently sold a quilt at the Asheville Quilt show!  And it’s a good thing, because–

5. My digital camera somehow got a little piece of lint inside (at a quilt show, of course) and I can’t get it out!  Any recommendations for a good replacement?

6.  I aim for a blog length of around 350 words.  I figure my attention span is short, so yours may be too :-D

7. And the more pictures in the blog, the better. So here’s my October finish, another quilt for Ronald McDonald House.  I quilted it on my new Bernina 530QE. There’s definitely a learning curve to that BSR, but I’m pleased with the result.

free motion quilting

Free motion quilting with my new Bernina





Meet Jo Glover–The BigStitch Quilter

big stitch quilting

BigStitch Quilting by Jo Glover

Big Stitch quilting has gotten to be a big deal in the past few years, so I was thrilled when Jo Glover, who published the original directions for BigStitch Quilting, spoke to our guild last year.  She agreed to be interviewed for this blog.  Here’s what she said about her development of the technique:

Jo Glover photo

Jo Glover

“In 1988, when I started quilting, I was more interested in the line designs of the quilting, rather than the patchwork.  It frustrated me that my fine hand quilting–natural thread on muslin background–didn’t show.”

“In 1991, I went to Japan and saw their sashiko with its strong visual impact.  Thick light thread on solid dark fabric.”

big stitch quilting

Another sample of Jo’s BigStitch Quilting

 “Upon my return to the US, I started using a high contrast #8 pearl cotton, longer stitches, with the traditional rocker motion of hand quilting with a hoop and thimble.
I was pleased to find that larger scale designs looked good with the longer, thicker stitches.  The new needlepunched cotton battings permitted a longer distance between quilting lines.”

BigStitch quilting

Jo Demonstrates BigStitch Quilting

“BigStitch was coined in the booklet I wrote and copywrited in 1993 (under my name at the time, Jo Walters).  It still sells.”   [You can get a copy of Jo’s booklet directly from her for $7.50; just e-mail her at GloverGirl52 at gmail dot com for her mailing address, and of course give her your address.]
 “To reach a wider audience, I uploaded a series of BigStitch lessons.  They are available at no cost on YouTube; just search “BigStitch Jo Glover” for the 5 lessons and Gallery.  I’m for the preservation of hand quilting.” [Here is the link to Jo’s YouTube lessons.  I am so impressed that she did this!]
BigStitch quilting

Matisse’s Goldfish, by Jo Glover

 “Right now, I’m stitching straight lines about 1/3 inch apart, using crochet thread AND NO HOOP OR THIMBLE, ssshhhh.  My friend Jane Cole brought this style, called chiku-chiku, to my attention.  (Chiku-chiku is the sound a sewing machine makes when stitching) Jane got it from Quiltmania magazine, issue # 100, in an article featuring the originator, Akiko Ike.”

Jo Glover quilting

Pillow with close lines of BigStitch quilting by Jo Glover

 “Mixing fine hand quilting, BigStitch, and machine quilting (and now, chiku-chiku) in the same quilt is fantastic.  I do prefer solids or hand dyed fabrics to showcase the hand stitching.  I see many Modern quilters featuring their machine quilting on solids, and that’s great.”
Quilt by Jo Glover

Amerika Blooms by Jo Glover

 “Quilters I have known and loved include Gwen Marston, Jonathan Shannon, my friend Jane Cole, the Gee’s Bend quilters, Fran Skiles, Jacquie Gering and Katie Pedersen, and Yoshiko Jinzenji.”

5 Things I’m Grateful for in Quilt-World

Gratitude is always a good exercise, as I was reminded when I met with an old friend the other day. So, here are 5 of the things I’m most thankful for in my quilt life:

1. Good friends! Some of my best buddies are people I’ve met through quilting, and, as I’ve mentioned before, joining a quilt group is a great way to make friends.

quilt group

Some Quilty Friends

2. New challenges. I count any day in which I learn something new as a success.

Amish design quilt

I made this quilt when we lived in Pennsylvania.  The biggest challenge was to design and produce the stencils for the quilting.

3. A creative outlet. Like many quilters, I’ve had careers with a scientific focus. It’s nice to have the opportunity to do something that engages my creative side.

applique art quilt

This leaf, made in class with Laura Wasilowski, was a fun way to be more creative than I am when I make bed quilts

4. The opportunity to help. Giving a quilt, whether through a charity or through a personal contact, gives me the opportunity to do something for someone. Often it’s a situation in which there’s no other way to express my concern.

modern quilt

One of my quilt groups makes quilts for Ronald McDonald House

5. The circle is unbroken. When I quilt, I feel connected to my ancestors who made quilts, to friends who use my quilts, and to people all over the world engaged in similar activities. I don’t think about this very often, but it is definitely part of my quilting experience.

wheel of mystery quilt

I made this quilt to learn curved piecing.

So, what are you thankful for?

Your Inner Designer: 3 Formulas for Modern Quilts

It seems to me that, when learning a new skill, there is often a “formula” or basic idea that, once mastered, provides a way into successful practice of the new skill.  So here are 3 ideas for you to try.  See if one of them helps you create designs that you like.

1. Use lots of “negative space”, and start by making this background space in a shade of gray.  (The person who brought my attention to this “rule” of modern quilting has asked to remain anonymous ;-) )  Here are some examples, but I’m sure you know of lots of others:

modern quilt

Shades of Gray by Terry Aske. 2nd place award in the Modern category, Quilts Canada 2014

modern quilt

Found on lilysquilts.blogspot.com

2. Another common way to “design” a modern quilt is to make it an obvious take-off from a piece of 20th Century art (or occasionally more recent art).  My design below is by no means an exact copy of any of Piet Mondrian’s work, but it certainly is an imitation of him:

modern quilt design

Thanks, Piet! by Mary  J. Puckett

Sometimes I do see modern quilts that are a direct imitation of an artwork.  However, my preference is to look at a lot of work by one artist, or by a group of similar artists, then close the book and draw something original that “references” the works I’ve studied.

For example, here’s a print I found at an Etsy shop called “Handz”.  Compare it to the quilt just below it.  It’s not a copy, but it could have been based on the print.  Or they could have both been inspired by another source altogether.

modern art print

Mid Century Modern Art print found at Handz on Etsy

modern quiilt

finished – modern drunkard’s path by m_soto on Flickr

3. Just start with modern fabric.  One of my favorite “modern” quilters is Rita at Red Pepper Quilts.  Many of her quilts are traditional designs, but she uses bright, modern, fabrics and her quilts always look fresh and modern to me.

modern quilt

Spools and Nine Patch Quilt by Rita at Red Pepper Quilts

Here’s a detail of another of Rita’s quilts:

modern quilt

Detail of a quilt by Rita at Red Pepper Quilts

Give some of these ideas a try, and let me know what you come up with!