New Class

I had the opportunity to teach my new class, “Try Improv!” recently for the Smoky Mountain Quilters Guild in Franklin, NC. It was lots of fun and everybody made a successful table runner using techniques that were new to most of them. Here are a few pictures.

modern table runner

Here is one of the samples for class

Although I made 3 different samples for the class, there is no pattern. The goal is for each student to start with a few fabrics and improvise a table runner from them.  Of course, I provided some guidelines and lots of assistance as needed.

Improv-Susan-2Susan brought Christmas fabrics and made a  successful design by distributing several triangles on her template and then filling in with accent fabrics.






Susan's Christmas table runner in progress

Susan’s Christmas table runner in progress


Nancy’s runner started out as a fan, then she cut it up to improvise further and make it a rectangle



Nancy has been improvising for a long time, and said, “This is what I do all the time!”  She chose a beautiful collection of iris-themed fabrics for her runner.



MaryAnn made a halloween-themed runner and zipped it up by adding some purple!


MaryAnn's runner, in progress

MaryAnn’s runner, in progress

Maggie chose a fall theme; her fabrics had a nice variety of scale and coordinated well

Maggie’s runner




Maggie chose a collection of fall fabrics with a good variety of scale, then picked a coordinating green for her accent strips.









Chris had a nice bundle of blacks and grays as well as a stunning coral-pink fabric for accents.

Chris's runner in progress

Chris’s runner in progress

Pat made a lovely red and black table runner, but decided to model it rather than lay it on the table!Improv-PatAs you can see, a good time was had by all!


10 From Chattanooga Quilt Week

Despite a change in plans, a friend and I got in a quick trip to Quilt Week in Chattanooga to see the quilt show. No time for classes this year, but we had a great time. I was especially happy that there was a large section of modern quilts. Here are 10 of my favorites.

modern quilt

Celebrate, by Jean Larson of the Chattanooga Modern Quilt Guild

Modern quilt

A Slice of Pi, by Connie Griner. This quilt has the numerical value of pi quilted into the border to umpteen decimal places!

Modern quilt show

Love in the Digital Age, by Kristin Shields

modern quilt

Motik, by Mary Ramsey Keasler of the Chattanooga Modern Quilt Guild

modern quilt show

Tiki Dilemma, by Jodi Robinson.  She says her “quilting designs were chosen to add interest without overwhelming the overall design of the quilt”.  I like that!

modern quilt show

Door Into Summer, by Joni Morgan

I see that gray backgrounds are still very popular!  (You KNOW who I’m talking to!)

modern quilt

Forgotten Chicago, by M. A. Cramer. She asks whether the object shown here is rising or falling!

modern quilt

Pink Flamingos with Lemonade, by Connie Brown of the Modern Quilt Guild of Asheville

modern quilt show

Through the Open Window, by Amy Anderson of the Modern Quilt Guild of Asheville

modern quilt

Initial Inspiration, by Vista Scruggs Mahan of Rising Fawn, Georgia (just outside Chattanooga)

Of course, we had a little time for chocolate as well, but what’s done at Quilt Week stays at Quilt week ;)

Later on, I’ll have an interview with Sandi Suggs, whose quilts were a special exhibit at Chattanooga Quilt Week.

Blocks 11 and 12, Modern Sampler

Probably  have enough blocks now for my usual size “cuddle quilt”, about 55″ X 70″. I have enough ideas and fabric for at least 2 more quilts, so the project may continue anyway.

improvised quilt block

Doodle block inspired by Sherri Lynn Wood

Block 11 was inspired by Sherri Lynn Wood’s “Doodle” quilt.  I had a couple of scraps and decided to just cut them and see what happened, and this is it.  The block is only about 6″ wide. I quit without adding anything else in an attempt not to “overdo” and make it too complex.

The next block is certainly improvised, having turned out rather different from my original idea.  It started with equal amounts of these fabrics. modern fabrics I thought I would stack them, cut arcs, and shuffle–Karla Alexander’s quilts are among my favorite inspirations.  It all started out as planned…

stack, cut, shuffle block

Arcs cut, colors shuffled

But, as sometimes happens, I felt the need to change it as I went along.  The final quarter actually was made using templates (gasp!) because I had a particular look in mind. stack, cut, shuffle block Now I surely have enough blocks for my sampler.  The question is how to arrange them.  I’ll be looking for your input in a week or so!

Happy Squares

This quilt was what I designed when I got bundles of two of my favorite collections a while back: Alissa Haight Carlton’s Modern Solids (sadly, they seem to be no longer available) and Allison Glass’s feather-like prints.

modern quilt

Happy Squares

I started with 9-patch blocks composed of 3 inch (finished) squares.  Of course I couldn’t stand to make all the blocks alike. I made some half-square triangle patches to add to the 9-patch blocks. Then I made some big 4-patch blocks from 4-1/2 inch (finished) squares so that they finished the same size as the 9-patch blocks.modern patchwork Finally, I made some 36-patch blocks from 1-1/2 inch (finished) squares to finish the same size as all the other blocks.Happy-36-patch

When it came to laying the blocks out, I separated some of the 9-patch blocks to fit the 4-patch and 36-patch blocks in at interesting places.  Finally, I inserted a 1/4″ strip before adding the last row of squares on each side to make a sort of border.modern quiltI did the quilting freehand on my home machine.  This means I did not mark the diagonals but sewed “sort of” straight from corner to corner in the squares.  I like the less-rigid feel of this technique, but it’s a good example of why it may be unwise to enter modern quilts in traditional quilt shows.  Here again, if I wanted machine-like accuracy I could hire someone to do this on a longarm or even have a machine-generated pantograph design.  In fact, I like both those techniques for some things, but I didn’t want my “happy” quilt to be too-precisely quilted.

This is bright and cheerful, so I’m calling it “Happy Squares”.  What have you been up to?

My Modern Sampler, Blocks 9 and 10

Channeling Gwen Marston, I made a couple of “liberated” quilt blocks for the sampler.  This means they were cut without a ruler and the pieces are deliberately “wonky”.

modern sampler, modern quilt block

Liberated Hole in the Barn Door blocks finish about 5″ square

Some current authors are making a big deal of cutting without a ruler, but Gwen Marston has been doing it for years.

I DID use a ruler to make the original background square.  Here are the steps:

modern quilt block

I cut the big square using a ruler, the subdivided it into a 9-patch freehand

modern sampler quilt

Corners done, time for the sides

modern sampler

Sides done using method similar to the corners: pin, check, then sew and trim

modern sampler

Ready to be sewn together!

For Block 10, I cut my scraps into strips.and lined them up.

modern quilt block

Scraps cut into strips and pieced with black and white background

The widths of the colored strips and the white strips between them are semi-random. The sashing between the columns finishes 2″, and the block finishes 12″ square.

A few more blocks and then I’ll have to decide how to set them!  Here are the previous posts about My Modern Sampler:

Block 8

Painter’s Tape Block

Humbug Star

Improv Block I

Pretty Blocks

My Own Modern Sampler–It May Take a Year!

6 August Projects!

As always, I’m taking part in Aunt Marti’s UFO challenge. The August UFO was actually finished back in February as a donation quilt:

Donation quilt

February donation quilt. This started out entirely different, but I failed to take Before and After pictures.

That gave me all of August to work on quilting another UFO, my Swim quilt. It’s completely quilted, but I’m still thinking about whether to add more fish, some beads, or more quilting before I bind it.

improvised quilt

“Swim” is about 50′ x 50″.  I quilted wavy horizontal lines all over it.

I’m caught up on making quilt tops for donation. My goal is a quilt a month, and I made 3 tops in August. They still need to be quilted, but I’ll have a one-woman quilting party and get it done.  They are 40″ x 40″, so not difficult to do on a home machine.

Finally, I made several new blocks for My Modern Sampler. You can read about the one below here, and I’ll be blogging about the others in the coming weeks.

modern scrap block

The Modern Scrap Block will finish 12 inches square

And a good thing August was so productive, because every weekend in September is scheduled! Yikes!

My Modern Sampler, Block 8

Here’s a picture of the blocks made to date for my modern sampler. Links to the posts about each one are at the bottom of this post.  Some are designed by me, some not.

modern sampler

These are the sampler blocks I’ve made so far

It’s time to look at all the blocks together and think about what this quilt needs next.

  • So far I’ve made 7 blocks; it needs 7 or 8 more.
  • The blocks will fit together in multiples of 3″, with some solid strips to fill in spaces. The blocks are generally “busy”, so I think those solid strips will be important.
  • There are a variety of colors and a lot of white and bright.  I like the bright, but I want some more black backgrounds.
  • All of the blocks except one have some text fabric.  I need to either save the one block with no text for another purpose or make 2 more without text.  I can use some text fabric as background strips.
  • That orange and turquoise block with all the random trapezoids doesn’t fit with the others, so I either need to make more like it or modify it in some way.  I may cut it up and re-make it altogether.  Suggestions?

Meanwhile, here’s one new block to add to the sampler.

modern scrap block

The Modern Scrap Block will finish 12 inches square

And here are the steps for making it.  I just sewed together my scraps and then framed them with triangles.

modern scrap quilt

I made sets of strips left from other blocks.

These strips varied in width, and some were uneven widths.

modern scrappy block

Strips of tiny blocks cut from the strip sets.

I joined the strips of little blocks (which varied in width from 1 inch to 1-1/2 inches) and then added black triangles.  The center “square” is NOT square–it is improvised without much measuring!

There, now I have another one with a black background! Here are the links to the other quilt blocks in my sampler:

Painter’s Tape Block

Humbug Star

Improv Block I

Pretty Blocks

My Own Modern Sampler–It May Take a Year!


There was a BIG finish at our last retreat:

traditional quilt

Quilt of 3392 Pieces!!!

Here is Jerri’s quilt of 3392 pieces, made from a pattern in one of Bonnie Hunter’s books. Jerri made this for a Little Sisters of the Poor fundraiser, and it certainly should raise a lot of funds!  It is beautiful.  And she had the sense not to count the number of pieces until she was FINISHED with the project!  Even so, it took almost a year to complete.  I am VERY impressed that there is not even ONE block is turned wrong!.

This is a HUGE quilt!

This is a HUGE quilt!

And here is the latest stack of donation quilts from our group.Donation quilts

So far everyone is keeping up with the commitment to make a donation quilt each month, and one over-achiever is several months ahead of the rest of us!!!  As you probably can see in the photo, another over-achiever quilts hers by hand!  I am always amazed by my very accomplished friends!

modern quilt

As soon as Jerri finished the BIG quilt, she started this beauty!

Our latest block swab is monochromatic slabs.  Each of us chose a color we wanted, and as soon as we swapped one group member turned her blocks into a donation quilt.  Talk about quick work!


Donation quilt from green slabs

When I got the slabs, I immediately started cutting them up and adding accent strips of blue.  So far I really like the result.  More on this later.

Slabs, accent strips

Slabs with accent strips.

So, what’s new with you?



Tutorial: Quilt from Shirts and Pants

Traditionally, quilts were made from whatever scrap  fabric was available. I recognize some of my Mother’s dresses in my Grandmother’s quilts and know that Mother gave the scraps to Granny after making the dress. Another traditional source of fabric is old clothes. Most still have quite a bit of useful fabric even if the cuffs are too tattered to wear.

quilt from clothing

Quilt top made from khaki pants and 2 shirts, 40″ x 40″

So I’ve been saving shirts and pants for years as they were discarded, thinking I’d use them in quilts. (I’ve got a box of discarded neckties, as well.)

Finally I got around to designing a quilt made with 8 inch (finished) blocks to use some of this.  When I cut the pieces, I used half a pair of pants, one and a half shirts, and one pocket from a pair of jeans. This means I have plenty of potential quilts in that box of old clothes.

quilt from khaki pants

Cut carefully around the seams to remove them from the clothing


quilt from khaki pants

Use some pockets, discard others–your choice


pants leg ready to cut quilt pieces

Pants piece with all seams, buttons, and hems removed.  Note that the crease should be along the straight grain of fabric, so use it to orient your cutting.

I learned a few useful things:
• It would be better to use smaller (6 or 7 inch finished) blocks, especially when trying to make a block from a pocket.

Jeans pocket quilt block

Consider cutting out pockets so that they can be used to keep treasures in

• I needed to watch out for worn spots.  If the worn spot is in a piece of fabric you really want to use (e.g., a pocket or placket), just put a second block of the same fabric behind it.
• The shirt and pants fabrics really do iron nicely! Much easier to get wrinkles out of than regular quilting cotton.

In case you want to do this, here is a quilt diagram with more detailed cutting instructions.. The diagram and instructions are for 7″ finished blocks, since I learned on this first one that 8″ blocks don’t make best use of the available fabric.

tutorial quilt from shirts

7 inch blocks made of shirt and pants fabric, finished quilt 42″ x 42″

One pair of khakis and 2 shirts should be enough for this size, with fabric left over.  I had a pair of jeans, so I added a jeans pocket and I’ve shown that option here, so it’s really a pair of pants + part of a pair of jeans + 2 shirts.

First cut out any pockets you want to use from the shirts, jeans, and pants.  Mark a 7-1/2 inch block with chalk or pencil, being sure you leave enough seam allowance above the pocket opening.  Then cut with scissors along the lines.  The quilt here uses 2 pocket blocks.

tutorial quilt from shirts

Draw the square before you cut out the shirt block, since this can be tricky

Then carefully remove all seams, cuffs, waistbands, and any other features that would make a quilt block too bulky.  See pictures above, and here:

Cut the cuff off the sleeve, since it is rather bulky.  Save the sleeve placket and stitch it closed before cutting out a block that includes it. See the arrows below and the red pin head below; they show where to show the placket shut.

quilt from dress shirt

Watch out for worn spots like the one circled above.

From the khaki pants, cut 36 pieces 3-1/2 inches square for the 4-patch blocks.  See the pictures and captions above.

From the shirts, cut (16) 7-1/2 inch squares for the large blocks.  (You’ll need 18 if you aren’t using any pocket blocks).  Include the plackets from the sleeves for interest!

From the shirts, cut 36 pieces 3-1/2 inches square for the 4-patch blocks.

Now assemble the 4-patch blocks as shown above, lay it all out, and put it together.  (I’m assuming you already know what you’re doing here!)

And DON’T EVER TELL where the shirts and pants were “found” ;-)


7 Quilts

The Modern Quilt Guild of Asheville had a show at the Handmade in America gallery this summer. Here are a few of the quilts. Unfortunately, there were difficulties with photography so the pictures aren’t as good as I’d like, but these quilts are just too good to pass up.

Quilt Show

Grumpy Cat. by Diana Cantor

Modern Quilt Show

Through the Open Window, by Amy Anderson

Modern Quilt show

Dreamsicle, by Kelly Wood

modern quilt show

This, That, and the Other, by Miriam Coffey

modern quilt show

Fantastical Astronomy, by Erica Kilgo

improvised modern quilt

Karla Made Me Do It, by Mary Puckett

Modern Quilt Guild Asheville

Migration, by Emily Coffey

The Modern Quilt Guild of Asheville continues to grow and thrive, so look for more news in the future!