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!

Modern Sampler: Painter’s Tape Block

For the next block in my modern sampler, I used an improvisational technique that first occurred to me several years ago: I outline the size I want my final piece to be with painter’s tape and then fill it with whatever shape I’ve decided to use.

My first exploration of this technique was a T shirt quilt.  The motifs from the shirts were many different sizes but could all be cut as rectangles or squares.  I outlined a rectangle about 55″ x 68″ on one of my carpets and stated filling it with shirt pieces.  I selected a modern fabric to fill in the holes, and here it is:

Improvised T Shirt Quilt

Improvised T shirt quilt

The shirts were all cut into rectangles and squares, and the fill-ins therefore were rectangles and squares as well.  I’m not saying this is easy, but it sure was more fun than just making a bunch of blocks the same size and lining them up.

So for the next Modern Sampler Block, I outlined an 8-1/2″ square on my cutting mat and started filling it with triangles.

Improvised quilt block

Starting a square that will finish 8″

I added 1/4″ strips between the triangles to give the whole thing definition.  Then I just kept addiing triangles (that I cut randomly) until it was done.

Improvisational quilting

Improvised triangles block

No chance of a pattern for this one.  To make it, just cut a triangle you want to start with and then keep adding on.  I have a couple of deliberate exceptions to my “rules” so that the eye doesn’t just keep saying “yes”, it has to stop occasionally and say, “hey, wait!” The only trick is to keep finishing with a straight edge so you can easily add on the next section.

Try this technique! I hope you enjoy it!

Here are the previous posts in my Modern Sampler series:

Humbug Star

Improv Block I

Pretty Blocks–better look at this one!

My Own Modern Sampler–It May Take a Year!


Slabs in 4 Colors

One of my quilt groups is swapping slabs, those blocks made up of scraps all in a single color range.  (The name was given to this block style by Cheryl Arkison, who blogs at Dining Room Empire, if you want to check her out.)  We all have MORE than enough scraps in all possible colors, so each of us requested slabs of a specific color.

It turns out these are addictive!  Usually we make only 2 blocks for each recipient, but I got a little carried away….and this is only half the blocks I’ve made so far.

Improvised quilt blocks

Just a few of the slabs 

Aren’t they pretty?  And such fun!  So fair warning to my quilt group friends:  I HAVE the scraps and I know what to do with them!  You will be getting lots of blocks this time!  Which should give the option of taking a break to those of you who have weddings to plan, etc.

If you think I’m kidding about making extra, just look at the scrap bin. Something must be done!Scrap-Basket

What are you doing with your scraps these days?

3 Little Soapboxes

Here are 3 topics on which I just couldn’t hold back:

1. Competitive quilter?!?! I don’t think so!  I took a great class with a noted quilter about two years ago and was stunned when she referred to herself as a “competitive quilter”.  I’ve always thought of quilting as the ultimate cooperative endeavor, with women working together in quilting bees and quilt guilds, sharing both their work and their lives. It was discouraging to hear that many quilters find out who the judge will be at a major show and then make a quilt specifically to please that judge.  I do understand that many people make all or part of their income from quilting, and that big wins can bring in both fame and fortune.  I’m still shocked that some people quilt for other people rather than for their own artistic expression.  Just call me grumpy.

free motion quilting

Some practice quilting–love that shiny thread!

2. I don’t want to become a machine. I’ve written before about what works and doesn’t work for me in terms of learning to quilt on my domestic sewing machine.  It finally occurred to me when I was working to get all my loops exactly the same that a pantograph (all-over) design on a longarm machine could do exactly the same thing with a fraction of the effort. HUH.

So, from now on I’m going to limit my efforts on the domestic machine to small items that are easier to do than to send out, and to quilts that really require custom quilting for some reason.  And I’m going to quit trying to “perfect” my loops, stitches, etc.

I figure I could have every quilt I’ll make for the rest of my life quilted for what it would cost me in time and money to buy, house, and learn to use a longarm machine.

I recently met a woman who says she will have her longarm paid for after 40 quilts. But she was accounting for only the cost of the machine, not her time in learning to use it, her time doing the quilting, or the cost of finding a place to set it up.  Seems to work for her and for many others, but I think it’s not for me.  I’ll hire one of them to do my longarm work!

free motion quilting

More practice quilting, more shiny thread

3. Chutzpah and modern quilting.  I’m not big on a definition of modern quilting. “I know it when I see it” works for me.  But in looking at many blogs and websites, it appears to me that it’s modern quilting if you say it is.  I’ve seen very traditional designs done in modern fabric and called “modern”. So I  if I use traditional fabric but with asymmetric design or lots of negative space or one of those other “hallmarks” of modern quilting, that would be a modern quilt, too!  Looks to me like modern quilting is a lot like all other art: 80% chutzpah.  Fine by me. Don’t tell me my design isn’t modern and I won’t tell you that yours isn’t either.  We get to define ourselves.  Enough said.

Have a good week!

One final sample...

One final sample…not perfect and not meant to be since I’m not a machine

One Big Improvement

Here’s the donation quilt that resulted from following one of Sherri Lynn Wood’s “scores” as it originally turned out. I didn’t much like it. As several friends pointed out, there wasn’t anywhere for the eye to rest!

improvised quilt

This came from following one of Sherri Lynn Wood’s “scores”

I got some great suggestions from readers and other friends.  I considered them all and finally used EQ7 (the Electric Quilt design program) to draft a layout.  I removed the borders and cut the center into 9 equal blocks, each 10″ square.  I loved Wanda’s idea to make the blocks different sizes with frames, but I was afraid the design already suffered from too much “creativity” so I didn’t do it.

improvised quilt blocks

10″ x 10″ blocks cut from the quilt center

Checking my stash, I came up with these options for sashing. I guess if I’d wanted a “really” modern quilt I’d have chosen the gray ;)

improvisational quilt block

Sashing options for the revised quilt

I chose the marine blue because it calmed things down without making them dull. I’m pleased with the result.

improvised quilt

The “New! Improved!” quilt top

Thanks to everyone who provided input about what to do with this!

What To Do x 2?

Here are two projects I need to “fix”, and I’m open to suggestions.

improvised quilt

“Swim” is about 50′ x 50″

This first one, shown above, is an improvisation I did about 2 years ago.  I haven’t finished it because the lines between the layers are more distinct than I intended.  I joined the layers with curved seams cut freehand, and I changed the fabrics I used in each layer gradually, but the layers still aren’t blended as well as I’d like.

My “UFO finish” for June is to do SOMETHING with this top. (Mother used to say, “Do something, even if it’s wrong!” when we got stuck on a task.)

My current thought is to cut some freehand diamonds and applique them intermittently along the seams I want to blend.  Any other ideas?

And here’s the second one that needs “fixing”:

improvised quilt

This is to be the June donation quilt, 40″ x 40″

This is my second attempt to follow a Sherri Lynn Wood “score”.  I followed her instructions more closely than last time, and I like it a lot less!

I chose a focus fabric from my novelties because this is a quilt for a child. I followed Sherri Lynn’s directions to make some “rules” and cut up 3 fabrics for the quilt, etc, etc. When I finished, I thought it needed something to “pull it together”, so I added a border of the focus fabric.

BUT, my friend who coordinates our donation quilts looked worried when she saw it. (PLEASE don’t tell me you think that’s a donation quilt?)

So help me out here! What should I do with this?

1. Leave it as it is and quilt it, already!

2. Cut it into blocks to be joined by solid color sashing to calm things down.

Option 1

Option 2

3. Dye it black and use it to back something else (kidding!)

4. Another idea?

Option 2

Option X

Hope you have a good week :-)

My Modern Sampler: Humbug Star

I recently read one of Gwen Marston’s books, and she had directions for a sew-and-flip star.  Like most of modern quilting, this star has been published by multiple people in multiple places, so it’s not new.  However, if you’ve never done sew-and-flip, you can find my tutorial below.  It’s a very fun technique.

flip and sew star

There’s a major flaw here!

So, HUMBUG!  Can you see what I did wrong?  I didn’t see it until I took the picture!  I rarely rip out seams in my improvised blocks, but this was too much for the perfectionist who whispers in my ear much of the time.  So here’s the corrected block:

Sew and flip tutorial

Humbug Star

This block finishes 12″ X 15″.

Here are the links to my other modern sampler blocks so far.

My Own Modern Sampler–It May Take A Year!

The Modern Sampler Continues

Improv Block I


And here is the tutorial on the sew-and-flip star.

This project was originally developed for Modern Quilts Unlimited magazine.  You can read about it here.

Unfinished block size 15″ x 15″

modern star block

This block finishes 14-1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

Fabric Requirements

modern quilt fabric

Fabrics supplied by Michael Miller Fabrics

Background fabric 16 1/2″ x 16 1/2″

Star center fabric 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″

Eight solid fabrics for star rays, each 6 1/2″ x 4 1/2″

Piecing Instructions

Note: all seam allowances are 1/4″.

  1. Cut the background fabric into a 9-patch of 5-1/2 inch squares as shownCutting Diagram
  2. Remove the center square and replace it with a 5-1/2 inch square of your center fabric

    Center square surrounded by background squares

    Center square surrounded by background squares

  3. For star rays, build 2 rays on each of 4 background squares as follows:
  • Lay the one 6 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ piece of solid fabric on a 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ square of the background as shown.   Place pins approximately where the 1/4″ seam will be along the long edge of the ray and turn along the pins to check placement.  Diagram-3-web Adjust if needed to make a star ray that suits you and to completely cover the foundation piece where the star ray will be.  Note that you will need to have your ray end at least 1/4″ from the edge if you want to see the point.  However, if you want blunt points there’s nothing wrong with that!  Here’s an example:Blunt point example
  • Reposition the pins and stitch 1/4″ from the edge of the ray as shown below:Diagram-5-web
  • Remove pins, turn the ray back into place, and press. Trim the side and bottom edges of the ray even with the foundation fabric.  Do not remove the foundation fabric under the ray, as it helps keep everything square and stable.Diagram-4-web
  • Place the fabric for the second ray, pin and test position, then stitch, press, and trim as for the first ray.Diagram-6-web Note that the rays need to overlap at least 1/4″ away from the raw edge where this section will join the star center. It’s fine to overlap more than that.


    Press the second ray and trim to match the background block.

  1. After building 4 sets of 2 star rays, re-assemble the 9-patch with the plain corners, printed center, and colored rays.

    modern star block

    This block finishes 14-1/2 x 14 1/2 inches