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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fun, Fast Little Quilts

The characters on this tiny wall quilt spell "thank you" ("Xie Xie" in Mandarin).  Click on this earlier post and scroll down for more details.  

Sometimes when I'm stuck on what to do next, I get a head start by repeating motifs or ideas. By rearranging some elements from Xie Xie and adding others I ended up with this fun, fast little quilt and perhaps an idea for another variation.  The characters here spell "orchid" in Mandarin. 
Reuse, recycle.

Happy New Year!

Monday, October 28, 2013


Celestial Splendor is a quilt with a lot of lines and shapes going on. All of them are appliqued (yes, even the straight lines) with my preferred method: fused raw edge applique.

One of the lessons gained through entering quilt competition is this: If it can be measured, it will be criticized. So I learned to check and double check for accuracy. The only way to achieve accuracy on a complex quilt like this is to use acrylic overlays for exact placement of the fabric shapes. When shapes repeat themselves in a pattern, if you’re off a little bit to start it will only get worse.

The following images aren't the greatest but they show the two acrylic overlays used for this quilt. First, the main design. This is one quadrant (32" square) of the entire quilt . Four of these pivoting on center equals the quilt. I cut my large overlay from a roll of Grafix 40" x 12' Dura-Lar purchased at Hobby Lobby. The design is marked with a Sharpie permanent pen.

Second, this overlay is a smaller section that is a more detailed part of the overall design.

In the next image that smaller section is being used to line up fabric shapes. I lay my background fabric on the ironing board. Holding the overlay on top with one hand, I place the first applique shape under the overlay. All shapes are backed with fusible (my favorite is Wonder Under) and pressed with a hot iron to fuse in place. Then it's back to lining up the overlay and adding the second shape and pressing. Repeat, repeat, repeat. All the appliqué shapes are fused one piece at a time.
I work in small sections and finish the raw edges with a small zigzag stitch (length and width set at "1" on my Bernina 170). I pin a thin piece of tracing paper behind the fabric to serve as a temporary stabilizer for doing the zigzag. The paper is later removed. Tiny bits can be picked out with a tweezers.

Monday, October 7, 2013


One important design principle is the use of repetition, whether in shape, fabric, color or quilting. Canterbury Cathedral's central ceiling is the basis of this quilt design. Gothic architecture included a lot of ornamental work of interlaced lines. Repetition is evident in many of the lines and shapes in this design called Celestial Splendor.

A common symbol is the quatrefoil which is a leaf-like design of four foils or lobes. It's used here at the intersection of these lines as well as in the center of the quilt (shown in the next image).

The quatrefoil is alternated with the trefoil symbol, a stylized three-lobed leaf.

By way of color repetition, all straight lines and most of the circular bands are royal blue. Along with the cloudy sky background fabric, the lines and bands anchor the fluctuating color changes of orange, green, pink, blue and yellow.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Celestial Splendor

Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. It still functions as the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Canterbury was an important spiritual center ever since Augustine, but it became a major pilgrimage destination after the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket in 1170.

The cathedral has a total of 21 bells in three towers. The oldest bell in the cathedral is Bell Harry, which hangs in a cage atop the central Bell Harry Tower. John Wastell (1460 - 1515) was an English gothic architect responsible for the crossing tower (Bell Harry Tower) of Canterbury Cathedral. This is the magnificent ceiling in that tower.

Celestial Splendor is based on this ceiling and makes its debut at International Quilt Festival in Houston October 31-November 3.

More posts on this quilt to come . . .

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Yellow Stuff

What a gorgeous, sunny summer day for the annual Concours d'Elegance in Geneva, IL. It's a vintage car lover's feast for the eyes. Here are a few yellow gems. Yellow comes in so many variations. Like the lemon yellow in this unusual front grill on a 1954 Kaiser-Darrin Roadster convertible.
Or this soft, buttery yellow.
How about a vibrant orange yellow?
Here's a golden yellow headlight.

Sometimes it's good to stop and consider all the possible variations of a single color.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Critters in Quilts

Consider adding critters to your next quilt. In 24/7, a very large quilt, some very small bugs add interest to the center of the compasses.

Adding a small living creature to your quilt can really make the whole thing come alive.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

One Small Step

Don't have the time or ambition right now for a large project? Maybe you just want to dabble in something small this summer. I always like to have a quilting project ready to pick up when I need a quilting fix.

Small projects are perfect for experimenting with a technique without committing to a full size quilt. Some years ago I attended a lecture/trunk show by Colleen Wise and purchased her book Casting Shadows. This 19" x 14" wall hanging was a quick way to try out her pieced shadow blocks and a twisted yarn border.

This next piece is just 11" x 9." I was able to practice some lettering with a lightbox.

Keep it small and simple this summer.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, America

Wishing all my American friends a safe and Happy Fourth of July!

Here's to the RED
and BLUE

Monday, June 10, 2013

Yellow Stuff

In appreciation of yellow flowers . . . Enjoy.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Vertical Gardens

While on a recent vacation in North Carolina we enjoyed these examples of vertical garden art on the exterior of the Belk Store in Aberdeen.

Here's a closer look . . .

and an even closer look . . .

Well established succulent plants are displayed vertically in a box frame. These have a watering hose around the perimeter.

They look like small quilts!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

When White is Right

Very few of my quilts incorporate true bright white. 24/7 is one of them. This detail image shows how a striking pure white background creates a sharp contrast for the hands of the clock (5:00 o'clock).
Sometimes white conveys a realistic concept such as the puffy white cloud in this close up of Good Morning.
Just a touch of white makes eyes come alive as shown in this whimsical sheep in my quilt, Footloose. Always add a bright white highlight in the iris of eyes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Touch of Black

Sometimes all it takes is a touch of black to sharpen a design. In Midwest Gold, a single ply of black yarn is couched around the yield sign and between the two background fabrics to clearly separate and define the lines.

Black tulle creates the tractor's windshield. Black text stands out distinctly against the light background. The decorative machine stitch around the tires uses black thread.

Celebration uses a black background to make the foreground pop out.

Black thread blends into the black background. I like the effect but achieving it was challenging. Black on black is hard on the eyes.

Bits of black are scattered evenly across The World. The hemisphere circles use black fabric. All text is done in black Pigma pen.

Some of the quilting is done in black thread (facial features of the sun).

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ann Fahl's Latest Booklet

Applique Ann's Way, Ann Fahl's newly available booklet, is a clearly written and illustrated reference on multiple ways to cover the raw edges of applique designs.
All my applique is raw edge fused. Other than an occasional foray into satin stitch I finish the edges with what Ann refers to as "Open Zigzag Applique." I guess I've got that down pat. But wait, there's more! How about all the other interesting methods Ann describes like "Decorative Stitch" (who doesn't like decorative?) and "Messy Stitch" (I'm pretty sure I can achieve this).

Then there's step-by-step instructions for the gorgeous "Florentine Edge" treatment (pictured on the leaves below). Wow, it's stunning! I really need to branch out and try something new.
Summer Sanctuary (Ann Fahl) close up

Applique Ann's Way is 36 pages packed with tips and tricks Ann has learned to help her create award-winning applique quilts. One sentence in the booklet really says it all: This is how it is done. As a master at applique, Ann will show and tell you how it is done. For more on Ann's work and to order the booklet, visit Ann's website.

(photos courtesy Ann Fahl)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Celebration: The act of observing a day or an event with ceremonies. Easter (just around the corner) is a celebration I sometimes refer to as the Superbowl of Christianity; the day of Christ's final victory over death. For me it's real, personal and the reason for my hope in this life and the next. So, time to celebrate!

This colorful, lively quilt looks like a party.
In this detail image of Celebration, note how the curved quilting lines continue the effect of movement. The lines were accurately marked with washable pen and easily quilted with the walking foot.

These angular quilting lines enhance the central radial motif.

Happy quilting and Happy Easter!