Episode 224: O Spring, Where Art Thou?


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This picture is apropos of nothing in Episode 224; I just needed a picture. It’s the back of a quilt I made several years ago. I hope for next episode’s show notes, I will have all sorts of finished quilts to show you! Or at least one!


I’ve been asked to join the Board of the Quilt Alliance! To watch a few of my favorite Quilt Alliance “Go Tell It “quilt videos, go here, here and here:

To see Emily Bode’s clothes made from quilts, go here:

See you next time!

Process Post: Riley Blake/MQG Challenge Quilt, Part 2

Okay, so when last I wrote, my process journey had taken me here:

A couple of friends read my last post and responded with some ideas for moving forward. The wonderful HollyAnne (from String and Story) suggested a “birds on the wire” motif and drew me a picture, which I thought was darling:

It was tempting to go in this direction, but as I have been thinking a lot about abstract art lately, I decided that ultimately HollyAnne’s idea leaned too much toward the narrative/concrete/actual side of things for my purposes. I wanted my birds to be birds and abstractions of birds all at the same time. I remembered Matisse’s paper cut-outs (an early draft of the quilt brought Matisse to mind for my friend Kristin as well), and took inspiration from them.


Polynesia, The Sky – by Henri Matisse

Vicki (My Creative Corner 3) was kind enough to send a sketch that offered a different formation for my birds:

I liked that a lot and started playing around with my own sketches for a flight pattern. I could see in my head what I wanted, but it was harder than I thought to draw!


Ultimately, I decided to draw it with painter’s tape:

And from there, I started pinning up my birds. A friend, seeing the picture below on the show notes for the last episode of “The Off-Kilter Quilt,” noted that a gray background might help the lighter-colored birds stand out more, and she’s absolutely right. However, I had already spent as much money as I planned on spending to meet this challenge, so the background will stay as is.

I played around with some other elements, trying to figure out if the quilt needed something more. While I didn’t hate the additions I played with, I don’t think they added much, and my friends who were giving me feedback online (HollyAnne, Vicki, Kristin and Jen) agreed with me.



After I appliqued the birds to the background fabric, my main concern was that the quilt needed to be wider. To that end, I played with adding a border to one side. First, I tried this (please excuse how dark this picture is):

And then I switched sides and added another row, so it looked like this:

I liked the width it added, but i wasn’t sure about this border in general. When I sent a picture to Kristin, she agreed that it added something, but it wasn’t quite right–it didn’t fit in with the quilt’s curves. Maybe I should just add a solid border? So that’s what I tried next:

I also sort of liked this, but when Kristin said that it made the quilt look like a book, I knew exactly what she meant. So because I have other quilts to make and  a life to live, I decided to simply have a skinny quilt. I’ll add a little color by using a variegated border made from all the fabrics in the line, but I’m not going to add any more width.

I made the binding last night (I’m trying to make this my new habit–to make the binding before I start quilting). To get an idea of how it will look, I hung it up alongside the top:

As of this writing, I’m at work on the back. In an effort to spend as little money as possible, I’m using a long piece of muslin I had lying around. It needs to be just a touch wider and just a touch longer. So far I’ve added a pieced trip to the back (and may add one more) and plan to add something to the bottom to give it a bit more length.


I’ve enjoyed how collaborative this part of the process has been. Even when people make suggestions you ultimately don’t use, they’re useful in helping you re-vision your design and consider other possibilities.

Next up, quilting the quilt!

Episode 208: Process!

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I’ve been working on the latest MQG fabric challenge quilt, and I think I finally have my Riley Blake birds ready to fly! They started as fat 8ths …

Made a brief detour as hexies …

Finally became birds …

And now have formed a swirling flock …


Next up: ironing the birds down and then appliqueing them. And then figuring out what to do for the backing. And on and on and on …

Still working on the chairs:

What is this piece of furniture called?

Almost done with The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. Enjoyed the first 250 pages very much, and then sort of lost interest. I’m a character-centered reader, but I like a little plot with my characters, and there wasn’t enough plot in this story to satisfy me.

Have you signed up for my newsletter yet? You get a free story when you do!

See you next time!

Process Post–Riley Blake/MQG Challenge, Part 1

Even if you’re working from a pattern, the quilt-making process involves a lot of decision making, beginning with fabric choices and ending with how best to quilt. And when you’re not working from a pattern? Oy vey.

I’m participating in my first quilt challenge this spring, the Riley Blake/Modern Quilt Guild 2017 Challenge. To be honest, I’m not sure I expected this much of a challenge. What I received in the mail was a bundle of fabrics from the Creative Rockstar line:

Darling, yes, but … a bit limited. There are only two fabrics here that read as dark and can offer any contrast. The rules allow for the use of fabric from the Creative Rockstar line and any Riley Blake solids you care to add. I decided that to begin with I’d see what I could do with these fabrics alone. My first idea was to try hexies.

I’m fairly new to English Paper Piecing, but I find it highly enjoyable (whether I’m doing it right is anybody’s guess). I made a bunch on a Saturday night and then went to bed wondering what I could do with them. At some point in the middle of the night I woke up and thought, ‘I’ll make a hexie star!’

In the light of day, this seemed like a fairly implausible idea, if not absolutely ridiculous. But I did like the idea of making stars, especially since the novel I’m working on right now, Stars Upon Stars (the sequel to Birds in the Air ) will require the construction of several star-based quilts. But if I wanted to make a star quilt, I needed to to start paper-piecing diamonds, not hexies, so after church I sped off to Joann’s, coupon in hand, and bought a packet of diamond templates.

Maybe a big star?

Maybe not–I’d need more fabric choices to make a big star interesting–and I’d also need to buy a lot more fabric. Maybe a little star:

Yes, I liked this little star much better.

But it was quickly becoming clear to me that I wasn’t going to be able to do much with adding some solids to the mix, so off I went to Fat Quarter Shop to order several Riley Blake Solids. There aren’t any solids in the Creative Rockstar line, so I had to cross my fingers that the fabrics I chose would be a good match.

I really did feel like I was flying blind, but I wasn’t sure what else to do.

I loved my first little EPP star, but I was starting to wonder how I was going to make a quilt out of it and its starry brothers and sisters (once they came into the world). I began to question if making two-toned stars was the right choice. Maybe I should only use one fabric per star.

I started playing around on my design wall, which has been temporarily moved while I work on another quilt (“Sit-in,” otherwise known as The Chair Quilt) that’s being worked out on a queen-sized sheet hanging in the space where my design wall usually leans. Maybe I could make a bunch of blue diamonds out of the second darkest blue solid and use them for a kind of nighttime background to the stars. Here’s as far as I got:


I got disillusioned with this idea quickly (although looking at it now, several days later, I think it has potential). I had the feeling I could end up doing a lot of work (i.e. paper-piece a million dark blue diamonds) and not be happy with the outcome. It was time to mess around a little.

Hmmm. Maybe stars had been the wrong idea? Maybe something else?

Yeah. Huh. The thing that was making me crazy was mixing and matching the Rockstar fabrics. I felt really limited by this.

So it was getting late, and I needed to go to bed. I knew this wasn’t the best time to start deconstructing and reconstructing, but I couldn’t help myself. I started pulling my diamond constructions apart and matching like-fabric diamonds together in pairs.

Which is when I saw the bats. Or the butterflies. Or maybe birds?

The next morning, I dragged my design wall to a more easily accessible spot (i.e. not behind a table) and started making birds. I thought the diamonds’ little kite tails could work as very small bird heads.

By dint of time and fabric usage and the fairly minor expense of diamond templates, I was on the path (EPP diamonds) that I was staying on for the rest of the journey.  I didn’t love this fabric enough to buy yards and yards of it until I figured out how to make a modern mixed-fabric block from it. So birds it was, and birds it will be.

One of the things I enjoy about the creative process is the serendipitous moment. Looking at my birds with their tiny heads, I wondered if they might be more visually interesting if their noggins were just a touch bigger. I also wondered if they needed some tail feathers to get to where they were going. I grabbed a couple of triangular scraps from the table and attached them to the top bluebird:

Now that bluebird was getting somewhere! Big heads for everybody!

Right now, all the heads and tails are made from scraps. I think I’m going to use the head and tail from the geranium bird in row four from the right, third bird down, to make templates. I find that particular bird’s balance most pleasing.

So that ends part one of my creative process on the Riley Blake/MQG 2017 challenge. I’ve ordered two yards of RB white, which I hope will be here Saturday. My plan is to applique each bird to a block of white background fabric and then piece the blocks together. My next challenge will be to figure out exactly how I want the birds to be laid out on the quilt. I don’t want it to be a perfect flock. By the way, I will be making a few more birds to bring up the rear.

Feel free to send suggestions–but please do so before it’s too late and there’s no going back! In particular, I’m interested in whether or not more visual elements can be added to the design.

Process Post: Riley Blake/MQG Challenge Quilt, Part 2