Keith’s Graduation Quilt

About five years ago my grandson began working on a Crosses and X’es quilt. But then, he grew more interested in fishing, football, and girlfriends, in that order. So the ten completed blocks and the rest of the earth tone batiks have languished in a project box in my sewing room for some time. Keith graduates from high school this week, so it was high time to finish his quilt.

Back Story:  I was inspired by a similar quilt hanging in a vendor’s booth at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival. I was attracted by the masculine color palette and thought the slash and insert “improv” technique would appeal to my grandson. At the same quilt show, I purchased a fat quarter bundle, some coordinating yardage, and extra wide backing. We did enjoy working on the blocks together; Keith was very careful with the rotary cutter and sewed with a consistent seam allowance.

Each fat quarter yielded four 8″ squares and several 1 1/2″ wide strips. Keith slashed a block and inserted a 1 1/2″ wide strip of another color. After sewing and pressing, he slashed the block again and inserted another 1 1/2″ wide strip. Half the blocks are “wonky” Crosses, and half are “wonky” X’es. Once all forty-eight blocks were sewn, I trimmed them all to the same size and arranged them in a 6 x 8 grid, alternating Crosses and X’es. Fortunately, the extra-wide backing generously yielded border strips and binding as well.

For quilting, I chose a variegated Fantastico thread and the Bauhaus pantograph designed by Patricia E. Ritter and distributed by Urban Elementz. This modern, boxy design complements the minimalist vibe of the quilt.

Congratulations, Keith! I hope your graduation quilt communicates my love and the memories of good times we shared as we worked together on it.


Utility Quilt Remake


I am working on making quilts to illustrate my newest lecture, “My Quilting Journey.” During my talk, I want to show some old quilts in my collection, quilts made by grandmothers now in heaven. Those quilts and the women who made them are part of my quilt-making heritage. In addition, they provide inspiration for the quilts I make today.


The most used quilt in my collection came from hubby’s grandmother. It is most definitely a utility quilt, patched together from odds and ends of shirt fabrics and dress fabrics, and feed sacks and muslin. Initially, I thought the quilt was assembled in horizontal rows . . . but now I notice vertical alignment of blocks, too. Perhaps Granny made rectangular blocks all of the same size and then set them together in rows.

The remake of this quilt capitalizes on the idea of horizontal rows of rectangles of various widths. My guild gave me 1/2 yd. of a lovely, large scale floral print for helping organize the door prizes for our state wide symposium in 2013.


The challenge was making a quilt that would allow this fabric to make a big splash. I pulled coordinating green, blue, and yellow prints and tonals from my stash.


I had nearly a yard and a half of white fabric, so I cut it parallel to the selvage in the following widths and placed them on my design wall: From top to bottom – 8 1/2,” 5,” 4 1/2,” 6,” 8 1/2,” and 11.” Using wide rows of white modernizes the quilt by adding “negative space.”

From the half yard of large floral print, I cut 3 strips 6″ wide, from selvage to selvage. I sub-cut each strip into roughly 2 rectangles 13 1/4″ x 6,” and 2 rectangles 8 1/2″ x 6.” I placed these splashy rectangles on the design wall, staggering them.


I began cutting strips of various green, blue and yellow fabrics in 6″ widths. I sub-cut these in random measurements: 2 1/2,” 3,” 4,” etc. up to 5.” I sprinkled them on the design wall, randomly spacing the color values. The rows of colored rectangles extended past the edges of the white strips by several inches to allow for seam allowance “shrinkage” in the pieced rows.


After sewing the rows together, I pressed them in one direction and sewed them between the white strips. I decided that adding a 6th pieced row would make the quilt proportionally too long, so I reserved it for the back of the quilt.


After sewing all the rows together, I trimmed off the side edges and installed the quilt top in the longarm machine for quilting. I considered quilting a Baptist Fan design just like Granny’s quilt, but the large flowers begged to be imitated. A medium blue thread shows up well on the white rows of the quilt and blends in nicely with the colorful fabrics.


I selected a brilliant royal blue for binding fabric. The design idea of Granny’s vintage utility quilt lives anew in my modern remake.


The bright, splashy colors of this quilt remind me to celebrate spring. It is coming, isn’t it? Despite the below freezing temperatures outside?

Do you own a vintage quilt that you have copied/remade?

“Tribal Fishermen”

Do you love creating with new fabrics as much as I do?

Several weeks ago, I was wandering through fabric displays and dreaming about future quilts in Loving Stitches, my local quilt shop. Wanda, the helpful saleslady pointed me to a new line of fabric, “African Inspirations” by Kaye England. What an intriguing feature fabric, and what bold coordinating tonals! I loved the fish fabric, too, and added a zebra print from another fabric line for a light contrast.DSCN4496

To capture the essence of the feature fabric of dancing tribesmen, I cut two 10 1/2″ squares. After placing the squares on my design wall, I decided the squares needed frames: one green and one purple. Flying Geese made from the zebra print and the orange tonal add movement to the quilt.DSCN4489

Next, I constructed four simple blocks to act as a unit below the framed square  and balance the left side of the quilt.


To complete the design, I added other simple shapes: squares, rectangles and strips. I used a ruler, calculator and graph paper to make sure the left half of the quilt would measure the same length as the right half of the quilt.


An all-over design of spiral suns with wavy rays is quilted with pink/orange/yellow variegated thread.

The quilt backing is a zebra print Congo cloth acquired in Kenya on a mission trip in October 2011. Selvage strips from both the backing fabric and the feature fabric are used on the label.


When designing a modern quilt, follow your intuition about what will look balanced and pleasing. And be willing to change your mind along the way. Sew as you are inspired, and walk away from the project when you don’t know what to add next. Your brain will subconsciously work on the design problem while you are driving the carpool or cleaning house. Have fun playing with fabric and shapes!

You will find sketchy instructions for this quilt on the “Patterns” page of this blog. If you make a similar quilt, please email me a picture of your creation.

“Arcadian Garden” Remix

Several years ago I designed “Arcadian Garden” a modern quilt which efficiently uses a ‘layer cake’ (42 10″ squares). The “Arcadia” fabric line is no longer available, so I decided to make a new sample quilt for my pattern. There are so many new collections of fabric to choose from, but I was elated to find a ‘layer cake’  of “Juggling Summer” by Zen Chic for Moda at Loving Stitches, my local quilt shop.


The fabrics are quite modern with circle prints in various sizes as well as bold tonals in tangerine, aqua, black, gray, and purple.


The pattern calls for 15 10″ squares of large scale prints, 10 squares of medium to small scale prints and 15 squares of tone-on-tone fabrics. The ‘layer cake’ had just the right mix!DSCN4201

I assembled the quilt in only one day at a quilting retreat; it was lots of fun to make! It is quilted freehand with large spirals and small circles as a filler between the spirals.

If you would like to win a copy of this pattern, leave a comment below. The drawing will be Wednesday, 10 April. If you would like to order this pattern, email me at

Leftover Puppies

After making the “Monkey Shines” quilt, a few scraps remained on my cutting table. The puppy dog squares whined and begged not to be sent to the scrap box. Hmmm, how could I stretch so few scraps to make another baby quilt? Fortunately, I had an extra fat quarter of yellow and about a half yard of white fabric. I stitched some “Puss in the Corner” blocks, constructed a few stars and surrounded colorful leftover squares with white.Leftover Puppies

The quilt was constucted in three vertical panels, measuring and judicious trimming helped achieve the same length for all three panels. It is a one of a kind, improvisationally pieced quilt; I won’t be writing instructions for it!Three panels for leftover puppy dogs quilt

The yellow print border is leftover backing fabric from the “Monkey Shines” quilt. Using up the leftover puppy fabric was a fun challenge; I used the scraps right away rather than relegating them to my container for scrappy squares. I shouldn’t have worried about not having enough fabric for a sizeable quilt; the quilt was large enough to warrant a pieced panel of “Ups and Downs” blocks on the back.back of leftover puppy dogs

I tried a new edge to edge quilting design in Bethany Pease’s book Modern Quilting Designs. White thread was used to blend with the background fabric. Click on the photo below to enlarge the picture and view the quilting detail.