I’m on a quest to use one simple idea in a few dozen quilt designs. The idea is this very basic little quilt block, the Baby Windmill.
A blog is a funny thing. When it’s really quiet, as in no posts for a while, I suppose people think that nothing is happening. That’s what I would think.
quietness on this blog means that I’m sewing like a mad woman. Here’s what I’ve been working on.
I’ve been inspired by some over-the-top quilts recently and I’d like to share them with you. My local guild met this week and the show-and-tell lasted for an hour. I asked for permission to show you some of the quilts my friends made.
This quilt was made by Carol, who started it during the Olympics when Temecula Quilt Co. offered the pattern as a freebie.
I realized this week that the upcoming total solar eclipse should be commemorated with a quilt. I designed an easy small quilt that goes together quickly. Maybe you’d like to make one, too. I’m calling it Moonshadow. It’s 15″ x 25″. Here’s a printable version.
Here’s what you’ll need for a 15″ x 25″ quilt:
I’m a big fan of Fat Quarter Shop for their great fabric selection and fast shipping. Their publishing arm is called Just Sew Emma, and they recently sent me a review copy of Lori Holt’s new book, Spelling Bee.
If you’re not familiar with Lori Holt, I’d like to introduce you. She is the creator behind Bee in My Bonnet, a blog where she shares her quilt-related ideas along with thoughts on family and faith.
She often hosts sew-along events where you can enjoy making progress on one of her quilt designs along with other quilters. If you’re not in a local quilt group, this is a good place to become part of an online quilt community and make some new friends from across the country and around the world.
You may have heard of Lori’s Farm Girl Vintage book, which has spawned hundreds of interesting quilts by happy sewists the world over.
I’m happy to say that Spelling Bee is chock-full of the user-friendly patterns that Lori is known for. There is a complete pieced alphabet in both upper and lower case. I gave the capital D a go and it went together without a hitch in just a few minutes. There are also numerals and even punctuation.
You can spell out anything you want, or use some of the ideas Lori presents. And there are many!
“Sew” with a pink machine may be one of my favorites. And yes, the machine pattern is in Spelling Bee, too!
Is this not the cutest easy baby quilt pattern? You can personalize it for your recipient! You can switch out the sailboat for another block if you like, as there are many to choose from.
I really love “Home.” Here’s another cool thing: As in many of Lori’s books, the blocks are presented in 6″ and 12″ sizes, which further expands the possibilities.
The book retails for $34.95 which may be a little more than you’re used to spending on a quilt book, but with nearly 200 pages of patterns and fresh ideas, it is worth every penny. You’ll use it over and over, and you’ll have a great time in the process.
My friend and former Managing Editor of Quiltmaker/McCall’s Quilting/Quick Quilts Paula Stoddard made these Lori Holt blocks at a retreat last winter, above. They finish at 6″ and they are over-the-top adorable. They’re from the Farm Girl Vintage book.
This is my Christmas version of another Lori Holt quilt from her book called Quilty Fun. I made it when the patterns were presented free online, one at a time, several years back. I have just the outside borders to add and then I can quilt it.
You can see that Lori is a talented designer. I’d recommend you pick up one or more of her books today. They’re great for scrap quilts, and the more fabrics you use, the better!
A note from Diane at Stash Bandit: I am not affiliated with Lori Holt or Fat Quarter Shop and I do not receive compensation for my honest reviews or posted links. I receive review copies of new books from It’s Sew Emma.
About two years ago, I began an interesting journey. Now the trip is almost over and I’m feeling a variety of emotions. Let me tell you about a quilt called Scarlet Sampler.
Late in the summer of 2015, the president-elect of Nebraska State Quilt Guild asked if I’d be interesting in helping out with the guild’s raffle quilt for 2017. The raffle quilt is a major fund raising tool for NSQG, and they usually sell all 4999 tickets, which is the maximum number allowed by Nebraska’s gaming laws.
“Helping out” didn’t sound too hard, so I said yes.
Somehow it turned out differently than that. I was the only person on the committee of four with quilt design experience. Two members were beginners. I kind of fell into the whole thing.
We decided early that we wanted to do a sampler quilt—even though I don’t usually like sampler quilts. In this case, it seemed the only way to pay tribute to Nebraska’s history and heritage. Our state celebrates her 150th birthday this year, and we wanted to honor her in a big way.
We chose blocks we liked that also had Nebraska ties in some way. We started making them with fabrics from my stash of reds, and I worked and reworked a diagram for an idea I had: put 149 blocks on the quilt front, and one giant Nebraska Windmill block on the back to equal 150.
There were many times when I wasn’t sure it would work. I wondered if it would be hideous. I worried that nobody would buy the tickets. I fretted over our deadline. I agonized over putting a design out for public scrutiny, indeed more than that: asking people to spend hard-earned cash for a slim chance of winning the quilt. I stewed and hoped and prayed.
It was difficult to keep track of so many blocks. I made a spreadsheet but felt hopelessly lost most of the time. How many blocks were done? Which ones? What were their sizes? What was left to complete? Was it balanced? Did the reds work together? Would the pieced border actually fit?
Finally we were close enough to start putting them on my design wall. A ray of hope: maybe it would work.
We sent it off to Kris Vierra from Lincoln, an award-winning longarm quilter. This was one time I felt confident, as I knew Kris’s work was exquisite and could bring the quilt to life. When it came back, I was so happy with the job Kris had done. The quilting looked fabulous.
I should add here that the quilt back needed to be centered because of the large Nebraska Windmill block. Kris did an excellent job of that, too.
On went the label and the binding. Tickets were printed, and we were ready to go. The quilt was unveiled at QuiltNebraska 2016, on July 30, 2016 to a standing ovation. It felt like the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders at that moment. They liked it!
The quilt went on to be recognized with a first place ribbon at Nebraska State Fair, the largest state fair quilt show in the nation with more than 600 entries. We were very pleased.
I knew all along that the quilt would not be mine in the end. The date of giveaway was set for July 29, 2017. About a week before that, my heart started to be heavy with the impending event. I couldn’t shake it. It felt like a part of me was leaving home, never to come back. I remembered feeling less sad about taking my 18-year-olds to college. (Sorry, kids!)
And then something amazing happened. The big night came, we sold the last of the tickets, more people said they wanted to win the quilt. And when the winner was pulled from the huge basket of stubs, it turned out that she’s a quilter, from Nebraska, and listen to this: Her husband had died the day before.
My heart couldn’t be heavy any more. Here are the things I realized:
- It’s just a quilt. It’s not a loved one.
- It’s a special quilt, and it’s going to someone who will understand that.
- It’s going to her at a dark and heavy time of loss, and maybe it will bring a bit of joy in the days to come.
- It was my privilege to be part of this, and it will be my privilege to deliver Scarlet Sampler to its new owner one day soon.
There was agony, there was ecstasy, and I learned a whole lot in the process. I call that a success.
You can read more about Scarlet Sampler, the significance of the blocks to Nebraska and other details at scarletsampler.blogspot.com.
I’m excited about my latest venture. The good folks at Wagner’s Quilts and Conversation in Arapahoe, Nebraska and I are partnering up to present a
String Piecing Quilt Retreat!
You’re invited to join us for two and a half days of fun and relaxation at the beautiful lodge owned and operated by Hunt Nebraska in Arapahoe, Nebraska, Sept. 24 to 27, 2017. It’s a lovely space—clean and comfortable, and you can just relax and sew to your heart’s content. We’ll cook and clean up while you create!
Arrive on Sunday evening at 7 pm for wine and cheese and an introduction to string piecing. Settle into your room and your quilting space, and meet your new friends. Then start sewing, or retire early to be well rested for Monday’s activities.
Spend Monday and Tuesday learning about string piecing and all its possibilities. Sew, sew, sew! We’ll take stretch breaks as needed and step outside to enjoy the beautiful autumn weather, maybe even go for a short walk.
What can you do with string piecing?
- Use up your scraps
- Trade scraps with others to add variety
- Spice up traditional blocks
- Create original blocks
- Go simple or go complex
- Be traditional or be improvisational
- HAVE FUN!
This is one very simple, very easy block you can make. Your own fabrics will make your blocks unique. We’ll trade fabrics with each other but the best part? I’m bringing a huge assortment of scraps and leftovers for you to use, too! You get to sew from my stash of saved-up treasures!
This Ohio Star was spiced up with string piecing. Every patch is “fabric” that was created with strips of leftovers. It’s more interesting than it would be if the patches were just prints.
This is 16 little string blocks put together into a small quilt. My fabric recipe was blues, greens and black-and-white prints. Pretty fun!
Here’s something more complex. This is Honeycomb by Karen Griska of the Selvage Blog. The 60º triangles that make up the hexagons are first string pieced. Believe it or not, this is easy sewing, and if you want to make this quilt, I will show you how.
You’ll have many more options for what to make. And if you just want to play around, you can do that too. I’ll be there to help you the whole time.
A few more details:
- $275 covers three nights lodging at Hunt Nebraska, 8 meals, my instruction and one trunk show
- Arrive 7 pm Sunday, leave 11 am Wednesday
- Fill in supplies as needed at Wagner’s Quilts, just across the street from the lodge
- We cook and clean up, you create!
- More fun, interesting and engaging activities are planned
Here’s a brochure. If you have questions, call Ruth and Gretchen (lovely ladies!!) at Wagner’s Quilts, 308-962-8458. I hope to see you there!
I used to manage something called the Quiltmaker Scrap Squad, and that’s where I met Beth Helfter. As part of a team that made scrappy quilts from QM patterns, she was consistently enthusiastic and funny. She made wonderful quilts!
A few years back she started a swap to help raise funds for research into ovarian cancer, which took the life of Beth’s mom way too soon.
The swap has grown and flourished. I’ve joined in a couple of times and it’s always fun and interesting.
I’m inviting you to join in too! Your skill level doesn’t matter, though you’ll want to do your best work. Just above is the quilt I received in last year’s swap from Lorrie Landgon, a quilter in Mississippi.
When you sign up for the swap and pay the $15 fee, you receive by mail a piece of this year’s swap fabric, which is teal in color to represent ovarian cancer. The fabric from last year is shown in the top left hexagon above. This year’s fabric sponsor is Quilting Treasures. I applaud them!
Lorrie also included fabric with little teal ribbons on it to represent ovarian cancer. What a nice touch.
Lorrie used a variety of interesting fabrics and did really nice machine quilting. I adore this little quilt!
Her quilt label was a pretty finishing flourish! I made Lorrie the quilt below. It’s about 18″ square.
I added a variety of hand and machine stitching to it, including these long orange tails on square knots.
I used a “big stitch” on several of the fabrics, and French knots.
If you’ll just let yourself go and not worry too much about the outcome, hand stitching on a small quilt can be really enjoyable.
On Instagram, see more of past teal swap quilts under the hashtag #tealminiswap16.
Beth is capping the swap at 650 participants this year, so it’s best to sign up right away. I’m looking forward to getting information about my partner and starting on a small quilt for a good cause.
Please join me!
I needed to produce a program on short notice for my local quilt group recently, and I’d like to share what I came up with. This is good for those times when your guild’s speaker has to cancel late in the game.
These are 3.5″ patches I played with while making a baby quilt about a year ago. I had a good time arranging and rearranging them until I came up with a combination I liked.
It was a short leap to realize I could cut similar patches and teach quilters about several important concepts at once. I called this program “Let’s Take a Trip Around the World.”
I cut up the fabric from a bunch of header cards, also known as waterfall cards, making no effort to coordinate them. It’s better if they do not “match” at all. I cut 3.5″ patches in different values, i.e. lights, mediums and darks.
I created a stack of patches for each person. They looked something like those shown above. Not especially appealing, are they?
Even though the fabrics didn’t coordinate—didn’t have much in common at all, everyone was able to make wonderfully attractive block arrangements as we focused on this task:
Create contrast between each fabric and its neighbors.
In other words, be sure you can see the difference between the fabrics that touch each other.
You can create contrast in many ways:
- Light vs. dark
- Busy pattern vs. plain pattern
- Large motifs vs. small motifs
- Motifs widely scattered vs. motifs densely packed together
- Color, sometimes! This is the last thing you should consider. It’s the least important!
People came up with some terrific combinations. When the fabrics don’t coordinate, you’re forced to look for connections or contrasts apart from color. Take a look by scrolling through some of the blocks.
Aren’t they fabulous? The next task was to create a layout with low contrast. In other words, select fabrics that blend into each other so there is very little contrast. Keep in mind that everyone had to work with the patches in her little stack. Some stacks worked better than others.
When they finished the 3.5″ exercise, I demonstrated how to make Scrappy Trips blocks, a technique popularized by Bonnie Hunter of quiltville.com. Not only did they learn how to make the blocks, they could analyze how the contrast between the fabrics played out in these new creations.
I had the chance to sew the patch rows together a few days later. I didn’t intend to start a new quilt, but I really like where this is going. I’ll be adding to it soon.
I had a really good time on this
Trip Around the World!
Thank you for coming with me.
I had a new experience this week: judging quilts and textile arts at a county fair about 70 miles from home, somewhere in Nebraska.
These were open class entries, that is, not 4-H entries which are judged by an established set of standards. Which may have been why it was so difficult, even though it was a small show. There was nothing to guide me—no established judging criteria. I had to rely on 50 years of sewing experience and 30+ years of quilt making.
I am not a certified quilt judge, but I accepted the job because I knew it would broaden my range of experience. I thought it would be interesting and fun.
I was right on the interesting part. On the fun? Not so much.
Nobody tells you that even with a small set of entries, you’ll have to make hard decisions. You’ll have to ignore some really great work because you can only recognize a few entries.
You’ll have to make comments on work that is truly awful, trying not to sound terribly critical and unforgiving. When I wanted to say “This binding is a hot mess,” instead I prodded “Strive for neatness on your binding.”
When I wanted to say “Stitches this long should only be used for basting,” instead I encouraged “Shorten stitch length for machine quilting.”
I had a scribe who cheerfully wrote down each comment, handled the paperwork, and maintained the flow of items to be judged. A scribe should be a silent helper, and while mine was very helpful, she was not silent.
Without intending to derail my objectivity, she shared information that complicated my thought process considerably. An example: “This quilter is at least 80.” Or “This person really needs encouragement.”
Which brings me to the biggest problem of all: How much weight to give each aspect of the work. Here’s what I mean. The quilt below was fairly typical of the entries.
It was purchased as a kit. Most entries were commercially quilted (which means the maker paid someone else to quilt it). This leaves very little on which to judge a project. The only things you can evaluate are the piecing and the binding. Typically the quilts were made of squares and rectangles—no points to cut off. Which narrows even further what there is to compliment or criticize.
Here are the questions I smacked into over and over:
- Is it worth more for a simple quilt of squares and rectangles, where someone else chose the fabrics and did the quilting, to be well executed, or is there more value in a creative piece where a person conceived an idea, worked hard to bring it to life, and executed it with obvious “mistakes”—but clearly had a vision and pursued it creatively? Which is better?
- Is a king-size star quilt with flaws made by a person over 80 years of age to be recognized over a square, flat, nicely bound throw-size quilt of squares with no imagination, made by someone who is under 50? What if the king-size quilt is made by someone who is between 6 and 17? Which of these is preferred?
- Because I prefer flat quilts with low-loft batting, should I dock those with puffy batting? Is that a personal preference or a legitimate criticism? There were many personal preference questions.
- Some entrants had many items in the competition, and these various folks had consistently good or bad work. If the work was good, should the judge recognize them over and over? Or begin to recognize other good work that is slightly less perfect? If the work was bad, I began to admire their spunk. Hey, at least they are trying! They know they are going to be judged. Lots of people would never put themselves through it!
This is just the tip of the iceberg but you get the idea. The day was full of frustration for me. I had to keep moving in order to complete the task, and I couldn’t sit and ponder for long.
This was a piece that I loved, based on the Cindy Brick idea of using vintage hankies to make a small collage-type quilt. I wanted to give her a special prize for bravery—cutting family hankies apart is terrifying. She layered them in clever ways, and she embellished for added interest. She labored over this, and while it’s not perfect, in my book it was top notch. I’ll choose creativity over technique every time.
I was puzzled by the fabric choices in this small quilt, until I noticed that it was made for an ugly fabric challenge. It wasn’t clear whether I was to consider the challenge factor or not.
This piece was for the same ugly fabric challenge. It was more successful at making the fabrics work together, in my opinion.
There were some things that just left me wondering. This quilt had heavy weights straight-pinned to its bottom edge. They were wrapped in pieces of fabric, edges left raw. Another piece (not pictured) had food stains and a hole, among other problems. Why would you enter this at a fair?
The most often seen easy fix was this: Always go over the entire surface of your quilt, front and back, and clip off any stray threads. Hardly any of the quilts (good, bad and in-between) were cleaned up from random wisps of thread. Such an easy thing to do!
And while I know that some people will question my sanity, I chose this small original piece as the Best Quilt in the County. Here’s why.
- Original work is always the hardest work.
- She created great texture both visually and from a tactile standpoint.
- She attempted to give a sense of perspective.
- She cleverly used the wrong side of some fabrics, where it served her purposes.
- She added a facing to the quilt, which is a great skill to have if you’re making art quilts.
- She quilted it herself.
- She used a variety of techniques, including painted highlights to suggest snow-dusted trees.
I know that I could defend all of my decisions if I needed to, but that’s another frustration: You never have the opportunity to tell people why you did what you did. Most people will not even know who judged the quilts, let alone what the judgments were based on.
And come to think of it, maybe that’s okay.
Have you ever entered a quilt somewhere? What was your experience? I’d love to know, so please tell me in the comments.