A while back I wrote about some quilts that were in trouble with me for a post called “Quilts in the Doghouse.” I just finished piecing another top, a recent UFO (which means I started it in the past year or so), and near the end of the process, I had what you might call a full-on hissy fit.
Posts Tagged ‘make extraordinary scrap quilts’
Another recent finish is my Bitty Blocks row quilt. I started this years ago when I was working as an editor for Quiltmaker. We had this idea to create 3″ and 4″ blocks and post them for free on our website. There was no such thing as a marketing team so we had to market ourselves, and this was one of the ways we did it.
The thing about Bitty Blocks is that they’re addictive. You make a few, and then you make a few more, and you’re having so much fun that pretty soon you have 50 little 4″ stars or 70 tiny houses at 3″ x 3″, and then what?
Hey quilters, how are you holding up? I know. Me, too. Things are starting to open up here in Nebraska, and I wonder if my friends would want to head out to a quilt store this week. I am ready!
I have sewn like a crazy woman during the pandemic. I’ve finished up some things, started a bunch of new things, and practiced machine quilting a LOT.
In December I dug out and shot all the UFOs I could find, including these little baskets.
Yesterday, online learning platform Bluprint, formerly Craftsy, sent an email to instructors saying the company would be closing over the next few months. This was at once surprising and completely unsurprising.
When Craftsy began about 10 years ago (because a guy received a quilt from his aunt), the quilters I knew loved it. It provided something new in the form of online learning, and it was well done. You could interact with the instructors, get answers to your questions, post your progress and make friends with others in your classes. It was amazing.
I’ve been machine quilting much more than usual during this extended time at home. I’m learning a lot. I am so happy to have finished My Wild Garden recently.
It’s an improvisational quilt, which is a fancy way of saying I made it up as I went along. You’ve never had so much fun as improv quilting allows.
Most of the time when I have a design published, it’s because I pitched it to a magazine and they accepted it. But last year, a magazine in the UK came to me, which was very exciting. I have often purchased Love Patchwork & Quilting because quilters in other parts of the world sometimes have a different aesthetic, or at least a different viewpoint, and it’s a good way to expose yourself to their ideas.
They had seen my Instagram and wondered if I would design a scrap quilt for an upcoming issue. They didn’t have to ask twice.
I just finished a quilt top and now that it’s done I can say that I like it. But along the way, I hated this thing. Too much stitch-and-flip, too many ugly intersections and not nearly enough forgiveness for my style of sewing. None of this was the fault of the designer, Erika Bea, or the publisher of the pattern, American Patchwork & Quilting magazine. The blame lands squarely on me, and we’ll get to that in a minute.
It’s called Color Catcher, and it will look all right from the back of a galloping horse—which is a very old quilter’s mantra of unknown origin. I took a few lessons away from this project.
I’ve been working on something totally outlandish and I have decided that the most important guideline for making art and doing original work in your quilting or any creative field is this:
Have No Fear
You can’t be afraid to make something that nobody else has ever made.
You can’t be afraid to make something ugly.
You can’t be afraid to waste fabric or time or effort.
You just can’t be afraid of anything.
I started out with a simple idea of making a few more samples for a class I’m teaching at Vermont Quilt Festival this summer. It’s all about improvisationally-pieced curves.
It was innocent enough as I began. Pull, cut, sew, press, audition. Repeat.
One key is to have enough contrast between the fabrics in each block. And you want them to do different things. Curvy looks good with straight lines, or geometric looks nice with floral. You want a bit of tension between them.
As soon as this went up for its audition, my heart skipped a beat. Remember that for any audition you always want to stand WAY back across the room. You don’t get a good perspective if you are too close.
I ask a lot of questions: What would happen if I put in a very bold and graphic fabric like the blue and white above?
What would happen if I started mixing up the pairs? Could I put a center patch in that hole above with a partial seam? (Answer, yes you could!)
I cut and sew and add more blocks. I stand across the room. I fret. I thrill.
A color story starts to emerge and the quilt seems to be pink, red, orange and yellow. Very analagous. I decide that I should add more blue and blue-green and also some very darks.
I learned long ago from Mary Mashuta and Roberta Horton that if something sticks out like a sore thumb, you should add more of it. That’s right! If it resides in more than one place, your eye will move around the quilt instead of going straight to that one place. It’s absolutely true.
It was around this time that I panicked and thought the whole thing was just too bizarre. I made two sets with this stripe and dot, above. Would I be smarter to just make blocks in one size with two fabrics each? Maybe that would be better. But honestly.
If you look at these two blocks side by side, which one is more interesting? I decide to
Stay the Course.
I make a few smaller blocks so that I can fill in awkward spaces as needed. After each finish, I walk across the studio for the best possible view. It does you no good to stand close by.
At one point I shoot a text to a good quilting friend.
Her response is measured.
But I carry on.
At some point you have to start thinking about how you’re going to sew it all together. I decide where I can add fillers and coping strips and I start to think about sections and partial seams.
I make decisions about repeating fabrics to help tie the whole mess together. I trim and skootch and trim some more. I hope to high heaven that it will lie flat.
After about three days, it comes together! Just below is the final version, 68″ x 83″. I had free time to spend and this is how I spent it. My husband did laundry and meals while I hunkered down and didn’t talk to him very much. He’s a very good sport!
When he came in to the studio and saw it on the design wall, he crossed his arms over his chest and thought. He wasn’t sure.
“That is really different.”
His answer did not bother me. And I think that is when I realized that for three days, I had been forging ahead without fear.
When fear crept in, I batted it down.
When it threatened to derail me, I swatted it away.
When I was tired of risking and wondering and deciding, I pressed on.
And that is exactly what you will need to do in order to make art, to create something original no matter what your medium is.
The payoff is that you will have something that has never been made before in all the history of humankind. Nor will it ever be made again. It is yours and yours alone.
Pretty great reward, if you ask me.
Have No Fear,
I had a delightful time with Hastings (Nebraska) Quilter’s Guild last night, presenting Let’s Play Drezzup to about 50 people. This program is in three parts:
- A hands-on experience to make, trim and join the Dresden blades. Everyone takes home her samples.
- A trunk show of blocks showing the endless variations possible with Dresden Plate.
- A sampling of new and old Dresden quilts with quirks, oddities and interesting details.
I have to rush to fit it all in one hour but it’s getting good feedback. Whenever I pull this trunk show out in preparation for a program, I get all excited about Dresden Plate again! I could spend the next five years on these quilts alone.
Hello and welcome to Stash Bandit! I’m Diane Harris and it’s nice to have you here.
I’ve been telling the story of some blocks I received in the late ’80s.
This takes us up to The Rest of the Story, in the words of Paul Harvey.
When the quilt top was finished, I still had the other half of the Nine Patches left over. It seemed a shame to throw them away.
All of those fabrics had been cut into patches for me. The stitches had been taken for me. The blocks had been gifted to me. I just couldn’t pitch them.
I brainstormed for what to do. Making another quilt wasn’t sensible, but using them in this quilt was. I toyed with creating a border but decided to sew the halves together into wonky Nine Patches.
Only one of these has a signature. It belongs to Lorena, my renegade friend who had to sign one name in each white patch, of course. Two of her names are on the quilt front and two landed here, on what will become the back. (If you knew Lorena, you’re laughing.)
For the quilt back, I set the new wonky Nine Patches into columns with scrappy pink setting triangles and sewed the columns together. Lengths of two more pink prints went down each side to make it big enough. And now we are ready to quilt.
While this is no masterpiece, I had so much fun making it! It brought back memories of so many people and our happy times together. There’s even a block from one person whom I didn’t really care for, but I’m glad she’s on the quilt. Funny how time softens the edges.
These blocks have stayed with me for around 32 years as a UFO of sorts and as soon as the quilting is done, they’ll be an FO instead! What a victory! I guess it’s never too late.
In case you’re wondering, these are the names found on the quilt.
Kathleen Ernesti, Donna Rector, Ellen Boyle, Gloria Nelsen, Penny White, Velesta Halbur, Sandra Renli, Wilma Amen, BJS, Doris Volk, Joyce Pick, Shirley Anderson, Maxine Kraemaer, Sue Sindelar, Sandy Eckert, Inger Hansen, Lavonne Hornik, Mattie Niewohner, Daytime Friendship Quilters, Mary Goetsch, Lila Brown, Marilynn Heller, Julie Deering, Carol Monk, Elsie Acklie, Joan Waldman, Lorena Edna Marie Kouba, Peggy Haas, Genelle Trowbridge, Shirley Hassler. There’s an unsigned block from Sherry Stuifbergen.
I can’t wait to reimagine another long-stored project, but right now I have my mind on Dresden Plate quilts. My next two programs will feature my Dresden collection and I want to have some new things to show. All of that upcoming. Until then, keep on scrappin’!
I’m a quilter who loves everything about the process and I enjoy sharing it with others. My energetic trunk shows are lively entertainment for your quilt guild. I’d love to come to your city so give me a call and Let’s Talk Quilts!