Green and Yellow String Quilt

Green string option 2

When I wasn’t working on my improv Churn Dash at the sewing retreat earlier this month, I was working on a new string quilt. Yes, another string quilt. I can’t help it—they’re just so fun to make.

My plan was to use bright and novelty print scraps to make a child’s charity quilt, probably for Project Linus. I decided to start each 8-inch block with a green triangle and end it with a yellow triangle, with the strings in the middle.

Green string blockI made 25 of the blocks before I ran out of the green fabric. So I started to play around with them to see what my setting options were. And the abundance of options is just one of the things I like about string blocks.

Green string option 1Zigzag strings with the green arrows pointing up.

Green string option 4Zigzag strings with the green arrows pointing down.

Green string option 2Green and yellow squares starting with a yellow in the upper left.

Green string option 3 Green and yellow squares starting with a yellow in the lower left.

I decided I liked the third option best, with the yellow square in the upper left, which left the partial green squares at the bottom of the quilt rather than at the top.

But the blocks together didn’t seem as playful and bright as I had hoped. So I decided to lighten up the whole thing with white sashing.

Green string with white

I cut the sashing strips to 2 inches, so they finished at 1.5 inches. I do think the sashing lightens it up. It also takes away from the neat shapes made by the strings and the triangles, but you still kind of see them. I was thinking that one way to knock back the white just bit would be to quilt over it with colored thread. But, man, my quilting would need to be good to do that!

Right now, the quilt is measuring 46 x 46 inches. If I give it to Project Linus, I will make it a bit wider and longer with borders of some sort. Or I just found out that a benefit is taking place for my friend with colon cancer. So maybe I’ll finish it with a scrappy binding and call it a big, square baby quilt.


Improv Churn Dash

Improv Churn DashThis past weekend, I joined a bunch of crafty ladies at Shawnee State Park in Portsmouth, Ohio, for a sewing retreat. It was a fun and well-run event (with tons of great prizes that I’ll share with you later). And I got a good bit of sewing done, too.

I had wanted for a while to make a white and orange Churn Dash quilt. I had yardage of both Kona Snow and Kaffe Fassett’s Tangerine shot cotton ready to go for whenever the muse hit. Then I edited the book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood. In it, she encourages readers to take a favorite traditional block and create it without measuring or planning too far ahead.

The idea of not using a ruler to cut my fabric didn’t bother me. But I did struggle a bit with all the pieces involved in the block. I ended up thinking about each half-square triangle and each set of strips on each block. That seemed really time-consuming when you’re used to grouping like pieces and figuring out the most efficient way to make them. There didn’t seem to be any efficient way to make these. But perhaps that wasn’t the point.

Improv Churn Dash detail

I tried to make each of the guys a little different in size and width, just to mix it up.

Improv Churn Dash detail 2

Instead of using the orange shot cotton for the blocks, I pulled from my stash of orange prints. Playing with the prints kept things more interesting for me as I worked.

I didn’t have a set number of blocks I wanted to make going in, but I hit a wall after making these twelve. I struggled with the improv process at first, and after the first day of the retreat, I wasn’t even sure I’d keep making them. But then I decided that the retreat was the perfect time to challenge myself, so I kept going and ended up enjoying the process. Once I finished these blocks, though, I couldn’t think how to change it up more, and I kind of wanted to finish as much as I could at the retreat. So with my blocks made, my next challenge was to fit them together.

Improv Churn Dash

I used the orange shot cotton and a Moss green shot cotton to make some of the blocks larger so I could sew them onto other blocks. I ended up making two long rows of the blocks and then sewed those together to arrive at this finished size of about 40 x 21 inches. As you can see above, I didn’t square up the piece—I just let it take the shape it was going to take.

For the quilting, I just did my usual thing of echoing the shapes with straight lines. Nothing too fancy to detract from the blocks themselves.

Improv Churn Dash quilting

I finished most of the quilting at the retreat and then added the binding since I’ve been home. Once I got home, I realized I have the perfect place to hang it—right behind my desk (so if you ever video conference with me, you’ll be sure to see it!).

I do like the improv idea of  just going where the process takes me, so I know I’ll try improv again. I just won’t choose such a fussy shape to make.



Low-Volume Ohio Star

OhioStar2 Earlier this summer, as I was finishing up my latest charity quilt, I got to thinking about how nice it would be to actually see someone receive one of my quilts. Greg seems to be content with the one quilt I made for him. And my family members have Mom to make quilts for them. Well, I thought, maybe Greg’s mom would like a quilt. Susan has always been a supporter of my craftiness, and I knew she’d be an appreciative recipient.

I decided to make her quilt with the Ohio Star quilt block. While she’s originally from out east, she’s lived a good part of her life in Cincinnati, and she spends only a small part of each year here now. So with an Ohio Star quilt, she could have a bit of Ohio with her wherever she is.

Next Greg and I started talking about fabrics. I knew yellow was one of her favorite colors, so I pulled together some yellows and purples from my stash for a bright-ish quilt like I usually make. Greg, though, had pictured a more subtly colored quilt for his mom, and I agreed. So I went back to the stash and found some lighter blues and greens to go with the yellows.


I’ve never make a low-volume quilt like this before (low-volume meaning the colors are similar in value, and therefore, there’s very little contrast). But I really liked the way it came together. And when I like making the blocks, the whole quilt comes together pretty quickly, too.

OhioStar_quilttopI decided to finish up the top with a thin white border and larger green border to bring the quilt top to 60 x 72 inches.

Once it was finished, Greg and I started to second-guess ourselves. I don’t know why, really, but the light yellows and greens just kind of seemed like a quilt you’d make for a baby when you don’t know the gender. So I brought the top to the August Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild meeting to see what the members thought. The conversation that ensued was fascinating. I didn’t take a formal poll, but it seemed like the crowd was split down the middle. Some members couldn’t see why anyone would think it looked like a baby quilt, and others thought it really did look babyish.

One of the members, Janine Keeton, made the good point that the quilting would make a big difference as to the look of the final quilt. When I asked her what quilting motif she’d recommend, she suggested something classic, like feathers. Since there was no way I could accomplish feathers on my machine, and since Janine has a long-arm business, I decided to ask her to try her hand at the quilting.

My only requests when I gave her the quilt were to quilt each block individually, rather than quilting it with one overall pattern, and to include feathers.

OhioStar_quilting2OhioStar_quilting1She decided to sew one of two different designs on each block. Each has feathers, but I like that each also includes circles. The half circles on the white border tie into the circles on the blocks, and the feathers on the wider borders pull everything together. I think the quilting turned out great—and it took the quilt completely away from the baby realm. Thanks, Janine!

OhioStar_quiltingJanine used a wool batting for the quilt. I had never used wool before, but I love the soft and light feel it gives the quilt.

The quilting also looks great on the back of the quilt. I used leftover fabric from the quilt top to piece the back.

OhioStar_backAnd I used one more Ohio Star block to make the label.

OhioStar_labelI finished the quilt by binding the edges using the same fabric as the outer border. Something about it, though, seemed just a bit too tidy. So I threw in a section of white binding on the lower left edge.

OhioStarGreg and I stopped over on Saturday to give Susan her quilt. And she was extremely appreciative, just as we knew she would be. She seemed to really like the colors and the design. And before we left, she’d already found a place for it in one of the sitting areas. You can’t ask for a better reception than that for a quilt!


CMQG Striped Charity Quilt

Striped charity quilt 3Let me start by making an excuse. I truly don’t think the camera is capturing this quilt accurately. I took a ton of photos, but none of them make the quilt look as pretty as it does in real life. Really. So just continue reading this post with a slightly richer, more cohesive quilt in your mind.

The Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guide has started a big charity initiative. Every three or four months, we’ll be choosing a new local charity for which we’ll be making as many quilts as we can. We’ll be donating the quilts to organizations that serve veterans, elderly folks, children, and more. To kick off the initiative, guild members donated fabric, and our president asked around to some of the fabric and batting manufacturers for donations. Before she knew it, Robert Kaufman Fabrics sent a huge box of fabrics for us to use.

Striped charity quilt 2

In addition to bright and colorful prints, like those shown above, they also sent a ton of solids, which is a great help when you’re working with fabrics from a variety of sources. I started going through the box of fabrics at a recent sew-in, and I put together this quilt.

Striped charity quilt 4The concept for the quilt comes from Nancy Zieman’s latest book, Quick Column Quilts. All of the quilts are constructed in columns, which helps them to go together really quickly. This particular quilt is a takeoff of her Quilt to Give, which alternates columns of scraps with columns of solids. For my quilt, I used the bubbly print from Robert Kaufman instead of scraps. All the strips were cut to 3 inches wide.

With just the strips, the quilt top came in at 60 x 64 inches. It looked a bit too square for my taste, so I added 5.5-inch black borders on the top and bottom to lengthen it out a bit.

Striped charity quilt 5

To finish this quilt, we’ll definitely need to get some black batting. The black fabric has a slightly loose weave, and I’d hate for a natural-colored batting to beard and become unsightly. I’ll probably hand it off to another guild member to quilt, but I think an allover design with curves would be nice.

For those keen-eyed readers, I know I messed up the column order. I can’t even remember what order I intended. I discovered it once the whole top was together, and I decided to leave it as is. It took me a while to spot it, so maybe the recipient won’t even notice.

My Favorite Quilt (So Far)

String quilt 3I think this is it—my most favorite quilt that I’ve made so far. I have loved it since I started piecing it many years ago, and I still love it today, now that it’s finally finished.

The pattern for the quilt is from the book String Quilt Revival by Virginia Baker and Barbara Sanders. (That’s the same book I used to make String Quilt #2.) The blocks are 6.5 inches and include one piece of the four-pointed star surrounded by strings. I used a mesh stabilizer as a foundation for the blocks. It doesn’t add much weight, but it adds a lot of stability when sewing all those thin strips of fabric. (Here’s a link to purchase the stabilizer I used from the book’s authors.)

String quilt quilting

The blocks are then put together to form the stars and the secondary diamonds. I love the shapes in the quilt, so I accentuated them with the quilting. I outlined the stars and added lines to the centers. For the diamonds, I just followed the strings in kind of a modified spiral.

String quilt 4

The quilting really was a hang-up for me, as I’ve had the quilt top done for at least two years. I’ve even had it pinned for most of that time. But I was afraid I might not like the quilting, and then I’d be really sad. Finally, I decided I just wanted the quilt done. So I quilted it. And while it’s nowhere near perfect, I still love it.

String quilt 6

The finished quilt is 59 x 59 inches. The backing I used is just one fabric, a teal that pretty much matches the lighter stars. It’s also the fabric I used as the binding.

For me, this quilt is really a memory quilt—a fabric memory quilt. I love looking at all the little pieces of fabric and remembering the projects I made with each one. Baby quilts for kids who are now in middle school and high school, bags that I’ve worn out, and mug rugs I’ve given as gifts.

We’ll be updating our living room soon, and I hope to hang it in there for easy viewing whenever I want to relive a few memories.

Traveling Quilt Blocks #3 and #4

Ellen blockI’m going to miss the September meeting of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild when we will show off our third Travel Quilt blocks and get our blocks for the fourth round. So I worked ahead a bit and made blocks for these last two rounds in August.

The block above is one I made for Ellen’s quilt. The original block she provided was pieced with curved strips (it’s peeking out from under my block below), and she suggested the theme of “movement” for the rest of the blocks. Kay made the white strip at the top of the image below, and Kim made the pinwheel block on the left.

Ellen blocks

The flying geese block I made is called Follow the Leader, and it’s from the book Modern Blocks by Susanne Woods. This book is my go-to for projects like this, as there are 99 blocks, all with very different looks. I did learn, however, that flying geese are really hard for me to make when I’m not paper piecing them. I think I sewed more than half of these guys twice to get the points close to right.

Ellen provided a lot of fabric for us to use, so the look of her blocks is very cohesive. (I added a couple fabrics from my stash, just to put a little of my own stamp on my block.) I can’t wait to see what she comes up with for her final quilt!

The other block I worked on was one for Teresa. Her original block was squares and rectangles grouped by color with a bit of white mixed in. So these are the blocks I made for her.

Teresa blocks

I had planned to sew them together into one 12.5 x 12.5-inch block. But then I started playing with them a bit. I noticed that one would fit perfectly with this little plus that Ellen made.

Teresa option 3

And they matched up nicely with the blocks Kim made.

Teresa option 1

And I really liked the way they look with Teresa’s original block.

Teresa block 4

So I’ve given the pieces to Teresa, and I’ll wait to see what she decides to do with them.

Those are the last two blocks I’ll be making for my group’s Traveling Quilt journey (see block 1 here and block 2 here). I was a bit nervous about joining in on this challenge, but I ended up enjoying the process of building on what someone else had started. I admit that not all of the blocks I made were super successful, so if they don’t appear in a finished quilt, I’ll be OK with that. But the process itself was a fun challenge.

In November, I’ll be getting my shark block back along with the blocks the other people in my group made for me. I can’t wait! And I’ll be sure to show them here.

Finished Crocheted Shawl

Crochet Shawl 3Here it is! My first finished crochet project in . . . well, a very long time. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I made it for a friend who has cancer. Her favorite color is yellow, and I am hoping this will wrap her in a bit of sunshine and warm thoughts as she recovers from surgery and goes through a second round of chemo.

Crochet Shawl 2I ended up using all five hanks of yarn that I purchased for the project. It’s 19 inches wide by 55 inches long and has a good bit of stretch to it. It’s not very fancy and has a good number of flaws, but hopefully it will bring her a smile and a bit of comfort.

The part of the process I was most worried about was blocking, as I hadn’t done that for any of my projects in the past. Blocking is the shaping of the piece, while it’s wet, using pins. I layered several fluffy towels on our laundry table and blocked the shawl on that. The towels were thick enough that the T-pins I used to hold the shawl stuck in nicely.

Crochet shawl blocked 2

Crochet shawl blockedI’m not sure, now, why I saw blocking as such a hurdle. I guess just the process of getting it all set up seemed daunting. But now that it is set up, I blocked a few granny squares. And I need to weave in the ends of a few more squares so I can block those, too. I think I see more finished crochet projects in my future!

Crochet Shawl 1

Crocheted Shawl Halfway

Shawl halfway

As promised, and to keep myself on track, here’s how far I got with my crocheted shawl this past week. I took this on vacation with me and used up all the yarn I had brought along. So just two (out of five) hanks left to go!

For me, crocheting is the perfect craft to take to the airport, to do on the plane, and to keep my hands busy while visiting with family. It continued to be difficult to think exclusively of good intentions for my friend as I crocheted, but I think the overall vibe of the shawl will be pretty good.

Next week, I hope to show the finished shawl!

Shawl halfway 2





Crocheted Shawl

Crochet shawl

I’ll admit I don’t have the best track record when it comes to finishing crochet projects. Part of it is I haven’t yet blocked any of my projects, and I have a reluctance to try (for no good reason).

But this one I am really going to finish. This shawl project is for a friend who just started cancer treatment. Her favorite color is yellow, and she’s already cold all the time. So I’m going to send her this sunny shawl to wrap up in.

I had intended for it to be a prayer shawl (where you say prayers or think of positive intentions for the recipient as you make it), but I find I have to think about the act of crocheting too much to think of anything else. Maybe once I get the pattern down better I’ll be able to think positive thoughts for her.  In the meantime, I’ve just been singing church songs in back of my mind as I crochet.

I’ll be taking a few days off for a long weekend, and I hope to get a lot done on the shawl. I’ll report back next week!

This One Was Supposed To Be Easy

Primary quilt top 3

For several weeks now, I’ve been struggling with a quilt that just ended up being really hard. It took a good bit of thought to begin with, and then it didn’t turn out quite the way I had wanted. (It’s a gift, so I’m holding off on showing it here.) Anyway, after that, I wanted to work on an easy, mindless quilt.

So I took out the Riley Blake fabric I had gotten at the Herrschners sale. There is enough going on in the fabric that I decided to let it do the work.

Riley Blake fabric

I pulled some primary-colored fabrics from my stash, along with a bit of green. Within minutes, I decided to cut the main fabric into 16″ squares (because it was going to do the work) and then sash those squares with my stash fabric. Easy! I got the whole top planned, cut, and pieced in a couple of hours.

Primary Quilt top first

So, who can tell where this is going? Yep . . . I didn’t like it. I didn’t like that I had sashed only two sides of each square, but that’s all the stash fabric I had. I tried to remedy that by adding the turquoise fabric to the two sides that didn’t have sashing on the squares. But I didn’t like that, and I didn’t want it on all four sides, either. And I didn’t like that the blue and turquoise fabrics were so similar.

The “easy” quilt top turned out to be one that I took apart. After ripping the seams and pressing the fabric, I went a lot more straightforward on my second attempt. I kept like colors together. I just did easy.

Primary quilt top 1

It’s very simple, I know. But I think it will be a nice charity quilt for a baby or preschool boy. It’s certainly bright and fun. I’m thinking about quilting it in an all-over pattern of stars. Of course, I’ll need to learn how to quilt stars. But that should be easy.



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