Pulse Blocks

Pulse blocks

After the tragedy at Pulse in Orlando, the Orlando Modern Quilt Guild decided to use their skills and resources to bring at least a little comfort to those directly effected. The Guild is organizing an effort to provide quilts to the survivors and the families of the victims.

Each quilt will be made from heart blocks using a tutorial from Cluck Cluck Sew, and all of the hearts are to be in rainbow colors.

The goal to make over 100 quilts is a huge one, so they’re looking for assistance from anyone who can help. A member of the OHCraft group that I’m part of saw the call, and she’s working with our members to make at least one quilt for Orlando.

The first step is to make blocks, so I created three. My stash is pretty light on rainbow colors on the red and purple side of things, but I did manage to find some fabrics in other colors that I thought would work.

Pulse orange

Pulse green

Pulse blue

I hate there are so many victims of violence like this that need comforting, but I’m glad to be able to be a small part of that comfort effort.

Hexie Swap Block

Hexie step 5

Here we are at another month, and that means I’ve worked on another swap block for the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild! I really do like this hive structure for the swap (read more about it here) because I’m getting to try blocks and techniques I truly would not have tried on my own. This month that block is Grandmother’s Flower Garden and the technique is English paper piecing.

Tara was the Queen Bee for June and she provided everything we needed to make her block: instructions, the paper-piecing templates, and even the fabric! I just needed to add thread and stir.

Hexie step 1

The thing is I had never done English paper piecing before. I knew in theory what to do—fold the fabric around the template shape and then hand stitch the fabric hexagons together. So I did what I always do when I have to try something new: I put it off . . . and complained to Greg about how much work it was going to be. Then Greg said, “Well, what can you do to make the process easier?” And since I hadn’t started it yet, I didn’t really have an answer. So I had to stop complaining—at least to Greg.

I finally cut the jelly roll strips I received into 2.5-inch squares and thread-basted the fabric to the templates. To do this, I folded the fabric over one side, took two small stitches to hold the fold, then made running stitches to get to the next side. There I folded the fabric, took two small stitches, made my way over to the next side, and kept going. The basting took longer than I thought, and I was really having a tough time seeing why people liked this technique.

Hexie step 2

With all my pieces basted, I started to arrange the block, but the large dotted fabric I received was throwing me for a loop. Some pieces were primarily gray and others primarily light green, so they didn’t look very cohesive when I placed them randomly.

Hexie step 3

So I made the bold decision to arrange them like a pansy face. I preferred them that way—I hope Tara does, too.

Hexie step 4

Once I started piecing the hexagons together, I did understand the appeal of the technique. The methodical hand sewing was quite fun, and it went quickly, too.

Hexie step 5

Tara asked that we leave all the templates in the fabric so that she can remove them when she’s ready.

I feel a little bad that Tara is receiving this piece with all my beginner’s mistakes. My corners don’t all meet, and it’s not exactly flat either (as you can see by the giant shadow on the left). But I am glad I gave this technique a try, and I may buy my own set of templates to have around for when I need something to work on by hand.

Improv Challenge

Back in January of this year, the members of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild were issued a challenge to create any sewn item using improvisational piecing techniques. We had two education segments prior to the challenge to get us in the improv mood, and then we had four months to complete our pieces, which needed to include a color we were arbitrarily assigned. We were also instructed to keep our projects on the down-low so we could anonymously vote for our favorites.

The May meeting was the big reveal for our challenge pieces. Each piece was assigned a number, and from the roughly 25 entries, we voted for the best use of improv, best use of our assigned color, and viewer’s choice.

After the winners were announced (I didn’t win anything), everyone identified which piece was theirs and talked a bit about their process. As we came to each piece that was spread out on the tables, the maker of that piece came forward. Finally, my piece was up, and I was about to step forward . . . but then someone had to leave, so we jumped ahead to her piece. Then it was my turn . . . but something else happened, and we were delayed again.

Finally, it was my turn. As I walked to the table, I said, “Sometimes I like to make projects that make me laugh. This is my piece, Creepy Dolls with Improv Border.”

Improv Challenge

And it was like everyone in the room breathed a sigh of relief, kind of as if they weren’t sure if I knew how weird my entry was. And then they laughed.

It all started when I was assigned my color: Grellow (the assigned colors were all Kona solid colors for easy identification). It wasn’t required, but I ordered a half yard of Grellow just to have a feel for the actual color. I had it sitting around my craft room for a few weeks, to give it a chance to inspire me, when I got to thinking about some fabric I received from a friend.

My friend’s aunt has passed away, and my friend let me pick some pieces from her aunt’s fabric stash. One of the pieces I took was a weird border print with dolls.

Creepy border fabric

Grellow was very similar to the background color of the calico print in the creepy dolls fabric! With that realization, I became very excited about this challenge.

I decided to start with a panel with two of the dolls.

Creepy doll panel

From there, I selected solid colors from my stash, including Grellow, to use in the border. At first, I just had Grellow, orange, green, and red, but that was crazy bright. When I asked Greg’s thoughts, he suggested I add a dark purple. What would I do without him?

With my palette, I started randomly cutting and piecing sections for the border. My first sections were just strips cut with scissors. Note that I threw in some of the background calico as well.

Creepy Improv section 2

Creepy Improv section 4

After a while I decided to jazz things up a bit with some triangles. These, too, were cut with scissors and just pieced together to fit.

Creepy Improv section 3

Creepy Improv section 1

I trimmed my sections to 4 inches wide and pieced them together to fit around the sides of the panel. If a section wasn’t long enough to fit the panel, I’d just piece together a few more bits of fabric and sew them on to the strip. To be extra improvy, I sewed the top border on first, then the left side, the bottom, and finally the right side.

Creepy Dolls pieced

With the top done, it was on to quilting. I didn’t think any color would look good for the quilting thread, so I used invisible thread for the first time. The brand I purchased was pretty much like fishing line. Apparently, other brands aren’t that stiff, but the stuff I had made the quilting a bit of a challenge. I used yellow thread in the bobbin.

Improv Challenge

The quilting is just wavy lines from the top to the bottom. But, in an attempt to enhance the creepiness of the dolls, I quilted around their faces and hands and didn’t sew through those parts with the wavy lines.

Improv challenge back

For the backing, I used another piece from my friend’s aunt. I didn’t have enough of any one fabric for the binding, so I made a two-fabric binding following the instructions in the book String Quilt Revival. The finished piece is 24 x 26 inches.

I honestly thought I had a chance at one of the prizes in the improv challenge until I saw some of the other entries. They were amazing (you can see them here). But I am still really proud of this piece and its crazy colors. I like the way the background calico in the border blends with the doll panel. The whole piece makes me smile.

Happy House Blocks

Happy house swap 1

As I recently posted, I’m in a Bee Hive swap with the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild, and at the April meeting, I received the happy houses blocks that my hive made for me!

I provided a link to the house pattern I wanted them to make, but beyond that my only instructions were to use a low-volume white for the sky and to make the houses happy. It was super fun to see what each member came up with.

Happy house swap 2

I was glad to see that other people had as much fun as I did picking fabrics for the windows and door. And I like that some of my hive members used colors that I normally wouldn’t have used (namely black and red); it’ll help the finished piece look more like a true collaboration.

What that finished piece will be I’m not yet sure. My pie-in-the-sky idea involves the houses spaced over a whole quilt top with hand-embroidered elements to tie them into a neighborhood setting. But that’s going to take some more thinking.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank (in order starting with the top photo, top left house) Becky, Abby (who was sweet enough to make two blocks), Jeanie, Janine, Amy, Shona, and Tara for the blocks you made!

Quilt of Valor Top

QofV complete

Back in March, I posted here that 2016 was to be the year I make a quilt for the Quilts of Valor program that supplies quilts to U.S. service people. Well, the first big step—the quilt top—is complete!

I made 24 of the star blocks using a variety of blue and gray fabrics.QofV navy block

Then I had to figure out how to lay them out. It proved challenging. I didn’t want to make a whole quilt of the stars—that seemed to be too much. So I wanted to find a way to incorporate fabric I had with the stars.

QofV layout4

I first tried using the blue gingham that I had used in some of the stars. It was a bit too much in real life, and it looked odd with the stars that had that fabric as the background. Plus I didn’t have enough for the whole quilt.

QofV layout2

I had bought the navy star fabric especially for this project, so I tried mixing it with the blue gingham. The dark navy weighed it down a bit too much in real life. And again, the gingham touching the star blocks was a problem.

QofV layout3QofV layout1

Next I tried grouping the stars together, a look I liked. But since all my fabric was cut into 10-inch blocks, that meant my star section had to be off center.

QofV layout6

I was doing all this laying out at a once-a-month Ladies Craft Night Out event that includes some women from the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild. They were all offering their input on the layouts, and finally Amy suggested putting the stars in rows. Aha. That did allow for some of the star blocks to be together, but it also gave them some breathing room. And I didn’t have to worry about gingham touching gingham.

QofV complete

So that’s the layout I went with, and I think it works. Although, I still like the idea of having all the blocks grouped.

Anyway, on to the step of making the quilt back! I’ve been playing around with that a bit, and I think I’ll try to incorporate some red into the backing for a pop of color. I have one piece of red fabric that I was considering, but the fabric was bleeding a lot, even after several rinses. Using that seemed pretty risky with a quilt with this much light fabric.

More to come on this one!

Homeward Bound Quilt Top

Way back in January I posted about some blocks I made for the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild Bee Hive Swap and how they inspired me to start a new quilt. After that, I got busy making the individual blocks for the quilt.

Homeward block 1

And I loosely grouped them together.

Homeward blocks

After a few months, I had made 42 blocks and considered that enough for a quilt. So I laid out the blocks on the dining room floor.


And the first bits of doubt started to creep into my mind. Hmmm. That wasn’t how I thought it would look. It’s hard to explain, but I thought the patterns made by the white and gray fabrics and the green fabrics would be stronger. It just didn’t look very cohesive.

But I went ahead and sewed it together. Then I draped it over the upstairs railing and let it sit. For about a month I looked at it and tried to figure out what to do next. Add a border? Maybe two? Leave it as is?

As luck would have it, we were asked to bring projects we were stuck on to the April meeting of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild. The plan was to break into small groups and brainstorm ways to help each person along with her project.

Since the quilt top was technically done, I held it up for show-and-tell and tried to explain my misgivings. It was kind of hard to be down on the quilt given the enthusiastic response of the guild members. People seemed to genuinely like it. Maybe it was just me.

Later we broke up into our small groups and talked about the quilt again. It was there that a couple of ladies held the quilt up for me to see from a distance. It was the first time I could really stand far back and look at it.


OK, maybe I could see the patterns better than I thought. During show-and-tell, one woman described it as “sun-dappled,” and I agree. The patterns are there, but they are getting broken up a bit with lights, like it would be on a sunny day.

Then, we happened to notice that the quilt was being reflected in the window of our meeting space. From that point of view, the patterns were crystal clear! I guess it all just depends on your perspective.

So, I’m going to go ahead and finish the quilt as is. Right now, I’m thinking I’ll use orange thread for the center areas and then maybe gray for the rest of it. But I could also see myself taking it a step further and using green thread in the green areas. We’ll see.

Several of the women in guild suggested adding an orange binding, but I’ll make that decision once I get that far.

For the most part, I’m a solitary crafter. I’ll ask Greg’s opinion on things, but I don’t usually go out and solicit feedback. In this case, though, I really needed outside points of view. I was too close to it, both literally and figuratively, to see it clearly. So a huge thank you to the women of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild for their support, ideas, and encouragement! This one might actually get finished because of you!


Happy House Swap Block

HappyHouse1As I mentioned last week, April is my month to bring a block to share in the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild Bee Hive Block Swap!

It was kind of a lot of pressure to think of a block that people in my hive would like making, that wouldn’t be too hard, that didn’t need to be super accurate, and that I would like to work with later to make a finished project. I searched online for what others had created for block swaps and searched through my books of blocks trying to get ideas.

For some reason, I kept getting drawn to house blocks. I’d never made one before and never really thought about making one before. But there were a couple of house blocks that repeatedly turned up in my searches. I finally decided on this block from the Bloomin’ Workshop blog that she calls Manor House. She had made it for a random sampler quilt-along, and I liked that it was simple and yet still cute.

So I made up the block above by pulling fabrics from my scrap bin. It was fun looking for bits that were large enough for the house and still went together. In the process of making the block, I was also trying to figure out the parameters I wanted the members of my hive to use as they made their blocks. After making this block, I decided I wanted everyone to use a low-volume fabric for the sky.

Next I decided to make a block with a more monochromatic house.

HappyHouse3Surprise! That house turned out to be orange. With this block, I decided that the members of the hive could use some solid fabrics, but I didn’t want any house that used only solid fabrics.

I was having so much fun making these, that I tried another one.

HappyHouse4This time I used a sky color that wasn’t gray. So with this block I decided that I wanted the sky fabric to have a white background, but it could also have any low-volume color with the white.

And, honestly, I just couldn’t stop making the blocks. I found that it was easy to find pieces for the house and chimneys from my stash bin, but I needed to cut into my yardage for the sky and most of the roofs.

HappyHouse2When I looked at all my blocks together, I realized they were all just really happy looking. So I decided I wouldn’t restrict the hive members to any colors for the houses; I would just ask that the houses look cheerful.

My final instructions to my hive members are:

Please make one Manor House block from the Bloomin’ Workshop blog. Click here for link.
Follow her instructions for creating the block. I found it very handy to print out the block illustration with measurements that she includes in her post.
Special requests:
Use a white background low-volume print for the “sky” pieces.
Use prints (or prints and a few solids) for the house that result in an overall cheerful look.
HappyHousesI hope everyone has as much fun making this block as I did. I’ll get the blocks from my hive at the May meeting, and I’ll show you what they came up with then!

Orange Peel Swap Block

OrangePeelswapblockThe Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild Bee Hive Block Swap continues! At the March meeting, Abby asked the members of my hive to make an orange peel block. She provided the template shape and asked that the peels be orange and the background be low-volume grays. And, in her words, “the scrappier the better.”

Abby instructed us to first piece together our four background squares. She suggested that we cut them to 5-inches, but I accidentally cut mine to 5 1/2 inches. But that just gives her more wiggle room for squaring up.

Then we were to trace the template onto the orange fabric and onto a piece of lightweight fusible webbing. With right sides together (meaning the pretty side of the fabric and the sticky side of the fusible), we were to sew around the entire shape with a 1/8-inch seam allowance. Then we were to cut a hole in the fusible, turn the shape right side out, and iron it to the pieced background.

I hadn’t done this type of appliqué before, so it was pretty slow going. My biggest problem was that my fusible was so thin, it kept tearing, especially as I was trying to poke out the ends. I also found it tricky to keep the fusible from showing on the sides of the shape (in fact, I wasn’t entirely successful with that).

I ended up having to re-position a few of the shapes, so while Abby left stitching down the shapes as optional, I did because I didn’t want them to fall off. Plus, I already had my orange thread in the machine.

I love this swap because I’m getting to use techniques I haven’t tried before and make blocks I wouldn’t have made on my own. My block isn’t perfect, but hopefully it goes with what Abby had in mind.

April is my month to be Queen Bee of our hive, so next week, I’ll show you the block I’ll be asking the hive members to make for me!

Hand-Quilted Mug Rug

hand quilted mug rugAt the February meeting of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild, Dana presented an education segment on hand quilting. I have hand quilted before, but it was good to get her take on hoops (which I’ve never used but got to try at the meeting), thread (including pearl cotton, which I’ve always wanted to try), and needles. Our challenge was to try hand quilting and bring our work to the March meeting.

I didn’t get on it until just a few days before the March meeting. So I went through my pile of orphan blocks and found this one that I had made at the Heather Jones workshop last year. It’s small (about 8″ x 8″) so quilting would go quickly, and I really like the colors and wanted to finish it somehow anyway. Perfect!

Less perfect was the fact that I didn’t have any pearl cotton or a quilting hoop. So I just quilted it like I’d done in the past: in hand, with my regular sewing thread. It turns out that holding it in hand while quilting causes the piece to bunch up a bit more (a hoop keeps it flatter), but for my purposes, the bunchiness was fine.

My stitches are nowhere near the “ideal” of ten stitches per inch. Mine are about five per inch, occasionally six. But I certainly didn’t see a need to go smaller for a mug rug. And I’m not entirely sure I could go much smaller anyway. Ten stitches per inch is a lot!

hand quilted backOn the back, I just used a piece of pin fabric that I’d had for a while. It was surprisingly confusing—a couple of time I actually thought they were pins as I was working on it.

I have to admit I didn’t get the sense of relaxation that many people do when they hand quilt. Maybe it’s because I wanted to finish it by the meeting date. But I do still want to try pearl cotton sometime—maybe even tackle a whole quilt with it. We’ll see . . .

Spring Paper Crafts

Chrissy egg2

We had out-of-town visitors this weekend, including two sweet little girls ages six and two. So, of course, I had to plan a craft project. I looked around Pinterest for a while and came upon a craft I remembered fondly from my school days—the old opening egg with a chick inside. Perfect!

I went to Target to supplement my stash of supplies. I picked up a pair of safety scissors, the paper fasteners (they had them in silver and gold!), and some springtime stickers.

Abby, the six-year-old, is a born crafter. She jumped right in. Like any good six-year-old, she included her last name on her egg, so I ham-fistedly covered that up.

Abby egg edit

Marin, the two-year-old, made one, too, with the help of her mom and dad. She kept telling them to add “art,” much of which she then covered with stickers. But you can’t beat the upside-down chick placement.

Marin egg

Abby and I just kept at it once our first eggs were done. Abby made another one that she mounted on a piece of paper. The egg top still moves, though. She knows what she’s doing.

Abby egg2

And she made this pocket and glued it to a background. She used a hole punch to make the frame and then added paper behind some of the dots. Crafty!

Abby pocket

I asked Abby what else would come from an egg, and she immediately answered, “Dinosaur!” So I asked Greg to draw the dinosaur of his choice for my next egg.

Chrissy eggI borrowed Abby’s hole-punch technique on the bottom half of the egg.

I love sharing crafts with other people, and these two girls were great fun to make stuff with!



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