Remaining Hive Blocks

Snowball finishedThe Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild Bee Hive Swap continued over the summer, and in fact, at tonight’s meeting we hand off the last of the blocks for this session. I’m going to miss making these blocks each month. Each one was an interesting challenge and opened my eyes to new techniques and block styles. Here’s a rundown of the last three blocks I worked on.

Wanta Fanta Block

Becky found this block on the Blossom Heart Quilts blog. Becky provided the white fabric and asked us to use a different fabric print for each of the other pieces, for a completely scrappy look. The block is composed of four small blocks, two of which are pieced and two of which are paper-pieced.



When you put the four blocks together, they form the block at the top of this post. And when you put more of those blocks together, you get a cool curved effect even though all the blocks are made with straight lines.

Unfortunately, to get that effect, your piecing needs to be pretty accurate. Mine was not on the first try.

Snowball error

I fixed that oops. It’s still not perfect, but hopefully it will work well enough.

Four-Pointed Star


Next up is the Four-Pointed Star Shona asked us to make. She asked that we use a printed fabric as the background and a solid fabric for the star. It’s an improvisational block, so the instructions were pretty loose. Each quarter of the block has two rectangles that are placed at an angle to create halves of two different points.


My greatest challenge for this one was figuring out where to place the rectangles so all the background fabric pieces ended up right-reading. That did make my brain hurt a bit.

18 Half-Square Triangles

Finally, for this month, Jeanie asked us just to make 18 half-square triangles using a print fabric and a contrasting solid. She even provided instructions for a quick method to make them.


Cut 9-inch squares from each fabric. Draw horizontal and vertical lines at 3 inches and 6 inches.


Then draw horizontal lines in one direction through all the squares.


Layer the two fabrics right sides together. Then sew 1/4 inch from the diagonal lines, sewing on each side of the lines.


Cut on the horizontal and vertical lines (top row). Then cut on the diagonal lines and press open. Each square results in two half-square triangles.


And that results in 18 half-square triangles! Jeanie then asked us to trim these to 2.5 inches. For some reason, I have trouble with half-square triangles, and for most methods I have to cut my fabric larger to begin with in order to get the correct size finished pieces. But I was able to trim all of these to the right size with no problem!

You can catch up on my other Hive activity here, here, here, and here. There’s talk of starting a new Bee Hive Swap in January, and if that happens, I am in!

Patchwork: The Game

patchwork_box-coverGreg and I were recently in the market for a new game to play after dinner. Rack-O and Yahtzee were getting old, so we went online for recommendations for two-person games. And it was then that we discovered Patchwork.

Given my affinity for quilting, the game seemed worth trying, but the reviews were all very positive as well. So we ordered it off Amazon and gave it a try.

It is dorktastic—super dorky, no doubt, but also really fun and challenging. I love it. And not just because the person who last used a needle gets to go first (did I mention it was dorky?).

patchwork_gamestartThe goal is to earn buttons—the currency of the game—in order to purchase fabric pieces to fill your quilt board. At the start of the game, each players gets five buttons.

patchwork_pieceshapesThe fabric pieces are similar to those in Tetris or Blokus, so part of the challenge is to purchase the pieces that fit together most efficiently to fill your board.

patchwork_gameboardThe players take turns moving around the game board. If you land on a space that touches a button, you get a button payout, earning more buttons for purchasing fabric pieces. If you land on a space that touches a leather patch, you get that patch to fill in a single space on your quilt board. Disclaimer: I do not approve of the use of leather patches on actual quilts. Or the use of buttons, for that matter.

patchwork_myfinalboardAt the end of this particular game, this is what my board looked like. I had earned a lot of buttons along the way, but I also had a lot of empty spaces. You need to deduct two points for each empty space, so I had a big deduction in this game.

patchwork_gregboardGreg, on the other hand, had very few empty spaces (in fact, I’m guessing this was a record for us). He ended up winning the game by ten points/buttons.

The game goes very quickly—usually about 20 minutes. I like that there’s a lot of different things to consider as you play. It really does take some strategy to figure out how to earn the most buttons and get the pieces you need for your board. And there’s an element of luck to it, too, because only certain pieces are available for you to purchase on each turn.

Even if you’re not a quilter, I highly recommend Patchwork as a fun, two-person game. If you’re not a quilter, though, I’m not sure who would go first, but I’m sure you’ll figure something out.

Shark Block #2

Sharkblock#2Funny. I hadn’t intended to take the summer off from blogging. A few different family vacations, a little surgery, and two months have flown by.

I’m going to ease back into the swing of things with this shark block that I made for a quilt that the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild and OHCraft group are putting together for one of our members. She could use some quilted love, and she loves pirates, so a pirate quilt it is!

As you may recall, I made this block previously for a CMQG Round Robin and then turned it into a wall hanging for my niece. This time I used a few printed fabrics (although not for the sharkiest parts—the eye and mouth—which I think need to be solid), and I really liked the way it turned out. I kind of think all sharks should have word searches on their bellies.

The block is one I purchased from Craftsy. I was surprised by how easily it went together this time. Don’t get me wrong—I still had to unsew a lot of seams. But somehow the flow was better and not nearly as frustrating.

So far, the quilt also has several ship blocks that use pirate-printed fabric, a paper-pieced crab with an eye patch, and a sea turtle, and the words “yo ho ho.” Hopefully this block and all the others will help our fellow member feel the love.

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!