It’s been a week since we flew back to the states from Portugal. Fortunately, I have many memories and lots of photos to remind me of the delightful time my husband and I spent cruising the Douro River and the many shore excursions we took to medieval hill towns and modern cities. Everywhere we went, images appeared that made me think of quilt blocks, appliqué designs, and even free motion quilting motifs.
When we got to Lisbon, our final destination in Portugal, the amount of gorgeous tile work I was seeing made my head spin. These three designs were on the walkway outside our hotel:
This one was on the floor of the main entrance to the hotel:
On the north bank of the Tagus River near the Monument to the Discoveries there’s a huge tile wind rose and map of the world charting Portuguese explorations. The map is embellished by wonderful designs that would look right at home on a quilt:
We visited the National Tile Museum dedicated to the azulejo, a glazed colored tile traditionally used in Spanish and Portuguese buildings. The museum houses examples dating from the 15th century to today. With the battery in my cell phone running low I took very few pictures but they’re enough to give you a sense of what I was seeing:
Tile work from the 21st century evoking a sampler quilt (a modern take on Dear Jane, perhaps?):
April is my favorite month of the year. It’s the month when the promise of spring in Portland is fully realized. Lawns are emerald green, and the profusion of colorful azaleas, tulips, and other blooming things makes my heart sing. Today is a gloriously sunny day, one of the first of the year warm enough for Portlanders to open all their windows and let the fresh air in. I can hear the sound of a lawnmower starting up and if I’m lucky it will be followed by the scent of new-mown grass.
In honor of spring I hung Under Paris Skies in the master bathroom:
This is the springtime version of my pattern Season to Taste, designed and made four years ago as part of a series based on the four seasons. The summer and fall versions are done but I must confess the one for winter hasn’t been made yet, though I do have the perfect fabric for it in my stash.
This is the first time Under Paris Skies has been on display in my house. All this time it’s been hanging in the Pine Needle, the quilt shop in Lake Oswego where I’ve been teaching the last eight years.
After 25 years running the Pine Needle, owner Geri retired and closed the shop at the end of March. Several of my quilts had been hanging in the shop, and all of them got to come home with me. (Happily, Geri is still involved in the quilt industry and the Pine Needle location is being taken over by a local family-owned sewing business. More on that in a future post after an official announcement has been made.)
Back to Under Paris Skies for a moment. First you have to imagine April in Paris. Think of Ella Fitzgerald singing “April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom, holiday tables under the trees . . .”
Those are real chestnuts in blossom, taken on my trip to Paris three years ago this month. If you look carefully you can see the Seine in the background. Now imagine clusters of people sitting outside at cafe tables, taking in the fresh air while sipping a citron presse or café crème, like the two below (apparently still waiting for their order to be taken):
All three blocks in this kaleidoscope quilt contain two different images of outdoor Parisian life, carefully fussy cut to fit in the confines of the triangles. Here’s another scene that always makes me smile:
When the rains return (which they will, because it wouldn’t be spring in Portland without them), I’ll look at these bright and cheerful scenes of Paris in anticipation of the next sunny day right here at home.
Simply this: I supersized Corey Yoder’s Idyllic block. As designed, her block finishes at 14″ square. I enlarged it to finish at 21″ square. Why? Curiosity more than anything else — plus the fact that I bought enough of these fabrics to play around a bit.
One of the things I love about this pattern is that it can look traditional or modern depending on fabric choices. Take a look at the pattern cover:
The scrappy version pictured above looks quite traditional to my eye whereas the two-color version has a modern vibe. I figured it would look even more modern if the blocks were larger.
That got me to thinking about a kaleidoscope quilt I made as an experiment a few years ago using three different size blocks:
(This quilt top eventually became a baby quilt for a darling great niece. You can see the finished quilt here.)
What, I wonder, would Idyllic look like as a quilt with three sizes of blocks? I know how to find out . . .
But here’s the thing. Each Idyllic block has three sets of Flying Geese units in it. Two are the same size and one is smaller. The proportions need to remain consistent. If I make a block halfway between the ones I’ve already made, it needs to finish at 17½” inches square. That would make the smaller Flying Geese unit finish at 1⅞” x 3¾”.
I happened across one of my posts the other day that was written in October 2012, a little over five years ago when my blog was in its first year. I was writing about three fabric groupings in my stash that I was wild about even though I hadn’t yet decided yet what to make with them. What a pleasant surprise to discover that I have, in fact, used all three groupings!
The first was this one, a mix from several lines anchored by the red and aqua floral print in the center from Denyse Schmidt’s line, “Flea Market Fancy,” reissued earlier in 2012:
Several of the fabrics wound up in this sewing machine dust cover . . .
. . . and this set of king-size pillowcases, both made in 2013:
The second group was this one, primarily from the “Ainsley” line by Northcott Fabrics:
From this group came a small project, a kaleidoscopic table topper made in 2014 . . .
. . . and a large project, my queen-size sampler quilt Catch a Falling Star, completed in 2015:
The third group was from the “Scarlet” line by Pamela Mostek for Clothworks:
These fabrics remained in my stash until 2017, when I used them to make my current Junior Billie Bag . . .
. . . and matching accessories:
Now when I see a new group of fabrics I just can’t live without, I’ll remind myself that the fabric in my stash is indeed getting used. I’ll just need three additional lifetimes to sew my way through all of it. Can you relate?
I got a phone call last night from one of the organizers of Northwest Quilting Expo (coming up later this week in Portland, Oregon) that my quilt Where It’s @ won a second place ribbon. I am thrilled!
If I remember the rest of the phone call correctly (I was a bit dazed), winners will be announced Thursday at 1:30 pm at the quilt show. That was the day I was planning to visit the show with my quilt group, the Quisters, so the timing is perfect.
I started this quilt in July 2016 in a class with Karla Alexander of Saginaw Street Quilts and finished it late last year. The name of her quilt pattern is Rewind. Karlee Sandell of sewinspired2day.com quilted it for me.
Quilters who enter their creations at Northwest Quilting Expo can opt to have their quilts judged. I chose to have mine judged, as I’m always interested in what the experts have to say, hoping I can learn from their remarks.
In 2011 I won a ribbon in a non-juried show. Here’s a look at that quilt:
The venue was Quilts in Bloom, a small quilt show held at the Oregon Garden in Silverton, Oregon. Much to my surprise and delight, this quilt won the viewer’s choice award for Best Traditional Quilt. I’m sure that the beautiful custom quilting by Melissa Hoffman contributed to that award. (You can see other examples of Melissa’s beautiful work on her Instagram page, fiddlestitches.)
This quilt is very special to me. It was made from my own pattern 4-Patch Wonder, published in 2010. I originally called the quilt Carmen, after the name of the fabric line from Timeless Treasures, changing it later to Midnight in the Garden. I don’t have it anymore but it’s still in the family. I gave it as a gift to my twin sister Diane as a 60th birthday present. It’s on display in her home in Georgia and I get to enjoy it on my annual visits.
The Northwest Quilting Expo runs Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 28-30, at Portland Expo Center, 2060 N. Marine Drive. Maybe I will see you there!
Here’s my second Big Block Star, made using Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s pattern of the same name and her large diamond ruler:
Don’t you love that bold beautiful print? It’s from the “Black, White & Currant 5″ line by Color Principle for Henry Glass Fabrics. I bought a few pieces from the line a couple of years ago. I find it hard to resist Jacobean floral prints and I rarely see them printed on a true red background.
I don’t have enough of the Jacobean print to make three more Big Block Stars — each star finishes at 41″ square — but I do have enough to play around with 4-Patch Wonder blocks (my name for faux-kaleidoscope blocks made from four identical patches). Here’s a test block that measures 8” square:
Do I have a plan for this quilt? Not yet. I could keep it simple, surrounding my Big Block Star with one wide border, perhaps using 4-Patch Wonder blocks as cornerstones, or I could surround the entire Big Block Star with faux-kaleido blocks. No need to decide now. I’ll sleep on it.
And what of Big Block Star, Take One? After not looking at it for a few days, I have come to really like it. Comments from readers who saw my blog post about it or saw it on my Instagram have given me a fresh perspective.
Perhaps you think I meant to say “hit or miss.” Oh no. My latest foray in quiltmaking was both a hit and a miss.
Ever since buying Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s Large Diamond acrylic ruler and Big Block Star pattern a few months ago, I’ve been wanting to try them out.
I had the perfect fabric in mind: a Kaffe Fassett print featuring lily pads and lotus blossoms:
I love the kaleidoscopic effect created by using fabric repeats. Part of the fun of making kaleido blocks is that you don’t know what the design will look like until the block is fully assembled.
Victoria’s Big Block Star pattern is composed of four star blocks and finishes at 82″ square. I decided to make one star block finishing at 41″ square. From eight repeats of fabric I carefully cut out the diamonds that form the star and sewed the first two together with the center triangle:
Uh-oh. Do you see what I see? I don’t see lily pads and lotus blossoms. I see an animal face with two big . . . sad . . . bloodshot eyes.
I told myself it was just an illusion. I told myself it would look totally different with two more blocks added.
Well, here they are:
Now I see two faces . . . and now they look like owls. Very sad owls.
What to do??
I already had the remaining pieces cut out so I decided to finish the block, hoping that the completed big star would look fine:
Now if I try really hard, I can see that the lily pads form a circle inside the star and there’s even a pleasing starburst shape in the very center of the block. But I can’t escape the feeling that four very sad owls are looking back at me.
Am I in despair? Curiously, no. I consider this experience both a hit and a miss. The design and ruler are definitely on the “hit” side. The block went together quickly because the pieces are all large, and I actually enjoyed sewing all of those Y seams.
The “miss” part of the equation is related to where I placed the ruler when cutting my first diamond. Placing the ruler in a different part of the fabric repeat would have resulted in a completely different look, one I probably would have been happy with.
I’m going to try again. With a different piece of fabric. One with no lily pads.
As a result of visiting Victoria’s shop on my recent trip to New York City (subject of my last post), I visited her website — and found something I really liked. Friends, there’s another kaleidoscope quilt in my future. It will be based on Victoria’s pattern Big Block Star:
When she says “big block,” she really means it: those star blocks are 41″ square. They’re made with the help of Victoria’s acrylic template/ruler, cleverly marked to aid in fussycutting the diamond shapes to create a kaleidoscope effect.
So. . . I have the pattern and I have the ruler. Guess what else I have? The fabric! I’ve been hanging on to this piece of Kaffe Fassett fabric for 10 years, just waiting for the right project to come along:
Ten years! How do I know that? Take a look at the selvage:
The design is called “Lake Blossoms.” There’s something about that particular combination of green, orange, and purple that calls to me.
I would love to jump right into Big Block Star but . . . duty calls. I’m prepping for a new class at the Pine Needle and have promised myself not to start anything new until preparations are completely wrapped up. Then there’s the matter of a few other Works-in-Progress that need some attention. I think I’ll set Victoria’s pattern out where I can see it every day to give myself a little extra incentive to finish those WIPs.
Did you know that March is National Craft Month? Not only that, March 18 is National Quilting Day.
But wait — there’s more!
March 18 is also Worldwide Quilting Day — a day to celebrate the art and craft of quilting with like-minded friends around the globe:
I follow quite a few quilters in other countries through Instagram (are you on Instagram too? You can find me here) so I am delighted to know quilters around the world are celebrating the same day we are.
National Quilting Day is always celebrated on the third Saturday of March, coinciding this year with two quilt shows in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area.
The 23rd annual “Airing of the Quilts” is this Friday and Saturday, March 17-18, at the Milwaukie Center, 5440 SE Kellogg Creek Drive in Milwaukie, Oregon. It’s a non-juried community quilt show exhibiting old and new quilts, traditional and non-traditional. Show hours are 9:00 am to 4:00 pm both days. For more information, visit www.MilwaukieCenterQuiltShow.org.
“Every Quilt Tells a Story” is the theme of the Metropolitan Patchwork Society’s one-day show Saturday, March 18, at the Beaverton Public Library, 12375 SW Fifth St., Beaverton, Oregon. Hours of the show are 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. This show is also non-juried and features quilts made primarily by MPS members.
I’m a member and have submitted two quilts I completed last year: Stella by Starlight . . .
. . . and Ring Toss:
If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll visit one or both of these quilt shows.
Quiltmakers are always being exhorted to support their local quilt shops. In the spirit of National Quilting Day and Worldwide Quilting Day, consider this a call to support your local quilt guilds as well.
Here’s to 2017! Specifically, here’s to lots of sewing and quilting in 2017. I’m already looking forward to several projects — and not just new ones. There’s a stack of UFOs beckoning that I am actually enthusiastic about tackling. But not today.
On this fresh new day of the year, I’m looking back on what I created in 2016. Rather than going in chronological order, I’m grouping my finishes by categories.
This was the year of the Junior Billie Bag, the quintessential quilter’s tote designed by Billie Mahorney. I made a bag for myself . . .
. . . and one for my friend Deborah . . .
. . . and one for my friend Miriam:
Next category: baby quilts. This is the first of two incorporating a charming giraffe-themed fabric panel:
Here’s the second one, using the same fabrics in a slightly different setting:
I didn’t use a pattern for these quilts, preferring to play with simple shapes (squares and rectangles) so that the giraffes on the fabric panels would be the focal point.
My third baby quilt of the year was this one using the pattern Just Can’t Cut It from All Washed Up Quilts:
All three were quilted by longarmer Sherry Wadley.
All by itself in the mini quilt category is Ring Toss, based on the pattern Mini Rings by Sew Kind of Wonderful:
Mini Rings was quilted by Karlee Sandell of SewInspired2Day. Oh, and that’s our new rescue kitty Princess Cordelia (Coco for short).
Lap quilts is the next category. Once again I used a Sew Kind of Wonderful design, adapting the pattern Chic Diamonds into this quilt I named Dragonfly Kisses:
It was quilted by Sherry Wadley.
The next quilt, Where It’s @, was started in July in a class with Karla Alexander of Saginaw Street Quilts. It’s based on her pattern Rewind. I really stepped outside my comfort zone with this quilt, and I absolutely love the result:
The last quilt in this category is Stella by Starlight, a “kaleido-spinner” using the Spinners block by Heather Peterson of Anka’s Treasures:
I call it a “kaleido-spinner” because the six equilateral triangles in each block were cut from identical repeats of the focus fabric, creating a kaleidoscope effect of sorts. The four small hexagon blocks are true kaleidoscope blocks.
Both Where It’s @ and Stella by Starlight were quilted by Karlee Sandell.
The next category is runners, both bed and table. I made one of each, using the same focus fabric in each (Wander by Joel Dewberry) and the same block design (Spinners by Anka’s Treasures) with completely different outcomes. Here is WanderLust I, the king size bed runner made with five blocks:
I liked the focus fabric so much I made the bed runner reversible:
The final category is a bit of a hodgepodge. I made a quilted cover for my stepmother’s new iPad Pro . . .
. . . and a cardholder for her bridge hands:
For my friend and fellow Quister (Quilt Sister) Vickie I made an iron caddy that doubles as a pressing mat . . .
. . . plus a matching 4″ x 4″ fabric box that she can use as a threadcatcher:
For myself I made some accessories to match my Junior Billie Bag: a rotary cutter coat made from my tutorial . . .
. . . and a scissors case . . .
. . . and a sewing caddy that sits upright in a Lucite stand:
A 4″ x 4″ fabric box (yes, it’s a threadcatcher) completes the ensemble:
As you have surmised, I’m crazy in love with that fabric line (Paradise by Alisse Coulter for Camelot Cottons). I expect you’ll see more of it in 2017, as I bought a lot when it was released a couple years ago.
I’m sending a shout out to the talented longarm quilters who transformed my 2016 quilt tops into beautiful quilts — Coleen Barnhardt, Karlee Sandell, Debbie Scroggy, and Sherry Wadley — and to you, my loyal blog readers, for your continuing interest and support of First Light Designs.