Category Archives: kaleidoscope quilts

A Spot of Sunshine

2014-12, Sun FlowersIt hardly seems possible but eight months have passed since I last worked on Sun Flowers, pictured above. It’s the third of four kaleidoscope wall hangings I’m making of my Season to Taste pattern — one version for each season of the year. This is the summer version, made from a lively floral print from Camelot Cottons.

I had quilted straight lines in the grey background and free-motion quilted a swirly design in one of the kaleidoscope blocks. That was as far as I got back in March. I quilted the last two blocks on Friday and finished binding the piece today. Here it is quilted, bound — and buttoned:

Sun Flowers (2)Yes, buttoned. In the center of each block are two layered buttons, adding a bit of whimsy:

Sun Flower, buttons

The back is pieced of leftovers and includes a sizeable piece of the original focus fabric:

Sun Flowers (back)I love to feature the focus fabric on the backs of my quilts, especially when I’ve used it to make kaleidoscope blocks.

Sun Flowers (18″ x 55″) is now hanging in the master bath:

Sun Flowers in situ

It’s a cheerful and colorful addition to the Portland White House. On the greyest of days in Portland — and we have many of those in fall and winter — it will be a spot of sunshine.




Posted in free motion quilting, kaleidoscope quilts, New Big Leaf, update | 8 Comments

Well Done!

Seeing one of your own designs interpreted by another quilter is one of the pleasures and rewards of designing quilts. Last weekend I was at the Pine Needle, the local quilt shop where I teach, and was thrilled to see Maxine Borosund’s version of my pattern Season to Taste:

Maxine's Season to Taste runner
Maxine’s Table Runner

Isn’t that stunning? Season to Taste can be a table runner or a wall hanging, depending on the maker’s point of view and intended use of the finished piece. Maxine’s version is a table runner.

The triangles that form the octagon can be made with a variety of fabrics, like Maxine’s, or from one fabric for a true kaleidoscope effect. You can see both options on the cover of the pattern:

Season to Taste pattern cover
pattern cover


Maxine added a design element to her quilt that I just love: a very thin flange right next to the bound edges. Take a look at this close-up:

detail of Maxine's runner

See that narrow strip of chartreuse right next to the binding? She did a beautiful job on the flange, as well as the seams in the eight triangles where the thin chartreuse accent strips and outer black strips meet. Everything lines up perfectly, the sign of a quilter who sews with care and precision.

I asked Maxine to pose with her table runner so I could post a picture at this site:

Maxine with her runner

Thank you, Maxine. Your table runner is beautiful!




Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 6 Comments

Book Report: Pieces of Portland

pieces-of-portland-coverThis is a book report, not a review. A review suggests impartiality, and I can’t be impartial because Marie Deatherage, the author of Pieces of Portland, is a friend of mine. But even if I didn’t know her, I would be rhapsodizing about this book because it is about two things near and dear to me: quilts and Portland.

This photo, appearing on page 20, pretty much sums up the appeal of the book for me:

pieces of portland riverview
Quilt by Marie Deatherage. Photo by Joyce Brekke.


My family moved to Portland, Oregon when I was seven years old. That means I have spent the better part of 60 years in this city. I have watched it grow, have grown along with it. It is, quite simply, my city. Author Marie Deatherage and photographer Joyce Brekke, whose beautiful photographs enhance almost every page, have created a unique and wonderful book that explains in words and pictures everything I love about Portland.

Trained as a geographer, Marie has also been a college instructor, foundation grant administrator, disability rights advocate, and writer. She has drawn on those experiences — plus four decades of living in Portland — in writing this book. Joyce took up several hobbies, including world travel and photography, after retiring from a career in law. Originally from the Midwest, she settled in the Pacific Northwest and now lives across the river from Portland in Vancouver, Washington. Friends since their college days at the University of Chicago, Marie and Joyce share several interests, including quilting.

In 2011, in preparation for a one-woman quilt show by Marie, the two sought out landmarks and iconic places in Portland to use as backdrops for Joyce’s photos of Marie’s quilts. An idea for a book was born — but not the book you see pictured above. The original concept of a coffee table book featuring quilts photographed in Portland became something much more. The subtitle of the book says it all: An Inside Look at America’s Weirdest City.

In prose that is sometimes serious, sometimes wry, often humorous, frequently irreverent, and occasionally deeply personal, Marie writes about every topic under the sun that touches on Portland. Bridges. Urban farming. Politics. History. Flora and fauna. Food and drink. The environment. Parks. Neighborhoods. Fashion. People of Portland, past and present.

And, of course, the things that make Portland weird. Like the Unipiper, a street performer who plays the bagpipes while riding a unicycle. Like the miniature toy horses that appear in old neighborhoods tied to the cast iron rings that were attached to curbs back in Portland’s horse and buggy days when folks needed to tether their horses.

Like the roll of carpet recently removed from Portland International Airport (PDX) that was “appointed” grand marshal of the 2015 Rose Festival Starlight Parade. Here’s a photo of that carpet before it was removed from PDX:

PDX carpet shares the stage with a quilt by Joyce Brekke. Photo (page 93) by Joyce Brekke.


Whatever the subject, Joyce’s photos cleverly illustrate Marie’s words — with quilts. Lots of them. Take a look at pages 170 and 171:

Pieces of Portland pp 170 171
Quilts by Marie Deatherage. Photos by Joyce Brekke.

On the left facing page are photos of two famous statues in Portland: Allow Me (aka Umbrella Man) in Pioneer Courthouse Square and former Portland Mayor Vera Katz on the Eastbank Esplanade along the Willamette River, both artfully draped in quilts made by Marie. On the right facing page is the People’s Bike Library of Portland, a monument to the bike culture of Portland.

I love the fact that Marie’s kaleidoscope quilt — a favorite design of mine — evokes the spinning wheels of a bicycle:

Pieces of Portland kaleido quilt
Detail of quilt by Marie Deatherage. Photo (page 171) by Joyce Brekke.


Marie made most of the quilts in the book but there are several by Joyce and a few by Marie’s mother and grandmother. An annotated quilt index provides information on each quilt, allowing credit to be given to the designer, piecer, and/or professional quilter, and revealing the inspiration behind many of the quilts.

Published earlier in 2015 by Quiltlandia, Pieces of Portland was officially launched in July. In late June, the week before the launch party, Marie accepted an eleventh hour invitation to be a replacement guest speaker at a meeting of the Westside Modern Quilt Club held at the Pine Needle Quilt Shop in Lake Oswego. She brought armloads of quilts and boxes of books so fresh from the printer they hadn’t even been opened yet.

Marie told the assembled quilters about the making of the book as well as the stories behind many of the quilts that appear in the book. It was a marvelous trunk show. When well over half the quilters in the packed classroom bought copies of her book on the spot (which Marie graciously signed), I knew Pieces of Portland was a winner.

Now Pieces of Portland (258 pages with 400 full color photos) is available locally at Powell’s Books and just about every local quilt shop in the metropolitan area, including cool cottons in my own neighborhood. It’s also at New Seasons Market (a quilt book at a grocery store? How very Portland.). It’s coming soon to the Made in Oregon stores, and I have a very strong hunch it will be distributed much more widely very soon. You can order directly from the publisher by clicking here.

I’m so happy that I have my own autographed copy of Pieces of Portland! I have several people in mind who will be receiving copies in the near future. It’s the perfect gift for someone who loves quilting or Portland. Or both.

Marie and Joyce did not ask me to write about their book. I was motivated to do so by a desire to spread the word in Portland and beyond about a unique book that opens windows on a city and a craft that I love.




Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 7 Comments

Grandma’s Surprise: A Kaleido Quilt Top

My quilt top based on the kaleidoscope block Grandma’s Surprise is finished:

2015-4, Currant Affairs 57in sq
Dawn’s Version of Grandma’s Surprise, 57″ with Borders

It’s the result of a recent class I took from Joyce Gieszler, author of Then and Now Quilts (Kansas City Star Quilts, 2014). The Grandma’s Surprise quilt in Joyce’s book was made of Civil War reproduction fabrics:

Grandma's Surprise, Joyce Gieszler, 1 of 3
Grandma’s Surprise, 36″ square, made by Joyce Gieszler (2013)


My version, with just three fabrics, looks quite different, doesn’t it? It was inspired by this three-color version, also created by Joyce:

Grandma's Surprise, Joyce Gieszler, 2 of 3
Grandma’s Surprise, 36″ square, also made by Joyce Gieszler (2013)


I put my red fabric where Joyce put her black because I wanted the red to dominate. And dominate it does!

My red fabric reads as a solid but it’s actually a blender from Timeless Treasures. I wish the texture of the red showed up better in my photos, as well as the very pale mottled grey, which looks white in the photos. Perhaps this close-up will help:

Grandma's Surprise, fabric detail
A Closer Look


On my computer screen the red fabric has an orange cast but it’s really a true red, like a currant. The print fabric with the red flowers is part of the Black, White and Currant 5 line from Henry Glass. My friend AnnMarie gave me some large scraps from that line, including this wonderful print, which I will incorporate into the back:

Black, White and Currant fabric from Henry Glass
Black White and Currant V by Color Principle for Henry Glass Fabrics


I’m going to call this quilt Currant Affairs.




Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 13 Comments

Slowly but Surely . . .

. . . my kaleidoscope quilt based on the block known as Grandma’s Surprise is coming together. Here are the first six blocks:

Grandma's Surprise, blocks 1-6
I’m making this quilt in a class at the Pine Needle Quilt Shop taught by Joyce Gieszler, author of Then and Now Quilts, a new book from Kansas City Star Quilts. This quilt is one of the designs in Joyce’s book.

It’s fascinating to see how varied the fabric choices are among my fellow students, ranging from completely scrappy to batiks, 1930s reproduction fabrics, and prints from the Cotton and Steel collection. The block design lends itself beautifully to all of these. A couple other students besides me are using a limited color palette, and one student is using a gradated fabric to great effect. It was fun seeing the first blocks emerge at our class last Saturday.

I was unable to attend Part 2 of Joyce’s class this morning because of another commitment but I was determined to squeeze in some sewing time today. Happily, I managed to finish another block late this afternoon. It goes in the middle of the bottom row:

Grandma's Surprise, blocks 1-6 and block 8

Isn’t it interesting that the circular shape emerging in the center is formed by spiky triangles?




Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 5 Comments

Lions and Lambs

March can’t make up its mind if it’s going out like a lion or a lamb, at least here in Portland. We’ve had bouts of sunshine today interspersed with rumbling thunder and heavy rain. It’s sunny as I write this but I see ominous clouds rolling in.

No matter. I’m happily ensconced in my sewing room working on a kaleidoscope quilt based on the block Grandma’s Surprise. It’s homework. I’m taking a class from Joyce Gieszler, whose book Then and Now Quilts (published last year by Kansas City Star Quilts) features a very scrappy quilt based on this block.

Joyce created a second version of Grandma’s Surprise using just three fabrics:

Grandma's Surprise, Joyce Gieszler, 2 of 3
Grandma’s Surprise, designed and made by Joyce Gieszler, 36″ square (2013)


That’s my inspiration for the red, black, and pale grey quilt I’m making. The quilt has nine blocks, and I’m midway through the fifth block. Want to see my progress so far? Of course you do.

The quilt is based on a 3 x 3 grid: three rows and three columns. In the photo below you see the center block and the block directly above it:

Grandma's Surprise, blocks 2 and 5
Blocks 2 and 5


Now I’ve added two blocks (Blocks 1 and 4) that go to the left of the first set:

Grandma's Surprise, blocks 1,2,4,5
Blocks 1 and 2 (first row) and Blocks 4 and 5 (second row)

You are looking at the upper left portion of the quilt. Can you see how the pale grey triangles in the outer blocks are starting to give the effect of a circle?

Here’s where I am with the fifth block, which goes in the Block 3 position in the upper right corner:

Grandma's Surprise, block in progress
Under Construction: Block 3


I’m going back upstairs to sew. I hope you’ll come back soon to see the rest of my quilt!




Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 7 Comments

Something in Common

Grandma's Surprise, both by Joyce Gieszler

Aren’t these two quilts striking? They were both made by local designer and teacher Joyce Gieszler, whose book Then and Now Quilts was published last year by Kansas City Star Quilts. These quilts have something else in common: they are made from the very same block!

Now look at this third version, also made by Joyce:

Grandma's Surprise, Joyce Gieszler, 3 of 3
Made with Cotton and Steel fabrics, this quilt is as contemporary as the the upper left quilt, made of Civil War reproduction fabrics, is traditional. I first saw this third version in January at the Pine Needle Quilt Shop’s Open House. Joyce was there introducing herself, her new book (which includes this design), and an upcoming class. I signed up for her class on the spot.

The block in these quilts is called Grandma’s Surprise.  Deconstructed, it’s a kaleidoscope block. Well, you know how I love kaleido quilts. Is it any wonder I wanted to make one of my own?

When Joyce showed me a photo of the three-color quilt (upper right), I knew immediately that I wanted to make this version. I’m intrigued by the way color, value, and fabric placement completely change the look of a quilt. Joyce’s three versions illustrate this beautifully.

A basic kaleidoscope block is made of eight 45° triangles, forming an octagon, and finishes with four corner triangles to make a square:

basic kaleidoscope block
The Grandma’s Surprise block takes that concept to the next level:

grandma's puzzle block

Do you see how four triangles fill the same space as one triangle in the basic version? It’s still a kaleidoscope block — but a more complex and sophisticated one.

The quilts are made of nine blocks in a 3 x 3 grid. In the two quilts at the top of the page, Joyce made 12″ blocks so the quilts finish at 36″ square. The Cotton and Steel version is made of 16″ blocks with a 3″ border, finishing at 54″ square.

For my three-color version of Grandma’s Surprise, I chose red, black, and a very pale grey. Here is my center block:

center block, grandma's puzzle

It measures 16½” unfinished. The black print is from the Black, White & Currant 5 line by Color Principle for Henry Glass & Co. At a recent Portland Modern Quilt Guild meeting, guildmate AnnMarie Cowley surprised me with several large pieces from this line left over from a quilt project of her own. (Thanks so much, AnnMarie!) I’m delighted to find a project that puts her gift to good use.




Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, Portland Modern Quilt Guild, update | 7 Comments

Quilting in Progress: Sun Flowers

Finally — a quilting plan is in place for Sun Flowers, the wall hanging I set aside in January:

2014-12, Sun Flowers
You may remember that Sun Flowers is the third of four kaleidoscope quilts I am making that represent the seasons of the year. The first two quilts, representing spring and fall, are Under Paris Skies and Autumn Reflections, each of which measures about 18″ x 55″:

Season to Taste high res pattern cover (2)
The quilting on Sun Flowers is a combination of straight line quilting with a walking foot and free-motion quilting (FMQ) in the eight triangles that form each octagon:

Sun Flowers, one block quilted

The straight lines don’t cross the kaleido blocks as they did in Under Paris Skies. My intent here is to make the lines look as if they are going behind the blocks. The swirly free-motion quilting motif is the same one I used on Autumn Reflections and wrote about here. I used 50-weight Aurifil thread in pale grey so the quilting would add texture but not stand out too much.

I couldn’t resist adding those buttons (not yet sewn on) for the photo. Layering the buttons creates a secondary sunflower, reinforcing the theme of the quilt.

You can see the FMQ design in the kaleido wedges more easily on the pieced back:

Sun Flowers, back of one block quilted-001

It feels good to be this far with the quilting. I have two more blocks to go but seem to have overcome my procrastination, always an issue where FMQ is concerned.

Linking up on NTT (Needle and Thread Thursday) with Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation.




Posted in free motion quilting, kaleidoscope quilts, update | 3 Comments

Two Steps Forward . . .

. . . and one step back. That’s how the last few days have played out in my sewing room.

Two steps forward: the binding and label on Catch a Falling Star (my Reach for the Stars sampler quilt):

2015-01-14 22.54.34

Still to come: attaching a sleeve on the back (one step back). I’ve decided to enter Catch a Falling Star in a couple of local quilt shows this year, hence the need for a sleeve. Before the sleeve gets attached, though, this quilt is going to be photographed in a studio. That’s something I can’t do at home because I don’t have a suitable space for a full flat shot. Several readers have asked for a look at the entire quilt as well as more photos of Loretta Orsborn’s lovely quilting, and I promise they are forthcoming.

A couple days ago I decided to finish my Sun Flowers wall hanging. I pieced a backing and pin-basted the layers. Two steps forward. Without a quilting plan in mind I started stitching in the ditch on the horizontal seams. Then I stitched the vertical seams and sashing strips on one of the kaleidoscope blocks. At that point I decided what I really wanted to do with this little quilt was stitch diagonally across the surface. Those horizontal and vertical stitching lines had to go.

I picked out all of the quilting. BIG step back:

2015-01-14 01.33.45

It was actually a good thing I picked out the quilting because I had pin-basted the layers rather hastily and the back was not entirely smooth. With the quilting stitches removed, I was able to adjust the layers, and this time I thread-basted them. I put the quilt on my design wall and started thinking about my quilting plan.

Now I’m second-guessing my decision on the diagonal quilting. It seems to me it might distract from the kaleidoscope blocks, which are the star of the show. One thing’s for sure: this quilt is not going under the needle on my sewing machine until I have a plan firmly in place.

In the meantime, I’m going to start piecing the backing for another quilt. One step forward.




Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, Reach for the Stars sampler quilt, update | 4 Comments

4-Patch Twist Bed Runner

I finished piecing the bed runner I started a couple of weeks ago. (I wrote about it here and here.) When last you saw it, it looked like this, measuring about 34½” x 68″:

Olivia Twist 1

The plan was to increase the length so it would drop over the sides of a queen-size bed. I had very little of the background fabric left, though. (It’s hard to see from the photo that the background fabric is an inky blue and black batik print. I had only a yard to begin with — and I used every bit of it.) I inserted a 1½”-wide decorative strip at each end, working with the two fabrics used as lattice strips around the 4-Patch Wonder blocks in the interior.

Now the bed runner looks like this:

Olivia Twist vert OS

The inserts and end pieces added 10″ to the length. I trimmed a bit from the sides so now the bed runner measures 32″ x 78″.

My quilt already has a name: Olivia Twist. (Yes, that’s a nod to Charles Dickens.) The reasons behind the name? First, the focus fabric is from a line called A Garden for Olivia by In the Beginning Fabrics. Second, the quilt is based on the twist block that produces the wonderful interlocking design you see above. The twist block dates back to 1870, which by coincidence is the very year Charles Dickens died.

Now it’s on to the backing for this quilt. I have a good-sized piece of the focus fabric on hand for the back. People always want to know that the fabric looked like before it was cut up!




Posted in 4-Patch Wonder, bed runners, faux-kaleido quilts, kaleidoscope quilts, snowball blocks, update | 6 Comments