Category Archives: kaleidoscope quilts

Friday Finish: A New Kaleido-Spinner Project

Regular readers will recognize the block — it’s Heather Peterson’s Spinners block from her book On the Run Again (Anka’s Treasures, 2014). I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this block. In the last few months it’s shown up in a wall hanging/table runner, a king size bed runner, and one side of a Junior Billie Bag. I even taught Spinners at a quilt retreat in June.

Heather’s original design calls for six different fabrics in the triangles surrounding the center hexagon. I used six identical triangles in each Spinners block to get a kaleidoscope effect of sorts, coming up with the name “kaleido-spinner” to describe the effect.

You probably noticed something different in the quilt top pictured above: the four small kaleidoscope blocks in the second and fourth rows. I was originally going to put half-kaleido-spinner blocks there. But then I was perusing Heather’s blog, Trends and Traditions, several days ago and saw something very clever she had done.

Heather has a brand new booklet, Starstruck, coming out that features chevron fabrics in hexagon blocks; when sewn together in hexagons made of six 60° triangles, the chevron fabrics form stars. Some of the quilts featured in Heather’s book have half-size hexagons in the places where half-blocks would normally go. When I saw those quilts, I knew the concept would work very well in my quilt. So thank you, Heather, for your wonderful block design as well as the inspiration for the setting of this quilt!

Making the half-size kaleidoscope blocks fit properly turned out to be quite a challenge. The full-size kaleido-spinner blocks in my quilt finish at 15½” x 13½”. That means the half-size kaleidoscope blocks finish at 7¾” x 6¾” . On top of that, I opted to finish all of the setting triangles on the sides of the blocks with Y-seams to extend the width. I added 3″ strips at the top and bottom to float the blocks the same amount. The quilt top now measures about 53″ x 73″.

I hope you can tell from the photo that the black background isn’t a solid. It’s a tiny random white-on-black dot by Cotton + Steel called “Sprinkle” that reinforces the feeling that those kaleido blocks are spinning in a night sky. (Hmmm. Perhaps there’s a quilt name in that image. I’ll have to work on that.)

Now, a confession. I didn’t notice until I was cropping the photo above that I had reversed the two large blocks in the fourth row. I can’t believe I didn’t see that when I was sewing the rows together. Am I going to fix it? Yes, I am. I worked very hard when laying out the blocks to achieve a good balance of color and value. It feels “off” to me now. My obsessive-compulsive self will be much happier when that change has been made.

There’s one more thing I need to do to this quilt top before I can declare it truly done. That will be the subject of my next post.

P.S. Heather Peterson did not ask me to promote her new book. I just felt it was important to acknowledge her designs (block and setting) in the creation of my latest quilt top.




Posted in bed runners, Billie Bag, hexagons, Junior Billie Bag, kaleido-spinner, kaleidoscope quilts, update, wall hanging | 5 Comments

JBB Update: Moving Right Along

JBB? That’s the Junior Billie Bag, the most versatile quilter’s tote I’ve ever seen. I’m teaching a class on it at the Pine Needle, making one along with my students but staying a couple steps ahead to show them how the bag, designed years ago by Billie Mahorney, comes together. (You can see what a finished Junior Billie Bag looks like here, and you can see my first post about the JBB currently under construction here.)

The front and back panels are now quilted, with the lining and two sets of handles attached:

Back in August, before making the two blocks you see above, I used a strip of that bold floral fabric to make a test kaleidoscope block, thinking I might use it on a front or back panel:

It didn’t make the cut. I liked it but didn’t love it. Still, I thought there might be a way to use it in the Junior Billie Bag. And there was. I decided to incorporate the kaleido block into an exterior pocket.

A kaleidoscope block made of eight 45° triangles forms an octagon. I downsized it and converted it into a smaller circle, surrounding the circle in the brightest lemon yellow fabric I could find:

Here’s what it looks like now, made into a pocket attached to one of the side panels of the Junior Billie Bag:

The circle is 4⅝” in diameter and the pocket is 6″ deep.

See that band of black fabric at the top of the pocket? I used the same fabric to make a slightly deeper pocket (8″) on the other side panel:

I love how the wavy lines on the pocket fabric play against the lush floral you see above it.

In an upcoming post I’ll show you the pockets on the inside of the bag — lots of them, specifically sized for the tools quiltmakers use most. Please come back for a look.




Posted in 4-Patch Wonder, Billie Bag, faux-kaleido quilts, Junior Billie Bag, kaleido-spinner, kaleidoscope quilts, tote bags, update | 7 Comments

On Hold: Star-Crossed Lovers

Do you ever have a vision for a quilt project that doesn’t quite pan out? That’s what happened last Thursday, when I took a class called “Star-Crossed Lovers” in Sisters, Oregon. I love teacher Colleen Blackwood’s design, pictured here:

Star Crossed Lovers Colleen Blackwood
Star-Crossed Lovers (56″ x 60″) designed by Colleen Blackwood

The quilt you see above is hanging in a quilt shop in Washington State so my classmates and I didn’t get to see it in person but Colleen had another version on hand:

Star Crossed Lovers Colleen Blackwood 2
Colleen Blackwood with Version #2

(Both quilts were expertly quilted by Colleen on her domestic sewing machine.)

Note that each heart-within-a-heart contains a block that finishes at 12″ square. The background fabric for the inner heart is the same as the block background, so the block floats in the inner heart.

We students had the option to make our blocks in advance. I created two kaleidoscope blocks using Tula Pink’s Chipper fabric, making Chipper (the chipmunk) the focal point in both of them. I converted the octagonal kaleido blocks into circles, centering them in the 12″ square blocks. Here is the first block . . .

Chipmunk Love #1
Dawn’s First Block

. . . and the second one:

Chipmunk Love #2
Dawn’s Second Block

My plan is to have one heart go from pink to orange and the other from orange to pink. Starting with the pink block, I chose several orange fabrics for a scrappy outer heart. In class I labored away cutting my fabrics — inner heart, outer heart, and background — and sewing the first large heart-within-a-heart block.

Later that evening, as I was sewing the last of the orange segments to the inner heart, I realized I had a problem. Two of them, in fact.

Star Crossed Lovers dawn's first attempt
Dawn’s first heart block, partially made


The first problem: there’s not enough contrast between the pink and orange fabrics; they are too similar in value. The orange polka dot fabric, which I initially thought might be too dark, seems just right to me now. I’m planning to remake the outer heart using just that fabric.

The second problem: my Chipper circle looks a little too small. It measures 9″ in diameter, not filling the 12″ squares as Colleen’s blocks do. So now I am thinking about reducing the scale of the hearts. Except for the center block, the entire quilt is constructed of squares that finish at 4″. If I reduce those squares to 3½”, the Chipper circles will appear larger in the inner hearts. But reducing the squares to 3½” means all of those sawtooth stars (43 of them) would have to finish at 3½” too. Do I really want to deal with that?

Another thought is to keep the center blocks the same size (12″) but add a second ring of color around the kaleidoscope blocks by inserting another circle. If I do that, it will preserve the original scale of Colleen’s design.

I put a lot of thought and effort into making my two chipmunk blocks and even have a quilt name picked out: Chipmunk Love. As much as I would like to continue working on this quilt, I’m reluctant to proceed until my path is clear. Now that I’m back at home, I’ll put the blocks up on my design wall and make sure I take a look at them a few times a day.

What a dilemma! Do you have any suggestions for me?




Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 7 Comments

May Day Finish: A Kaleido-Spinner Top

Happy May Day! Can you believe four months have passed since we rang in the New Year? Time sure flies when you’re having fun.

I’ve been playing with Heather Peterson’s Spinners pattern, from her book On the Run Again (Anka’s Treasures, 2014). I’ve chosen this pattern to teach next month at the Pine Needle Quilt Shop‘s retreat on Hood Canal in Washington State. I want to show my students a few different ways Spinners can be interpreted based on fabric and color choices as well as size of finished project.

My latest experiment is a three-block table runner or wall hanging in which I cut the six 60° triangles in each block from six repeats of fabric. In my last post I showed you the first block I made using that technique.

Here is the three-block runner, with the first block I made in the center:

kaleido spinner horizontal
Runner Measures 20″ x 54″

How fun is that? The blocks are all made from the same focus fabric: Moon Garden, from the line Wander by Joel Dewberry for Free Spirit Fabrics.

It’s difficult to envision what a block will look like when you first cut the triangles; that’s part of the appeal for me of making kaleidoscope quilts. This isn’t a true kaleidoscope quilt because the triangles don’t meet in the center to form a  hexagon. They spin around the center hexagon instead (which is why I’m calling this top a kaleido-spinner). Even so, the outcome of each block is a surprise.

Since some of my students may be minimalists or modern quilters, I’m going to make a sample block in solids or mostly solids. I’m already thinking about how a modern quiltmaker might treat the negative space when it comes to quilting.

I’m also still thinking about making placemats using this pattern. We don’t use placemats at the Portland White House because there is always a tablecloth on our dining room table (yes, made by me). But I have the perfect fabric in mind, one of those fabrics I bought a lot of a few years ago because I liked it so well. And the perfect fabric to make coordinating napkins is also in my stash. All in good time . . .

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy this spectacular May Day in Portland, Oregon. I hope you are enjoying sunshine and warm temperatures wherever you are!




Posted in faux-kaleido quilts, kaleido-spinner, kaleidoscope quilts, table topper, update, wall hanging | 3 Comments

A Different Spin

wander horizontal
Moon Garden in the Midnight Palette

Recognize this fabric? It’s called Moon Garden, from Joel Dewberry’s line Wander. I’ve used it in small amounts in the bed runner I showed you yesterday, the one I made using the pattern Spinners by Heather Peterson of Anka’s Treasures:

spinners bed runner 20.5 x 90
Bed Runner Measures 20″ x 90″

“Ho hum,” you must be thinking. “That’s old news.” Yes indeed, but since bringing that beautiful floral fabric home earlier this month I have been fixated on using it in Heather’s pattern in a different way. I hinted as much in an earlier post about this fabric.

You already know that I am, to put it mildly, fond of kaleidoscope quilts. I’ve finished at least 10 quilts containing kaleidoscope blocks. All of them were made of eight 45° triangles forming an octagon. Until today I had never made a kaleidoscope block composed of six 60° triangles forming a hexagon.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Spinners block contains six 60° triangles. Instead of meeting in the middle to form a kaleidoscopic image, however, the triangles “spin” around a center hexagon. That didn’t stop me from testing my idea that six identical triangles placed in a Spinners block would produce an interesting effect.

Before I show you my Spinners block, take a look at the kaleidoscope blocks I could have made. Because the triangles are equilateral, any of the three points can go in the center, providing three different outcomes.

Here’s the first one:

Kaleido Spinner block a

The second one:

Kaleido Spinner block b

And the third one:

Kaleido Spinner block c

I like them all but am partial to the first one. A quilt made of these blocks and more would be very striking, to be sure. The floral print lends itself beautifully to kaleidoscope blocks. But we’re headed in a different direction this time. Take a look:

Kaleido Spinner block
Block Measures 15½” x 13½” Unfinished

A new spin, both literally and figuratively. I’m calling it a “kaleido-spinner” block.

I placed the block on a piece of dark blue fabric so the block would stand out and I like the effect so well I’m going to use that fabric. I’ll make a couple more blocks before deciding whether to make a wall hanging or keep going to make a quilt.

What do you think? I’m pretty excited about it!




Posted in faux-kaleido quilts, hexagons, kaleidoscope quilts, table topper, update, wall hanging | 6 Comments

A New Day, A New Year

The first day of 2016 is here! It’s a time for looking ahead but also a time for looking back. Specifically, looking back at what I accomplished in my sewing room in 2015. I never accomplish as much as I think I will, especially when it comes to finished quilts, but I have to remember that I made a variety of small pieces and craft items last year in addition to quilts. It will be fun to revisit them as well.

First up, the quilts.

My first finish of 2015 was Catch a Falling Star, based on Terri Krysan’s star sampler, Reach for the Stars:

Catch a Falling Star (2015)

Catch a Falling Star (84″ x 105″) was quilted by Loretta Orsborn of Orsborn Specialty Quilting.

Then came Toile Story (73″ x 89″), started in 2009 but not finished till 2015. Designed by Alex Anderson and featuring fabrics she designed as well, Toile Story was quilted by Debbie Scroggy of All Quilted LLC:

Toile Story bv photo 800
Next: Olivia Twist, a 31″ x 76″ bed runner made using my own 4-Patch Wonder with a Twist pattern. It was quilted by Jolene Knight of Good Knight Quilts:

Olivia Twist bv 2

Using leftover fabric from Olivia Twist, I made Billie’s Star (56″ x 55″), an original design inspired by my favorite quilt teacher Billie Mahorney, who taught me a lot about drafting and sewing star blocks:

2015-4, Billie's Star, 55x54 (2)
Billie’s Star was quilted by Nancy Stovall of Just Quilting.

Next came Simply Dashing (58″ x 74″), a simple design that combines 4-Patch Wonder blocks (my name for four-patch kaleidoscope blocks) and Churn Dash blocks set on point. Simply Dashing was featured on the cover of the Pine Needle Quilt Shop’s fall 2015 catalog. Quilted by Debbie Scroggy of All Quilted LLC.

Simply Dashing 58 x 74
Pieced in 2014, I finished Sun Flowers, a wall hanging based on my Season to Taste pattern. It’s #9 in my series of kaleidoscope quilts and the third of four quilts I’m making to reflect the seasons of the year. It measures 18½” x 55½”:

Sun Flowers (2)

My final quilt finish of 2015 was Loose Leaf, begun in a workshop with fiber artist Pat Pauly. Made from her New Big Leaf design, it finishes at 24½” square:

big leaf, nov 2015
I quilted the last two pieces myself but was happy to have the larger quilts go out to some extremely talented longarm quilters.

In my next post I’ll show you the array of Pretty Little Things I made in 2015.




Posted in 4-Patch Wonder, bed runners, faux-kaleido quilts, free motion quilting, kaleidoscope quilts, New Big Leaf, Reach for the Stars sampler quilt, update | 3 Comments

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