Category Archives: kaleidoscope quilts

Presenting “Currant Affairs”

No, that’s not a typo. It’s Currant with an “a,” not Current with an “e” as you might expect. Let me tell you how I came up with the name Currant Affairs for my newly finished quilt.

It started with the name of the fabric line: “Black White and Currant 5” by Color Principle for Henry Glass & Co Fabrics. The fabric company came out with four previous versions of “Black White and Currant,” all featuring beautiful prints in black and white accented with the deep currant red you see above. I’m not sure how I missed the first four lines but when #5 came out I scooped up the border print and a larger Jacobean floral that has already found its way into another quilt top (still a Work-in-Progress).

The black and white and red fabric reminded me of a riddle from my childhood, which you may recognize if you are Of A Certain Age:

Question:  What’s black and white and red all over?

Answer:  A newspaper.

The real question, you see, is “What’s black and white and read all over?”

It’s just the kind of wordplay that appeals to this English major. When I was a kid, black and white were the only colors of a newspaper. Colored ink didn’t start appearing in newspapers until the 1970s.

In one of those thought progressions that begin with one image and end with a different one, my brain traveled from a newspaper to Current Affairs, a regular part of the social studies curriculum in my youth in which my classmates and I delved into the stories behind the headlines in the local newspaper. “Current” morphed into “Currant” (I can’t resist a good pun) and I had my quilt name.

Nowadays many young people don’t pick up a newspaper to find out what’s happening in the world. The latest news (or some version of it) is available on their smartphones with the tap of a button or swipe of a finger. Me? I’m old fashioned. I want to hold a newspaper in my hands when I read the news in the morning. I want to read a book by turning real pages and I want to smell the ink on those pages.

But I digress (and I’m sounding like an old fogey in the process, aren’t I?). So let’s get back to my quilt. Here are a few pictures of Currant Affairs taken in lovely Laurelhurst Park this afternoon:

The back is very simple: two pieces of a subtle light grey floral print sewn together and a light grey with white polka dots added along the bottom. It wasn’t necessary but I matched the seams of the floral print. Can you spot the seam?

It’s really hard to see in that photo. Here’s a close-up of the backing before it was quilted:

The seam is about two-thirds of the way over running vertically. Can you see it now?

Here’s a close-up of the label:

This quilt was started six years ago in a class taught by Joyce Gieszler. Her book Then and Now Quilts (Kansas City Star Quilts, 2014) had come out the year before and this design, Grandma’s Surprise, was one of the quilts featured in the book. On the left is Joyce’s traditional version and on the right is one of her updated versions that inspired my fabric choices:

I added a border to make my quilt a bit larger, and then I decided to add a flange and binding treatment that visually extends the outer border:

With the addition of the border, Currant Affairs finishes at 66″ square.




Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 6 Comments

Grandma’s Surprise, Revisited

It’s been two months since I worked on my kaleidoscope quilt based on the pattern Grandma’s Surprise. The quilt top was finished in 2015 but not quilted until this May. When I got it back from the quilter, I decided to add a narrow red flange to the outer border before binding the quilt. My thought was to add a wider than usual binding using the outer border fabric so the red flange would float.

Trouble was, I didn’t have enough of the red fabric left, a paisley tone-on-tone print from P&B Textiles. The search was on for a few extra inches of that print. In my last post about this project I was eagerly awaiting the delivery by USPS of the very fabric I needed, offered by a very kind quilter in Pennsylvania named Nancy. The coveted piece of fabric arrived quickly. Alas! Although it was a red paisley tone-on-tone print from P&B textiles, it wasn’t the correct shade of red.

So near yet so far . . . Nancy and I were both philosophical about it. As she wrote, “The story made us smile for a few days so it was well worth it.” The only choice left was to find a solid red that was a good match. Happily, I found it a few days later at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego: “Scarlet” from the ColorWorks Premium Solid 9000 line by Northcott Studios. In the shot below you can see how close the solid red is to the red paisley and how well it goes with the border fabric:

Instead of getting right to work on the flange and binding, I put the project on the back burner while working on other things. Now I’m back at it, eager for a finish. Here’s a shot of the flange strips attached to the quilt:

The flanges will finish at ⅜” so the strips were cut 1¼” wide. When I trimmed the quilt I allowed for a ¾” finished binding. After attaching the flanges I decided to go with single-fold binding (rather than the more traditional double-fold or French binding) to reduce bulk at the corners. I’m in the process of tacking the binding now. Here’s a sneak peek at the first corner:

Just as I envisioned!






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“Just So”

In my last post I promised to explain my method of getting the narrow accent strips on my kaleidoscope blocks to line up just so:

In this example I’m starting with a 45˚ triangle cut from a 6½” strip of fabric using the Marti Michell Kaleido-Ruler . . .

. . . but this technique will work with other sizes of triangles and strips.

Eight of these triangles (from a 6½” strip) sewn together result in a 12″ kaleidoscope block. With the addition of the narrow and wide accent strips, the block will finish at 15″ square:

The narrow accent strips finish at ⅜”. This calls for ⅞”-wide strips, to allow for ¼” seams on either side but I find it difficult dealing with strips less than in inch wide, especially when it comes to pressing. For this reason I cut my strips a quarter of an inch wider — 1⅛” — and trim them to size after sewing them on to the wider accent strip.

So:  my narrow accent strips are cut 1⅛” x WOF (width of fabric). The wide accent strips are cut 1¾” x WOF. The narrow and wide accent strips are sewn together with a scant ¼” seam:

Before pressing the seam open, the strip is subcut into five 8″ lengths:

(I need eight of these strips for one kaleido block so a second strip set is needed.)

Why do I subcut the strip set before pressing? Because it’s extremely difficult to press a seam on a 45″ length of fabric without creating a curve. By cutting my long strip into shorter pieces, I can carefully press the seam on each piece open using just the tip of my iron without much distortion:

The next step is to trim a quarter inch off the narrow strip. I do this by aligning the ⅝” line on my ruler with the seamline . . .

. . . and trimming the excess quarter inch:

Now I can chain piece the triangles to the trim pieces, centering each triangle on its trim strip:


I press this seam open as well, taking care to use the point of the iron (no steam) and not letting the iron touch the bias edges of the triangle:

Note that with both seams pressed open, the seam allowances on the narrow trim overlap each other slightly.

Now I can lay the Kaleido-Ruler over the triangle and trim the right side:

I’m cutting this one on a rotating mat, which means I can turn it around and trim the other side just by moving the mat. If you don’t have a rotating mat, it’s very easy to butt up a second ruler right next to the Kaleido-Ruler . . .

. . . slide the Kaleido-Ruler out of the way, and make the second cut.

Here’s the trimmed triangle:

Now to sew it to another triangle! Here’s how I pin the two triangles:

After lining up the seams on the two triangles, I place pins to hold the seams in place. Note that the points of my pins are toward the outside edge. When I flip the triangles over and pull one side back from the edge, I can clearly see that the trim seams on my triangles match exactly:

I can repin if necessary (and sometimes must) to make sure the seams are properly aligned.

When I’m ready to sew the seam — starting from the wide end and going toward the point — I can pull each pin back slightly so that the point is not in the seam allowance, leaving the pins in place until the seam is completely sewn.

The seams are pressed open — again without steam and again using just the tip of the iron to nudge the seams open:

Once the block is complete and I’m satisfied my center points match, that’s when I move the iron setting to steam! I sometimes use a bit of starch or starch alternative (like Mary Ellen’s Best Press) to make sure my finished block lies nice and flat.

I hope you found this post helpful! I’m going to add it to my Tutorials page as a companion piece for my Season to Taste pattern.

Thanks for stopping by — and happy first day of summer!




Posted in home dec, kaleidoscope quilts, table runner, tutorial, update | 5 Comments


Here’s the completed quilt top of my winter version of Season to Taste:

It measures 18½” x 55½”.

Season to Taste is a kaleidoscope quilt pattern I created in 2014 with the idea of making one wall hanging or table runner representing each of the four seasons. You’ve seen my spring, summer, and fall versions before on the pages of this blog. I’ll post a photo of all four when I get this last one quilted.

My winter version will be called Winterwood in a nod to one of my favorite songs, written by Don McLean. You may be more familiar with his blockbuster hit “American Pie” from the album of the same name. “Winterwood” is from the same album which was released in 1971. Oh my! That means it’s 50 years old this year.

In my next post I’ll explain my method of getting the narrow accent strips (they finish at ⅜”) on my triangles to line up just so:






Posted in home dec, kaleidoscope quilts, table runner, update, wall hanging | 3 Comments

The Carrot and the Stick

Here’s the carrot:

I’m eager to sew these triangles together into the second block of my winter version of Season to Taste. I made the first block a month ago:

Sewing is on hold for now, though, because of the stick:

You’re looking at one upper corner of my sewing room closet shortly before it underwent a transformation. I hired a master plasterer to repair the ceiling and upper walls, which have been in this sorry condition for — well, let’s just say it’s been a while.

After living in our 1913 Craftsman house for 40 years, I had completely filled this 3½ x 7½-foot closet. It was, in my sister Diane’s words, “crammed to the gunnels.” Stacks of fabric on three upper shelves. Storage carts, plastic bins, and a garage sale dresser along the lower walls . . . you get the picture.

After emptying the contents of the closet into the spare bedroom (which I laughingly call “the Annex” because it has evolved into a second sewing room), I proceeded to peel off the ugly plaid wallpaper on the lower walls:

See that green paint? That’s a piece of plywood that was nailed onto lath strips behind it and then wallpapered. The plaster job suddenly loomed larger.

On this wall you can see how the previous owner used leftover strips of wallpaper to finish papering the wall:

The plaid strips didn’t match, of course. This would have driven me crazy had I not blocked the offending view with the contents of the closet.

Fortunately, master plasterer Steve and his assistant Corey were willing to tackle the lower walls along with the upper walls and ceiling. It took the better part of a day for them to work their magic:

I decided to paint the closet myself to save money — having the lower walls replastered  added considerably to the cost — and also time. Most house painters are booked out weeks ahead and I was oh, so anxious to get everything back into the closet. I promised myself I wouldn’t sew a stitch until the painting was done. Ah yes, the carrot and the stick. It was time to get to work.

Here’s one side of the closet primed and ready for another coat of paint:

It took me two days to prep and prime the closet. Getting thorough coverage was a challenge as the plaster absorbed paint like a sponge. But I prevailed, and I must say: it’s already looking pretty good!

Here it is all done with the two short shelves back in place:

Before refilling the closet, I took the opportunity to edit its contents while they were still in the Annex. Several stacks of fabric and notions have been set aside for donation.

Now when you open the door to the closet, here’s a glimpse at what you see:

Sure looks better in there!

If you’re looking for me today, you’ll find me at my sewing machine. I think I’ve earned it, don’t you?




Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 10 Comments

To the Rescue

Map Courtesy of Google

I have been saved by a quilter 2500 miles away! Nancy L. of Irwin, Pennsyvania read yesterday’s post in which I wrote about my delight at finding an online quilt shop in the Midwest that had a piece of older fabric I needed to finish a quilt project. My delight was supplanted by disappointment when the shop notified me it didn’t have the fabric in stock after all. When I woke up this morning and looked at my email, there was a message from Nancy telling me she has a third of a yard of this fabric that she is willing to send me. Oh Happy Day!

Not only is the fabric already in the mail, Nancy even sent me the tracking information! If the US Postal Service does its job, those precious inches of currant red fabric will be in my eagerly waiting hands by Friday. I could have made do with another cut of fabric but I had my heart set on using the same red that’s in the center of this kaleidoscope quilt:

Quilt begun in 2015 in a class taught by Joyce Gieszler. Pattern: Grandma’s Surprise

The piece that Nancy is sending me will be used as a narrow flange between the outer border and the binding. Thank you, Nancy, from the bottom of my heart.

Aren’t quilters the best people?!




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Dashed Hopes

My elation at finding just the right amount of an older fabric to complete a flange binding on my latest kaleidoscope quilt was short-lived. After purchasing a quarter-yard from an on-line quilt shop in Iowa, I subsequently heard from the shop that the yardage in question was actually no longer in stock. Oh nooooooooo!

The fabric I need — okay, I want it more than need it — is a particular shade of red, a deep bright red like a currant. In fact, the leaf print I’m using for the border of my quilt is from the line called “Black, White & Currant 5” by Color Principle for Henry Glass Fabrics. I have several red blenders in my stash but not a single one matches the red in that print or the red shown above.

Unless someone reading this post has some Moda Puzzle Pieces Paisley 1007-51 on hand and is willing to part with a small amount, I’m going to have to embark on a search for a replacement, probably a solid currant. I have very few solids in my stash because I don’t care to sew with them but I’m sure there’s a piece out there that will work just fine.

In the meantime, I’m dealing with my disappointment by starting a new project:

In the works is an 18″ Chicago Star block using this fun group of fabrics. I actually have two quilts in my head using these fabrics plus a few others not shown here.

Kristin at Montavilla Sewing in Lake Oswego, the quilt shop where I teach, introduced this pattern to some of my students and me last month in a Zoom meeting. It’s part of an optional block-of-the-month project we can learn about online while we wait for in-person classes to resume. I’ll be ready for virtual show-and-tell on Wednesday. It will be fun to see what fabrics other quiltmakers have chosen!




Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 6 Comments

Hitting Paydirt

That’s a funny phrase to use when talking about fabric but it perfectly expresses how I feel after finding a quarter of a yard of fabric online that was a total long shot.

In my last post I showed photos of a kaleidoscope quilt I had just gotten back from the longarm quilter. (The quilt, based on the pattern “Grandma’s Surprise,” was made in a class with Joyce Gieszler six years ago.) In the comment section of the blog post, my friend Vickie asked what I was thinking about for the binding. I replied, “I’m going to bind it in the same black leaf print (shown above) that I used for the border because I want the focus to be on the kaleidoscope in the center of the quilt.” My thought was that binding the quilt in solid black or the red paisley tone-on-tone blender used in the quilt (also shown above) would create a frame around the quilt that might distract from the kaleidscope in the center.

But as I pondered Vickie’s question, the thought of a narrow flange of that red fabric sandwiched between the border and the binding popped into my head. Last night I added this sentence to my reply: “If I had more of the red fabric, though, I would be very tempted to add a narrow flange between the border and the binding.” Only two small rectangles of that fabric remained in my stash and neither scrap had selvage information on it. I had bought it years ago and had no idea if it was even still available.

Sometime between last night and this morning, that idea of a flange took hold. I woke up and thought, “Why not see if I can find that red fabric online?” I tried entering several search phrases with no luck. Then I struck paydirt with “dark red on red paisley blender.” Up popped this image. . .

. . . with a link to an online quilt shop in Waukee, Iowa called Twiddletails. The fabric turned out to be a blender by Moda that was part of a line of blenders called Puzzle Pieces. All that was available was a quarter of a yard — a mere nine inches! Reader, I ordered it on the spot. Between this piece and my two scraps, I think I can eke out enough strips for a flange, provided the dye lots are similar enough. There’s a surprising amount of variation among dye lots. This bit of yardage from Twiddletails is the only one I’ve found so my fingers are firmly crossed.




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Kaleidoscopes and Curves

My latest kaleidoscope quilt is back from the longarm quilter! While it was still on Sherry’s frame on Monday, she sent me a couple of sneak peeks:

I knew then I’d made the right choice with the quilting motif: “Bordeaux” by Urban Elementz. The motif features spirals and swirls that work really well with the design of the quilt and the leaf print.

The quilt isn’t trimmed yet but I couldn’t wait to show you more of the quilting:

Here’s a shot of the center:

Even though the quilt pieces are all angular, there’s a suggestion of roundness because of the way the blocks are set. I wanted the quilt motif to have a roundness to it as well. I was also looking for another element to suggest the shape of leaves like the ones in the black print. Perhaps you can see this better in the close-up of the center area:

Once the quilt has been trimmed, I’ll post a few more pictures and show you the simple pieced backing. This six-year-old UFO is very close to becoming a completed quilt!

Oh, and here’s an update on the migration front. The not-so-good news is that the migration of my website/blog to a new server is not yet complete. The better news is that readers can once again leave comments. So feel free to comment on this post or even the last couple of posts when comments were blocked.

I am especially eager to know if subscribers are also getting notifications of new blog posts — so here’s your chance to let me know. Thank you!




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Season’s Greetings

What?? Here we are midway into a glorious spring in Portland, Oregon and my thoughts are on winter. Why, you ask? Because I have finally started work on the fourth and final quilt based on my Season to Taste pattern. This is the first of three blocks:

When I designed the pattern in 2014 I envisioned making a wall hanging (or table runner) for each season of the year. I started with the fall version, naming my quilt Autumn Reflections, and the spring version, Under Paris Skies. Those are the ones you see on the pattern cover above.

In 2015 I made a summer version named Sun Flowers. All three were on display last month at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego:

Every so often I would think about making a winter version but I could never settle on fabrics. Did I want something in red and green to evoke the holidays or something in wintry hues of grey and dark blue? Did I want to make kaleidoscope blocks using eight repeats of the same print or a scrappy version using eight different prints?

Months passed. Years passed. (Hmm, my last post was about a quilt I started in 2015 and finished just this year. Do you see a pattern here?)

Then a few weeks ago I saw a photo of a quilt my friend Linda D. had made using a lovely collection of green and red prints. When I inquired about the fabric line (which turned out to be “Northern Light” by Annie Brady for Moda Fabrics), Linda generously offered to give me her leftover fabric. She actually made two bed-size quilts from these fabrics. When she dropped off the “scraps” I could see there was enough fabric in the sack to make a third bed-size quilt!

Today I stopped by Montavilla LO to pick up some background fabric. (Hard to believe but nothing in my stash seemed “just right” for this particular project.) At the shop I found a piece of “Grunge” by BasicGrey for Moda Fabrics that seemed like it might work — a creamy white with just a touch of green in the subtle texture and shading:

Alas, the green looked too minty when placed next to my kaleido block. I was about to give up the search when it occurred to me to flip the fabric over. You may not be able to tell from the next photo but trust me: the wrong side of the Grunge fabric is perfect:




Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, table runner, update, wall hanging | 2 Comments