A Plethora of Pouches

1st pouch

Although I didn’t do a lot of sewing this summer, I’m proud of what I did make — three fabric pouches.

I started making the first (with the red flowered fabric, above) while taking a quilting class at my local quilt store, but when the class ended and the pouch wasn’t finished, I had to figure out how to finish it on my own.

Thanks to many viewings of some youtube tutorials on how to box corners (see here and here), I finished the first pouch.

Then I did a second. You can see that it makes a nice home for Curly Top (my son’s stuffed bunny).

2nd pouch, w cT

And here’s the third.

3rd pouch

My pouches have a 100% cotton print on the bottom and a linen/cotton solid on the top. I mimicked the fabric selections used in Vanessa Christenson’s color block pouches pattern (available here). She includes directions for three sizes. I’ve made the large and medium sizes, but not the smallest.

I lined two of the pouches in a solid Kona cream. The third (the blue-green seashore print) uses a solid Kona blue.

Although I didn’t finish a quilt this summer, I’m thrilled with these pouches. For a long time, I’d admired Vanessa’s pattern and wanted to make my own.

Here’s hoping that everyone had fun making things this summer!


First Finish for 2015 — Flying Geese

quilt triangles


My first finish for the new year is based on a pattern by Andie Johnson in the book she wrote with Kelly Biscopink: Modern Designs for Classic Quilts.

I like the pink-and-purple color combination so much that I wish I could keep the quilt. (It’s meant to be a gift.)


I’m pleased with the scrappy binding; it was my first time trying to make one.


geese quilt front


I had to re-do part of the binding because one of the corners looked terrible and my impromptu repair efforts only made things worse. (I guess I should have known that taking scissors to the binding usually doesn’t result in anything good.) Fortunately, I figured out how to re-do the section without taking off the rest of the binding. Don’t ask me how long it took to figure that out, though.

It was fun to pick out prints for the triangles. The pastel polka dots and the leaf pattern are two of my favorites (although I actually love all of them):


On the front, I quilted loop-de-loops, and on the back I used a floral print.




One quick note about Andie’s pattern: the triangle template she provides in her book is too big. A corrected version can be found at her web site here.

It was great to make this quilt, and now that it’s finished I’m a little bit at loose ends. Time to jump into a new project!

Points that Disappoint

I was hoping to write about my progress in piecing a quilt I’ve been working on for more than two years, but instead, I’m trying to make sense of a project gone horribly wrong. Here are the blocks right before things blew up —

Saltwater taffy quilt

My picture doesn’t do justice to the true beauty of this quilt. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it here on the Twin Fibers blog. I ordered the pattern (available here), and painstakingly selected colors (my favorite is the red-orange solid). After picking colors, I started sewing together many, many half-square triangles to make pinwheels.


After that, there was trimming with a template, attaching additional triangles, and – finally, finally – squaring up the blocks so I could start joining them in rows. Unfortunately, what I discovered once I started joining the blocks is that most of the points on my triangles didn’t match. Oh, a few of the points looked good, but the majority were off, and when I say off, I mean horrendously off.

After talking with an experienced quilter, I realized that I got a little over-exuberant when squaring up the blocks. In my zeal to make sure the blocks were square, I usually didn’t leave enough material for a quarter-inch seam allowance.

I feel like a novelist who has worked on a book for years, only to discover that the work has fundamental defects.

I’ve been thinking of my options, and they boil down to these:

  1. Grit my teeth and sew the blocks together even though lots of the points look terrible;
  2. Take a rotary cutter to the blocks and cut them up into random-sized strips of fabric that I then join to other random-sized pieces of fabric and use in an improv-pieced crazy quilt;
  3. Donate the “bad” blocks to a group that accepts UFOs and that will be able to do something with them;
  4. Store the few remaining “good” blocks in a cardboard box, get started on a new project, and return to this project only when I have my courage and patience back.

I think I am going to choose options 3 and 4.

Have you ever had a project implode on you? How did you get over the feeling of “wasted time” when there was no finished project to show? I welcome all insight!


“Quilts and Color” at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts

I had three opportunities this spring and summer to attend an exhibit showcasing the quilts of Paul Pilgrim and Gerald Roy at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. It is on view until Sunday, July 27, and definitely I’d recommend attending, if you can.

As I understand it, Roy and Pilgrim were interested in collecting quilts that showed unusual, daring, or unorthodox use of color. They wanted the quilts they bought to be in good condition, but they cared more about bold and memorable use of color than about stitches per inch.

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The quilt above is the one that you see publicizing the exhibit on city buses. A Double Wedding Ring from about 1940, its African-American creator used a generous (but alluring) amount of purple.

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One of the first quilts you see as you enter the exhibit is this Carpenter’s Wheel quilt (above), made by a Mennonite woman in the 19th century who stitched quilts for her seven children. She wasn’t afraid to use bold colors – in this case, orange, red, and green – or an attention-getting pattern. Also in the same room is this Nine Patch from the 1880s (below), which uses a similar high-energy palette of orange, red, and blue-green.

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Some of the patterns are instantly recognizable, such as Star of Bethlehem or Sunshine and Shadow (below). photo (5)

Others use patterns I had never seen before, such as this Snail’s Trails (below) from the 1930s, which was created by a member of an Illinois Amish sect.

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This Tumbler’s Block pattern (above) from about 1920 was unusual, but I thought it looked modern with its slightly off-kilter rectangle/triangle pieces in black and gray.

My favorite quilts were by the Amish.


This Framed Diamond in a Square quilt (above) from about 1890 was one of the simplest quilts in the exhibit, but the minimalist design spoke to me. Also Amish was this Thousand Pyramids quilt (below), which looks both timeless and modern.

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Speaking of Amish quilts, my family recently spent a few days in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We happened upon an open-to-the-public auction organized by the Amish in which they were selling handmade items to raise money for special needs children. The quilts that I saw there were stunning, yet they featured printed cottons and elaborate designs. Call me a dinosaur, but I love solid fabrics and pared-down designs.

As I read over this post, I realize that I’ve included only those quilts I liked; thus, I fear I’m not doing justice to the full spectrum of quilts included in the exhibit. Some used color combinations that did not speak to me. This Sunburst quilt from 1856 (below) was considered the “ugly quilt” by the family who owned it, so they stored it away for many years. Even though I don’t love the palette, I appreciate the bold use of color.

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So that’s the exhibit in a nutshell, but there are many other quilts on the walls that I haven’t shown here. If you’re in the Boston area, you will thank yourself if you go see the exhibit.

Joy Pillow


From the moment I saw Debbie Grifka’s Joy Pillow in the 2013-2014 Holiday issue of Quilting Arts Gifts, I knew I wanted to add it to my to-do list, partly because I have always admired the work Debbie posts at Esch House Quilts. Its elegant simplicity spoke to me. Debbie made hers in a sophisticated tan-and-white combination. I love the color red, especially around the holidays, so I decided to use red and white. 


I began the pillow in November 2013 and am finishing it up five months later. I feel a little sheepish to admit how long it took, but in my defense I will say it isn’t the only project I worked on in this period. Still, though, I originally thought I could have this pillow done for Christmas, and when that didn’t happen, I figured the color combination would make it ideal for a Valentine’s pillow. Now I’m thinking I could call it a Fourth of July pillow if I propped it up against a blue background!   

All kidding aside, I made a few changes to Debbie’s pattern. Her pillow measures 16” x 26”, while mine is about 10” x 15”. She used a zipper to close the back, while I used a simple envelope closure. 


Despite my tinkering with the pattern, I love both the design and the message of the pillow. Thanks, Debbie!

Denyse Schmidt at New England Quilt Museum

I had the privilege of hearing Denyse Schmidt speak at the New England Quilt Museum this past Friday. She is a much admired figure in the Modern Quilting movement, although she doesn’t consider herself solely a modern quilter.

She was raised by parents who lived through the Depression and who embodied the philosophy of “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” As a grad student at the Rhode Island School of Design, she majored in graphic design, took classes in stone carving, and developed her own font. After graduation she moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut and eventually started her own business, which has led her to design fabric for Free Spirit and Fabric Traditions (the former line is sold to independent fabric stores and the latter to chain stores).

Denyse believes in “haphazard, accidental beauty” and feels it can be found everywhere. She closed her talk with an assortment of images from the mundane (battered metal doors) to the inspirational (a church billboard with the assertion that “Everyone Can Sing” – one of her core beliefs). Her words were accompanied by a slide show of images and a sprinkling of quotes from writers and artists. My favorite was from Jack London: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Boston Traffic Quilt


This quilt is near and dear to my heart because it is the first one I’ve ever made for my young son, who loves all things that honk, beep, and rev. It’s also special to me because it’s my first attempt at free motion quilting on my home sewing machine.

I found the pattern online a while ago. It’s by Vanessa Goertzen of Lella Boutique. If you go here, you can see the lovely colors she chose for her version.

I entered this quilt in my local agricultural fair recently and it won an honorable mention. (Full disclosure: every quilt there seemed to win a ribbon.) The judges were kind in their critique, pointing out something I already knew: I need to work on keeping my stitch length even.

I used Kona solids for the fused vehicle shapes on the front. The back is a novelty print.

IMG_4140I had to add two rectangular panels to either side of the larger middle panel in order to have the back panel be the right width.

IMG_4136My favorite vehicle shape is the green bus. (You can see that I used the same shade of green for the binding.)


All in all, I’m very pleased with how it came out. Making it was a lot more fun than raking!