July 30, 2014

Do the Woodgrain!

In an unprecedented act of blogging fanciness I decided to make a video documenting how I create the woodgrain texture (so thoroughly photographed in my last post) with free-motion quilting. Warning: It is not an awesome shot of the actual stitching. I made it with an iPad sitting on a stack of books. But some of you might like it. Also it gave me the chance to try using the iMovie software for the first time, which was fun. My 5 year old daughter watched it and said "Good job mama. You worked hard on that". What a little sweetie! Anyway, here you go...

And if you prefer text to videos, here is the low down:

I make my woodgrain texture with bumpy wavy lines, points, spirals and forks.

These should all be made with imperfect wiggles in your lines. That makes it great if you're still working on control with your FMQ. Try it, beginners!

I am having a harder time explaining this than my usual FMQ designs because there is no real formula. Basically I work one line right next to the last line I made, letting each line respond to the one before it. Where the first line has a bump I usually put a corresponding bump in the next line. Sometimes I exaggerate the previous bumps or curves or add new ones. In some places I draw closer to the previous line and in other places I drift away from it. I often leave open spaces and then go back and fill them in and I do not ever stress about it. It is so organic that it's really hard to make a mistake.

Changing the proportion of lines/points/forks/spirals to one another is how you get different textures. Sometimes you might use all bumpy lines, other times you might use tons of points. You'll vary the amount of spirals to make "knots" in the wood. You get to play around with it to create a texture you like and a stitching experience that holds your interest. Here's some examples of how flexible this woodgrain is:

 Just lines

 Vertical lines and narrow spirals

 Just points and forks

 All the elements, a few spirals

all the elements, a lot of spirals

I find this to be a really fun and relaxing design to stitch. I love the final texture and the realistic effect it gives. And of course I'd love to hear how it works for you.

Happy stitching everyone!

July 24, 2014

Concept quilt

This is the coolest thing I've ever made. Or the weirdest.

It's for my husband. I started it almost two years ago. Some of that slowness was my limited tolerance for brown. I definitely did not get into quilting for brown fabric. 

And yet, I love that guy and he loves wood and I got this idea in my head I would make him a quilt that looked like a wood floor. All texture. So manly. Utterly unique. 

It's very different from my usual work, where I'm often trying to capture light and movement. There is no light or movement here. But I did enjoy the feeling of doing something so unusual. Playing with the ideas of hard and soft, rigid and flexible. 

I loved the challenge of quilting each "board" differently. It was fun going for that feel of an organic pattern. A very relaxing way to stitch. 

I love the back. And so does this kid. (She helped with the binding!)  

And of course I loved giving it to him. It is just the right size to be shared in the evening as we sit on the sofa together. 

July 13, 2014


When I drive I always end up a little fascinated by round brake lights that are arranged in a radiant pattern. They speak to me, their layout intrigues me and I always think, I should make a quilt like that. 

So that's what all this wedge action is about. When I stare at the one above it makes me think of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I can hear his voice in my head: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that. 

And when I look at all of them together I think of the Hypno-toad on Futurama. The hypno-toad is the soundtrack for this quilt for sure. That's all of them stuck on my too-small design wall. I was planning to spread them out a bit more in the final quilt but I do like them squished together like this. Decision time. 

In other news, thanks to nudging from some blog readers turned pattern testers I have put up for sale my first ever pattern. It is for a set of nesting buckets, which is a quilting class I teach locally. I put it up on Craftsy and I'm interested to see what selling patterns through their site is like. 

July 09, 2014

Double Disappearing Nine-Patch Improved Tutorial

When I started with Double Disappearing 9 Patch (DD9P) I gave an explanation of what I did but not a real tutorial. I would like to correct that today because I know how nice it is when you're in a bee and you can just link your bee-mates to a tutorial.

To make a double disappearing 9 patch block with this layout you will need:

9 small squares: 5 colors, 4 background
5 big squares: 1 color, 4 background

The size of the squares to cut for a 10" finished block (shown) are:

small squares: 3"
big squares: 4"


Make a nine patch block as shown. Whatever color is in the middle will end up in all four of the final block-units. It doesn't matter where you put the others, they will be cut apart from each other in the next step.

Cut the block down the middle in both directions

Spread the blocks out, keeping their orientation to the center

Use the larger squares to make a new nine patch block

Cut that block down the middle in both directions

Rearrange and sew together

Notes: If you can double the disappearing nine-patch you could triple or even quadruple it! Readers of my blog have done just that. Way to go innovators! You are the reason I love having a blog.

In case you want to start with different sizes for your beginning patches, I figured out the formula for other sizes of DD9P

size of the small blocks = x
size of the large blocks = y
size of finished final block = z

y = 1.5x - 1/2"
z = 3y - 2"

The downside of this block is that all the halving and halving again gives you painful 1/4" and 1/8" cutting problems and weird finished block sizes for pretty much everything except this 10" finished size. That doesn't matter if you just like sewing and cutting and resewing but if you are super into precision or writing patterns for other people you'll get frustrated.

People regularly ask me if I can make the DD9P a 12" finished block and the answer, sadly, is no, I can't. No one can, because the math of cutting a three-unit thing into a two-unit thing won't allow it if you can't cut in thirds and sixths of an inch, and since we don't have tools for that in quilting it's not going to happen.  However, if you really really needed a 12" finished block you would start with 3.5" blocks in the first nine patch, and 4.75" blocks in the second nine patch.  After you've sewn the final block together it will be 12 3/4" unfinished. You could trim it to 12 1/2" (or just leave it close enough!). I hope that helps.

I love seeing what you make with my tutorials, please link or email if you get a chance!

July 04, 2014

Modern Quilting Snippets: How old are "modern" quilts?

So when I was preparing a talk on modern quilting recently I asked myself the natural question "Who started calling quilts 'modern'?". I know when I first heard the word "modern" in relation to quilts. It was The Modern Quilt Workshop by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr. I checked that book out from the library so many times. But were they the first?

While pondering this question, it so happened that I had just developed a crush on a new book, The Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns, by Ginny Beyer. This book is great. I got into a library habit with this one too, then I broke down and bought it.

In it, I found a reference to this, the Giant Dahlia Quilt. Its pattern was originally published in 1933 in the Des Moines Register with the following wording:

"Here is a modern design for the woman of today who wants to create a quilt that is new and different and will go down in quilt history as one of the new designs for 1933. You will enjoy making this treasured heirloom for the years to come."

Giant Dahlia Quilt
Fanney Shackleford
West Virginia
73.5 x 79"
Photo from West Virginia Department of Archives and History

I found that quilt photo on the Quilt Index and then contacted the West Virginia Department of Archives and History for permission to use it. There was some problem with the film when the photo was taken so the top portion of the quilt is cut off. But can't you just see that uploaded to the Fresh Modern Quilts Flickr group? I'm smitten.

Another "modern" reference I found in Ginny's book was the Modernistic Star, published in 1931.

Modernistic Star Quilt Top by Tim Latimer. 

I also read Barbara Brackman's book ("read" standing up and in two minute increments between my toddler's dangerous and destructive acts) Making History: Quilts and Fabric from 1890-1970. In there she mentioned a magazine called Modern Priscilla (published from 1887-1930), that included, among other things, patchwork patterns. Interestingly, Barbara makes a point in her book that quilts of the past several decades have been affected by cultural shifts in the reaction to the influence of modernism. I tell you, Barbara Brackman is my dream quilter date right now. I would love to ask her about a hundred questions!

So anyway the concept of "modern" and quilts have gone together for 80+ years at this point!

Thanks for all the thoughtful responses to my other posts in this series. A lot of you have your blogger profiles set to "no reply" which is tormenting me because you say such interesting things I would love to reply to you but your email address is not available to me, so I can't. If you want email replies to your thoughtful comments (or if you ever want to, say, win a blog giveaway from leaving a comment) you can Fix It!