Sunday, February 27, 2011


I like celebrating milestones with quilts. I've made quilts for births, and weddings, and kids moving from crib to bed. Babies get quilts from me (all except the first two, who were born before I started quilting...). But babies grow older, and have new milestones. One of the big ones in our family is Bat Mitzvahs. We'll get to a Bar Mitzvah in about 10 years, but the next generation of kids is mostly girls and so we have Bat Mitzvahs.  I've made 3 so far, and the first one was for my oldest daughter.
Baby quilts are easy in many ways: they are smallish, and the recipient is not aware of colors, patterns, etc. The parents are, and I do take their likes/dislikes/etc into account, but really, they're happy with a quilt for their baby. Quilting for teenagers, well, that's different.
Teenagers definitely have their own tastes in things, and I want them to like their quilt. I also want them to like it, and use it, for years to come, and so try to make it something with which they can grow. And the teen at 13 will be very different, perhaps, than the teen at 18.
When I started working on my daughter's Bat Mitzvah Quilt, I felt I needed guidance from her. I wanted to make it special, and to make it a surprise, but I also wanted to make sure it had elements she likes. In the end I asked her to name some colors that she likes and I would make a surprise-patterned quilt from them. The pattern needed to be something mature enough to last, and yet appropriate for a young teen.
My daughter asked for shades of blue, green, purple and gray. I got two shades of each, a light and dark, in patterned fabric that was not too busy, and got to work.
Here's what I made for her (with the cat getting in on the action):

And a couple of close ups (Again with the cat):
The biggest technical challenge with this quilt is the curvy lines. As I mentioned in a previous post, curvy lines are hard on little sewing machines (or maybe I haven't figured it out yet), so this quilt, which is for a full size bed, was largely pieced by hand.  Each little square was hand pieced, and then the squares were machine stitched into larger squares. I then added the border to make it a bit larger.
My daughter likes to snuggle in bed reading and such, so I knew I wanted this to be a warm, snuggly quilt. I sewed the top onto a comforter (bought from Ikea), and then quilted it with a fairly simple backing (of which, I now realize, I neglected to take a picture).
I gave it to her 3 years ago. She liked it then, and still likes it now. Hopefully she's keep liking it, and using it, as she grows up. (She's already talking about going away to college!)
I've since made two more Bat Mitzvah quilts, each with its own challenges, and will post about them next.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Monsters, Take 3

A while back I posted about a Monster quilt I made for my daughter, which was a variation on another quilt I'd made with the same fabric. I talk about it here:

At the end of that post I mentioned the next variation on the Monster fabric, a quilt for my husband. So, the challenge was making 3 quilts for 3 radically different recipients, from the same base fabric. For my husband I decided to go with a darker color combination. He is a huge fan of black, but I didn't want black for this one. I didn't think it'd look good with the colorful monsters. Besides, everything else I've made for him has lots of black (except for the skull. But that one is, you know, skully).

Back when I was still buying fabric, I bought a dark blue fabric with little golden stars, kind of a night-sky fabric. I decided to put the monsters on this as background. But I'd already done panels on a background; it was time for something else. I cut out all the panels, leaving only the two innermost borders on them and laid them on top of various fabrics I had to see what would strike my fancy. But nothing was fitting right. Finally, I decided to just sew them into the blue, wonky style.
I cut strips of the blue and sewed them on all 4 sides of each panel. Then I turned the block off to one side a bit, and cut a square out of it that way. Like so:
Then I sewed all the blocks together. Like so:

This layout, it seems to me, makes the monsters seem like they are traveling through space.
And speaking of space, for the reverse side I used one of AJ's favorite fabrics, a spacey fabric to go along with the monsters-in-space theme. Here it is:
And a close up:

This quilt is twin size, and AJ's using it in his study.
So there it is, the Monsters trio is finished!

On to the next project.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Speedy Pinwheels

I love working on big, complex, challenging quilts. They inspire and challenge me, and are extremely gratifying. However, they do take a long time and sometimes I want a "quick gratification project". This is the sort of project that is fairly small, fairly simple, and which I can get done in a day. Most of these projects of mine end up being baby quilts, and this round is no exception.
Being enamored with pinwheels right now, it is no surprise to me that the current quick gratification projects are both pinwheelish. Pinwheels are fun, quick, and fairly versatile. Perfect.
Going along with my goal of not buying new fabrics, I went into my stash and came up with 3 fabrics that, I thought, go well together. This is what I did with them:
And a detail:

The combination of green and yellow makes this quilt non-gender specific and the animal fabric adds color without overwhelming the quilt. The strong green adds to the color and is, my thought is, limited enough to not overwhelm the piece either.  I don't have a plan for this quilt, though I may give it to my colleague who's expecting a child in May. If not, there's always Etsy. Or maybe I'll donate it.

The second quilt I made this week is from remnants of the fabrics I bought for my father's "Wild Horses" quilt.

And a close up:

This quilt goes with the outdoors feel of the fabrics, and the outer border of birds in flight fabric makes it, I hope even more "open". The back of this baby quilt is this:
I've had this fabric for years, and have not been able to find a project for it, until now. I don't know what I'll do with this quilt either, but I'm sure I'll find a home for it.
Now back to the long, complex quilts...

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I am currently on a pinwheel spree. I'm just about to finish two crib-size pinwheel quilts, which I am making just for fun (and quick gratification while working on two bigger, more complex quilts). I'd forgotten how much fun they are! So I decided to post about the last pinwheel quilt I made, more than a year ago now, for my nephew as he was transitioning to a twin size bed.
His parents, my brother and sister-in-law, asked me if I'd be willing to make a quilt for his bed.
Me? A quilt? They barely had to finish asking before I was already planning it.

This family likes the outdoors. They like to hike, bike, climb, peddle, and many other things. So I knew right away the quilt would need to have an outdoorsy feel. The family is also not one for traditional gender codes, so I knew I would not make a "boy" quilt.
I decided on pinwheels. Double Pinwheels. Scrappy pinwheels.
Pinwheels, to me, suggest childhood, and being outdoors. They connect to running around, and to motion. My nephew also happens to be an extremely observant kid so I wanted lots of different details for him to be able to look at. Hence the scrappiness of the quilt design.
I present Leor's bed quilt (though it's spread on my bed for the picture):

And a close up:
The inner part of each pinwheel is the same but the outer part is different. And the background is a green wavy grass fabric I was happy to find. The whole thing makes me think of playing in the park.

The back side of the quilt is totally different. It is neither scrappy nor made of little pieces. I wanted the reverse to have a different feel, and to excite Leor's imagination in a different way. I was stuck on this and, for a while, did not know what to do. Inspiration came from Leor himself, who was explaining an elaborate game to me one day, a game in which he was an astronaut.
Here's the reverse side:
It is four panels of space fabric, bordered by a fabulous mariner's chart fabric I found, and sashed with a black fabric with little bitty white stars on it.
A detail:


So one side is daytime, while the other one's for night, and the first is terrestrial while the other is celestial.
Both are on Leor's bed, which makes me happy.


Years ago I decided to try my hand at doing a patchwork piece with curves. Curves are hard to sew. Curves entail sewing two flat pieces of fabric in a non-flat way so they eventually lie flat.
Let me explain: you want a sewn piece to lie flat when the fabrics are right side up. In order to sew them you have to line them up with right sides facing. When you put them right side facing, they do NOT lie flat. In terms of machine sewing what this means is that you have to constantly pull on the fabric to make it fit just right when it's just under the needle. At least you have to do this with my simple sewing machine. So I usually prefer straight lines.
However, it was time, I decided.
At the time I was still married to the father of my kids, and I decided to make him a wall hanging quilt as an anniversary present. The design I picked is a traditional wedding-related pattern called "Double Wedding Ring".  And here it is:

And a close up:

The design is made by sewing together small pieces to make the rings and while each little piece has a straight line to sew, the sections of the rings are curvy, and so are the pieces of the white background. That's the hard part.
The fun part was incorporating into the quilts fabrics from clothes I made my daughters when they were babies, which added both color and sentiment to the piece.
I gave it to him as a present and it hung on our wall for a while. When our marriage fell apart, we tried to figure out what to do with the quilt. He wanted to hold on to the quilt, which was fine. It was a real, a sincere gift at the time it was made and given. I had given it in good faith.
It is now hanging in my daughter's room, at her dad's house. I am glad it is still in use.
I think there's a meditation here on the enduring object symbolizing of the relationship that created my two wonderful daughters, or maybe on how the love of a parent toward the child does not end when that parent no longer loves the other parent. I am glad it has meaning, even though that meaning has changed.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Windows.  I like windows.  They let in the sun, and shut out the cold; they help air things out, and light them up. They are wonderfully, prepositionally diverse: you can look out them, in them, through them, and at them. And what you see when you look out/in/through/at them is up to anybody’s imagination. Window display is an art form in its own right. Windows.
It is this diversity that makes me a fan of the quilting in general, and in particular of making things that use the “attic windows” pattern. This pattern involves panels surrounded by sashing done so as to look 3D.  The sashing is the window frames, and the panels are…whatever you want. They serve as what you see through the windows. I love being able to play with both the panels and the sashing to create different styles. Over the years I’ve done several Attic Windows quilts, and really enjoy them.
The first one I made was this Animals in My Windows:

And a close up:

Made from flannel for a cozy winter quilt and is knotted rather than machine quilted. I was learning the pattern then, and had to do a couple of the window frames over again.

Next, to perfect the pattern, or my handling of it, I made this, Guitar Store Windows:
And a close up:
This one is also in flannel, but the red and orange give a different feel to the piece, I think, and the panels in the windows do as well. This one is machine quilted.

Both of these ended up on sale at a fundraiser auction at my kids’ elementary school.

And last year I made this: Dancing Bears, for a colleague expecting a baby. I didn't know if the expected child was a boy or girl, and did not know how traditional the parents would be about the choices of colors, etc. So I picked a more neutral color palette and a traditional kid-friendly fabric for the window panels.
Dancing Bears:
And a close up:

The primary colors here make a bold pattern but this is offset by the wide border of light yellow.
I love the versatility of this pattern! Hm...maybe it's time for another project with windows.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Quilting Teaches you Patience

Quilting takes time. Quilts themselves take time, and in some ways are a measure of time. A person learned in such things could look at a quilt and know, by the fabrics, when it was made. Quilts tell a story and the story, well, it takes time.
Nowadays the stories are much quicker. We have tools, cutters, rulers, electric sewing machines, that enable us to make quilts more quickly. Also, by and large, we can go to the store and get just the right fabric pretty much whenever  we want. Yet even with all of that, quilting takes time. Usually hand sewn ones take more of my patience, and are a calmer experience for me. But sometimes, machine-sewn quilts can be a lesson in patience as well.

Like this piece, that I made as one side of a reversible quilt:

This quilt has all straight lines, true, which usually means that the sewing happens quickly. However, the quilt also has a LOT of pieces. Small pieces. Lots of them. Each black star is made up of 4 squares of 4 pieces each. So each star has 16 pieces. These all need to be cut, sewn, and ironed straight at each step. Each of the 4 little squares measures 4 inches. The quilt is King Size. That's a lot of squares. The quilt has 100 stars, that's 400 little squares, at 4 pieces a square. How many is that? Lots. 1600 pieces if I have the math right.
A close up:
I did this, not because I am crazy, but because I wanted to try my hand at a traditional design, but make it fit my bedroom. And the choice of colors AJ and I favor.
So I sat, for what seems like months and months, sewing bits of fabric, ironing them, sewing them again, ironing, sewing again, and so on. By the end, I admit, my patience was wearing thin. The points do not match up as well as I would have liked, for example. But all in all, I think it came out well. 
It is now one side of our summer blanket, the other side being shown here: Kaleidoscope.

Pink things

I'm not much of one for pink things. I have never been a pink kind of girl. I've also not dressed my girls in pinkish things, except for when my youngest went through a long, and dedicated pink phase. I do have a few, very few, pink accessories, which show up nicely on the mostly-black clothes I wear.
This non-pinkishness goes for quilts as well. When I make a baby quilt, I tend to stay away from color coded gender specific fabrics and patterns. Sometimes I make things more girlish, or boyish, if I know the parents are really into that sort of thing, but not often.

So when I found a fashion printed fabric in two shades of pink (with sparkles, and printed dress forms no less!), I surprised myself by buying it. I didn't even have a project in mind for it, I just bought it. I bought a yard of each shade, washed and folded it, and put in with my fabrics. This was a couple of years ago.

I had not done anything with it because, well, it didn't fit in with anything else I was doing. And then, suddenly, late last fall, I knew what I was going to do with this pink pink fabric. It was one of those moments when projects suddenly come to life, and the fabric, patterns, etc. make sense together. I started making it immediately. The project went quickly, as this type of project will. I picked an easy straightforward pattern, since the fabric was so...powerful, and the ease of square pieces helped the pace. But more than that, it was the nature of the project.
Here's what I made:
And a close up:

The black swirly fabric, and the white polka dot fabric, came from my stash, and were left over from different projects. They just seemed to go together.
I also used the polka dot quilt on the backing, to add cohesion between front and back, using it as a border around a red print:
The project took a while to finish, however. I was working on it when my father's health took a dive, and I put it aside while I made him This quilt.
But last week I finished the pink quilt, and was pleased with it. It is a bit over a yard squared, and would be perfect for somebody's little princess of a baby girl. I don't know anybody having one of those any time soon, but I'm sure I'll find a home for it sooner or later.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Variations on Monsters

A few weeks ago I posted about this quilt:
When my youngest daughter saw this she asked for one of her own. I was able to get some more fabric and I made her a quilt from it. This:

And a couple of close ups:

The challenge with this one was to have the two quilts "feel" different even though the main fabric was the same. For my daughter's quilt I chose bold purple and blues, which she likes, and created multiple borders around each panel. The original fabric has the thin black border and the first light blue one. After that I added 3 more, and then the sashing iin a different purple.

The quilt measures 55 x 55 and so is too large for a simple backing in a single length of fabric. So, I did one of my favorite things to do and made the quilt reversible, with patchwork on both sides.

Here is what the back of the quilt looks like:

I used more of those bold colors she likes so much, and the white and black fabric out of which I made curtains for an earlier incarnation of my study. Yay for re-purposing fabric!
I gave this to my daughter and it is now her favorite couch quilt.
Next up, making a THIRD quilt from the monsterish fabric, for my husband, who also fell in love with the fabric.