09 Feb

Improv Handbook: The Process

Last year I volunteered to be a test quilter for Sherri Lynn Wood’s upcoming book The Improv Handbook (it will debut at QuiltCon and be available through Amazon on March 17th). What appealed to me in Sherri’s proposal was that the book would not have specific how-to patterns, but would inspire makers to create their own designs based on inspirational “scores.” Examples in the book were to be in a range of styles and experience levels. Ultimately, my quilt did not make it into the book, but I thoroughly enjoyed making it — and only wish I had had more time to commit to the process because the more I worked on the score, the more options emerged. I could have easily made three quilts from the ideas that were spurred by the prompts in the Flying Geese score I was assigned.

So, here’s a glimpse of how I made my quilt “Nene” (named for the state bird of Hawai’i which happens to be a type of goose).
The begining
I chose fabrics based on a favorite painting in the room where I was likely to use the quilt.

Kunia Painting



Sewing a Flying Geese block
Then I made a bunch of flying Geese blocks (without measuring or using rulers).


Flying Geese block
What if I stretched out the proportions?


Improvisational Flying Geese
What if I “outlined” the geese? I really wish I had made a bunch more of these. As I ran out of time, I wanted to make a whole quilt with just this style block.


Flying Geese blocks
I made lots of geese.


Improv Flying Geese blocks
I made so many that I had lots of leftovers.


"Nene" in progress
I started out thinking I might make an abstracted version of the landscape in the painting.


Improv Dutchman's Puzzle block
But I made some Dutchman’s Puzzle blocks and liked where that was going.


"Nene" quilt in progress
They looked pretty good alternating with solid color blocks. That might be too tame though.


"Nene" quilt
Ultimately my quilt became something between the two ideas. Clusters of more complicated blocks, surrounded by larger swaths of fabric, vaguely reminiscent of a landscape.


“Nene” detail.

I have not seen The Improv Handbook yet, but based on my experience as a test quilter, I am very much looking forward to seeing the final product. I wish Sherri all the best and hope that her book is a smash hit at QuiltCon!


22 Mar

At the Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild

Recently, I joined the Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild. It’s a small group, mostly comprised of knitters, but with a fair amount of weavers, spinners, quilters, sewists, and general fiber enthusiasts. They invited me to share my work at the last meeting for the monthly program. I decided that since I was new here and no one really knew my work, I would present a sort of retrospective, charting my progression from traditional quilter to conceptual artist.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
My first quilt (though not the first finished). Inspired by a weekend in Amish Pennsylvania, designed from the eight pointed star sashing out, and hand quilted. Circa the mid nineteen-nineties.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
In sponge mode — learning and trying on various themes and techniques. Inspired by my daughter’s quirky drawings.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
From my first series, Impressions of Germany. Incorporating traditional blocks and techniques into somewhat pictorial quilts of landscapes and towns. Circa 2006.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
Still trying out various techniques and approaches.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
I still love a good bed quilt!

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
Moving on to houses and roots and starting to find my voice.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
Getting even more personal.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
But always willing to step outside my focus and try something else to see how it might feed back into my main body of work.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
At the point where the story tells me the medium rather than trying to fit specific definitions. The Army Wife is quilts, but it is also embraces embroidery, knitting, felting, and domestic textiles in general.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
I also don’t mind going back to traditional quilt forms — yet giving myself permission to mix it up and leave room for the viewer to discover the story inside.

I brought a lot more quilts, and brief notes to keep me on track. I was a bit nervous that I might drone on, but found that I could talk animatedly about my work and tie it all together quite nicely. I’m confident that the presentation went well.

Thank you Sharon for all the photos!

18 Aug

Bonus Art Content

You’d think there was nothing going on here based on my lack of blogging. Actually, I’ve been immersing myself in art and am therefore spending too much time at the sewing machine and drawing table to blog about it.

Day 2

I promised myself when I moved that I was going to find a life drawing opportunity — both to practice my drawing skills and to expand my practices into something other than just fabric. I mentioned last week that I went to a drawing session at the McGuffey Art Center, and I returned this morning for more. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that my skills are not as rusty as I had expected, and I really like what I came home with today. I don’t know if it’s due to more practice, or if a model with chiseled tennis arms is just easier to draw. Either way, I’ll take it.

Day 1

In a chance coincidence, I also won a free spot in Melanie Testa’s online “Dream Journals” class. She’s given us many different techniques to try and we’ll see where it takes us. I’ve not had much experience with watercolors, so this is a good learning opportunity. Also, it’s got me drawing something every day (in addition to the once a week figure drawing), and you just can’t beat that!

Flower Painting: day 6

If that weren’t enough, the chopped quilt is progressing nicely, and I’ve finally started in on another apron.

Another Apron

This one has a ton of machine embroidery which requires me not to actually do much, but to be ever present to swap threads or repeat the motif before the laptop goes to sleep and severs the connection to the sewing machine. So, I’ve been working on my painting/drawing while sporadically hopping up and down to tend to the embroidery. The kids start school next week, so things could really get moving then!

01 Dec


This time it’s not me teaching, but my very talented friends. Deborah Boschert is one of my fellow Twelve by Twelve members and one of the incredible women who I am proud to include in my Circle of Friends. She is one of 20 artists who are offering a WIDE variety of fabric and stitch workshops coordinated by mixed media artist Alma Stoller.

STITCHED is a collection of 20 online video workshops by 20 talentend fabric artists. Students have access to all 20 workshops and can choose to view and work on the projects any time of the day, any day of the week. Registration opens on Dec 1 and the workshops kick off on Jan 1 and run through June 1. Registration is only $89. Deborah is teaching a workshop titled, “Branches, Buds and Blossoms: A Botanical Fabric Collage.” She includes videos on selecting fabrics, adding surface design, composing and improvisational hand embroidery.

Also part of the STITCHED team is another fellow Twelve, Nikki Wheeler. Nikki’s class will explore her quirky method of backwards quilting, make fabric paper, secretly share dreams and wishes on some fabric beads, and share the big secret of sewing these boxes 100% on the machine.   Plus, she couldn’t resist throwing in some extras, like Treasure Tea Boxes and Nesting Boxes. These are jewels of projects and look like they could become quite addicting!

22 Nov

My Patchwork Class

Begining Quilting and Patchwork at Ho'ae'ae Park

Several times a year, I teach a beginning Patchwork class at my local park. The first class made a sampler quilt; the second a tote bag, pillow cover, and table runner; the third a paper pieced pineapple quilt; and this time, a tote and a baby quilt. My goal with these classes is to give my students some basic patchwork skills that they can expand upon in their own projects, and/or recognize in patterns, and so have the confidence to try the projects that appeal to them.

Jill is learning rotary cutting, and making liberated stars.

Class Project 2

Dez is playing with color. In the foreground is one of Jason’s stars.

Darlene is amazed at how effective the flocked backing of a vinyl table cloth is for laying out blocks and transporting them to and from class.

Trash Bin

And I learn too. With a scrap piece of paper and a little origami skills, a trash bin is always at hand. Kathleen whipped one of these up each day.

Our first project was a lined tote bag with a fused applique of a naupaka flower. The top one is Kathleen’s, to the right is Jason’s, front and center is Darlene’s, and the left one is my sample.

Here’s another Kathleen with her happy Hawai’i print tote.

Class Project 1

Deb made two totes, one for a friend, and the second with my very own Naupaka and Taro print fabrics from Spoonflower, complete with coconut button! I’m going to have to make one of those too.

Class Project 1

Kathleen T’s tote.

Class Project 1

And finally, Katie’s tote made from fabrics she bought in Paris on her summer vacation. Now she’s got a souvenir she can carry with her whenever she wants.

Class Project 2

Our second project was a Star Baby quilt. Fun, liberated stars, and a not-too-big size. Lynn says this top, with it’s puppy print, is for her dogs, but we all think it’s way too cute!

Class Project 2

Jill didn’t quite get her’s finished, but it’s well on it’s way.

Class Project 2

Barbara’s froggy print quilt is going to be extra snuggly since she’s replaced the backing and batting with fleece. We all learned that it’s important to leave a generous amount around the edges as the fleece likes to shift.

Class Project 2

Darlene was the first finished project. She wowed us with her serpentine quilting in metallic thread!

Class Project 2

Naomi fussy cut fabric with a Dresden Plate print for the star centers.

Class Project 2

Kathleen chose an aloha print for her star centers and built her other colors around it. Tying finished the quilt off quickly and now she’s got her very first finished quilt to enjoy.

Class Project 2

Kathleen T’s brightly saturated quilt looks like colorful fish in tropical waters. She even chose a fishy fabric for her backing.

Class Project 2

Katie (our third Kathleen) went for a tropical Christmas theme. She tried using a fancy snowflake embroidery on her machine for her quilting. Not convinced it worked so well on this project, she made a pillow from one star block and outlined it with the snowflakes for a much better effect. Note that Katie adapted the piano key border from the tote in a previous class for the border on this quilt. That’s exactly the kind of skills I want to instill in my students.

Class Project 2

Jason is another of my “advanced” students. He added a liberated half square triangle border, and a pieced backing. He said he loves this easy and affective star pattern and is planning on making star quilts for his whole family (but not necessarily all this year!).

Class Project 3

Since Darlene finished her quilt early, she made a bonus project, the Mod Log table runner. I’ve never seen a version of this I didn’t like, and Darlene’s is no exception. She used a single line of fabrics so everything coordinates perfectly, even though they were scraps from another project

We’re done for now, but everyone is excited to start up a new class on January 23rd. We’ll make the sampler quilt and add some more traditional blocks to our skill library.

23 Aug

Patchwork Class at Ho’ae’ae Park

Back to school means back to Ho’ae’ae Park for cool classes! I really enjoyed the session where we made a tote bag, a pillow, and a table runner. I think everyone felt very productive. we’ve also gotten a good reaction to the Pineapple Log Cabin quilts. So, this session will attempt to bridge both with two projects: a tote and a small quilt.

Naupaka Tote

First we’ll make a lined tote bag with an applique naupaka flower. Since we did needle turn last time, we’ll do fusible this time. I see this project as a chance to get warmed up and acquainted with your sewing machine.

Star Baby Indigo

Then we’ll jump into making a quilt. this is the perfect size for a baby gift, or something to stash in your car or office drawer for impromptu picnics or reading a book at the park or beach on your lunch break (yes, we can do that in Hawai’i). This liberated star is a great block to have in your patchwork toolbox as it doesn’t require great precision, can be made with coordinated fabrics or scraps, scales perfectly, adapts to many aesthetics, and looks great!

Star Baby Kaffe

For those who want to dress it up even more, it can even have extra little bursts here and there.

I’ll be teaching at Ho’ae’ae Community Park in Waipahu (Village Park/Royal Kunia neighborhood). Classes are Monday mornings from 10:00 until 11:30 (ish). Classes start on September 12th, 2011 and run for ten weeks. The fee is a mere $20 though you should bring your own sewing machine and will need to bring your own fabric and basic supplies — which we will talk about on the first day. Registration will be August 25th and 26th at the park. That’s this week!!

Any questions, leave a comment or call Ho’ae’ae Park at 808-676-8832. The address is 94-709 Ka’aholo Street, Waipahu HI for the map savvy.

05 Aug

In Stitches

I am proud to announce that I have an article in Volume 4 of “In Stitches” eMagazine!

By the creators of Quilting Arts magazine, this digital magazine has the advantage of including videos and slide shows with the tutorials, plus taking up a lot less space on your coffee table! My article is about making small art with a big impact using collaged fabrics and crocheted and embroidered details. See how a piece evolves from auditioning fabrics to layering the elements and adding three dimensional stitches and other embellishments. Other volumes of In Stitches include articles by fellow Twelve by Twelve artists Deborah Boschert and Terry Grant, and by circle of friends pal Natalya Aikens (Deborah actually lives in both camps!). Go check it out.

27 Apr

Aloha Pineapple Quilt Along: part 11 — Pau!

Project Introduction here

Part 1 (supplies) here.

Part 2 here.

Part 3 here.

Part 4 here.

Part 5 here.

Part 6 here.

Part 7 here.

Part 8 here.

Part 9 here.

Part 10 here.

“Pau” means “finished” or “done” in Hawaiian and that’s pretty much where we are with our Aloha Pineapple quilts! After tying the three quilt layers together, all that’s left is binding. I’ll post photos of the process below, but there’s already a glut of excellent tutorials on the web, so links may suffice. First though — to the quilts!

Mine looks great on daughter’s bed, but I have a family in mind I’d like to give it to.
Aloha Pineapple Quilt -- finished!

Jason’s turned out great and really honors the Aloha shirts that gave their lives for the project. I hope he enjoys many happy years under this quilt. (You gotta click these photos to see them big.)

Katie’s bold man-quilt will be for her guy when he returns from deployment. What a great reminder it will be of their time here in the islands.

Lynn brought her top, but has the backing and batting already laid out at home so I know she’ll be done soon. Her’s is a gift for a friend who loves the soft, country colors. I hope that it too, provides years of enjoyment.

I am so incredibly proud of my students. Deb and Kathleen are still working diligently on their quilts and I can’t wait to see their finished masterpieces. We’re already talking about the next class in September. We are going back to a variation of the last project class. It will probably be a pillow and a tote or table runner. One applique project and one pieced project. Yo-yos will be involved. When I teach these classes, my main goal is to familiarize my students with some basic construction skills so that when they see a pattern in a magazine or store, they can say, “that’s applique and I do/do not like that,” or “I see the half square triangles in that design and am confident I could do that,” or “paper piecing sounds daunting, but I actually like it.” What really excites me is when my students take the skills I’ve taught them and branch out on their own.

Katie and I put our heads together to enlarge the half square triangle pillow and make an Aloha baby quilt for a fellow service member and new mom:
Aloha Baby Quilt

Flush with her baby-quilt-making skills Katie also went off on her own and whipped out this blue pineapple quilt for another baby friend:

Jason’s working on a quilt for his niece who’s about to have a baby too. Pink, brown, and butterflies were his instruction. It’s gonna be adorable when done!

So, on to the binding. I usually just cut 2.5″ wide strips from the width of my fabric and sew them end to end (at a 45° angle to reduce bulk), but I hear anecdotally that bias binding wears better in the long run. Marcia Hohn’s Quilter’s Cache (a great resource in and of itself)  has a nice tutorial for both methods and two ways to sew the binding on as well.

Start with a square of fabric and put two pins in opposite sides. Cut the fabric on one diagonal.
Continuous binding 1

Pin together those two sides with the pins, right sides together, and sew with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
Continuous binding 2

Starting on one long side, mark the wrong side of your fabric with the desired width of your binding (I like 2.5″). I use pencil on light fabric and chalk liner on dark fabric. If you have a skinny strip left at the top, just cut it off.
Continuous binding 3

Pin the two short ends together, lining up your drawn lines, but offset by one row. Also be sure you are lining up the lines not at the edge of teh fabric, but 1/4″ down, where the seam will be sewn. Sew with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Continuous binding 4

Starting with one of the off-set end rows, cut along your marked lines to make a continuous strip of bias binding like magic!
Continuous binding 5

Iron your strip in half and you are ready to sew it on to your quilt.
Continuous binding 6

I like french binding sewn on with mitered corners. It looks good and it pretty much the default method. Heather Bailey has a nice graphic tutorial here. She talks about glamorous corners, and I have to say, I think mine are more glamorous these days, but that’s just years of practice. The more accurate you are at the corners, the more square they will be.

To sew your binding on, first mark or trim your edges nice and straight and make sure your corners are square. I was confident that the edges and corners of my quilt top were where they wanted, so they are my guide. The batting and backing are left rough so that they don’t accidentally pull back and not get sewn into the binding on the back of the quilt. If I do have to trim the top of a quilt, I tend to cut all three layers since, in general, your quilting will hold everything in place. Align the raw edges of your binding strip with the raw edges, or marked line, of your quilt top. Start somewhere in the center of one side. Leave about a 6″ “tail” and sew 1/4″ from the edge. I’d basted my border 1/4″ from the edge, so I moved my needle position a few clicks to the left to make sure I would hide that basting in the seam allowance. Oh, and if you have a walking foot for your machine, now is the time to use it! Stop sewing 1/4″ from the corner (see my pin). The more accurate this stop is, the more glamorous your corner will be.
Sewing Binding 1

Pull the quilt out from under your needle, but you don’t necessarily have to cut the thread — just give yourself a little room to work. Fold the binding away from the quilt making a 45° angled fold. The raw edges of the binding will now continue the line of the next edge of the quilt.
Sewing Binding 2

Fold that binding back onto the next side of your quilt, making sure the fold aligns with the raw edges of the first side. It will cover up that pretty little 45° fold underneath.
Sewing Binding 3

Rotate your quilt 90° and continue sewing your binding, starting from the fold, along this next side of the quilt.
Sewing Binding 4

Continue around your quilt like this until you approach where you started. Stop about 10,” or even a bit more, from where you started and remove the quilt from your sewing machine — this time cutting the threads. Lay your binding tails smooth on your quilt top and overlap them. Cut the end of one tail square, and cut the other one so that their overlap is the width of your unfolded binding (in this case 2.5″).
Sewing Binding 5

Pin those squared binding ends, right sides together, at right angles.
Sewing Binding 6

Sew corner to corner across that overlapped box of binding. Test it to make sure you sewed across the correct diagonal before you cut off the excess fabric!
Sewing Binding 7

Trim excess fabric 1/4″ from your seam line and finger press the seam open.
Sewing Binding 8

Fold the biding back in half and sew this last section onto the quilt. You’re now done with the sewing machine work.
Sewing Binding 9

Cut off any excess batting and backing, leaving a nice 1/4″-ish of quilt material in the binding seam allowance. Fold the folded edge of the binding over to the back side of your quilt and sew it down by hand near or on the machine stitched seam using a blind stitch. Some people machine stitch this too, and Ricky Tims has a very schamncy way of doing this, but I like the clean, invisible hand sewn method and find it a quiet way to spend and evening or two on the couch.
Sewing Binding 10

When you get to the corners, sew your first side down all the way out into the seam allowance of the next side, making that boat-like angle fold as close to 45° as possible. Folding over the next side will bring that angle over what you’ve just sewn down and should make a nice mitered look both on the front and on the back. Tack that fold down and then continue on blind stitching the next side. I think that traditional quilt show competitions want that miter tacked down on the front side too, but I never bother since they seem to hold up just as well for me this way and I like to just power away at sewing the back side down.

Your quilt has been handled a lot at this point and might want to be washed. I use the gentle cycle on my top-load machine, cold water, and a textile friendly soap like Eucalan. A bed quilt I will more often than not put in the dryer too, on a low-ish heat and finish off the drying outside on the rack. An art quilt that has surface design that can’t handle the stress of the machines, I will soak in the tub and dry flat on towels on the floor.

Enjoy your quilt — you are PAU!