He’s Here, He’s Here (Again): It’s Christmas in July at SHWS!

Pattern-J:  Santa Smiles by JenniferSeriously, Jennifer? Christmas in July?  It’s +90º outside!

Yes! It’s time to get started. As I was super late delivering the Santa Smiles Tree Skirt pattern last year, I thought I’d throw this out to you well before the holidays.

Available in Print Today: Santa Smiles!

I’ve finally got the print version of the pattern instructions ready for industrious Christmas elves!  Yeah!

You’ll be delighted to know that the instructions come with a full set of the paper-piecing patterns:  3 Santas + 3 trees!  FYI:  I’ve priced Santa Smiles to include shipping to the U.S., to Canada, and to international quilters wherever you may be.

Click the image below or visit our Pattern Library to learn more.

Pattern-J:  Santa Smiles announcementCheck it Out:  Santa Goes Mod & Shakes Up Christmas Decor

Pattern-J:  Santa Smiles by MarnieLast Christmas, I had an opportunity to teach Santa Smiles at my local quilt shop, Wooden Gate Quilts in Danville, California. It’s always a treat to see how quilters take on one of my patterns and how they express their aesthetic through their fabric choices. Imagine my surprise when an intrepid novice quilt maker flashed an array of charcoals, silvery tones, icy blues, and whites.

Wow! Why didn’t I think of that? I was seriously intrigued by Marnie Durbin’s choices and by Marnie herself. She’d only made one enormous quilt, a minimalist design that she machine pieced and quilted on a smallish sewing machine, before tackling the tree skirt. I tell ya, I was awed by her derring-do, and seriously impressed by her speed, tenacity, and workmanship.

Pattern-J:  Santa Smiles by Marnie

Then, when you put all the silvery blue and gray blocks together, you get a rather fabulous and daring tree skirt.

Pattern-J:  Santa Smiles by Marnie

Can you believe it’s only the second quilted project Marnie’s sewn and machine quilted?Yowza!

I’m throwing in my version below so you can see that Santa Smiles tree skirt can be interpreted in classic and novel ways.

Pattern-J:  Santa Smiles by Jennifer

Giveaway Results Here

Definitely, keep Kleenex handy when you read the comments from my Tuesday post. You are all generous, loving, wonderful quilters and I sniffled my way through all your stories. Do you suppose we could create a peaceful world if we gave handmade quilts to everyone? “Here ya go, wrap up in this beautiful quilt and take it down a notch or three!”

Congratulations to Annette R., Diane Linker, and Sheila at License to Quilt, the winners of the Heart Strings pattern.

Add a stitch for a better world . . . Peace Out! Image-J:  Peace Out








Quilt-Along Panel 2 for Blackbirds & Blossoms Oh-La-La!

                                         Panel 2 (A) applique  Panel 2(B) applique

We are halfway done with round 2 of our Quilt-Along, Blackbirds & Blossoms Oh-La-La! I hope you are having as much fun as we are with this project. In case you haven’t realized it yet, this quilt was designed to help embrace your own style and creativity. Use us as your starting point, then let your own ideas lead the way!

Haven’t started yet? It’s not too late! All the instructions are listed in the Patterns Page  Come on, join in the fun!

Panel 2(A) cropped

Side Panels 2(A) and 2(B) give you even more opportunity for you to “play”. Your fabric choices will help determine the flow of your final layout. If there are dark or busy fabrics, balance them by calmer or lighter fabrics as their neighbors. If they are too busy, try layering to add or remove interest. Remember, variety, variety, variety!

Panel 2 (A) appliquePanel 2(B) applique

Panels 2(A) and 2(B) are designed with a bit more layers and blossoms. All supply lists, cutting instructions and how-to’s, can be found on the Side Panel Info Sheet and the panel 2(A) and 2(B) appliqué sheets. Let’s get started!

Panel 2(A)         Panel 2(B)

And that my friend, concludes round 2 of our Quilt-Along! Be sure to share photos with us on our SHWS Facebook page and I will pin them to our Quilt-Along Pinterest Board!

If you would like a few tips on raw edge appliqué, hop over to my website to read my rants on how I worked through my fear of this technique: Confessions of a Veteran Quilter.

Still not wanting to commit to the whole project? On Friday, I will be showing you a weekend project that I have been working on that uses all of the techniques in a simple wool appliqué project. It is so fun!!!!!

See you Friday!

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Quilting Wisdom: Collected Thoughts from See How We Sew

Probably one of the nicest aspects of sewing arts is our tradition of sharing knowledge and expertise. As we absolutely love to spread quilt making, sewing, and crafting know-how, here’s a few lessons and insights picked up by your “quilting sisters” at See How We Sew:

Inspiration-J:  Thread

Best piece of quilting advice you ever got?

Darra: It was a quote I saw in American Quilter magazine, probably in the late ’80s, in an article written by Joen Wolfrom. In it she said: “A finished quilt which has no imperfections, artistically or technically, is one that was created within the quilter’s comfort zone. No significant learning will take place when we stay in this safe place.”

I had never met Joen, but this quote struck an enormous chord with me.  I copied it down and taped it on the wall of my sewing room. When I began to travel and teach, I carried the quote with me and read it at the beginning of almost every workshop.

In 1993, I found myself teaching at a quilting event in Northern Virginia. Joen was one of the other teachers. We connected almost immediately, and—over the past almost-20 (!) years—have become close personal, as well as professional, friends. To this day, I still continue to try something new—however small—with every quilt I make.

Jennifer:  My bit of gathered advice is really a visual lesson I picked up back in the days when I did Publicity at C&T Publishing.  I came across, to my mind, one of the most insanely compulsive quilting titles ever, Stripes in Quilts by Mary Mashuta. I was dumbfounded by the attention to striped detail she displayed:  every striped block or strip was fussy cut to the nth degree for perfect matches. The resulting quilts were masterful, but I seriously doubted I would go down that road with my own quilts. Ah well, the years pass, experience grows, and a sense of craftsmanship blooms. All told, that book delivered a serious lesson in respecting a fabric’s print design–I think, I look, and I plan before I cut!

Laura: I often find myself in a stuck spot with either color and/or design. Years ago I remember my co-author Diana McClun telling me that if I was not pleased with my design it was often a matter of value. I always keep this thought in the back of my mind and try to include a variety of light, medium, and dark-colored fabrics. When I remember to listen to this advice, I am always happier with the results.

Pati: The best advice I ever got came in the form of a question while I was stressing over perfect center points on very small Lemoyne Stars. “When you are finished, and it is quilted and sitting on your lap, will you really care if it doesn’t have perfect points?” I go back to this each time I am worrying over something–quilting-related or not!

Inspiration-J:  Thread still lifeFavorite quilt book(s) for inspiration?

Darra: Any of the Quilt National books. Other favorites include Fabric Gardens: An International Exhibition of Quilts at Expo ’90 (catalog for a Japanese exhibit that traveled to The Dairy Barn in Athens, OH), Patchwork Pictures (the work of British fiber artist Edrica Huws), Landscape in Contemporary Quilts by Ineke Berlyn, and Quilts in Bloom (Blumen der Mainau; catalog for an exhibit in Germany).

Jennifer: Anything by Ruth McDowell—she’s a genius after all. Kaffe Fassett’s early hardback books with the photography by Steve Lovi are among my favorites for eye candy, I like the newer ones as well, but the original ones set the standard.

Laura: I often start with either Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns or Jinny Beyer’s The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns. I enjoy tweeking and changing some of the traditional patterns to suit my needs.

Pati: The Ultimate Quilting Book by Maggi McCormick Gordon. I curl up on the couch on a regular basis with this book for historical inspiration. I also tend to go to Folk Art and Textile books for inspiration. One of my favorites is Ralli Quilts – Traditional Textiles from Pakistan and India by Patricia Ormsby Stoddard.

QQQ3 cover

Book that most influenced you as a new quilter?

Darra: Pieces of the Past by Marsha McCloskey and Nancy Martin was a big one for me. I collected antique quilts before I became a quilter, and have been very inspired by them right from the start . . . especially scrap quilts. I was also very drawn to The Scrap Look by Jinny Beyer, Calico and Beyond by Roberta Horton, and Threads of Time by Nancy Martin. There have been tons of books written on scrap quilts since, but I still go back to these classics, over and over. From the first day I started teaching, Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! has always been my #1 recommendation for new quilters.

Jennifer: An old McCall’s series (1980’s) on quilting—my starting point—and then Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! of course.  Imagine my surprise, the authors are now my friends!

Laura: Shortly after learning to quilt, I was fortunate enough to spend 5 days at a quilting seminar with Mary Ellen Hopkins. She taught out of her book It’s OK if You Sit on My Quilt. The book was chockfull of patterns and techniques. I wanted to make every one. The seminar and book inspired me to share my new found passion with others in the classroom.

Pati: Definitely, the first edition of Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! by our own, Laura Nownes and Diana McClun. This was my first quilting book I had ever purchased. I referred to it so many times for myself or to teach others, that I wore it out!


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Improvisational Scrap Busting – French Style

I have spent the past two months finishing all the forgotten quilt projects I can possibly manage. This has been great for clearing my sewing room, checking off the to-do’s on my list, and giving me hope that I can actually start some new projects soon. There is a downside to all of this, though. My scrap collection grew from a pile into a basket, which then turned into a bin that overflowed onto the floor.

Just a small sample of my overflowing scraps. I keep this little basket next to my cutting mat.

Today, I dealt with this irritating problem. It took 2 1/2 hours, but I picked through, sorted, cut, and folded. I then gave everything a proper home. For the most part, I sorted things by color or favorite fabric style–ala Kaffe, solids, hand dyed, or dots and stripes. Scraps are trimmed into a variety of sizes for squares or strips and stored in drawers. The bits and pieces get tossed. How do you sort and store your leftovers?

get-attachment (1)
Leftover scraps of French and French inspired fabrics.

But then there are the fabrics that I adore so much, that it is hard to part with even the tiniest scrap. Today, that would be my French fabric collection. The colors and prints are so cheery in French fabrics. I just love to work with them. They are always a bit harder to find, which makes me want to use every inch of fabric possible. One of my favorite vendors is French Connection. They have an amazing collection of French prints and are usually at a few quilt shows that I attend.

get-attachment (2)
A block exchange project using the Bushel Basket Quilt block by Edyta Star, from Laundry Basket Quilts.

There is a fun little block I am making for a group exchange. It has little 1″ strips. We are using up Civil War reproduction scraps. The blocks are quick to make and work really well mixing oodles of prints. Tiny, but really cute. This got me thinking . . .


I could get another project out of my French scraps if I just cut them into 1″ strips!


What if my blocks were different sizes and shapes? That way I could use up as much of the scraps as possible! I started with a 2″ x 2 1/2″ center (because that is what I had). Since they are so small, maybe I could offset them with crisp white alternating blocks.


Uh-oh. I think I just started another project. Better get to work!

Happy Valentines Day all!

Authentic French Alpine Hearts Cotton Print

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I like it/I don’t . . . I like it/I don’t . . . Tackling The Quilt-Making Seesaw

What a coincidence, I'm using a Carolyn Friedlander stripe in my quilt.
What a coincidence, I’m using a Carolyn Friedlander stripe in my quilt.

Despite fighting the flu, I did start 2014 in a fever (ha-ha) of industry. So far, I’ve made one quilt, plus I finished a little quilted portrait of my mother. Then, I segued into a quilt for my own use, but I’ve gotten a little stuck. Frankly, this quilt is starting to resemble a Seinfeld character—do you remember Jerry’s date who looked beautiful in full light but downright scary in the gloom? That’s my quilt!  (2/1/14:  See my edit below!)

The quilt that livings on the floor of the guest-room-in-the-making.
The quilt that lives on the floor of a guest-room-in-the-making.

As it happens, I’ve got the half-sewn project spread across the floor of a room we’re slowly transforming into guest quarters. I tend to like the quilt when the light catches the colors just right as I pause in the open doorway. But then, if I stop to tweak, I lay into myself with negative critiques:  should’ve done this; maybe change that; this is so gag-worthy–a pretty standard hyper-critical interior monologue.

The “quilting” reality we face as we build our quilts is that every design decision we take both closes and opens opportunities. To illustrate:  I elected a simple format of purple crosses set in plain background for high contrast. Then I mottled the background with 4-patches made with multiple neutral prints for a textured effect.

Yeah, fine, I did that, but the BIG but is the quilt isn’t that interesting now that it’s partially sewn. (By the way, one could avoid this whole mind-spinning rigamarole by actually drafting a colored schematic, which I did not do because I thrive on half-baked ideas.) Where do I go? Well, I guess I’m left with devising an answer that doesn’t require  tearing out seams. Time to get creative and open myself up to other ideas.

When all else fails, add miniaturized design details.
When all else fails, add miniaturized design details.

Okay, how about scattering mini crosses around the perimeter of the quilt? Yup, that’s one part of the solution. The other I’ll reveal in the quilting phase. It may answer the challenge of adding visual interest when the finished quilt top is pretty much a done deal.

Quilt-J:  Detail Crosses Quilt
Yes, that dark purple mini cross on the bottom right has to move.

Giveaway Results

Ah, yes, giveaway results. I must tell you how much I enjoyed the comments. Do you realize how many of us love “crisp” fabric?  Everyone as it turns out. And, interestingly, virtually every one of us would sacrifice chocolate for fabric. Too funny! I’m also tickled to see how you too are embracing Carolyn Friedlander’s fabric and patterns. New voices in the craft are so exciting to experience and share.  The giveaway winner is Elizabeth Clark. Congratulations!

Other News for Bay Area Locals

My blogging sister Pati has a fun class coming up in Danville, CA. Don’t forget, she’s also spearheading the effort to build an Indie Modern Quilt group on Thursday, February 6. Both events are slated for Wooden Gate Quilts.

2nd Dresden promo
For more information click the picture to travel to Pati’s blog.

Until next time, may your seams be straight and all your fabric extra “crisp”!


p.s.  You’ve been very generous with your suggestions. I did a casual edit last night and will probably follow the new route–lots of seam ripping in my future. Thank you, thank you for your input.

Oh yes, I much happier quilt now that I'm abandoning the color-value layout.
Oh yes, a much happier quilt now that I’m abandoning the color-value layout.

2013 Craftsy BOM: A Year in Designing (+ 3 FREE Book Offers)

craftsy quiltThis post is for all of you Craftsy students who have been waiting patiently for a final post on the 2013 BOM class. For those of you not participating in the class, I hope you will bear with us and perhaps find some inspiration and helpful hints to use in your own quiltmaking.

When I was asked to teach the Craftsy class, my goal was to include a variety of beginning to intermediate techniques while demonstrating the monthly blocks. In doing so, I selected some of my favorites. I initially liked the fact that the finished sizes varied, which could provide a potentially interesting and random setting. I make no excuses, but the time constraints in pulling off this class in such a short time frame became quite a challenge! When all was said and done, I felt great about the lessons, but was never quite pleased with the quilt’s final setting. One of my favorite sayings comes from the movie Little Big Man, when the actor, Chief Dan George, says “Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn’t.” My students, though, did have great success with their projects.  If you would like to photos of the student projects, you can view them here.

This past year, I have made a second set of blocks and decided this time to keep the setting simple. My first step is to put the blocks up on the design wall, in no particular order, just to view what exactly I will be working with.

All of the blocks from the 2013 Craftsy BOM.
All of the blocks from the 2013 Craftsy BOM.

The original setting I presented in my Craftsy class was a bit disjointed due to the variety in block sizes. With these new blocks, I have decided on a traditional 3 x 3 setting. Note that I have made an extra Spring Blooms block and grouped all of the half-square triangles together. Since the Star block in the upper-right corner is the largest block, I will use its size as a guide for making the remaining eight blocks. I don’t want to talk specific measurements because the reality is that we each can have our own personal finished sizes. Please don’t worry if yours measures differently from the “desired finished size.” Now is the time to level the playing field by making them all measure the same.

Let’s play around a bit with the blocks and see how they might be combined or enlarged to work into this setting. The Log Cabin blocks (bottom row, center) definitely need some work. I combined them with an extra Strippy Spool block (bottom row, left) to see the effect. I like the look and decided to insert a floral fabric into the alternate spaces to complete the block.

One Strippy Spool block combined with the Log Cabin blocks.
One Strippy Spool block combined with the Log Cabin blocks.
Floral fabric added to empty spaces to complete the block.
Floral fabric added to empty spaces to complete the block.

Next, I enlarged the Basket block. Since the half-square triangles didn’t fit evenly along the sides, I simply added a small strip of fabric to match the end triangle to the end of each row. This doesn’t bother me, but if it does you, consider adding a strip of the background or other fabric to the edges of the block before attaching the half-square triangles. There are always multiple options available, so I encourage you to take some time to experiment. Taking photos along the way can also be very helpful. During the design process, I am constantly asking myself “what if?” and then I try something else. It may take multiple tries before it feels just right.

BasketI joined five of the Strippy Spools blocks (lower-left corner) together on point with setting triangles. I first trimmed my blocks to measure 7-1/4″ square and oversized the setting triangles, giving me some play room with the finished size. I always like having a little extra to trim away if needed.

Five Strippy Spool blocks set on point with setting triangles.
Five Strippy Spool blocks set on point with setting triangles.

The Spring Bloom blocks are easy to join together. They are still a bit too small for the overall setting, so I plan to add a narrow frame around the sewn block to bring it to size.

Four Spring Bloom Blocks.
Four Spring Bloom Blocks.

Finally, I have an abundance of half-square triangles and flying-geese units to play with. There are many, many wonderful designs you can make with these. Here is one I have selected for this quilt.


At this point, I have nine larger blocks, all relatively the same size. I will make any necessary adjustments by adding frames and strips to size them consistently.

I recently found this beautiful ombre fabric by Daiwabo for E.E. Schenck Company and just love how it plays with the blocks. My plan is to join the blocks together with sashing strips using this fabric.


Any leftover flying-geese and/or half-square-triangle units can be used as borders.

I hope this has been helpful for those of you waiting to put your blocks together.

On another note, we here at SHWS have a special offer for three interested readers.

Book Review Announcement

The winner of Chris Porter’s book, Quilts Beneath Your Feet, from Darra’s Friday post is Mrs. Plum. Congratulations!

Until next time, happy creating everyone.


A California Quilter Crosses the Pond: Part 2–A Feast of Stitching Inspiration (+ Giveaway)

Giveaway-GoldThe jet lag may be history, but I’m still bubbling with inspiration from my recent “holiday” in the UK. In addition to the Autumn Quilt Festival Malvern, which I shared in my Tuesday post, the trip provided a feast of ideas for future stitching projects. Sunday saw us off to London with our hosts Neil and Chris Porter.

Off to London, via Paddington Station!
Off to London, via Paddington Station!

Of course, we took tons of photos, including the expected . . .

The gates of Buckingham Palace
The gates of Buckingham Palace
Big Ben towering over the Houses of Parliament
Big Ben towering over the Houses of Parliament

. . . but there was plenty of the unexpected, too. Look here, look there–ideas for stitching everywhere! We hadn’t even left the station before the show began. The gorgeous archways and metalwork of Paddington Station were rife with potential for applique and quilting.

Paddington Station
Paddington Station

Once on the street, the show continued.

Wouldn't this make a great quilting or border design?
Wouldn’t this make a great quilting or border design?

And then, of course, the museums . . .

More inspiring metalwork in the Victoria & Albert Museum
More inspiring metalwork in the Victoria & Albert Museum
I can see the beginnings of a Modern Quilt in these stained glass windows at the V&A.
I can see the beginnings of a Modern Quilt in these stained glass windows at the V&A.
Medallion inspiration; one of many beautiful mosaic floors at the V&A. Note the tiny nine patches.
Medallion inspiration; one of many beautiful mosaic floors at the V&A. Note the tiny nine patches.
Here's another.
Here’s another.
Looking for a border?
Looking for a border?
How about this one?
How about this one?
There's patchwork inspiration in the floors at the V&A as well.
There’s patchwork inspiration in the floors at the V&A as well.
More from the V&A
More from the V&A
Another border idea
Another border idea

Later in the week, we ventured out deep into the Cotswolds, for a day at Sudeley Castle, (final home and resting place of Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII) and another through the Mendips for visit to the historic–and exquisite–Wells Cathedral.

Medieval ruins on the site of Sudeley
Medieval ruins on the site of Sudeley
Reflecting pool at Sudeley, near the chapel housing the tomb of Katherine Parr
Reflecting pool at Sudeley, near the chapel housing the tomb of Katherine Parr
Wells Cathedral, west view
Wells Cathedral, west view
Vicars' Close, Wells
Vicars’ Close, Wells

There was lots to inspire at both . . .

The incredible vaulted ceiling at the Chapter House, Wells Cathedral
The incredible vaulted ceiling at the Chapter House, Wells Cathedral
Worn gray cobblestones in a grassy green grid; more Modern Quilt inspiration?
Worn gray cobblestones in a grassy green grid; more Modern Quilt inspiration?
Late flowers bloom in the gardens at Sudeley
Late flowers bloom in the gardens at Sudeley
Recreation of a Roman mosaic on the Sudeley grounds
Recreation of a Roman mosaic on the Sudeley grounds
More patchwork floors to inspire, this one at Sudeley
More patchwork floors to inspire, this one at Sudeley

When it comes to the relationship between tile floors and quilts, I couldn’t have had a better guide than my hostess, Chris Porter. Chris has made dozens (hundreds?) of quilts based on the decorative floor tiles not only of the UK, but throughout Europe as well.

Chris with her quilt Venetian Celebration (104" x 104"), inspired by the floor tiles of St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice
Chris with her quilt Venetian Celebration (104″ x 104″), inspired by the floor tiles of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice

book cover 2She has also written a number of books on the subject, the first of which–originally published as Quilt Designs from Decorative Floor Tiles–has recently been re-released in paperback with a new cover and new title, Quilts Beneath Your Feet.The book includes complete instructions for ten quilts in both “traditional” and alternative colorways, along with a Block and Border Library so that you can create your own tile-inspired designs. Here are a few of the beautiful project quilts.

Turning the Corner by Christine Porter; inspired by floor tiles in a chemist shop (pharmacy) in the Lake District.
Turning the Corner by Christine Porter; inspired by floor tiles in a chemist shop (pharmacy) in the Lake District.
Terracotta Flower Garden (34 1/2" x 34 1/2") made by Christine Porter; inspired by floor tiles in the parish church in Kendal, UK
Terracotta Flower Garden (34 1/2″ x 34 1/2″) made by Christine Porter; inspired by floor tiles in the parish church in Kendal, UK
Lightning Strike (40" x 60") made by Christine Porter; inspired by the floor tiles in Bristol Cathedral
Lightning Strike (40″ x 60″) made by Christine Porter; inspired by the floor tiles in Bristol Cathedral
Turn of the Season (57" x 70") made by Christine Porter; inspired by the floor tiles in All Saints Church, Bristol
Turn of the Season (57″ x 70″) made by Christine Porter; inspired by the floor tiles in All Saints Church, Bristol
Scottish Fantasia (40" x 40") made by Christine Porter; inspired by floor tiles in St. Anderw's Catherdral, Inverness, Scotland
Scottish Fantasia (40″ x 40″) made by Christine Porter; inspired by floor tiles in St. Anderw’s Catherdral, Inverness, Scotland

Now for the GIVEAWAY! Leave a comment telling us the most inspiring place you’ve ever visited by noon (PDT), Monday, November 2, and you’ll be eligible to receive a copy of Chris’s book, Quilts Beneath Your Feet. Don’t delay! Laura will announce the winner in her Tuesday, November 3 post.

One final note before I sign off. Laura, Jennifer, Pati, and I would like to thank all of our loyal readers who voted for us in the 2013 Craftsy Blogger Awards competition. Although we weren’t among the winners in the final tally, we appreciate your support and hope you’ll continue to visit us regularly here at See How We Sew. You can see the list of winners by clicking here. Congratulations all!

That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching!Darra-signature

The (Not So) Humble 9-Patch

I have been clearing out a few projects in my sewing room the past few months. A lot of them have to do with leftover blocks from block exchanges I’d participated in with my group of quilting friends.  To be specific, a lot of them happen to be 9-patches–in every size and color combo you could imagine. I have come up with some fun quilts from all my leftovers. Now I am just waiting for some cooler weather, so I that I feel like sewing on bindings!

DSC00255 I had a collection of multi-colored 9-patches and a lot of tone-on-tone scraps.  I really love the way this turned out!


I found a few leftover Ohio Stars that were the same size as my nine patches–sheer luck!

With all these 9-patches floating around my studio, I did a little research on this humble little block. Come to find out, the nine patch design came out of necessity in the Pioneer days. Here is an excerpt that Molly Williams, textile artist, writes in this informative article in Pattern Observer from 2012:

Vintage Nine Patch Postage Stamp Antique Quilt – Circa 1890

The 9-patch quilt  “It was the change in construction, from pieced medallions to 9-patch blocks that revolutionized American quilting. While bed-size quilts required a lot of room to piece, pieced patterns could be assembled in a relatively small space and easily carried until stitched together.

The Oregon Trail opened up the American West, where settlers carved out a life for themselves in the harsh wilderness. Quilts were made on the wagon and in the dugout and things of beauty were created from scraps of old clothing and feed sacks. Patterns, such as windmill blades, barn raising, straight furrow and court house steps, developed from the landscape.” Read more

Just a side note: if you are interested in fabric design, consider following Pattern Observer. Author, Michelle Fifis, is an incredible source of information on the subject. I am just finishing up an amazing 8-week course with her and have learned soooo much!

The first known 9-patch quilts date back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. I find that fascinating when you see that today’s quilters still rely on this simple design to create contemporary quilts.


There are so many blocks that were influenced by the 9-patch in their initial designs. And, of course, our modern quilters of today are looking at the 9-patch design with a whole new perspective!

Love Kristen Takakuwa’s version of  blocks from The Farmer’s Wife.
Blue Wrenches by Terri Carpenter of The Quilted Fox – So Cool!
Jenny Pedigo‘s Urban Nine Patch – Absolutely Stunning!

So maybe the 9-patch isn’t so humble afterall. I think we should give this little block the honor it deserves–I think I will start calling it The Honorable 9-Patch!

Check out my Pinterest Board to see just a small sampling of the design versatility this simple block offers.

Oh! A few announcements:

Vote For Me Blogger Badge
Vote Here!

Yay Laura!

Our blog has made it into the next round of the Best Craftsy Instructor Blog category!

If you have not already voted, we would truly appreciate your vote–you will be entered for a chance to win a free class of your choice with Craftsy.

Craftsy will announce the winners and runners up on October 29th.

Also, just a reminder for our Northern California quilters, be sure to visit:

Pacific International Quilt Festival XXII

October 17 – 20, 2013
Santa Clara Convention Center
Santa Clara, California

Hope to see you in Santa Clara!


New York Beauty Quilts – Finding Inspiration in our Past

DSC00038Last Sunday, I was fortunate enough to attend an opening reception at the San Jose Quilt Museum for its new exhibit; Collecting New York Beauty Quilts: Bill Volckening’s Passion. It was extraordinary.

Bill Volckening is a self described quilt magnet: he claims that great quilts find him, as if by a magnetic force. Although Bill did not start out having an interest in quilts, a girl he dated did. She invited him to a private quilt show in New York with quilt collector, Shelly Zegart. He instantly fell in love with the beloved New York Beauty pattern. That was in 1989.

DSC00075The Volckening Collection now includes more than 250 quilts from the 18th to the 21st centuries. Bill has a wonderful blog, Willy Wonky Quilts and has written about the exhibit in San Jose.

DSC00063I loved hearing the personal stories he shared related to the quilts in his collection. It was also extremely interesting to learn the trends that came and went through the years in regard to fabric choices, style of patterns, and techniques. But I will be honest with you, I spent most of the time mesmerized at how these beautiful quilts, some of which were circa the 1850’s and 1860’s, had such a graphic impact. They could pass as examples of today’s Modern Quilts.

I saw so many similar elements. There were chevrons; there were solids; and there were expansive backgrounds of white. Most did not display a secondary pattern in the design, just simple, beautiful, exquisite technique.

DSC00046 I went to this exhibit expecting to enjoy a traditional piece of quilt history. I certainly didn’t expect to be inspired to push my skills even further into the realm of Modern Quilting–I was most definitely inspired.


DSC00067Notice the quilting on this sunny yellow gem!


DSC00055Love the lime green and pink pin dots!


DSC00052Beautiful color combinations.


DSC00060Teeny tiny points.


DSC00057This is an interesting one. I love the squared-off points.

DSC00074My absolute favorite in the collection.

DSC00080I love this color combination–make a note of this, Pati.

DSC00092Mad skills on these points!

DSC00082Look how the points are turned in! So creative!

As always, I am in awe of what the quilters of yesteryear accomplished without the tools we have today.

Thank you, Bill, for inspiring me! And thank you for preserving such a precious piece of quilt history. The exhibit runs through October 27. If you are able to visit the San Jose Quilt Museum, you will be so happy you did. It is a really special exhibit.