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!

June 11, 2014

Modern Quilting Snippets: artist unidentified

I'm going to ask you how old you would guess this quilt is and I want you to look at the photo and think about it and don't peek. The answer is right underneath so really think about it before you read further.

Pieced Quilt
Artist unidentified
Probably New England
92 x 84 1/2"
Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York
Gift of Cyril Irwin Nelson, 2005.11.11
Photo by Gavin Ashworth

I found this quilt on the American Folk Art Museum's website. I went there because it was the folk art nature of quilting that originally attracted me to quilting and I was preparing a talk on "modern quilting". When I saw how very old the quilt was it really surprised me. 1820? Wow.

There are a lot of striking quilts in the American Folk Art Museum's collection but I decided to show you the one above, possibly because I'm totally self absorbed and it reminded me of a quilt that I had made:

Christina Cameli
Portland, Oregon
65 x 80"

My potential narcissism aside, isn't it interesting to see these two quilts, made at least 170 years apart, having so much in common? The dark background, asymmetry, sense of downward motion, generous use of negative space? It can be easy to talk about recent shifts in the practice of quilting, "not your grandma's quilts" and all that. But here's a quilter who lived and died before my grandmas were even born, and our quilts have a lot to say to each other. I feel a connection to this unknown maker.

What I think is also really intriguing is that this graphic top quilt predates the modern art movement altogether. That is significant, and a point I will come back around to in a future installment. But for now, just think about this quilter, working generations ago, in a world far less abstract than the one you and I inhabit. Somehow she decided on five columns of red diamonds hanging in black space. How? Why? Kind of fun to think about.

June 09, 2014

Go big or something

I started this with a 9 degree wedge ruler:

I don't know how it's going to turn out, which may mean it turns out living in a box instead of being finished. I have a good feeling about it so far though! The plan is 80"x80" and about 5 circles. This is the biggest of the five, about 45" across.

I also got this idea that I should try designing fabric again and I entered a design in the Fabric 8 competition at Spooflower. I would be pretty excited to make the semifinals and if I do you'll definitely know because I'll start begging you to vote for my design (but in a really charming and not embarrassing way. promise.)

I also hear tell that I'm going to be a guest on Mark Lipinski's podcast "Creative Mojo" on Wednesday 12:20-ish pm PST. We've talked on the phone twice and he's already called me "sweetie" a dozen times. I can't wait.

May 25, 2014

Modern Quilting Snippets: Valerie's Quilt

This is the first in a series of posts, just thoughts and images I want to share on modern quilting.

I saw this quilt in Houston at the International Festival of Quilts last fall. I was taken with it. Google assures me that it's won a bunch of awards, so I know I'm not the only one.

The quilt was made by Valerie Mullally. The photo is hers and used with her permission.

Its name is the best part: "Dear Jane, Welcome to the 21st Century".

So clever. Did that make you smile a little? It did for me. I think that's because Valerie is telling us something, quilter to quilter.

I think she's telling us, the world around us is changing and so quilting is changing too.

Maybe this quilt is even challenging us a bit. How do you feel about how the world is changing? How do you feel about how quilting is changing? And especially, what kind of quilts are you going to leave behind you to tell your story?

Thank you for creating this lovely quilt Valerie, it is spot on in both concept and skill. I feel changed a bit by seeing it.

I'd love to hear your comments on what Valerie's quilt evokes for you.

May 17, 2014

Portland for the win!

In some sort of cosmic Portland karma vortex, the winner of my giveaway (of Portlander Violet Craft's fabric) is Elsa. This is awesome because Elsa lives here in Portland too and is a fellow PMQG member. She made this beautiful and summery 241 tote and did an Instagram giveaway that I won. Now a few weeks later I get to give her supplies for a new bag! Isn't that cool?

Portland has been really gorgeous lately. A lot more appointment cancelations in our clinic as people stay out and enjoy the weather. The rain returns tomorrow, which happens to be when I give my once-in-a-great-while FMQ class at Modern Domestic. So if you're in the area and are ready to do indoor activities again you should come join me.

Thanks to everyone who said congratulations and nice things about the bag and the book. My email got really confusing with those hundreds of comments so there was no responding, but I read them and appreciated you saying so. See you soon!