Acknowledging the Contributors: Red (or Another Important Quilt)

Another quilt from the Portland Modern Quilt Guild community that was rejected from QuiltCon West 2016 was Red, by Teresa Coates (quilting by Jolene Knight):


Red, by Teresa Coates (quilting by Jolene Knight). Photo by Bill Volckening

According to Bill Volckening:

“Red is love, war, passion, and blood. This quilt explores the color red with elements of Pop Art, Matisse, Rorschach, red and white quilts and Traditional Hawaiian quiltmaking. It is made with hand needleturn appliqué, computer guided and free-motion machine quilting, and a few randomly placed rows of big-stitch hand quilting.”


Red (detail), by Teresa Coates (quilting by Jolene Knight). Photo by Bill Volckening

And why am I quoting Bill Volckening? Because he is the producer on this one. Bill is a respected collector, appraiser, historian, and all around champion of quilting. He conceptualized this quilt, a rather clever mash-up of artistically notable inspirations, then commissioned Teresa Coates to bring it to life, and hired Jolene Knight to complete his vision.

Why is this important? Because the makers are named, acknowledged, and compensated. While the fine art world seldom names the studio slaves who create the master’s work, over the history of quilting we have fought hard to be recognized by our own names. When we create something, we are no longer anonymous, or only known by our husbands’ names (like the all too common “Mrs. George Jones” of early 1900s quilts).

We are experiencing a boom in quilting, the kind of boom that requires us to delegate some of the work. In my case, I’m just not interested in growing my machine quilting skills to the level of the deeply talented artists I hire to help me. By acknowledging our helpers we maintain one of the best things that quilting produces (and has always produced) which is community.

The fine art world has always done its business with a lot less soul, and these days, I can see some of that creeping into the places where fine art and the quilting world intersect. I hope that, instead of fine art assimilating quilting into its model, quilting instead pushes back and resists, holding onto what makes it great, and changes fine art in the process. This quilt is certainly a fantastic example of that idea in action.

Here’s a great shot of Red, and yesterday’s #lovewinsquilt and Green Cross Quilt hanging at Modern Domestic in their “QuiltCon Rejects” selection this month:


Photo by Bill Volckening

If these are the rejects, I hope to see some very important and great work at QuiltCon.


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The Droid Is Not For Sale – It’s FREE

Spoiler alert: This post is about the new Star Wars movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to move along… this is not the post you’re looking for!

I love a good action movie, but I’ve grown tired of not having lady heroes to root for. I’m a Wonder Woman aficionado, but honestly, a lot of that is due to a lack of other options on the mainstream super-hero menu.

I’ve seen The Force Awakens twice… fandom of the Force is strong in my family. And can I just say, finally, we get a Jedi heroine. FINALLY.

I have many friends whose daughters are inspired by the character of Rey. She is strong, capable, resourceful, and caring. My friends are thrilled that their daughters saw a woman kicking serious patootie, and not doing it scantily clad, either.

And then come in the reports that Rey has been left out of a lot of the merchandising. You can get a set of all the new fellas (plus a Storm Trooper or two), but not Rey. It caused some outcry, to the point of spawning the #WheresRey hashtag. Hasbro said it was because they didn’t want to spoil the movie for anyone, yet I ask… how does including Finn, Kylo Ren, and Poe Dameron not constitute a spoiler? I’m not falling for that slick attempt at justifying a major misstep in marketing strategy. Suffice to say, Hasbro is hastily adding Rey to manufacturing right now. Duh.

This tired excuse bugged me heartily. So instead of just grumbling about it (see Tina Roth Eisenberg’s “Rules to Live By“, specifically number 3), I decided to do my part to upend the inequality of merchandising for girls: I designed a Rey quilt pattern.

HDS.038 - Rey - Cover - 300dpi

Of course, I included BB-8 because there is no way I would pass up the chance to design an ORANGE droid. And check out the insanely talented quilting done by my friend, and fellow Star Wars fan, Nancy Stovall:

IMG_8924 - Flattened

IMG_8923 - flattened

The pattern is all straight seams and snowballs, with a few templates for the funky shapes. It’s nothing you can’t sew if you can hold to a decent 1/4” seam. It finishes at 42” x 52”, which is perfect for a snuggle, or a great start to something bigger.

Best of all, it’s FREE. Seriously. Yours for the taking – though be sweet, and send people back to me for it, and if you like my other stuff, do consider buying some :-) Yes, I don’t want to tangle with Disney, but more than that, I want our girls (and my fellow fans) to be able to finally have a quilt that includes such a great HEROINE.

So this one is for YOU! You can download it here.

And here’s a chart of suggested colors of fabrics by manufacturer.

May the Force be with you!


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Rejected from QuiltCon


I’ve been told I shouldn’t use such a harsh word on myself, but it certainly is a clear statement of facts: I offered one of my quilts to QuiltCon, and it was not accepted for display. Don’t worry, my self-esteem is still quite intact… I love the quilt I made, and no amount of quilt show rejection will change that!

I have not attended the last two QuiltCon shows, so my impressions of what got in is somewhat distorted by the limitation of what can be seen on social media. I will say that, while I saw some envelope-pushing work in the feeds, I saw an incredible amount of “been there, seen that.” I have wondered on more than one occasion if the displayed quilts were chosen more for their illustration of and adherence to the definitions of modern quilting (as put forth by the Modern Quilt Guild) than for being perhaps more challenging examples of where quilt-making is going in the moment. Really, how many wonky what-evers (set off-center in a solid background with matchstick quilting) should be displayed? We get it! Point made! Mind you, it is their party, so they do get to groom the guest list. I will be attending the show in Pasadena next month, and am looking forward to making an informed opinion or two about the works in person. And of course, I’ll be sharing those thoughts here!

Here’s my rejected entry:


Photography by Bill Volkening

I made this quilt top in 2014 as I was developing my Five Stars pattern, with not a thought in my head about sending it to competition. I had been playing for some time with the idea of nesting stars, and thought the complexity of nesting them offset was a modern way of looking at things. I chose the color palette because I love ORANGE and teal, and love them both when paired with gray. I chose batiks as I’ve worked with them for years, and love the texture they have over solids. While they are often dismissed in a modern guild or shop as “your mother’s fabric,” they are one of the most hand-made fabrics available to us, a quality that I believe important to contemporary social and ecological interests. And if I’m being candid, I liked the idea of challenging the modern structural ideas with some batiks.


Photography by Bill Volkening

Once the top was done, I was so happy with it that I was bouncing about the studio. I knew my utilitarian quilting skills would do it a terrible disservice, so I hired Nancy Stovall to take it to the next level, and couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome. Truly, she leveled it up out of the park – it’s stunning. It was at that point that I thought, perhaps, I should show the quilt.

In general, quilt show competitions (not exhibitions – the distinction is important) bother me a bit. As a formally trained artist with an MFA, I find it frustrating that the usual criteria that separates the winner from the runners is craft. And for the record, I’m a HUGE proponent of attaining good craftsmanship; I just don’t think it’s the only thing to look at.

While I have no idea if the QuiltCon judges will be checking quilts for square and checking the binding miters to see if they are stitched (don’t laugh, I was critiqued about the lack of stitches in my miters some 20 years ago on a quilt that went to Paducah), the fact that such technical nit-picking seemed to outweigh artistry made me abandon competition years ago. I was tired of getting judges’ notes about my miters, and having no mention of my artistry, choice of colors, or my prowess with hand-dyeing my fabrics. I see us wanting our work to be considered ART, but then still approaching it like it’s CRAFT. It’s hard for Craft to ascend to Art when it’s judged less for the artistry than the craftsmanship. By these criteria, a Monet would be rejected because the paint was a bit thicker here than it was there.

I know… it’s a bit of a chewy conversation, but hey, I’m trained in thinking about art this way, and these are the thoughts I ponder in the wee hours. You can take the girl out of art school, but it’s hard to take the art school out of the girl!

Anyway! The quilt won’t be heading to QuiltCon, but no matter. Right now, it’s sharing the walls with other QC rejects at Modern Domestic here in Portland (and wow, am I thrilled to have my quilt seen with these works). Soon it will be home and back on my bed. Lucky me.

Oh, and I still don’t sew down my miters ;-p


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Ten Quilty Hopes for 2016

I’m not usually one for resolutions – I prefer to build habits when I notice I need them. Nor am I one for “my word of the year” choices – there are so many luscious words… how could I possible choose between them?! If I was forced to choose, it would probably be MAKE, but that’s more of a lifelong thing, not a yearly thing!

That said, I find myself predictably reflective as New Year approaches, and as I thought about what I would wish for YOU, dear friends, it turned into the following list:

  1. I hope you make yourself something this year. We spend SO much time making for others that we seldom keep a single thing. I hope you track down a pattern that you adore, and custom-make yourself something that will make you feel loved every time you see it.

    This one is for ME!

  2. I hope you take care of your power tool/sewing machine by changing the needle regularly. While you’re at it, keep it oiled and de-fuzzed, too.
  3. I hope you change the blade in your cutter regularly. If you need to lean into it harder, or the cutting sound is harsh (rather than a smooth “swish”) it’s time. Sometimes your blade grinds because it needs to be oiled. But most of the time it’s because it’s dull. The safety of your hands is worth it!
  4. I hope you learn something new. Take a class, watch a tutorial, or treat yourself to a new book – but try something that builds your skills. Bonus points for taking a class with a friend or two and sharing the day (and some chocolate) with them!
  5. I hope you help a newbie. We seasoned makers are the keepers of this craft, and it will survive if and because we pass it to the newcomers. Take time to be welcoming to the new quilters at your guild or store, and cheer on their projects, regardless of the seam allowances or color choices. Don’t perpetuate a mean girls club of snotty superiority… be an encouraging resource!
  6. I hope you make one thing for charity. It could be a small NICU quilt, or a knitted hat for a preemie. It could be a big, bright quilt for a kiddos camp. It could be a simple lap quilt for your local seniors outreach program. The recipients of these gifts are so very appreciative.
  7. I hope you have a fabric purge. Take an afternoon to work through your stash, and pull every last one of the “what was I thinking?” fabrics. Include threads and weird notions. Get your sewing friends to do the same, and have a swap. Send anything left over to Project Linus (who make charity quilts).
  8. I hope you abandon any project that doesn’t thrill you anymore. I know you have a few UFOs, and I know some of them are worth the effort to finish. I’m talking about the ones that aren’t. Sort through them, and let a few go (send them to Project Linus with your purged fabric). Make space for something new (see 1 and 4!)
  9. Now that you have more room in your studio, I hope you go shopping (perhaps for the new quilt you’ll be making for yourself!) Take the time to love your local quilt stores by spending a little money there. We NEED these stores for the survival of our industry, so take time to help them out with a purchase, and a kind smile. They might also enjoy some chocolate :-)
  10. I hope you take a moment to reflect on how special a talent it is to sew. The next time you sit at the machine, thread it, set up a 1/4 inch seam and get to sewing, take a moment to savor all you have learned, and all you command when you do this. Yep, it’s special.

Wishing you the best that a New Year can offer!



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Quick Holiday Projects

Do you still have time in your holiday sewing schedule? Of course you do! It’s not even December yet!

Over the years I’ve created some quick holiday projects and I’m reposting them here today in case you’re tempted to add them to your list.

Holiday Table Runner – free pattern


This pattern can be sized to fit any table, or adapted to a wall hanging by making just one tree. It’s paper-pieced, and features my usual easy pre-cutting instructions.


Go here for the free pattern.

Santa Snow Globe – free pattern


This is a cute 15” block that can be a wall hanging or pillow. It’s paper-pieced, and features my usual easy pre-cutting instructions. It’s also a great canvas for embellishments – what better time than the holidays to play with some sparkle?


Go here for the pattern.

Countdown Advent Calendar

And if you have time to be a little more ambitious, I have a great Advent Calendar pattern for you.

HDS.011 - Countdown - Cover - 300dpi

Here’s a link to a photo tutorial for the pattern – it’s so much easier than it looks! It’s made with easy strip piecing, and each number is a pocket to fill with a treat. You can make one for a grown-up friend too… I made one for a girlfriend using one of the Alexander Henry Hunks fabrics, and filled it with chocolates!



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Fall 2015 Pattern and Button Releases!

Did you follow Quilt Market on Instagram and Facebook? There were lots of exciting images coming from market, as always. I think my favorite feed was from one of the several great stores in here in Portland, Fabric Depot – check it out here – the ladies did a great job of sending images out for those of us who weren’t there.

Although I didn’t go to market this time (I chose to be in Europe in September instead!) several of my quilts went, and were displayed in Hoffman Fabric’s booth. I also had new patterns and Sassy Buttons with the distributors, and I’m happy to report I have stock of all the new stuff on hand now!

Here they are… and they are available in the store.

HDS.034 - BigStarPop - Cover - 300dpi

Big Star Pop is a strip-friendly pattern – yep, one strip pack will make both the star and the borders. The cover was made using one of Hoffman’s latest Pop packs of 885 fabrics that are all tiny batik dots. I also wrote instructions for both y-seam and non-y-seam settings, depending on the pattern texture of your background fabrics, and your stomach for making y-seams!

HDS.035 - FourteenOnPoint - Cover - 300dpi

Fourteen on Point is the fourth in the “Fourteen” series of patterns. Each takes 14 fat quarters, and they all look like they were improvisational – but they’re not. Each pattern details exactly which block goes where, so the construction is a snap – it just looks hard! The cover was made using the second collection of Me+You fabrics from Hoffman’s new modern batiks line.

HDS.033 - Sushi - Cover - 300dpi

This quilt was such a blast to create. I found a cute image of a towel that rolled up like sushi on the internet, and tracked down the artist that designed it. She kindly gave me permission to adapt her idea into this fun novelty quilt. The front is color blocks, the back is any conversation print of your choosing (mine have novelty sushi prints), and it all rolls up like sushi! We have a lot of great solid readers and textured fabric out right now for rendering the fish, rice, and avocado!

HDS.032 - Point The Way - COVER - 300dpi

This table runner is made of strips and prairie points, and goes together quickly. Being as it’s strip-based, you can modify the length to fit your table exactly. The cover is made of Hoffman batiks.


And lastly, here are the latest Sassy Buttons! Some of them are old favorites with new colors, others are brand new fun. I’m especially proud of drawing the crossed seam rippers under the skull of the Grim Ripper 😉

And if you managed to read all the way to the end, I have an opportunity for you! I’m doing a drawing – one package with each of the new patterns, and a set of the newest Sassy buttons. Comment below and tell me about something you’re making right now – I’ll draw randomly on Monday Nov 9th.


11/09/15 Update – The winner is Julie D! 

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 5.59.14 PM


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Big travels afoot!

Woohoo!!! On Sunday I’m heading to Europe for a couple of weeks… back to my beloved Paris for a workshop, and then on to Barcelona, a city that has been long on my bucket list.

Things will be quiet over here, but I have dusted off my travel blog, Art on the Road and More, and will be writing over there while I’m gone if you want to follow along.

From the business end: I won’t be answering the phone, will be checking email rarely, and the Big Cartel shop for physical products will be shut down while I’m gone. You can still grab electronic versions of patterns on Craftsy.

But I will be playing with paints, and I plan to pack a small sewing kit too (did you read Lynn Krawczyk’s great post on making a mobile art studio yeaterday? Perfect timing for me!)


Don’t forget to follow the Back to School Blog Hop too! We’re not even half way done sharing our tips and tricks with you!


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Quilt Talk Bonus Pattern – Do No Harm!

I love quotes. I’ve subscribed to a few “quote of the day” emails over the years, and I’m a sucker for a chunky little book of them. I think this one might be the next in my collection. I like how they are usually a short but precise way to express things, and often come with a built in punch of a message that I usually needed to hear that day!

So I’ve decided to start putting a few of them into fabric, and as I do, I’ll be blogging the pattern notes for them here… consider them free/bonus additions to my book, Quilt Talk, just for you. Just to be clear, you’ll still need the book to access the letters, but I’ll have done a lot of the setting math for you :-)

I started plotting the letters of this one while I was in the writing phase of the book two years ago (TWO YEARS! ARGH!), but life got busy, and it ended up in the UFO pile. I paper-pieced the letters sometime last year, and again, it stalled. A couple of weekends back, I got real, and got to setting the letters. And from there, the finish was an easy one!

Do No Harm

I used the Barcelona line from Brigitte Heitland/Zen Chic – not only is she a talented designer, but she’s a lovely human as well! I used her highly successful Comma line for the Rackafrax quilt in the book.

This finished size for “Do No Harm” is 20” x 40” and this is how to do it:

  • The construction is similar to “She Just Ignored People…” in the book (p 101)
  • Copy the letters for do no, but, and no at 120% (“o” is 3”)
  • Copy the letters for harm, take, and shit at 150% (“a” is 3.75”)
  • Just to note, if you’re not keen on having a cuss word on your quilt, you can either play with the spelling by substituting an asterisk or exclamation mark for the “i”, or just change the word to a sentiment that suits you better.
  • The K space for the letters is 1/2” finished. The Word space between do and not is 2” finished.
  • The A&D strip for the 120% letters is 1.5” finished, and for the 150% letters is 2.375” (2 3/8”) finished
  • The Leading is 1.5” finished, except under do not and no, where is is 1” finished.
  • The top and bottom are 3” finished.
  • The width is 20”. So to calculate the size of the strip on either side of the word, measure the word, subtract 0.5 to get the finished word size, then subtract that from 20, then divide the result in half (one for each side) then add 0.5 to each piece for seam allowance. As an example:
    • 8.5” word
    • minus 0.5 for seam allowance = 8
    • Subtract 8 from 20 = 12
    • Divide 12 in half = 6
    • Add 0.5 to each for seam allowance = 6.5” – so cut 2 pieces 6.5” x height of the word, and sew to either side of the word.

Quilting ideas:


  • I find that a simple cross hatch, or straight lines works well with this kind of lettering, preferably done in a thread that doesn’t scream against any one fabric. I used medium gray Aurifil 2605 in this instance, with the cross hatch about 1” apart.
  • You could also densely quilt down the background with pattern or stipple to allow the letters to stand up.

I hope you have fun making this one – and if you have any suggestions for other short (keep ’em SHORT!) phrases you like to see in a Quilt Talk pattern, do post them in the comments!


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Quilt Talk Goes Tiny

How small can you go? As it happens… pretty dang small!

I belong to the Portland Modern Quilt Guild, and we get extra door prize tickets if we have a hand-made name badge. So my friend Monica said she was going to Quilt Talk hers.

Now I’ve seen some small Quilt Talk letters (check out Paula Fleischer’s “Crazy” in the gallery section of the book). I’ve MADE small Quilt Talk letters. I was skeptical about seeing them come out at any size that wouldn’t look a bit like a billboard hanging around someone’s neck. Or worse, a bib!

This was her first snap-shot to me:


And all I can say is WOW. They be tiny, but they be elegant! And legible! And she wasn’t cussing at me when she was done!

And then she surprised me with an offer to make me one! I’m no fool, and immediately proffered fabric – and bound it in Sam I Am fabric when it arrived:


And then she started copying tiny letters and sharing them with our mini-group pals:


I’m utterly tickled by all the tiny wordplay!

So if you want to make one for yourself (or any other tiny worded thing), here’s the recipe, from Monica:

“On a copier, first reduce the letters to 25%, and then reduce that size to 75%.  If you have a shorter name, the first round of shrinking might be plenty.”

And just to give you a sense of scale:



Thank you, Monica!


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New Pattern – Chain, Chain, Chain + Aurifil

UPDATED 06.03.15 11am: Hoffman Fabrics has added a bundle to the giveaway!

This is fifth and last of the spring Quilt Market releases – Chain, Chain, Chain (go on, sing it with me, that’s right!)

HDS.028 - ChainChainChain - Cover - 300dpi

I designed this quilt in partnership with Aurifil Threads and Hoffman Fabrics*. I used Hoffman’s Bali Watercolors (the “solids” in the batik family) and paired them with cheery bright colors from Aurifil. Grab your copy pattern here.

The pattern includes some stuff I’m pretty proud of, too. When it came to giving you a chart for working out colors, one of my Stunt Sewists suggested I work it like a cross-stitch pattern using symbols – brilliant idea! So you have coloring sheets and swatch cards to work with while choosing your fabrics.


Here’s what mine looked like while I was working:


As I know I’ve stated before, I don’t consider myself sophisticated when it comes to doing machine quilting, but armed with the most recent books from Angela Walters and Christina Cameli, I was inspired to try some new things. I’m pretty thrilled with the result!

IMG_6802 IMG_6799

Aurifil gave me a box of my lovely threads to give away! Please leave a comment below to win, and tell me what your favorite color is (and it’s OK if it’s not ORANGE – all the more for me!) I’ll choose a random winner on June 6th, and I’ll throw in a pattern of Chain, Chain, Chain too! (US residents only, sorry international peeps!)


This pattern was tested by my groovy Stunt Sewists Janet, Kimberly, Monica, and Brittany.

* I have great professional relationships with Hoffman and Aurifil!


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