Improv Quilting!

I love to make improv quilts. I find it both exciting and exhausting – it is very rewarding because I find that it brings life to my studio! So, when I was asked to join Rayna Gillman’s blog tour for her new book, Create Your Own Improv Quilts, how could I resist?


I often get asked about how to make improvisational quilts – it’s not an easy answer because I find that I use different techniques depending on what I want accomplish. Generally speaking, it’s just hard to put into words. Another hard question: what makes a good design? I think some people overlook improv quilts as not having design – in fact, the best improv quilts have a very strong, well thought out design. Rayna addresses both of these questions quite well in this book.

She starts out defining improvisation and giving specific techniques that can be followed. Then she talks about experimentation – a key in making improvisation successful. She offers a list of questions to ask while experimenting with an improvisational design. At one point, she compares improv quilting to taking a drive. Do you prefer to wander while you drive or have a GPS on? Personally, I’m a GPS kind of girl! I do like control – but even if you like control, improv has a place in your quilting. I almost always have some kind of controlled element in my improv quilts. This book has both: control-freak kind of improv (that’s the kind I lean toward making) and all out improv. Here is an example of what I fondly refer as the control-freak kind of improv:


Rayna defines elements of design that should be considered when it comes to quilting – improv or not, these elements are universal to all design. It’s a great list with straightforward definitions. So, the ‘what makes a good design’ question is answered! Yay, Rayna! I need to print out this list and pin it next to my design wall to make sure I consider all of these elements as I create. She illustrates these points as she walks through some designs using some orphan blocks. This is the final design.

11209 Gillman F'17

11209 Gillman F’17

If you are short on ideas, don’t know where to start, or you just feel like you have hit a mental block (haven’t we all been there!): the last part of the book addresses inspiration – where to find it, how to get it, a gallery to enjoy and some new ideas on string quilting and using orphan blocks to get you started. I particularly liked Debbie Anderson’s series of houses!


If you want to be entered to win an eBook copy of Create Your Own Improv Quilts, just subscribe to my blog – at the top of the side bar. I don’t post often – but in the next week or two I will be posting about a series of improv holiday blocks!

You can see what everyone else is saying about this book, here’s the blog tour schedule:

Friday, November 10
C&T Blog
Monday, November 13
Cindy Grisdela
Wednesday, November 15
Teri Lucas, Generation Q Magazine
Tuesday, November 21
Desiree Habicht
Wednesday, November 22
Angie Wilson
Tuesday, November 28
Victoria Findlay Wolfe
Thursday, November 30
Tuesday, December 5
Melissa Shields
Thursday, December 7
Patty Altier

Checking in

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been pretty busy behind the scenes with my pattern company, Everyday Stitches, that I started with Jenifer Dick and my growing teenagers – I’m trying to enjoy the last couple of years that I have a kid in the house. Jenifer just published some new patterns as well as some pretty cool cards!


I have a few patterns in the works, they just need some final polishing. Hopefully I’ll get to them soon.

Playing with Bloc Loc rulers

Tomorrow my guild is having a ‘Ruler Roundup’. I agreed to demonstrate the Bloc Loc rulers. I bought a half-square triangle (HST) and a half-rectangle triangle (HRT) ruler about a year ago. I rarely buy specialty rulers, but when I saw these at a quilt shop demo, I was sold. I also rarely make traditional blocks, so they were innovative and efficient enough that I thought I needed them for the rare occasion that I make a traditional block.

So, tomorrow is almost here and nothing motivates me like a deadline – it was time to break them out and put something together. My sister loaned me a couple of Bloc Loc block design books to show at the demo, so that’s where I started. Side note: the books are really nice – spiral bound so they lie flat and glossy pages that aren’t going to easily rip.20160502_163940I thumbed through both of the books looking for something that used both the HST and the HRT rulers. Originally I was planning to use up some old fabric and be done with it. Then I came across this ‘Ho-Ho-Ho’ block (their version is a little different in the value selection and has a little more depth, but that wasn’t going to work with my collection of fabric).
Next, I grabbed a stack of Christmas fabric that I have been collecting and started cutting.


The blocks in the book have cutting instructions for four sizes. The sizes vary depending on the grid of the block. This block had: 6″, 7 1/2″, 9″ and 12″. I went with 9″. Each piece is cut slightly large. I pieced the blocks in a traditional manner – the instructions for the HST have you draw a diagonal line, stitch on either side and then cut … that’s way to much work for me, I’d rather just cut and sew. Then press the seams to one-side – I prefer them that way anyway, but it’s a requirement with these rulers. Then you nestle the seam into the groove on the underside of the ruler and slightly push (more like a light tension than a push) to make sure the stitch line is up against the groove. Then slide the ruler down so you have some edges to trim. Spin the ruler around and slide it to the other side lining up the marks to the cut the finished size.20160502_163805

I really like the fine lines on the rulers, it makes everything so easy to see. If you’ve used Bloc Locs, you’ll know from this picture that I’m left-handed! If you’re right-handed, this ruler would be rotated 90 degrees! Luckily, I can cut with both hands, so I’ll be able to demonstrate for lefties and righties tomorrow.


The triangles come out absolutely perfect! The cutting is way faster than using a traditional ruler: it’s not rocking across the seam, you’re not trying to make sure everything is aligned, etc. I even found myself getting a little sloppy with the piecing knowing that the rulers would make everything perfect for me. 20160502_163848

I am so happy with the results – and I don’t use pins when I piece so that shows just how perfect these sub-units are. It was so fast and easy that I’m actually going to make an entire quilt – not just a demo block. There’s a bit of a list in front of this quilt, so I’m organizing the pieces to use as enders and leaders – so it’ll be a while!



Loading a Quilt Top

A few people have asked me about how I load a quilt top, so here goes. I’ve tried all kinds of things over the years; I thought of this a couple of years ago and I think this is it! Fast, easy, doesn’t stretch the top, and doesn’t leave a funky wave at the end.

First, I load the backing – I’ll try to remember to take pictures next time and post that. Then I unroll the quilt top leader and lay it out on the backing making sure it is smooth and straight.


Next, I lay the top over the back bar and onto the backing. I straighten it and lay the edge along the leader just where the leader lying on the backing meets the roller making sure that it is parallel to the roller.


Then I pull the top over the back bar to make sure there is some slack in the quilt top when I roll it.This is very important – otherwise the quilt top will stretch and pull. Make sure that you don’t distort what you’ve already laid out when you do this.


All that’s left is to roll it up! Gently roll the leader and the top onto the roller bar. The quilt top gets caught in the leader – no need to pin or anything else. Just straighten the top and make sure it’s lying straight and flat on the roller as you go. That’s it!




Quilting, is it always a quandary?

It’s always such a good feeling when I finish a quilt top … then I’m hit with: How am I going to quilt this? Sometimes I can envision the quilting as I’m making the top, but most often I’m left slowly loading my quilt while I try to figure out what I’m going to do. One of my latest tops is this improvisational piece made with Peppered Cottons and Kona Steel for the background.















I decided that I’m just going to do overall quilting and not worry about the piecing. I loaded it sideways so that I don’t have to think about the circles right now. I don’t know if I’ll just continue over them or do a different quilting design in each ring … things to ponder.

I started at my white board to play with different fill patterns and chose three that I want to combine – a primary pattern, a background relief and a fill to add in every now and then.


















This is what it looks like at this point.


Modern Evolution

A few months ago … okay so more like a year ago … I got some friends together to join me in my Modern Evolution Project. In short, it’s a round robin that I designed to try to avoid some of the pitfalls that I’ve experienced with previous round robin groups: producing medallion quilts; the last round where you have to do the most work and your interest in the project has somehow all but disappeared; having one quilt that looks like six different people made it – if you’ve ever participated in one, you probably know the drill. Some may have been a little skeptical, but everyone dove in with enthusiasm!

There were six of us in the group, so we had six rounds. The first two rounds were just published in Generation Q Magazine (Spring 2016) – along with a lot of other cool projects and interesting articles. Ironically, my copy arrived the very same day that we made the last swap and we each got our quilts back! They are amazing – better than I ever expected! I am so excited to share the final results, but in the meantime, you can see what we were up to in the magazine and Gen Q published our guidelines on their website, here.

Generation Q Magazine, Spring 2016

Generation Q Magazine, Spring 2016

Sanibel Pillow Tutorials

I was finally able to find some time to get some tutorial videos edited! Today I uploaded two new videos – one showing the hand applique and one about the quilting. I have one more to edit – making the pillow cover and installing an invisible zipper. Here is a link to my YouTube channel.

sanibel pillow final

The next few videos that I have planned are: slice and insert, cutting and piecing equilateral triangles. I also have a couple of new tools I’d like to try out and show you how well they work – I’m not big on fancy rulers, but these look very promising!

In the meantime, I have a Riley Blake challenge to get to! Are you doing the MQG challenge?



Sanibel Blog Hop

Today is the last day of the Sanibel Blog Hop! Sanibel is a new Moda fabric line designed by Gina Martin.Sanibel-LogoI don’t know about  you, but all of this beautiful weather and flowers coming into bloom gets me in the mood for summer. This fun and colorful fabric is just what I need to add a little summer color to my house! I love the variety of playful prints. Gina included some very graphic prints like the lawn chair webbing, Adirondack chairs, circles and sunglasses. There are also some more organic prints like the large scale floral and a small scale floral.

sanibel fabric lineI decided to make a set of throw pillows for my otherwise plain gray couch.

sanibel pillow all I wanted to design something fun and easy-going. These pillows were a joy to make. I  have a video tutorial up on my youtube channel.sanibel pillow orangeI will be adding more videos to the series that will include how to quilt the block with a walking foot and how to make the pillow cover using an invisible zipper.sanibel pillow orange closeI love this fabric line so much that I couldn’t stop at throw pillows! I had to start a quilt. I was hoping to have it well underway by now, but life keeps getting in the way! Here’s where I am so far. I’m hoping to have some time to dedicate to it by the end of the month, so stay tuned!

sanibel quiltGina is letting me giveaway a layer cake of her Sanibel fabric – which is perfect for making these pillows! Just leave a comment here or on the video to enter any time before Sunday, April 12th!   Congratulations to Beth, the winner of the layer cake!

sanibel layer-cake Be sure to visit all of the other stops on the blog hop – I’ve seen a lot of cute projects!

Stitching and Bacon
Sally’s Angel Works
Jess Toye Quilts
I am a Quilter
Silly Mama Quilts
Gina Martin at Pattern and Hue

Machine Binding

Every time I show a quilt that has a machine-finished binding, I’m asked how it was done. So, here it is! Let’s start with what it looks like at the end. (Sorry for the not-so-great photos, I didn’t take them with the intention of publishing them!)


First, you need to select two fabrics for the binding. One for the outer binding (pink) and one for the little flange (orange) that lies between the binding and the quilt. Cut enough binding to go around the entire quilt with a 12-16″ overlap for joining. Cut the outer binding 1¼” wide. Cut the flange fabric 1½” wide.

20121115_105207Join the lengths together as you would for a regular binding – do this once for the outer binding and once for the flange so you end up with two lengths of fabric.

20121115_105423Press the seams open and trim the seam allowance. With the seams offset, stitch the two lengths together, right sides facing, with a ¼” seam allowance.

20121115_111142Press the seam allowance toward the outer binding fabric.


Press the binding in half – wrong sides facing as you would regular binding – matching the raw edges. I lightly spray the wrong side with starch prior to pressing so the binding doesn’t shift as I attach it to the quilt.


Attach the binding to the WRONG side of the quilt with a ¼” seam. Form the corners as you normally would. Leave long tails at the beginning and the end with an unsewn area of about 10″ for joining.



To join the ends, lay one tail down. Cut it about half way into the unsewn area.

20121115_121554Lay the other tail on top. Take the piece that you cut off and lay it cross-wise on top of the tail to mark the overlap of the two tails. The overlap should be the same width as the binding.

20121115_12161620121115_121631Stitch the ends together. Press open. Trim. Stitch down.

20121115_12183720121115_122004Turn the binding to the right side of the quilt and stitch in the ditch formed by the flange and the outer binding. If you keep it snug, the stitch line will fall beyond the binding on the back side.

20121115_13232020121115_135040I don’t use this method often – I still prefer to hand stitch my binding down. But, when I’m in a hurry it’s my go-to method!












Blog Tour and a Giveaway!

I am so happy to have been asked to join in on the blog tour for Optical Illusions! This is a beautiful book, I could spend plenty of time just looking at the pictures – but knowing the designers at Kansas City Star, that doesn’t surprise me! Other than the gorgeous photographs, I like that this book is pretty representative of what I see in Modern Quilting today – a wide range of modern-traditionalism to an all-out Modern aesthetic. But all of the quilts follow my definition of Modern design – simple lines with a strong design.

op illusionsOn the more modern-traditionalism end of the spectrum there are the block-based quilts. Melissa Corry‘s Old Dutch is reminiscent of a traditional windmill block which any quilter would love. Tia Curtis‘ Tropical Storm reminds me of an Ocean Waves block. I love that she added a few surprises in the quilt – if only I could stand to make that many half-square triangles! Then there is Jessica Toye‘s Water Ripples, a modern take on a snowball block. I love her well-planned color placement.

CurtisTropical Storm by Tia Curtis

Moving further into the modern spectrum, there is Katie Larson‘s Curvilinear with its strong lines and very modern appeal kind of reminds me of a Storm at Sea quilt in the way that it moves and fools your eye into seeing circles. Karen Hansen‘s Surfs Up brings to mind a Drunkard’s Path – updated in both the approach and setting.

LarsonCurvilinear by Katie Larson

Next we move to the quilts that remind me of classic Victor Vasarely art work. There is the very Op-Art inspired Blurred Vision by Penny Layman. 3-D Diamonds by Jenifer Dick is very modern in its simple, bold lines – but not a simple design. Then there is Mary Kay Fosnacht‘s Tangerine Tumbler – I love her layout and modern take on the classic Tumbling Block.

3d diamonds3-D Diamonds by Jenifer Dick

The last quilt on this spectrum – in my opinion – is Jamie David‘s Aura. Inspired by the Modern artist Josef Alber, it has a very modern appeal.

DavidAura by Jamie David

It think this book will appeal to a wide range of quilters – from traditional to someone wanting to add a little modern influence to their quilts to someone who has a very modern aesthetic and is looking for a little inspiration.

Speaking of inspiration! I have a giveaway to take care of! I am giving away a Kona Color Card. I have my own card sitting next to me for another project that I’m working on. I find that card to be invaluable! It’s great to have access to a library of colors that are actually rendered in fabric. Just leave a comment about how you get your inspiration and I’ll randomly choose a winner at the end of the tour!

kona card

Jenifer Dick is also blogging about this book today … and has a different giveaway! The rest of the tour finishes up tomorrow:

Jenifer Dick,

Nov. 14 Jessica Toye,
Jacquie Gering,
Shea Henderson,

Thanks for stopping by!