About zippyquilts

I quilt for pleasure but I also teach and write about quilting.

The Ken Burns Quilt Collection

The only place in the Southeastern U.S. to host the “Uncovered” exhibit is the Upcountry History Museum in Greenville, SC. That’s only a half day’s drive from us, so my husband and I were fortunate enough to visit despite you-know-what. We wore masks everywhere and ate takeout in our hotel room, so we felt relatively safe.

The Upcountry History Museum in Greenville, SC

The exhibit was put together by the International Quilt Museum after Ken Burns donated his extensive quilt collection. You can see pictures of the quilts in the travelling show on their website here. There was a nice video that went with the exhibit as well.

Most of the quilts were from the late 19th or early 20th Century. Photos were allowed as long as flash wasn’t used, so here are my personal favorites. You can see much better pictures of all the quilts on the International Quilt Museum website here.

Joseph’s Coat, 1880-1900

Princess Feather dated 1876

String Star 1880-1900

Splendid Stars Finish

I finished this at the very end of last year. I included a picture of it in my year-end review but never wrote about the details. Here we go:

I found a box of blocks that were all stars from similar fabrics, but I really had no idea how old they were or why I made them. Now that’s a real UFO!

I took them to retreat in the fall of 2021 and improvised a layout, making up fill-in blocks as I went along.

…then made additional blocks and strips to fill in the holes

Yes, there were lots of partial seams.

When it came back from the quilter, I decided to do the “faux piping” binding that I hadn’t done in a long time. It came out just fine. There are instructions several places online.

And here’s the finished quilt:

Splendid Stars, 51″ x 53″

Quilt Stats

Name: Splendid Stars

Pattern: None; various star blocks were arranged improvisationally

Finished size: 51″ x 53″

Quilted by: Susan Holmes



Circle of Nine Quilts

I found this book in my library when I was sorting things for the move and noted that it had an interesting layout for blocks.

It is an old book (2013) but my online research revealed that there is a newer one, Best of Circle of Nine, available from Keepsake Quilting. It looks like that book includes the “best” designs from my Circle of Nine book and the one that preceded it, which I do not own.

So in December when I should have been doing other things, I used the book to make two quilts from orphan blocks.

The first used blocks that finish 8″, and made a quilt that finished 36″ with the border added. That is perfect for a preemie incubator covering, so it’s a win for the orphan blocks.

I should note that the book offers many interesting ideas for pieced sashing, but I thought the blocks were busy enough by themselves so I just used plain sashing and it went together fast.

The second quilt was made with orphan blocks that finished that finish 10″. The quilt was 40″ square without borders, also perfect for Ronald McDonald House.

Of course I couldn’t just leave it at that, so I used EQ to expand the “Circle of Nine” idea to use 25 blocks. Here’s what it looked like:

Design made with Electric Quilt 8

The Circle of Nine quilts were great for using up orphan blocks. I don’t think I’ll make the 25-block version 😀


Various Updates

First, a “word to the wise”: If you bring something to be mended, it may be patched with scraps from the quilt-in-progress 😀

One of the happy things last year was that, in a brief pause of the pandemic, I had a visit from a blogging friend, Laura of Purple Tulip Music. It was fun to meet her and to find out how much we have in common–no surprise, I guess, since we read each other’s blogs.

I made both grandsons pillow-mats for Christmas, having learned of them from a friend. It was a good use for all the pieces of polyester fleece I had stored in a box. There are  instructions several places online.

And finally, I have a couple of new classes coming up at Studio Stitch. One is a shirt, just to see if there’s any interest in clothing classes. The other is one of my favorite quilt projects: A scrap quilt made from leftovers of all the quilts made in the past year! Here are pictures of the two projects:

Anybody have special plans for 2022?



2021 In My Studio

Good morning! I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday, whether religious or secular in nature. Here are most of the projects I’ve done this year:

Magic Kaleidoscope, 30″ x 30″

Practice for Charm Weave, 40″ x 40″

Mill Wheels, 51″ x 51″

Super Simple Squares, 52″ x 52″

Oriana, 47″ x 48″

Rumble In The Jungle, 54″ x 54″

Splendid Stars, 51″ x 53″

Sunrise, 75″ x 50″

HST Stars, 78″ x 53″

Fossil Fern Stars, 59″ x 44″

COVID swap block quilt, 55″ x 72″

Hayden and the bag he made

Fabric bowl, from the Modern Fabric Bowls book

Christmas napkins

And the Japanese Maple in the fall!

A Wedding Dress Memory Bear

My friend Kristine makes memory bears and recently made one from a wedding dress.

She also made a storage bag for the bear, using a large decoration from the dress to accent the bag

The dress was beautiful, but the owner especially wanted the bead and sequin trims saved.

The bride wearing the dress

Here’s a better view of some of the trim on the dress:

And here’s the bear coming out of her bag!

After consultation with the owner of the dress, Kristine selected two coordinating shades of upholstery velvet for the bear. Although you may not be able to see it, some of the beads from the dress are bronze/brown and coordinate very well with the velvet colors.

In addition to using much of the trim from the dress, Kristine made the bear a bouquet to carry from some of the roses on the dress.

This picture shows how well the brown beads coordinate with the bear’s colors

The two sides of the bear’s face are the same color, but because of the way velvet reflects light they look different in this picture

The owner of the dress was very pleased with her bear, which Kristine made twice as big as her usual memory bears to accommodate the trim successfully. The ears are lined with satin from the bodice of the dress.

I can’t imagine a quilt made from a wedding dress would be very practical, but I think a memory bear is perfect!

If you want more information on how she did this, Kristine says you can contact her:

Kristine Rimmey, kjrimmey@gmail.com



Memory Bears: The Memory Quilt Alternative

A friend recently started making memory bears. I had never heard of them and hers are so cute I just had to tell you about them.

Some of Kristine’s bears

She has made these using discarded clothing as well as yardage. She has also successfully used upholstery fabric for some different textures.

This bear was made from a flannel shirt

If you want to give it a try, here is the pattern she uses. It’s available from Studio Stitch. (If you don’t see it on their website, just phone them.)

If you want to know more, here is her contact information. I refer friends who want a memory bear to her, since making stuffed animals is not in my skill set!

Kristine Rimmey, kjrimmey@gmail.com

Next week I’ll tell you about a particularly spectacular memory bear she made from a wedding dress. Please stay tuned!

Memory Quilts

If you’ve been quilting long, chances are someone has asked you to make a memory quilt. The most common request is to use the clothing of a deceased relative, though I’ve also seen memory quilts made from baby clothes, napkins used for a wedding reception, and even wedding dresses.

My grandmother made what I call the original memory quilt–I can find in her quilts a few scraps from dresses I remember.

vintage quilt

Some of the pieces I inherited; I recall some of this fabric as dresses!

So what do you do when asked to make a memory quilt? I have one friend who just made several and considered it an honor to be asked. Another friend has made several but I believe she was “guilted” into them.

People who make these requests are not quilters, so have no idea of the hours of work and financial cost of making a quilt. Figuring it was information we could all use, I asked a few friends to estimate the cost in hours and materials of making a lap-size quilt (approximately 60″ x 72″), assuming all the fabric for the quilt top came from clothing provided.

Here’s what I came up with:

How many hours does it take to make a lap-size quilt from a simple pattern? Please include the time required to deconstruct the clothing and prepare it for use.

Estimates ranged from about 80 hours to about 160 hours. Several people noted that preparing the clothing for use in quilt construction takes a considerable amount of time.

quilt blocks

Shirt fabrics made into blocks

How much would you typically spend on batting and backing for a lap-size quilt?

$45 – $75, though one quilter noted that she uses up stash for quilt backs so considers this a benefit rather than a cost!

tutorial quilt from shirts

Quilt from clothing fabric including khaki pants and pockets from both a shirt and a pair of jeans. Tutorial here

How much would you typically pay to have a lap-size quilt professionally quilted?

$90 to $115, with quilting thread included in this price

What other costs should be considered?

Thread for piecing and quilting is expensive, with Aurifil currently $13 a spool!

Many clothing fabrics need a special iron-on backing to be usable, and that can be expensive.

Some clothing fabric requires research and problem-solving. For example, one quilter recently backed an eyelet fabric with plain fabric after researching her options.

One quilter noted the “cause-and-effect cycle” as a cost 😀  She notes that any quilt leaves just enough fabric to start another quilt, which will require buying additional fabric to complete it, which will leave scraps…you get the picture!

What other issues should be considered?

A couple of quilters noted that it is meaningful to both the family and the quilter for someone familiar with the deceased to volunteer to make a quilt, vs hiring someone outside the family.

One quilter noted that she included stained clothing in a quilt because she knew the source of the stains and that makes her smile.

One quilter noted that it is a privilege to have the skills, materials, and time to make a quilt and she feels it is an honor to use those to help other people.

Memory quilt blocks made by Jerri Szlizewski. Each block has 77 pieces! But she selected the design and wanted to do it.

And a final note from me: I read an article many years ago suggesting that, if someone asks you to make a quilt, it’s fine to say yes, BUT specify that you must be the one to select the design. I think this is wise advice for many reasons.

So, what do you think? Do you make memory quilts? Why or why not?

Thanks to Chela, Jerri, Laura, and Linda for taking time to answer my questions.

Magic Kaleidoscope

I decided to do another stack-n-whack type quilt and call it Magic Kaleidoscope. I made it up as I went along…er, used artistic improvisation in the design, I mean 😀

Here’s the fabric:

And here are the blocks set on point:

The little strips of color on the edges are being auditioned for an inner border.  The yellow won.

When I added a border of the original fabric, I did NOT like the result:

Before ripping off the borders, I took a picture and edited the outer border down smaller.

Still no-go. And BTW, I haven’t even told you all the different things I tried and then ripped out.

So finally I added a second black border and bound it in the same fabric used for the inset. Whew!

The original fabric served as a back.

Quilt Stats

Name: Magic Kaleidoscope

Made by: Me

Pattern: none

Size: 30″ x 30″

Quilted by: me

Mill Wheels

This quilt started with a pattern called “Potters Wheel” by Briar Hill Designs, available here. The directions were good, but of course I don’t usually make more than a couple of blocks of the same design, so it took a couple of years for me to complete this.

Of course I had to change something. When I got all the blocks done, I put them on the design wall in the suggested setting and didn’t like it. So I added irregular sashing, and now I love the quilt.

Here’s the wonderful circle quilting done by Andrea Walker of Walker Quilt Company.

I changed the name to “Mill Wheels” because I’ve seen those with a square center pretty often, but never have seen a potter’s wheel with a square center. The design also reminds me of the Chinese good luck coins with the square hole in the middle, but I didn’t use that name because it’s not really in my vocabulary.

Quilt Stats

Name: Mill Wheels

Pattern: Potters Wheel by Briar Hill Designs

Finished size (of my variation): 51″ x 51.5″

Quilted by: Andrea Walker, Walker Quilt Company

It’s a beautiful quilt but it would benefit from a class because the process is pretty involved, so I’ll probably teach it next spring at Studio Stitch. If you sign up for the Studio Stitch newsletter you’ll get the announcement.