About zippyquilts

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

Travel Inspires

As my friend Melanie recently pointed out, travel can inspire creativity. We just got back from a loooong drive across the country to New Mexico and back, and I took a few pictures of things that inspired me.First, we saw literally thousands of these wind generators across the flat, windy, high plains of West Texas and Oklahoma. The complex shape of the blades is quite an engineering feat by itself, even before the rest of the contraption is considered. It was great to see renewable energy in action, and these are attractive additions to the landscape in my opinion. (No, we never saw any dead birds near them, despite looking.  Research in Europe suggests this is mostly an urban myth.)

In New Mexico, I looked for the details that said “Southwest”.  These design elements are a kind of shorthand for “you are here” and I thought that idea would be useful in designing quilts (or anything else).  Here are a couple.

Stucco walls, turquoise trim, tile roof

Courtyard enclosed by a stucco wall with a wooden gate; tile accent along roof edge; flat roof

Now, I’m off to learn to organize my photos in Photoshop so I can find the rest of the pictures from the Southwest 😀

Give It What It Needs

One of my objections to some of the quilting establishment is that every single thing about a quilt is supposed to be “perfect”—meaning made to the specifications of the current quilt maven, whoever (s)he may be.  I once signed up for a series of classes that lead through many quilting techniques to the ULTIMATE QUILTING ACHIEVEMENT: a quilt with many tiny pieces cut on the bias, all points perfectly matched!

I did make some quilts I liked in those classes! Design by Cindy Williams

Part way through the class I realized that, for me, learning to make everything more precise was not an enjoyable activity.  I quilt for my own satisfaction, and my version of fun involves developing designs rather than copying somebody else’s design as precisely as possible.  In fact, even when I buy a pattern, I rarely follow it exactly.  My “variations” on these patterns are a (friendly) joke among my quilting buddies: “Mary can’t just make the pattern, she has to change something.”

modern quilt design

I substituted one large block for 4 of the small ones.  

My goal is to give each task the time and energy it deserves, no more and no less.  For example, I think doing a quilt binding the traditional way, by hand, is a waste of time and energy in many cases.  A machine-applied binding is more durable, faster, and at least as attractive.  I even read one modern quilter’s opinion that a machine binding “adds an extra line of quilting on the back!”  So much for the quilt maven’s worry that the machine stitching from the front shows on the back!  I do occasionally apply a binding by hand, but there has to be a reason for it.

Lombard Street quilt pattern

I applied this binding by hand in the traditional way because I didn’t want machine stitching on the front to “fight” with the striped border

So what’s your opinion?  Which quilting techniques/designs/details are worth the trouble and which should be modified?  Leave me a comment!

A Little Landscape Quilt

My friend Melanie mentioned recently how much inspiration comes from travel, and I agree.  While travelling in New England last summer, I came across this book in a quilt shop.

I enjoy making landscape quilts and made quite a few at one time, but donated them almost all of them to the free clinic where I worked for a while.  It’s time now to make some more!  I have been saving this project as a reward for getting some other things done!

My First Tiny Landscape

Karen gives very, very detailed step-by-step instructions and I must say that’s a good thing!  The book is well illustrated and I had no trouble making this little village on my first attempt.  Because I already had the materials, it is postcard size (4″ x 6″)!  As you can see in the picture, her directions involve finishing the piece with tulle over everything to be sure none of the tiny pieces comes loose.

I enjoyed this project and like the way it came out.  I must note, however, that it took all day to make one postcard 😀

A Few Extra Projects

Have you ever noticed that, whenever you try to finish a big project, other little projects just creep in?
Since I always have at least one “big project” going, I guess it’s inevitable that the other things that need doing have to be fit in sideways. Lately there’s been a lot of that.
First, I appliqued an orphan block to a bag for a speaker I invited to our modern guild.

orphan block on bag

This is a great use for orphan blocks. Just attach to a bag, and you have a handmade gift!

Then I found a tutorial for a pyramid bag and had to make a few…plus one more this week!Finally, our travel wine glasses (they are Lexan, and disassemble for safe travel) needed a travel case:In the midst of all this, I started having trouble with my walking foot while trying to quilt another project! Does a walking foot wear out???

In any case, I think I have procrastinated with little projects as long as I can, so I’d better go bind a few quilts.  Have a good week!

Asheville Quilt Show

So I went to the Asheville Quilt Guild’s annual show, which usually has lots of inspiration.  There were many nice quilts, but two quilt makers stood out, in my opinion.

The first is Diana Ramsay, whom I know from the Modern Quilt Guild, which used to exist in Asheville.  Here are her quilts:

Fascinating Rhythm by Diana Ramsay

modern quilt, Asheville Quilt Show

Bulls Eye II, by Diana Ramsay

Although I don’t know Linda Fiedler, I was very impressed by her quilts, as well:

Moonglow, by Linda Fiedler

The guild’s gift shop always has something I wish I had made, and this year it was a little pyramid bag.  Of course I bought it.

I’ve always liked pyramid bags, which I first saw years ago in a craft store in Berea, Kentucky.  I had a pattern to make one, but it seemed pretty complex.  The internet to the rescue!  I found several sets of instructions and even videos.  Here are the instructions I used:

http://www.loganberryhandmade.com/sew-triangle-zipper-bag-pyramid-pouch-sewing-tutorial/

And here is the first set of pyramids. 

They were quick and easy!  Do I hear a Christmas gift idea?

Two More Quilts Find Homes

One of the best things about quilting is being able to give quilts to people who will appreciate them. Our friends Jim and Michele recently moved and, when we went to see them and the new house, I took two big piles of quilts so that each of them could choose a quilt to use in their new home.

We loved the modern house they chose in a wooded setting.  I think Abby the dog loves it, too

Michele chose a quilt to cuddle under while watching TV or reading, and to my surprise it was a traditional sampler quilt made from a block swap with friends.  The choice certainly reinforced my idea of letting friends choose their own quilts rather than choosing for them.

Who knew that a photo in bright sun would show up the quilting so well?

Jim chose one to hang in his music studio.  Michele recently sent a picture of the quilt hanging there.  As you can see, it goes well with his other bright decor. This is a variation on a design I did for Modern Quilts Unlimited several years ago.

What have you been up to?

More From VQF

I am away at a retreat this week, so here, at last, are more of the wonderful quilts from the Vermont Quilt Festival.  I know, it’s been 3 months, but they’re still great quilts!  Most are art quilts, meaning they have no likely use to keep anyone warm, but I enjoyed the innovative techniques used in them.

VQF, Vermont Quilt Festival

Party Lanterns (detail) by Jean Potvin. The strips are about 1/2″ finished!

modern quiltHaley’s Concept by Bruce Harmon

abstract art quilt

Zoo Bound by G Wong. This was made for a niece going to college!

modern quilt

Take A Left at the Wall and Keep Going by Lois Nial. This was one of my favorites.

butterfly quilt

Kimimila by Beverly Cook. This quilt is round, and looked like stained glass.

orange and blue quiltSunny Day Evolution by Sharon Tier

Art QuiltBranches 5: Big Branches by Lee Sproull

diamond quiltPiece of Cake by Ann Feitelson

arrow quilt

This Way Up by Jen Sorenson

art quiltClinging to the Edge by Irene Roderick

And I did get a little bit done on the triangle quilt this week.  Here it is so far:Triangles-11

I can’t decide whether the light blue is too light or not.  It may be clearer either way when there are more blocks.

Fourth Quarter Classes

I’ll be teaching two fun classes between now and Christmas (yes! It is coming!) at Studio Stitch in Greensboro, NC.

The first, scheduled for Saturday, November 3, is a pattern called “Frosty Flakes” from Sew Special Designs.

Frosty Flakes, Sew Special Designs

This is the quilt including border

I actually made this half size just by reducing the patterns for the snowmen by 50% on my copier. It makes a good child’s quilt or wall hanging at this size. The full size pattern is lap size.

Here’s a photo of just the center so you can see the cute blocks better

The other class is the place mats you’ve already seen.  I made them from the shop’s current collection of Christmas fabric, but they are quick and easy so I often make them from other fabrics to have on hand for hostess gifts.

If you’re near Greensboro, come join us at Studio Stitch!

Triangles: What Do You Think?

It all started with this beautiful batik that was ON SALE…And I have quite a collection of batik scraps from other projects, so I decided to make a scrap quilt with colors that would go with the sale fabric. Initially, I made the blocks really scrappy:

Then I made a few that were more controlled and liked them better:


This is just up on the design wall, not sewn, and I’m thinking of taking out the really scrappy ones. They kind of jar my nerves.But, what do you think? It’s good to have opinions from quilty friends!

Great Aunt Bess’s “Fizzle Drawer” and A Busy Week

I have a number of pieces of antique furniture, as much out of obligation as desire. These belonged to my grandparents, great-grandparents, and in one case to my great-great-grandmother. One of them contains Great Aunt Bess’s “Fizzle Drawer”.

Granny once commented on it, saying that whenever her sister, Bess, had a sewing project that “fizzled”, the project went into that drawer. I’m not sure what happened after that. This would have been in the early part of the 20th Century, but I don’t even know whether the “fizzle” items were clothing or something else.  By the time I inherited the furniture they were long gone!

I think some of my UFOs probably should go in the “fizzle drawer”, but I don’t know when to quit, so I keep working on them.  This next one was a class I did not especially enjoy, but I’ve converted it to 4 large blocks to be combined into a donation quilt.

This next one is not a fizzle, it’s a set of place mats I made for a quick holiday class to teach this fall.  I developed this pattern YEARS ago for McCall’s Quick Quilts and have made many versions of it since.  Place mats are a nice hostess gift to have on hand.

We went to the “apple barn” this weekend and got some apples–must be fall!  Here is the view from the apple barn, looking across some trees heavy with red apples to the mountains beyond.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

How was your week?