• I Never Met a Scrap I Didn’t Like

    Well, that’s not entirely true, there are ugly scraps I have discarded albeit with some sense of regret. It is scrap quilting that got me interested in quilting in the first place and there was a time when scraps were all I could afford. My mom sewed clothing (she was not a quilter) and she generated LOTS of scraps. Mind you, most of these were not cotton and my early quilts were made of such inappropriate materials such as robe velour and taffeta; I even put parts of a mink coat into one quilt. Once friends learned I was into quilting the influx of scraps became a torrent.

    Now when I say ‘scraps’ – I mean SCRAPS! most of what I have pulled out of classroom wastepaper baskets is what I would call ‘yardage’, a ‘scrap’ is small enough that you could fit over two dozen of them into a sandwich bag. But what to do with them? If you like applique as I do, there are always opportunities to use even very small pieces in applique work but it seems like no matter how many scraps I pull out of my boxes and baskets, the contents of these containers never seem to diminish, it’s almost like they are breeding in there like some kind of rabbits on fertility drugs.

    Every now and again I threaten to just dump them but can never make myself do it. A couple of months ago, I went to a friend’s studio and found her busily piecing tiny (3″) blocks from her scraps – a center strip with a white strip on either side. She sand the old familiar song of going into her studio that morning fully intent upon tossing these bits of flotsam and jetsam and found that she too, could not bring herself to part with them. Her quilt is several feet in diameter now and keeps growing every time I see it. When asked how large she intends to make it, she shrugs and replies that it will be done when it’s done.

    This was just the push I needed to finally start a serious assault on my own scraps. So… what do you do with scraps that are too narrow to work their way into an on-going Log Cabin scrap quilt?

    Some of my really narrow fabric strips - most narrower than 1 1/2" wide.
    Some of my really narrow fabric strips – most narrower than 1 1/2″ wide.

    You strip piece them of course! Sew them together into parallel rows in whatever lengths they happen to be. Leftover pieces long enough for another block unit can be added onto for further blocks. I settled on a 4″ square as a base size and to make that goal easier, I positioned two pieces of blue tape 4″ apart on the front of my sewing extension table; I can hold my ever widening panel of strips against it to check the progress and check that a strip is long enough to participate as well. The strip pieced panel can be a bit wider than 4″ (it will be trimmed and squared) but it mustn’t be less,

    My 4" tape gauge to check my panel width
    My 4″ tape gauge to check my panel width

    After enough strips are joined, the panel is pressed and then trimmed and squared down with a 4″ square ruler (the blocks will ‘finish’ at 3 1/2″ when sewn together. I don’t concern myself too much about colors and grouping other than a general attempt to not have glaring clashes in color or value, the idea here is just to get rid of most of my scraps.

    A 4" 'squaring' ruler makes trimming the panels into blocks a snap, a larger ruler would work as well but this is easier. Note the longer ends beyond the ruler, these will get incorporated into the next block
    A 4″ ‘squaring’ ruler makes trimming the panels into blocks a snap, a larger ruler would work as well but this is easier. Note the longer ends beyond the ruler, these will get incorporated into the next block

    The trimmed blocks get tossed into a large Zip Loc bag with all the others, sooner or later I will have enough to do something with.

    The blocks are a riot of color - anything goes as long as the strips finish around 1/4" wide. Narrower than that becomes difficult to deal with seam allowances
    The blocks are a riot of color – anything goes as long as the strips finish around 1/4″ wide. Narrower than that becomes difficult to deal with seam allowances

    Like my friend Jane, I have no actual plan or goal for how large a quilt I am aiming for, nor how I am going to lay them out though the image below is one idea.

    Perhaps I will assemble the blocks in alternating directions; or I could alternate with solid colored squares or a different block design
    Perhaps I will assemble the blocks in alternating directions; or I could alternate with solid colored squares or a different block design

    I just want to make a productive dent in these scraps that have weaseled their way into my psyche, I can’t bear to relegate them to a landfill (or even as stuffing for a dog bed though that is where the really ugly ones go as well as those too small for even me to bother with). I have a few such ‘scrap’ projects going and in future posts, I will share some of those other ideas and designs.


  • Journal Quilts ~ Exploring Mondrian

    Once a month at two local shops, I hold an ongoing class called Art Journal Quilts. This class is aimed at exploring various techniques or design approaches that are more ‘artistic’ than the traditional methods/designs usually pursued in quilting. Fabric painting/printing, embroidery, 3-D manipulation, embellishment… we explore a different project each month to create quilts in a small format (which means they may actually get finished instead of floating around as UFOs).

    Some students attend and just experiment with the technique, filing it away for future reference but there are several who are quite prolific in completing their projects. I am so delighted when any of them bring a completed project in following months to show and share with the class and over the years, I have built up quite a collection of photos of their quilts. I hope to be able to add these to my blog on a regular basis. As much as I love posting pictures of my own work, it gives a better perspective when I can show the same assignment from different minds and hands.

    A couple of months ago, we played with flat piping to create very fine framing lines between pieced squares and rectangles. The resulting lines were far thinner than one could hope to create by inserting a narrow strip in the more traditional approach and also added a nice subtle dimension to the surface texture. Though this method could be applied to any pieced design, I chose to use the work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian as inspiration, his geometric arrangement of squares and rectangles in primary colors was a natural for this.

    For those interested in joining one of my Art Journal Classes, they are held once a month at Pioneer Quilts in Milwaukie (usually the first Friday of each month) and at Sewn Loverly in Wilsonville (usually the last Thursday of each month); contact either shop for more information or to enroll. Please note that the projects and lessons will vary from month to month, the images shown above do not represent the class assignment for an upcoming class.


  • More Student Work (and a bit of my own)

    The photos of projects from my April workshop in Las Vegas keep trickling in. I must say – not only am I pleased with the  beauty and creativity of their work but also with their follow through; I always ask students to send me pictures of their finished projects but rarely get as much response as I have from the Desert Quilters in Nevada. The two images here are from one student who did two of the class projects and is working on a third that she promises to send me when it is done.

    Now onto my latest workshop: I taught my Animal Totem class to the Westside Quilters Guild  last weekend, I had a fabulous turnout for the class. I did manage to snap a few pictures before the end of the class and hope to get more as students complete their quilts. Several (more than usual) chose to hand applique their projects so those may take awhile, it seems these days most students prefer a faster method but as a dedicated member of the ‘Secret Society of Handworkers’ (not really a guild – I’m being facetious) myself, it always pleases me to see hand applique is not a lost art.  My heartfelt thanks to the Westside Quilters for a successful class.

    Some new additions to my own collection of  Small Wonders are two samples I finished for my Journal Quilts classes. I hold these once a month at two shops in the Portland Metro Area – Pioneer Quilts in Milwualkie (the first Friday of each month) and Sewn Loverly in Wilsonville (the last Thursday of each month), In these three-hour sessions we explore techniques a bit more on the artistic side than traditional quilting, Stamping, embroidering, beading, painting, fabric manipulation, embellishing… we poke our noses into just about anything fiber arts related and the students get an opportunity to learn and try techniques on small projects (I call them ‘Small Wonders’) that beats experimenting on a larger project and finding that it’s really not your cup of tea and then relegating it to your UFO pile. If, on the other hand, you do find you like the process, you now have yet another skill you can add to future projects and expand your horizons.

    Last month at Pioneer Quilts, we explored an approach to embellishment I was inspired to from a report I heard on NPR. It concerned an approach to composing music based on a sort of DNA model and what is called The Music of the Spheres – a composition in which each celestial body (or musical instrument) follows its own repetitive cycle or beat that might be static on its own but blended together with others forms a complex pattern. I wondered as I listened to the report if there was a way I could express this visually with embellishment and my artwork ‘Music of the Spheres’ was the result. The previous month we explored working with flat piping at both shops and the design approach was inspired by the abstract work of Dutch artist Piet Mondrian who created a series of works consisting of squares and rectangles in primary colors divided by graphic narrow black lines (we used the flat piping here). My instructional layout yielded an area larger than the rest of the arrangement that cried out for a motif so I hand embroidered the iconic ‘She Who Watches’ petroglyph on my sample. The last image is of yet another Bella Vista landscape, this one of Mt. Hood portrayed in moonlight.

    I will be giving the Bella Vista Landscapes workshop in a few weeks for the Crook County Quilt Guild over in Prineville, the Mt Hood pattern will be one of several pattern options.