One tip: perfect needle-turn applique

I am very good at raw edge applique, but needle-turn applique intimidated me, and every attempt looked sloppy. Until now. Carolyn Friedlander suggested in her book, Savor Each Stitch, that you baste the piece to the background one-quarter inch from the applique edge as a guide for turning under the fabric. This changed everything. I deviated from her instructions and instead I stitched one-quarter inch from the edge of the piece, separate from the background:


I applied starch on the edges and ironed:


I used temporary glue to attach to the background fabric:

no sew glue

At this point I had the choice to stitch down by machine or by hand. I choose by hand, using a Size 11 gold needle by John James and 50 weight thread from Mettler in a matching thread. I’m experimenting with curves as part of the Savor Each Stitch Book Bee and studying Contrast. The pink and orange seemed like a good place to start.

needle turned applique

If you aren’t into this method, there are ways to get the same effect with no fabric turning. Jenna Brand has a tutorial.

I’m linking this post to The Late Night Quilters’ Tips or Tutorials Tuesday.

One tip at a time,


Resources for just about every sewing tip.


May Chappell has organized her Terrific Tip Tuesday into categories. It’s a great resource for just about every sewing tip. She covers the following topics:

For a weekly taste of tips, The Late Night Quilter has a Tip or Tutorial every week and links from fellow bloggers:

New Blogger Series

I’m linking this post to that blog for this week’s Tips and Tutorials. Check it out. Today’s tip is perfect for being perfect when hand stitching.

Keep the tips coming,


There are no rules in making a modern quilt, but just in case. Five Things you should know.

LOve is messy

In case you want some guidance in your modern quilt making, here are the top five things you need to know:

  1. functional.
  2. use of expansive negative space.
  3. improvisational piecing.
  4. bold and graphic.
  5. minimalism.

For an explanation of modern quilts, I turn to the Modern Quilt Guild. They say:

Modern quilts are primarily functional and inspired by modern design. Modern quilters work in different styles and define modern quilting in different ways, but several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. “Modern traditionalism” or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.

I. Functional

This means you can throw the quilt in the washing machine. I see a lot of modern quilts used as wall hangings and they function as art, but you could still throw them in the wash and they don’t need to be sent to the dry cleaners. I take this “functional” label to mean they aren’t embellished with beads and such.

II. Expansive Negative Space

The key word here is “expansive.”. Traditional quilts use negative space. My Vintage Moments quilt uses negative space but it isn’t a modern quilt:


Expansive negative space uses large areas of the same color of fabric and it seems to use minimal piecing.

This was my first attempt at a modern quilt with expansive negative space:

Bernina: lost at sea.

Bernina: lost at sea.

It tells the story of my fear that parts to fix my Bernina would be lost at sea.

My initial understanding of negative space is the use of space to create a design. The Wildcats logo uses negative space:


I like the use of large areas of solid fabric in a quilt, but to make it functional, that negative space needs quilting and all that free motion quilting seems to me to be no different than piecing. Either way there is a design in that space. Thread versus piecing — I don’t know the answer to what is negative space. Maybe it has to read as a solid background and it has nothing to do with negative space design. The blog, KnitNkwilt, has a discussion about negative space in modern quilts. I’m still trying to figure out what this means.

III. Bright and Graphic Color Palettes (high contrast and graphic areas of solid color)

Again, my Vintage Moments quilt uses high contrast with the black and white. High contrast in a modern quilt must mean something more than that. The following photo is a quilt which won third place in the QuiltCon show for best handwork.


Fill the Void by Cinzia Allocca Pierrefonds, Quebec, Canada Pieced & Quilted by: Cinzia Allocca

This quilt uses high contrast and graphic areas of solid color. I like bright and graphic colors but I’m also in love with muted colors which I think could be modern.

IV. Improvisational Piecing

I love improvisational piecing.  I think “improvisational piecing” is akin to my understanding of “liberated” quilting. Last year I made a quilt from pieces of scraps from previous projects and quilts, mostly traditional. I made wonky log cabins but the “logs” were white or white-on-white fabric, also left over from previous quilts. I call it Sentimental Soup.

sentimenal soup

V. Minimalism

This category seems the easiest for me to understand. Perhaps it is because I see it as Modern Art.

This is a painting by Brice Marden. I recently saw it as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The work is titled, “Meritalio.”

Meritatio By Brice Marden ,1978

This painting looks like a minimal quilt.

I recently finished a quilt, titled Muppets Minimal. I know I named it ‘minimal’ and so it must be minimal. Right?


This quilt is my husband’s favorite and is perfect for long naps. Functional – check. Expansive Negative Space- check.  Bright and Graphic- check. Minimal- check.  Improvisational Muppets- check. This must be a modern quilt. The LOVE quilt at the top of this post checks some of these blocks — improvisational, graphic, functional but not minimal and not much expansive negative space. This quilt is called, Love is messy, and is my tribute to the LOVEWorks sculptures throughout Virginia. The point is that a modern quilt doesn’t have to be all these things at once, and that just isn’t possible.

VI. Traditional with a Twist

I’m drawn to quilts which use traditional blocks in a new way.  The Modern Quilt Guild recognizes these quilts as “modern.” The Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild explains:

Modern quilting is a new twist on the traditional art of quilting. This may mean something as simple as using a traditional quilt block and updating it in a fresh, fun new way. That includes using modern fabrics, modifying the block arrangement or even the scale of the block. The piecing could be improvisational and liberated, or it could be very exact and measured, following a pattern or creating your own. The quilting could be traditional stippling, clean straight lines, or a very “free,” fun, quilt-as-you-go style. Fabrics could be upcycled vintage sheets, custom digitally printed fabric, a yummy selection from one of the new modern fabric designers, or an old fabric from an ever-growing stash.


Modern quilting is also about the attitude and the approach that modern quilters take. It respects the amazing artistry and talent of the tradition of quilting, while allowing the quilter to challenge the “rules.” In fact, if there were one rule in modern quilting, it would be that there are no rules.

I like this description. THERE ARE NO RULES!

VII. Final Thoughts

I believe art, and modern quilts, must have some connection to the person who is creating the art or the quilt. Merely reproducing a replica of a piece of modern art is hollow. I have to find what speaks to me and what I want to create. I want my quilts to have a story.

Telling stories one quilt at a time,


Update: after writing this post I realized I completely forgot about Alternate Gridwork which was the requirement for the QuiltCon Charity Quilt I helped make. I plan to write another post on the completed quilt, but here it is at QuiltCon:

QuiltCon charity quilt


Book Bee: Savor Each Stitch

I’m participating in a Book Bee with a few members of the Houston Modern Quilt Guilt. We’re using Carolyn Friedlander’s book, Savor Each Stitch. I learned of this group from the blog, ModQuiltMom. They meet in Houston, Texas the first Saturday every other month, and they were gracious to allow me to follow along using a Google community page. Our goal: to share pictures, links and thoughts about our book bee.

Savor Each Stitch

The first chapter was Lines:

I took a literal approach to this design challenge. Sometimes I help my husband (football coach) paint the lines on the football field.  The initial setup for painting the field is like laying off the foundation for a new home. It involves stakes, string and measuring tape. From that experience, I sketched my idea for a small quilt, called “Date Night.”

One evening while we were painting the field, one of the players and his mother drove by the school and his mother suggested her son volunteer to help us. After speaking with my husband, he came back to his mother and said, “No. He doesn’t need help. It’s ‘Date Night.'” The player’s mother enjoyed telling us this story. That’s just downright funny and the perfect name for this quilt.


From there, I started sewing from my “green” scrap bin, except I had about a half yard of kelly green.

My husband suggested the “end zone” needed blue accents. I like how the “end zone” is very liberated and the rest of the field is linear.


Carolyn Friedlander uses dense free motion quilting in many of her quilts. I wanted to try that:

Date Night closeup1

I used high loft batting to give the grass some texture. I’m debating if I should quilt the white lines and if I should quilt in the name of the quilt on the front rather than on a label on the back. I’m going to let it stew for awhile and when I come back to this quilt I should know how I feel about doing that.

I’m enjoying this Book Bee and seeing what the other quilters are doing. The next chapter is Contrast. Initially I wanted to make a small quilt for each chapter in the book, but I’ve learned making Date Night that all the elements of thoughtful design were used in making this quilt. My desire to make multiple quilts was unrealistic. I always have lots of ideas and not enough time to turn those ideas into actual quilts.

CF writes in her book about sketching ideas over and over until you find the essence of your idea. I feel I rush through that process and taking the time to get out the “stakes, string and measuring tape” should improve my design process. At the same time I like just fiddling with fabric and seeing what happens when there is no plan. It’s a tough balance.

Oh, Starch.



Each time I bring home fabric, I wash and dry it, then I press it, but not with starch. I use Mary Ellen’s Best Press. I spray on the back, then flip it over and press on the front of the fabric. I use a dry hot iron and I let the iron do the work!

Iron on top

Then I fold and store. That way I know it’s been pressed when I get it out to use it.

Why do this?

It stabilizes the fabric and it doesn’t stretch. You get more accurate results.


I use regular starch for applique. Spray a small amount in the lid of the Starch, then use a brush to apply to the applique, then press.

Regular starch starching applique2








These hexagons, which I’m making for my hexagon applique quilt, were made by pinning the fabric to the paper with silk pins, letting them sit for a few days, then starching them. It’s faster than basting them. I haven’t tried this method with English Paper Piecing, but it might work.


I don’t use liquid starch that often. It is good for making paper mache or attaching fabric to sheetrock walls. It’s great for renters. You just peel the fabric off when you move and wash the wall.  And, if you have any old doilies you might notice they were made sharp with liquid starch.

Staying sharp,


2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Marsala

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Marsala

Pantone chose Marsala as the Color of the Year.  The bloggers at Play Crafts and On the Windy Side are hosting a quilt challenge/competition to use this color in a quilt.

I pulled some fabric:

marsala stash

I did some sketching and that didn’t inspire any ideas. I looked through a few quilt books and got the idea to make some paper “snowflakes”, which turned out square:

paper cuts

I cut navy “snowflakes”, 15 by 15 inches, with marsala-inspired blocks as the background and vice versa:

sifter blocks

It seemed heavy. So I ditched the navy and went all out Marsala:


I liked the background but that was it. I started over. I went back to my sketches and found a design called The Three Bears with three Bear’s Paw blocks. I took that idea and created one, oversized, Bear’s Paw block I’m calling, “Mama Bear.”

mama bear block

I made a practice block to see what thread I wanted to use and to practice my free motion. I recently purchased the book, Shape by Shape, by Angela Walters. Using her book as a guide, I tried a few designs:

practice1 practice2 practice5 practice6

I didn’t like the pink thread and chose the wine color, Aurifil No. 2460, Dark Carmine Red, 28 weight, which looks more like the marsala color:

mama bear left paw5

This is the quilt, under construction. I had the idea to create “footprints” with pebbles filled in. So far I’ve quilted one of Mama Bear’s paws. I’m going to need more thread. The 28 weight goes fast, but I really wanted the stitching to stand out. By the way, Angela Walters uses Superior Thread So Fine in 50 weight in most of her quilting.

***My concern is that it won’t be “marsala” enough but too berry wine. I’m also concerned it won’t have the graphic impact I want. I’m too far in now to change Mama Bear’s mind, though.

Now that I recognize Marsala, I see it everywhere. I could see this blouse, seen on FleurBonheur’s site on, interpreted as a Marsala quilt:

Flamenco--romantic embroidered blouse, top, textile collage, wearable art, hand dyed, hand beaded details,


Paper Piecing Tips, and “What is an Outhouse?”

outhouse block

After completing my Aerial quilt, which was all paper-piecing, I said, “never again.” But, then I got involved with the Shirt Swap hosted by MayChappell blog, and I made some paper-pieced shirts. The next round of the Shirt Swap includes the Outhouse pattern by Carolyn Friedlander (shown above).

I’ve learned a few things:


I purchased Carol Doak’s Foundation Paper, 100 sheets for $9.95. This paper is better than heavy copy paper:

paper piecing


name it


For those long tiny pieces I use a glue stick to attach the paper to the fabric.


A pin works well, too.

use a pin


I use an index card to crease the stitch line. It’s a guide for my Add-A-Quarter ruler (below on the right). I slide the ruler lip up to the card and cut the one-quarter inch. Look at that perfect one-quarter inch.



For this block there are four parts which are attached ultimately with three seams. I tear away the paper from the seams so that there is less bulk when I sew the last two sections together.

remove seam paper

The finished block looks great from the back:

press open

I love this little house with the bright red door.

outhouse block

According to wikipedia and my own experience, an “outhouse” is an outdoor toilet.   Here is what Carolyn Friedlander said about the pattern on her blog:

Outhouse is new to my paper piecing line, and honestly, it’s just a fun pattern. I had the idea of simple but quirky little houses that you could further personalize and flavor with fun fabric choices. At my new place, I actually have a funky little outhouse that the previous owners built themselves. There’s a great view of it from my office, and so I’m sure that looking at it everyday has played into the speed with which I’ve been able to add this source of inspiration into my pattern line.

I have no clue if Carolyn’s previous owners built an outdoor toilet or just a “quirky little house.” Oh well, these houses remind me of the cellar from my childhood home. It was nestled into the mountain and stored garden potatoes, jars of blackberry jelly, green beans and vegetable soup, and lots of other goodies — maybe a spider or two.

“Mountain Cellar” is my new name for this quilt block.  It just smells better.