The challenge of a challenge

This year’s QuiltCon Michael Miller Fabric Challenge was a finishing challenge.

While  I was machine quilting, my Bernina 560 machine gave me fits. The needle position was to the left when I turned it on but the display said it was in the middle. Then the tension acted up and the stitches looked terrible. This was at the first of November. I took it to the shop— wait time could be 30 days or more. Good grief!

I came home and used my credit card points to purchase an inexpensive machine, a Brother. I didn’t have a backup and this seemed like good time to get one.


City Hall Secrets

That meant I switched to handquilting. I love handquilting but finishing it on time would be a struggle. And it was.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Brother arrived. On Sunday, I added the binding even though I had until November 30 to enter it. You never know when the computer will go out too.

Because sections of the edges were not quilted, I got puckers on the back using the regular presser foot on the Brother when stitching the binding. I was used to my walking foot. And this confirmed how valuable a walking foot is. Most of it was okay but about a third had to be removed and redone. The next pass I pinned the whole thing and no puckers. Yeah for patience!

I took photos on Monday, November 27, and entered the quilt that night.


The quilt design has a nice backstory. In May I took over our Guild’s Instagram account. On May 8 the theme for the day was Inspiration. I took a photo of the back side of City Hall. I live across the street.

Last year I bought Heather Jones’ book, Quilt Local, Finding Inspiration in the Everyday. Heather used photos of local scenes and turned them into quilt designs and quilts. I took her instructions and sketched a quilt from the City Hall photo. Then, a graph with sizes for each edition.


Along the way I adapted it, preferring an asymmetrical design. And I added two rows on the right. Rather than solid “sashing”, I used the Michael Miller Our Yard prints. They started as large improv blocks that I cut and stitched into long strips. That changed my plan to connecting the rows. Instead of three long rows, I had multiple sections and rows. It actually helped with accuracy. I find that sewing long strips together can create wonky lines.


I love a good challenge

One definition of a “challenge” is a stimulating or interesting task or problem. I like quilt challenges because they focus my intentions on a particular problem.

Right now many modern quilters are creating quilts using Michael Miller’s Glitz Collection for the 2016 QuiltCon West show. I was one of those quilters.

The fabric was sophisticated and included mostly polka dots and “orange peel” graphics in silver, white, black and gold. I received 8 fat-eighths.

When I typed the word “glitz” into Pinterest, I got posts from beauty pageants and little girls in heavy makeup — not chic at all. I sketched some, and nothing felt right. I let it go for awhile.

I purchased a notebook while on vacation in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and it inspired me to make Swimsuits as my Glitz challenge:

swimsuits inspiration

I sketched some swimsuits. Then cut out patterns from freezer paper. I added some bikinis to my swimsuit collection.

At first I thought I’d make a simple block in a coordinating solid for each swimsuit, but they looked plain and flat. I went back to Pinterest and typed “vintage swimsuits” and stumbled upon an old Frederick’s of Hollywood ad for lingerie. I liked the design which inspired this sketch:


I played and played and played. I enjoyed the process, folding fabrics and making the most wonderful swimsuit collection.

I entered it in the challenge.

My daughter loves it. She has taken it for her own. Michael Miller fabric feels luxurious.

It’s a winner.

swimsuits make me happy

Swimsuits make me smile too,


Michael Miller Spring Cotton Couture Challenge

I finished my quilt for the Michael Miller Spring Cotton Couture Challenge and just entered it online. The title is, “Robot Couture.”

This is the first quilt I have ever entered into a contest or show.

Here’s what I wrote in my entry about the process:

Couture, to me, means a gown with exquisite details. I sketched dresses for inspiration. My daughter said, “That looks like a dress for a robot.” It had polka dots and hexagons which looked like bolts. I created the “bolts” using a reverse appliqué technique. I placed couture fabric with a white back, drew a circle and stitched; cut the hole out, flipped and ironed. They are attached using y-seam technique. I added “grandmothers gardens”, overlapping them up the side of the quilt. I used all the fat-eighths I received, combined with five other colors from the collection.

The challenge was to create a modern quilt using pastels from the spring collection.  Michael Miller sent fat-eighths of eight of the colors from the spring cotton couture collection: opal, breeze, blossom, spa, spring, candlelight, creamsicle and soft white. I wanted to use all of them, and I did. I also added lavender, lilac, geranium, bubblegum and fern green.


One of the biggest challenge was photographing the quilt. I wanted to take advantage of the gray skies today and found this piece of equipment at the football practice field to hang the quilt, using an old jump robe:


The digital photo had to be no greater than 1800 pixels on the longest side. That required me to use Photoshop to resize the photo — a new thing for me as well. The one concern I had was that the photos didn’t exactly depict the actual color of the fabric and that’s pretty important since this was a fabric challenge. The final photos represent the feel of the fabric colors and are pretty darn close.


I machine quilted the circle/hexagons. I used a reverse applique technique to create them. And, yes, I machine stitched them together using y-seam technique. I hand quilted it using Presensia thread, No. 355 (light gray) and No. 266 (deep purple) and some embroidery thread in yellow and light blue inside the circles. I debated whether the flowers needed more quilting but decided the emphasis should be on the dress.

Thinking of Spring,



Update: December 10, 2014: My quilt wasn’t chosen for the show. I’m really disappointed, but it will force me to review my thinking of what is a modern quilt.