Revisiting Unfinished Quilts

There are a couple quilts that were started a few years ago that got put on hold for a couple reasons. Having an injured elbow was an excuse to procrastinate revisiting a quilt project that was being difficult.

A quite legitimate excuse because free-motion quilting was not something I could do. Now that the elbow is better, I have to get past the reasons why they were set aside before the elbow became another reason.

trimming quilt blocks

For this quilt, I tried several quilting patterns and ripped out several before deciding to just have several different quilting patterns in the quilt. Using a quilt-as-you-go method means each piece can be quilted differently. Plus, I was one block shy of having enough for a 5×6 block quilt. It was always easier to find something else to work on than to plow through scraps to see if there was something for that last block.

When I pulled it out of the pile of things to get done a couple days ago, I found that it needed the one block plus a total of ten blocks needed to be quilted.

Yes, this is a quilt-as-you-go type of quilt. I call the method Unit Quilting. It is a construction method that I developed over 25 years ago. It has since been published in an article I authored, titled A New Curve to Quilt-As-You-Go in American Quilter’s Society magazine American Quilter, summer 2003, vol. XIX No.2.

One of the things that is special about this technique is not even taken advantage of in this quilt. With Unit Quilting, quilt-as-you-go is not limited to standard block construction, but can accommodate curves and irregular shapes. The banner photo at the top of the home page for this blog is a close up of a quilt made using Unit Quilting method. Here is a picture of the whole quilt:


Each color area was quilting as a separate unit. The term unit better describes these non-block shapes. Then they were trimmed, sewn together and seams were bound. Much easier than trying to quilt a large quilt.

Unlike the quilt that is in progress, all the units in this quilt all have the same quilting pattern.

Hopefully, in a few days there will be more progress to share.


Temari #100- a mini c10

This is my 100th temari that I have made.

temari 100 view 2

It is a mini c10 stitched with embroidery floss (single, double and triple strands) and perle cotton #8. The perle cotton is hand dyed.

temari 100 view 1

It is 1 1/4″ in diameter.






Temari #99

This is the 99th temari I have made since I first discovered temari and started making them three years ago.


temari 99

I think it was the lure of geometry in the round and the seemingly endless design possibilities were irresistible and hooked me in spite of my anti-hand sewing bent. I have since been reformed and enjoy hand sewing, at least in some applications (still not fond of hemming or mending).

Polyhedrons are fascinating and a sphere is such a perfect form, so I find designing and creating embroidered works based on spherical polyhedrons to be very rewarding.

This temari is a C8 with asanoha stitching inside the 8 hexagon areas and the 6 four-pointed stars include stem stitch and chain stitching. Asanoha stitching is a traditional Japanese pattern that is named for resemblance to the hemp leaf.

All the threads used for stitching are hand dyed perle cotton in sizes #5 and #8.

temari 99 close up of asanoha pattern


Temari #98- Black Trillium

What? You think there is no such thing as Black Trillium?

temari 98 black trillium view 2

A Trillium in a woodland plant that is native in temperate regions of North America and Asia. The flowers have only three petals. There is much variety in the shape of the flowers and the colors of the petals range in shades of red, purple, pink, white, yellow, or green,  but no black.

temari 98 black trillium view 1

At least no black Trillium flowers in nature, so I created a cluster of them on a temari. This is a C10 division temari that is stitched with hand dyed perle cotton thread in sizes 5 and 8.

Sadly, there are no Trillium in my yard garden, of any color. Maybe one of these days, my garden will be graced with a Trillium, and any color would be fine with me as they are all lovely.

Experimenting with quilt techniques

This is a close-up of a small reverse applique sample quilt in progress. Each of the circles is being outlined in a hand embroidered stem stitch using hand dyed perle cotton thread. It is a subtle, but effective outline that gives the circles more definition.

quilt sampler 3

The purple fabric was layered on top of a piece of blue fabric and then the two were stitched together in a grid. Some of the rectangles of purple layer were cut away to reveal the blue fabric underneath.

Then pieces of the colorful batik fabric was stitched as circles to the back of the blue/purple sandwich. On the front, the blue and purple layers were cut away inside the circles.

All the layers were backed with flannel for batting and a cream colored fabric for backing . Then the whole thing was machine stitched two more times along the grid lines.

Next, it was time to play with some thread embellishing. The circles were machine stitched around numerous times to give them an outer glow and hand stitched along the edge to give more definition. Hand stitched lines along a few of the grid lines add to the movement and balance in the quilt design.

The impetus for this quilt was twofold: 1. to experiment with raw edge machine reverse applique, and 2. to work without the constraints of traditional quilting rules.

The second one is an exercise in developing more freedom in designing and creating quilts. That does not mean that no rules were followed in making this quilt, just not traditional ones. Rules help to get predictable results. And once one has achieved a certain level of mastery of traditional rules in a given art form, then they are able to achieve predictable results.

Certain rules make sense for certain applications. That is how many traditional quilting rules were probably established. Most quilters have heard about making your stitches short enough that they are not toe nail catchers. That was a reasonable rule back when most quilts were made for the bed, but not necessary for art quilts that hang on the wall.

By understanding the basis of traditional rules, then it is possible to bend or break rules and make new rules with effectiveness in achieving desired results.

With the change in the purpose of quilt to a decorative art, the many of the same rules do not need to apply anymore. Setting aside those rules creates an opportunity to experiment with techniques that will yield different results.

quilt sampler 1

There was a third reason why I am working on this quilt. Having just had minor surgery on my foot and having finished my latest temari, I needed a new project to work on while I keep my foot elevated.

In the picture above, I have my foot propped up on a footstool with a couple pillows while outline stitching the circles on this quilt. I have my bright task light to make my job easier and I have my wonderful dog to keep me company.

quilt sampler 2

The idea of experimenting with new ideas and breaking rules must have been contagious. My sweet dog decided that she would try out napping on my end of the sofa behind me instead of on her denim quilt next to me. She must have thought it was a successful experiment since she stayed until I got up much later. She knows that the rule is to be on her quilt if she is on the sofa. She has stretched this rule to the point that often only a small part of her is on her quilt, like she is here. Truly, she is a kindred spirit.

Temari 97- another gift

Temari 97 was made as a gift for my mother, who is red/green color blind.

temari 97

Since she is as fond of plants as I am, it was tempting to make one that was botanically inspired. I was seeing green leaves with red flowers in my mind, but I also wanted to make one for which she could see the colors as a non-color blind person would see them.

This is a C8 division temari stitched with cotton perle in both hand dyed (light blue and yellow) and commercially dyed (black and dark blue).

I chose blue, yellow, black and white. The six blue pointed stars with yellow centers ended up being somewhat flower-like in design. So, I was pleased with how the temari turned out; I hope Mom is pleased with it too.


Temari 96- a gift

temari 96 view 1

This temari was made to be a gift for my father. It is a C8 division that is made of six units of interwoven pairs of spindles that make X’s and 8 units of 3 spindles that interweave to make stars.

The dark X’s were stitched with three different hand dyed perle cotton #5 threads, from light blue/green in the center to dark blue on the outside.

The X’s were stitched first, knowing there would be some design element in the almost hexagon spaces, but not know what. After the dark spindle X’s were done, making spindle stars in the remaining spaces seemed like the logical solution.

Three different hand dyed perle cotton #8 threads were used, a different one for each spindle, to stitch the stars. Lighter colors were used for the stars so they would be a secondary design element as they contrast less with the background.  Each spindle color traces a line around the ball, which gives some movement to an otherwise almost static design.

An ecru color was used to outline all the spindles, which helped to emphasize the weaving, at least on the dark X’s.

temari 96 view 2

I am pleased with the finished temari and I am sure my father, a mathematician, will enjoy it too.

Temari 95- blooming

Observing the energy and beauty of Spring season is always a source of inspiration; both to work in the garden and to create art that reflects what I see in the garden.

The last temari, #94, was inspired by ferns unfurling. This temari, #95, is obviously about flowers blooming, with no reference to a particular flower, just symbolic of flowers blooming in general.

temari 95 view 1

This is a C8 division temari, so there are 6 faces that are “square” and the tips of each leaf go to the corners of the squares. See where three leaves meet? That would be a corner on cube.

temari 95 wip 1

The leaves are really just two overlapping pointed ovals.

temari 95 wip 2

An X was stitched across the center of both. The X marks the spot that will be the center of the flower. A pin through the flower and into the center of the X made alignment easy.

temari 95 wip 3

Next,  a long stem lazy daisy stitch was used to create stamens and to secure the flower to the ball.

temari 95 wip 4

An X was stitched in the center of the flower as stitching guidelines.

temari 95 wip 5

The flower center was stitched.

temari 95 wip 6

And the last little finishing detail is the little triangle stitching at the intersection of the leaves.

temari 95 view 2

Hand dyed perle cotton #5 thread was used to stitch the leaves and to embellish the flowers. The flowers are made of hand dyed rayon/wool felt.

Temari 94- unfurling

Here you get to see row by row, how  the spirals in temari #94 grew. Four different embroidery stitches, one crochet stitch, and eight different color threads were used to  create the spirals. The threads are perle cotton in sizes 5 and 8 and all are hand dyed except the red.

The layout of the spiral design is on a simple division, an S4, with no markings.

  1. An open network of thin pale green spirals was stitched with a stem stitch.
  2.  Using a crochet hook, a row of a brighter green chain stitching was added. This gave the next row something to stitch through so the first row would still be completely visible.

temari 94 view 1

3. Next, a row of scroll stitching in a green/turquoise variegated thread was added.

temari 94 view 2

4. Basque stitch in a darker green was used to build on the scroll stitch. With this stitch I was able to vary the width of the spiral lines and create open spaces in the stitching.

temari 94 view 3

5. Another layer of stem stitching was added in a pale bright green.

temari 94 view 4

6. The next round of stitching did not add to the width of the spirals, but added color and interest. Turquoise french knots were stitched inside each of the open spaces of the basque stitches.

temari 94 view 5

7. A row of a peach color was stitched on both sides of the spirals, outlining them with a color that is not quite a complimentary color.

temari 94 view 6

8. The final outlining of the spirals was stem stitched in a complimentary red. I was ready to be finished with this temari after the french knots were added, but it just needed the outlining with the contrasting warm colors for it to appear finished.

temari 94 view 7

Finally, after close to 2,400 stitches, it is done.

temari 94 fininshed



Thread Button Made

A thread button made today is the start of learning a new skill for me. Although, the embroidery stitching that I have been teaching myself for temari making translates well to making a thread button.

thread button 1 front

This lovely button was made with hand dyed #5 perle cotton thread on a 1″ plastic bone ring. This was the thread that was within arms length of where I was sitting. Using a finer weight thread such as a #8 would give it a different look on the same size ring.

thread button 1 back

I decided to finish the back off to practice making a two sided button. Making a two sided thread button means it could be used for an ornament such as an earring, Christmas decoration, or key fob.  I am thinking that this weight thread would look better on a larger ring for something like a Christmas ornament.

For a first attempt, I am pleased with the results and encouraged to forge ahead making more.