Tessellations-Solving the puzzles

28 09 2012

I love puzzles, and especially the puzzles associated with putting fabric together.  There is a challenge to finding just the right fabrics, to using just the fabrics I have at hand, or to succeeding at some other Susan-imposed limitation that I think is necessary.  Whatever the puzzle, I am in!!

So it seems appropriate that the puzzle aspect of tessellations would appeal to me as a quilter.  I had seen many quilts by some of my favorite EBHQ quilters, especially quilts by Rebecca Rohrkaste and Mabry Benson, so I thought I , too, should try this fun game.  In addition to a small handful of baby quilts, here are a few of my favorites.


The first was this one, using some wonderfully complex fabrics and lovely colors, with just enough value contrast between the fabrics to allow each one to shine.

Tessellations, circa 2002

Tessellated Dots

After finding myself with piles and piles of dotted fabrics leftover from making Maggie’s graduation quilt, I put tons of them together in this huge quilt.  The colors are so cheery and bright that I love to have this hanging on one of the walls in our home.

Tessellated Dots, 2007
63.5″ x 76″
Photography by Sibila Savage

Tessellated Dots, detail


Tessellated Pinwheels

Still with a few more piles of dotty fabric remaining (helped along by subsequent purchases; I never met a dot I didn’t like) and pairing these dots with other bright geometrics, I started on this hand-sewing project that could provide me with hours and hours and hours of stitching during the TV times and the vacations and the road trips.  It’s an English paper piecing project using a design I found in Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, which is full of gems if you are willing to take the time to pore over this tome.

I have given this quilt the subtitle “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time”, because it did seem like lots of fun to keep making these really cute little pinwheels by putting six diamond around a hexagon, made relatively easy by using the EPP method.  Even while making many, many pinwheels, I did not realize the hole I was digging for myself until I decided it was time to start sewing the pinwheels together.   Had the idea of sewing them together occurred to me earlier in this process, this quilt would have been much, much smaller.  Twisting and turning the paper-lined patches to nestle next to each other in this pesky pattern was a difficult maneuver that had to be done way, way, way too many times.

Tessellated Pinwheels, 2009
60″ x 74″—Photography by Sibila Savage

The borders for this quilt were chosen for only one reason:  purple was the only color that was used so little in the quilt that other colors would show up when the pinwheels were next to it.  Also this dark purple was strong enough to hold all these wiggly, jiggly pinwheels in place.  Click on the photo and then click again to get a close up of the quilting, which turned into another unexpected nightmare.  I quilted each pinwheel individually using threads that matched the fabrics in the pinwheels, since there was no thread that could coordinate well with all these brights.

Turns out it was a good idea to make this quilt because I love it, but it was much more work than I thought I was signing up for.

Click here to see more EPP projects by others.

WIP update:

Remember those flowers from last week, the ones waiting to find a home onto which they could be appliqued—they have been multiplying!  Sometime I’ll stop–perhaps now that I realize that I am going to have to sew them all together. Oooops-Wasn’t that the lesson I was supposed to learn from the pinwheels.  Oh, well . . .

Photo Credit

Check out the new photo at the top of the home page.  It’s one of my favorite shots of ME, taken by my husband, Paul Hennessey.  Love those old-fashioned irons, too!!

Works-in-Progress, Sept/2012

21 09 2012

? ? ? ? ? ?

How do we ever choose what to work on at any given time?  I came up with this question after returning from a relaxing week away from home (You were fabulous, Ashland OR and the OSF!).  I specifically took along a hand sewing project that I wanted to finish, and also packed a pile of fabrics for a project that I was considering for a new work, just in case I finished the first task.

You guessed it:  I completed about half of the original task, and then went nuts on  the pile of fabrics, and made these,  which currently have no planned home:

Just can’t stop making them for now.  I think I’m putting in my training time on the hand applique techniques, which I’m finding very satisfying, after doing so much patchwork for the last 40 years.

Since I could not stop sewing these things, I think this is the feeling that I am looking for when I do what I do—being “in the zone”, losing track of time, I’ll make just one more, this quilt “made itself”, I was just playing, etc.  I’ve been in all these states, and I think this is where I do the best work.

Another WIP

I’m making another quilt from 2″ squares, just like Fun Fours, as described in the previous Four Patches blog post.  The quilt top was done, but this quilt sat for quite a while because I wanted to find a new quilting pattern.  When I make a quilt I have made before I want to do  something new, something individual.  This time I wanted a different quilting.

I designed a free motion quilting pattern simple enough for me to be able to execute.  I think it will work out well.  Of course I chose to to these new machine quilting techniques on a quilt that is HUGE, so it will be a while in the making.

No longer a WIP

I finally figured out how to quilt this recent squares exercise about which I wrote in August, and had tons of fun doing it.  Really like how bright and cheery it came out.

All the circles seemed to coordinate well with all the dots.  I used a commercial template to start the centers of the large motifs, and then just eyeballed the rest of the spiral.  Also got a chance to use up some wonderful Sulky rayon 30-wt. threads from a previous project—orange, yellow and fuchsia.

Free form circles in the border–fast becoming one of my favorite border patterns, since it is soooooo fun to do.

Redwork Revisited

14 09 2012

The story of another quilt, one of my recent favorites—

My kids tell me that I never watch television, though I am in front of the device regularly.  What they mean is:  I never “watch” television, I merely “listen”.  My tolerant husband and family know that my hands will always be busy with some kind of project:  sorting fabrics for a quilt, knotting the ends of machine-quilting stitches, doing cross-stitching, paper piecing patches, doing hand applique, etc.

Over the last five or ten years I have been fascinated with simple embroidery, wanting to recreate the kitchen linens from my grandmother’s kitchen.  So I made billions of sets of cotton kitchen towels while listening to some great television programs and amassing a wonderfully healthy collection of vintage embroidery transfers, some of which are shown here:

So when I ran out of people to whom I could gift the towels, I finally realized I should use some of my favorite images from these vintage embroidery transfers to make a redwork quilt for myself.  Here is the result.  I love this quilt!!!  And I find Sibila’s detail shots compelling, too.

Redwork Revisited, 2011
71″ x 89″
Photography by Sibila Savage

Once I was on my way with the embroideries, I had to decide the placement of the images.  Collecting a large stash of white-on-red fabrics and red-on-white fabrics was enjoyable as well, and these needed to be scattered carefully around the quilt.

Then I thought I was finished.  But sometimes these quilts will not let themselves be done.  The problem:  I could not find an acceptable fabric for the triangle shapes on the top, bottom, and sides, so I made more embroideries, mostly from the “test samples” in the embroidery transfer sets.  These small images worked perfectly, even though it was more work.  This quilt also sat borderless for a while: nothing seemed to work until I found this large-scale floral print that did the trick.

Redwork Revisited, detail

Redwork Revisited, detail
The Juggling Beet


Others have liked this quilt as well, perhaps almost as much as I do, and I was pleased that some of those fans were the judges determining the entrants for the International Quilt Festival in Houston in 2011.  I was very pleased to have been selected for that show and to have the opportunity to see my work on display with some absolutely fabulous quilts.

Tip:  Click on the whole quilt image to be able to see the details of some of these fun squares.

From my collection, part one

7 09 2012

Having talked about ninepatches, I think it is a good time to introduce this quilt from my collection.  Please let me clarity:  my collection of vintage quilts consists only of quilt tops that I have quilted, either by hand or by machine, or that I have had hand-quilted, using the Quilting Plus group, under the expert direction of Julie Tebay.

I have been informed that quilting vintage tops destroys their historic value, and I don’t care.  I love the idea that I am completing a beloved project of a stitcher who came before me;  if it wasn’t beloved, why was the top saved?  Completing the quilts also lets me see them on my walls or use them on my beds.

Here is an excellent example of why I love these old quilt tops by unknown quilters:

Nine Patches / Red Squares
77.5″ x 83.5″
Photography by Sibila Savage

See the fabulous quilting design that Julie selected for the plain blocks;  this is the bonus view that one gets when getting up close.

Nine Patches / Red Squares, detail