#laterblog: Log-a-Rhythm

I realized the other day that I had never blogged about this finish from 2013… Why, you ask? Well, it was a block swap project and I promised not to share until the Big Reveal. The Big Reveal was supposed to be in February of last year, but that didn’t happen… It ended up being last summer, and by then it had been so long since I finished it that I forgot to share it

Anyway, our Block Swap was a bit industrious… Each of the 11 of us participating bought a roll of 2.5″ strips and several grab bags of Cherrywood Fabrics, which are spectacular hand-dyed fabrics. They are cotton, but they appear to be sueded (even though they’re not). Delicious to work with… I have pawed them every time I’ve gone to a big quilt show but I had never actually bought any before.

We were tasked with making 70 9.5-inch unfinished “wonky log cabin” blocks that we would then swap at a get-together in the late summer of 2013.

Making the blocks took a while.

Seriously. It took a lot longer to make the blocks than any of us anticipated, and we were each making 77. Some made more. Cool result, sure. But hooboy. A lot of work for a swap.

After we swapped them out, I immediately went home and trimmed all of the blocks to largest size that I could get that allowed me to “wonk” some of the less-wonky ones — here in a city of engineers, some of the participants found the freedom a little paralyzing so some of the log cabins weren’t very wonky at all. I tilted them to make them more wonky and then they fit better with the setting I had chosen for my blocks. The less wonky ones definitely stood out in the diagonal set until I skewed them– which meant I had to cut EVERY block smaller. I played with adding sashings to settle things down (and we joked about naming the quilt “Serenity” or “Meditation”), but ultimately just decided to let the blocks stand center stage with no additions.



I tossed them up on the design wall and rearranged a few, but Jerry said I should just sew them together the way they landed and not overthink it. WHAT?! ME, OVERTHINKING? HOW DARE Y—-Oh. True. I do that. Fair enough.

So I just sewed them together. I used all 70 of the blocks I received in the swap, plus the 7 that I made for myself.


Some were cut in half and some were cut into quarters, but they all got used. I was really proud of that.

Jerry requested that I finish it in time for his company’s holiday party, because he wanted to hang it in his office. So I layered it at a retreat (with other people involved in the swap, who gave me the side-eye for getting it done so quickly).


To be fair, most of them were adding sashings, appliqued shapes, making more blocks… I was the only one in the 11 of us that only used the blocks and nothing more, but I really (really!) didn’t want to purchase any more of the fabrics.

I just quilted it with “organic” straight lines in a yell0w-gold Aurifil thread. I wanted the thread to show and blend well, but not detract from the blocks.



I bound it in a dark chocolate Cherrywood fabric that I had purchased expressly for that purpose.


It turned out to be a great choice in thread color, and I did finish the quilt in time to hang in my husband’s office.



And then the holiday party was at another venue. Harumph.

Here are the other quilt tops that were done at what was the originally-scheduled Big Reveal, in February of 2014. Mine was the only one that was finished at that point, though many of them were ready to be quilted. These pictures are grainy because they were taken inside with poor lighting, but you can see how very similar blocks do result in a wide variety of quilts, depending on how they’re set. It was really a great thing to see them all together.

This one is Lisa’s. She made a lot (!!) more blocks, and then set them in poppy red and chocolate brown 1895 Hoffman Batiks to make a King-sized quilt for her bed.


This is Teresa’s. She was going to add more pineapples to the blue borders but had run out of greens.


Peggy added sashing and cornerstones:


Judy’s used the Quarter-Cabins that Nonda’s blocks were and featured them in the center.



I don’t remember whose this was… I’ll have to go look at my notes again but I’ll add her name when I find it again.


And here’s Meg’s… This was from this past September, when she was almost finish binding it after hand-quilting it. She made every block bigger and added some grays.


She named it… Are you ready for this?

“Fifty Shades of Wonky.”

I have funny friends.

All in all, I’m very glad I participated in the swap. And it’s one of Jerry’s favorite quilts that I’ve made.

And I named mine…. “Log-A-Rhythm.” Because I’m such a nerd. I’m not sorry, either.





Finished Southwest Merry-Go-Round!

This is my first finish from my list in the Q3 Finish-Along!


In  2007, I went to the AQS show in Nashville with a friend, and found a stack of fabrics in Southwestern colors that made me happy. As I mentioned in this post, the fabrics sat for over 2 years until Jerry gave me Cozy Modern Quilts by Kim Schaefer for Christmas. I made the quilt top in 2010, and then *that* sat for 2 years.


While we were in the rental house after the fire I didn’t have a design wall — and I had a HUGE floor on which to baste big quilts — so I made a backing for it and basted it and quilted about half of it. I used three different filler patterns that I had found in Angela Walter’s first book, Then we moved back in over here and it got buried again. My style and skill level of free-motion quilting has improved a lot in two years, but I decided to just finish it anyway. The scale of my quilting has also changed and spaced to be more regular, but I guess it’s not really noticeable to anyone other than me. And the quilt is still soft and warm, and that’s the point anyway.


So now it’s done!







I’m very pleased with how it turned out. At 78″ square, it’s too large to hang up anywhere. But the colors in the quilt match the colors in our family room pretty exactly, so that’s where it will live. Hopefully it will serve us well as a sofa quilt and will sit *finished* for a lot longer than it ever sat unfinished.


The green on the back is a hand-dyed Kona cotton in the Procion color “Avocado.” I was originally going to use it for something else until I realized it was perfect for this quilt. I pieced the back because spending money on fabric two years ago when we were rebuilding our house wasn’t really prudent, and I love the effect. This may have been the first backing I pieced of different fabrics — now it’s rare for me NOT to do that.


Zinnias — Finished!

Even though this is the third quilt I’ve finished this quarter, it’s only the first one that was on my original Q2 Finish-Along list

I made this background probably in 2007 because I wondered if the idea would work. It did, but it was a pain — the entire background is constructed with partial seams, which is tedious. And then the light green zigzag was so powerful that it was too strong to be used as a background.



And then I decided to make some monster flowers and see how they’d do on the background.


I made the flowers to see what would happen if I made a Dresden with too many wedges. Each of these flowers has around 32 wedges per layer, as opposed to the usual 20 wedges. So they are forced out of two dimensions, which is what I needed to do for the 2014 Heritage Quilters of Huntsville challenge.

Once I made all of the wedges, I had to figure out how to get the extra wedges to distribute evenly, and I called on an old skill to do it — SMOCKING!



I used the standard scaffolding Stem Stitch to get the petals to fan evenly around the centers, and it worked beautifully!

Once they were on the background it looked even better than I had anticipated.

IMG_7212 IMG_7213 IMG_7214 IMG_7215 IMG_7216


I covered the centers of each double-layered flower with an upside-down yo-yo and appliqued those down. Each flower is attached to the background at every Dresden seam for the bottom layer, so usually around unique attachment points. I tied off each attachment point separately so that the flowers will be more secure. The top layer is attached at every other seam, so that they’d have a little more fluidity. Leaves are a little less secured but because they don’t have as many pieces and aren’t as heavy, I decided that was OK.

The leaves were painted with white Paintstiks so that they’d show up a bit more. If I had it to do over I’d probably do the leaves in citron or something that would show up better on the background, but I was also trying to make this entirely from fabrics already in my possession and I didn’t have anything that would work for that.

The challenge show was June 19, and my quilt ended up getting one of the top three prizes! I won “Best Use of 3D Elements” as voted by the viewers, which pleases me greatly!


(thanks to Vickey H. for the above photo)

I’m pleased with how it turned out, and it has already sold to my friend Jill. It’s like I made it for her master bedroom. I’ll ship it to her this week and can’t wait to see pictures of it in place.

Fibonacci Squared

So…. Back in 2005, I made this quilt in a class at Lydia’s. It was my first experience with “improv” piecing, and we were slicing and inserting narrow strips of fabric and then sewing more pieces on. I was trying to make a quilt entirely out of blue and green, but on probably the second block I was already bored so I started adding shots of orange. I named it “Sticks and Stones My Break My Bones, But I LOVE ORANGE.” Jerry was not amused.

Sticks and Stones

When I started playing with the blocks on the design wall, I think I had 48 blocks to work with. I decided to just use 40 of them arranged in 5 rows of 8, and pay homage to the Italian mathematician Fibonacci, whose sequence has always completely fascinated me. The borders on this quilt are 2″ wide, 3″ wide, and 5″ wide. The quilt has been in my classroom for 4 years, and is pretty stretched out from being pinned and unpinned so many times, because I always have to show my students the back of it.

Back of Sticks and Stones

As much as I love the front, the pattern on the back has been of more interest to me. Exactly ONE time during my early parenting career, both girls took a very long nap simultaneously. I can count the number of times they have done this on one finger. ONE TIME. And this is what I did with that naptime and the pile of fabrics left over from making the front. I realized that if I paired neighboring Fibonacci numbers and made rectangles instead of squares, and put them together in a sort of spiraling fashion, every other rectangle would cause the shape to be square again.

1″x1″ and 1″x1″ create a rectangle, right? Well, when you put the long edge of a 1″x2″ rectangle next to them, the three shapes now form a 2″x2″ square. Then add a 2″x3″ rectangle, and your shape is 2″x5″. Put the long edge of a 3″x5″ rectangle next to that, and now you have a 5″x5″ square. And so on.

Here’s a diagram I drew in Photoshop of the order in which the pieces get sewn together. Depending on when you stop, you could have 2″ squares, 5″ squares, 13″ squares, 34″ squares… etc.

Fibonacci Square


So this idea has been banging around in my head for a while. I’d show kids the back of the quilt and they’d be underwhelmed, party because the colors were so muddy. And partly because “there goes the weird math teacher getting all goofy about quilting again.”

Another teacher retired in 2009, so the math department asked me to make a small wall hanging for him. His initials are “JT,” which he always signed to look like a Pi symbol. So I did a version of the Fibonacci Square as a background, and superimposed his familiar “signature” on top of it.

Jim's retirement piece

In Jim’s piece I left off the first 1″x1″ square so that I could get a 21″ square instead of having a dinky 13″ square, but the effect was the same. (Possible size square blocks if you leave off the first 1″x1″ square: 1″, 3″, 8″, 21″)

So I kept knocking the idea around in my head, and finally was inspired to do something about it this fall.

My requirements for this quilt: I wanted a Fibonacci number of 13″ square blocks. 5 would make an interesting table runner, but I wanted a wall hanging. 8 blocks would have to be arranged  4×2 or have a hole in the middle and I didn’t really like that idea. 13 blocks when set on point? PERFECT. So I needed 13 fabrics.

I had purchased a Bottled Rainbows pack of fabric from Marmalade Fabrics sometime last summer, but I didn’t have big plans for it. There are 16 colors in that pack, so I chose the thirteen that had the best circular flow — meaning there wouldn’t be an obvious beginning or ending to the colors. Each block had 7 colors in it (I was bummed that it wasn’t 8 because that would have been So! Much! More! Fibonacci! but I guess you can’t win ’em all, huh?)… So I cut one each of each needed size piece (plus seam allowances) in each of the 13 colors. Here’s how my cutting diagram worked so that I’d maximize the amount of fabric I had left at the end of the project.

Cutting Diagram


Then I lined up all of my little stacks in order (two stacks of 1.5″x1.5″ squares). For the second stack, I moved the top fabric to the bottom. For the third stack, I moved the top two fabrics to the bottom, keeping them in that same order. For the fourth stack, I moved the top three fabrics to the bottom, keeping them in that same order, and so on. Then I began assembling the blocks, pressing always towards the newly added block to minimize bulk. Because there are only 6 seams in each block, these go together REALLY fast, but you have to pay attention that you’re doing them in the right order so that you get the desired spiral. Here’s the sewing diagram again:

Fibonacci Square

Once I had all 13 blocks made, I put them up on the design wall and started arranging them, trying to find an arrangement that was pleasing and that didn’t have a color against itself more than absolutely necessary.


With the above arrangement, the closest a color got to itself was corner-to-corner, and I was OK with that. I also didn’t want all of the small pieces in 4 blocks to come together in a single corner, and I didn’t want the blocks to appear to be arranged in any sort of structural pattern. I was also trying to get some good color flow to the quilt so that the eye would move around on the piece.

I chose to use charcoal gray for the setting triangles because white and black were too stark, and medium gray was too boring. Essex Yarn-dyed Linen in Flax was pretty, but fell flat with the vibrance of the rest of the colors. The charcoal seemed to make all of the colors sing the best.


So now I had to decide how to quilt it. I knew that with this much open space, I had to do something dramatic for the quilting design. I watch all three shows on CBS on Tuesday nights, so one Tuesday night I spread the backing, batting, and quilt top out and marked the diagonals that spiraled out from the smallest squares in each block.


I divided each diagonal by the smaller dimension of its rectangle, and then drew lines connecting those points the same way in each block.


I still didn’t really have any idea how I was going to quilt these triangular sections, even though the marked “spider web” effect was pretty cool. But I finished marking the quilt that night anyway and pin basted it…


And then I thought about it for about a month, procrastinating because I couldn’t figure out how I was going to quilt it.

One day I was giving tests in all of my classes that were meeting that day, so I took the quilt and my marking tools and marked alternate sections with an “X,” indicating that I was to leave those sections unquilted. The largest unquilted area would be less than 2″x8″ so I knew that would be acceptable for the cotton batting I had chosen.

I sat down to quilt it and decided at the last minute that maybe that wasn’t the best idea after all, and I’d quilt all sections with alternating direction straight lines. The problem with this? On my machine, I can’t really quilt truly straight lines because I’d need a third arm to stabilize a ruler since the other two are busy moving the quilt around and keeping it flat under the needle.


Five minutes in and I hated the new plan, so I decided to rip out all the straight line quilting. I went to a different section and tried something else — spiky swirls — to see if I liked that better. And I went with my original leave-every-other-section-unquilted plan. Much better. So I ripped out all of the straight line quilting, remarked those sections, and began again.


It was fun.


The scale of my spikes varies a bit since I didn’t do it all in one sitting, but I decided that’s OK. Each section is uniform at least, so I figure it works out.


I got really excited when I started quilting in the setting triangles, because that’s when the texture really started to pop and the “O-em-gee I’m going to ruin this cool quilt” feeling dissipated. I did have to fight with the thread (Glide) the entire time, though. I hunted online and trolled quilting boards where people encountering similar problems asked questions, and tried all kinds of things that were suggested to get the tension more consistent, but it just wouldn’t cooperate with me. Glide worked so well on Entropy (but I was using a different machine and not free-motion quilting) that I didn’t anticipate having this much trouble. I would have switched to a cotton thread, but the King Tut is so much thicker and I didn’t want to have to wait on an order of Aurifil. Plus the Glide has a sheen to it that a cotton thread wouldn’t have, so I decided to carry on and just deal with the challenges. I won’t use Glide again until I talk to someone at the company about the problems I was having and how to avoid them in the future. My mom tried to use it on her machine and had similar problems, so we’ve both decided only to use it for threadplay on our domestic machines until we can get the issues resolved.


As I was nearing the end, I realized that I had saved the bottom right corner for last. I wrote my name and the year and the name of the quilt in that setting triangle. It’s a little hard to read, but it’s there… “Fibonacci Squared” in the middle section to the right of the peak, and “Elaine Wick Poplin 2014” in the bottom one.


When I trimmed it and started adding the binding, I put it on the floor to admire it (as I always do) and Friday appeared out of nowhere to sit on it within about thirty seconds. I think he must have some sort of alert system that lets him know when a quilt hits the floor, because his timing is uncanny.


Today I was finally able to take it outside and get some pictures of it in natural lighting. It’s difficult to photograph well because the colors are so very saturated that they can blow out the camera sometimes and distort and look muted at other times.



One thing is for certain, though — that texture sure shows up.



The Ikea numbers fabric is perfect for the back of it, don’t you think? And I love how the quilting texture has a shattered effect on the back. Cool surprise!

This quilt is currently hanging at the bottom of the stairs in our living room, because it matches all of the paint colors we have in the house. I am so very happy with the way it turned out.

Oh, and THIS is cool: Thirteen 13″ blocks on point like this create a 55.1″ square. 55 is another Fibonacci number. Out of curiosity, I calculated what quilt made of thirteen 21″ blocks on point would create … and the answer is an 89.08″ square. 89 is another Fibonacci number! 34″ blocks in this format would create a 144.2″ square. Another Fibonacci number!

I’m telling you, it’s everywhere… Jerry just rolls his eyes at me but the mathematical coincidences of Fibonacci numbers just keep showing up.

And I have more ideas for more Fibonacci quilts… my own personal Fibonacci Sequence. Ahem.


Heh. See what I did there?  Nerd humor.


“Fibonacci Squared,” designed, made, and quilted by Elaine Wick Poplin, 2013-2014.