Scrappy Trip in Love

Finished another one of my First Quarter Hopefuls!

Last winter I made three (!) Scrappy Trips quilt tops as part of the mania that was the #scrappytripalong on Instagram. Here’s the first one, and I blogged about it here. The link to the Bonnie Hunter pattern/technique is here, in case you’re interested.

This one was more controlled to be an Irish Chain and less scrappy, since all of the fabrics came from the Amy Butler “Love” line of fabric. I had some yardage of the red dots, so I used that down the diagonal of each block, with Kona Snow on either side of it. The number of strips I had was limited, so I was only able to get a total of 16 complete blocks out of the fabrics that I had.

Scrappy Trip in Love

Then I started playing with potential designs and people voted in their comments on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The design below ended up winning, though I really liked the diagonal rows one a lot and came very close to going with that idea.

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Once the top had been sewn together, the quilt top sat, for pretty much all of last year. I put Kona Snow borders on it at some point, and then layered it to be quilted. And then it sat some more.


But FINALLY, I got the quilting done. I did the quilting while trying to figure out exactly what the thread breakage issue was with my quilting machine. I chose to quilt spiraling flowers into this quilt, and it helped me be able to tell the repairman that if I sewed upwards and to the left, the thread broke every time unless I stitched so slowly that it was difficult to control the curves. In spite of that challenge, I did finish quilting the entire center of the quilt before taking the machine in for repairs. I decided that I would do the borders after the machine was less moody, so I would have to stop and bury threads every few minutes (and so my children would stop learning new words as I shrieked my frustration).



It took three weeks to get my machine back — snow days, a conference that the repairman went to in the middle of everything, and waiting for a new foot pedal because the old one was shorting in addition to the timing problem I was having with the needle… And I celebrated by doing feathers in the border. I love quilting feathers. I puffy heart love quilting feathers. Seriously. Favorite thing ever. I recognize that building my skill base is necessary, so I don’t ALWAYS quilt feathers, but I kinda would like to. If it weren’t weird.


And then I pledged to sew the binding on the next day.


Didn’t happen. I got distracted by “Entropy.” And then “Fibonacci Squared,” which is also almost finished and I’ll post about it in the next day or two.

But I did finally finish the “Scrappy Trip in Love,” and I did the usual photo session on the fence yesterday, and posted a pic of it on Facebook with the notice that I’d sell it to anyone that might be interested — and it sold within two minutes. SO. Yay!

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The buyer will pick it up on Saturday morning, and I’m very excited! It’s the second quilt I’ve sold to her (the first was the Cross quilt in this post), so that’s awesome! She gave that one to friends as a wedding gift, but this one she intends to keep. I’m happy.


“Scrappy Trip in Love,” made by Elaine Wick Poplin. Finished in March, 2014.



Sometime last year, I made a very impulsive purchase of some fabrics for which I had to pay international shipping… These Oakshott Cottons had been popping up in projects on Instagram, mostly by quilters in the UK that I follow with puppy dog-like admiration, and I just had to have them. When the Lipari collection came out and Easter had come and gone (so my fabric fast was over) I was no longer able to resist the temptation, and these found their way to me. I bought a fat quarter pack, which really isn’t as much fabric as one would think, so I had to find a way to use every. last. bit. of the fabrics in a quilt to justify the expense in getting them here.

Lipari Fat Quarters

I liked them with steel gray, with charcoal gray, and with black. I tried matching them with other fabrics but they didn’t seem to sing as strongly when put with prints, so I decided to keep them in their purest form and just use them together with a small accent of solids.

I was also very much inspired by this quilt by Charlotte Narunsky, the wee pixie on Flickr. Go ahead and click the link; I’ll wait.

Wasn’t it amazing?!

I decided that to do something like that with the Lipari fabrics would showcase them beautifully.

At a retreat in September, I cut them into squares. With the light coming in sideways from the window, I got the best picture I’ve ever seen that shows the shimmer of these unique fabrics.

Squares Stacked Up

They’re woven with color in one direction and black in the other, much like sari silks are woven. Because of this weaving process, they are slightly iridescent. They also are very fine in weight, so they fray a lot so I wanted to handle the fabrics as little as possible during the design process.

I started by tossing the smallest squares up on the wall and just arranging them in a very mathematically-organized color flow (of course I did).


I built half-square triangles from the other-sized squares, pairing colors in a very systematic way through the stack. The medium-sized squares had four sets of HSTs with their neighboring colors, 3 with the the colors two steps away, 2 with the colors three steps away, and 1 with the colors four steps away, and so on. The larger squares only went three steps away because I didn’t have as many of them to distribute, but again the matching was very systematic so that I’d get the best color flow possible. Then I started tossing those up on the wall.

Triangles and Squares

Initially I had wanted to have three sizes of HSTs, but as I got going I realized I’d need to order another whole fat quarter pack of the Lipari fabrics to make enough small HSTs to pull that off. And then the assembly of the quilt top would have been a nightmare with all of the partial-seam construction. So I decided to let the small squares remain as squares rather than making them into HSTs. And I decided to keep the interior all medium HSTs and squares of the same size, so that assembly would be simpler and I might actually finish this project in a reasonable amount of time.

Here are all of the HST units and squares for the center of the quilt.

Center Section

At this point I figured out that I had 357 pieces to work with (squares and HST units), so to use all of them I’d have 17 units by 21 units. Yes, I used all of them, and redistributed the squares accordingly. Then I added the border of the larger HSTs around the edge, trying to repeat the same color scatter as much as I could.

inside and outer border

To get the outer border to fit nicely around the interior of the quilt, I had to add coping strips 1″ above and below the interior, and 1.5″ to the left and right. This made the interior of the quilt a clean 48″x36″ so that my 3″ finished HSTs in the outer border would fit evenly. I chose Kona’s Medium Gray as my inner border, since it framed the Lipari fabrics nicely without competing. Then I began assembling the interior of the quilt.

Assembly begins

As I got going, I would assemble chunks of the top and put them back up on the wall, and after one such chunk-assembly, I had an idle thought… I wonder what would happen if I put this middle section up but rotated it 180 degrees?


I got SO excited at this point, because this simple adjustment gave the piece some tension that it hadn’t had before! So I changed around the outer borders to support it and suddenly loved the quilt.


I had liked it before, but now it had a personality and wasn’t just a color study anymore. And I knew the name in that moment, too — “Entropy,” because I had tried to be so organized and systematic in the process of the layout of the colors, but chaos won out anyway and made it interesting.

And then I got stuck. How in the world was I going to quilt this so that the quilting didn’t compete with the fabrics? I considered feathers, but decided that would pull too much focus. Anything I did would be very visible, since the fabric has a shimmer to it. I decided on straight-line quilting, which I’ve never really done before because, quite frankly, I’m not good at sewing straight lines for more than a few inches at a time. And on my big machine, I’m especially terrible at them. They’re always very…. organic. Organic works for most quilts, but I knew it wouldn’t work for this one.

This poor quilt sat, layered and basted and ready, for a while.

Ready to go

So I kept procrastinating and procrastinating and working on other projects., until I was finally forced to take the big quilting machine in for repairs… It was there for three weeks, having the timing fixed and getting a new foot pedal, so I decided to get out my even-feed foot and try straight-line quilting on my little Janome machine.

First few passes Getting there

I was reminded why I had wanted a larger quilting machine in the first place, as turning the quilt under the tiny harp of the Janome was so painful after a while… My poor shoulders!

with Tucker

But it looked good, so I kept going. I took frequent breaks to admire it and to give my shoulders a rest.

Finally, it was done! I spread it out on the floor and reached for my camera, and Friday showed up out of nowhere.

Friday's quilt

The binding went on — just a simple black binding, since I didn’t want any competition for the center of the quilt.

binding being attached

And the fence photos, of course…

Entropy on the Fence

My assistant, decided to “help” with the photos… So nice of her, no?


After seeing the quilt up on the fence, I have decided that I will quilt down the medium gray borders with simple straight line quilting — vertical lines in the top and bottom borders, and horizontal lines in the side borders… I just have to work up the courage to try that on my big machine. I am NOT willing to do any more quilting on the little Janome — no thanks!

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But I think the puffy characteristic of the narrow borders pulls focus off of the gorgeous fabrics, and I don’t want that to happen. I’ll add photos once I’ve done that, but it’ll need a pretty substantial lint-rolling before it goes in front of the camera again. This quilt will have to go to Jerry’s office to live because with all the animals here it just gets coated with hair. I bought the fabrics intending to make a quilt for him anyway, so I guess that’s OK, right? I’ll miss it, though — I love this quilt.

“Entropy,” Completed in March, 2014. Finished size: 60.5″x48.5″, including the bound edge.







It’s Loud in Here

I’m a bit…. energetic. Especially when I’m excited about something. I’ve been this way forever. If you’ve met my dad, you know where I get it.


My dad has always been the type to have eleventy-frillion things going all at once. He worked as a physician, but has had many hobbies — among them woodworking, flying model airplanes, piloting an airplane, maintaining all of the family cars, amateur radio, kites, camping, water skiing, snow skiing, just to name a few. The man can fix just about anything. Mom had to institute a rule when we were growing up that he was required to sit at dinner for a minimum of twenty minutes or he’d inhale his food and then run back downstairs to continue whatever project he was working on. The rule wasn’t for us, mind you — it was for DAD. And she had to give him a fifteen-minute warning before dinner was ready so that he could get to a stopping point. Otherwise, he’d say “I’ll be right up” and the rest of us would be finished and dinner put away before he managed to get there. He always tried to go to bed “when something was drying,” so that he was at a point where he couldn’t do anymore until it had fully dried. I totally understand that mentality.

If you’ve met his mom, you know where Dad got it. Nana’s 100 now, so she’s not in constant motion like she used to be. But I still remember.


I remember growing up and going to visit my Nana Helen. She never ever sat down. Ever. If she wanted sliced turkey for sandwiches she’d roast an entire bird. Boxed cookies? Never. Nana made the best sugar cookies on the planet. My brother Pete and his wife have now taken on that task and run a very close second, but Nana’s will always be the best. Cinnamon rolls? From scratch, with pecans pressed into the bottoms of them. She taught me how to bake and she taught me how to repot flowers and she taught me how to sew tailored (!) garments for my dolls and I was convinced she was magic.

And now I realize I have a lot of the traits of both of these energetic, unstoppable people. We wear people out. Our brains go a mile a minute and we require less sleep than most people. And we’re moody, but at the same time generally happy, optimistic people. But we feel things deeply.

All of my life, I have been asked “What’s it like inside your head?” … mostly because my thoughts jump around a lot. And I remember a lot of little factoids that most people don’t bother to keep. These little floods of thinking used to spill out of me with great regularity, inciting that question on a more regular basis than I hear it now. But I still get the question.

One thing I’ve noticed is that when I’m in a low place emotionally, be it because of stress, or sadness, or whatever, I start to feel out of control, unplanned, and I tend to be drawn to a color scheme that isn’t really in my usual repertoire. After the fire, I started piling up fabrics that seemed to want to be together whenever I came across them in my sewing room as I unpacked. This little stack sat in a plastic bin on the ironing board for months. And then it moved to a shelf. I took it back and forth to a few retreats and did nothing with it. And then last April, I decided to start cutting into it. No plans, just cutting and sewing.

I had read Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts by Rayna Gillman and been very inspired by it, but I hadn’t tried her process yet. I decided to go for it.

I was just making components with no plan, and I liked the direction it was taking. So I kept going.

I hadn’t ever sewn something together this way, and it was a new and exciting experience for me.

Deciding how to assemble all of it was a challenge, because when I sewed pieces together, the piece wasn’t large enough to cover the area I wanted to cover anymore. I auditioned several of the fabrics that I had already been using to fill in these gaps, and none of them really spoke to me. And then a piece of text-print fabric landed on my cutting table.

It was perfect for filling in the gaps for some reason. I didn’t really know why, but I liked it. So after that choice was made, the rest of the quilt went together very easily and miraculously laid flat.

I thought it was interesting that the text print pieces all seemed to be located in a diagonal line through the piece. That wasn’t intentional, but I did like the effect.

But then I didn’t know how to quilt it, so it sat. Several weeks ago I layered it to get it ready for quilting, so that I could just quilt the silly thing and get it finished and out of the queue, which has gotten too long again. My machine started acting up when I was working on a piece that required white thread and curves, so I decided to see if the problem was the thread and switched to this one, which I decided would be mostly straight-line quilting.

Because of this quilt, I was able to identify specifically what was wrong with my machine, because certain directions/motions caused the thread to shred and others did not. But I had a lot of fun quilting this piece and let it tell me how it wanted to be quilted. It had told me what it needed all this time, so it did again.

It’s quilted very densely, with thread that matches the background fabric. The only sections I left unquilted are the text print so they’re a little puffy and stick out from the rest of the quilt. To me, they’re the thoughts spilling out, the ideas that are escaping.

So my answer to the question about what it’s like in my head? It’s Loud in Here. 

This piece reflects how chaotic I was feeling in April of last year. Some things stacked neatly and some things collapsed onto each other in my life, and sometimes my thoughts leaked out and I felt out of control.

When I finished quilting it, I decided the top 3.5″ weren’t adding anything, so I cut off that section.

I hope that this piece will remind me that even when I’m feeling out of control, I can find some beauty in the chaos. My hands know what to do, if I just allow the art to become meditative like this was. And sometimes a strange discordant fabric finds its way into a quilt and adds just the right touch as the text fabric did.

And sometimes a quilt doesn’t tell me how it wants to be quilted until I have a technical problem and just need to see if I can fix it. Because this one was small and on the top of the stack, it was the one I grabbed, and I honestly think that the tension problems I was experiencing with my machine as I was quilting it just add to the piece, because the entire thing was really about my own personal tension problems as I was assembling it last spring.

That discarded strip is long enough for me to make into a belt. Maybe I will.


“It’s Loud in Here,” started in April 2013 and finished in February, 2014.


Celtic SHERBET Mystery

Every year, Bonnie Hunter does a mystery quilt pattern between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. This year, the mystery quilt was entitled Celtic Solstice, because she designed it during the summer solstice while she was in Ireland, and we’d be working on it during the winter solstice. I have been getting stash builder packs from Pink Castle Fabrics for the past 6 months, so I decided to use four colors plus the “low volume” fabrics as my neutrals, instead of the colors that Bonnie Hunter used — mostly because I don’t have very many greens, yellows, or blues in my modern fabric stash yet and Bonnie’s mysteries are always much more successful when they’re super scrappy.


Mom had the Tri-Recs ruler set, and I didn’t, so I waited until week 2 to start. Chevrons! These took a while to do. Jerry was watching a lot of Dr. Who that weekend so I sat with him and marked and pinned and cut and pinned chevrons while watching Dr. Who.

Prepping Chevrons


I love how they came out, and started daydreaming about a whole quilt made this way, with different color chevrons down the length of the quilt.

3.5″ square unfinished
100+ chevrons finished and ready for week 3!


After I finished the chevrons, I borrowed the Tri-Recs rulers from Mom and got to work on the Week 1 clue.

Catching up on Week 1

I even took a box of supplies to school and pinned while students took exams at the end of the semester. It was a mindless activity that I could do that allowed me to look around the room frequently, and be instantly available if a student had a question.

Activity box prepped for school

The Week 1 units required a pretty significant amount of precision so I ended up having to rip and re-sew a few of these so that they’d end up the correct size and not have chopped off points.

Done! Finally!


Week 3 was half-square triangle units with half of them made into pinwheels, so that was a pretty easy week to do. Week 4 was Christmas, and she kindly let us do simple four-patch units for that week. So I was caught up before Christmas, which was fantastic. Here are all of my units from weeks 1-4, anxiously waiting for week 5’s clue:

So pretty!


Even the cuttings during each step were pretty — I loved collecting them in a pile and just admiring the salad I had just created.

Someone on Instagram thought this really was a salad. Or a pasta dish.


The Week 5 clue came the Friday after Christmas, and then the reveal was posted at midnight on New Year’s so I didn’t get a chance to post progress photos of week 5 before the reveal went up. As soon as I had a few of the Week 5 units, I grabbed other parts and assembled the quilt blocks on my cutting table according to the reveal.

Celtic Sherbet Mystery, no?

I’m in love! This is so extraordinarily girly for me — Helen even came into my sewing room and squealed with glee when she saw it on the table like this. I rarely work with pink, so to have pink be the driving color in the quilt is quite a change for me. She thinks this is for her. It’s not, but I don’t really have a specific plan for it at this point. It just makes me really happy.


Once I knew what it was going to look like, I started assembling blocks. This requires lots of pinning so that I don’t chop off points.

Units pinned into rows

and still more pinning:

Rows of units into blocks, and starting the assembly of the pieced border


And here are the first 7 blocks up on the wall.

Sneak Peek!


I’m so excited to see this one come together, partly because it’s been a whirlwind and partly because it’s so outside my usual comfort zone for colors. I’m very glad that I broke into my stash of modern fabrics, because that’s something I had been reticent to do before now. I guess I didn’t want to deplete it while it was in its infancy? But I’ve had a blast working with these bright, clear colors… I did bring in some pink batiks for the four-patch units because I was afraid I was going to run out of pink otherwise — we still had more than one week to go in the mystery and if another step had pink in it I was going to be down to the dregs and possibly run out. Turns out I didn’t need to do that, but I had no way of knowing.


I will probably have the quilt top assembled in the next week or so. This was a really fun project! I don’t know that I’ll dive in so fully to the mystery next year, since I was too determined to stay “caught up,” whatever that means. It did drive Jerry nuts because he’d ask, “which quilt is THIS one?” when I came into the room with my little box of parts and pins, and when I told him he’d roll his eyes at me. But I did exercise my piecing precision and get inspired by the process of making something so very scrappy. I have already designed another quilt that is similar in construction but will be totally different in appearance. I’m not sure when/if I’ll get to making it, but it’s fun to dream anyway!


If you want to see how different this quilt looks when done in different color schemes, go to the Week 6 Link-Up and take a look! It’s pretty inspiring to me to see how color choices and placement can completely change the overall appearance of identical blocks.