Post image for Aloha means hello and goodbye

Two weeks ago, after several months of juggling logistics, making endless decisions, and cramming as much essential stuff as we could into two shipping crates, my husband and I eased two nervous kitties into their travel carriers and said “aloha/goodbye” to Hawaii.

If you’d asked us a year ago if we ever planned to move back to the mainland, we’d have replied, “probably not.” We loved Hilo, enjoyed our life there, and didn’t feel any call to return to the continental US. But we did need to find a new place to live, and when we looked around Hilo and found nothing at all that came close to meeting our wants and needs, a still small voice inside whispered, “maybe this is a sign that it’s time to move back to the mainland?”

So we considered that, and over the course of about a week it began to feel like a good idea, and the right time to take that leap. Lovely as Hawaii is, it’s a long way from our families, and as the years have gone by we’ve been missing time with family (real time, not just phone and internet time) more and more. And there was that long list of things we’d been saying we were going to do someday when we had more time (and money) to travel. Moving back to the mainland would change that equation quickly and dramatically.

Then my sister chimed in and said, “If you’re ready to make the move, but don’t know where you want to end up yet, why don’t you come stay in my guest room for a while and figure it out from there.”

So here we are, hanging out at my sister’s place in northwest Idaho, enjoying being somewhere new and different, and getting a thrill out of cooler weather.


It’s an invigorating leap of faith to make this move without knowing yet what’s next. We’ve got some ideas, and are planning to enjoy this time with family we haven’t seen enough of in recent years and allow intuition and synchronicity to guide us.

Not much sewing has gone on at chez Venus the past few months, and for now my machine and stash are in a crate in a storage facility in Seattle. It may be a while before I have much of anything new to show you, unless I get to playing in my sister’s stash (she’s got plenty, and extra machines I can use, too)…

… updates to come as things unfold for us.




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Almost two years ago I posted some process pics from a “one block wonder” project I’d begun with a certain someone in mind. Two someones, actually. Five yards of a stunning Philip Jacobs print (“Bountiful”, seen stacked but not yet whacked above) got turned into a stunning large wall-hanging gifted to my parents last year for their 80th birthdays. Commentary and pics of early stages are here:

And then, having kept the thing under wraps until it could be presented, I forgot to post any pictures of the finished object. Here it is:


Somewhere I must have written down the finished size, but where that info is I’ve no idea. Let’s say it’s around 54″x72″. I’d intended the wall-hanging aspect to be optional, but Mum claims it is far too beautiful for use on the couch, so on the wall it is.


The central, uncut, motif blends in beautiful. Dad, new to OBW magic, was quite mystified how I’d pulled the whole thing off, until given a quick course in OBW construction and a closer view through his trifocals.


Still not loving those mauve-ish plums, but the grapes are fun:


The quilting is an overall meader which, IMO, is always a good fit for an OBW. I changed up the thread color a few times, to minimize contrast.

Still loving that sneaky full-hexagon cherries block:


So that’s a wrap for this one.

Those other finished OBW tops are still languishing in a bin, and I haven’t even started sewing up the triangles for the newest one yet. I’ll get to ’em :someday” for sure.


Post image for 15 Minutes Play Workshop

Continuing with the long-overdue QuiltCon catch-up theme, my second QuiltCon Workshop was 15 Minutes Play with Victoria Findlay Wolfe. I’ve been a member of the 15MP blog for a while, and took this workshop just for fun, which it was. Victoria is just as charming in person as you’d expect from her online presence, and I learned a few new tricks for making scrappy quilty fun.

I’d brought along a Dresden Plate template, which got put to use as I sliced and diced my way through some of the charm squares from the QC big-spenders’ swag bag. Here are the “blades” reassembled on my design wall at home, with various blues from the “large scraps” drawer mixed in.


They have not been sewn up yet. I suspect they are destined for the “orphans & extras” bin. I’m feeling “meh” about them, although they’re an improvement over the original “so not me” charm pack the pinks and oranges started from.

Victoria very smartly brought a stock of her new templates with her, and I snapped up a large diamond (and a 5″ hexagon that I’ve been playing with recently, more on that another time), and made this large star block:


One of these days I’ll rip out that one too-dark piece and replace it with something else. I’m iffy on this one, too, other than thinking that if I toss enough of this kind of stuff into that “orphans & extras” bin I’ll have enough to put together a Kitchen-Sink style slip-cover for my couch.

Not kidding at all. It will be totally awesome. Not that I’ve started on it yet, or anything like that.

First, I have to resist the temptation to start in on two or three projects inspired by Victoria’s new book on Double Wedding Ring Quilts. I’m particularly fond of this one (look at all that lovely orange!).


Although I have no business contemplating another 90″ square quilt if I’m ever going to get a scrappy slipcover made for the couch…

Post image for “Crossing Over”: Improvising from a Score

This is the quilt I made last year as a tester for the “Rhythmic Grid” score from Sherri Lynn Wood’s fabulous new book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. “Crossing Over” 40″x43″

Crossing Over quilt

The Rhythmic Grid score begins with the instructions to select fabrics in two color sets, each with a background color and two contrasting colors. For the background, I pulled two solids from the stash (both Kona, might be “boysenberry” and “fushia”). This would be an experiment in how not-neutral a background can be and remain functional as a background.

No one familiar with this blog will be surprised that my other fabrics are not solids. Even boysenberry and fuschia aren’t enough to keep me awake through an all-solids quilt, so I gave each set one crazy Kaffe Fassett stripe-ishy thing and one bright Philip Jacobs floral exuberance in hot orange/pinks. This is what happens when I attempt to go “modern”: I set out in that general direction and then veer wildly off-course.


In the “score,” Sherri provides general guidelines for creating block-ish units from Color set A and assembling them into a row, then expanding that row in a “rhythmic grid”. Cutting and construction is all done with NO RULERS, which is fun and delightfully wonkifying.

I did not love the early rows. There were times, when this project was in the ugly duckling phase, that I came close to abandoning it.


In the Improv Handbook, Sherri Lynn includes a set of questions to ponder at the completion of a project, as part of the creative learning and exploratory process. She asked her test-quilters to respond to these questions when we submitted our photos to her. Here’s what was on my mind about this process as “Crossing Over” finished it’s transformation from ugly duckling to happy swan.

Surprises: What surprised you about the process or the outcome?

When about 30% of what became the completed top was on the design wall, a subtle “rhythm” did emerge in the process. The layout was created one row at a time, as I carefully avoiding planning ahead, and after the first few rows were done, the quilt started to speak up — that evolving subtle rhythm made where/how to build the next stage very clear. I didn’t have to spend time pondering or wondering. After some inertia in the earliest stages the design developed vigor of its own in a way I had not expected.


Discoveries: What did you learn from the process or the outcome?

1. “If you think it’s ugly, you aren’t done yet.” At the completion of the second row I was tempted to abandon this project. It was clunky and ugly and gave no indication that it would get any better as it got larger. The queue of other projects wanting my attention is a very long one, which left me questioning whether continuing with this was a good use of my creative time. But with the addition of a third row, things started to gel, and I felt inspired to continue.

2. “When in doubt, rotate.”  This top was constructed vertically, with the purple section at top constructed first, then the colorshift to fuschia added to the bottom. At the point that the purple section was done, I rotated it 180-degrees, so what I’d originally thought was the top of the purple section became the bottom edge to which the fuschia was added. Then, when the entire top was done, something about it wasn’t quite right yet… although the piecing felt complete and it did not need more added. So I had the impulse to rotate the entire piece 90-degrees counterclock-wise to put the fuschia section on the right-hand side, and that’s when it felt “done.” In this new orientation the sashing looked to me like bridges over an infinite space, and that’s what inspired the quilting.


Satisfactions: What aspects of the process or the outcome did I find most satisfying?

How much I love the finished piece! I expected this experiment to be fun and at least a little bit challenging, but I had no expectation that the result would be anything exceptional. I was in it for the process, and ended up falling deeply in love with the finished piece.

I’m also very happy with the quilting, and with the decision to use a faced edge treatment instead of added binding. Once the idea popped up to add Chinese-style clouds between the “bridges” it would not let go, and then metallic thread felt like the only option. The matching-color background quilting works better than I’d hoped as well.


Dissatisfactions: What was I dissatisfied by? What would I do differently next time to be more satisfied?
Nothing! this was a fun process and I adore the finished quilt. Couldn’t be happier. The closer this came to completion, the more it evoked contemplation of spiritual transformation both within and beyond our physical experience.


Score Adaptations: In what ways did I adapt the score to make it my own?

My color and fabric choices are very true to / representative of my style. Other than that, I chose to follow the “score” as closely as possible given it’s a loose, improvisational process. I’m very much a “do my own thing” quilter, and felt as a tester that I shouldn’t stray too many light-years away from what Sherri Lynn had provided as guidelines.

{Here I want to point out that while I was diligently following the score to the best of my ability, I was creating a quilt that looks VERY different from the other quilts made from this same score (a big reason Sherri Lynn’s book is so awesome). You can see the entire Rhythmic Grid gallery here.}

Next Steps: What aspects of the process or outcome do I want to explore in my next improvisational quilt?

I did not have time to try out the second variation that Sherry Lynn posted after we’d begun (making a whole bunch of blocks first, then arranging them to connect the lines). I think that would be interesting and fun.

If you missed the blog hop for the book, you’ll find the master list on Sherri Lynn’s website, here. If you have any interest at all in improvisational quilting, you DEEPLY WANT this book. Trust me!

Do I win a prize?

by Stephanie on May 31, 2015

in Art Quilts & Wallhangings,Quilt Shows

Bias Curves workshop with Sherri Lynn Wood

… for what has to be {drumroll, please} the most-delayed Quilt-Con followup post in the history of ever. Must have fallen into some kind of time-warp there for a while.

I was one of the lucky ones able to register for both of my top-two workshop wants: Bias Curves with Sherri Lyn Wood, and 15-Minutes Play with Victoria Findlay Wolfe.

The Bias Curves class was (for me) about playing around with something totally new. I’m not new to sewing curves, or working with bias edges, but Sherri Lynn’s method is a whole new approach.

Several of my favorite quilts from the show used this method (pics snapped from SLW’s fabulous new book):

Sherri Lynn’s glorious quilt:


and Latifah Saafir’s version:


Here are the pieces I produced during the one-day workshop (I deliberately pulled an assortment of goofier fabrics to play with):


There’s potential there, although it’s possible that this method works best with a higher ratio of solids to prints than I’m ever likely to put together. I do love the big leaf shapes and working on this scale was more of a stretch for me than expected. Whether or not these specific pieces will ever be retrieved from the holding bin to evolve into a finished object remains to be seen.

I highly recommend taking a Bias Curves class (or any class!) with Sherri Lynn if you get the chance. She’s such a friendly, cheerful, encouraging, instructor and the perfect guide to ease your way down that outside-the-comfort-zone path.

The only improvement I’d make to this class would be to extend it to 2 days. There just wasn’t enough time to get from making some petal shapes to putting them together into a layout, and I wish we’d been able to explore that in a group setting as well.

While at QuiltCon I also grabbed a copy of Sherri Lynn’s wonderful new book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, which includes Bias Curves as one of the improvisational “scores.” It’s a fabulous book, one of my favorites from recent years, and a great addition to any curious quilter’s bookshelf. I’d like to start with Score #1 (there are 10 in all) and work my way through the book one project at a time because they all look like fun.

You’ve probably seen blog hop posts for this book (I’m not an official part of that) elsewhere, but if not the master list of participants is here. Totally worth checking out!

I was a tester for one of these methods, and I’ll show you how that turned out in another post.