Category Archives: Alethea’s Blog Posts

Alethea’s January quilt – more inspirations

Serape stripes from Pintrest

Serape stripes from Pintrest

I’ve been looking for quilty love in all the right places, I’ll tell you that.

I need to create a background foundation for the January Obsession quilt before I go any farther with the appliqued flowers, and I have been looking to the imagery of the Mexican and South American serape blankets for a starting point.

With the linear nature of these textiles and the gradating stripes, the little chunks of colors in some, and the white triangles in others, I’m on track for a colorful background for the quilt. I spy black stripes, graduating monochromatic sections and bold, clear colors.

Serape blanket with white triangles in diamond shape

Serape blanket with white triangles in diamond shape

Be sure to see more of the beautiful serapes I’ve added to the Obsession Pintrest page.

My next stop for inspiration was the big quilt expo, called Road to California, which was held last weekend in Ontario, California.

Great colors and great quilting!

Great colors and great quilting!

Wonderful colors at the Loc Bloc booth

Wonderful colors at the Loc Bloc booth

I found a few quilts whose colors spoke to me!

Bad Hair Day, by Martha A. Nordstrand

Bad Hair Day, by Martha A. Nordstrand

Martha A. Nordstrand’s Bad hair day was really delightful to see with its great appliques and embroidery.

Description of Bad Hair Day, by Martha A Nordstrand

Description of Bad Hair Day, by Martha A Nordstrand

It had dimensional flowers and a tree and birds – just like my quilt will!

Detail of Bad Hair Day, by Martha A Nordstrand

Detail of Bad Hair Day, by Martha A Nordstrand

I love the jubilant nature of the design and the playful motifs.

Appliqued ribbons

Appliqued ribbons

These large spools of “appliqued ribbons” were from Vietnam, and they reminded me of the applique work I have seen from the Hmong people.

So, all this brings me to my quilt.

Bali pops

Bali pops

Bali pops side view

Bali pops side view

My original idea for the background was to sew these pre-cut strips  up into a gradating field.

Bali pops separated into 2 groups

Bali pops separated into 2 groups

When I opened up the package, I removed the strips that had brown or more dull tones. This will help keep the background more in the clear-colors that appear in the serapes that I liked the most.

More fabrics for the background

More fabrics for the background

Next, I rifled through my batik boxes (, and when I say ‘rifled through’ I do mean made a big mess,) and picked out some candidates to go with the pre-cut 2 1/2″ strips.

Colorful batik

Colorful batik

And that’s when I found this little 1 1/2 yard beauty! Mmm Humm.

It’s a crazy bit of batik I picked up at the I-can’t-be-expected-to-remember-exactly-where-I-purchased-each-and-every-fabric-I-have-in-my-stash store.

So I decided to use this piece as a foundation. It’s not as clean nor as linear as the serapes, but I think I can work with it to make an exuberant wall for my quilted flowers.

Auditioning fabrics for stripe inserts

Auditioning fabrics for stripe inserts

I began to pull together some fabrics to make a set of stripes to insert into the sunset background piece. This will serve to make the background wider and to add visual interest

There's something screwy with this sewing!

There’s something screwy with this sewing!

As I sewed the pieces together, I drove in and out to vary the stitch width and make the seams wonky.

Wonky sewing from the back

Wonky sewing from the back

It’s a bit silly to sew all funky on these pieces because I’m going to sub-cut them so small that none of the wonk will even show.

Wonky sewing from the front

Wonky sewing from the front

But it makes me happy – and I feel free and a bit naughty when I’m doing it – and that, my friends, is priceless!

Auditioning new strips in the sunset background

Auditioning new strips in the sunset background

So, I’m going to subcut my strip sets up and insert them into the background with pairs of another color above and below.

One insert row sewn together

One insert row sewn together

I only had an hour to work today, so this is as far as I got.

Stay tuned…

Oh, and by the way…

I picked up a little parting gift on my trip to L.A….

Alethea Ballard goes HQ 18!

Alethea Ballard goes HQ 18!

Yep. I did that.


Alethea’s January Quilt – flowers and stitches

Little Birdie candelabrum from Laurie

Little Birdie candelabrum from Laurie

The January (obsession) Quilt has made a bit of progress.

I continue to find inspirations for shape, pattern, and color, like this darling little candelabrum that my dear friend Laurie gave me. It stands about five inches tall and it is intricately painted. The five-petaled flowers and the two-color leaves are making the brain cells work! The frilly painted lace motif is also something I am intrigued with.

I’ve also been adding a lot of pins to my Obsession Pintrest page!

Little birdie

Little birdie

And this little birdie has me really trying to figure out if I can incorporate birds into the piece!

Quilted petal parts - flower view 10

Quilted petal parts – flower view 10

You may remember this image as where I left off in the last post.

Flower center on the longarm

Flower center on the longarm

I got the flower’s center on to the longarm and then scribbled on it for a bit.

Flower center with the black batting

Flower center with the black batting

Here it is cut out.  You can see that I leave some parts, including the outsides of the pieces, unquilted so that I can have places to stitch when I add it to the quilt’s background later.

Quilted flower including the center

Quilted flower including the center

These little blue flowers are about four inches in diameter, so you can get some idea of the scale of the pieces.

Orange and blue flowers

Orange and blue flowers

I cut up a batch of little blue flowers, like the ones in the birdie candle holder, and gave them pink and yellow centers. These reddish-orange flowers are also promising! I made both four- and five-petaled ones.

First layer of quilting for the orange flowers

First layer of quilting for the orange flowers

First layer of quilting for the orange flowers

First layer of quilting for the orange flowers

Second layer added - blue center!

Second layer added – blue center!

Orange flower and the quilted nopal appliques

Orange flower and the quilted nopal appliques

I scribble-quilted circles on the nopales and gave them a nice big black batting edge.

Orange flower and the quilted nopal appliques

Orange flower and the quilted nopal appliques

I absolutely love them!

Orange floweres and the quilted nopal appliques

Orange floweres and the quilted nopal appliques

I don’t know if this is where the flowers will eventually live – but I like it for now.

Yellow six-petaled flowers

Yellow six-petaled flowers

Next up are more large-ish flowers. Yellow.

White five-petaled flowers

White five-petaled flowers

And my new favorites… the white flowers!

I’m off to Road to California tomorrow and will be taking a longarm class with Angela Walters. Maybe she can beat some of my bad, scribbly quilting habits out of me.

Be sure to say hello to me if you spy me there!


January is Make YOURSELF a Quilt Month – I have spoken

Alexander Henry fabric - amazona

Alexander Henry fabric – amazona

January is Make YOURSELF a Quilt Month – I have spoken and therefore it shall be…

What’s the deal, you ask?

The holidays are over – as I mentioned in the last post – and it’s time to move on. As creative people we are often compelled to make quilts for people as gifts – in fact, many of us make ALL of our quilts as gifts.

This can be both positive and negative.

The positives include: You feel good giving a special gift. People like getting hand-made things. You made it super special. You actually finished a project.

Here are some negatives: It’s an expensive way to give a gift. You worked outside your palette or comfort zone and didn’t enjoy it. It came out “ugly.” It took a long time. The person doesn’t always understand or appreciate what you put into to making the quilt. It gets put into a closet. You rarely see the quilt (if ever) again. It gets used as a dog bed. It ends up as a doormat. And so on.

I know we all feel like a quilt is the “perfect” gift, especially when someone has a baby. So make a baby quilt for yourself, your sibling, or your grandchild. Good plan. But, you don’t have to make a quilt for your aunt’s cousin’s hairdresser’s dog walker’s step-daughter. Draw the line, people. Just because an egg has been fertilized somewhere in the continuous United States DOESN’T MEAN YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO MAKE IT A QUILT! Buy a onsie or a stuffed giraffe once in a while, for Pete’s sake!

I think and fret a lot if I am making a quilt for someone else, whether it is a commission or a gift. I worry about the theme, tone, fabrics, colors, size, pattern, quality of workmanship and everything else there is to perseverate over. And that, my friends, is just NO FUN!

When I’m making myself a quilt I take risks, I make mistakes, I work very fast and spontaneously, and I really enjoy it. Except when it tortures me and looks ugly. But even that’s OK with me!

The real reason that I want you to make a quilt for yourself is that you make such interesting choices when you create for yourself. You don’t have to worry if the recipient will like it, if it will “go” with their stuff, if it will be appreciated. Often you’re bolder, braver, and, I hope, happier when you’re working with a beloved palette, with fabric you love, on a quilt you’re excited to make. If you have to make adjustments you’ll feel less stressed. And you’ll most likely enjoy the process more and care less about the product!

So it’s make yourself a quilt month and that means me, too.

I have to do some quilt work for other people this month, but at least twice a week I am going to work on a quilt just for me. I would like to share my process with all of you. Even if it ends up a big hot mess (as my friend Kris says.) I hope you’ll join me on my journey!

I have only a vague idea of what I am going to make. It’s going to have huge quilted applique flowers and leaves. It will have vibrant colors.

I am going to make it up as I go.

Fabric Bouquet postcard, by Alethea Ballard

Fabric Bouquet postcard, by Alethea Ballard

I want to take the feel of this tiny postcard with the quilted appliques and bow it up HUGE!

Inspiration for this project comes from my love of certain colors and imagery that I often find in Mexican art and tiles. I have been pinning on a Pintrest board I’ve titled Obsession – see it here.

Alexander Henry fabric - flores de coyocan

Alexander Henry fabric – flores de coyocan

 This new fabric from Alexander Henry is a good starting point.
Skulls and Hearts - quilted and painted - more fabric from Alexander Henry

Skulls and Hearts – quilted and painted – more fabric from Alexander Henry

I’ve been quilting and painting on these fabrics…

Tree of life from Pintrest

Tree of life from Pintrest

And this is really where I get the most excited!!!

I started a flower today!

I cut shapes out of batik and cotton prints.

flower 1 - view 1

flower 1 – view 1

flower 1 - view 2

flower 1 – view 2

flower 1 - view 3

flower 1 – view 3

flower 1 - view 4

flower 1 – view 4

flower 1 - view 5

flower 1 – view 5

flower 1 - view 6

flower 1 – view 6

Ultimately the flower needed seven petals.

The next step was to turn the flower parts into appliques – quilted on to batting.

I chose black batting because I really want the appliques to have a very definite edges and a sharp, coloring book look.

Quilted petal parts - flower view 7

Quilted petal parts – flower view 7

Here the petals get layered on to the black batting on the long arm.

I quilted the inner parts of the petals using both a variegated orange Superior Rainbows thread and a solid lime green polyester in the needle and a darker pink variegated thread in the bobbin.

Quilted petal parts - flower view 8

Quilted petal parts – flower view 8

The quilting is really scribbly and I don’t like how it came out. I didn’t glue the pieces down and the edges got all puckery.  The batting was all stretchy and it moved a lot under the needle. At this point I’m thinking I’ve wrecked it all.

Quilted petal parts - flower view 8

Quilted petal parts – flower view 8

I cut the parts of the petals out, leaving about a quarter of an inch of the batting showing.

Quilted petal parts - flower view 9

Quilted petal parts – flower view 9

I quilted the inner ring of petals separately because I thought it needed the punch of the black edges.

Quilted petal parts - flower view 10

Quilted petal parts – flower view 10

I’m going to need to quilt the center, but maybe it’s not totally terrible after all.

Stay tuned…


Is is January yet?

Birthday Girl

Birthday Girl

December has come and gone – thankfully!

And boy am I tired!

First, it was my birthday.

Yep - these are leggins

Yep – these are leggins

And I received 7, 328 gifts with mustaches on them – so I have that going for me!

Then it was Christmas, and I had to do 10, 447 things including:

Mum & Sun

Mum & Sun

Shop with my kid.

IPad stand with flower

IPad stand with flower

IPad stand

IPad stand

Make crafty things for a sale.

Roll 5, 395 felt flowers for wreath…

Snowman Wreath

Snowman Wreath

after wreath…

Burlap and pale poinsettia wreath

Burlap and pale poinsettia wreath

after wreath…

Red poinsettia wreath

Red poinsettia wreath

after wreath…

Green and white stag wreath

Green and white stag wreath

after wreath…

Silver, blue and feather wreath

Silver, blue and feather wreath

after wreath…

Black Bow Wreath

Black Bow Wreath

(this one was my favorite!)

Then I had to ….

The other Alethea and my niece and nephew at the Nutcracker!

The other Alethea and my niece and nephew at the Nutcracker!

go to the nutcracker…

Reindeer cookie night!

Reindeer cookie night!

make cookies…

Silly Christmas blocks

Silly Christmas blocks

make silly Christmas quilts…

Silly Christmas quilt

Silly Christmas quilt

with silly Alexander Henry fabric…

And then the real work started – Gifts…

There were about 72 head wraps to make…

Modeling the hair wrap - gift of the season!

Modeling the hair wrap – gift of the season!

in several sizes…

This is how I roll!

This is how I roll!

and pajamas for the little ones…

Pajama girl!

Pajama girl!

And then there was actual Christmas and then… wait for it…

…my 20th wedding anniversary!

And a trip to the happiest place on earth!

Cozy Cone Motel

Cozy Cone Motel

Cozy Cone Motel sign

Cozy Cone Motel sign

The there was New Years eve and Day!

When I slept a lot!

Happy New Year to all…

Neon Disneyland

Neon Disneyland

P.S. January is Make Yourself a Quilt month – please stay tuned for details!


Movember – it’s not for the faint of hair

Happy Movember

Happy Movember

Happy Movember, all! (formerly called November)

Of course, it’s my favorite month of the year because, as you all know, I LOVE A MUSTACHE!  You’ll recall ALL of my earlier mustache-obsessed blogs: Here and here and here. (P.S. there are many links in this blog and if you click on all of them you get a lot of brownie points!)

Not quite rockin' mustache photobombed by a bird

Not quite rockin’ mustache photobombed by a bird

Movember is the month that raises awareness and money for men’s health issues through a global charity campaign. The charity asks men to grow a mustache over the month of November and use it to raise money. That money goes to four basic charity groups: Men’s health awareness and education, cancer research, prostate cancer and understanding mental illness. Check it out at the site.

Not quite my dad, but a good likeness of him (not the dog!)

Not quite my dad, but a good likeness of him (not the dog!)

My obsession with the mustache probably goes back to my Dad – doesn’t everything? He had a rockin’ mustache for about 20 years – except for the ill-fated time in 1973 when he shaved it off and we called him Mr. Stranger and refused to speak to him until he grew it back! I suppose growing up n the ’70s meant that I saw many, many mustaches! And of course, I do look very good in a mustache!

My darling friend, the Dashing Dana

My darling friend, the Dashing Dana

Two of my all-time favorite mustachioed men also have beards, but I won’t hold that against them!

Jack Passion - world's best beard winner!

Jack Passion – world’s best beard winner!

In 2010 ran into the now-famous Jack Passion at Peet’s in Walnut Creek and stopped him to tell him that his beard was so good that he should be in a competition. (Because I had, of course, been looking at all of the beard and mustache competition websites in my spare time.) He happily told me that he ALREADY HAD and had (at that point) twice won the World Beard Competition. Now he has a TV show, has written books, plays in a band and has written a coloring book that I HAVE TO BUY!!! He’s a lovely man and his beard is quite lovely, too!

Awesome Mustache quilt

Awesome Mustache quilt

In honor of Movember I am offering to donate one dollar of every sale of my Awesome Mustache quilt on Craftsy to the cause! You can instantly download a full-sized pattern for all of these fun mustaches and this quilt and help the cause at the same time!

Awesome Mustache quilt made at 50%

Awesome Mustache quilt made at 50%

When I was teaching up in Redding, California this year, a quilter brought in this fabulous version of the quilt. She had reduced all of the drawings to 50% and made this quilt for her brother’s kitchen wall! I love it!

Mini Awesome Mustache quilt, by Alethea Ballard; 2012

Mini Awesome Mustache quilt, by Alethea Ballard; 2012

If you really need a Movember quilt fast, and you don’t want to make one, I have his little beauty for sale at Etsy. It’s the only one, so click fast if you really want it! Of, course there are some fun pillows at my store, too!

detail of Mini Awesome Mustache quilt!

detail of Mini Awesome Mustache quilt!

But, as an added bonus, I’m going to send the instructions for this wall hanging to everyone who has bought the Awesome Mustache pattern! Because that’s how I roll!

I’ve also been on a roll making a new quilt about every week – I’ll be sharing these with you all pronto! Stay tuned and Happy Movember.

I’m off to my esthetician now, to get my facial hair worked on – moustaches don’t really look that good on me after all!


Cantankerous Kitty and the Birthday Quilts

Scott Hastings pretending to be a cutie

Scott Hastings pretending to be a cutie

Let me introduce you to our cat Scott Hastings, who passed away last month.

Now, don’t be swayed by the photos – he was not exactly a little cutie!

He was a remarkable guy who blew through his nine lives in about two years and lived the next 16 years on borrowed time. He almost died from a million things including being shot by a BB gun many times, broken spine bone, crazy bacterial infection, multiple face surgeries after cat fights, lacerated tongue with plenty of stitches, just to name a few.

Scott Hatings in a rare moment of repose

Scott Hastings in a rare moment of repose

We named him Scott Hastings after the ballroom dancer from the movie “Strictly Ballroom,” and he went by many nicknames, Grumpy Dude being the favorite one towards the end there.

Scott was the LOUDEST, most vocal cat I’ve ever seen, and as he went deaf in the last few years, he took to howling in the bathtub – charming.

He was really my son’s cat. He picked my son out at the pet store by snagging his shirt with a claw when we walked by. He was a bit older than the age of a kitten we wanted, but it was clear from the start that he was going to be Nathan’s cat.

Cowboy Trip Around the World, by Alethea Ballard; 1993

Cowboy Trip Around the World, by Alethea Ballard; 1993

I have made a quilt for my son about every 10 years. When he was 8, I made this Trip Around the World, which was on his bed or his wall for ever. It was made of all cowboy fabrics and a great starry border fabric from Robert Kaufmann fabrics.

Fly By Blue, by Alethea Ballard; 2003

Fly By Blue, by Alethea Ballard; 2003

Then, at 18, I made a very manly quilt for Nathan, which ended up in my book Maverick Quilts. It’s all from 1/4 yard pieces of blue batik with great green “butterflies.”

Bit O'Blarney Quilt, by Alethea Ballard; 2013

Bit O’Blarney Quilt, by Alethea Ballard; 2013

Now that he’s 28, I figured it was about time for a new quilt. I made him an Irish flag quilt with his favorite lucky charm, shamrocks, on it.  I absolutely love it and I think he does, too!

Sharing the birthday quilt, mother & son

Sharing the birthday quilt, mother & son

Most of the fabrics in the quilt are of something that has meaning to us and I was able to use many of my conversation prints – always a good thing. From the State of California to golf to football to barbecuing, all of Nathan’s interests are there.

Of course, I had to include Grumpy Dude, right?

I started with a fabric that had an orange cat. But it was too light, and didn’t have Scott’s white bib, his deep orange parts, or the right face shape.

So I got out the fabric paints, added fabric medium, and went to town.

cat image on fabric - no paint

Cat image on fabric – no paint

Adding white to fabric

Adding white to fabric

Finished portrait of Scott on fabric

Finished portrait of Scott on fabric

Not too bad, right?

Scott and Priscilla the Silver Purse

Scott and Priscilla the Silver Purse

Detail of Bit O'Blarney Quilt, by Alethea Ballard

Detail of Bit O’Blarney Quilt, by Alethea Ballard

I’ll finish the binding on the quilt any minute now and give it to my son to keep!

Post script: Scott passed away at home after being able to say goodbye to Nathan. He’s buried under the redwood tree he used to climb.


Fabulous Floral Quilts – Old and New

Detail of Laura Fraga's Little Brown Bird quilt - incomprable!

Detail of Laura Fraga’s Little Brown Bird quilt – incomparable!

If you haven’t gotten down to the Museum of the San Ramon Valley in Danville to see the Quintessential Quilts – a Floral Fantasy show, you still have ten days to hustle down there.  I’ve worked with the museum volunteers to create a really beautiful collection of quilts which showcase flowers. We were able to gather quilts with flower appliques, flower fabrics, painted flowers, embroidered, embellished and everything in between!

We have fresh flowers delivered twice a week, compliments of our local floral businesses, gardening groups and stores. The rooms smell lovely and it’s a delightful little exhibit.

"Adam" in the Man Cave at the San Ramon Valley museum

“Adam” in the Man Cave at the San Ramon Valley museum

We’ve also been able to include some very interesting men’s quilts in the “man cave.” We wanted to be sure everyone know men quilt, too. Even if they don’t do loads of floral quilts!

My teacher Margaret Linderman and I will be doing a free demonstration and our raw-edge floral work on Saturday, September 28 from 11:00 to 12:00.  Come early to get parking. The farmer’s market is going on at the same time and it’s a bit of a busy corner of the world!

The 1850 Whig Rose quilt and vintage friends

The 1850 Whig Rose quilt and vintage friends

Jennifer Rounds' Zen Roses next to vintage quilts

Jennifer Rounds’ Zen Roses next to vintage quilts

Wonderful wall hangings and wearable art

Wonderful wall hangings and wearable art

Wonderful vintage doll and Sunbonnet Sue corner

Wonderful vintage doll and Sunbonnet Sue corner

Be sure to come by Saturday, September 21, to see the lovely Sandra Newman demonstrate hand sewing hexagons. She’s created some packets for everyone to try them out and then you can see her beautiful work, too! Also from 11:00 to 12:00.

New York Beauty detail, photo from Pati Freid

New York Beauty detail, photo from Pati Freid

This week I was delighted to read a blog post about the New York Beauty quilts and the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textile’s current exhibition.

Take a minute to go over to the wonderful blog, See How We Sew, and read Pati Fried’s interesting views on these quintessential American quilts! http://seehowwesew.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/new-york-beauty-quilts-finding-inspiration-in-our-past/

Detail of Pickle Dish-Ish, by Alethea Ballard; 2013

Detail of Pickle Dish-Ish, by Alethea Ballard; 2013

I’ve always loved the New York Beauty quilt design and perhaps need to make one soon in my new quilted applique quilt series!


All-American Flag Quilt

Star section detail from All-American Flag Quilt, by Alethea Ballard

Star section detail from All-American Flag Quilt, by Alethea Ballard

It’s true. I am very patriotic. I don’t have pictures of Uncle Sam all over my house or anything like that, but when it comes to the old red, white & blue, well, it definitely runs in my veins!

I do love to hang the Stars and Stripes at my house, especially on holidays!

All-American Flag Quilt, by Alethea Ballard; 1998

All-American Flag Quilt, by Alethea Ballard; 1998

Years ago I made a picnic quilt to use on the Fourth of July. I made a star section out of an old dark-blue pair of my husband’s Dickies work pants and some white cotton sheeting. I cut up a pair of husband’s jeans and some of my son’s jeans and made the “white” stripes. (Terrible, but true, one of the pairs was actual acid wash jeans – so that just dates the quilt right there!) There had been a sale on 60″ wide red denim at JoAnn’s and I had bought three yards, so I had the red stripes and the back covered! I stitched it all together and, voila, Sam’s your uncle!

Jeans and tying add interest to the All-American Flag Quilt, by Alethea Ballard

Jeans and tying add interest to the All-American Flag Quilt, by Alethea Ballard

We’ve used this quilt many times, on many picnics and holidays and it still looks great!

Detail of All-American Flag Quilt

Detail of All-American Flag Quilt

I’d really been wanting to make a pattern so that I could share this quilt with my students and y’all, so I decided to make a new version using all red, white and blue shirts. I didn’t have any of my own, so I crept into my husband’s closet and right then and there stole a shirt. Two minutes later I was cutting it into 6 1/2″ sections and the next thing I knew the quilt was on its way! I used the back yokes, the sleeves, pocket and even the button section.

I promptly headed to the thrift store and bought (not stole) some gently-worn shirts, and the rest is history!

All-American Flag Quilt - men's shirt version, by Alethea Ballard; 2013

All-American Flag Quilt – men’s shirt version, by Alethea Ballard; 2013

I sold this version to a wonderful lady from Carmel Valley, so this is the only photo I have – I wish I had taken some close-ups! All of the parts of the shirts really added visual interest to this quilt. Again, I had three yards of on-sale denim just lying around, this time a soft blue, and the back and border was a snap!

Now I’ve created a great downloadable pattern at my Etsy.com Pattern Store. It has loads of color photos and complete instructions for making the quilt. I even include information about stitching it and doing the tying!

But wait! Yes that’s right folks, you also get a YouTube video! Yes, you heard that right. I’ve made another dorky video (just like when I was a Home Ec teacher). This one shows how to make half-square triangles without having to cut triangles to make them! Yeah!

Alethea's YouTube video has a tutorial on how to turn humble squares into stars!

Alethea’s YouTube video has a tutorial on how to turn humble squares into stars!

I’m on track to make more dorky films, so be sure you sign up to follow the Maverick Quilts YouTube channel when you’re there for the nerdfest!

Stripes from red denim and jeans

Stripes from red denim and jeans


String-pieced Quilts – Report from the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

First quilt block!

First quilt block!

Zippidy Do Da was one of the classes I taught up at the Quilter’s Affair teaching week as part of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt show week.

It was planned as a kids class, but we had lots of grown ups sign up, too! That turned out to be a great combination for me, as everyone’s work inspired each others’ and we had a lot of fun.

My youngest student, pictured here, made her first ever quilt block during the first session, and that provided me the BEST MOMENT of the entire week! She had made the block oversized and raggedy on the edges. Then she traced the 10″ template on the back for trimming. I took it and trimmed with a rotary cutter and then held it up to show her. Her face lit up so brightly and she actually jumped (practically out of her skin) for joy – it was a priceless moment and one I’ll always remember!

String-pieced cow quilt block

String-pieced cow quilt block

Everyone started with a center piece and added strips on either side.

Norman's Quilt - 6 completed blocks

Norman’s Quilt – 6 completed blocks

Some students planned the blocks to go together.

Lovely baby quilt blocks

Lovely baby quilt blocks

And other students created more improvisationally.

The busy classroom

The busy classroom

Everyone did a wonderful job…

19 of 81 completed!

19 of 81 completed!

Great improved blocks!

Great improv’d blocks!

Pretty Kaffe's in progress

Pretty Kaffe’s in progress

Susan and her amazing quilt top!

Susan and her amazing quilt top!

A whole quilt top finished in 6 hours!

A whole quilt top finished in 6 hours!

I was proud of F. for finishing her quilt top in only six hours. She was so creative to try the string piecing straight, on the diagonal and in the center triangles that we made a special foundation for. She particularly loved the Ninja fabric I had brought to share!

Sheila (AKA Baby Death Grip) and me!

Sheila (AKA Baby Death Grip) and me!

Sheila had a great large-scale cat print to inspire her quilt. We had a bit of a laugh when I was trying to figure out why her machine was making such tiny stitches. We determined that she was holding the fabric too tightly and the result was teeny stitches. She got a real kick out of my calling it the Baby Death Grip!

In all, I couldn’t have been more pleased with my ‘kids!’

V. and her fabulous quilt blocks!

V. and her fabulous quilt blocks!


Zippidy Do Da… A scrappy string-pieced quilt

String-Pieced Pot Holder - straight

String-Pieced Pot Holder – straight

High-Ho, high-ho; it’s off to Oregon I go.

La la la la la la la la and all that!

One of the classes that I am teaching at the Quilter’s Affair up at Sisters, Oregon, this year is called Zippidy Do Da.

Zippidy Do Da Quilt, by Alethea Ballard; 2012

Zippidy Do Da Quilt, by Alethea Ballard; 2012

The quilt is made up of twelve scrappy, string-pieced, ten-inch blocks.

Originally, we wanted to offer a relaxed-style quilting class to young students and kids at the Quilter’s Affair, so we invited children ages 8-12 in the morning and thirteen to adult (I was thinking like 22 years old) in the afternoon. As it turns out, some (most) of our afternoon “kids” are much older than 22 and we think that is JUST FINE! It’s going to be a fun class and I’m excited to be teaching it.

String-Pieced Pot Holder - diagonal

String-Pieced Pot Holder – diagonal

We made the cutest, string-pieced pot holders last week in my drop-in kids class at Wooden Gate Quilts, in Danville.

String piecing - diagonal setting on 8" x 10" rectangle

String piecing – diagonal setting on 8″ x 10″ rectangle

I’ve spent the morning creating samples and I wanted to share my sewing and some other examples of string-pieced quilts!

Back side of string-pieced rectangle block

Back side of string-pieced rectangle block

String piecing is no more than sewing bits of fabric together, usually onto a foundation like a piece of muslin or paper, trimming the edges, and then sewing the scrappy blocks together.

Four String-pieced diagonal 8" x 10" rectangle: in a row

Four String-pieced diagonal 8″ x 10″ rectangle: in a row

The foundation can be a variety of shapes. With these rectangles there are many ways the blocks can be sewn together.

Four String-pieced diagonal 8" x 10" rectangle

Four String-pieced diagonal 8″ x 10″ rectangle

Four String-pieced diagonal 8" x 10" rectangle - alternate placement

Four String-pieced diagonal 8″ x 10″ rectangle – alternate placement

The strips and foundations can be any size you want.

String-Pieced blocks: straight-sewn squares

String-Pieced blocks: straight-sewn squares

String-Pieced blocks: diagonally-sewn squares

String-Pieced blocks: diagonally-sewn squares

You can also sew same-size pieces in either straight or diagonal settings.

String-Pieced blocks in progress

String-Pieced blocks in progress

Last summer my fabulous student Mia made a wonderful quilt using this technique.

Zippidy Do Da Quilt, by Mia; 2012

Zippidy Do Da Quilt, by Mia; 2012

Mia quickly saw that the blocks can create a pattern if you are deliberate with the fabric placement, so she make a drawing of the quilt and wrote in which fabrics she needed in each section to create the diagonal squares. It came out great, and I’ll be able to bring it with me to Oregon to inspire the students!

I’ve created a little collection of other great String-pieced quilts on Pintrest - Please go over and check them out! I’ve included star and spiderweb settings as well. Cool!

Now I’m going to have to make a larger one of my own, don’t you think?

I MIGHT have a few (thousand) scraps to get started with!


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