Teaching at the North Carolina Quilt Symposium

At the beginning of June, I was a faculty member for the North Carolina Quilt Symposium, hosted this year by the Asheville Quilters’ Guild in Asheville on the campus of the University of NC. It was a wonderful four day event with 17 national teachers and 350 attendees. I taught two full-day workshops and one half day. It’s always a joy to see my students’ work develop and there is such a variety of fabric choices making for very differing results. Here’s a sampling from my Op-Art Kaleidoscope class, where students made large Kaleidoscope blocks, cut them into nine pieces and rearranged the parts to create these new blocks. This technique works well for batik fabrics, as shown below.

The multicolored scrambling of the block parts rather than only using two fabrics, made for an interesting variety of blocks. This student went to town on her assembly-line piecing and created quite the pile of kite and wedge pairs! Another student from my other full-day class, the Gateway to Mongolia, worked in the dorm room to complete the whole quilt top which she brought to show me at the end of the symposium. I love the enthusiasm of these ladies and thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

Gateway to Mongolia

I recently taught my Gateway to Mongolia class at the Metropolitan Patchwork Society in Beaverton, OR. The pattern is available from my on-line store. Here is what one of my students made. This beautiful Ölzii is made from one fabric.

When I first saw the fabric choice that this student brought to class, I wasn’t sure how the fabrics would work together. However, she was able to fussy-cut from selected areas of one fabric to create the desired effect and it is very successful. She used motifs in the pattern for the intersecting squares of the Ölzii design and sections of fabric that changed from lighter to darker green instead three different fabrics for a color gradation. The fabric in the outer edges of the Ölzii also came from this fabric. It really pops on the black background and we were delighted with the results. Here are another two, one on a light background and the other on a dark background. Both students did a fine job on achieving the woven effect with a good gradation of colors.

Teaching in Torrington, WY: Bargello Quilts with a Twist

In late April, I taught at the Goshen County Quilt Guild in Torrington, WY. This is a small farming community with a population of under 6,000, but the quilt group is thriving and active. I had a huge class of 22 students for my Bargello Quilts with a Twist class. I was concerned about teaching such a big group, but they were wonderful and all did really well. I loved teaching this as a two day class and snowy weather didn’t deter anyone from showing up on the second day. Having the second day allowed everyone enough time to complete a good number of blocks and to play with the orientation to design their quilt tops. There were so many options and a great variety of different fabrics. Here’s a sampling.

For the purple one, the large squares in the blocks were cut separately so that the little mountain scenes and trees could be fussy-cut and their orientation manipulated to the right way up. The striped fabric in the other one adds to the secondary patterns created when the blocks are put together. Both of these have 16 blocks.

The elongated pattern made from 16 blocks is an interesting design. On the right, this lady made 32 blocks and this was her first ever quilt!

These last two are made from the larger 9-1/2″ block size. On the left, we were auditioning different sashing fabrics to see which ones worked best. On the right, the large squares were cut separately, creating a lovey kaleidoscope design in the center.

Teaching in Cheyenne, WY: Kaleidoscope Puzzle Quilts

In late April, I taught at the Cheyenne Heritage Quilters’ Guild in Cheyenne, WY. It was a large class of 19 ladies and each designed their own unique Kaleidoscope Puzzle quilt. It’s always fun to see the patterns emerging and the variety of fabrics that the students bring to class. They learn a great deal by looking at the fabric combinations used by their fellow students and also the importance of choosing a variety of values, (contrast between the different fabrics), so that the patterns they create are easily visible. They could design squarely set or on-point quilts. Here’s a sampling of their work.

Teaching trip to TX

I spent two weeks in March teaching at four TX quilt guilds. Spring was definitely springing in TX, where they had unusually warm weather in February, combined with enough rain to make for a bumper crop of gorgeous bluebonnets. Here I am in Bryan, surrounded by these beauties. I loved the brilliant swaths of blue along the highways, then patches of rich orange Indian paintbrushes and areas of delicate pink primroses. Of course, time with quilters always involves visiting the local quilt stores and I relished several on the trip. Here are some lovely TX wildflower fabrics sold in most of the stores there, (check at a later date for blogs on the TX stores). These are so appropriate for this area.

My first engagement was with the Greater San Antonio Quilters’ Guild. I taught my Op-Art Kaleidoscope workshop the day before the guild meeting. Several of my students continued piecing their blocks and quilt tops at home that evening, and here they are putting on a nice display during “Show and Tell” at the meeting. After the meeting, I did a half-day UFO class discussing quilt design and problem projects. The next stop was the Brazos Bluebonnet Quilt Guild in Bryan where I taught my Bargello Quilts with a Twist class.

From there I transferred to the Vereins Quilt Guild in Fredericksburg and The Hill Country Quilt Guild in Kerrville. In Fredericksburg, my students worked on precision piecing of triangles to make Sawtooth Star Bear’s Paw blocks. Here are some partially completed blocks. My final class in Kerrville was the Gateway to Mongolia. In all classes, it was such fun to see the variety of fabric choices and results.

Visiting four quilt guilds made this trip logistically complex, but with careful planning and collaboration all went smoothly. As I was transferred between the groups, guild members took excellent care of me and made me feel welcome wherever I went. I taught five workshops and they were all different.  After packing the essentials of the quilts for my trunk shows and workshop materials in two suitcases and my hand-luggage, I only had 12 lbs left for two weeks’ worth of personal effects. Both suitcases were within less than a pound of the maximum 50 lbs. I sent five packages of books, patterns and Mongolian items for sale by mail in advance. So, lots of stuff!

It’s always inspiring to see the work of other quilters and I enjoy the “Show and Tell” at the guild meetings. I’m blown away by the talent and also the generosity of quilters who support many philanthropic organizations with gifts of quilts stitched with love and care. Guild members come together to make opportunity quilts as fundraisers for their guilds, the proceeds of which pay for education and the likes of me coming to lecture and teach. Here is the beautiful red and white raffle quilt made by the Hill Country Quilt Guild in Kerrville. The theme for their next quilt show, taking place on Memorial Day Weekend, is “A New Twist on an Old Favorite: Two Color Quilts” at which this quilt will be displayed. I am drawn to this traditional classic look and love this quilt. Talking of the generosity of quilters, I’d like to thank the members of the guilds of San Antonio, Bryan, Fredericksburg and Kerrville for their incredible support for the Mongolian Quilting Center. We raised a whopping $3,650!

Teaching at Quilting at the Lake, Lake Havasu, AZ

Earlier in January, I taught at Quilting at the Lake, Lake Havasu, AZ, a wonderful annual quilting event organized by the Havasu Stitchers. I can highly recommend this well organized and fun retreat. This was my first time to teach in AZ and I was delighted at the opportunity to take a winter break and head for some sunshine by the lake! The event was held at the London Bridge Resort and I was excited to have a beautiful view of the bridge from my classroom!

As a child, living in the UK, I can recall hearing about some place in Arizona which had purchased the London Bridge and was transporting it stone by stone to the desert and creating a channel over which the bridge could span. This was a big joke to us especially as it seemed to us that they had anticipated getting the Tower Bridge! However, the locals don’t remember this disappointment and are very proud of their bridge which is a major tourist attraction and can take the credit for the prosperous growth of the town. I have to say, that the bridge is definitely a highlight of the city and looks very handsome, fitting in surprisingly well with the beautiful lake and spectacular surrounding mountains.

My class was full and I taught an overflow group two days later. We worked on the Gateway to Mongolia pattern making the large central Olzii block. This motif is painted on the doors of yurts in Mongolia to bring long-life and prosperity to the people who live there and to drive away wild beasts and evil spirits. It also has special significance in the Buddhist faith which is practiced in Mongolia, symbolizing the universe and never-ending cycles of life and death. The woven effect is achieved by using a color gradation of fabrics. Having a smooth gradation of fabrics is key to the success of the under-over illusion. The pictures show some of my students’ work. The purple and green one was an unusual choice of fabrics but it worked! I always enjoy seeing the different results from the variety of fabrics brought to class.

AQS QuiltWeek, Des Moines, IA

Earlier this month I spent four days teaching at the AQS QuiltWeek in Des Moines, IA. These AQS events have three major components: the quilt exhibits which include a national level quilt show and several special exhibits; the booths selling every imaginable quilting gadget, machines and of course fabric and notions; and a wide offering of classes and lectures.

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Here I am at the entrance of the exhibit hall in the Iowa Events Center. The other picture shows a particularly colorful booth hosted by Fabric Therapy, a store from Fife Lake, MI. There were around 115 booths, and plenty of quilters busy shopping. Two of the classes I taught were my Template-free Kaleidoscope Puzzle Quilts and the Template-free Op-Art Kaleidoscope Quilts. Examples of work by my students are shown below.

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My class sizes were very small, but the students who came were enthusiastic and we had a very enjoyable time. It turned out that the other teachers had low sign-ups for their classes too. The excuse that we were given, was that this summer was very wet which meant that the harvest was late in IA and many quilters were on their farms still harvesting instead of attending the show. I have no way of knowing how much this accounted for the low turn-out, but suspect that other factors are involved. The industry is clearly changing and the AQS, which has been over-extending itself, will only have six national shows next year instead of eight. They are introducing a fall show in Paducah which I hope does not dilute the spring Paducah event that is so special. AQS QuiltWeeks will only have five locations instead of eight (Daytona Beach, Lancaster, Paducah, Grand Rapids and Des Moines, cutting out Chattanooga, Phoenix and Syracuse). It will be interesting to see how it all goes moving forward.

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These two quilts were in the AQS judged quilt show. Neither was an award winner but they both appealed to me. They both have a great sense of movement and the use of contrasting values make the designs look stunning. On the left is Kan Oh Chi Rai – Prediction Study of the Past by Yoshiyuki Ishizaki from Ahiya City, Japan. On the right, Pioneer Log Cabin pieced by Diane Bacon of Humbolt, IA, and long-arm quilted by Rhonda Post. Diane used a pattern from Judy Martin’s book, Extraordinary Log Cabin Quilts.

Quilting with Kids

I recently donated this quilt, Octopus’s Garden, that was made at Blakely Elementary School in 1997 to the Bainbridge Island Kids Discovery Museum (KiDiMu). This fish print quilt is featured in my book, Creative Quilting with Kids, now out of print, but still available second hand on Amazon. See the book for more pictures. The quilt looks great in the toddler play area of the museum, hung on the yellow wall. I’m delighted that it is now out for people to enjoy, rather than being stored in my closet!


I worked in collaboration with the Art Specialist, MJ Linford and the fourth graders. We had a real octopus, rock fish and cabazon donated from the local grocery store. We used rubber fish too, which I have also donated to KiDiMu for their art projects with kids. The fourth graders were eager to paint the critters for printing. The background piece was prepared ahead of time. There are wonderful fabric possibilities to create the rocks and weed. These were applied using Steam-a-Seam2 fusible applique. The painted critters were arranged carefully and the background cloth placed over the top. We pressed the fabric gently using the back sides of spoons and the palms of hands. It was astonishing so see that even the suckers on the octopus’s tentacles were printed and the kids were very excited to see the results. They wrote the words of the Octopus’s Garden song in the border around the quilt. It was a fun project. The kids also brought t-shirts to school to print with fish so that they had a take home memory.

Teaching at WA State Quilters, Spokane Chapter

In September, I was given a warm welcome by the quilters of the Spokane Chapter of WA State Quilters. This is a large group and over 400 quilters attended my two lectures. They were incredibly generous in their support of the Mongolian Quilting Center and we raised over $2,500 in donations and sales. I taught two days of classes, Bargello Quilts with a Twist and the Gateway to Mongolia. We had a nice light and spacious classroom at the hotel where I was staying, so it was very convenient and the hotel catered our lunches.


As usual, I enjoyed seeing each student’s choice of fabrics and how these turned out in their projects. Here’s a selection of the Bargello blocks. One of my students made a quilt top before coming to class! It’s always reassuring when people can successfully follow the directions in my book with great results.

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Here are some examples for the Gateway to Mongolia. They are all so different and it’s interesting to see how the Olzii pops out against the background. Some pop more than others and this class is a good lesson in the importance of value to get smooth transitions for achieving the woven effect.

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5th Grade quilt project, Chestnut Hill Academy

I spent last week quilting with 5th Graders at Chestnut Hill Academy in Bellevue, WA. It’s been six or seven years since I worked with kids and I was excited to be enlisted. My daughter teaches 5th grade math and science at the school and secured a grant from the PTO to fund this project. We wanted to involve the kids with as much of the quilt making process as possible which required careful planning and thorough preparation of the materials. It was an intense week, but great fun and the kids enthusiastically embraced designing their quilts and using the sewing machine. There were two classes, 26 kids in all and we made two quilts. The quilts will be auctioned at a school fundraiser in the spring. I was assigned a large light room for the week and the kids came for presentations and sewing. Privacy regulations do not allow me to share pictures of the kids, but here’s the classroom and me doing a presentation.

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We began with a talk to all the kids about quilting in general with a little bit of history to tie in with their studies of the colonial era. Then each class came in turn for details on their project. I had chosen the Bowtie block for them to sew and each quilt was to have 16 blocks. I showed them a PowerPoint presentation of EQ generated patterns depicting a variety of ways to arrange 16 Bowtie blocks. There were choices to be made – should all the Bowties be colored on a light background, should all the Bowties be light on a colored background, or should we make half in half? Here are some examples.

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The top two show all blue Bowties and all white Bowties and the lower two show half blue and half white. There are many more options for rotating the blocks and designing different patterns. The kids were intrigued by this. Both classes chose independently to make half colored and half light Bowties for their quilts. After making this decision they chose their fabrics. One class did a green quilt and the other did a blue one. I had prepared packages of pre-cut pieces for the blocks. There were at least 20 of each color, so that the last child to pick still had several from which to choose.

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The next task was to sew the blocks. The children came to me in groups of three or four and it took about 45 minutes to complete the blocks. Over half of them had used a sewing machine before, but I had all of them practice sewing on a piece of graph paper to sew along a line and get the feel of how hard to press the pedal to determine the speed. I had two sewing machines and one iron. We always all went to the iron together so that I could supervise. If I do this again, I would probably work with just two at a time and I think we could do the blocks in 20 minutes. I had a free-standing work wall with 16 of my Bargello blocks so that kids who were waiting for their turn to sew could arrange the blocks into different patterns and they loved this. By Tuesday afternoon (day two), all but four blocks were finished. I colored in paper blocks, so that the two groups could design their quilt layouts.

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Here are some of the variations they made. I took digital photos of each variation and then the kids voted (eyes closed so there was no peer pressure). This process took an hour for each class which was longer than anticipated but the kids were mesmerized by the design possibilities and really enjoyed arranging the blocks. Once the pattern was determined we made some minor changes in the positioning of certain fabrics. I trimmed all the blocks to 9″ to remove irregularities around the edges and for ease of assembling. The children were fascinated when I demonstrated the use of the rotary cutter (which was put away during their sewing sessions). On day three we completed the remaining blocks, and the kids came in pairs to do 10 minutes of sewing of the pieced borders – piano keys for one quilt and stepping stones for the other. Everyone had a turn.

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Here are the two quilt tops. They turned out beautifully and I’m so proud of the kids. I sewed in the evening of the third day and all day on the fourth day to complete them. On the evening of the fourth day, we basted both quilts ready for the kids to tie on the final day. The backs are flannel and quilts are both around 52″ x 52″. It was a marathon, but we did it! Perhaps if I do this again, we would arrange three days at school, then a weekend to complete the tops and baste, and then another day or two at school instead of five days in a row at school. The Bowtie was an excellent choice with just enough sewing and such a variety of options for patterns.

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The children came in their class groups to see me demo machine quilting and tying. I machine quilted in the ditch between each block on the green quilt. On the blue one, I outlined the blue shapes. The kids came in pairs for 10 minute sessions to tie four ties in their blocks. We used variegated pearl cotton. I was concerned that they would have trouble stitching through all the layers to make the ties, but they did really well and all but one did all four ties in the 10 minutes. We had to limit the time, so that everyone got a turn and it worked out fine. This week I’ve added some more machine quilting to the borders and machine stitched the binding. All that is needed to complete the quilts is to hand stitch the bindings to the back and make a label with all the names, date etc. We will also include a picture panel of a scene from Washington DC. In April, the kids fly there for a four day field trip. It’s a highlight of being in 5th grade (the top grade in the school) and this will serve as a reminder of this special trip to those lucky enough to take a quilt home after the auction.