Thursday, July 9, 2020

more watercolor

Hello friends! We are still sheltering at home here, as Texas has seen a recent surge in Covid19 cases. This nasty virus has impacted several friends and their families, so far our family remains healthy. I hope this finds you healthy as well.

I'm still enjoying dabbling in watercolor doodling. Most recently, I've been experimenting with flowers.

trying out different kinds of doodle flowers
some more delicate flowers. A set of four that might become cards
and a coordinating page in my art journal.

Have you learned anything new lately?

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Urban Emergence

I am just now beginning to be able to tell a story with my quilts. Until recently, often my story was "I wanted to play with triangles" or "these are the colors in my bedroom". Sometimes my story would come to me after a quilt was finished (or someone else would tell a story from my quilt!) This latest finish definitely has a story to tell!

It started months ago when I decided to ask my Solid Seven beemates to make me small, improv minimalist blocks with the prompts urban and architecture. I requested that they use any medium to dark blue for the background and kona white for the details, with a tiny bit of yellow if they wished.  If you know me, you know that I love cities! Love to visit them, explore them, even make quilts about them apparently.

Just as my bee blocks began to roll in, I started seeing pictures on the news and online of major cities around the world emerging from the smog. Because of the pandemic, fewer cars were on the road and the air quality was improving. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, and many others had clear blue skies above them. An idea began to take shape in my head.

I started making gray on gray blocks that fit my theme, to represent the cities before the quarantine. A couple of friends (Debbie and Chris) chimed in and made me some gray blocks too. As I played with the blocks on my design wall, I began to see the cities emerging from the smog! Thus Urban Emergence was born.

The finished quilt top measured 40"x42". It cried out for matchstick quilting and who was I to argue! I used several shades of gray and blue thread for the quilting (and 10 or 11 bobbins.... I lost count).

Today during a zoom sew day with my McKinney Modern Quilt Guild friends I hand sewed down the faced binding. I'm so pleased with the finished quilt!
Do your quilts often tell a story?

Check out #thesolidseven on Instagram to see more of our shenanigans.

Monday, June 8, 2020

another quilt finish

I will say, sheltering in place has given me the time to finish up a bunch of UFOs! Last fall, my beemates from the McKinney Modern Quilt Guild made me pink and orange x & + blocks using this tutorial.
I added a giant version of the block. I sent my finished top over to my friend Diann so she could work her long arm magic. I even pieced the back, something I don't often do.
I love the fun modern floral Diann chose for my quilt.
Checking this one off my list!

Sunday, May 31, 2020

100 days of bojagi

It's been 100 days since Quiltcon 2020 in Austin. 100 days since we hugged new and old friends, stood in lines (close together!), ate tacos in crowded restaurants, chatted with vendors with no masks and thought nothing of it. 100 days since I sat in a classroom at the convention center with new and old friends and learned to do Korean Bojagi from Daisy Aschehoug.

Daisy is a warm, kind, bubbly human who currently lives in Norway (yes, she flew across the ocean to teach us, another thing people could do way back in February). She's an awesome teacher. By the end of the evening, I was totally in love with this new hand sewing technique.
For the record, I used several colors of Kona cotton for my bojagi project and a spool of 12 weight, Wonderfil Spagetti thread that I bought at Quiltcon. Size 24 chenille needles worked perfectly. I also highly recommend a clover needle threader that I never knew about before quilt con and now cannot live without. It's so sturdy, and perfect for large eyed needles and thicker thread.
 This is how far I had gotten that first night. My stitches were a bit uneven and way too tiny and tight, but the more I stitched, the better they got. I casually said to Daisy "I really want to get good at this...." and she suggested I make it a 100 day project. Well, I had always wanted to do a 100 day project but had not found something I wanted to commit to for that long! This was it. I started counting that very day and stitched on my bojagi project for the next 100 days. Some days I added one small piece. Other days I put together a whole section, or joined larger sections together. You can see my progress pictures here, at #ellynlearnsbojagi.

Today, May 31, 2020, is day 100. Here is my final piece....
While it is not perfectly square, it measures approximately 28"x28", and, if I'm counting right, it has 145 pieces, varying in size. If you look closely, you can see how my stitches relaxed, got larger, and more even as I learned, which was exactly my goal.

One of the cool things about bojagi is that the back is finished (no raw edges) as is the front. kind of hand sewn flat felled seams if you will. Here is the back of mine...
My plan is to hand hem the edges (Daisy taught us how) and keep this as a sample/art piece. I'm so happy with it, and very happy that I stuck with it and did the work for 100 days! Now if we could just get back to hugging people again, I'd be even more pleased. Be well...

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Neapolitan Evolution

clearly a bit windy to shoot photos today
Today I have a quilt finish to share with you! This quilt has had many lives, and is finally to the point where I actually like it and can call it DONE! Let me start at the beginning.....

In November of 2018, some friends and I took a class from Sherri Lynn Wood, hosted by the Dallas Modern Quilt Guild. The class was color exploration, using improv strip sets. When the day was over, one of my large strip sets looked like this...
Now, these are NOT colors I am drawn to and I really didn't like it one bit. To me it screamed neapolitan ice cream (of which I'm really not a fan) Not one to waste fabric, after a few weeks of mulling it over at home, I drew up a design (planned improv if you will) and ended up with this.....
which I tried to like. Really I did. I mean, there are elements I like. the partial framing of the blocks, and the way it seems to "worm around" the quilt.... something I might explore down the road. But the colors still really bugged me. I thought "maybe this could be a baby quilt?" but honestly, if I make a baby a quilt, it's because I really care about them and I couldn't imagine dumping something I disliked on a sweet innocent baby. Know what I mean?

So, like any good quilter would do, I folded it up and shoved it to the back of a shelf, never to be looked at again. Or so I thought.

Fast forward to February of this year, when thousands of us gathered at Quiltcon in Austin, TX. We hugged old friends (and new friends), snuggled up next to each other in vendor booths, touched all the things. No one was wearing a mask and it all felt right. But I digress...

On Saturday I attended the keynote address by Victoria Findlay Wolfe. The entire lecture was inspiring, but one thing really stuck with me. She talked about how she had chopped up one of her finished quilt tops because she wasn't happy with it. Then she reassembled it into something new. She gave us permission to do the same. Before we even left the lecture hall, I had found the above photo in my instagram feed, showed it to my friend Chris, and said "this one. this baby is HISTORY!".

Honestly, I had no idea where this top even was. For a brief time, I thought maybe I had put it in the guild's charity donation box. I couldn't remember. But, with a little digging, I found it, shoved in the back of that shelf, a wrinkled mess.

A couple of months ago, I took a dresden ruler and my rotary cutter and set to work.....

This is where I landed! I already loved it. I auditioned lots of colors for the background (including my go to teal blue) and even polled my instagram followers (several suggested lime green) but in the end, I decided not to compete with the scheme by adding another color. I ordered Kona Cobblestone online and impatiently waited for it to arrive.

I really love the end result! I machine appliquéd the dresdens to the background, straight line quilted it on my domestic machine then hand appliquéd prairie points and circles before binding. Don't look too close, the quilting is horrendous (so many folds and ripples. ugh) but the end result is better than anything I could have imagined.

I'm calling it Neapolitan Evolution.
Checking this one off my UFO list.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

again with the houses...

I'm having great fun making houses! I'm up to seventeen for a swap (only swapping 15, but I can't stop making!)
These are all 6 inches finished. I got to thinking.... what if I went smaller? So I made a 3 inch house and that didn't feel tiny enough, so I did one that finishes just under 2 inches....
what exactly does one do with such tiny houses, you ask?
why, you make teeny tiny pin cushions of course! yes, I may be going a little crazy around here.

Just when I thought maybe I was nearing the end of my house making phase, I received the June prompt from Jessica for the Solid Seven..... guess what she wanted? HOUSES! woohoo, I've gotten quite good at those..... I got right on it and whipped up three houses and a tree, black/gray/white per her request, with print (GASP!) thrown in for fun. I absolutely cannot wait to see her finished quilt!
you haven't seen the last of houses from me, but I promise to bring you something else next time. 

Monday, May 11, 2020


Last week I was inspired by my friend Jayne once again. She was cranking out little house minis and they were so darling! I downloaded her Heart of the Home pattern, and made this mini for a friend's birthday...

This one is the 8" (largest) version of the pattern. I had so much fun fussy cutting the windows. I'm pretty sure that is hubby in the window, sweeping the kitchen floor while I am off in the sewing room!

My friend, Diann, had also gotten hooked on house blocks and said to me, "let's do a swap!" Well you know me! I'm all in.... and we rounded up some more local friends to swap with us. We are making 6" houses and I added a couple more FPP patterns to my collections (from center street quilts shop). So far I have 9 blocks made to swap.
I can't think of anything better to celebrate these days than home sweet home! I hope you all are staying well.

Monday, April 27, 2020

trying something new

There's nothing like social distancing to nudge me to try something new! About a month ago, I ordered some watercolor paints, paper, brushes and micron pens and started to play......
Since that day, every morning I paint a random background. Later in the day, when the paints have dried, I add some doodles.
At first, I was totally just copying doodles from things I found on Pinterest. as time goes on, I find myself just going for it and drawing whatever comes to mind.

Not bad for a kid who was always told she couldn't paint or draw! It's time to shed those childhood labels and break free.
I don't think I'll ever be a great painter but I'm having a great time exploring. If not now... then when?
Have you been trying anything new lately?

Monday, April 20, 2020

Another improv round robin

Well it's been about six months now, but last October my improv small group, Comedy Club Quilters, did another lightening round robin. This is becoming an annual event because we all love it so much! You can read about the first one we did here, and learn more about our process. This second one was done in the same manner.

Here's the improv block I made for the "center" of my quilt....

It was fun to see everyone else's starting blocks when we arrived at the retreat center...

Eight of us participated in the round robin this time. I didn't take process pictures this time. It was a whirlwind of a day, with fabric and quilts flying around the circle of improv quilters. At the end of the day, this is what we all had to take home...

Wow! We have all evolved in our individual improv styles and it shows. I loved my final quilt top. Brought it home and tucked it onto a shelf in my studio and promptly forgot about it! Life happened. There was a trip to see my parents and my son in Phoenix. A graduation in Austin. Christmas. Quiltcon..... then WHAM Coronavirus hit the world and lots of home time caused me to dig through old projects and get to work! Last week I quilted this one up on my domestic machine and added faced bindings. What a great finish! Big thank you to my improv buddies for their contributions to this quilt.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Positively Spring

My friend Jayne, from Twiggy and Opal, recently designed a beautiful table runner for Modern by the Yard called Positively  Spring. When she posted her second version, made exclusively in Peppered Cottons, I fell instantly in love and knew I needed to make one too!
I have to back this up a bit and tell you a story..... more than a year ago, at Quiltcon 2019 in Nashville, Jayne and I finally got to meet face to face. We had a great time chatting and getting to know each other better. On the final day, Sunday, I was sitting on a window sill outside the vendor hall, resting my weary feet when Jayne came dashing out of the door in front of me, a huge stack of beautiful Peppered Cottons, in all of the bright and cheery colors. Now, I had been a fan of Peppered Cottons for a while, love the woven texture, the soft hand.... all of it!  It was all I could do not to tackle Jayne right then and there and run off with her stack!

When I admired her purchase (ok, maybe I coveted it a bit?) Jayne told me that one of the vendors (gosh I wish I could remember which one!) had marked them all more than 50% off! Jayne pointed me in the right direction and settled herself into my seat on the window sill and off I went! You don't have to tell me twice!

Minutes later, I returned with my own yummy stack of Peppered Cottons, which have been displayed on my studio shelf ever since. I've been waiting for the perfect project  to entice me to cut into them, and this was it! 

I will tell you that Jayne's pattern is flawless..... clearly written and easy to follow. Also, Jayne has a link on her post where you can get the pattern for free! Score! I had the top together in a matter of hours (honestly the hardest part was choosing colors and creating my layout!).  Before it could disappear into my stack of "things I really need to quilt but am afraid of ruining" I stuck that baby under the needle of my Janome and began straight line quilting. 
I'm getting better at the quilting, but I still have a long way to go. 

Now all I need is an excuse to clear off the table and display my new runner. Also, don't be surprised if I make another one of these. or two?

Monday, April 6, 2020

feelin' groovy

Hello friends! I hope this week finds you well. I am pleased to share a couple of finishes with you today. First up, my feelin' groovy quilt made with blocks from my Solid Seven friends...

Blocks for this quilt began arriving last November and I finally put the last borders on last month. As we were just beginning to shelter in place, I turned to my stash to build a back for this good sized quilt. I had some extra blocks and pieces that had been sent to me that I used on the back too.
I dropped it off for my friend Diann of Happy Quilts to quilt for me (no contact, handed through her door. Normally our exchanges involve Dairy Queen. I look forward to returning to that tradition!) Diann found some awesome groovy flowers to quilt it with.
Another finish is my God With Us quilt. I had shared the quilt top with you before. I quilted this one myself on my domestic machine. Simple linear quilting with my walking foot. It works!

So two quilt finishes, two things checked off my UFO list!

Monday, March 30, 2020

finding joy

Hello friends! How are you doing? I hope you all are well and safe and finding ways to enjoy yourself despite these crazy times.  Last year my word of the year was Joy. Well, just because the year ended, that doesn't mean I ditch my word. So, I thought I'd share a few ways I am finding joy during these days of social distancing.

First off, FAMILY! Today hubby and I did a group FaceTime with all three of our adult children. Our kiddos live in three different states and the nearest one is a 4 hour drive away from us. They all stay well connected, but to have them all on the screen at the same time was a real treat...
Hubby and I even checked in on separate phones, adding to the fun. Oh and I'd say 2/3 of the time we were looking at Malibu, not Ally....
Another thing I find helpful is to get outside. Today hubby and I went for a drive to find the blooming Texas Bluebonnets! Our favorite field of bluebonnets was in full bloom and there were very few people around.... score! We took lots of pictures...

They really are a sight to see! On the way home, we drove through the McDonalds drive through and got milkshakes...
yes, I had a shamrock shake. don't judge me!

Of course I am doing lots of quilting and weaving to stay occupied. While I'm busy in my studio, I like to listen to podcasts that lift me up. One real favorite of mine is Andy J Pizza's Creative Pep Talk. Andy is a graphic designer/illustrator and public speaker who is so much fun to listen to!

A new favorite podcast is Brene Brown's Unlocking Us. Brene is a well known social worker, author and public speaker who I have admired for a long time. Podcasting is new for her and her timing couldn't be better. She has some incredible insights for living in these turbulent times. 

When I'm not listening to podcasts, I'm often listening to music on Amazon music. My favorite station is the Colbie Caillat station.

What are you doing to keep joy in your life? Do share!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Solid Seven Update

Every month I look forward to the latest Solid Seven prompt in my mailbox. These gals never fail to come up with fun and challenging blocks. In February, Sarah challenged us to use "improv maximalism" to make monochromatic blocks. I had to do some serious research to understand what she was going for! Turns out improv maximalism is basically an intense use of saturated color. Got it! My first block was very oddly shaped. When I asked Sarah if she wanted me to square it up she said "no way!" so this is what I sent her....
Block number two used my favorite aquas & teals with some triangle and curves....
And block number three was pink pink pink! lots of quarter circles and a pieced stripe.... 

I can't wait to see how these play with the blocks my beemates sent to Sarah!

March was Nicole's turn. She reminded us of the loopy flowers we all drew all over our notebooks in middle school.... remember those? Nicole really put me to the test. She asked us to needle-turn appliqué large versions of those doodly flowers. Yikes! I persevered and she seems happy with the two blocks I sent her...
What a happy garden her quilt promises to be!
For April, Laura asked us to make churn dash blocks in bright, saturated colors. Can do! I know it's still March, but today I started pulling colors to audition for her blocks. Next thing I knew, I had them all made!
I'm not sure when I'll be allowed to head to the post office to mail them off to her, but as soon as the coast is clear, they are ready to go!

Guess who is up for May? Me! I have an idea in mind, now I need to make some sample blocks and get my prompt ready. I have plenty of time..... Meanwhile my Feeling Groovy quilt from last fall's 70s prompt is at the quilter and as soon as it arrives home I'll be putting the binding on it! Fun Fun!

What are you working on these days?

Friday, March 20, 2020

Patchwork Tea Quilt

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky to have the opportunity to test out Jessica's newest pattern, the Patchwork Tea Quilt. I made one block, which was lots of fun! I plan to make more blocks to add to it down the road.
One clever part of this block that I love is the addition of some bits of selvage stitched to each tag. I had a blast digging through my selvages deciding what to use on mine. Then I found this one and it was perfect!

If you're looking for a fun pattern I highly recommend  this one! Jessica is including her Teabag Wallet pattern with each purchase which is a terrific bonus. I plan to make a bunch of those to use as Christmas Gifts next year. Might as well start knocking them out while I'm stuck at home!

Happy sewing friends!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020


Well the world sure has turned upside down these past few days, hasn't it? I'm normally quite content to stay in, hanging out in my studio making things, but tell me I CAN'T leave the house? Suddenly it all feels very confining. But enough of that nonsense, we're all in the same boat, aren't we? We'll get through this together.

Our pastor at church reminds us every single week that "Wherever you go, whatever you do, God goes with you" and I love that. Several weeks ago I drew the above quilt top in my sketchbook, thinking "one day I'll stitch that up". Well, today felt like just the right day to do that. I can't wait to quilt up this little quilt (24" x 34") so I can hang it as a constant reminder. 

I seem to be on an improv star kick lately. I made this Stars over the City mini a couple not weeks ago for a class I plan to teach at Not Your Mama's Quilt Store. The background fabric in the two quilts is actually the same, I blame poor lighting for the variation you see here. 

So it appears I have the beginning of a series going here.... we'll see if that continues!

I hope you are well and finding creative things to do in these unsettling days. 

Monday, March 9, 2020

learning something new

I've always been that girl who tries every new hobby she comes across. Some of them stick for life (quilting, weaving, embroidery) others are a fail for me (painting, knitting) but hey, I tried! Quiltcon classes are an excellent opportunity for me to learn something new. This year's adventure? Korean Bojagi. What's that, you ask? Great question. I'll be honest, when I signed up for the class with Daisy Aschehoug I didn't have a clue. I only knew that it was being held in the hand sewing room so it had to be good, right?

my first attempts at Bojagi
It was better than good! It was awesome. The cool thing about Bojagi is that it is finished on both sides. The Korean's often use the finished pieces as gift wrapping. I have seen pictures of them hung in windows (so beautiful when the light shines through), incorporated into clothing, bags, etc. So many possibilities! I am working with Kona cottons for mine.
Daisy suggested making this a 100 day project, adding pieces every day for 100 days and watching my progress. I decided to do exactly that. Here's where I stand at day 15 of Bojagi...
My stitches are getting neater and neater! Do you want to follow along? I'm using the hashtag #ellynlearnsbojagi on Instagram. I also plan to teach this technique to others as I improve. 

What new thing have you learned lately?

Monday, March 2, 2020

Improv triangle sew along

Ever since I received  Nicholas Ball's book, Inspiring Improv, for Christmas I've been intrigued with his techniques. So when he announced his improv triangle sew along on Instagram, I was gently nudged by friends and decided to join in. With Quiltcon smack dab in the middle of the sew along and other commitments I had made, I decided to join on a small level. To start, I made 30 triangle units to assemble into a mini quilt.
I made these all from my scrap bins, using solids and prints that read solid in pinks and aquas.

By the end, I had this awesome mini and and a new triangle technique under my belt...'
I quilted it on my domestic machine with a walking foot, horizontal lines 1 inch apart and 30 degree angled lines coming from both directions, which forms a lovely triangle at the bottom, hard to see in the photos but I rather like it...
Thanks for the great opportunity, Nicholas! I'm so glad I joined in. If you want to see more of the sew along check out the hashtag #improvtrianglesewalong. Many made large and gorgeous quilts!