Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 year in review

 Whew! What a year! While it would be easy to focus on all of the crazy negative things going on in the world right now (no, I'm not going to list them. you already know!) I'm choosing to focus on the positive. And there sure was a lot of it in my world this year. Here are the highlights.... so I never forget how blessed I was in 2021.

Urban Emergence

In February, my group quilt, Urban Emergence was part of Quiltcon Together, the virtual MQG show that replaced in person Quiltcon this year. It was my very first quilt accepted into Quiltcon. Imagine my surprise when I won first place in my category! As if this wasn't enough, it was chosen for publication in the Quiltcon magazine! What an honor!

Later that month, Sarah Goer and I formed a pARTnership, inspired by Danielle Krysa's In 
tandem Art project. Sarah and I have continued to meet on Zoom every two weeks all year long, encouraging each other in our artistic journeys. One of the greatest things to come out of our friendship is the start of our new improv bee, Quilts Unscripted. This group is incredibly talented and inspiring! 

Again in 2021, I was able to participate in the Virtual Quilt Guild where I met so many amazing quilters. One relationship that came out of that group is my collaboration with Karen Bolan. Karen and I have also been meeting often on Zoom and have shared a collaborative quilt project (Welcoming Lamp), a series of blog posts (Exploring Collaboration) and coming soon..... a published article on Collaboration in Curated Quilts magazine! This was completed in 2021 and will be arriving in mailboxes early 2022.
Welcoming Lamp

One other thing I am so proud of this year is the completion of my Through Ellyn's Eyes project. When I set out on a six month personal journey to create a cohesive body of work and explore my creative voice it seemed daunting at best. The more I worked through it, the more joyful it became. I am so lucky to have had the time and the resources to complete this project and look forward to sharing it with guilds in the coming year.
Through Ellyn's Eyes quilts

So, 2021 proved to be a productive, fun year for me. Most of these things were not even on my radar a year ago, so who knows what 2022 will bring? Regardless, I look forward to sharing it with you. Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Quilts Unscripted Blocks

 The Quilts Unscripted Bee continues to challenge and amaze me month by month. You can see posts about my past blocks here. I thought I'd share the rest for 2021 today.

In November, Loide asked us to make a variety of Christmas blocks. She put very few restrictions on us which was fun, but at the same time challenging!

For my first block I made a Christmas tree! Very structured yet improv as I just winged it, no pattern.

It's a smaller version of the tree mini I did for the MQG earlier this year!

Next up, snowflakes. I debated putting them all together in one block, but decided to leave them apart so she can use them as she desires.

A Christmas Present seemed like a good choice for my third block... the most improvy (is that even a word?) of the three.
As Loide is a local quilty friend, we were able to meet for lunch when I delivered her blocks, so it was a big win!

Elizabeth was up for December.  She asked us each to make a sash, using 2 contrasting solids, at least one of which was bright and saturated. I journeyed to my local quilt store, which has a whole wall of Bella Solids, and was overwhelmed and confused!!! Lyssa, who works at the shop and knows me well, walked up and pulled Limeade and Turquoise off the wall and said "this speaks Ellyn to me" well duh! I was trying to be unique and creative when all I really needed to be was myself. 

My finished sash is 6" wide and 47" long. And that E in the middle? A total accident! It can stand for Ellyn or Elizabeth or whatever she wants to think. It's already arrived safely in Arkansas. Now I impatiently await the January prompt.

You can follow our group shenanigans at #quiltsunscripted

Sunday, December 26, 2021

itty bitty improv

Well, despite all my fussing, I did finish 20 quilts for my Through Ellyn's Eyes project before the end of the year! As I had speculated, it's TINY! Finishing at just 7"x9", thus the name itty bitty improv, it would make a good mug rug. 

I played with some spiky triangles, one of the very first techniques I learned when Debbie (A Quilter's Table) came to teach our guild years ago. It's one I return to often and was fun to revisit in just two colors, Kona Corn Yellow and Glacier. Quilted very quickly on my domestic machine with some accent hand quilting big stitched in at the end. 

I will admit to feeling a bit of a letdown with this project wrapping up. I look forward to compiling my conclusions (I will share some here later. If you'd like to hear a detailed report and see all of the quilts in person, let your guilds program chair know I'd love to come visit!). 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Scalloped Rainbow

 Even with the business of the holiday season, I managed to complete quilt #3 in my Through Ellyn's Eyes series! I give you Scalloped Rainbow. 

What began as a stack of improv quarter circle blocks made on a whim at the day retreat center became this fun mini that measures 14"x24". Grid quilted and faced all on my domestic machine. I used the full rainbow of colors from my series for this one: Kona Red, Orange, Tangerine, Corn Yellow, Chartreuse, Glacier and Capri. 

I might be finishing up one more (tiny!) quilt to bring the number to a nice even 20, but I'm delighted with where I am so far. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Magic Machine

How did it take me until the 18th quilt in my Through Ellyn's Eyes series to make a quilt representing my favorite machine of all time, my magic sewing machine? I turns pieces of fabric into art, something I could never do on my own. For those who might wonder, I sew/quilt on a Janome 6600 that I love.

This little quilt is 18"x18" quilted with my walking foot. Colors used are Kona Chartreuse and Black. Simple simple!

Quilt #19 is also finished and 20 is underway. Looks like I will reach my self imposed goal of 20 minis by year end after all.  


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Exploring Collaboration - tips and tricks for forming a bee or swap group

 Here we are, round 2 of Exploring Collaboration! Last time, Karen and I discussed different kinds of collaborations that we enjoy. Today, let's chat about how to form a collaborative team to make those projects happen!


Some tips and tricks for forming a bee group:

1) Establish your goals. What are you hoping to accomplish through your bee? Do you want to make traditional blocks and hone your piecing skills? Do you want to experiment with improv? Make charity quilts? Write it all down so you can share these goals with potential bee members.

2) Set rules. I know, I know, quilting is supposed to be fun and rules are for the birds. Trust me, once your bee gets rolling you'll be glad to have some rules in place. When will prompts come out? How will they be communicated (email? Instagram DM? Facebook? In person?), when are blocks due? What happens if you can't complete your blocks on time? Having rules in place will help you avoid drama later on.

3) Decide who to invite. Will your bee be made up of friends from your local guild? Instagram friends? Random strangers? Honestly, I recommend inviting people you know at least a little bit. Think about people who fit in with your goals, and who will be reliable.

4) Consider diversity when you ask people to join you. Quilters of different ages, ethnicity, sexuality, etc can all learn from each other and frankly, make more interesting quilts! 

5) Make sure potential members are aware of the group goals and rules before they commit. Give them the opportunity to gracefully say no if joining your bee is not for them.

Urban Emergence, my 2020 bee quilt made by the Solid Seven Bee.
first place group quilt at Quiltcon Together in 2021,
will hang at quilt con in Phoenix in February, 2022

Block Swaps

  Tips and tricks for forming a block swap group:

1) Decide who to invite. Again, will it be a local only swap, where blocks can be swapped at a guild meeting or delivered in person? Or an internet swap where blocks will be mailed? Are members willing to mail blocks internationally or should the swap be restricted to members in one country?

2) Make sure swappers know the rules of the swap. What is the block to be made? Does everyone have access to the free pattern if blocks will all be the same? What fabric should be used? What size should the blocks be?

3) Set a total for blocks to be made. This can be flexible! Many swaps that I have participated in have a maximum number of blocks. Often, however many blocks you send is how many you receive in return. Send 10 blocks/receive 10 back.

4) Set a deadline for the swap leader to receive all of the blocks. If a swapper doesn't send their blocks in time, they are not included in the swap. 

5) Cover your postage! As a swap leader, you should not be responsible for shipping everyone's blocks back to them. Some ways to do this: charge a flat fee to enter the swap paid through PayPal or another online method, have each swapper include a postage paid, self addressed envelope with their blocks, or arrange for in person delivery and pick up.

Bees and swaps are meant to be fun! By carefully planning, setting goals and establishing rules, these groups can be drama free and create lasting friendships among quilters.

my Dresden block swap quilt
made in 2017 with blocks from members of
McKinney Modern Quilt Guild

Monday, December 13, 2021

scrap soup

I'm quickly approaching my (self imposed) end of the Through Ellyn's Eyes series. I've kept all of the scraps from my quilts along the way and one day I just started to play around sewing them together. I would call this a big crumb block, but honestly, many of the scraps were bigger than crumb sized so.... whatever. 
I decided to only use some of the colors to keep the scrappiness somewhat under control. The colors I used in this one are  Kona Corn Yellow, Chartreuse, Glacier and Capri with borders in Kona Black. This one finished at only 12x13".

As usual, I quilted it with my walking foot on my domestic machine and big stitched the binding with size 8 perle cotton.

 so, quilt #17 in the series is finished. #18 and #19 are both underway! I've set a goal of 20 minis for this series by the end of the year and I do believe I'll reach it! 

I'm beginning to line up speaking engagements for 2022 and would love to share more about this series with your guild!

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Exploring Collaboration - Bees and Block Swaps

 I've really been enjoying exploring different aspects of collaboration with fellow modern quilter, Karen Bolan. You might remember reading about Welcoming Lamp, the project we collaborated on several months ago. Our conversations have continued since then and we are working on a series of blogposts to open up conversation in the quilting community about collaborating.Karen and I will offer articles on this topic twice a month and encourage you to join in by sharing your thoughts in the comments.

For our first posts, we are sharing our thoughts about the different types of collaboration. You can read my thoughts on quilting bees and block swaps here, then hop on over to Karen's blog to read more. 


Maybe some of you have participated in quilt bees. This is one of my favorite ways to collaborate. Basically, a group of quilters commits to working together for an extended period of time. Each month, one member of the group is the queen and gives the other members a prompt, block pattern, color palette or other specifications about what they desire for finished blocks. Bee members have that month to complete the requested blocks for the queen. Then the next person becomes queen and the cycle begins again.

Bees can be traditional, based on block patterns that everyone has access to (either original designs by the queen, free tutorials available online or a pattern all members have purchased), or less traditional, based on thematic prompts or improv methods of quilting. I've participated in both types and enjoy them for different reasons. Also, bees can be made up of all local quilting buddies or quilters who live at a distance, requiring blocks to be mailed.

My most recent traditional bee quilt was made in pinks and oranges using the japanese x and + block.

made by members of the McKinney Modern Quilt Guild

Just for fun, I enlarged the block to add one giant block to my quilt. It was fun to see the fabrics each bee member used in their blocks and how they all played together in the end.

Recently I've been enjoying improv bees. First I was a member of the Solid Seven Bee and more recently, the newly formed Quilts Unscripted Bee. I haven't had a turn to be queen in the Quilts Unscripted Bee yet (soon!) but I have several quilts completed by the Solid Seven. One of my favorites is my This is 60 quilt with blocks they made to help me celebrate my 60th birthday. I gave the bee members a bright, happy color palette and asked that they include at least one triangle in each block.

made by members of the Solid Seven Bee

When the blocks arrived they were all different sizes. Puzzling together improv blocks is my favorite part of the process! 

Block Swaps

Another kind of collaboration I love is block swaps. Again, block swaps can be held among local quilty friends or with quilters all around the world. During the Covid lockdown, I organized a house block swap among my local quilty pals. 

of course I added my little red car to the mix!

Each quilter dropped their finished blocks off at my house. When I had received everyone's blocks, I mixed them all up and gave each quilter back as many blocks as they had given me. There were so many wonderful takes on the house block... from patterned houses to totally improv ones. 

A couple of years ago, I organized an internet block swap of bird blocks based on the free tutorial here. Quilters mailed me their blocks (you should have seen the hundreds of bird blocks that flew into my house!). Again, I scrambled the blocks and mailed new ones back to each participant. My finished quilt is one of my favorite quilts ever.

Have you ever participated in a bee or block swap? In an upcoming post I'll share some tips and tricks for organizing and participating in your own collabs.