Adventure - A Quilt for Not a Book

Improv quilting Doe fabric


36'' x 42''

My husband defines the distinction between an excursion and an adventure as this: When you go on an excursion everyone makes it back. When you go on an adventure, somebody or something doesn't survive the trip. He is morbid and sarcastic, that man. 

This quilt is definitely an adventure.

A few years ago I had an idea for a book. I was fresh off the publication of You Inspire Me to Quilt, still riding high. Over bourbon on the best patio over I sat down with an industry friend, a good colleague, and we were brainstorming ideas for my next book. We both got really excited about one particular idea. It was stellar. Or maybe it was the bourbon talking?

Walking Foot Quilting Aurifil Thread
Robert Kaufman Essex Linen

Nope, it's still a pretty good idea. Unfortunately, my publisher did not necessarily agree. Even though I've published three books I can't just throw an idea at them and have them send a contract my way immediately. So I took a few months to flesh it out. Because of the nature of the concept this required more time than I usually need at this stage. A book proposal is necessarily detailed as it is - table of contents, sample chapter, and quilt examples all required - but this one needed even more to get the concept across. I got all this together and then they came back with a request for an actual quilt to see the concept in action.


Sure, okay. I went right to it. Got the quilt top all made, got it basted, then stopped. Life got busy. And it's never really stopped. No excuse, because I've made other quilts in the meantime. But the mojo slipped away after the initial burst of work. Then the reality of whether I truly had the time to actually write another book sunk in. I did not. Not for about 2 years there. I so desperately wanted to, but unless I became both a) suddenly flush with cash and b) able to function on zero sleep for months at a time it wasn't going to happen.

I won't lie, I shed some tears over this. Frustrated and annoyed at the position I was in - even though I put myself in that exact position - I wallowed for a bit. I got depressed seeing the success of others in the industry via social media, jealous even. It was ugly and mean spirited on my part, to be perfectly honest. And that is before I beat myself up on the regular about it all.

Not sure how exactly, but gaining some perspective changed everything. At some point I took stock of my own successes and felt proud. I started to play my own game. I saw all the freelance, short burst writing I was doing as practice for everything else. My schedule, or at least my approach to it, allowed for more time. So I re-pitched the book concept. 

Shot down again.

This time though I decided the quilt I'd started needed to not languish on the closet shelf. Up there it mocked me, made me feel like a failure. It was time to reclaim that part of my creative history. At worst, it becomes another story to tell at a trunk show (or on a blog). At best, it becomes a cool quilt gifted to a beautiful baby. So here it is. 

This quilt went on a creative adventure. The book never came back alive, but that's okay. The journey was still worth it. And who knows, that concept hasn't died entirely...

Improvisational Quilts Half Square Triangles
Carolyn Friedlander Doe Fabric

Quilt Details:

-  Fabric is a couple of Mini Charm packs of Carolyn Friedlander Doe mixed with her curated selection of Kona cottons. It was a give away from Quilt Market a few years back. The background is Essex Linen.

- Backing is also from Doe.

- Binding is Carolyn's crosshatch in this amazing green. I wish I could find more.

- Quilted with a pale yellow from Aurifil in straight lines changing directions. There were a million knots to bury with the quilting pattern I chose, but I do love the end result.

All The Sundays

Sunday Morning Quilts A Month of Sundays Denyse Schmidt

All The Sundays

70'' x 70''

An oh so special quilt is finally finished. I wasn't impatient or anything, but as soon as the last stitches went in the other day I realized how much I wanted this quilt to be done. Only so that it could be real, that it could be a thing I used and loved.

The first bits of piecing in this quilt started years ago. I was teaching a Slab class, the technique popularized in my book with Amanda Jean, Sunday Morning Quilts. In my prep for the class I grabbed a bunch of scraps from making the quilts in A Month of Sundays. They were handy, that's all. I had no specific plan. So I made my samples for the class and that was that. A bit later I was reading Denyse Schmidt's book, Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspirations. Her Shoeman's Puzzle quilt grabbed me immediately.

I'm not sure when the moment was that I decided to combine all these influences into one quilt, but it happened. And it was love at first sight.

Slabs and Low Volume and Shoeman's Puzzle

It wasn't an easy quilt to make. I made freezer paper templates to keep me on track. Those didn't come into play until after I'd made slabs though. The templates were totally necessary to keep lines as they should be, especially important with all those angles and bias edges. Of course, then there is the removing of the paper. Thankfully there are only 3 seams in each block, about the easiest paper piecing you can do.

The quilt top sat for a year and a half in the closet, keeping a dozen other quilt tops company. I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do to quilt it and was willing to wait until the right idea hit me. Or, the right person to do it for me. 

Last summer I met Dara from Stitched Quilting Co. Turns out her MIL lives a few blocks away from me. We had a few visits and chatted quilting, dogs, and mothering. Well a couple of months ago Dara messaged to say she had an opening in her long arm schedule and delivery ready, if I had a quilt to go. Seeing as my Quilts Under Construction list is quite long I wasn't about to turn down the opportunity! This quilt made the cut precisely because I didn't have a plan for it and I already had a wide back purchased and ready to go. After a frantic evening of pulling papers and a few repairs I got it to Dara.

Stitched Quilting Co Free Motion Quilting

With so much solid expanse in the whites/creams of the quilt top this needed a special touch. Dara gave it just that! Such custom, detailed work. So much attention to detail. There are secondary and tertiary patterns in this quilt top and her quilting highlighted them. I'm thrilled with the outcome.

For the backing and binding I chose to go back to my dear friend Amanda Jean's fabric, Good Neighbors. She had a wide back fabric in that collection. And the orange dot was absolutely perfect for the binding. Conveniently I'd just ordered a half yard of it, the perfect amount. And lucky for me, because neither are available anymore!

Good Neighbors Fabric Crazy Mom Quilts

My husband will happily tell anyone that we have a ridiculous amount of quilts in our house. He is very obliging if we are asked for donations or gifts. Little does he know that this quilt will never leave my hands. It represents so much to me, not to mention that I think it is absolutely beautiful. I will always think of friendships, how my career has grown, and the history contained in some beautiful fabric. 

The Joy of Swimming (Weekend Reads)

"How do you just stare at the bottom of the pool for hours on end?"

It was the most common question I got in twelve years of competitive swimming. And only asked by people who could never really understand whatever answer I gave. But the truth is that it was hard to give an answer. Swimming, for me, wasn't about staring at the bottom of the pool. Heck, you really only noticed the bottom of the pool when it marked that you were close to the wall. Swimming was about so much more.

The majority of the time you compete as an individual but you train as a team. Everyone in the pool is pushing each other and not so secretly competing even on practice days. My swimming friends were my closest friends because I saw them the most, I suffered with them, I laughed with them, I travelled with them, we saw each other in next to nothing for hours on end. They were my people.

Swimming is also sport for the internally driven. No matter the cheering or the direction from the coach, no one is going to propel you down the pool but yourself. No one is going to kick harder or reach further but yourself. And yes, when you are starting at the bottom of the pool for hours on end the only person you have to talk to is yourself. It comes down to discipline and drive.

In Lisa Congdon's new book, The Joy of Swimming, she makes a connection between art and swimming that makes total sense to me.

"There has always been a fixed and steady connection for me between art making and swimming. Both of these passions require similar things of me: enormous discipline and a unique form of endurance... Like art making, swimming is at the same time rigorous exercise and also a form of play."

It explains so much to me, of me.

The Joy of Swimming is a delightfully creative survey of the sport of swimming. It is full of historical facts, fascinating tidbits about the sport, equipment, and pools. But mostly it is the story of swimmers. Lisa's drawing and letterwork, combined with the brief profiles all try to answer the question of why anyone stares at the bottom of a pool (or never sees the bottom of open water) for hours on end. The profiles range from kids in the beginning of their careers in the pool to seniors who've been in the pool hundreds of times more than the average person.  It includes famous swimmers of the past and present and water babies of today.

My daughter read this book. The Monster is nine and spends a good chunk of her free time in the pool as a competitive synchro swimmer. If she has a break from swimming for more than a few days she gets antsy and asks if we can go swimming. She needs the water to feel sane. I totally get that. The book gave her a way to be connected to the pool even at bedtime.

I don't know that this book will get anyone new in the water. It might - the profiles, while brief, are inspiring. It is making me want to get back in the water, that's for sure! The book will definitely enchant anyone who has ever spent time in the pool for more than what we always called public swimming, the fun stuff. I have a list of family and friends to buy the book for.

As a quilter and writer now it feels like I stare at the bottom of the pool for hours on end again. It might be the blank page of my notebook, at sentences on a screen, or piles of fabric in various forms. The work can be repetitive and lonely at times. Chain piecing like going back and forth and back and forth down a pool. The drudgery doesn't stop me - even when I'm trimming hundreds of half square triangles - because I am internally driven. I know the hard work will pay off. 

Everyone comes to the sport for different reasons, and we stay for different ones too. After twelve years of it I quit suddenly when it just wasn't fun anymore. I've never looked back and now watch the kids I see swimming while I'm at the pool with my own children with nostalgia. Lisa and I spoke about swimming during our time together in January. I was in awe of her commitment to the sport as an adult. She started her true commitment at the same age where I was ending mine. But I know that swimming provided a foundation for my entire life. I would not be the person I am today without swimming, not at all. And now I see that that includes my creative journey as well.

Lisa Congdon will be on a book tour for the book. If you are anywhere near Portland, Seattle, NYC, San Francisco, Minneapolis, or Brooklyn I recommend seeking out the event. And if you or anyone you know is a swimmer, then definitely grab this. If you aren't a swimmer or don't even like the water, The Joy of Swimming is worth the read. It does indeed provide some answers as to why we can spend all the time staring at the bottom of pools. Not to mention, Lisa's creativity shines.

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of the book by the publisher, Chronicle Press. That was the second time I read it because Lisa loaned me an advance copy to read back in January and I stayed up too late to read with the lights of LA for company.

More Circles! This time for Lucky Spool's Essential Guide to Modern Quiltmaking

Do you know what these are? Just some of my favourite tools in an arsenal of circle making things. Front and centre is my compass and elementary school geometry set. School supply nerds take note! You can find out about these and how I use them in the new book from Lucky Spool,

The Essential Guide to Modern Quiltmaking


This great book is like taking a workshop from each of your dream teachers - Jacquie Gering, Denyse Schmidt, Penny Layman, Angela Walters, and more. If you can't be in the classroom with us, this might be the next best thing! Each teacher has a chapter devoted to a specific concept or technique. You get the benefit of their experience and all their Quilter to Quilter tips. And then you get a pattern that uses those techniques.

At the end of the book is a phenomenal gallery of modern quilts. Some serious eye candy there.

My quilt in the book might be a new top favourite of mine. It comes with my chapter on Circles and Curves. You could probably call it a sampler of the techniques, but it is more than that. Inspired by two favourite fabrics it takes geometric block design to a really fun place. You could make the pattern as is or you could change up the layout to suit your own preference. Or maybe make repeats of your favourite blocks for a completely different look.

I debated long and hard about the colour selection for this quilt. It needs high contrast and I really wanted to keep it to two colours. But it is me and where one fabric will do I will pick 10! You could say this is a pretty masculine colour combo with just navy and gray, but I call it calming. Despite the bold geometry of the quilt, it has a very serene quality. Keeping the background fabric to a single choice really helps with that. 

To check out the other contributors and see what they are saying about the quilt, you can follow along with them.

Kari Vojtechovsky

teaches on The Principles of Color

Alissa Haight Carlton

teaches on Working with Solids

Dan Rouse

teaches on Working with Prints

Denyse Schmidt

teaches on Improvisational Patchwork

Jacquie Gering

teaches on The Alternate Grid

Penny Layman

, of course, teaches on Paper Piecing

Heather Jones

teaches Large Scale Piecing

Angela Walters

teaches Modern Machine Quilting

Heather Grant

then takes us on a Study of Modern Quilts.

Lucky Spool

is a new publisher on the book scene for quilting. Led by Susanne Woods (formerly of Stash Books and Craftsy) they are bringing a number of exciting books to the market. Their Essential Guide for Modern Quiltmaking looks like it is going to leave its mark for quilters everywhere.

Right now you can get the book on a great discount from Taunton Press (Lucky Spool's distributor). If you buy it from them get a 20% discount between now and July 21.

Click here. Use the discount code EGMQ20

UPDATE: the correct code is EGQM20. My apologies for the typo.