Make it New

Renovate, dod gast you, renovate! — Ezra Pound

I love the traditions of quilting, but I want to do something more uniquely my own.

When I first began being interested in quilts, many many years ago, and before I had time to make them, I had the idea to take the traditional old blocks and blow them up, that is, to make them very large.  I think that this was partly my answer to the time it took to make a pieced quilt from start to finish, but it was also a way to honor the very patterns themselves.  I made a giant “four rail” quilt for my brother on his wedding.  I think the blocks were about 15-16″ square, so the piecing of the top went very fast, and I assured speedy completion of the quilt by tying it, rather than actual quilting.  I also made a “Robbing Peter to Pay Paul” style with some very large blocks, also tied, out of some variously colored satin scraps left over from a project of making costumes for a Moliere play, during one of my very early employment episodes.  I still have this quilt, but am planning to renovate it thoroughly, starting with the removal of the pieced top from its totally inadequate border, batting and backing.  That is for another post.

More recently, I’ve been thinking about how I might make a transition from traditional quilting to a more modern, and individual aesthetic.  I’ve been reading Visual Guide to Working in a Series, by Elizabeth Barton where I’m encouraged to determine a unifying theme for my work (for a series, that is).   I think this notion of taking the traditional and making it new (and my own) may have some merit still.  I’ve been working on an idea for creating a quilt almost in the spirit of the pun.  My first attempt is a pun on the “dissappearing” quilt block.  Of course, dissappearing blocks aren’t really dissappearing at all, they are carefully constructed in the normal fashion, and then dissected and reassembled so that the original layout is altered.  I thought maybe it would be interesting to pursue a dissappearing scheme where not only the shapes, but also the colors would dissappear.  I chose the Dissappearing Nine Patch.

First, I set up some various layers for a dissappearing nine patch in my drawing program.

Diss Nine Patch Layers copy

Then I printed out a few of these blocks on paper and cut them apart and reassembled I think this idea is worth following up!




Modern Twiggy TOBE 2015


TreadleOn is a group of folks who collect, refurbish and use “people powered” sewing machines.  It was started  by “Captain Dick” Wightman (long before I came along, in January of 2013) and now is a Yahoo group captained by Cindy Peters, our “Captainette”. The group has several exchanges of quilt blocks or other items, during the course of each year.  I volunteered to host a TOBE (Treadle On Block Exchange) using a modern style quilt block in 2015.  The block we chose was a simple one, with thin strips  or “twigs” inserted into a background square.  I made a tutorial to help us make these blocks, which follows here.

Complete instructions for participating in a TOBE can be found here, but the main requirement is that you must use a “people powered” machine – either a hand crank or a treadle.  Blocks are signed with the maker’s name, location (City, State) and the type of machine they used to produce the blocks.

There are several TOBEs every year, including Basic Spring and Fall exchanges and usually some “advanced” blocks, novelty blocks (last year there were Cats, Stamp Baskets and Canning Jars” and exchanges of items such as Pincushions.  I hosted a Pincushion exchange in 2014, with wonderful results that I put up on my Flickr page.  

Modern “Twiggy” TOBE 2015

Twiggy TOBE Image copy

There’s a bit of method, and a lot more improvisation required for these blocks, and we will all end up with a mix of colors and twig placements.  The arrangement of the blocks will be challenging and fun.

COLOR CHOICES:  We are using a common background of Kona ©  Ash.  The “twigs” can be any color, but should be bold, bright, saturated colors that provide good contrast with the grey background that will provide the negative space in the quilt.

BLOCK SIZE:  10½” square (finishes at 10″)

Start with a square of the background fabric that is at least 11-12 “, to allow for trimming down to size later.

You will be inserting 2-4 strips of fabric “twigs” into this square.  Cut strips 1¼” wide, so that they finish at ¾” wide with quarter-inch seams.  I recommend cutting the strips at least 12-13″ long.  You will trim off the excess later.


Slash the block using a rotary cutter and straight-edge.  You can make your cut parallel to the sides or angled. You can “preview” your twigs by laying them on top of the background square to get an idea of placement.  For me, the really fun part of this is just taking it a step at a time and seeing how it comes out!


Stitch a strip to the two parts of the block using ¼” seams. Press the seams toward the “twig” to make it stand out from the background.IMG_3772

Slash it again and add another strip.


I added another strip, not touching the first but not parallel, either. (I forgot to take a picture of that step, but you can see it below.)

In the photo below, I have made a third cut to insert a strip that will intersect the two I’ve already sewn.


Before you sew in an intersecting strip be sure to eyeball the placement so that the existing strips line up!


Here, I’m sewing the third strip to the block.


Yay!  I got a pretty good alignment of the first two strips.


Continue adding strips until it looks right to you.  I think between 2 and 4 is enough, and personally, I’m partial to things in “threes”.

Then, trim your block to 10½” and you’re done!  Make blocks in sets of 6, and sign them according to the TOBE Summary instructions.  Sets can be all the same colors or mixed colors (within the blocks or within the sets).  That is up to you.  Four sets of 6 blocks each is the limit.  Depending on how many participate, you may get some of your own blocks back.  Mail them by the appointed date to the hostess (me) following the mailing instructions in the Official TreadleOn Block Exchange Summary.