String Theory

Quilting stitches can enhance any quilt design, but can the quilting alone create a dynamic, modern design? That was my question when I set out to create this mini quilt. To test my theory that a whole cloth quilt could embrace a modern aesthetic, I looked at how other art forms utilize line as the key element of design.

As kids many of us made simple string art that used the line of the string to develop a shape. More recently, I have loved the work of other artists including Gabriel Dawe who take this premise to an entirely new level with three dimensional string installations like this one.

Since quilting is also an inherently linear art form, I decided to use a similar design strategy to compose this piece. I have made very simply pieced quilts that rely heavily on the quilting as part of the design such as my plaid series including Complementary Convergence shown below.

These plaid quilts place the dense, colorful quilting near the center of the composition, so for this project I wanted to experiment with using the bright colors around the outer edges of the design to further highlight the use of negative space.

This mini was an experiment to see how this technique would play out. Soon I’ll be trying this technique on a larger scale!

Quilt Stats

Title:  String Theory

Size: 11″x 11″

Techniques:  Whole Cloth Quilt

Quilting:  Walking foot quilting on a domestic Bernina 1009

Fabric:  White Solid

Batting:  Hobbs 80/20 Cotton/Poly blend

Thread: Quilted with white 50wt Aurifil and ten colors of 12wt Aurifil

Binding:  Faced with the same white fabric the quilt is constructed with



100 Days of Hexagons: Blocks 31-40 and Sliver Inserts

Another ten days have passed, and ten more blocks of my 100 Hexagons are finished!  With this batch, I attempted to make a few blocks that are lower contrast and/or incorporate fewer pieces. This will hopefully provide some areas in the finished composition where the eye can rest.

A major design component of these hexagons is the narrow pieced slivers of fabrics. Most of the hexagons in this project have incorporated at least one of these slivers, and many have more than one.  The sliver inserts finish at 1/8″ wide, and I thought that today I would show you how I add these design features.

To start, I select the fabrics that I will use for this section of blocks. The fabric used for the sliver can start at any width since it gets trimmed away as part of the sewing process, but I like to have it at least 1″ wide.

For the first side of the insert, you stitch a standard 1/4″ seam allowance and press the seam allowance away from the sliver fabric. It is very important to always press the seam allowances away from the sliver fabric so the final piece will lay nicely.

Next it is time to trim away the excess fabric. Measuring from the stitched seam line, you measure and trim at the 3/8″ mark.  This gives you 1/4″ seam allowance plus the 1/8″ that be exposed in the finished product.

You may wonder why I recommend the sliver insert be cut no less than one inch when two seam allowances plus 1/8″ adds up to 5/8 inch.  Well, my experience has been that, no matter how careful you are, there tends to be some distortion in the sewing process. By leaving some excess fabric to trim in this step, you are more likely to end up with a straight line insert with less distortion.

For the second side of the sliver insert, I look at my presser foot to determine where to stitch. On my patchwork foot, there is a spot on the foot that is 1/8″ from the needle. I align this part of the foot with the first stitching line as I sew.  Ideally, this also means that the edge of my presser foot is at the edge of the fabric. However, if there is a discrepancy, I always align with the first stitching line. Ultimately, the 1/8″ sliver will show, and the seam allowance will be hidden, so that exposed section is the most important.

After the second seam is stitched, press the seam allowance away from the sliver insert.  Using a wool pressing mat will also help prevent distortions in the final line.

Here is the back view of the block.  You can see three slivers have been incorporated in the design.

And here is the front view of the same pieced segment. High contrast slivers keep your eye moving around the design, while low contrast slivers add detail for close up viewing.

Here is the final hexagon made from this pieced segment. You can check out my post on blocks 21-30 to find out more about the process I use for improv piecing the overall design.

If you want to try adding slivers to a project, here are a few tips:

  • Start with some short lines. Longer lines are more prone to distortion, so it is best to learn on shorter lines.
  • Leave ample fabric in all components, especially the sliver section
  • Use a good quality thin thread for piecing. 50 weight Aurifil is my go-to piecing thread.
  • Slivers work great in places you want to make a seam into a design feature!

It is exciting to see all of the blocks interacting with one another, so here are hexagons 1-40!

I hope you’ll follow along with me as I construct these 100 blocks in 100 days! Here are the previous posts and some of what’s coming up:


My favorite thread weight: The Value of Coral

What is your favorite thread weight? When I was asked this question recently, my first thought was 12wt Aurifil because it is my favorite when I want the thread to take center stage. However, it only took a moment to realize that my favorite thread weight is the one I go to most consistently and incorporate into virtually every project.  This go-to thread is 50 wt Aurifil, and I have two drawers dedicated to storing it in my studio space.

I recently quilted The Value of Coral using five colors of thread, and the weight of the thread creates depth, texture and interest without overshadowing the optical illusion created in the piecing of this design. Matching thread color to fabric was very important to maintain consistency in the design, and Aurifil has a huge number of colors to choose from for this very purpose.  Fortunately, I already had what I needed in one of those drawers.  For this project, I used:

  • Red (2250)
  • Salmon (2225)
  • Bright Pink (2425)
  • Light Beige (2310)
  • Eggplant (4225)

This design came about as a way to showcase the 2019 Pantone Color of the Year, Living Coral.  The four main colors are value gradients based around the coral.  The darkest color is a deep violet that recedes into the background.  I like to incorporate these rich violets into designs that need a shadow.  In real life, shadows often have a violet cast to them, so it works well as a shadow in quilt design as well.

If you are interested in reading more about the design of this quilt, check out this post!

Quilt Stats

Title:  The Value of Coral

Size: 56″x 70″

Techniques:  Traditional Piecing

Quilting:  Ruler work quilting on an A-1 longarm

Fabric:  Five solids from assorted manufacturers

Batting:  Double batted with Hobbs Tuscany Wool and Hobbs 80/20 Cotton/Poly blend

Thread: Quilted with 50wt Aurifil in five colors

Binding:  Tula Pink stripes cut on the bias, machine stitched to the front, hand finished on the back


100 Day Improv Log Cabin Quilt

A couple years ago I figured out that my birthday falls on the 100th day of the year in most years, and I decided that it would be fun to make a 100 day quilt between New Year’s Day and my birthday. The first quilt resulting from this project was Resonance, and this log cabin inspired improv quilt is my project for 2020.

In the last year, I have been doing a lot of foundation paper piecing, which I love, but the process is tedious. For my 100 day project, I wanted to do something more freeform, and do a project that would use my scraps and stash. I had collected a lot of lovely blue prints over the years, but lately I have done work mostly using solids, so I saw this as an opportunity to use all these fabrics that I have curated over time. I started mulling this project over in November, and I was delighted that, in December, Pantone named Classic Blue the color of the year.

The construction of the quilt top is mostly block based, with each section being loosely based on a log cabin block.  The blocks all vary in size, and the shape of each is somewhat wonky. I created an average of a block a day for almost two-thirds of the project.  While the block designs grew organically, I did use rulers along the way. This was especially necessary to incorporate 1/8″ wide slivers into the design.  Most of the blocks feature at least one of these slivers.

Once the majority of the blocks were sewn, they all went up on the design wall to determine how they would best fit together. For me, this is the most challenging part of improv. Blocks are added to or trimmed to help them align with the surrounding blocks. Occasionally a new block is constructed.  There are also a few inevitable partial seams to finish the construction of the top, but ultimately the top came together and laid relatively flat.

The back of the quilt was pieced using scraps from the construction of the quilt top, including one block that didn’t end up fitting into the design. I also came across a quilt top that I had made in a workshop and decided to include it in the quilt back as well.

The quilting technique was a first for me. I have done lots of straight line quilting, ruler work, and organic free motion, but I have never done organic “straight line” quilting.  I decided to give this style a try because I thought it would accent the organic feel of the improv design. The grid that is formed has lines that are between 1/4″ and 1″ apart.  It is quilted on the longarm, and all of the lines were quilted in one direction prior to removing the quilt from the frame, rotating it 90 degrees, and reloading it to quilt the perpendicular lines.

The majority of the quilting is done in Light Turquoise Aurifil (5006), with Magenta Aurifil (2535) and Dark Cobalt Aurifil (2740) as accent colors.  All of the quilting was done with 50wt thread. The Light Turquoise and Magenta are go-to colors for my quilting.  It is amazing how well these two colors can meld with a wide range of colors.

Scrappy binding is a big favorite of mine, and a lot of the lighter binding came from the leftovers of previous quilts.  I mixed in some freshly made navy binding, and placed the pieces around the quilt so that the binding would roughly coordinate with the adjoining value in the quilt top.

I am absolutely in love with this quilt, and I adore the concept of the 100 Day Project. It is wonderful to have a project come together, almost by magic.  This process helps me to remember that even a few minutes a day can lead to big things.

Quilt Stats

Title:  100 Day Improv Log Cabin

Size: 84″x 91″

Techniques:  Improvisational Piecing

Quilting:  Organic “straight line” quilting on an A-1 longarm

Fabric:  Fabrics from my stash, mostly blue and white prints

Batting:  Hobbs 80/20 Cotton/Poly blend

Thread: Quilted with 50wt Aurifil in three colors

Binding:  Scrappy bias binding, machine stitched to the front, hand finished on the back


Aurifil and Kaffe Hand Stitching Challenge

The most recent challenge for Aurifil Artisans was to use Aurifil thread and  Kaffe Fassett fabric to create a project featuring hand stitching. I have been needing a mid-sized cross body purse just large enough to hold a wallet and a bottle of water. This will be the perfect size to carry to the zoo once social distancing is over.

I used nine colors of 12 wt Aurifil thread to hand quilt the fabric panels prior to constructing the bag.  I hand quilted the Kaffe Fabric to a layer of Hobbs Thermore batting with no backing prior to flat lining the pieces to Annie’s Soft and Stable. The Thermore batting is a thin polyester that worked really well to give the quilting some dimension without being too thick when paired with the foam Soft and Stable.

I chose to change the direction of the quilting stitches to add more interest to the design.

The front of the bag features a diagonal zipper pocket that will be great for easy access to my cell phone.

The bag back is a solid panel of fabric, and I added a cork bottom to the bag for added durability.  The bag strap is adjustable to go from regular to cross body.

There is more Kaffe fabric featured inside, and an additional zipper pocket, too.

The finished bag measures 7-1/2″ wide, 9″ tall, and 3″ deep, and I am looking forward to carrying such a cheerful accessory!