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March 2, 2015

Mrs. Bobbins

bobbins spray basting


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February 25, 2015

Color Play

By Donna di Natale

Donna di Natale

Donna di Natale

When making a pieced quilt, your use of color and how you place those colors is integral to the design. I’m sure this is something you are aware of if you are an experienced quilter, but if you are somewhat new to quilting, or used to following a pattern exactly as instructed, you might not realize the power of color in pieced blocks.

Here are two quilts from my collection.

Red and white quilt


Prairie Queen quilt

The first one is old – Turkey red and white. Hand pieced and hand quilted.

The other is newer, made of a mixture of vintage print fabric and new solid fabric. Machine pieced and machine quilted.

These facts are obvious. But what can you tell me about these two quilts that isn’t quite so obvious?

Let’s take a closer look at the blocks.

Do you see it yet?

How about now? Any guesses?

Both of these quilts are made from the same block pattern, Prairie Queen. In the older quilt, the quilter used only solid red and solid white to construct the blocks. The blocks were then set on point to create the quilt. In the newer quilt, Prairie Queen, from my book Prized Quilts: The Omaha World-Herald Quilt Contests, I used one print and two solids in the block and used a straight or square set when I put the blocks into rows. What a difference these subtle changes make in the finished quilt.

Now let’s look at how this block changes by simply altering the placement of the color patches.

The Prairie Queen block is made with four red/white half square triangles, eight small red squares, eight small white squares and one center square. Here’s the straight set red and white block as it appears in the quilt.


Using those same pieces but changing the center block to white and rearranging the placement of the other pieces within the block, you get at least three more options.

R&W2         R&W7


When I bought the red and white quilt, I had a difficult time identifying the block name. For one thing, the quilt is so well stitched – and evenly stitched – that it almost took a magnifying glass the find the block within the quilt. Once I determined the block, I still had trouble identifying it. A friend and I were searching Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns when she suddenly claimed to have found it.

Sure enough, she had, but with the colored patches arranged in a different manner. Because the Prairie Queen block name is used for the specific layout found in the purple and white block, I had skipped over the block pattern several times. But my friend’s sharp eye saw how the block was constructed – the individual patches that make up the block.

Now try this. Take four identical blocks and place them next to each other, like this.

Microsoft Word - Document6

Microsoft Word - Document6

Microsoft Word - Document6

This shows you the secondary pattern that is created by placing the blocks next to each other, without any sashing in between. This is how many popular designs, such as Storm At Sea, are created. A Storm At Sea “block” is made up of only two block patterns. Can you find them?

Microsoft Word - Document5

There are five square-in-a-square blocks, four small and one large, and four diamond/rectangle blocks. The pattern is formed by the arrangement of the light, medium and dark patches within these blocks.

Microsoft Word - Document5

So the next time you want to make a quilt using pieced blocks, first study how the block is made and then play around with the colors. You can easily do this with drafting paper and colored pencils. Try using two, three or four colors to construct the block. What difference does the color arrangement make? What happens when you use a light and dark version of the same color? What happens when you do this with two different blocks and place them next to each other? Before you know it, you have designed your own block or a custom designed quilt.

Donna di Natale is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Wednesday. Visit her at heartlandquilts.blogspot.com.

February 23, 2015

Mrs. Bobbins



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February 20, 2015

My Life in Feedsacks

By Edie McGinnis

edie_mug1I grew up in a small town near Peoria, Illinois. It was a farming community, but I was one of the town kids. And even though I didn’t live on a farm per se, I was familiar with many of the same type of chores that were the responsibility of the farm kids.

Our house was literally on the edge of town. I don’t think there were too many rules governing what one could have or not have as far as animals were concerned. We had a couple of goats named Sandy and Candy. (My oldest sister was allergic to cow’s milk.) Along the fence line, we had rabbit hutches with a rabbit occupying each and a chicken coop. In the spring, my dad ordered about 100 baby chickens. It only took a couple of months before they were out of the coop and into the freezer.chickens

We had a huge garden, too. My sisters and I must have shucked and frozen at least a million ears of corn while we were kids.corn

I don’t think there was ever a time that I was without a cat following me around the yard or sleeping with me at night. My sisters loved the dogs, but I was the girl who loved the cats.feedsack

Every kid I knew had chores to do. It was a mother’s job to teach her daughters how to be good wives and take care of their home.

We learned how to cook and how to wash dishes. I made my first pie when I was 5. No one else was home, so it was a complete surprise to my family. It was also a mess. I had much to learn when it came to rolling out a crust.dishes

After dinner, when the table was cleared and the dishes were done, it was time to sweep the kitchen floor.sweeping

We learned to sew. My grandma taught me how to embroider on feedsack dish towels. It took a lot of practice before my stitches got small and I didn’t have big, ugly knots on the back of my project.sewing

We helped out with the laundry. We had a wringer washing machine, and we hung our clothes out to dry on the clothesline. Nothing smelled sweeter than sheets dried in the sunshine. Nothing sounded creepier to me than the squeaking sound of the wooden clothespins. Gives me the shivers just to think about it.laundry

Once we got the clothes down off of the line, it was time to iron them. This was a job I really hated. I was delighted when permanent-press clothing became commonplace.ironing

One of the best things about getting all the work done was getting a dime or a nickel to take up to Duke’s drug store. He had a soda fountain there, and it was agony to choose how to spend the money. A cherry phosphate was often my choice on a hot summer day.soda fountain

It was a simpler time when I was a kid. We could run from one end of the town to the other. My folks knew if we had gotten into mischief before we ever got back home because everyone in town knew you – and probably your phone number as well.

It’s a sure bet that I won’t be able to illustrate my grandkids’ lives using feedsacks. No iPads, no computers, no Legos or Matchbox cars will ever deck this humble fabric.

I’ll have to stock up on novelty fabric from the store, instead. Oh, wait, I’ve already done that!

Edie McGinnis is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Friday.

February 18, 2015

A National Treasure

By Donna di Natale

Donna di Natale

Donna di Natale

I just got back from a trip to the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. Wow! That’s the museum in a nutshell: Wow! As its name states, it is a national museum, representing quilters from across the country. It has more than 41,000 visitors a year.

Touring exhibits give more than 110,000 people worldwide the opportunity to explore what is going on in today’s quilting community.

l Quilt Museum

When you walk into the lobby, you are immediately greeted by a smiling face and a welcome to the museum. Hang up your coat, buy a ticket and prepare to be amazed and inspired.


The exhibits change eight to 10 times a year, so what you see and the order in which you see it may be different from what I saw. When I visited, just inside the gallery was an exhibit of quilts from the museum collection, and there in center stage was one of the most beautiful quilts I’ve ever seen. It was hand pieced, hand appliquéd and hand quilted by a quilter from the Netherlands. The stitches were about 1/16th of an inch long and evenly spaced, and the rows of quilting were 1/8- to 1/4-inch apart in various sections. The rest of the quilts in the collection exhibit were equally amazing.

Moving on to the left was the collection’s miniature quilts. These are not just small quilts (less than 24 inches on a side), but exact replicas of large quilts made on a very small scale. Just think about making a log cabin quilt with strips that finish 1/8-inch wide. Now think about making dozens of yo-yos that finish 1/4-inch wide. Get the picture? Very awe-inspiring, to say the least.
miniature quilts

There and Back Again, by Teri Barile

There and Back Again, by Teri Barile

Next was an exhibit from the annual School Block Challenge sponsored by Moda. Students nationwide, from kindergarten through 12th grade, were challenged to create a quilt block using three specific Moda fabrics. This year, 500 participants submitted 300 quilt blocks. There are some very talented future quilters out there!

school block challenge

Infinity Tree, by Jesse Siegmund; 1st place, 5th-8th Grades

Infinity Tree, by Jesse Siegmund; 1st place, 5th-8th Grades

The next exhibit was my reason for traveling to the museum: The Heart of America exhibit. The museum invited members of quilt guilds in Kansas, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota to submit quilts representing their members’ best work for a special juried exhibit.

I was very honored that one of my quilts was chosen to be a part of the exhibit, and so, of course, I had to visit it in person. The exhibit represents a cross section of mainstream quiltingmaking today, including pieced and appliquéd quilts with machine quilting and hand quilting. The museum asked quilters to provide a statement about why quilting was important to them. The range of responses was as wide as the range of design and techniques used in the quilts.

HOA exhibit sign

Bright Feathered Stars and Donna di Natale; quilt blocks from "A Flock of Feathered Stars: Paper Pieced for Perfection," by Carolyn McCormick (https://www.pickledishstore.com/productDetail.php?PID=1331)

Bright Feathered Stars and Donna di Natale; quilt blocks from “A Flock of Feathered Stars: Paper Pieced for Perfection,” by Carolyn McCormick (www.pickledishstore.com/productDetail.php?PID=1331)

The last exhibit was called Motion. These quilts are from the Contemporary QuiltArt Association. By combining elements such as line, shape and texture that make the eye move over the work, the artists conveyed their interpretation of motion. Once again, the friendly volunteers throughout the exhibit gladly provided information about the quilts and the quiltmakers. I was really impressed by the knowledge of the volunteers. They take their job and their responsibility seriously and are there to make your visit the best it can be.


And, of course, you can’t visit a museum without stopping by the gift shop, and this museum is no exception. Talented artists in several fields have contributed to the museum shop. Art glass, pottery, metal figurines and handmade soaps are offered in addition to the handmade fabric items, jewelry, fabric, patterns and books. Souvenirs in a broad price range are also available.

My thanks to Curator Judy Schwender and CEO Frank Bennett for their gracious hospitality and the use of these photographs. Judy took precious time out of her day to answer a few questions about the museum.

How does the museum obtain quilts?
Some of the 517quilts have been purchased, such as winners of the six AQS (American Quilter’s Society) purchase awards from each show. If the winner opts for the cash award, the museum purchases their quilt, and it becomes part of the permanent collection. Other quilts have been donated. Donated quilts are reviewed by a Collections Committee to determine their suitability to the existing collection. The museum’s focus is on today’s quilters, thus quilts in the collection generally range from 1980 through today. They also try to maintain a balance among designers and techniques when accepting or denying donated quilts. (When older quilts are needed to compare old designs to new, Judy borrows the older quilts from other collections.)

How are the quilts stored and cared for?
All but three of the quilts are folded and stored in acid-free boxes padded with acid-free paper in a secure temperature and humidity-controlled vault. Those three that are not folded are rolled.

What does a quilt museum curator do?
I keep track of and maintain records for all of the quilts in the collection. I also care for the museum’s collection, and I have a trained group of volunteers who assist me with this. I create exhibits for here in the museum and for traveling exhibits. This involves researching and tracking down quilts that best illustrate the theme of the exhibit.

What is the best part of your job as curator?
Meeting quiltmakers – they are all such imaginative, creative people. And opening shipments of quilts. It’s like Christmas morning every time a box arrives.

Any advice you would like to give our readers?
Yes! I can’t stress how important it is to label your quilts. Who made the quilt? When and where was it made? Who owns the quilt? This information is all very important to document. My second piece of advice is to attach a hanging sleeve to the back of the quilt if the quilt is to be displayed. There is a free downloadable instruction sheet on the museum’s website for constructing and attaching a hanging sleeve. You can find those instructions here: Quilt Sleeve

Whenever you find yourself in the Paducah area, be sure to stop at the museum to see the latest exhibits. Or make it your destination. It is well worth the trip. In the meantime, please visit the museum’s website, quiltmuseum.org, for more information and photos, and visit the online gift shop. While you are on the website, be sure to check out Contest on the menu bar. There is always something new going on at this national treasure.

Donna di Natale is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Wednesday.