Saturday, June 26, 2010

Set-in seams: Here's how!

Set-in seams, also known as Y seams, are used to make blocks that can't be assembled with straight, continuous seams. The stunning quilt shown here, Borealis by Marla Yeager, offers plenty of opportunity to practice setting in seams. The complete pattern and instructions for Borealis will be published in the September 2010 issue of American Quilter magazine, including the instructions below. Set-in seams are a skill every quilter should know, for application in classic quilt blocks such as Attic Windows and Feathered Star. (Yes, you can usually alter block patterns to avoid set-in seams, but adding more seam lines can detract from a block's visual appeal and make the sewing and quilting more complicated.)
In Borealis, most of the seams connecting larger triangle patches to pointed units must be set in. To sew these seams, you’ll stitch only on the sewing lines and not into the seam allowances. On the wrong side of the patches, mark dots, 1/4” from the edges, to indicate the beginning and end of each set-in seam (fig. 1). Place 2 patches right sides together. Use pins to line up the dots on the 2 patches. Then sew from dot to dot, backstitching at the beginning and end, and taking care not to stitch into the seam allowance (fig. 2).                

Add the next patch, sewing one seam from dot to dot and backstitching at each end (fig. 3). Pivot the patch, align the remaining edges, and sew the final seam in the same manner (fig. 4).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Averting disaster at a quilt show

One of the great benefits for those of us immersed in the quilt world is the exchange of knowledge, not only of patterns and techniques, but also of experiences. Quilter Mary Peterson recently shared with me her could-have-been catastrophic experience during a small quilt show in Shreveport, Louisiana.

“I was co-chair of a quilt show held in conjunction with the American Rose Society convention. My husband was hanging one of the quilts in the educational hall at the ARS headquarters when he encountered a small white plastic panel on the wall. (The quilt, entered by Bobbie Reed of Lawrenceville, Georgia, was created by a group of participants as a fund raiser for a future ARS event.) We asked staff what the panel was for and were told to ignore it.”

“Some hours later, a tree fell on nearby power lines and the center lost power. The mysterious plastic panel opened and two high-intensity emergency lights emerged, touching the back of Bobbie’s quilt hanging over them. In no time at all, one of the bulbs had burned completely through the quilt, leaving a charred 1-1/2" hole near the border (see photo below). Fortunately, the groundskeeper smelled smoke and pulled the quilt away from the panel before anymore damage was done. To say the least, we were devastated that one of the quilts given into our care had been damaged.”

Mary continues: “We tried to find some measure of good to come out of this, and decided that if Bobbie had used a different batting, the entire quilt may have caught fire along with the exhibition hall in which it was displayed.”

According to Mary, Bobbie was extremely generous and understanding when told about the mini-disaster. Reconstruction is already underway, and Bobbie plans to make a new label for the back of the quilt, relating the entire story. She said she thought she might rename the quilt The Phoenix, as it rose from the ashes.

Mary feels fortunate that Bobbie’s good humor carried the day and hopes by sharing this experience, other quilt show organizers can avert disaster. “Never hang a quilt over anything that might damage it, and never take ‘Don’t worry about it’ as the last word.”

Good advice, Mary! Do you have a quilt story to share?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Deidre Scherer wins Artistic Achievement Award

The Alumni Association of the Rhode Island School of Design has named textile artist Deidre Scherer the winner of its 2010 Award for Artistic Achievement. Initially drawn to painting as a student, Deidre later turned to making portraits using fabric as her canvas, and needles, thread and a sewing machine as her brushes.
“I never met a type of paint that made me as happy as the fabrics I use,” says the Vermont-based artist. “I love the artistic challenge of cobbling together narrative and figurative pieces.” For the past two decades she has been inspired to use her unusual technique to capture the poignancy of family, aging and mortality, as in Three Women and Dog (shown above with permission from the artist).

Two major traveling exhibitions of her portrait series, called Surrounded by Family and Friends and The Last Year, have introduced people across the country to her work, which has also appeared on the covers of several books and is included in public and private collections worldwide.
You can read more about Deidre in the May 2010 of American Quilter magazine. The article is also available online at exclusively for AQS members. To see more of Deidre’s work, visit

Friday, June 4, 2010

Following the Flock

Back on January 28, 2010, I posted a blog entry written by American Quilter magazine pattern editor Marje Rhine. Marje came up with a clever way to creatively use small scraps. This is Marje's finished top, and here are her comments on the project:
"I finally got back to the scrap quilt I call Flock of Blocks. After sewing all the Flying Geese, I placed the pieces on a design wall and decided I like the Flying Dutchman blocks and surrounded-square blocks best. The whole quilt is quite busy but these two worked well together - using only two different scrap blocks created a calmer effect. I used a lot of the leftover geese units to make the outer border."
Great quilt, Marje! Has anyone else out there tried Marje's technique? Please send a photo of your quilt or top to