May 20, 2020

Starting vs Finishing

You'd think being under stay-at-home orders I'd find time to blog. Sadly that hasn't been the case. I have been having fun playing with fabric combinations though. These are potential new quilts. Bright. Happy. Can't wait to start these.

I fell out of the blogging routine the year my daughter got married. Three years ago next month. I managed one post a month for the last 2 years but somehow this year it just completely dropped off. During that time I have been quilting. Really. I have. Just check out my Instagram @springleafstudios for quilting and my other IG account @springleafcolor for color inspiration.

It finally dawned on me that one of the biggest reasons I haven't kept up with blogging is because I tend to only write about finished quilts. And if you know me even a little, you know finishing isn't my strong point. I'm much much better at starting.

So instead of waiting for the next finish, I'm sharing where things are at the moment. Today. May 2020.

I have two new tops and the backing ready to send out for quilting. These two were both pieced during the Covid-19 quarantine and I'm anxious to finish them.

I also made a quarantine quilt I'm calling Looking on the Bright Side. Here's a portion of it. I'm not happy with the border so it's under contemplation. More later once I resolve what I want to do with it.

I have five quilts waiting for binding. Some of them have been quilted for a year. The binding is prepared. I even do most all my binding by machine now. What can I say? No good reason they aren't done. Top quilt here has priority because it's my new favorite. It's also the newest top to be quilted. Blog post soon I promise.

I have many projects in various stages of being cut or ready to piece. One of the top ones was for the 100 day project. I cut the circles and sewed the background blocks in anticipation of appliqueing a circle every day. Didn't happen. I don't think I'm cut out to do one small thing a day. I tend to be all or nothing.

The biggest UFO is my bento box quilt started as a demonstration for the QAYG presentation I did for my guild. That was in 2018! Once the presentation was over it was out of sight out of mind. But since my daughter claimed this one, I finally got back to it earlier this year. I'm doing spiral quilting on each big block and love the look. 17 down and 8 more to go. Hopefully I wrote down the measurements for the joining strips. It worked perfectly for the demo. Check out the QAYG posts here to learn more.

Here's a few photos of other projects and fabric pulls. Will I finish any of these anytime soon? Or will I start something completely new?

I hope you are finding time and motivation to quilt during Covid 19. Some days are better than others for me. Some days I'm fired up and can't wait to start the next quilt. Some days I'm not motivated for anything. Most days I should simply try to finish the projects already underway. Starting vs finishing. It will be an ongoing battle for me but at least it's progress. I always feel like I'm moving forward.

How about you? Are you moving forward on projects during quarantine?


December 17, 2019

Christmas Quilting

Did you do any sewing for the holidays?

Christmas quilts,

Christmas quilts,

Making Christmas quilts was definitely NOT on my radar for 2019. I made the drunkard's path quilt shown on the wall above several years ago as part of this QAL. There's not a bit of Christmas fabric in it.

Two years ago I designed this small wreath wall hanging as a gift to my readers. It's a free pattern and is still available on the old Craftsy platform. You can find it here. 
Note: If you are interested in a copy of this pattern leave me a comment.

Christmas quilts,

Then, while visiting the Missouri Star Quilts last May, I found myself buying a handful of modern Christmas fabrics in small amounts. Here are a few of them and I'm happy to say I've used them up. Wish I had more of the little bird print though. It's so sweet.

I decided to make another simple Irish Chain quilt like these quilts quilts made earlier in the year for my SILs. It's a fast, easy project. With 6" blocks finishing at 42 x 54 the small size is just right for my lap.

Christmas quilts,

It's my first quilt using minky for the backing and was quilted by Cara of Sew Colorado Quilting using a design called Wild Cherries. I thought it felt like berries and love how it looks. Even though the thread is green, it gets buried into the minky giving an embossed look. I washed it yesterday and now it's so soft!

Christmas quilts,

After finishing this one, I was hooked on Christmas sewing. Foolishly thinking I had all the time in the world, I decided to make two more quilts. And maybe stockings. Maybe a tree skirt. Maybe fabric ornaments. The list goes on. Of course that lead to buying even more Christmas fabrics online and down the rabbit hole I went. Big time!

Did I mention foolish in the previous paragraph. Ha! I only managed to finish one of those two quilts and none of the other things. Maybe next year. I certainly have all the fabric I need now to make the above mentioned projects and more.

My finish was this scrappy, mostly 16-patch, wonky star quilt for my daughter. I love it!

Christmas quilts,

The original idea was to alternate red and green 16-patch star blocks in a 5 x 5 layout. Then I decided I didn't want stars in every block. Then I decided I wanted a few bigger stars so I made four 9-patch blocks with bigger wonky stars. Then I threw in a couple of 4-patch blocks to alter the scale even more. Finally, I decided I didn't want a square quilt so I added a row at the top and bottom using the same size squares as the 4-patch. I love letting a quilt evolve into something a little different from where it started. It finished at 50 x 60 so a large lap size.

The prints are so fun. I mixed the new fabrics with many from my stash. Some are really old Christmas prints and some are just stash prints like dots and stripes. Little deer, bears, rabbits, owls and birds make appearances here and there.

Christmas quilts,

I'm especially fond of all the little deer . . . aren't they cute?

Christmas quilts,

It's backed with the same red minky as the Irish Chain quilt and quilted by Cara with a pattern called Star Struck which was perfect for the star theme.

Christmas quilts,

So two new Christmas quilts this year makes me happy. I think they look great mixed in with the other holiday quilts. Here's a few of my older quilts that make an appearance during the Christmas season. I think of this green, triangle quilt as a winter quilt but it fits right in for Christmas too. I blogged about it here.

Christmas quilts,

This applique still life is very traditional but I love it!

Christmas quilts,

And this little paper pieced cardinal. It was a struggle to make at the time but always reminds me of my Mom. Cardinals often visited her bird feeders throughout the year. We don't have them here in Colorado and I sure miss seeing them.

Christmas quilts,

Thanks for reading along with my sporadic blog posts this year.
For a little more holiday cheer, check out my all red Instagram posts here.

Hope you have the most Merry Christmas ever!

Christmas quilts,


Linking up with Wendy's Peacock Party for the end of 2020.
Also with Cynthia and Oh Scrap.


November 16, 2019

Night Into Day; A Negative Space Quilt Using Notan

Last night was the opening of Unoccupied: The Importance of Negative Space, a show of modern quilts made by the Boulder Modern Quilt Guild. It was a lovely evening full of quilty friends and wonderful quilts. The show runs November 15 through January 6, 2020 at the Collective - Community Arts Center in Lafayette, CO. If you're in the Denver area be sure to stop by. I have two quilts in the show. Circling the Square and Night Into Day. Night Into Day even made the cover of the show postcards.

When the show was first announced I knew I wanted to explore something new using negative space.
I started with a lot of different ideas and struggled at first to narrow down the choices. Then, when a couple of guild members gave two separate presentations, the first on negative space in quilting, including the concept of Notan, and the second on improv, I was inspired to try incorporating both into my show quilt.

So what exactly is Notan? Notan is a Japanese concept of using dark and light shapes to create harmonious compositions often thought of as figure/ground reversal. In other words, positive and negative space. Think of the Yin and Yang symbol. Or paper designs that cut away a section and reverse it as a mirror image.

I decided to create black and white shapes using improv techniques to make my quilt blocks. To create the shapes, I paired one black and one white square of fabric and cut the stack into shapes by making straight cuts. The cuts were not planned other than being straight. I chose not to use angles, but they would work just as well. Then I interchanged the cut pieces and sewed them back together. The result was two blocks that were essentially the opposite of each other. Quilters may know this technique as stack and whack which generally involves 3 - 4 pieces of fabric per stack. 

Each pair I made was different and I had no idea how they would come together until they were all done and I could play with arrangements. Both the cutting and the layout was done improvisationally.  

Here's the process I used to make 12 pairs of blocks that finish at 6" x 6" for a total of 24 blocks. 

1.  Cut 12 squares each of black and white fabric approximately 8.5" x 8.5".  Blocks will be trimmed to 6.5" x 6.5" but the larger size is needed to account for seam allowances when the squares are cut into smaller pieces and then re-sewn together. I suggest you cut at least 2" bigger than your intended final size.

2.  Layer one black square with one white square and make one or two cuts horizontally and vertically through both fabrics. Sub-cut some of the larger shapes into smaller pieces similar to what's shown below.

3.  Shuffle the black and white pieces to create new blocks that combine both black and white pieces. This can be done by directly interchanging every other piece to create blocks that are direct opposites. The cuts above made the blocks below.

The pieces can also be arranged so the blocks are mirror images of each other as shown below. These blocks are from a different stack of cut pieces. It's a little hard to recognize the mirror image until you look closely.

Another option is to create blocks where one is predominately light and the other is predominately dark by only exchanging a few pieces.

4.  Sew the pieces together starting with the smaller pieces and building outward until all pieces are sewn together. It's easiest to sew one block at a time so as not to get confused about what piece goes where. Repeat the same sewing sequence to make the second block. 

5.  Trim both blocks to 6.5" x 6.5".  OPTION: for added interest block pairs can be trimmed differently. This will reduce the matching appearance between the two blocks. For my purpose I wanted to maintain the matching yet opposite appearance so mine were all trimmed the same.

6.  Continue the process, making different cuts for each pair of blocks. Once all your block pairs are done the fun begins.

There are so many different ways my blocks could have been arranged. The lights and darks could have been clustered concentrically from the center out. Or they could have been positioned on the diagonal. In these arrangements you would probably be hard pressed to find the matching pairs.

I chose to go with a rectangular layout by placing the matching pairs side by side in order to emphasize the figure ground aspect of the matching blocks and play with the positive/negative shapes between the block pairs. A few of the simpler matching pairs where then placed along the outer edge and the solid squares were used to fill out the design. My final quilt finishes at 24" x 48".

The images below show 2 pages of a 3 page document I created in case you'd like to try the Notan concept for yourself. It shows block basics, layout options, plus several block variations. You can download it here. If you use this document to explore your own Notan quilts I'd love to see them. Tag me on Instagram @springleafstudios.

My second quilt in the show, Circling the Square is shown below. I think it plays quite well with Laura's red cross and moon phase quilts. The common colors and the contrasting shapes of the three quilts make a striking combination all together.

You can read about the design process for Circling the Square here. In addition to this show, it has been shown at QuiltCon 2019 in Nashville and the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden. It was also featured in the QuiltCon magazine.

I enjoyed the process of making Night Into Day so much I am planning to experiment with another quilt using a bunch of different colored solids. I have already cut one large and one small square from each solid in my stash. I have about 130 squares in each size. I'll use the large ones for another Notan quilt and the smaller ones for something else.

negative space quilt, notan quilt blocks, modern quilt

There are so many choices I can make with this all solid idea. I could always pair a warm with a cool colored square. I could pair warm on warm or cool on cool colors. I could use stacks of 3 or 4 fabrics instead of just 2. This would give me the choice to have more than 2 colors in a block. I have no idea what the end result will look like, but that's the challenge and the fun. I won't start this until 2020 and will post here and on my Instagram account so follow along if you'd like to see what happens.

Thanks go out to The Collective Community Art Center in Lafayette for hosting the show and to Laura and Katie (and everyone else) of the BoulderMQG for all your hard work putting the show together.
You did a great job!


November 6, 2019


Welcome to my Arboretum, a most colorful forest of fabric trees.

This quilt wasn't even on my radar. One day I just happened to notice a few Kaffe Fassett fabrics in brownish colors on the shelf and suddenly quilter's ADD took over. Since it's fall, those browns and rusts were begging to be used and leaves seemed the perfect fall subject.

Inspired by those fallish prints, I looked through my Pinterest board on leaf quilts for inspiration. Several pins sparked ideas. Unfortunately, the pin I was most inspired by led to no further links or information, so I took off on my own.

I did a quick layout in the computer to determine the quilt size and number of blocks I would need and settled on 9 rows with 11 blocks per row for a total of 99 blocks. The blocks are 5.5" x 8" for a finished size of about 60" x 72" . . .  a nice large throw.

Next I pulled a ton of prints in a range of fall colors. Starting with the browns and rusts, I added reds, oranges, golds, yellows, greens and even purples. As I said in my previous post, more is more as far as I'm concerned. More variety makes for more interest and more visual activity.

I cut one rectangle approximately 6.5" x  9" from 99 different fabrics. I was determined not to repeat any fabrics and easily found more than 99 in my stash. Next I pulled strip scraps in the same color range for the veins (branches) and cut them 1" wide.

At this point in the process, I planned to add small triangles to the corners of each block to give it a leafy shape. I thought I'd use solids and tried a couple of different light blues as you can see here.

The more blocks I made, the less I liked the corners. Then my husband wandered in and said he liked my trees. So my leaves became trees with branches.

The piecing process for the branches was completely improv. First, I cut a print rectangle in half top to bottom. Then I made angled cuts in both halves. The placement and angle of each cut was random. Most blocks have three angled cuts. Some have only two. Others have four or even five. There's even a couple with just one. The 1" strips were sewn between the angled cuts and pressed toward the strips. When both sides were done, the center strip was added between both halves. The finished block was then trimmed to 6" x 8.5"

I auditioned each strip fabric for each print as I went choosing not to cut too many of any one fabric. Some branch fabrics blend with the tree fabric and others have a strong contrast. Having some of each allows for the overall effect to come in and out of focus as you look at the quilt.

I had no preconceived idea of how to arrange the blocks but as more of them went up on the design wall I liked the look of the horizontal runs of color that were starting to happen. Once about 3/4 of the blocks were up I could begin to see what colors I needed more of. At this point I let go of the idea of 99 different trees and inserted 5 blocks of the same fabric called Shark's Teeth by Brandon Mably. To me this print looked like trees on hills. Repeating this fabric offered a very subtle pause within the forest.

I considered staggering the rows (below left) but it just looked too busy. There's a lot going on with all the prints. Keeping the tree trunks lined up (below right) provides a subtle sense of structure and unity.

It was quilted by Cara of Sew Colorado Quilting with a leafy design appropriately called fall foliage. It's subtle but the leaves have branches just like the trees.

I had hoped to get some great 'in the wild' photos with glowing red/orange fall foliage. Unfortunately we had a very early hard freeze and the colors just haven't been pretty. I settled for some yellow trees near home. My favorite pic is the opening photo near the city arboretum. The sign is what actually gave me the idea for naming the quilt Arboretum. It seems quite fitting.

Arboretum . . . a botanical garden devoted to trees.

So many people have asked about making this quilt. If you make one similar to mine, I'd really love to see it. Tag me on Instagram @springleafstudios and use #arboretumquilt to your posts.

While making Arboretum, I discovered that Scott of Blue Nickel Studios has a new pattern called TreeTime that is really cool. Check it out here. Or take a look on Instagram at #treetimequilt. It's a different, yet similar idea and I love what he did with the his trees.

UPDATE: While doing a little online shopping, I just happened upon a new to me tree pattern that is very similar to what I made. The construction method is different but the result is close to the same. The pattern is called Tangled Trees by Lizard Creek Quilting Here's a link to that pattern.

Linking up with Wendy and her Peacock Party.
Also Kelly and Needle and Thread Thursday.
And Cheryl's Monthly Favorite Finish .


October 22, 2019

Summer Sangria, an X-Plus Quilt

Let me introduce Summer Sangria. It's one of my favorite finishes from this summer and features several large scale prints and a very intense color palette. It was very hard to capture the true colors in photographs.
It's made using the X-Plus block and finishes at 60" x 72".  I added a border by repeating the plus part of the block all around the edge. I usually don't use borders but in this case I liked how it framed the quilt. It was quilted by Cara of Sew Colorado Quilting using the whisper pattern which added a nice swirly feel to the angular blocks.

My daughter and I took it on a little outing recently when we took a girls weekend away. These photos were taken on an evening hike through Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Couldn't resist the sangria bottle since it had all the right colors and name on the bottle.

I have always wanted to make an X-Plus quilt. The block was very popular several years ago and I always thought I'd make one using aquas and chartreuse. But this summer I opened a box with fabric I had set aside for a different quilt and they suddenly seemed perfect for the X-Plus block.

In the box was a fat quarter of this Kaffe Fassett fabric purchased many years ago. Reds and corals with a dull gray-green background and very bright chartreuse leaves. It paired well with another Kaffe spot print and Kona seafoam that is a close match to the print background. From my stash I pulled a rusty red/green dot print. These were all in the box.

Also in the box were three other large prints in somewhat similar colors. I had planned to use them in a modern minimal design I came up with years ago. That design no longer held much interest to me. Too simple. Too minimal. I have come to realize that more is more as far as my quilts are concerned. I like to throw in a lot of different prints and often a riot of color. Below are three of the original feature fabrics in the box.

I knew a wider range of fabrics was needed so I turned to my stash. I looked for X prints in the pink, coral, orange color range that varied in value. I looked for reds, oranges and even magentas that worked for the plus signs. Initially I planned on all chartreuse prints for the ends of the plus signs but realized it was better to broaden that color range as well so included yellows, oranges, and greens. For the background I debated on using all the same fabric but decided I preferred more variety there as well. I even used the original seafoam green to add a little more value change in the background. Below shows the lightest and darkest blocks plus one of my favorite blocks on the far right.

The end result couldn't be further from my initial idea. All sparked from a single print that caught my eye. Lots of color and value differences keeps my eye engaged. I think that's why prints appeal to me so much. Prints are my happy place.  : )

Numerous tutorials exist online on how to make the X-Plus block at different sizes. I thought I'd share some links here in case you'd like to make your own. From what I've read, the original block is attributed to Nancy Cabot in 1938.
  • For a 7.5" finished block check out this tutorial by Amy of Badskirt. 
  • For a 10" finished block check out this tutorial from My Quilt Infatuation. Kelly provides great tips for making a super scrappy X-Plus quilt.
  • For a 12.5" finished block check out this tutorial by Christine Barnes. If you're a Kaffe fan you'll love the blocks she made featuring Kaffes prints. They are gorgeous.
  • And for a giant 24" finished block check out this tutorial by Karen at CapitolaQuilter. She made a wonderful scrappy quilt that mixes block sizes.
If you'd like to draft your own X-Plus block the thing to remember is it's based on a 5 x 5 grid. Of course you can tweak the breakdown of the 5 x 5 measurements and customize your block to fit your needs.

I wanted a 12" finished block so I used the following measurements. It's not an even division of the 5 x 5 grid but it's so close you wouldn't know.
  • X:  cut (4) 5.5" x 5.5" squares. I used the same fabric for all four but you could use a different fabric for each one to make it more scrappy.
  • Background (corners of X pieces):  cut (8) 3" x 3" squares
  • Center cross:  cut (1) 2.5" x 7.5" AND  (2) 2.5" x 3" pieces
  • Outer cross:  cut (4) 2.5" x 3" pieces
You could also play with the measurements within the 5 x 5 grid to create thinner or thicker Xs. Here are some examples of how that might look. The illustration on the far left shows an uneven 5 x 5 grid with larger background corners resulting in narrow X units. The middle illustration shows the normal block with an even 5 x 5 grid. The far right shows another uneven grid but with smaller background corners resulting in wider X units.

You can see the look of the quilt changes when the grid measurements within the block are altered. Even though the X units are wider in the illustration on the right, the X itself gets lost because the background that helps define the shape is smaller. 

I really love how Summer Sangria looks in the guest room. Almost wish I had made it bigger because it looks so good on the bed. Especially with the floral pillows.

The X-Plus block offers so many possibilities I'm tempted to make another one. Maybe I'll make that aqua and chartreuse one I originally envisioned. Or perhaps a totally scrappy version where each X within the block is different. That would be a great way to use lots of scraps.

Have you ever made an X-Plus quilt? What colors did you use?

If you've never made one now might be the time. Maybe this post and my Pinterest board or the Instagram tag #xplusquilt will inspire you.

Linking up to Kelly's NTT, Wendy's Peacock Party, and Cheryl's Favorite Monthly Finish.

Hop over and be inspired.