Archive for the ‘quilts’ Category

The Urn Quilt Evolves

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Sassaman Urn Quilt 1

Many people think that making art just happens by magic. They think that it comes out effortlessly and fully formed. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. There are hours and days of trial and error, fits and starts. One of my students once said that she was surprised by the emotional highs and lows she went through my the 5 day Abstracting from Nature workshop. She had discovered that the creative process is not always comfortable and sometimes just downright frustrating.

So I thought I would take you through a sequence of design dilemmas that I struggled though in the past two weeks while working on a new quilt idea.

For the past year I have been concentrating on mostly smaller abstract quilts, as a way to play through some new ideas. But I was feeling the urge to work in a larger scale again. I had also been thinking about the opulent and symbolic Dutch still life paintings called “vanitas”. Vanitas paintings portrayed life’s brevity through symbols like watches, skulls, smoking oil lamps, partially consumed food, etc. Since I have always been attracted to divine
decadence in art, over the years I have accumulated my own slightly subversive symbols that often appear in my work… skulls, spiders, dandelions, moths, spiky seeds, dangerous plants.

So this is where my idea started. I imagined a skull sprouting dark leafy plants. The skull became an urn. An urn brings to mind Victorian plants and lavish layers of composition. So these are the subjects that I started with… skull/urn, elephants ears, purple black sweet potato vines, coleus, moths and an egg behind it all.

The scale of the urn determined the size of the leaves. I have pinned the urn to a piece of tracing paper to make it easier to move and hold itself together. Most of the fabrics are hand dyed Cherrywoods.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 2

I made some paper clouds to act as frames, almost like curtains on a stage, and some oversized moths in lovely subdued colors. The Passion Flowers have been in my orphan file for years! Looking good.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 3

The clouds are now in fabric. Then I thought I could fit in some of my favorite dandelions, so I cut them out of paper to test them. The moths had to move.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 4

I made the dandies in fabric and added a spider, for good measure, and some smaller moths.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 5

But the dandelions are floating in space, so how to anchor the dandelions to the ground? By adding a forward layer of leaves and a darker horizon line.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 6

But the whole thing is just too damned busy, too many small scale shapes. So a couple more elephant ears are added and that seems to help… but not enough.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 7

I hated to remove the dandelions before I had another direction to head toward. So I took a picture of the composition and blocked out the dandies in Photoshop. Yes, it is better without them. Rats! Out they go, but now I have some nice leaves and stems already made for another project.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 8

What about adding some more clouds? I pulled out the paper models again. Too curly!!

Sassaman Urn Quilt 9

Back to Photoshop to take out the busy spirals. Nope, try again.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 10

How about a moon to add some nocturnal mystery. I seem to have moths and moons on the brain lately! But it’s working. Less seems to be more in this composition and I’m feeling pretty good about it. And yes, the blue background will go all the way to the top eventually.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 11

A moth to block part of the moon and a bit of tweaking here and there and we are good to go! Now as I begin to embroider each individual character, I can study the piece from my sewing station and make adjustments over the next weeks of stitching.

I hope this gives you a little insight into my collage process. Yes, there are lots of decisions to make, but that is what makes this appliqué technique so satisfying. If you would like to join me on this creative exploration, you are invited to come to one of my 5 day workshops and see what transpires. I hope to see you there!

Magic Carpet for Spring Sprouts

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Magic Carpet Page 1Howdy, everyone. Well, it appears that I am still struggling to come out of my winter hibernation. There are so many new ideas percolating in my brain and I am anxious to have some time to play and experiment. But there seems to be so much to do and so little time to do it! Yes, I need an assistant or some elves to take up some of the cutting, packing, typing and even some basic stitching. Anyone interested?

On the brighter side, I think the snow has finished and we are on to the next phase. Now the energy and color of Spring is just beginning. Here in the Midwest we are preparing for the inevitable surge of growth that will soon dominate our days. So I have chosen this colorful project to get us in a blooming mood.

This garden fresh quilt is a made from the Prairie Chic collection for FreeSpirit. Each of the three colorways in this line have a distinctly different temperament. These fabrics are from the Cardinal colorway, bright and spirited. The quilt design is based on a traditional log cabin block, except in this case one block makes the whole top. We are letting the fabric do the work, a necessity when you are using “personality” prints. Here is a Prairie Chic Magic Carpet diagram with yardage that you can print. Remember that all the measurements are finished sizes, so don’t forget to add your seam allowance. For quilting basics and guidance for making other simple quilts with big prints check out Patchwork Sassaman Style. Enjoy!

Blue is today’s theme!

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Blue Egg Head

Today we have a blue theme in honor of this beautiful day! The temperature is finally rising and it’s heading toward spring. The squirrels have been racing around and the cats are actually anxious to go outside. Spring is in the air and some ambitious critter has laid this enormous egg in the Blue Muse’s nest!! I wonder what will hatch and when it will happen. Maybe it will be something BLUE!

Barn Raising Quilt

So today I am posting two blue quilts made with the Prairie Chic fabric for FreeSpirit. The Barn Raising pattern has always been a favorite traditional quilt pattern of mine. It is so graphic and dramatic that I have done it many times with many different fabric lines. Take a peek in Patchwork Sassaman Style to see them. In fact, that book will walk you through the steps for making this quilt. Here is also a Prairie Chic – Barn Raising diagram with measurements and yardage. All the measurements are finished dimensions, so don’t forget to add your extra seam allowance. I chose some simple prints from the line to keep the quilt as uncomplicated and clean as possible.

Monkey Puzzle Quilt

Here is another favorite quilt block, Monkey Puzzle or Churn Dash. It is a perfect design for a beginning quilter to learn the basics. But it is also the simplicity that makes this pattern so striking. I have also mixed some Designer Solids with the very usable triangle print. The quilting is done with my two-fisted 12 weight top-stitching thread, Sew Sassy from Superior. It really adds another layer of interest to the composition. You can also download a diagram for this Prairie Chic – Monkey Puzzle. Again, don’t forget to add your seam allowance to the finished dimensions.

There are more Prairie Chic quilts to share soon, so stay tuned.

Empty Spools Workshop

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

Sassaman Asilomar

The teaching year is getting off to a productive start, after being at the Empty Spools Seminar, Session 2, last week. It is a favorite environment for quilt teachers and students for many years. Located in the quaint town of Pacific Grove, California and a skip away from Carmel, it is an ideal place to take a break from your everyday routine and infuse your spirit with beauty and inspiration. I was teaching Abstracting from Nature and got to be in a favorite classrooms in a building designed by Julia Morgan, a renowned California Arts & Crafts architect.

Sassaman Class Asilomar

Here is the classroom during the glorious mess of creation. Doesn’t it look like fun? The class went for five days. On the end of the fourth day, everyone cleans their space and prepares their work to be displayed for the “walk-around”. This is when the students from all the other classes can visit to see what other methods and ideas everyone else has been working on. It has become such a tradition, that many people come from outside the seminar come to see all the new work that has been created.

Sassaman Asilomar Class

Here the room is all cleaned up and ready for inspection. My students were hard-working and very diligent, as you can see. I am always amazed and pleased with the results, which is why I enjoy these longer classes so much. Most folks got to stitching on the last two days, so they really have experienced the whole technique.

Begonia Quilt

I will be teaching the same five-day class this summer at Madeline Island School of the Arts, another fabulous place for rejuvenation and inspiration.


I hope to see some of you there!

New produce from Gregory’s Garden

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Sassaman Flowers

This week we have plucked some new produce from Gregory’s Garden! In Patchwork Sassaman Style I listed some principles for using “personality” prints and this graphic quilt exemplifies several of them:

Gregory's Garden Quilt

Keep it simple!

The bigger the print, the bigger the block.

Use simple fabrics as supporting players.

Contrast creates drama!

Symmetrical fabrics yearn to be fussy cut.

One print can be used in several colors.

Let the fabric do the work!

Gregory's Garden Color Diagram

As you can see this is a very easy quilt to construct, it’s the fabric that make it look sophisticated! In fact, this would be a very good quilt for beginners to learn the basics of sewing and quilt making. And it is large enough to be used as a family lap blanket. Feel free to print out the pattern and FreeSpirit fabric yardage, which is shown below.


And Now for Something Completely Different

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Crocus 2014

Spring has officially declared itself with the long a waited arrival of the glowing purple crocus… so glorious in contrast to all the gray and beige. I have been working on many things in the studio since next month is filled with workshops and travel.

Sassaman Cross Quilt

Here is a new quilt that is a bit different from my usual style. I designed it to exploit some of the rich tone-on-tone fabrics in the Sweet Lady Jane collection. I have always been drawn to the simple cross motif, so here it is multiplied many times. This is built with 5″ squares (cut 5.5″) and a 6″ border. I think it would be stunning hanging in a white room with black furniture.

Sassaman Cross Quilt Detail 3

Since the design is so stark and geometric, I requested a simple flower and leaf pattern for the quilting. It was beautifully executed by Pam McIntyre of Quilting Makes the Quilt. The border has a sprinkling of simple flowers

Sassaman Cross Quilt Detail 2

Below are the fabrics used in this quilt and the yardage requirements. The piecing is so easy that this would be a good project for a beginning quilter. But an experienced free-motion quilter could have a good time noodling around on this crisp canvas.

Sassaman Cross Quilt Samples

Gone Dotty, Rose – 2/3 yard

Circle Dance, Periwinkle – 2/3 yard

Garden Gingham, Rose – 1 fat quarter

Gone Dotty, Green – 1/2 yard

Garden Gingham, Green – 1 fat quarter

Gone Dotty, Periwinkle – 1 fat quarter

White – 1 1/3 yard

Black – 1 yard

FP_JaneSassamanI also must remind you all that the BERNINA Faceplate Face-Off ends on April 14, so be sure to get your votes in. You can vote once a day and each vote makes you eligible to win one of these wonderful new machines!

Quilting Arts

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Sassaman Quilting Arts

Friday I spent the whole day on the pretty set of Quilting Arts TV. My hostess Susan Brubaker Knapp and the crew made it comfortable and friendly. I was so impressed with Susan… with just a week into a new job and she seemed like an old pro. She had to change her wardrobe for almost every shoot, since they were shooting out of sequence. It was a miracle she could keep it all straight!

I spent the rest of the weekend with family in Cleveland, a rare treat. On Saturday afternoon it started to rain and within a few hours there were 6″ of heavy wet SNOW! This was the last thing I expected, but I’m glad I wore my winter coat!

There is a quilt hanging in the background of the picture above. This is a new quilt made with the Sweet Lady Jane fabrics. I call it the Watermelon Quilt. As things are still very beige here I thought this bit of color would make us all happy.

Sassaman Watermelon Quilt

This quilt is based on a 12″ finished block with a little applique added to jazz it up.

Sassamab Watermelon Block Fab

Here is the block which is a large traditional fan design.  The large quarter circle applique actually acts as a band-aide to hold the fan and the background together, so there isn’t any seam allowance needed between those pieces. They simply butt together and the joint is covered by the appliqued shapes. But there does need to be seam allowance on the sides of the block so it can be pieced to its neighbor. The smaller appliqued whole circles where added after the blocks were sewn together.

Sassaman Watermelon BlockBelow are the appliqued shapes. Be sure to add the extra quarter inch to both ends of the large quarter circle band-aide. I used iron interfacing for the base shapes (just as you would use freezer paper in traditional applique, but in this case the interfacing stays inside the shape and helps to stabilize it). The edges are turned for a nice clean look and attached with a heavy blanket stitch.Sassaman Watermelon Applique 2Sassaman Watermelon Detail

Then it was beautifully quilted by Pam McIntyre at Quilting Makes the Quilt in Gainesville, Florida. This will be a fun piece to display in the summer season and it is a nice lap size quilt, too. Below are the Sweet Lady Jane fabrics that make up this pattern.

Sassaman Watermelon Fabrics 2

Yardage =1/4 yard  yellow brocade, 3/4 yard of solid red and a half yard of all the others.

PS… don’t forget to vote for your favorite designer BERNINA 350 Special Edition! The more you vote, the better chance of winning one of your own!

Flight Cancelled!

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Sassaman Kaleidoscope

Well, my flight to Cleveland was cancelled today and my new flight isn’t until tonight! Thank goodness, there is no lecture scheduled for tonight! I am going to tape some segments for Quilting Arts TV tomorrow, so hopefully the new flight will go as planned.

So that means I have a chance to do a few things in the studio that would have remained undone until next week, including this blog post.

It is a wonderfully dark and dreary day, such a sharp contrast to the sparkling sunshine the past couple days. So I thought I would show you this new kaleidoscope quilt made with some surprisingly subtle Sassaman fabrics… subtle colors, not pattern.

This top is made with half square triangles, except the border. The long side of the triangle is 11″ finished. So the square in the middle is also 11″ finished. From these dimensions you should easily be able to diagram the pattern, especially if you have read Patchwork Sassaman Style.

There are only 2 Sweet Lady Jane fabrics used, Daisy Chain and Fuchsia in the Periwinkle colorway.

Sweet Lady Jane Fabric

PS… have you been voting for your favorite BERNINA Faceplate everyday? The more you vote the greater chance of winning one of your own! Wouldn’t that be wonderful!!

Faceplate Faceoff Banner 150x150

Summer’s Final Push

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Pink Impatiens

Autumn begins officially tomorrow, September 22, and summer is reaching its final glory. The tomatoes are at their peak and the mums are beginning to bloom. This week we used both the heater, for the first time, and the air conditioner for probably the last time. It was a week of transition.

Sassaman Diamond Quilt

This week I was also a guest at the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild. It is an enthusiastic group of fabric fondlers with a love for clean, contemporary and sophisticated design. So I took some of my most “modern” quilts to show. This is a quilt that they seemed very excited about.

Sassaman Diamond Triabgle Quilt

Again, I have exploited all three colorways of the Masquerade diamond fabric (Wild Child collection) to make this dynamic graphic composition. It starts with this simple quarter square triangle, shown by the green line, divided into three pieces. The triangle is 11″ high and 22″ wide.. The end pieces are just single pieces of fussy cut diamond fabric and the center is solid blue. As the triangles get stitched into a block the solid blue forms a four pointed star. Then the dramatic black border wraps it all up.

Sassaman Diamond Quilting

Because the quilt is so sparse, I wanted the quilting to be opulent. So I sent it to a spectacular long-arm quilter, Pam McIntyre in Gainesville, Florida. She did a fabulous job combining traditional and futuristic motifs. She hepped-up the feathers and mixed them with the circles centered in each diamond. Thanks to Pam, this very easy quilt has become a stunner.

Next week my new fall line should arrive in the studio and we will jump in making pieces for Houston Market, so I am warming up the BERNINA for some intense action!!

A Hint of Autumn

Thursday, August 15th, 2013


After two wonderful teaching trips, I am able to finish the rest of the month at home. The weather has a cool hint of Autumn, so I am a happy camper.

Sassaman Wild Child Quilt & Pillows

We have been very prolific with the new Wild Child fabrics this season. This has been easy since it matches my personal decorating scheme so well. So I am redoing old covers and making new quilts to jazz up our own living space.

This week I am pleased to share some outrageously colorful creations. You may want to get your sun glasses now! I’m calling this project “Freddie’s Quilt” because my friend Freddie Moran, who wrote the inspiring book, Collaborative Quilting, with Gwen Marston, loves bright colors and dotted fabrics of all kinds. I think this quilt would delight her. It uses four of the Delirious Dots stitched into a simple cross-in-a-square pattern. The pillows here use the red colorway of the Petunias, Harlequin and the Flower Fiesta fabrics.

Sassaman Wild Child quilt & Pillows 2

And they are all reversible, of course! For the back of the quilt I mixed selvedge to selvedge cuts of the Harlequin and Dots with some vintage Stars and Spirals.

Sassaman Wild Child Pillows

The pillows are simply pieced but quilted in a diamond design with top stitching thread. Notice the fun piping around the edges.

Sassaman Wild Child Dots Quilt

Here is a larger view of the quilt. The dotted blocks were made with jellyroll strips and charm pack squares. This makes a 12″ finished block. The sashing strips are 1″ finished. The border is cut so all sides are a bit different for a fun and funky look.

Sassaman Wild Child Quilt Back

It was long arm quilted in simple circles. These pieces have the graphic feel of a “Big Top Circus”… appropriate for a summer day! And this is Pumpkin, my two-fisted quilt protector at work.

Sassaman Quilt Protector

PS- The Wild Child Ribbons are now available in my webstore. Pass the word.