Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

 I do love working within parameters, and it's been a tradition of mine to do a bunch of quilts with the Pantone color(s) of the year since 2014. Over eight years, I've managed to make a lot of Pantone quilts.

Even though I am a few months late in sharing my quilts from 2021, I did finish an entire series of quilts based on Illuminating and Ultimate Gray. I really think that the choice of gray and yellow for the colors of the year were meant to be a metaphor of the light at the end of the tunnel. I tried to incorporate that theme throughout all of the quilts that I made. I will post them now in the order that I finished them.

Resolution: Pie Lady Quilts

Resolution: Pie Lady Quilts

First is "Resolution," a quilt that I finished way back in January of 2021 while I was participating in last year's Project Quilting. I didn't cut into any new fabric for this quilt, deciding instead to dump out my solid scrap bin and see what I had first. That act of dumping the bin led to the wonderful discovery of how nicely gray and yellow play with blue and turquoise. I saw the relationship when a piece of turquoise fell near the piles of gray and yellow that I was sorting.

I played with the theme of "light at the end of the tunnel" by using yellow as the light. I used a piece of it in every block as the light. I think it's what makes this quilt work.

This quilt is very small, only 18" x 18." My scrap usage determined the size as I used what I had. It is finished with quilting in monofilament thread. 

Ab Intra: Pie Lady Quilts

Next up is "Ab Intra." This quilt also was made for a Project Quilting challenge last year. Ab intra is a Latin phrase that means "from within." I thought that I could combine the metaphor of "light at the end of the tunnel" with my personal ab intra, which is my faith. My faith illuminates my heart and mind and provides the light by which I see the world. My faith animates my life and gives purpose and meaning to my actions. My faith guides my steps along the path.

I combined the gray and yellow with the colors of the world waking up in spring. It felt appropriate for what I was trying to say, that faith brings growth and life, and also for the time of year in which it was made. I finished this in April of 2021. I used the yellow in the center as an illuminating light within. Even though I used a heavy hand with the gray, I love how much life is in this quilt. It makes me happy. This quilt finished at 37" x 37" and is quilted with straight lines in golden thread.

Pie Lady Quilts

I didn't begin work on the next Pantone quilt until December, but in the meantime I created an entire set of hand dyed fabrics to work with. Since my discovery of how nicely blueish turquoise played with the gray and yellow, I made sure to include some blues in my dyeing experiments.

I also ended up with some hand dyed and hand painted fabric to use (shown in background). I had just poured the gray dye on a piece of fabric when I heard one of my children throw up from down the hall. Suffice it to say, that batch did not get stirred at all and ended up being a pretty unusable blotchy mess. I didn't want to waste it, so I used my Gelli plate to hand print a combed design over all of it. I think it ended up being one of my favorite fabrics in the set and was the basis for another quilt I'll show later. Thank goodness for improvisation!

Pantone Pillow: Pie Lady Quilts

Pantone Pillow: Pie Lady Quilts

Pantone Pillow: Pie Lady Quilts

The next quilt was turned into a pillow. My son's 6th grade teacher was married over the winter break and I only needed to take a quick glance at her online wedding registry to know that gray and yellow would work for her too. I used a very light touch with the yellow and had it act as a focal point. The strips of fabric were purposefully cut freehand and wobbly. I used hand dyed fabrics from my Pantone set. I really love the watercolor, sueded look. I finished it by stitching in the ditch with matching thread. This is an 18" pillow.

I hope this pillow has a long and happy life with the newly married couple.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel: Pie Lady Quilts

A Light at the End of the Tunnel: Pie Lady Quilts

A Light at the End of the Tunnel: Pie Lady Quilts

A Light at the End of the Tunnel: Pie Lady Quilts

A Light at the End of the Tunnel: Pie Lady Quilts

The next quilt is called "A Light at the End of the Tunnel" and is 40" x 40" I used the metaphor that I keep coming back to as an inspiration for the name and so many of the decisions that I made while constructing this quilt. Either gray or yellow is used in every block. The pattern is fixed but the blocks were constructed in a free pieced way. 

It is made with a combination of hand dyed fabrics and shot cotton. I love the depth it gives. It is finished with matchstick quilting in gray thread and finished with a matched binding.

I'll admit here that I had this quilt 75% of the way quilted in monofilament thread when I decided that the yellow was showing too many of the dark threads from the wrong side and that the problem was only made more obvious with every line of quilting I put in. I spent more than a week ripping out quilting only to start matchstick quilting it in gray thread. My back, neck and shoulders definitely paid the price for it, but I liked the quilt enough to work hard for the save. I'm much happier with the result. Imagining that better result was a light at the end of the tunnel for me while I was ripping! I definitely could have done without that real life example, though. 😏

A Bright Spot in a Dark Time: Pie Lady Quilts

A Bright Spot in a Dark Time: Pie Lady Quilts

A Bright Spot in a Dark Time: Pie Lady Quilts

A Bright Spot in a Dark Time: Pie Lady Quilts


The last quilt I'll share is "A Bright Spot in a Dark Time," which is 27" x 27."

I made this quilt from the leftover scraps of the previous quilt. I also used hand dyed and hand printed fabric along with the scraps. I used the fabric I made from printed over top of the blotchy mess as my background. I included a shot of my fingers on the quilt. I noticed that I had inadvertantly left some of my painted fingerprints behind when I had printed the fabric. The temptation to use the "Jill has her fingerprints all over this quilt" joke was too strong, so I pieced it in. 😁

The whole concept for this quilt came from a comment made on my last blog post that had personal significance to me. That is where the title comes from. I also played with the light at the end of the tunnel theme that has stretched across the making of all of these quilts. This might be the eternal optimist in me, but I believe it's even more important to look for the light *during* the dark. Life isn't meant to be endured until it eventually gets good. If you look for it, there's light and good to be found in the darkest of times along the way. "The darker the night, the brighter the stars."

This quilt was quilted in improv waves with monofilament thread and finished with a matched binding.

Pantone 2021: Pie Lady Quilts

Thanks for reading the whole round up of Pantone quilts. I'm trying to make good on my promise of blogging more. 💖 If you are interested in reading EVEN MORE, the IG Quilt Fest, hosted by Amy's Creative Side, is currently happening on Instagram. I've made a commitment to post every day in the month of March. Who knew there was so much to say about quilts?

You can find me and follow along at @pieladyquilts.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Rio Linda

 Happy New Year, everyone! One of my goals for 2022 is to blog more, so here I am with a couple of quilts to share.

"Rio Linda"

54" x 70"

The story behind this quilt is fun. I gave a Zoom lecture on scraps to a guild in upstate New York that had been organized by a blog reader (Hello, Linda!!). In my remarks I mentioned the rule that I use for myself to prevent my scraps from overtaking the world. The rule is that if a scrap basket starts mounding at all, if the drawer won't close or a lid won't snap on, I have to make a scrap quilt. Linda was motivated by this advice and found a creative solution for her solids tote that had a lid that wouldn't shut. She peeled off the uppermost layer and sent it to me! Voila, fixed!


I'm a sucker for a good story and a stack of solids, so to honor her ingenuity, I challenged myself to make a quilt with her stack without any additions or subtractions. Luckily for me there was a good range of values in her random pick. I think this quilt is a wonderful example of how value is just as important as hue. I included a black and white photo so you can see the great variety of lights and darks.

 There were a couple of times that I ran out of Linda's fabric and had to use a little of my stash, but they were either exact matches or so incredibly close that I'm the only one that would ever know the difference. The vibe ended up being kind of Californian so I found a fun way to name the quilt after her.

All the strips were cut freehand without a ruler. I pressed carefully and consistently to help combat any waviness in the piecing. Once I cut into my wonky piecing to get the squares and rectangles, I lost any of the slight bubbling I'd developed by not cutting the strips to match. A flat quilt is a point of pride for me and I'm happy to say that despite some unconventional piecing, this one is as flat as a pancake! 

This was hand quilted with perle 8 and 12 wt. threads in the car during our many trips this summer. It's driven to Idaho and Connecticut and has warmed my lap through plenty of piano lessons. When we were on the NY Thruway, I made sure that I waved in, what I hoped was, the general direction of the guild that inspired this quilt.

"Rio Linda II"

~27" x 27"

This is the quilt that I made with the scraps. I've shared before that I like to cut strips out when I'm working on a quilt and place them in a bucket right next to the sewing machine. I enjoy challenging myself to empty that bucket by making a scrap quilt when I'm finished. I've done several of these checkerboard style quilts and I really enjoy making them. They are also a great way to empty the bucket! 

I finished this quilt with crosshatch quilting in monofilament thread.

Thank you so much, Linda, for the invitation to speak to your guild and for the hours of fun I had playing with the fabric you sent. And, if there are any members from the Ottawa MQG that happen to be reading this blog post, let me assure you that it is NOT a shameless plug for more packages of fabric. If you have a lid that won't snap and no ideas of what to do with it by the time I'm done with you on Monday, you're on your own. 😆😂

If your guild might be interested in a Zoom lecture ("Unlocking the Joy in Scraps") or if you're local and would like to have an in-person trunk show, hit me up at

Friday, August 20, 2021

Adventures in Dye

It's been a long time and I'm so happy to be sitting at the computer and writing out a blog post! Of course I have a huge backlog of quilts to share!

Last fall I got an unexpected rebate check from my insurance company. I decided to invest it into turning a "someday I'd like to..." into a checkmark on my quilting bucket list. I ordered 25 yards of unbleached muslin and all the chemicals I needed to hand dye my first batch of fabric. Carol Johnston's DVD "Color By Accident: Exploring Low-Water Immersion Dyeing" was tremendously helpful to me.
As I think I've mentioned before, I have four children. My older three elected to do online school and I knew that I would be pulled in a lot of different directions to help them succeed. My sewing room is tucked away in a corner of the basement and is too far removed to be a base of operations. The kitchen sink, however, is the center of the house. From there, I could effectively manage my troops and get them to meetings on time, answer questions and monitor assignments. Dyeing all this fabric was a tremendous boon for me because in the middle of all that activity/controlled chaos, I could still move forward and make progress on something that was important to me.

It probably surprises no one that I started with blue and purple! I used two colors of dye, Deep Navy and Ultraviolet, to dye 25 yards of fabric. I weakened the dye to get lighter values and I mixed the two dyes in different proportions to have colors that related to each other. This is the palette that I got. I found it to be very versatile and fun to work with. I love that hand dyed watercolor look so much!

In fact, the watercolor look was what inspired my theme for this set of quilts....watery disasters! Just like dyeing fabric at the sink during online school kept me going, listening to a grown up read me a book was just what I needed. Many of the quilts in this series were inspired by audio books that I listened to with the theme of watery disasters. Inspiration doesn't generally just strike me out of the blue. I'm usually inspired when I'm curious, problem-solving or pondering something. Listening to these audio books gave me something to think about and I was able to distill those thoughts into a shape or a feeling that I wanted to explore in a quilt.

Let's start looking at the quilts!

29" x 29"

I was listening to The Finest Hours, the story of the dramatic rescue of sailors on 2 tanker ships that broke apart in a terrible nor'easter storm off Cape Cod while I made this quilt. Coast Guardsmen went out in 35 foot boats over the Chatham Bar in monstrous 70 foot seas to rescue the sailors. Dramatic, inspiring stuff. I lived in Weymouth, Massachusetts for 2 years. (That is South Shore Boston on the way to Cape Cod.) This book definitely brought back some memories!

The audio book was the inspiration for this quilt (down to the snowflakes on the backing), but it's nowhere near the cold, wild ride Bernie Webber and crew took to save lives. Their willingness to serve, even in the worst of circumstances, was truly inspirational.

My favorite part of this quilt is the way the colors work. You know that feeling when you have a peppermint in your mouth and then suck air in? It feels just like that to my eyes. 

"The Advancing Mist"
~42" x 42"

To continue my audio book theme of watery disasters, I listened to David McCullough's The Johnstown Flood. I admire his historical writing so much. This quilt is based on this book.

The Johnstown Flood occurred in Pennsylvania in 1889 after a dam broke upriver. More than 2,000 people were killed in the flash flood that ensued. The book describes the towns impacted before, during and after the flood. You also find out more about the dam's construction, why it broke and who, ultimately, was responsible (or not). There are countless heroes, victims and a really breath-taking study of all the varied facets, good and ill, of human nature. I dare you to read and/or listen and not think about what it means to have moral duties and what it means to be a member of a community.

I used fabrics that I hand dyed and an improvisationally pieced sawtooth to convey the destructive tumult. The flood waters went through several ironworks that had fires blazing, so survivors recounted that the advancing water was a black spray of blurriness, also called a "death mist." The flood waters also picked up a great quantity of barbed wire from the ironworks and sent that crashing downstream.

I used ruler-free piecing and left the quilt edges in a natural shape. It is quilted with monofilament thread.

The interesting thing about this quilt is that it generated an enormous amount of triangle shaped scraps. I had to trim to match the angles for each piece of fabric that I sewed on, so each triangle in this quilt left a smaller triangle of scrap. I was able to use up these pieces in two additional quilts that I'll share later in this post. As is often the case, I like the scrap quilts more than I like this one.

41" x 41"

This is another quilt inspired by audio books that I was listening to. My theme has been "watery disasters" and the book that inspired this quilt was Isaac's Storm (a story of the unnamed Galveston hurricane from 1900) by Erik Larson.

I'm not going to sugar coat it, this book was difficult to listen to. The description of the storm and tragic aftermath were horrifically detailed as was the utter and complete failure of any type of warning system.

Well-documented squabbles were happening in the US government about who had the power to call a storm a hurricane and who was authorized to forecast one. Warnings from Cuban forecasters who knew they had just experienced a hurricane (the same one) and accurately predicted a strengthening path through the Gulf were actively suppressed.

In the end, no one had any warning and by the time anyone had the vaguest inkling that something was coming, it was already too late. It was truly a heartbreaking read.

I chose concentric boxes as a reference to a hurricane and used 18 of my hand dyed fabrics to piece it. It is quilted with monofilament and finished with a faced edge.

"My Kind of Crazy"
42" x 42"

This quilt is a little bit of a departure from my audio book theme of making a quilt based on a watery disaster. I made this while participating in Project Quilting. The theme was "Crazy Quilt." I love traditional crazy quilts, but I had no desire to make one.

I thought about what the elements of a crazy quilt were, and then tried to incorporate them into something closer to my aesthetic.
  • Made with precious fabrics, often scraps
  • Includes irregular shapes that can be angled
  • Includes decorative thread and hand embellishment
I used the scrap bits of hand dyed fabric I had collected thus far and some of the last of my favorite deep purple from a cut up Goodwill shirt. I used the shirt to piece in the angles. It is machine quilted with Yenmet metallic thread and embellished with 12 wt. cotton along the binding.
My theme was chosen for me based on the challenge I was participating in, but I did listen to an audio book while I pieced it. You may have noticed that all the books I'd listened to so far were sad. Um, me too. I desperately needed a break, so I listened to a shoot-'em-up spy thriller. In it the hero was wounded and survived by floating out of Paris in the Seine.  A true watery disaster? Maybe not, be good enough for me. 😁 

"The Waves"
22" x 23"

This is one of those triangle scrap quilts that I mentioned before.

The book that inspired this quilt is 438 Days by Jonathan Franklin. This book is the story of a fisherman who lost engine power and his radio in a terrible storm off the coast of Mexico. He could see the mountains from where he was, but was unable to get to shore. He spent 14 months drifting in the Pacific Ocean, traveling 7,000 miles in 438 days before he landed in a small island in the Pacific and was rescued.

On the surface, it's a survival book. However, I found it to be a story of physical and mental resilience. Alvarenga (the fisherman) concocted elaborate stories for himself about the truck he would buy and would mentally wax every inch of it. He'd take detailed walks to the store to buy fresh tortillas when he was hungry. He would imagine himself rocking in a hammock to sleep better.

It's impossible to read his story without thinking of your own coping mechanisms and imagining what you would do to stay sane. I know I would sing. The song that I kept being reminded of was "The Things I Regret" by Brandi Carlile (here's a link if you want to listen). Alvarenga also thought of his regrets, chiefly his estrangement from his family and vowed to fix those relationships if he survived. He did both.

This quilt was made from the larger triangle off-cuts from "The Advancing Mist." I quilted it very heavily in a free-hand wave pattern with monofilament thread.

31" x 31"

I just couldn't walk away from this batch of hand dyed fabrics without  knowing what else it could do. Most specifically I was interested in the combination of hand dyes with recycled dress shirts, scraps and stash (thus, the name).

I had thought I'd make several different block shapes for this quilt, but once I saw all the wonderful new shapes that were created as the triangles were sewn together, I felt satisfied leaving it with one.

I also decided to use one more surprising element and quilt it in metallic thread. I included one picture in full sun so you could see it in all of its sparkly glory.

I was very pleasantly surprised to get a blue ribbon for this quilt in a piecing category at the Iowa State Fair. Every year I buy 10 entry tags and the 3 quilts that I did the "Meh, they probably have no chance but I'm going to enter them anyway because I'm contrary and I like them" were the blue ribbon winners. So funny. 

40" x 33"

I really thought I'd be done with these fabrics with the last quilt, but then I was inspired by a really strange thing. I was watching "Somebody Feed Phil" with the kids and vicariously enjoying the foods and sights of Copenhagen. At one point Phil mentioned that a feature of new Nordic cuisine is to use local ingredients that are often sourced from the area directly around the restaurant.

That comment made me think of the pile of half-rectangle triangle scraps from "The Advancing Mist" that were still on my cutting table. I had thought that they might be a little too small for even me to consider using, but listening to him made me change my mind.

Freshly inspired, I decided to make a Copenhagen quilt with the scraps located right next to my sewing machine. I vaguely remembered that there is a color called Danish blue, so I looked it up, color matched and began by piecing a small strip to all of my triangle units. I used spray baste to temporarily affix the units as I drew out an architectural wave shape. I simultaneously quilted and qppliqued the pieces down with more waves and more blue. I even used fish for my backing!

If you've never seen "Somebody Feed Phil," you can find it on Netflix. It's one of my favorite series. Watching it will make you want to give someone a hug and I'll gladly consume any media that makes me feel like that. 

So that's what I've been up to. It's been a crazy year and I've been so grateful for my sewing machine, an online library and a stash of fabric to work through. I know that it's helped me keep my head in the game and be there for my kids and my husband. 
I also wanted to mention that I tried a new quilting thing this spring. I was asked by the Lake Superior MQG to put together an online trunk show/presentation about using scraps for one of their programs. I wasn't sure about the whole Zoom thing, but they were so nice and enthusiastic that I've embraced it and presented for other guilds. I've had a great time virtually connecting with other quilters.
The presentation is called "Unlocking the Joy in Scraps." I talk about my process, color/value, storage and how to be inspired by what you have in front of you. If you're interested in me "visiting" your guild, you can email me at 

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend.