Minimalism and Modern Patchwork Quilting

I would never describe myself as a minimalist.  If anything, I'm a boarder-line hoarder with very Victorian ideas about how a space should be filled.  But, I do often make quilts with a simple, or minimalist color palette.  One of these quilts, the X Quilt, just made it's publishing debut in Modern Patchwork Spring 2015!

The author of the article, Cinzia Allocca, saw the quilt and included it in her article, "Minimalism in Modern Quilt Design."  What an honor!  Thank you!

Cinzia Alloca's article on minimalist quilts in Modern Patchwork magazine.

The article is a great reference to help quilters distill their own vision and develop minimalist quilts with personal meaning.  Check it out while it's till on a magazine rack near you!  On that note, did you realize that many great quilting and craft magazines are often available for free at your local library as downloadable e-books?  Many craft books are as well!  I just downloaded a book on making furoshiki fabric gift wraps which has gotten me off on quite a tangent!

Working from a Score, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters

One of my favorite quilters, Sherri Lynn Wood has a new book!  A few years ago, at the Stitch Modern 2013 show, Sherri gave a talk about working improvisationally that blew the minds of everyone in the audience.  We all left the lecture that dark and rainy night, completely energized and ready to go out and create new work in a new way.  What was it that she was talking about?  Well, it's all in her new book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters.

The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously

Although I was already deep into making improvisational work when I heard the lecture, I didn't really have a language in which to talk about it so that other people could understand how I did what I did.  I could show them how to do it, but talking about it wasn't really my thing.  I really appreciate how Sherri can interpret the way that she works and helps others to see a new way of approaching a project.  You can see clear evidence of this in her "Test Score" gallery.  She put out a call on her blog for participants who would like to create quilts based on the different "scores" that would be featured in her new book.  There were hundreds of applicants, of which, I was one!  The variety of work created is wonderful and some of it is breath-taking.  Of course, not all of them could be included in the book, but you can see them all online.  The diversity and creativity of the work is quite amazing.

I created my quilt, Northwest, based on the Score for Modern Block Improv.  The block I was focused on was "flying geese."  I love triangles, so I was happy!  I played with it for awhile, and I came up with my Northwest quilt

Northwest by Stacey Sharman

Northwest, detail
Because I didn't stick with incorporating only flying geese blocks, (part of my improv process is breaking rules!), my quilt was included in the Score for Showing Up, score #9, in the book.

The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters is a beautiful book, and I'm so proud and happy to have been included in it!  (You can also check me out on page 49 with my Improv Round Robin quilt!)  If you would like a chance to win a copy of your very own, and your shipping address is in the US, enter a comment below and tell me what rule you've broken lately!  I'll randomly choose a winner on May 22nd.

Follow along with the Improv Handbook Blog Hop and find out more about how other quilters created work from a score:

May 2: Sew Mama Sew – Score for Floating Squares Gallery
May 4 STC Craft – Score for Rhythmic Grid Gallery
May 4: Plaid Portico – Score for Strings Gallery
May 6: During Quiet Time – Test Quilter Amy Friend
May 8: Wise Craft Handmade – Score for Get Your Curve On Gallery
May 11: Studio Notes – Test Quilter Penny Gold
May 13: Quiltville – Score for Modern Block Improv Gallery
May 15: Peppermint Pinwheels – Test Quilter Stacey Sharman
May 18: Quirky Quilts – Test Quilter Kim McPeake
May 20: PoppyPrintCreates – Score for Patchwork Doodle Gallery
May 22: The Last Piece – Test Quilter Sara Fielke
May 25: Cauchy Complete – Score for Layered Curves Gallery
May 26Diary of a Quilter – Score for Bias Strip Petals Gallery
May 28: Getting Stitched on the Farm –Score for Improv Round Robin Gallery
May 29: Spoonflower – Score for Showing Up Gallery
May 30Fresh Modern Quilts – Test Quilter Rossie Hutchinson

Time for Stitch Modern!

It's almost here!  Stitch Modern 2015 will open on March 27th and run until April 25th at the Piedmont Center for the Arts.  If you live in the SF Bay Area, the show is not to be missed!  The opening, which is on March 27 from 6pm-9pm, is always a great party. If you don't live nearby, follow along on the Stitch Modern blog, or by following #stitchmodern.  Find out more about the show and all the events below.

Stitch Modern 2015 

The East Bay Modern Quilters are proud to present Stitch Modern 2015, our 4th annual quilt show at the Piedmont Center for the Arts. As a group, East Bay Modern focuses on modern design and personal expression through quilting. As a non-juried show, there are no hard rules - this is quilting our own way, whether it’s with the latest fabrics and traditional patterns, or free piecing with no pattern at all!

We hope you will join us! Click the links below to find out more about our exciting events.

March 27th - April 25th
Piedmont Center of the Arts
801 Magnolia Ave, Piedmont, CA.
Gallery Hours: 12pm-3pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. (The gallery will be closed on Easter, April 5th.)

March 27th: 6pm-9pm, Piedmont Center of the Arts FREE
Opening Reception - Join the artists for an evening of fun, food, and celebration. There will be a book signing with Sherri Lynn Wood presenting her new book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. Signed books by Roderick Kiracofe and Eli Leon will also be available.

April 12th: 12:00pm - 3:00pm, Piedmont Center of the Arts FREE
Stitch Up - An afternoon of sewing in memory of Deanna Davis Come and celebrate the life and passion of our friend, Deanna, by helping to make quilts for her favorite charity, The Children's Quilt Project. Fabric kits will be provided, just bring your sewing machine or bring your own fabric donation. People new to sewing are welcome!

April 16th: 7pm, Piedmont Center of the Arts
Lecture: Biased and Edgy: My Career in Quilts, a lecture by Joe Cunningham $10 collected at the door, doors open at 6:30pm

April 18th: 10am-4pm, Piedmont Center of the Arts
Workshop: Modern quilts with a message: Designing quilt blocks for today’s stories with Kathryn Clark. $85 (registration required)

April 19th: 12pm-2:30pm, Piedmont Center of the Arts FREE
Family and Community Activity Day - includes quilting demos

Quilts clockwise from top left: Tara Faughnan, Joel Ignacio, Linda Hlady, Stacey Sharman, Terri Carpenter, Patricia Smith, Kristen Takakuwa

Tutorial: Quilted Mariner's Compass Floor Cushion

Awhile back, I made a floor cushion for my friend Kim featuring her first fabric line, Tidal Lace.  Since her fabric is inspired by the sea, I decided that something featuring a Mariner's Compass block would be just the thing! Want to make one as well?  Although I didn't photograph every step of the process, I'll walk you through the basics of foundation paper piecing the compass block and point you in the right direction for good tutorials for the rest of the cushion.  I won't lie, it's not the easiest thing in the world to whip up, but you can do it!

To make a 24" square floor cushion of your own, you will need:



Rotary cutter
Cutting mat
Rotary Cutting Ruler
Sewing Machine with zipper foot and walking foot and hoping foot
Basic sewing supplies like scissors, thread, pins, etc.
Thread to match cushion
Printer & plain white printing paper
Washable glue stick 
Freezer paper
Spray Baste 505
Blue painters tape
Exacto knife


Download and print the PDF file for the Mariner's Compass block.  Make sure that the PDF is not scaled to fit the page or resized when you print it. You will need to tape the pages together to form the completed block, as seen in the picture below.

If possible, avoid taping over the dark outer lines of each shape.  You'll need to stitch through and rip out the paper along these lines later, so the less tape on those parts the better!

Cut your pattern apart, keeping each similarly lettered section uncut as in the photo below.


  • Fussy cut four 8" x 25" strips of the large border print that runs along the bottom of the Tidal Lace Coral fabric featuring the large, lacy tide-pool creatures for the sides of the cushion
  • 25" x 25" square of Tidal Lace Coral for the bottom of the cushion
  • 4.25" strip of Tidal Lace Coral, (using what is left over from your fussy cutting for the rest of the cushion *
  • 4" strip of Shimmer Aqua (along the selvedge edge as it's a directional print)*
  • 5-1/2" x 42" strip of Starlight Seafoam*
  •  4" x 42" strip of  Tide Pool Seafoam*
  • 5" x 42" strip of Tidal Lace Deep Sea solid blue
Cut the following in both batting and muslin:
  • 2 pcs. 26" x 26"
  • 4 pcs. 9" x 26"
    *I usually use each strip until I run out of it and then cut another, instead of cutting all the strips I will need for a project at once.  That way, if I've made a cutting or measuring mistake, it's not such a big deal! 

    Starting with the wedge labeled A1 - A4 complete the following steps:
    • With the printed side of the paper facing away from you, place a little dot of glue in the middle of the triangle marked "A1" with the glue stick.  Position the Shimmer Aqua fabric on the A1 triangle, sticking the wrong side of the fabric to the paper and making sure that the edges of the fabric are at least 1/4" over the black line outlining the A1 triangle (PHOTO A/B).  Hint: That line will be your sewing line, so you want to make sure you have enough fabric outside of it to get a 1/4" seam!
    • From the paper side, fold the A2 flap along the black line (PHOTO C).  I use a postcard to help me get a crisp edge when I fold the paper over (PHOTO D).
    • With the paper side up, re-fold the paper over along on of the black lines (PHOTO E).  Using a rotary cutting ruler, measure and cut 1/4" on the outside of folded paper edge (PHOTO F).
    • Do the same with the other side to create a triangular shape (PHOTO G).
    • With fabric right sides together, lay the strip of Starlight Seafoam over your triangle, lining up the cut edges (PHOTO H). Make sure that your Seafoam fabric strip overlaps the edges of the paper at least 1/2". Pin together.
    • Paper side up, sew directly along the solid black line. The fabric you've pinned becomes sewn together with a 1/4" seam allowance (PHOTO I).  Hint: set your sewing machine stitch a little smaller than usual, this will help you later when you rip out the paper.  Also, don't forget to pull your pins out before you sew over them!
    • Fabric side up, press your seam and then trim your fabric along the outside straight edge of the paper, making sure to cut 1/4" outside of the paper edge (PHOTO J).
    • Repeat with section A3 (PHOTO K).
    • Using scissors, cut along the curved solid line between A1 and A4 (PHOTO L). Set A4 aside.

    • Using your ruler as a guide, mark a 1/4" seam allowance on the curved outer edge of your paper.(PHOTO M/N).
    • Cut along the marking (PHOTO O).
    • Use this same process to cut along the bottom curved edge of A1 (PHOTO P).  (Remember that you always have to add the 1/4" seam allowance beyond the paper edge!)
    • Cut a 4" square from your strip of Tide Pool Seafoam fabric. Put a dot from the glue stick on the back of paper piece A4.  Stick paper to the wrong side of your 4" square.
    • Using the same method as show in photo M, mark a 1/4" seam allowance along the curved top edge of the fabric above A4.  Cut along the marked line.
    • Using your ruler, cut 1/2" from the outside straight edges of A4. (YES!  1/2" on these seams, not the usual 1/4".  Trust me on this one!) PHOTO R.
    • Fold A4 in half and crease.  Do the same for A1.  Right sides together, match A4 to A1, using the creased center (PHOTO S).  Pin together along the cut edges (PHOTO T). 
    • You can remove the A4 piece of paper if that makes things easier (it will) and sew with a 1/4" seam allowance (PHOTO U).
    • Using a hot iron, press the seam open with the paper side against the ironing board (PHOTO V).
    • Using your paper with A2 and A3 as a guide, trim the outside edges so that you have a 1/4" seam allowance all the way down the triangle (PHOTO W).
    • You now have a completed wedge! (PHOTO X)
    • Complete the above steps for sections B through H.
    Put a spot of glue on the back of paper piece I1 and center it on the strip of Tide Lace Coral.  Cut out the shape, adding 1/4" seam allowance all around.

    With right sides together, sew I1 to Section A and then to Section B.
    Complete with the remaining sections to create 4 large wedge sections that look like the photo above.

    Put a spot of glue on the back of paper piece M1 and center on the Deep Sea solid blue.  Cut out the shape, again adding the 1/4" seam allowance.

    With right sides together, sew to Wedge A/B.
    Repeat with the remaining 3 wedges.

    Complete the circle by sewing all of your sections together.


    Put a little glue on the back of paper piece Q1 and position it on the wrong side of your Tide Pool Ocean fabric, making sure to leave at least 1/2" extra fabric all the way around the outside of the paper.
    Mark your 1/4" seam allowance on the curved edge and cut.
    Add 1/4" seam allowance to the short sides of the template and cut.
    Add 1/2" seam allowance to the long outside edges of the template and cut.
    Repeat with the remaining three Q sections.

    • Fold one of your Q templates in half and mark with a pin along the curved edge. Then fold each half section in half again in order to mark each quarter section with a pin.
    • Using 1/4" seam allowance, sew the short edges of the Q fabric pieces together and press open.
    • Note that on your Mariner's Compass circle, each section is already divided into quarters with the "compass" points.
    • Starting with the upper left quadrant and with fabric right sides together match the curved inside edge of the Q template with the curved outside edge of the wedge, using the pins to help you align.  Pin the two together and repeat with the remaining 3 Q pieces.
    • Continuing with a 1/4" seam allowance, sew the Tide Pool Ocean fabric to the compass circle.
    • Press.


    Cut out a 7" square of freezer paper.
    Glue the R1 circle template to the top of the freezer paper.
    Cut around the template.  Keep the circle as perfect looking as possible!
    Using the tutorial here, create a circle with your Tide Pool Ocean fabric.
    Once you've removed the freezer paper, fold the circle into quarters and finger press to crease.
    Use the creases to help align the circle on your compass block.
    Pin in place.
    Stitch the circle to the compass by using a matching blue thread and straight stitching all the way around the circle right inside the folded edge.

    Gently remove all the remaining paper inside of your block, give it a press, and your block is complete!

    Completed Mariner's Compass block


    With the blue painter's tape, tape a square of muslin to a flat surface so that it is taught but not stretched. Mask the area outside of the square with some scrap paper, such as newspaper to avoid over-spray.  Using the Spray Baste 505, lightly spray the muslin.  Smooth a layer of the batting on top of the muslin and lightly spray the batting.  Place your Mariner's Compass block, right side up on top of the batting and smooth the quilt "sandwich" together, making sure there are no wrinkles.  Repeat this process with the Tidal Lace Coral 25" bottom square and each of the 4 Tidal Lace Coral long rectangular sides.

    Quilt the sections together using a walking foot for straight line quilting or a hoping foot for free motion quilting. For the Mariner's Compass block, I stitched in the ditch along all of my sewing lines to accentuate the pattern.  For the bottom square, I quilted in a simple diamond pattern.  On the rectangles, I free motion stitched following the drawn lines of the tide-pool creatures.

    Once the sections are each quilted, cut off the excess batting and backing fabrics, using a rotary cutter and ruler.  You should be left with two 25" squares and cut the rectangles so that you have four 8" x 25" pieces. 


    Now that we're moving on to sewing up the cushion, we will be using a 1/2" seam allowance!!

    You can find a great tutorial for making your piping (or welting) here using 2" bias strips. You need about 100" of piping for the top of the cushion and 100" for the bottom. (You will have excess, but it's better to work with more and cut it down than to have too little!)  Using the process outlined in the tutorial, baste the piping to the Mariner's Compass block and to your bottom square.  And don't worry, although they have a piping foot on their sewing machine, a zipper foot will work just fine.

    The next step is adding the zipper.  I chose to add an invisible zipper that is hidden under the piping.  It works so well that I forget that the cushion even has a zipper!  You can find a great video tutorial for that step here.  I added my zipper along the bottom edge of the cushion.  Make sure to leave a 1/2" unsewn space at the beginning and end of the cushion edge.* (See note below for explanation.)

    Once you've added the zipper, it's time to put all the pieces all together!
    • Make sure your zipper is open at least half way.  You will already have one rectangle attached to the bottom square where you've attached the zipper.
    • With right sides together (and remember to use 1/2" seam allowance!), pin and sew the remaining three rectangles to the bottom square, starting and stopping 1/2" in from the corners. Back tack every time you start or stop, for stability, but make sure that you don't go into the 1/2" zone at the beginning and end of each straight line of stitching.

    • Repeat with the top compass square so that you have an inside out box cushion with slits in the corner sides where the short ends of the rectangles meet.
    • Sew together the short ends of the rectangles. Remember to back tack at the beginning and end of your stitching.
    • Turn your cushion right side out and stuff with poly fill or have a piece of foam custom cut for it.  I have a lot of scrap pieces of batting, so I used those to stuff my cushion!
    Whew!  You did it! That was a lot of work, but look how cool your cushion is!