Pieced Art

My pieced quilts start by making a careful tracing of the source photo, editing as I go to include elements I want in the finished piece. From the sketch, I design a pattern. For my own work, the pattern includes both straight and curved lines. For patterns to be used by students, I limit the number of pieces, make sure the seams can be sewn by those with intermediate sewing skills, and try to be sure no piece is very small.

Once the pattern is made, I trace it onto freezer paper, and start pulling fabric that I think will work together and help communicate the final image. Each piece is fussy cut, with consideration for which particular area of fabric will work best. I then mark seams lines and registration points, and pin and sew the seams. Precision sewing is critical because an error of, say 1/16″ could mean a total error of almost 2″ on a quilt top with 30 pieces across. Marking and sewing on the seam line helps reduce this error!

To learn more about designing and piecing picture quilts, see my lecture and workshops at Hire Me!


Ollie #2

Ollie sits on top of the car, her image reflecting from its surface, and leaves from the linden tree hanging down behind her. One of my favorite works, this was initially backed with a high-thread-count batik fabric, but when problems with thread-nests and tension were not resolved by rethreading, new needle, different thread, or different sewing machine, all the quilting came out, and it got a lower-thread-count backing from Sew Batik, which quilted perfectly. The end result was worth the effort.

Pattern drawn from an original photo; pieced using freezer paper templates with cotton fabric, thread, batting, and backing. Machine quilted on a domestic sewing machine.

Ollie #2 (detail)

Thomas Recumbent (full)

Big, self-assured Tommy lets it all air out as he lies on the cat shelf in front of a window, with curtains blowing in the breeze.

Pattern drawn from an original photo. Machine pieced using freezer paper template, using cotton fabric, thread, and batting. Screen fabric from Mickey Lawler/Skydyes. Machine quilted on my domestic Bernina.


Clematis Nelly Moser emerges from a tangle of ferns and leaves. Pattern designed from an original photo. Pieced using commercial cottons, cotton thread, and batting. Machine quilted on my domestic Bernina 160, using Sulky rayon thread.

Ollie #1

Ollie lies on a brick walk, taking the sun. My first pictorial quilt, begun in a two-day workshop with Ruth McDowell. I wanted to make a quilt in honor of Ollie, but was not at all sure I could do it. Ruth McDowell, teacher and quilter extraordinaire, over the course of two days, got me to the point where I could do it. Many, many thanks!

Lynda’s Italian Hillside

My colleague Lynda came back from an Italian vacation with marvelous photos, including she gave me permission to use of one of a hillside town, complete with bell tower, seen across a field of poppies and olive trees.

Fredlet Catches his Bird Toy

Fredlet loved playing pounce and catch with his bird toy. Always somewhat tentative, here he looks up after catching it as if to ask whether he ‘done good’! All-black kitties are a challenge! Begun in a Ruth McDowell workshop at Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar.

St. Henny of Waban, or Les Tres Riches Heures de la Duchesse des Oeufs

The premise of Nancy Halpern’s Chicken Delight workshop, taught at the Button Box in Needham, MA, was to make and set one of her chicken blocks in a manner inspired by a phrase including the word ‘chicken’, such as ‘chicken cordon bleu’ or ‘free-range chicken’. In the workshop, Nancy shared the phrase “Color gets all the credit, value does all the work”, and in a lunch-time discussion, this reminded me of excerpts from two poems “The image of these faces in the crowd/ petals on a wet dark bough” (from In a Station of the Metro, Ezra Pound), and “So much depends upon/a red wheel-barrow/glazed with rainwater /beside the white chickens” (from The Red Wheel-barrow by William Carlos William), and decided I needed to make three panels illuminating these poems as part of an Eastern Orthodox style triptych in honor of a mythical St. Henny who would be from Nancy’s town, Waban MA, and having an alternate title facetiously referring to a medieval book of (liturgical) hours honoring or commissioned by the Duchess of the Eggs.