Quilting Piece by Piece, Just for Us

Quilt Leslie with Bagua

In our house, there are three perennial places for quilts:  two beds and one short wall in the kitchen near to the heart of the home. In the photo above, I am standing in front of a wall quilt I made for myself. The design is an emblem of wholeness and health, derived from the concept of the Bagua, a central tool of Feng Shui, the Chinese art of placement.  I find that as I allow myself to register the energy of the spaces in which I live or visit–and make changes when necessary–I feel happier, healthier, and more productive. (You might have noticed the favicon for winonamedia.net, too, is a Bagua!)


In the photograph above is my quilt version of Memory Lane. It is an autograph book that I bought many years ago. Instead of autographs it holds photos of the quilts I have made over the years. There’s very little by way of notation, except for the year and initials I quilt into the fabric. While I always remember working on the piece, and I remember if it was for me or to give away, I don’t always know what year it was made or to whom I might have given any particular piece. In a future post–sometime in March–I will consider the gift quilts. Here, I am going to focus on some of my favorite pieces made for my own home: to adorn our walls or warm our  dreams.

My First Quilt Pattern: The Drunkard’s Path

Quilt Drunkard's Path

I learned how to quilt when I was in a graduate writing program.  It was very soothing to have something visual and repetitive to do that counter-balanced most of my highly verbal day. I spent a year making these little two-piece, two-color blocks, then fitting them together into the larger blocks and finally assembling the overall pattern. For the longest time–years!–I had only the pieced top but no quilt. I hadn’t thought about the requirements of a quilting frame for example. Now, when I make a quilt to sleep under, I quilt the backing, batting, and top together in long rows and then assemble the quilted strips together before binding the edges. Since I don’t like working with a frame, this works well for me.

Eventually, I discovered that it was possible to have the pieced tops quilted by someone else. Through a quilting store in Edina, I was able to have the top above and the quilt below, quilted by Amish women living in Wisconsin. The stitching is exceptionally fine.

Postage Stamp Baskets

Quilt Baskets

This quilt was the result of the first class I took. I made the top, and it was later quilted by the Amish women. I was especially happy to have incorporated some cherished scraps of Liberty of London and other fabrics left over from some dresses I had had made. (If you look closely, you can see me wearing one of those dresses in the third photo.) This is the quilt that has been retired from use as a coverlet and is now protected by glass and gracing our dining room/school room table.

Christmas Windows Quilt

Quilt Christmas Queen

This quilt was the first queen-sized one that I quilted myself. I spent many happy hours working on it during our time in Bayfield, Wisconsin. One feature that I particularly like was very time-consuming but worthwhile. I quilted all the lines on the oak leaves for each frame, which gives the fabric the look and feel of tooled leather.

A Walk Through the Woods

Quilt Walk Through the Woods

Quilt Border Walk Through the Woods

This was the last queen-sized quilt I made for our bed. I had a lot of fun working with the different “woodsy” images: trees, leaves, bear paws and wild geese traditional patterns.

Wall Quilts

There is a special enjoyment in making wall quilts. Since they are small, they don’t take as much time. I find I am more likely to experiment with an intricate technique or idea on a smaller “canvas”. It is also a satisfying way to use the small pieces of fabrics–scraps from other projects–and to justify investing in the quilter’s version of bon-bons: fat quarters. (Fat quarters–often pre-cut–allow a quilter to buy a mere quarter of a yard of fabric in a more useable rectangular shape than one would get if one asked for a quarter of a yard at a large fabric store.)

Astrological Quilt

This one isn’t quite finished but is a quilted version of my astrological birth chart.

Quilt Birthchart

Moon and Stars

The quilt below was inspired by a picture I saw in a quilting magazine. The pattern is called “Moon and Stars”. The original was very different, a Victorian construction of black, maroon, and gold silk. I made this one in Bayfield when we had our little house there because we needed something to cover up an ugly utility box in the hallway. Because one of our favorite things to do up north is to star-gaze, I used fabrics that are more evocative of the night sky.

Quilt Moon and Stars

Big Dipper

Speaking of the night sky, I used an astronomy text to design this quilt. I gave the stars the color they are said to have, and even put the layering of double stars in the right places. Although it is impossible to see in the photograph, the top border has crescent moons quilted into it, while the border has a sun with long rays.

Quilts Big Dipper

Stars and Stripes

This quilt comes out each year for the Fourth of July. I had a lot of fun selecting fabrics from my stash and thinking about the borders.

Quilt Stars and Stripes

Most Recent Design

I made this quirkily graphic wall quilt this year, and I had a lot of fun picking out new fabrics…not that I need any new fabrics. I have realized recently that I have enough ideas and fabric to make a dozen beautiful quilt tops.

Quirky Geometric


Julia with Original Quiedie and a Bear-Paw Pillow

Quilts Julia & Original Queedie

No post on important family quilts could be complete without a mention of “Quiedie”, the baby quilt I made when I was expecting Julia. Quiedie is well beloved, and though she has a new front and back layer of different patterns now, she is still the most precious family quilt of all.

Beyond Quilting

In 2010, after making several of the Bagua wall hangings, I decided to try something else. I took photographs of each fabric square, printed the photos, and made a collage of them on a 12-inch by 12-inch canvas. I made one to donate to the Northfield Arts Guild’s 50th anniversary gala auction and one for myself. I love the portable and durable “canvas quilt” and keep it where I can see it every day.

Quilt Bagua DerivationThank you for reading this! If you think of someone else who might enjoy it, please forward it to them. And, if you are not already a subscriber, I invite you to subscribe to the Wednesday posts I am sending out each week–it’s easy, it’s free, and I won’t share your address with anyone!!Signature2

2 thoughts on “Quilting Piece by Piece, Just for Us

  1. Leslie, I think of you as a quilter but I didn’t appreciate how many you’ve made over the years and how varied they are. Gorgeous patient work – no wonder you can wait for the right word to come to mind for poetry too.
    I have been so impressed with Kickstarter quilting projects. My favorite is this one:
    This post made me think of it and go back and see that it had been fully funded!
    I’ve long associated quilts with good things and good people since I learned their role in the Underground Railroad. I’m so glad that people like you, Leslie, are keeping the tradition alive!

  2. I love your quilts. They have so much of your heart, personality and creativity in them. I’m pleased I got the chance to spend a few nights under one of them when I visited in Minneapolis. Your idea for a photo-quilt is inspiring!

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