Tag Archives: Quilting

Book Review: Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts by Rayna Gillman


Cover of the book, "Create Your Own Free-Form Quilt" by Rayna Gillman

I picked up Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts by Rayna Gillman from the library. (I love that they will text me when a book I have placed on hold arrives at my local branch!) Unfortunately, I couldn’t read it until late that night. Although I was yawning and my eyes were tearing up, I couldn’t put the book down. Finally, I went to bed, but I was too excited to sleep!

Such is the thrilling life of a quilter!

I see the light!

Cathy holding up fabric for a Kafe Fasset quilt

Getting on my hands and knees for fabric...I find it easiest to use my mat and rotary cutter on the floor.

I’ve dabbled with a couple of versions of free-form quilting, but nothing like this! To me, Rayna Gillman’s methods are a revelation. Rayna makes quilting sound like a mixture of cooking, math and mixed martial arts. In Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts, she explains how she slices, dices, multiplies, divides, rotates and flips!

Once you know her techniques you can find what works for you. As she says, there are no mistakes in free-form quilting.

One step at a time

Rayna gives step-by-step examples of her techniques, each with its own color photo. She auditions many possibilities. Later in the book you see how some of her examples fit into new quilts.

She’s flexible about her methods. If you want to fuse bits and pieces, go for it! (Although she generally sews.) Her rallying cry is, “What if?”

Rayna’s Method: Part A

Rayna encourages you to dive in and sew strips together. She calls this therapy sewing. It helps you see unexpected combinations and gets you moving. If you are really stuck, she says, “Don’t look, just sew.” As you sew you’ll see things you like, then follow your instincts.

Rayna’s Method: Part B

Once you have “strip sets” and modules you like, it’s time to move to the design wall. This begins the “slow design” phase. It is the time to rearrange and reflect. If it works, great! If not, go back to the first phase and more play!

Rayna to the rescue

Rayna Gillman shows how to rescue “the dogs.” By “dogs” she means quilt blocks and tops that you’ve abandoned. You probably are tempted to toss them. Instead, give them therapy! This is my favorite section of the book. She takes some really horrible blocks she made in the 1970s and 1980s and turns them into something current and interesting. Some of her blog readers also accepted the challenge to transform the dogs. I love to see how different people solve the “problem” blocks in different ways.

Quilting color

Rayna includes a terrific chapter about fearless color. She learned from her grandmother, “Nanny,” who embroidered unexpected colors. Her Nanny told her, “Darling, there’s no such thing ‘as doesn’t go’. You can use any colors together as long as you repeat them somewhere.”

Like all the C&T Publishing books I’ve read, the quality is top-notch. (When I write a book, they are one of the publishers I will contact.)

Initial blocks that I created following, "Create Your Own Free Form Quilts".

Blocks on the Quilting Room Floor: Here are first modules that I created following, "Create Your Own Free Form Quilts".

What’s my vote?

I love this book. I’ve already started sewing and slicing a new quilt based on it. Beginning quilters might find this book too free-form. Don’t expect any projects in this book. All the same, you’ve got to check it out. Or, buy it!

You learn more about Rayna and see lots of her work at her website:  www.studio78.net


P.S. In an up-coming post, I ‘ll show you step-by-step, how I followed Rayna’s methods to create my own free-form quilt!


Book review: Bust DIY Guide to Life

Bright pink, girly cover of the Bust DIY Guide to LIfe

The Bust Do It Yourself Guide to LIfe: At 368 pages--That's a LOT of book to love!

My first exposure to Bust magazine, I wasn’t even aware of the connection. A friend invited me to a “Stitch ‘n Bitch” in Lansing, Michigan. The name was humorous and perfect – an event for stitching and talking with other women! To be more kid-friendly, we abbreviated the group name to SNB.

Although most of the others were knitting or crocheting, I decided the word “stitch” entitled me to do any kind of stitching. At each monthly gathering, you’d find me hand stitching strips of fabric into quilt squares!

As an aside, I wasn’t the only one with a loose interpretation of stitch. One creative soul used her iron and Stitch Witchery® to make curtains. (If you are not familiar, Stitch Witchery is a fusible “tape” that can be ironed with other fabric to make a hem.) That day the weather was so nice, we sat outside. The girl making the curtains set up her ironing board in the yard and made magic!

Jump to the present. I’ve moved away from Lansing and the SNB crew, but I still quilt, sew, make soap and any other crafty project I come across.

Getting to Know You…

In the last 6 years I started knitting too. As a result, I learned that the founder and editor of Bust magazine, Debbie Stoller, helped to popularize the term stitch ‘n bitch.

Debbie Stoller was one of the 1st feminists to embrace DIY (do it yourself) and helped change the perception of crafts from old fashion to hip. Having a PhD in Psychology of Women from Yale makes her an authority on the subject and an inspiration to me.

Since learning to knit, I have read several of Debbie Stoller’s books including Stitch ‘n Bitch Nation and Stitch ‘n Bitch Superstar Knitting: Go Beyond the Basics. I have even picked up a few second-hand issues of Bust magazine. The magazine is empowering, gritty and gets below the shellac of modern life. It is feminism for now.

The latest book from Debbie Stoller is, “The Bust DIY Guide to Life: Making Your Way Through Every Day” (published in 2011 by STC Craft). This book is empowerment through know-how. The premise is the more we know how to do, the freer we are and the more choices we have. Crafts aren’t to be rejected as some domestic carry-over from the past, but rather, embraced as enjoyable arts and skills.

But Wait There’s More!

The Bust DIY Guide to Life isn’t just about crafts. It literally covers life from the cradle to the grave. To give you an idea of the scope of this book, topics include: camping, clam digging, natural skin care, cooking, but also… home births, DIY funerals (really), plumbing, financial security, among many other topics. As the introduction says, “…DIY is not just about making things – it’s also about making a life.”

Each topic is a stand-alone article that was originally published in Bust. As a graphic designer I enjoyed the fun design, project photos and illustrations curated by Laurie Henzel, Debbie’s co-founder of Bust.


Some people might not enjoy all the double entendre, but that’s simply the Bust coming through! (Did I mention that Bust is sexy like a librarian?) If you have young ones or certain sensitivities, I have to issue a “potty mouth” alert!

This book is smart and sassy. It holds 15 years of accumulated wisdom expressed in the way only Bust does – worldly wise and cut the crap!

Check it out!

P.S. Amazon.com has sample pages from the book, so you can see for yourself!

Patchwork Quilt. Photo credit: Katie Pedersen – sewkatiedid@gmail.com

Katie Pedersen's quilts and tutorials are so inspiring!

Serendipity struck again! I had JUST posted an invite to friends to join me for a quilting party when I saw this awesome photo tutorial about quilting! This link shows you how to  efficiently make two-color squares like the ones shown in the picture.

I love Katie Pedersen’s use of color: in this picture she uses scrappy, multi-colored fabric. What holds the quilt together is the contrast between the lights and the brights set in an off-center diamond pattern.

I will show some of MY quilts in future blogs.

See the tutorial by Katie Pedersen of Sew Katie Did!


Check it out: Sew Katie Did — a tutorial