Friday 27 May 2016

30 Reds on 30 Whites

30 Reds on 30 Whites
by Ilene Atkins
 This one is about 16" x 16", and is part of my red and white heart series of quilts. I had quite a few hearts left from other projects, and when the President's Challenge came up at our guild last year, I put those red hearts into this small quilt. It was the 30th anniversary of our Waterloo County Quilters' Guild, so we had to challenge ourselves to use 30 fabrics in our small quilt.

I was also experimenting with a quilting style that is more heavily stitched, and this is the result.

30 Reds on 30 Whites, detail
by Ilene Atkins

These hearts are glue-stick applique.  This is where you glue the  edges of the applique down onto the back of the pieces, and then they are quick to hand stitch, in this case, to the background. These pieces can also be machine stitched to the background.

My inspiration for this technique is from Kathy K. Wylie, when she was at our guild for a presentation. I wrote about her visit here, when she showed us her fabulous appliqued quilts.

Thursday 26 May 2016


by Ilene Atkins

One day in October several years ago, three of my sisters were here in Ontario for a visit. The weather was one of those perfect warm sunny fall days that we all love so much. We just had to go for a drive to see some of what Southern Ontario has to offer. 

We were all quite taken with the fall colours, and stopped a few times to take it all in. On one of those stops, near Collingwood, these two sailboats happened to go by. I snapped a few photos, and later printed this on onto fabric. 

I spent many an hour doing the threadpainting, and thinking fondly of my sisters and that great get-together. 

This quilt was chosen for exhibit at Quilt Canada, coming up June 15 to 18, 2016, in Toronto.

Update:  My quilt won first place in its category at Quilt Canada, in the National Juried Show. This is quite an honour, since my name was called with many other big names in the Canadian art quilt world. I am quite pleased. When I was at the show in Toronto, talking to people about my quilt, I was joined by one of my sisters who enjoyed that October day with me, and my good quilting friend from Alberta. It was a sweet moment in my life. 

Turquoise Stars

Turquoise Stars 
by Ilene Atkins
I finished this one recently, Pieced from a collection of turquoise fabrics. I love turquoise. Many of the clothes I wear are turquoise. Or blue. Or pink! So this colour combination if perfect for me. I wrote previously about making this quilt top, and now I can gladly say it is a finish.

Quilted quite heavily, using mostly King Tut thread. I was practicing different fill patterns inside those stars, and used a few stencils as well.

I believe I can say I'm getting better at what to quilt where, but I'm still learning what looks best. Often you don't know until it's quilted and all stitched up.

A Little Thread Sketching

Snyder's Flats II
by Ilene Atkins  14" x 14"
I'd been working on this one for quite some time, It is a print of my own photo, and thread-painted quite intensely. I mounted it on the grey background for a bit of extra.

If you enlarge the detail photo, you can see the stitching I put into this. There are many, many colours and brands of thread. I try to blend the thread colours, working paint-by-number style, and reference my photo on my laptop. It is all free-motion stitched. My photo printed fabric is fused onto a stiff interfacing to keep it from distorting.

Snyder's Flats II detail
by Ilene Atkins

This one was accepted into Threadworks, currently on exhibition at the Wellington County Museum, and travelling to other locations for the next three years.

Trip Around the World

Trip Around the World
by Ilene Atkins

Trip Around the World detail
by Ilene Atkins

One day my friend handed me a bag of fabric with a TATW pattern and asked me if I could make this quilt! I found myself saying yes. She told me her mother used to make quilts but isn't able to anymore, but still wanted this quilt made.

It was an experience, I tell you. If you know anything about me, it is that I never use patterns, and prefer to do my own thing. But I read through the pattern, did some serious math, and came up with something that would work.

I found that I had to add several fabrics to make the dark to light progression work a little more smoothly. Fabric prints have changed quite a bit, so that was a challenge. My friend's mother had chosen all the other prints herself, and they were quite lovely together.

I quilted it quite simply, since most of her quilts had been hand quilted. It was a treat to make this quilt. I went over to her house to present the finished quilt, and was treated to a very nice quilt show of many of the quilts she has made over the years.

Monday 31 August 2015

And Another One

Denim Duvet Cover
by Ilene Atkins
This is one I worked on over last winter. I made it as a duvet cover, so it has no batting. I quilted the top with a backing, then added another loose backing into the binding. I left one side open and added buttons to enclose the duvet. It looks best with the duvet inside, and is very nice to sleep under.

Denim Duvet Cover, in progress
by Ilene Atkins
This was a quilt with total improvisational piecing. I had denim pieces cut and destined for other quilts, and leftover 16-patch blocks from another quilt. I just worked with what I had, cutting and stitching pieces together until I had columns long enough for a quilt. Then I joined the strips with a skinny dark blue to tie it all together. Not much planning, just a lot of strips going in.

I kept the quilting simple, with long straight lines, with a few big circles thrown in.

Thursday 27 August 2015

How About an Update?!

Red & White Hearts
by Ilene Atkins
Ok. A lot of what I've been doing has been slow type work, but I have a finish to show you.  

This heart quilt has plenty of hand applique. It was my intention at first to randomly scatter those middle hearts around, but they ended up in a big heart shape in the centre. That part didn't take as long as you might think! 

Red & White Hearts, detail
by Ilene Atkins

I did A LOT of intensive quilting on this quilt. That part did take a lot of time. I was working with a lot of lines and close fill quilting. I used a wool batting in this one, something I've been wanting to try. It makes a nice puffy quilting, and packs tight with the fill stitching.

I had committed to finish this quilt for an upcoming show in October, at the Waterloo County Quilters' Guild Exhibit. It feels fantastic to finally have this one completed.

Saturday 3 May 2014

Carol Taylor lecture

Quilting Arts Magazine
April/May 2012
Last night, our Waterloo County Quilters' Guild hosted award winning quilter Carol Taylor for a very special and inspiring trunk show. Carol's link is here, and WCQG's link is here.You may remember Carol's cover story from Quilting Arts Magazine, in the April / May 2012 issue, on quilting perfect circles. We saw many examples of this quilted circle technique, and they are even more captivating in real than they are in photos!
Carol Taylor with
Interwoven, right, &
Transitions, left

Carol gave us a run through on many of the 500 quilts she has made, from her first quilts to her current leaf inspired quilts.  Included in her story were photos of how her beautiful studio came into existence. And she graciously answered quite a few questions about her techniques and other life stuff.

Foliage in Transition, detail
by Carol Taylor
You've probably seen photos in various publications of her quilts, or may have seen one at a quilt show. I've said this before, but it really is special to see a large body of quilts made by one person. You really get a good sense of how much life and energy goes into the making of all these quilts. It was really amazing. I don't think I, or the Waterloo Quilt Guild will ever be the same!

Images used here with permission.

Sunday 30 March 2014

Coming Soon. . .

Everyone around here is waiting, not so patiently, for spring to arrive. We love / hate to talk about the weather, do we not?!

I thought I'd post these two photos of  spring's much earlier arrival from last year, just to set the mood a little. The reality this year is that our back yard is still covered in snow, though it has started to melt a little around the edges.  It is the time of year when our dog tracks in mud. Ugh.  It's seems very strange this year. The days are much longer, but we can't get out to work in the garden. Patience was never my strong suit.

It has, however, been the longest quilt season ever! I don't have much to show for it, though. There's a lot in progress at the moment. I'm slowly appliqueing hearts onto my red and white quilt. I've cut out another hearts and denim project to hand stitch during the summer. And I've been preparing a quilt to sew for a mini-retreat next Saturday. It's taking me a while to decide how to quilt the turquoise star quilt, so that isn't going very far either.

Saturday 8 March 2014

Never Ending Winter

I shouldn't complain about this winter that just won't quit. It is still much colder and / or snowier in other parts of the country. Brrrrr. We had our first day of above freezing yesterday, and the sounds of chipping ice off the sidewalks could be heard all over the neighbourhood!  And my cats have spring fever something fierce. In out in out in out in out. . . .  It is nice to hear the cardinals singing their spring songs, though.

Meanwhile, I've been working slowly along on a few quilts. I've been doing some handstitching on this Red and White quilt. I've decided to add more hearts in those central white patches, so I had to cut out a lot more. I'm getting the skinny vine laid down, too. There is a lot of applique to get done, so you probably won't hear about this quilt again until later in the year, when I have it all put together.

And I now have backings and tops made for these two quilts, the Red and White Log Cabin, and the Turquoise Star.  I'm starting to think about sandwiching them, but I'm not there yet.

Sunday 16 February 2014

Red & White Progress

Yet another cold, snowy weekend to get in some good sewing time, while I watch the winter Olympics. Did you know that there is an Olympic connection to quilting?  If you are interested, Michele over at With Heart and Hands has a great write-up of all those colourful patchwork backgrounds at the Sochi Olympics. Very interesting concept, see the link here. And you can see the official website here.

I've got all these 9 patches trimmed up now, and wanted to see what they would look like all laid out with white alternating patches.  I also set out these hearts in the border, which I've had left over from other projects.  I think I'd like to cut smaller hearts and add a skinny vine to connect them along the border. So far, I like how it's going.

Linking up this time with Anything Goes, here.

Saturday 8 February 2014

Weekend Sewing

I've been working long hours during the week, and don't have much left for sewing, so I try to spend a bunch of time on the weekends getting some sewing done.  It's been slow progress, but progress is progress.

This turquoise star quilt had its borders added on last weekend. I decided to go with the sawtooth right into the corners, instead of having a tiny star which I think looked too small for impact. I wrote about it here. Today I was able to make a backing for it. So I'm happy about that being two big steps towards its completion.  Can't say when it will get sandwiched and quilted, though. I haven't planned that far ahead.

And this stack of 9 patches has been slowly inching forward as well. They are 3 1/2", and I've been trimming them up. Aren't they just about the cutest things you've seen lately?!  I need 198 of them, and have to cut 200 white patches to put in between these. There is still a lot of work on this, but I can work on it in bits and pieces, without it being a big thinking project. I'm considering doing an applique border on white, instead of no border, but I'm still not sure how it will go.

Other than that, I've been just hanging on until spring. This is turning out to be a tough winter in which to work. My mom used to say "just keep putting one foot in front of the other" so that's what keeps me going.   I do love the winter Olympics, though, and Canada has gold, silver, and bronze on the first day. Very exciting.

Sunday 26 January 2014

HST's, and Assorted Other Bits

I have a number of irons in the fire, so to speak:

This star top was made some years ago, and has been waiting patiently to be finished up. I don't usually do borders like this, but I think this one needs it. So I spent some time this weekend making these 180 HST's and 4 corner stars. What a pain it is to make half square triangles! And those corner stars . . . an even bigger pain. All this is a bit fiddly for me, but the heart wants what it wants!  I still have to cut another inner and outer border, and make a backing, so there is still some work to do before I get to sandwiching and quilting this.

This red and white nine-patch is one I've been slowly chipping away at whenever I have a few minutes to just sit and sew. I like to keep something around for when I want to run my sewing machine, but don't want anything big to think about. I started with a few leftover strips from the Log Cabin, here, and it doesn't take much effort or time to keep enough 1 1/2" strips cut to make into these 9 patches.

And I made up a bunch of these sachets, with a bit of catmint inside. For the trouble maker! Because he only sleeps 5 minutes a day, and wanders around looking for trouble the other 23 hours 55 minutes! He had all of these messed up pretty quickly. He actually rips apart the fabric to get to the catmint inside. I'll have to put them away, and take them out one at a time for him.

I suppose there is no better time than during this cold and stormy January weekend to get a bunch of quilting done.

Tuesday 21 January 2014


5% Red
by Ilene Atkins
I've had this big neon sign flashing inside my head for some time now, saying MUST QUILT. So that's what I've been doing. It does beg the question, why must I quilt?  I've always loved sewing, sewing anything, really. But why quilting, why now?

I was recently making the Dragonfly Quilt, here, and had some insight. After my presentation last week to my quilt guild, here, I heard those voices inside my head that say I'm not good enough, and Who do I think I am?  You know those voices!  But getting feedback on my quilts has been so positive.  This disconnect between the outside world and my inside world just didn't make sense to me.

5% Red, detail
by Ilene Atkins
So today I was emailing my friend about the dragonfly quilt, and I came to the realization that when I'm making my quilts, they are the visual representation of the essence of who I am. It is the deepest part of me coming out for the world to see. Any worries or troubles or discontent in my life become inconsequential.

The quilt I'm showing today is a finish from last fall, and I didn't get it photographed until recently. I think I pieced it the year before, and got it quilted in last years finishing frenzy. I've called it 5% red, since it has so little red. I think now I could have put in more red, but this is the way it turned out, so I'm leaving it at that. And I just quilted it with wavy lines. It's been added to my growing stack of finished quilts.

Linking up this time to The Needle and Thread Network, here, and Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, here.

Monday 20 January 2014

Dragonfly Quilt

So this is the dragonfly quilt that I finished up recently. I made it for a friend of a friend. She got it today, and she loves it.

I don't know if the shimmer shows up in the photo, but I used a shimmery sheer fabric for the dragonfly, and quilted in the veins on the wings.

The background is meant to represent water and sky, and the border represents the forest, all of which are dear to the recipient.

I quilted cattails into the background, and at the last minute, decided to quilt in a heron. Perhaps you can just see it in the lower right photo. Turned out to be a spot on idea.