Bloggers’ Quilt Festival—Main Sequence

I’ve posted about this one recently, but I love this quilt so much I thought I’d enter it into the Bloggers’ Quilt Festival, too. Forgive me if you’ve already seen and read all about it! This quilt is called “Main Sequence” and is a really nerdy quilt because it illustrates an important concept in astronomy.

Main Sequence by Sylvia Schaefer


"Main Sequence" by Sylvia SchaeferThe design is the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram and represents the main sequence of stars shown. It shows the relationship between the brightness, the temperature, and the color of stars. As the temperature of stars increases the color changes from magenta to blue. The hotter stars are also brighter. So in the image below, temperature increases as you move right and brightness increases as you move upwards.

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

Most of the blocks were made for me by members of my hive in Stash Bee. Everyone used a slightly different background color, so I ordered a bunch of different brands of solids described as “navy” and used those in the negative space. In the end, I’m really glad that happened because I think it’s more interesting than just one solid color, which was the original plan.

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

The backing includes a few reject blocks made while I was working out exactly what to ask for from my hive mates, and a fantastic astrophysics-themed print from from the Rocket Age collection by October Afternoon.

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

Honestly, this may be my favorite quilt that I’ve made to date. It just makes me really happy when I curl up with it!

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

Finished size ~56″ x 74″. Original post here.


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Paper Cranes

I realized that I haven’t shown a quilt I finished a while back, so the Bloggers’ Quilt Festival seemed like a good time to post some pictures of “Paper Cranes.”

Paper Cranes by Sylvia Schaefer

This quilt was inspired by the Japanese origami paper cranes that are thought to bring good luck if you fold a thousand of them. I was not going to paper piece quite that many, so there are only thirty on this quilt. But paper piecing is harder than folding, right?

Paper Cranes by Sylvia Schaefer

To quilt all the negative space, I decided to echo the cranes in the empty blocks:


I pebbled most of the quilt, but I did quilt a long feather in the big area of negative space on the left.


The backing is a great Japanese print I found with… cranes!


This quilt got to hang out at the American Quilter’s Society show in Chattanooga earlier this fall. It was fun to get a quilt in, and I am definitely going to enter more quilts in the future… just have to finish them!

Paper Cranes by Sylvia Schaefer

I’m working on writing a pattern for this one, so if anyone wants to test it for me, please get in touch. :)

Size: 40″ x 60″

Fabric: Mostly Kona Navy, with scraps of many different batik blenders.


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Astronomy quilt finish

I’m so excited to show you my latest science quilt finish, “Main Sequence”!


"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

This is my quilty version of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram and represents the main sequence of stars shown. Basically, this diagram shows the relationship between the brightness, the temperature, and the color of stars. (You usually see this diagram backwards, for reasons of convention. The quilt looks like that if you flip it on its side:


…so I’m not really sure which way I should call up, but for purposes of explaining it I’m sticking with the way that makes more sense!)

Just like something white-hot is hotter than something red-hot, as the temperature of stars increases the color changes from magenta to blue. The hotter stars are also brighter. For example, Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is a bluish star. So in the image below, temperature increases as you move right and brightness increases as you move upwards.

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

This quilt is made from the blocks I received as part of Stash Bee. I asked for blocks in all the potential colors of stars, and I got a really nice mix. Because everyone used a slightly different navy for the background of the stars, I decided to continue that in the negative space and used a whole bunch of different dark blue solids, with a few batiks and blenders thrown in, and then I quilted each hexagon with a different pattern.

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

I sewed a pieced backing using two of the reject blocks I made when trying to figure out exactly which sort of star to ask for in the bee, and I included a label showing who made which block.

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

Do you see that backing print?  Backings usually end up being an afterthought for me, but not this one. It’s from the Rocket Age collection by October Afternoon, and I have never loved a backing print for a quilt the way I love this one, because it is completely, utterly, sublimely perfect for the theme of this quilt:

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

You guys, it has equations. And diagrams of orbital mechanics. I am such a nerd.

I really love the way this quilt turned out and I can’t wait to curl up with it on the couch. I’ll leave you with a few more astronomically inspired shots:

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

"Main Sequence" by Sylvia Schaefer

Finished size ~56″ x 74″.

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Lone Star quilt finish!

I’ve finished up the lone star quilt I’ve been working on this summer!

Southwest Lone Star quilt by Sylvia Schaefer

I was going for southwest colors, and I really like what I ended up with. I used batiks for the star (except for the very center, which is a fabulous rust dye from my favorite LQS) and Robert Kaufman Essex linen/cotton blend in Natural for the background and binding.

Southwest Lone Star quilt by Sylvia Schaefer

For the quilting, I mostly just echoed the star. I was going for ½” spaced lines, but they ended up being closer to ⅜” apart, since I just assumed that the edge of my walking foot was ½” without actually measuring it!

Southwest Lone Star quilt by Sylvia Schaefer

For the actual star, I quilted curved lines between the points of each diamond. I didn’t manage to get the star to lie particularly flat, but unless you’re looking really closely I think it works anyway!

Southwest Lone Star quilt by Sylvia Schaefer

The backing is another batik–I always forget how very much I hate hand-sewing binding through batiks. The weave is so tight that it’s a bear to push a needle through.

Southwest Lone star quilt by Sylvia Schaefer

I took these photos in the botanical gardens near my home, and I did get one curious visitor stopping by to see what I was doing!

visitor while photographing

This quilt will now be heading off to a new home in, you guessed it, the Lone Star state!

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A tip for piecing bindings

I apologize for the long radio silence–I’ve been finishing up my dissertation, and the last-minute revisions have eaten up all the time I’d rather have spent quilting! But it’s over now, and I promise that new quilt pictures are coming soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a tip for piecing bindings that I came up with the other day. If you’re lazy like me, drawing the diagonal guidelines to sew on when piecing strips together is altogether too much work. You can save yourself that time with nothing other than a strip of washi tape or a few post-it notes!

Lift your presser foot, and line up a ruler with the lines on your stitch plate, with the edge centered right under the needle:

lining up ruler

Use a ruler that extends to the edge of the sewing table you’re using:

lining up ruler2

Now take a piece of washi tape and line it up with that edge. It will be most accurate if you put it on top of the sewing table, but since my extension table is clear I decided to put mine on the bottom–a little less accurate, but this doesn’t have to be perfect.


Now when you go to piece your binding strips, line up the edges as you normally would:

binding aligning edges

Then align the top corner with your needle…

aligning top end

And the bottom corner with the edge of your strip of washi tape (just make sure you align it with the correct edge of the tape!). The corner is just sticking out here:

aligning bottom end

Start sewing, making sure to keep that corner on the edge of the tape.

piecing binding

This makes nice straight seams, no marking needed!

finished seam

I hope that helps you piece your bindings a little faster!

Edited to add: You can also use a few post-its, or masking/painter’s tape to do this. The washi tape is just prettier!

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Artichokes revisited…

After making my most recent mini quilt, I was just having too much fun with my artichoke block and decided to come up with a bigger quilt based on it. So, after using this as an excuse to order some of those luscious Kona solid fat quarter bundles, which then sat around and got petted for a while, I finally cut into them to come up with this quilt top:

Insane Artichoke quilt top by Sylvia Schaefer

The green artichoke is the same size as in my previous quilt, the red one is an extra-large one.

Insane Artichoke quilt top by Sylvia Schaefer Insane Artichoke quilt top by Sylvia Schaefer

This is definitely not going to be done by next week, which is the due date for the challenge that inspired the original quilt, but I may just bring it along anyway. I need to figure out how to square this thing up accurately, since the edges are extremely uneven from my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants improv piecing.

I’m thinking of calling it “The Disintegration of the Persistence of Artichokes.” Just because.

Linking up at WIP Wednesday!

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Bloggers’ Quilt Festival

It’s that time of year, when the spring quilt festival happens over at Amy’s Creative Side, and this year I’ve actually got my act together enough to enter a quilt.

I blogged about this quilt recently, but here it is again: The Insane Red Artichoke!

The Insane Red Artichoke

This quilt started life as a challenge for my local traditional guild to use two squares, superimposed on one another and one rotated 45 degrees, in a quilt.  I had to make it twice to figure out the best way of doing it–paper piecing came to the rescue!


I’ve been into feathers lately, and I got a lot of practice in on this one! I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with them now.

Here’s a shot of the back, which I kind of also love:


I finally managed to get this pattern written up and it’s over on Craftsy now. (Big thanks to my mom for being my brutally honest pattern tester!)

Now hop on over to the current Festival and check out all the other inspiring quilts!


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Mini Lone Star Hexie block tutorial

I’m in the online quilting bee Stash Bee, and May is my month to pick a block for everyone to make! I thought I’d repost my tutorial here. It’s based on the larger block by Alia of card table inc. People are already posting beautiful blocks!

Mini Lone Star Hexie tutorial from Flying Parrot Quilts

Click through for the full tutorial!

Continue reading

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Tula Pillow

I got some cute pillows for Christmas from my mom last year, but since they were Christmas-themed, I needed something for the rest of the year! So far I’ve only made a cover for the smaller of the two, but it was just the right size for this sweet Tula Pink embroidery design from Urban Threads!

Tula Pillow by Sylvia Schaefer

Naturally, I matched it with the coordinating Tula Pink fabric from The Birds and the Bees! I used some scraps from a different colorway of this print for the envelope closure on the back:

Tula Pillow back by Sylvia Schaefer

It looks pretty good in its new environment, I think, even if it does kind of blend in.

Tula Pillow by Sylvia Schaefer


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The Insane Red Artichoke

The traditional guild I’m a part of has issued a challenge to create a quilt using the shape formed by two squares superimposed on each other, one rotated 45 degrees. It’s a shape found often in Islamic art and mosaics.

I’m not always very good at completing challenges, but I was trying to draft a completely different block, and as I was drawing guidelines I realized I had drawn the shape in the challenge. So I drew it a few more times. And then made the quilt top once before figuring out a more precise way to piece it, so I made it again.

But eventually I ended up with this, which I’m very happy with!


This quilt is actually paper-pieced and didn’t involve any Y-seams! I’m working on writing up a pattern for this and am hoping to have it available soon.

insane_artichoke_detail copy

Here are a couple shots of the back.



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