Chess Quilt

This is the story of a vintage fabric that chose it’s own quilt design.  I remember looking at it, this little square on my phone.  The photo showed a bunch of little chess pieces in a cool vintage color scheme and I was sold.  Literally.  It’s one of the gems I found while browsing the dangerous “great fabric destash” hashtag on Instagram.  Is that still a thing?  Gratefully (for my wallet, at least) I quit looking a long time ago.  But this piece found its way to my house, and that’s where the Chess Quilt began.

I opened the package and was shocked to discover that the chess pieces were large.  Like, very large.  Tall and long and thin.  Not a cute little vintage print I could cut up and include in other quilts (like this scale).  My plans flew out the window as I quickly realized that this fabric could NOT be cut.  It had to remain in one piece.  But what to do with it?  I hung it on my design wall and we looked at each other for a while.

Slowly, an idea formed.  The pieces could stay as they are, and I could design a chess board around them. So like the Dream Catcher quilt, the Chess quilt is one where the fabric chose the design.  Not me.  And I LOVE where it went.

I planned a grid of checkered squares for the left and right sides, but didn’t want it to be boring.   In the white squares I made a center square featuring four of the colors in the chess pieces (though it’s awfully difficult to match 70’s colors to today’s solids!).  This let me pull color from the center into the sides of the quilt. I also didn’t want to overpower the center panel with too much black.  I fixed that problem by using a dark gray instead, and I also dropped some hunter’s star blocks in.  All that makes the game board more interesting.  It’s pretending to keep up with the epic vintage chess pieces!

Do you see the color difference between the panel and the white?  I put the panel in the sun to clean and bleach it before sewing, but it has yellowed a little more since I finished the quilt.  It doesn’t bother me.  I might as well enjoy the contrast for what it is.

But here are the two best elements in this quilt design:  the black and white stripe, and the half square triangles.  That stripe pulls it all together.  I was so excited when I put it between the sections.  And of course it deserved a place as binding, too.  The hst border on top and bottom is the final piece to pull the quilt together as a composition.

And look at the pawns!  Melissa dropped them in the gray blocks and they’re the perfect addition.  I love the custom quilting she added to this one of a kind quilt.


I backed the quilt with two different prints, both geometric.  It’s a large quilt and someday I hope one of my kids treasures it.  Making the chess quilt was a marvelous creative experience for me.  

I hope you’re making something that really excites you and makes you feel more alive.

Happy sewing!


Improv HST quilt progress

I started a fun scrappy sewing project back in June, when I started sewing all my “bonus” half square triangles together into a log cabin style quilt.  I’m not kidding when I say – AGAIN – that this has been the most fun sewing project I’ve worked on in a while.  So here I am today with my improv hst quilt progress:

This quilt makes me happy!  Look at all those colors, and all those fun fabrics, just playing together in one space so cheerfully.  I love it.  No matter where on the quilt you look, it’s a little different from the other side, or corner, or wherever you looked last.  

I have now used leftover, or bonus half square triangle units from 4 previous projects.  Not a single hst made for this quilt.  As I predicted, each round takes longer, and a lot more triangles.  It’s getting tricky to know what to add next, just because I need so many to go around the entire thing.  But that’s ok.  I’m sure I’ll figure out the next step soon.

On the last round, I used leftovers from my Prosper in solids quilt, and I had already sewn them together into sets of four.  I decided to use them anyway. The two most recent rows are actually sewn from those, which is why both rows are the same.  While I wasn’t sure I’d like it, now that it’s there, I can’t imagine this quilt without it.  Those yummy sherbets and brights and pastels really pop.

I believe right now this quilt top is just over 50 inches square.  I still haven’t measured or squared anything up.  My only measurement is keeping track of how many hst blocks I add to each side, so I can be sure it’s equal.  If I have to fudge it when quilting, so be it.  I mean, look how fun it is!  Why would I change plans now?

My biggest obstacle at this point is hunting for more hst units in large numbers.  It will take some counting to figure out.  I don’t know how much bigger it will get.  All I know is I’m not done yet.

This project reminds me how enjoyable it is to just create without expectation.  To see where things go and enjoy the process.  As it unfolds, I fall in love with the interplay of color and design.  Also, half square triangles are amazing.  Basic, but so awesome.  I’ll be back soon with more improv hst quilt progress.  In the meantime, what should I name it?

Happy sewing!


Bow Quilt Block Progress

My first QuiltCon experience included a class with Carolyn Friedlander, where I first started my Hunt quilt project.  I took another class from her at QuiltCon 2022 in Phoenix.  This one is the Bow Quilt, and what a fun day it was!  Several of us took the class together, and it did not disappoint.  I now have 8 blocks complete and thought I’d share my bow quilt block progress.

It’s a fun pattern to make.  As for skill level, I’d say this is a good beginner applique pattern with gentle curves and a simple design.  It’s fun to swap the fabrics with each other, and to leave gaps here and there.

I finished one block in class, this floral one below.  It’s the same fabric for all four arches.  I like the way it emphasizes the skinny strip of background fabric visible between them.  It would be fun to make several blocks like this, but as you see, it’s the only one so far.

I wanted to challenge myself with color in a new way, so I chose a medium value background fabric.  It’s interesting how many colors also read as medium, so picking fabrics for this one has been fun.  And challenging, as I planned.  For instance, that pink on the outer edge of the top block below doesn’t offer much contrast to the brown background.  Still, I like it and am using it to add interest because at a distance there will be a hint of contrast that invites the eye to look more closely.

For the most part I’m using scraps from other projects.  Lots of them are Sally Kelly for Windham Fabrics, as well as Liberty Fabrics.  These are Liberty prints on cotton, and several of them are many years old.  I have jealously saved every tiny scrap from those early cotton prints and really love adding them to projects. 

I’ve prepped several more blocks, so hopefully my next bow quilt block progress post will be for another 8 blocks.  I believe I need 24 in total, though I’m tempted to make extra.  Plus, I cut so many prints, I could probably make two quilts!  I guess we’ll see how much I enjoy stitching them.

Happy Sewing,


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