Tag Archives: quilt challenge


My friend Ellyn and I are both inspired by architecture for our quilt designs. Earlier this year we decided it would be fun if we exchanged photos as our inspiration for mini quilts.

The photo that I gave Ellyn was of a door at the Rock of Cashel in Ireland. I took so many photos of the great architecture (and nature) while on my trip to Ireland in 2019.

Her mini quilt is 13" x 13 1/2". I enjoy how she emulated the uniformity and angle of the elements of the door in her piecing. And her quilt laying on the stone in her photo is on point with the stone surrounding the door in my photo! You can read more about her project over at Ellyn's Place.

Ellyn's photo was taken in a small town in Northern Texas. Photo by Ellyn Zinsmeister, used with permission.

I used the direct inspiration of the colors of the building together with the architectural design of the pops of color in the architectural detail at the top. (Sometimes when one is improv piecing, the little bits start skewing downhill instead of the uphill that you intended, and you just go with it.) My finished mini quilt measures 9" x 7". I used walking foot quilting and finished with single fold machine binding.

Do you use photos as inspiration for your quilt designs?


I participate in a lot of quilt challenges. I even finish many of them by the deadline. ;-) So, I thought it would be great to share some of the reasons why I enjoy participating in quilt challenges. If you haven't participated in one, I hope to encourage you to give it a try. (Maybe it could be on your 2019 goal list. *hint hint*)

Challenges have a deadline.

Maybe you're like me and have a lot of projects in progress. The number of quilts on my list honestly doesn't bother me, but sometimes it does make choosing which quilts are top priority difficult. A quilt challenge project has a deadline, so it helps to push through to the finish. In many cases it is appropriate to make a small quilt. And sometimes another item, like a bag, may fit the requirements.

Challenges stretch me creatively.

Sometimes it's a color palette or a challenge fabric that may not be my cup of tea. Sometimes it's simply trying to create something new and interesting. Often quilt challenge pieces are small, which makes it more palatable to try out something new. I often like to take the opportunity to do something I wouldn't otherwise do. Or, if I'm working in a series, a challenge can provide a twist to something I've already done. My All About Angles and Animals quilt was a twist on my All About Angles technique that used printed and directional fabric. I made it additionally challenging by varying the width of my rows. My Greenery quilt, which the top was originally created for the 2017 Pantone Quilt Challenge and a Bay Area Modern guild challenge to use squares and rectangles developed into my Planned Improv: Scrappy Squares workshop that I enjoy teaching to guilds.

Challenges add a sense of community to my quilting.

Working on the same challenge adds a stronger common thread among quilters. For instance, it gives you a specific topic which you can engage about and discuss. Kelly and I were working on our Pantone Ultra Violet challenge quilts at the same time and had shared at least a bit about out projects online. Before the challenge we were pretty much strangers, but I got to know her a bit through direct messages that started out about these projects. The common quilt challenge offered an opportunity to connect with a new friend. Now I look forward to hanging out with Kelly at a future QuiltCon or other conference. Over the seasons of Project QUILTING some of the same quilters have participated from year to year. The link ups for sharing finished projects allow a path to visit each quilter's project post and connect in the comments section.


Intrigued? There are a lot of places to find challenges. You can find them at your local quilt guild, through fabric manufacturers (like Cherrywood's current Bob Ross challenge), in magazines, and online through blogs and company websites. Be sure to let your quilting buddies know if you want to hear about challenges that they run across. My friend Mel shared on her blog about her many challenge quilts and where to find quilt challenges.

The photo above is my fabric selection for the current Curated Quilts Curves Mini Challenge. I love the Curated Quilts challenges because they have a set theme and a specific limited color palette. And the size is limited to a square, between 10" x 10" and 16" x 16". Selected mini quilts will be photographed and featured in the Mini Quilt Gallery in a quarterly issue of Curated Quilts. The deadline for submission to this challenge is January 2, 2019. Lots of time to join in!

Also, coming up starting Sunday, January 6, 2019 are the Project QUILTING weekly challenges, hosted by Kim Lapacek of Persimon Dreams. Each January through March Kim hosts a series of six one-week challenges over 12 weeks. I've participated the past two years. Tuned Into Texture and Brighter the Better were two of my favorites in 2017.

Have you participated in a quilt challenge? What did you enjoy about it? Was there anything that didn't work for you about participating? If you haven't tried a quilt challenge, what is holding you back?


Here are some of my projects that have grown out of quilt challenges:

Antioxidant Delight

Tuned Into Texture

Brighter the Better

Rockstar Rhythm

Pantone Ultra Violet All About Angles

Vincent's Ear

i Mini

Mellow Yellow

Emerald Swallowtail

Connections Mini


Jungle Cabin


I have been admiring the Cherrywood challenges and their beautiful fabric for a few years. If you haven't seen it, the fabric has a beautiful suede-like look, though it is 100% cotton. Their first challenge was the Wicked challenge, announced in early 2014. My friend Mel participated (way back before we really knew each other) and it was so fun to see her quilt and the others when they were on display at PIQF. Her wicked awesome quilt was one of 27 finalists (of the 114 submitted). Be sure to look closely at her amazing quilting. And here are all the quilts.

Fast forward to last year. Cherrywood's second challenge had a Lion King theme. The palette was golds and black... and I have to say I wasn't super inspired by the theme or the colors and did not participate. But the quilters that participated did not disappoint! The Lion King Challenge received 304 entries and 120 were chosen for the traveling exhibit which is coming to PIQF in October.

When they announced the 2017 challenge theme, Van Gogh, and the beautiful palette of blues (with black), I knew I wanted to participate. I warmed up my quilt challenge mojo in January-March with six weekly challenges in twelve weeks. After that intense schedule, any quilt challenge seemed doable so I picked up a Cherrywood challenge fabric pack. The challenge required 75% of the quilt top to be form the challenge palette, but we could add any other Cherrywood fabric (or solid white from elsewhere) to the quilt top. The quilts must finish at 20" x 20".

I'm a procrastinator. I rarely miss a deadline, but sometimes I need that deadline to be rapidly approaching to kick myself into gear. So that happened with this challenge. The deadline for online submission was August 1. I happened to have a week long family vacation with my husband's family July 23-28. Naturally, I hadn't started my quilt yet, and I didn't even have a plan. However, my niece and nephew wanted to learn how to sew so I was bringing my sewing machine on vacation. I packed my challenge fabric and hoped I'd come home with a finished quilt top, leaving me a few days to quilt and bind it. Yeah, so that didn't happen. This is as far as I got on vacation.

I have to say that I was really having a hard time deciding what to do for my project. I love Starry Night, but I didn't want to go that way with my piece for a couple of reasons. I assumed there would be a lot of Starry Night inspired pieces (which there are, and many of them are amazing!) and I was struggling with how to use Starry Night as an inspiration and have it also reflect my personal style. And I couldn't get away from the fact that I'd somehow have to represent brush strokes in fabric. For a while I considered cutting out a lot of little pieces to applique brush strokes, but I just wasn't feeling it. Struggling with quilter's block, I shared with my family about what the quilt challenge entailed. In explaining how the challenge worked, I shared that I would love to have my quilt included in the traveling exhibit. We discussed how difficult it seemed it might be to stand out with a Starry Night themed quilt and I joked that the traveling exhibit would certainly include a "bloody ear quilt." Cause really, how does someone not do that?

At some point I started seriously considering an ear quilt. I read a lot about Van Gogh and hadn't realized there were conflicting stories about the incident, including how much ear was actually cut off. I stumbled upon this book. Eventually I decided I would focused on the fact that everyone knows about Van Gogh, he cut off his own ear. Then I needed to figure out how I would do it.

Here's part of the struggle of this challenge for me. I don't really love the process of applique. I was drawn to quilting 15 years ago because of the geometry. I've done a little applique, but I generally try to avoid it. I don't really enjoy hand work (due mostly to the fact that I work on a million projects at a time, so I don't have the time to devote to a hand sewn project) and I think of applique as hard. Well, a couple things have happened recently to somewhat change my mind on the matter. First, the first block my daughter received in the Kids Quilt Round Robin was all applique. Sure, we could have made another style block, but the Heat & Bond Lite was included in case we wanted to applique. So, why not? That block went well and wasn't really scary at all. The other thing was hearing Lynne Pillus speak about her process at a recent guild meeting. She works in realistic applique from photos of interesting machinery (and other things). She shared how she uses the values in the photo to create her pattern pieces and she arranges her fabric by value, mostly disregarding color. I was unable to take her workshop, but I used what she taught us during her lecture to roughly apply her technique to my ear quilt.

I added one darker value of blue to the palette to give me four different values to work with. Then I printed my ear picture (in reverse) actual size for the quilt. Next, I drew outlines on the different values I saw and decided on my color/value placement.

I traced by pattern onto the paper side of Heat & Bond Lite and fused to my fabric. Once all my layers were fused in place I used the quilting to hold it all down permanently. I chose to do contour quilting of the ear with a jagged background quilting motif.

I lovingly referred to the project as "the bloody ear quilt" as I worked on it. I was never going for gory and chose a single drop of blood. I later added the red section of binding after deciding it needed a little more than the drop. I contacted local friends who participated in the challenge, Sheila and Mel, and was able to get their extra black fabric which allowed me to bind the piece in black.

There were 465 submissions for the challenge. I've probably seen a few dozen shared online. Today they will announce the juried first round of finalists. I'm excited to see the list of finalists,  and to see more of the quilts. I especially look forward to seeing the traveling exhibit in person. Update (8/11/17, 8:20am): I've just learned that my quilt was not selected to be a finalist.

Congratulations to everyone who participated! If you want to participate in the next Cherrywood challenge you can already pre-order the 2018 challenge fabrics (theme and colors to be revealed in November).

I've linked up to TGIFF and Needle and Thread Thursday.