What Quilts Mean: With Diane Gilleland, aka Craftypod

What Quilts Mean Header


Today I’d like to welcome my lovely friend Diane Gilleland to the blog – I’ve talked about Diane before, as the host of the various EPP blog hops I’ve taken part in recently and author of the new book All Points Patchwork (go get it now). Diane has become a very dear friend over the past year, so kind and supportive, and I am so pleased that she was willing to visit me over here and share this story of a quilt specially designed for a precious friend.

What Quilts Mean by Diane Gilleland


When I started this quilt, I didn’t think of it as being particularly meaningful. Back in 2013, I had a new book out called Quilting Happiness, which I co-authored with Christina Lane. And so I decided to make a quilt from the book and blog about my progress.


I chose my fabrics purely out of practicality. Normally I love light, bright colors, but I had a dark grey cat (Pushkin) who made it his mission in life to lay upon every piece of fabric that came into the house. And when he lounged, he deposited a fine grey patina. So I decided to stick to a low-volume group of greys for my quilt, since I knew Pushkin would quickly assume ownership and why fight a cat’s inalienable right to anything?


I’ve never been good at finishing projects that are purely for me, so this quilt crept along like a glacier for the next two years. It wasn’t just me holding things up – when I did work on the project, there was a certain, um… feline impediment. Each time I’d lay out my fabrics and get started, Pushkin would immediately jump up on the table (or my lap), flop right down, and begin purring.

“I AM HELPING,” he’d say (in cat-telepathy, of course).

“You know, I need to sew that exact piece you’re laying on,” I’d reply. Can I just have it?”


“Yeah, but I can’t do anything unless you move.”


“Well… when you’re right, you’re right.”


After a while, I devised some little tricks to get around the “helping.” When I was setting up to work, I’d lay out one nice, fresh enticing piece of fabric, making a big show of patting it and smoothing it out. (Smooth fabric = cat magnet.) Then, once Pushkin was fully settled in on that piece, I’d get out the stuff I’d really planned to work on. Or, when I was hand-quilting, I’d lay the quilt sandwich out on a big table, so there’d be space for him to stretch out while I stitched on another section. We logged a lot of nice hours this way, sewing and “helping” in companionable quiet.


I’d always envisioned that the first time I made my bed with the finished quilt, Pushkin would jump up, arrange himself regally in the center, and survey his domain (which included, of course, the quilt, the bed, the house, and the humans). Sadly, though, that never came about. Before I could finish the quilt, we lost Pushkin to that thing that claims so many cats – kidney failure.

As anyone knows, it’s a terribly sad time, losing a beloved pet-friend. At first, I thought I’d never work on that quilt again. But as Julie so beautifully put it in her post, grieving sometimes needs ways to shut down the mind while keeping the hands busy. So I found myself digging my quilt-in-progress out more and more – doing just a little more quilting, stitching on just a little binding. As my needle moved in and out of that grey fabric, I could feel my little helper’s presence, and it was so soothing.


Before too long, I had finally finished the quilt – the first thing I’ve made purely for myself in years. (I mean, you know, I was making it for the cat of course, but then inherited the right to use it.) I smoothed it out on my bed as I’d always envisioned. A bit of a sad moment, since I’d never get to see Pushkin resting there like a king. But I do love getting that little glimpse of grey each time I pass the bedroom door, and I love snuggling underneath it at night. A quilt that keeps my favorite helper close by.


I think quilts take on meaning precisely because they can take so long to make. They absorb all those days with their ups and downs, and become a kind of memory touchstone. Eventually, I’ll move on to another cat-friend and embark on a lighter, brighter quilt. But I’ll always keep my grey quilt nearby and Pushkin in my heart, ready to pull out and snuggle when needed.

Visit Diane on Twitter and Instagram, and at Craftypod, where she is currently sharing a free design from her totally awesome new book

Merry Medallion Quilt-Along: Putting it all Together!

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

Yay! Almost there! This week’s tutorial will put everything together, which is a lot of pinning and sewing, but really not very many seams to sew. You’ve already done the hardest work. By the end of this post, you’ll have a completed quilt top – hurrah!!

What You’ll Need

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

– your three low volume half-meter cuts
– and one mid-volume fat quarter

Cutting The Pieces

Before anything else, we have to cut up those fabrics above. I didn’t have you cut these fabrics at the beginning, with the others, because seeing all the other elements together might help determine which of these fabrics you use where. I didn’t decide on my ‘mid-volume’ fabric until yesterday, and the arrangement of fabrics for my border rounds (this isn’t exactly the right term, but these rounds are more than sashing, so we’ll stick with ‘borders’) fell perfectly into place once I laid all the bits on the floor. So, if you look at this quilt diagram:

Merry Medallion Borders

You’ll see each border round marked with a label, numbered from the inside working outward. Choose which fabric will be Border 1, which will be Border 2, etc. Then cut:

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

Border 1:

– With fabric folded (as shown above, the fold on the left), cut four 3.5″ strips across the width of the fabric. Take care that the fold is perfectly perpendicular to your cuts, or you’ll end up with v-shaped strips!
– Without moving the fabric, trim down each of those strips to 24.5″. Note: measure out 12.25″ from fold to end up with 24.5″ strips.
– You’ll end up with four 3.5″ x 24.5″ strips.

Border 2:
– Just as before, with fabric folded, cut four 3.5″ strips across the width of the fabric.
– Without moving the fabric, trim down each of those strips to 42.5″. (Measure 21.25″ from fold, but this will be little more than trimming off the selvedge edges.)
– You’ll end up with four 3.5″ x 42.5″ strips.

Border 3:
– One last time, with fabric folded, cut six 2.5″ strips across the width of the fabric.
– Cut two of these strips in half (along the fold crease), then sew a half-strip to the end of each full-length strip to make four really long strips. Trim each to 56.5″ and press seam opens.
– You’ll end up with four 2.5″ x 56.5″ strips.

Mid-Volume Fabric:
– (8) 3.5″ squares
– (4) 2.5″ squares

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

Prepping Borders

Prepping your borders is easy-peasy and will take less than five minutes. Ready? On two strips of each border fabric, sew an equal-sized mid-volume square to both ends. This is exactly what we did with the diamond-blocks last week. The strips are long enough that you can even chain-piece this step, feeding one end in right after the other.

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

Just like last week, for each border round, you’ll have two plain strips and two strips with mid-volume squares on either end.

Final Assembly!

Here we go! All the pieces are ready and they just need us to slap ’em together. We’ll put everything together in rounds, working from the center star outward, and attaching each round will be exactly the same as the first.

Pin your two shorter Border 1 strips to the top and bottom of your center star. Sew all the way across and press seams towards the border.

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

Then pin your two longer Border 1 strips to the sides of your center star, lining the corner squares up with the previously attached border on each end. Sew all the way across and press seams towards the border.

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

That’s it! Simply repeat that same process until your quilt is all finished, one round at a time – the short geese strips on top and bottom of your center section, press towards border, then the long geese strips on each side, press towards border (take care to make sure your geese are flying in the same direction!). Then Border 2, then the HSTs, then Border 3 – and that’s it! Seriously, that’s really it – you’re done!

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

My only comment on putting it all together is that the math for medallion quilts really depends on every tiny seam of the previous round being perfectly accurate. That sounds obvious, but think about each of those geese being off by a tiny bit, you could work up to a half-inch off by the time you tally it all up. Chances are very good that some of your strips will end up being a little bit off – mine totally were, and a little bit more so as I got to the outermost rounds. I mean, c’mon, nobody’s seams are really that perfect, are they? If you are off a little, it’s probably just a very little, and you should be able to just ease that difference in along the seam – when you pin, make sure that any excess of one side is distributed evenly along the seam, and you’ll be fine!

Finishing (When You’re Ready)

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

I promised you a finished quilt top in a month and you did it! Pat your darn self right on the back. I really, really hope you love your quilt as much as I love mine!! We now have four full months to quilt and bind our Merry Medallions to have them ready by the beginning of December – this series won’t go into these steps, but you can follow these tutorials to complete your quilt, down to the very last stitch:

Merry Medallion - Putting It All Together!

I hope you’ll email me or leave a comment on these posts if you make a Merry Medallion of your own – there’s seriously nothing I love more than seeing your versions of projects. And of course, I’ll be back sooner or later to show you my finished quilt!

Merry Christmas in July, peeps!

Xmas in July Giveaway – Cotton + Steel Tinsel FQ Mini-Stack!

Yay! Fabric Giveaway!

Peeps! It’s a flippin’ giveaway! Woohoo! This giveaway is now closed – I’ll announce the winner shortly!

Ok, so the Merry Medallion quilt is almost finished (last batch of instructions on Friday!) and I hope some of these quilts will start popping up between now and Christmas! I finished mine today, and photographed it ahead of the final tutorial, and I have to tell you: I LOVE IT SO MUCH. So much that I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO USE ALL CAPS. Seriously, dudes. It is already one of my most favoritest things I’ve EVER MADE. I freaking can’t wait to show you!!

But that’s a couple of days away, so why don’t we pass the time with a little giveaway?! I have to admit, I originally intended on pairing this particular giveaway with another project, but then I went and got a new job (!) and a few of my Christmas in July projects had to go by the wayside. That’s ok, there’s still Christmas in December. BUT, I didn’t want these fabrics to waste away, since I bought them especially for you and everything, and it occurred to me that these four make a might fine starter for a Merry Medallion of your own!

Yay! Fabric Giveaway!

These four fabrics are my favorites from Tinsel by Cotton + Steel, which is my favorite Christmas fabric EVER. It’s just perfect in every way! Here’s a low volume, a red, and a green – and the very same mid-volume (the washi tape print, isn’t it the best?!) I’ve used in my Merry Medallion, as you’ll see on Friday. These four would be a great start to a gathering of Merry Medallion fabrics!

So, to win this little mini-stack of festive pretties, leave a comment and tell me your favorite story about a holiday project. It could be a funny story about the time you tried to make a gingerbread house and it collapsed into smithereens, a touching story about a birthday gift you made that was loved to pieces, or a near-miss story about the costume you just managed to finish at 6pm on Halloween night. Any story, any craft, any holiday!

This giveaway is open to everyone, everywhere, and I’ll close it at midnight (UK time) next Friday, August 7th. The winner will be chosen by Mr. Random Number Generator. Off you go!

Merry Medallion Quilt-Along: Round Three (HSTs) and Corners

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

This week we’ll work on round three, as well as the corner blocks of the two patchwork rounds – the sections highlighted below:

Merry Medallion Round 3

That looks like there’s a lot of sewing this week, but if you remember to chain piece it all, you’ll zip through it amazingly quickly!

What You’ll Need

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

– all of your 5″ squares (24 low volume, 24 red)
– all of your 4″ squares (8 low volume, 8 red)
– all of your raw HST triangles from last week (12 green/low volume)

Making The Pieces

We’re essentially just making a crap-ton of HSTs, which we already learned how to do for the center star, so no need for instructions there. You’ll match all of the 4″ squares into red/low volume pairs and all the 5″ squares into red/low volume pairs – then mark, sew, and cut them apart – just as before.

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

Then you’ll press all of the HSTs open, including the greens from last week, to the darker side, and trim the pressed squares to the following sizes:

– (16) 2.5″ green/low volume HSTs
– (16) 3.5″ red/low volume HSTs
– (48) 4.5″ red/low volume HSTs

Round 3 / HST Assembly

Now we’ll start putting all these bad boys together. Take the largest HSTs (4.5″, red/low volume), and arrange them into four long strips of 12 HSTs each – essentially just like we did with the flying geese. Make sure they’re all arranged in the same direction! Once sewn, your strips should each measure 4.5″ x 48.5″.

Make Corner Blocks

With the remaining HSTs, we’ll make corner blocks for the two patchwork rounds. Arrange your 2.5″ green/low volume HSTs into 4 diamonds as shown:

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

Then sew them together – top two together, then bottom two together. Press seams in opposite directions, then top pair to bottom pair. Press seam to one side (it doesn’t really matter which) and you should have 4 green/low volume diamond blocks, each measuring 4.5″ square.

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

Repeat with 3.5″ HSTs, to make 4 red/low volume diamonds, each measuring 6.5″ square.

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

Attach Corners

The corner blocks you just made can now be attached to your long strips. Choose two flying geese strips and two HST strips, and attach a corner block to both ends of each. It should be obvious because the sizes match, but you’ll add the red diamonds to the green strips, and the green diamonds to the red strips. You should now have:

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

– Two flying geese strips measuring 6.5″ wide and 30.5″ long
– Two flying geese + corners strips measuring 6.5″ wide and 42.5″ long

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

– Two HST strips measuring 4.5″ wide and 48.5″ long
– Two HST + corners strips measuring 4.5″ wide and 56″ long

Aren’t they so happy?? Next week we’ll put it all together!

Merry Medallion Quilt-Along: Round Two (Flying Geese)

Merry Medallion Round 2 - Flying Geese

This week we’ll work on round two – the section highlighted below:

Merry Medallion Round 2

We won’t worry yet about the border in between the center star and this round – we’ll get to that when we put everything together at the end. We’ll deal with the corner blocks of this round next week.

This will be the round that takes the most work and is most time-consuming. The rest of the quilt will be pretty quick-n-simple compared to this round – but even so, we only need to learn one thing this week: flying geese. Flying geese are absolutely NOT difficult, but they are easy to get a little wonky, especially in the final pressing stage. Why not try one or two on some scraps before working with your Christmas fabrics?

What You’ll Need

– all of your 6.5″ x 3.5″ rectangles (40 green)
– all of your 3.5″ squares (80 low volume)

Making The Pieces

Merry Medallion Round 2 - Flying Geese

Making flying geese is not dissimilar to making half square triangles, which we did last week, except that you will add two low volume triangles to each green rectangle, resulting in a green triangle that is set into the rectangle – see above if that sounds like goobletygook. I really suggest you read through this week’s instructions before you start, because there’s another thing going on at the same time and I don’t want it to be confusing!

First you’ll need to prepare your pieces, just like last week. On each 3.5″ low volume square, mark a diagonal line from one corner to another:

Merry Medallion Round 2

If you were just making flying geese and nothing more, you’d stop there and sew. But we’re going to multi-task and make some more half square triangles from these same pieces, which we’ll use later. On 12 of your low volume squares, mark a second line, a half-inch away from the first:

Merry Medallion Round 2

Pair a low volume square with a green rectangle, and place them right sides together, square aligned at one end with the diagonal as shown:

Merry Medallion Round 2

(My apologies for the time travel – yes, this rectangle is already sewn! I forgot to get a photo of the square placement before everything was sewn! Ignore the stitching and just note the way the marked diagonal lines are arranged.)

Now we’ll sew along the first, corner-to-corner, diagonal – this is the normal flying geese line (i.e., if you weren’t multi-tasking, this would be your only sewing line). Unlike the HSTs last week, for flying geese you sew right on the line – nearly. We actually want to sew just a touch outside the line, which will help us get a neater shape in the end.

Can you see how my needle is hitting the fabric a teensy bit outside the line?

Merry Medallion Round 2

Merry Medallion Round 2

We can chain piece these, same as last week – just be careful to stay just a tiny touch outside that line on each block. Ignore your second marked lines for the moment.

When you’re done with all 40 rectangles, clip them apart (assuming you chain pieced) and gather those with a second marked line. Now sew through those 12 again, right on the second marked line (no need to be outside it this time):

Merry Medallion Round 2

Note: For the Merry Medallion quilt, you only need to mark / sew this second line on 12 pieces, which will give you, in a moment, 12 small half square triangles. OR you could go ahead and do this on all of them and end up with a whole stack of spare HSTs for another project! The fabric that gets trimmed in the next step will go to waste otherwise, so you might want to consider taking the time to mark and sew all of your low volume squares with the second line!

Now we can trim all 40 rectangles. Use your sharp scissors or rotary cutter to cut right between the two lines, if you have them – or 1/4″ outside the line, if you don’t.

Merry Medallion Round 2

Press seams toward the darker side. This is important: flying geese can go wonky very easily during the pressing state and we won’t trim them later, so take your time to press them very carefully. I actually lightly finger press the seam first, then just place my iron (with steam) right on the seam and hold for a moment. Resist the urge to tug on that low volume corner or move your iron around. You’ll get the hang of it after a few, and that’s why I recommend making a scrap goose or two first, just to play with the pressing method that results in the neatest geese for you.

Now you have a half-completed flying geese block and a small half square triangle:

Merry Medallion Round 2

(Actually, there’s no need to press or trim the HSTs now – just set them aside and we’ll come back to them next week.)

To complete the flying geese, simply repeat the same again on the other side, pairing the remaining 3.5″ low volume squares with the half-completed geese:

Merry Medallion Round 2

And sew in just the same way as before! Again, very carefully press to the dark side. You should end up with 40 flying geese, each measuring 6.5″ x 3.5″. And also 12 (or more) unpressed / untrimmed half square triangles, set aside for later.

Round 2 / Flying Geese Assembly

Now we’ll sew our geese into four strips, each ten geese long. Arrange your geese in a way that makes you happy (please pardon my weird-time-of-day photo – I gotta sew at night sometimes!):

Merry Medallion Round 2 - Flying Geese

And then sew them into four long strips, with all the geese pointing in the same direction. Be careful with your seam allowances or you’ll cut the tip off of your geese! Press seams towards the greens.

When finished, your four strips should each measure 6.5″ wide and 30.5″ long.

Merry Medallion Round 2 - Flying Geese

Considering that’s the hardest week, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Next week, we’ll make round 3, which will come together even faster!

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