Tag Archives: Victoria Findlay Wolfe

Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s “Playing With Purpose”

I’ve been aware of Wolfe’s work ever since she won first place at an early QuiltCon for her deconstructed double wedding ring quilt. She began her career as an artist, but branched into quilting. Over the past several years she has designed fabric, opened a quilt store, taught classes, written books, and become an active presence on social media. With her most recent book, a retrospective of her work, I learned she also managed to make the 125 quilts shown, mostly since 2008, in addition to all her other activities. And these are mostly large quilts, easily 80 by 80 inches. My guess is she’s made at least 100 more quilts. She does have many of them quilted by others, but even so…

Most of her work is exuberant and lively, with lots of color and scrappy fabric. She often references traditional patterns, but will put a twist on them. Sometimes she serves tradition straight up. I’m showing a few quilts from the book that were new to me.

Wolfe tried out different styles before settling on what is now her signature. “Cheap Hotels” from 2010 uses a more minimalist approach without a block structure. It stands out in the book because there’s nothing else like it.

“Stripes, Plaids, and Polka Dots” is reminiscent of Gwen Marston’s work, with its bold zigzag border treatment. The stars and sashing are made with Wolfe’s 15 minutes of play technique, while the subdued stripes and plaids of the squares give all that busyness room to breathe. The different sizes of the background yellow/beige squares lend a casual air, while the polka dots capture the eye and direct it around the squares.

“Summer of Stars” works due to the ombre fabric surrounding the center star. I’d love to get my hands on some of it.

The following two quilts are great examples of how fabric choices and placement can change the look of a quilt. It takes an eye for abstraction to discern such possibilities.

While I don’t like every quilt in this book, I appreciate Wolfe’s willingnes to always try out an idea and use lots of different fabrics. She doesn’t let fear of “ruining” something stop her from pushing further. Her philosophy is: “You have to make ugly pieces and then learn from them. You have to make something that is just so fabulous that you look at it and think, Wow! I can’t believe I did that! For myself, the failure and the successes are equally valuable.”


Filed under Books, Commentary

Sticking The Finish

I love having boring but necessary finish work to fall back on when I get stuck on new stuff. My deep purple project (no, you haven’t seen it) needs wall time, so I turned to binding two projects.

Neither is especially original, though I like to think I’ve put my own spin on them. “Church Windows” is a smaller version of a Victoria Findlay Wolfe project, and “Twinkle, Twinkle” is my riff on the “Rock Star” quilt I spotted on Pinterest.

I wrote about “Church Windows” before I quilted it. The quilting was a bit tricky as I went with a wool batting. My reasoning was it would make for a warmer, lighter lap quilt. The batting became an issue after I washed it half way through the quilting process and the quilt puffed up like a startled cat.

Oh, why did I wash it? I sprayed what I assumed were water erasable blue pen marks with water after I did part of the quilting. Turns out I assumed wrong. I used many kinds of pens to trace around templates for the pieces in order to see my lines, and one/some of those bled horribly with water. The bleeding came out with a wash, but the batting really fluffed up in the dryer. Then I had to tamp it down for the second round of quilting.

“Church Windows” 39 by 57″

You can see how puffy it got.

Luckily, quilting “Twinkle, Twinkle” went smoothly, however boring a one inch diagonal grid is to quilt.

“Twinkle, Twinkle” 40 by 47″

“Twinkle, Twinkle” detail

I used up many, many scraps on this one, but I fear my scrap boxes are gearing up for the winter breeding season.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Completed Projects

I Follow A Pattern

And why is that so earth shattering, you may ask? Because for 7, going on 8, years I have made my quilts up or altered the original source so thoroughly it was unrecognizable. However, when I came across Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s Cascade quilt in her newest book, “Modern Quilt Magic,” I knew I’d have to follow the directions to have my version work.

Here’s her version.

I cut out the templates from plastic, hauled out my purple and its buddies scrap bin, traced the templates, and started cutting. There is lots of bias in each piece, so gentle handling is the key. As Victoria says, you need only pin in three places before sewing the units together. It also helps to match the registration marks piece to piece, and to mark them to begin with, of course.

When I got to the light fabrics area I had to break into stash, which of course generates more scraps, and explains why scrap bins never get emptied.

My version of Cascade, which I’m calling Church Windows per my husband’s comment, is smaller than Victoria’s. There is a limit to my purple fabrics. I don’t know if I’ll quilt this one myself or send it out. It’s quite bias-y though I’ve stay stitched all the edges.

“Modern Quilt Magic” focuses on partial and set in seams projects, and gives thorough explanations of the processes. You can see a video of some of the techniques here. I appreciated the line drawings of the quilts that you can try out colors on before cutting up your fabric.

I wonder what this pattern would look like in horizontal stripes or diagonal colors? I’d better break out my colored pencils.


Filed under Books, In Process, Modern Quilting

A Scrappy New Year

For 2017 I’ve been mulling over the advisability of a recurring project. Some quilters embroider a weekly leaf, while others do a daily sketch or photo. It’s a way to keep one’s hand in, creatively, and to have a project that can be completed quickly or is portable.

I’ve thought about a weekly collage, as I’ve been collecting pictures from magazines. I’ve also thought about a weekly shape created from my small scraps boxes. To clarify, I have boxes for large and small scraps. These are separate from my fabric strips boxes. Almost all my scraps are roughly sorted by color and size. Some of you may know Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s 15 minutes of play approach to making new fabric from scraps. No pressure, just sew.

To try out a scrappy regular project I spent the day after New Years sewing small scrap bits together. My session was supposed to last only about 30 minutes, but I didn’t come up for air until 4 hours had passed. And that took me only through my black and yellow scraps.


Here are my yellow scraps sorted by value and the scraps I finally was able to part with in the trash.

yellow-and-blackI started in separate black and yellow color groups, but then began to combine them. I have nothing in mind, but will replenish my parts department.

I can see where such a side project could take over all my time unless I exercise much self discipline. It’s all the fun and none of the headaches of patchwork. Have any of you tried such daily/weekly tasks?


Filed under Commentary, In Process, Inspiration

Another Modern Take On Tradition

I finally got my hands on Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s Double Wedding Ring Quilts: Traditions Made Modern. Ever since I saw her 2013 QuiltCon best of show winner quilt I’ve wanted to know how she made it. Her book answers that question, sort of. I now know this quilt began as a failed quilt top that was chopped up.

best of show quilt con 2013 by victoria wolfeAlthough Wolfe’s quilts are derived from the traditional wedding ring, they use that pattern as a jumping off point. She does, though, include one quilt that is completely traditional, perhaps to show she has those chops. I had to laugh and wince that in college her art quilts were criticized as craft, not art.

Wolfe_Forever_GardenWolfe now lives in the Big Apple, but grew up in Minnesota. Her roots inform her quilts as she interprets items handmade by her grandmother – polyester quilts, crocheted doilies, etc.

This is a very personal book that gives a glimpse into Wolfe’s thought process as she designs. It’s definitely not a pattern book, though you could make your own version of many of the quilts. Paper templates are included. Wolfe strongly encourages her readers to make their own quilts in response to what inspires them and to use failed quilt tops as made fabric. She also urges her readers to build on previous ideas but modify them with each quilt.

It’s also not a book for the novice sewer. There are lots of curved seams, flanges, and the like. General instructions for piecing double wedding ring quilts and for making fabric Wolfe’s way are included. I gather Wolfe uses her AccuQuilt Go cutter to cut out all those finicky arcs and melons.  Amazon is asking $80 for that die set alone, and the cutter costs at least $250. That’s not in my budget and I don’t see myself cutting out a lot of arcs and melons by hand.

I hope the book will help me take ideas from a inkling to a quilt. Wolfe pulls bits from her inspiration pieces, but doesn’t try to copy them. And what she pulls often surprises.

From a photo of her grandparents in front of their garden she focused on the irises and produced this.

Wolfe_Field_of_FlowersWhich turned into this.

Wolfe_Iris_by_NightMy only real beef with this book is its inclusion of polyester double knit as a viable quilting material. I don’t care that her grandmother made quilts from it, that stuff is evil. Talk about a sauna effect.

Would I make up any of these quilts? Wolfe uses one pattern a few times that seems more doable than some of the others. I like the idea of supersizing the squares.

Wolfe_Strings_of_Florid_BloomsI like her touches, such as emphasizing some quilting lines with hand embroidery and having the pattern fade in and out.

Wolfe_Greatest_Possible_TrustWhile I wouldn’t buy this book I’m glad I read it. I love the glimpses into “what was she thinking,” “why did she do that?”

Wolfe’s artistic approach is uniquely hers. I consider her a fiber artist rather than a modern quilter. If you’re at the point of wanting to design your own quilts but aren’t quite sure how to begin, this book would be helpful. For each quilt in the book Wolfe addresses ideas carried over from previous work, the goal for the quilt, adding layers and, most importantly, pushing it further. Those cues apply to any original design, not just wedding ring quilts.



Filed under Art quilts, Books