Confessions of an alleged quilter

(Helen is a quest contributor to the Meadowlark Blog Hop giveaway. The art piece that Helen made using trapunto features one of the 6 Common Birds in Decline seen in the Meadowlark bird print, the Greater Scaup. She will tell you about the making of the quilt below. I can tell you, Helen is a treasure, I am quite happy to get to know her and to call her a friend.)


Sometimes you just have to say yes.  When Melanie Testa put out a call for help getting projects sewn for her Meadowlark launch for Windham Fabrics I instinctively said I would help.  Well, that was my first reaction.  My second was “What am I thinking?  Why did I say yes?  Now have to show up, meet new people, talk to them, be creative…oh my, what have I gotten myself into???”

The day arrived.  I had mixed emotions approaching City Quilter, arriving at the same time as Melanie.  We introduced ourselves and I was relieved to discover that she was as sweet and approachable in person as she is online and in her books.  I met the others in this crew of talented quilters and was excited to see the work that had been done the previous week as well as projects that individuals had designed and sewn.  It was intimidating.  But I was there and I was going to help.  All I had to do was help sew blocks together and then rows for the gorgeous string quilt as well as assist sewing the beautiful bird quilt together.  It was fun and a relief to get lost in sewing and chatting and doing.  Not worrying about work or life or anything – just putting one stitch after another.  Nirvana.


The day ended too quickly.  I volunteered to bind the string quilt and make a sleeve.  There were scraps of fabric left and I asked Melanie if she needed any small wall hangings.  She did.  Again, I said yes.  I would make a wall hanging.  I pulled some fabric, said goodbye, and was on my way.  And then realized that I had committed to completing these projects in just about three weeks.  Here’s the thing.  I am an “alleged quilter”.  I start projects. Some of them get completed; most get almost completed.  It took me two years to put the binding on a quilt my sister made.  I began my first quilt in 1981 when I was working summer stock and my cat Maggie was born.  I finished it in 1998, the year Maggie died.  And lately, I hadn’t even been sewing.  I was drawing and painting and playing around paper.  Well, ok then.  Oh, hell.  Why not?  I said yes.  Now I had to do it.  

I work better if I don’t think too much so I took a bird square and centered it on a muslin backing.  Then I cut 2-1/2” strips of the other fabrics and started building out from the bird.  Once the muslin was completely covered machine stitched around all the elements in the bird patch, then I embellished the fabric around the center square with orange, purple, and aqua rayon thread to help marry the birds to the surrounding fabric.  This, of course led to the center not laying flat because, well, all of the stitching caused distortion.  The fix?  Trapunto.  I’d never tried this padded and raised quilt design before but thought it was worth a shot.  Why not cut the muslin and stuff all the elements in the bird square?  It might take care of the distortion and would make the birds really pop.  So I did. And it worked.  And I was excited.  I didn’t have enough scraps to make a border so I stitched it like a pillow cover.  And then pressed like crazy and added a sleeve.  Lastly, I made the pieced binding as well as the sleeve for the string quilt.  In less than three weeks.  All because I said yes.


Melly’s Meadowlark fabric is a joy to work with.  The design, the color, the feel and quality of the fabric – everything about this line is exceptional.  And I got to play a small part in the launch.  I also met and worked with one of my design icons and other really talented women.  All because I said yes.  I can’t wait to do it again. Thanks Melly for letting me be a part of this adventure!

Please let me know what you think.  Just leave a comment for a chance to win a Fat Stack of 10” squares of all 26 fabrics in the Meadowlark line.  Melly’s also giving away 3 copies of her wonderful book “Dreaming From the Journal Page”.  If you missed any of the other posts in this hop just head over to the links below.  And don’t forget to leave your comments there, too. 

Melly – June 2 
Vivien Zepf – June 2 
Chrissie D – June 3 
Sue Bleiweiss – June 4  
Leslie Tucker Jenison  June 5 
Jamie Fingal – June 6 
Lyric Kinard – June 7 
Jen Eskridge – June 8 
Jacqui Holmes Calhoun – June 8  <——-Jacqui will be guest posting on Melly’s blog!
Stephanie Forsyth – June 9 
Victoria Findlay Wolfe – June 10 
Teri Lucas – June 11 
Scott Hansen June 12
Helen Eckard – June 12 <——-Helen will be guest posting on Melly’s blog!

Back to gallery


  1. http://Susan%20Dunne-Lederhaas says

    Oh,this is such a neat story! Fussy cutting is one of my favorites,and with Melly’s fabrics you can select from so many bird! The colors are superb,and easily mix and complement each other!

  2. http://Linda%20B says

    So pleaded you said ‘yes’ Helen ! Melly’s design method transferred to commercial fabric so beautifully keeping the organic-like feel. Love the birds !

  3. http://Vicki%20H says

    I love the wall hanging. I never think to use wonky strips like that. Thanks for say ‘yes’.

  4. http://Sandy%20K says

    I have never tried trapunto. Yours turned out fabulous. I am loving the Meadowlark collection.

  5. http://Kat%20Scott says

    We should always say YES to such beauty and joy…. the fabric fairly shouts —- “yes life is beautiful and complex and joyful!

  6. http://Kathy%20Heacock says

    Words fail me — I love the use of the fabrics in this piece, and the energy and sentiment behind it.

  7. http://Cecilia says

    Great job! I’m glad you said yes and made the cute wallhanging. Thanks for sharing your work.

  8. http://Sarah says

    I think you should say “yes” more often! Beautiful, beautiful work. You made those birds come alive. Thanks for showing off these beautiful fabrics.

  9. http://Julie%20in%20WA says

    I can relate to the dreaded ” show up, meet new people, talk to them, be creative…” And when it is over it is an enjoyable and memorable experience! Your piece is lovely…you could say YES again, in my opinion!

  10. Thank you for saying “YES!” Maybe we should all do that more frequently. I love your blog entry and am so glad you brought my attention to the birds, I think I’d pretty much forgotten there were birds in this fabric line!

  11. http://Jeannie says

    Oh Helen, your story touched my heart. I am so glad you said yes and that you followed through. Your bird mini quilt is wonderful and even more so, now that I know the story behind it. Like you, I am a little bit shy about being around new people. My mother used to force me to go to functions and would always say “You’ll have a good time once you get there”. I hated it!!! LOL! Fortuanely, what I have found in the creative community is a world of generous, encouraging people who look out after each other. Thanks so much for saying yes and stepping out of your comfort zone as you are so talented! I must admit that I am a little envious of you having a play date with Melly, and getting to caress the new fabric. 😀

  12. Lovely to meet you Helen. Your quilt is lovely and the trapunto was a great idea. I love thses fabrics and look forward to getting my hands on some of them.

  13. http://Sandy says

    I love Melanie’s birds, too. I love this fabric.

  14. http://Quilting%20Tangent says

    I like the bird wall hanging, how it is at all different angles, makes it more interesting.

  15. http://patty says

    Good for you that you finished your project! It turned out very cute!

  16. http://Sue%20Viall says

    Hi there,,,so glad you are guesting on Melanie’s blog,,,,
    I’m a blog shop hopper,,,,hope to see more of the both of you,,,,

  17. http://Diane%20Miller says

    I loved reading Helen’s story. What a connection to the fabric. Whenever I see Melanie’s fabric, I will think of the two of them working together to create beautiful art.

    Helen’s approach to adding the borders around the focus bird fabric was so interesting. As I was reading the post, I thought, oh the usual log cabin block, but no. It was fun, fabulous, and great to see that the design honored the painterly fabric.

    Well done to Melanie for designing such a terrific fabric line, and to Helen for understanding this fabric needed the unexpected twist to a traditional setting.

    Hugs, Diane

  18. http://Rhonda%20Davis says

    This blog hop has been so much fun…with SEW much inspiration, wonderful fabrics, lovely projects!!!!

  19. http://Barbara%20Fox says

    So much fun to read your blog post about Melanie’s new fabric line! I’m hearing you on the “oh no, have to be creative” comment. You did wonderfully and your use of the fabrics proved to be so colorful. Thanks and I can’t wait for October to roll around so I can pick up some of Melanie’s new fabrics! Already have some ideas on how to use them…

  20. http://Allison%20Evrard says

    I love the wall hanging!

  21. http://Loretta says

    Love your mini quilt and Melanie’s fabric is awesome.

  22. I am an “alleged quilter” too, and I love to say Yes especially to Challenges.

  23. Love the quilt, nice crazy quilt style!

  24. LOVE the trapunto!!

  25. http://Anne-Marie%20Binet says

    Our luck that you said yes!!! I love your trapunto piece! I have done trapunto once, a long time ago but I have been wanting to make a trapunto pillow for a while now! Thanks for sharing! And thanks for this opportunity to win!

  26. http://Jennifer%20Scantlebury%20Vienneau says

    It all sounds like such a wonderful experience! I really like your unintentional piecing process – I think this fabric really lends itself to that kind of play!

  27. Love the fabric!! It’s fun and happy!!

  28. I love the quilt, really creative and the fabrics look beautiful around the duck design.
    That would be fun to do with the fabrics and different art designs.


  29. http://Maeve%20Binder says

    I loved reading this description of your process. The quilt is beautiful. And I am crazy for Mellie’s new fabric line. Can’t wait to get hold of some of it!

  30. http://Kristin%20McKee says

    I’m so jealous of the time you got to spend with Melly and the crew! Kuddos to you for stepping up and getting the job done. Doesn’t feel good to step outside the box sometimes? Well done and thanks for the chance to win some goodies.

  31. http://Carolyn says

    Now I have a label for the kind of quilter I obviously am!!! I am an “alleged quilter!” I love how you did Trapunto with the birds. Great inspiration for saying “Yes.”

  32. http://Chris says

    It turned out wonderful. Always say yes and move forward. You will learn something out of each adventure. I love the colors in this fabric, stunning!

  33. http://Pam%20S says

    I loved your story, and the outcome is so beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  34. http://Delaine says

    Wow – this fabric is so versatile. You can make anything with it. I love it! Thanks!

  35. I am one who says “SURE, I would love to do it “, too. Then dread sets in as the deadline approaches….then pure joy as I sew or what ever I’m doing ! Then comes the TA-DA moment when I’m finished and I’m so happy I volunteered ! Your wall hanging is wonky wonderful Helen and you’re sew/so right, quilting is an adventure! Melanie’s fabrics are very creative and wonderful ! Great job Helen !

  36. Im happy to know the story behind the birds. I think the bluebirds are making a comeback (endangered at one time) at least they are in my yard, yea!

  37. http://Theresa%20Duval says

    Beautiful showcase of Melly’s fabric!

  38. http://Carol%20C says

    Gorgeous partnership of your work with Mellie’s fabrics!!! I’d love to get my chance to work with these fabrics!

  39. http://Diane says

    You are doing such a great job promoting the fabric line. It is beautiful and deserves all the love it is being shown.

  40. http://Kitty%20Ann says

    Gorgeous! LOVE all the prints and all the things I seen created with them on the tour. Would be great to win a book! Thanks for the opportunity! 😀

  41. http://Michele%20T says

    This hop has been amazing!! Your wall hanging is gorgeous!!! I love the colours and designs of Meadowlark! Thanks for sharing!

  42. Great wall hanging, and you solved the problem with the bird block admirably. This is such fabulous fabric; I can’t wait to get some on my cutting table!

  43. Great story and final product! What a fabulous fabric line. I am all for saying “Yes!”

  44. Thank you for the chance to win

  45. http://Gill says

    Reading through your story I thought ‘Yes – that’s what I am too!!’ an alleged quilter – what a perfect expression!
    I love Melly’s fabrics – my favourites are the dots and the birds