PIECEmaker and Storyteller

With the month of November upon us, my thoughts turn to gratitude

I am particularly grateful for my PIECEmaker sister, SHEILA!

Sheila may be #7 (out of 10) in our family's birth order, but I am the LUCKY one...look what she made me:

 Sheila is SEW awesome! I love her (and my quilt) to pieces! ๐Ÿ’—

Since quilt making is a bit like storytelling, I thought it would be interesting to hear the story of my incredible gift. 

Bridget: What was the inspiration for my quilt?

Sheila: I was inspired by your love of children's books and your talent as a poet. I also wanted to personalize the quilt to share what I see in you.

Bridget: What goes into making a quilt? Is there a story you are trying to tell?

Sheila: I started with the idea of your love of children's books. As I continued to think about how I wanted to personalize the quilt, I decided I wanted to include my perspective as to what makes you you, a sisterly biography of sorts.

I definitely wanted to include family - photos of your family and Smidge.

 And I wanted to include some of the places you've lived: Southern California and Arizona. Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to do a good cow or cheese for Wisconsin.

I included your love of Peanut
M&Ms, VW Bug cars, your yearly celebration of Poem in Your Pocket day, and the color orange...lots and lots of orange. 


I also couldn't figure out how to add gymnastics and I forgot about an apple for teaching until too late, but there was no room anyway.

Bridget: What process do you use? How do you organize such a huge project?

Sheila: I knew the big picture goal - to make a bookcase. 

Initial idea...

 I looked for a pattern - for dimensions rather than strict directions.

Free pattern with other's quilts

My research ๐Ÿ˜
 Then I went through my stash of leftover fabric (scraps) and found the ones that screamed my talented sister (Bridget!) and a way to include a little of my taste.

First I cut strips for the books: fat, skinny, tall and short. 
Testing where the books are placed without background. Realized I need a lot more books.

Then I laid out the strips for color placement and made specialty objects to be distributed among the books.
I laid out blocks before putting in shelves.

Then I tested the background of inside the bookcase (white or black) and figured out the "grain" of the shelves.
Layout of strips with shelves.
I also created the book titles (I went to our local library to check out every book they had that was on your favorite list) I read the books and tried to replicate the title font if I could. I used sharpie & fabric coloring pens to survive the wash.
Bridget interjecting here...Sheila even included my 10.10 Poetry Anthology before it was even finished...she had faith I'd pull it off. And I did!

Sheila (continued): Then I assembled the books and objects into 10"x10" squares so I could square up and string 5 across to make a shelf. I had to quilt all three layers so I could handle it in a smaller section.

Finally I added the shelves and background, then the binding. I chose crayons because color and you being a teacher!

Bridget: How did you go about selecting materials?

Sheila: Fabric choice was another way I told the story of you. I included your "likes" in the fabric prints I chose: the color orange, fruit (though I couldn't find any with arms & legs), dogs, paw prints, bees (from Maureen's quilt) and a lot of vibrant colors.

I also made the conscious decision to use leftover fabric from quilts I'd made previously as a way to add the love that I put into them into yours. 
For example, in addition to the bees,  I added sage green and pale yellow picture frames, and a flower pot that was on Maureen's quilt. Actually the book shelves are made out of a green fabric that I purchased for her quilt, but didn't quite work because it was too directional. It worked perfectly for yours!
Maureen's quilt.

Same flower...

I used the brown and green on the frame from Mom's quilt. 
(Checkout the needlepoint squares!)

From Emerson's elephant quilt I used the gray for your backing and the flying rainbow birds.
Emerson's quilt...
From my Eddie's quilt I added the grey/black Scottie dogs, grey from the back and burgundy. From my quilt I added in the light blue, royal blue and white on white.
From Aisha's quilt I used the tan and browns. And from Jaiden's quilt I used the purple for the frame.
I also chose the wool batting (the fluffy stuffing) for warmth and so it would be light weight and soft.  It also crinkles nicely after a wash.

Bridget: Are there sources that you consult regularly? Are there websites/stores that you recommend?

Sheila: I lurk on Facebook to see what others are working on: Quilting for Beginners, MSQC-All Stars. This is where I first saw someone working on the bookcase style. And I saw how some personalized theirs with cats, Harry Potter, sewing tools, coffee.

Then I went on Etsy and bought a basic pattern. I also found a free pattern on a blog (fabricatwork.com) and then used what I wanted from both.
On a side note: one of the patterns said not to use bright, solids, high contrast or novelty prints. oops!

Bridget: What challenges did you face while making my quilt? (Orange you glad I asked?)

Sheila: Orange. Lots and lots of orange. Not one of my natural choices, but each time I reached for it I thought of you. It kept you in my heart the whole time I was creating and adjusting. The back is VERY orange.

 The other challenge was my deadline. I came up with the idea when I was finishing Maureen's quilt and thought I could get it done by the time we met in California this summer. All went well until I washed it the night before we left for the airport. Washing is always scary - you pray your seams hold. They all held except the book labels started to fray. I know now that I should have fused them on. Lesson learned. The quilt will keep you warm and hold up, but the labels need a little help...

Bridget: Have you come up with your own unique way of approaching a quilting project and are you willing to share your secret?

Sheila: No real secret. When you come up with an idea you have to let it evolve and grow. Let it become what it needs to be. Be flexible and let the colors and shapes have room to shine.

Bridget: Is quilting something you consider a side business? Have you thought of selling your quilts?

Sheila: No. I don't think strangers appreciate the time and materials that go into making a quilt. They can go to Walmart or Amazon and get a comforter for $100. That would barely cover the material on the front.

As for the time involved, one of my simple quilts took 45 hours, Eddie's took 140 hours. You can do the math and know how the price would be driven. I stopped tracking my time because I do it as a creative outlet and you know, COVID. Look on Etsy to see how much an Amish handcrafted quilt can run.

Bridget: Who taught you to quilt? (and how did I miss this gene?)

Sheila: Funny story: I love embroidery and thought I could cross stitch Irises on quilt squares and Mom could make herself a quilt with the squares. Well, 20 (tax seasons and working in private industry) years later, I had only finished 8 of the 12. By then Mom's eyesight and hands couldn't complete a quilt. 

SO she handed me everything back and asked that I finish it, since I had just retired. Time spent on Google, YouTube and reading The Quilting Answer Book led me to finish her quilt. 

And now 8 and a half quilts later, here I am. I have learned a lot with each one.

Bridget: When you're not quilting what do enjoy doing?

Sheila: My first love is embroidery. I am a tactile person. I love the feel of threads and fabric. I also love to play with colors. After Mom's quilt, I finished an old needlepoint canvas based on a quilt pattern I had started in the 90's. After framing it, I thought making quilts was a more useful product than a framed canvas on the wall. After I finish Jaiden's quilt I may get back into the needlework until I find a new recipient for the next quilt.

Bridget: What is your number one piece of advice for beginning quilters?

Sheila: I don't know if I have just one piece of advice. If you give a quilt, it is a gamble to know if your choices are theirs. I knew you understood what went into quilts after we collaborated on Maureen's quilt. I also knew you loved books, poetry, dogs and ORANGE so I made this quilt with you in mind. If I make more, I will involve the recipient in color choices, themes, etc. 

Also, YouTube is your friend. Facebook groups are good places for ideas and to ask fellow quilters questions and see the latest gadget or tool. Also, get a reference book and use practice pieces. 

And lastly: Brush up on your geometry, fractions and math in general!

Thank you, Sheila on so many levels! In addition to being my sister, you are also my bestest "Pin" pal.

Today's poem is a triolet* for Sheila, my sew-per star sister!

Quilting "B"

pieces of cloth, needle and thread

love infused in every stitch

cut and crafted to be read

pieces of cloth, needle and thread

displayed on my wall, then my bed

warm and soft, doesn't make me itch

pieces of cloth, needle and thread

love infused in every stitch

©2021, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

 *A triolet is an eight-line poem (or stanza) with a rhyme scheme of ABaAabAB: The first line is repeated in the fourth and seventh lines and the second line is also the last line (the capital letters indicate repeating lines). ~ source for definition here

 Giveaway WINNERS: A few weeks back, to celebrate the release of my 10.10 Poetry Anthology: Celebrating 10 in 10 different ways I announced a giveaway of 10 copies to 5 lucky (and incredibly kind!) commenters (2 books per winner).

Using the gnome hat wet-felted by another one of my very talented sisters, Jane, a very scientific name draw took place. 

(What would I do without my ever supportive and very photogenic husband, Joe?)

Joe modeling gnome hat...

...drawing names...

...the WINNERS!


Please contact me (bridget at bridgetmagee dot com) with your mailing address and I will get your copy in the mail ASAP. 

Thank you to everyone who commented and has supported the release of my anthology. The support for this project has been amazing (understatement).

Please join the Poetry Friday fun at Mary Lee's place...a "large percentage" of you will NOT be disappointed.


  1. SEW awesome indeed! I love all the personal touches in this... and how like a sister to include a book project not yet done, but believing (KNOWING) it will be eventually. Love! xo

  2. Wow, Bridget. Amazing. This entire post, your loving sister and her work and the interview, your Sewing B poem. The love. Right now there is a well-known quilt show in a local Art Center/Gallery. These days they jury for non-traditional art quilts. My Pen Women group has 8 poets who are writing Ekphrastic poems for 31 of the 73 quilts. They will be on the website in Dec. It is lovely to see the jpegs of the quilts but in person, wow, the size and placement in the galleries is incredible. I bet you'd enjoy it! I have one poem left to create. (We were asked to write short poems, even Haiku, but that is a challenge for sure given the richness of the quilts!). Thank you, Bridget. Here is a link if interested in checking them out. All I can say is wow to your quilt and all the thoughtfulness and creativity and skill that your sister put into its making. https://schweinfurthartcenter.org/quiltsartquilts-2021/

  3. Oh. My. Goodness. As someone who once sewed. A lot. Who also made sentimental gifts, on a lot smaller scale... I am fascinated, overwhelmed and blown away by this magnificent gift. Just wonderful! And your poem in response is perfect. So much to love!

    Congratulations on your anthology, too. I remember reading of it, in a period of utter business - never did get a chance to send anything in. And now it's finished - and released. And doing well! Congratulations!

  4. All I can say is WOW!! Sheila is SEW talented!!! The quilt is gorgeous, made with so much love and it's so YOU, Bridget (this is why I need a sister). Thanks for interviewing Sheila so we could get some of the backstory for her masterpiece. :)

  5. Your sister is a wonderful sister! Yes she is "sew" talented as Jama says. But it is really huge to receive a gift of love like this.

  6. Here's another WOW. What a sister! What a seamstress! What a gift (her talent and your quilt)!! Your triolet is all kinds of perfect, too!

  7. Yes, "love infused in every stitch" almost isn't enough to write, Bridget, though I love your poem. I appreciate that you asked your sister all about this special, spectacular gift. I just read Catherine's post, about quilting & I have a tiny quilt reference in my post today, too. There are lots of quilters in my family, just not me! Thanks for sharing so much about your literary quilt. I imagine other quilters would adore seeing this online in some quilters' space!

  8. Bridget, I have been meaning to thank you for your curating talent to create your 10 * 10 Anthology. I am so thrilled to be one of your contributors. Did you say you also have poems in the book? As for your sister's talent: Her work and efforts are outstanding. She must be a very patient person with lots of energy and creativity to accomplish such a feat. May your quilt warm you and fill your thoughts with family love. I really like your poem in response to your sister's gift: "love infused in every stitch".

  9. ๐Ÿงก Yay for loving, talented sisters!

  10. I can clearly see the level of commitment required in the quilting process. The thoroughness of your post is testimony to the planning and effort required. I can see your love and appreciation of Sheila's efforts to deliver this fine, fine quilt. SEW good!

  11. Wow! There is gift upon gift in this post, Bridget. I'm so impressed with the sisterly love that led to a quilt and the interview and your poem. "love stitched in every piece." There's just nothing better. Thank you for sharing the quilt-poem joy. I think you and your sister should consider more collaborations!

  12. Wow! What a stunning quilt! Bravo to your sister's true labor of love. Thank you for interviewing her about her process. I'm always fascinated to hear artists tell the creation story of a piece of art. Your poem captures the process exactly!

  13. What a post! As a former (and future?) quilter, I appreciate every choice Sheila made, every delight you are taking in her handiwork. Hmmm is there a collaborative project in YOUR future?

  14. What a gorgeous quilt and what a heart-warming interview. The connection between the two of you is so vivid throughout. Are all the rest of your siblings as vibrantly creative as the two of you!? Thanks for a feel-good post and for finishing it off with your lovely triolet.

  15. So much love and talent in this post! The quilt and your poem are perfect!

  16. Bridget, The quilt your sister made is such an awesome work of art and loving gift! She put so much time and thought into preparing it! Loved the interview explaining her process as well - Just wish she had made a cheese for WI! Just kidding - LOL. It is gorgeous, as is! AND, then when I get to the end to find out I won a copy of 10 x 10, I am beyond thrilled! Thank you so much! I'll get my address to you straight away! Thanks!

  17. Many thanks for all the kind comments! Sheila is an amazing talent and I am proud to share her mad talents with the world. She deserves all the accolades. Love, Bridget

  18. Bridget (and Sheila) - this is fantabulous! A work of art and love - thank you for this glimpse of the creative process behind making this quilt. Reading every book on your favorites list is dedicated research!

  19. Thank you, Sheila and Bridget, for this great interview, and all the photos. It is an inspiration. I love the story of how you finished the quilt started twenty years ago, and that is what hooked you on quilting. It is inspiring to know that we can always keep learning.

    And I am so excited to see my name on the list of winners! Thank you so much, Bridget, (and Joe). I will look forward to reading and treasuring one and sharing one. Thanks!

  20. Bridget, what a treasure! Simply amazing.

  21. Wow! What a gorgeous gift. I really enjoyed learning about all that went into making it.


I look forward to hearing your respectful responses...thank you for taking the time to comment! :)