Beth Markel


Quilt #3 in “Seasons Series”

Posted on June 22, 2018 by Beth Markel

I started a series a couple of years ago with the intention of making 4 quilts, one for each season.  “Spring” has traveled about and won first place in the division of traditional blocks turned into something different at Road to California 2016.  It took a solid 14 months to make, and is still one of my favorite pieces.  “Summer”  has numerous blocks made, but I am wrestling with an image I may or may not want to include in it.  “Fall” is now in the works, as I started making blocks for it last week.  In a slight departure of the first 2 in the series, this one will be more “structured” which, for me, really represents the Autumn of life I have now entered.

The Spring label reads:

Spring Storm, 1st in a Series of 4 Seasons            

I believe there are seasons in our lives.  Spring happens when we’re young, a little wild, tempestuous, naïve, and turbulent…the beginning of growth.  Evolution.  Storms.  Setbacks.  More growth.  Beauty.  So stand back.  No, literally, stand back!  The only way to see the twister is to stand back a way, then be slowly drawn into the joy that is every single decision, every single choice, and every single piece that together, tell a story.

Spring Storm

Spring Storm

So here is the beginning of Autumn or Fall, still full of life, but really colorful, and filled with love of family and our first grandchild. It’s busy, beautiful, fun, but also a changing of the seasons, where I go from Summer where my own children were growing up, to a season where change is embraced and celebrated, in a beautiful, colorful way.

The finished block is 3/4″ x 3/4″ and no, you did not read that incorrectly.

Having spent a fair amount of time outdoors, hiking, camping when we were quite young, lots of time on the lakes near our house, as well as living in the shadow of the Shenandoah trails in Virginia, I can tell you that Tulip poplars are golden yellow; Shining Sumac, bright red; Hickory, a lovely golden bronze; Oak (which keeps their leaves until new spring growth pushes it out) are red, red-brown, or russet, and Dogwoods a deep red shade. I think piecing this small can be tedious, so I crank the tunes and am working on this a little every day.  I’ll keep you posted on the progress!

Seasons Series 3_Autumn  blocks

Make something every day!




Unfinished Conversations is finished…

Posted on May 25, 2018 by Beth Markel

And I am an emotional basket-case today!  Becky Collis of Collis Quilting quilted this for me, and I love it, but sitting and binding it, inch by inch, was a roller-coaster of emotion.  It was a reminder that when you lose somebody, you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, plodding, so inch by inch, I plugged along until the binding was done.  When you lose somebody so dear, for a while you just go through the motions.

David Roberts photographed this for me, and I picked it up yesterday, drove home, unrolled it, and burst into tears!  I thought after sewing the top I would be done with all of the emotions this piece represents for me, but no!  This work brings me right back to the conversations I did not get to share with Barb, from our kids beginning high school, graduating, getting into college, birthday parties, ridiculous shopping trips, laughing until I needed a Depends…

Unfinished Conversations

Unfinished Conversations

Leukemia sucks!

OK, deep breath.

In the next couple of weeks I will be finishing some smaller projects, and I will continue to clean up, clean out, complete some projects, and work to make my studio a cleaner, clearer place to create.  It turns out I am something of a pack-rat~

Make something today!






New work on the design wall…

Posted on March 29, 2018 by Beth Markel

Hi All,

For the first time since having a quilt grace the cover of Quilting Arts Magazine, I have taken a short hiatus from blogging. I was quilting, to be sure, but it was totally different than what I normally work on. Quilting Arts Cover First, t-shirt quilts made using the Too Cool T-Shirt template which means to backing for the shirts, no stabilizer, nothing heavy or stiff to make the shirts less comfy, snuggly, warm – the best part of t-shirts!

Jackie HS quilt

Next, using this same method, making a Navy veteran’s quilt.  Did you know there are different anchors for different ranks?  I didn’t when I started, but I did at the end – and while NOT an applique genius, the Chief’s Anchor took almost 8 hours to make.  The way it turned out, it was worth all the time put into it, and he loved the quilt!  That’s a good ending – and the pockets all work, so when he’s snacking while watching a movie at home, he has a place to put things.  My family has a long history of service to this country and making veteran’s quilts is always an honor.
USNavy Chief's anchor 12x12

If you have ever read any of my previous posts, you’ll know that I’m not overly fond of patterns – OK, free-wheeling might actually describe how I often work, and why, perhaps, projects take on a life of their own.  My last VERY large quilt started small but reminded me more and more of my late sister (leukemia sucks!), and eventually became a watershed piece for me in recognizing all the unfinished conversations we missed out on.  It turned out to be cathartic, monumental, and a release from grief.  So, the opposite, and I mean what is diametrically opposed to the way I usually work, is making “building” quilts, or local area buildings and land-marks into quilts for the AQS Grand Rapids special exhibit area.  So, there are quilters and artists that love working from patterns.  I respect that, and spend random afternoons on occasion doing EPP, or English Paper Piecing.  I love the precision!  However, in making quilts from existing brick-and-mortar buildings was a challenge…

At the Sign of the Black & White Cow - I am starting with Kona white, drew on the fieldstone, and am filling in with fabric markers.  I want it to have a painterly feel...

At the Sign of the Black & White Cow – I am starting with Kona white, drew on the fieldstone, and am filling in with fabric markers. I want it to have a painterly feel…

Almost there...

Almost there…

Basic assembly almost complete - Fieldstone "mortar" took 4 bobbins and extremely dense stitching

Basic assembly almost complete – Fieldstone “mortar” took 4 bobbins and extremely dense stitching



Finally, I’d like to thank DH, Darling Husband, for adding 20″ to my design wall – no more pins in the drywall when working on large projects!

OK, so that’s where we are and what’s on the design wall.  I’ll post pics when completed -

Make something today!





Using old blocks for something new

Posted on December 11, 2017 by Beth Markel

It has been a lovely, long Fall season here in Michigan, and I took this photo 2 weeks ago when there were still leaves on the tress.  The change of seasons seems so fitting as we look forward to our first grandbaby on the way.

Last leaves of Autumn 2017


After completing a quilt that was an emotional roller-coaster, I wanted something simple, and frankly, easy.  I recently inherited a box of squares, all cut in somewhat different sizes, although I did not realize this at first. They were all cut by my darling mother-in-law, who passed two years ago this month.  One of the cousins had the box for a while, and I think it may eventually make its way around to all the cousins who sew.

So this is what I started with.  I just dumped the box out since it was rather jumbled from travelling, and found some squares already sewn in strips, some in pairs, and lots and lots of free-range squares.  This means, in my book, nothing matched!  So you have red, pink floral, orange florals, some Southwestern cactus graphics, batiks, medium tone grays with modern flair, some vintage feed sacks, lots and lots of shades of white, and even some upholstery fabric, as well as chintz…

Grandma Dee's Bucket-0-Squares

Grandma Dee’s Bucket-0-Squares

Wanting to use some of the squares my darling MIL had sewn, I found some that I knew she had marked on – she always penciled in a line for half-square triangles.  My goal was to make a new quilt for our first grandbaby, but one that his Great Grandmother had sewn part of.

Dee's pencil marks

Dee’s pencil marks


I did not realize until after I started sewing that some of the squares were NOT 2.5 x 2.5, but rather 2.38 x 2.5 or 2.25 x 2.25…or any combination thereof!  The lesson here became sew a four-patch THEN square it up so there is some unity in size.

Squaring up the box of squares

It is not finished yet, but I have now sorted and sewn light/dark or white/pattern pairs, 100 pairs, and will try to put them together in some charming way.

Lots of pairs

Lots of pairs


I’ll post when it’s finished and quilted.   In the meantime, enjoy the time you have with family & friends.




Unfinished Conversations is Finished

Posted on November 29, 2017 by Beth Markel

Hello all,

I apologize I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks, but it’s been a challenge to finish this very emotional piece.  If you look back through previous posts, you can see where this just started off with some stray, orphan blocks, and where it is today.  For me, this has been a wild roller-coaster of emotions, from missing my sister, to thinking about the mischief we got into, to laughing about small things and big things, and having babies only 4 months apart, and 2-yr olds at the same time, chasing after them, and so many things in-between.

So I’m going to take a deep breath, post a couple of the pics from along the way, and the final quilt.  When I finished it, and pressed it, then put it up on the design wall, I burst into tears, and cried for about 24 hours, just as the loss seemed so fresh again.  After 2 days of that, I feel like healing is coming.

OK, these just look like argyle socks...

OK, these just look like argyle socks…


Design Wall Friday 1_27_17


Cluster of blocks on shades of purple - it's OK, nothing special

Cluster of blocks on shades of purple – it’s OK, nothing special





Design Wall Friday 4_15_17

Design Wall Friday 4_15_17




DWF_10_13_17 Color

Done. My chest tightens up just working on this, but it's also been amazingly therapeutic

Done. My chest tightens up just working on this, but it’s also been amazingly therapeutic


Make every day count, and be kind to each other.








Using Black/White photos to determine color value in your quilts

Posted on October 14, 2017 by Beth Markel

Hi all,

I’m updating my design wall, first with what it actually looks like:

 DWF_10_13_17 Color


 And now in Black/White.  Often, when I get towards the end of a project, in this case one that is meaningful for me, I switch to B/W photos to look at the distribution, not of color, but of VALUE.  Value does all the work, but color gets all the credit!

DWF_10_13_17 Black and White


Are there ebbs and flows, or light and dark areas?

Is the value fairly flat across the entire piece?

Do I want more or fewer dramatic value changes?

Does any one area look too light?

Does any one piece or area stick out like a sore thumb?

In this case, can you tell where I begin to move to a completely dark tone, without a harsh line, but just movement into dark?

 I love the design process.  This pieced tribute is pure expression of what I think all of my unfinished conversations with my sister look like.  Relationships, especially with a sister, are complicated, funny, messy, loving, ridiculous, bickering, competitive, back to loving, but mostly enduring.  It’s the enduring part without her being here that’s hard.

Be kind today,




Design Wall Friday Update

Posted on October 7, 2017 by Beth Markel

In the last couple of months I’ve been working on a quilt that has come to mean a lot to me.  It did not start out that way, as it was just a handful of orphan blocks which I made thinking I would use them for one of Nancy Crow’s workshops.  The requirement for the workshop was to make them in black and white, which I did, but then I made a handful of them with some purple and yellow scraps leftover from another project, thinking I would first use the B/W then the color.  If you have ever been to a workshop that lasts 5 days, especially one with the extremely talented Nancy Crow, you’ll understand completely that things don’t always go the way you have them planned in your head!  In fact, I’ve learned to go to the Crow Barn with zero expectations of finishing anything, and zero expectations of my own agenda.  To sit at the foot of a master, you must set aside your own agenda, your own preconceptions, and your own bias.  Open-minded.  Period.

So this journey started with these dozen orphan blocks, and the more I worked with them, the more they reminded me of my sister, Barb. To make a long story short, she lost her battle with leukemia, APL – Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia – and this is what unfinished conversations with her looks like.  It is almost done, and I’m working every day to complete it.

Height it roughly 70″ and width will probably be close to 80″ when I’m done.

I think you can see where I’m moving into darkness – silence – off to the right.

This is where I was Monday:


And here’s where it was last night, Friday, around 10 p.m. when I finished sewing:





Design Wall Friday, 9-22-17

Posted on September 23, 2017 by Beth Markel

This is the continuation of what has been on my design wall for several months.  It’s really been a roller coaster, as I’ve sorted through grief in losing my sister.  It is not finished yet, and I posted it to facebook this morning on The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters page, looking for advice.  Since this quilt has really taken on a life of meaning for me, I didn’t know whether to dig into my stash and make it rectangular, or continue while adding space between the elements that are already together.

I thought I would just look at it one day and say, “Yep, finished.”  This is just not the case for this piece, and I wonder how others decide when a work is finished?  If you’re working from a traditional pattern, you make the required number of blocks, decide how to set them, and what, if any, you want the borders to be.  While I love traditional piecing, there’s often not a lot of choice, except in fabric colors/patterns.

As one of the posts said, “It very much looks like the crazy, messy, loving, complicated relationship that sisters have.”  What a great way to summarize the relationship I had with my sister.  What a great way to summarize a lot of relationships!

So while the hunt for a new iron continues…here’s what is on my design wall.

The size is top to bottom, about 70″ right now, and left-to-right roughly 60″ but I didn’t start out with any real plan as to size.

DWF_9_22_17_Early A.M.




Fall into quilting…

Posted on September 16, 2017 by Beth Markel

I took the month of August off, not entirely from quilting, but trying to catch up on outside projects before the weather turns chilly here in Michigan.  I also spent some time travelling, as well as 5 days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the AQS show.

Some last vestiges of summer in my back yard:

pink geraniums


Purple all summer, until this popped up yesterday morning - Crazy Petunias!

Purple all summer, until this popped up yesterday morning – Crazy Petunias!

Last year we had to cut down our ornamental cherry tree because it was split in a storm.  It was a beautiful, blooming tree, and we hated to cut it down, but it was damaged beyond repair.  We’ve been letting the wood dry out, and when it rained last week, you could suddenly see all of the chainsaw blade cuts in the wood.  I thought this was just cool!  How great would that be for a quilting pattern?

Cherry Tree blade marks

So on the quilting end of things, I’ve had two, count them, TWO, irons quit in the last couple of weeks.  First the Rowenta Pro Master I inherited from my darling MIL, Dee.  This was my favorite iron, primarily because of the heft, large soleplate area, and reliability…until it began leaking and spitting a dark liquid, looking like oil.  I’ve never put water it in – I’m a firm believer in misting exactly where I want to press, and never running water through the Rowenta.  To the best of my knowledge, my MIL seldom, if ever, put water in her irons, but apparently this is not an uncommon problem with the Rowenta.  The picture is not of burn marks, but of the liquid that came out of it, which I pressed dry to see if it was water or an oily liquid.  At one point, there was actually black water seeping from the base of the iron, so I rapidly unplugged it, and have not used it since.  If anybody has suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Rowenta Pro Master     Rowenta piddle

My back-up iron, Oliso Pro, or “Ollie” as I like to call him, stopped jumping up and down.  It is possible that this is a design flaw, as it’s the 2nd iron from them that has had this problem, but so far, customer service has been spectacular.  You iron, set the iron down, and the feet pop up, lifting Ollie about 3/4″ from the ironing board.  In my case, I picked the iron up, the feet retracted, I ironed, set it down, and it went up and down 3 times, then sat, hot-soleplate down on the board.  The red light came on, and I think it’s a fire hazard, or at least a burn hazard for the ironing board cover.  I don’t know that it would start a fire, but it’s like setting an iron down, hot, soleplate down, and walking away – who would want to risk it?

So two irons down, and I’m looking for suggestions…

Finally, an improv piece from the facebook page, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, challenge #1, New York Beauty – Deconstructed.  Now just needs binding!  Quilting by Ruth McCormick, free-handed, and she did a beautiful job!

NYB Deconstructed - quilted front

NYB Deconstructed - back quilted

Ok, that’s the update!







Design Wall Friday – Monday Morning Quarterback

Posted on July 31, 2017 by Beth Markel

I have had my nose to the grindstone, sewing like crazy, trying to finish the Cherrywood Van Gogh Challenge.  First, I chose to do this because I really, truly, love Cherrywood fabrics!  The hand, the colors, the depth of value  in each fabric…well, I could go on for quite a while.  Secondly, I have been such a fan of Van Gogh, that if I didn’t participate, I would have been disappointed in myself.  While I believe there’s only a 50/50 shot of getting into the exhibit, I’m posting this here:

My artist statement:

My goal was to use Van Gogh’s painting, Starry Night, his many self-portraits, and his story, struggling artist, to create something totally unique.  First, I deconstructed all the stroke-work of Starry Night, knowing I wanted to use these iconic shapes in both the applique and quilting.  Van Gogh painted almost 40 self-portraits, making him the first “Selfie” artist, so I used a self-portrait and super-imposed the Van Gogh stroke-work.  With this evolution of design, I brought Van Gogh into the 21st Century, via Andy Warhol.


VanGogh Stage 1 VanGogh Stage 2 VanGogh Stage 3 VanGogh Stage 4 VanGogh Stage 5 VanGogh with tape measure