Evan's Quilt

Evan’s Baby Quilt

My third grandson, Evan, arrived in August, and I just completed a play quilt for him in time for Christmas. It’s about 42″x52″ and made of commercial cottons in primary and secondary solids, and black/white prints. I machine quilted it in spiral patterns with my awesome Juki TL2010-Q.

Evan's Quilt

Evan’s Quilt

Evan on his new quilt

Evan on his new quilt

The design is original and all for Evan. I wanted the color palette to be similar to the two quilts I made earlier for his older brothers, Austin and Landon.

Landon's Quilt

Landon’s Quilt, 2012

Austin's Quilt

Austin’s Quilt, 2010


"Synapse" 20"x30" hand-painted silk, hand embroidered and beaded.

“Synapse” 20″x30″ hand-painted silk, hand embroidered and beaded.



“Synapse” detail

The challenge was to create an art quilt depicting “connections.”

My response is entitled “Synapse.”

This is a wholecloth quilt. I used Jaquard Green Label silk dyes with the serti resist method to paint this 20″ by 30″ piece of china silk. I machine quilted along the cell walls and dendrites. I embellished by hand with silk floss and glass beads.

"Synapse," detail

“Synapse” detail

The brain has trillions of synapses.

At synapses, neurons release neurotransmitters that are picked up by their neighbors, carrying signals from cell to cell. These signals form memories and thoughts. The long, branchlike projections of brain cells are called axons and dendrites. These projections carry synaptic messages, integrating all the information a cell receives.

Intelligence is dictated by a brain’s underlying organization and molecular activity at its synapses.

Damage to dendrites is associated with depression and despair.

Alzheimer’s disease disrupts both the way electrical charges travel within cells and the activity of neurotransmitters between cells.





When Dolls Worry

The Guatemalan legend has it, that these small colorful handmade dolls will take away the worries of the child who places thIMG_0502em under her pillow.

I fell in love with these 2 inch tall dolls on a recent trip to Central America, and brought home a couple dozen of them with the intention of challenging my art quilt group, and myself, to use one or two of them in an art quilt.

I wondered, “What do the worry dolls do with the worry they collect? What do they do when they have their own worries?” Maybe only other worry dolls could take all this away. And so I arrived at this infinite cycle — each doll a pillow for the next.

I wanted to present my extension of the myth with the color and style of the cloth that comprised the dolls’ dresses. I had no handwoven Guatemalan cloth (why didn’t I bring some of that home from C.A.?)  So I mimicked it with running stitches embroidered with colorful perl cotton on black cotton duck.


“When Dolls Worry”,© Carolyn Zinn 2015. 17″x17″ cotton duck, perl cotton floss, imported dolls.











Mini Quilt Swap

I just participated in a fun mini-quilt swap sponsored by the Great Lakes Modern Quilt Guild.

Participants each received the name of another participant to make a small quilt for. We were to keep quiet about who we were creating for! To convey our preferences to our mystery partners, each of us created an online inspiration board using our guild Pinterest site. Here’s mine.

I drew my friend Stephanie’s name. I was excited because Stephanie is so energetic and joyful, I knew I could have fun with my design. Her inspiration board was full of colorful ideas. When I saw the fox and hedgehog designs on her board, I knew what I had to do.mini swap quilt for stephanie

I think she liked the result!

Jeanine drew my name. We didn’t know each other well before the swap, but she was able to pick up on my love of sunsets and bold saturated colors and made the perfect art quilt for me.  She called it “Day’s End”. I will treasure it always!

mini swap quilt from jeanine

Diversity in Community, Slice by Slice

I recently led a “slice” quilt collaboration with 9 other textile artists in Kalamazoo. The project began with my panoramic photograph of our downtown Bronson Park, an iconic two-city-block community space adorned with fountains and gardens, home of summer concerts and art fairs, winter twinkle lights and fireworks. In short, this park is near and dear to all our hearts.


The photo was “sliced” into ten sections, and each artist was challenged to reproduce one as a 15″ by 30″ art quilt. The rules were simple: careful placement of sidewalk lines where they intersect a neighboring piece. Otherwise, participants were encouraged to use any techniques and materials necessary to interpret their slices artistically.

The result is a collection of diverse and varied slices that work together to portray the park. They are a joyous testament to vibrant beauty and diversity in community.


Artist credits, left to right:

  • Jacqueline Skarrit
  • Jenny Grunberg
  • Kathy Kerstetter
  • Ann Berger
  • Dianne Oaks
  • Jean DeSavage
  • Carolyn Zinn (me!)
  • Sheryl Drenth
  • Mary Baggerman
  • June Belitz

Hear us talk about the project in this local radio interview

Chic baby quilt for a chic new mom

Houndstooth baby quilt

Houndstooth baby quilt detail Detail of houndstooth baby quilt bubble quilting

A very stylish friend of mine is about to become a mom. A cutesy baby quilt would not suffice! I made her this small quilt in a trendy houndstooth plaid motif.

I machine-quilted it in fun bubble patterns using my free-motion foot.

I  used “Susie’s Magic Binding” technique to add the pop of turquoise piping. This technique is super easy and looks great.

My New Old Wingback Chair

My father-in-law's favorite wingback chair

My father-in-law’s favorite wingback chair

My husband and I recently inherited a family heirloom. My father-in-law, who passed away in September, had a favorite chair that had seen better days. This is the story of its loving rejuvenation.

Like me, Warren was a gardener. Before he retired, he taught high school agriculture, horticulture and floriculture for many years.  He was so proud of me when I obtained my certification as an MSU Extension Master Gardener five years ago.

I wanted to honor this bond by reupholstering his chair with a gardening theme.  Combined with my current fascination with text fabric,  the idea for a gardening phrase upholstery fabric was born.

I gathered 22 favorite quotes, downloaded some gorgeous script fonts, and set to work with Photoshop.

“He who plants a garden plants happiness.”
“Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers ‘Grow, grow.'”
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
 “He who plants a tree plants hope.”
“From tiny acorns mighty oaks grow.”
“Leave room in the garden for angels to dance.”
“Life began in a garden.”
“Show me your garden and I shall tell you who you are.”
“How lovely the silence of growing things.”
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”
“Gardening is an instrument of grace.”
“All things grow with love.”
“Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.”
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
“At the heart of gardening, there is a belief in the miraculous.”
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
“The hum of bees is the voice of the garden.”
“In all things of nature there is something marvelous.”
“We may think we’re nurturing our garden, but of course it’s our garden who is really nurturing us.”
The fabric I designed with gardening phrases

The fabric I designed with gardening phrases – click to enlarge.

I saved the file as a high resolution jpeg and had the fine folks at Spoonflower print up eight yards on heavy cotton twill. I can’t say enough about the fast, friendly service at Spoonflower!  I think they had skeptics like me in mind with their inexpensive swatch option and even a 171-color hex-coded chart to assure me that my beige background would indeed turn out beige.

I’ve done re-upholstery before, so I had all the tools and, probably most importantly, the required audacity.  But as I wasn’t sure there wasn’t some trick for wingbacks, I consulted the internet. Found this great series on YouTube by M J Amsden Furniture.

Believe me:

  • remove each piece of old upholstery in the correct order
  • save it
  • label it
  • keep notes about what came off when, and how it had been affixed.

The removed pieces will serve as patterns for cutting your new fabric, and your careful notes can be used in reverse order when you are ready to start building back up.

Hundreds of staples later (not to mention yards of batting and plenty of malbec),
I couldn’t be happier with the results. I like to think Warren’s angel settles there once in a while, to warm himself by the fire and look out upon my garden.


The finished chair

P.S. If you like the fabric I designed, it’s available for purchase on Spoonflower at http://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/3576030

Circle Challenge

I belong to the Art Quilt small group of Kalamazoo Log Cabin Quilters. We meet monthly and work on a challenge inbetween meetings. In July 2013, it was a Circle challenge and exchange.

The rules werIMG_9411e: for each set, to begin with a 11″ square, make four concentric circles (3″, 5″, 7″, 9″), cut your squares into quarters and ready to trade. For every square you make, you trade 3 quarters and keep one of the original quarters.


I decided to applique my circles atop one another, using decorative machine stitching.

The most difficult part was slicing them into quarters! (Emotionally, not technically!)


Victoria’s Quilt

Victoria's Quilt. 40" x 50" commercial and hand-dyed cottons. "Converging Corners" block.

Victoria’s Quilt. 40″ x 50″ commercial and hand-dyed cottons. “Converging Corners” block.

I made this baby quilt for my brand new grand-niece Victoria.  The block pattern is “Converging Corners”, by Film in the Fridge . The Modern Quilt Guild I belong to introduced me to this block, and I thought it was the perfect combination of fun and modern but not too funky for a more traditional space.

The blocks are each 10″ square. The whole quilt measures about 40″ by 50″. I used mostly commercial cottons, with a few hand-dyed fabrics thrown in. The back (and self-binding) is hand-dyed for a perfect match