Thursday, May 18, 2017

Zen Chic Inspired – a design challenge and a giveaway

As you might have seen, Brigitte Heitland, the person behind “Zen Chic”, published her first book with Martingale.

the book
In “Zen Chic Inspired” she describes her approach to designing quilts that really match one’s peronal style. She begins by questioning if you ever bought fabric that you loved when it was on display at your LQS but at home you realise that it looks less appealing and strangely out of place?! Yes. Me. Guilty.

She then shows how to design quilts that match your living space: your flat, your house, your mobile home. She starts from a photograph of a room and deducts shapes and colours from it.

the challenge
When she wrote the book, several members of our Modern Quilt Guild Bielefeld, helped her sewing the quilt tops (yes, me too). Brigitte threw a party when she received the first copies of the book and we had a blast sketching quilt designs based on random photographs that evening. We decided to carry it a bit further and to make a little MQGB challenge – just for fun. Brigitte chose a picture and we were to make a matching quilt, mini quilt, table runner, wall hanging, etc. based on it.

Houseology Interiors, flickr
photo by Houseology Interiors, flickr

fabrics and colours
In her book Brigitte shows different ways to deduct colours from a photo. I tried Moda’s Palette Builder: but seeing that I was on a short timeline (no time for ordering and waiting for shipping of chosen fabrics) I pulled solid fabrics from my stash instead:


Next up was shapes and design. I liked the shapes of the lampshades but as there is similar quilt in Brigitte’s book I thought it might be too simple to just copy her quilt. I still wonder how it happend that I chose the wall clock instead.

Here’s a close up of the clock:

wall clock

And these were my first thougts for a possible design:


I never made a dresden plate before so this was entirely new to me. I thought of differnt sizes for the wedges and of using negative space between them.

work in progress
I found a tutorial “how to make your own dresden plate template” here and just followed the instructions. Easy peasy. I can recommend this tutorial, if you ever want to make dresden plate templates in your exact size.

Once done with sewing the wedges together (I skipped the wonky idea and made a “traditional” dresden plate), I wondered how to achieve that translucent look of the wall clock. I opted for a second layer, more fragile and quite thin. I made another template and drew the design directy onto the paper side of a fusible web.


The next step was tedious. I ironed the fusible web onto a light grey fabric and had to cut out all the shapes with an exacto-knife.


The dresden plate was ironed onto the background fabric and the second layer was ironed onto the dresden plate:


I appliquéd the second layer with my sewing machine, using a wide and dense zig zag stitch in a similar light grey aurifil thread. Thereby I attached two layers in one step. Here is close up shot:

Detail of applique

I kept the quilting fairly simple and just stitched some straigt lines “radiating” from the tips of the wedges, using a white aurifil thread.

the result

Mini Quilt Zen Chic Inspired Challenge

The binding is made of the same newspaper print (from Brigitte’s Modern Background fabric line) that I used to break up the solids-only-look of the dresden plate.

I added a zipper and an extra backing at the back so this mini quilt can double up as a pillow cover.


Here’s a photoshop image, showing how the mini quilt might look as a wall hanging in the original room:

Graphic mit Mini Quilt

This challenge was a greate experience for me. If you look at the quilts I made during the last years you will discover that I rarely follow quilt patterns. I love to make up my own designs. This book helps me to get better at choosing fabrics and designs matching the surroundings/ person the quilt is intended for. When I plan to sew a quilt for my sister next, I’ll snap a photo of her home first. Of course I know her living room, but do I really remember the hues of green she used for decorations? No. And I might not have noticed the unique shape of that armchair leg that I could use as a shape in my quilt design.

So if YOU like to design your own quilts, this book is for you. And if YOU have always be terrified by the thought of designing your own quilt, this book is for you, too! I takes you step by step through the design process and includes 12 patterns, deducted from 12 different photos of 12 living spaces.

If you’d like your own book, Brigitte offers signed copies here.

As a bonus for those who read through this lengthy post, I will give away one copy of “Zen Chic Inspired” AND the mini quilt I made. Just leave me a comment below, telling me if you prefer to design your own quilts or if you rather follow quilt patterns (there are so many lovely ones out there!).

This giveaway is open until midnight, May 29th, CEST. I will draw a random winner on May 30th.

Happy sewing everyone!

P.S. If you’d like to see who else participated in the challenge and what they designed for the same room, click here and here.

P.P.S. Yes, Brigitte is my friend but yes, these thoughts are my thoughts and I really like the book. And no, I don’t get paid for writing a review and yes, I really bought this book to give it away to you.


  1. Ooh looks like I'm the first one!! I'm rubbish at making my own designs up so this would be a really good book for me. Love your mini, especially the lattice over the top.

  2. I like the idea of making a quilt just mine and think this book would help.

  3. it's a gorgeous quilt, i usually follow patterns im not really an improv girl

  4. Wow, so gorgeous! I design my own patterns and also use other people's patterns. I love paper piecing and couldn't begin to design some of the awesome things other people come up with, so I frequently use patterns for those things.

  5. Your wall hanging is amazing! What a great idea. I love to alter other's patterns and design my own. Sometimes though it is great to have someone else figure it all out for you when you need something quickly finished !

  6. Love the wall hanging! I primarily stick to patterns I buy at this point, but look forward to a time when I can venture farther into designs of my own. My one original design was based on a package of mini charms that were supposed to be mug rugs, but weren't inspiring me. It's all pieced and ready to be quilted...just waiting for inspiration on how to quilt it.

  7. I have always designed my own quilts, except for 2 of Bonnie Hunter's mysteries.

  8. What an interesting approach to designing. I love your mini...very inspiring. I do love to design my own quilts, but if I do use someones pattern I tend to always change it up.

  9. As a new quilter I follow patterns. I still make enough mistakes to not trust my abilities. I should probably rethink that. I love your mini! Thank you for the chance to win. Momoftana at yahoo dot com

  10. I agree, there are so many wonderful patterns out there. Lately, I've been trying to change one thing to make it my own, and find I do love those just a bit more.

  11. I am trying to get more of "me" into the quilts I make. This sounds like a book to challenge myself. Your mini is amazing...such courage to press the last overlay in place.

  12. I love coming up with my own variations when I am using a pattern or starting with a set idea. Once in a while I love designing a quilt step by step as the ideas come to me. I rarely have a fully formed plan when I begin. I love your mini. The book really sounds intriguing.

  13. I download patterns but do not follow the instructions, that's my way of making what I like.

  14. I almost always follow a pattern. I follow the directions too, unless they are poorly written, which happens sometimes. I love your clock inspired mini! Well done.

  15. I love your quilt! I have designed my own quilts but I am always looking for new ideas and ways to approach quilt designing. I like the way you shared your thought process and how you actually made your quilt. Thanks for sharing your quilt with us and the book too. K-

  16. Oh that is so pretty! I've done a bit of both - I've made several quilts to patterns, but usually with my own riff off them somewhere in the mix!

  17. Very nice!! How ingenious! I love the Zen chic fabrics. I take patterns as Inspiration, start from there and adjust them to my taste

  18. This book takes me back to the late sixties when I was struggling in Art classes but learning so quickly about modern designs. They are indeed timeless and so love the fabric and design in the book. Thanks for the giveaway.

  19. Oh, I love your quilt! I like following a pattern, but I'd like to try making one up some time!

  20. What a beautiful mini! I like to make up my own patterns but I also like to follow a pattern as well. Great giveaway !


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