Falling In Love with Interleave Quilts

I was honored to be asked to lead a Quilting 101 demonstration open to our guild members.  There were a few options for techniques and topics, but in the end we went with Interleave quilts.  Once the topic was finalized, I got to work preparing for the big day:  supply lists, class samples, instructional hand outs, templates, mini practice kits and more.  I got reacquainted with the technique and took my best shot at technical writing for the instructions (which made me all the more appreciative of good pattern designers!!)
Demo Preparations

My excitement grew as I learned 25 members reserved their spot on the first day of sign ups!  And it was just a matter of time before all 36 spots were filled and the wait list grew to 15+!!  Whoa!  Others were very interested in unlocking the mystery behind Interleave quilts that give the illusion of transparency and curves, without any curved piecing involved!  

I brought one of my practice pieces to work on at my small quilt group--and several women watched me work with interest.  Several were quick to sign up for one of the few remaining spots.  They were also a great audience to bounce off ideas to refine the technique.  One brilliant brainstorm was finding an alternate to the background grid foundation, that serves as a reference to ensure straight lines that are all evenly spaced.  Lorrie Cranor--the professor who first developed the Interleave quilts as part of her sabbatical from Carnegie Mellon University--developed her own 1/2" grid using Spoonflower.  While I love Spoonflower, it can be a bit pricey and timely to have fabrics printed.  My instructor, Monica Tong, had us mark our own lines every 1/2" onto muslin--which was inexpensive but took quite a bit of time and effort to prepare.  But one of my fellow small quilt group members had the brilliant idea of using Pellon's Tru-Grid 810.  It is easy to find, already marked with 1" grid and relatively inexpensive, especially if you have a 40% coupon!  I had some leftover from a recent workshop and went to work testing it out on another class sample--and after deeming it a viable alternative, soon purchased an entire bolt to cut up and distribute to demo attendees. 

Participant smiling with her in-progress Interleave quilt
Demo Day arrived, and it just flew by!  Any initial nerves were quickly dissipated, as I was surrounded by fellow quilters and friends who were eager to learn this new technique.  I felt well prepared and comfortable improvising as questions arose.  Once the demo was done, everyone scurried back to their stations to get started on preparing their quilt sandwiches and sewing up their fabric tubes!  It was so exciting to see everyone's fabric combinations unfold to reveal exciting new Interleave quilts.  And no one committed the ultimate pitfall:  using a rotary blade to cut the curves into their fabric tubes.  Alleluiah!!  

Once the basic technique was covered, I also provided inspiration for simple adaptations to create even more exciting Interleave quilts!  Simple adjustments such as number or sizes of the initial strips, different shapes and even angle of the cuts can lead to even more intriguing Interleave quilts--and I encouraged everyone to experiment and have fun!  Several members came back over asking for additional templates to try in future Interleave quilts.

Marian's ingenious trick using blue painter's tape!!
I learned so much from the experience and once back home, jotted down several notes to enhance my instructions for a future session (date/time still up in the air as I start a new job).  One enhancement is thanks to an attendee, Marian, who used blue painter's tape to label her strips, greatly streamlining the process and minimizing any risk of mixing up the order of strips!  Brilliant!!

Interleave Interference for Sandie Ehrman

By the end of the demo day, most everyone was well on their way to assembling their Interleave quilts--some nearing the halfway point!  So I should not have been so surprised to receive an email the very next morning from Sandie Ehrman, an attendee, containing a picture of her nearly finished quilt that was awaiting its faced edge!  Sandie said she would have had a more finished project had she not run into some interference in her own studio.  I got a good laugh from the picture and wrote back that clearly her Interleave was cat tested and approved!    

1st Completed Interleave:  Cat Tested and Approved by Sandie Ehrman
Just a few hours later, she sent an updated photo of the first finished Interleave  quilt, entitled "Cat Tested and Approved"!!  I love it!

That same day, 4-5 Interleaves were being worked on during our small quilt group session.   One lady arrived having pretty much finished hers the night before and only had to finish the edge with binding/facing!  As they continued their progress, several were already planning out their next Interleave quilt, and ready to mix it up with new fabric combinations, dimensions, patterns and more!   

Amy Witherow's Helix Interleave #1
Later that day, Amy posted a pic of her beautiful and finished quilt to the SCVQA facebook page.  She used a gorgeous selection of jewel toned solids and ombres (gotta love 'em!!) that add another layer of interest!!

The following week was our monthly General meeting, and I was very curious to see how many Interleave quilts might be displayed as part of our meeting show and tell.  I was hoping to see 6 or 7 finishes, but wasn't sure as most quilters have several projects in the works at any given time.

Before the meeting had begun, several of the ladies sought me out to proudly show off their wonderful quilts!!  And Sandie was making terrific progress on her second Interleave quilt featuring mostly black and white prints with a pop of red!!

Barbara Beatty Independent Interleave!

Barbara came to find me to share her story.  Unfortunately, she was on the waitlist and did not get into the demo day, but was determined to create one of her own.  So she went online and found Lorrie Cranor's instructions and my supply list and figured it out all on her own, which is an impressive feat!!  Kudos to her, as I had found the instructions and still needed an in-person workshop to figure it all out!!  

And taking over the auditorium!!
And imagine my sheer delight during the meeting show and tell presentation...to see 18 women get up on stage at the same time and proudly display their finished Interleave quilts (all finished in just 1 week.)  WOW--it was a truly impressive sight!!!  I was beaming inside and out!!

After the show and tell portion, members place their quilts in the back of the auditorium for members to get a closer look during the meeting break.  The interleave quilts took up their own row of chairs!!  It was so much fun to see the range of Interleaves created using different templates and fabric combinations!!

Interleaves taking over the stage!
Top Row (left to right):  Marian Dixon, Becky Barber, Sally Johnson and Amy Witherow
Middle Row:  Mitsuko Sasaki, LWilkinson, Sandie Ehrman (2nd in progress), Terri Schneider
Bottom Row:  Carol McCord, Josephine Miles, Barbara Beatty
Renee Rankin's finished quilt--photographed by her husband Mark

It totally makes my day to receive emails containing pictures of finished Interleaves...thanks Sandie, Amy and Renee!

Equally exciting is that several participants have now become the teacher, as they pay it forward and share their experiences with those members that were unable to attend the demo.  So even more Interleaves are in the works thanks to our generous membership!!

Sandie Ehrman's Black and White Experiment #1 (Interleave #2 for her)

And just like Sandie, several have caught the Interleave bug as they are working on their next Interleave quilt--including several table runners!!

I can't wait to see more Interleave quilts via email and at our upcoming August meeting.  


  1. It was such a pleasure to see all your students' work at Show and Tell. They were gorgeous and I could see how much fun everyone had. So sorry I was out of town for Q101.

  2. Yes, fun was had by all...hopefully you can join the fun the next time around! stay tuned!

  3. What a thrilling experience you had Mel! I want to make one now too! LOL

    1. Thanks again Lara--they are deceptively easy to make. Lorrie Cranor's tutorial link is posted above and she helps to break down how she creates the illusion of curves/transparency--all with quilt as you go straight line piecing!!

  4. Putting this on my list to make!

    1. Awesome! They are super fun and deceptively easy to make in less than a day! But I will warn you that they can be addicting! I've made 5 or 6, and one of my guild members made even more after the demo!

  5. Replies
    1. Thank you! It is one of the 1-day workshops that I teach. Most folks leave with a mostly finished (pieced & quilted) project at the end of the day and some even manage to bind it in the class!

  6. I love these! I understand using 4 fabrics (2 tubes), but how do you get the 3rd color? TY

    1. Thanks--they are super fun to make and teach in my Intriguing Interleaves workshop where we go through all the steps to create a basic Interleave and then explore all new design variations.


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