Timestamps - March 14 - June 18, 2023
A retrospective of quilts by Ricky Tims spanning thirty-two years.

In the Timestamps exhibit, you’ll visually experience Ricky’s self-expression through quilts designed over his 30-year (and counting) career. Included is is First Quilt, Simple Gifts which was selected as the 101st Best Quilt of the Twentieth Century, Sampler with Rings (a contemporary version of an antique sampler), his multi-award-winning Bohemian Rhapsody, and his newest quilt, premiering at the Iowa Quilt Museum, Sunshine on a Cloudy Day - a tribute to the people of Ukraine.

IOWA QUILT MUSEUM • Winterset, Iowa

Ricky Tims' Quilt Luminarium at the Iowa Quilt FestivalTICKETS and INFO

This course takes place Thursday, June 1 from 1 PM to 5 PM and Friday, June 2 from 8:30 AM to 5 PM at the Iowa Theater. Stay in Winterset, IA through the weekend to participate in the Saturday, June 3, Airing of the Quilts, the finale to our Iowa Quilt Festival.


First Quilt
by Ricky Tims
1991, 73" x 88
Made by hand and machine, hand quilted

Quilt Story
In 1991 I was a career music composer, producer, performer, arranger, and conductor living in St. Louis. That summer, I was given my Granny’s 1955 Sears Kenmore sewing machine and decided to make a western shirt to wear two-stepping. After looking at the men’s shirt patterns in Cloth World, and realizing the complexity of attaching sleeves, collars, and cuffs, I abandoned the idea—thinking it would be much too difficult for someone who had never sewn before.

As I was leaving the fabric store, I saw one twirly rack that contained a few books on quilting. I decided this would be something I could do. After all…a quilt is FLAT—no collars or cuffs! Of course, I quickly learned one of the most challenging aspects of making a quilt is getting it flat. Better yet, I could do this in the privacy of my home without anyone knowing— I wouldn’t be wearing it in public.

I left Cloth World with fabric which included a loose weave print, and poly-cotton blend broadcloth. The book I chose was about making a sampler quilt by Diana Leone. I didn’t realize at that time the favor I had done for myself by choosing that project. Each block taught me so much. The quilt was not made using rotary cutters or rulers. I used cardboard from cereal boxes for templates, drew the shapes on the fabric with ballpoint pen, and even though the book literally instructed…sew using ¼” seams, I though it meant sorta! My blocks ranged from 11” to 13”, but I figured that was okay because it would average out to be 12”.

The Ohio Star block was so small that I actually added a strip of fabric to the top and bottom of the block to make it fit into the quilt. The Honey Bee block with the twelve hand appliquéd “wings” nearly did me in. I decided then and there that appliqué was not for me.

It wasn’t until after I started buying quilt magazines that I learned about the rotary cutter process (which was life-changing). Also, keep in mind, at that time, I didn’t know any quilters. I didn’t know about quilt shops or quilt guilds, and had no clue that there were quilt shows, all I had was that book.

When it came time to join the blocks, I had fabric for the vertical sashing, but not enough for the horizontal sashing. I went back to the store only to learn one of the most important quilting lessons—you better get it while you can, it will be gone with you go back. Notice that the horizontal sashing and borders don’t match the vertical sashing strips. Last but not least, the back of the quilt is an old sheet. Stop rolling your eyes…I didn’t know any better.

The best part of this quilt is the fact that it is the start of a journey that led to an amazing career. Quilting has literally taken me around the world. I’ve taught quilting on six continents including countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, UAE, and much of Europe. I’ve learned that quilters are the most amazing people on the planet. This exhibit, TIMESTAMPS, documents my personal quilting journey, development, and growth. The journey begins with this quilt, but it is far from over.

Sticks and Stones
by Ricky Tims
1991, 74" x 95"
Made by hand and machine, hand quilted
Commercial cotton fabric

Quilt Story
Soon after starting my first quilt I was devouring every quilt magazine I could find. My book didn’t use any quick rotary cutting methods, but the current magazines were filled with projects using rotary cutters. I obtained my first cutter, ruler, and mat and started another pattern which utilized these newfangled, amazing cutting tools. I chose my own color placement that was different from the pattern, but generally, I followed the pattern.

I wasn’t ready to quilt this quilt. I only knew about hand quilting and that was going to take a while. I was more interested in pursuing other projects—original designs. This quilt top was set aside. Over time I was never inspired to quilt it. After twenty-one years I finally decided to have it quilted by credit card. It seemed a shame to let it stay a quilt top. But my journey had moved far beyond this quilt. I’m sorry I don’t recall the name of the person who quilted it. A friend suggested a long arm quilter that I never met. The quilt was sent off and came back. I’m glad it was finished. It deserved to be finished. Sometimes, that how it should be. After all…it’s not a quilt until it’s quilted.

by Ricky Tims
1991, 24" x 26"
Machine piecing, hand appliqué, hand quilted

Materials Used: Commercial cotton, bleach-manipulated black cotton

Quilt Story
Soon after I started quilting in the Summer of 1991, I discovered the rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat. OMG! I could cut layers—easily! I’m sure I was influenced by images in quilt magazines. I was stunned that quilting could also be art! In the 80s I had created a watercolor and ink painting of a tree, lake, and hills – similar to this. I imagined that I could just cut these shapes and create the quilt. Without templates, without pre-drawing, and without adding seam allowances when cutting the shapes. That is exactly how the background scene was created—freely—improvised. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this “second quilt” started my journey into Improvisational Patchwork which became known as Quilting Caveman Style and I would often be called The Caveman Quilter.

For the tree, I didn’t have any brown fabric in my tiny stash which was primarily acquired by gifted clothing or scraps. I dipped black fabric into bleach to create the brown for the tree. I didn’t know the term “surface design” at that time, but apparently, that is what I was doing.

The best story for this quilt has to do with the diamond appliqué shapes on the bottom left. While I was hand quilting (stab stitching) this quilt on a frame (yes, a frame, with eight-foot boards and C-clamps), I received a late night phone call that caused me a bit of panic. In my haste I tripped over the frame causing the quilt to rip from the safety pins that were holding it to the fabric strips on the frame. I hadn’t planned on creating the quilting grid at the bottom, but by doing so, and covering the ripped holes with the diamond appliqué, I solved a problem and created a unique design element.

I hope you have managed to overlook the horrible quality of my hand applique stitches and that you were not able to find the inadvertent French Knot (see below).

The Way Home
by Ricky Tims
1991, 35" x 52"
Machine piecing, hand quilted

Materials Used: One single piece of mis-dyed commercial cotton used in the body, solid black border fabric.

Quilt Story
I visited my first guild meeting in September of 1991. They were advertising a November workshop being led by New England quilter, Nancy Halpern. Nancy was teaching a process to design one block, mirror it, turn it, and use varied color placements within the blocks to create an artful design. During lunch I was getting acquainted with my new quilting friends and decided it was time to share with them my amazing fabric find.

I was a free-lance music producer (insert “unemployed”) and was squeezing my nickels together to make a dime. I would go to the mis-dyed seconds table Handcock Fabrics because the price was super cheap. If you bought the remaining fabric on the bolt is was eighty-eight cents a yard. I found this fabric that must have been where the dyes were just starting to flow onto the fabric. It was a mess – but a very cool mess. The fabric was meant to be a sort of crisscross rose trellis on black background. As the yardage started, the background was not black. It was light gray. There was only a hint of the roses. As the yardage progressed, the greens appeared, and it slowly transitioned into the full fabric design that was intended. There were two drips of black dye that looked like cigarette burns. (Look closely, they are both in the quilt).

There was 2.5 yards left on the bolt. I bought it all for $2.20! I loved it and couldn’t wait to show it to everyone. When I did, the conversation got very quiet. They offered forced, obligatory kind words, but it was obvious that they thought I was a nutcase for thinking this fabric amazing.

I went away from the class inspired to us nothing but that fabric in my new quilt design. The only fabric other than the one descried is the solid black in the border. The rest of this quilt is made from only that one mis-dyed fabric.

This quilt has a great metaphorical meaning. The log cabin blocks (creating paths) are flanked on two sides by half square triangles (trees). You can see the block is twisted and turned, but it’s always a log cabin with the triangles on the two sides. Log cabins are known for having red centers to represent the hearth and warmth of the home – safety…peace. I didn’t have red in my fabric, but I did have some very feint pink – so I used the pink for the centers. The blocks were constructed more like a Greek key design, but essentially, they represent paths on a journey that lead to the center (a fire), where the traveler gets warmth and security. However, the traveler will leave that temporary place of security and journey through the forest and soon need to stop at another temporary place of security. Note the one on-point block, representing the moon in the night sky with stars scattered around. We generally rest at night and travel during the day. The traveler is ultimately seeking the final place of rest/comfort…HOME.

Look at the quilting and notice the vortex that pulls us in. In the center of that vortex is the “home”. It is a little house with a black window. Why black? Because the traveler is not home – they are still on their journey – looking for the ultimate place of peace, rest, and security.

The fabric was poor quality and they dyes faded within the first few years. The dark background used to be ink black but it’s now a dull gray. After 30 years, the other colors barely resemble their original appearance. Due to the fading, this quilt is rarely displayed. I’m proud to share it in this exhibition, after which it will be once again plunged into darkness and storage. Keep in mind, I was a six-month-old quilter when I created this quilt. However, my hand quilting stitches had greatly improved. (See original fabric below).

Baby It's Cold Outside
by Ricky Tims
1991, 40" x 46"
Machine piecing, machine quilted, in the ditch, using feed dogs.

Materials Used: Commercial cotton fabrics.

Quilt Story
During those first months of quilting I devoured books and magazines. I learned about different methods and styles. Crazy patchwork had come under my radar but I had not created any crazy quilts or made any quilts that use crazy patchwork blocks. Late in November 1991 I had the idea to create this quilt. It seemed that by putting Santa in a window that I could more easily assemble it. For the most part I followed a sketch – piecing willy-nilly. I started with Santa’s head, then went below to the body. As I began the process of doing the right side and bottom it became very complex. I’m rather proud of that I accomplished that complexity considering I was still relatively a beginning quilter. But it bodes the question…If I could figure out how to piece all of this, why could I not figure out how to give Rudolf hind legs? (smile)

The background mountains are fabric that was dyed with blueberries. The blue stripes are meant to be Santa’s toy bag. Santa’s beard was a fabric panel that featured a swan, and the wheels on the train was a fabric with poker chips and poker tables. At this time I was still under the impression that all quilts were quilted using only white thread. It was my first attempt at machine quilting and I only knew to minimally stich in the ditch. Also, I was still sewing on Granny’s old Kenmore which really was not conducive to free-motion quilting, so the feed dogs were used. I love this quilt and love the memories associated with it.

Pattern Available Here

by Ricky Tims
1992, 53" x 62"
Machine piecing, hand needle-turn appliqué, hand quilted

Materials Used: Commercial cotton fabrics.

Quilt Story
You wouldn’t know it from looking, but this quilt only had one purpose when I started it—to improve my hand applique. Early on I had met the amazing and talented Suzanne Marshall, an St. Louis area multi-award-winning quilter who is known for her amazing hand appliqué. We had become friends and she agreed to spend some time with me showing me the ropes of her needle-turn appliqué method.

I drew these two figures. As I recall, I first drew one figure with an apple in the lower hand. I drew the companion and they appeared to be dancing, so I altered the drawing to include the fans. I also wanted a pieced background, so the dancers appeared as if they were on a stage or dance floor.

For the upper portion of the center background, I started with fabric strata. I then cut out what I needed to finished the central rectangle. I placed the leftover wedge pieces on the left and right and got a chuckle. The black V combined with the two left and right wedges had created a sort of T-shirt shape. However, by just laying those two out, it led me to consider keeping the wedges going to have the large fans flowing from the center. Keep in mind, the only thing I really wanted to do was to practice hand appliqué using the two figures on a small background. The quilt had other plans.

Since the left and right ‘arms’ were created from strata, I made more strata, folded it right sides together, cut out the wedges, and by doing go, created mirror versions of each wedge. Notice the top two that nearly touch – they are mirrors of each other. Keep fanning out from there and you will see the pairs.

Although I knew I needed to fill the space at the bottom, I got lazy and used solid fabrics for the bottom wedges. I’ve always thought it was a happy quilt. It was a major part of my early journey, and it certainly shows an improvement with my hand appliqué stitches. Fandance eventually led to the method I use in my Kaleidoscope quilts, and that will become evident when viewing Kool Kaleidoscope III.

Fandance won the Viewer’s Choice at a small local exhibition in St. Louis.


Summer Storm in Clay County, TX
by Ricky Tims
1992, 32" x 32"
Machine piecing, hand needle-turn appliqué, hand quilted

Materials Used: Commercial cotton fabrics.

Quilt Story
My dad’s mother passed in late 1991. In early 1992 dad was going through the old family farmhouse and discovered a box of fabric scrapes—true bits and pieces. That box of scraps was the inspiration for Summer Storm in Clay County, TX. I made it quilt as a tribute to her and the old family farm which featured a small white house with a red roof and the typical windmills found throughout the landscape.

I had learned about using theme blocks as features and then filling in with traditional pieced units. By choosing the colors carefully, the scene emerged. I can’t recall that I planned the storm but having used the darker blue fabrics in the distance, there was not doubt that a typical North Texas storm had made its way into the scene. Take a moment to explore the vintage fabrics. I love the cowboy fabric. The deep red print was from one of her dresses and more like a cotton sateen than regular quilter’s cotton.

This quilt also inspired me to teach a recent online class called Gridified Art Quilts (www.letsquilttogether.com). These quilts are perfect for traditional piecers who want to attempt an artful quilt, but still use elements and techniques with which they are familiar. The Gridified Art Quilt method will be shown in my soon-to-be-released book by the same name.


Road to Wichita Falls
aka On the Road Again (pattern title)
by Ricky Tims
1995, 66" x 66"

Traditional machine piecing, free-motion machine quilting on domestic machine.

Materials Used: Commercial cotton fabrics.

Quilt Story
A member of my quilt guild in St. Louis brought a quilt for show and tell that featured these two blocks—a sixteen patch alternating with a quarter-square triangle block. She called the pattern Road to St. Louis. It was visually striking. I loved that it looked like a quilt that had blocks set on point, but in actuality, they are just blocks that set side by side in typical vertical and horizontal rows. Her quilt was beautiful and scrappy with a traditional appeal. I left the meeting inspired to find a way to use the concept for a quilt that had color design that was organized differently and create a different impact. This is the result.

I was born and raised in Wichita Falls, TX. Interstate I44 starts in Wichita Falls and ends in St. Louis. So the road to St. Louis is also the Road to Wichita Falls – thus the name.

Road to Wichita Falls won Best of Show at the 1995 quilt show for Circle in the Square Quilters in University City, MO.


Simple Gifts
by Ricky Tims
1996, 88" x 88"

Foundation machine piecing, free-motion machine quilting on domestic machine.

Materials Used: Commercial cotton fabrics.

Quilt Story
Simple Gifts is a landmark quilt for me. I had become obsessed with quilting, design, fabric, and the quilting community for four years. Music continued to be my career. I had recently composed a major choral work that was being premiered at St. Norbert’s Abbey near Green Bay, Wisconsin featuring a 200-voice chorus, full orchestra, and pipe organ. I was there on November 1, 1995 for the All-ll-Saints Day Concert featuring Vivaldi, Mozart, Vaughn-William, and Tims and conducted by Dudley Birder.

Driving back to St. Louis following the event, I was full of gratitude—gratitude for how music had played such a huge role in my entire life, and also feeling grateful for my newly discovered passion for quilting. I thought about how quilting had waned following WWII, and that the renaissance of quilting in the 80s had allowed me to join the fun. I also thought about the dedicated Amish, Mennonite, and Quaker communities who kept quilting alive during decades that its popularity had waned. All of these thoughts consumed me as I drove south of I55. During that drive, I conceived this quilt. The Diamond in a Square, a timeless classic, is my nod to the Amish. The contemporary design and complex piecing explored my own artistic sensibilities. The name Simple Gifts is a Quaker song, and using a song title for the quilt points to my passion for music.

I started this quilt on November 4th, 1995 and completed it on January 6th, 1996 – in just two months! Also, I was a full-time music director for a large church in St. Louis. Anyone can imagine what time commitments are required from a conductor during the Christmas season. Still, I was driven to put this quilt together during the busiest and most intense time of the year. Once Christmas was over, I took the quilt home to Texas and free-motion quilted it on my small, regular Pfaff machine in my childhood bedroom while visiting with family.

The quilt was entirely drawn onto freezer paper so that each unit was accurately pieced. The color transparency of the spheres occurs with fabric color changes. The black binding changes to yellow and purple at the appropriate places. The back of the quilt is a simpler replica of the front.

Simple Gifts won numerous national and international awards including Best Machine Quilting at the 1996 National Quilt Association show. It was also selected by juror, June Culvy as her choice for the 101st Best Quilt of the Twentieth Century.

Below...Ricky with Simple Gifts (front and back) just minutes before the layers were placed into the quilt sandwich for quilting.

Souls and Sprits: Soul Provider
by Ricky Tims
1999, 57" x 50"

Improvisational machine piecing, free-motion machine quilting on domestic machine.

Materials Used: Commercial cotton fabric, purchased hand-made batik

Quilt Story
As quilters, we are notorious for impulse and obsessive fabric purchases. No judgments from me. Guilty as charged! At a show I purchased several batik panels with faces with no idea of what I might do with them. In time, I began using them as central elements for improvisational patchwork piecing – or, what I had become known for…Quilting Caveman Style.

The concept of Quilting Caveman Style came about from a student who, halfway through a fun day of sewing without measuring, without rulers, without straight seams, and without using quarter-inch seams, shouted out, “I’m loving this! It must be the way cavemen quilted!”. I asked what she meant. She replied, “Well, cavemen didn’t have measuring or math, the only thing they had was a wheel!” —and she held up her rotary cutter!

I enjoy Quilting Caveman Style. It’s freeing, forgiving, and fun! If you want to let loose give it a try. The most important aspect is to make sure that the patchwork remains flat without ripples or waves. If a section is too big, trim it down. If a piece is too small, add to it.

Time Warp
by Ricky Tims
1999, 80" x 80"

Machine improvisational piecing, free-motion bobbin quilting with trapunto using Razzle Dazzle thread.

Materials Used: Original hand-dyed cotton fabric

Quilt Story
Construction techniques used (please specify hand or machine): Machine improvisational piecing, free-motion bobbin quilting with trapunto using Razzle Dazzle thread.

Quilt Story: As my love affair for Diamond in a Square quilts continued, I combined that passion with Caveman Quilting. It was also at a time when I had just started dyeing my own fabrics. I created this quilt with gentle curving and undulating seams. The title specifically reflects my intent to avoid straight seams.

For those who are technique-curious…after the quilt top was finished, I positioned a layer of batting under the top and stitched the feathers with water-soluble thread. The batting was trimmed away from the feathers, leaving the fluffy batting feather shapes on the back of the quilt top. Then a proper sandwich was layered. The bobbin quilting had to be done from the backside, so once again I used water-soluble thread, and for the second time, I stitched each feather so that it could be seen on the back. Finally, with Razzle Dazzle in the bobbin (it only works in the bobbin) and a regular thread in the top, I quilted the feathers from the backside following the outlined created by the second quilting with water-soluble thread. Once the stipple quilting was completed, the entire quilt was immersed in water to dissolve the water-soluble thread leaving only the quilting thread and highlighting the trapunto feathers.

The binding features a braided metallic trim.

Flying Colors
by Ricky Tims
1999, 63" x 53"

Machine One-Seam Flying Geese piecing, free-motion quilting on a domestic machine.

Materials Used: Original hand-dyed cotton fabric     

Quilt Story
Most quilters have massive fabric stashes, or rather, “collections”. The fabrics are organized in various ways, but regardless of how a quilter organizes their collection there is always a special section called The Good Stuff. Those are the fabrics that are only for visual pleasure…to stroke, pet, and love… and then put back away. These fabrics are far too precious to actually use. When you dye your own fabrics that feeling is amplified. Such is the case with this quilt which features some of my earliest hand-dyed fabrics.

In 1998 my full-time career flipped from music to quilting. During a teaching tour to England, one of the students showed me how to make one-seam flying geese blocks. Once back home, I mustered the courage to cut into my precious hand-dyed fabrics and made a stack of these fun and addictive blocks. I assembled them into this colorful arrangement and finished the quilt top. I prefer quilts where backing fabric coordinates in some way with the front of the quilt, so I felt it was necessary to use hand-dye fabric on the back.  Let that sink in…my precious Good Stuff was going to be sacrificed for the back of a quilt. I looked through my dyed fabrics searching for the most expendable—least desirable. I had dyed a few pieces with spiral designs. Thinking these were pretty but not necessarily very functional when cut up. I decided two of them would work side by side for the back.

However, the two spirals side by side looked like the eyes of a drunk owl! So, I decided to cut them into strips and converge them. That process led to one of the most significant pivotal moments of my quilting career. It led me down the path of exploring this method and Convergence Quilts was born. The method gave reason to sell my hand-dyed fabrics and the pattern which bolstered my career efforts. It led to the publication of my Convergence Quilts book (©2002 C&T Publishing) which has been a best seller and still in print.

Moral of the story: Never avoid pursuing the answer to the question, “What would happen if?”

If you want to know how to make these fun, easy, one-seam units, HERE'S THE LINK for Ricky Tims One-Seam Flying Geese on YouTube.

This is the back of Flying Colors

Harmonic Convergence: Genesis
by Ricky Tims
1999, 32" x 33"

Machine piecing, free-motion quilting on a domestic machine. Machine piped binding.

Materials Used: Original hand-dyed cotton fabric     

Quilt Story
As I quilted Flying Colors, my mind was whirling with the possibilities of what might happen by slicing and converging my multi-colored hand-dyed fabrics. The back of Flying Colors was created with only vertical strips. I wondered what might happen if, after those vertical strips were sewn together, I then cut through the center horizontally, then incrementally cut the strips horizontally and converged them a second time.

As I’ve already mentioned, I’m having to use my precious hand-dyed fabrics, so I would not experiment with the best. I looked through my stack and found the ugliest (most expendable) fabric to give this idea a try. Harmonic Convergence: Genesis is the result of that experiment. I was overjoyed that my “ugliest” fabric had suddenly turned into a quilt with a wonderful, magical, and mysterious blend of color.

The idea continued to evolve, and other experiments transpired. In the end, I created four variations on Convergence Quilts, all of which are presented in my Convergence Quilts book. Dreamscape, also exhibited here, falls into the category of a Grand Convergence.

Book available HERE by Ricky Tims: Convergence Quilts: Mysterious, Magical, Easy, and Fun (C&T Publishing 2003). Still in print.

Convergence: Dreamscape
by Ricky Tims
2001, 82" x 57"

Machine piecing, free-motion quilting on a domestic machine. Machine piped binding.

Materials Used: Original hand-dyed cotton fabric     

Quilt Story
As the exploration of Convergence continued, I began blending my Quilting Caveman Style with Convergence Quilts. Study this quilt and notice that there is a portion that features long flowing swoops (all created Caveman-style, improvised). That patchwork is cut into vertical strips and then another multi-colored fabric is cut into strips and inserted between which expands the swoops but creates a blend of the two elements. The borders are created separately, improvised, but made in such a way that the flow of the swoops are extended outward.

The possibilities of Convergence are endless. Although exploring Convergence was all-consuming for me at one time, it is now only something I pursue occasionally these days. I have not abandoned it. I still enjoy making these quilts. No matter how much I try, they remain a mystery. It is impossible to fully know how they will look until the fabrics are cut, converged, and sewn back together.

Book available by Ricky Tims: Convergence Quilts: Mysterious, Magical, Easy, and Fun (C&T Publishing 2003). Still in print.

Book available HERE by Ricky Tims: Convergence Quilts: Mysterious, Magical, Easy, and Fun (C&T Publishing 2003). Still in print.

Bohemian Rhapsody
by Ricky Tims
2002, 84" x 84"

Machine piecing, machine appliqué, free-motion quilting on a domestic machine. Machine piped and scalloped binding.

Materials Used: Original hand-dyed cotton fabric     

Quilt Story
When I started this quilt, a little more than ten years had transpired in my quilting experience. I was a piecer. Appliqué was still not my friend. However, I realized that as a designer, I was limiting myself to only 50% of the possibilities. After all, patchwork and appliqué both comprise the bulk of all quilts. I sat out on a mission to find a method for appliqué that suited me.

I created a Hawaiian-style appliqué design (the small section in the center of this quilt), and explored various machine appliqué methods. The one you see in this quilt is the third version and features the double-blanket stitch on my BERNINA—a look that I really embraced. I thought I was finished, but the little sample said, “Make me bigger!”

With a bit of reluctance, I drew curvy templates round that center and expanded my little project to be about 45”. The boundary was the mid-sized center portion with the feathered flowers in the corner. I was done…satisfied! The quilt, however, was not and it said, “Make me bigger!”

The quilt and I argued for quite a while, but in the end…guess who won?

The quilt evolved to have a sort of Eastern European look to it. But the appliqué design I had created had a more Pennsylvania Dutch vibe. I almost named this Hungarian Rhapsody, but the overall design was wild and free— blending a bit of this and a little bit of that. I named it Bohemian Rhapsody, yes, after the song by Queen.

Rhapsody then became a formula – a method – a style – that I could teach and share. I didn’t realize it at first, but having created Convergence Quilts, and now Rhapsody Quilts, I had become father to two genres of quilt styles.

Of particular interest…the word Rhapsody comes from the Greek. Rhaps = to sew. Odie = a song. If you like scavenger hunts, look for the little, unexpected Martians.

Book available by Ricky Tims: Rhapsody Quilts (C&T Publishing 2007). Out of print, but can be located.

New World Symphony
by Ricky Tims
2002, 90" x 90"

Machine piecing, free-motion quilting on a domestic machine. Machine piped and scalloped binding.

Materials Used: Original hand-dyed cotton fabric     

Quilt Story
We will never forget the events of September 11, 2001. I was teaching a quilt class in Leicestershire, England when news of the attacks were reported. It wasn’t long before we were glued to the TV watching news coverage. In the days and weeks that transpired I kept thinking about finding my own voice in a quilt that would express my feelings. I never found an idea that I felt suited the situation. There wasn’t anything I felt that I could create that would fully express my thoughts. I put it behind me and moved on.

I started this quilt because I love traditional designs and I loved using my hand-dyed fabrics to turn timeless classics into fun, contemporary versions. I really enjoyed seeing this quilt come together and I had planned that the border would be broad and feature elaborate feather quilting.

During the mid-stage of assembling the quilt top, I realized that this was my 9/11 quilt! Each band of color represented different religions… different political views…different cultures… different sexual orientation…different social-economical situations, and different customs. If the world could get along the way the colors in the quilt got along, there would be no reason to fly airplanes in to buildings.

New World Symphony is a metaphor for peace and diversity. May we all learn that we can maintain our own opinions and beliefs, and respect those whose personal ideals differ from our own. That truly would bring a about New World!

Kool Kaleidoscope III
by Ricky Tims
2002, 54" x 54"

Machine piecing, free-motion quilting on a domestic machine. Machine piped binding.

Materials Used: Commercial cotton fabric     

Quilt Story
This quilt references my 1992 quilt, Fandance (see above), and the large fan blades in the upper portion of that quilt. I pondered ways to get fractured/mirrored shapes and realized that by creating strata (as I did in Fandance) and positioned identical strata pairs right sides together, that cutting out angular shapes would yield a mirrored piece and achieve the kaleidoscopic effect I was seeking. The process is far more simplistic that it looks. Kool Kaleidoscope became a book as well as an instructional DVD. It’s a great project for an advanced beginner. As complex as it looks, it all boils down to being one oversized four patch.

Instructional DVD by Ricky Tims: Kool Kaleidoscope, available HERE.

Dads Lone Star
by Ricky Tims and Richard Tims
quilted by Ricky Tims

2004, 93" x 93"

Machine piecing, bobbin outline machine appliqué, free-motion quilting on a domestic machine. Machine piped binding with handmade decorative trim.

Materials Used: Original hand-dyed cotton fabric     

Quilt Story
My dad and I both started quilting the same week in June 1991. This was not planned, nor was it discussed. Yes, there’s a longer story, but for now, let’s just say the situation created the most unique father/son bonding ever!

“Hey dad! Wanna go to the quilt shop?”

“Sure son, let’s go!”

My dad’s first quilt was a Broken Star! It had a few problems, but overall no doubt is a family treasure. In 2004 dad wanted to revisit the idea and make a lone star quilt. I dyed the fabrics. Dad pieced the diamonds, creating the eight blades of the star. He would sew each seam first on one machine – with water-soluble thread. If the seams matched perfectly, he then went to a second machine and stitched the actual seam. If there was anything mis-matched, he spritzed water on the thread, let it dissolve, then tried again.

I had a great time creating the curved setting and appliqué designs, which I stitched. I then free-motioned quilted and finished the quilt.

Dad’s Lone Star won numerous prizes, and is believed to be the only father/son quilt to win prizes in shows with national and international status.

The full size pattern (single large sheet w/instructions), printed to order, is available HERE.

Dad's first quilt - Broken Star

Bears in Bertie's Log Cabin
by Ricky Tims 

2004, 53" x 53"

Foundation machine piecing, free-motion bobbin embroidery, free-motion quilting on a domestic machine. Machine piped binding.

Materials Used: Original hand-dyed cotton fabric     

Quilt Story
After moving to Colorado I began searching for land in the mountains. Like many people, we have grand hopes for our dream home. I was blessed to find a glorious forty-acre mountain property in a high elevation fir forest. It would be years before a house was built, but I did manage to build a charming 10’ x 12’ log cabin, with no electricity and no running water. As a tribute to my Granny, the one who gifted me the old Kenmore sewing machine, I named the cabin The Bertie Marie.

I put a treadle sewing machine in the cabin and would spend time on the mountain hiking, enjoying the peace, and making blocks. Many of the blocks in this quilt were made on the Singer treadle sewing machine inside that little cabin. Naturally, we have plenty of bears so I created this design to highlight the log cabin and the bears – thus…Bears in Bertie’s Log Cabin.

The border features a mock bobbin technique. The ornate feather quilting with Razzle Dazzle thread found in the border was actually bobbin embroidered onto the quilt top prior to making the quilt sandwich and quilting. The actual quilting is done free-motion with regular thread and is stitched right on the top of the Razzle Dazzle thread. It is essentially hidden—but look close…it’s there.

In 2018, Colorado’s 2nd largest wildfire (at the time) destroyed over 200 thousand acres. My mountain paradise burned. The forest was gone. My dream home, which had been completed just three months prior to the fire, was miraculously spared even though the trees burned to within 30’ of the house. The Bertie Marie log cabin, the treadle machine, and our glorious tipi perished in the disaster.

Below - The tipi, the Bertie Marie log cabin, interior of cabin, after the fire, and the burned Singer treadle sewing machine.

Asternoon Delight
aka Kiss My Aster

by Ricky Tims 

2009, 44" x36"

Free-motion machine quilting

Materials Used: Whole cloth quilt, photo printed on fabric 

Quilt Story
Photography has always been something I enjoyed, but the passion grew as did my enjoyment of digital manipulation of images using software such as Photoshop. While this is a photo of mountain asters and a painted lady butterfly, I superimposed a photo of wood grain that I distorted/liquified to create the swirling movement in the background. That texture became a guide for the free-motion quilting. Also note that there are leaves on the stem that are not in the photo—they are added with quilting only. The process of combining my photo passion and my quilting passion seemed a good fit. Some say it’s cheating. I say it is exploring and expanding the possibilities of being an artist.

In 2009 I purchased Epson’s largest large-format printer. It accommodates up to 64” wide media. I was responsible for all aspects of this work—the photo, the editing, the color profiling, the printing, and the quilting. It is a complex process and not quite as straight forward as one might think. Asternoon Delight is the only photo quilt included in this exhibition.

Photo quilts are nothing new. Many quilts have been created with small fabric photo transfers. This quilt is essentially one large fabric transfer.

Should other quilters be interested in a similar process, online print-on-demand fabric companies, such as Spoonflower.com, can accommodate large images and print them on fabric.

Viva Violetta
by Ricky Tims 

2009, 58" x 58"

Machine piecing, machine appliqué, free-motion quilting on a domestic machine. Machine piped binding.

Materials Used: Hand-dyed cotton fabric

Quilt Story
Viva Violetta is a continuation of my Rhapsody Quilt method and process. After publishing the original Rhapsody book, other companion books followed that gave quilters design options. This particular quilt was the cover of one such companion book: Feathers and Urns.

While I typically used double blanket stitch appliqué, for this quilt, to expedite making it, I used the single blanket stitch which ended up looking great. A single blanket stitch has one left-right “bite” into the fabric, whereas a double blanket stitch does a double “bite” into the fabric creating a heavier thread appearance but it also takes twice as long.

I went bold with the quilting thread, using the red on the purple. None of the quilted feathers were pre-marked. They are all freely stitched like doodles on a notepad.

by Ricky Tims 

2011, 44" x 44"

Traditional machine piecing, free-motion quilting on a domestic machine. Facing used for finished edge.

Materials Used: Hand-dyed cotton fabric

Quilt Story
I’m not really sure what inspired me to make this quilt. By this time I was working as a spokesperson for AccuQuilt and creating various die-cut designs for the company. AccuQuilt had provided me with a Studio cutter (it was the larger, more industrial version of their cutter) and one of the dies was for cutting multiple charm squares at one time. As I recall, I took a couple one-yard pieces of my regular hand-dyed fabric, a color I called Rivendell, and die cut the squares. I then arranged them randomly on the design wall and decided to create some fiery cracks “caveman style”. The quilt top took less than a day to make. There is nothing complex about this quilt. It is simple and straight forward.

It's worth mentioning here that, for me, simplicity is something that is generally also sophisticated. Often artists will add too much visual complexity to a work. Complexity in the details and workmanship is exciting, but overall visual complexity can lead to discordance and chaos. As you scan the gallery from a distance, I hope you will see an array of quilts with strong visual impact, but not visually complex. I started designing my own quilts right away—the only quilts that I made from a pattern are my First Quilt and the Sticks and Stones quilt. The entire experience has been a journey. I would not have been intentionally following the simple/sophisticated concept early on, but perhaps I was doing so subconsciously.

Self Portrait
by Ricky Tims 

2012, 21" x 21"

Machine appliqué, free-motion quilting on a domestic machine. Facing used for finished edge

Materials Used: Hand-dyed cotton fabric

Quilt Story
It seems self-portraits have been a part of artists body of works for eons. This one was part of a challenge that I did with Alex Anderson on an episode of The Quilt Show (www.thequiltshow.com). Through the years, part of my identity as a quilter has been the black cowboy hat. I’m old and wear readers that are generally slid halfway down my nose. I wear a lot of plaid shirts, and those feathers are iconic to many of my quilting designs. To top all of it, I do love working with hand-dyed fabrics. This quilt is representing not only me, but the things that make me…me!

It seems the most common question I am asked about this quilt is, ”Why is your nose green?” There is no good answer. It was a piece of fabric laying on the table and I picked it up and used it. However, it proves a point I discuss in my design and composition lecture…Shape is more powerful than color. A nose is a nose no matter what color is used. Nobody has ever asked, ”What is that green thing?”

by Ricky Tims 

2013, 70" x 83"

Machine piecing, free-motion quilting on a long arm machine.

Materials Used: Commercial cotton fabric

Quilt Story
While still living in St. Louis, I was show chair for the 1993 Circle in the Square Quilt Guild’s biennial show. Afterwards I was surprised, as a thank you gift, with these cowboy boot blocks that had been pieced by the members. They also put bits of fabrics in the box that were used in the boots and one person included the sheriff panel.

The boot blocks didn’t get assembled right away, but in 2013, twenty years later, I hand inspiration and time to finally do it. I’m actually glad it took so long because I had grown so much. I know that the setting of these blocks would have been less interesting if I had done it back in the day.

During this time, I had access to long arm machine. I do not consider myself a long arm quilter, but with this quilt, I was able to dip my toe into the shallow end of that pool. Deadwood was quilted on the long arm. Maybe someday I’ll manage to get into the deep end of the long arm pool. It’s fun, and I feel adding long arm quilting to my tool box would be a good thing.

Many quilters will know of the various “sexy men” fabrics produced by Alexander Henry. This quilt has the bare-chested cowboys on the back. It seemed like a fun surprise – and appropriate.

Northern Lights
by Ricky Tims 

2013, 84" x 88"

Traditional machine piecing, free-motion feather quilting on a long arm and stipple quilting free-motion on a domestic machine. Machine scalloped binding.

Materials Used: Hand-dyed cotton fabric

Quilt Story

I really am inspired by antique quilts. I find the designs to be impactful and if I can adapt them to be current, fresh, and contemporary, then even better. I don’t always have the drive (or time) to pursue that option, but when I do, I do it with 100% vigor. Such is the case with Northern Lights.

The original quilt was featured in a book titled xx by xx. The original pattern is called Streak of Lightning. I really loved the visual impact and knew that it would transform and present a totally different vibe if it was made with my hand dyed fabrics.

My original hand-dyed fabrics are multi-colored—the kind that work so well for the Convergence Quilts. For this quilt I wanted to organize the blocks so that the color of the fabric would remain flowing as it was before the fabric was cut into pieces. The process is a bit too much to describe here, but visually you can see what I have done. Look at any vertical column of nine patches and follow it from top to bottom. You will see the slow subtle color shift. The same thing is true for the setting triangles creating the zigzag. The fabrics are positioned to create slow color transitions. The original quilt had black which really made a strong visual impact, so I made sure I used black as well. It is impossible to hand-dye true black, so a commercial black is used. The free-motion feathers of the quilting were done on a long arm, but the stipple quilting was done on my domestic.

A pattern for Northern Lights is available HERE.

The inspiration for Northern Lights...Streak of Lightning, from The Darwin D. Bearley Collection: Antique Ohio Amish Quilts (© 2006 Bernina and Darwin D. Bearley)



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