From photographs to quilt blocks

One of my clients requested certain buildings & geological features for his Alaskan quilt.

Like Linda V. Taylor, I said, “I can do that!” (Are you chuckling yet?)

He provided some photos & references as a start, but gave me leeway based on his familiarity with my work. I also spent many hours on the Internet perusing photos of the area, & examining our personal collection.that has accumulated over the years.

Since the quilt is still in progress, I will not show it in entirety. However, how I tackled turning photos into fabric may be of interest.


Ma Johnsons hotel plan

Designing the block

This building is rectangular in nature, so I plotted the block on graph paper. (The finished block is 10″x14″.) I added fusible to the back of the brown fabric & then cut narrow strips for framing,  to be machine appliqued in place. The porch roof was also appliqued in place. In retrospect, I should have either starched the fabrics, or better yet, used batiks, for there is a little fraying along the edges that I don’t like.

The railings (banisters) were embroidered in place using a wide satin stitch on my Janome 8900. The sign was completed separately, using alphabet embroidery, than appliqued into place.

McCarthy, Ma Johnsons

Ma Johnson’s Hotel, completed block


To reproduce a landscape feature, my process in a little different. It’s not so easy to square off a mountain on graph paper! This ice fall of the Root Glacier looks like a staircase, & is often referred to as The Staircase.

Staircase ice fall plam

Developing a plan for the ice fall block

It’s difficult to see here, but I enlarged one of the photos & then traced the predominant lines of the descending levels on vellum paper. Simplifying is hard for me; I want to add too many details.

McCarthjy, Icefall prep

Photos & fabrics

Going thru my white, light blue, grey, glittery fabrics was a bit of a chore. It proved easier to eliminate fabrics, than to choose! At last I had a selection that seemed to give the appearance of a staircase (sort of like a stepped waterfall in ice), & applied fusible to the backsides. Pieces were machine appliqued in place, some hardly more than a sliver.

Here is the finished block:

McCarthy, Icefall

The Staircase ice fall, finished block


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