November 25, 2016

Navigating to Pluto (MQU Quilt Challenge)

Well, it's finially finished!  Navigating to Pluto is my entry in the Everything Old Is New Again Quilt Challenge sponsored by Modern Quilts Unlimited Magazine, Michael Miller Fabrics and others.

Whether you sail, fly, take the stairway or the snail’s trail, hopefully you can make your way to Pluto. The background fabric, Cotton Couture in Pluto, inspired the quilt title, thus Navigating to Pluto.

Navigating to Pluto by Paige Alexander
(Quilted by Johellen George of Cabin Quilt Studio)

Back in July 2015, Modern Quilts Unlimited issued a twelve-month block challenge to interprect a traditional quilt block in a modern way and then, after completion of all twelve blocks, make a quilt with your blocks.

I challenged myself to use improvisational piecing in each block.  Some were successful and others not so much.  But I stuck with it and made all twelve blocks.  Images of the traditional blocks are listed here on the MQU website.

Completed 12 blocks for MQU challenge
Row 1
  • Flying Geese - Flying into the Sun 
  • Snail's Trail - Trail Blazers 
  • Ohio Star - Ohio on Point 
  • Card Trick - Simple Transparency Trick 
Row 2
Row 3

Quilt Challenge Rules - some of the basic rules were as follows but the official rules are here:

1. Make a quilt using all 12 blocks not exceeding 60" x 60".

2. The blocks must measure 12" x 12" finished and be an original interpretiaton of the traditional quilt block.

3. Michael Miller fabrics must be used in the completion of the quilt top with each identified.

4. Quilts must be finished including quilting and binding.

Fabrics - Michael Miller Cotton Couture

When the challenge was announced I went to my local quilt shop and found a some Cotton Coutures to use in the blocks.  I soon replaced the Avacado with Apple, but later used the Avacado in Witco's Daisies. Knowing I would need to identify each fabric, I snapped a pic so I would not forget the fabric colors and I'm glad I did.

Michael Miller Cotton Coutures purchased for MQU challenge
I mostly used Apple, Azure, Lava and Magenta with Pluto as the background.  One block contains a tiny bit of Caribbean and Fern.

Quilt Layout

I designed a layout where I could create the the largest quilt possible within the size constraints of 60" x 60".  My design wall was in use and ended up laying out the blocks on the kitchen floor.

Deciding on layout for Navigating to Pluto

Excited to have the top pieced, I took it outside for a photo.

Navigating to Pluto quilt top completed


Running short on time and not knowing exactly how I wanted to quilt it, I asked Johellen George (@sc_quilter) of Cabin Quilt Studio to quilt it for me on her Innova long arm. At first, I thought about having her quilt organic horizontal lines across the entire quilt top.  But as we talked, she talked about adding echoing clouds in with the wavy lines in the top portion and adding waves in the lower half.  After all, the block at the very top was Stairway to Heaven and the block on the bottom row was a sailboat. Perfect, I loved the idea.

Quilting of echoing clouds transisitioning to waves by Johellen George
More quilting by Johellen George


One of my favortie blocks is the Sqare in a Square and you can see more of the waves as they are quilted.  

I used Azure for the 1/4" bias binding and added in a flange from Apple.  

Honey Hive in Leaf was used for the backing and it cordinated so well with the Pluto and Apple.  It was lucky find at my local quilt shop.  And call me crazy, but I matched the print when piecing two seams for the backing.

Honey Hive in Leaf  from Emma's Garden for Michael Miller

And one more photo taken outside on Thanksgivng Day with the North Carolina montains in the background.

Navigating to Pluto by Paige Alexander
(Quilted by Johellen George)

Quilt Stats:
  • Finished size:  60" x 60" 
  • Pattern:  Original designs using traditional quilt blocks as inspiration
  • Fabrics: Background - Michael Miller Cotton Coutures; Backing: Michael Miller Honey Hive in Leaf
  • Thread: Quilted with Aurifil 2886 Light Avacado
  • Quilting designs:  Echoing clouds and waves by Johellen George, Cabin Quilt Studio
  • Batting: 100% Cotton Quilters Dream Cotton 
  • Started July 2015 and Completed November 2016


  1. It has been interesting seeing each block of this quilt revealed. Neat interpretations of traditional blocks! I wonder what it would be like if you made a quilt using just one or two of your improv blocks ? Great finish!

  2. I'm totally impressed at your matching the print on the back! Great work on the whole quilt.

  3. Beautiful! I loved seeing this quilt in person. All of the blocks are awesome on their own and the quilting pulls the whole quilt together. I just voted :)

  4. You got my vote!! What an unusual color combination, but I love it. It's eye catching. Your improv blocks are pretty amazing!

  5. absolutely fabulous quilt! Love the improv blocks and your setting!

  6. Your quilt is beautiful! I love the color combinations and the playful freedom of the improvisational piecing.

  7. Gorgeous, gorgeous modern quilt! I love it!

  8. I'll definitely be voting for you, Paige! I love that the block and fabric names inspired the name for the quilt AND the quilting for it as well. The flanged binding also pulls it all together so well.

  9. I voted, yours is a true image of your title , and each block is there to show itself off, but then part of the whole quilt. The binding is a perfect finish.

  10. I voted! I've loved your blocks from the beginning and seeing them all sewn up in a gorgeous quilt is great. I really like the quilting and that binding is just the perfect thing for the quilt. Good luck!

  11. It's absolutely stunning, Paige! I envy people who can do this kind of improv and in such bold colors, too!

  12. Congratulations to finishing this amazing modern piece of work and good luck in the competition

  13. Beautiful quilt! I went to vote for you, but I don't use facebook......Is there another way to vote? :) Very cool quilt!

  14. Paige! I love seeing this all come together! And that final picture--breathtaking!! I love how your quilter quilted it. I have to say the square in a square, but also the flying geese blocks are my favourite.

  15. It's been fun to watch this quilt as it has came together. I love the modern twist you gave to each block. Good luck in the challenge!

  16. This is a beautiful quilt! i love love love it.