Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hip, Hip, Hoorah!

Grades are in!  The semester is over.  The naked tree in my living room will finally be adorned.  I will once again cross the threshold of my sewing room.  Ahhhh!

Until I actually get to said sewing though, here’s some photos of some really lovely miniatures Michele of Michele’s Craft Gallery made from Miniatures in Minutes.  She’ll be teaching a class at Quilting Adventures on Feb. 26, 2010.  I just love the beautiful colors!




The mini quilts use the Trip Around the World variation of the 13-Square foundation (6 1/2" square for the pieced section), the 4-Star variation of  the Pyramid Triangle foundation (7" by 8"), and the Medallion variation on the Tumbler foundation(7" by 7").  Very, very pretty. 

I was a lucky girl myself during the giveaway and won this very cute cupcake fabric from Red Fish Circle.  I can’t wait to come up with some cool projects for this!  Thank you, Amy. 


Meanwhile, I’ve been doing more walking (still on my fitness kick and ever so slo-o-o-o-w-ly losing weight) and decided that I need a smarter way to carry the dog treats other than my coat pocket (which is now very crummy).  I’m going to be playing with a little dog treat bag to carry with me.  If it works out to be something useful, I’ll be sure and post a tutorial.

Speaking of grading: One of the fun parts is the occasional inadvertent humor a student injects into a paper.  Here’s my two favorites from the latest grading binge – one student warned that it is really important to be on top of certain problems before they get worse.  Yes, indeed, he warned, best to make sure they are “nipped in the butt.” 

And another student, bless him, loved the way Benjamin Franklin filled Poor Richard’s Almanac with so many entertaining “antic dotes.”  (You have to watch out for those dotes.  They simply have no self control).  That, I do believe, is one of the best ever. 

Enough now.  Time to go be merry and bright.  And if I don’t get back before Christmas, here’s wishing everyone the best celebrating whichever traditions belong to you and yours.   Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

It’s snowing.  The temperature is 3 degrees and  kindly informs me that it feels like –11.  I’m sitting in my office having a Dr. Zhivago moment – beautiful intricate frost designs cover the windows top to bottom.  The only place I can see out is a little bit of top corner.  Brrrrr!

Trudy at Sewing with Trudy won the basket giveaway and since I don’t want to go outside, I’m sending my son to the post office.  He’s young.  He’s hardy.  He’s male.  Young men thrive on pitting their manly selves against the elements, right?  Now, if it was me, I’d just whimper all the way there and back. 

Meanwhile, I’ve also been making some string blocks for a block swap.  I love the fabrics – purples and green.  They make me think of my lilac bushes when they come into bloom.  Think Spring.  Right on.

Oddly enough (given how much foundation piecing I do), my sewing machine did not like sewing these blocks.  I don’t think it liked the thicker paper or the texture on it or something.  We had a few arguments about stitch length and sewing a straight line – I won most of those discussions but, sadly, not all.  Still – such a forgiving pattern, you can’t tell. 

And despite all, I love the effect off all these scrappy strips. If I ever have time (ho, ho, ho), I might have to make one of these up. 

Coming up next: one of my son’s friends is going to have a baby (technically speaking, his wife is).  My son is going to help sew the baby quilt – and oh, yeah, I’m going to want to document that with photos. 

Isn’t it something to see these young men who you knew when they were boys (and getting into all kind of boy trouble) grow up into adults with children of their own?  How the time does fly . . .

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December Project

This little quilt uses the Square-in-a-Square foundation from Miniatures in Minutes.  You can find a pdf file for the directions on the projects page of my website.  The finished quilt measures 11 3/4" square.  

Once again, this project adds only two triangles to the “block” rather than four.  So this block:

2 corner k

Becomes this block:

2 corner l

And the Square-in-a-Square foundation:

2 corner m

Can be used to make this design:

2 corner n

Here is the foundation with all of the center fabrics added:

To create the template shape, lay a ruler on the quarter inch line of the foundation and draw two lines on opposite sides of the center square. 


When I create the template (I use heavy duty template plastic), I add the name of the patch for future reference.


I decided to try something different with this foundation.  Normally, I add only one “sew line” of triangles at a time.  I’ve always done it this way on the theory that if I added all the triangles at once, some of them might be likely to fold over or fall off while working on the entire foundation.  But, hey, what the heck, right?  This time I added all the triangles at once.

Here’s a close-up which might make things  a bit clearer:

I was pleased to discover that all the little triangles behaved quite well as I was sewing.  There were only a couple that even thought about folding over.  Fortunately, I was able to feel those as I was moving the foundation across the sewing machine bed and got them straightened back out before sewing.

I liked this approach enough to continue to use it in the future.  I thought it was just a little bit faster (and I am all about this Miniatures in Minutes business). 

Sidenote: Linda saw my demonstration on The Quilt Show and sent me an email with this great tip.  Instead of using Iron-Cleaner to clean off the mini-iron, use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  I tried it and have to say, it worked like a dream.  Thanks, Linda!

Here’s the foundation with all the triangles ironed down:

And here’s the top after all those little “blocks” have been joined using the Fold and Sew technique and the paper has been removed:

The Square-in-a-Square foundation remains one of my all time favorites for design flexibility.  And this particular project gets extra brownie points for being even faster than the 3 hours noted in the book.  Since this foundation only needs to be sewn across once (instead of twice), the sewing time gets cut down significantly.  I didn’t think to time myself – I’m guessing it took between 2 hours and 2 hrs 20 min to prepare the foundation, cut the fabric, sew the foundation, remove the paper, iron the “block.”  Works for me! 

I found the border motif in one of the EQ Quiltmaker Quilt Designs add-on libraries.  I don’t always look for an exact line up.  For instance, with this design, I overlapped the block design a little knowing that I wasn’t going to use part of it (the extra diamonds crowding the corners).  The lower-left corner shows what I was aiming for:

eq border stencil

So when I drew it onto Golden Threads tissue paper, it looked like this (notice the red diagonal lines in the corners that I use to help orient the stencil when I trace it onto the paper):

Easy peasy.  I love how simple EQ makes it to size the quilt motifs to exactly the size I want.  

And here’s a picture of the back.  The pretty reproduction fabric was passed onto me by a quilting friend.  The triangles are used to hang the quilt (just insert a small dowel). 

One last note:  I’ll announce the winner of the giveaway tomorrow.  Hope everyone has been enjoying the grand blog tour across the world wide web!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sew Mama Sew Giveaway

Love these giveaways! To earn a chance at this basket simply leave a comment on this blog entry. I’ll hold the drawing on Sunday, Dec. 7.

This basket is made using the basket pattern from Pink Penguin and the 13-Square foundation from Miniatures in Minutes. You can find a pdf file on how to adapt the foundation to this basket and a link to Pink Penguin’s blog site and directions on how to make the basket on the projects page of my website.

To find a listing of all the wonderful giveaways, click on the giveway icon:


Here’s a photo of the December project in process. It will be finished up and posted this weekend:

For those who were following, my ending NaNoWriMo word count: 58, 574


Well, I wanted to redeem myself for not finishing when I attempted last year, so right now I’m feeling pretty good about myself! The novel is still in progress. Perhaps I’ll finish up a full draft by the end of December . . .

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Well, my episode on The Quilt Show premiered yesterday and I am pleased to say I did just fine.  It took me all day to get up the nerve to watch the show, but after dinner my husband and I finally sat down and gave it a whirl.   What a relief!  I’ve spent the last seven months since filming worried that I babbled like a complete fool.  (I think they very kindly edited those parts out). 

Here I am with Ricky.  This was right before we began filming and I was explaining the steps I was going to demonstrate.  (Photo courtesy of Gregory Case Photography)


Here I am chatting with Alex and Ricky.  This was right after  filming the demonstration and I think I was a little shell shocked during this bit.  I’m perched on the edge of the seat trying to remember everything my mother told me about sitting like a lady.  Right before we began filming, Alex smiled, leaned over, and said, “That’s right.  You really want to sit up straight for this.”  (Thanks, Mom).  (Photo courtesy of Gregory Case Photography)


Here’s me all by my lonesome.  The filming was all done and I was very, very relieved.  Notice the smile and slightly dazed look. (Photo courtesy of Gregory Case Photography)

quilt show

I’m hoping you don’t find it too egomaniac here if I tell a little of my quilt history:  A lot of professional quilters have spend a number of years developing a quilt career.  That is just not my story.  I think of myself as your average, every day kind of quilter who stumbled into something else.  As we know, different aspects of quilting appeal to different quilters.  I have friends who do the most amazing handwork, for instance – beautiful applique and embroidery.  I envy their skill a lot, definitely lust after the beautiful results, but learned a number of years ago that handwork doesn’t rock my boat.

I’m a technique girl.  I like to buy books that show me how to do something new.  And once I figure out what is what with that new technique, I like to take it out for a spin.  “What if I try this?” I ask myself.  Frankly, those efforts, while they entertain me, don’t usually amount to much.

Here’s another thing: I’ve always liked the look of miniature quilts.  I mean, what’s not to like?  They are awesomely cute!  I made a few along the way but didn’t actually enjoy it very much.  Little tiny patches were too fussy to work with and I found it annoyingly difficult to match seams – which didn’t actually match all that well.  Add in that a small mismatch on a miniature looks anything but small.  No, I wasn’t making a whole lot of miniatures.

Enter “Make it Simpler,” a book by Anita Grossman Solomon on a new paper piecing technique for making six-inch blocks.  Her approach eliminates the step where you have to match and pin all the separate pieces of a foundation.  Wow. 

I was immediately intrigued by the notion of using the technique to make miniature quilts.  My first few efforts focused on making individual blocks.  And the technique works great for that, by the by.  (I’m working on doing more with that).

But then, it was Christmas and while making up gifts, I finished up a miniature quilt I had started a couple years earlier (ahem).  It was a tumbler quilt and I used a traditional paper-piecing technique: I sewed each row of the quilt individually and then joined the rows together.  After finishing, I had it up on the wall so I could admire it before wrapping it up.  As I admired, I thought, “Hey, I could use Fold and Sew to join those rows.”  I still thought I would have to sew each row separately though.

But I continued to look at it and I noticed how the tumblers zig-zagged down the quilt and I thought, “I bet I could sew all the rows at the same time.”  After a little EQ time designing the foundation, I was off to the sewing room. 

Here’s the resulting quilt: the very first one I made applying Fold and Sew to miniatures.  The pieced tumbler section measures 7" by 7" and the quilt 13" by 13".  It was easy.  It was precise.  It was fast!  I was in love.

Enter serendipity:  a number of years ago my husband and I had made a deal.  He was going back to school to get a degree (or two, as it turned out) and when he finished, I was going to take a break from teaching and write a novel.  My experiments with Fold and Sew happened just when I took that time off.  I think during the first week I made five miniatures. 

A couple of months and many miniatures later, I admitted I was not going to write a novel because I was just too darned caught up in continuing to make miniatures.   Since I needed something to show for my time off, I promised myself I would do a book proposal.  A couple of quilt buddies played pattern tester.  I taught classes at the local quilt shop.

And eight months after making my first miniature using Fold and Sew, the book  proposal went in the mail.  A couple months later I got the phone call telling me C&T had accepted the book proposal.  (I made a fool of myself on the phone but that’s a story for another day).

Which is why in April of this year I found myself standing in my living room wearing my pj’s and talking to Alex Anderson on the phone.  She had called to warn me that the day I was filming was “Hippie Day” and cast and crew were dressing up:  “Those guys really take it seriously.  I told them there was no way I could let you just walk into that without knowing.  Do you think you could dress up?”

Yikes.  I went shopping but I have to admit, anything remotely hippie-ish that I tried on looked beyond dreadful and I compromised on the green tunic. ( Those beads are a little sixties, don’t you think?)  I’m glad I didn’t go further though since when I I arrived I discovered they had decided it was too much to film the whole show looking like hippies.  Could I not look like a hippie? 

There are more stories to tell and I’ll get to some of them, but I wanted to tell this  (long) story for other quilters out there who might be dreaming of a quilt career but think that it must be out of reach.  It really isn’t.  You don’t need to enter shows or win big awards or any of that.  I’m thrilled to have a book published, of course, but the thing I am most proud of is that I put the book proposal in the mail.  Whether it got accepted or not was really out of my hands.  Deciding to put in the effort and take the risk was in mine.  I’m just here to say: you never know, so why not try?

And, speaking of miniature quilts, come back tomorrow for a look at another spin I’m putting on the Square-in-a-Square foundation. 

NaNoWriMo:  53, 232 words   Yippie ki-yay!

Monday, November 9, 2009

S.T.U.D. Oct 09

Meg received her swap quilt today so I can go ahead and post a picture now. 

I love the batik fabric that is in the border.  This one  makes me think of Fall back in New Jersey – where the reds get really red and everything smells like wet leaves. 

I love this foundation.  It’s not in Miniatures in Minutes.  It’s a new one I’ve been playing with.  I’ve been having a lot of fun working with it, less than two and a half  hours to cut the fabric, sew the foundation and remove the paper.  Everything lines up and the little squares finish at 3/8".   Nice.

NaNoWriMo update:  my word count is currently 20,210.  One of my students is already at 35,000 words!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Placemat Pattern and Semi-Tutorial

Fiesta asked if I could put together some notes and measurements on the placemat/tablemat.  This isn’t a full tutorial but does give the basics of the pattern.  Here’s a picture of the finished placemat again.  Finished size: 17 1/2" by 13"

You can download a pdf version of these directions from the projects page of my website


  • Kaffe Fasset fabrics: scraps (from teeny 1" squares to 4 1/2" squares)
  • Linen: 14" by 15"
  • Backing fabric: fat quarter
  • Binding: 1/8 yard (I use a single fold 1 1/2" width on my bindings; if you use wider, go to 1/4 yard)
  • Steam-a-Seam 2 Lite (3" by 6")
  • Lightweight interfacing (I use woven): 14" by 15"

Cutting Directions for Cotton Fabric:

  • 128 one-inch squares (I actually cut a whole lot more than that and then just played with the pile to get the color lines I wanted)
  • four 4 1/2" squares
  • two 3 1/2" squares (for the circles)

Cutting Directions for Linen Sashing:

  • Iron interfacing onto linen fabric (I find linen to be very shifty when sewing; the interfacing helps it behave)


  • Cut two 2 1/4" by 14 1/2" rectangles
  • Cut one 1 1/2" by 14 1/2" rectangle
  • Cut two 2" by 13" rectangles
  • Cut four 1 1/2" by 4 1/2" rectangles

The Pieced Squares:

  • These are made using the 13-Square foundation from Miniatures in Minutes.  However, since the finished square measures 4" by 4", you only need an 8 by 8 grid.  Join the foundation pages as usual and then trim the foundation down to size.

  • Though I still marked the red seam allowance lines on the foundation, I did not bother marking letters or creating a fabric guide.  I simply created the fabric layout I wanted and pulled pieces directly from the layout as I sewed the foundation.  (NOTE:  the foundation and directions for the Fold and Sew method of paper piecing are in Miniatures in Minutes). 

The Appliqued Circles:

  • I simply traced the circumference of a drink glass onto the Steam-a-Seam and then fused it onto the background fabric.  If you are measuring your circle, it measures a little under 3" in diameter.  (I used a machine buttonhole stitch to finish off the edges but I did so after the placemat was layered with batting and backing.)

Assembling the Placemat:

  • Determine the layout of your six fabric squares and attach the four 1 1/2" by 4 1/2" rectangles.  Then attach the middle 1 1/2" by 14 1/2" rectangle.

  • Attach the two 2 1/4" by 14 1/2" rectangles to the top and bottom.
  • Add the two 2" by 13" rectangles to the sides.
  • Layer with batting and finish as desired. 

This goes together very easily and unless you’ve done some of the Fold and Sew miniatures already, you won’t believe how quickly and easily those little pieced squares go together. 


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Just a Peek

Here’s a little peek at the S.T.U.D. Oct 09 mini quilt swap.  The theme for this month was “woodland.”  A little hard to tell from just this little bit but I was aiming for the colors to suggest right when leaves are first turning in the Fall: there’s still a bunch of green but the deeper reds have begun.

I’ve been trying out this new foundation with a few different looks.  I’ve been really liking it, I have to say.  Very easy, very fast.  This mini is on its way to Meg and I’ll show the full photo once it gets to her (wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise).

Meanwhile: NaNo continues.  I met today at a local coffee shop (right off campus and feeling very much like a college student hangout for which I am, perhaps, a bit old and should only enter in the presence of younger attendants) with some of my students who are also NaNo-ing it up and we had a grand old time typing away together.

Wordcount: 16,458.  I’m feeling pretty chuffed about that number.  On the other hand, the plot keeps morphing on me.  My original loose idea fell apart about day three and now I don’t have much of a clue.  It’s like someone took random pieces from three different picture puzzles and tossed them all in the same box.  Pieces of this and pieces of that form bits of one picture or another but they just don’t all go together.

I look at the mess and shake my head and just start up another scene.  Time to decide in December whether this is actually worth anything going back to shape into something coherent.  But, for the month of November, WORD COUNT RULES.  It’s always good to know priorities .  .  .  .

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Placemat Swap 2

Julie has received her placemat, so I can show a picture now.  I really enjoyed making this one!  The colors look darker in the photo than they really are – this is actually a very bright project.

I’ll have more teaser photos of another project coming up soon.  I’m mostly taking a break from swaps for the month of November so I can concentrate on Nano, but I’ve got plenty of other sewing to get to as well.  Not to mention, I’ve still got the November web project in process.  I should have it up over the weekend. 

To anyone in the Denver area who might be interested, I’ll be teaching a miniature class at Great American Quilt Factory Sunday, Nov 22.  And then Nov 23 my episode on The Quilt Show will premiere.  More on that later – now I’m off to write more salacious sex scenes. 

NaNoWriMo word count: 9,081. 

Monday, November 2, 2009

Catch-Up, Day One

Still working on catching up on my swaps and the web project for November!  I’ve got bits and pieces in process all over my sewing room (which right now pretty much looks like I’d qualify for federal aid if I took pictures of it and send them on to FEMA).

I can’t show the whole thing yet since it has yet to arrive at it’s new home, but here’s a teaser photo of the placemat quilt I made for Julie.  I’ll have the full photo to show once Julie gets it.

NaNo word count as of this morning: 5, 583  (I wanted to get ahead to counter those days where output would be miserable.  Feeling pretty good about this start, have to say).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaNo Me Up

Okay, this has nothing to do with quilting.  I’m just here to say that, once again, I am joining in on the November madness that is NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month.  I did it a few years ago with friends and it was the most fun I’ve ever had writing – which is what happens when you throw the idea of quality right out the window.  (This works for quilting, too).   Anyone who passes that magic 50,000 words in a month goal line is a winner.   I was never so proud of a “You’ve Won!” certificate in my life.

Sad to say, however, last year I signed up but wasn’t really motivated and didn’t finish.  This is demoralizing.  It demonstrates a lack of character or backbone or some other worthy virtue that had clearly absconded for the time being.  I am in sore need of redemption.  How can I ruin that wonderful win by always having to think, “But then I tried again and didn’t finish, didn’t even come close”?  No, no, no.  This is no good. 

Time to ante up.  Which is why I’m here promising to post word count updates on my progress.  Frankly, I’ve always found the threat of public humiliation wonderfully motivating.  (Do I really want to post on my blog that I failed to reach my goal?  Right here in front of God and everyone in Blogland?  Heck, no.)

Not only this, I’ve decided to go for the gusto (so to speak) and write a romance novel.  The ladies of my quilt group have informed me for years that I have a problem because I’ve never been able to write a sex scene.  Here’s what happens when I try: I sit at the computer, all alone with no one looking over my shoulder, turn scarlet as soon as my two fictional bodies come within a foot of each other, panic, and then turn tail (okay, now there’s a truly awful pun) and run.  Fortunately, the immediate application of a significant dose of chocolate has usually dealt with the trauma. 

But not this time.  I am committed.  I have a general idea of my plot with, yes, sex scenes included.   Racy, salacious sex scenes.  I’m blushing just writing that.  (And now I’m wondering just how writing “sex” several times in a single blog entry might impact search engines.  I’m thinking some inquisitors might be sorely disappointed).

And because it’s just too barren to have a blog entry completely sans photos, here’s a few.  Here’s my writing desk (notice how I cleverly drape a quilt for effect, because this is, after all, a blog about quilting):


A truth in advertising moment impels me to mention that my desk only looks that clean because I took the multiple stacks of papers piled upon it and relocated them to the floor.

Here’s a close-up of my two very important guardians.  They keep the writing critics safely at bay.  One looks blustery and the other wise.  Aren’t they wonderful?


But here is where I really write, sitting in this chair with the laptop in my lap.  (Notice additional clever quilt drape-age – when I went into my closet looking for a couple tops to drape here, I found this one and went, “Oh, I’d forgotten about this one.  I really like it.  I really should finish this up!).


Please.  Wish me luck.  I am so going to need it!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Christmas Blocks for Kimmie

Here are the blocks I made up for the October Bee Pieceful block swap.  Kimmie asked for traditional blocks in any size to be made up in her fabrics.  Here’s the four I came up with:





I’m actually getting used to working with bigger sized patches again.  My traditional piecing skills are still a bit rusty, but they are, fortunately, starting to come back to me.  Those intersections don’t all meet quite as precisely as I would like, but, all in all, not too bad. 

I still have to decide what fabrics I’m going to send out when it’s my turn (come June) to have blocks made for me.  I’m waiting for that perfect fabric line to come out and snag me sometime between now and then.  Given all the lovely fabrics that just keep coming, I suspect I won’t have all that much trouble!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pink Blocks and a Pretty Placemat

A little alliteration is good for the soul, I think.  So, progress on the pink quilt is slow (midterm grading, I’m sad to say).  Still, here we have a pink strip set:

That became little pink blocks:

That have the first set of rows added:

Very pretty!

And lucky me, I received this absolutely gorgeous placemat from Julie in a placemat swap:

Isn’t it just wonderful?  Beautiful fabrics and a luscious design!  The photo doesn’t show it off as well as I would like, but the quilting is fabulous.  All wonderful free flowing swirls.  She also sent a bunch of goodies along with.  Pretty cards, a gorgeous fabric, and (dear to my heart) chocolate!

I haven’t actually started the placemat for Julie yet, I’m embarrassed to admit.  I have doodled and doodled but none of my ideas were thrilling me.  But then last night I woke  up in the middle of the night with an idea in my head, knew the design I wanted (simple but I hope it will work) and even the quilting style I wanted to use.  So, since it is definitely time for me to be working on this, I’ll have teaser photos to show in the next day or two.