Wednesday, July 29, 2009


One of the things I always hoped would happen with the foundations in Miniatures in Minutes is that quilters would realize how easy it would be to adapt them to their own patterns.  Look at this lovely miniature a student made:

Rita cross miniature

Rita used the 13-Square foundation and designed this cross for her mother.  It’s even more lovely in person (of course)  and you can see then that she hand quilted the borders.  Beautiful work.

I really, really love seeing quilters using the technique and foundations to come up with on their own thing.  Thank you, Rita, for letting me share this!

Meanwhile, the drawing for the spare set of plaid patches has been made and the random number generator selected “12.”  So, the patches go to Rita (who is, yes, coincidentally, the same Rita who made that lovely quilt pictured above – gotta love serendipity).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My July S.T.U.D. arrived!

Isn’t it just wonderful?  Thank you, Ansje!

The July theme was Summer Lovin’.  Look at those bright happy colors and the cool flip flops!  Hard to tell from the photo, but they even have a little bling.  (It may be my Jersey roots showing, but I sure do love it when things glitter.)

She also included these sweet little extras.

A beautiful fabric and two darling note pads.  I love note pads so these are really great for me.

I am not as on top of it as Ansje so my quilt is not quite done.  I still need to attach the label.  It will go out in the mail tomorrow.  Meanwhile, here’s a little teaser photo:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sewing Room Divas

I’ve seen a number of pictures on blogs lately showing off Raggedy Ann Dolls.  This gives me a real pang since it brings to my mind a tale of Ann’s lost to times gone by.  Specifically, Raggedy Ann’s made for me by my Aunt Jeannie.

When I was a child, I loved the Raggedy Ann she had made for me.  She had black button eyes and her eyelashes and nose and mouth were all embroidered.  She even had a heart embroidered on her chest which only I knew about because it was under her dress.  Oh, yeah.  I loved my Raggedy Ann.  I loved her till her fabric wore through and her stuffing slipped out.

I mentioned once before that when what was on the inside migrated to the outside, my mother thought it was time to throw something out.  (Years later I wondered if it was growing up in the depression that made my mother so adamant about what was “good” and what was “worn out”).   When my Raggedy Ann started leaving parts of herself behind, my mother threw her out. 

What?!  I snuck out and rescued her from the trash can and hid her in my room.  Of course, after a while, I left her lying about and my mother, with some annoyance, noticed she was back.  She threw her out again.  I rescued her again.  Until one time, I didn’t rescue her in time.  Oh, I was mad.  And I (rather ostentatiously) mourned.

Aunt Jeannie to the rescue.  She made me another Raggedy Ann.  But it wasn’t the same.  Her facial features were drawn on.  There was no secret heart.  Her button eyes just weren’t as shiny and black.  I appreciated her but I didn’t love her.  And during one of my college moves, I carelessly left her behind (for which, of course, I now kick myself).

So, of course, years (decades) later when I got more serious about sewing, I had to make myself a doll. Not a Raggedy Ann but  an angel with a pretty dress and painted on shoes, with tea-dyed lace and tiny roses on her bloomers.  She was the first doll I had ever made and I was pretty darn impressed with myself.  I brought her over to show my mother.  Who was also impressed.

“Isn’t she nice?” my mother said, patting the hair and admiring the bloomers.  We stood at her dining room table which opened onto the living room and she gazed up speculatively.

“Uh,” I said. “Her dress goes perfectly with your couch, doesn’t it?”


“I guess she better stay here.”

“I guess she better.”

And that was that.  But I didn’t mind.  Every time I came to visit, my doll was there on the couch.  My mom was not a knick-knacky kind of person so my doll was really getting a position of honor, I knew.  My mother informed me that the bridge ladies had been very impressed and the consensus was that this angel had quite the personality (quite pleased with herself, they said).

“Her name is Lulu Belle,” my mother told me.

Now Lulu Belle is back with me.  Because  my mother cherished her, she means more to me nearly than I can say.  When I was a child, my mother taught me to sew.  Now simply opening a  Simplicity pattern and hearing the rustle of tissue paper brings an onslaught of nostalgia: Mom with pins in her mouth smoothing out the fabric while determining how the pattern pieces would lay (because who ever took the pattern’s advice?), the sound of scissors knocking against the table and slicing through fabric, the hum of the machine.  I only have one regret with having a book published and that is that my mother is not here to see it.  It would have made her terribly proud and all of her friends would have known about it. 

So, Lulu Belle sits in my sewing room and brings a watchful spirit over the proceedings. 

But she is not alone.  I have a friend who for many years was a doll maker.  I was going through a rough patch at the time and she made me this beautiful spirit doll.  She looks out with such kindness.  She says, “Gently now.”

My same doll maker friend was planning a doll workshop for her church.  Participants would make a doll meant to represent one’s inner self.  I was a pattern tester.  So, I started pulling fabric from my drawers and totally surprised myself when a leopard print was the one that spoke  to me (shouted, even).  I had been expecting something quiet.  I thought I’d add some embroidery, perhaps symbolic charms.  But no.  A leopard print.

You have to understand.  I am not a snazzy dresser.  When I was a teen, I was a serious clothes horse but, nowadays?  I hate to shop.  My idea of a shopping venture is to go find some simple, innocuous pullover and then buy it in five shades.  If I’m lucky, I can be in and out of the store in under a half hour.

But, look, here she is:  in all her snazzy glory. 

It cheers me up immensely to know that my inner self is actually a somewhat mischievous diva with absolute confidence and a killer fashion sense.  I love her madly, too. 

So, in my sewing room, I am always accompanied by these three guardian spirits: they offer mother love, friendship and understanding, and the gleaming awareness that there’s always a little more to me than shows on the surface.  They are very wise and I try to listen.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

EQ6 – Serendipity Merge, Part 5

Here is a table runner that uses setting triangles based on a nine-patch grid. To download the EQ6 project file for this table runner and the full size quilts below, go to the EQ6 page on my website.

serendipity merge table runner red 

The designs are copyrighted but you have my permission to make these up for either personal use or charitable endeavors.

To show off the basic design a little more clearly, here it is in solid colors:

tablerunner 2

And here is a full size quilt that also uses setting triangles that work with a nine patch grid, though this time with only a single star.

full size grecian square

Here is the same design using yet another setting triangle block, one that creates a framing effect.  (I love the design effects you can create with subtle value differences in taupe fabrics.  I also like how this design at first glance appears complicated but is really quite simple.  The on-point blocks simply alternate two colorways of the Grecian Square with Star block.)

serendipity merge quilt taupe

A solid colored version might show off the impact of the setting triangles a little more clearly.  Here is the design without the framing blocks placed in the setting triangles:

serendipity merge no setting triangles

Here is the design with.  For me, adding blocks into the setting triangles makes the design feel more finished.

serendipity merge frame triangles

Both the table runner and the full size quilts use the same merged block in the center squares, the Grecian Square block with a star merged into the center (as was demonstrated in the Serendipity Merge, Part 4 blog entry). 

grecian square merge

The table runner uses the following block in the setting triangles.  Conveniently, the same block can be used for both the side and the corner setting triangles.  Once again, I merged a star into a partial nine-patch grid (as discussed in this blog entry).  Then I finished drawing the grid, moved the star over and used copy and paste for the remaining stars. 

nine patch setting triangles

This is the part of the design that shows when it is placed in a side setting triangle:

setting triangle 1

And here is the part of the design that shows when it is placed in a corner setting triangle:

setting triangle 2

The first full size quilt I showed above also merges a star into a nine patch grid.  This time, however, it is a single star placed in a corner:

nine patch 2

It look likes this when placed in a side setting triangle:

side triangle 1

The second full size quilt (in taupe) uses two different setting triangle blocks, one for the sides and one for the corners.  Here is the side setting triangle (I’ll admit – these are not merged blocks:  I just drew them):

setting triangle side

Here is the corner setting triangle:

nine patch setting triangle frame corner

This shows the setting triangles standing alone:

serendipity frame

Most of the time when I am setting blocks in the setting triangles, I match the grid used in the setting triangles to the grid used in the interior blocks.  That way everything lines up and proportions remain the same. 

A little later I’ll discuss how I use the merge feature to create blocks specifically for the sashing but I do believe I’ll wait till I discuss sashing generally. 

I really do love EQ.  It’s a great program and it is so much fun to get in there and just see what happens.  Most of the time, when I design a quilt, I don’t have the end design in mind before I begin.  Most of the time I don’t even have a glimmering.  What I do is just grab a few blocks, try putting this with that, and then see what happens.  As soon as I begin, ideas start to simmer.  I see two blocks together and I wonder, “What if I tried this other block instead?”  I try that and then I think, “Well, what if I try this in an on point layout?”

Ideas evolve naturally, and, eventually, I wind up with something.  I’ll admit – it’s not always a good something.  But sometimes it is, and that you never know what you’ll end up with is part of the excitement of any creative endeavor. 

In a nutshell:  You really don’t need to know where you’re going in order to begin.  You can have perfect confidence that if you just take those first steps and you keep going, you will end up somewhere! 

One final shot: the table runner done in taupe with the framing setting triangles.

tablerunner taupe

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Scrappy Lil’ Doll Quilts Reveal and Giveaway

Well, here it is the 25th and, yes, I have a little scrappy quilt, called “Close, But No Cigar” (since I meant it to be a charm quilt but, oops, doubled up on one of the fabrics). It finished at 12" by 13".

Well, I whined in an earlier entry about the challenges I faced in quilting the border. Sometimes you just need to. Whine, that is. So I whined and then heaved a big sigh and took out all the border quilting so I could get a clean do-over. Didn’t really enjoy that but at least I felt morally righteous. I took Mary L.’s advice and got one of the silicone sliders. It worked great! I look forward to using it with all my machine quilting from here on out.

Meanwhile, the giveaway: I cut out two sets of patches for the foundation so if anyone is interested in the spare set, just drop a comment here and let me know (I don’t mind shipping international). If more than one person wants them, I’ll hold a drawing. I should mention that these are probably only going to be useful to you if you have my book Miniatures in Minutes since the templates are trimmed to work with the Pyramid Triangle foundation from the book. I’ll wait a few days so people have time to comment – I’ll do the drawing this coming Wednesday.

Here’s a look at the patches (I’ll remove the doubled up fabric so your charm will really be charmed!):

Meanwhile, I’m happy with my little scrappy quilt. There’s just something about plaids. I’m pretty sure that one of the things that drew me to quilting was the way quilts are more than just creations of fabric and thread. It’s how they symbolize so many other things we care about: home, family, comfort. I think what first drew me to plaids is the way they say simplicity.

Even though I’m using contemporary quilt techniques and sewing on my Bernina, plaids still touch me with impressions of a simpler life. Surely I’m not the only one who can get caught feeling nostalgia for a life I never lived – I’ve never sat on the back porch of a farmhouse looking out over the fields some late afternoon with a bowl of snap peas in my lap and I’ve never lived in a little house on a prairie and never said “Good night, John Boy” before turning out the light. But there it is. I make a little plaid quilt and it warms that small corner of me that kind of wishes I had.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

EQ6 – Serendipity Merge, part 4

Here’s the deal.  For reasons that are mysterious and beyond the comprehension of my non-programming brain, the Merge feature doesn’t like nine-patch blocks. (At least, that has consistently been true for me on one desktop and two laptops, going from Windows XP to Vista).  This will just not do. 

Fortunately, the work around is easy.  I begin by drawing just part of a nine-patch. (You don’t need to color the block.  I’m just doing so here to make the illustration clearer).

nine 1

Merge likes this block.  So I merge a block into the upper left corner.  Like this:

nine 2

Next, I draw the lines that will complete the nine-patch:

nine 3

From there, some easy copy and paste and gets me the block I want:

nine 4 

The block can stand on its own, as it does here (with additional stars placed in the sashing cornerstones):

nine 9

Or it can be used as an alternating block, as it is here:

nine 7

And here:


In this last version, I set the blocks on-point.  I also used the very first block with a merged star in it (the one with only one star placed in the upper left corner) in the side setting triangles as I discussed in my previous entry on using the Merge feature.

All of this is well and good if all I want to do is create my own simple nine-patch block to merge.  But what if I want to merge a block into another existing block built on a nine-patch grid?  Such as this Grecian Square?

nine 12

This is going to involve some more serious cut and paste. 

First, I need to do a little detour and explain something about Merge.  Let’s call the block you want to merge a block into Block A (for example, the partial nine-patch above) and call the block you are going to merge into it Block B (the eight-pointed star).  The combined Merged block (the partial nine-patch with the star in the corner) we’ll call Block C.

Even though Block A is drawn on the Easy Draw Worktable, Block C will appear on the EasyDraw + Patch Motif Worktable.  This is, as far as I’ve been able to tell, true of all the merged blocks.  Merged blocks use the combined Worktable. 

Depending on the block, once it is merged, Block B will appear either on the Easy Draw part of that combined Worktable OR on the Applique part.  For instance, if I merge a Grecian Square into that upper corner of the partial nine-patch, in the Merged Block C, the Grecian Square will be on the Easy Draw part of the combined Worktable.  If I merge an eight-pointed star (as I did above), the star will appear on the Applique worktable. 

When I want to further manipulate a Merged Block C, it will matter whether the block I added (Block B) is on the EasyDraw or the Applique Worktable: primarily because I can only copy and paste an applique block onto an applique Worktable.  All of this talk about Block A and Block B is simply to explain why I am going to take the Grecian Urn block and do a copy and paste so that I have a version of it that is on the Easy Draw + Patch Motif Worktable.  It’s because I want to copy an applique into the design.  Okay, now to the actual steps:

First, I take this block (which is drawn on the EasyDraw worktable) and copy and paste it onto an Easy Draw + Patch Motif Worktable.  I color the two versions differently so when I’m pulling blocks from the Sketchbook I can easily tell which block is which.  Like this:

nine 14

Next, I’m going to play with that simple nine-patch merge workaround that I use.  (For the sake of convenience, I’m going to use the same one I used earlier when demonstrating how to create a nine patch merge).  I select the eight-pointed star from Block C (and only the star) and I copy it.  Then, I pull the block above onto the Worktable and simply paste the star into it.  NOTE: I make sure that Block C and the block I am copying the star into are the same size.

nine 15

Obviously, there are a few more steps involved here than in a straightforward merge, but all of them are easy and they go quickly.  And I’m happy because I can still merge into a block based on a nine-patch grid when I so desire.

Sidenote:  It occurs to me that you might wonder why, if I’m calling up blocks onto the Worktable and doing copy and paste from one to the other, I don’t just simply call up an eight-pointed star on its own, then copy and paste it into another block.  The reason is because of size.  It is difficult to precisely resize a block based on thirds.  With this method, I make sure the blocks I am copying from and to are the same size.  That way the fit works seamlessly.

I’m working on a table-runner pattern that uses Merge and I should have it ready for download in a day or two.  I’ll explain a little more then about how to design blocks to use in setting triangles based on a nine-patch grid.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Trouble in River City

Well, okay it’s almost a charm quilt.  Didn’t notice until I had borders on that I had two of one fabric in there.  Oops.  Seriously, the idea of a humility block?  As if I have to deliberately avoid perfection?  Geez, when it comes to imperfection, I’m a natural.

I can live with the doubled up fabric.  There’s a different kind of charm involved in that kind of mistake, right?  But look what happened when I quilted the border!  You know how sometimes when things aren’t working right and you try something else and, wow, you’re surprised how well it works and you’ve got a whole new technique and skill to add to your tool box?  Those times are really quite lovely.  This was not one of those times.

This was just a screw up, plain and simple.

And moving beyond my “I can live with that” comfort level.  Ouch.

For some reason, the backing on this quilt did NOT want to move on the table.  I mean, not at all.  Zip.  Nada.  Could have been nailed in place for all it was willing to give.   I actually had to pick up the quilt and hold it so that it was only touching the table right under the needle.  This, in case anyone is wondering (which, of course, no one is), is not a good way to quilt.  The results are not a pretty picture.

Some stitches are way too small.  Some stitches are way too big.  Some stitches skipped.  My nicely flowing design?  Umm, not so flowing. 

The question is, what do I do now?  I could pull out all the stitches and start over.  But that will just leave me with the same problem I began with, a quilt that doesn’t want to move on the table.  I could pull out just some of the stitches and see if I can address the worst of it.  That’s probably my first line of defense.  Because, while the border stitching is not great, it isn’t all terrible. 

That picture right above, it’s not so bad, right?  A little wobble in the one curve I can fix.  Okay, maybe two of the curves need a little love.  But most of it’s okay.  Right?  Am I kidding myself?

At least, she said, I can be happy with the the inside patches and the quilting there.  Let’s hear it for Fold and Sew, says I, because the technique works and I can just sit back and be happy with those triangles! 

Time for that cup half full, can you tell?

Meanwhile, what the heck is up with that fabric?  Is it just too loose and rough a weave?  I spray baste my minis – did the glue slip through the weave and make the back side just sticky enough to fight back?  I’ve never had this happen before.  (Sometimes you just don’t know what you should be grateful for, do you?) 

It’s a mystery.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In Process

Busily at work on the scrappy doll quilt challenge.  Here’s the foundation with the patches sewn on and the rows ready to join.

The foundation with a couple rows sewn together:

Paper off!  Ready for the borders now.

So far I am just loving how this is coming out.  I’m so pleased with my decision to play with this scrap pile.  I had sort of forgotten just how much I like stripes and plaids!

Here’s a picture (not a very good one, I’m afraid) of the first quilt I made using stripes and plaids.  This was the second bed size quilt that I finished.  I hand quilted this one.  I so rarely hand quilt anymore.  I don’t really have the patience but I have to admit, there is still something that strikes me as special about the ones that are.  We slept on a double bed in those days – now that we have a queen, this sort of downgraded to a bed topper.  It’s been well worn for a long time now.  It’s terribly faded but it’s also so soft and comfortable.

Don’t you love it when a quilt gets well used? 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Stripes and Plaids It Is

Well, a decision on which scraps to use for the Scrappy Lil’ Doll Quilt Challenge has been made.

Stripes and plaids.  It was so much fun pulling these out and going through them!  When I first started to get serious about quilting, around fifteen years ago, the two fabrics types that first won my heart were 19th century reproductions (anyone remember those first Smithsonian collections?) and stripes and plaids.   Roberta Horton had published her inspirational book on stripes and plaids and, at the time, the stores were full of them.  It’s just possible I bought a little of each and every one.

I still love my reproductions but somehow the plaids fell by the wayside – I. E. all my scraps got stuffed in a bin and stacked in the closet.  It’s been a while since I really went through them and pulling them out was a little like greeting an old friend. 

When it came to this challenge, I thought, “What’s scrappier than a charm quilt?”  I actually wondered if I’d have enough.  Uh, yeah.  And then some.  But, since I was wondering, I started out by cutting two of each patch, just in case I was going to have to abandon the idea of a charm quilt.  So, dear readers, I have a spare set. 

The day of the Scrap Challenge Reveal, I’ll do a giveaway for that set.  If you have a copy of Miniatures in Minutes and are interested in a scrappy plaid charm quilt (pattern to be revealed the day of the giveaway), I’ve got a set I’m giving away.

I pretty much am keeping this blog limited to quilt stuff but I can’t resist this.

A new chair for the office.  Love those clearance sales at Laz-y-boy!  There was a time in my life when the idea of buying a big honker clearly built for comfort kind of chair like this would have horrified me, but I’ve mellowed with age.  It rocks without tilting to the side and making horrible squeaking and clanking noises.  That puts it way ahead of the chair we just got rid of!    I’m sitting in it  happily typing away at this very moment.  And, just to keep this tangentially related to quilting, notice how it color coordinates with my book cover!  (It’s the little things . . .)

Friday, July 17, 2009

EQ6 -- Serendipity Merge, Part 3

I want to look at another really useful application of the Merge feature, but I’m going to start with a talk about quilt layouts.  As we know, EQ will insert a block into any grid space in a quilt layout – into the block grids, sashing, cornerstones, borders.  We can get some pretty fun effects with how EQ  “skews” the block to make it fit (for instance, when you put a square block into a diamond shape) – but more on that another day.  What I want to look at now is how the program handles putting a four-sided block  into a triangle. 

Well, there’s no way to skew those four sides to make them fit three sides.  The program therefore does the logical thing: it slices the block so that it becomes a triangle.   How it slices the block depends on where in the quilt the triangle is located. 

For example, consider the blue setting triangles in the following layout.  They are placed along the sides of the quilt. 

merge quilt 1

For blocks positioned along the sides like this, EQ slices the block straight across the diagonal.  Like this:

merge half

That means, if you were to put a star block into one of the blue triangles, you would see only half of the star design.

merge star half

Placed in the quilt, the block would look like this:

merge quilt 2

Notice how some of the blocks show the colored part, some only the green half, and some half and half?  That’s because I colored the block to demonstrate how EQ orients it in the layout.  (I’ll explain in a little bit why this is useful to know.) 

I want to try and avoid confusion.  My point above is that once the star is placed in a side setting triangle, you will only see half of the block design – but which half will depend on the triangle’s location in the quilt layout.  For another example, I colored this star with different points.

merge star 1

You can see in the quilt layout below that while each triangle only shows half of the star, which half varies depending on which side of the quilt layout the block is placed:

merge quilt 9

Okay.  Now let’s look at the setting triangles that are located in the upper and lower corners of the layout.  For these, EQ quarters the block on the diagonal and then uses one of the resulting quarter-square triangles. 

merge quarter

If we look at that star block again, the colored part is the design element that would show once the block was placed in the quilt:

merge star quarter

Here it is placed inside the quilt layout:

merge quilt 3

If all I wanted to do was use either a half or a quarter of a block in a setting triangle, which half or quarter of the block EQ displays just wouldn’t matter. 

But what if I don’t want to place a quarter or a half of a block?  What if, take a breath, I want to place a whole block in there?  Hello, my good buddy Merge! 

For the half-square triangles, I create this base block that I can then merge other blocks into:

merge block 1

Here it is with the star merged in:

merge block 2

And here it is placed in the quilt layout:

merge quilt 4

Now you can see why knowing just how EQ is slicing the block matters.  Well, at least knowing that it doesn’t show the same part of the block on each side matters.  Now you simply use the Rotate button and rotate the blocks until you see the part of the block you want.  (The number of times you need to click the rotate button will depend on just how the block oriented.  Keep clicking; it will eventually get there).

merge quilt 5

Then there’s the matter of the corner setting  triangles.  Once again, I create a base block that I will then merge other blocks into.

merge block 3

Here’s the star merged in:

merge block 4

Here is the merged star block placed in the quilt layout (I went down to just one center block so it would be easier to see):

merge quilt 6

Rotate the blocks and you’ll get this:

merge quilt 7

Is that cool, or what?  Have I mentioned yet how much I love the Merge feature?  Oh.  I have?  Well, yeah.  It bears repeating.

Below are a few quilts that show using the merge feature to place blocks in the setting triangles.

In this patriotic table runner I also merged the flag blocks into the center of the stars.

merge 3

In the following two quilts I merged the applique into the triangle frame and merged the corner setting triangles as described above.  (The center frame, quilt layout, and borders for these two are the same.)

merge reproduction

merge 4

I am really bad at spatial orientation. It took me far longer than it should have to figure out how to orient those Sues and Sams so they pointed the direction I wanted!  I think if I went back to the design board on these I might do yet another merge and put a narrow border frame around the on-point centers, particularly on the hearts one.

For the record, the advice about the sides of the quilt layout using a half-triangle of the block and the corners using a quarter-square triangle of the block does not always hold true for the quilts in the custom layout library, particularly the more unique designs.  You’ll only know how any given block is laying in the triangle by placing a block and seeing.

Believe it or not, I have more on how I use the Merge feature.  It’s upcoming.