Monday, April 7, 2014

Fun With Art Quilts

This month in our class, we are exploring art quilts.  I love McKenna Ryan's patterns.  Her love of nature shines through in her work.  Although these look complicated, she breaks it down for you and once you have mastered the principles you can take it into drafting your own pieces.

The first thing to do is pull a bunch of fabrics that you think will work, you don't have to exactly copy her color choices, you can do whatever you want!  Think of her picture on the cover as a guide to help you with your choices.  If you don't have lots of fabrics to choose from, buy small pieces at your local quilt shop, maybe go with a friend and share.  Read your pattern through from start to finish to make sure you understand the directions.  Just like baking a cake, it's a recipe for success.

Once you have your fabric selected, you are ready to get busy tracing your pattern.  I use Pellon 805 Wonder-Under.  I purchase it by the bolt at the fabric store, it's cheap and can be used for a number of things.  I use a sharpie marker and lay the Pellon over the top of the pattern, tracing each piece.  It helps if you use a small piece of tape on the edges to hold everything in place.

After you have traced and labeled all of your pieces, cut them out leaving a bit around each piece.  You will iron these onto the backside of your fabric and then trim your fabric pieces to the pattern.

When you get some pieces cut out, you can start laying them out on your background.  DO NOT PRESS THEM IN PLACE!!!  You can see that I have a sky and water, stitched together for my background, then I will lay out all of my pieces before pressing them onto that background.

Using a non-stick pressing cloth, you can lay it over top of your pattern and line up your pieces, give them a little tap with the iron and then you can peel them off and place them on your background as one piece.  You cannot see the pattern behind this piece due to the lighting, but I can see it fine to place my bits.

After you have everything where you want it on your background, give it a good press with a dry iron to secure everything.  Trim up your edges and you are ready to border, quilt and bind it as a small wall hanging or you can make it up as part of the larger quilt she has designed.

Some of the gals in our class are a bit apprehensive about this process, so I thought I would throw it up here.  Just have fun with it.  If you get stuck, call me or drop me an e-mail.  

See you all on April 25th at 9am for our next class.  I will be demonstrating the Stack and Whack method.  I think you will enjoy it.  Bring whatever you want to work on that day, if it's this project or you are working on something else, that is fine too.

Mean time, Happy Easter!  I'm grateful for the atoning sacrifice that was made for me and you by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday!

Saturday, March 29, 2014


When I was a small girl, yes about 55 years mother and father bought me this little Singer SewHandy Electric Sewing Machine for Christmas. 

 I remember running the neighborhood with a pillowcase full of my mother's scrap fabric, making Barbie Doll clothes and small quilts.  The memory is so vivid I could tell you what the air smelled like, what the sun felt like and how much fun I had with my friend Gabby from across the street.  

My mother was planting a seed, little did she know that it would grow to a life long love of sewing and a passion for quilting.  I have since graduated to bigger machines, but that basic joy of designing something out of bits of fabric has never left me.

They don't make children's toys like this any more.  Made in Great Britain, it is all metal, pretty hard for a child to destroy.  She is oiled up, dusted off and works like a champ!  Waiting for some new needles to arrive from  

My mom has passed but I still have her little childhood sewing machine, which also works like a champ.  It is operated by a small crank handle, the Little Betty was made by Straco in the 1920's.

I think it's fun to see them next to a standard machine, it gives you perspective on how tiny they were.

Tiny little machines, packed with fun and the ability to unleash a lifetime of creativity!  It's funny, I remember as a little child, looking at my machine and it seems enormous to me, it was very heavy to haul around and in my child's mind, it was every bit as grand as my mothers!

I hope, if you have daughters or sons, granddaughters or grandsons, neighbors or friends, that you will pass along your talents to the next generation.  They will be forever grateful to you for giving them not only a utilitarian skill but an opportunity to express themselves through a myriad of creative options that sewing can provide.  

Here is my son, at 40 with his second sewing machine...learning and creating.  We have enormous fun together.

Here he is putting a new lining into his coat!

And here is one of the 6 pillows that he made for his livingroom.

So Mom and Dad, wherever you's being carried on to the next generation, shared with my students and enjoyed on the web.  Little seeds, sewn by you.

Monday, March 24, 2014


Spring has arrived in the foothills!  We never really had a winter this year and that does not bode well for our fire season, but right now, Spring has put on her finery and is on full display!  Even the forest floor next to our mail box, could not help but sparkle with the beauty of these shooting stars.

It is a welcome event to me this year.  You may have noticed that I have not been blogging lately.  I have been recuperating from a horrible virus that got me along with everyone in our office, at the end of December.  I just could not shake this thing.  While the cough is gone in the last couple weeks, the exhaustion lingers on.  But I am starting to feel a bit better everyday and actually got some finishes in this weekend!

Our sewing group got together on Friday and since I was not inclined to teach a lesson, we just all enjoyed each other's company and stitched along!  Shirley was kind enough to bring some of her projects to share.  Thank you Shirley, they were enjoyed by everyone.  It was great to see Ramona getting around so well!  

So I worked on a Mystery Quilt that I started in January with a Face Book group called Just Us Quilters.  

This top is now finished and waiting for quilting.   Here is a close up of the blocks, love those bunnies!  This will definitely be an Easter quilt!

Well, I got so excited about that finish, that I finished up the other Mystery quilt...yes I started two of them at the same time!

The quilt pattern is called Cats Meow Mystery by Debbie Caffrey and is a free pattern that you can download at

It looks complex but it's really not, it goes quickly and is lots of fun, give it a try!

Well, yes, now I was in the groove!  Just a bit more stitching and I finished the baby quilt.  It will be off to that little sweet baby today!

The weekend before I worked on the orange and teal blocks of the mystery quilt and using the leader and ender approach of Bonnie Hunter, I actually finished all my blocks and this quilt top!

This is the finished top except the borders are not on yet...I am thinking I may make two more of the blocks and make this longer.  It is a square quilt and finishes up at 61 x 61 with the borders.  Problem is, my husband is 6'5"...a longer quilt will work better in our house.  This pattern is called Over and Under by Kim Brackett and is from her book titled Scrap-Basket Sensations.  The Fabrics are Belle by Amy Butler.

So quick and easy, great for a beginner, great for using up your scraps.  I think I will make this again soon, using scraps from my bin.  

I am now starting another Mystery Quilt and have selected and started to cut my fabrics.  My goal this year is to work from my stash and start depleting it.  Way too much fabric and if I don't get sewing I will never use it all up!  Anyway, I was inspired by the lovely purple in the photo at the top of this blog and so I pulled all my purples.  And since it's spring, I thought it appropriate to use a lovely Kaffe Fasset shot cotton in a yellow-green.

Have you ever had difficulty picking colors for your quilt?  Look to nature for inspiration.  When you find a color you like...use your color wheel or this nifty tool by Joen Wolfrom.  You select your main color...then flip the card over and she guides you effortlessly to obtain the effect you are desiring.

On each card, she tells you what other cards will play well.  If you look at the split-complementary you will see the purple colors that I pulled across from the yellow-green...I know my quilt will work.  So, more to be revealed as this Mystery Quilt progresses.  

Along with this I have two more baby quilts to work on.  One will be for a special little girl, whose Native American name means Turtle.  And one for a little boy.  I have lots of sewing to do!!!  I'll jump back on here with tips and posts more regularly now that I am starting to feel in the pink again!  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pot Holder Swap! Wanna Play???

Pot Holder Swap, Sign Up Deadline March 1, 2014

This is an open invitation to anyone who would like to play with us!  I host a swap on  It's free to join Ipernity and free to join our group.  Here is the link:

I formed this group last year when everyone was getting frustrated with Flickr.   So far we have had two mug rug exchanges with great contributions from some talented ladies!  This swap we decided  to exchange pot holders for something a little different.  Some folks like to send lots of goodies in their parcels, you are not obligated to do that, you only need to send the item we are making.  Extras are at your own discretion and are always fun.

We have gals that are from outside of the United States that participate in our group.  You are not obligated to swap with a partner outside the US, you just need to let me know when you sign up for the swap.

Drop me an e-mail if you have questions or are interested in playing with us.  It's a nice opportunity to let your creativity fly.  And it's always fun to get a surprise in the mail!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine's Day Table Topper

Well, I am a day late with this post.  I've been working on some walking pneumonia here and finally had a night with some sleep...until a certain kitty named Sophie, decided that mommy always gets up at 2am and it's 4am now, so she should really be getting up... so after several paws on my face, she finally thought...I'll just sit right on her bladder.  Well, that did it!  I was up!  Hey, I actually got 6 hours sleep, I feel pretty good, I'm gonna finish up this project.

I started this project with a fat quarter of fabric from Sugar Hill by Tanya Whelan for Free Spirit.  I love this sweet old fashioned rose on the crisp white background with the little hints of blue.

First I cut a 12 inch square. Sorry for the blurry pic, getting use to my new Iphone camera.

Next I cut two 5 inch squares and then cut them again on the diagonal.  (you still have fabric left over from your fat quarter!)

As we have done before, fold your block in half horizontally and press with your iron, fold it again in half the other way, vertically and press again, now fold on both diagonals and press again, this gives you a "grid" to work from when designing your block.

You can go ahead and design and create your block now or you can sew on your tips and do it after.   To place your tips properly, fold each of your small diagonally cut pieces, in half and finger press, line up that crease with the crease in your block and pin in place, I like to pin the ends and the center.  This piece is cut on the diagonal, do not stretch it as you attach it.  I stitch it on with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Now, what to put in the block?  I like to scratch out my design ideas on a piece of childrens drawing paper that I purchase in rolls from IKEA.  They are cheap and you can use it for patterns and a host of other uses.  

I wanted to create a Topiary effect with the hearts.   I was thinking about possibly a little blue bird, but opted just to go with the topiary idea.  

I used Pelon to fuse my shapes to my block and then I top stitched them in place with a machine blanket stitch.  I free motion stitched the "trunks".  When finished with my design, I make a quilt sandwich of batting and backing each 20 inches square and proceeded to quilt, free motion around each design.  Then I traced a pretty heart design with a flowing bow from a quilt pattern book and quilted that inbetween the topiaries.  You can't really see it in the picture.    I used Kaffe Fasset fabric for the hearts and binding.  It was just luck the way the fabric worked to come out with the pink on the tips of the topper.  Lots of fun, I hope you will get some creative ideas from this.  I will be teaching a class this next Friday on making Table Toppers, it will be fun to see what our class creates!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Valentines Day Mug Rug Surprise!

Mug Rug for Valentines Day

For the past several months I have been hosting a Mug Rug Swap on  This months theme is Valentines Day.  I asked the participants to please create something without knowing who there partner would be.  I wanted them to have complete license to create.  So this is my contribution and I hope my partner will like it.  It was lots of fun to make.  

I used some triangle scraps of fabric to make a piece block for half of the mug rug and then used white Kona cotton for the other half.  I used some iron on adhesive to place the little hearts to create the bleeding heart and then free motion quilted the entire piece.  

The quilting on the bleeding heart half was done with a special foot on my machine, see below.

Here's how I quilted the little lines.

If you would like to join in the fun with us on the next round, come for a visit at
We would love to have you join us!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mystery Quilt Fun and Creating the Seminole Border

I'm playing with an online group on Facebook called "Just Us Quilters" and they started a Mystery Quilt.  I love Mystery Quilts!  So of course I was in.  And this one only required 3 fabrics!  Nice.

Now this looks very complex, but when you do a Mystery Quilt, everything is broken down into little bite size chunks and it all goes very fast!  Yes, I know, that is surprising isn't it?!  There are tons and tons of Mystery Quilt patterns out there.  You never know what your quilt will look like until you solve the Mystery.

I changed one block up just a bit as I went along.  My top is completed, the "Mystery" is solved.  Now I am working on the border pieces.  I want to do a little 2 inch square going all around the center, then the light fabric and then the teal.  It will echo what is going on in the quilt blocks nicely.

You can see in the photo at the top, that I am auditioning the fabrics for the border.  Here are the instructions for how to make a basic seminole block border.  The blocks in the quilt start at 2 inch width, so to compliment them I am using the rust fabric and the light background in the same 2 inch dimension.  

Cut 2 strips of the light background fabric 2" x width of fabric
Cut 2 strip of your accent fabric (rust) 2" x width of fabric

I like to cut these strips in half so I am working with a 22 inch piece as opposed to a 44 inch piece.  Sew them together in a strip set as you see below.  Press to the dark.

Now take your ruler and measure off 2 inch pieces and cut as below.

You will want to lay these out so that they are staggered as shown below, when you flip them over to sew to each other, they will nestle together at the seam.

I know this looks a little weird, but you will take up a 1/4 inch bit with your seam allowance and it all sorts out.

Take them to your machine and start chain piecing until you have a length you want to work with.

You can tuck a pin in next to the seam if you are worried about them shifting as you sew.  But they should nestle together easily.

When you are done, you will end up with a piece like this, take your ruler and carefully trim off the points so that you have at least 1/4 inch of fabric sticking beyond your squares.  This will provide you with a nice seam allowance when you stitch it to your quilt, so that all your points will be spot on.

Now let's audition the border with the seminole patchwork squares.

I like this effect.  I hope you enjoyed this mini tutorial on basic Seminole technique piecing for a border strip.  Below is a brief history of Seminole Patchwork and some examples, as well as a list of books for you if you would like to explore this technique further.  It's a fabulous way to make quick statement borders for your quilts!  And we have these amazingly resourseful women to thank!

History of Seminole Patchwork

Seminole Patchwork
The introduction of hand-cranked sewing machines around 1900 revolutionized Seminole clothing design and prompted women to begin experimenting with strips of colorful cotton fabric bought at local trading posts. Working in their remote camps in the Everglades and Big Cypress, by about 1916, Seminole and Miccosukee women had developed a new and distinctive style of clothing known as taweekaache or patchwork.
If you could imagine, living in the Florida Everglades in the 1800's and needing cloth to sew for clothing and basic needs.  It's not like you could just roll to the local fabric store.  It would take a trek of weeks to get to civilization.  These resourceful women had to utilize what was at hand and they created beautiful artful designs (as women from all cultures strive to do).  They worked with tiny bits of cloth by hand, creating techniques that were both simplistic in their approach and complex. 

To make patchwork, different colored cloth is first torn into strips and then sewn together to make long bands of geometric patterns and designs. These strips are then joined horizontally to other bands of colored cloth to assemble the body of the garment. The most complicated designs need to be cut and re-sewn many times.
According to one local story, Seminole Indians who guided the advance clearing crews during the Tamiami Trail's construction often collected the surveyors' colored cloth streamers at the end of the day to use in making patchwork clothing.
Patchwork is still a source of cultural pride and identity to the Seminole, and a product of great commercial value. Designs are never written down and new patterns are still being created.
To learn more about the Seminole Indians, their culture and their museum, visit

Books you may enjoy: