Tuesday, December 20, 2011




So today I  finally got to see the ortho doctor.  He sent me off for an MRI, and is going on vacation.  Drat.  I won't be able to see him again until January 16th.  We can then discuss the results of the MRI, and talk about arthroscopy.  In addition to ligaments being injured, he's pretty sure I've damaged the meniscus as well (cartilage), so that will need some tidying up.  At any rate, I'm likely to be out of action for a while.  He said to continue using a walker, and gave me two pages of exercises to strengthen the leg muscles.  He said I may not be able to do them all, depending on how much the cartilage bits and pieces bother me.  I intend to do as much as I'm able to--I really need to get this dratted knee working again, and ASAP.



I don't know if I'll be able to demonstrate working on a treadle at our quilt show at the end of January or not, but I hope so.  I've done that in the past, and had a grand time.  Kids are fascinated with the mechanism, and the machine brings back fond memories for lots of people of watching their grandmothers sew on treadles when they were young.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Several years ago, I received a catalog from Keepsake Quilting that had a pattern for this simple Log Cabin variation.  I thought it would look really nifty made up in Batik fabrics, so sliced up a lot of strips and went at it.  As you can see, I like color, and plenty of it.  :)This ended up going to one of the grandkids.  I quilted it on my Singer 319 treadle sewing machine, using the #20 disc, which makes a pleasant wavy line, very nice for sewing over the seams for simple quilting without having to be super careful to stay  in-the-ditch.  I can think of lots of other variations that would be nice, too, but haven't actually tried any of them out.

Below is a pic of the quilting.


I like that curvy line a lot.

Only 5 more days until I get to see the ortho doc!  :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Large scale prints


Over the years, I had collected quite a few Oriental-style prints, many of which had large design motifs.  They were much too beautiful to cut up into small pieces.  So, when someone came up with the awesome idea of I Spy quilts, mainly made for kids, it seemed like a nice idea for these fabrics.  I cut large hexagons of just about all the prints I'd collected, and used a really nice Japanese-woodblock-type print of ocean waves as the setting triangles and borders.  You might want to consider something like this for the large-scale prints in your stash.  Some fabrics are just to gorgeous to be cut into tiny chunks.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Laced Star Friendship quilt



This is another of the Friendship quilts I made with the group in Michigan.  This block is fairly simple, but although it's pieced in quarters and then sewn together, the quarter of a block isn't square--it's a triangle, with the long side of the triangle on the outside of the block, and the point at the center of the block.  When piecing it, it's necessary to be careful to get the four different fabrics in just the right positions to create the illusion of the pieces crossing over each other, or "lacing" together.  I asked my friends to use black for the background, and any two reds and green to teal greens for the other two fabrics.  Once I had all the blocks, I used a lovely Hoffman Christmas stripe in ivory with green, red, and gold to frame each block.  Since every corner is mitered, after cutting the frames for the blocks, I had lots of triangles of the striped fabric left over.  Not wanting them to go to waste, I sewed them all together into little squares, measured the size, then cut the black sashing the same width and used the little stripe squares as the cornerstones of the sashing.  I wish I had a better picture so you could see how pretty it is in real life.

If you haven't really used stripes very much in your quilting, you might want to try it--cutting them into triangles and re-sewing them can make some really interesting effects, and you can use the resulting squares anyplace you would have used a plain square in a block.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A little quilt with a big surprise


Actually, it's still a top in my UFO cupboard, but one of these days, it will get quilted.  Many years ago, when it was my turn in the Friendship quilt go-around, I requested blocks made of four inch spool blocks.  I supplied fabric that looked like wood grain for the spools, and asked my friends to use fabrics for the thread that they thought looked like thread.  I also asked that they not sew the spools together, but just give them to me in a baggie, so I could arrange them on the design wall for color placement.  Well, this group always did things in an interesting way.  Above, you can see some of the blocks the ladies made for me, all spread out on the carpet.  You see the huge spool with no thread on it?  Well, AnnaMae had been to Paris recently, and while there she found an interesting fabric with cancan dancers on it, and used it with great effect, LOL.  When you lift the flap on that spool, you see this:


You can't really see it in the pic, but the ladies are topless, so this is my one and only R-rated quilt.

In addition, one of the ladies made some two inch blocks just for fun.  This quilt always makes me smile when I see it.  :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Miss Leatherthimble's Guide to Excruciatingly Accurate Piecing.

Several years ago, a friend used this alias, and I loved it, so I'm borrowing it to use here.  The big misunderstanding with accurate 1/4" seams is that they really aren't 1/4" if they're going to result in a true block size--they're going to be a hair less than 1/4", to allow for the fabric taken up in a seam.  I hope you all have seam guides for your sewing machines.  Mary asked about this, and wondered why her 1/4" foot doesn't bring the desired perfection.  So far, I've not found a foot that was accurate enough to suit me, which is why my machines all have a seam guide either in the drawer of the cabinet, or attached to the machine bed.  If you don't have one, and the ones for your machine are very pricey, you can make do with a strip of moleskin or a stack of post-it notes, but I don't recommend that.  I'm a great believer in using the right tool for the job at hand.  Once you have one, the next step is to put a small clear ruler underneath your presser foot, and slowly bring the needle down until it just touches the right side of the little line on the ruler that indicates 1/4", so that it's just a hair less.  I now have to wear reading glasses for this, which I deeply resent.  Up until a couple of years ago, I could easily read and thread needles, now, not so much.  :(

Next, gently lower the presser foot, making sure nothing moves.  Place the seam guide so that it butts up against the ruler, again making sure nothing moves, and tighten it down.  Remove the ruler.  Then, cut 3 strips of fabric 1 1/2" wide, and sew them together.  Press the seams to one side, and measure.  If the piece doesn't measure exactly 3 1/2", readjust the seam guide and repeat with another 3 strips, until you attain perfection.  When you have that right, you can go ahead and piece that block, and it should come out just right if you make sure that you have the top and bottom pieces aligned correctly with each other and that they are butted up against the seam guide.  Give it a try, and see if it works for you.  It's a little extra trouble, but so, so worth it when you don't have to deal with a 12 1/2" block that turns out to be 12 1/4" or 12 5/8".

Friday, December 9, 2011

Two-color binding and other mysteries.



This looks difficult, but it really isn't.  To make the binding different on the two sides of your reversible quilt, you just need to cut your strips 1" wide for one side, and 1 and 1/4" wide for the other.  Measure the outside of your quilt, add a foot or two to the measurement, and cut enough strips to go around.  I tend to be generous with this measurement, since I'd rather have some leftovers than not have quite enough.  Next, sew all the strips together and press open the connecting seams to reduce bulk.  Then, sew the different-colored strips together with the right sides facing each other, with a 1/4" seam.  After they're together, press that long seam open.  Then turn up the wider strip until the raw edge meets the other raw edge in the seam, and press again.  When this step is complete, you can stitch the narrower edge of the binding onto the quilt, handling the corners as in this video.

When you've sewn all the way around, and have joined the ends of the binding as in this other video, you will then carefully press the binding away from the quilt top all the way around.  You then fold the binding over to the other side of the quilt, and press again.  At this point, you can pin the binding in place from the other side, or you can do Sharon Schamber's method, using Elmer's School Glue.  I do the glue thing.  I ordered the nozzle from her web site and picked up the glue at the local store.  It really makes life a lot easier when sewing on that binding from the other side.  She goes on to show hand sewing the binding, but since this binding has a bit of extra on the back, you can just turn the quilt over and machine sew in-the-ditch right next to the binding on the other side.  If you've done a good job of securing the binding to the back, this will attach the binding very nicely.  Be sure to use a bobbin thread that either matches the color of the binding on the back, or makes a pleasant contrast.

One of the best parts of this little quilt, for those of us with arthritic hands, is that it's done with NO hand sewing at all.  :)

Mary had a question about accurate piecing, and I'll talk about that tomorrow.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

More about reversible quilts




For these 3 quilts, I made things a bit more complicated for myself.  For the batik side, I used two different batiks for the large triangles.  For the fabric strips on that side, I cut a lot of light strips and a lot of darker strips.  Then I used half of the lighter strips with the darker batik, and the other half with the lighter batik, then half of the dark strips with the dark batik and half with the light batik.  Is your head aching yet?  Mine was.  ;0  For the other side, I had two oriental type large prints, one lighter than the other, and did the same--cut lots of darker oriental prints and lots of lighter oriental prints, and did them half-and-half, to end up with 4 different blocks for each side of the quilt.  When I sewed them together with their sashing, I got a more complex Sunshine and Shadows effect on the oriental side of the queen-size quilt, and if you squint your eyes a little, you can see large stars on the batik side.  I had enough blocks to also make two twin-size quilts, too, and while one is also done in the Sunshine and Shadows, the other was a Straight Furrows arrangement that zigged a bit here and there--I don't have a good pic of them.  I made them for my DSIL.  Not long after I made them, DB called and said, "Thanks for the @%&*# quilts!  Now I have to redo both the guest rooms!"  Haha.  The guest rooms turned out beautifully.  The one with the queen bed is furnished and painted to complement the oriental side of that quilt, and the other bedroom with the twin beds is done up to look great with the batik side.

The pics of the queen size quilt were taken with ladies holding them off the balcony upstairs here, about the only place we could get a pic of the whole thing.  The twins are on the guest room beds, but I turned the one over to show the oriental side.

I wouldn't recommend someone try to do this multiple block thing right off the bat, as it was a bit complex even for me.  But you might want to try one of the little 16 block quilts just for fun.  Or, maybe a table runner--it could be Christmas colors on one side, and 4th of July on the other, or just about any holiday combo you like.  And because it's quilted, it would protect the table top from hot dishes as a bonus.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the double sided binding.  :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

More on reversible quilts




So, after a while, I developed two workshops to teach--one for making the 16 blocks, and a second class to teach how to put the blocks together, and how to make and apply the binding that is different fabric on the two sides of the quilt.  I just enjoyed the heck out of teaching it.  It was lots of fun.  The pictures above show one of my grandquilts that was made for the quilter's granddaughter.  I liked her fabric choices, and so did the little girl.  Putting the blocks together involves cutting strips of two different fabrics that look nice with the blocks.  For one side, the strips are cut two inches wide and then pressed so that the raw edges meet in the middle, resembling bias tape, but cut on the grain of the fabric.  The other side, the strips are cut at one and seven eighth inches, and again pressed like bias tape.  At the end of the first class, I had all the students use a square ruler to find out which was the smallest of the blocks they had made (the blocks always shrink some when being sewn, and they don't all shrink the same amount--I have no idea why that is) and then trim all the blocks to squares that size.  When the class was over, I told them to take the blocks home and try them out in different designs to see what is pleasing to them.  My class sample was in the design that would be called Straight Furrows if it were a Log Cabin block.  This student chose to make a different design, and for the life of me, I can't remember what it's called right this minute.  If you recognize it, please make a comment below to let us know the name.  I'm not able to get at my books right now.

Never mind, I just looked it up on Google, and it's the Sunshine and Shadows variant.  :)

So, the next step is a little tricky the first time, but I had them each cut a strip of the two inch wide fabric, and sew it onto the blocks with a half inch seam allowance, then join another block to it, again with a half inch seam allowance.  Use a thread color in the bobbin that will look nice on the other side of the quilt, since it will show.  If everything goes right, then when those seams are pressed and the blocks are flat on a table, the edges of the blocks will just butt up together, with no overlap, and no gap.  If this doesn't happen, then one of the seams has to be ripped out and adjusted until it does.  Then you just continue to sew the blocks together in pairs.  Once they're all sewn, you take one of the pairs, lay it on the table with the raw edges showing on the back of the blocks.  You will see two rows of stitching on that side, where the other side was sewn on.  You then cut a piece of the one and seven eighth inch wide fabric, lay it down between the rows of stitching, put a thread color in the bobbin that either matches the color of the sashing on the other side, or contrasts nicely, and a thread color on top that will look nice with this sashing strip, and pin them as much as you need to hold things nice and even.  Then you just topstitch the strip down.  Presto, you have two blocks of your quilt all done.  You continue until all the blocks are in pairs.  Then, you just sew them into four patches, sew two four patches together, and then one long seam.  You will need to do some judicious pinning to be sure that things line up evenly, of course.  Tomorrow, I'll talk about the two-sided binding, again a combo of things learned from more than one workshop I've attended.  It shows up quite nicely in the bottom picture above.  As you can see, this quilter expanded on the small quilt I showed in the class, making twice as many blocks.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Taking a day off

Today has been a bit rough, so will not be doing a long post.  Tomorrow WILL be better, I'm insisting on it!

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Reversible Quilt



Several years ago, I combined stuff I had learned over the years in at least 3 different workshops and turned it into a class I've taught a few times.  This looks like two quilts, but it's actually just one, with a totally different look on the back.  It starts with 12" squares of batting.  Then I cut 13" squares of the large prints and lots of 1.5 or 2 inch strips that went with the fabrics.  For example, all the strips on the side with the scarecrows are prints of vegetables you might find in your garden.  The sashing strips have ears of corn on them.  The strips on the side with the little alligators I chose to look well with that fabric, with that strong yellow fabric for contrast. I used the yellow on that side as the sashing, too.  To start the blocks, I placed the large triangles on opposite sides of the batting, and not directly opposite each other--there was bare batting under each triangle.  Then, I stuck pins through the approximate center of the batting blocks to make sure that the triangle fabric on each side would be caught in the first seam.  I put a strip on each side in position so that the first seam sewn would let me flip that strip and press it away from the triangles.  After that, it was just a matter of sewing on more strips to the first ones and pressing them, until the batting was covered on that side, and then doing the same on the other side of the block, to cover the other side.  This results in a block that is all quilted when done, and ready to be put together with its mates.  More about this process later on.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My first friendship quilt

When I belonged to the two quild guilds in Michigan, they met once a month.  Then there were smaller groups that met weekly, taking turns on meeting at each other's homes.  The WAGs (Wednesday Afternoon Group ladies) would draw for places on a list, and as our name came up, it would be our turn to request blocks from the other ladies.  This request could take whatever form the recipient specified.  The year I first participated, most of the ladies were asking for blue-and-white blocks.  They were lovely, but I got really tired of them, so when it was getting close to my turn, I began making sets of templates from a book I had gotten at the quilt show in Paducah.  It had patterns for 14" blocks.  I used template plastic to make the sets and put them into ziplock bags, along with a picture of the block.  I made a lot of them to allow for choice--some were fairly simple, some were migraine-inducers for us overachievers.  Then I set out a plastic milk crate and started pulling fabrics from my stash.  I had a large floral on a black background, a paisley in rust with black, a striped fabric, several pumpkin colored prints, several silvery gray prints, some black prints, and some rust prints.  The rules I set were that they needed to use either the large floral or the paisley, some of the striped fabric, some of the pumpkin, and as much of the other fabrics as they wished.

The week my turn came around, I brought out that milk crate of fabric, and handed around the template sets so that the ladies could pick which one they wanted to make.  I wish I had a picture of them when they saw that crate of fabrics--they were cutting their eyes at each other, and I could hear them thinking--"this is going to be one butt-ugly quilt"--but they were all far too kind to say it out loud.  Then as the next few weeks went by, the blocks came to me, and the maker usually said, "This really turned out pretty!" in an astonished tone.  The quilt went on to win some ribbons and get juried in to some shows.  I think it's gorgeous.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fun with pre-printed panels

Years ago, one of my quilting friends used a large polka-dot fabric to make a miniature faux Drunkard's Path quilt.  She just cut the polka dot into 1/4ths and sewed them together.  About that time, I found a pre-printed panel for making pillows with a circular motif, and a striped fabric that went with it, and decided I'd give it a try.  I cut each of the circular pillow panels into 1/4ths and then sewed them back together, treating them as if they were Drunkard's Path blocks.  The striped fabric made a nice border.  Since I found both the panels and the striped fabric on sale, it was an inexpensive quilt to make, and was donated to a charity.


If you look carefully at the center of the quilt top, you can see where the panels were cut and then sewn together again.  Since there's all that busy floral stuff going on, I only had to be really careful when matching up the more geometric circular design between the wreath and the center bouquet.  It was fun to make and went together really quickly.  If you run across a fabric that has large circular motifs, you might like to give this a try.  Like the Log Cabin pattern, there are a lot of variations on the Drunkard's Path motif.  By using large polka dots, you could make a miniature quilt, too.  I keep thinking how many more quilts could be made if I stuck with small ones, and then I'm off and running and in the middle of a queen-sized one.  Heavy sigh.  :)

This is a link to a site where you can see some of the variations on the Drunkard's Path design.  I think my favorite is the Devil's Puzzle.  I have one in progress, using 1930s reproductions and muslin.

Drunkard's Path variations.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Single Irish Chain with Friendship Stars


A few years ago, around this time of year, my niece's kids were all here.  I invited them to look at some quilt books to see what they would like for quilts.  The oldest girl, Caitlin, liked jewel tones, and liked the looks of the Irish Star quilts.  I had a bunch of former TOBE (Treadle On Block Exchange) blocks in the simple 6" Friendship Star pattern that were jewel tones, so all I had to do was dig out a bunch of jewel tone fabrics from my stash and make a bunch of 6" Nine Patches to go with them.  I sent it out to be machine-quilted, since it was going off to college with Caitlin.  The other picture shows, left to right, my great-nephew Griffin (I'll show you his quilt another day), my sister-in-law Sandy, my niece's husband Mike, Caitlin, my brother, my niece Wendy who's the mom of the kids, and my great-niece Madeline, who's still cranky about being the middle child.  Caitlin is now in an internship with an architectural firm in Boston.  She's in Rice's Architecture program.

To make just a Single Irish Chain, all you need is Nine Patches, and plain squares alternating with them.

I'm adding a picture of the quilt after it was machine quilted.


I find it delightful that two such simple blocks can result in a happy quilt.

Thursday, December 1, 2011



These are a couple of the quilts I made for our Quilts for Kids several years ago.  I had collected several wonderful cotton prints from Africa over a few years from a seller at the shows in Paducah and in Houston.  I don't remember now where the design came from--I probably saw it somewhere and figured out how to do it.  If I remember correctly, I started by choosing 4 fabrics for the quilt tops, one light, one medium, and one dark for the 3 sewn together, and a contrast fabric for the top-bottom strips.  I cut 2.5" strips, sewed them together with scant 1/4" seams, then pressed them and cut them into 6.5" squares.  Then I divided them in half, and sewed them to the contrast strips, half one side up, half the other, to get the staggered effect.  After cutting the contrast strip, I had blocks that were 6.5" X 8.5".  Then it's just a matter of sewing them together in the right order, and joining the strips of blocks.  When that was done, it was time to audition more African fabrics for the borders and backs of the little quilts.  I think they came out very nicely.  Hmmm, I still have lots more African fabrics--maybe when I get over this knee thing, I could do a few more....