Saturday, March 22, 2014

Two Quilt Along blocks at once!

As always, nothing really went according to plan, but I need to begin at the beginning.

I asked all of you what you would like to make as the block for April and I received a different opinion from each person who offered an idea. Then, one of our quilt along friends suggested that I should make whatever represents "home" to me.

At once images of children popped into my head. Children playing, children laughing, children chasing through the house and the yard - and toys seemingly everywhere! So I made two blocks - a doll and a tricycle. These were among my favorite toys when I was growing up and they seem to represent children everywhere.

Summer, 1946. My first set of "wheels". 

Early spring 1948. My baby sister was on the way and I got a new baby of my own.
These are the two quilt blocks that came from those memories.

Back to quilt blocks and plans gone awry.

I definitely meant to make a doll and a tricycle, and that part didn't change. I also meant for these to be smaller blocks, 6" x 7". So that's the size I made. They were awfully cute. But....  Oh, my goodness, those tiny pieces were hard to position and fuse!

Time to rethink and redesign!

First attempt: As you can see, the tricycle frame and the fender wouldn't fit together right. The pedal is also looks odd.
Some of the pieces were a bit tricky to zigzag stitch around, too. And, I wasn't really impressed with the doll's dress. The colors looked bland when the appliques were attached.

So, back to the drawing board - actually the copy machine this time around, because there was no choice but to turn these into larger blocks.  I photocopied the finished blocks and cut out the pattern pieces for templates, then I enlarged the pieces onto cardstock and cut them out to make new templates.

A little fiddling with placement, two sunflowers instead of one, and the blocks were redesigned to fit into 10" squares. So much easier to manipulate and sew, nicely user friendly.

This is how the original 6" x 7" block and the new 10" x 10" block compare in size. Quite a difference, isn't it?

I suppose I can use the smaller blocks to make a pair of mug rugs someday. When I find time.

Today's the Day!
Movers are showing up in an hour or two to pick up my twin beds and take them to my daughter's house. Then I will run over to help her with her moving and come home in the afternoon to work on sorting out my new sewing room. Lot's of my "stuff" will remain in the former sewing room, now known as "the office", so I'll be able to spread out a bit more.

This is what my downstairs rooms looked like yesterday afternoon.

The former bedroom and future sewing room.

The old sewing room and future office.

"Stuff" piled in my family room that will need to find a home. 

So excited!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Some days are just plain crazy!

Omigosh! This whole week has been a little bit insane around my house, and it's going to continue for awhile.

Today, for example, I've washed three loads of laundry, organized fabrics, placed and ironed templates onto 2 quilt blocks and a mug rug, and baked two batches of biscotti. It's only 1:15 in the afternoon, and the rest of the day looks to be filled with sewing. And writing this blog.

Why two batches? Who knows. Maybe because I had a huge bag of almonds?

Here's the recipe if you're interested. I absolutely love the crunch and the citrus flavor.  It's "almost Italian" because I've added an ingredient not found in traditional recipes. My addition keeps the biscotti crunchy, but it isn't hard as a rock like most biscotti.

Zesty "Almost Italian" Biscotti

1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup whole unblanched almonds

Beat sugar and butter together until creamy. Beat in eggs, extracts, and orange zest. Mix together flour and baking powder. Add to the batter and beat until well blended. Stir in the nuts. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour (Can be kept up to 3 days). 
Shape the dough into 2 rolls about 10 inches long, and 2 inches wide. Flatten to 1 1/2 inches thick and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350°  for 20 to 25 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned. Remove the pan from the oven and cool slightly.

Transfer baked rolls to a cutting board and slice diagonally into 1/2-inch thick pieces. Arrange, cut side down, on the baking sheet and return to the oven. Bake an additional 8 – 10 minutes on each side to toast. Cool on wire racks.

On to other things. The new California baby has arrived! I haven't seen photos yet, but everyone says she's beautiful, just like her big brother and her big sister, with a full head of glossy black hair. So my package is off. It went our yesterday. This time around it was all baby blankets. I sent these four. 
A simple little fleecy blanket with satin binding.

The soft flannel doggy blanket from my "Doggy in the Window" pattern. 
I often crochet in the evenings. It's so relaxing and I can do while watching television or carrying on a conversation with my hubby. As a result, two crocheted blankets were in the package. (And I have more, both finished and in the works. I'm always prepared when a baby shows up.)

A lovely, soft, crocodile stitch blanket.This one took forever! The pattern is free from Bernat. You can find it through this link:

This is "Wee Ones" from Churchmouse. My daughter bought the pattern and shared it with me, so I don't have a web address.

That's just the easy stuff. I told you that there will be changes coming to my guest bedroom and my sewing room. Here's the scoop. I need more sewing space. My daughter is moving and needs more beds. We almost never use the guest bedroom and it's larger than the shared office/sewing room that I now have. So.... I won't have a guest bedroom, but I'll have a roomier sewing room, my hubby will be able to work without tripping over sewing, and my daughter gets a pair of twin beds. It's a win-win-win.

Furniture moves next weekend, and it's been a busy week. We've gone through everything in both rooms, organized "stuff", taken things off to the City Mission, hauled things out to the trash, and generally turned the downstairs upside down and inside out. Oh, and I've made a couple of fun purchases. Eventually we'll likely get a hide-a-bed, but for now we're just fine.

Nothing will be exactly right overnight. It will take a long time, I'm sure,  but I'll post photos of the progress from time to time.

That's it for now. Quilt along pattern blocks are calling my name! 


Gotta run!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring Tulips Pattern and Other Things

I have just published the new spring tulips pattern. What a fitting day! The sun is shining, the temperature has suddenly climbed into the mid 70s, newly returned birds are singing outside my window, and the official start of spring is precisely ten days away.

Oh, yes, I do know it won't stay like this. Tomorrow we're expecting a 30 degree drop in temperature and rain. But, these little hints at warmer weather to come are just enough to keep our faith in four seasons alive.

On to the pattern. I really like this one. It's so simple to make as it has no teeny-tiny pieces. The flowers are large and up front, tempting one to sniff the fragrance. Wonder if I should give the mug rugs a little spray of perfume. Hmm...

As I said, I really like this one. However, I thought I'd show you some of the issues I encountered along the way. I'm so far from being perfect, and I'm constantly messing up.

The first problem arose when I fused the first mug rug appliques down. Something just didn't seem right. In fact, I didn't like it a bit. I brought the piece upstairs and plopped it on the table in front of my husband. I didn't say a word. He looked at it for a long time, but he didn't say anything either.

"Well?" I asked. "What's wrong?"

"Mainly the colors," he answered. "The background is too dark, for one thing. And, what is the name of that ugly green?" Unusual for him to be so blunt, but he wasn't done. "Something else," he said, "but I don't know what.

Back to the drawing board. I liked the blossom on the left. The others were pretty strangely shaped. And the blue background not only showed through the yellow fabrics, but it changed the colors turning them from bright into murky. I redesigned, created pink tulips on a pale blue background, and fused yellow blossoms to a white background.

That was where my second problem arose. Those light yellow colors are simply too transparent, and there was one leaf that darkened a large area on the flower on the right.

Have you ever tried to remove a section of fabric that's been fused between to other fabrics? After the applique stitching was completed? Me neither. This was a first.

Oh, my! What a headache! I like to do things right, so these were really stuck down!

I was terrified that I'd cut all the way through the front.  Things didn't slide right back into place, but I knew the white batting would hide the mess on the back.

I don't recommend this tactic for anyone!! Next time, I'll trim off that offending little segment that wants to show through before I get out the iron.

Other Things

I did add "Other Things" to the title of this blog post, didn't I. The other things are some big changes coming to my house. See these two rooms? This is the "before" shot.

My goodness! That was an amazingly clean and organized day! I think I've seen it all looking like that - maybe twice. Maybe.

At any rate, I'll post an "after" in a couple of weeks.

Tee Hee!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Quilt Along Block # 2 - The Watering Can

When the vote was counted there were exactly equal numbers of votes for each idea - watering can watering the plants or watering can resting on the ground. So, I had no choice but to make both of them.

I had a super time making this little block - both versions! And, truthfully, I don't know which I like better.

After seeing the house block photos from all of you, I decided that I like the blue background that some of you used. It has real potential as an alternative to the plain white I'd chosen for my quilt. So, off I went to the fabric stores - every store in town that carries fabrics, and we have at least seven! I didn't even limit myself to the quilt shops this time.

Would you believe that I couldn't find a single piece of blue that I wanted to buy?

I needed a particular kind of blue to go with my Civil War reproduction fabrics and my French General pieces. I thought that a quilt in bright colors on white would be lovely, but if I had the right blue I could use a few bits and pieces from my humungous stash of muted, old-fashioned, colors.

I finally found the perfect blue online at The Fat Quarter Shop. It's Riley Blake's Vintage Blue. Now, why does it look gray in this image when it's blue on my desktop?

 It looks absolutely lovely with my fabrics, but the color just isn't projecting well anywhere today. Wish you could see how pretty this is in real life.

At some point I need my other house block, but I'm not anywhere near ready for that right now. I'm determined to finish my yellow purse, so extra blocks will just have to wait.

Do, please, send me your photos as you finish  your blocks! Send to either my email address or my facebook page: or

If you haven't already done so, hop up to the top of this blog and click on "Quilt Along Photos". Such great blocks are being sewn! I discovered that I used the word "love" over and over when I commented on your pictures.

That's two large blocks down and seven left to go. Here's another look at our plan. The house is in the big middle block and the watering can will go in any one of the 10" squares.

Now, onward to Block 3. Indoors or outdoors for this one?  Take a look at our list so far.

What do you think? I can wait a few days for ideas for the next block, but then I'll need to start planning.

needle, thread, etc.
yarn and knitting needles
rocking chair
plate and silverware
teapot or coffee pot
cookie jar and cookies
potted plant
sewing machine
bird nest
baby crib

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

And so it begins ... First Finished House Block Photo and a Question

The first photo of a finished house block for the Quilt Along has been posted! 

Click on "Quilt Along Photos" page heading at the top of my blog page to see the photos and to learn where to submit your photos for posting. I can't wait to see what everyone has done!

Thank you, Joyce! Super fabric choices!

The Big Question of the day

Once again, I'm asking for your input in creating Block 2 for our quilt along. This conversation has already begun on my Facebook page and responses have been coming in.

I've made two preliminary sketches of possible arrangements for this block, and I'd like to have your opinions. You can comment here, on my facebook page ( ), or in an email ( ).

The basic arrangement will be revised, I'm sure, and the details will definitely be altered.

I'd like you to look at these elements:

  • Positioning of the watering can. Sitting on the ground vs. tipped.
  • Adding a butterfly. Yes or no.
  • Balance and artistic merit. 
  • Anything else you'd like to say.

Sketch 1

Sketch 2

As I said, many changes will have to be made. I need to create a block that is interesting, balanced, artistic, and fairly easy to put together and sew. 

Please chime in!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Machine Applique with a Blanket Stitch - Tutorial

One of my very close friends happens to be an amazing quilter. In fact, she was my first quilting teacher. She is also the friend who makes me terribly envious of her skill with a needle. Her hand quilting, hand applique, and hand stitching of any kind are the best I've ever seen.

However, this same friend is just learning free-motion quilting on a sewing machine and how to applique with fusible web. The other night when my sewing friends over, she had brought a Valentine's Day table runner to share. We always have a bit of "show and tell". She had appliqued the hearts with raw edge straight stitching. The runner was lovely, but she would have preferred a blanket stitch. She asked me what the secret was to going around an applique with a machine blanket stitch. She says that her blanket stitch doesn't look good at all, especially on corners like the point at the bottom of a heart and the "v" point in the center of the top of a heart.

Time for a tutorial. There may be others out there in Quilt-land who have the same issues.

How the Machine Blanket Stitch is Made

First of all, let's take a look at how the stitch is made. There are five motions of the needle for each single stitch forward. These are the steps:

Five steps on paper and in reality. 

It reminds me of a five count dance step. Forward, back, forward, left, right. One, two three, four, five. Repeat... When I'm applying this stitch I am very aware of which step I'm on at all times. 

I would definitely recommend memorizing the steps. Do a bit of practice stitching - very slowly, and count on each step until you are thoroughly familiar with the rhythm and the count.

Now on to stitching a heart. The corners are the tricks. I'm working on one of my "Patched With Love" mug rugs for this. 

First: Set your stitch width and length.  I like narrow and short for this kind of applique. On my machine the width is set at 2.5 and the length is 2.2.

Second: Insert the needle, pull up the bobbin thread, and begin stitching. The first stitch will be a forward stitch - number one in our dance step count.

As long as you are sewing on a straight line, the main thing you need to do is keep that outside trio of stitches (numbers one, two, and three) right up against the edge of your applique. 

I always sew applique stitches very slowly so I can be precise. Rushed stitches don't often turn out well.

This is what your row of stitching will look like from the back.

Outer Corner Turns

Here we are at the corner at the bottom of the heart. 

Stop on step three of the dance step with the needle down. In fact, almost every time you want to turn your applique you will need to stop on this step. 

Number three - the bottom of the last forward stitch before going left and right is your stopping point!   

Now, pivot the fabric.

This turn should line up your row of stitching with the edge of the applique.

Next come steps four and five. Left, right.

Then back to the five count and straight ahead.

The point at the bottom of the heart will be neatly and securely boxed in.

Looks beautiful, doesn't it?

Onward and forward. One, two, three, left, right ...

As you go around the curve at the widest portion of the heart you'll need to adjust your stitching. More on that later.

Inner Corner Turns 

Here we are approaching the next tricky corner turn. 

Stop with your needle down after the count of - three! 

And pivot the fabric. 

I lined this up so that the next two stitches, left then right, will go straight into the center of that inner "v". 

Left, right, needle down, (4, 5) and pivot the fabric again. This is one of the rare moments when you pivot after the count of five.  When the presser foot and direction of your stitching are lined up with the edge of the applique, continue stitching.

 Once again, it looks perfect!

Continue on around to the beginning, backstitch, and snip the thread. The blanket stitching around the heart is finished. 

Going Around Curves - Inner and Outer

Large, softly rounded curves aren't too difficult, but those tighter curves are the ones that can cause problems. 

You expect your blanket stitch to look smooth just like it does when you sew along in a straight line. But instead, you wind up with something that looks more like this.

Hmm...  Not exactly what you had in mind.


The most common mistake is due to stitching too fast and simply turning the fabric as a person would if they were stitching a straight line of stitching. A blanket stitch must be handled differently.

Slow down!

Remember those five steps in the blanket stitch dance? This is just like dancing. If you aren't aware of which step you're on, you wind up stumbling and tripping up your partner.

But why does the stitching look less than wonderful? 

The answer goes back to those five steps in the blanket stitch dance.

Stop and Pivot.

Pay attention to the step count. When turning a curve, either an inner or an outer curve, you must stop with the needle down at the end of the third step, lift the presser foot, and pivot the fabric just enough to line everything up again. 

Here you see what happens if you forget to stop and pivot on the right step.

If you pivot now to get back on track the forward stitch you just made will dangle out there beside the edge of the applique. If you just try to turn back in you'll have some uneven stitching that isn't tight against the edge for a few stitches.

The time to stop and pivot on either an inner curve or an outer curve, is at the end of step three. This is the step just before the left, right combination that goes in and over the applique.

A sketch might help you see what happens with the pivot and turn on step three.

Outside Curve                          Inside Curve

Each individual motion of the needle can't help but go in a straight line. In order to sew around the curve, constant little corrections in direction need to be made.The tighter the curve, the more frequently you will need to correct the direction if you want a lovely, smooth curve. Do you see how steps 4 and 5, the left, right combination of steps, are perpendicular to the 1, 2, 3,  or forward, back, forward steps but not quite parallel with each other? On the outside curve the left, right steps are closer to each other at their farthest left. On the inside curve the left, right steps are separated more at their farthest left.

If you have any questions or any ideas for a future tutorial, please tell me in a comment to this blog post, on my facebook page, or in an email.

Happy stitching, everyone!!

And I have some mug rugs to finish. 

Ooh! Love!