Thursday, June 4, 2015

July Table Topper Tutorial. Variation of Disappearing Nine-Patch

Fabric requirements, templates, and layouts for various sizes of quilts from this pattern can be found in this free patttern on my Craftsy pattern page.

I'm all ready for July with this super quick 26" x 26" table topper. It was so much fun to whip up, and I absolutely love that bright red, white, and blue palette.

There aren't many designs as versatile as a disappearing nine-patch, but with just a bit of careful fabric placement this one begs for applique. I can see it in so many color schemes and absolutely any applique template can be used: autumn leaves, cat silhouettes, flowers, hearts, Christmas stocking ... anything at all that suits you.

Use 1/4" seam allowances throughout. 

Make four blocks.

1. For each block, arrange three 5" x 5" red squares, four 5" x 5" white squares, and one 5" x 5" blue square as shown here. Sew into three rows of three. 

2. Measure 2 1/4" in from the seams of the center rows. Cut straight down the middle. Then straight across the middle horizontally, again measuring 2 1/4" from the seams of the center rows.

3.  Rearrange the four segments of the block as shown, and sew together. 

4. Arrange the blocks as shown below. Sew together.

In this photo the quilt shows a quarter turn clockwise. 

 Appliqued Stars

Make four large stars and five small stars.
Large stars are approximately 5" tall and the small stars are 3".

1. Trace the star templates onto the paper side of the fusible web. Cut around the template leaving about 1/4" margin. 

2. Place the fusible web onto the wrong side of the blue star fabric and iron onto the fabric according to the instructions for your fusible web.

3. Cut the applique out, remove the paper from the fusible web and arrange onto the quilt top. Press to fuse onto the fabric.

4. Stitch the applique to the quilt top by hand or with a machine zig-zag stitch. I used a machine blanket stitch.

Make a quilt sandwich of the quilt top, batting, and backing. Quilt as desired. Bind, and it's done.

Happy Stitching!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Distractions Galore

I had so much sewing planned for this week. I meant to finish the vacation table runner at least.

Ha! It's been a great week, just not so great for sewing.

Sunday was the best day with my granddaughter's high school graduation. She's eighteen, her brother is sixteen and has grown a beard just because he can. How on earth did those babies grow up so fast?

After all, weren't these photos taken just yesterday?

In addition to that, I got to attend a retirement party for one of my dearest friends and long time teaching buddy. Then, Anne from my quilt group came by for an afternoon of show and tell. We solved a little problem with a quilt top. Yesterday, I went out to lunch with Midge. She's just returned from a trip to Disney World with her youngest grandchildren. They had so much fun.

Something else came up, too. My world has been so topsy-turvy all month. We live in a triplex of three townhouses. One of our tenants will be moving out next weekend and I'll be showing it today and tomorrow. The place looks beautiful, but even so, the painter has been called and is scheduled to give the kitchen a coat of fresh paint the first day it's vacant. If you'd like to move to Lincoln, we have a great place for rent. Just let me know. 

I did make some progress on the table runner. I think I'll need two more vehicles for it. This is where it stands now. I'm wondering what I should do to fill in the large white background area a bit more. Trees? Flowers? Birds?

Nothing is attached yet because I haven't designed the other appliques. I need those before deciding where things will fit. What else do I need? A sports car? A boat trailer? A fifth wheel? A VW bug? Decisions, decisions... 

I may have more time to consider those choices if I take another break for a few days. I think I'd like to do something  quick for the Fourth of July. 

How time flies. 
My babies are grown and tomorrow is already the last day of May!

Hello, June!

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Bit of Time to Sew - Finally!

Sewing is my therapy, my escape from everyday worries and woes, my sanity saver, and one of my greatest pleasures. I've had so little time to work in my sewing room the past couple of weeks that today was pure bliss.

The painters have gone, the sprinkler system is fixed, the carpenter has repaired the last little piece that needed doing, and the whole day was mine. I hurried through breakfast and morning chores, then raced downstairs to my play in my sewing room. (That last bit may be slightly exaggerated. My days of actually racing down the stairs are long gone, but I moved as fast as I could without tripping and taking a stumble.)  Bliss! I played and I played.  In fact, I had a frolicking good time with my new design in progress.

I'm making another table runner that could also hang on a wall. This one is all about summer and heading out on vacation. There will definitely be a car pulling a camper. Then I'll likely add such things as a fifth wheel with a truck, a hippie van, a jeep, and a sports car, plus odd and sundry other items pulled or piled on top of the vehicles. A canoe, a boat, boxes and tarps would be logical.  I don't know what else, but these are the ideas playing in my head right now. I'll stop when I run out of space on the runner, and I don't know how many traveling vehicles will fit. Would trees in the background be too much?

The car and camper were the easiest, so that's where I've begun . Here they are, laid out on a paper background.

Nothing can be fused to the fabric until I can see how they would look best. 

I have two background fabrics in mind, but I haven't been able to choose one over the other. What do you think? White on white or little gray circles on white? 

I wish the sun were shining so I could see the fabrics under sunlight. The way a fabric photographs is so important when making patterns. The photograph can make all the difference in whether people like the patten or not.  Cameras change colors in subtle ways, and sometimes a piece that looks beautiful in real life won't photograph well at all.  

I won't be sewing tomorrow, but other exciting things are in the works. My daughter's fundraiser for the NSEA children's fun takes place. I'll be over there with my raffle quilt and we'll draw for a winner.

The raffle quilt.
My granddaughter's high school graduation ceremony takes place later in the day. So much excitement in the air this weekend!

There will be more sewing when life calms down once again. 

Have a lovely weekend! 

Monday, May 18, 2015

"Windows on My Garden": Slice, Splice, Done.

Has it been forever since I posted a new pattern, or does it just seem that way to me? Spring and all that comes with that has interfered with my sewing and pattern making. After tomorrow's visit by the lawn sprinkler man, though, things may calm down a bit. It's high time, too, because I need to begin seriously thinking about fall and winter patterns.

This pattern is finally finished, though, and it was so worth the effort! I am absolutely crazy about this one.  I've titled it "Windows on My Garden".

Slice, splice, done really does describe the quilt! Perhaps I should have named it that. No, I really do see windows when I look at it. The pattern makes two different size quilts with nine duplicates of one block. The larger one has a border, the smaller one has none.

When each block is identical, the stage is set for assembly line sewing. With precise cutting and accurate 1/4" seams it all comes together easily.

I've made these two entirely different quilts, each with nine of the blocks, but I know I will soon be stitching up more items made with different numbers of the same block.

Three in a row would make a table runner 15" x 45'.
Four set in a square become a 30" x 30" table topper. Add a narrow border and you'd have a baby quilt.
Twenty blocks set in a 4 x 5 grid with an added border are needed for a twin bed quilt, and 42 blocks in a 6 x 7 rectangle are perfect for a queen size bed.

The block is made with slicing, splicing, and trimming. The pink and green quilt was the experiment that helped me figure out how to splice two strips going down the side of block and only one going across. If I'd used splices half an inch wide everything would have been fine. But, I didn't like the half inch strips. I wanted larger ones - three fourths of an inch wide. And that threw everything off. Each time I added a spliced strip into a row of patches, the row grew 1/4" wider. If I'd left it that way, seams wouldn't have lined up at all. Some rows of patches would have finished 5" wide, and others 5 1/4" wide. That last little trimming slice fixed the problem altogether.

When it's finished, each block is 15" x 15" - and the patches line up!

The first quilt, 49" x 49".
I made the second quilt to work up the pattern. I thought I might use photographs in the pattern, but I honestly didn't need them at all because I've finally figured out how to make a simple pattern like this on the computer.

Confession: I do love this pattern, and I had this lovely stack of low volume fat quarters begging to be made into a quilt.  That's the real reason I made the second quilt. And I am so happy I did!

Low volume quilt with a border, 56" x 56". 
I am so in love with this quiet quilt! Someday I may find another set of gorgeous fabrics like this and make a bed size quilt in this same pattern.  The fabrics are so subtle that nothing really pops out, so lots of quilting was needed to add texture and make it sparkle.

I like cotton batting for table toppers and wall hangings because it gives them stability and they keep their shape so well. This quilt, however, needed to be as soft and cuddly as possible, so I used Legacy 80/20 poly-cotton blend batting. No matter how densely you quilt it, the quilt remains soft and pliable. I was able to truly let myself go on the quilting without turning it into something stiff and unyielding. 

Oh gosh, I had so much fun!

Done is done, and now I need to focus on something new. There are at least 50 choices on my idea list. I'll go over them tomorrow and try to decide where to begin.

Have a lovely week!

And happy stitching!

Friday, May 15, 2015

When it Rains, it Pours

Looking out onto my backyard. Raining once again.
Everything happens at once some weeks. Not only have we had rain almost every day, but my normally quiet life has turned into nonstop go-go-go! Thank goodness I haven't yet reached the stage of "elderly" that I can do no more than doze in my rocking chair all day. This is a roundup of the week.

Sunday: Mother's Day. I sewed like crazy to beat the clock before my daughter came over. A while back she asked for a smaller case for her crochet hooks, something she could carry when she worked on a single project. I found a great pattern on Craftsy by Tulip Square. I made a few changes of course, adding a zipper compartment, and altering the binding. I barely got finished on time!! The afternoon shadow were getting long when I took these photos.

This is the link to the pattern:

Monday: It rained again, so our house painters were delayed. Again. Sigh. I focused on writing the Slice and Dice pattern during the day, working on the hand stitching on the binding, and preparing for book talks. More on that later.

Tuesday: A repeat of Monday interspersed with errand running and meeting a friend for coffee, and company for dinner. Yikes!

Wednesday: The sun came out and the painters arrived only ten days later than originally scheduled! Super nice guys and they do beautiful work. They had a day and a half before the rains returned, so they'll be back as soon as the sun shines again.

While the painting went on I began a baking marathon. Muffins first, so the painters had a lovely just-from-the-oven morning snack. After lunch I baked a batch of chocolate cupcakes that I needed for Thursday, book talk day. These came from a well worn Betty Crocker book. It's been a go-to favorite for twenty years. I'm sure you have one like it - smudged pages covered in sticky notes and a tattered cover.

Thursday: Book talks today. I head back to my former school and my fifth grade teaching buddies regularly each year, with books in hand. The day is spent giving book talks to four classrooms of fifth grade students. This month I had ten brand new books to introduce to them. Since they were new I'd read every one of them over the past few weeks and taken notes. Planning and preparation is time consuming, but I love having that "kid fix" now and then. I also love the chance to sit down and have lunch with my younger friends. That's why the cupcakes. It was Shelley's birthday, so I brought a treat.
Diane took this photo of me from a distance, but I cropped out recognizable children, and that's why it's blurry.

When I got home that afternoon I had a text from a friend who teaches middle school. A young girl with a love of sewing is hoping that her sewing skills can help her to earn some much needed money. A donated sewing machine was found for her, but she needs fabrics and other sewing essentials. I quickly trotted down to the sewing room and pulled out any larger pieces of fabric that could be used for sewing clothes and bagged them up to take over to her school. I tossed in some patterns, plus odds and ends of thread, zippers, and other notions that I likely won't need. I hope this will help her to get started.

Friday: Once again we're in the middle of a thunderstorm! It must be monsoon season in Nebraska!

Today, though, life will slow down a little bit. Aside from preparing meals, I have only to make a trip to the library, deliver the package of sewing odds and ends to the school counselor, give my hubby a haircut, and try to make real progress with my pattern writing. Wish me luck!

Slice and Dice quilting competed.

Wishing you a super special weekend. 
And sunshine! Lots of sunshine!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mother's Day, a Flood, FMQ, and a New Banana Muffin Recipe

Happy Mother's Day!!

As Mother'd Day approaches, I've been missing my mom more and more. Spring was her favorite time of year and I think of her with every flower that I plant, and several of my spring mug rug patterns were a designed as tributes to her memory.

As the years go by, I'm learning to comprehend her better. When we are young, we tend to take our mothers for granted, but with age I'm learning more about the depth of her love and the meaningfulness of her life.

I miss you, Mom. Thank you for showing me how to be a better wife and mother.

Three generations - my mother and me with my newborn granddaughter. An amazing moment.
"Rain, rain go away,
Come again some other day."

April showers were just a warmup for May, it seems. Every day this past week we've had rain in some form or another. Our house was scheduled for painting two weeks ago, but there's no painting possible in this weather. We're hoping for a break next week.

The night before last we received 6 inches of rain overnight. The park behind our house is a flood plain, and when morning dawned we were living on lakefront property. It happens once every few years, and we've named the short lived lake Phantom Lake. We were lucky. Our house stayed dry, but several areas in town had to be evacuated.

Yesterday and today: before and after photos. The bridge across the drainage ditch was partially submerged when I got out of bed. The deposits of leaves on the tennis court fence show how high the water reached during the night.


There hasn't been enough sewing time to finish the new version of the slice and dice quilt, but the FMQ is almost complete with only the border remaining. Free motion quilting can quickly become tedious, but I've found that listening a good audio book helps the hours pass much more quickly.

I've used three different designs for each block. I think I'll do the border in a feather stitch. I wish I had a photograph that shows the pale colors in this quilt better, but I may need to wait for sunshine. Cloudy days aren't helping.

Another Banana Muffin Recipe

If you like banana bread that really tastes like bananas, this recipe from is a good one. It's called "Best Banana Bread" for a good reason. The recipe makes one loaf of banana bread, but divided into a dozen muffins, it can be baked in 20 minutes instead of 60.


I altered the recipe to make it a bit more diabetic friendly for my hubby. I added 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts and replaced the one cup of sugar with 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup Splenda.

This is the link to take you quickly to the original recipe.

Wishing you a week filled with sunshine and happiness!

Friday, May 1, 2015

I am NOT elderly!!

Elderly [el-der-lee] adjective

1. of advanced age; old:
Do you see that? Elderly is just a nice way of saying old! Old? 
These are old:
  • a battered and worn out shoe
  • visitors who stay too long
  • that unidentifiable green muck in the back of the fridge
  • a joke you've heard 100 times
Don't call me elderly!!
It all started with a sewing mishap, of course. 

I bumped the back of my hand against the rotary cutter blade. It was just a tiny little nick, but I didn't want to bleed on the quilt and I didn't want to wait five minutes, so I stuck a bandaid on it and continued work. When I removed the bandaid a few hours later, the tape tore off a bit of skin!

Now I had a larger injury than before! I wasn't about to put another bandaid on that one, so I bandaged it up the old fashioned way with long strips of white gauze because that's all I had. Lovely.

The next day I broke the cycle of procrastination and tackled some yard work. I started with some long overdue pruning on the ancient juniper hedge in front of my house. The bush tackled me right back! It snapped against my arm and tore up a small flap of skin.

What was this with my skin tearing? That's new. I headed straight to Google and learned that skin tears are very common in the elderly and a real problem in nursing homes!

Google, go wash your mouth out with soap. I may be 72 years old, but I will not be defined as elderly!

Now that I've got that off my chest, I can talk about what I've accomplished this week.

I've planted most of my herbs and flowers. I used lots of pots this year. The step ladder herb garden is right in front of that nasty, aggressive juniper bush.

Sometimes things are backwards and life comes from art. This idea came from my wheelbarrow quilt block. That old wheelbarrow had been using up space in my shed for the past 30 years, while the summer leaves on this tree have grown so thick that even grass won't grow in the dense shade. The wheelbarrow helps to fill the barren space. 

These shade tolerant plants should be fine here, but I left them in pots so I can move them easily if they don't do well. 
In the ditch stitching is finished on the slice and dice quilt. Now I'm trying to decide how to quilt it. I signed up for another Angela Walters class on Craftsy, and that has given me some ideas. I really hope I can finish it next week.

Wishing you a super week!

Since I'm not the least bit elderly, I think I'll go out and join the neighbor kiddos in climbing up my apple tree.

Come on over! We'll have a party.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Progress and Procrastination

It's spring, and I mean, really and truly spring! We've been getting some lovely spring showers so the grass is shooting up so green and so quickly that it needs mowing every time I turn around. Trees are filled with new leaves, and apple blossoms are fading.

I should be out in my yard whenever the sun shines.  I should be working on cleanup, planting new flowers in my garden bed, and filling pots with spring annuals. Should be, should be, should be! I keep telling myself that I'll go to the nursery tomorrow. I'll get out the rake tomorrow. Tomorrow. Yes, I'll definitely do it tomorrow.

Excuses are plentiful.
Yesterday it was windy, so I had to do something else.
Today it's raining. I can't work outside.
Guess I'm stuck with sewing. Poor me.

I've been procrastinating like this on my yard work for the entire week, but I've been obsessed with trying to finish the slice and dice low volume quilt. There's been no spare time to get outside and dig in the dirt.

I keep kicking myself, but the low volume quilt sings a siren's song and without knowing what happened I find myself in my sewing room instead of in the garden. Here, at least, I'm making progress.

Remember these pastel fabrics?

That was last week. This is right now. Lightly spray basted and pinned for extra sturdiness.  All ready for stitch-in-the-ditch.

Tomorrow, I'll go to the nursery.
Tomorrow I'll bring the rake out of the shed.

Definitely, tomorrow.

If it doesn't rain. 

Happy Stitching!!

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Color Journey - From Here to There and Back Again

I've just started work on a low volume quilt. Softer, quieter quilts with light backgrounds are widely popular in modern quilting, and I like so many of the quilts I'm seeing. It's time to give low volume a whirl, and I've chosen to experiment with muted pastels on white. When I look at my new fat quarters, it seems like I've come full circle.

There's a story, of course.

As a child I loved art class best of all. In high school and during my first two years of college I took all the art courses I could even though I knew I was not meant to be a professional artist. I was too timid. Bold use of color or great, sweeping strokes of paint were terrifying. I didn't want any of my work to be "wrong".

Eventually, I found teaching. It became my life's work, and working with children was exactly where I belonged. Years flew by. In addition to being a teacher, I was the mom who sewed clothes, curtains, and Halloween costumes, but I turned up my nose at quilting. Something from bygone generations. Definitely not my thing.

Then my daughter told me that I'd soon become a grandmother, and she asked if I'd please make a baby quilt. She didn't sew, but she did own some beautiful quilts. At that moment she could have asked for the moon and I would have fetched it for her.

I had no idea what I was doing when I made that very first quilt. I didn't grasp how exact those 1/4" seams needed to be. Even so, I was instantly hooked on quilting. I studied the basics and got myself a 1/4" quilting foot and quilters' cutting tools. Before I could blink I was merrily churning out one baby quilt after another. Pretty little baby colors, clean white backgrounds, absolutely perfect for me!

I tried my hand at larger quilts, but I was disappointed in so many of them. Quilt blocks and partially completed quilt tops found their way into the give-away bag because I simply couldn't bear to look at them anymore.

One day I ran across an article in a quilt magazine about choosing fabrics for quilts that almost jumped off the page. Every quilt book I'd read had promoted the same ideas, but somehow this particular article woke me up.

The word, "pop", appeared over and over. Dark values "pop" on light background, light values "pop" on dark backgrounds. In addition to color value, the article continued, balance between large scale prints, smaller prints, and solids or tone on tone fabrics could make a quilt come to life with "pop".

I had assumed that with my background in art I knew what I was doing. Oh, so wrong! My quilts were desperately lacking in "pop".

I took a deep breath and went shopping for fabrics that were light, medium, and dark in value. I bought big, dramatic prints, and mixed them in with other fabrics.  Some combinations worked. Some didn't. But as I learned to embrace color in all it's hues and values and to incorporate prints of varying scale, my quilts took on new life. Before long I was fearlessly choosing bold, vibrant fabrics and experimenting with new color palettes. "Pop, pop, pop!"

This past week when I began cutting into that stack of quiet fat quarters in the pastel colors I've always loved I realized that I had somehow found my way back to the beginning.

"Hush," the fabrics whisper to me. "Your colors don't have to shout all of the time." No "pop"? We'll soon know how a quiet quilt will look.  Full circle. I hope I've learned enough to make it work this time around.

I don't have photos of the earliest quilts, but the photos below are snapshots of a few important steps along my journey. The first is from a pattern in a McCall's magazine. I hadn't begun making patterns when I designed the others.

An experiment with value. All of these blocks are from a single block pattern.

Kaffe Fassett is discovered. Talk about "pop"!

Working with scale and bold contrasts. Could this be from the person who was afraid of color?
Piecing combined with applique in light and bright scrappy fabrics.
With this quilt I found my happy place in quilting.
... and back again ...

Happy stitching, fellow travelers!