Friday, March 11, 2016

The Splendid Sampler Gallery, Messing Up, and a Sneak Preview

What a week! Between working on the new block for my own quilt along and keeping up with the Splendid Sampler, I've hardly left my sewing room.

First, a Sneak Preview

The third pair of blocks for "Kitty Craft" will be published next week. Kitty found the sewing room! We all knew that it was bound to happen sooner or later. Her she sits grooming herself. Or is she getting ready to go for the pincushion? Hard to tell, isn't it.

The Splendid Sampler Gallery

I love the Splendid Sampler! It's making me stretch and grow. This week, though, the blocks were easy. And, I messed up on both of them! I know better!

Lesson 1: Measure twice, cut once. 

I was so excited to find that Block #7 was designed for embroidery. Embroidery was my gateway drug to sewing, the skill I begged to learn at the age of four, the one that put the very first threaded needle in the grip of my chubby fingers, and the beginning of my lifelong sewing romance.

So, I played an entire day with my pretty threads. I tossed in applique, decorative machine stitches, and hand embroidery. So much fun. It was late in the evening when I took the completed block downstairs to square up and trim. I must not have been paying close attention, because I cut it too narrow on two sides! I'd started out with an extra large piece of background fabric, so I was able to add to the remaining sides to get a 6 1/2" square block. Now, it was the right size, but off balance.  I managed to salvage it with some extra embroidery on the larger sides. It will do.

 Lesson 2: Fabrics of similar value run together. 

Block #8 was a very traditional pattern that was easily pieced. I made it twice. The first time around I thought that the prints in my green fabrics might be different enough that they would contrast. I've been quilting for quite awhile, now, so how could I have suddenly forgotten all about value? I know the rules. I teach the rules, for goodness sake. Contrasting values are the magic to making a quilt pop. I managed to get it right on the second attempt, so now I have another extra block. I seem to be acquiring quite a few extra blocks.

Your Blocks

From Dixie Moore

No mistakes from Dixie! These blocks are perfect! 

Spring is almost here!! 
Have a lovely week!


Friday, March 4, 2016

The Splendid Sampler Gallery and Making a Paper Pieced Pattern

I'm having too much fun with this quilt along. I mean that literally! I need to make the next block for my own "Kitty Craft" quilt along, and I desperately need a new bag or two.

Tomorrow, I work on those. Tomorrow.

The fifth block for Splendid Sampler came out on Thursday. It's a divided 9-patch, slice and dice, and it whizzed together in no time. Now and then, something easy and relaxing is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Block #5

And then came the sixth block in the quilt along. Oh, my. I had to make it twice. I saw too many possibilities with the layout, so I sewed it with completely different values the first time around. Once again, I was working with tiny triangles, and though I am learning and getting better at this, it was a struggle to get the points right.

I wasn't finished, though. I like the original, and I wanted one similar to that as well.  So, I made it again. This time, I chose the easy way out, and paper pieced it. Slick! With paper piecing I was able to eliminate some of those tiny triangles, too.

It's hard to believe that these two blocks are from the same identical pattern!
Block #6

Your Blocks

From Marge Colleran

"I am using my stash and am having soooo much fun."

Marge's first four blocks

From Dixie Moore

Dixie has sewn her first five blocks all over again using a totally new group of fabrics. Such a difference!

From Dixie:
"... my two favorite blocks thus far are #4 and #5.  Who doesn’t like appliqué, for one, and the Simple Simon block was just a delight to stitch.  Now that I am settled in with my Civil War fabrics (these come from my flirtation with a blue and white Dear Jane quilt in 2010), I can dig in and enjoy this project as much as many of the other gals seem to.

What I’ve come to know thus far is just how sensitive the fabric is to rotary cutter and board. Each cut moves the fabric a hair; the fabric must be coaxed back to the line each time. When I do original appliqué or make mug rugs, being a hair off is not an issue. The other thing that fascinates me is just how powerful our machines are as we slip fabric under the foot pedal.  I am employing my oldest and smallest machine for these blocks. I think my larger machine would eat the blocks in the blink of an eye. Moreover, while I am a pinner, I can see the value of just carefully nesting the pieces into each other with the opposing pressed seams.  A small pin can distort, and quickly, sabotaging the careful work that came before.

I expect to be a much better piecer by the end of this journey, and that delights me."

Dixie's Blocks #1 - #5

Dixie's Block #6
A Tutorial

Make a paper piecing pattern for Block 6


Print off the block diagram that came with the pattern. Choose your fabrics and locate where each will be placed. I wrote the letters right onto the diagram.

Fabrics as shown on the pattern: 

There are three basic pattern sections for the block..  I've shown the pattern measurements with sketches made on graph paper.  If you aren't comfortable with a computer drawing program, you can draw your pattern like this on graph paper.  I made the final pattern in color with the drawing program on Microsoft Word. I've numbered the pieces to show the order in which fabric pieces are sewn.

1. The Center Section

Draw a square 2" x 2". Draw a diagonal line from one corner to the next. Draw another square that is 1/4" larger on each side. The finished pattern is 2 1/2" x 2 1/2".  Make 4.

You will need to sew two of each color combination. The numbers indicate which fabric is placed first. 

2. Short Side Section

 Draw a rectangle 1" x 4". Divide as shown below.  Draw another rectangle that is 1/4" larger on each side. The finished pattern is 1 1/2" x 4 1/2". Make 2.

Color placement and numbers to show the order in which fabrics are added is shown here.

3. Long Side Section

 Draw a rectangle 1" x 6". Divide as shown below.  Draw another rectangle that is 1/4" larger on each side. The finished pattern is 1 1/2" x 6 1/2". Make 2.

 Color placement and numbers to show the order in which fabrics are added is shown here.


The block is assembled exactly as shown in the original pattern. Use 1/4" seams throughout. I laid the sections out before sewing together so that I could keep my colors matched correctly. 

I removed the paper before sewing the sections together, but it can be left in place until the block is completed.

1. Sew the four 2 1/2" squares in the center together to make a 4 1/2" square.
2. Sew the short side sections to either side of the center squares. Be careful to line up the colors the way you want them to be.
3. Sew the long side sections to the opposite sides of the block.

That's it! 

Any questions can be left in the comment section of this blog
 or they can be sent to me via email. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"Martha's Roses" and How to Make Fusible Bias Tape

The spring table topper is finished! . When I made that big center block, I wasn't at all sure how I'd use it, but I'm really pleased with how this table topper turned out. I've named it "Martha's Roses" after my mother.

"Martha's Roses" (21 ¾” x 21 ¾”)
Mother was an avid gardener, one of those who had plant magic in her fingers. Her garden was filled with flowers, and pink roses were her favorite. From the moment I designed the appliques, this became my mother's piece.

Last fall I worked with fusible bias tape on a stained glass quilt, "First Christmas". It made attaching the bias tape so easy! I had a particular fabric in mind for the bias tape stems on "Martha's Roses", so the commercial tape wasn't going to work at all. How hard could it be to make fusible tape from my chosen fabric?

Turns out it wasn't hard at all!

Homemade fusible bias tape on "Martha's Roses"

I rarely use commercially made bias tape anymore. It's expensive and the colors and widths available are really limited. If you have bias tape makers in various widths, the task is easy, but I prefer the flexibility of making bias tape of any size with simple tools.

Make bias tape.
No bias tape maker necessary.

You will need a hera marker, a straight quilt ruler, and a flat surface for this. Hera markers are inexpensive and readily available almost anywhere that quilting supplies are sold. I bought this one made by Clover for less than $5.00. 

1. Cut bias strips 1/2" wider than the width you need for your finished tape. The tape used on "Martha's Roses" is 1/4" wide, so I cut the strips 3/4" wide. 

2. Longer sections of tape can be made by sewing strips together exactly like you would sew strips of bias binding. 

Place strips at right angles.              Sew with a 1/4" seam. Press open.                  Clip triangle "ears".

 3. When your bias strip is ready, lay it on a flat surface (I use my cutting mat.) with the wrong side facing up. Place your ruler so that it is 1/4" in from one long side of the bias strip. Mark by sliding the round end of your hera marker firmly along the edge of the ruler. The hera marker will crease the fabric and it will fold easily along the crease. Repeat on the other long side of the strip.

4. Finger press the edges down, then take the bias strip to your ironing station. Using your thumb and a forefinger, gently fold the two edges toward each other. Press the edges in and down with a hot iron.

5. The tape is now ready to use. You can use quilt basting glue to hold it in position on your quilt top, or you can make it fusible. 

 Add fusible web to the tape.

1. Slice strips of fusible web ever so slightly narrower than your bias tape. I found that it was easier to work with short sections of fusible web. Lay the fusible web, paper side up, on the bias tape. Iron to fuse to the tape in place.

2. When the paper is removed from the fusible web, the bias tape can easily be shaped and positioned in place with an iron.

3. Stitch the edges of the bias tape with a narrow zigzag stitch or with a straight stitch.

Other examples of bias tape made with a hera marker: 

1/2" bias tape was used on "Spring Table Runner".

5/8" bias tape was used on the ruffle of this apron. 
(I have not made a pattern for this apron.)

Happy Stitching!!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Progress and The Splendid Sampler Gallery, Part 1

Coming Soon

It's been a great week for quilting! I've finished sewing my new, spring table topper, and I'll start writing the pattern today. If all goes well, the pattern will be completed and published next week.

The Splendid Sampler

You'll be hearing more about this quilt along in coming weeks. I'll add photos of the new 6" blocks each weekend. There will be 100 blocks altogether. That sounds like a lot of work until you consider it being only two small blocks each week. I would love to share your photos here as well. The Splendid Sampler facebook page has so many photos, that most of them get lost in the crowd. My blog will only have those that you chose to share.   Send your photos to me ( and I'll  post all new photos each weekend.

There have only been four blocks so far, but I can tell that I'll enjoy the Splendid Sampler quilt along immensely. I'm already facing challenges and learning new tricks with these blocks, and that's just what I need. A good quilter's workout should really help me to grow. Two blocks a week doesn't seem overwhelming, and the idea of having 100 unique blocks at the end of the process is exciting.

The main fabrics I'm using are from "Mon Ami" by Basic Gray, but I'll toss in others, I'm sure. With so many different kinds of blocks, there are bound to be some scraps from my stash here and there.

If you haven't signed up for the quilt along you can follow this link to learn all about it.

These are my first four blocks.

I did it again. I confess that I altered a couple of the patterns Some of simply can't leave patterns exactly as they are designed. But it's okay! The Quilt Police are a myth! I tipped the heart in the first block and I added a handle and spout to the vase in the fourth block.

Block #2 and Block #3 were challenges for me. Piecing with tiny triangles is a skill that I definitely need to work on. Eventually, I'll remake #2. It's not acceptable at all. I don't like chopped off points.

Your Blocks

From Dixie Moore

Dixie says,

"I didn’t begin tracing the pieces for Block 4 until nearly suppertime because I spent much of the day wrestling with how I want to proceed.  I’m not certain I want to stay with the Fossil Fern collection.  So, I dug up a collection of old-fashioned blues and white that I had from another project I never made. I may want to try that color combination instead. I felt I had to make a few in order to compare. It’s so early in the game, I wouldn’t mind re-doing the other three blocks in the blues and white. I’m sure you feel as I do: I have to love the fabrics and the way they begin to communicate with each other as I do my work. I’m not feeling that, at least not yet, with the Fossil Fern."

The fifth block will be revealed on Sunday! I can't wait!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Quilt Blocks and Banana Carrot Bread

 This week has been wonderful! Not only have I had enough energy to be able to play a bit in my sewing room and in my kitchen, but the weather has been nice enough to open windows and go for afternoon walks.

Sewing Room Play
I couldn't wait to start work on a new block design. I'd been toying with it on paper for a couple of weeks and it was ready for fabric. I was determined to use only fabrics that I had on hand. The pink and soft green fabrics felt fresh and spring-like, so that was my starting point. . The first attempt in fabric was okay, but boring. I felt like it really needed more color. I switched out only one fabric, but the difference is dramatic. Today, I'll begin trying to turn this into something - still not sure what, but definitely something. 

One photo taken in the morning, one taken in the afternoon. The colors change in the light.

I've joined a quilt-along group, "The Splendid Sampler", with Pat Sloan and a number of other designers. There will be 100 blocks altogether - two each week. This is the link:

I'm not at all pleased with my second block, so I may make it over later on. I didn't notice until I looked at the photograph, but some of my points got chopped off. I definitely need to work on perfecting a number of my skills and this is a pleasant and painless way to do so. I'll have 100 blocks at the end, too. A whole quilt!

Kitchen Play

Bananas were overripe, carrots were starting to get dry on the outside, and my golden raisins were almost finished. What do you do when you have food that needs to be used or tossed? This time I did toss it - all into one recipe, and believe me, this is a keeper! It's sweet and moist and simply chock-full of flavor and texture goodness. 

Banana-Carrot-Raisin Bread 

Makes 2 Loaves

2 ½ c sifted flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 c. mashed ripe bananas
1 c. sugar
¾ c. softened butter
3 eggs
1 c. finely grated carrots
½ c. chopped walnuts
½ c. raisins
1 tsp. sugar + 1 tsp. cinnamon for baking pans

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Grease two 9”x 5”x 3” loaf pans.  Mix 2 tsp. sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon. Sprinkle half of this mixture onto the bottom of each pan. Tip the pan to spread the sugar/cinnamon mixture so it coats the bottom and the sides of the pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Combine bananas, sugar, butter, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Stir in dry ingredients. Don’t overmix. Fold in carrots, raisins, and walnuts.

Spread mixture into loaf pans. The pans will be about ½ full. 

Bake at 350° for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Wishing you a lovely week with lots of playtime! 


Thursday, February 11, 2016

"Kitty Craft" Block for February: Challenges and Do-Overs

I've boxed myself into an even tighter corner than usual with this year's B.O.M. As always, I started with a pleasing layout plan. Because I'd had so many requests for cats,  I'd already decided to use them for the theme. Fitting the cats and other items into specific sizes and shapes of blocks is the foremost design challenge.

This month I chose to let two kittens loose in the craft room.  With one kitten up and one down, I was able to fit them into the tall, narrow block that I needed to fill. One of the kittens has crawled into the pencil pot and the other is playing with scattered pencils. A shoofly block and a set of flying geese are the companion blocks.

The Do-Over

Sometimes it takes another person to point out a flaw, and sometimes that flaw becomes so distracting that there's no choice but to start all over. The block was completely finished when a friend pointed out that my pencils were too fat or my kittens too tiny. Or both.   Here you can see the first attempt and the do-over side by side. The pencils are thinner and the kittens just a tad larger in the final block, and I can sleep better.

The Construction Challenge

Pencils. Pencils have points. Colored pencils have colored points. I didn't realize that those colored points would be a bit of a challenge until I tried to hand embroider one of them. It was awful! The embroidery floss was way too thick, and the point looked like a big colored bump on the end of the pencil. As I've said before, my hand stitching leaves a bit to be desired. 

I moved to the sewing machine, and those points came out very nicely with only four or five stitches forward and back. With either method, I definitely recommend that you practice first.

I started at the very tip of the pencil point, inserted my needle, drew up the bobbin thread, and stitched two stitches in place to secure the thread. With a long stitch (stitch length 4) I stitched forward one stitch right down the left side of the pencil.

Now comes the tricky part. You have to back stitch one stitch and finish in the very same spot where you began your stitch. I messed up several times because I had moved the fabric ever so slightly before beginning the back stitch.

After the back stitch, with the needle still in the same location, angle the needle just a bit and forward stitch one stitch. This stitch will be very close to the first, but not on top of it. Continue as with the first stitch, angling each stitch a bit more to the right and always back stitching into that very same beginning point. Four or five stitches will do it.

Not bad at all. :)

I'm thinking ahead to March. 
What should the cats be getting into next? 

Oh, my gosh! Sunday is Valentine's Day!
Have a lovely one!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Blessing Undisguised

Someone has been watching over us, and I've had a magical week.

My surgery on Monday went perfectly, and my daughter was with me almost the entire day. The snow didn't begin until very late, long after she was home with her dad.

Tuesday, while the wind swept blinding snow into deep drifts throughout the city, nurses pampered me and catered to my every need. In between naps I browsed the internet and came up with several ideas for new patterns. I didn't have my sketchbook, so I filled Pinterest with seed thoughts.

A half dozen phone calls or more calmed my panicked hubby, and he and our daughter spent a wonderful, relaxed day enjoying each other in the most meaningful way.

Public schools and city colleges took a snow day, so my grandchildren were thrilled with having a school day when they could sleep in.  My neighbor bundled up and spent hours playing with his new snowblower. He cleared my driveway and sidewalk several times - partly to help out, but mainly just for fun. To top it off, the groundhog didn't see his shadow so winter is almost over!

The snowplow came by and cleaned out street early Wednesday morning and I came home before lunchtime feeling much better than anyone had anticipated. I'll be having two nap days for awhile, I'm sure, but I think I'll have the energy and focus to work in my sewing room next week.

Yesterday, my new stove arrived right after lunch. The floor underneath the old stove was really dirty, but my deliverymen volunteered to scrub it for me before they set up the new one! As I said, someone has been watching out for me this week.

The new stove is so pretty! I didn't chose a fancy glass top because I won't give up my heavy cast iron cookware or my pressure cooker. Since my house is not set up for gas, the stove is very basic with coil burners. I've been promised that the oven will cook evenly, so I'm as happy as can be.

Last week slapstick comedy dominated, but this week was all guardian angels and fairy godmothers. February is looking good.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Blessings in Disguise?

My house is clean, groceries are purchased, and I've been cooking and baking like crazy this week. I planned it all out to make sure that everything at home glides smoothly along during my hospital stay and for the first week or two after I get home. I was so well organized with my to do list. What could possibly go wrong?

Famous last words. How did I get trapped in an episode of "I Love Lucy?

One "oops" after another.

Oops #1. Surgery is on Monday. I'm supposed to come home on Wednesday and, as my husband is unable to come to the hospital, my children have been planning to take turns sitting with me Monday evening and most of Tuesday. Now, the weather forecast calls for a blizzard and heavy snow on Tuesday. Eight inches or more, they say. The worst storm of the season, they say. Good grief!

Oops #2. Snow always blows down from the roof and lands right in front of our door and makes deep drifts on our driveway. Ed, who does our snow removal, had surgery yesterday. He'll be available in about six weeks.

Oops  #3. I broke my oven. Honestly. I broke it. It happened like this. I took the blueberry pound cakes out of the oven and turned it off, but, I turned the knob to "self clean" rather than "off". (Why are those two settings right together like that?) Then, instead of hitting "end" to stop the self cleaning, I accidentally hit "start". The door began to lock, so I panicked and yanked it open. I hit "end" again. And again. The oven was getting hotter. So, I raced downstairs and switched off the fuse for the range. After a few minutes I reset the fuse. The oven cooled down, but the lock mechanism for the self-clean is frozen. It sticks out and the door can't close all the way. 

Oops #4. I called the appliance repair folks. With parts and labor charges, replacement of the lock mechanism on the oven is about the same cost as buying a new range! 

Oops #5. I was all done with the second kitty block for the 2016 quilt along. I thought it was a darling block, so I showed it to Shelley, my cat loving friend. "Oh, how adorable," she exclaimed. Then she leaned back and frowned. "Those are awfully big pencils," she said, "or the kittens are awfully tiny. But it's still cute." Oh dear. Back to the drawing board. 
Pencils too fat? Kittens too small? Maybe both.
Blessings in Disguise 

Blessing #1. On Tuesday, I will be in a place with food, electricity, and all the help I need.  My children have promised to stay home and safe if the roads are bad. We have phones to keep the hubby up to date. :)

Blessing #2. My neighbor with the snow blower has offered to help out and clear our driveway and sidewalk of snow! Good neighbors are a true blessing.

Blessing #3. The burners on the stove work fine, so, although baking came to a halt, I made potato-bacon soup and two stove-top casseroles. In the process, I invented a new casserole recipe that my hubby really likes.

Blessing #4. I'm getting a new range! My range is ancient. The oven temperature is uneven and one burner is unpredictable, but I've been putting off replacing it. Delivery is scheduled for Thursday, the day after I come home from the hospital.

Blessing #5. I've started fiddling with the quilt block design a bit today and I'll have some time to work on it tomorrow. The pattern will be delayed until later in the month, but it will be so much better with everything more proportional.

A final blessing - 
Slowly, but surely, we are moving toward spring. 
February, the month of love, is only two days away!!