Sunday, July 15, 2018

String Star and Secret Sewing

Just a couple things to show today. Class sample for Stars and Strings--Save Our Scraps:

Class is Saturday October 27, 2018, 9-3, at Patches & Stitches, Huntsville, AL. Machine Quilting this is on tap for later today.

This past week I have been very busy "Secret Sewing". Here is just a glimpse:

Large top is done, instructions are written, just a bit more to do. All will be revealed in September.

Let's Quilt!


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Under My Needle and a New Swap

A few things I am working on.

The Temperature Quilt:

Last December I learned about Temperature Quilts and Blankets--those were made from yarn. Each color represents a 10 degree temperature band and each vertical row is a week, beginning January 1, 2018. By March I was losing interest and knew I did not want to complete the year--half a year would be plenty and be a reasonable size--this is 26" wide x 30" before the borders. I used the official high temperature at Huntsville International Airport for each day. Here is my Key:

It did not get over 100, which is fairly typical here, but the 90's with our high humidity is plenty hot enough. Glad I did it, I'm over it now. The border fabric came from the closet after the top was completely done--it pays to have a deep stash.

When my two best quilting buddies and I get together, usually for our annual retreat, the idea of a swap between us gets launched. This time we decided to make 5" scrap houses for each other. The original pattern I found was a 3" house, too tiny we decided. Other houses have two chimneys, too much effort we decided. So I found a simple house in Electric Quilt 8 that just needed a bit of tweaking to be perfect. Our 5" finished Quilter's Scrap House:

We will paper-piece 12 of these to give to each of the other two--if we make 12 for ourselves, we'll all have 36 5" houses when the swap is done.  The only thing I had to remember when printing the pattern was to mirror-image it--when paper-piecing, what you see on the paper will be reversed when sewn.

I have been involved in many swaps over the years. Here are my tips:

1. Choose participants carefully. All must follow the "guidelines"--RULES--and agree to meet the deadline. Limit the number of people--the most I have had was 13 and that was plenty.

2. Set a firm deadline and be sure everyone agrees to meet it.

3. The best thing to swap are "units"--parts of blocks that can be trimmed down, like half-square triangles and four-patches. When you do a block like this you learn everyone has their own "personal" quarter-inch seam allowance. Refer to tip 1 above...

4. Hold a "teaching" class if the technique is new to most participants. Paper piecing is not for everyone. Be sure everyone understands to use a very small stitch, tiny thread and lightweight paper.

5. If you allow people to request specific colors/themes, be sure each person is clear in their request and that everyone agrees to follow the requests.

6. If you are located close together, it is fun to have a sew-day to work on the blocks. If apart, sharing photos online is fun OR you can keep the blocks a complete secret until done.

 For this particular block and group the guidelines are simple: trim thread as you go, remove the paper when the block is finished, have them all done no later than Christmas. Only one house per maker can be in violation of the HOA rules--meaning ONE can be "not mirror imaged"--the door can be on the right, window on the left.

I made a test block before sending the information to the other two--oh my goodness, these are like Dorito blocks--hard to stop making them:

I had to stop making houses right now so I can do some Secret Sewing:

I am working on a big quilt I want to have ready to photograph for an upcoming blog. There was a lot of layout design time spent, now I am sewing, then I'll write the blog with all the information for this layout. Lots to do, yet but I like how it's coming along.

Let's Quilt!


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Top Three Tips for Time Management

Every time I give my lecture "Time Management for Quilters" I hear from people, days, weeks or even months after who tell me they picked up a few tips that really helped them get more done. Some ask me to go into things in more depth. So here are my 3 Top Time Management tips, the things I do that really help me get more done.


I have always kept lists, usually on slips of paper. Eventually, the paper would get tossed out and sometime later I would wish I still had it. So when I learned about "bullet journals" a couple years ago I was intrigued. As I read about the concept I felt like you could spend all your time creating a journal about your life instead of living your life. But some of the ideas spoke to me so I adapted the idea to a format that works for me.

I started with a simple blank lined pages journal, picked up at a bookstore. One good pen that I liked the feel of and one ultra fine Sharpie, in Fuchsia, that's all I use. The inside front page is the Index. On the left are the  months listed and the page numbers they cover. On the right are what are called "Collections" but in the next edition I will simply call them "Pages".  I am on my second edition:

For each month, I start with one page that is the overview of that month, things I want or need to get done that month. Besides quilt deadlines, there are things like "book airfare for..." or "Send Supply Lists for Workshops to..." At the bottom of the page I keep a running total of Quilt Tops Completed" and Quilts Completed" that month and the cumulative total for the year, just because it is easy to do this way, for no other reason.

After the monthly overview page, each day I list the things I want/need/hope to get done that day. To the left of each item is a square box that I check off when the item is done. At the end of the day, if the item is not done, I use the fuchsia marker to draw a down arrow, meaning that item got moved down to the next day. If I decide i will not do that item at all, I draw a line through it. Some days have lots of items, some days few, but each day is listed. I usually list tomorrow's items at the end of today--I know what I'm going to be doing the next day.

I don't carry the journal with me, it sits on my desk at the computer. When traveling, I simply list something like"Saturday June 16-Wednesday June 20, San Diego Canyon Quilters".

The Pages/Collections list is the secret to this system for me. Whenever I think of things I want to keep track of, I create a Page for that, wherever in the journal I happen to be at that point--today it would be in the middle of July--the next blank page is 88. I add the Page name and page number to the Index at the front of the journal and it is easy to find whenever I need it. Here are my current Pages:

Quilts to Finish
Tops to Quilt
Labels to Make
Class Ideas
Internet Purchases
Blog Ideas
People to Make Quilts For
Quilts to Photograph
Where Did I Put?

One of the best of these is "Internet Purchases"--any time I order something online I put it on this page, page 8 in the journal, what it is, the cost, the seller, and then I check off when it arrives and when I pay the credit card for it. Before this list, I would get the credit card bill and wonder what that item was, a book? a sewing notion? Personal or business? Now I check page 8 and know instantly what I bought.

The last one is the most recent. Any time I say "I'll put this in a safe place" I add it to the Where Did I Put? list. Now I have a backup for my memory--aging is a real thing.

Your list will vary, start with those that make sense to you and add to them as you like.

Why does this save me time? First, it keeps me on track to get things done, on deadline or because that's what I want to do that day. Second, it keeps my ideas in one place, so I can find them again. Third, it keeps me focused--I never say "wonder what I'll do today?" I can break down a task into the required parts and give them a time slot.

This does not replace my calendar on my computer/phone/IPad--I keep that fully updated with appointments, trips, birthdays, etc. The journal simply works for me, keeping me on target for each day. Perhaps you'll find a different system.


Today I have the luxury of working in my studio 9-4 most every day but it wasn't always that way. When I started quilting 35 years ago I  had two kids and a husband, a household to run, several paying jobs, including tax season for 34 years, where I often worked 60-70 hour weeks, was always active in my local guild with all the jobs that entails, and I still found time to make some of my best quilts, of my own design, hand quilting many.

In teaching new quilters I came up with the notion of the "15 Minute Plan". If you have to wait until you have 3 hours of uninterrupted time to start, you'll never get anything done. Break your quilting tasks into 15 minute jobs. Before work, if you have 15 minutes, you can:

Select the fabric for the next block you will sew
OR Cut the fabric for the next block you will  sew
OR Figure out how many strips of binding fabric you need and select the fabric for it
OR Cut the binding strips, sew them together if you still have time
OR Press the binding seams and binding
OR CLEAN UP THE CLUTTER--15 minutes of putting stuff away really helps so the job doesn't grow to an hour-long massive clean up

I always have something ready to sew right beside my machine--if I had 15 minutes I could sew this:

Before I leave the studio today, I'll have something ready to sew tomorrow.

What can you do in 15 minutes, besides play Solitaire or Angry Birds?


I am a huge proponent of the leaders/enders process made popular by Bonnie Hunter.

Why do I love it so? It saves time, thread, aggravation and fabric bits. All you need to do is have a PLAN. Simple shapes work well for this, squares or triangles are easy. As I am creating quilts, I cut the leftover fabrics into the size "scrap" that works for the plan I have. Currently, it's 1.25" finished half square triangles; before that it was 2" finished four-patches.

At the start and end of each line of chain piecing I start with a Leader and finish with an Ender--two units of fabric that I piece while sewing other things for whatever quilt I am actively working on. Here you see the Leader, a block unit being created and an Ender:

We tend to have the most trouble keeping 1/4" seam allowances straight at the beginning and the end of chain piecing. This helps keep you straight as you start sewing the important part, here the block unit being constructed, and end straight as you leave the block and go to the Ender. We also have difficulty when we rethread the machine--occasionally, the machine likes to "eat" the points and create a "bird's nest" on the bottom--I would much rather have that problem on a small, unimportant bit of fabric than my lovely block.

And it SAVES THREAD. Quality thread is not cheap and it just breaks my heart to see a student sew one little unit together, then pull it out of the machine with at least a foot of both top and bobbin thread attached, only to cut off that thread and throw it in the trash! Chain piecing keeps that waste to a minimum.

To make this system work, all you need is a plan, a quilt pattern that uses simple units you can easily cut from scraps and sew as you go. Here are just a few of the Leader/Ender quilts I've made in recent years:

Queen-size FourPlay, pattern by Kinch and Storms

Doll quilt from a charm pack

Rainbow Baby Nine Patches

Queen-size Tumbler, Bonnie Hunter Leader/Ender Challenge project

I hope you find an idea here that helps you. The lecture is full of lots more but these are the 3 I live by. What tips/tricks do you use to help you get things done?

Let's quilt!


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Quilter's Studio in La Mesa

Recently, I had a chance to tour a wonderful studio custom  designed by a quilter in La Mesa, CA and built beside her home. Pam allowed me to take lots of photos to share with you.

The view from the back door of Pam's home to the studio, only a few steps:

While the space is not huge, it is bigger than most quilters have and every inch of space is used. So many interesting storage ideas and so much to see. Enjoy a tour:

View from the door:

The blue door above accesses this amazing closet, very tall and each box is clearly labeled, a ladder reaches the highest boxes:

An old library card catalog is perfect for holding all the notions:

 Each drawer clearly labeled:

 An old architect's table has wonderful drawers to hold pantographs and patterns.The top surface is poured concrete created on site--this will never leave this space. A full size cutting mat is the perfect fit for the top:

An industrial Pfaff is the workhorse of this operation:

 Nothing goes to waste:

The thing that I loved the most  in this space, an old quilting frame complete with old quilt hung above the entry door, visible at all times in this amazing space:

So many personal touches, this is clearly the space of a creative person:

 Pam has a longarm machine and she quilts for others, mostly friends. From the beginning she kept track of how many quilts she has quilted, using tick marks directly on the wall opposite the machine. She uses different colors of Sharpie pens for each 50 marks, and indicates the year. What a clever way to keep track:

 Time to update the numbers. Pam in her happy place:

When you tour people's homes, you usually see things that tell you a little bit about them. I met Jerry, Pam's husband, a pleasant fellow. Here is what Pam sees on her kitchen counter each day, two small chalkboards with messages for her:

This is the kind of love we all  hope to have. My philosophy on what makes a happy marriage: when BOTH people think they are the lucky one--and they are BOTH right. I'd say Pam and Jerry fit that bill.

I hope you enjoyed the tour.

Let's quilt!


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Month 7 The Patchwork Barn

This is the FREE Block of the Month pattern "Patchwork Barn", designed by Edyta Sitar exclusively for The Quilt Show. You must be a Star member of this world-wide quilt guild/show/internet community to receive the free patterns each month, beginning January 1, 2018. Join today and get started on this journey.

Previous instructions are here:

Month 1
Month 2
Month 3
Month 4
Month 5
Month 6

NOTE: On The Quilt Show, the Forum is the best place to ask questions, find answers, or find out if there is a change in the pattern.  I recommend you check in there frequently. And there is a Show and Tell Topic--show us your blocks. Forum Patchwork Barn

Three new blocks this month, none are particularly difficult. And if you don't want to applique', there is an alternative option.

Block 19 

This block is simply half square triangles (HST), 5 small and 1 large. This Post has a lot of information on making HST. I used the Half Square Triangle Ruler to make the small units and cut the large one from 5" squares--2 squares of each fabric make 4 units, we only need 3.

Block 20

As we are getting to the end of the pieced blocks, I dug in my bag of scraps from all the blocks so far to cut the pieces for these Rail Fence blocks. Each block needs twelve 3.5" x 1.5" pieces--it was easy to find all those from my leftovers.

This is also a helpful block to make if you are having precision piecing difficulties. Sew two 1.5" x 3.5" rectangles together on the long side, press flat. It should now measure 2.5" x 3.5". If it is perfect, add the third rectangle and you should have a 3.5" square. If it measures less than 2.5" wide, the seam allowance is too wide OR there is a pressing problem, the seam is not flat. If it is wider than 2.5", the seam allowance is too narrow. Getting comfortable with our seam allowance is the most important part of the piecing process, I think. Once you have it, you're all set.

Block 21 The Basket:

Now we are introduced to applique'. You will need to cut the handle from bias fabric so it will curve nicely on the background.

Applique' instructions are provided in the BOM 2018 Introduction Packet.  If you did not print that, you can print just that page now, if you like. It provides instructions for Fusible, Machine and Hand Applique' methods.

I chose to hand applique' the handle. My bias handle was cut .75" x 12"--if I were to do it again, I would cut the bias strip 1.25" wide, mine is a bit too small. I simply folded the bias in thirds, no sewing, and pressed with a hot, dry iron. If you want to make a tube, cut at least 1.25" wide, and sew a narrow seam allowance WRONG sides together. There are bias bars designed for this process, follow the directions that comes with them if you use this method. They help put the sewn seam on the back of the handle.

The pattern says to cut the upper background 3.5" x 6.5". There tends to be a little shrinkage with applique', so I usually start with the background cut larger than necessary, 4" x 7" would give you a bit of leeway. If you do that, you have to be very careful to trim the completed upper background to exact size, 3.5" x 6.5", keeping the basket handle centered on the background.

Here is how I marked the LOWER handle line on the background--this is the only line you should mark on the background. Using a small piece of freezer paper, I traced the lower curve, and was sure to add 1/4" below the ends of the handle pattern for the seam allowance. If I were making many of these, I would make my template from template plastic. I ironed the freezer paper to the front of the upper background, matching up the center line of the template and a center fold line on the fabric:

I used a mechanical pencil with a light touch to draw the curved line--remember, this is the LOWER LINE:

Pin just a bit of the handle to the drawn line, here there are only two pins. If you try to pin the entire handle in place before stitching, things tend to get crooked. By only pinning a few inches, I can stitch slowly, keeping the lower edge of the handle just touching the drawn line. Use thread that matches the handle and take small blindstitches, also called applique' stitches:

The reason you don't want to draw the upper line is because, if you did, your handle has to be perfectly made to touch that upper line. Remember, my prepared handle is slightly smaller than the pattern. Once the lower curve is sewn, it is a simple matter to sew the upper curve, wherever it falls--it will be neat and flat, and you have one less drawn line to deal with.

After sewing applique', it helps to press it face down on a fluffy towel. This helps prevent folds or puckers in the applique':

When pressed, trim the upper half of the basket to 3.5" x 6.5", being sure the handle is centered. Join the upper half to the lower half, and your basket is done.

If you do not want to applique' the curved handle, here is an alternative:

Perfect for paper piecing, this handle is easy to draw. Draw a 3" x 6" rectangle on lightweight paper--I use newsprint that comes 8.5" x 11". Put a dot at the 3" mark on the top long side. Draw a line from that center dot to the lower right corner. Draw another line from that top center dot to the lower left corner. Simply decide how wide you want your handle to be and draw the remaining two lower lines. I like to add the 1/4" seam allowance around the rectangle, so the drawn rectangle is now be 3.5" x 6.5". This helps me remember to trim the unit 1/4" larger than the finished size so I don't goof and cut on the finished size line.  NOTE: I used Electric Quilt 8, wonderful quilt design software, to create my paper patterns.

If you are new to paper piecing, you can find some tips here: Paper Piecing Tips. There is also a lot of paper piecing help in Month 2.

Background:  For three baskets, cut three squares 4.25", cut in half on the diagonal for the two background upper triangles, you have 6 triangles.  Cut the large lower center triangle from an 8" square, cutting on both diagonals--you have 4 Quarter Square Triangles, you only need 3.With paper piecing you want the pieces larger than they would be if you were piecing them in the regular way.

Basket Handle: my handle is 3/8" wide finished, I cut strips 1.25" x 6", two/basket, for the handles.

Paper Piecing the Handle Unit: place the large center quarter square triangle on the back of the paper, being sure the raw edge is at least 1/4" beyond the LOWER handle line. A pin or small dot of glue in the middle of the triangle will hold it in place if necessary.

Here the first handle has been sewn to the large lower triangle:

Turn the paper over, press with DRY iron, pressing the handle up, away from the lower triangle:

 Use the Add-a-Quarter ruler to trim the first handle to the correct size. I use a cardboard mailing insert. Fold the paper over the cardboard, placing the UPPER handle line against the cardboard. Slide the Add-a-Quarter ruler against the folded paper edge and trim the handle--it is now exactly 1/4" beyond the sewing line:

After adding the first handle, trim it, then add the second handle, trim it. Here both sides of the handles have been trimmed and are ready to have the upper background triangles added:

After the sewing is done:

Work from the back, and use an accurate ruler to trim the unit to exactly 3.5" x 6.5". The lines on the paper may not be perfect, due to shrinkage while sewing, just be sure you CUT it accurately. I start from the mid-point and measure outward 3.25"--that is half of the 6.5" unit you need. Trim two sides, rotate the unit and trim the remaining two sides:

 Remove the paper after trimming. What an adorable, perfectly pieced basket handle unit:

Make the bottom half of the basket, join top to bottom and you're done:

See you next month when we make the final 3 pieced blocks for the Patchwork Barn quilt.

Let's Quilt!