Sunday, January 29, 2023


Recently, I taught for the Needlechasers Guild of Iuka, MS at their winter retreat. This was the fourth time I have been to their guild over 15 years so it's like going to a family reunion. 

I have been teaching locally for 35 years and on the national circuit for almost 10 years. Eventually, that will stop--travel is tiring. But for now, when I have an experience as great as this one, I know I am doing what I should with my time.

Held at Pickwick State Park in Counce, TN, the Lodge is a lovely facility with a great staff, good food, and very nice rooms. An easy 2.5 hour drive for me, I was checked in by 3 pm on travel day. The view from my room:

The class sample doubles as my bedding on these trips: 

This group wisely chose Western Sun as a two-day class. We started getting things set up about 8 am for class to start at 9:30. It takes time to get almost 30 students set up, and another dozen or so who were just attending to "retreat", not take the class. More tables and chairs had to be brought in quickly but all was well by class time and we got started.

It makes me laugh to see what dedicated "retreaters" bring to these events. I wish I had better photos. Many brought their own sewing chair. All brought their own little table with a small iron and wool pressing mat. The jumble of electric cords running in all directions gave me pause and I made several announcements to "mind the cords!" We didn't blow the power and that's a very good thing:

I love this quilt and I love to teach this class. See these posts for more details about Western Sun:

Big Circles

There are a few new techniques for most students to learn for this particular quilt. But I want to to teach more than just the specific project. For me, it is a successful class if EACH student, regardless of skill level, leaves class saying "I learned MORE than I thought I would." 

Teaching is my legacy for the future of quilting. I share tips and tricks for successful piecing: the cutting, the sewing, the pressing and, other steps if there are any. Like drawing diagonal lines on the back of fabric. Or making big circles. Hand or machine applique that big circle to the block with it's secret part that holds it all together. There is so much to learn. 

Class is run with military precision as you might imagine. Having two days to teach all I want to share with this quilt was a luxury. I wasn't the only one tired at the end of the day. About half the students had their first block on the wall at the end of Day 1:

I was thrilled to be greeted with THIS wall when I came to class the morning of Day 2. They stayed up sewing for quite a while:

Here are just some more photos to give you an idea of the fun we had along with the work put out by the students. I regret I didn't get a photo of all the people standing together but they were just so BUSY!

The young'uns, Marcella and Shelby, good friends who only get to spend time together at retreat. They learned a few things. I love having "young" women in class, meaning at least 25 years younger than me. These women let me know the future of quilting is bright:

Kathy Y told me at breakfast Day 2 she had 5 blocks done. I was blown away she made them all the same. I LOVE when a student makes the quilt her own so she got her own wall: 

Day 2 was dedicated to making Flying Geese sashing, learning several ways to do that. Freezer paper foundation, newsprint foundation, four flying geese at once, a couple other methods. I loved the scrappiness of this set of FG sashing:

There has to be Show and Tell. Lynn B has an excellent sense of color and design. She is close to retiring from her day job and we talked a bit about how she can move into teaching classes. She has a lot to share: 

Lynn B showed me this "work in progress" long in the making  It is a Sue Garman pattern, Pennsylvania Stars. I have the pattern for "someday" and would be delighted to take a class with Lynn to get started. Those are SMALL geese, 2" wide x 1" high: 

On Day 3 I stopped in the classroom to say goodbye. Some of the women were still hard at work: 

I loved how free with color and fabric this student is. She is not afraid to mix it up and use what she has:  

The fog rolled in after an evening rain the last night. I delayed my departure a bit until it lifted: 

The roaring gas fireplace in the lobby made a nice place to gather.  Pickwick Landing State Park Lodge

 All in all, this was a very nice location for a Retreat and/or classes. Being off-season, made the cost reasonable too:

Many of these women are also  members of the Cross City Piecemakers guild of Corinth, MS, where I will be teaching in July 2023. They think they may have to plan for 50 students--my maximum. Everyone who saw that class project said "Sign me up!"

I had such a wonderful time, and was rewarded with so many lovely thoughts, comments and thanks by everyone. When I get tired of traveling to teach, I will think of the Needlechasers and our time together this past weekend. Ladies, I will come back to you any time. Thank you so much for trusting me with your time!  

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you can see some of their "testimonials" about the Retreat from their perspective. Some told me this was their first class ever. One was making her first quilt. Three women who follow my blog joined the guild that week so they could take the class. And some are very experienced quiltmakers. We all had fun, and learned a lot. 

Let's quilt.


Sunday, January 22, 2023


 As you are reading this, I am finishing up a 3+ day trip to the Needlechasers Guild of Iuka, MS. We are at their annual Retreat--at Pickwick State Park Lodge in Counce, TN.

There is a great statement I learned about quiltmaking years ago on a episode of "Simply Quilts" with Alex Anderson. "Color gets all the credit, but Contrast does all the work!"

I made this top years ago to prove the point. Each of these blocks is sewn in the EXACT SAME WAY--meaning all the pieces are exactly the same size and in the same location. 

It is the placement of light, medium and dark value fabrics that determines what you see:

I really like blocks that appear hard to figure out. And color and contrast can make that work for you.

Here is a simple quilt that is special because of placement of contrasting fabrics: Simply Serene , pattern available on Etsy:

Here is a very simple antique top I bought years ago for the lovely collection of old fabrics. It was only when I hung it on the design wall to photograph that I saw the distinct pattern that was no accident:

Here are some Western Sun star blocks made the first day of our Needlechasers Guild retreat. In most, the star is prominent. But in a few, you have to really look to see it. We call these “Maverick” blocks, same design, color and contrast determine what you see:

The next time you want to just PLAY, take a favorite block and change the color/contrast layout. See how many versions you can make that are different.

Let Contrast do some of the work for you as you make great quilts.

Let's quilt.


Sunday, January 15, 2023

Prepping Handwork

 In a few days I will be teaching a two-day class with the Needle Chasers of Iuka, Mississippi, at their annual retreat. These are a great group of women and  I look forward to being with them again, for at least the third time. We will be working on Western Sun. Here is my "wild" version:

Wild Western Sun

And the more traditional fabric selection:

I still have a lot to do to get their substantial kits ready. But what I did first was prep some handwork for me to have for the evenings. This is an important quilt for me and it is taking some time. The circles will be prepped with Karen K Buckley Perfect Circle templates, then machine appliqued in place. I did try Sarah Fielke's aluminum foil technique for circles--I believe I will be faster with Perfect Circles.

First, I marked the circles on the background with a chalk pencil. Then I traced either the cutting line or the finished size line, depending on the size of the circles onto a variety of fabrics. I will decide which fabrics I want for each background and prepare them:

If time permits, I will do some simple embroidery stitches, as I did here on the first section of this "block" I made: 

There are lots of 1/4" bias stems already made--they are machine appliqued first to the background, then the circles will be machine appliqued. I used light green thread, except for the darkest stems. Blanket stitch, #1329 on my Bernina, W 1.0 L 3.0.  Here are two backgrounds ready to get circles: 

I am really tempted to use a decorative thread and some of the many decorative stitches I have on my Bernina 765 SE machine for appliqueing the circles. These great machines come with so many stitches and I only use 2-3. Machine stitching would be so much faster than hand embroidery.

The other project I had to get done was my top for "Aether", which I have named "Sunrise, Sunset". This will be a class offered locally February 4 and 25, 2023, at Southern Charm Quilting. The pattern is by Patty Murphy and is available at the store. I have some good ideas for quilting designs but that will have to wait until later this year:

LOCALS: There is a last minute OPENING for my 4th Joyful Journey Retreat at Red Rooster Retreat Center in Crane Hill, AL. It is March 1-5, 2023. We have a wonderful time and have become a close group. If you are interested, please contact me right away so I can send you all the particulars.

Here are photos from prior years to tempt you. Spend 5 days sewing, laughing, eating, loving time for yourself. Spend NO time cooking, cleaning, or working for someone else. It's all about YOU:

I have written about these events here:

Let's quilt.


Sunday, January 8, 2023


 In fact, I have always loved my job. First, I was a student. Then I was a United States Marine Officer. And then I was a Tax Professional for 35 years with H&R Block. All of those jobs taught me life lessons and I really loved them all.

For the past 9 years I have been able to expand my quilt career--which first started in 1989. I love teaching all over the country, to groups large and small. And locally. It is fun and the friendships that are built with this kind of job are priceless.

Here is what I am working on right now. In just a few weeks I am teaching AETHER locally so I am really pushing to get the sample done.

Some of the petals laid out on the background. When all 100 petals are done I will make the final decision about who goes where:

I came up with the best way for me to make the petals quickly, for turned edge machine applique. I will teach this method in class: 

A closeup of how the petals will lay--they will be machine appliqued to the background: 

The pattern is called "Aether" by Patty Murphy. The pattern is available locally at Southern Charm Quilting. I named mine "Sunrise, Sunset", since I don't really know how to pronounce Aether:

Aether by Patty Murphy

The other fun thing I had to do this weekend was approve the Scrappy Plus Quilt Kit for the class I am teaching on a Stitchin' Heaven Cruise two months from now. As the cruise was supposed to happen last year, I made the test quilt from a different kit. Here is the one I made at least two years ago, Scrappy Plus:

The other day I received the NEW KIT, the actual one students will get in class. I had to count every piece, verify the size and number of pieces was correct, and be sure the pattern was included. Happy to say, I did that and all is well. They even included the page of Pressing Instructions I wrote for this quilt as there were none in the pattern and good pressing makes for a good quilt.

I love these fabrics--especially the grays and low volume prints, I never seem to have enough of them:

After counting everything I turned the packages over so you can see MORE of the fabrics:

Wouldn't you love to have someone cut all your fabrics for a scrap quilt and label them in cute little baggies? All you have to do is SEW!

I am also happy to report my knees are better. The doctor thought I just rushed back into my power walking too far, too fast, after 5 days off during the super cold weather. He did say my 10 year old replacement will eventually need to be replaced--they don't come with a lifetime guarantee, unless you don't live very long. Since I plan to live many more years, I have that to look forward to. For now, I just have to build back up to my one hour, 5 mile pace.

Let's quilt.


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

I've Been Thinking

 About a lot of things but mostly my knees.

Last May I started a walking program and eating a healthier diet. By June I was regularly power walking an hour a day minimum and losing weight.

Good quality walking shoes make all the difference:

By Thanksgiving I had lost 58 pounds, had gotten rid of lots of old, baggy clothes, and enjoyed shopping in my closet for new clothes, some still with tags, I had bought a few years back for "someday". 

Cookie season hit and though I kept up the long daily walks about 10 pounds crept back on. Just before Christmas we had a super cold spell hit, with temperatures in the single digits, too cold for ME to walk outdoors. 

So, I took 5 days off. When temps were above 40 I hit the road again. I was a little stiff and a little slower but still did the hour at my usual pace. The next day we were in the upper 60's, perfect winter weather. Off I go, at my usual "GO" speed. No problems at all. Felt fine. After I got home and sat for a while, I couldn't get up. And it was all downhill from there. 

Little sleep that night, worst pain I ever had, ever, all day the next day. I got an appointment to see an orthopedic doctor--tomorrow. I had to postpone the Facebook LIVE broadcast I was supposed to do that Friday at noon--I was just too pitiful to be seen. And Fuzzy Brain from no sleep and bad pain.

The GOOD news is each day I have improved, moving from awful pain, to tolerable pain, to sore, to stiff. I'll probably feel fine by the appointment, but I'll be at that appointment. Both knees were replaced, the left 15 years ago, the right 10 years ago. Hopefully, x-rays will show they are still fine. And all I did was sprain/strain the knees after not walking for 5 days then going full-tilt power walk.

I guess I'm not as young as I used to be.

So all this time spent resting, reading, relaxing and recovering, has me deciding to slow down a little bit.  I still want to travel to teach some, but not as much. Teaching on a cruise in March is something I am really looking forward to and hope to do annually. Hopefully, I will have good news to share in a couple months about some new opportunities for later this year. And there is an amazing job coming my way in 2024 I will be able to talk about this Spring.

Local classes have been very lightly attended in the past few years. Some of that is Covid, some is people expecting to learn for free on YouTube, some is "I can take her class another time". There will be a lot fewer local classes after this season. I wrote about current classes here: Local Classes Starting in January

My work for The Quilt Show continues as we work on the current Block of the Month quilt. I reach hundreds, if not thousands, that way. 

There is a trip planned for May 2023 I am calling my "TEXAS TOUR". So far, I will be in Huntsville, Tx May 1-2, The Woodlands May 3-4, and Lufkin May 8. I am hoping to add another stop or two before or after those dates, perhaps in Conroe or LaGrange or Austin or Round Rock. One airfare split between all guilds/stores will lower that cost for each organization. Then we can plan the logistics of getting me from "here" to "there". I used this source to find contacts--any help from my Texas friends will be much appreciated:

I love to work as a Quilt Show Judge so will seriously consider those jobs. Small shows with one judge, or large shows with several, I enjoy that aspect of the Quilt Industry a lot.

Local guilds can hire me, there are several near me that will allow us all to sleep in our own bed after a great all-day workshop. Or at the very least, don't involve an airplane ride.

ZOOMing is not my jam. I don't plan to do any more lectures that way. And I don't want to teach classes that way. I much prefer to be able to see up close what each student needs to get the most out of my class. I want to share what I know in the best way for each student.

I also expect to write this Blog weekly rather than twice a week. There aren't many comments though I know more than 2200 hundred follow me now. One good blog full of content should be better than two a week without a lot of content. Most people don't know about the many TUTORIALS here. The tab at the top takes you to them. 

Now I will have more time to make some of the many quilts that still need to be made. To use some of the stash that still needs to be whittled down. There will probably be an annual "BIRTHDAY SALE", purging that stash more and more each year.

The Design wall stays full now, think how much more productive I can be: 

Tops need quilting. Grandkids need loving, Husband needs attention. Knees need taking care of. I realize I have plenty to keep me busy if I stay home more.

So, if your group wants me to come, now is the time to ask. And if you are in Texas, I am coming your way THIS YEAR and would love to see you and your group while I am there.

Let's quilt.


Sunday, January 1, 2023


 The Quilt Show is happy to present HOMEWARD BOUND, designed by Sarah Fielke, as the 2023 Block of the Month quilt project. 

Even if you are not planning to make this quilt, I think you will find useful information in the monthly posts I write to help those who are working on it. 

The patterns are FREE to STAR MEMBERS of  The Quilt Show. Join now if you want to start right at the very beginning.  The Show featuring Sarah Fielke is FREE TO ALL to watch, even if you are not a member, so take a look at that show.

In Month 1, we make the small center cabin and the four star point units that surround the cabin.


1. Watch any VIDEOS before beginning. Month 1 has two videos.

2. READ the pattern completely before beginning.

3. Follow the instructions carefully.

4. Ask questions on the FORUM if you need help.

The cabin is SMALL--4" finished, that means when sewn into the quilt. The cut sizes of the pieces are really small, some as small as 3/4". Those are the precise sizes for machine piecing with an accurate 1/4" seam allowance. 

Verify your units are the correct size as you sew them together. If the little units are not the right size they will not miraculously become the right size when you do the next step.  Pay close attention to the cabin/background sections. I found it helpful to remind myself which fabric was cabin, which background:

What NOT to DO. I didn't have the KIT when I began testing the pattern. I did have a jelly roll of a lot of the Tula Pink fabrics so I used those. When selecting cabin fabric I thought the stripe would work well. It didn't. I had to cut several pieces more than once to get the stripes in the correct direction. And the walls were still a bit "wonky":

So I made another one. I liked the fabrics better but the cabin is still "not to code": 

It occurred to me this little cabin can easily be paper pieced. The advantage to paper piecing is precision can often be achieved, especially with small pieces. The disadvantage is it takes more fabric and you need a paper pattern to stitch on. And you are sewing "upside down and backwards". 

There are many videos on paper piecing. I am  not going into details here. I am providing you a photo of my paper pieced pattern for this cabin so you can draw your own. You are only making one cabin this month so you only need one set of patterns. Simply use a ruler and a pencil to DRAW the pattern onto the paper of your choice. I like newsprint or tracing paper. Heavy copy paper is not the best choice.

The top section with the Chimney appears backwards--that is because in paper piecing the pattern is reversed since the fabric is on the back side of the paper pattern. If you draw the first section as it appears in the finished cabin, your finished chimney will be on the left side of the roof--not really a problem, just different. 

The first and second sections from the top are 1" x 4" finished each. Draw that size rectangle then add the 1/4" seam allowance all around to create the section. Use a pencil to draw lines as shown. I used the cut sizes of the pattern to determine what size each piece is. The roof section is simpler than the pieced version, one rectangle for the roof, two triangles of background for the sky

The bottom half of the cabin is made in 3 separate parts, the door in the center and two cabin parts on either side of the door. Again, I used the pattern sizes, minus seam allowance amounts, to know what size to draw the various shapes. The door is 1" w x 2" h and the cabin sections are 1.5" w x 2" h--those are finished measurements--add the seam allowance around each section as shown in the photo.


1. Reduce stitch length to about 1.5. Small enough it won't come undone when you remove the paper, not so small it perforates the paper completely.

2. Cut the fabric pieces with a 1/2" seam allowance rather than a 1/4". This allows for movement of the fabric when you sew. Trim the seam allowance to 1/4" AFTER the sewing. I use an Add-A-Quarter ruler to trim as I sew. 

3. Once each section is sewn to the paper pattern, trim to the exact size each section should be, including the seam allowance. For example, the first section, the chimney section, is trimmed to 4.5" w x 1.5" h.  This is when I remove the paper. It should come off easily if your stitch is small enough.

4. The paper serves to make the sections the right size. I don't need the paper on as I sew the various sections together. I find it much easier to join the sections as in regular piecing, without paper.

5. When your cabin is done, it should be 4.5" including seam allowance.

In the Month1 video Sarah explains how to fix it, if your cabin is a bit too small. Cut the surrounding border  fabrics wider than called for in the cutting instructions. Once the border is in place, you can trim your cabin/border unit to the required 6.5" square including seam allowances. 

My third and final small center cabin, paper pieced, better:


The stems that are placed on the background of the star point units are straight so bias isn't required. If you prefer, you can cut them from straight grain fabric. Watch the second video for Month 1, Making Bias Stems, to see how Sarah uses a Hera marker to make very precise 1/4" finished Stems. The process would be the same if you cut straight grain stems. 

Sarah does all her applique by hand. I use the machine when it seems reasonable to me to do so. These long straight stems were a breeze to machine applique in place.  I used Alex Anderson's class on machine applique to stitch them: 

Machine Applique class   She talked about Monopoly thread but discusses other threads too. I used a green Quilters Select 60 wt thread that closely matched my green stem fabric. I used the same stitch and settings as Alex demoes.  You can see how the stitches disappear:

Leaves and Coneflowers are hand appliqued, stem is machine appliqued


There are two ways to make the Star Point sections. In the Month 1 VIDEO Sarah shows how to use her Half Square Triangle Ruler. Other brands of Half Square Triangle Rulers will work the same way. She cut a strip 3.5" wide, placed the strip with wrong sides together and used the ruler to cut the 8 triangles needed. 

In the written pattern instructions, Sarah describes how to cut squares, draw a diagonal line on the back side, place the square onto the Background unit, after sewing the stem in place, and sew on the diagonal line. Cut away the excess part of the square and background, as shown in the pattern.

Either method works. Why not try them both to see which you prefer.

STOP! This month you make the center Cabin with Border. And the four Star Point units. That's it. Don't sew the star points to the cabin. In Months 2 and 3 we will make bias stems and a lot of circles for the Hollyhock squares. In Month 4 we will join the Hollyhock squares to the Star Points and Cabin so we can applique the Coneflowers and their leaves in place.

Post your progress on the Forum and be sure to use a hashtag if you post on social media.

Let's quilt.


Wednesday, December 28, 2022


 The 2023 Block of the Month quilt for The Quilt Show is Homeward Bound. This quilt is designed exclusively for The Quilt Show by Sarah Fielke. It features piecing and applique, lovely flora and fauna shapes, and makes a beautiful year-long project:

Best of all, the patterns are FREE to STAR MEMBERS of The Quilt Show. If you join before December 31, 2022, you also have access to the entire 2022 BOM--Garden Party Down Under by Irene Blanck. After December 31, 2022, those patterns will only be available for purchase from Irene. 


1. Have paper and printer ink ready. The pattern is usually up the first of each month. A little birdie told me Month 1 will be up December 29, 2022.

2. Plan to watch Facebook LIVE/YouTube Friday December 30, 2022 at noon central time. I will discuss how to find everything, how to ask questions, how to post photos, and give some special tips for the tiny center cabin we make in Month 1. Find the LIVE on Facebook at The Quilt Show page OR  on, The Quilt Show channel there. All the broadcasts are recorded and remain available all year for you to  watch when it's convenient.

3. Have a notebook you can store your patterns in. I get a 3 ring binder with 12 page tabs so each month is kept separately:

If you bought the KIT from The Quilt Show, you will find it helpful to have the Materials Requirements document printed or saved where you can quickly find it. Each fabric is listed by the Month it will be used and what it is used for. This is also helpful information if you are using your own fabric: 

4. BEFORE YOU BEGIN, each month, watch any VIDEOS that are available for that month. Month 1 has two videos, a Main one and one on making Bias Stems. The VIDEOS  supplement the written pattern. Also READ the pattern completely before you begin. READ my blog for that month--I often make suggestions for ways to do something you may want to try.  

5. January 1, 2023 will be the release of The Quilt Show featuring Sarah Fielke in studio. It is sure to be an informative show and will give you an overview of the entire project. The Block of the Month show is often FREE FOR ALL TO WATCH so check it out even if you don't plan to do the Block of the Month project.

6. The Block of the Month project is a good one to make with friends. Find one or two or several friends who want to make this with you. Gatherings don't have to be in person, though that is fun. My group of Sunday Sew and Sews began January 2017 to work on Halo Star Medallion, that year's Block of the Month. We are still going strong today as a group of 13 who meet one Sunday a month to cheer each other on.

7. Use the FORUM on The Quilt Show website to ask questions and post your progress. We love to see all the great fabric choices that everyone is making. I am there to answer all your questions so help is available should you need it.

I look forward to our year together. I hope you will join in the fun and learn some new techniques--I did!

Let's quilt.