Educational Quilts For Kids

A month or so ago I received an email from Rita. Here’s what she wrote:

I attended your repliqué class at the Bismarck Quiltfest and purchased your book for kids…..the one with colors and numbers. the reason I am emailing you is to get your input on the color and number quilts for my special needs granddaughter…..Emma is almost two and she has Down syndrome. I was hoping to put the two designs in one quilt……I think I will eliminate the cursive writing and just put the appliqué number with the cute buttons on that particular block and try to use them in one quilt…..I think I will need to use the “0” and cut the block down to better try to fit it together.  I am trying to make it a bit simpler for her level of development.   I have also decided to use only nine of the color blocks to simplify it a bit for her level! Do you have any ideas to make this work?”

When she wrote to me I was in Hawaii and I didn’t get back to her in a very timely fashion. This may have been a good thing, because she moved forward on her own and her ideas and execution were great. I finally wrote her back and said I loved the idea, and it would be easy to resize and adjust things when copying the patterns from the book. She responded:

“Thank you for taking time to hopefully help me……So I have attached two photos of the blocks I have completed so far……. I only did some of the color blocks to try to keep it simpler for little Emma….I made the blocks the same size in your pattern but I am stuck on the placement now because of course they are different dimensions… I have a couple of different options which incorporate sashings or borders. I would entertain your input on these ……I want you to know I am not trying to redesign your awesome patterns but to make it a bit simpler for Emma for a development tool.”

This time I responded that she should trust her judgement because Emma would love it whatever she chose (I actually didn’t say it that well, but I wish I had). This time she sent me one more option and wrote:

“This might work too?”

I could tell from Rita’s email that she was pleased with this simpler setting and I agreed. Her next email began:

“I thought I would send you a photo of Emma’s quilt – I finished tonight.   I hope it does your two patterns justice!  I really love the size for her and combining the two patterns.   The math was a bit challenging to get the blocks to work but I love the way it turned out!  I know she will use it to work on her color and number development!”

I am so impressed and very pleased that Rita took my ideas and made them her own. I wrote her that this is when a teacher really feels successful.

Many years ago I had a student take one of my Snuggle and Learn classes. She made the “Touch Me, Feel Me, Read Me” quilt for her daughter because she said her husband was blind and he would be able to “read” this quilt to her.

What a blessing to be able to encourage quilters to make quilts that help those with handicaps! Praise the Lord!

I think Rita’s quilt is spectacular! and what a wonderful story! Rita sent me these photos of her with Emma, and Emma with her quilt.

Over the course of our email exchange she shared one other thought concerning a future blog topic:

“I think this would be an awesome blog post to learn about “adjusting” patterns to fit a persons projects!”

Hmm. That sounds a bit challenging, but I love a challenge. Stay tuned :-)!

March 17, 2019, Uncategorized
Pieceful Travels

I’m thrilled to be sharing some very exciting news with you. I’ve been invited to lead a tour to the International Great Quilt Festival in Tokyo, Japan, this coming January – and I’d love to have you join me!

This has been on my “bucket list” for years, but I really never thought I’d have the opportunity to actually go there. A woman I met several years ago plans travel adventures for quilters. She just returned from this exact trip and invited me to lead it for her next year. Besides spending two days at the Quilt Festival in the Tokyo Dome (and staying in the attached hotel), we’ll be touring many of the most interesting sites in Japan and taking classes from Japanese quilters and fiber artists!

The following quote about the quilt show is from a website called Quiltripping. You may read the enitre post at:

“The annual Tokyo Great International Quilt Festival presents the works of the best quilters in Japan. This is also the largest quilt show in the world, filling up the whole floor of the Tokyo Dome which is Tokyo’s indoor baseball and special events stadium. Roughly 250,000 Japanese and international visitors check out the quilts and special exhibits over the course of seven days. Apparently, this is the largest attended event in the Tokyo Dome (even beating out baseball).”

And, if experiencing the quilt show isn’t enough – we’ll spend a night at an Onsen hotel with views of iconic Mount Fuji.

We’ll visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine and see the magical, seemingly unending path of over 5000 vibrant orange torii gates that wind through the hills behind the Shrine.

We’ll take classes with Japanese artists in Shibori dyeing, Rocketsu
dyeing (a traditional wax-resist dyeing method),

and we’ll even learn to make sushi!

Our brochure with dates, prices, and all the details will be available in a very short time. Until then I’m compiling an email list of anyone interested in joining me on this once in a lifetime adventure. If you’d like to receive more information as soon as it is available please email me at: .

March 10, 2019, Uncategorized
PaintStick “Appliqué”

When Wendy and I lead tour groups, we always have at least one project to teach while we’re traveling. Our recent cruise to Hawaii was a bit of a challenge concerning this topic because the ship traveled from island to island during the night and we had almost all of our daylight hours available to explore the islands. This was a good thing – Hawaii is a great place to have time in the sun :-). But, on most of our other trips we had a day or two “at sea”, giving us plenty of project time.

We were able to “squeeze” in two class sessions this trip, so we needed a fun project that could be accomplished in a short amount of time. What we came up with was Hawaiian Appliqué done with paintstick stenciling. I know I’ve posted this photo before, but this time I’d like to share a bit about the technique.

What’s so exciting about this technique is that the Shiva™ Oil Paintsticks are actual oil paint in a crayon form. They create beautiful designs that are permanent on fabric. Therefore they can be used on garments as well as quilts. It’s a wonderful way to put designs on fabric/clothes, but words could be stenciled too! Just imagine the possibilities!

I chose to put my Hawaiian design on a t-shirt.

So – here’s how: The first step was to create the pattern “paper snowflake” style using freezer paper.

This was opened up to reveal the pattern and ironed onto the fabric, shiny side down.

Then we colored along the paper edge with a paintstick, and dragged the paint onto the fabric with a stencil brush.

The results were great – and everyone got them done in the time we had available. We will be having a cruise reunion in April and we’re hoping everyone will bring their finished quilts for show-and-tell. I’ll post pictures at that time!

If this technique intrigues you, I will be teaching it as an all day workshop at WCTC on April 12th. We’ll be making a Spring time table topper, and students will not only learn this technique, but a few other ways to use Shiva™ Paintsticks too.

Everyone will cut out the same tulip pattern, but the color choices are up to you. I’ll have a variety of paintsticks available for student use, so no one has to purchase them until they’re sure they enjoy using them.

To register go to: on “Course Search” and type “quilt” in the “Course Title” box; then click on “Find Courses”.


And one more thing :-)!

An upcoming workshop for quilters in the Milwaukee area!

I will be teaching my 3 hour Seminole Sampler workshop for Common Threads Quilt Guild on Wednesday afternoon, March 27. They meet in Lannon, WI (northwest of Milwaukee). This class is done using a pre-cut kit, which is provided for a low extra fee. Everyone gets a lot of sewing done and students go home with samples of many different Seminole border patterns.

There are a few openings left, so if you’d like to give it a try or just want more information, you can contact Beryl at

March 3, 2019, Uncategorized
Quilt Problem Solving

Last Fall I was contacted by Renee. She lives in the Milwaukee area and she had a quilting problem. She’d begun an adventurous project, sewn quite a few portions together and then had to stop to have knee surgery. When she went back to it – it was a mass of pieces and she couldn’t make heads nor tails of it.

She invited me to come and see what we could do with her jumbled pile of pieced wedges. When I arrived I began by reading over the pattern. This only confused me more and I felt a little overwhelmed as to what to do next. Then I started looking at the wedges and realized they were numbered, and marked left and right! I told Renee how great it was that she had done this and then I said “let’s lay out what you have so we can figure out what you have left to do”.

With the first layout it was evident she had already done a large portion of the piecing. Whew!

We just needed to figure out which pieces were missing. A sense of relief filled the kitchen (from both of us :-)). We discovered there were 2 more shorter wing portions missing at the top, but we decided they weren’t essential and she could substitute 2  purple background wedges.

The tail portion was missing from the labeled pieces, but portions of it had already been made. Renee was short a few of the “chunks” the pattern called for, so we set up her machine and patched together what was needed from her leftovers. Even though placement of the gradation was not exactly the same as the original pattern, she had enough to get ‘er done .

At this point she felt confident she could piece it together, so we had a lovely lunch and I went on my way. She continued to work on it and got the wedges sewn together:

next she appliquéd the body:

and her Phoenix was ready for the quilter!

I waited a few months to share this post because I wanted to end it with a photograph of Matt and his quilt. Here’s Matt and Grandma Renee after he  got his Phoenix at Christmas. 

She said he was one very happy young man, and added:

“Actually we all thought it looked perfect on our fireplace, so guess what?  I’ll be making another one soon!”

Atta Girl Renee! I’m sure you won’t have any problems with the second one now that you’ve figured it out!

So my advice to anyone who is trying to get back into a previously started project – lay out what you have done before you do anything else.

February 24, 2019, Piecing
Help For a Bleeding Quilt

A few weeks ago Lynn sent me the following comment. It led me to write this week’s post:

“I recently finished a quilt, washed it with color grabbers and still had the colors bleed.  Purchased the fabric at a reputable quilt shop and began a class using the batik fabrics the same day.  My question is would you please speak on fabric preparation before beginning process and also ways of rectifying disasters such as this?
Normally I wash all fabric before starting, besides bleeding have had unequal shrinking concerns, but when taking a class, this is not always possible.”

Yikes! I have only had this problem happen to me once, many many years ago, and I never did get the stains out. It was a scrap quilt in blues and one of the fabrics bled to the back of the quilt just a little, along the quilting lines, wherever that fabric happened to be in the quilt. I didn’t notice it right away and was grateful it was on the back. I simply use it and ignore the problem, but that probably isn’t the best way to deal with it :-).

I wrote Lynn back with supportive words and questions. She sent me this picture with her response:

“Actually didn’t dry it before noticing the bleeds and even washed it using color grabbers and cold water. After trying all suggested remedies: oxyclean, borax, dawn and finally bleach, (lighter fluid was the exception), I carefully painted worst bleeds with bleach.  Not totally gone, but much better.  Very glad this was going to be my quilt and not made for someone else.

Here’s a picture of her finished quilt. It is lovely!

So – I’m hoping this post will be the start of some information sharing that will help all of us with future problems. As most of us know, color bleed occurs when fabric gets wet and dye leaches out of the fibers. This commonly occurs in the washing machine and can result in color transfer between items in the load.

So here are a few of my own thoughts, and some recommendations I got off the internet:

Prevention is the best solution!

Pre-wash your fabrics! Especially if the quilt is made to be used and washed (I have to admit I don’t always wash the fabrics I use in my art quilts because I don’t plan to ever wash them, but I realize this is not a super wise decision).

I’m always concerned that putting all the fabrics in the washer with a color catcher to pre-wash them may not stop a problem, so I typically fill the sink with a couple of inches of lukewarm water and, beginning with the lightest value fabric, I submerge the fabric and then squeeze out the excess water. If the water stays clear, I throw that piece in the dryer and go to the next lightest fabric. If one of the fabrics does bleed, I continue to rinse it, change the water, rinse it… until it stops bleeding. If it doesn’t after 4 or 5 changes – I don’t use that fabric! When all the fabrics are “safe” I throw in a color catcher/grabber and turn on the dryer. This has worked well for me.

In Lynn’s case, she didn’t have the chance to pre-wash her fabric because she took the class the same day she purchased her fabric. I have had this happen and my solution was to cut a small piece (2″ square) from each of the fabrics that look like possible bleeders, get them wet, squeeze the water out, and lay them on a white piece of paper towel. I leave them for 5 to 10 minutes and if the paper stays white, chances are they’re ok.

Another good idea is to put a color catcher/grabber sheet in with every quilt you wash.

Too late – the quilt came out of the washer bleeding!

Lynn tried some of these options, and didn’t have perfect results, but they are a good place to start:

Don’t let it dry!!!  I’m not kidding – if you let it dry the stain will set and be much harder to remove. Make a paste of a color-safe, oxy-bleach mixed with lukewarm water (not actual bleach!) Spread it over the stained area and allow it to penetrate for 5 minutes. While that sits, mix the oxy-bleach into a bucket full of lukewarm water (follow manufacturers instructions for amounts). Once dissolved, stir in one gallon of cool water and submerge the quilt in the mix. Let soak for one to five hours. Rinse well and repeat if needed.

As I did some research on the web, variations on the above instructions came up again and again. If your quilt does dry it would still be worth trying this process.

Another suggestion I found was in a comment to a blog from “Sarah” who said Carbona Run Remover is “amazing, amazing, amazing! Doesn’t do a darn thing to the colors that are supposed to be there, but gets the ones out that aren’t.” You can find information on this product at: . 

She also recommended Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover. I found both at Walmart and JoAnn’s on-line, and I think I need to purchase them to have on hand – just in case.

I have one more suggestion for a quilt that has dried and no amount of effort or product gets the stain out. My dear friend, Sharon Rotz, had this problem with one of her wonderful quilts. It was featured in her book “Log Cabin Quilts With Attitude”:

I remember her telling me about it years ago, so I emailed her and asked if I could share her story:

“As far as the efforts to clean up the bleeding quilt, I used quilt soap, dye magnet sheets in washer, then desperately, laundry detergents and finally appliqué. On the up side, the quilt is very soft from being washed so many times!”

Appliqué is a good option if all else fails. The worst of her quilt’s bleeding was on the back so, in keeping with the garden theme, she appliquéd fabric printed with seed packets!

She even added a few packets to the front. Here’s a detail photo:

Well done Sharon! 

So now it’s your turn. Do you have a story about a bleeding quilt? Was the outcome good or not so good? Any fixes we haven’t touched on yet? Have you tried any of the products or ideas mentioned with success? Please share so we can all learn!

February 17, 2019, Uncategorized
Fabric Origami

A few weeks ago I shared a picture of the origami Hawaiian shirts we made while on our Hawaiian cruise (they measure about 2″ x 3″). The updated picture above shows the shirts with leis Wendy crocheted for everyone.

The idea originated with an ornament my friend Jean blessed me with a few Christmas’ ago. She’d found the pattern while vacationing in Hawaii and was kind enough to share it with me. The problem – we wouldn’t have access to enough irons to make this project according to directions while on board the ship. Hmm…

First I tried making a shirt out of scrapbooking paper, but it wasn’t fabric (I really prefer fabric – and I’m sure you get that).

Next, I found a “Layer Cake” of tropical batiks that I thought would look great (in case you don’t know, a “Layer Cake” is what quilters call a pack of 10″ squares). I shrank the pattern down a bit and tried to make a shirt by simply finger pressing the tightly woven batik, but it was too limp.

Then I had a very distant memory come to the surface: years ago, when I first taught quilting at MATC in Watertown, my friend Barb told the story of her time in nursing school when she and her roommates would need to make their caps crisp and stiff. To do this they soaked them in liquid starch and smoothed them onto the shower stall. It was worth a try!

Our shower stall has never been this colorful! When they were dry I peeled them off and ironed them smooth. The side of the squares that touched the shower came out shiny, so we folded that side to the inside when doing the origami. It was simple to cut the squares into the appropriate sized rectangles and the fabric finger pressed beautifully. All of our travelers were successful.

I didn’t get a photograph of the group with their folded shirt ornaments, but we’re having a cruise reunion in a couple of months and I’ll be sure to have everyone bring their’s along so I can send a quick pic in a future post :-).

So, if you ever want to try an origami pattern with fabric – now you know the easy way! And if you’d like to try making your own Hawaiian shirt ornament – I did an internet search for videos on origami shirt ornaments and there were quite a few to choose from :-).

February 10, 2019, Uncategorized

Last October I had a wonderful time teaching at a Quilt Festival in Spring Grove, MN (Click here to read the post I wrote about that visit). While there I met a very talented quilter and I was blown away by her work. Her name is Doreen and she describes herself as “A quilter who rides a motorcycle, living on a small hobby farm in southeastern Minnesota. Grandmother and Great Grandmother and now retired.”

Treadlemusic is what she calls her business and it is a fitting name for what she does. Her machine quilting is exquisite (she was actually doing it while at the show, but what I found most engaging about her work is what she does with vintage linens!

Aren’t they amazing?!? She truly gives new life to old pieces. In this picture you can see her “before” and “after” on a simple embroidered doily.

Here’s a link to just one of her blog posts:

Have you ever used vintage linens in your quilts? Doreen has really encouraged me to look at my collection of doilies and tablecloths as a drawer full of opportunities. Thanks Doreen, for letting me share your quilts and inspiration!


Also… Today was the Artist Reception for the Quilt As Art exhibit at the Cultural Arts Center in Whitewater, WI. I’m posting a little late, as I just returned home. The exhibit is being held in a lovely old building on Main Street. There are seven artists whose work is on display and the variety of work is fascinating. Here are just a few pictures:

The show runs from today until February 24th, and the gallery is open Thursday – Sunday; noon to 5pm. For all the details please go to:

February 3, 2019, Uncategorized
Silhouette Appliqué

I’ve posted about my Repliqué technique a few times in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever featured the great way it works to create silhouettes on your quilts.

The very first time I tried it was for a challenge back in the 90’s. A year ago I did a post about that challenge (please click here to read that post), and this is the quilt I made for it:

Just so you aren’t too impressed with my artistic abilities, the floral design was actually printed on the fabric, white-on-white, and I simply stitched along the foliage.

What I loved about the technique was that it used machine free-motion stitching, but I didn’t need to be perfect at it, because the stitches wouldn’t show like they do when free-motion quilting. I’ve used it for many quilts since then. Here are just a few:

Silhouette design 1
Aunt Gracie’s Farm
Brad’s Grad Quilt

One of the projects I’ve been working on recently involves silhouettes of Mike and me with our grandkids. This one is of Hanna and me when she was 2 (she just turned 13 – oh my!)

After making this one I needed to do one of Grandpa with Willy when he was 2 (now he’s almost 11 – the years do fly by).

This past year I’ve made a quilt of Trey helping grandpa stack wood (he’s 3).

And Sommer quilting with me. She was almost 6 at the time. She may be a bit older than the others, but I loved the photo.

I hang them in a grouping using my Modular Memory Quilt technique (please click here for a previous post about it).

I’m in the process of writing a book on many of the techniques I use in my Modular Memory quilts and silhouette appliqué will be covered in it. So if you’re intrigued by this technique – stay tuned :-).

If you live nearby, and would like to try your hand at creating silhouettes in fabric, please consider signing up for my February 22nd class at WCTC.

You’ll learn to repliqué the floral pattern onto a beautiful background fabric, and the exciting part is – we’ll be doing free-motion satin stitching! It’s actually fun because the stitches are so close together it’s almost impossible to do it wrong :-). You can sign up at, but please do it soon. I need a few more students for the class to run. Email me at with any questions.


and one more thing:

I’m participating in an upcoming quilt show in Whitewater, Wisconsin called:

The Art of the Quilt

and here are the details:

A quilt show will be featured at the Whitewater Arts Alliance’s Cultural Arts Center, 402 West Main Street, from February 1 to 24, Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.  There is a free reception, open to the public, on Sunday, February 3rd from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the CAC.  

February will find one of the Whitewater Arts Alliance’s most popular exhibits returning to the Cultural Arts Center.  “The Art of the Quilt” will feature the work of several talented area quilters.  As of this date, the WAA has commitments to share their creativity from Mary Althaus (Whitewater), Chris Kirsch (Watertown), Rita Oehrke (Palmyra), Lori Schloesser (Watertown), Michele Smith (Whitewater), and Sue Theune (Whitewater).

I’d love to invite you to the reception on Sunday, February 3rd. All the artists should be there and it promises to be a fascinating show. I will have many of my favorite quilts on display. If you can’t make the reception, but you live in Southeastern Wisconsin, please consider taking a ride out to Whitewater during the month of February to add a bit of color to your snowy winter!

January 27, 2019, Uncategorized

Our Hawaiian cruise was a sunny, fun and fascinating time in paradise. It may be over, but I have so many wonderful memories and I’d like to share a few with you!

Wendy and I began our trip with a few days in Honolulu simply getting use to the warmth and sunshine. By day two we were ready to walk to the top of Diamond Head.

That evening the rest of our group joined us and the next morning we were on our first tour – to Pearl Harbor. It was a very moving experience.

From there we boarded the Pride of America (how fitting). There were 40 of us total and it was a fun and friendly group.

We visited 5 ports of call on 4 islands and were blessed to see volcanos, waterfalls, rain forests, sandy beaches, along with macadamia nut, cocoa and coffee plantations. This trip had it all!

Fern Grotto flat bottom boat ride in Kauai
Napali Coast

Some of us were even able to swim under a waterfall!

Not only were the flora and fauna beautiful, but we found a few quilt shops along the way:

Yellow Hibiscus – the State flower
Quiltina just can’t resist a bit of photo-bombing!

Our class time went well. All participants had great results with their Hawaiian Paintstik Appliqué projects.

And we even threw in some extra fun – making fabric origami shirts to be kept as Christmas ornaments. A lovely reminder of the trip.

I will be sharing some additional photos and inspiration in the next few blog posts, but today I’d like to leave you with this lovely sunset view.


And one final note:

I came upon this information recently and I’d like to share it before I forget. In my free motion quilting classes we talk a lot about machine tension. In Bob’s latest email from Superior Threads he posted a great handout on thread tension, complete with easy to understand diagrams. Click here to see it – and print it out!

January 20, 2019, Uncategorized
New Year’s Smiles and Upcoming Classes

Teaching Quilting is one of the greatest blessings in my life. I’ve met so many wonderful people, learned far more than I’ve taught, visited fascinating places, and made dear friends. I’m grateful God planned it to be a part of my life, because I certainly hadn’t.

As I travel and teach I often come upon quilts and their makers that are simply too interesting or amusing not to share. This happened once again a few weeks ago when I was invited to present my “But I Still Love You” lecture for the Crazy Quilters in Mukwonago, WI. It just happened to be their Christmas party and the appetizer/dessert potluck was delicious. I think the guild enjoyed seeing my antique quilts and hearing their stories.

After the talk came show and tell. I love show and tell, and this group didn’t disappoint. There were many lovely quilts, but the two that stole the show were from Jean Cruikshank. They were made by her mom, Wilma Elkhart, and found in her belongings as Jean and her 4 brothers and sisters prepared for mom to move into assisted living. Jean said the first one was made from favorite shirts/sweaters that had belonged to Jean and her siblings:

Wilma had a rather unique and straightforward method for including the garments! The “dots” are actually the tied knots holding the comforter together, and it gave us all a bit of a chuckle. 

Then Jean brought out Wilma’s second creation. It’s made from the dresses she wore for her’s and her children’s weddings. Prepare yourself…

Admit it – you smiled. Many of us in the room laughed out loud. The entire garments were stitched in place, then the layers were tied together once again.

I really have never seen anything quite like it. Thanks Jean, for letting me share these delightful “quilts”.


As a new year approaches it’s always fun to try something new. So let me tell you about 4 all day workshops I have scheduled for the upcoming semester at WCTC. 

Pinwheel Strips

Friday, January 25, 9 – 2:30

Silhouette Applique

Friday, February 22, 9 – 2:30

Spin Star

Friday, March 15, 9 – 2:30

Paintstik Fun

Friday, April 12, 9 – 2:30


I’d also like to tell all the local Wisconsin quilters about two new teachers at WCTC. Nan Feurer will be teaching 4 quilting workshops this semester and Fatun Mohomed will be teaching garment construction. You can read about all of our classes and register on-line at

Simply type “quilt” or “sewing” into the “Course Search” box and then click on “Find Courses”. 


And, just to let you know, I will be taking a 2 week vacation from my blog beginning this week. Wendy and I leave Wednesday to take a group of quilters and friends on a cruise around Hawaii. We are really looking forward to getting away to warmth and sunshine – and I’ve decided the computer won’t be going along. 

Happy New Year one and all!

December 30, 2018, Uncategorized
Merry Christmas 2018

Christmas is such a beautiful season and I’d like to set the tone for this year’s post with a picture of a lovely Christmas angel made from a hymnal by my dear friend Maria. 

What a treasure. Thank you Maria!

Every Christmas my friend Sharon and I like to ring and sing for the Salvation army. This year my grandson Trey joined in for the first half hour. We’ve been doing this for at least 16 years, and it’s still a bright spot in my Christmas season! 

Another tradition is cookie baking. My mom and I have never missed a year since I was old enough to help. Dad’s a big help too. His best skill is tasting our results, but he’s gotten quite good at decorating gingerbread men and unwrapping kisses with Trey. My daughter-in-law Betsy, along with Sommer and Trey, are now part of the tradition. So much fun!!!

The tree is up, the gifts are wrapped, and the house is ready for the upcoming celebrations.

For years I used to overdo and stress about the holiday preparations, but in recent times I’ve cut back to just the essentials and my focus is daily on the true gift of Christmas – the birth of our Savior – who became a man, lived a sinless life, then suffered and died to save us from our sins and prepare a place for us in heaven. 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3:16

What a wonderful reason to celebrate! God bless us, everyone!

December 23, 2018, Uncategorized
From One Barn to Another

When you say barn quilt nowadays, people often picture a wooden barn block attached to the exterior of an actual barn. I have one of those and posted about it years ago (click here to read that post).

Earlier this year I made a fabric barn quilt and entered it in a contest in which it traveled for 6 months. After I got it back I realized I had never included it in a blog post. It was a very enjoyable project and I tried a number of different techniques to accomplish my goals, so I felt it was time to share it with all of you – since it’s still the same year as I made it (by 2 weeks  :-D) ! It’s called “From One Barn to Another” and it measures 24″ square.

This was actually created by combining photographs of two different barns owned by my friends Glen and Di Lohr who live just across the road from me. Di was happy to have me do a photoshoot one sunny summer afternoon, as inspiration for a Barn Quilt challenge which invited quilters to do something innovative with the barn theme.

The majority of the quilt is the interior of their German Fachwerk barn.

Unfortunately this window didn’t look out at their more traditional Wisconsin style barn. But that didn’t stop me, I just Photoshopped™ it in,

and used my repliqué technique to do most of the work. 

The bricks created the greatest challenge for me. I certainly didn’t want to satin stitch all the way around each one. Neither did I want to use raw-edged repliqué (stitch around each brick and trim away so the mortar shows through). So I did something completely different – I thread-painted (stitched heavily in mortar colored thread) the mortar in as a wholecloth design on brick colored fabric! 

The challenge fabric we were required to use was a barn board print. I used both sides of the fabric to achieve shading in the window frame (the right side was gray while the reverse was much whiter):

Out the window I did all the man-made objects with repliqué, and the God-made objects with raw-edged repliqué (no satin stitching).

When it came to the ceiling, I didn’t have a dark enough shade of brown, so I painted what I did have:

I was pleased with the finished results. I’m going to hang on to it for a little longer, in hopes of exhibiting it in a few shows, but eventually is will be gifted to my wonderful neighbors.

December 16, 2018, Uncategorized
Hand-made Christmas

We were living in Sun Prairie, WI when I first learned to quilt. After a few years of making quilts I decided selling them in craft fairs might be fun. At one of these fairs I met Jeannie. She loved quilts, but had no desire to make them, so we worked out a deal. It turned out – she and her husband made original design Santas and I already had a Santa collection 🙂 . Jeannie’s husband did the carving and she did the painting. We worked out a barter. She ended up with a number of my handmade quilts,

while I was thrilled to acquire 5 of their unique Santas (the tallest is 10″) .

Fast forward to last month when I was teaching in North Dakota. Amy was in my free motion quilting class. She caught on fast and did very well, but she admitted to me her first love was knitting. The next day she stopped by my classroom and handed me a small box with a thank you note attached. Inside was a hand-knit Santa!

Amazing! And now he’s part of the family. They may not be jolly, but I love them all!

What a wonderful gift. Thank you so much Amy!

By the way – Amy has patterns available on-line, and her work in lovely! You can see for yourself at:


Also – if you’re looking for a unique, last minute Christmas gift, my daughter-in-law, Betsy, has an Etsy shop where she sells her macramé and animal sketches:

Her macramé is lovely: 

and she has many adorable animal sketches available (each one is 8″ x 10″):

If you’d like a sketch or painting of your own pet or favorite animal, Betsy  would be happy to work with you. You can contact her at: 

And, for those of you who live in Southeastern Wisconsin, Betsy also has her work available at “There’s No Place Like Home” in Oconomowoc (25 S. Main St.).  She’s very talented (I’d say that even if we weren’t related, LOL)

I think hand-made gifts are the best!

December 9, 2018, Uncategorized
Adding Borders – Quilt as You Go!

Last week I shared a technique for bordering a block quilt-as-you-go, but have you ever finished the quilting  on a project and realized it would look nicer with one more border? or maybe it needs to be just a little bigger? I’ve had this happen a number of times and, before I bound the outside edge, I did something about it! This also works for quilts that have been constructed “quilt-as-you-go” fashion and need borders, and it works on any quilt – small or large. It’s as simple as:

1. Measure the top and bottom edges of the quilt, decide the border width, and make two border strips this width and length from each of: (a) the border fabric for the front of the quilt, (b) the backing fabric and (c) batting. (Please be aware I’m using a sample quilt sandwich as my “quilt” for this demo – I was practicing feathers  🙂 )

2. Choose 1 set of borders and lay the border fabric (a), right sides together, and even with the top edge of the front of the quilt.

3. Pin this strip in place and flip the quilt over to the back. Lay the back border strip (b) even with the same edge of the quilt, right sides together.

4. Lay the batting strip (c) on top of this back border strip.

5. Add more pins along the edge through all the layers

and sew through all six layers with a ¼” seam allowance (a walking foot is very helpful).

6. Fold all the border strips away from the quilt, and on top of each other to make a flat border:

Here’s a side view:

7. Press this new quilted border along the edge, pin if desired, and repeat for the bottom of the quilt.

8. Measure the sides of the quilt and repeat from step 1 above to add the side borders.

The borders may now be quilted (if needed) and the binding attached. I like to quilt a straight line ½” from the border seam all the way around. This encases the seam allowance and it’s thickness adds a nice fill to this narrow quilted area.

I hope this was helpful and easy to understand. It is a very do-able technique :-).


Continuing Stories:

A few weeks ago I shared the story of a shirt and tie quilt made by my friend Jean. She recently wrote to tell me she made a label for the quilt using a pattern for an origami Hawaiian shirt ornament she’d made as Christmas gifts in 2014. I was a lucky recipient of one of those ornaments:

And here’s the label (name removed to protect privacy):

Adding the “dry clean only” advice on the label was a great idea too. She also said she tucked some leftover tie fabric in a few of the border pockets.

I was so glad she included these pictures. Thanks again Jean!

Also, in response to Debbie’s quilt for little Grace, Beth emailed me this: “I saw your picture of the memory quilt with the clothes. I thought I would share the quilts I made for my great niece and great nephew with their onesies!”

So many great ideas – thanks Beth!

December 2, 2018, finishing
Finishing a Small Quilt – “Quilt-as You-Go”

Looking for a quick way to finish a small quilt – borders and all?

I have a small block I want to border, finish and hang on the wall (this would work great for placemats and table runners too). Rather than adding the borders and then layering and quilting the traditional way, I decided to cut the backing and batting a little larger than the size of the finished quilt.

*Then I layered them on the work surface: backing, wrong side up, then batting.

*Next I centered my block on top and pinned it in place.

*I cut border strips for the sides at the appropriate size, layered them right-sides-together with the block and sewed them on with a ¼” seam allowance, pressing the border over the batt after stitching.

These seams will act as quilting lines.

I then measured, cut, and stitched the top and bottom borders on in the same fashion.

I began with larger pieces of backing/batting then my first border required, because these were leftovers from a previous project. I could now add another border if I want, since the extra backing/batting is already there, or I can square this up and bind as usual.

I’m thinking one border is enough – gotta go – time to bind!



Fascinating Specialty Quilts

Over the past month or so I’ve seen a few quilts that are so unique I just have to share. Last week I posted about the Capital Quilters show in Bismarck, ND. One of the quilters who was in my Beginning Fiber Art class, Colleen, had a quilt in the show that really made me smile. It’s called Mod TVs (I apologize that I don’t have Colleen’s last name, nor the quilter of her quilt – the picture of the card on the quilt was too blurry to read):

Colleen said she made it from a pattern, but the special part was she picked some of her favorite cartoon characters from the past and her long-arm quilter came up with patterns to put them on the tv screens.

What a trip down memory lane. Thanks Colleen!

The next quilt I want to share was made by Debbie Hawver. She was asked by a friend to make a memory quilt from her granddaughter Grace’s clothes. Debbie did an amazing job of fitting the clothes together:

She kept many of the flounces, straps, and ruffles, and even repliquéd Grace’s name in her favorite colors. What a treasure! Great job Debbie!

Debbie is a regular in my Open Lab class, as is Jean Casey, who also made a fascinating quilt for a friend. Her friend’s husband died unexpectedly and Jean was asked to make a memory quilt from his shirts and ties. She decided to match them up and created this amazing quilt in a “quilt-as-you-go” fashion.

Jean used the collars along with the ties, and then quilted each block in a pattern to match the tie.

In this one straight quilting lines are an extension of angles in the tie fabric.

She matched up railroad tracks with the train tie.

And this one is self explanatory. Jean said she did a bit of free-motion practicing before actually quilting this block.

The border is made from leftover shirt pieces and she even put a few pockets in for fun! Well done, Jean.

Three very different and delightful quilts. Thanks for letting me share them ladies.


Also – last week I mentioned a great idea for making sample quilt sandwiches to practice free-motion quilting on:

Purchase pre-quilted muslin fabric with your 50% off coupon at JoAnn’s and simply cut it into smaller rectangles. I spent a few days teaching for the Shawnee Quilters in Carbondale, IL this past week (a wonderful group) and tried it out. It worked great! No basting sprays, no pins in the way, and it’s quite easy to ignore the cross-hatching in the background!

While I was in Carbondale I had a delightful surprise. Nancy had been at a meeting where I presented my Quilt Tales lecture – complete with tuxedo.

She snapped a pic of it and created her own  😀 ! front:

and back:

I love it – hope it made you smile.

November 18, 2018, Inspiration
Capital Quilters – North Dakota

Last weekend I had the exciting privilege to be the “National Teacher” at the Capitol Quiltfest in Bismarck, North Dakota. What a delightful group of quilters – and a wonderful show! I was blessed not only with the opportunity to teach 3 workshops and judge the quilts, but I also presented my Quilt Tales lecture at the Saturday banquet. What fun!

These are photos of some of my favorite quilts in the show:

The use of value in the barn quilt by Amy Munson is spectacular!

Great pieced and appliquéd quilts!

And so much variety!

The quilt to the left in this photo won Best of Show, and the modern one on the right, by Stepanie Mart won Viewer’s Choice.

The Best of Show quilt: Bouquets for a New Day, was made by Karen Boe, and quilted by Barbara Simons. All aspects were very well done. I was especially intrigued by the detailed quilting which was as intricate as thread-painting in some areas (note purple feathers below) and yet the quilt hung flat!

The dear woman who organized my visit and carted me around, Marlene Sapa, was the featured quilter of the show. She had an exhibit of her work and it was beautiful.

I learned a few things from the students in my Beyond Meandering workshop. One was that some basting sprays (used to hold the quilt sandwiches we stitched on together) caused skipped stitches – so beware! Another was a Laura Heine idea shared by Jenny:

When making sample quilt sandwiches to practice free-motion quilting – use your 50% off coupon at JoAnn’s and buy pre-quilted muslin fabric. What a great idea! The pre-quilted lines can be ignored. Just cut to the right size and begin!

I so enjoy watching the students try out the various patterns and find the ones they like to stitch.

The last day of the show I taught Beginning Fiber Art. This is a class for traditional quilters who don’t know if they can make art quilts, but who want to try. Everyone gets a new, “artsy” name and I bring an overflowing suitcase of my Parallelisms quilts.

It’s always exciting to see what everyone creates. There are contemplative moments:

But there are also moments of joyful discovery and play:

Thank you everyone at the Quilt fest – I had a marvelous time!


November 11, 2018, Travel
Designing Fabric – A Mermaid Quilt

I know a number of quilters who have their own photographs/designs printed on fabric through Spoonflower. com. I’ve always found it intriguing, but didn’t have the perfect project in mind. A few weeks ago Louise came to my Open Lab class with a project in mind, but no idea how to do it. So I decided to do a trial run of my own – but what did I want to have printed on fabric? That same day Mike and I were out for a ride and the sky was beautiful. We pulled over and I took a few photos. I thought this one would be lovely as a yard of fabric:

So I got on the website, created an account, and clicked on: “Design”, “Design Your Own”, and then “Upload Fabric Design”. The step-by-step directions are quite easy to use. You can choose the fiber content of your fabric and the size you’d like (fat quarter or yard). The first time you order they offer a discount. I chose premium cotton and the cost of my first yard of fabric came to about $15 with the discount. I was very pleased:

I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, but it will be used  🙂 .

So I told Louise, and the rest of the class, how well it worked. Her great-niece Olivia had drawn this mermaid and, as you can see, she asked Aunt Louise to make it into a quilt.

Louise doesn’t have a photo editing program on her computer, so I put Olivia’s drawing into Photoshop™, cropped and resized it, then added a watery background at Louise’s request (I’m really enjoying the challenge of learning how to use Photoshop™).

I then created a 40″ x 36″ image with 8″ block repeats, and added a few white background mermaids in the extra space.

In the lower left corner I pasted Olivia’s request to be used in the label.

The large white area on the lower left makes it look like there’s nothing there, but the white fabric does go to the corner.

Louise was very pleased with the fabric. I can’t wait to see Olivia’s quilt!

Spoonflower also has a lot of fabrics available for sale that others have printed, plus they sell these designs as wallpaper or gift wrap too. It’s a fun site to browse through.

Have you used Did you create your own fabric or purchase someone else’s unique fabric? Have you made anything from it? I’d love to see pictures :-D!


And here’s a little FYI  🙂 :

Whenever I post something you would like to save, you can either “bookmark” that page on your computer, or print it out. I know many quilters like a hard copy with color pictures and, if your device is attached to a printer, it’s only a click away. Simply click on the “print me” under the post title (circled in red with an arrow):

This will only appear if you open an individual post. If you don’t see “print me”, you are most likely on my full blog. In this case you need only click on the title of that post to get to the single post page and find the “print me” link.

I hope this is helpful!

November 4, 2018, Design Fabric
A Unique Quilt Show

On October 13th I left early in the morning to present a 1:30 lecture at the:


Autumn was in full swing and the sun rising through the trees was beautiful.

Spring Grove is a lovely small town in the southeastern corner of Minnesota, and the entire 3½ hour ride was very enjoyable, both going and coming home. I left early in the morning so I’d have time to see the show before I was to speak. I had wondered why it was billed as a “Quilt Show and Sale”, but assumed there was a vendor mall with items for sale – like most quilt shows. I was surprised to discover that, not only did they have a nice group of vendors, but all the quilts in the show were for sale! From Autumn table runners to king sized, hand quilted, Lone Stars (made by the local Amish women), there was something for everyone!

I was intrigued by their simple hanging system – clothes hangers! No sleeves required.

This even worked when hanging quilts double – they simply clamped the hangers top and bottom and linked the hooks:

Many of the quilts contained preprinted panels, pieced together in interesting ways. I especially liked this pair of table runners:

I presented my Gradation Play lecture, and was so pleased to see that Mary Deters, the quilter who made the arrangements for my visit, had a quilt in the show using a lovely blue gradation in the background:

The Amish women, some of whom had quilts in the show, also provided lunch and desserts.

And they were as yummy as they look (I did ask permission to take this picture, as I know these dear people do not like to be photographed).

Thank you to all of the Spring Grove quilters for inviting me to be a part of your wonderful show!

October 28, 2018, Travel
Make a Scrap Quilt Without Even Trying

My friend, Lori Schloesser, is a very talented quilter. She loves to piece and machine quilt, but she looks tempted to run in the opposite direction when the “A” word is mentioned. She simply doesn’t like to appliqué. This is ok since her piecing is amazing! She recently brought a scrap quilt to our Fiberista meeting and we were impressed.

It’s queen sized and made from 1″ finished squares! WOW! Here’s a detail shot:

When asked about it she said she didn’t have a pattern, and her plan isn’t to sit down and make a quilt. She simply cuts out a lot of 1½” squares, and sews the squares into pairs as “leaders and enders” while strip piecing other projects. When she finally has enough – she makes a quilt. If that isn’t clear, and even if it is,  – you simply must read the following steps, in her own words  🙂 :

“• Cut lots of 1-1/2 inch squares.

• At the end of a set of chain piecing on a different project, sew two squares together and leave them under the needle.

• Start the next set of chain piecing and at the end, again sew two squares together, leaving them under the needle.  The first two squares will be at the start of the chain. Press them as you press your other project and put the squares in a container.

• When I have enough to sew the block together, I make a little space near my sewing machine and lay the pieces out.  I sew them together the same way – at the end of chain piecing another project.

• I generally use sort of a dark/light arrangement, but my only real criteria is that each square not blend in with the squares around it.  That means any white/very light squares go in the center so they don’t blend in with the white strips.

• I cut the white strips to size (4-1/2, 6-1/2, 8-1/2 and 10-1/2 inches) to help keep everything square and the right size.  (If I can’t attach a white strip without getting pleats, I need to go back and fix seam allowances.)

I like to lay out the blocks on point alternating the two blocks.  

You could use solid white for the side triangles but I prefer to use more blocks and cut them in half to finish the quilt.  Of course I take apart the cut off ends and reuse the pieces.

That’s it! Makes me want to cut a lot of squares and leave them next to my machine. What a great way to use up those small pieces leftover from finished projects, instead of leaving them in a pile because you don’t know what to do with them (my technique – and the reason my sewing room looks like it does most of the time).

The next month Lori brought in this scrap quilt:

And we were amazed all over again. This block she pieces on a rectangular foundation, usually newsprint.

I love greens and browns, so I really find this quilt appealing. And the overall leafy quilting design adds to the organic feel.

She said her strippy quilts: “are an intentional project. I usually make them whenever I don’t have another project and just need to sew without thinking too much about it.” Then she sent me pictures of some other scrappy, strippy quilts she’s made this way:

I asked Lori to tell me more about these quilts and here’s her response:
“I usually make them 60 x 80, so a big lap quilt or a really skimpy twin.  I have generally used them as gifts for acquaintances (like co-worker weddings).  I’ve started donating them since I’m making more quilts than I’ve opportunity to give them to people I know.  I’ve donated a couple to the Lutherdale Bible Camp quilt auction and one to a work-related fundraiser.  I like to have at least a couple in reserve – it’s so much easier to give them away if they’re already done and ready to go.”  

I know she also donates quilts to Project Linus. What a generous quilter!

Thank you Lori, for sharing your quilts and your process with us!

October 21, 2018, Scraps
Half Square Triangle Tricks – Trimming

Just a quick warning concerning last week’s post. May wrote to say that the “ripper perch” looked a bit dangerous. We should always be careful with any of our tools, but I wanted to assure you that I keep the ripper’s cover on it when not in use.

As I mentioned last week (click here for that post), the center of the quilt that I’m working on contains 336 – 3″ finished half square triangle blocks (there will be more needed for the border). They’re pressed and cut apart and now it’s time to trim.

I find the most time consuming part of trimming is aligning the ruler for every cut. That prompted me to get a Bloc Loc™ ruler – and I’m very happy with it.

This ruler has a groove on the bottom for the seam allowance to nest in.

This means the seams must be pressed to the side. To begin I lined up the Bloc Loc™ groove on the seam, and centered it on the block (I’m trimming my blocks to 3 ½”).

I rotary cut the top and right sides:

Next comes the tricky part. The ruler and block need to be rotated to trim the other sides. I began with a “lazy susan” style cutting mat, but it was awkward and didn’t turn easily. Then I decided to try one of the mini cutting mats in my collection. I found this one spun quickly on my table. It worked great! So here it is rotated:

I simply slid the ruler down the seam allowance to the correct measurements:

and rotary cut the remaining two sides:

The best way to get great points when making half square triangle blocks is to be sure the diagonal seam drops off the block at the exact corners. The groove on this ruler guarantees it!

It’s amazing how long it takes to trim that many blocks, but I am really pleased with how accurate they all are:

After my last post Nancy commented that she likes using the Clearly Perfect Slotted Trimmers™ for squaring up her half square triangles. I’ve watched a You Tube video on them and I think I may need to give them a try – to compare them with the Bloc Loc™. Stay tuned.

October 14, 2018, Piecing
Half Square Triangle Tricks – Pressing and Cutting

My neighbor Di is a dear friend, great walking partner, and talented website designer. She has her own business: Adunate Word and Design, and she designed both my website and my blog. A while back she mentioned that both of these items were a bit ancient and they might begin to malfunction if I didn’t do a bit of updating. My response: “may I hire you?”

Figuring out the nitty gritty of how things work on the internet gives me the heebie jeebies. Her response made me smile. She asked me if I remembered her talking about the quilt she started for her daughter’s wedding – 4 years ago. Well, the fabric was in a bag, and much of it was cut into little pieces. I now have the bag and she’s in the process of updating my web presence  😀 !

I was sure I had the better end of that deal until I looked at the pattern for the king sized quilt:

and realized she had already cut out all the light triangles and 2″ squares. There was no opportunity to strip piece the 4-patches or the half square triangles! Yikes! Did I say KING SIZE?!?

I decided it was still a good deal – and began cutting all the dark triangles. I’m not sure I’ve ever done a quilt with this many small pieces, but I’m up for the challenge. I chain pieced all 336 half square triangles for the center of the quilt. When making half square triangles, the amount added for seam allowance is 7/8″ (½” for the square and an additional 3/8″ for the diagonal seam). In a perfect world, cutting at this measurement, sewing a perfect ¼” seam allowance, and pressing accurately, should yield accurate blocks that don’t need to be squared up. But only God is perfect. In my case I prefer to cut everything a bit larger than needed and do that trimming thing. So I added 1″ for seam allowance and stitched with a scant ¼” seam allowance.

I have two great gizmos to help with this project: a Tailor’s Clapper I purchased at the Madison Quilt Expo this year, and a Ripper Perch (I made that name up because I don’t know what it’s really called  🙂 ):

I left the half square triangle blocks chained together to make laying them out easier, and placed the first 9 on my ironing board. I pressed them, with the dark triangles on top, to set the seam (this will give you a crisper press):

Next I finger pressed the first one open and set the iron on it:

I then finger pressed the next one, set the iron on it and laid the “Tailor’s Clapper” on the previous square. It holds in the heat to give a great press:

I moved down the line in this way until I had all the blocks on the board pressed.

Now to cut them apart. I was given a very useful tool by my friend Judy a few years ago.

It’s a seam ripper set in a spool that velcros™ to a heart shaped base:

You simply pick up a pair of squares and pop the threads between them onto the ripper:

Voila – the thread cuts quickly and cleanly, then you move down the line.

Once the pressed triangles were stacked I could repeat the process for the remaining 327 half square triangle blocks!

Next week I’ll share my favorite tip for squaring up blocks!


And one more thing…

Next Saturday I’ll be the featured speaker at the Festival of Quilts in Spring Grove, Minnesota!


If you’re in the area – I’d love to have you join me for my Gradation Play lecture.

October 7, 2018, Piecing
A Delightful New Friendship

A memorable meeting took place for me at Expo this year. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about it. The story begins about 2 years ago. My friend Lisa asked me if I was on Lori Kennedy’s blog “The Inbox Jaunt”. I said “no” and she recommended I check it out. I did and I was very impressed.

Lori has a truly amazing blog. She posts daily (and I thought posting weekly was impressive 🙂 ). Her writing is well done and her photography is beautiful. Lori’s specialty is designing quilting motifs that can be broken into simple units so “normal” quilters can do them. I liked her work so much that when I read she was doing a lecture at the 2017 Madison Expo, I signed up right away.

I enjoyed her lecture and found her to be an engaging speaker. When taking lectures and workshops I like to watch for teaching techniques and styles that I can implement to improve my classes. I took many notes in her lecture.

When the talk was over she was mobbed by the crowd and, since I didn’t have any specific questions or comments, I moved on without actually meeting her.

Fast forward to this past Expo. The organizers hold a teacher “meet and greet” on Thursday after the show. It’s a delightful way to catch up with friends and get to know the other teachers. As I walked in I noticed Lori was there. We made eye contact, but she was chatting with a group, so I moved on. A short while later she came up to me and asked “you’re Chris Kirsch aren’t you?” I smiled and she told me that she, her mom, and her sisters, had been in a lecture I presented at a retreat in northwestern Illinois many (20 ?) years ago. She said my lecture had inspired her – WOW! To think that someone who’s work I admire was in some way inspired by me was such a blessing.

We had a lovely conversation and I even got to meet one of her daughters, Faye. The last day of the show I sought her out to ask if I could include her in an upcoming blog post – and to have my picture taken with her.

She said “yes” 😀 !

Lori is the author of a number of books and she writes articles for American Quilter magazine. I’m a fan, and I know you’ll enjoy her blog:

We never know whom we might influence in our life. I am so pleased to now know Lori as a friend!

Do you have a story about a teacher or quilter who has encouraged or influenced you in your quilting journey?

September 30, 2018, Challenges Uncategorized
Apples, Buttons, and Dachsunds – Oh My!

I got some great responses to last week’s blog post about Vicki’s red patch (click here to read all about it). Three of the quilters who wrote me were happy to send me pictures of their quilt “trademarks”, and I think they’ll make you smile.

Here’s Connie’s story:

“I don’t know if it was forethought on my part, but, as a primary teacher I always marked my students papers with an apple. I’ve carried this through on most of my quilt labels, which are in the shape of an apple, with a stem and a leaf usually using 3 different fabrics used in the quilt. On smaller pieces, I simply ink in an apple at the end of my name. My grandchildren are the recipients of many of my quilts. They always look for the apples and the message Gram wrote just for them.”

and these are 3 of her apple labels:

This is what Lorraine sent me:

“Long before I began quilting I was collecting buttons…LOTS of buttons (over 100,000)! So when I started quilting I decided I had to incorporate buttons somewhere. I decided to put buttons on each label, except on baby quilts, of course.” 

I try to be creative with how and where I use the buttons, but sometimes the best I can do is match the color of the backing!” 

The previous quilts incorporated the labels in their maker’s “trademark”. Liz, like Vicki last week, puts her mark on the front of the quilt. Here’s her story:

“My now 98 year old aunt suggested I always put something on my quilts to mark them as mine. My love for dachshund dogs has caused me to hide one somewhere on each quilt I have done. Pork Chop was my inspiration (at top on the photo). After he passed in 2014, we got Rusty, who looks very similar but thinner.”

And here are some of her quilts:

Did you find the doggie on this last quilt? He’s at Mary’s feet in the nativity  😀 .

What clever ideas – and so very unique. Great job ladies. Thanks so much for sharing your quilts with us!


September 23, 2018, Labels
A Red Patch

My friend Vicki Spiering is a talented, award winning quilter who did something simple when she first began making quilts – that I wish I had done! I’ll let her tell you in her own words:

I was introduced to quilting in 1989 by enrolling in an MATC adult ed quilting class at Greenfield High School. I had been a 4-H girl, loved to sew but didn’t know much about quilting. It was probably during one of these early classes, when the ladies of the class were visiting and getting to know each other, that an elderly lady in our class told me about an aunt who had made quilts for family members, placing a small green patch in each quilt (I’ll assume they were Irish). The quilter’s descendants had scoured antique stores checking old quilts; when they found one with the green patch, they knew that they had found their ancestor’s work. This idea appealed to me and my next fabric shopping spree included 2 yards of a red pin-dot fabric to incorporate someplace in my quilts. 

It’s been almost 30 years, and yes, every quilt of mine has a little red patch. And I still have plenty left from that 2 yard purchase.


In the early 90’s, for a few years, I had a little cottage quilt pattern company – and naming my business “A Red Patch” was easy. When friends and family receive my quilts, almost the first thing they do is hunt for the patch (red arrow added).

I don’t necessarily try to hide the red fabric patch, but I also don’t want it to stand out and distract from my quilt either.

I have my rules too. I now find it part of my art and think in advance where I might place it. The Red patch is never more than a single triangle in a block, or a leaf in a floral appliqué. I don’t want it to be obnoxious or a focal point in my quilt.

I do think of  my legacy and descendants who might search for my work knowing that my quilt, large or small, can always be identified by this red piece of fabric. It’s been fun.

This is a picture of the very first quilt I made with the red dot fabric in it:

I brought this quilt out to photograph for your blog and can’t stop thinking about how I went about starting it in1989. Class #1 was all about getting excited, talking about what a quilt was, patterns we might be wanting to make, etc. I jumped ahead of Class #2 and went out and bought my fabric. The pattern I picked said that I needed 36 – 1″ squares with 1/4″ seam allowance for each complete block, etc. I still remember cutting up a cereal box and making my cardboard templates. Then tracing around and hand cutting out 100+ little squares, half blue, half peach. I came to class with zip lock baggies full of little cut up squares and I was sure I was going to impress my teacher. Her mouth dropped and she felt so bad …. because class #2 was talking about tools, (Olfa cutter and rulers) and tricks (like strip piecing for a 9-patch). I threw the baggies out and bought more fabric. How far I’ve come :)”

Vicki’s most recent email included this message and picture:

“A few years ago I was in San Francisco and my husband Kurt (architect) and I visited a frank Lloyd Wright building. It was then that I discovered FLWright had red tiles made and one tile is in many of his buildings.”

What a nice addition to her story – and I’m pleased to add her image to the rest. Thank you Vicki for sharing your story and quilts. It almost makes me want to go back and add a patch of something to all my quilts, but I’m afraid it’s too late.

Has anyone else had the forethought to do something clever like this to make your quilts identifiable? Please share your story as a comment to this blog. If it’s too long – and you have pictures – please send me an email.


Ben Franklin Quilt Fest – Oconomowoc, WI

I’ve been invited to be one of the speakers at this year’s Quilt Fest! My talk will be about my new passion: Modular Memory Quilts! If you missed my lecture at the Madison Quilt Expo – here’s your chance  :-)! For information on all the activities go to:

September 16, 2018, Inspiration
Madison Quilt Expo 2018

I just returned home from 3½ fun filled days in Madison, WI at the Quilt Expo. Each year I like to do a post about the show because each year it seems to get bigger and better. It has become a national level show, with quilts and vendors from all over the US and a few other countries as well.

I know many quilters go to shows for the vendors, and I do enjoy a bit of the shopping frenzy, but my favorite part of the show is always the quilts. So, I immediately headed towards the competition quilts – and the first grouping I saw was the Expo’s annual challenge: “Bake Off”. My friend Lori had entered a spectacular quilt she entitled “Tools of the Trade” – and SHE WON THIRD PLACE!

Great job Lori!

I knew there was a special memorial exhibit of Nancy Zieman and Natalie Sewell’s quilts, so I decided to head there next. You may remember I posted about Natalie’s passing 2 months ago.

They were such good friends, and special friends of mine. I loved seeing their quilts one more time.

These dear ladies will be missed.

From there I went to see the competition quilts. The beauty, skill and creativity displayed in these quilts was overwhelming. What a feast for the eyes! I’d like to share just a few of my personal favorites, along with a photo of the cards that describe the quilt and credit the maker:

The detailed appliqué on this quilt is amazing, and the hand-quilting is so well done.

This quilt has a lovely, vintage feel, and I think the simple grid quilting was the perfect choice.

Made to God’s glory!

Kim’s use of ombré fabrics took this colorful quilt to a whole new level.

These talented ladies are friends of mine, and they all are very skilled crazy quilters.

I found Colin’s story fascinating.

What a wonderful use of a gradation fabric as the background, and what a joy to be able to share in Eileen’s celebration!

This one caused me to do a double-take. Take a look at the following close-up:

Now that’s true recycling!

The second day of the show a friend came up to me and said she liked my quilt. I was a bit confused, as I hadn’t entered a quilt this year. It turns out the Sun Prairie Barn Challenge quilts were hanging at the show and my barn was traveling with the group. Mine’s the one at the top right in the corner:

I repliquéd the interior of my friend Di’s Falkwerk barn, with a view of their traditional red barn out the window. I was sure I had shared that quilt in a previous blog post, but I can’t seem to find it. I think you might find it interesting, so please watch for it in a future post  🙂 .

I was blessed with the opportunity to teach at Expo once again this year. I taught both a Seminole piecing border workshop, and presented my new Modular Memory Quilts lecture. The students were delightful and I feel everything went well (although I forgot to take any pictures 🙁 ).

Over the years I’ve shared photos of a blue sedan covered in rubber duckies that is usually somewhere in the parking lot of the convention center, but I hadn’t noticed it for a couple of years. Well, as I was leaving the show to go out with a friend for pizza one night – look what was in front of us! Different car, same duckies.

They make me smile!

It was another spectacular show! And I enjoyed all aspects of it, but I think my favorite part each year is reconnecting with friends. Smiling, reminiscing, sharing stories and laughter, as well as starting some new friendships. What a blessing this quilt show is! Thanks to everyone at Nancy’s Notions and Wisconsin Public Television who work hard to make it a first class event. Thanks also to all the wonderful volunteers. I’m already looking forward to next year.


September 9, 2018, Travel
Piped Circles Made Simple

A few years ago I put together a lecture entitled “Going Round and Round”. In it I shared many ways to add circles and curves to quilts. One of the methods used a flange, piping, or rick-rack, to attach curved edges to a background by machine. I knew it would work for circles too, but hadn’t done it. Since then, when I teach my Mariner’s Compass class, I tell the students the compasses can be attached using piping, and this would be a blog topic soon. The time has come! And this will work for any circle – not just compasses  🙂 .

Here is a compass made by my friend Ida Porzky. She made me a number of different shaped compasses to use as samples when I wrote Compass Capers.

For this tutorial I’m using pre-packaged corded piping, but homemade would work just as well.

Whatever piping you use, measure the distance from the long raw edge of the piping to the stitches holding the cording in place. It should be about ¼”. Trim the seam allowance around the circle to this measurement:

On the right side of the circle, place the piping along the curved outer edge, with all raw edges even. Using a cording foot or a zipper foot on your machine, stitch on top of the stitches on the piping, all the way around, leaving about a 3″ space to connect the tails:

To connect the ends of the piping, remove an inch or two of the piping stitches to expose the cording. Overlap the cording ends:

Cut through both, and butt them together:

Pull the piping fabric back over the cording, trim the excess, turn under a ¼” hem on the outer piece, and wrap the fabric back around the cording. Pin in place:

Sew the remainder of the piping to the circle. Fold the raw edges to the back, rolling the corded portion to the outer edge (I drew the stitches in in white so you could see them):

Place the piped circle on the background fabric, with the cording around the outer edge. Pin in place:

Stitch in the ditch all the way around, in a color thread to match the piping fabric.

And you’re done!

No hand sewing and everyone will wonder how you got that skinny bit of piping in there so perfectly  😀 ! Please give it a try and let me know what you think!

Thank you Ida for making your wonderful compass. I hope you like the background fabric I chose.

And by the way, I’ve added my Circle lecture to my list of offerings on my website: If your guild is looking for a speaker, I’d be thrilled to make a visit! And, if you’d like to learn to make an off-center mariner’s compass, you can purchase my book at:



September 2, 2018, Piecing
A Cut Above

Yesterday I bought myself a new pair of scissors. It isn’t because I don’t own any  😀 !

I have paper scissors, kitchen sheers, tiny appliqué scissors, pinking sheers… you name it, I probably own it!

I have my first pair of Ginghers that I still keep in their original box, and use on special occasions. Like when I needed an artsy self-portrait for our Threadbender’s blog (Click here to meet the members of this very creative group!)

A little corny, but I bet it made you smile!

I have serrated scissors that are great for trimming layers without shifting (I tried to get a pic of the serrated edge in the close up to the right).

I have duck-billed appliqué scissors that protect the fabric under the blade.

And I was even given a pair of scissors made to cut batting.

But the ones I use the most, and are by far my favorites, are my Fiskars™  “micro tip, easy-action” scissors.

They have been used A LOT!!! They have a spring feature that causes them to open automatically after you make a cut, which is really easy on the hands. The slide lock broke within the first year, so they are always open, but I don’t mind, because they are oh-so sharp. Or at least they were  😥

So it was time to treat myself to a new pair!

I can’t wait to tear them open. I will be saving them for close trim work – like when I do my Repliqué technique. But the old ones are dear friends and will live next to my machine for cutting threads and other simple tasks.

And one last thing – actually a warning:

Don’t use them while sitting on an exercise ball. I used to sew on one because it was good for my balance, but I had the misfortune of bumping my favorite scissors off the table and – you guessed it – that very sharp point punctured the ball and I ended up on the floor – LOL!

What scissors are your favorites! Please respond and tell us why!


And one more thing! I received an email from the National Quilters Circle website. You can learn all about them on their website: . Their email said that I had been nominated for their “Best Overall Quilting Blog Award”.

I’m surprised and honored. They said in their email to me that I could share this info on my blog to continue to be nominated. If you like my blog, and are interested in participating, please go to: Thanks!

August 26, 2018, Notions
A Trio of Amazing Memory Quilts

Just a quick FYI for quilters in southeastern Wisconsin, Ben Franklin Crafts in Oconomowoc is celebrating it’s 45th Anniversary this week. They have a number of exciting things planned and I’ll be there demonstrating some of the techniques from my books. For all the information please go to their website:


And now on to my topic of the week:

Earlier this year I taught for the Northwest Suburban Quilt Guild of Chicago and met a very talented member named Joyce Drenth. During show and tell Joyce shared quilts she was making for her granddaughters. I was blown away and asked if I could share the quilts and their stories in a blog post. Recently I received this note from Joyce:

“Hi, Chris, I very much enjoyed your wonderful presentation, “Quilt Tales”, to our guild. The journey through quilting was greatly enjoyed by all. After I shared my three quilts made for my three granddaughters, you asked me to email you with my story shared that evening. Now that my last little darling received her quilt, I can let ‘the cat out of the bag’ and share the images of the quilts.”

I’m sure you’re going to enjoy the quilts and their stories:

“As a 2015 Christmas present for my 5 grandchildren, I purchased some Color Me fabric, cut it into fat quarters and backed each with freezer paper for stability. I gave each of my son’s three dancing girls (ages 8, 6 and 3) a piece of the ballerina fabric and one package of fabric markers to use to color their dancers. Included in the present was a coupon for “Sewing with Grandma”. I had already started the tradition of working with the girls around Thanksgiving time to sew Christmas presents for their Mommy, Daddy, Aunt, Grandma and Godparents. We enjoy the time together learning all about creativity, sewing, safety, pride and enjoyment in giving hand-made projects to loved-ones.

Good News – Bad News!

Good News! They completed coloring their fabrics within 6 months.

Madison’s quilt back

Maia’s quilt back

Bad news! I was in the midst of packing up our home to move. So, the sewing time with grandma was put on hold temporarily.

Bad news! I had not decided on a worthy project to utilize the fabric.

Good News! My daughter-in-law had a terrific idea. She saved different pieces of clothing the girls wore throughout their early years and asked me if I might be willing and able to create a small Memory Quilt for the girls. Her wishes included the use of the clothing in the shapes of hearts. While viewing Pinterest, she saw some samples she admired, so off to the fabric store we went so that she could select the background materials she envisioned for the quilts. Chevrons in gray and white tones are prevalent among the girls’ quilts, but each was slightly different from the other sisters.

Great News ! I decided to buy some backing fabric and have the girls border their colored fabric with enough fabric to make the backs of ‘their’ Memory Quilt! So, this past February, I scheduled time to complete this task.

BAD News! My sewing machine decided that the tension setting would not respond to my ‘demands’. The April birthday quilt swirls were being outlined in 12-weight thread when my machine’s electronics decided I was not in charge. To compound this, the store to which I took my machine informed me that it would be one month before they would get it back to me!

Good News! My daughter inherited my loving mother-in-law’s rarely-used Featherweight (newly serviced) machine that she was very willing to allow me to borrow. I took it to my son’s house and all the girls got to sew on this wonderfully-memorable machine. The featherweight’s diminutive size and totally different capacity for stitching compared to my computerized machine was a true sharing moment for me as I explained only forward and reverse stitching that I grew up with in my sewing journey. A history lesson in the making!

Since all my five grandchildren are very familiar with my presents of gifting appropriately-holiday- themed pillowcases, the girls were speculating that their framed artwork would be turned into future pillowcases for their beds – but they were very surprised!

Good News Again! Each of the girls has a birthday in spring months: March, April and May. When the March birthday came, there was an abundance of smiles and memories to share. Mommy and Daddy especially remembered moments in time when the piece of clothing was worn, the location, time and age of the daughter. Since each of the girls’ clothing included a pocket or two, I decided that I would incorporate them in the ‘Memory’ theme. I asked Mommy and Daddy to write a special little ‘memory’ note to tie up into a scroll and tuck it into a pocket. I did see a few tears well up in the parents’ eyes as they were read! Such a special family moment!

Madison’s quilt front

Maia’s quilt front

Emma’s quilt front

Even though I wrote a label to each of the girls, I also ordered Story Patches labels by Rob Appell that were printed with a black sewing machine. I wanted the memory of sewing on the Featherweight to be recorded on the back of the quilt for them forever. In the QR code, I included my personal message that could be scanned for the girls to see and remember our time together through the years. Pictures I took during the sewing times reflected the projects made and the ages of the girls when the gifts were created. I also recorded a video for each granddaughter where I remembered our times together creating the projects shown in the pictures.

For the middle child, I included background fabrics from both older and younger siblings within her quilt. Who knew such a simple little fabric purchase and gift of “Sewing with Grandma” would result in a wonderfully-memorable moment in time! Serendipity!

My Label Quote:

Quilts are a journal,

Bits and pieces of fabric…

Various shapes and sizes…

With colors that come to life.

Joined together, they tell a story.

I hope this captures the quilt journey for each girl. Thank you for expressing an interest in these loving presents. I also tried to capture the essence of their quilts in their handmade cards. I always create a card for the birthdays, capturing their theme of the year. This year it was ‘A Time to Remember’.

Dear Joyce, thank you so much for sharing these wonderful memory quilts with us!


And one more thing  🙂 !

Last week I shared a photograph of a quilt made by Maria that contained barn and covered bridge blocks. This past week Cari emailed me with a photo of a quilt she made with some of those same blocks.

Cari wrote:

“After looking at your article on spacing those barn photos I thought I would send you a landscape I made this spring using three barns from that same panel. My friend has a wall of barns and wanted some texture among them and asked if I could make her a quilt. She picked out the three she wanted and I put them on a stripped background, added trees,,grass, etc. I really had fun with this new venture”.

A beautiful setting for those blocks. Great job Cari!

August 19, 2018, Kids
Make ‘Em Fit

Have you ever had a stack of blocks that were supposed to all be the same size – but they weren’t? Perhaps you won a block of the month stack at your guild, or friends made you birthday blocks, or you make a bunch of blocks that just didn’t all come out the same size. What do you do?

Well, if the blocks are log cabins, or simple 9-patches, these can all be squared down to the size of the smallest block without any worry about losing important points. But what if there are triangle points? I have a few thoughts on this topic, because I’ve had a few times where I’ve experienced this dilemma.

I wrote a post about one of my favorite ways to do this back in March of 2015. It involved turning each block on-point, with some extra “float”, and then squaring them all up to a common size.

Making quilt blocks measure up

In case you missed that post (or forgot where to find it), go to:

What if you don’t want to double the size of the quilt by adding the alternate blocks? Here are two suggestions:

Option #1: Divide the number of blocks in half, border blocks in the first stack with fabric A, and blocks in the second stack with fabric B, square them all to the size of the smallest block, and put them together checkerboard style:

Option 2: Border all the blocks in the same fabric, square them down to the size of the smallest block, and then put them together with sashing.

My friend Maria made this quilt from fabric printed with barns and covered bridges. Because these pre-printed blocks were not all the same size and/or “square”, she was struggling with how to put them together. She liked the idea of bordering each in a tan fabric to look like they were in a photo album. She decided to fold small squares of black fabric diagonally in half and place them in the block corners before bordering, for an old fashioned album look. The burgundy sashing between the blocks was the perfect touch, and no one would believe that the “photographs” are not all the same size! Great job Maria! Thanks for letting me share your lovely quilt.

So, there are some of my ideas for getting different sized blocks to fit together. Do you have any others?



August 12, 2018, Piecing
No-End Binding – Improved Yet Again!

In February I shared a number of posts on some great uses for School Glue while quilting. I was very excited with how it worked for finishing the ends of my quilt bindings (click here to read that post), but I’ve found another tip that makes it even easier!

When sewing my binding ends together the lazy girl in me hated to stop when I was almost done to heat up the iron and press the glue dry. What to do?

Head to the store for another must have notion – “Wash Away Wonder Tape™”!

Once you have the tape the hard work is over. Prepare to be amazed  🙂 .

This works for single or double (French) binding (my example is done with a double binding). Sew your binding to the quilt, Beginning about 8″ from the end of the beginning tail, leaving at least 12″ open between the stitching of the tails, and leaving 8″ of ending tail open too – with a good overlap.

Because I made a double binding, I need to lay it open against the quilt to connect the ends. This works best if I pin the tails flat against the quilt (the corners of the quilt may “cup” up to allow for the opening of the tails).

Fold the end of one tail at 45° and finger press.

Cut a length of tape just a bit shorter than the angled edge, and affix the tape, paper side up.

Remove the release paper,

and lay the other tail smoothly in place, rubbing over the tape to secure it to both tails.

Pull the ends back to reveal the crease,

Carefully take it to the sewing machine and stitch in the crease.

Lay the binding flat against the quilt to be sure it fits.

Because the tape is wash away, you can skip this next step, but I liked the idea of pulling apart the end tails before you trim them and peeling away the tape. Now it’s gone and I don’t need to worry about washing it away.

Trim the tails 1/4″ from the seam.

Remove the pins, lay the folded binding back against the quilt, and stitch in place. Viola!

I still love the School Glue for matching fabrics and mitering borders, but I think this is the quickest and easiest way to finish the ends when binding. I’ve done it many times already and I think it’s pretty close to foolproof. Please give it a try and let me know what you think.


And one more note. In last week’s post I shared Anne’s email address for instructions on her Serendipity Star. The address was incorrect. I have corrected it in that post, but I wanted to share the correct one here also:

Thanks again Anne – for your generosity!

August 5, 2018, finishing
Stars, Squares and Fiber Art

Last week I shared the story of Anne’s Serendipity Stars.

Many people asked me how they could obtain a copy of the most recent issue of American Quilter magazine. I didn’t have an answer, so I emailed Anne. Here’s her response:

“Any place that has quilt magazines might still have a copy. I only have a couple of copies, but Ben Franklin in Oconomowoc has 20 copies that they are going to sell during their Quilt Fest weekend in October. I have made a new gmail account just in case anyone wants to ask me questions, it’s I have directions that can be emailed, not thinking about charging anything so I don’t have to worry about income, taxes etc. Will suggest that anyone that wants the directions could just make a little donation to their local animal shelter if they want, it isn’t required though.”

What a generous offer. So, if you are interested in more information about Anne’s star technique – feel free to email her  😀 . She said she might be a little slow to respond because of her busy schedule, but she will try to check that email account in a timely fashion.

Upcoming Classes

The class lists are out for the Fall semester at Waukesha County Technical College. I’ll be teaching 3 all day project workshops:

Quilting – Layered Squares; Friday, September 21st; 9-2:30

Combine simple piecing, diagonal cutting and clever block construction to make this crib/lap-sized quilt with a three-dimensional look.

Quilting – Pieceful Stars; Friday, October 26; 9 – 2:30

Get the look of a Lone Star style medallion, without all the fussy piecing. We will strip piece simple blocks and then cut diamond shapes from them to create a star that is much simpler than it looks! 

Quilting – Beginning Fiber Art; Saturday, November 17; 9-2:30

Are you a traditional quilter who is interested in making an art quilt? Come and discover your inner creative child by playing with simple fusing techniques, fabric, color and design. Students will not be creating the pictured quilt, but their own unique work of art. (This class was formerly titled “Parallelisms”)

We also have a new quilting instructor starting in the Fall. Welcome Nan Feurer! She’ll be teaching 2 classes. Here are the titles and descriptions:

Quilting For Beginners – Anyone can quilt! Learn several quilt blocks and techniques to create a beautiful heirloom.

Quilting – T-shirts – Learn to use a “quilt-as-you-go” technique to transform adult and child t-shirts into a beautiful quilt full of great memories.

To register for a class go to:, in the course search box choose Fall 2018 and type “quilt” in the “course title/subject” box, then click on “submit”. All of the quilting classes will appear and you can open the description/photo of each class by clicking on it’s title.

If you’ve never signed up for a class before, instructions can be found in the link just below the picture of the college.


July 29, 2018, Classes
Serendipity Stars

A year or so ago Mike and I were having breakfast at a local coffee shop when one of the employees came up and introduced herself. Anne is a quilter with a love for quick techniques and making charity quilts. She told me she had come up with a fun technique for making stars by slapping 2 fat quarters together doing some creative stitching, cutting and stitching again! I was intrigued and she emailed me pictures of some of her quilts:




















This last one is my personal favorite!

She asked me if I had any thoughts on how she could market her technique. We did a bit of brainstorming and she liked the idea of a magazine article. I gave her some contact information for American Quilter magazine and – Anne was published in the July issue!!!

This is her picture and bio from the magazine:

Anne Widmann

Anne loves to make quilts as quickly as possible, and her Serendipity Star technique developed as she experimented. She put two fat quarters together just to see what would happen, and the result was magical, resulting in six-pointed stars and a world of possibilities. Project Linus is dear to Anne’s heart; in one year, she not only made 54 quilts for Project Linus, but also a few quilts for others.






Her article includes a hexagon table runner pattern using her technique.

This is what the July issue cover looks like

and the label says it will be displayed until August 14th. I highly recommend picking up a copy today!

Congratulations Anne!

Also, Anne will be doing a lecture about her technique at the Ben Franklin Quilt Fest this October in Oconomowoc, WI. She’s very excited and I can’t wait to see her in action!


A Tribute to Natalie

I’m saddened to share the loss of another dear quilting friend. You may remember Natalie Sewell as the first quilter to win major awards for raw edged landscape quilting, and then writing books on the subject with Nancy Ziemann; but I’ve known Natalie since we were both very traditional quilters in Madison, WI in the early 1990’s. We belonged to Mad City Quilters and took classes from each other over the years. I was blessed with the opportunity to travel with her and call her my friend. I learned so much from Natalie and I will miss her.


July 22, 2018, Piecing
Eleanor’s Story
Over the years Wendy and I have had many wonderful repeat travelers with us on our Sew We Go adventures. One of the most enjoyable “characters” we’ve had join us is a dear woman named Eleanor. Eleanor lives in Illinois and heard about our Mississippi riverboat cruise when I spoke to her quilt guild. She and her friend Claire decided to join us, way back in the Spring of 2001, and we had a marvelous time (Eleanor is third from the left, I’ll let you figure out where Wendy and I are 🙂 ).
Our next cruise was to Alaska and Eleanor was one of the first to sign up (in this picture she’s just below me – top left).
We followed that trip with a European riverboat cruise on the blue Danube. We floated from Germany, through Austria and completed our trip in Hungary. It was delightful – and Eleanor was right there with us (to the left of Wendy in the first row).
Next we were off to Holland during tulip time. I love this picture of “quilting” time in the lounge with Wendy explaining to Eleanor the next step in our project. This is followed by Eleanor and her roommate Mary in Keukenhof Gardens.
I must admit, my most memorable times with her were on our riverboat cruise through France on the Rhone and Soane rivers. Eleanor had been a teacher in Paris in her youth and she was the most amazing tour guide for us during our post-cruise extension. She led us from Notre Dam Cathedral on a lovely walk along the Seine (stopping for a photo shoot), that culminated in a delicious lunch at Christines!
These photos include Eleanor’s dear friend and roommate Susan. She plays an important part in the rest of the story!
A few years after this trip I got word that Eleanor was in poor health and was living in a care facility. We really missed her on our subsequent adventures.
Fast forward to just a few weeks ago. To my surprise, and extreme delight, I got an email from Eleanor and this is what she said:
“Dear Chris, Until April I had not quilted for three years! Here’s why:  I had a fall which caused a concussion, misdiagnosed as being caused by a seizure. The medication caused all kinds of side effects which I won’t go into. But the turn around came when Susan, (you may remember her from the Rhone trip) made a brilliant remark. I had changed doctors, the side effects had disappeared, but the nursing home did not want to let me return to my apartment. (I used a wheelchair and had a caregiver).
Susan said, “Let’s go to Paris!” Doctor gave the OK and with Sylvia (my caregiver) and Susan’s generosity, off we went.
So where is quilting?  Well, when we got back to Lake Forest, the care facility was willing to let me return to my apartment. Sylvia and I were unpacking fabrics and discovered two that I had purchased years ago. “My grandson would love this; he’s into creepy crawlies.” I thought. Only problem: my wheelchair was too wide to fit into the console of the sewing machine. A former student knew of a place where I could buy a wheelchair narrow enough. I didn’t want to cut the fabric up too much and Sylvia wanted to be a part of things so I kept it simple. Only quilting done: freehand stars done in glow in the dark thread on the “dark” side
and outlining the stars on the daytime side.
She also included this wonderful photograph of herself and Sylvia.
What a blessing! I emailed her right back to ask if I could tell all of you about her in a blog post. Her response?
“Dear Chris , I am delighted to hear from you! (Although your blogs WERE the communication that kept me going when I was too weak to turn over in bed). You are welcome to share my story.”
And that’s what I’m doing.
Dear Eleanor, I’m thrilled to see you feeling well and back to quilting. I’m humbled and pleased to hear that you enjoyed my blog posts throughout your difficult journey.
Thank you so much for one more trip – the one down memory lane!

A Tribute to Pat

As I’m writing this post my heart is aching over the loss of a dear quilting friend, Pat Gilane. She and Bob are at the foot of the staircase in the Alaskan group picture above (Pat’s the one in the pretty red floral dress  🙂 ).

Pat had struggled with pulmonary fibrosis for years. She was a true example of grace in suffering, and a joy to so many. She knew Jesus as her Savior and is breathing easy in His presence at last. I’m praying for Bob and their family as they move forward without this sweet lady. She will be missed.

July 15, 2018, Travel
Burning Fabric

Why would anyone want to burn fabric?

Perhaps a better question is: have you ever wondered if a fabric you want to use in a quilt is 100% cotton? There is an easy test to check. Many of you may already know this, but I’m hoping some of you will find this helpful.

Recently I was cleaning out the cupboard where I keep my quilt backing pieces and non-cotton fabrics. I found a piece of black and white polka dot fabric and wondered why it wasn’t in with the rest of my stash.

Perhaps it was a polyester blend. Nothing on the selvedge showed fiber content, so I grabbed a book of matches, cut off a corner of the yardage, and went outside.

I lit the pointy end with a match and watched it burn. I waited for it to cool, then I picked it up and when I rubbed it between my fingers, the residue was a soft ash.

This is the case for natural fibers such as cotton, rayon, linen, silk, etc.

For the sake of comparison I cut a triangle from a fabric I knew was a polyester.

The results? It melted.

You can see the light reflecting in the “plastic-like” burned semi-circle on the fabric, and the small black piece was stuck to the cement. Man made fabrics like polyester and nylon melt rather than ash.

The next day I pulled out some beautiful scraps I wanted to use in my next challenge quilt.

They were given to me by a woman I stayed with when I taught for a quilt guild in Eau Claire, WI. She told me there was a men’s necktie factory nearby and they sold their scraps by the pound. She then gifted me with a bag full.

Before I attempted to make them into appliqué shapes, I thought I’d better check to see if they were silk or polyester, because ties can be made from either. I’m happy to say they all passed the burn test and are silk:

The interesting thing was the ash was not as soft as the cotton fabric and it had a bit of a gritty feel when I rubbed it between my fingers. I guess I’ve never burned silk before because I was a little surprised by this.

Do any of you use this test for your fabrics? Any other thoughts you’d like to share  🙂 ?

July 8, 2018, Fabric
Photo Inspiration: Door

I belong to a group of fiber artists called ThreadBenders. ThreadBenders is a relatively new group, and we have some delightful and very enthusiastic artists. We recently completed our first “big” guild challenge and 13 of our 16 members participated. I was very impressed with the results!

The challenge was named “Photo Inspiration: Door”. The picture we chose to inspire our quilts was taken by a friend of one of our members in St. Thomas, VI.

You can read the rules and see all of the quilts at:

About 5 years ago I took a 10 week class at WCTC about Adobe Photoshop™. It was a great class and I think I’ve forgotten more than I remember because Photoshop™ can do so much. But the things that have stuck with me have been incredibly helpful. One aspect of the program I was particularly interested in was called “transform”. You can do the most amazing things with your pictures by using commands like “skew”, “warp”, “distort”, etc..


Fascinating, but weird. And after making all of these weird variations, what do you do with them?

Well, I chose the last one and made a quilt.

“Stretch, Warp, Abstract” has a very odd outer edge and the portion that stretches across the main body of the quilt was actually made as a separate quilt, and attached after both were quilted. This quilt forced me to come up with new techniques and try a lot of different ones I already had in my bag of tricks. That’s what I love about challenges, and that’s why I take classes and read magazines – to learn new techniques.

I loved making this quilt (well I loved it most of the time  😉 ). It could easily be the most unusual quilt I’ve ever made. I was impressed with the variety and imagination of all the challenge quilts, and I hope you will visit our site to see them:

And here’s the icing on the cake. We chose 8 of the quilts to enter in the “Ultimate Guild Challenge” competition held at the AQS show in Grand Rapids, MI and they were accepted! They’ll be traveling to Grand Rapids for the show in August! We’re all very excited!

Once they return, we’ll be looking for venues to display them. If you know of a quilt show, shop, art museum, etc. that would be interested, please let us know by emailing me at .

July 1, 2018, Challenges
A Quilted Flag

I have been traveling a lot lately. I recently spent 3 days with the Shawnee Quilters in Carbondale, IL, teaching both Repliqué and Beginning Fiber Art. The students were delightful and, since I did a lecture for their guild meeting on the third day of my visit, they were able to bring their workshop projects for show & tell.

Great job ladies!!! Thanks for a lovely time!


In May I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a week in New York City with my cousins. Deb, Cindy and I had a spectacular time touring the Big Apple, taking in two Broadway shows, and indulging in delicious meals – all interspersed with lots of giggles. We had an amazing view from our hotel room – 35 floors above Times Square.

We did a 2 ½ hour guided bike tour through Central Park with Tony,

and walked or took the subway all over Manhattan. We even walked across the Brooklyn Bridge!

Cindy, Deb and I enjoyed our ferry ride with a tour of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Our guide Zach made it especially fun.

He did a great job of sharing a lot of history and fascinating information about these two amazing places, plus he spiced it up with his “Zach facts” 😀 ! They weren’t necessarily true, but they kept us smiling (note his flag in the picture above). Here he is next to an actual size replica of the Statue’s foot in the pedestal museum beneath Lady Liberty.

During the rest stop on the tour I showed Zach pictures of my “How Beautiful – Liberty” quilt (click here to see a post about that quilt).

This got me to talking about the tours I’ve led and how Wendy and I have a mascot who often finds herself atop flags so we can keep track of our guides, like when Rudy and Quiltina led us through Siena, Italy.

Zach jokingly mentioned he’d love a personal flag that announced his “Zach Facts”, and when I got home I decided it would be fun to make him one to wave along with his orange “company” flag. He emailed me the “head shot” he wanted me to use, I transferred it to white fabric – along with the words, added the Statue fabric to the back and did a bit of fun quilting. Here are the results – front and back:

And this was his response via email:

“Hey Chris, I just received your quilt and card in the mail today and I want you to know how honored I am. It really made my day. Even the back side of it is beautiful. Loved the card as well. Can’t wait to proudly wave that flag. I am truly thankful.”

That made it so worthwhile. Isn’t it interesting how quilters can find a way to bring quilting into all aspects of life (LOL)?

June 24, 2018, Travel
Quilted Memories – A Contemporary Twist

Shortly after I posted to my blog last week, Cheryl commented that she has a booklet about the Sunday School Picnic quilt.

That led me to do an internet search and I was thrilled to discover the whole story of this amazing quilt. I added the link to my post, but by then over 300 people had already read it, so I thought I’d better share the link again here for those of you who might be interested. It’s a fascinating story and well worth the read. Click here for the link.


This week I’m going to follow up on the vintage memory quilts by showing my own modern version. The majority of those antique quilts were bed sized and hand quilted. You don’t see many memory quilts like those being made today. But we still want to make quilts to commemorate people, places and events. I love to travel and I’ve often thought about making one quilt about my travels. The problem is I’ve been so many places – praise the Lord – that it seemed to be overwhelming.

Last year while planning for our Sew We Go cruise from Quebec to Boston I had a “light bulb” moment. What if I would choose one photo from each trip that triggered all the wonderful memories of the entire vacation? Then I could make each photograph into a block and …

Modular Memory Quilts was born! I gave a lecture on this “quilt”, and all the techniques I used to make the blocks, for our group while on board the Norwegian Dawn and it went over quite well (to read about the projects on that trip click here).

This block is one of my favorites from the “quilt”.

It’s from Mike’s and my first visit to Hawaii when our son, Brad, was a senior in High School. We invited his best friend along and, while stopping at a waterfall on the Road to Hana, the boys decided to climb to the top and jump!

Others were doing it and it was a real case of “monkey see, monkey do”.

To make the block I used a bunch of techniques: glue-stick raw edge appliqué, stitched cheesecloth, and even thread painting on tulle to create my jumping Brad. What fun – and what a great memory.

As you may know, Wendy and I are taking a group of quilters to Hawaii this January. We still have a few cabins available, but since this trip will fill, Norwegian Cruise Lines is requesting all the “non-spoken-for” cabins be returned to them soon. If you have been thinking about joining us – click here for all the details and instructions for signing up while you still can!


Now back to Modular Memory Quilts  🙂 .


One of my favorite parts of making Modular Memory Quilts is that each block is made, bordered, quilted and bound as a separate unit. There’s no quilting and finishing a big quilt! Then I connect them together with my own unique technique, using hair bands and safety pins (yes – really 🙂 ). This is what makes it completely modular. The blocks can be moved around; additional blocks can be added over time; other’s can be taken away; or, if the “quilt” becomes too large, it can be broken up into two separate quilts.

I was working on this project during the Madison Quilt Expo last September and, while walking through the show, I was delighted to see my friend Wendy Butler Berns had made a quilt in a similar fashion and entered it in the show (click here to visit Wendy’s website).

“Unconditional Love – Always” was made as a triptych of quilts of her children with their pets, using her Picture Image Machine Appliqué technique. She put them together with strips of fabric and buttons, so they can eventually be separated and each child can have their own quilt at some point in the future. What a wonderful idea!

Since making my travel quilt, I’ve thought of many more types of memory quilts that would work well as a Modular Memory Quilt: children’s art, grandma’s embroidered squares or hankies, workshop samples … just think of the possibilities! Here’s one – the project we’ll be making on the Hawaiian cruise is a type of “Paint-stik™ appliqué” I wrote about a few months ago (click here for that post). I made three quilts with this technique and decided to combine them “modularly”.

I’ve since made a few other of these “quilts”. Completing small, individual block quilts is quick and a lot of fun. I’m very excited about the results and I’ll be doing a lecture on these fun souvenir quilts at the Madison Quilt Expo this September. Not only will I talk about the quilts and my connecting technique, but I’ll also demonstrate step-by-step instructions for many of the techniques I used to create the blocks. Perhaps I’ll see you there!

June 17, 2018, Uncategorized
Quilted Memories – Vintage Souvenir Quilts

This past March I signed up for a bus trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, sponsored by the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Art in Cedarburg. It was a spectacular trip! The exhibit we went to see at the Art Institute was entitled “Making Memories: Quilts as Souvenirs”. We enjoyed a wonderful tour of the quilts which were separated into souvenirs of places, people and events. Here are just a few of the fascinating quilts on display, along with the labels that accompanied them:

Sunday School Picnic – I found this quilt delightful. It really tells a story! And if you’d like to read the whole story click here!

Map Quilt – I apologize for the dark photograph of this quilt, the museum lighting is good for the quilts, but not great for my iPhone’s camera.

Quilt Show – the workmanship on this one really blew me away!

The piecing, appliqué and quilting were all extremely well done. Here’s a close-up:

State Birds and Flowers

This lovely example of an embroidered quilt was of great interest to me because I have a similar quilt in my collection.

My quilt dates to 1947 and was made by Lillian Heidtke in Wisconsin. The embroidery is very well done, but the quilting is minimal. The quilting on the Art Institutes quilt was very impressive, but I still love mine  🙂 .

I wish I could have shared all of the quilts. It was a spectacular exhibit and a wonderful trip.

I was particularly interested in this exhibit because I’ve begun a journey into memory quilts with a “modern” and “modular” twist. I’ll let you in on all the fun in next week’s post!

June 10, 2018, Uncategorized
Child’s play – Markers on Fabric

A few years ago my friend Linda and I played around with Sharpie™ Markers, muslin and isopropyl alcohol (to read that post go to:

A while later I decided to try it with Sommer. We colored circles:

Then added alcohol with an eye dropper:

Here are our results:

Then we tried again. Sommer drew anything she wanted (these are lighter and brighter, and make me smile):

I decided I liked the way the black bled to purple and made it the focus of my design, allowing some space between the elements:

I was happier with these results:

Have you played with markers like this? Any pictures you’d like to share?


And one more note on Sommer and crafts – our passion is not always their’s!

A few months after Sommer made her first quilt (you can read that post at: )  I wanted to make her an apron. She was excited and wanted to help. We pulled out a pattern I’d purchased a while ago and she picked a pretty fabric from my stash. I ended up cutting it out with my rotary cutter and she didn’t like the waiting and watching, so she lost interest for that day. The next afternoon, while Trey was napping, she helped me set up the featherweight, we pinned a seam together and she began to sew.

Three seams later she asked if she could go play. When I asked her if she wanted to work on it tomorrow or if I should finish it – she perked up and said I could finish it  😕 . So I did.

She’s happy to wear it and help me cook. Her favorite part is tasting the “gredients”.

June 3, 2018, Uncategorized
More Delightful Pin Cushions

After last week’s post I received a number of pictures of more pin cushions. They were so diverse and interesting, I just had to do one more pin cushion post  😀 !

Laurie sent this picture with the following message: “I inherited this stagecoach pin cushion from my Mom who passed away in 2009.  There is styrofoam under the red covered top and if you look closely you can see the retractable measuring tape on the bottom between the wheels. I don’t use it because it’s too cute and I don’t want to wreck it.”

Lorraine’s email contained another helpful hint for using cushions: “This isn’t a special pin cushion but it has a special purpose. I love using these numbered pins but got frustrated because they would always get mixed up in their sectioned container. I finally decided to dedicate a pin cushion just for them.  By keeping each number grouped together the pins are now so much easier to use.”

Shellie said “Here’s a photo of a thumb pin cushion that I bought on Sunday, at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah.”
I think I have one of those too – now to figure out where I put it!
Nina sent me a photo of part of her collection with the comment: “Some from flea markets, others from mom and grandma and children. I just adore them!”
And Cathy said the following are only part of her collection too:
What a fun, useful and collectable item pin cushions are! Thank you so much ladies for sharing your treasures with us.
These all got me to thinking about 2 additional ones I inherited from a relative’s sewing collection many years ago. They’re unique in that the pins are stuck into the edges. One is a velvet circle and the other looks like a “mattress”. I’m showing them from two different angles and the pin heads give you an idea of their size. I wonder how old they are.
I spent the past 6 days in New York City with my cousins Deb and Cindy.
We had a marvelous time visiting all the sites and seeing a few Broadway shows. It was wonderful!
Funny thing – in all the shops we wandered through I didn’t find a single pin cushion  😉 !

May 27, 2018, Uncategorized
Pin Cushions

On our rare “child”- free days Mike and I like to go for rides to nearby towns and visit antique shops. On one of our recent adventures I found an old pin cushion that really tickled me.

As you can see it’s in the shape of an old telephone (so very different from our present day devices), with the pin cushion in the center of the rotary dial, the scissors fitted into an opening at the top, and it even has a retractable measuring tape that comes out the back of the “phone”. It makes me smile and got me to thinking about some of the other pin cushions I have. Some are utilitarian, like my purple magnet with flower head pins that I use daily:

Or the one I made that hangs by my sewing machine and is attached to a schnibble bag:

I’m sure these are familiar to many of you. The next one I’ve shared before, but I think it may bare repeating. I have a divided pin cushion that I’ve marked with the needle sizes I use. When I’m changing needles, and the used one still has life in it, I stick it in the appropriate place in the cushion. I then put a fancy headed pin in the section that represents the needle I’ve just placed in the machine. That way I always know which type and size is being used.

The next one was our trip project when Wendy and I took a group of quilters on a riverboat cruise in France. It is an armchair caddy that not only has a pin cushion across the top, but 2 roomy pockets and a scissors holder (the pocket on the other side has an embellished map of our trip on it).

(Just a quick note – we still have a few cabins available for our Quilter’s Hawaiian Cruise this January. Click here for all the information)

This next cushion isn’t one I use, but I found it in an antique store many years ago and I love it. It will keep my new “telephone” company on the shelf.

Are you a collector of pin cushions? I never thought I was, but I guess they do appeal to me.

Do you have a favorite one you use every day? or any that are interesting or unique? Please send me pictures at

May 20, 2018, Uncategorized
Quilting with Difficult Fabrics

I’ve put Minky™ fabric on the back of a few quilts to make them extra snuggly – with good results. In fact, on my granddaughter Rainee’s quilt I put it on the back and turned it to the front to make the bound edge; and I reverse Repliquéd it into an “R” on the front of the quilt too (this is a technique in my book “Snuggle and Learn Quilts for Kids)! To read about that quilt go to .

turned back to front binding

Recently I was making a quilt for my dear niece Kate. She and her husband are expecting a little girl in June and I couldn’t wait to make her a quilt. The problem was I chose to piece with Minky™ this time. I found the fabrics I wanted to use at Vogue Fabrics near Chicago. Minky™ is an ultra soft, plush type of fleece, and what I found there was similar, but I’m not sure that’s what it’s actually called. The pink check on the right is for the back of the quilt and the white was what I decided to piece into a star – just look at the height of that nap! What was I thinking!!!

I cut squares of a pink cotton and drew a diagonal line on the wrong side. I then placed them right-sides-together with the “furry nightmare fabric” called “fnf” from now on 🙂 , pinning intensely. I sewed on both sides of the line and cut down the middle. The nap made everything squish and squirm. I was really glad I’d oversized the squares. After trimming them down I needed to pieced these half-square triangle units into a star. That meant “fnf” right sides together with “fnf”. It was awful. I’ve sewn on velvet and this was much worse. But I refused to give up.


Once the star was finished the entire perimeter was the cotton fabric, so I could breathe a little easier and lay out all the other pink squares.

Did I mention the nursery theme is pink with stars? And Kate and Ryan are both hunters, thus the pink camo fabric (thanks Maria!) The rest of the piecing was a breeze.

What I learned is that one should never try to put a really high nap fabric right-sides-together with anything else and expect to have great results. I decided I could still use the pink checked Minky™ for the back because it wasn’t sewn right-sides-together with anything, and it worked well. To quilt the “fnf” star, I cut a heart from freezer paper, ironed it in place on the back of the quilt,

and quilted around it from the back.

It all came together and I was happy with the results. Especially when I saw the smile on Kate’s and Nonna Deb’s faces.

Can’t wait to meet this little sweetie in June. Love you guys!

May 13, 2018, Uncategorized
Repaired and Back on the Bed!

In last week’s post I told the story of a quilt (it’s really a comforter because it’s tied, not quilted) that has kept Mike and me warm for 42 years. I was overwhelmed with the wonderful comments and suggestions to that post. I washed it, hung it outside (Spring is finally here!) and took a few minutes to simply look at it.

As puckery and worn as it is, it has too many wonderful memories to end it’s usefulness now. But how to repair it? Since almost all of the worn blocks were on the edge – why not cover them with a border “quilt-as-you-go” style? Please bear in mind my original comforter was layered with a sheet and a sheet blanket, stitched around and turned; then it was tied with yarn every 16″ – so it never laid flat, even before the wool shrunk. That added a minor layer of difficulty to this process, but I persevered.

I pulled out a pretty fabric from the “multi-yard” area of my stash, and cut a strip of fabric the length of each side of the comforter by the width of the outer row of blocks + 1 ½”. I laid a border strip, right sides together, with it’s appropriate side of the quilt, covering the outer row seam by 1/8″ and stitching with a ½” seam allowance.

As I continued stitching I found a block that shows why something had to be done  🙂 !

Once the seam was done I folded the border strip over the row of worn blocks, turned everything over to the back, and folded the border back on itself to create a “self-binding”.

I stitched it in place from the front with a decorative stitch.

I repeated this for the other side, then I added the top and bottom strips, this time leaving 1 ½” extra on both ends to finish the corners.

While working on the borders I did find 2 squares in the interior that were threadbare. To fix them I went through my box of 6″ squares, chose 2, trimmed them down to the right size, pressed under 1/4″ hem, and topstitched them in place with a mending stitch on my machine.

My old friend is still quite wonky, and there were some unavoidable puckers on the back (which I will not share pictures of), but it’s back on the bed and ready for another 42 years!

Thanks for all of the encouragement!

May 6, 2018, Uncategorized
Retire or Repair an Old Friend?

My mother taught me to sew when I was seven and we made many of our clothes during the subsequent years. Mom especially liked to make pajamas for us kids, while I enjoyed making the outfits I would be seen in. A few years ago I put together a lecture comparing some of my quilts with garments from my youth (yes! I still have many of them  😀 ). The lecture is called “Gone to the Dark Side”  and you can find information about it at

When I graduated from high school my parents gave me a brand new Sears Kenmore sewing machine.

I was thrilled! I decided my first project should be a quilt for my “hope chest”. I cut a 6″ square from cardboard and dug out all of the scraps from our sewing projects. There were cottons, denims, flannels, crepe d’chine, seersucker and even some wool! I traced around the cardboard on the wrong side of each scrap and cut out all the squares with a scissors. Once the squares were cut I laid them out in 9-patches (I didn’t know that’s what they were called then) and sewed them together.

I assembled these blocks into a top and it ended up being king sized. I couldn’t wait to use some of the fancy stitches on my machine (my mom’s old Singer didn’t have any of those), so I did a line of decorative stitching over the seams of all the blocks.

Once the top was finished I layered it with a sheet, and a sheet blanket for the filling, and sewed all the way around the outside – leaving an opening for turning; only to find out I’d layered it incorrectly (the sheet was on the inside). So I ripped it apart, sewed around, and turned once again. To finish I tied it with knots of 4 ply polyester yarn at the block corners. What a delight for the eyes!

Even though it’s pretty ugly (don’t you love oxymorons?), it’s kept Mike and me warm for 42 years!

But lately it’s showing it’s age. Many of the fabrics are just plain disintegrating.

The green wool from a vest I made shrunk up years ago, but that didn’t keep me from tossing it into the washing machine many, many times.

Yet the fabrics are filled with memories. The pink denim with doves above was used in my favorite pair of hip hugger, bell bottom jeans (just picture that – it was the 70’s). In the following photo the brown floral was a sundress, the light blue flannel was a nightgown of mine, and the purple with flowers was from an apron I made for my German “mother” when I did a class trip to Germany my junior year.

So… do I retire it to the actual cedar chest Mike bought me as an engagement gift (at the foot of the bed)? or ???

While taking these pictures I realized the worn blocks are all around the outer edge. Perhaps I need to remove the last row of squares all the way around, add a binding and use it for another 42 years. What do you think?

April 29, 2018, Vintage Quilts
Paducah 2018!

Linda and I are driving home from another wonderful trip to Quilt Week in Paducah! As I mentioned last week – we had a snowy start, but it was all up hill from there. The sun shone almost the entire week and the tulips were blooming (although the dogwoods were only just beginning to bloom).

As I do every year, I’m going to share a few pictures of some of my favorite parts of the trip, and I need to begin with the sign that “we’d arrived” – the Flying Goose Bridge!

We got to the 1857 B&B in the heart of Paducah, unpacked and then put up a display of my Mariner’s Compass quilts in the front window of Tribeca restaurant, just downstairs from our living quarters.

What a blessing to be able to show my quilts during Quilt Week. We helped to hang the show on Tuesday and I couldn’t wait to see my friend Lori Schloesser’s quilt.

I’ve featured my friend Evelyn in quite a few of my posts and this year she was part of a new group slice quilt that was awarded a third place (Evelyn – tell me again – which of the 5 strips was yours 🙂 )?

There were so many incredible quilts and it was a privilege to see them all.

This year AQS hosted a special exhibit that I feel was one of the most interesting I’ve ever seen. It was called “Art in Denim” by Ian Berry. The pieces were not quilts, but they were fiber art. He uses only denim, scissors and glue to created portraits and landscapes that truly amaze.

My picture doesn’t do this piece justice. To really experience Ian’s work you need to visit his website at Linda and I had the chance to meet and talk with this endearing young man. His work is incredible and yet he is funny, soft spoken and very approachable.

We set up our kitchen studio and did some sewing, but our special playtime this year was with alcohol inks.

I’d taken a class at Sew Much More in Waukesha this winter. It was so much fun I bought the supplies and have been sharing them with my quilting friends. I’ll be doing a post on this in the near future, but I wanted to show you our Paducah creations – plates and trays!

We had to do our traditional bubble tea stop at Etcetera (actually we had to do that twice).

As we left this morning, I couldn’t resist just one more picture – the compass quilts are back in my suitcase and the rain is gently falling.

It was such fun to catch up with friends, find some new treasures at the vendors, eat fun food and escape the snow and “reality” for a week. Thanks, Linda, for a great time!


April 22, 2018, Uncategorized
A Quilter’s Rest Stop

It’s time for Quilt Week in Paducah! This will be my 29th trip in a row and I’m very excited. But the start to this year’s trip was quite unique from every other. Yesterday we had freezing rain and today it turned to snow. This was my driveway as I left this morning.

It was the worst winter storm this year. Oh how glad I am to be heading to Kentucky with my dear friend Linda. The snow was letting up by the time we got to Rockford and tonight were staying in Champaign, IL. – not a snowflake in sight and it’s 43 degrees – hooray!

Next week I’ll share some of our Paducah fun but this week, since I’m talking about travel, I have a quilt and travel related post:

My friend Connie recently returned from a driving trip to Texas and New Mexico with her husband. On the drive home through Iowa they happened to stop at the Cedar County rest stop on I-80 between Iowa City and Davenport. She was very excited about it because the entire building was filled with quilt blocks!

Iowa is in the process of updating 38 of it’s rest stops and each one has it’s own unique theme! This one was designed to resemble a train station with an Underground Railroad theme.

Here are a few of the pictures she shared with me: The exterior blocks:

Some interior blocks:

And an entire interior wall:

I found a great website about this fascinating project, with pictures of all the themed rest stops at:

It looks like a wonderful stop! Thanks Connie!


Linda and I will be staying in the B&B above Tribeca Restaurant in Paducah again this year. I’m planning to hang a display of my Mariner’s Compass quilts in the front window. Please stop by and visit them if you’re in the area!


April 15, 2018, Uncategorized
A New Trick for Attaching a Quilt Label

I did a series of posts earlier this year on using Elmer’s School Glue™ to baste things together while quilting. I’ve discovered one more use that’s been a real help when stitching labels onto my quilts.

It’s really quite simple:

Create your label in any way you like. I usually design them on the computer and print them onto colorfast printer fabric.

Press under a 1/4″ hem all the way around.

Scribble a line of glue all over the wrong side of the label.

Place it on the back of the quilt and iron in place to dry the glue.

Now stitch it down without worrying about the label shifting, or the thread tangling around any pin heads! In the picture above I haven’t stitched it yet, and you will notice corners of the pressed hems peeking out along the edges. This is not a problem because I’m able to use my needle to tuck these corners under the label as I appliqué it in place.

I backed this quilt with a fabric I got in Alaska a few years ago. It was the perfect back.

I’m currently putting this label on my Winter Window quilt because I didn’t add a label when I finished it back in 2015. It hangs in our “master bath window towel rack” (to read my post about this quilt click here).

At the end of that post I stated that I already had an idea for my “Spring” quilt. The picture I used for this new quilt was the view from my kitchen window.

Working on a Spring quilt helped me to endure portions of this very cold winter, and this week I decided it was time to replace the winter quilt in my window (and finally add a label – two winters after it was completed).

Now if we could just warm up past 36 degrees!!!

April 8, 2018, Uncategorized
A Dragonfly Retreat

I’ve been invited to teach at a wonderful venue in Bangor, Wisconsin this Summer! It’s called:

It’s located in an elegant colonial home built in 1935.


With a big and bright workroom:

Lovely accomodations:

including dragonfly quilts on the beds:

A beautiful dining room:

And to top it all off – a Sweet Sixteen mid-arm machine is available for you to use to free motion quilt your projects! (It’s the same machine I quilt on  🙂 )

I’m scheduled for July 19th to the 22nd, and my focus will be BORDERS!

I’ll kick off the weekend with my Border Boutique lecture in which I’ll share a plethora of ideas and techniques to add just the right “frames” to your quilts. From pieced to appliquéd; from threaded to embellished; there’ll be something for everyone!

Then I’ll present my Seminole Borders workshop. In it students will make samples of 5 different Seminole techniques that would add excitement to any quilt.

I did a blog post on this workshop a few months ago. To read all about it click here!

There’ll be plenty of time to design and create borders for your own projects over the course of the weekend – and I’ll be there to help and encourage you in any way I can.

I’m very excited about this opportunity and I’d love to have you enjoy it with me. For all the information go to:


Hawaiian Cruise 2019 Update!

While we’re on the subject of traveling with quilters, we recently had a quilter sign on for a balcony cabin on our next Sew We Go adventure – and she’s looking for a roommate!

If you are interested, let us know. What we typically do in these situations is give the interested parties each other’s contact information. These two quilters then talk on the phone and, if they make a good connection, they meet for coffee or lunch and find out if they’re compatible. It’s worked well for many of our travelers in the past. Please email me at or contact Kristi through the link to our flyer:

Wishing you a Happy Easter Sunday celebrating the resurrection of our Savior!


April 1, 2018, Travel
Added Shadows

A few years ago I made a quilt using an orange/yellow pointillism fabric, silhouetted with black.

I loved the way the pointillism fabric added depth. I loved the color, I loved the silhouette of the tree. I was pleased with the moon. It was exhibited in a number of shows and I shared it in many lectures.  It hangs in our home every Autumn. But something never seemed quite right.

Recently I pulled it off the shelf as I was packing up for a lecture in a nearby town. I got the feeling I should hang it on the design wall and stare at it for a bit (which was impractical – as Trey was napping and I really needed to use the time to prepare for the talk). All of a sudden it hit me –

Why hadn’t I noticed this before? Why hadn’t anyone mentioned it to me?

I threaded the machine with black and began rapidly free motion stitching horizontal “wavy” lines on the lake. A few moments later – SHADOWS!

Here’s the before and after, side-by-side pictures, for comparison:

I’m so glad that when a quilt is finished, one can always change their mind and add a bit more quilting!

Now I love it even more   😀 .

Have you ever added to a quilt long after it was “finished”? I’d love to hear your story. Please comment to this post or email me at


And here’s a little extra about last week’s post :-). You may remember I shared pictures and stories about Bears Paw quilts. I asked for readers to send me pictures of their bears paw quilts and Donna responded with this email:

“After reading your last blog entry about the bears paw quilt, I thought I’d send you a picture of my quilt.  It’s not really a bears paw quilt, it’s what I started in your “Scrap Happy” class at WCTC a while back, but it does sort of have giant bears paws in it.”

It definitely has bears paws on it and it’s wonderful! Thanks Donna!

To see the original post about the Scrap Happy class I taught at a retreat go to:


And one last item for anyone who lives in the Milwaukee/Madison area. This coming week is a special one and my church, Calvary Baptist Church in Watertown, WI, will be presenting a “Walk Through Jerusalem” on the evening of Good Friday. It’s a wonderful family event! Come anytime between 5:30 and 8pm. The address is 792 Milford Street.

If you’d like more information, please watch this invitation from our Pastor!

Join us Good Friday from 5:30pm-8:00pm for a Walk Through Jerusalem!

Posted by Calvary Baptist Church on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Maybe I’ll see you there  🙂

March 25, 2018, free motion
Postitive – Negative Paws

A while ago my friend, Eileen, wanted to make a quilt for her husband’s “man-cave”. She purchased black and tan fabrics and chose the Bear’s Paw pattern. During my Open Lab class we discussed different ways to make the Bear’s Paw block. Eileen found a great tutorial from Jenny Doan at Missouri Star Quilts on a new way to make the paws without having to make a lot of half-square triangles.

You can watch that video at:

Eileen enjoyed using Jenny’s techniques and her finished quilt is beautiful!

I just loved the unexpected use of the black as the background and the tan as the paws. The border is a print with black bison on a tan background. Very striking!

Another student in my Open Lab, Judy, admired it so much she decided to make one too. She watched Jenny’s video and chose the same color scheme, but this time in flannel. Judy reversed the fabrics. WOW!

What fun to see positive and negative versions of this stunning pattern. I don’t think I could make a choice as to which fabric placement I like better. Both of these quilters did a marvelous job!

Here’s a close-up of the quilting on Judy’s quilt. It was done by MaryJo Busch – lovely!

Thank you ladies, for allowing me to share your great quilts!

I made a Bear’s Paw quilt years ago for the “New Quilt From an Old Favorite” contest held at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. We were to do something innovative with the pattern and I called my version “Bear’s Pause” because the bears stopped at a campsite, paused for a snack and then continued off the quilt in the upper right.

The tiny paws all over the campground and up the tree were pieced and reverse, raw-edged appliquéd in place. The tumbling chairs and torn open food packages were photo-transferred onto fabric and appliquéd in place. The background was started in a landscape class with Natalie Sewell. My first landscape quilt!

Do you have photos of a bears paw quilt you’d like to share? Please email them to me at: .

March 18, 2018, Piecing
Facing a Quilt and With Great Corners!

I think you’re going to love my technique for FACING A QUILT, but first let me tell you about the sample quilt I’ll be demonstrating on  😀 !

When Wendy and I lead quilting tours we come up with projects that can be created onboard the ship, and we like to include creative techniques. As I was contemplating what we could do to make a traditional Hawaiian appliqué style project that was fun and inventive, the Lord dropped this idea into my head! I’m so excited!

Each participant (the projects are always optional) will make their own unique pattern from their initials, and then “stencil” the pattern onto fabric using Shiva Paintstiks™. Here’s my first “Cruise Hawaii” quilt, using the initials for “Sew We Go” and palm trees:

Do you see the “SWG”s? I echo quilted this 25” wall quilt by machine and faced the edge.

Our Hawaiian cruise adventure will take place in January 2019. That may sound like a long way off, but this sailing on NCL’s American Pride will sell out.  We need to release cabins back to Norwegian if they are not spoken for soon so if you’ve been contemplating joining us, please let us know. Simply click here for a printable version of the cruise flyer!”

And now – on with this week’s post:

In my last post I shared a simple technique for finishing a quilt without the need for a traditional binding. There is another option for a “binding-less” finish and it’s called a facing. I’ve seen many faced quilts while judging quilt shows and, as with the turned quilts we talked about last week, the corners are always the problem area. They tend to be lumpy, and they’re often messy looking along the edge and the back.


This really isn’t any harder than attaching a binding:

• Begin by squaring up your quilted quilt 1″ longer in each direction than you’d like it to finish, because the facing requires a 1/2″ turn under allowance all the way around (a binding fits over the cut edge of the quilt and thus no length is lost, but a facing does require this extra inch, so remember to allow for it).

•  Choose a facing fabric that is similar in color and value to the fabric along the outer edge of your quilt.  Measure the width and length of your squared quilt. Substract 4” from each measurement and cut (2) 1 ½” strips at both measurements (ie. a quilt measuring 30” x 40” would need 2 strips cut 26” and 2 strips cut 36”). Cut (4) 5″ squares also.

• Press the 5” squares in half diagonally, right side out. Trim about 1” from one corner as in the picture below.

• Place a folded square against the right side of the quilt, in one corner, raw edges even, with the trimmed corner facing up.

• Place all 4 corners on in this manner. Then place the long strips, right sides together with the quilt, along all 4 edges, and pin in place. The strips will overlap the corners.

• Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, stitch all 4 sides of the quilt, going off the edge on each end instead of pivoting at the corners (this portion is a repeat of last week’s instructions).

• Using a seam ripper, remove the last 1″ of stitches in both directions (if there is quilting in the seam allowance, that will need to be picked out too).


•Pull back the square and the quilt top from the batting in the corner, exposing the previous stitching holes.

• Trim the batting corner off just inside the crossed stitches. Make sure you trim the batting only!


• Put the layers back in place and repeat for all 4 corners. Re-stitch the corners, pivoting this time. Trim.

• Turn the quilt over to the back and pull all the side strips out along the edges.

• Beginning at the end of one strip, wrap the strip to the back tightly around the outer edge of the quilt.

• Then fold the facing to the back of the quilt leaving the seam at the quilts edge. Pin and continue along the entire length.

• Repeat for all four sides.

• Turn the corner pieces to the back of the quilt. Push out the corners so they lay flat and sharp. Pin in place.

view from the back

view from the edge

view from the front

• Hand-stitch the facing to the back of the quilt.

This technique isn’t for every quilt, but it’s a good one to have in your toolbox when you need it  😀 !

And here’s a quick peek at two other Hawaiian quilts I’ve made. The first includes pineapples and my initials (CLK):

And this one is a small hibiscus flower quilt – just because it’s pretty (no initials or repeated designs):

They’re like potato chips – I can’t stop making them!

And I discovered an added plus – it’s quite simple to use one of the corners on the back of the quilt as a label!

I apologize for this post being a bit lengthy, but I’m hoping you found it interesting and worthwhile.

March 11, 2018, finishing
“Binding-less” Flat Corners

Currently it is very “trendy” to hang art on the wall without a frame. My daughter-in-law is a talented artist and often hangs her canvases in this manor:

This has become popular with fiber artists too. It is very “in” to hang wall quilts without borders or bindings.  I’ve made a number of wall quilts that I just didn’t think would look great with a binding.

I call this quilt “Interchange” and it is an example of one of my faced quilts. It was made for a challenge entitled “Colorwheel Opposites”. I chose pinks and greens and quilted it with “wheels”.

I love the visual “feeling” that the squares are about to tumble past the outer edge.

“The Narrow Gate” is another one of my faced quilts. It was made for a different challenge, this one entitled “Portals”, and it’s one of my spiritual journey quilts. The tree depicts the cross, and the portal is a sliver of the heaven we are promised when we are saved by Jesus. The leaves are 3-D and are printed with Scripture verses which tell about this amazing gift. Once again, I thought a binding would be too confining.

So, how does one get this look without a lot of effort? Well, I have two favorite techniques for accomplishing this quite easily. I’ll share the easiest in this week’s post and my favorite way next week.

The simple way is to “turn” small quilts (envelope style: layer batt, top and back; sew all the way around and leave an opening to turn right sides out) instead of binding them.

My least favorite part of turning a quilt is having an unsightly hand-stitched area along the quilt edge where it was turned. In a previous post I shared my favorite technique for eliminating that problem (click here for that post and scroll down about half way through the post for the turning trick).

My second frustration when turning a quilt is lumps at the corners. No matter how much I trim the batt and fabrics, there is always a lump… and worse – I sometimes trim it so close my turning tool pushes through the corner! UGH!

Well – I have a solution for that problem too. Here goes:

• Stitch all the way around the quilt, using a 1/4″ seam allowance, but don’t  pivot at the corners. Instead, stitch off the ends of each edge as in the picture, yielding crossed seams at the corners:

• Choose a corner and “unstitch” the last inch in both directions. You’ll be able to see the holes where the stitches were when you pull back the fabric:

• Pull the backing fabric out of the way too, and angle cut the batting away just inside the intersection:

• Lay everything back in place and resew the seam, pivoting at the corner this time.

• Trim the corners as usual for turning.

• Repeat for the remaining corners.

• Turn the quilt, right side out, and enjoy the “lumpless” results!

Do you turn your quilts? Do you have problems with lumps? If so, I hope you’ll give this a try, and I’d love to hear your thoughts about the technique.

Please return next week for step-by-step facing instructions. I think you’ll find it quite interesting!

March 4, 2018, finishing
A Sommer Quilt

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know how much I love to teach others how to quilt, especially kids. When my eldest granddaughter, Hanna was 5, she made a quilt for her dolly – and sewed every stitch herself. It took her two hours and when she was done she said “can I make another one?” I love that girl  😀 !

Her little brother wanted to try it, but I made him wait until he was 6. On a visit here from Washington, Willy made a quilt for his bear. He worked on it over the course of 2 weeks and got it done. It’s not really his thing – but he stuck with it.

My great-niece Lily stayed overnight with us when she was 7. She knew her cousins had made quilts and she wanted to try it too.

Sommer (5) is my “nearby” granddaughter, and we care for her and her brother while mommy and daddy are at work every day. Last summer I said to her “Hanna was 5 when she made her first quilt. Would you like to learn how to make a quilt”. She thought for a few seconds and then replied “no thank-you”.

Well, this past Monday she was home from school with a cold. After breakfast she informed me she was ready to make a quilt.

She chose her favorite 12 squares from my charm square box and arranged them on the floor.

I set up my featherweight on the same bench the other kids used and sat her on a stool. She learned to press the pedal with her foot and quickly caught on to the idea of keeping the fabric edges along the “pad” of painter’s tape.

She kept everything in order on the floor as she sewed.

She sewed all the rows together, picked a backing, helped me pin the layers together and sewed all the way around. After turning it right side out, I marked the quilt with a sliver of soap, and she machine quilted it with a big “X”.

I knew she was enjoying herself when she exclaimed “We’re rocking this quilt grandma!”

She wrapped it around her daddy’s old Cabbage Patch Kid and gave it a hug.

And here’s one more picture of my proud little quilter.

At this point she reminded me that she won’t be 6 until March, so she made her quilt while she was 5, just like Hanna!

And here’s the other kids and their quilts. I think I’ve got this lesson down pat  🙂 .

To read Hanna’s post click here.

To read Willy’s post click here.

To read Lily’s post click here.

Before I end this week’s post, I need to add one more picture. Yesterday we had a party for Trey’s 3rd birthday. It’s a tradition in our family that I make the kid’s birthday cakes (I do prefer to make quilts – they last longer 🙂 ). So here’s our youngest with his PJ Mask cake.

I wonder when he’ll be ready to make a quilt  😛 !

February 25, 2018, Kids
Rusty Chicken Wire and a Rooster

Hawaiian Cruise Update

Before I get to this week’s topic, I’d like to answer a question about Shore Excursions during our upcoming quilter’s cruise to Hawaii in January of 2019.

The price of our adventure includes a group excursion in each port on the cruise. Our number one priority in choosing these excursions is to make sure we see everything Hawaii has to offer! We plan to also include some stops especially of interest to quilters, when it won’t interfere with the exploration of our destination. We’ll have all the details available in mid-summer. At that time our travelers may choose to opt out of our shore excursion package, if they so desire, and the cost of their trip will be adjusted to reflect this. I hope this is helpful. We still have a few cabins available and you can read all the details, and sign up, by clicking on:

And now – a topic to crow about  😀 !

Last Fall Sue Schlobohm, a student in my Open Lab class, told me she wanted to make a quilt for a challenge at a local craft/quilt shop. She had purchased the packet of fabrics to be used in the challenge and had decided she wanted to make a quilted portrait of a well embellished rooster. To accomplish this she was wondering if I knew of anywhere to get “chicken wire” fabric for the background. Well, you might remember that in the Summer of 2016 I tried my hand at rust dyeing and created a piece of fabric with a very rusty hunk of chicken wire fencing (to read all about it click here).

I had folded 1 yard of fabric around a “1/2 yard” piece of fencing (that’s why the side on the right is a lighter version of the one on the left).

I immediately felt the need to share half of the fabric with Sue :-). And – Wow – did she put it to good use! Here is her wonderful quilt.

Sue makes decorator pillows professionally and deals with a lot of home dec fabric. Some of those scraps found their way into this regal rooster’s tail, along with her lovely hand stitching.

Her label is well done also:

The words in the picture are a bit difficult to read, so here’s what it says:

“The Funky Chicken

Was appliquéd, machine stitched, hand embroidered and quilted by Susan Jones Schlobohm for the Ben Franklin Quilt Challenge, Oconomowoc, WI – 2017

The theme was animals, and you had to include the 3 fabrics seen to the right. The background fabric was rust dyed by Chris Lynn Kirsch, teacher and inspiration.

The quilt is dedicated to all my friends at the WCTC Open Quilting Lab”

I was thrilled to be acknowledged by this talented lady and I hope all of her friends in Open Lab read that last part  😀 !

Thank you Sue, for letting me share the story of your delightful quilt. Congratulations on a job well done!


And, since this post spoke of both a rooster and Hawaii, I thought you might find this interesting:

A few years ago Mike and I vacationed in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, and we were fascinated by the plethora of wild chickens and roosters running all over the island. Here’s the story:

“Most locals agree that wild chickens proliferated after Hurricane Iniki ripped across Kauai in 1992, destroying chicken coops and releasing domesticated hens, as well as roosters being bred for cockfighting. Now these brilliantly feathered fowl inhabit every part of this tropical paradise, crowing at all hours of the day and night to the delight or dismay of tourists and locals alike.”

February 18, 2018, Challenges
Glue Basting to Miter a Border

Before I get to my topic of the week, I’d like to share a few helpful hints for using a blog such as mine. Some posts (like this one) contain instructions for techniques you may want to save. There are a number of ways to do this:

• When you click on the link to open my blog the first thing you’ll see is my most recent post and, if you scroll down  through it, you’ll find my previous posts. Because I put a lot of pictures in my posts, my site may load slowly on your computer or other device. That’s why I always send you a link to just my most recent post also.

• If you are on my full site and want to open just one of my posts, simply click on the title of that particular post:

The post title is in the red circle.

• When you’re in the page that contains only one post, the title will turn black as in the example below. You can “bookmark” that post to save it for future reference. On my computer I can add a bookmark by clicking on the star in the upper right, typing in a name for it and clicking on “done”. This process may be different on your computer, but it should be similar.

Once again – look for the red circle above :-).

• If you’d rather print that post and save a hard copy of the information, click on “print me” under the post title (and be sure you’re connected to a printer):

I hope this was helpful. Now for my topic of the week:


I’ve recently been using Elmer’s School Glue™ to match fabric patterns when sewing strips together. This week we’ll use the same glue technique to miter a border.

• Sew the border strips onto 2 adjacent sides of the quilt top, using a 1/4″ seam allowance, and backstitching 1/4″ from the corner on each strip:

• Lay the vertical strip flat against the ironing surface:

• Fold the end of the horizontal strip under at a 45 degree angle, forming a miter.  If your fabric happens to be a stripe – the miter will be much easier to see  :-). Press:

• Pull this newly pressed crease back

• and squeeze a thin line of glue along the edge of the crease:

• Lay the glued crease back in place on the vertical strip and press again to dry the glue:

• Once the glue is dry, fold the quilt top in half diagonally to expose the glued crease and stitch in the crease. Trim off the excess strips,  1/4″ from the stitching, and you’re done.


And one last thing!

Last week I shared information about the Sun Prairie Quilt Show. There will be two other shows in the Southeast Wisconsin area that same weekend:

West Suburban Quilters Guild will be holding their show at the Waukesha Expo Center. For more info go to:

The Crazy Quilters in Mukwonago will also be holding their annual quilt show at the Mukwonago Middle School. For more info go to:

February 11, 2018, finishing Notions
School Glue – a Quilter’s New Best Friend

Last week I shared how to match striped fabric strips, using “Elmer’s School Glue”™, with a straight seam. This time I’ll demo matching with a bias/mitered seam. Its the same basic maneuver – glue basting, plus a pressing tip for creating the miter:

• Begin with 2 strips you want to sew together end-to-end, and find a matching pattern on both.

• Turn over one strip and fold back the corner of the end. Press.

• Run a thin line of glue along the pressed crease.

• Lay the “pressed/glued” strip on top of the second strip, glue side down, and carefully match the pattern. Iron in place to dry the glue.

• Then fold the strip you just added on the right, down to expose the inside of the crease and stitch in the crease.

The great thing about using the glue is – if it doesn’t match exactly, even after pressing, simply pull it apart and glue again!

And …

The above technique works great for finishing a “no-end” binding!

• Sew your binding to the quilt, leaving about 8″ open between the beginning and ending tails.

• Fold back the end of the tail on the left at a 45 degree angle and press.

• Run a thin line of glue along this crease.

• Place the tail on the right back evenly on top of the glued crease. Press to dry the glue.

• When the glue is dry, pick up the strip tails, open them to reveal the inside of the crease and stitch in the crease.

Trim the excess tails 1/4″ from the seam and continue sewing the binding to the quilt.

If you prefer to use a double or “French” binding, simply leave yourself a wider opening between the beginning and ending stitches (perhaps 12″), open the strips flat, and connect them as above, folding the strip back in half after it is stitched, and sewing it to the quilt.

I do hope you’ll try this technique. I’ve found it extremely quick and accurate!

An FYI for local quilters

The Sun Prairie Quilt Show is fast approaching. To enter a quilt in the competition and/or read all about the show click here!

February 4, 2018, finishing Notions
Striped Pinwheel Topper

Last week’s post was a popular one. Many quilters asked if I was teaching my Stripped Pinwheel Topper class again, or if I had a pattern for the project. I don’t have a pattern for it as I made up my own class handout, not a stand alone pattern. I did some research on the internet and found many Amish quilts with this design by the names of Amish Spinning Star and Star Spin. There is a pattern available called Sew Easy Strata Star by Ruthann Eckersley. So, if you’re anxious to try it – there are options available with an internet search. I plan to teach it again at WCTC, but we schedule months in advance, so it will be 2019 before my next class. I’m also thinking of proposing to teach a variation of the design for the Madison Expo next year.

I’m calling this variation Striped Pinwheel Topper because it uses a striped fabric – thus avoiding having to piece all those strata. I already have made a sample quilt, and it’s super easy and fun to do!

The trickiest part was matching the stripes when sewing the pieces together. I was able to surmount this obstacle with the use of Elmer’s School Glue™. I attended a lecture at the Madison Expo last year by Sue Heinz. She was sharing her passion for basting with this product, and gave credit to Sharon Schamber for introducing it to her (Sharon has a number of Youtube videos on-line on this topic). She said the white school glue is not actually a glue, but a form of starch. Because of this it washes out of fabric with no problem.

I needed to piece my striped fabric to get the length I needed and wanted the look of a straight seam. This is how I made sure things matched up perfectly:

Choose a stripe fabric.

Cut strips so each is of the same portion of the stripe and lay them on top of each other, right sides together.

At one end fold back the top strip and run a thin line of glue less than 1/4″ from the edge.

Lay the top strip back in place and press to dry the glue. When the glue is dry, sew the ends together with a 1/4″ seam.

It’s as simple as that!

Next week I’ll share how I use this technique to piece strips with a mitered seam. Stay tuned :-)!



January 28, 2018, Piecing
Stripped pinwheel Topper

Last semester I taught a pinwheel table topper class at WCTC.

It was the first time I’d taught this class and I’m always a bit anxious about timing, and the possibility of handout errors. It can be hard to gauge how much students can accomplish in the time allotted. I had them cut their fabric strips ahead of time, and there were no problems with the handout, but I really underestimated how long it would take to sew all the strips together. After lunch everyone still had more strip sewing to do and I was getting nervous.

As some of the students finally began to reach the triangle cutting stage it became obvious that the triangle cutting and sewing was actually fun and it was great to see how the fabrics were coming together. But half the class was still sewing away on their strips and I could sympathize with their frustration. Well… by the end of class Carmen had her top done.

A few more were close to done, but – praise the Lord – everyone had at least 1/4 of the topper cut out and sewn or pinned together. I felt sure they all knew what they needed to get them finished. On the way home I still felt uneasy about the class – I always want it to be a good experience for everyone.

That night I received an email from an address I didn’t recognize that began: “It’s all your fault!!!”. I gulped, but I knew it was not spam because the rest of the message (readable prior to opening) said “I came home and the one we made in class”. That’s all I could see, but I felt I had to read the rest of the email and when I opened it this was the entire statement:

“I came home and the one we made in  class was too large for our table so I shrunk it. Thanks for the technique. Deb”

She made a second, smaller one that same day! And here’s the picture  🙂 :

Wow! What an overachiever. I responded with how impressed I was, and congratulations. When I asked Deb how she did it and if I could include it in my blog she wrote: “Sure. I cut 3-1″ strips. I’m a goof ball who went home and made more. 😊 Turned out!!  Thanks again!”

This made my evening. I then wrote to the other students and asked them to send me pictures if/when they got their tops done. Here’s what I received back!




Mary Ann




Great job ladies. I’m so impressed with the results! They’re all lovely and it’s fun to see them in so many different colorways.

January 21, 2018, Classes Piecing
Anything Goes – Fiber Art Exhibit!

Before I get to today’s topic I’d like to apologize for last week’s email link error which affected quite a few of you. If you would like information on our Sew We Go cruise to Hawaii in January 2019 – please click on this link:




And now for my “Topic of the Week”:

I’m very pleased to announce that Threadbenders, a new fiber art group I belong to, has an exhibit of challenge quilts hanging at Sew Much More in Waukesha, Wisconsin!

(formerly known as Frank’s Sewing Center – 2140 W Saint Paul Avenue).

I belong to two art quilt groups and in 2017 they both held Anything Goes Round Robin challenges. I’ve participated in these before and it’s a great learning experience. In essence each member puts something in a bag, passes it to someone else and does anything they want to what’s inside the new bag they get. After 4 or 5 rounds the originator gets their bag back and the only rule is “you can’t be upset over what you get back”. The originator then is encouraged to finish theirs.

Many participants in our Threadbenders challenge did finish theirs and the results are quite interesting. Those results are what is hanging at Sew Much More (here are two pics of the exhibit, but they really are much more interesting “in the cloth”).

We took pictures each step of the way and have posted them on our blog. To see all of the finished quilts and all of the step-by-step pictures go to:

Here are the pictures of my challenge piece’s transformation. Laura got my bag first. It contained an unfinished class sample from my silhouette appliqué workshop.

Laura – round 1

Connie – round 2

Sonja – round 3

Brenda – round 4

I was a little befuddled about what to do with what I got back. After staring at it for a while I decided it might be fun to use it as the focal point of a “Modern Quilt”, using the shapes in the challenge piece to inspire my quilting designs. I was pleased with the results (red – I know – who would have thought it???).

If you didn’t link to the Threadbender’s blog above, to see all of the Anything Goes quilts, please do so now at:

And to see the finished projects – go to Sew Much More! It’s a great store and you won’t be disappointed!

January 14, 2018, Challenges
Sew We Go to Hawaii


One year from today Wendy and I will be sailing the waters of the warm Pacific! Doesn’t that sound wonderful? We’d love to have you join us and we’re ready to share the details!

All of the information, including dates, pricing, and the reservation form are in our Hawaii cruise flyer which may be opened by clicking on the following sign:

We’ll be traveling from January 4-12, 2019.
As always, we are including a lot of extras along with our seven days in paradise to make this trip a great value:
♦ Shore excursions in five different ports especially tailored to the interests of our group.
♦ A night in Honolulu prior to the cruise to take the stress out of arrival and boarding.
♦ Pre- and Post- trip gatherings, along with friendship block exchanges and on-board projects for everyone who wants to participate!
♦ And, as stated in the flyer, our goal is to include fiber related activities where possible. This may include meeting with local guilds, visiting shops that carry fabric, yarn, native crafts or other fiber arts, taking part in workshops, or featuring guest educators/speakers. We’ll share what we come up with as it becomes available.
♦ All of this in addition to everything the Aloha State and Norwegian Cruise Lines have to offer. It’s an opportunity you won’t want to miss!
So please read the flyer, reserve your spot, and feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
With warm thoughts,
Chris, Wendy and Kristi

January 7, 2018, Travel
A Chip Off the Old Block

My final blog post of 2017 is about two of my favorite subjects – grandchildren and sewing!

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I enjoy teaching young people to sew and quilt.

You may remember a post I did a few months ago about Hanna’s landscape quilt (click here to read that post). Well now I’d like to share her long distance adventure with fusing.

I love Facetime and being able to “talk” to the kids via video. A while ago, Hanna said she wanted to make a pillow with a “critter” of some sort on it. Since she doesn’t have a sewing machine, I thought she might enjoy fusing. So I sent her a bunch of fabric and a length of Heat ‘n Bond™ paper backed fusible web. She thanked me when it arrived and then didn’t mention it again. A little while later she “called” to say she wanted to start. I’d made her a video on how to use the fusible and texted it to her, but she wanted me to talk her through it via FaceTime. I watched her set up the ironing board, we talked about iron safety, and she gathered the supplies.

She had decided she wanted to put Mickey Mouse™ on a piece of fabric and make it into a pillow. She traced her design onto the fusible web, ironed it to her fabric, cut it out, and fused it to the muslin background. She had a package of pre-cut/fused letters with which she added her name. Voilá – the pillow top was done as we spoke.

The next day I received the above pictures from her dad with the message “I think she gets this from you”; and 4 smiley faces!

The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. I’m pretty sure this girl needs a sewing machine!

On Hanna and Willy’s most recent visit she thought it would be fun to make pillow cases for daddy and her other grandparents for Christmas. Willy helped her pick out the perfect flannels for each of them, then she began to sew.

And she completed all three!

Afterwards we went to see Star Wars with Uncle Brad and Aunt Betsy (grandpa was home with the little ones  🙂 )

Happy New Year from all of us to all of you!

December 31, 2017, Kids
Snuggle Up in Memories – a T-shirt Quilt

My cousin Lisa has been best friends with Rochelle since grade school. They both met their husbands working at McDonalds during high school and have remained very close. In October Rochelle’s husband Rich lost his life in a motorcycle accident. It was a traumatic loss for so many. Lisa and her family wanted to do something to comfort Rochelle as Christmas neared and they came up with the idea of a t-shirt quilt. Trouble was, they had no idea how to make one. I was so grateful to be asked to be a part of this important project.

Lisa, her daughters Kirstin and Carly, and her mom – my Aunt Lois brought over a large bag of t-shirts one Saturday afternoon and we had a lovely time cutting up shirts, fusing on the interfacing, cutting the squares and laying them out on the living room floor. They all caught on fast and we enjoyed the time together.

That week I sewed the blocks together and the following Saturday they returned (Aunt Lois couldn’t make it) to layer the quilt top with polar fleece and tie it. I thought it would be a breeze – I’ve tied many comforters – but I had never tried to get a yarn-threaded needle through a t-shirt/interfacing/fleece sandwich before! It was arduous and not for the faint of heart. I found my free motion quilting gloves helped to grab the needle, and a twisting/pulling action worked the best, but it was still hard work. I was very impressed with how well these ladies persevered.  We got it done and I was able to turn the fleece over the edge to the front, and top stitch it in place before they had to leave.

I wish I had taken a few step-by-step pictures along the way, but I’m sure you can imagine it.

Here’s a picture Kirsten recently posted on Facebook after they presented Rochelle and her daughters with the quilt.

Christmas will be hard for Rochelle and her family, but I’m hopeful our efforts will help to ease her grief and bring her pleasant memories in the years to come.

I’ve found over the years that when I focus on the greatest Christmas gift – our Savior, and worshipping Him – even when my life is overwhelming or out of focus, I can have His joy and peace. May you have that joy and peace this Christmas!

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2017, Friendship Quilts
Homemade Christmas Gifts – Part 2

Last week I asked for pictures of Christmas gifts “you” were making this year. I received responses from 2 talented stitchers and I found their projects delightful. I think you will too!

Sonnalea does beautiful things with her embroidery machine. Here’s what she sent:

“Chris, each year I make my grandchildren a Christmas ornament.  I have attached the front and the back (the front of the ornaments was a Design by Sick).  

I also attached a wallhanging I made for my sisters (it’s from a Janine Babich Design).  My sister Marcele received one of these.  Merry Christmas to you. Sonnalea.”

Sonnalea’s sister, Marcele, is a friend of mine from church – and she had shown me a picture of this wallhanging the same day Sonnalea emailed it to me 🙂 .

Then I got an email from Margaret. She is a very talented quilter, and is a sewing and quilting judge at many local county fairs. Here’s what she had to share:

“For several years, I have been making new pillowcases for each of my grandchildren every  Christmas … I sent these off last week.

Last month, I gave a demo @ our morning guild meeting (Kettle Moraine Quilt Guild), using that “hot dog method”.  When we meet this week, instead of exchanging gifts as we usually do, members will be bringing pillowcases to donate to Children’s Hospital (they like to give them out to patients to keep).

Your pictures are wonderful … I will share your blog with guild members.
Thank you … Margaret”

What a great idea for a guild “gift exchange”! This was followed by a second email with more wonderful projects:

“Thought of you as I was making these stockings for our youngest grandchildren – wishing I had not left this task until after Thanksgiving.  After all … these babies were born in July & Sept.  But – stockings were sent off & are now hanging.
The overall designs were to match their older sibling’s stockings, but yet I have tried to make each unique.  Even though the cuffs are sewn on last, I did use your method of sewing the lining for Finley’s stocking … thank you for sharing your tips.

I enjoy the hand work & creativity … and if I thought our families would continue to grow, I would write up better instructions so I don’t need to figure everything out again.  Personally, I’m anxious to get back to regular quilting!”

That last part made me laugh out loud. I can really identify – I’m forever reinventing the wheel.

Thank you Margaret and Sonnalea!

I hope you are all enjoying this wonderful season and all the preparations which go with it!

December 17, 2017, Kids
Homemade Christmas Gifts – Pillow Cases

Many years ago a member of my quilt guild brought in a pattern for pillow cases and invited us to make them as Christmas gifts for members of the military. The response was great. Problem was, the pattern was very simple and all the seams were raw edged on the inside of the case. This bothered me because I knew they would not wear as well with those exposed seams. On the way home I began to noodle on this and, since I don’t own a serger, I had to come up with another option. I harkened back to my days of garment sewing and knew the case itself could be sewn with French Seams. But how to do the seam between the case and the cuff??? An idea came to me and I couldn’t wait to get home and try it. It worked, so I made a new handout to share with my guild and called it the Enclosed Seam Pillow Case.

I shared it at the next meeting and many of us had a great time making pillow cases. The following month one of our members came up to me with a handout she’d printed off the internet. The author was using the same technique I came up with, but was calling it the “hot dog roll” technique. This made me smile. Someone else had come up with the same idea, just a different name! Either way – it works!

In early December this year, one of my Open Lab students asked if I’d do a refresher demo on the cases, because she wanted to make Christmas gifts. It was about time I made my grandkids new ones too – so I did the demo and many students participated:

From left to right, top to bottom: Deb, Judy, Jean, Marilyn, Eileen, Rose, Mary Ann and Louise

Great job ladies!

Here are my instructions for making pillow cases. Many of you probably know how to make them, but you may enjoy some of the additional helpful hints I’m including 🙂 . I’m hoping this post might be just in time for you to make a few for Christmas gifts too.

Enclosed Seam Pillow Cases

Supplies: ¾ yard main fabric, ¼ yard cuff fabric and a 1 ½” accent strip (pressed in half lengthwise). Make sure the main and cuff fabrics are squared up to the right size and not just the way they were cut at the store. Things will just fit better this way.

• Place the main fabric right side up on your work surface, with a cut edge laid out horizontally in front of you.

• Lay the raw edges of the accent strip along this cut edge and pin about every 8″ (flower head pins).

• Lay one long cut edge of the cuff fabric, right sides together with the other raw edges and pin in between the previous pins (ball head pins – I have my reasons for pinning this way and I’ve used different pin heads so you can see the difference).

•  Flip this entire unit over so the cuff is against the work surface, and the wrong side of the main fabric is facing up.

• Roll up the main fabric until you see the cuff peeking through from underneath.

• Bring the remaining cut edge of the cuff fabric up to the other raw edges and re-pin each of the pins through all the layers. Be sure the main fabric doesn’t get caught in this pinning.

• Sew with a 3/8″ seam allowance. If you are using flannel, you can strengthen the seam with an added line of zig-zag stitching in the seam allowance. Be sure to backstitch at both ends to secure.

• Turn this tube right sides out. Press.

• Rotary cut the selvedges off both sides of the unit, making sure the cuts are straight and the angles remain at 90 degrees.

To make the French Seams: Fold the case, wrong sides together, and pin along the two unfinished sides.

Sew with a ¼” seam allowance. Sewing through the cuff seam can be difficult. I can usually make it through on this seam, going slow and with a bit of tugging from behind (stay tuned for hints to sew it the second time).

Trim off all three corners (don’t forget the one at the end of the cuff).

I like to trim the seam allowance at the cuff seam to 1/8″ at this time.

• Turn the case wrong side out, push out the corners, press and pin.

• Sew these two edges one more time, this time using a 3/8″ seam allowance to enclose all the raw edges, and backstitching at each end. If you can’t sew through the thickness at the cuff seam, leave that area open, and once the rest of the seam is complete, go back and fill in the seam using a zipper foot to avoid the thickness.

• Turn right side out and press. DONE!

My tip for trimming the corner at the cuff (5 pictures back) gets rid of any loose threads peeking out of the seam at the finished cuff edge.

And here are the ones I’ve made for my family this year.

I hadn’t tried flannel before, and I like it!

I love to give homemade gifts to my loved ones! What homemade gifts are you working on? Did you make pillow cases this year? I’d love to see pictures! Please send them to me at .


December 10, 2017, Classes
Compass Gifts
After last week’s post announcing our upcoming cruise around Hawaii, I received an email from Becky. She wanted to be added to the list of “those interested in more information about the trip”  (if you haven’t put your name on the list, you may email me at: 🙂 ). She attached a picture to her email with this additional message:
“I met you in Janesville at our Guild meeting of the Friendship Stars Quilt Guild in 2016. I bought your book for Mariners Compass and love it. I’ve been making pillows for my dearest friends.”
Just look at all the compasses she’s made! WOW! What lucky friends. I wrote back and asked her for more of the story and here it is:
“Before making my first pillow, I just happened to take your book along as “potential entertainment” to a New Year’s Day party. Sure enough, while the guys were watching football the 3 of us quilting girlfriends worked step by step through your directions.  It was probably more fun than it should have been, but felt kind of magical to trust the process. Eventually…Voila! There we sat, holding our Mariner’s Compass paper-piecing patterns!
I went home and started making pillows for a February retreat.💗.
We are 6 couples that have been going to Door County for a couple’s winter retreat for more than 20 years. I decided to make each one a Mariner’s Compass pillow, but in usual quilter’s fashion, I didn’t have time to get them all done! No worries…each friend chose either a completed pillow or a “kit” with fabrics I’d selected. Eventually,  each one sent me a picture of her pillow on display in their home. The Mariner’s Compass holds its own significance because of our faith in Christ and how that guides and directs our paths. For over two decades this time of refreshment away…together… has seen us through some tough & memorable life events. Usually 4 nights–we eat, laugh, cry, hike, and worship together during a retreat of our own making.”
I’m so glad to know Becky’s story and grateful to know how the mariner’s pattern has touched her life. Thanks Becky!
If you haven’t tried my Compass technique, you can purchase a copy of my book by clicking here. If you’d like to purchase one the old fashioned way, you can mail me a check and I’ll mail you a book  😀 . Just email me at .

December 3, 2017, Piecing
Sew We’re Going Again!

Sew We Go quilt cruise Quebec

Our cruise from Quebec to Boston was so much fun we couldn’t wait to plan our next adventure. It didn’t take us long to decide on the destination:

We’ll be flying into Honolulu and cruising around the islands of Hawaii aboard the Norwegian Pride in January of 2019.

We don’t have all of the details confirmed yet, but we wanted to let you know about the trip and get a feel for how many of you are interested in joining us. Here’s what we have so far:

As with all of our adventures, the trip will include excursions in each port, cruise projects, pre and post trip gatherings and all the special “quilterly” extras you’ve come to expect from us.

Depending on cabin category, the cruise fare should be $2800-$3800 per person.

It’s too early to get airfare pricing for 2019, but these are the January 2018 prices – to give you an idea of what to expect:

*Milwaukee to Honolulu – 1 stop $856 – 11.5 hours each way (overnight on return trip)

*Chicago to Honolulu – 1 stop $772 – non-stop $989 – 9.5 hour there/8 hour return (overnight)

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, please send me an email at and I’ll add you to the list of those who want more information. That way you’ll hear from us the moment we have more to share! Aloha!

November 26, 2017, Travel
Quilt Artist Extraordinaire!
Would you believe the person who made this stunning quilt is visually impaired?
It’s title is “Pips on Point” and it was made by my dear friend Lisa Giesfeldt. Here’s a detail picture to make sure you’re sufficiently impressed :-)!
I’m constantly amazed at her artistry and effort. I asked her to write her story for my blog in her own words and was delighted when she agreed.
“I started quilting four months after my oldest was born in 1993, and was completely hooked within the next few years. I began to enter local quilt shows after joining my first guild in 1999 where I met yours truly, Chris. Four more guilds later, and quite a few ribbons, convinced me to starting my own quilting business, which included craft shows and machine quilting for others. 
Everything came to a crashing halt the day before my 35th birthday in 2000. I awoke that morning unable to see clearly out of my left eye. I thought it was due to a possible tear in an old contact lens.  After putting in a new lens there wasn’t any change in the vision in the eye. After visiting an opthamologic specialist, who said I would never regain vision in the eye, I felt helpless and scared. Luckily my mom came up to help and took me to the Eye Institute of Wisconsin. We found out that I had macular degeneration, which is very rare in someone so young. I had a recessive gene from each parent as well as severe myopia. The cracks that had developed required laser surgery to prevent any more stress and cracks to the retina. After months of depression I finally got back into quilting. My right eye was strong, and my quilting muscular memory skills were also strong. 
It didn’t take long before I adapted to the loss of the central part of my vision in my left eye. I also discovered some new tools which helped a lot. The June Tailor Shape Cut ruler recommended by Chris, really made a huge difference.
I could very accurately cut strips without any worries. I also started using the Creative Grid Rulers which have very clear markings. I also recommend rulers with high color contrast which make the black lines stand out. 
Everything was going well for the next 7 years — designing patterns and teaching at some local quilt stores; winning more ribbons on my quilts;
quilting countless quilts for others; and being a stay at home mom for two young boys. In 2007 another catastrophe occurred. I received a head trauma to my right side which caused another crack, but this time to my right eye.  I discovered at this point that I also had myopic degeneration and not just macular degeneration. The severe stretching of my eyes has caused the retina to become extremely thin and fragile. Needless to say, this caused another setback in my quilting endeavors. Another laser surgery was needed to prevent the cracks in my right eye from spreading and causing more damage. 
I refused to let everything stop me from going forward. I still entered a competition piece that year in Sun Prairie titled “Circle of Blues” after my feelings at the time. It didn’t earn a ribbon, but, I got it done. By the end of the year my left eye, now having to be the stronger one even without the central vision, became my lead.  I also found a magnifier attachment from Bernina that fit on my 150 machine.
I still use it today when quilting matching thread on dark backgrounds. It really helps me to actually “see” every stitch and how I’m doing.  All the Ott lights I use around my machine and cutting areas also reduce any eye strain. 
Over the years since 2007, I’ve adapted to my disabilities. I rely very heavily on the peripheral vision of my left eye when cutting and piecing. I use a Dritz machine needle threader to thread all my machines as I can’t see the hole in the needle anymore to do it by hand. In 2014 my husband bought a larger Bernina for me, a 710,
which enables me to quilt the bigger customer quilts much easier. (I still can quilt a 130″ X 130″ quilt on my 150 if I need to.). There are times when it is very frustrating not being able to see whether everything is accurate or not. I have to rely more and more on 24 years of quilting memory. But, I haven’t given up.  I still enter competitions to keep the creative juices going. Each one pushes me to prove that I can still enjoy the hobby I consider my second passion, after my family of course. I also think that continuing to stay in two guilds has made a huge difference.  The support I get from my quilting friends allows me to forget about my vision issues and focus on the future. And, that next challenge.”
She did add, in a phone conversation we had, that her greatest frustration is everything takes so much longer than when she could see well. I think from the following pictures, her work is worth the extra time!

“Circle-go-Round”  the Sun Prairie Quilt Show “Best of Challenge” winner

“Quilting Inferno” – another Sun Prairie Quilt Show “Best of Challenge” winner

“Wicked Comes to Wisconsin” – made for the Cherrywood Wicked challenge

Cherrywood/Quiltworx challenge quilt

“Our Yellow Magnolia” – made for the Milwaukee Art Quilters “Not So Mellow Yellow” challenge

“Van Gogh Goes to Zaanse Schans” – made for the Cherrywood Van Gogh challenge – Lisa’s quilt placed in the top 20 and will be exhibited in Paris in 2018

“Hidden Spirit Within” – made for the Milwaukee Art Quilters “Self Portrait of the Artist as an Animal” challenge. Lisa’s husband transferred a picture of her eyes to fabric for her to use for the eyes of the eagle.

Thanks to Lisa for allowing me to share her story and just a few of her incredible quilts.
 I hope you are inspired and encouraged by Lisa, Maria and Mary. I think they all are a great example of Maria’s Insight Resilience group’s motto: “just because you’ve lost your sight doesn’t mean you’ve lost your vision”!

November 19, 2017, Inspiration
Visually Impaired Quilting 2

I met Mary years ago. She had broken her wrist and wasn’t able to cook for herself. At that time I was delivering Meals on Wheels and was blessed to have her added to my list. We both share a strong faith and became quick friends and prayer partners. I soon learned she also sewed and when she discovered I taught quilting she signed up for a class.

Mary does wonderful work, but over the years her macular degeneration has made sewing increasingly difficult. She perseveres, piecing by machine and quilting by hand. Recently she asked me to help her to quilt a lap sized, scrappy rail fence quilt and I was happy to do it. She already had it layered when I got there and she told me to do whatever I wanted, so I brought it home and chose to spiral quilt in the blocks (of course – it’s my favorite free motion pattern).

Then I chose to straight line “piano key” quilt the wide border. I had an ulterior motive – I wanted to play with my “Line Tamer” ruler from “Four Paws Quilting” (click here for their website). It makes straight line quilting on a free motion machine almost fool proof. It works well on a domestic machine with a ruler foot too! Stitching in the ditch between the borders was a breeze because the channel in the ruler keeps things lined up exactly where you want them.

When I’d get to the spot where I wanted to turn perpendicular to the inner border and channel quilt I simply rotated the ruler, lined it up parallel to the last quilting line and continued stitching.

The floral fabric makes the stitching lines a bit difficult to see, but I hope you get the picture.

So here’s the part that made me laugh out loud. Mike didn’t know I was doing this for Mary. During the quilting process I would lay her quilt out on the floor when taking a break.

At one point I ran upstairs to get a cup of tea and when I came down Mike had come in from outside and was looking at the quilt. He said “now that’s a quilt I can relate to, it looks like a real quilt”.

I guess I’ve overwhelmed him with my art quilts lately 😀 ! I think he felt badly when I told him it was Mary’s quilt because he thought he’d hurt my feelings, but I thought it was hilarious. I love traditional quilts as much as I do fiber art, even though I’ve obviously been doing more art quilting lately.

When I returned Mary’s quilt to her I told her the story about Mike and she loved it! Since Maria was kind enough to let me give one of her Quick Threading needles to Mary – I presented it to her with the quilt and she was intrigued. She told me she’d give it a try and let me know what she thinks. Mary has a needle threader built into her sewing machine, but every so often the wire in it bends and then she’s out of luck. I think these needles will be a nice back up for her.

Mary is going to do the squaring up and binding on her quilt and give it to her brother and sister-in-law for their anniversary. I’m sure they’ll love it.

Next week I’m planning one last post in this series. Stay tuned – I know you won’t want to miss it!

Oh – just one more picture. This is Maria’s most recent quilt:

She began it in Open Lab from a picture she found on the internet. She used a gridded fusible interfacing as her base and cut up squares from a bright Jellyroll™ of 2″ strips. She then added some additional batiks Jean brought in for her (the friends in my Open Lab are really good at sharing). I’ve never seen Maria so joyful over a quilt. She really enjoyed the entire process and I think her joy shows in the quilt. Great job Maria!

Visually Impaired Quilting

I have three friends who make wonderful quilts in spite of the fact they are visually impaired.

Maria suffers from Psuedo Tumor Crebri which is internal hypertension of the brain, and she has had three brain surgeries. In Maria’s own words her vision has become “very dark”. She attends my Open Labs at WCTC and we are all inspired by the beautiful quilts she makes.

Maria’s Sampler

You may remember a post I featured her in previously called “Quilting Time”. In it I shared her quilts and her unique ideas about time (click here to read that post).

During the past year her vision has not been improving and she’s had to face the fact it may never get better. She’s started a support group for visually impaired, low vision and blind individuals in southeastern Wisconsin (see below for more information) and she’s discovering ways to continue quilting in spite of her disability. Recently she was given a pack of “Quick Threading” sewing machine needles.

She brought them to class and asked me to try them out. I was delighted!

I tried both piecing and machine guided machine quilting with them and I think they’re great. The needles have an opening on the right side of the eye

for the thread to pop through:

To thread them you simply put the needle into the machine, hold the thread behind and in front, placing the thread along the right side of the needle,

and run the thread down the needle until it pops into place.

Be sure to thread from front to back (it’s easy to get confused when threading differently from what we’re used to).

This is a size 80 needle and I tested it with different weight threads. Thin threads popped out quite easily and were frustrating, but medium weight threads worked fine. It would be best to try each thread on a sample to see if it will work before using it in a project.

I did a quick check on availability and JoAnn’s, Walmart and Amazon all have them on-line.

Maria told me there were no support groups for the visually impaired nearby and so she decided to start one. The group is called “Insight Resilience” and all are welcome. She said it is for people who’s life has been changed because of their vision issues or the vision problems of a friend or loved one. The meetings are held the fourth Friday of each month from 11:30 am to 1 pm in room 110 of Waukesha County Technical College, 327 E. Broadway, Waukesha. Their motto is “just because you’ve lost your sight doesn’t mean you’ve lost your vision”. If you, or someone you know, would benefit from this group feel free to drop in. You may call Maria at (262)547-6670 for more information.

I can’t wait to share these needles with my dear friend Mary who suffers from Macular Degeneration. I recently helped her with a project and I’ll share her story in next week’s post!

November 5, 2017, Notions
Tape Tricks

I recently taught a workshop on the Hunters Star pattern. We were making a 16 block wall hanging and everyone had the blocks near completion by the end of class. At the end of class we laid out one 4 block star from each student and created a very colorful pattern:

I love the variety of the fabrics students bring to class and, even though I wouldn’t put these blocks all in a single quilt, it was fun to lay them out together.

I have found many uses for masking/painters tape in my 30 plus years of quilting, and I thought I knew it all (LOL), but this latest tip is my new favorite. While trimming up some of the Hunters Star units in class Alice shared something she saw on the internet and you’re gonna want to try it! It was in a YouTube video from “Fons and Porter: Quilt With the Stars”. Deb Tucker was their guest and Deb is a star in my book because her techniques and rulers for Hunters Star, LeMoyne Star and Flying Geese are among my favorites.

Her website is:

and you can watch the video at: (the tape trick is at the 13 minute mark on the video)

The idea I’m excited about is so simple and yet sooo helpful. Typically when I want to mark a line on my ruler to act as a guide when trimming up a unit or block I place the tape on the top of the ruler and struggle to get all the edges to line up perfectly underneath. The trick? – just watch!

While making this unit using Deb Tucker’s technique, I pieced and trimmed straight on one side. When it was time to trim the opposite side, because of the bias edges on the diamonds, it didn’t automatically lay straight.

When the ruler is set on the unit, it will take a bit of fiddling to get it right:

And since we’re speaking of fiddling  🙂 ,

I recently saw for myself that Sydney, Nova Scotia has the largest fiddle in the world (couldn’t resist that one):

Back to the masking tape trick – put the tape on the back side of your ruler! I wanted the strip to be trimmed at 1 ¾”, so I placed a long piece of tape (masking or painters) along the 1 ¾” marks on the back of the ruler. Then I layered 5 more pieces of tape to make a ridge.

Next I flipped the ruler over, placed it on the unit and slid it so the tape pushed the unit into place.

This leaves just what needs trimming hanging out from under the ruler:

Voila – quick and easy!

This taping technique can be used for any repetitive type of squaring up. In fact, in a class I taught this last week we were cutting triangles from strip pieced units and the tape was quite helpful. I determined the size the triangles would need to be by placing a large ruler on the stripped unit:

Then I taped the underside of the ruler at that measurement.

To cut the triangles I slid the ruler until the tape bumped up against the bottom strip, cut on both sides of the ruler, flipped the ruler so the tape bumps up to the top strip on the unit for the next cut:

And so it goes  🙂 !

I can think of so many other times this will be helpful. Thanks to Deb Tucker. I highly recommend her rulers, books and techniques! And thanks to Alice too for passing this great tip on to me.

Please try “under-side taping” the next time your squaring things up and let me know what you think!

October 29, 2017, Rotary Cutting
Fiber Finds and Inspiration

Here’s one final post inspired by our recent quilting cruise, this time focusing on the items and information we found that could be used in future projects. Sometimes scenery is my greatest inspiration, and this shot of Montmorency Falls in Quebec is one I’m sure I’ll refer back to. The trees were just beginning to turn color and the rainbow in the mist was lovely (and no, we did not have time to climb the staircase and walk over the bridge 😉 .

We didn’t find any fabric in Quebec City, but aren’t the colors of these peppers at the farmer’s market breathtaking? What a great palatte for a piece of fiber art.

One thing we were surprised to discover while traveling was the absence of quilt shops in the areas we visited in Canada (or at least shops that we could get to in the time we had available). We did however find wool shops! My favorite was the “Bobbin Tree” in Sydney, Cape Breten Island, Nova Scotia. They had yarns, gifts, and loads of wool items and kits. I decided it was time to try my hand at wool penny rugs because they had the circles pre-cut. I began stitching them together on the ship that evening and they are addictive. Now it’s time to decide a pattern for stitching them onto the background.

I also succumbed to a kit for tradtional rug hooking on a piece of burlap sack. I haven’t gotten too far, but it will be a lovely candle mat some day.

Both kits included all the supplies, so I think they were well worth it. And I’m learning some new skills!

A few blocks away we found the “Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design”. They were having an artsy rug hooking display on the second floor and it was spectacular! Here are just a few of my favorites:

Makes my efforts with the kit I bought look rather meager, but I’m still enthused!

Our next port was Halifax, Nova Scotia. We enjoyed a wonderful bus tour of 3 seaside towns that day and found a wool shop in Lunenburg with a very clever display. Who would have thought to sew pattern pieces together? I had to take a picture!

The next seaport was Mahone Bay. They were having a scarecrow festival and I’ve never seen so many fascinating scarecrows. Here are two of my favorites:

As we drove into town we passed a “Quilt Shop”. We were very excited and quickly started walking towards the shop once we exited the bus. When we got there I posed for a quick picture out front,

and then went in to discover that it was a shop that sold finished quilts! I guess “quilt shop” is a misnomer – we expect to find fabric and supplies in them, not quilts.

When we got to Bar Harbor, Maine, more of the trees were starting to change. When we walked under this one, I couldn’t resist yet another color inspiration picture.

And Bar Harbor had a quilt shop! It was a great one! Quiltanna and I enjoyed it very much!

This final picture is one that may not inspire a quilt, but it makes my mouth water every time I look at it.

The best clam chowder I have ever had. It was at the Sail Loft in Boston. Yum!

I have many wonderful memories from this cruise and the inspiration for future projects makes it even more of a blessing.


And I’d like to share one last item:

A Different Type of Quilting Adventure!

This past week Joan contacted me from North Carolina. She attended my lecture when I visited her guild in Hendersonville in 2013 and has been reading my blog ever since (thanks Joan). This is part of what she wrote:

“I am a member of an organization called Friendship Force and members can travel all over the world and the USA and participants stay at the homes of the people in the area they are visiting.  I went to a quilting Journey (that’s what these experiences are called) in Iowa last year and 18 quilters from all over joined together for 9 days as we saw presentations, shopped, talked with other quilters and even made a table runner.  I decided that our area of the Blue Ridge Mountains would be a perfect location for a Quilting Journey and we are calling it Quilting Mountain Style.”

The journey will take place from May 23 to May 31, 2018. She included a link to read all about it:

I so enjoyed North Carolina and I’m sure this trip will be a great adventure. You’re welcome to contact Joan with any questions. Her email is:  

October 22, 2017, Travel
“Quilting” at Sea

Quilters often ask me what makes a cruise a quilting cruise. Well it certainly isn’t that all 2500 people on the ship are making a quilt. But our group (which numbered 43 this trip) had fun with fabric, even if we didn’t do any stitching. The main focus of the trip is for people with a common interest to see wonderful sites, enjoy delicious food, socialize, shop and do some things with fabric too. We try to spend at least 1½ hours each day in class, working around shore excursions, meals, and on-board entertainment.

We began our most recent trip with a “prior to the cruise” project by inviting everyone to participate in a friendship exchange. We asked quilters to find a leaf shape of their choice either in their yard, in a book or on-line. I chose a maple leaf because this year is Canada’s Sesquicentennial,

but participants could pick any leaf they wanted. We had 32 quilters in the exchange, thus each of us chose an Autumn color batik and cut out 32 leaves with paper backed fusible web attached. Only 6 of us wanted them signed, so we asked everyone to do this to six of their leaves while on the ship and then we exchanged them. Here mine are laid out in a wreath.

Beautiful! I’m not sure if this is what they will become. The project option  I came up with prior to the trip was to scatter leaves across a windswept background with tulle shadows to add depth.

The next quilt related portion of our trip took place the first night on board. I shared a new lecture I call “Travel Memory Quilts”. I’m very excited about this new idea the Lord blessed me with. In essence, I distill each trip down to a favorite picture and create a single block to represent it using a variety of techniques. Each block is quilted and bound separately and they are attached to each other with a simple system of my own creation. In this way the “quilt” can be added to or rearranged with very little effort!

I’m working on other memory quilts using this technique and I’m pretty sure this is going to grow into something even more exciting. More information to follow!

During the trip Wendy gave two presentations. One on her method for making “batiked” scarves and another in which we each created a quilt label. Mine will go on my leaf quilt – whenever I get it done  😀 .

The main project on the trip was a fused block of the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.

I created the pattern from a picture and made up kits for the 33 travelers who chose to participate. I finished mine as a small wall quilt and added a few of the pins I collected while traveling. Here are pictures of class time aboard the Norwegian Dawn.

Mary and Jane were the first to finish theirs

And everyone got a block made. I can’t wait to see them all together at our post-trip gathering.

We combined traveling and quilting – it doesn’t get much better than that!

October 15, 2017, Classes Travel
Quilters at Sea

I just returned from our “Sew We Go – Quebec to Boston” quilting cruise. Wendy and I accompanied a group of 43 quilters, husbands, and traveling companions on a wonderful adventure during Canada’s sesquicentennial year!

It was a delightful group.

One of the greatest blessings of leading our Sew We Go adventures is traveling with happy people who share an interest in travel and quilting. In today’s post I’d like to share some pictures of just a few of our group enjoying themselves.

Like Alice and Karen in front of the St. Lawrence river on our first stop during the bus tour of Quebec City:

Or Jerry and Joyce near the hotel Le Chateau Frontenac, inside the walls of Old Quebec:

In this picture Jim, Mary Ann, Jacque, Will and I are enjoying the beauty of Montmorency Falls:

We also loved the company of Ritarose and Heidi in the atrium of the luxurious Norwegian Dawn:

Myrt, Evelyn and Ron soaked in the beautiful weather on the shores of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia:

and Mary and Jane were pleased to be the first to complete fusing together our onboard lighthouse project:

Everything went well because of our spectacular travel planner, Kristi, of Journeys and Gatherings (PS Happy Birthday Kristi!)

And then there was the food! I’m quite sure Ritarose and Lynn were feeling the joy while indulging in canollis from Modern Pastry in Boston:

Plus the fun of riding the water taxi in Boston Harbor with Linda and Alice.

I think it is obvious we were all having a fantastic time.

Please visit my blog during the coming weeks for posts on the inspiration and quilt related experiences we had along the way.


October 8, 2017, Travel
Welcome Home Quilt

Have you ever entered a quilt into a contest in which it traveled for a period of time?

In 2015 I entered the Madison Quilt Expo’s “Fall Leaves” quilt challenge. Part of the entry agreement was the quilt would travel with the exhibit for two years. That’s a long time!

My quilt “Which Way Does the Wind Blow” arrived back on my doorstep this past week. What a joy to have it back and hang it up for Autumn!



This was the card that traveled with it.

The quilt got it’s name because I challenged myself to draft some of the leaves as oddly shaped mariner’s compasses using my “Compass Capers” technique (you can purchase a copy of my book at: Piecing the leaves was not difficult, but finishing the leafy edge took a bit of perseverance.

I lined the back of each leaf and stitched them to the quilt on the leaf veins (compass seams) resulting in a 3D effect. I liked the image of the windblown tree so much, I made a second quilt entitled “Autumn Dusk”.

This time the interesting effect was achieved by using an orange/black Pointillism fabric for the sky and water. This may not be the last time I make a quilt with this tree – perhaps there’ll be a series. Stay tuned :-).

Have you had a quilt travel? Please comment to this post and let us know!

September 24, 2017, Challenges
Go Team!

Even if you’re not a Packers fan, I’m sure you’ll get a smile out of the following story. Marilyn brought this wonderful t-shirt quilt to show and tell in my Open Lab last semester.It was beautifully made, but I decided to save this post until football season began, to make it more timely. The time has come and I’m pleased to share it. I asked Marilyn to write something about her quilt for the blog and here’s what she sent me:

For My Husband? Absolutely Not!
My Lambeau Leap Quilt is only for those who love green and gold – that excludes my husband. However, my daughters, my granddaughters and a few of my sisters are big Packer fans and come to watch the game and snuggle under the quilt for good luck. This is dedicated to them. All of them had a hand in it. We all collected Packer t-shirts from our local Goodwill, which in turn helped others. So this is definitely a feel good blanket that gives us a warm feeling literally and figuratively.”

Marilyn did a wonderful job! When she showed it in class she told us all about collecting the t-shirts. Then I made the mistake of asking if she made it for her husband. She responded with the quilt’s title: “For My Husband? Absolutely Not! Followed by “he’s a Cowboys fan”! We all laughed at that one :-).

Have you made a fun quilt for your favorite team? Please send me a picture – I’d love to see it!

Looks like it’s going to be a good season. Go Pack!



September 17, 2017, Piecing
Madison Quilt Expo – 2017

This year’s Quilt Expo did not disappoint. The crowds were even bigger than last year! The quilts were spectacular! The vendors well stocked and oh, so tempting! What a great show!

I especially love immersing myself in the competition quilts. I enjoyed them all, and here are a few I found particularly captivating:

A Glimpse Through the Cattails by Julia Graber of Brooksville, MS

Rainbow Hosta Queen by Grace Kragness of Oak Creek, WI

The Engagement Photo by Nancy Carney of Verona, WI

Remembering Roatan by Pamela Kuck of Shawano, WI

When I wasn’t on the show floor admiring the quilts, I was sharing my passion for quilting in lectures and workshops. I’ve been invited to teach at the show every year since it began, praise the Lord! And the teaching kept me very busy this year (so busy I tended to forget to take pictures). Each morning at 8:30 I presented my lecture “Friendship Quilts – Then and Now”. The antique quilts and their stories were very well received and I hope the patterns I shared, along with the contemporary signature quilts themselves, inspired quite a few of those present to plan for a future autograph quilt of their own.

On Thursday and Saturday I taught 3 hour workshops on Beginning Fiber Art (formerly named Parallelisms). It’s such a joy to encourage quilters who haven’t done much artsy style quilting to give it a try. I just hope the students had as much fun as I did :-).




On Friday I shared my Seminole Sampler workshop to a full house. The students enjoyed the fact that the kit provided all the fabric strips cut and ready to sew.

A highlight of the class was having Delores show us the skirts and apron she had purchased from the Seminole Indians for her daughters.

She was kind enough to let me pose with the apron. Isn’t is lovely?

On Thursday night my roommate Laura and I were invited down the hall for a Tyvek™ painting/burning party.

Linda provided all the supplies and showed us how to make leaves with this fun technique.

Not bad for a first effort, and it was a lot of fun. Thanks Linda!

Spending time surrounded by quilts and quilting friends – it doesn’t get any better than this!


And one more quick note for those of you in Southeastern Wisconsin. My friend Jodi told me about a “Quilter and Crafter Bonanza Sale” being held this weekend between Williams Bay and Elkhorn. Here’s the flyer she gave me:

Maybe I’ll see you there!

September 10, 2017, Travel
A Great Quilting Tip

Every so often I just have to share a great idea I’ve learned from another quilter!

This past June Jan Bretzel was the speaker for Patched Lives Quilt Guild. Her quilts were joyful and inspiring. I especially loved one of her clever tips and she gave me permission to share it:

When a quilt has a lot of open white background area to fill with quilting, Jan recommends using a light gray thread instead of white or off-white. It will show off the quilting well on both the light background and the dark areas of the quilt. Here’s the quilt she offered as an example:

Stunning! She also had light gray in the bobbin – one of my favorite tips for getting the tension to look great front and back is to put the same thread in the top and bobbin.

She added a wonderful label too. Thanks for this useful idea Jan!

September 3, 2017, free motion
Seminole Piecing – Part 3

Last week I shared a picture of 3 Seminole Indian dolls Tomi Fay Forbes brought to my Seminole workshop.

Just look at the lovely piecing in the skirts!

I asked Tomi to please share their story and she replied that she would do some research and send me what she found. Her research began: “When I was a little girl in the early 1960s my grandmother bought me three Seminole Indian dolls, each one outfitted in the dress of the Seminole Indians.” (pictured above)

Tomi continued with a 7 page research article, including sources, and it is well written and fascinating (if you would be interested in reading Tomi’s essay, please let me know and I’ll send it to you via email – I’m unable to post it in the blog). She tells of the history of the Seminole Indians and how the women began making patchwork and dolls, which they would trade for other goods. Here is an excerpt telling about the dolls:

“Foraging in the forests, the women collected palmetto fronds. The Seminole women were familiar with the traits of palmetto because they used palmetto and cypress to build their homes, called chickees. One palmetto plant provided enough material for about five dolls. The Seminole woman shaped the palmetto into a doll’s body, stuffing the body with more palmetto. She cut a round of cardboard and inserted it at the base of the body to give the doll a sturdy footing so it would not tip over. She then sewed a rough seam in the palmetto to retain the stuffing. She shaped the head and used thread to embroider eyes.

One would assume that the protruding ridge on the top of the doll’s head, covered with black cloth, represents a hat. It looks very much like a bonnet one would expect to see on an Amish doll. Not so. In the nineteenth century, the Seminole women pulled their hair back into a simple bun. With the acquisition of hair nets and hair pins from the traders, the buns grew in size and complexity. By the 1920s the Seminole women were combing their hair forward over their face, placing a roll of soft cloth across their hairline over their forehead, and combing their hair smoothly over the roll.

During the next two decades, the women competed as they developed complex hairdos held in place over rolls of fabric or hair boards.


Seminole doll-makers reflected their hair traditions by placing a piece of shaped cardboard over the crown of the doll’s head and covering it with black cloth. Today many Seminole dolls have braids rather than the black fabric head covering.

The Seminole woman then dressed the doll in the traditional cape and skirt. The clothing of the smaller six-inch dolls are decorated with rows of colorful rickrack. The larger 9.5 inch dolls will often have a tiny, intricate pieced pattern inserted in the skirt. Hence the name Seminole patchwork.

Finally, the seamstress gave the doll beaded earrings and tied rows of beads around its neck. Historically, the Seminole women proudly wore as many necklaces of genuine glass beads as they owned. A stack of multiple necklaces could fill the entire neck. Today we would find these necklaces heavy and cumbersome to wear. We would wonder if the women’s necks ached all the time.”

Tomi then included information about her grandfather and his history living in that portion of Florida. I am so grateful to have “the whole story”, but the icing on the cake was that Tomi told me of a doll available on Ebay! I wasted no time in making her my own!

Thank you so much Tomi!

I will be teaching this workshop at the Madison Quilt Expo next month – and the class is full!  If you’d like to learn how to do Seminole style piecing, and if you think my class on Seminole Piecing would be of interest to your quilt guild, please share my website, with the program committee at your guild. Thanks!

August 27, 2017, Piecing
Seminole Piecing – Part 2

Two weeks ago I introduced one of my latest quilting fascinations – Seminole piecing. This week I’d like to share pictures from the class I taught on this technique at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts  in June. I made kits for the students, so they could focus on the piecing techniques. They did a great job and everyone went home with samples of 5 different border patterns to refer back to when they’re ready to add some extra excitement to their quilts.

I will be teaching this workshop at the Madison Quilt Expo in September – kits and all, and I’m hoping it will be a hit! If you’d like to sign up go to:

I will also be teaching half day workshops on a class I call “Where Do I Start With Fiber Art” (formerly “Parallelisms”). It is based on my book of the same name. To register for that class please go to:


A few days after the Seminole class in Cedarburg, Beth sent me this picture of the project she bordered with the Seminole braid pattern she’d learned in the workshop:

She used a striped fabric in the braid and I think it’s spectacular. Beth said that each length of striped fabric only made 8 units so the braid changed looks every so often. I can’t wait to try striped fabric in my Seminole borders. Thanks Beth!

Tomi was in the class too and she brought along a trio of Seminole dolls she was given by her grandfather.

She had some fascinating information about these dolls. Next week I’ll share their story and how I acquired my own Seminole doll!

Have you used Seminole piecing in your quilts? Do you have any pictures you’d like to share? Please email them to me at

August 20, 2017, Piecing
Landscape Quilts – Child’s Play!

I’ve been playing with a new version of my Repliqué technique – and it’s great for making picture perfect landscapes.

My Washington grandkids just went home after a 2 week long visit 🙁  . Hanna (who learned to quilt when she was 5 – click here to read that post) told me she wanted to make a mountain landscape quilt for her room. Since I was already playing with this technique, I decided it was time to test it out and see if it was as user friendly as I thought it might be.

I had her find a picture on the internet and we printed it out to size.

She then chose her fabrics. She wanted to make her quilt in purples and I had a gradation fabric in my stash that was just right.

She sewed:


then sewed and trimmed some more:

Because there is no satin stitching step, it is quite quick and easy. Here’s a shot after the final mountain was added:

And here’s a picture of the back:

Next it was time to quilt and bind. She machine quilted over the Repliqué stitching, then sewed the binding to her quilt from the front. We folded and clipped the binding to the back and she hand-stitched it down on the flight home.

She got it almost finished and promised she would complete it at home.

I’m pretty proud of my 11 year old artist – and I think she’s pretty pleased too.

And one more thing – I showed her an appliqué stitch to secure the binding to the back. She quickly turned it into a whip-stitch, and I decided it was fine for her first effort on the back. Then she asked me why hers didn’t look like mine. I explained and showed her the appliqué stitch again. She was off and running. My original stitches run for about an inch to the left of the clip (did I mention Hanna is left handed?). Her tiny whip stitch continued from there for about 2″. I did a quick re-demo and the rest (around the corner and down) is her appliqué stitch (she’s a pretty quick study).

A month ago I asked Hanna’s 5 year old cousin Sommer if she wanted to make a quilt, since Hanna made her first quilt when she was 5. Sommer thought for a moment and replied “no thanks”. After watching Hanna make the landscape quilt during her recent visit, Sommer told me she changed her mind and wants to make a quilt. Stay tuned!

August 13, 2017, Appliqué Design
Seminole Borders

I’ve had the wonderful privilege to teach at the Madison Quilt Expo every year since it began. After each show I begin thinking of what new project or technique I should share the following year. While noodling on this after last year’s show an idea began to form. I learned to do Seminole patchwork back in the early 90’s. I hadn’t seen or heard much about it recently and thought it might be a good topic to revisit. I found 2 great books in my own collection and couldn’t wait to start playing with some of the patterns. The quilts I have to share at this time are just tops, three of which I’ve shared for various reasons in previous posts, but I’d like to point out the extra zip the Seminole style borders give to each piece.

Simple Seminole Border

Simple Seminole Border 2 – on all four sides of the center “square on point”

Seminole Braid Border

Straight Seminole Borders – top and bottom only

I shared my way of doing Simple Seminole with my Open Lab class at WCTC and some of the ladies jumped right into it. Three of them were kind enough to allow me to share these pictures:

Judy’s Simple Seminole border – it seems her cat approves!

Sue’s Simple Seminole border, done in short segments on all four sides.

And Laurie has used the technique on 2 bed sized quilts.

Simple Seminole using 5 strips

Simple Seminole using 3 strips (laid out, but not yet trimmed and sewn on)

I recently put together a 3 hour workshop on Seminole piecing and taught it at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Art earlier this Summer. It was a hit! I’ll share pictures from the class and some background information on Seminole piecing in next week’s post.

August 6, 2017, Piecing
Strip Pieced Topper

My friend Barb sent me a picture she found on Facebook of a lovely table topper. It was a pattern by Ruthann Eckersley called Sew Easy Strata Star (all of her patterns are available at:

I decided to play with this design, but in my own way (of course). I pulled out a 1 yard batik from my stash that was dyed in gradation,

and cut it into 1 ½” strips.

I sewed these strips back into strata and cut the triangles to make the topper. I didn’t have enough fabric for the small triangles that complete the 3D effect in Ruth’s pattern, but was happy with the spinning star. Here are the 3 possible layouts I came up with:

I pressed the strata using my strip stick. It’s a wonderful tool, and I posted about it a few years ago It was so helpful in this project, because I wanted the seams to press crisply. The Strip Stick is a padded piece of half round moulding covered in muslin. By laying a seam at the top of the curve, and pulling the adjacent strips down with my thumb and forefinger,

I’m able to press the seams to the side without any pleats or puckers on the right side. It also allows me to only press one seam at a time. I love it!

To purchase your own, go to:

Since I didn’t have enough fabric for the pieced corner turn triangles, and I didn’t want to figure out how to finish those 45 degree points, I added corners and made a square.

It’s ready for quilting, but I really wanted to try the original pattern, so I pulled a gradation of blues and greens out of my stash and here’s the results:

I like them both.


And I’d like to leave you with this parting picture my friend Eileen’s husband took of her while she was quilting.

She had quite a special helper :-)! Thanks for sharing the picture Eileen!

July 30, 2017, Piecing
Ice Dyeing

I’ve had so many fun posts to share recently that one from my trip to Paducah got pushed to the bottom of the pile. When I discovered this I just knew it had to be this week’s topic!

I’ve tried dyeing fabric and would usually rather buy from those who are good at it. Never-the-less, Laura and I both decided to sign up for Cindy Lohbeck’s class on Ice Dyeing during Quilt Week in April – and it was a BLAST! Here’s one of my favorites from the 14 fat quarters I went home with:

Cindy is a great teacher and has developed her own techniques that are virtually no fail. She was featured in the most recent issue of American Quilter Magazine and I would recommend her classes to everyone.

We purchased a kit for the class which included her specially prepared for dyeing fabric, the dyes and almost everything else we needed: We did a bit of pre-treating of the fabric, twisted and turned it in a number of different ways, and then placed it in Cindy’s very clever “sling” type holder.

She showed us how to mix the dyes –

how to layer the ice and then how to apply the dye to get the best effects:

We had the choice of a number of different color palettes. Laura chose the dark one above and I chose the lighter.

Once the ice melted, the fabric looked really yummy!

We took our bins home to do the rinsing, It was a bit tedious,

but the unveiling of each piece made it so worthwhile. Here are two more of my favorites:

Once they were rinsed and dried we laid them all out on the deck and took turns picking so we each got a good mix of lights and darks.

I highly recommend Cindy. To learn more about her classes, fabrics, and “Dye It Yourself” kits go to:

July 23, 2017, Dyeing
Patriotic Pinwheels From Scraps

It seems I can’t get away from playing with my scraps lately. You may remember a few weeks ago –  I ended up with a 1/2 yard of patriotic fabric made from the leftovers of two “Quilts of Honor” tops I’d made. This is what that “chunk” looked like (click here to read that post):

The week after I made it Patched Lives Quilt Guild had Jan Bretzel give a lecture titled “Making Quilts that Look Complicate but are Not”. One of the quilts she showed was made with a simple piecing technique she shared – and I had to try it!

So I cut my patriotic “schnibblework” into 10″ squares, along with 10″ squares of a solid red fabric. I layered 1 square of each, right sides together,

Patriotic pinwheels

sewed all the way around this square with a 1/4″ seam allowance,

cut on both diagonals,

pressed the resulting new squares open,

and voila – a lovely pinwheel block!

So far I have 3 blocks made and I can’t wait to make the rest. Each one is so interesting because of the unexpected nature of the scrappy squares. I’ll post a picture of the pinwheel quilt top – when I get it put together.

Thanks Jan, for a great lecture – and for teaching me a fun new technique!

July 16, 2017, Scraps
Microwave Bowl Holders Revisited

Thanks for all the comments/votes for the background fabric on Moseley’s quilt. I enjoyed tabulating the votes and reading so many well thought out comments. If I’m going by numbers, #3, the outdoor sky fabric, won with 47 out of 69 votes. But it’s not that easy, my daughter-in-law, Betsy (Moseley’s mom), voted for one of the others. What to do??? I haven’t decided yet, but when I do – I’ll post it on my blog – so you’ll be the first to know  😀 !

This week’s post is a short one because I had only a little bit of sewing time between my wonderful trip to Florida with my cousin and a fun getaway with my husband to a B&B in Steven’s Point, WI (our son took off this week and we were grandchild-free). This was what I worked on in that little bit of time, and I thought you might enjoy it:

I’ve made quite a few Microwave Bowl Holders, or Soup Cozies,  over the years. We use ours daily, for handling hot and cold bowls, and I’ve given many as gifts. I posted about this a few years ago. To read that post click here.

While in Paducah this Spring I found a delightful “kitchen utensil” fabric. Upon arriving home I realized I have dear friends who would really appreciate a pair of the bowl holders. So I grabbed my new fabric and here are the results:

To watch a great tutorial on how to make them, go to:

July 9, 2017, Uncategorized
Appliqué Animals

Back in June I took a “raw-edge” appliqué workshop with Barbara Beasley. It was organized by my dear friend, Laura, and we had a great time (thanks Laura!)

Barbara is an amazing talent!

And if you’re not familiar with her name, you will probably recognize her by her work. Here are just two of the many pieces she has posted on her website: Many of them are for sale!

Each student was to bring a picture of either flora or fauna, a photo enlargement, fusible web and a lot of fabric. Her technique was very interesting and the results in just our 6 hour workshop were wonderful!

My friend Evelyn (of Quilt Sissies fame 🙂 ), chose to do a special cat. She was amazed at the amount of blue in the picture – for a cat that wasn’t blue.

Laura decided to portray her cat in unexpected fabrics.

I can’t wait to see some of these finished!

I chose to do our grand-dog, Moseley. He’s a very pretty Australian Shepherd (photo courtesy of my daughter-in-law Betsy).

Here’s my “Moseley in progress”

and here’s Moseley!

Next I need to find the right background. I cut him out and placed him on a number of different fabrics and I’d like your opinion on which to use, or suggestions for other options.

background 1

background 2

background 3

background 4

Please comment in the box at the bottom of this post to vote for your favorite, or offer other suggestions. If you don’t see a comment box, click on “Appliqué Animals” at the top of this post and scroll back down to the bottom.

I love taking classes and learning new techniques. This was a fun class and a great technique. Here’s a challenge to anyone in that class. If you finish your piece and send me a picture, I’ll be thrilled to post it on my blog!

July 2, 2017, Appliqué Classes
Schnibblework 4 – Making New Yardage

This week I’m posting from Florida on a wonderful trip visiting family with my cousin Deb.

Fortunately I had this week’s post ready to go:

It was great fun to realize that piecing scraps could be a time of quilting play and not simply an exercise in frugality.

But once I got my star from last week’s post put together, I realized I couldn’t put off cleaning my counter any longer. During my recent “season” of “counter pile up” I spent time making patriotic tops for Quilts of Honor .

In that leftover pile were strips and half strips of many different fabrics, with a few squares, rectangles and pieced units. What to do with them? There really weren’t any odd shaped chunks. I decided to sew the strips of similar size together, press, trim and then pair up similar sized pieces again,

continuing in this fashion until one entire piece was made. The result: over a half yard of pieced patriotic fabric.

What will it become? I don’t know yet, but it’s a lot easier to fold and place in the stash than all those “schnibbles” would have been.

Have you “made any fabric” using my schnibblework technique? Or any technique 🙂 ? Please send me pictures!

June 25, 2017, Piecing
Schnibblework 3 – Diamond Cutting

To make the bright schnibblework star in my previous posts, I used a technique I developed a few years ago for cutting accurate diamonds. I’m quite sure I didn’t post about it then – so I think it’s about time to do so.

Whenever you’re making diamonds that will be sewn together, it’s important the angles and sides are all consistent. While teaching a lone star class I found the “squaring up” of the diamond step to be the most confusing part for students. My answer to this problem? Freezer paper!

To begin, cut a strip of freezer paper the finished width you’d like your diamond to be (mine was 6 1/2″)

Next, cut one end of the strip off at the angle you need by lining the bottom edge of the strip on the correct degree line on the ruler (diamonds can be 45° or 60° – mine is 45°). Please ignore the lines on the cutting mat and look only at the ruler and the freezer paper. I apologize for the optical illusion created by the paper not laying square on the mat.

Then cut the diamond from the strip at your finished measurement once again.


Now it’s time to go to the fabric. Piece your schnibblework chunks until they are at least 1/4″ bigger than the freezer paper diamond all the way around.

Iron the freezer paper diamond to the right side of the schnibblework, making sure there is at least 1/4″ of fabric beyond the paper all the way around. Trim 1/4″ from the edge of the freezer paper with a rotary cutter and ruler.

Then peel the paper away.

This sample was cut at 7″ and will finish at 6 1/2″. The reason I cut the paper the finished size and add the seam allowance when cutting the fabric is accuracy. It is difficult to cut along the edge of freezer paper without shaving some of the paper away, and each little shave changes the diamond for the next cut.

Once I had eight of my schnibblework diamonds cut, it was time to pick a background fabric and sew them all together. None of my “safe” fabrics looked good with all those scraps, so I pulled out my wild fabrics and found the perfect option 😀 .

Remember this requires “Y” seams to set in the background squares and triangles.

I’m not sure what should happen next to this star, but I’m looking forward to some scrappy bordering fun! Stay tuned!

June 18, 2017, Scraps
Schnibblework 2 – Scrap Piecing

As I was taking the winter quilt off the bed this week (and just in time – the 90° days have arrived), I realized it also contained an early piece of Schnibblework. This quilt was made in a “round robin” at a guild I belonged to back in the 90’s – and it ended up King size!

As you probably know, each participant in a round robin puts a block in a bag and then exchanges it within a group, each participant adding a border. This one had 5 exchanges before I got my center block back (and then I turned the large square I received “on-point” to make it fit my King bed). That center block was made from small white, cream and green schnibbles I gleaned from the fish bowl.

This was truly a successful “round robin” quilt and it has been slept under for decades! All the quilts I’ve shared so far show that scraps can be sorted by value or color – or not sorted at all.

So how did I make the Schnibblework for the star in last week’s post?

By sewing together loads of odd shaped leftover scraps without sorting!

It got me to thinking about a book I purchased a few years ago by Victoria Findlay Wolfe called “15 Minutes of Play”. In it she sews her scraps together to make what she calls “made fabric”, and then uses it in her quilts. Great minds think alike. The twist was – I decided to create what I call schnibblework because I can’t stand to waste fabric or leave it lying around in piles. Victoria considers doing this quilting play. What a great attitude!

I adjusted my attitude to match hers and really did have fun making this very bright and colorful star


Last week I alluded to how I did this. This week I’ll explain a bit more. First I grab 2 pieces from my fishbowl,

and sew them together.

chaining more and more until I get bored. Then I go to the ironing surface and press.

After pressing I cut the pieces apart (the pile on the left is pre-pressing and the one on the right is post-pressing).

Next I go to the cutting mat and straighten off all uneven edges (note the pile at center top – these are the shavings I allow myself to throw away!)

I then pick up 2 of these new pieces and repeat the process.

Continuing until the pieces are “big enough” for the shape I want to cut them into (note that some of the chunks below are not quite big enough to be cut into diamonds with the freezer paper template on the left).

Here’s my method “If it’s too small, sew something on. If it’s too big, cut something off”. It’s pretty basic, but it works!

In next week’s post I’ll share my unique technique for cutting diamonds! I think you’ll find it a great one to have in your “quilting toolbox”!

June 11, 2017, Scraps
Schnibblework Scrap Quilts

This past weekend I taught for a lovely group of quilters in Morris, IL. During our lunch break in the Saturday workshop we got into an interesting discussion about scrap quilts. My definition of a scrap quilt is a quilt made from leftover scraps. Some may argue this point, but buying a lot of different fabrics to make a scrap quilt, when I have so many leftover pieces from previous projects, just seems silly for me.

A few years after I began quilting (we’re talking early 90’s), the frugal part of me was really struggling with all of the leftover strip pieces, chunks and partial blocks that had begun to take over my sewing room. What do you do with them when a project is completed? The pieces aren’t big enough to put back into the stash, but they’re too large to just throw away. I chose to put the small schnibbles into a fish bowl, and I threw the larger ones into a covered bin, but these containers were filling up – and driving me crazy! Something had to be done!

I decided to sort the small schnibbles into lights and darks, and simply piece them together rather willy-nilly. When the chunks were large enough I cut them into 4″ squares and ended up making a small quilt I called Confetti (26″ x 30″).

As you can see, I had a great time embellishing it with machine stitching, buttons, beads and ribbon.  I decided it was fun, but it didn’t make much of a dent in my schnibble pile. So I pulled out the bigger pieces, sorted by value once again, and sewed them into larger squares in my scrappy fashion.

This time I sorted the schnibbles into lights, darks and mediums – sewing them into 6″ squares. Four light squares were then sewn together to make a 12″ light block and the same was done with the darks. I had enough red strips in my scraps to border a checkerboard set of the light and dark blocks, and the outer border was made up of all the 6″ medium squares. This did make a dent in my schnibble pile – as well as a lovely lap quilt 🙂 .

I did more of this type of piecing here and there over the years, but never seemed to be able to keep up with my leftovers. A few years ago my friend Lori, who makes amazing scrap quilts, accepted a large plastic bag full of my scraps. Whew! But since then I’ve filled up my fishbowl once again – and it’s flowed into another glass jar – YIKES!

It was time to do something again. Three weeks ago I started sewing anything to everything (no value sorting this time) and, after about an hour of “chunk making”, I laid the chunks on the floor and attempted to take a picture. Trey plays nicely with toys in the sewing room while I’m quilting, just like Sommer did before she headed off to kindergarten. But when I laid them out he couldn’t resist the temptation to jump into the picture.

and then he gave them the snuggle test. I think he approves.

When the chunks got big enough I cut them into large diamonds. I then sewed the diamonds into a large star and found a fun fabric to use for the background:


Can you say bright? It really makes me smile and I’m thinking it needs to grow into something bigger and even more fun. Stay tuned.

For step-by-steps on how I piece the schnibbles, please join me for next week’s post. The following week I’ll cover “diamond cutting”. There’s a good possibility this could grow into a multi, multi-week series of posts – I have a lot of scraps!

June 4, 2017, Scraps

I had some fascinating responses to last week’s post about quilts in other countries. There was one in particular I want to share – with pictures, but before I do, I have a few items to share related to the post I did about quilting and Star Wars a few weeks ago (click here to read that post).

In that post I shared pictures of my grandson Willy with the “Flillow” I made him from Star Wars fleece. I made his sister a “flillow” too and, since I didn’t want her to feel left out, I asked Hanna to take a selfie with hers. She wears glasses and so do all the animals on the fleece in her flillow.

Hanna’s favorite craft is to make purses, etc. from decorative duct tape. Here’s the wallet she made for me. I use it to keep my coupons organized in my purse. It even has a Velcro™ closure. The theme of the tape seemed appropriate to include here  🙂 .

and then  I had the opportunity to take a picture of a Star Wars top Karen had just finished for her grandson in my Open Lab this week.

All of the large blocks are Star Wars fabrics, and she chose a setting pattern with colorful pinwheels – what fun! Great job Karen!


Now for the “quilting in other countries” response:

Iris is a very talented quilter whom I’ve met a number of times. I knew she wasn’t a native Wisconsinite by her accent, but was pleasantly surprised when she sent me this message (it’s a bit long, but worth the read):

“I was born in Estonia and moved here after I met my wonderful husband many, many moons ago.

Here is the answer about quilts and Estonia: Estonia is rich in fabric and fiber arts (as I am sure you experienced on your trip) and every woman knows how to knit a sock or stitch a flower. We grew up with – I assume you would describe as – frontier spirit meaning you didn’t go to store to buy stuff but made them yourself. My grandma use to sew all her own dresses, blankets and knit for the whole village. However, there is not an exact tradition of quilting in Estonia (as known in America … as in get fabric – cut apart – sew back together), BUT it is coming and I have even seen some quilt (as we understand in America) shows (online pictures) and know people who practice it.

The reason for not having quilting (as known here in American) tradition is simple. Fabric was expensive and it was used only for things that you really needed like clothing etc. and quilts (except whole cloth or wool quilt) with all the cutting was considered wasteful especially when you needed to dress your whole family on a small salary and required sewing machine that many could not afford. You can however find wool quilts with stitches that didn’t require sewing machine necessarily and used wool, which was way cheaper or even free due to everyone (at least who lived outside city) raising sheep. Hence you have amazing stitched blankets with most beautiful motifs and flowers. They do look like quilts (some are even assembled from blocks) but are not traditional quilts (as we think of quilts here). they are stitched and in some ways they are way more beautiful than quilts here can ever be as with thread/yarn you can paint way more deeper colors for the perfect flowers you are stitching (does  that make sense?) vs fabric appliqué where you are stuck with whatever fabric you.

In Estonia we didn’t learn to knit or sew as in America where you have weird short version of text telling you what to do and only if you speak the “knitting/crochet/etc language” can you translate what it means. In Estonia we learned by charts for everything with universal understanding of what it means (see pic called knitting).

Your answer was wonderful as there is no such thing as traditional quilt blocks (like log cabin) in Estonian quilting (though they are coming, learnt and taught now) and I am not surprised that your friend didn’t find any shops as most shops are dedicated to fiber arts rather than quilting. Hence the only way to really do “Estonian way quilts” would be to copy/interpret flower patterns to fabric appliqué or knitting patterns into pieced quilts (as you suggested). I included a link to a book that is full of such patterns called MUHU TIKAND and can be ordered online (see below) or if you have access to such older magazines like EESTI NAINE (Estonian woman) which always carried such patterns.

A really good resource is also Debroah Kendall (hope I spelled her name right) who has lot of tapestry quilts where one can get ideas for how to quilt flowers. See below link to one of her books.

anyway, hope it helps or gives ideas.”

I have seen some of Iris’ original designs so, when I wrote to thank her for her response and ask permission to share her email, I also asked if I could share pictures of her quilts. She was very gracious – and I know you’ll be impressed. The first one is based on Estonian embroidered designs.

This one has a similar feel and coloration.

I love the way she mixes piecing and appliqué.

And her delightful sense of humor is evident in these last two entitled the Cowboy

and Will You Marry Me:

Thank you Iris, for adding great insight into my post and for sharing your wonderful work!



May 28, 2017, Travel
Do They Make Quilts There?

This past Friday I received an email from a woman named Krystyna. Here’s what she wrote:

“Hello, I am half Estonian, born in the US and would love to connect to my heritage through quilting. I have been trying to locate a traditional Estonian quilt and hopefully one that isn’t embroidered. My searching brought me to your lovely site and I am wondering if you would have any idea of where I might find a pattern(s) for said traditional quilt(s). Or does this even exist, I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t.”

Krystyna’s request got me to thinking about all of the times Wendy and I have been preparing for one of our Sew We Go adventures, hopeful to find quilt shops and groups in the places we’ll visit, only to find – nothing.

When Wendy and I visited Tallinn, Estonia while cruising the Baltic Sea, we discovered a city with friendly people and a huge love for history, culture and art. It was our favorite port of call on that trip. We even were able to take classes from artists in the art district of the city. To read about it please go to: We found “fiber art”, but no quilts.

In composing an answer to Krystyna, I got to thinking about a woman I know who is a missionary in Tallinn. I decided to write to her and her response was not only interesting, but she had suggestions that are applicable to quilters trying to find quilting patterns from other countries. I hope you will enjoy Denise’s response:

“Hi Chris, Wow, what an interesting question. 
As hard as it is to believe, there is no tradition of quilting here. That’s the short answer!

I have been to all the handicraft and agricultural fairs here in
Estonia over the past 12 years and have never even seen a quilt, nor
have I met or heard of any women who do it, and I have looked, believe
me. Perhaps it’s a result of being shut off from the rest of Europe
for centuries, but they use textiles they can grow: flax (linen) and
wool, neither which lend themselves to quilting. The indigenous
handicrafts being actively preserved today are Estonian embroidery,
weaving, felting, knitting and crocheting, and a kind of tatting.
Neighbors just bought angora rabbits to start harvesting their own fur
to make their winter hats, scarves and mittens. She will be hard
pressed trying to connect to Estonian culture through something that
doesn’t exist. That’s the long answer.

My recommendation is to adapt the colors and patterns of Estonian
woven tapestries and interpret them into a quilt, to combine her
passion for quilting with Estonian cultural references. It is very
Estonian to create something “new” and be inventive.

Each region in Estonia is represented in dress by it’s own distinct
colorful pattern of woven woolens, which could be easily adapted to a
quilt pattern of her own design. Most are three to five colors, and in
stripes. A couple of regions vary from that norm, but in all regions
the women make skirts and belts out of “their” local textile, which
they wear on national holidays and for special events. You know
exactly where a group of women is from by the stripe of their skirt.
The following link shows some of those patterns (the first word in
each pattern is the name of the county). There are more, I just can’t
find a repository that shows them all on one page:

This link shows a gathering of people celebrating in national dress:

Hope this helps. Have a great day! In His Service, Denise”

I loved the idea of taking a traditional handicraft design and making it into a quilting pattern. The links Denise provided were very nice. I also found a few pictures while surfing the web that I think are inspiring. The first two were from: (please visit their site. The pictures and stories were great).


The following woven designs could easily be converted into pieced patterns:

And this one would be lovely in appliqué:

I hope you can see the possibilities, no matter what country you’re interested in.

Thanks so much for your question, Krystyna, and for the in-depth response from Denise.

Have you ever made a quilt pattern inspired by a traditional handcraft from another country? I’d love to know more. Please send me pictures at:


May 21, 2017, Travel
Keeping the Little Pieces Organized

I learn so much from the students in my Open Labs at WCTC. A while ago Marilyn started working on a very popular animal pattern:

Fancy Forest Quilt Pattern by Elizabeth Hartman. Click here for Elizabeth’s website.

Each animal is adorable, but the number of pieces per block was a bit intimidating. Marilyn has stuck with it and is making great progress.

This past week she came in with her solution to the problem of keeping all the little pieces organized.

Ingenious! She simply pins the cut fabric pieces, along with identifying notes about each stack, to a chunk of foam. This would work for appliqué projects too.

Thanks Marilyn, for sharing your great idea!


And, speaking of teaching and learning, I had a wonderful time teaching at Spring University Days at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts this past weekend.

It was a great event, and I have the privilege of teaching two half day workshops at the museum in June.

A “quilt as you go table runner” will be the morning offering. Students may choose from a Patriotic or Christmas themed kit and there’s a good possibility the runner will be ready for binding by the end of class:

In the afternoon I’ll be teaching students how to make a variety of Seminole Borders. These samples will be a great reference for adding spice to future projects and kits will be available for this class also (please be aware, the following picture is not of a finished quilt, but shows 3 different seminole borders, overlapped for the picture):

Click here for more information on the French Braid workshop.

Click here for more information on the Seminole Border Workshop.

Perhaps you’d even like to sign up for both! I’m looking forward to a day of learning and fun!


Happy Mother’s Day to all!

May 13, 2017, Classes
Flillows and Star Wars

In honor of Star Wars day this past week (May the 4th be with you!), I decided it would be fun to do a Star Wars post. I think I’ve included a little something for everyone. Here goes:

Our son and grandsons are currently into Star Wars. In fact, for Trey’s second birthday a Star Wars theme cake was requested from grandma (I’m better at quilting, but I do enjoy decorating a cake every so often).

bb8 cake

For Willy’s 9th birthday, I decided to pick up some fun Star Wars fleece, sew it into a checkerboard throw, add a pillow pocket and voilá – a Star Wars flillow,

star wars flillow

with his initial on the pocket!

You may be confused – A Flillow??? Where did that come from? Please let me explain:

Years ago I got hooked on making Quillows. You may remember that these were a hot gift item: A lap sized quilt with a pillow pocket centered on the bottom of the quilt back. When open it was a snuggly quilt,

but with a little folding and tucking it became a pillow.

These were wonderful for keeping in the car for emergencies or an impromptu picnic. They were also great for kids to take on a sleepover because, when folded into a pillow, there was room for a pair of pj’s and a toothbrush in the pocket.

Recently I was snuggling under a “no-sew” fleece throw our daughter had gifted us many years ago,

fleece dog throw flillow

and it occurred to me that it could become a Flillow (my own invention: a fleece-quilt-pillow) by adding a pocket to the back!

It worked great! And the Flillow was born. Willy’s was the second one I made.

Now back to Star Wars:

Last year I saw a pattern on the internet for crocheted Star Wars characters. I sent the link to my Mom. She’s amazing at crocheting and reading patterns. Trey got the stormtrooper and Yoda for his birthday and Sommer got Leah and Luke (complete with light saber) for hers.

The kids love them!

So there you have it a post that contains both Star Wars and handcrafts. I hope you enjoyed it.

Do you have a quillow from the past? Do you have a fleece throw just crying to be a flillow? Let me know  🙂 !


And one last note – to view the winners from Quilt Week in Paducah, including the Viewer’s Choice awards announced after the show ended, go to:

May 7, 2017, Kids
Inspired and Enthused

On the road again – from Paducah back home to Wisconsin. The weather isn’t nearly as nice. Here’s a picture as we cross the “flying geese” bridge heading north.

But oh, what a wonderful trip we had!

We really enjoyed the quilt shop and Amish dry goods stores in Arthur, IL, and we did our best to support them. I found myself saying “pace yourselves” to my new roommates, who were stocking up on a bit of beautiful fabric before we even reached Quilt City, USA! After a delicious lunch at Yoder’s we were back on our way. We made it to our B&B in time to attend the National Quilt Museum reception. It was such a privilege and a joy to see my quilt, Silly Goose, hanging with all the other amazing “Flying Goose” challenge pieces.

I’ll be doing a post on the National Quilt Museum soon, because it is a real treasure for the quilt world.

That night my sweet roommates battled their exhaustion to help hang a display of quilts in the front windows of Tribeca restaurant (one floor below where we stay). The exhibit consisted of a collection of quilts from my book “Where do I Start With Fiber Art”, along with an African themed piece made by my dear friend Laura Krasinski.

The next day we helped to hang the quilts in the AQS show. Inspiration abounded. What fun to see them up close and personal. We then were asked to hang an exhibit of European quilts from the Studio Art Quilt Alliance (SAQA) at the Paducah School of Art an Design. It was a perfect venue for a group of fascinating quilts.

After that we were finally able to set up our kitchen studio  😀 !

The remaining days were filled with great classes, lectures, vendors, food and fun. Laura joined me for my traditional “bubble tea” at Etcetera.

We met up with the Fiberistas and, aside from our second annual mexican dinner together on Saturday night, we had to do the kitschy AQS Paducah backdrop thing for our 2017 picture.

Other than our trip home, the weather was beautiful. We so enjoyed the lower town area, the murals on the flood wall, and all the wonderful quilts.

It was such a total escape from reality and a chance to recharge our batteries – and it was a lot of fun! Looking forward to Quilt Week 2018!

Were you in Paducah this year? Any pictures you’d like to share? Please email them to me at:

April 30, 2017, Travel
Paducah or Bust – 2017

Greetings from central Illinois. I know I’ve done this before, but I still find it amazing that I can post to my blog on my laptop, from a truck cruising down the highway at 70 mph, while using my cellphone as a “hotspot” internet connection! What a fantastic world we live in!

Once again I’m on my way to Quilt Week in Paducah, Kentucky. It’s my favorite part of Spring. This year my travel partner, Wendy, had the wonderful opportunity to fly to Ireland with her husband and visit their daughter Tori, who is studying in Dublin. I’m so glad for them, but I know I’ll miss having her along. The good news is I found two friends who were thrilled to come along this year. Laura and Eileen have never been to Quilt Week, so I can’t wait to show them around.

This is just my part of the stuff I’ll “need” in Paducah. Once again we’ll turn the kitchen into a studio and do some stitching when we feel the urge.


We’ve decided to split the trip in half this year. By only driving halfway we didn’t have to miss church today 🙂 . We’ll spend tonight in Champaign, IL, so we can visit the Amish shops in the Arthur area tomorrow, since they are closed on Sunday. We’ll check into the B&B tomorrow afternoon and the fun will begin.

Quilt Week in Paducah – here we come!

April 23, 2017, Travel
A Beach Quilt

A while ago I presented a program for Common Threads Quilt Guild in Sussex, WI. One of the quilters in attendance was a woman named Colleen. During show & tell she shared a delightful “Row by Row” quilt.

beach quilt

When she showed me the back of the quilt, I knew I wanted to share it on my blog. Here’s the story, in her own words, and two pictures of the back:

I belong to the Ties That Bind Quilt Guild that meets in West Bend, WI.
Last year, we had a Row by Row challenge where each participant chose a
theme and put their own fabric in a box after making the first row.  I
chose a beach theme because I had purchased fabric several years ago while
visiting my aunt in North Carolina that made me think of beaches and I
wanted to use it.  After the quilt went around to all of the participants,
I put it together and put a border on it. The bottom row was the one with
the flip flops.  After completing the top, I decided that it looked a bit
like a postcard and I thought that I would label the back of the quilt like
it was a giant postcard. 

beach quilt back

I used leftover letters that I had cut out for a
craft project at Girl Scout Camp a few years ago.  Chris, I swear I
measured the top!  However, somehow, while I was quilting it on the
longarm, I realized that I had much more back than I did top.  Usually that
wouldn’t matter, but since I had writing on the back, I couldn’t just cut
it off.  I decided to go back to the sewing machine and make another row.
I added the title of the quilt to that row “Life’s a Beach” and sewed it to
the quilt while it was on the longarm. 

It was a fun quilt to make and I really enjoyed seeing what the other members came up with.  It is one of my favorite quilts.”


I love the way she labeled the back in a post card style. Notice how the place and date are in the “post mark”!

Thanks Colleen, for letting me share your quilt. The back is so clever and I love hearing about your process for problem solving!

If anyone out there has a Row-by-row you’d like to share, please email me a picture at If you’d like to include a story, that would be icing on the cake  🙂 !

Wishing you a blessed Resurrection Sunday – He is risen indeed!

April 16, 2017, Challenges
A Divas Barn

A short while ago I received a comment to my blog from a quilter named Michelle. She wrote that she belonged to a group that had a challenge in which they made not one, but two slice quilts from the same picture. Since I’ve participated in two slice quilts: the Jennings Homestead (click here to read that post)

Jennings Quilt

and Garden of Grace (click here to read that post),

I was intrigued and wrote back asking to hear all about it. Here’s the story:

“A very special group of women, aptly named The Divas, have been coming together for almost 10 years to share in the joy of art quilting. A “small group” born out of the local guild, where the names and faces have changed over the years– gather once a month to share, explore new techniques, expand quilting knowledge and critique each others work in a loving and fun way. Typically, at least one challenge a year is agreed upon to push their creativity and spark growth as a quilter and as an artist. The most recent– a “Slice Project” was chosen. This is quickly becoming a popular group project for many as it takes any quilter on an inspirational journey! A photo is chosen and literally divided into portions according to the number of quilters. For the Divas, a simple photo of a barn was selected. Then, they separated the members into 2 groups- one of 6 and one of 5. For the first, the photo was divided vertically into 6 straight strips. For the latter- they actually turned it into 5 puzzle pieces! The perimeters were straightforward– with full reign to make a quilt with any color or texture. Interpretation was flexible and items in the photo could be deleted or added. The few requirements were that any included lines that ran into the next slice must match up and the bindings were to be the same. Hence, as seen in these pictures– an old barn magically became two amazing and unique pieces of artwork that are truly breathtaking.”

Slice Quilts Barn

Aren’t they beautiful? I especially like the puzzle pieces. The Divas are located in Fort Collins, CO and, in order to give credit where credit is due, here are the names of the Divas who participated in this challenge: Charlotte Jackson, Judy Donaldson, Julie Bortz Wilson, Nola Stone, Pam Peterson, Lesli Singer, Judy Beach, Becky Judson, Cecilia Milano, Michelle Cerise, and Kimberley Shootman

Thank you ladies, for sharing your lovely quilts with us.

April 9, 2017, Challenges
Paper Backed Fusibles – A Side by Side Comparison

If you’re a quilter, at some point you will probably find a need for a paper backed fusible. At one time I was a traditional quilter who thought using fusibles on my quilts was in some way “cheating”. I still prefer my Repliqué method for machine appliqué because it requires no fusibles and avoids the stiffness that heat activated glue yields. But, there are times when I do succumb to fusing.

For my comparison I used the four commercial paper backed fusibles that are readily available in my area: Wonder Under™, Heat n Bond Lite™, Steam a Seam II™, and EZ Steam™. The first two have tracing/release paper on only one side of the web, and the glue isn’t activated until heat is applied. The remaining two have tracing/release paper on one or both sides of the web, and have a pressure sensitive adhesive on at least one side, in addition to the heat activated glue.

There are two advantages to the pressure sensitive adhesive: they can be used to fuse sheers (tulle, organza, etc.), and any appliqué pieces made with them are re-positionable, which is helpful when arranging a design on a background fabric.

The one obvious note that I’d like to make at this point is that the products containing only a heat activated glue will not cause a “glue ball” to build up on your needle when sewing through the appliqués. The ones with the pressure sensitive adhesive will form that “glue ball” on the needle. I used to clean off the needle with an alcohol soaked cotton ball when needed, but I’ve learned a new trick: if you wipe your needle with Sewer’s Aid on a cotton ball prior to sewing through the appliqué the “glue ball” will not form.

My method for comparison – I chose a shape and created three appliqué hearts from each product according to packaging directions. I made the shapes from muslin and wrote which product it was made with on the appliqué.

I then cut three strips of a background fabric and fused one of each of my hearts onto each strip. On one set I top-stitched the edges down, on another I satin stitched (using scrap paper as my stabilizer on the back), and on the third I did a blind hem stitch, to mimic a blanket stitch because I didn’t have that stitch on the machine I was using.

Here are my findings:

* All four products fused the appliqués well.

* The release paper came off easily, with a gentle separating pressure along an edge, from all but the Wonder Under™. For that I had to score the release paper in an “X” with a needle in the center back of the appliqué, and pull it off from the created corners.

* The Heat n Bond Lite™ was the only one with a pattern in the glue. I found it does show through on light color appliqués.

* From what I could tell, they all added about the same amount of stiffness, no matter what the stitch.

One last hint: fusibles may age poorly, especially in very humid areas. They will last longer if stored in an air-tight container or bag.

April 2, 2017, Appliqué Notions