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
Evelyn’s Latest Crossings Quilt

When my friend, Evelyn, sent me the 4-patch block she’d made for my birthday, she also sent a picture of her most recent project. It’s a “Crossings” quilt she calls “Market Day”. I love it. The uneven chunks and asymmetry are so appealing!

Batik Quilt Evelyn Link

I asked her the story and here it is 🙂 :

“This quilt started with no plan. A friend and I bought a group of colorful African prints. I decided to make a bargello piece with mine, but didn’t know what to do with it.

I found one of my Bali batik pictures that had colors that looked good with it. 

I put two borders on the picture, then I centered it on the bargello, but it was too large and covered up too much of it.

I belong to an art quilt guild called the Mavericks and occasionally they have a meeting called “What Can I Do with This Mess?” I took the two pieces to see what they could come up with. The first suggestion was to take one border off the picture, then to place it off center. Another person suggested I “do that bead thing”—I had done a demo of Chris’ bead crossings technique at our Round Table program.

I stiffened the batik picture by putting Timtex™ in it, finished it off with black piping, but felt I needed a couple more pieces to put the beads around to balance it. After I cut out two more pieces, I realized my hanging sleeve would show through behind the beads on the top one, so I added another piece at the top and put it on with beads.

This gave me a place to repeat the fish motif, so it grew and changed some more.

I often start with a definite plan for a quilt that may change some as I go. This one is an example of having no idea how it would evolve, but adjusting to make it work as I progressed.

It will go into the Arizona Quilt Guild show in March.  Thank you, thank you for sharing your techniques.”

Thanks Evelyn, for sharing the story of your fascinating quilt! I’m sure it was a hit in Tucson!

That last part was very interesting, because many of my fiber art pieces begin and progress in just this way. I always like to say “the quilt tells me what to do next”! And having a meeting entitled “What Can I Do With This Mess” sounds like a wonderful idea for a guild program!

If anyone would like to try my beaded “Crossings” technique, the instructions, along with lots of step-by-step pictures, can be found in my book “Where Do I Start With Fiber Art”. Click here to order your own copy  🙂 !

March 26, 2017, Embellishing
Do You Hand Quilt?

Amish hand-quilted miniature quilt by Susan Boring, 6″ x 8″

Last weekend Mike and I did a road trip to Elkhorn, WI for an estate sale. I had received this mass email from a woman named Angela:

“My mom, who was a devoted quilter, recently passed away and we are holding an estate sale.  She was a quilting fanatic and a member of many guilds through the years.  It has taken four weeks just to measure the fabric she had stored away and she has left many projects partially completed.  I was hoping you could share the attached flyer with your guild members.  I would greatly appreciate any help you can provide in getting the word out.  Thanks much and please let me know if you have any concerns or suggestions.”

I emailed her back to ask her mother’s name. I didn’t know Susan, but Angela included this sweet response:

“If you do come to the sale I would love to talk to you about finishing up some of her projects.  She made each grandchild a quilt, piecing it when they started high school and hand quilting before graduation as a graduation gift.  Unfortunately, she was unable to quilt the top she made for my son.  I have been praying for knowledge and direction.  Since you answered this email with “blessings” perhaps you are the answer.”

I enjoyed meeting Angela and seeing the beautiful sampler quilt.

Since all of the other grandchildren quilts were hand-quilted, Angela would really like to have this one hand-quilted too. I told her I wouldn’t be able to do this, but I would put the information on my blog. If you are a hand-quilter who would be interested in talking to Angela about it, please email her at:

The quilt at the top of this post was just one of my purchases at Susan’s sale. Isn’t her quilting lovely? I also couldn’t resist this adorable sewing machine. I’ve always wanted a vintage child’s machine!

I haven’t tried sewing with it yet, but it is a treasure.

March 19, 2017, Hand Quilting
Two Compass Journeys

I’ve had two students do some pretty terrific things with my Mariner’s Compass technique recently. I hope you enjoy the quilts and the stories.

Story #1

I’ve known fiber artist, Mary Alice Hart, for awhile and am pleased to call her my friend. I was delighted to find she had signed up for my class when I taught for her guild. A short while after the class she sent me this note with pictures:

“Chris, Thought you might like to see the end result of the Compass I started in your class last October in Monroe. Knew it had to have a life beyond tradition so threw it into space. Thanks for a great class!
Mary Alice”

Not only was her quilt incredibly innovative, but so was the label:

Mary Alice did a wonderful lecture for my guild last year. To learn more about her and her quilts,

go to:

Story #2

Debbie Hawver took my Mariner’s class at WCTC  in 2016. She is a regular in my Open Labs, and brought it to class with four additional compass portions added in the corners.

She then decided to turn it on point with white and gold fabrics in the new corners. The problem was, the quilt top wasn’t square and the gold triangles she added were not matching up. We noodled on ways to fix it. The best way was to take it apart and redo the corners – a lot of work. This is an email she sent me that week:

“Well…As I mulled over the Mariner, yesterday I decided to take it apart.  Took off the 4 corners, squared up the main block and needed to create 2 new corners that had perfect right angles.   After attaching those, re-cut gold triangles and replaced the white border with new fabric that was wider (definitely now had more “wiggle room”).  Started at 2PM and the dog finally came in at 10:30PM wondering why we weren’t in bed yet 🙂

This afternoon I finished squaring it all up and I’m much happier with it.  Even though I’m at the same place I was last Thursday, I feel a lot better with the way it looks and the next step is to add the final border and binding.”

The following week she came to class with it redone. And it was done well!!!

Next we brainstormed borders and finishing. These she pursued, but with quite a bit of ripping and frustration along the way. The quilt wasn’t cooperating, but Debbie was so determined, and the final result is stunning.

Debbie's Mariners Compass

It’s one of the loveliest compass quilts I’ve seen. I really learned a lesson in perseverance from Debbie. Sometimes it is worth the extra effort to get it right. Great work Debbie!

Thank you Mary Alice and Debbie for sharing you delightful quilts with us!!!


And here’s a special FYI – I’ll be teaching at:

Spring University Days Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts

You’ll find all the details in their lovely 2 page brochure. Click here for a printable pdf of page 1. Click here for page 2. Or visit their website: 

Sign up quick – it’s a wonderful event!

March 12, 2017, Piecing
Fabric of Survival

My friend Nina emailed me shortly after reading about the Sister City challenge on my blog. In her email she wrote about two topics I think you’ll find interesting. The first was related to the post I did concerning the exhibit of Rumi O’brien’s story quilts in Madison (please click here to read that post). Here’s what Nina had to say:

“Last week’s piece about Rumi struck a chord.  I am hoping to get to Madison. And…I want to let you know about another exhibit of story quilts if you haven’t already heard about it. It is called “Fabric of Survival,” 36 quilted and embroidered pieces created by a Holocaust survivor when she was 50 to show her daughters what her life in Europe was like. They will be at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee , opening Thursday night Feb 16 through May 26.  Here is a link about it: 
Nina did send me a copy of the book about Esther’s quilts.
The quilts are fascinating, and the needlework – amazing! Here are just two from the collection:
To see all of the quilts go to:
A group of us from my Open Lab class drove down to the museum this past Thursday to see Esther’s quilts and hear Nina present a talk entitled “Diversity in Cloth: Culture and Catharsis”.
The quilts were outstanding and really need to be seen “in the cloth”. Nina’s lecture was very interesting and informative. It was a delightful evening.

Another item Nina shared in her email to me was triggered by the mention of the sister cities quilt challenge between Madison, WI and Freiberg, Germany (please click here to read that post). This is a portion of that email:

“I have to say, the blog about your challenge with the two other cities caught my eye.  Freiberg is near the place my father was a GI prisoner of war, and the town his rescuers were born in.  They met at a farm near Brand-Ebersdorf (on the map just south of Freiberg) and remained best friends for life. I went there in 2013.  I can’t recall if my father’s book came out while I was still trekking to Waukesha? If not, you may find it interesting.  Let me know, and I will send it to you.  The book has grown legs, and I have been invited to groups (churches, libraries, community groups etc) to speak about it all over the country. It is in part a book about faith, and choosing to do the right thing in the wrong place.  Maybe up your alley.”

I was not familiar with the book about Nina’s father, so she sent me a copy, and I read it in 2 nights – I literally couldn’t put it down. It is an amazing story. I highly recommend it!

Thank you, Nina, for your friendship and the information you shared!

March 5, 2017, Inspiration
What is a Fiber Artist?

“The Narrow Gate”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I’d like to share my thoughts with you.

I am no longer a member of the Milwaukee Art Quilters, but I am part of a new fiber art group in the Milwaukee area called the Threadbenders. I’m very excited about what’s going on with this creative bunch and I hope to share pictures and ideas about the group in a future blog.

So, what makes someone a fiber artist? I couldn’t find a definition in the dictionary, but I have my own opinions on this subject 😀 . I feel that anyone who makes quilts is a fiber artist! We have a passion and purpose for creating quilts that keep our families warm, adorn our walls and tables, or help those who are in need. We purchase fabric and supplies carefully, yet with enthusiasm, cut it apart, sew (or fuse) it back together again, and receive joy in the process. What better form of “art” can there be?

Because I do not have a background in art, I never thought of myself as an artist. When I began quilting I chose geometric patterns to piece because I loved geometry and could use a sewing machine.

My first quilt

As I continued to make quilts I started envisioning projects I couldn’t find patterns for. With the encouragement of teachers and friends, I tried to put into fabric what was floating through my brain and, lo and behold, I was happy with the results (most of the time).

“1491 A Quilter’s View” – made for the Quilters Newsletter Magazine contest “Discovering a New World in Quiltmaking”; 1992

Since, as I said, I have no background in art, I have always felt that there is creativity inside of each of us. That’s what I try to share with my students.

Parallelisms I – my first adventure into the world of abstract art.

But this opinion has evolved over the years. Artists are inspired by many things and my faith in Jesus Christ is a huge part of my inspiration.

“Into the Light – a Journey of Faith” – made for a contest entitled “Windshield Visions”, I’m driving down the curvy road of life towards the light of Christ, and in the rear view mirror is the sinful life I’m attempting to leave behind with the help of the Holy Spirit.

As I’ve grown in my faith I’ve come to realize that, because we are created in God’s image, and His amazing imagination created everything – we must each have some creativity inside of us! I know that my abilities and opportunities are all a gift from Him and I praise and thank Him for it every day! What a blessing it is to be able to do what I love and have others want to know about it. Praise the Lord!

“Crossings V: Living Water” – This is one of a series of quilts I’ve made called “Crossings”. I feel the beads cross the gap and hold the broken pieces of my quilt together, as my faith holds the broken pieces of my life together.

Coming to know Jesus as my Savior has changed my life and my attitude. I realize I have a purpose: to bring God glory. I don’t always succeed, I’m a work in progress, but it is my goal and my joy to share this with others. That’s why I’m a fiber artist!


For those of you in the Milwaukee area, I’d like to share a special opportunity to take a class in fiber art. My dear friend Laura is hosting a special workshop with Barbara Yates Beasley on June 11th. I’m already signed up! Here’s the flyer with all the information.

February 26, 2017, Inspiration
Goose Oops!

Double oops! Sorry for the error. Please click here for the January 7th post – “Sew We Go to Hawaii”!


Here’s Goose Oops!

Before I admit to a recent mistake, I have to share what happened this past Wednesday. My parents called and asked if they could come over to visit with Sommer and Trey (and Mike and me too, but the great grandkids take priority 🙂 ). Well, Mom brought me not one, but four spool pin doilies she had made since last week’s post! (click here to visit that post). She said the pattern on the site I linked to in the blog worked well. She’s the best!


Now for my true confession post! When I was quilting my Silly Goose quilt, I really got into the free motion groove.

flying geese variation

Then I turned it over to look at the back and, I’m sure you’ve never done this, but… a picture is worth a thousand words.


I’d been meaning to move that scrap pile farther from the machine, but I hadn’t, so that scrap mocked me and crawled under the quilt in a densely quilted area, dead center in the quilt back. There was too much spiraling to want to remove it. Since necessity is the mother of invention – it was time to be inventive.

Are you ready for my solution?





After all, a quilt does need a label  😀 ! And who says it has to be at the bottom?


And one more related bit: This past week I had the great pleasure of teaching for the Heritage Quilters Guild of Lockport, IL. I presented my Tradition With a Twist lecture and an all day workshop on Architectural Repliqué. Each time I teach this class I make a block along with the group (click here for more on those blocks). I’ve made over 80 blocks while teaching this class, and I’m getting a little whacky in my fabric choices. Usually I grab whatever fabric is still laying around from a recent project. This time I chose the stack leftover from Silly Goose. Here’s the block:

I just had to add a line of geese flying behind the house. Thanks ladies for a wonderful time with your guild!

February 19, 2017, Classes Labels
Spool Pin Doilies

In the “Pieceful Star” class I taught a few weeks ago, Bonnie brought along her Singer Featherweight™ to sew on. She had a hand-made notion I’d never seen before and it was not only clever, but lovely. Instead of placing a felt circle under her spool of thread on the thread pin, she had a “Spool Pin Doily”.

Bonnie said she had taken a class on Featherweights™ at Frank’s Sewing Center in Waukesha, and one of the other students had made them and brought them to sell. I love it! I’d like one for every machine I own!

Sew, I did a little internet search and found many sites that have them for sale. Prices ran around $5. One site had a pattern for crocheting your own: I think I need to share this with my mom. She’s a great crocheter and I bet she wouldn’t charge me too much. Usually she’ll do anything for me if I invite them over to play with Sommer and Trey. Great grandparents are such pushovers 😀 !

The Pieceful Star class was a lot of fun. It has the beauty and appeal of a Lone Star without having to match up all the diamonds. All of these 31″ square quilt tops were made by students in that class!

Pieceful Star by Suzi Banks

Pieceful Star by Mary Miller

Pieceful Star by Joyce Egle

Pieceful Star by Sue Ehlen

Pieceful Star by Bonnie Morris

Pieceful Star by Jane Wettstein (don’t you love the fun way she used her scraps in the border?)

Pieceful Star by Cathy Bornemann

I’m offering the Pieceful Star class again at Waukesha County Technical College on Saturday, March 18th, from 9 to 2:30. We need a few more students for this workshop to run, so please sign up at!

February 12, 2017, Classes Notions
A Multi-Country Quilt Challenge

I hope you enjoyed last week’s post about Rumi O’Brien and her quilts (to read that story click here). I also hope you’re looking forward to the rest of the story!

While going through my photo album I was so pleased to find how well I had documented the “sister city” challenge – between quilters in Madison, WI; Freiberg, Germany; and Berne, Switzerland. This is a picture of my album with a photo of the challenge poster, the fabric scraps opened across the top, and me standing next to my quilt. Don’t you love the 80’s hair?

One of the newspaper clippings I saved, reported a part of the story I had forgotten:

The German and Swiss quilts were lost in shipping! Georgellen enlisted the help of Swiss, German and U.S. embassies, then Sen. Herb Kohl, and the Postal Service, to help find the quilts. We hung the American quilts so the exhibit could open on schedule, and the European quilts finally arrived the morning of the opening reception! Talk about excitement!

I won’t be able to show you all of the quilts, but I chose a few of the ones I found most interesting. The pictures you see here were taken of photographs, so the quality is not perfect. The American quilts have their makers in the pictures. The European ones don’t. I apologize for not having the quilter’s names with their quilts. That was one part of the documentation I neglected to include 😥 . I’ll share a slick trick about my  quilt at the end of the line up!

I found it interesting that most of the American quilts were traditional in design, while many of the European quilts were quite “artsy”.

The quilt I made for the challenge is named “Floral Lights”. I chose to add a burgundy, a blue, and a pink fabric to the challenge fabrics; and pieced them into basket weave blocks. These became the background for a floral silhouette.

Isn’t the floral design lovely? I’ll let you in on my secret. The white fabric was a “white-on-white” print, so the design was already on the fabric. I drew around it with a washout marker, quilted on the line, and trimmed away all the non-floral areas of the white fabric, so the piecing showed through. I then machine satin stitched the flowers and hand-quilted the same design in the border areas.

I’m quite sure this was the first challenge I ever participated in, and it was a great experience!


A Sew We Go from Quebec to Boston update!

Wendy and I are working on the projects and extra special plans for our upcoming cruise from Quebec to Boston this Fall. One of the quilters who signed up early has had to cancel due to a family circumstance. Her roommate is still planning on going and is looking for a travel partner. If you think you might be interested in coming along, please email me at, or contact Kristi at (262)786-6763/ For more information on the cruise, please go to:

February 5, 2017, Challenges
Fascinating Story Quilts

This week I received an envelope from my first quilting teacher, and very dear friend, Sharon Grieve Grinyer. In it was a newspaper clipping from the Wisconsin State Journal that took me back to 1989. The article was entitled:

And begins with:

“There’s a good story behind Rumi O’Brien’s quilt called “Hiding Under Shrubs – I’m Too Famous.” There’s a story, in fact, behind every Rumi O’Brien quilt.” Made from tiny scraps of cloth and laced with thousands of minute stitches, O’Brien’s handiwork is consistently clever, always unexpected, and often very funny.”

To read the entire article, go to:

Rumi is a quilter I met early in my quilt journey, while taking part in my first quilt challenge. This all brought to mind a story I think you’ll find quite interesting and I’d like to present it in two parts.

Part 1 begins with a multi-country quilt challenge. I still have a photo of the original challenge exhibit sign and this is what it said:

“In early Autumn, 1989, Georgellen Mikkelson was contacted about orgainizing the Madison, WI, end of a quilt challenge between quilters in Freiberg, Germany (Madison’s Sister City), Berne, Switzerland, and Madison, WI. She gathered a varied group of 21 quilters, and anxiously awaited the arrival of the “Challenge Fabric” from West Germany.

The participating quilters were each given a 12″ square of each of the fabrics. Five additional fabrics of the quilter’s choice could be used. The finished quilts were to be no larger than 24″ x 24″.

In January of 1990, the Madison quilts were shipped to Europe. They were on display, along with the Freiburg and Berne quilts, in both European cities. The entire group of quilts – all 65 of them – will be on display here in the Madison Civic Center until July 1990.”

I found these leftover pieces of the challenge fabric stuffed in a page of the photo album with the challenge pictures. Maybe I had a premonition I’d need them for a blog someday :-)!

I enjoyed making my challenge quilt (to see it, you’ll need to read next week’s post for part 2 🙂 ).

When it was time to get together and see all the Madison quilts, there was one that really caught my attention. It was Rumi’s. Her quilt told the story of the challenge in hand appliqué!

Amazing! And hand quilted too. I was so impressed, I signed up to take a class from her at a local quilt shop. The class was called “Making Babies” and we made 2 little dolls. Rumi was a wonderful teacher and the stories she shared of her life in Japan were delightful. I lost touch with her after that class.

A few weeks ago Sommer found those dolls in a toy bin and began playing with them in her doll house.

After reading the article about Rumi in the paper, I had to dig out the old photo album and revisit my memories of the challenge and Rumi.

I can’t wait to make the trip to Madison and see the exhibit of her quilts. The exhibit is entitled: “Crossing Mountains and Other Adventures – Story Quilts by Rumi O’Brien”. For all the information go to:

Next week: part 2 of the Sister City Challenge!


January 29, 2017, Challenges
A Great Binding Tip!

A number of years ago my friend Jean  showed our Open Lab class a clever way to control binding while attaching it to a quilt (to read a previous post about some lovely placemats Jean made, click here!). I thought I had posted about it, but can’t seem to find that post (after 6 years of blogging I’ve covered a lot of topics!)

The concept is quite simple and it requires 2 easily obtained supplies: an empty toilet paper roll and a piece of ribbon. After making enough binding to go around her quilt, Jean rolls it onto the toilet paper roll, threads the roll onto a length of ribbon, ties the ribbon around her neck, and stitches the binding to her quilt. The binding feeds evenly off the roll in an extremely organized fashion. Brilliant!

Fast forward to this past Christmas. Connie, another Open Lab friend, was making tree skirts (I posted about them in December – click here for that post). She chose to couch silver cording onto one of the tree skirts (for couching instructions click here). Jean just happened to have one of her special rolls with her and it made the couching oh so much easier:

Connie added the cording with Jean’s binding roller.

couching roll

Here’s a close up of the couching. It really added some extra zip to the tree skirt!

Thanks Jean, and Connie 🙂 !

I don’t know why I haven’t tried this yet, but I know what I’ll be doing with my next empty toilet paper roll.

Let me know if you try this. A picture of your project would be fun too!

January 22, 2017, Embellishing finishing
A Winter Window Quilt

Last Summer I shared the story of a winter quilt I’d completed (click here to read that post). Well, it’s finally hanging on the wall!

Today’s post is about another winter wall quilt, recently finished, and a quick tutorial on a fun raw edge appliqué technique that doesn’t require fusibles! It’s a very different quilt from the first one, and is hung in a unique way.

In November my friend Doris Deutmeyer gave a lecture and workshop for Patched Lives quilt guild. You may have seen her wonderful work at quilt shows, as she vends at many of them. Her patterns and kits are great, and just in case you’d like to see more, go to: I was excited to take her class and chose a winter scene called Crystal Night. This is the pattern and the piece I left class with (some of the students got theirs pieces done and matted!)


Mike and I like to repurpose antiques for our own use and enjoyment (to see another antique repurposing project from a few years ago, click here). Years ago we needed a towel rack in the master bathroom. We found an old window, Mike added coat hooks to the sides and I made an autumn landscape quilt to fit inside it. Since we have no windows in this bathroom (only skylights), it seemed the perfect answer.

I had told Mike I’d make a quilt for every season – but that never happened. As I was making my Crystal Night quilt I realized the time had arrived to change out the seasons (or at least one of them)!

I ordered some extra fabric from Doris, because the new center was too small for the window. I measured how much I needed to add to all 4 sides, knowing the sides were going to be a bit of a challenge. I wanted the distant trees and mountains to match up and look more organic – a straight seam would be too obvious.


I decided to use one of my favorite “raw edged landscape” techniques. I placed the light blue fabric over the dark blue, making sure there was enough overlap. Then I drew a “mountain” line and stitched:


Next I trimmed close to the line.


Once both sides were done I added them and sewed the additional sky and snow on top and bottom. After layering, quilting, binding and placing it in the frame – we have a towel rack with a winter view:

The Springtime view is already beginning to percolate through my brain.

Do you like to repurpose antiques? Any pictures you’d like to share?

January 15, 2017, Appliqué finishing
Silly Goose

So here’s a fun way to begin the new year – sharing pictures of my latest quilt! A few weeks ago I mentioned that my most recent contest quilt had been accepted into the New Quilts From an Old Favorite contest at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY. The judging is completed and I’m now free to share my quilt with you. The traditional block the museum chose this year was Flying Geese. While at the AQS show in Paducah this past Spring I got my idea. It’s called Silly Goose, and the label reads: “There’s one in every crowd. She just can’t follow the leader or the rules. What a silly goose!”

flying geese variation

It was great fun creating the crazy, silly-ness in the solo silly goose.

I used stretchy metallic fabric once again. You may remember my first experience with that in “40 Wonderful Years” (click here for that post). It was a challenge to sew on, but the stretchiness gave the trapunto a shine I loved. The only color I couldn’t find in a Spandex™ type fabric was orange, so I tried polar fleece. Another non-traditional quilting fabric. It is a little fuzzy, but I was pleased with the results.

Next, came the quilting. That was even more fun! I chose to free motion embroider designs on the background fabric in neon thread, before I layered and trapunto’d the top. This allowed the embroidery to lay on top of the poofy areas.

machine embroidered trapunto

The effect was just what I was looking for.

Once begun, the quilting took on a life of it’s own, and it was a joy.

This was followed by fused crystals in the small amount of space that wasn’t yet stitched.

WooHoo! I hope you can see the joy I have in playing with fabric, color and design. The Flying Goose exhibit will be hanging in the National Quilt Museum during Quilt Week this Spring. Then it will travel for two years to many shows across the country. All the quilts will also be featured in a book, published by the museum. It’s always fun to have a quilt travel and visit places I have yet to see.

I praise God for the opportunities and joy He’s given me through quilting!


January 8, 2017, Embellishing free motion
Quilting Time

Happy New Year!

On Thursday this week Maria invited Ida and me over for a day of quilting in her recently cleaned studio.

When we arrived we found her living room to be a feast for the eyes. She had her lovely Christmas quilts hanging on the wall.

and many other beautiful quilts folded over ladders.

Along with clocks! So many clocks! And they were all at different times!

So, we had to ask. Her answer got me to thinking about time – a thought very pertinent, since we’ve just started a new year. Time can crawl, or it can fly (like all of 2016). It is also of the essence, and this related to Maria’s reply.

She said that time is very, very precious. It’s the most valuable thing we have. Food, things, people, and just about everything else can be replaced, but when time is gone – it’s gone. She loves to go thrift store shopping and look for old or interesting clocks. This was the point when we noticed none of the clocks were at the current time. When asked she replied her clocks represented important dates in her life: her dad’s birthday, March 12, was 3:12 on one of the clocks. Her birthday, October 9, is 10:09. Each clock meant something. Wow! I had never noticed that a 12 hour clock could represent the dates for a 12 month year.

Then she showed us the one set for three o’clock to represent the time of Christ’s death for her sins. She said she has the alarm on her phone set for that time each day, so she will pause and remember His sacrifice. I think I may be in need of a few more clocks  🙂 .

We each got quite a bit of quilting done, plus a lot of good conversation, and a nice lunch out. Maria showed us the quilt she’s been working on for almost a year, Jinny Beyer’s Moonglow. She has one more border for the top to be finished.

Gorgeous! Thanks Maria, for a delightful, and insightful, day.

My wish for the new year is that you will have time to do what you love, and to spend with those you love. And that you will use it wisely. God bless you in 2017!

January 1, 2017, Uncategorized
Merry Christmas 2016!

Joy to the World!

I love Christmas! It is such a joyful time of year. And when it snows, everything is so beautiful! We’ve had 5 major snow falls so far and I feel like I’m living in a winter wonderland.

I enjoy the preparations for Christmas. One of my favorite pre-Christmas activities is to “ring and sing” for the Salvation Army. My friend Sharon and I have done this for over 15 years, and this year Margaret joined us.

One of my family’s Christmas traditions is to bake Christmas cookies together. My mom and I haven’t missed a year since I was able to help. This year Betsy, Sommer and Trey joined in the fun.

My dad was in charge of helping the kids “unwrap the Hershey kisses”.

Christmas Eve and Christmas day we were blessed to celebrate with all the family who live nearby. I couldn’t resist having our family Christmas picture taken in front of my round robin Christmas quilt this year. Merry Christmas from the Kirsch house!

Many gifts were exchanged, but the most amazing gift of Christmas is that God became man, lived, died and rose again, out of love for each of us. Oh come let us adore Him – Christ the Lord!

December 25, 2016, Uncategorized
Tree Skirts and Cookie Covers

Last Christmas I shared a story in my blog that has become one of my favorites. It was entitled “Cookie Nana and the Seven Tree Skirts”. Here is a picture from that post of Connie with one of her tree skirts.

doily tree skirts

It really is a delightful story (to read it click here), and this year she’s agreed to let me share a continuation of that story, and a lovely Christmas project idea she got from her mom. So here’s “the rest of the story”:

When Connie gave the seven doily tree skirts to her grandchildren last year, her two children were a little put out that they didn’t receive one. So this year she worked on two more skirts in class. The following pictures were taken as they were in progress. She made her kids “non-doily” tree skirts of her own design. For her daughter, who lives in Ohio, she made an Ohio Star skirt.


And for her son she made a Lemoyne star variation, because she’d always wanted to make the Lemoyne Star block.


Stunning! I’m sure they were very much appreciated!

So now for the project:

During show and tell at my Thursday Open Lab, Connie told the group that her mom had a unique cover she used to put over her Christmas cookies when they were placed on a serving platter. Instead of putting each type of cookie away in separate containers after the meal (or in my mind, to keep sneaky fingers away when the cookie plate is ready, but the guests haven’t arrived before the meal), she covered the whole plate with a pretty, quilted Christmas circle, “lined” with plastic.

quilted cookie cover

Connie used two sided, pre-quilted fabric, finished off with a binding.

cookie-cover-side-1 quilted cookie cover

And with a button on each side. She then made a buttonhole in a circle of clear plastic.


She buttons the liner to the quilted circle.


And the side with the plastic goes face down on the cookie plate.


What a great idea! Connie chose to use the button/buttonhole idea so she could alternate the different sides of the quilted circle, but simply sewing the quilted circle and the plastic circle together with a button on the outside to lift by, would work just fine. And quilting your own pretty fabric would add variety (pre-quilted fabric selection is limited).

I liked the idea so much I asked her if I could put it on the blog. Imagine my surprise when she gifted me a cookie cover of my very own at our class Christmas party this week! Thank you Connie – you are a blessing to me  😀 !


And a parting picture. We’ve had at least 3 major snow storms already this year and it is beautiful!

This morning my car thermometer showed it was -4° on my way to church. Winter has certainly arrived in Wisconsin! Stay warm and enjoy this lovely season of giving.

December 18, 2016, Uncategorized
Quilts and Staples?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our woods. Last week we got a few inches of snow, so I headed out to take some pictures. This was my favorite:

Yesterday we brought the canoe into the barn just in time for more snow. The pond is now frozen over, the birds are loving our feeder, and it looks like we’ve had about 6″ more so far.  I think it’s beautiful!

This week’s post has nothing to do with snow, but I hope you enjoy it!

You may remember a post I did last Spring about rust dyeing (click here to read that post). My friend Ida created a couple of pieces of rust-dyed fabric when our group experimented with the technique. Well – she decided to do something with a piece of that fabric. She added a Seminole border in wonderful matching fabrics.


Our group had discussed the difficulty of quilting rust dyed fabric. The rust leaves enough metal in the fabric to make some areas impenetrable to a needle, thus making the quilting step a frustrating experience. Ida surmounted that problem by “tying/tacking” her quilt with brass staples!

idas-staples1 rust dyeing

Ingenious! And just when you think there’s nothing new under the sun. Leave it to my very creative friend Ida – to come up with the perfect solution.

Stapling your quilt… it might become the new, “in” way to quilt!


An Exciting Update for quilters in and out of Wisconsin!

This past week I received good news about the Treasured Quilts of Wisconsin video on pbs. The entire show is now available on-line. So, even my out of State viewers can access it! Here’s the link!

Join host Nancy Zieman for this special featuring interviews, stories and quilts.

December 11, 2016, finishing
A Variety of Stars

I love the Lone Star pattern. Any star medallion can be a delight to the eyes, especially in Christmas colors. But matching all the diamond points in a Lone Star can be a bit tedious.


While in Paducah this year, I began to play with an idea to simplify it, yet still create an interesting star. I began by piecing a very simple pattern, in this case a checkerboard, then I cut identical diamonds from the piecing. Voilá – a pretty pieced star medallion, with no diamond intersections to match:

Pieceful star quilt

That was fun, but what if I started with a different simple block? I liked this one even better and called it “Pieceful Star”:


This type of playing is just too much fun not to share. So I’m teaching it as a one day workshop at Waukesha County Technical College this winter. It will be offered on 2 different days, in case you can’t make one of them :-).

I’m also offering my usual Thursday afternoon Open Labs, and one Thursday morning Open Lab in January!

The additional workshop I’m offering is a repeat of my beginning fiber art class called “Parallelisms and Concentricities”. This is an art quilt class for traditional quilters who don’t think they’re creative, but want to try. It’s a day for using your imagination while playing with beautiful fabric, skinny strips, and geometric shapes. Loads of fun fusing and embellishing techniques from my most recent book will be shared.



Parallelisms I

For all the information go to:, in the gray “Course Search” box (scroll down and on the right), choose “Spring Semester”, and type “quilting” in the “Search for: Course Title/Subject” box. Then click on “Submit”. All the quilt offerings should be there! If you have any problems registering on-line, you can call registration at: 262.691.5578. Here’s the class information:


Course Information
Quilt-Parallel Concentricity – 304 611A 001
CRN: 21145
Duration: Feb 18, 2017 – Feb 18, 2017


Treasured Quilts of Wisconsin – Update

The PBS program I’ve been telling you about aired this past Tuesday. Many fascinating quilts and their stories were shared, and the interviews with Wisconsin quilters were very interesting. Wendy and I had our 15 seconds of fame (it may have been more like 2 minutes 🙂 ). What an honor to be a part of it!

For those of you in Milwaukee, you will have your chance to see it. Here’s the scoop: “Milwaukee PBS will air Treasured Quilts of Wisconsin during the March Pledge (Saturday, March 4-Sunday, March 19, 2017); the March schedule will be released on or about February 1, 2017.”

For those of you outside of the State, It may be aired on the internet in the future. I’ll keep you posted!

December 4, 2016, Classes Piecing
Scarecrow Faces

Important information about our upcoming cruise

Our Sew We Go cruise from Quebec to Boston in September of 2017 is going to be norwegian-dawnspectacular! And we still have a few cabins left. Because this is such a popular cruise, most cabins not spoken for by December 26 will be released back to Norwegian Cruise Lines. So, if you’ve been contemplating joining in on the fun, we need to hear from you soon. This could be a wonderful addition to your Christmas “wish list”. For all the details go to:, or to open a printable pdf click here!”

***And now for my topic of the week***

While teaching in Nebraska last year, I found a pattern for a table runner I just had to have.

To order your own pattern go to: Happy Hollow Designs!

I usually like to design my own projects, but these scarecrows were just too cute, and I promised myself I would make it this year! I pulled it out in the beginning of September only to realize I didn’t really feel like tracing/cutting out all those little pieces. Inspiration struck when I thought about scanning the pattern into my Brother Scan ‘n Cut™, and letting this wonderful machine do the tedious work. It was a great project for me to learn more about what my Scan ‘n Cut™ can do (to read my previous Scan ‘n Cut™ post click here).

Once the pieces were all fused and cut out, Sommer helped me to “build” the scarecrows. She was disappointed when I ironed them down


and machine blanket stitched around them,


because she couldn’t keep playing with them. So she offered to draw the faces. I stalled until mommy came to pick her up. That night I told Mike about it and he said I should let her. Duh!

The next day I had her draw some faces on paper first. We talked about different expressions, and shapes for eyes and mouths. I was amazed at how confident she was. Then I handed her a washout marker (grandma loves her, but she’s not crazy 😀 !) and stepped back. Without hesitation she drew every face: boom! boom! boom! She was done and never even needed to turn the piece around to draw the upside down scarecrows!!!


scarecrow faces scarecrow-faces-detail2

And here’s the finished runner:

scarecrow faces

I love them! I traced over Sommer’s lines with permanent marker. I think it’s my favorite table runner ever.

November 27, 2016, Appliqué Computers and Quilting
Garment Art

Before I get to this week’s topic – I have some exciting news! I finished my most recent contest quilt this past month, and sent the photos and entry papers to the National Quilt Museum in Paducah 24 hours before the deadline. The New Quilts From an Old Favorite challenge block this year was “Flying Geese”. My quilt is entitled “Silly Goose” and it was accepted as a finalist!!! It will be hanging in the museum during quilt week this April – praise the Lord! I can’t share pictures until after the judging, but I learned a lot while creating this project and can’t wait to post about it in the future.

And now – my topic of the week:

I have a jacket I made to wear while presenting my “Gone to the Dark Side” lecture, but I like it so much I wear it often (and Mike is ok to be seen with me wearing it in public  🙂 .

quilted art jacket

quilted art jacket

I may have shared the jacket previously but, if you haven’t seen my lecture, you haven’t heard the story.

I often refer to my fabric stash and UFO’s as items that are marinating until they reach the perfect time to be used and enjoyed. Usually a project hits the UFO bin because I’m not sure what to do next, and it’s not until I learn a new technique that will work in it, or I have a person or contest to finish it for, that that particular project comes to fruition.

Way back in the mid 90’s I found a yard of fabric in a remnant bin at JoAnn Fabrics that grabbed me.


I wasn’t sure it was even all cotton, but I didn’t care. I bought it, brought it home, and threw it in the stash (a healthy stash needs to be fed regularly).

A few years later I passed by a clearance shoe rack at a major department store and found a pair of shoes in the exact same fabric (and I did still wear this type of shoe back then)!


Now I’m sure I need to use that fabric in a garment, so I buy the shoes and throw them on a shelf near the stash.

A few years later I’m at a discount store and there it is … a purse in the same fabric!


So I threw it on the shelf, next to the the shoes and pulled out the fabric. After pulling some additional fabrics from my stash, and finding a jacket pattern in the pattern box, I began string pieced units for the jacket fronts. About an hour into it I lost interest and everything was thrown into a brown paper sack and pushed to the back of the shelf.

Additional years passed until I met a trio of garment sewers at a Sewing and Quilting Expo, who referred to quilting as “the dark side” of the sewing world. This led me to create the “Dark Side” lecture. As I’m putting this lecture together I realize it would be great to have a “costume” to wear while presenting it. I dig to the back of the closet, decide I still like the fabric, and discover the shoes still fit. I also have a newer jacket pattern that I really like. It’s called the “As You Wish” jacket by Kate Art Designs. This is not only a well done pattern that is easy to use, but Kate has a video in which she shares the perfect way to fit your jacket on her site.

The marinating is finished, all the necessary components have come together, and the time to create the finished project has arrived.

I marked each pattern piece at the correct size, and cut it out about 1″ larger than needed from  3 fabrics: the outer fabric, the lining and a piece of flannel to act as a thin batting/filler. I layered each piece and began the fun part – creating a design. I played with design techniques from my most recent book: “Where Do I Start With Fiber Art”.


Squares and square-spirals were fused in place and then secured with top-stitching. The solid yellow areas are made from ultrasuede.

The sleeves yelled at me “don’t overdo it”, so I continued the square theme in a “Big-Stitch” with embroidery floss (click here for a post on the Big Stitch).

Once the designing was done, I cut the pattern pieces out at the correct size and sewed the jacket together, binding the outer edge and covering the seams with the focus fabric.

I’m so pleased with the results and especially thrilled that this very old UFO has a new and exciting life ahead of it. I’ve also discovered that I now utilize some quilting techniques to speed up and augment the garment creating process.

Do you have a garment background? Any garment pictures you’d like to share?

November 20, 2016, Hand Quilting
Quilt Storage

Way back in 2011 I posted about a wonderful feature in my studio I call my “Magic Box”. This is where I keep my art quilts that shouldn’t be folded – since I don’t have an unused bed to stack them on. I recently had an oops moment with the box, and thought it would be a good time to share this creative idea, especially since many more quilters are viewing my posts now. This was my intro back then:

“There are many options for storing finished quilts. Wallhangings which contain fusibles can be particularly difficult because folding can leave virtually permanent creases. When I was blessed with the opportunity to have my new studio built, I wanted to come up with a workable solution that wouldn’t take up a lot of space. After a bit of brainstorming my husband came up with the winning idea – the Magic Box! Think “Murphy Bed” hidden behind the design wall.”


My design wall is made of two fabric covered styrofoam insulation boards. They lean against the Magic Box when it’s closed (yes, there is always at least that much stuff hanging on it – no matter how hard I try to stop myself).


To open it, I pull the boards to the side,



unhook the hooks:


And gently allow the box to drop down to the floor:



There are weights (pvc pipes filled with concrete and covered with quilted tubes), connected with ropes through pulleys, that counterbalance the weight of the box/quilts, so I can lift the weight.


The quilts are held in place by batting covered boards, that clamp at the top and middle.


It has all worked wonderfully well for almost a dozen years, until a recent small snafu. I’ve been twisting the clamps gently because I didn’t want to put any undue strain on the quilts, but I think I was under-doing it. This was my most recent opening:


The center board held, but the top was too loose and all the quilts slid out from under it. No big deal. I simply removed the top boards and re-stacked the quilts. This system has worked very well for me. It takes up very little space and holds a lot of quilts! It’s too small for bed quilts (65″ x 65″), and it’s too cumbersome for small projects, but for large wall hangings it’s the perfect solution.

How do you store your quilts?


Treasured Quilts of Wisconsin

I’m very excited to share that Wendy and I will be featured in the upcoming PBS special “Treasured Quilts of Wisconsin”. It will be hosted by Nancy Zieman and will air twice: Tuesday, November 29, at 7pm-9pm and Saturday, December 3, at 10:30am. To read more about this special go to:

A Monday morning added note: One of my readers emailed me to ask if this program will be aired in Milwaukee, since she couldn’t find it on their schedule. I contacted the originators of the program and here is their answer:

“Unfortunately at this point, Milwaukee Public Television hasn’t picked it up. We are hoping it pledges well and the station will pick it up for March pledge. So you will be able to see this program anywhere in the state except for Milwaukee. But if viewers in that market have access to Wisconsin Public Television in their cable or satellite package, they should be able to watch it.”

November 13, 2016, sewing space/studio
Birthday Block Update

I love Autumn. So having a Fall birthday is always a joy, but this year it was especially delightful. While the children were enjoying their leaf pile:


I was enjoying my block pile:

birthday quilt blocks

Are you ready for the grand total?

60 blocks exactly!!!

I can’t believe it. How amazing! I had to recount the pile twice, just to be sure.

In honor of my 60th birthday, Wendy invited friends to send me 4-patch blocks during the month of October (click here to read that post), in hopes of getting 60. And I did! What wonderful fun!

Thank you to everyone who made this gift so special. I have enjoyed every moment reading and re-reading the blocks and cards while thinking about the dear friends who sent them to me. Some contained short messages, others quoted famous people (there were two from Einstein!), and many included Scripture verses. Each block is special to me. Here is a sample of just a few:

The block from Wendy, who came up with this delightful idea. We have shared so many adventures together and words can’t express what a blessing she is in my life.


My mom taught me to sew and, even though she is not a quilter and she had a broken hand at the time, she made a block and wrote on it (I love the X O X O X O white fabric, and I love you mom!).

birthday block

At Patched Lives quilt guild Geraldine came up and handed me this block:


She wished me a happy birthday and then explained that her hands shake too much to write well, but when I look at her unsigned block I should think of my dear friend Geraldine who is 89 years old. You’d never know it to talk to her!

A surprise block came from my friend Nina. We haven’t seen each other in quite a while, so imagine my glee in receiving this message along with a block: “Dear Chris, Happy 60th birthday! I read your blog every week. As we travel quite a bit, I can actually report that it has been read in some wild places – New Zealand, Tasmania, the Ukraine, Israel – to name a few. It has given me great pleasure and a cozy sense of home.”


The last block I’d like to share was the last one I received. It was #60 and came all the way from Arizona. Evelyn and I have had many wonderful quilting adventures together.


I’m not able to find the words to capture how truly humbled and blessed I feel by the generosity of all you dear, dear people. Thank you so much! I can’t wait to start playing with a layout for my favorite quilt (I’ve already decided this will be my favorite quilt 😀 )!

If you’d like to see the list of the Scripture verses included on my blocks click on birthday-block-bible-verses!

November 6, 2016, Uncategorized
Comfortable Quilting Tips

This past week our son had a few well deserved days off of work – which meant grandpa and I had some time off from child care. Mike decided to make good use of the time, and beautiful weather, making fuel for our wood-burner.


And I was able to finish my current competition quilt! The deadline is this week, so the timing was perfect! I had previously machine quilted about 1/3 of the project, and the time had come to do the free-motion background fillers. I placed the quilt under my HQ Sweet 16 and hooked it up to my “Quilt Float” system (for details on the Quilt Float, click here and then here). That’s my #1 suggestion for making quilting more comfortable!


The clamps hold the bulk of my quilt and carry the weight, so everything moves easily under the needle. This works for domestic sewing machines as well as mid-arms, and it makes the entire process so much less strenuous!

You may have noticed the magnifier arched in front of the machine. It is one of my favorite new tools and my #2 recommendation for making quilting more comfortable. It has a “goose-neck” arm attached to a heavy duty clamp for easy positioning, and it increases my visibility so much now that my eyes are over 60  :-). I purchased mine in Paducah a few years ago, but I did find it on-line at


Don’t you just love my quilting gloves? I got them in the gift shop at the International Rose Gardens in Portland, Oregon last year when Wendy and I took a group of quilters to the Sisters Quilt Show (click here for information on our next adventure). Quilting gloves make moving the quilt so much easier, and are #3 on my list of recommendations for making quilting more comfortable.

So, I began to quilt, but I still couldn’t seem to get comfortable. I tried adjusting my chair height (elbows should be even with the table top), but that didn’t help. I scooted the foot pedal around, but that too wasn’t working. What was wrong??? I finally stopped long enough to analyze the situation and realized the chair was cutting into the back of my legs. I’m not sure why I hadn’t had this problem before (could it have something to do with that age thing again?), but it was bugging me now – and I needed to do something about it – fast!

It occurred to me that I needed to raise my feet off the floor. I found a sturdy, 3″ tall cardboard box in the attic and it did the trick! It was especially nice to have both of my feet on the platform. I felt much more balanced and a whole lot more comfortable. Thus, “raising the floor” is tip #4.


You might have noticed there are small blocks of wood under the feet of my sewing machine table. This is my husband’s method for protecting the carpet, and it did raise the table about 1″, exacerbating my problem. Since I’m 5′ 6″ tall and this worked for me, I bet “raising the floor” could really be helpful for quilters with shorter legs.

Do you have any additional quilting comfort ideas to share?


Last week Marla responded to my post about Slow Stitching with a picture. This is what she said:

“I love this slow stitching movement.  I started slowing down the process almost a year ago.  Sometimes life gets in the way of our quilting, and we become frustrated by not producing all the quilts we’ve designed in our minds.  I have started doing more handwork and improvisational piecing with minimal planning.  It’s very satisfying and quite beautiful.  I’ve attached a piece of embroidery on felted wool, all improvisational except for the leaf shape.”

Marla Morris-Kennedy slow stitching

It’s lovely, Marla. Thanks for sharing.

I’m hoping to try my hand at “slow stitching”, but it may need to wait until I’m past my “fast chasing after grandchildren” phase of life.

October 30, 2016, free motion
Slow Stitching

Oops! Technical error! Sorry!  To view this week’s post on Scarecrow Faces go to!


This past Summer I had lunch with a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen for years. Dagmar Plenk is an amazing fiber artist, and many of my award winning quilts contain her beautiful hand-dyed fabrics.

She had taken a break from quilting and dyeing, and is now getting back into it, but from a different angle. She’d spent a lot of time knitting over the past few years and handwork is a joy for her.

During our conversation she spoke about “slow stitching” and I had to say “wait, back-up, what in the world it slow stitching?”.

She explained it as a very organic experience in which she takes fabric, tears it into strips, and hand couches it to a background fabric with no real pattern or plan. I was intrigued. Then she showed me some pictures:

Dagmar Plenk slow stitching



Here’s a picture of her work in progress:

Dagmar Plenk slow stitching

She said she’s tried to start with a plan, but it never turns out as well 🙂 .

Since  September I’ve watched her participate in a “hundred day challenge” on Facebook. Here is her first post:Dagmar Slow Stitching

And days 2 and 3:

dagmar slow stitching

She is now up to day 30 and the journey has been very interesting:


I’m fascinated by her process and the beautiful pieces she’s created. Thanks Dagmar, for sharing this intriguing fiber art with us.

If you’re interested in the “Slow Stitching” movement, Dagmar recommended typing it into a search engine. I also found oodles of info on Pinterest.

Have you done any slow stitching? Any pictures or thoughts you’d care to share? Please send them to me at

October 23, 2016, Design
A Consistent Seam Allowance


Happy Autumn! As I was about to post to this week’s blog, Mike hollered for me to come quickly to the kitchen window. This is what I saw – a large Tom turkey and 9 hens running through the leaves. I must admit – this has nothing to do with the topic of the week, but it’s Autumn, so I couldn’t resist! Now on to the topic at hand  🙂 !

I often have students who struggle with keeping their 1/4″ seam allowance consistent, or their blocks always end up too small, or they are using 2 different sewing machines on the same project and the distance between the needle and the edge of the foot differs between the machines. If your seam allowance isn’t accurate or consistent, your frustration level can really skyrocket.

I have a trick to help with all of these issues. I don’t remember where I learned it, but I’ve used it for years and shared it with many quilters.

To begin with, I prefer to sew with a scant 1/4″ seam allowance, because I like to press my seams to the side and this always takes up an extra thread or two, thus shrinking the blocks. By using the scant 1/4″, my blocks remain the correct size. So… here’s the trick:

  • Take an index card, marked with 1/4″ lines, and cut off the bottom of the card on the lowest blue line.
  • Place the card under the needle of the machine and lower the needle by hand so that it pierces the card just to the right of the next blue line. When the needle is at the lowest level, it should be “kissing” the line.
  • sa-index-card-hole-1Place masking/painters tape along the right side of the card, making sure you don’t cover the feed
  • If you struggle with keeping your seam allowance consistent, it’s helpful to stack a number of layers of tape on top of one another, to make a thicker edge to run the fabric along (sort of like the bumpers in bumper bowling  🙂 ). I’ve really appreciated knowing this technique when teaching children to quilt.
  • Remove the card and piece to your heart’s content.
  • Keep this card. sa-index-card-holeIf/when the need arises to sew on a different machine, put the needle down in the hole on the card, tape along the right side, and be assured you will be stitching with the same seam allowance on both machines!

This can be especially helpful when a group of quilters is working on the same quilt, for charity or competition purposes. If one person tapes each machine using the same card (or if the card is passed around), everyone will be making blocks the same size!


Birthday Block Update

Thanks again to everyone who gifted me with a 4-patch birthday block. So far I have 42 beautiful squares! This was Wendy’s comment to last week’s post (click here to read that post):

“Anyone is welcome to send a four patch to Chris. I am sure she would love to have a block from any of her blog friends!”

I will gladly keep you posted on what these blocks will become – as soon as I figure it out!

October 16, 2016, Piecing
Birthday Quilt Block Surprise

This past week I celebrated a rather “landmark” birthday. I was overjoyed to discover the thoughtful, and sneaky, plan of my dear friend and co-travel leader, Wendy Rieves. She invited quilting friends to send me black and white 4-patch signature blocks (she sent me a copy of this after the fact).


Woo Hoo! Sommer and I have had a lot of fun getting the mail each day!


You may remember I recently posted about a new lecture I’m putting together called “Friendship Quilts: Then and Now” (click here for that post). How clever of Wendy to think of combining that idea with birthday blocks. It was so thoughtful of her to organize this, and I especially appreciated her requesting a favorite prayer, Scripture or note of encouragement to be written on each block.

This past Thursday my Open Lab class held a lovely surprise birthday party, complete with cupcakes, singing, and more blocks. What a blessing! Then, last night, my dear husband threw me a lovely surprise party – family, friends, food, fun and another block!birthday-blocks

I have received this beautiful pile of blocks so far – and Wendy was kind enough to suggest the “block party” last all month! It is a joy to read each one and think about the dear quilter/friend who took the time to make it for me. I can’t wait to see the friendship quilt they will become.

I want to send a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who sent a block and made this birthday a very special one for me. And my BIGGEST THANK YOU to Wendy. We’ve had so many wonderful times together and I look forward to many more. I thank the Lord for you!

Just a reminder!


Wendy and I will be taking a group of quilters on a cruise from Quebec to Boston in September of next year aboard the Norwegian Dawn! We’ll not only explore these 2 beautiful cities, but we have stops in Bar Harbor, Maine; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and the Bay of Fundy. We’re planning many special events and projects to thrill quilters of every level, plus – non-quilters are also welcome!

quilt cruise Quebec Boston

The sign up is going great! We still have a few cabins available. To read all about it click here!

PS We have a few travelers who are looking for a roommate. If you are interested please contact Kristi at (262)786-6763  or

October 9, 2016, Friendship Quilts
Umbrellas as Fiber Art

My friend, Kathy, had a Saturday Quilt Camp in her home a few months ago. She invited a bunch of quilting friends and we sat around her living room stitching, eating, and having a wonderful day! Kathy’s show and tell was her trapunto’d umbrella.


She entered a contest from a group called “Women’s Journey’s in Fiber”, in which they were to create an umbrella as a piece of fiber art. She decided to make her panels using Derwent Inktense pencils™. Once she’d colored her design on the fabric, she trapunto’d areas from behind by stuffing them with fiber fill.

umbrella-detail-2 Kathy Downie fiber art umbrella

She lined the umbrella with a piece of her own hand-dyed fabric:

Kathy Downie fiber art umbrella

And it was featured in a book about the contest pieces:

Kathy Downie fiber art umbrella

Kathy Downie fiber art umbrella

Lovely work Kathy. Thanks for letting me share – and for a fun day!

Kathy Downie fiber art umbrella

To learn more about Kathy Downie, please visit her blog at:

October 2, 2016, Design
Quilt Round Robin – Anything Goes!

Over the years I’ve participated in many Round Robin exchanges in the guilds I’ve belonged to: “Add a Border”, “Row by Row”, and “Around the Square”, just to name a few. Probably the most unique one was held by the Milwaukee Art Quilters and it was called “Anything Goes”. I did a post about it way back in 2010, but I’ll be participating in a new Anything Goes challenge in a new Fiber Arts guild (more info to come 😉  ), and thought it was a good time to revisit this fun idea.

So, here are the rules: there are none! Each participant chooses a block, a hunk of fabric, a small failed project, a piece of fabric they’ve dyed or painted – anything goes. This item is placed in a paper bag with some symbol recognizable only to the owner (the owner is not revealed until the end of the rounds), and they are all thrown in a pile on the floor. Everyone picks a new bag, opens it, and pictures are taken for future reference. This works best if there are 4 or 5 in each group, so if you have more participants, divide into groups first.

Oh – I forgot to mention, there is one rule – you can’t be upset by what you get back  😀 !

I began with 3 large, hexagon log cabin blocks from a failed 1995 workshop where the teacher discovered half way through that the blocks wouldn’t fit together and the class ended.

Puzzling Spumoni 1

The fabrics were dated, and I had no idea what else to do with the blocks, so in the bag they went. The first person chopped up two of the blocks and sewed them back together into long strips (the next few pictures were made using Photoshop, because back then we didn’t take step-by-step pictures – they may not be perfect, but you get the idea).


The second person thread painted a peacock feather on a new piece of fabric, and bordered it with the pieced unit strip.


The third didn’t like it at all, so she chopped everything up again and added a bunch of stuff from her scrap bag. She then cut this new “fabric” into jigsaw puzzle shaped pieces and pinned them onto a piece of black fabric.


The fourth artist said she was at a loss for the first 29 days of the month. The last day she stared at it, and was so frustrated, she went out for ice cream. When she returned, she was inspired. She removed a few of the pieces and put a cherry on top!


This is how it was returned to me, so I put it in a dish and added the spoon.


The handle of the spoon sticks off the quilt and is supported by a dowel in a sleeve. The shape of the dish is the shape of the lower half of the quilt. I was very pleased and named it “Puzzling Spumoni”! All but one of the other pieces in the challenge turned out great. We each tried new techniques and grew as artists while having fun.

I highly recommend trying an Anything Goes challenge with your friends.

If you’d like to get in on the Anything Goes challenge I’m participating in, our new Milwaukee area fiber art group is called Thread Benders and we will be meeting the third Wednesday in September in Brookfield. Email me for more information!

September 25, 2016, Challenges
Valances and Arm Rest Covers

Occasionally I get an idea for some quilted item I need and, before I begin creating from scratch, I open my bins of UFO’s (remember, this stands for ultimately fabulous opportunities!) and see if anything fits the bill. A few years ago one of my UFO’s became the valance in our bedroom. I never got around to making it a blog topic, but now I’m working with another UFO that is becoming armrest covers. With two such items – it just had to become a blog topic. We’ll begin with the valence!

We re-carpeted our bedroom in blue and I found drapes to match, but the whole look needed a little zip. In my UFO bin I found a bag full of plaid, 3-D bow tie blocks. If you’ve never made them, click here for a great tutorial! I had enough for the valance and, since the blocks were already made, it went together quickly!

bow tie window valence

You may have noticed our unique tie backs. I saw this on Pinterest™, and after a short walk in the woods, Mike was well into making my wish come true  😀 !

log home curtain tie backs

The second repurposing of a UFO happened because my parents have birthdays in July. My brother and I were very blessed to have parents who raised us with a cottage on Lake Sinissippi. It is a wonderful place of fun and happy memories for all of us.


Well, Dad and Mom’s chairs in the living room at the cottage were showing some wear. So, I pulled out the UFO bins and found a bag of blocks I’d made in a Scott Murkin class in Paducah last year.

quilted armrest covers

I laid them out in a pleasing pattern


and sewed them together, bordering them to the appropriate size.


Then the ends were sewn on and they were ready to gift!

quilted arm rest covers

This isn’ the first time I’ve posted about repurposing a UFO. In 2013 I made one into a cover for my Kitchenaid Mix Master. Click here to read that post. I did one other post in 2010 filled with ideas for completing UFO’s. You can read that one here.

Have you ever repurposed a UFO? Do you have a great idea for finishing them? Care to share a picture?



Due to life situations, family and friends of a dear friend of mine are holding a sale of her quilting fabric and supplies. Here are the details:
When: October 1-2; Saturday from 9:30 to 3:45 and Sunday from noon to 3:45
Where: The Whitefish Bay Library; 5420 North Marlborough Drive, Whitefish Bay, WI
What will be available: A lot of hand dyed cottons (Lunn & Mrowka, Melody Johnson & Laura Wasilowski, etc), commercial cotton’s (Hoffman woodblock prints, batiks, Alexander Henry, Nancy Crow, etc.), hand dyed silks, novelty fabrics, beads, embellishments, etc.

September 18, 2016, UFO
Madison Quilt Expo 2016


I think I say this every year, but the Madison Quilt Expo this past weekend was the best yet! There was something for everyone and it was all very well done. Thanks to everyone at Nancy’s Notions and Wisconsin Public Television for making this great event a reality.

I had the blessed opportunity to share my Border Boutique lecture each afternoon to the largest crowds I’ve ever had at Expo. I didn’t teach a hands on workshop this year, which gave me much more time to enjoy the show. And enjoy it – I did!

If you want to see loads of great pictures of the quilts, vendors and events from the show, you can go to the Quilt Expo Facebook page at:

I always like to share things from the show that you may not see on other sites, such as me getting a hug from Bucky,


when the UW marching band made a surprise visit! You never know what you’ll see at Expo!


While looking at the quilts I ran into May. A while back she learned my drafting technique for the Mariner’s Compass and, while spending time with her grandchildren, decided to make a necklace using Shrinky Dinks™. I love it! It may have to be my next grandma/Sommer project.


There was a special exhibit of quilts that I found particularly interesting. It was a group of quilts from a challenge held by my friend Kim Lapacek. I did a blog post about her passion for quilting last year (click here to read that post). Here’s the challenge info:


This large and exciting exhibit filled a long hallway at Expo, and were arranged in spectral order. I noticed that one of the monthly inspiration blocks was the Monkey Wrench. You may remember a “New Quilt From an Old Favorite” Monkey Wrench quilt I made with my friend, Sharon Rotz, a few years back.

Quilt - Two Friends Monkeying Around

It measures 60″ square, and contains telescoping monkey wrench blocks, quilted with more block outlines and trapunto monkeys chasing each other around with wrenches (you’ll have to look closely to find them).


Well, a few of the challenge monkey wrench quilts had similarities to ours and they made me smile:

monkey-wrench5 monkey-wrench4 monkey-wrench3 monkey-wrench2 monkey-wrench1


It was great to reconnect and spend time with many friends. Thanks especially to my dear friend, fellow teacher, and roommate, Laura Krasinski. She always makes everything extra fun.


And I’d like to close this post with a picture of the Viewer’s Choice award winner from this year’s show:”He Who Guides Me” by Mary Buvia of Carmel, Indiana. "He Who Guides Me" by Mary Buvia

It was inspired by a picture her husband painted. Awesome!

September 11, 2016, Challenges Travel
Friendship Quilts

As I said last week, I’m very excited about the new guild lecture I’m putting together. The idea began to form a few weeks ago when I was looking at the quilted tote my grandchildren use to transport library books.


France autograph tote – front and back

It’s made from friendship blocks exchanged while on our Sew We Go riverboat cruise through France in 2008. It got me to thinking about all the wonderful friendship/autograph/signature quilts I’ve made or been given over the years. Like this one that was given to me by Common Threads quilt guild in thanks for my years as president (thanks Valeria!)

autograph quilt Common Threads

And then… what about that old top I made after collecting signature blocks at a family reunion in 1993? It was at the bottom of a UFO bin, along with a group picture from the party, already printed on muslin. It only needed a border to complete the top. I added one with Seminole piecing and it’s ready for quilting!

Lohse reunion 1993 quilt top-border 2016

Everyone who attended the reunion (including the kids) signed their block and many also drew or wrote something important to them on it.

This led to pondering about “that” vintage autograph quilt top I purchased a few years back. I pulled it out and enjoyed looking over all the signatures and wondering about it’s history. Who was Grandma Chapman? What’s the name of this lovely pattern?


I looked more closely to find other interesting signatures. Than I did some research to discover the pattern is called “star bouquet”. What fun!

Well, from there it was a short hop to checking out Buckboard Quilt’s website for signature quilts. I wasn’t disappointed! Judy makes every effort to get the story when she acquires a quilt, and she had some great stories!

Like one that has a block signed: mother 82, and the pattern is called Little Britches, or this one in which Judy included a copy of the obituary of the man in who’s estate the quilt was found.


I’m having such a good time gathering the quilts and their stories. It’s requiring some detective work – which I’m enjoying immensely.

In the talk I’ll share old and new quilts, their stories, plus handouts with patterns for great autograph blocks to use in your next friendship quilt.

If you’d like to see more quilts and hear the stories, I’d love to visit your guild and share them all! Please direct the program people in your guild to this blog, and have them contact me! Thanks!!!

September 4, 2016, Classes Vintage Quilts
Buckboard Quilts – and a Deal Almost Too Good to be True!

In 2012 I did a post about a wonderfully generous woman named Judy Howard, and her efforts to feed hungry children via quilts. You can read that post at:

Since that time I’ve purchased a number of quilts from Judy, and donated a few too! Well, I’m in the process of putting together a new lecture (stay tuned for it’s unveiling  🙂 ), and I needed a few vintage quilts to make the talk more interesting. I went to Judy’s website: , and found just what I was looking for. When I contacted Judy to order them she told me to write my check to the charity of my choice to feed needy children! I was amazed! The entire cost of the quilts went to the charity of my choice – and I got the deduction! This was something I needed to share. So I emailed Judy and asked her to share her story on my blog. Here it is:


“Since 1976, Judy Howard has owned and operated Buckboard Antique Quilts in Oklahoma City. Her love of quilts de­veloped while taking a class from nationally renowned fiber artist Terrie Mangat and antique quilts became her specialty. Julia Roberts, America’s sweetheart, likes to give Wedding Ring quilts when her family and friends marry. Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman are also celebrity clients, Dustin purchasing seventeen quilts while he was in town filming Rainman. Four of her quilts can be seen in the six week mini-series Alias Grace available on Netflix this fall.

Judy recently moved her shop home, open by appointment.  To celebrate her fortieth anniversary, she is giving away 200 antique quilts, tops, squares, vintage textiles and 400 small art quilts and her six books in exchange for tax deductible donations written to your charity of choice to feed needy children.”

And here’s a little about her books:

     “Heavenly Patchwork I and II and Centennial Stitches were awarded the Golden Seals as official Oklahoma Centennial Book Projects. Both Heavenly Patchwork I and II received Best Non Fiction Book awards. Thanking Our Troops—God Bless America Touring Quilts received 2nd Place in the Heartland New Day Book Fest.


And best seller 1905 Cookbook—Food for Body and Soul records our pioneer lifestyle through food, fun and fellowship.


Hot off the press is Judy’s Quirky to Modern Art Quilts—Hippie at Heart which is an inspiration for all quilters.


Judy now presents Quirky to Modern Art Quilts, Civil War and Madonnas Quilting on the Prairie Bed Turning Programs, which include fifty quilts dating back to 1837.


Judy’s latest projects include her Patriotic, Food for Body and Soul, Children—Hope for Tomorrow, Recycled/Repurposed, Quirky and Words to Live by Touring 22” Quilt Exhibits available for $100 rental.

To schedule a program, book signing, exhibit, see/purchase her quilts and books call 405-751-3885 or email . Write your check to the local food charity of your choice and take the tax deduction on 200 antique quilts on and 400 small art quilts and her books on .”


WOW! If you’re in the market for antique or small art quilts – this is the time to visit Buckboard Quilts. I also own her books and highly recommend them.

Next week I’ll be posting about my brand new lecture. It will have old quilts, contemporary quilts, fascinating stories and block patterns to share. I’m excited – I hope you are too! Stay tuned  😀 !


August 28, 2016, Vintage Quilts
Tutus and Soleless Sandals

Last week Sheila made an inspiring comment on my blog. I thought many of you would find it interesting, so here it is:

“Thanks for your weekly hints.  I’ve found them very helpful. Just finished laying out fabric for a number of mug rugs.  Great idea for friends instead of Xmas cards.  Will make a bunch now.  Then first week in Dec. we will deliver them.  Will take my grandfather’s string of brass bells his horses wore during the Christmas season and ring at the houses where we deliver mug rugs.”  

Thanks Sheila, for the great idea! Now on to this week’s blog post. It isn’t really about quilts, but includes ribbons, tulle, and beads. I hope you enjoy it!


This Summer, Sommer and I have had fun doing crafts. Both of the projects I’m sharing here were made with items quilters probably have on hand, or could easily find at a local craft store, and they were simple enough for a 4 year old (with help 😉 ).

The first was a tulle tutu.


You’ll need a piece of 1″ ribbon long enough to tie around a little girls waist with a big bow (set this piece aside); a roll of 6″ wide tulle in a pretty color, and a roll of 1″ wide ribbon to compliment the tulle in the skirt.

  • Measure the length you’d like the tutu and double that number. Cut 12 pieces each, of the tulle and the skirt ribbon, at that length.tulle tutu
  • Clamp the waist ribbon to a table at each end, or tie around chairs.
  • Fold a length of tulle in half and place around the child’s wrist.tulle tutu
  • Pull the tails under the ribbon and have the child grab them above the ribbon.tulle tutu
  • Now have the child simply pull the ends through the loop to make a “knot”.tulle tutu
  • Repeat for all the tulle and ribbon pieces, alternating as you go.

    tutu proud

    too-too proud!


The next week Sommer’s little brother, Trey, pulled something out of one of my drawers. It was a trip down memory lane, as my grandmother made these “soleless sandals” for me when I was in High School.


The second pair he grabbed came from the Sew We Go adventure Wendy and I made to Alaska. As we were preparing for our cruise of the Inside Passage, Wendy’s sister Heidi offered to share a beading project. We were thrilled, and it ended up being another version of this fun foot jewelry.

A-cruise 025

My grandmother’s were crocheted, but Heidi’s were made with strung beads. She was kind enough to bring all the supplies and a bunch of us had a great time making them.

I put them on and Sommer wanted a pair of her own. So I found some elastic thread and beads in my studio and she was off. She preferred working on the floor and spread out all the supplies. Then she began to put the beads onto the threaded needle:

kids foot jewelry

kids foot jewelry

Just watching her technique makes by back hurt, but she was content and finished her first one:

kids foot jewelry

Then, 4 beads into the second one, she pricked her finger. No blood, but the tears flowed freely and her “drama queen” side kicked into gear. She wanted me to finish it, but I remember my mom making sure I finished a project myself, to learn perseverance. So we put it aside, and the next day, with a little bit of encouraging, she jumped back on the horse – and here are the results:

Soleless sandals for Grandma and Sommer

There are many Youtube videos with lessons for “how to make foot jewelry, or toe thongs”. Here are just a few: ,

Please let me know if you make any for yourself, or share them with a child. I’d love to see pictures!

August 21, 2016, Kids
Art Deco Wins at AQS

I hope this isn’t too obnoxious, but AQS sent it to me – and I’m passing it along 😀 !
Art Deco winner

You may remember a quilt I posted about a few months back, made with Spandex, and named Forty Wonderful Years (click here and here for both of the posts about that quilt). It was made for a Milwaukee Art Quilter’s challenge called “Art Deco”. Eight fiber artists made quilts to fit that theme and we entered them in the American Quilters Society show in Grand Rapids. The show was this past weekend and we took second place!

I thought you might like to see the rest of the winning quilts:

You Decide 2016 by Judy Valentino

You Decide 2016 by Judy Valentino



ADD – Art Deco Door by Kathy Downie



Le Dame Moderne by Kathleen Irons Sweeney



Miami Moon by Linda Fleschner



Milwaukee’s Night Light by Kathleen Hughes



Studio 15W by Sonja Pavlik



Vogue by Diana Dunaway



quilting with spandex

Forty Wonderful Years by Chris Lynn Kirsch

I’m honored to be a part of this winning group!



And I’d like to close with a wonderful tip/tutorial from the AQS blog – On-Point! In it they describe a great way to keep organized during a project, using sticky notes.

AQS sticky tip

It’s a worthwhile read and you can see the whole post at:! Then sign up for their blog to receive all of their great tips.


August 14, 2016, Challenges
Fitting Quilt Borders – Mathlessly

Seminole quilt border

The generally accepted rule for getting borders to fit on your quilt is to square up the top, and then measure the length of two opposite sides and across the center of the quilt top. In a perfect world these 3 numbers should be the same, but only God is perfect, and most of us know that these numbers seldom match. If they’re way off I do some re-stitching. If they’re within a 1/2″, I split the difference and cut the border strips at this size – easing them to fit.

On smaller pieces I’ve discovered an easier way. It may sound like cheating, but it works for me – if the sides are close to the same length (1/2″ or less difference – I might try up to a 3/4″ difference, but more than that would be pushing it). Here are the step-by-steps:

  1. Fold the quilt top in half and lay it on a table, with the edges you’re adding the borders to closest to you. I’ve left a 1/2″ underlap in the picture so you can see that both sides are aligned together. I then smooth these edges out so they are evenly on top of each other (trust me, even though the entire length isn’t in the picture, it is even on the right side too). If they aren’t exactly the same size I: place the corners on top of each other, hold them between a forefinger and a thumb on each side, and tug gently, placing it back on the table.mathless borders1
  2. Make 2 border strips at least 1″ longer than the side of the quilt, and square off the ends on the left. Place these border strips on top of each other, and aligned with the left edge of the quilt top.mathless borders
  3. On the opposite end of the strips, rotary cut the borders even with the right edge of the quilt top. You now have two strips that are the same length as the quilt top.mathless bordersmathless borders
  4. Now it’s time to sew on one of the border strips. This is one time I do pin the pieces together! Place a border strip, right-sides-together with the edge of one side of the quilt top, and pin it even with the left end (red pin head). Pin the right end even also (pink pin head).
  5. Grasp both ends, holding the quilt top and strip between finger and thumb, and gently tug until the strip lays flat (as directed in step 1). Place a pin in the center (middle pink pin), mathless borders
  6. This is the trick to make sure the strips fit: Use the grasp, tug and pin method from step 5 to place a new pin between a center and end pin. Repeat this process of pinning in the center of every pair of pins until the strip is securely pinned to the quilt top.
  7. Sew in place, and repeat for the opposite side. Attach the remaining sides in the same manner. (I just realized that I took these pictures while attaching the second set of green border strips, but you get the idea).

Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

And if you like the Seminole piecing in this border – stay tuned – I’m planning to do a blog topic on it soon!


And now – a photo finish! Connie took my Spin Star class a few years ago and used my piecing technique to make purple blocks for her granddaughter (click here for more information on my Spin Star technique). Then she did something spectacular!

Connies Spin Star quiltShe brought this quilt to class last week and I knew you’d want to see it! What I love is the way she alternated the spin stars with bears paw blocks, but to make them fit and work together, she added the outer, “claw border” from the bears paw block around each spin star. Wow! What a clever idea! Great job Connie!

August 7, 2016, finishing
The Wool Chicken… and the Rest of the Story!

wool chicken

Last weekend Mike and I decided to run away. We stayed at the Inn on Hillwind, a lovely Bed & Breakfast near Plymouth, WI.

Inn on Hillwind

It was charming, relaxing, and the breakfasts – superb! I enjoyed walking through the gardens each morning, as did this friendly kitty.


Plymouth has a wonderful Main Street for wandering. One of the shops we stopped into was called Fibbermcgee’s.


As we entered we were greeted by another kitty. This one was made of wool!


At each turn another fascinating, original wool creation greeted us. From critters to flowers, they were each unique and wonderful:

wool-frog wool-flowers wool-flowers-bird-bee wool critters and flowers

In the last room the previously pictured chicken clucked my name. I looked at the tag and discovered all of these wonderful hooked wool pieces were made by someone I knew!!! Joanne Zahorik traveled with Wendy and I to Ireland in 2010! She told us upfront she was not a quilter, but she traveled with a friend who was. She was a delightful addition to our trip, and even gave me a wool pumpkin pin (it was an Autumn tour of Ireland). What a small world! I contacted Joanne and she was happy to have me share her work, and spoke very highly of Sue, the owner of Fibbermcgee’s.

My new chicken friend (complete with hog scraper “feet”) is enjoying keeping company with the rest of my collection:


Thanks Joanne!

Quilt Expo Volunteer poster

July 31, 2016, Uncategorized
Another Spin Star

You may remember a post I wrote last January. I was hosting a “Tie Dye” baby shower for my niece Brianne. Well, Tessa Grace made her arrival later that month, and I needed to make her a quilt! I decided I was in the mood to make another “Spin Star” (my version of a fussy-cut quilt – click here for more on my technique), and I found a bright and pretty print fabric that was just right. I cut my identical repeats from the fabric, and stitched together 12 unique stars on a yummy butterscotch color background.


When it came to the quilting, I wasn’t sure what would work best in the open areas. I decided to cover one with Glad Press n Seal™, and audition a variety of designs using washable markers, erasing and redrawing until I found the pattern I liked. Then I just quilted through the Press n Seal™ and tore it away.

marking quilts with Glad Press n Seal

I found a beautiful turquoise blue “Minky” fabric for the backing and turned it to the front, to give it a soft outer edge. For instructions on this technique, click here!


The Minky had a lovely texture, and the free motion quilting made it even more fun.


Here are Scott, Brianne and Tessa with the quilt.


It took me a few extra months to complete the quilt, but I don’t think Tessa minded the wait. What a blessing to give a gift of hand-made love. I hope she enjoys it!


And just a little FYI 🙂 ! _QE2016_I'mTeaching_225x225Click here for all the information!

July 24, 2016, finishing Piecing
Sew We Go On a Brand New Cruise!

Sew We Go quilt cruise Quebec


Wendy and I are ready to unveil the details of our next adventure! Kristi has put together a wonderful cruise, plus so much more:

quilt cruise Quebec Boston

We’ll be enjoying the eastern coast of North America aboard the Norwegian Dawn Cruise Ship, in the Fall of 2017, and it promises to be spectacular!

Please consider joining Wendy & me on this special sailing of the Norwegian Dawn as it sails Canada and New England waterways. Not only will you enjoy a wonderful cruise to exciting destinations, but you’ll get all you’ve come to expect from Sew We Go:

  • Personalized excursions in each port, chosen with quilters/fiber artists in mind!
  • Optional projects designed and taught by Wendy and Chris before and during the cruise!
  • An extra day in Quebec and Boston to make sure you don’t miss anything in these two beautiful cities!
  • We’re even working on the possibility of meeting with other quilters along the way, as we’ve done on past trips!
  • And, as always, non-quilting traveling companions are welcome. There will be plenty of variety to keep everyone happy!

We’ll begin our trip with an extra day in Quebec. There is so much to see in this historic city on the St. Lawrence River. It is divided by steep bluffs into Upper Town – which includes the old quarter – and Lower Town. Perched atop Cap-Diamant, the old quarter is the only walled city in North America and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Click on the picture below to visit their official site!

Official Quebec Website

Then we’ll board the Norwegian Dawn and sail to Sydney, Nova Scotia to see the world’s largest fiddle! The coal industry brought immigration from many parts of the world to Sydney, giving a multicultural mix of over 50 ethnic backgrounds and a global flavor to its history. Located on Cape Breton Island, Sydney is also an ideal jumping-off point for scenic adventures. (click picture for their official website).

sydney nova scotia website

Next on our itinerary is Halifax, Nova Scotia. We’ll admire the rugged coastline that surrounds Halifax, the world’s second-largest natural harbor. This beautifully preserved city is Nova Scotia’s capital and was founded in 1749. Take steps through history and climb to The Citadel to witness the Old Town Clock. (click picture for their official website).

Halifax nova scotia

From there we’ll cruise to St. John, New Brunswick, on the Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy is a wonder of nature. Twice daily a hundred billion tons of water pour in from the Atlantic Ocean, and the water level in the Bay rises a staggering four stories.

Lynn traveled with us to the quilt show in Sisters Oregon last year. She recently emailed me that she wouldn’t be able to join us this time saying she had already taken a three week road trip of the places we’ll be seeing and, in her words, “the entire goal of the trip was the Bay of Fundy…the highest tide change in the world. Encourage EVERYONE to take that tour.  It’s spectacular! The day Bill and I were there I think the tide was 37 feet.  We walked on the ocean floor and when the park ranger told us to go back up, we did. You can either walk up 90+ stairs or walk a bit for an easier incline.” She then sent me this picture!Bay-of-Fundy-Lynn

Thanks Lynn – so happy to have the pictures!

Our next stop will be in the US – Bar Harbor, Maine! Mike and I vacationed there back in 2003. We enjoyed hiking and discovering the natural beauty of Acadia National Park. I didn’t have a great camera at the time, but these were two of my favorite pictures:


Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse


This second one was taken from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia, looking down at Bar Harbor, and it makes me smile. Just think – you could be vacationing on that ship  😀 !

Our last port of call is Boston! A city with so much history for us to explore: Bunker Hill Monument, Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church, Quincy Market, the mansions of Beacon Hill, and Boston Common, the oldest public park in the U.S. These were a few pictures Wendy took in Boston and Cape Cod. The last one with her daughters, Lauren and Tory!




Thinking of Boston reminds me of a unique experience I had when I taught for a guild in Cape Cod in 2006. They had me fly into Boston where a driver (named Mike – not to be confused with my husband) picked me up and drove me to Cape Cod. Mike said he would be taking me back at the end of my visit and, since my return flight was late in the afternoon, I asked him if I could hire him to give me a driving tour of Boston. He said he’d never done that, but he’d study up and do it. The night before, a nor-easter blew in, but he’d put so much effort into planning that he wanted to do it in spite of the storm. I never got out of the car, but got some interesting pictures through the often rainy windshield:

Old Ironsides

Old Ironsides

Site of the Boston Masacre

Site of the Boston Massacre

There’s loads more to see in each of these ports of call than the pictures I’ve shared. Plus, we’ll be traveling with other quilters and experiencing so much more than just the cruise. We are very excited and hope you are too. For all of the details please visit the “trips” page of my website by clicking on:

From there you may reserve your spot by sending your reservation to our travel planner – Kristi. We have a limited number of spaces reserved, so please sign up today!


July 17, 2016, Travel
Rust Dyeing for Novices

You may remember that I awarded my judges choice ribbon at the Evergreen Quilt Show to Kim Frisk’s quilt – “Wherever the Wind Blows”, which was made with rust dyed fabric (click here to read about it!).


I mentioned that I wanted to give rust dyeing a try – and I did! I watched a few Youtube videos, hunted for some rusty stuff, gathered up the supplies – and found it to be easy and fun. I’ve never been into fabric creating – I’d rather buy from others who are good at it, but I enjoyed this so much – I did it twice!

The first effort yielded 4 fat quarters of rust dyed fabric. The two in the center were done with steel wool. The one on the left had nails and screws scattered across it, and the piece on the right was twisted and wrapped around a rusty horseshoe:

rust dyed fabric

Would you like to try it? If not, scroll down to see the other pieces. If so, read on 🙂 !

You’ll need fabric, vinegar, rusty stuff (or steel wool, which worked great and started out “not rusty”), rubber gloves, plastic bags, water and salt. Here’s the basics (google “rust dyeing” for more specific instructions):

  1. Soak fabric in vinegar and wring out.
  2. Tear open a large plastic bag and lay the fabric on it (manipulate if you like).
  3. Put on gloves and arrange rusty items on top. If using steel wool – pull apart and spread across the fabric, then put vinegar in a spray bottle and spray away.
  4. Cover with more plastic, or another piece of fabric, and then more plastic. It should be wrapped in plastic to keep the warmth in, but loosely enough to allow air to get in and cause the rust to form.
  5. Leave in a warm place for at least 12 hours (it was recommended not more than 72 – I got great results in 24)
  6. When done, fill a 5 gallon pail with 4 gallons of water and dissolve 1/2 cup of salt in the water. Rinse items in the salt bath and then rinse with more water.
  7. Hang out to dry, iron and enjoy!

The steel wool pieces in the picture above were made like a plastic/fabric/steel wool/fabric/plastic sandwich, that then rolled up jelly roll style. After my first attempt, I read that putting bags of rice/beans on top of the plastic will help hold things closer to the rust.

A few days later the Fiberistas met at my home to join in the fun. We gathered our buckets of rusty stuff and headed to Mike’s shed (wish I’d remembered to take pictures  😥 ). This time I decided to put a piece of plastic in the bottom of a bin. I layered these pieces, with rusty stuff between, on top of each other, and covered the pile with plastic and weight bags (the rusty stuff used is listed beneath each photo):

rusty-nails,washers,star,chain, steel-wool

Nails, washers, a star, steel wool in patches, and a heavy chain that gave the look of a tire tread!



Pieces of rusty sheet metal and nails.


rust dyed fabric

A doily given to me by Barb. This one was at the bottom of the pile!

I did one additional piece that night, using a chunk of rusty chicken wire. I started with a yard of fabric and folded it in half with the chicken wire in between. This was weighted down with a bag of top soil (remember – we were in the barn  🙂 ).


I think it’s my favorite. Wouldn’t it make a great honey bee quilt?

Have you done any rust dyeing? Please send pictures of any exciting pieces you’ve made. I’ll share pictures of the other pieces made that night in a future post.

July 10, 2016, Dyeing
Vets Roll

Happy Fourth of July Weekend everyone!!!

I want to share one more “Quilt Week in Paducah” post from our trip in April. It’s about a patriotic quilt, and seemed to fit in as this week’s post perfectly.

Early in our week at the AQS show, Wendy and I made a stop at one of the “Quilt In a Day” locations. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw 2 familiar faces just inside the doorway. It turns out that a group of quilters from back home in Wisconsin were selling chances for a raffle quilt!


Beth and her friends were raising funds for an organization I was unaware of, but I was very impressed by what they shared.


Here’s the mission statement for Vets Roll:

Vets Roll

Beth was so excited to tell me about how much she loves chaperoning these trips from the mid-west to Washington, DC, and what a blessing it is to meet these heroes and hear their stories. She shared that a bus trip is much more comfortable and less stressful than flying for these aged veterans. I was very interested and impressed. Please visit the Vets Roll website and find out more about this great organization at:

Because the pattern in their quilt is one that Eleanor Burns has done a book about, Quilt in a Day generously allowed them to be a part of their “Quilt Week” store. Kudos to Eleanor!

Thanks ladies, for all your efforts in letting our vets know how much they are appreciated!



And one last picture 🙂 ! A few posts back I shared my “Around the Block challenge” quilt entitled “I Love Winter” (click here to view that post). Recently another participant in that challenge, Deb, sent me a picture of her quilt top and it is so lovely,  I wanted to share it with you. Her theme was “up north”:

Deb Braatz Athe B challenge

July 3, 2016, Uncategorized
Sixteen Square Feet

A few weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to judge the Everygreen Quilt Show in Ashwabenon, WI. They put on a terrific show – with over 300 quilts! We had a great team of judges, and the judging coordinator, Lindi, is very well organized, and a delight to work with.


In fact – everyone at the show was great!

One of the categories I was asked to judge was the guild challenge. This year is was “Sixteen” for the year 2016, and each person had a challenge fabric that needed to be visible in the quilt. The ingenuity and talent of the participants was amazing. They were all such fun to view. But I just had to share the first place quilt. It is called “Sixteen Square Feet”!

Sixteen Square Feet quilt

and here’s Carol’s description:

sixteen square feet quilt

Not only does Carol have a delightful sense of humor, but she has the skills to put her thoughts into fabric in an amazing and technically successful way. From the cuffed/creased pants with loafers, to the satin “polish” on the flip-flop wearer – her attention to detail blew me away!

sixteen square feet quilt

Thanks for letting me share your quilt Carol!

The other fun story from the show concerned the Best of Show winner. At the end of the day of judging, we put our heads together and give the “big” awards: creativity, best workmanship, judges choice and best of show. Then, and only then, do we get dinner 😉 . Lindi took us to a restaurant for a delicious meal. This is where we met Sheri, our lovely hostess for the night. Sheri graciously offered her home to Margaret, Carol and me, and took very good care of us. The next morning we all returned to the show for our judge’s tour and Lindi informed me that she hadn’t realized the night before, but Sherri’s quilt had won Best of Show! What fun it was to find her and give her the good news!


Sheri is a very talented long-arm quilter and she does quilting for hire 🙂 .

I’d like to close this post with the quilt I awarded my “Judges Favorite” ribbon. Kim Frisk made this lovely work of fiber art, called “Wherever the Wind Blows”, from rust dyed fabric she’d created using steel wool. She said the fabric reminded her of a map, and that was her inspiration. The appliquéd ships and pieced mariner’s compass came together in a beautifully balanced and intriguing work.


Kim’s quilt won the show’s creativity award also. I can’t wait to try rust dyeing myself!

It was a great show! Thanks to Lindi and all of the Evergreen Quilters for allowing me to be a part of it!

June 26, 2016, Challenges
Buildings, Strawberries, and Couching

I’ve written before about the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts in Cedarburg, WI, and that’s where the second completed UFO I spoke of last week is right now.

WMQFA had it’s beginnings in the Wisconsin Quilt History Project – documenting quilts in Wisconsin. Then a farm was acquired and the fundraising was begun to turn an old barn into a museum! Before the barn was renovated, I was at a fund raising event there, and took pictures of some of the buildings. While on a teaching trip to Alaska (click here to read that post), I stayed with quilting friends and had time to Repliqué two of the “building” blocks.

Each Spring Cedarburg has a Strawberry Festival, and each year the WMQFA has a strawberry challenge. When I got the entry form for this year’s Strawberry challenge, I knew the time to finish those blocks had arrived. I completed the third “building” block, added patches from a “fruit” fabric, bordered, quilted and bound it all in time to drop it off at the Museum – 4 hours before the deadline.


Sew, what does this have to do with couching? Well, when I’d completed the quilt top, the black fabric was overwhelming.

couching yarn on quilts

I didn’t have much time to come up with a fix, so I did a bit of quick noodling, and decided to couch red yarn inside the black border. This is a “go to” technique I’ve used before and it’s a goodie.

To begin, I thread the machine with a color thread to match the yarn, and set it for a zig-zag stitch wide enough to cover the yarn. I leave a 3″ tail of yarn at a corner, lay the yarn in the ditch of the border seam, make one stitch in the yarn at the corner to anchor it, and zig-zag it in place – pivoting at the corners.

couching yarn on quilts

Strawberries, Buildings and Fiber Art

When I reach the end, I thread the yarn tails into a large needle and bury them in between the quilt layers. I had a great time quilting the border with words. Then I needed a name. When nothing clever came to mind, I asked Sommer who said, in matter of fact 4 year old fashion, “Buildings and Strawberries”.

My friend Sonja created a fascinating piece of fiber art for the contest also.


My quilt, Sonja’s, and all of the entries, will be on display at the museum in Cedarburg the weekend of Strawberry Festival – June 25 and 26! Please let me know if you see it there 🙂 !


June 18, 2016, Challenges Embellishing
I Love Winter!

In the past few weeks I’ve finished two UFO’s – talk about feeling virtuous  😀 ! As I’m writing this blog post, temperatures in Wisconsin are in the high 80’s! It is an odd, but appropriate time to share this quilt and it’s story:

In 2013 the special projects committee at Patched Lives (the traditional quilt guild I belong to) came up with a fun idea for a “round robin” type of challenge.  Here are the rules:

Around the Square Challenge – groups are made up of 6 or 7 participants. A list is made of the members of each group so the projects can be passed around in order.

1. Each participant picks a theme for their project (examples could be: Noah’s ark, snow people, up north, a day at the beach, etc.).

2.  Draw a 4″ grid  8 x 10 on a piece of flat quilt batt – orientation is your choice. 4″ is the finished size of all the squares in the quilt, so pieces will need to have seam allowance added.

3.  Create a block in the chosen theme to cover a 16″ x 16″ square or a 12″ x 20″ rectangle (plus seam allowances). Safety pin in place somewhere on the grid. Once begun, this block may not be moved.

4.  Place in a traveling container along with any fabric or embellishments that can be used in the quilt. A “travel journal” and/or ready-to-sign label may be included also.

5. Projects are passed to the next quilter on the list and they are to make blocks to cover 12 squares on the grid. This could include an 8″ finished block, two 4″ x 8″ blocks, and four 4″ blocks, or other combinations, but no additional block can be as large as the original. These blocks are safety pinned over squares in the grid and may not be moved.

6. The projects are passed until all participants have worked on each one. The traveling containers are then returned to their originators who will add blocks to fill any open squares, and finish the quilt. They may move the blocks around on the grid if desired.

My theme was “I Love Winter” (I really do – when its cold outside I can stay inside and quilt guilt free!). Here’s my main block:

I love winter quilt

I received a delightful variety of blocks back, with some empty squares. I had fun rearranging them and filling in the spaces. Most of my additions ended up being a light blue, tone-on-tone fabric that gave it all a checkerboard effect. I then added borders, and layered it all with a sweet snowman fabric on the back:

i love winter quilt

The quilt needed a lot of “in-the-ditch” quilting. This is my least favorite way to quilt, but a few of my friends had mentioned using an “in-the-ditch” foot on my sewing machine. It turns out I had just the foot, and it helped. It isn’t perfect, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked.

The rest of the quilting was done free motion and that was much more fun. Binding was added and now it’s done – in plenty of time for winter!

I love winter quilt

Here’s the label that traveled with the project, and is signed by all the talented quilters who made it such a wonderful quilt.

I love winter quilt

Maryjane was kind enough to bring hers to the last guild meeting, and let me take a picture. Her theme was angels – and it is lovely:


Thanks ladies! I love winter, and I love my winter quilt! Admit it – how many of you out there love winter too?

Stay tuned, next week you’ll get a peek at my other recently finished UFO!

June 11, 2016, Challenges
A Spandex Quilt, part 2 – “40 Wonderful Years”

Welcome back to my spandex quilting adventure!

Sewing on this non-traditional fabric presented a number of problems. Not only did the copper spandex fabric show pin holes and drag when satin stitching with a walking foot, but I couldn’t find any way to mark it for quilting. I could mark on the black, but that wasn’t good enough.

Then the real problem came when I tried to free motion. It would go smoothly for a while, then the spandex would begin to drag and pucker under my hopping foot. What a DRAG!!! When free motioning, there is no way to place paper under the foot, as I did when satin stitching. What to do??? Well, I was able to do a lot of straight quilting first to anchor everything.

AD straight quilting

Next, I free motioned in the black fabric (where there was no drag).


Here’s the exciting part: the straight line grid quilting I’d already done framed in where the free motion quilting would go. So I flipped the quilt over and free motion quilted my spirals from the back. It worked great!

AD free mo from the back

Some areas were quilted heavily and others weren’t quilted at all. The effect was what I was hoping for, and here’s the finished quilt!

quilting with spandex

So Why is it called “40 Wonderful Years”? Well, when creating the design, I needed a focal point for the center. I wanted to use Art Deco lettering, as that was very popular during the Art Deco period. But what “word”? You may remember that my husband and I just celebrated a landmark anniversary (click here for that post). On our first date (in 1972), we went to dinner and a movie, and then we walked along Bradford beach on Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, and this romantic man drew our initials in the sand. I decided to return the compliment 🙂 !

I hope you enjoyed my spandex adventure. Any questions?

June 5, 2016, Challenges Fabric
A Spandex Quilt

While at the Sister’s Quilt Show Expo in Oregon this past Summer, l happened upon the Babylok™ booth and was intrigued by a sample the rep had made using swimsuit material. Because the fabric was shiny and stretchy, the machine quilting was dimensional and dynamic. Then, on our way back to Portland, we stopped at a huge fabric store and I found a piece of metallic copper spandex knit – on a clearance rack! I went home with 2 yards.

AD copper spandex

When the Milwaukee Art Quilters chose “Art Deco” as their large challenge theme this year, I knew I had the fabric and the quilting idea, I just needed a design. I did a bit of web-surfing and found a site with instructions for creating “Great Gatsby Style Patterns” in Photoshop. (in case you’re interested it’s:

After a bit of trial and error I chose a design. Next I made a few small stitching samples with a variety of different batts and stabilizers, so I could try stitching on this very non-traditional fabric and see what worked best.

quilting on spandex

I decided to create the quilt top using my Silhouette Appliqué technique:

  1. I drew my design, with a sliver of soap, onto a black cotton fabric,
  2. I then layered it on the copper spandex fabric, both right sides up. Next I placed this on the wool batting and stabilizer I had chosen. I pinned in areas where the black fabric would not be cut away, because the copper fabric shows pin marks.
  3. In black thread, I stitched on all the soap lines using a walking foot.
  4. The black fabric was cut away, close to the stitching, everywhere I wanted the copper to show.
  5. Next, all of the raw edges needed to be satin stitched. When satin stitching, the spandex would begin to drag under the toe of the machine foot while the toe on the black fabric moved fine. This sheering effect was not working at all, but I was able to slip a piece of paper under the spandex side of the machine foot and then it stitched quite well.

AD layered

Once the appliqué was done, I layered everything over a piece of flat cotton batt, and the quilt backing fabric, re-pinning in the black fabric areas once again.

Stay tuned, in my next post I’ll cover the trickiest part – the quilting!

May 28, 2016, Fabric
Forty Wonderful Years

Today is a very special day in my life. Today I’ve been married to my best friend for 40 years.

Wedding-pic web

Mike and I had a bicentennial wedding. No red, white and blue, but rainbow pastel bridesmaids, complete with matching parasols.


Our parents have been great examples of how to have a good marriage.


In the 1980’s Mike and I were enjoying our beautiful kids,


good jobs, and a lovely home in the woods; and then… at around the time of the above picture, I was introduced to QUILTING!

My dear husband has been supportive of this addiction ever since, even when he admitted he didn’t understand why I cut fabric apart and sew it back together again.

In 1994 I quit dental hygiene and began to focus on teaching quilting as my vocation, and I ended up finding a delightful niche in the quilt world.

Oodles of classes, four books and many Sew We Go adventures later, a new passion came into my life – grandchildren who live nearby! I love kids and I knew I wanted to take care of them while mommy and daddy were at work. When I brought up the idea to my dear husband he said “but what about your quilting?”. I said it was a fun ride, but I was ready to quit to be with the grandkids. His response was “keep quilting, we’ll make it work”. And he has!


When I teach (or spend a week in Paducah), this dear man watches those little ones full time. He’s amazing!

As with all marriages, we’ve had our ups and downs, but I’m so grateful to be on this life journey with Mike. So I’d like to dedicate this week’s post to a very special husband! Thanks for 40 wonderful years!

May 22, 2016, Uncategorized
Quilted Memories

Our son, Brad, was very active in his High School orchestra. The orchestra teachers connected with a youth orchestra in England and they did exchange trips. Brad was able to travel to England twice, and both times I went along as a chaperone (I couldn’t have my son play his cello in Salisbury Cathedral – and not be there!) On one of these wonderful adventures I had the pleasure of meeting Art and Debby Abe. Their daughter was also in the orchestra and they decided to chaperone the trip too. I discovered that Debby was a quilter, and we’ve run into each other in the quilt world numerous times since that trip.

A few month’s ago I taught at the Ben Franklin retreat (to read that post click here), and Debby was there too. My heart ached for her when she told me what had happened in her life this past year. Then she showed me some pictures that made her story so endearing to me that I asked her if I could share it. Here it is in her own words:

“This is a memory quilt made from my husband’s clothes. Art passed away unexpectedly last April at the age of 60. I created this quilt with the thought it could be used as a picnic blanket, as it is backed with his jeans and pants.


As I was assembling this quilt, I was thinking how it is so much like our lives. In sewing the pieces together I did the best I could with the flawed and imperfect materials I had to work with, it was a challenge putting them together, because of the different fabric types. But in the end it turned out beautiful. Just like life – we are flawed and imperfect and have challenges, but in the end GOD’s “project” turns out beautiful!
Just like in the center of the quilt is what Art wore to church, so should God be the center of our lives. When we live a God centered life, we will have peace and joy – despite the heartbreaks of life.
And so (in quilter language) when the challenges and trials of life cause us to fall to pieces – we pick them up and stitch back together the fabric of our lives and press forward.”

Debby chose to make a unique memory quilt for each of her children:


Then she went a step further: “As a Christmas tradition, I would make a “Christmas eve” gift.  We open gifts on Christmas morning. This year I took my husbands ties and created a memory gift. The girls ( my 3 daughters, 1 daughter-in- law, and 2 granddaughters) received a purse. My son and 3 son- in- laws got a key chain made from the end of a tie (sometimes it was the tie used for his wife’s purse). For my grandson I cut down one of Art’s ties to toddler size.

Purses from neckties

Here’s my granddaughter Ellie – who promptly filled up her purse and wore it around after receiving it.”


What an incredible labor of love! Thank you for sharing your story with us Debby – and God’s blessings to you and your family!

May 15, 2016, Uncategorized
Crazy Quilts and Stevengraphs

In keeping with my recent crazy quilt post, I’d like to relate a story about a crazy quilt of my own:

In 2002 I had the privilege of purchasing a wonderful Crazy Quilt, circa 1885, from a dear lady in Illinois.

1885 Crazy Quilt

The owner was a woman named Vee and she related this history of the quilt to me: “It was found in an attic in the bungalow of Julius and Harriet (Lyons) Reed in Three Bridges, NJ after Etta (Harriet) had passed away in the 1970’s. Etta was Vees husband’s Aunt. They were originally from Davenport, IA. Julius was a soldier during the Spanish American war and he fought in Cuba. When he returned he went to New York and met Etta at church. They fell in love and lived in NY until Julius was drawn to a piece of property in New Jersey. Julius was a floor worker at Wanamaker’s Department Store in NY and they were quite poor, but he wanted this piece of property so badly that, as the family story goes, he met some Italians and did something for them – no one knows what – and they gave him enough money to buy the land. Julius then built the bungalow completely by hand. Etta was very good at decorating on a shoestring. Julius preceded Etta in death and after she passed away Vee and her husband went through the home and found little of value except for this crazy quilt which was in a box in the attic. They knew nothing else about the quilt, but Vee did mention that Julius did have very wealthy relatives in New York named Wentworth.”

Don’t you just love family stories and the unique details which are remembered?

Well, the quilt was stored well for all of it’s life, obviously never seeing the light of day for any length of time, so I wanted to get it appraised right away. While doing the appraisal, my friend Carol Butzke, commented that my quilt included a Stevengraph.

Crazy Quilt Stevengraph

I’d never heard of a Stevengraph and set out to learn more. In searching the internet I ran across a collector in England. I sent him the picture, and here is a portion of his response:

Thank you for sending the image of your silk. It has come across very well, and I can confirm it is indeed a Stevengraph. When originally mounted, the title printed on the card mount was “The First Point”.
This is of course a scene of two hounds chasing a hare. The rider on horseback is the judge, and the person in red at the edge of the crowd is the person who has just released the hounds, called a ‘slipper’.
It is impossible to date your actual silk, as they were made continuously right up to the destruction of the factory in 1940.
Thomas Stevens, of Coventry, Great Britain created the word Stevengraph to describe his silk pictures. It has now been extended to include all such woven silk pictures, and even the bookmarks as well.
All silks fade very badly in day light, and deteriorate with light and dust. From the image you have sent me, if your actual silk is as bright coloured as the image, yours is in remarkably good condition. There is no fading, and no apparant damage. As an item of beauty, it now needs always to be part of the quilt of which it has become an intregal part.
I hope this gives you a flavour of your Stevengraph. Do take care of it and the rest of the quilt. Keep the silk out of as much light as you can and away from dust, and who knows, maybe it will last another 100 years.

Peter Daws”

I was thrilled to have this information!

Currently the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts in Cedarburg is hosting an exhibit of Stevengraphs!

WMQFA stevengraph

This is a portion of some additional information the Museum emailed concerning the exhibit:

Museum Stevengraph

“In 1862, Thomas Stevens, working in Coventry, England, had produced nine fascinating silk pictures of different designs and patented the word “Stevengraph” to refer to the pictures. They were an instant success. By the late 1880s, Stevens had produced 900 different designs on aspects of Victorian life.
Using another Stevens invention at the York Exhibition in 1879 – the portable loom, people attending saw their picture being woven before their eyes. The pictures sold in the thousands and over the years Stevens was awarded over 30 medals and diplomas for the pictures.
Stevengraphs vary in size from 1 1/4 by 4 inches for bookmarks to 7 1/2 by 13 inches for mounted pictures. Once sold for as little as 50 cents, they are prized today by collectors.
The heavy German bombings on Coventry in 1940 leveled his buildings and business. But appreciation of Stevengraphs lives on through collectors and exhibits like ours at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts.”


I haven’t seen the exhibit yet, but I’m looking forward to visiting the museum soon!


Do you own any Stevengraphs, or have you any stories to tell?


And one more thing! While in Paducah, Wendy mentioned that there was a large display wall at Frank’s Sewing Center in Waukesha, WI (the shop where she’s the assistant manager), and they were considering featuring quilts by a “Customer of the Month” there. I told her I thought it was a great idea, and she responded “Good, you can be first!”

fiber art at Franks Sewing Center in Waukesha, WIsconsin

So I’ve put up a display of my Parallelism and Concentricity quilts for the month of May. My book “Where Do I Start With Fiber Art” is available there also. It includes the techniques I’ve used in the quilts displayed.

I hope you have a chance to stop by!

May 8, 2016, Vintage Quilts
A Dairy Queen Surprise

Last week I mentioned that Wendy and I set up a quilting studio in the kitchen of the guest house we stay in, like we do every year. This year we spent many hours stitching with the warm Kentucky breeze blowing in the door – it was lovely. My plan was to create samples for some new WCTC classes. I also took 2 workshops while at AQS: Linda Poole’s “Hoot” – working with Inktense pencils, and Kathy McNeil’s “Summer Seascape”, learning her way to appliqué. Both were excellent and I have plans for the samples. Here are the pieces I worked on in Paducah:



While stitching one day, my friend Kathy sent me an invite to an annual “party” they host during Quilt Week, at the Dairy Queen on Friday night. Wendy was taking a class, so I decided it would be something fun to do. Boy, was I right! I arrived, said my hellos to everyone, and then purchased my peanut butter cup blizzard. While we were enjoying the ice cream a bearded man came up to our group (which numbered about a dozen) and welcomed us to Paducah. He said that he’d been looking for a group of quilters and had something in his trunk he wanted to show us.

A few moments later his wife and daughter came in with a large garbage bag, and began to pull a quilt from it. Melissa explained that it was made by her grandmother in 1979. The back was a very bright yellow solid fabric with a red border. I had no idea what to expect – and then she unfolded one of the most beautiful crazy quilts I’ve seen!


The embroidery was spectacular and we spent a lot of time admiring all the wonderful details.

CQ-Paducah-16-racoon CQ-Paducah-16-spider CQ-Paducah-16-qal CQ-Paducah-16-pixie CQ-Paducah-16-basket

And look at the beautiful way Melissa’s grandmother signed her quilt:


Some of the most amazing things happen when you least expect them.


Thank you to the Shaws’ for sharing their lovely quilt.

And thanks for the invite Kathy! Same time next year?

May 1, 2016, Embellishing
Quilt Week 2016 – Paducah, KY

Greetings from the middle of Illinois. Wendy and I are returning home from Paducah. I can’t believe how quickly the past week flew by. Our trip to Quilt Week each year is my favorite  part of Spring. This year the dogwoods and azaleas were in bloom, the temperatures were perfect and the quilts were better than ever!

In past years I’ve posted pictures of the “flying geese bridge” that let us know we’d arrived, and the “1857 Guest House”, above a downtown restaurant, where we stay. This year I’ve decided to share some pictures of the impromptu parts of our trip. These began with a stop in Metropolis to don our quilting hero costumes:


And then we arrived in Quilt City USA. We set up our quilting studio in the kitchen and, over the course of the week, spent many hours there stitching – whenever we needed a break from the overwhelming amount of quilted inspiration, tempting vendors and wonderful food.

Our first evening we had the privilege of creating a window display in the front of Tribeca Restaurant. We chose to feature “Garden of Grace”, a quilt Wendy and I made together from a picture taken during the luncheon at Grace Church a few years ago.

On Monday we headed down to the Bill & Merideth Schroeder Convention Center to help hang the quilts.


Quilting super heros








They were amazing! And my quilt: “How Beautiful – Liberty” was hanging among all the phenomenal works of art – Praise the Lord!

How Beautiful - Liberty in PaducahDuring the week we enjoyed “Bubble Tea” at Etcetera Coffee Shop in Lower Town:


And I even participated in the sidewalk art out front:


One day we took a side trip into the countryside around Mayfield, KY to visit Backyard Fabrics – a bright and tempting quilt shop.


The quilts and shopping are all such fun, but I especially enjoy meeting quilters from all around the country. It’s always exciting to attend a church lunch or dinner and get to know your tablemates. Imagine my surprise when we went to dinner at the Methodist church, and I was seated next to Janet – a quilter who had taken my class when I taught in Fremont, NE last month!


We met her friends and had a lovely time of good food and conversation.

Then, on our final night, we met up for dinner with some of my friends from my Fiberista art quilt group.

Fiberistas in Paducah

Kay, Ida and Lori made the trip down from Wisconsin on Friday to see Lori’s beautiful quilt – “Autumn Gold”, and enjoy the show.


It was a great week, and I have more to share …  about crazy quilts, Dairy Queen, and “rolling veterans”, but I’ll save those for future posts. This was my 27th AQS quilt show in Paducah, and I can’t wait for next year!

April 24, 2016, Travel
Creating Art With an Audience

This week I’m posting to my blog from a car in the middle of Illinois. What an amazing technological age we live in: I can connect my laptop to the personal “hotspot” on my phone, and be on the internet while driving down the road!


Wendy and I are on our way to Quilt Week in Paducah.


This year we have the wonderful opportunity to decorate the windows of Tribeca restaurant with our quilts, as part of the Quilt Week contest held downtown. If you’re in Paducah, please come by to see them (on the cobblestone alley next to the Yeiser gallery).

And now for this week’s post:

You may remember a post from last year that included some wonderful multi-media art from a church in Wales, WI. I saw those pieces because I was invited to share some of my quilts, and my quilting journey, as part of the morning worship service.

Sanctuary quilts

It was a very interesting morning! Each year Jerusalem Presbyterian Church invites an artist to create art as a part of the worship service. Painting a picture in that time frame might be possible, but making a quilt presented some problems. I worked with Pastor Petterson to blend my fiber art process into the service. What we decided would work best was to invite members of the congregation to bring a piece of cotton fabric. These pieces were collected before the service and during the service I sorted them by value, trimmed them to size and laid them into a pattern while Pastor and I compared these processes to what Christ does in the believer’s heart.

The members brought some very interesting pieces (most of them were not quilters 😉 ). But it actually went quite smoothly and it was a lovely time of worship.

This brings me to this week’s post. I was asked to complete this piece of art and after much thinking and prayer, I finally came up with a direction, and the quilt is done!

To begin, I chose to place the cross in the center of the pattern and then use the lighter value squares near the cross, with the value going to the darker fabric on the edges. I then chose a Scripture verse from the Gospel of John and used my new Brother Scan n Cut™ to make the letters (to read a post on this delightful tool go to: I fused the letters in place, covered everything with black tulle, and machine quilted around the letters,

Scripture quilt

with spiral quilting in the background (notice the church block in the lower right, that was cut from a polo shirt).

Scripture quilt

I’m sorry I didn’t get more “work in progress” pictures, but here’s one of the finished piece:

Scripture quilt

I plan to present it to Pastor Petterson and the church family in the near future. What a joy to have been a part of this worship project, and to see it come to fruition! It causes me to think of one of my favorite Bible verses – Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to our Father in heaven”.



April 17, 2016, Challenges