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Quilt Problem Solving

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

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

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

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

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

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

next she appliquéd the body:

and her Phoenix was ready for the quilter!

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

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

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

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

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

February 24, 2019, Piecing
Half Square Triangle Tricks – Trimming

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

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

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

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

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

I rotary cut the top and right sides:

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

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

and rotary cut the remaining two sides:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


And one more thing…

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


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

October 7, 2018, Piecing
Piped Circles Made Simple

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cut through both, and butt them together:

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

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

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

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

And you’re done!

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

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

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



September 2, 2018, Piecing
Make ‘Em Fit

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

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

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

Making quilt blocks measure up

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

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

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

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

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

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



August 12, 2018, Piecing
Serendipity Stars

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




















This last one is my personal favorite!

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

This is her picture and bio from the magazine:

Anne Widmann

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






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

This is what the July issue cover looks like

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

Congratulations Anne!

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


A Tribute to Natalie

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


July 22, 2018, Piecing
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
From Ugly Fabric to Valentine Quilt

My Fiberista’s group is having an ugly fabric challenge. In a nutshell: choose an ugly from your stash (where do they come from?), put it in a paper bag, throw bags in a pile, pick a new bag, make something with it. This is the lovely piece I acquired.

Ugly challenge fabric

I must admit, it didn’t seem to match anything in my stash, and I didn’t even know what sort of quilt/project to make with it. I decided the color sort of reminded me of milk chocolate, and with Valentine’s Day coming, I reflected on my favorite candy of the season – chocolate covered strawberries. Mmm! So I pulled out my brown, red, pink and green scraps (green for the stems  😉 ), and went to Pinterest to find some pattern ideas. Nothing grabbed me under “chocolate covered strawberry quilts”, but when I tried “chocolate covered cherries” – BINGO – there were quite a few.

The one that caught my eye was by a quilter/blogger named Susan (visit her blog at It used the Indian Hatchet block, which I’ve shared in previous posts.

Ugly block

This square makes a great autograph block, as seen here in this friendship quilt given to me by my quilting friends when I moved away from Madison (note the signatures in the wide white strips).

autograph quilt Mad City

What if I would use my Indian Hatchet technique, but with skinnier strips? And this is the result – a Valentine table runner:

Ugly challenge 2016

If you haven’t tried this block, it’s simple and a lot of fun.  You’ll need 2 contrasting fabrics. Cut a 3½” square from one and a 1¼” x 6″ strip from the other (feel free to experiment with other sizes – it’s a very “flexible” block).

Cut the square on one diagonal, and begin by folding one triangle in half to make a crease along the long edge with your fingernail. Fold the strip in half and crease it also.

Indian Hatchet block

Line up these creases while aligning the pieces, right sides together.

Indian Hatchet block

Sew the triangle to the strip. I chained many units together and stacked the unused triangles, so they would be in order for the next step, and I made sure I didn’t cut the chain apart.

Ugly triangle 1 chain

Press the seams towards the strips. Then add the second triangle by lining it up evenly inside the first one.

Indian Hatchet block

Separate the chain and press the second seams towards the triangles. Square up the block to 3½” by placing the 45º diagonal through the center of the strip.

 Indian Hatchet block

Next determine your pattern. As you may have noticed in the autograph quilt, the layout was rather abstract and interesting. I thought this time I’d like it more symmetrical, but I decided to ask Sommer (who is always nearby when I’m quilting) if she wanted to make a pattern. Here’s what she came up with for the first 16 blocks (then she lost interest):

Indian Hatchet block layout

I decided I really did prefer the symmetrical placement and she was OK with it. I made 40 blocks and set them 4 x 10.

My “ugly” fabric worked great and the leftover challenge fabric was just the right size for the backing. A quick Valentine table runner done just in time. Plus – the ugly challenge isn’t due until the end of the month. I’m feeling rather virtuous  😀 !

Do you have any fun Valentine projects you’d like to share?

Or how about a quilt you’ve made from an “ugly” challenge?

I’d love to see pictures! Please send them to me at


February 14, 2016, Piecing
Crazy Quilt Christmas Stocking

My daughter-in-law recently texted me this picture with the message “something seems to be missing :-)”.

crazy quilt christmas stockings

Well, the empty hook belongs to Trey and, since this is his first Christmas, grandma needs to get busy! I made Brad, Betsy and Sommer’s stockings using my own drawing of a stocking and “crazy piecing”, without all the thread embellishment typical of Crazy Quilting. The year after Sommer’s was made Betsy asked me to teach her how to do this, so she could make bone-shaped stockings for their dogs. She’s a quick study!

I thought some of you might like to know how to “crazy piece”. Here’s my version:

  •  Choose your favorite stocking pattern and cut out the basic shape, to size, from muslin or some undesirable fabric (like this pink stripe I attempted to snow dye in blue, with lousy results. It will be completely covered, so it works well here). I then gather up fabric scraps and leftover “pieced units” in appropriate colors.
  • To begin, pin a scrap or “pieced unit” with an odd shape and an odd number of sides to the fabric base – like the black/green/red “pieced unit” below. Lay a new scrap along one edge, right sides together, and stitch in place: CQS begin 1
  • Fold this new piece open and press. Since this process will be repeated many times, I like to use a wallpaper roller, instead of keeping an iron hot for the duration.crazy quilt stocking
  • Repeat this along all sides of your shape. Strips can be used, but it also adds interest to attach triangles and odd shaped pieced.Crazy quilt stockingCrazy quilt stocking
  • When edges get long, select a “pieced unit” again, or feel free to sew some smaller chunks together into “pieced units” and then add them to the crazy quilting. CQS adding pieced unitCQS pressing pieced unit
  • Continue in this manner until the base fabric is covered.
  • There may be times when things look a little ragged. Then just grab a long, wide strip, CQS adding cleaner upper 1lay it over everything and stitch, lay it over everything, fold back and press. crazy quilt stockingWhen you’ve covered a portion of an edge, it’s a good idea to stitch from the back, close to the outer edge of the base fabric, crazy quilt stocking

and then trim the excess away.crazy quilt stockingContinue until the base pattern is covered.

crazy quilt stocking

7.  Cut out a reverse pattern from backing fabric and two linings also (one and one reverse). Because mine has a cuff, it needs to be sewn between the stocking and lining pieces. The crazy quilt is sewn to one lining piece, and the backing fabric to the other.

crazy quilt stocking

8.  Then these pieces are put right sides together and sewn all the way around, leaving a 3″ opening somewhere in the lining for turning.

9.  Turn it right side out, stitch the opening closed, push the lining into the stocking and press. Add a hanging loop and you’re done!

#crazyquiltstocking, #crazyquilt, #stockingTrey’s stocking is now hanging with all the others – ready for Christmas.

crazy quilted christmas stockings, #Christmasstockings, #crazyquilt



Each year I spend time focusing on the true meaning of Christmas – Jesus, the Savior of the world, who came to earth in human flesh to save humanity from the curse of sin. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” John 3:16. What an awesome gift! It gives meaning to everything else in our lives. My Christmas wish for you is that you may know Him as your Savior. Merry Christmas!


PS Here’s just one last picture to make you smile:

Sommer cookies for web

December 20, 2015, Piecing
A Lunch Bunch Quilt

Before we get to this week’s topic, I just have to share a picture of three quilts. After last week’s post about baby Caleb’s quilt, Eileen emailed me this message:

“Hello Chris, Delighted to hear more Mom’s are going for the “jungle theme”!  I made these three quilts (my own design) for my Goddaughter’s baby boy.  Couldn’t settle on which animal she might like.  As it turned out she went with elephants for much of her theme in the baby’s room.  Whew – glad I made one!!  But she got all three and seems to love them.  Little too early to tell which one Baby Bennett will like!”

Eileens animal quiltsWhat a lucky little boy – to get all three! I think Eileen may have to market her designs – those animals are adorable. Thanks Eileen!

So – what’s a “Lunch Bunch” quilt?

Back in the late 90’s I belonged to a local guild, Common Threads, that met on Wednesday mornings. One of the great things about this larger guild, was that it had smaller sub-groups called “Bees”. These smaller groups allowed us to get to know some of the members one-on-one. There was a “Scrap Bee”, “Charity Bee”, “Miniature Bee”, and an “Appliqué Bee”, just to name a few. Each “Bee” had a “Queen Bee” who ran that group and chose the time and location for the bee. All of the bees were kept organized by the “Beekeeper”. It was a great idea!

The “Bee” I joined was called the “Lunch Bunch Bee”. We met at a different restaurant for lunch after the meeting each month, and exchanged 4″ blocks. We chose a different block theme each month. There were 7 of us in the group,

lunch bunch quilt makers

Sally Boaz, Pat Smith, Mary Camacho, Joan Wilson, Elrid Johnson, Ann Wanke and me

which meant we needed to make 7 identical blocks each month and we did this for 8 months. We kept them in fabric covered boxes we covered in a guild class. Joan is holding hers in the picture above, and here’s a close-up of mine:

Lunch Bunch box

I didn’t think to photograph all the blocks before making a quilt with them, but I did take pictures of some of my favorites after the quilting was done (these were placed together as you see them here in Photoshop, you’ll need to wait to see how they fit into a quilt):

3d board

3-D Blocks

bird board

Bird Blocks

heart board

Heart Blocks

flower board

Flower Blocks

basket board

Basket Blocks

tree board

Tree Blocks

leaf board

Leaf Blocks

star board

Star Blocks

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 3.46.03 PM

You can order one on her website:

These blocks sat in the box for a long, long time! Then my friend, Sharon Rotz, wrote a book called Log Cabin Quilts With Attitude.

I decided my 4″ block collection would make great centers for these crazy log cabin blocks.

It was so much fun, I wanted to make more blocks and came up with additional centers.

Lunch Bunch Quilt wonky block2

I cut each block to finish 10″ in width, but I let the length be determined by the wonky strips added to each one. I then sewed them into long columns. Because the blocks were the same width, they all fit together into the column, but the columns themselves ended up being a variety of lengths.

Since this quilt is one of my bigger ones, and it took many years to create, I’ve decided to make this a series post. Next week you’ll find out how the columns were quilted and  put together. The following week will have information on a slick binding technique – and a picture of the finished – yes, I said finished – quilt!

A Block Stack Challenge

Do you have a stack of exchange blocks like mine, just waiting to become a quilt? I’d like to challenge you to send me a picture of your stack of blocks (feel free to arrange them any way you like – thrown all over the room, or in one tall stack, or artistically draped, or… ???). I’ll then post the pictures (without naming names) and challenge each participant to put them in a quilt. The first one to actually make their blocks into a quilt will get their name and photo in the blog, along with a wonderful prize of my choosing!!!

September 6, 2015, Piecing
A Unique Set of Quilted Placemats

My dear friend Jean attends my Thursday Open Labs at WCTC. A few months ago she brought 36 Christmas themed split 9-patch blocks to class.

Jean pm sq on pt copy

We both puzzled over what she would do with them. Here’s what happened – in her own words:

“What is it about ½ square triangles? Somehow in the last few years I have accumulated a bunch of them, and had no idea how to use them. This year, in my efforts to reduce the number of UFO’s in my workroom, these pieces bubbled to the top.

First, I completed 36 Christmas-themed Split 9-patch blocks. They came from kits I purchased at the Lodi Quilt Academy from Mill House Quilts. I was stumped. Would it be table runners, a table topper or a throw? As always, when stumped, I head to the Quilt Labs at WCTC, facilitated by Chris. I have learned many things from her, but one of the most valuable skills is to just “play” with the blocks, arranging them in different patterns. This project was no exception. As we played, fun patterns began to emerge, and I decided placemats would be a nice wedding gift for my niece. The problem was, which block to choose? Too hard, so I decided to make each mat a different pattern. To feature just the block, I added the side panel, and, although Chris suggested quilting the words (I still don’t trust my free motion quilting), I opted to appliqué the “Noel” onto each panel. I quilted all of them the same way, figuring there was enough visual “stuff” going on. The final step was to do a self binding. This was a challenge. I had seen it on old family quilts, but couldn’t figure it out on my own. Chris to the rescue again. I’m pleased with the results. Not perfect, but a fun way to use those half-square blocks.”

And here they are:

quilted Christmas placemats


quilted Christmas placemat

quilted Christmas placemat

quilted Christmas placemat

quilted Christmas placemat


 quilted Christmas placemats

I hadn’t done a “self binding” like Jean mentioned for quite a while, and she inspired me to use it on the quilt I made for my granddaughter Rainee. I used it to turn the Minkie quilt back to the front,and it was the topic of a post a few weeks ago (click here to read all about it). Thanks Jean – the inspiration goes both ways  😀 !

I’d love to have you join us in our Thursday Open Lab classes. It’s a great group, and a fun way to get things finished! To sign up go to, or call: 262.691.5578

August 16, 2015, Piecing
Multi-seam Centers

Recently I taught a Lone Star workshop for a delightful guild in Burlington, WI – the Chocolate City Quilters (don’t you just love that name?). We used the Quiltsmart™ interfacing method I shared about in my February 15th post (click here if you’d like to revisit that post). Twenty-two quilters participated in the class and the quilts they worked on were varied and gorgeous. I so wish I had taken some pictures. So here’s a quick request before I get to my “topic of the week”. If you’ve taken a Lone Star class with me, and you’ve finished your star, please email me a picture at: I think these quilts will make an exciting blog quilt show.

Now on to medallion centers. This is one of my Lone Star tops in which I used a Pointillism fabric for the background (I really need to border and quilt this one  🙂 ):

Lone Star with Pointillism background

When making a medallion style quilt, like a Lone Star or a Mariner’s Compass; or whenever a block has 8 seams coming together in one center point – it can be difficult to get the center right the first time. The biggest problem with this is that ripping and resewing can cause the fabric to weaken and the center to get worse instead of better. There is a slick trick for making this easier, and the ladies in the Chocolate City Guild class said they thought it would be a good one to share on the blog. So here goes. My sample was done on a  “Spin Star” block .

1. Once you have the 8 sections ready, sew them together in pairs (making quarters); and then sew the pairs into two halves.

2. Line up the halves, and pin into position along the entire seam.

3. Set the sewing machine for a long basting stitch and sew a short portion of the seam only, beginning 1″ prior to the center seam and ending 1″ beyond it (my sewing machine stitches didn’t show well, so I drew in the blue stitches to make it clearer).



4. Remove the block/top from the machine and peek at the center. If you got it right, set the machine for a regular stitch length and sew the entire seam. If it wasn’t quite right,

center seam off

remove the basting stitches, re-pin, and resew with basting stitches once again until you get it right, then sew the entire seam.

center seam block

In this way you only need to rip out 2″ of basting stitches if it isn’t correct, and not a long seam of normal length stitches.

Have a blessed Memorial Day weekend. I’m praying for all our service men and women, and their families, as well as our veterans. How blessed we are to have the freedoms we do, and how grateful I am for those who serve, and have served, to keep us free!


May 24, 2015, Piecing
Getting Random Quilt Blocks to Fit Together

Grand Canyon for blogI’ve returned from the sunshine of Arizona to the freezing rain of Wisconsin. It was a wonderful trip and the beauty of God’s creation is truly awe inspiring.


I’m glad to be home and excited to be back in quilting mode. So, here’s the quilty post I promised  😀 !

If you’ve ever won a stack of blocks at a guild meeting and wanted to put them together into one quilt, but found they were not all the same size – read on! I often see stacks of blocks like this brought into my open lab classes. I must admit, I’ve had two projects of my own – “block of the month”stacks,  that were supposed to become a sampler quilt, but they didn’t all match up. I’ve tried a number of solutions, and this one is my favorite. It uses a technique I shared in a blog post a few years ago (, and I’d like to revisit it now. In essence, each block is turned on point, and these added triangles make alternate hourglass blocks.

Making quilt blocks measure up

Another advantage to this technique is that your quilt doubles in size from the area covered by the initial blocks.

Turning all the blocks on point

1. Square up all your blocks (they will be different sizes, but that’s ok – they just need to be square).

2. Choose two fabrics to be the “hourglass” corners.

3. Find the largest block and place the ruler as in the picture (diagonal line on vertical center of block, and even along both edges – mine are at 6 1/4″).

turning a block on point

Add 2″ to this measurement and cut out two squares of one “hourglass” fabric this size. Cut both squares on one diagonal, and sew to all four sides of your block. This will turn the block “on point” (for the more detailed instructions from my previous post, please click here and scroll down to the blue/black star block).

turning a quilt block on point

You’ll need to cut 2 squares (yielding 4 triangles) for each block from one “hourglass” fabric. Half of the blocks will be from one fabric, and the other from the second fabric. In this way you’ll be able to “checkerboard” your blocks, by alternating the hourglass fabrics, when you put the top together.

4. Square all the blocks up to the size of the smallest.

5. These blocks may now be sewn together into a lovely quilt, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that they need to be put together on the diagonal. If you don’t know how to do that, I found wonderful instructions on this site: The measurements given are for an exact fit. Since I like to give myself a little margin for error (and I like a bit of float around my points), I would add 1″ to the cut sizes for the squares.

Modern Quilts

A few weeks ago I invited readers to send pictures of their modern style quilts. Mary Ann and Juleen did just that, and I know you’ll enjoy them. Mary Ann’s is a crib quilt she’s been working on in my Open Lab class. She finished it since our last class and sent this lovely photo:

Mary Anns modern crib quilt

Juleen sent photos of two of her recent projects. Both are delightful!

modern quilt - Jaeger1Juleens modern quilts

Thanks ladies!


March 29, 2015, Piecing
And the Floss Frenzy Winner Is:

Because of some time-sensitive information, I’m actually sharing two blog topics this week. The challenge results are the most exciting, so they come first. But please continue to the end for a bit of sharing about the French Braid pattern.

I’ve had an exciting week of tallying votes in the Floss Frenzy Challenge. All of the entries were delightful! They received so many wonderful comments, and many voters mentioned that they wished they could vote for more than one. But one vote a piece was all that was allowed and the winner is:

Ida Porzky of Watertown, WI,

for her crocheted button flower wall quilt!

FF Ida Porzky

Ida is a dear friend of mine. She is a talented quilter and her crochet work is spectacular also (I have the privilege of owning a number of her doilies!). She has won a basket full of floss – 237 skeins to be exact, one each of all the different colors I was originally gifted   😀 ! Congratulations Ida!

Next I need to make a special mention of Patt Nieman’s quilt. Patt had requested only red floss, because she wanted to make a redwork quilt. She completed her beautiful quilt, and sent me pictures well before the deadline. I’m sorry to say, I misplaced her picture and it wasn’t included in the initial posting of the challenge. Patt emailed me concerning my error a few hours after the challenge began. I put it into the blog as soon as I could and, even with the late start into the viewer’s choice voting, her quilt still won second place!

Patt Nieman quilt

Patt will also receive a prize of embroidery floss!

Thanks so much to all the participants. You are all winners to me!!!

A few interesting challenge statistics:

37 packs of floss were sent out.

18 stitchers returned pictures in time for the challenge.

Over 120 votes were cast.

Quite a few people have let me know that they are still working on their projects, but they just couldn’t get them done in time. If you’re one of these – keep at it – and then send me a picture when it’s finished. I plan to feature a Floss Frenzy II showing in a future blog post!

Braids and French Braids – Quilt As You Go

Doing a braided table runner – quilt as you go, is a quick and easy way to complete a pretty project. Many of you may know how to do this, but just so we’re all on the same page, I’ll share a brief “how-to”:

1. Cut a piece of batting and backing fabric slightly larger than the size of the runner you desire. Layer the backing, wrong side up, on the work surface. Smooth the batting on top of this. These layers may be held together with basting spray, or a few pins. Mark center lines down the length and the width on the batting, with a removable marker.

quilt as you go

2. Cut a square of fabric that will fit the width of the runner, when placed on the diagonal. Pin in place at the center.

quilt as you go

3. Cut strips of fabric for the braid. It looks nice in either a planned palette or scrappy. You will complete one side of the runner first, and then the other. The strips will be added chevron fashion on two adjacent sides of the center square. Choose a strip and lay it, right sides together, even with one edge of the center square, and with the tail hanging off the edge of the runner. Stitch in place with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

quilt as you go

4. Carefully press the strip open, and trim off the tail even with the runner edges.

quilt as you go

5. Lay a strip of fabric along the adjacent side of the center square, even with the square/strip portion of the runner, and with the tail hanging off the outer edge of the runner again. Stitch as in step 4, press open and trim the tail.

quilt as you go

6. Repeat steps 4 & 5 until one half of the runner is pieced and quilted. Finish the other half of the runner the same way.

quilt as you go

8. Square off with pointed ends (as in my sample) or rectangular, bind and enjoy!

quilt as you go


A technique with a similar look, but an added bit of pizazz is called a French braid. This pattern became very popular a few years ago. The original book constructed the pattern as a top, in need of quilting. It struck me that doing it “quilt as you go” would be a great option. I played a bit and created this lap sized quilt:

french braid

Adding the squares was the tricky part, but I came up with a fun way to make it work. Each row was made separately and then I put them together with the Reversible Quilts method I used for Hanna and Willy’s I-Spy quilts (to read the post on that technique – click here). Each row was actually a runner, so I made that option into a class and I’ll be teaching it the end of this month at Waukesha County Technical College. Here’s the info:

CRN 21783 French Braid Runner






Quilting Workshop: French Braid Runner – Friday, March 27th, 9 – 2:30

Use a gradation of color or value to create this stunning table runner. The best part is the piecing is done “quilt-as-you-go”. Once the top is done, the quilting is too! This technique can be used to create a bed-sized quilt and instructions for doing so will be included in the class.

If you are interested, please sign up soon!  You can register on-line at or by phone at 262.691.5578. The Course Reference Number (CRN) is 21783.

March 8, 2015, Challenges Piecing
A Great Lone Star Technique

The Lone Star is a very old, traditional, and much loved pattern. I’ve taught it as a strip piecing class, but I’ve discovered a modern twist that makes matching all the intersections quite a bit easier. Before I share the details, Here are a few pictures of student quilts made in some of my recent classes. The project was a 38″ Lone Star.

Virginia sent me this picture. She uses her pretty red star as a tablecloth.

Virginia's Lone Star quiltHere’s Barb’s lovely wallhanging!

Barb's Lone Star

Ida cut her original pieces a bit too small. She often brings more than the required amount of fabric to class, so when we realized the problem, she was able to recut all the pieces for the diamonds and chose to use the “wrong” pieces in a beautiful border.

Ida's Lone Star Sue has made two delightful Lone Stars this size.

lone star Sue Ehlens2 Lone star Sue ehlen

Thanks ladies, for sharing your quilts and sending me the pictures in time for this blog! Great job!!

So, do you want to know the trick? The answer is Quiltsmart’s interfacing method! Quiltsmart is a company out of Oregon, with a lot of great ideas. You can find them at: On their website you can order the printed interfacing, and instructions for this great project.

Because of copyright, I’m not able to post pictures and step by steps (of course), but I’d like to share a brief description of the process to pique your interest.

1.  Quiltsmart has printed all eight of the large diamond bases on fusible interfacing in an ingenious way. These are cut apart and pieced one at a time.

2. Rectangles are cut from the appropriate fabrics for all the small diamonds. These will make up the big diamonds.

3. The first rectangle is put in place on the interfacing, right side up, and the second one is placed right sides together, at a specific angle to the first.

4. A diagonal seam is sewn, the second piece is folded down, “sew and flip” fashion, and pressed in place. This is repeated to create each row of small rectangles/diamonds.

5. Once all the rectangles are pieced into rows of diamonds, the rows are sewn together – interfacing and all, resulting in 1/8th of the star.Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.55.05 PM

If you’d like to watch a video of the originator of the technique demonstrating it, click here! (the demo is for the 58″ lone star, but the process is the same for any size)

I highly recommend giving it a try and, if you live in Southeastern Wisconsin, I just happen to have a class coming up on this very technique at Waukesha County Technical College on Saturday, March 7th from 9 – 2:30. The course is called Quilting Workshop: Lone Star (CRN 20793). You can register on-line at, or by phone at 262.691.5578!

Floss Frenzy Reminder

The deadline for the floss challenge is February 28th! Please send good quality pictures of your finished project to me prior to that date at:

Quite a few photos have already arrived, and I’m very excited about all the creativity I’m seeing!

February 15, 2015, Classes Piecing
Spinning Stars

Fussy cutting motifs from fabric is a technique that has been around for generations. It was made incredibly popular about 20 years ago by Bethany Reynolds (click here for her website). At that time I was intrigued by Bethany’s quilts and started playing with my own style of cutting identical triangles from large print fabric. To begin, I chose a teapot fabric with a lot of thin lines and curves.

ss teapot fabric

I found a traditional star block I liked, and devised a fun way to piece it.

ss teapot top

Isn’t the variety of stars amazing? And the fun part is, if I had cut the triangles just an inch away from where I did, every star would be different from these. I must admit, it’s addicting. I showed this quilt to friends and students, and my Spin Star class was born. It has been extremely popular over the years and I think the appeal lies in the fact that each star is a surprise! The down side is that it makes “swiss cheese” out of your fabric:

ss teapot holes

My stars begin as four stacks with 8 identical triangles in each. Here’s a portion of a Jane Sassamann fabric that worked great, and just one triangle stack:

ss sas fabric

ss sas triangles

This one stack of triangles can be put together 2 different ways – with the top right point at center:

ss sas star2

or with the lower left point there:

ss sas star

Here they are together so you can see how much variety there is in just one stack of triangles.

ss star compare

I think it’s time I sew those stars together!

These are the blocks I made from a Christmas poinsettia fabric:

ss poinsettia

Did I mention this is addictive?

During one class I decided to make stars from a fabric printed with adorable children.

ss kid fabric

These blocks have never been stitched together because, even though the star is pretty, it bothers me to see cut up kids swirling around:

ss kid star

If this type of play is of interest to you, I’ll be teaching my Spin Star class at WCTC on Saturday, January 17th, and we need 3 more students to sign up for the class to run. Please consider joining us! The deadline is this Wednesday.

Have you had fun with fussy cutting? Please send pictures. Oh, and those of you who have taken this class – I’d love to get photos of your star creations. Perhaps it would be fun to do a virtual quilt show on a future blog. Send pictures to me at:

January 4, 2015, Piecing
Kathie’s Lone Star

This week I’d like to share the story of a truly beautiful quilt and a very talented quilter. Kathie Boucher is a fellow member of the Milwaukee Art Quilters who is willing to do as much piecing as it takes to make her quilts showstoppers! She posted this photo to Facebook a few months ago and it overwhelmed me. Kathie's Lone StarThe pieced squares in the background of her broken star took it to a whole new level of interest. And then – she added half Mariner’s Compasses to the corners! I just had to contact her and ask her about it. I was thrilled when she said I could feature the story on my blog. So, here it is, in her own words: “I’m always hoping to convey to people that original quilt design is not out of reach. How I’d love to see more quilters less dependent on someone else’s patterns…. This quilt began its life in a very informal Lone Star class, led by Cheryl Gerbing of Waukesha, WI.  Cheryl’s design would have yielded a 72 inch square quilt. The setting squares and triangles would need to be quite large, and for me this was way too much empty real estate. So my first decision was what to do with those huge squares and triangles. My initial idea was to appliqué them, which caused a lot of hilarity among my friends. They know I don’t like appliqué and have mostly managed to avoid it throughout my quilting career. My friends were right—I found myself thinking up reasons not to work on the quilt, and the eight star points languished in a box for many months. The Lone Star seemed destined to become a Christmas quilt for my bed. I decided to piece eight large setting squares, in order to grow the 72 inch Lone Star into a larger quilt. I worked up some ideas in Electric Quilt, and finally chose a design of Variable Stars and Irish Chain blocks for the setting squares. setting blocks Geometry reared its head. Once the setting squares were constructed and sewn into place, star in progress the quilt needed eight more big Lone Star diamond sections to encircle the main star. This necessitated a mad shopping scramble in order to find more of those Lone Star fabrics. It was now about two years since the original star had been made, so shopping was a challenge. Fortunately I was able to find all but one of the original fabrics. outer diamond ring With the addition of these new star points, I still needed four large corner sections to build the quilt out to its final square shape. I turned to Electric Quilt once again, and drew a sunburst–a quarter of a Mariner’s Compass. I took my drawing to a local office supply store and had it blown up to the huge size needed.compass pieces I paper-pieced eight sunbursts to make the four sunburst corner sections. May I say that it was the least enjoyable paper piecing I’ve ever done? Working on such a large scale really challenged my visualizing skills, and there was a fair amount of ripping, re-sewing, and bad language. But at this point, there was no choice except to grit my teeth, push through, and get it done. The quilt was long-arm quilted by Marge West of Whitewater, WI. Her suggestion of a fairly tight allover quilting pattern nicely complemented the design, the fabrics, and produced the antique look I wanted. It’s all very pleasing to me. lone star top But like I tell everyone—it’s hard to go wrong with this color scheme.” The color scheme is great – but Kathie’s creativity and skill are what makes it so wonderful! Did you notice her shadow in the last picture? Her head is right over the center star. How delightful! Thank you Kathie, for sharing your quilt with us.

January 12, 2014, Inspiration Piecing
A Quilted Memorial

I’ve been on the road again this week. This time to teach at the AQS show in Des Moines, IA. It was a great show – over 1600 quilts and loads of great vendors! I went with my dear friend, Linda, and we had a wonderful time. Here we are in front of one of my entries entitled: Cherry Baskets.


I made this quilt with my rather large collection of cherry fabrics and it really makes me smile. Here’s a second floor overview of the show with a big finger pointing at my quilt (just for fun :-))!


Now that your up to date on my latest travels (it’s been crazy :-)), here’s this week’s topic:

A few months ago I received an email from Lynn, a neighbor who lived behind us when we lived in Dousman. This was her message:

“My mom passed away 4 months ago and the hospital gave our family a quilt.  There are 4 siblings and one quilt, which is the dilemma.  Can you help me or direct me to someone that could?  My thought would be to have the quilt divided into 4 pieces, however I’m not experienced at all, in how to do that.  Thank you in advance for your time, I truly appreciate it. I look forward to hearing from you.”

And here was the picture she attached to the email:


I called her and said I would be happy to help. We both agreed that cutting the quilt into quarters wouldn’t be the best option.

Because it was only tied, I recommended she cut the knots, un-sew the binding (it was actually the back of the quilt turned to the front), take off the borders, and then we could get together and discuss the next step. She brought the disassembled quilt over and we sat on the floor brainstorming.

Since it was made of 8″ squares of Christmas fabrics, I suggested we take the quilt apart a little further and resew the squares into 4 table runners. She liked the idea! Here are the runners pre-borders (only one white square needed to be added to the original 15):

memorial quilt remakeNext, the borders were attached. There was enough fabric from the original borders to do one in the light green and two in the dark. Praise the Lord, I had the same green fabric in my stash for the border on the fourth runner:

Memorial Quilt remake

Next they were layered with batt and backing (there was enough from the original for all 4). I decided to turn them, rather than using binding (this will be the topic of next week’s post :-)). Once they were turned, I machine quilted them 1/2″ from the edge and in the ditch around the blocks (even though I greatly dislike “ditch” quilting). Then I chose to quilt hearts in the squares. I used a heart shaped “Mix and Match Template™” and traced around it with a sliver of soap in the red and a “Frixion™” pen in the white.

memorial-marking-1I’ve been wanting to try the Frixion™ pen for awhile and was pleased with the ease of marking. These pens are made by Pilot™ and were created for use on paper. The ink disappears with heat, like the friction from erasing on paper. The quilt world discovered them because the ink disappears with the heat of ironing! I was a little concerned about the long term effect of using this tool. I did a bit of testing and will share my results in a future post.

So – on to the memorial runners:

The free-motion quilting of the hearts was a joy and the table runners were finished quite quickly.


I hope Lynn and her siblings will be pleased.

Have you created a memorial quilt? Have you received one? Have you ever needed to make one quilt into more than one? We’d love to read your story!

PS I received pictures of quilts made by quilters in the Mariner’s Compass class I taught in Janesville a few week’s ago and I thought you might like to see them. This one is from Peggy Nelson:

mariners compass quilt

And this table runner is by Valerie Cook:

Mariners Compass quilted table runnerGreat job ladies! Thanks for sending pictures!

October 6, 2013, Piecing Uncategorized
Talking Quilts

Do your quilts talk to you? I’ve discovered mine do and when I don’t listen, they usually don’t turn out as well. This is the story of a conversation I had with a recent quilt. A few weeks back I was piecing a quilt top for an upcoming class at WCTC. I’ve discovered that any class that involves some variation on Log Cabin will be popular, thus I need to make one of these every so often. Once the top was finished (and made totally from my stash :-)), I couldn’t decide which fabric to use for the border.

bordering quiltsI was really leaning towards the plaid (just because I think it’s pretty and I’ve been wanting to use it). I laid the fabrics out around the top and the quilt virtually screamed “use the paisley”!

bordering quiltsI, of course, asked “are you sure”? The quilt answered “yes”, so I decided I needed a second opinion and took it to Open Lab where the class  unanimously voted for the paisley. Well, I gave in and added a 5″ paisley border with a 1/2″ dark green flange tucked into the seam for drama (if you’re unfamiliar with adding a flange, click here! This was a topic of conversation at my WCTC Open Lab this week :-)).

Go figure. The quilt was right!

quilt bordered

Do your quilts talk to you? Have you had an experience where you refused to listen? Please tell us about it.



March 10, 2013, Piecing
I’ve Got a Notion to Chain Piece

Every so often I need to do a gadget post because I’ve found a new one I want to share. This one was a Christmas gift from Judy Rosynek, a friend of mine who’s a regular student in my Thursday Open Labs at WCTC. Judy is talented, prolific and very generous. You can usually find her working on charity quilts for children and these strip pieced projects typically require a lot of chain piecing. The tool she shared is called a Chain Ripper. It is an ingenious device that is made up of simple components and acts as a third hand.

I recently was making a log cabin variation quilt that just happened to be chain pieced:

chain piecing

While sewing all these squares and strips together I remembered Judy’s thoughtful gift. It consists of a seam ripper, a wooden spool and a heart shaped piece of wood which is velcro’d to the spool.

chain ripperTo use it you simply take the protective cap off the ripper, grasp 2 of the chain pieced blocks and pull the threads between them into the sharp area on the ripper, continuing until all the “chains” have been cut:

chain rippingIt really simplifies this tedious step. The Chain Ripper is sold by Tracy at Oak Tree Quilts. You can order one from her by going to her website:

I’ve shared some other favorite notions in previous posts. Click on any of the following to read about them: The BestThe Best II, and Favorite New Notions.

Do you have a new notion or gadget you find helpful? Please tell us about it and where to get it. Thanks!



March 3, 2013, Notions Piecing
Have You Ever Made a Double Wedding Ring Quilt?

The past few days I’ve been getting back into some creative stitching by starting on a “small challenge” quilt through the Milwaukee Art Quilters. The challenge is called Objet D’arc and each participant was given a vintage double wedding ring (DWR) arc from a rummage sale find and asked to do something with it.

Double Wedding Ring arcs

I’m not ready to unveil the plan for my quilt yet, but part of it involves making a traditional DWR block with modern fabrics. The problem is I don’t enjoy curved piecing. I have a garment background and am capable of doing it, but it’s just not my favorite technique. I do however enjoy coming up with ways to avoid curved piecing! First I needed a pattern, so I did an image search, cropped a block out of a quilt photo, printed 4 copies, and outlined the arcs with a black marker.

I then cut out the curved strips and paper pieced them from my fishbowl of bright scraps!

At this point I decided to appliqué the curved edges, so I wet the seam allowances with liquid starch and a q-tip and pressed over the edge of the paper (be careful not to get the paper wet).

The next step involves clear thread. Be sure to use a good quality polyester invisible thread (not nylon – I prefer Superior or Sulky). At this point I’d like to insert a few tips on machine stitching with this thread.

1. If your machine warns you when the bobbin in nearing empty, it may not read low levels of the clear thread and thus stop you from sewing long before you reach empty. To avoid this, wind a bit of a cotton thread on the bobbin first and then wind the clear thread over the cotton thread.

bobbin filling

2. This is a very thin, strong thread and it winds very tightly on the bobbin. I’ve seen bobbins actually break from the pressure, so it’s a good idea to only fill them 1/2 to 3/4’s full.

working with invisible thread

Now back to appliqué. I pinned the arcs in place on the background fabric and stitched them down with the invisible thread and a very narrow zig zag (set stitch width and length at 1).

machine mock hand applique

This looks best when the needle pierces the appliqué piece as it swings left (in the picture above) and goes into the background only when it swings right, thus capturing the folded edge. I appliquéd all of the arcs in place this way and here’s the block:

double wedding ring

Then the paper needed to be removed by cutting away the background fabric:

It worked quite well. I don’t think I’ll ever do a bedsized DWR quilt this way, but it was fun in one block.

Have you ever made a DWR quilt the traditional way? I’d love to know how many of you enjoy curved piecing. Please comment and let me know.

December 31, 2012, Challenges Piecing Vintage Quilts
It’s Hip to Be Square

I’d like to begin with a quick aside: you can see all the winners from the Madison Quilt Expo at: :-)!

Now to the topic at hand. A few weeks back Pat emailed me asking for information on squaring up blocks. This is a great topic – it’s an important step, even if it is tedious and putsy.

We are so blessed to have tools and equipment to help us get great accuracy when quilting. Rotary cutters allow us to cut at precisely the right size. Sewing machines have feet that help us to get that perfect scant 1/4″ (if yours doesn’t please visit this previous post for a simple way to get accurate seams). Pressing with a dry iron keeps things from getting distorted (click here for more pressing information). And still there are times that things don’t fit together. When this happens we need to square up. If you make sure things are square every step of the way – flatter quilts are almost guaranteed.

The first place to check for the necessity of squaring up is the squares that make up the block. When making a bunch of half square triangles – measure to be sure they are all the same size before putting them into a block. Some quilters like to make these squares a bit larger intentionally so that they may be trimmed to the right size and never end up too small. Rebecca came to class this past Thursday with just such a project and was kind enough to let me photograph the squaring up for this post. Her block contained half square triangles and four patches on point.

The half square triangle block does not have an obvious center and is therefore a bit easier to square up:

1. Place a ruler on the block with the 45° line along the diagonal seam.

2. This square is supposed to be cut at 3 1/2″, so the ruler needs to be slid down close to the 3 1/2″ lines. Then the top and right sides can be rotary cut.

If the opposite sides are exactly along the 3 1/2″ lines, you’re done. If those uncut edges need a little attention, turn the block 180° and trim off the remaining edges.

The 4 patch on point blocks have a definite center and thus must be trimmed on all 4 sides.

1. First we need to determine half of the cut size – half of 3 1/2 is 1 3/4. Place the 45° line of the ruler on a diagonal seam, with the spot that is 1 3/4″ from each edge directly on the center of the block.

2. Rotary cut along the top and right side of the ruler.

3. Turn the square 180°, align the freshly cut edges with the 3 1/2″ lines and cut along the top and right edges of the ruler once again.

Here is the block laid out with all the squared up portions in place and ready to be sewn together. Since all of the squares are the same size it should now go together quite easily.

This type of squaring up is often not the last time it needs to be done. I like to be sure my blocks are square before I attach them one to another and I also find it helpful to square up the quilt top before adding borders. This may seem a bit excessive, but a flat quilt top is worth the extra effort.

Do you prefer to make your blocks oversized or do you strive for accuracy every step of the way to avoid the squaring up step?

Just a quick note for local quilters. My Railroad Tracks class at WCTC on Friday, October 5th needs a few more students to sign up so it can run.

Choose a lovely large print that is too pretty to cut into small pieces, then cut it into large squares and frame them with colorful, strip-pieced sashing. This quick and easy quilt features a surprise three-dimensional element.

If you’d like to join in the fun, please do so on-line or call registration at (262) 691-5578. The offering is #304-604U-002 and the CRN # is 11706.

Thanks, Chris

September 23, 2012, Piecing
And the Capers Continue

I recently received an email from Cindy Frese and here’s what she had to say:

“Hi Chris, I was searching for patterns to piece flowers for the border of a quilt I’m currently working on. I couldn’t quite find what I was looking for so I used your folding method from Compass Capers to create what I wanted. It worked great for all of them including the tulips. Thought I’d let you see how they turned out. Thanks, Cindy”.

Here’s the picture of her blocks:

My response to her email was: “WOW”! It is such a thrill for me as  a teacher to see students take something from my class and make it truly their own.

I asked her for a few more pictures to see what she was doing with the blocks. Within a day she had the blocks on the quilt and sent the pictures my way, saying that this is a queen size quilt and the blocks were meant to anchor each corner of the quilt because they looked a little plain. Here’s the whole quilt top:

And a close up of a corner:

A very clever border idea!

Another example of this was sent my way a few months ago by Michelle Costen.

This is a very creative piece. What a blessing it is to me to know that I played a part in these wonderful quilts. Praise the Lord – and thanks so much Cindy and Michelle.

When Wendy Rieves and I made our quilt, “Welcoming the Son Into Our Garden”, for the National Quilt Museum’s New Quilts From an Old Favorite contest, I wanted to piece a variety of “sunflowers” into the background to compliment her wonderful raw edge flowers. Some of the background “sunflowers” were made like traditional Dresden Plates, but others were compass variations – including the Sun!

If you have made a unique compass using my technique, please let me know…or better yet – email me a picture please :-).

If you would like to learn how to draft your own compass blocks, you may purchase my book, Compass Capers, by clicking on it in the sidebar at the right or email me at



June 3, 2012, Design Piecing
A New Look For My Blog & a Quick Miter Tutorial

Welcome to my new blog look!

Diahann Lohr, of Adunate Word and Design, inspired me to create my blog over a year ago. I then hired her to design my website, now she has integrated the two. I’m thrilled and I hope you enjoy the change!

The address for my new blog is: It’s shorter and simpler than my previous blog address, and the good news is that if you usually access my site by clicking on the link in my emails, you can continue to get here the same way. Please feel free to offer feedback by clicking on the word “comment” at the end of this post.

This week’s topic is about my favorite way to miter a border. Once you have sewn on the border strips, stopping both seams 1/4″ away from the corner to be mitered, it’s as easy as:

1. Fold diagonally through the quilt while aligning the border strips on t0p of each other (right sides together), and lay a ruler along the fold with the 45° line along the stitching.

2. Draw along the edge of the ruler on the border strip, remove the ruler and pin.

3. Sew on the line!

I’ve been doing a bit of mitering lately because I was designing a new Attic Window project for a Summer class at WCTC in Waukesha. If you live in southeastern Wisconsin I’d love to have you sign up for a class or 2. Here are my upcoming Summer classes:

Attic Windows – Use this three-dimensional style block to showcase your favorite “too-beautiful-to-cut” fabrics. Learn how to make the windows different sizes to accommodate whatever you choose to set in them. It’s also a great pattern for setting a printed panel scene “through the window”, finishing up a collection of  embroidered blocks, or even showcasing leftover blocks from previous quilt projects. Thursday, July 12, 9 – 2:30.

Threaded Borders – In this advanced machine quilting class you’ll create delightful borders and illusions using only free motion quilting techniques and contrasting thread. This class is for those comfortable with free-motion quilting who want to advance their skills. Thursday, July 26, 9 – 2:30

Compass Capers – Using the steps from my new book, learn easy paper folding techniques to draft a Mariner’s compass block. Begin with a traditional round compass, then learn to create compasses of different shapes and sizes. From there, select a favorite design and and learn how to paper piece it. Thursday, June 21, 9 -2:30

Great Finishes – Bindings are nice, but there are so many exciting variations and options for finishing the edge of a quilt: piped, ric rac, bias, curved, couched, faced, and even continuous prairie points. Make samples of each in class to keep for future reference.

To register on line go to:; click on “Class Search”; check Summer semester and fill in “quilting” in the Course Title/Subject Box; Click “Submit” and all the summer quilt classes will appear. Then follow the site directions to register.

Compass Capers

I’d like to send a big thank-you to everyone who commented on last week’s blog post with opinions on classes. I was very pleased with all the suggestions and will really take them into consideration when planning new projects!

Now for my exciting news:

Compass Capers – Create Your Own Unique Mariner’s Compass Quilt is now in print and available on my website!!!

Thanks to all who sent suggestions for the book name or voted for their favorite in the previous post. This title was the winner that made the front cover with a good majority of the votes:

Compass Capers - Create Your Own Unique Mariner's Compass Quilt

The runner up book name was one of my husband’s suggestions and it made the back cover:

Compass Capers book, back cover

Inside you’ll find instructions for drafting compasses any shape or any size. It’s not difficult because it’s done with paper folding techniques and there are pictures every step of the way. Then learn to paper piece your creation with clear step by step instructions and loads of pictures once again.

There are also photographs of many of the Mariner’s Compass quilts I’ve created over the years.

Most Mariner’s Compass books limit the pattern options. Compass Capers is different. By letting you decide on the shape and size of your blocks, the pattern options are endless. Your imagination is your only limitation!

To order your own autographed copy, click here!

April 15, 2012, Inspiration Piecing
Friendship, Travel and Autograph Quilts

Quilting friends are the greatest and traveling with quilting friends is an absolute joy! When Wendy and I lead our Sew We Go adventures we always have a “pre-trip” project and a “take along” project. The pre-trip projects for the past 5 tours have included autograph blocks that we exchange while traveling. They’re a wonderful way to preserve memories just like the Album Quilts our grandmothers used to make.

Each trip we choose a block and all those who desire to participate make enough blocks to exchange, as well as enough extra blocks to complete the chosen pattern.

Our Danube Cruise block was paper pieced in shades of blue and green to evoke memories of gentle waves. 

This type of piecing guarantees all the blocks will fit together .

On our Holland Cruise we had everyone make “flying geese” that could be put together into a Dutchman’s Puzzle block.

I also had my geese fly between the other portions of my quilt.

While floating through the south of France we exchanged Indian Hatchet blocks (that’s the block’s name, I didn’t make it up).

I chose to make my blocks into a tote bag.

The Irish Chain pattern was an obvious choice for our trip to Ireland. There are 2 blocks in this quilt: each quilter made checkerboard blocks and background blocks out of batiks and we signed and exchanged only the background blocks.

This is such a lovely pattern!

Wendy and I are so excited about our next Sew We Go adventure. We’ll be traveling through Italy this coming October and here’s a preview of the design for our Tuscan Sun friendship quilt. We’ll sign the middle rails in the rail fence blocks:

Rome, Sienna, Florence, the Vatican!

Art, Sights, Food, Wine!

It promises to be a wonderful trip and there are still a few spaces available. Click here for all the information!

Do you have any special autograph quilts? Please send pictures to my email,, and I’ll post them in a future blog!

March 4, 2012, Piecing Travel
Simply Dynamic

Here’s an easy way to have a little design fun. Choose a simple 6″ block that has a strong diagonal, and make it in 2 high contrast fabrics. The possibilities will be even greater if you make positive and negative versions of the block. These are the 2 blocks I started with:

I made 24 blocks – 12 light and 12 dark.
Now the fun begins. Let’s start with the blocks set side by side and in the same orientation. I’ve put all the darker blocks in the arrangement on the left and all the lighter ones on the right.
Sweet, but not very exciting. Let’s try alternating the dark and light blocks while still keeping them in the same orientation:
Now we’re getting somewhere….but what if we divided the darks and lights up once again and butted the 2 halves together….while turning every other block?
Now let’s go a bit crazy!
At this point I think I need to double the number of blocks and try playing a little more with the symmetry:
That’s my favorite so far! Here are a few more I came up with:
Sew many options!
To help in my decision making I took a picture each time I tried something new and then pasted them onto a page on my computer screen to compare them all and glean out the best (I didn’t show the klinkers :-). That’s where I got the idea for this post.
Any block with a strong diagonal can be played with in a similar fashion. Have you used similar blocks in a unique set? If so, please send pictures!

February 26, 2012, Design Piecing
Leftovers Revisited

After the previous “Leftovers” post I received an email from Lucy Zeldenrust. Lucy is from Manitowoc, WI and she shared another great idea for using those coordinated leftovers:

Here is what I do with leftovers…after I have ‘overcut’ , I can sometimes get a small lap quilt or crib quilt out of the pieces, possibly with the additions of another fabric.  My favorite, however, is to put the leftover bits, pieces, strips and small amount of fabric from a project into a zip lock bag, and put them into my “leftover box”  When the church, senior center, Nature center, etc. need something for a raffle, it is a pretty quick job to whip out a pillow or two or three from these already matched/coordinated  pieces.  I’m attaching 2 photos of the front and back  of a ‘leftover’ pillow. (I make and quilt two small “quilts” then sew them together to form  the pillow )  I have even occasionally handed them out to my small quilt group (where we do whatever the monthly hostess passes out) and asked them to make a 14 or 16″ square from them(adding whatever they wish) for a future pillow.  Got some interesting and (mostly ) attractive results.

This was just so clever, I had to share it.  Thanks Lucy!

So, how do you use up your leftovers?

Merry Christmas!

I’ve decided to take a short “blog break” during this beautiful season. There is so much to keep me busy while celebrating the birth of the Savior and I know you are all busy too. So, I’ll get right back at it after January 1st. I wish you all a blessed Christmas, Chris

December 11, 2011, Inspiration Piecing

I’d like to offer a huge “Thank You” to everyone who responded with votes and opinions for my Mariner’s Compass book title dilemma. I was impressed with all the creativity and I must admit the one that made me laugh out loud was “Origama-mama, Folding Your Way to a Mariner’s Compass”. I’ve made my decision, but you’ll have to wait until the book comes out to see which ones will be used :-)!

That being said, let’s get to this week’s topic: Leftovers!

Isn’t it more fun, when a project is completed, to start something new rather than clean up the leftovers? I think this is one of the reasons my studio gets so cluttered …… small, leftover project piles everywhere. Ugh!

When I do finally decide to clean it all up, there are always chunks and strips of coordinating stuff that I don’t know what to do with. If there are just a few portions of a few strips, I shove them into my  “light” and “dark” scrap bags, but sometimes I really overcut and, since I put a lot of effort into coordinating the fabrics, I hate to randomly throw them into the bags. So the piles sit.

Wait until you see what I came up with :-)!

There’s a new “Jelly Roll” technique making the rounds that is a lot of fun. The idea is to sew all the strips in the roll end to end until you have a verrrrrry long strip. Then you grab both ends of this long strip and begin to sew it together lengthwise until you meet at center. Cut the fold so the unit is half the length and double the width. Continue halving the unit in this manner until you have a strippy, scrappy quilt the size you want (this will really depend on how many strips you started with).

I decided to try this new technique on a pile from a bargello quilt I made a few years back. Those strips have been sitting out ever since – probably feeling very unloved and unwanted.

Sew, I laid out the leftover strips in value order. Then, before sewing them end to end, I realized I could take the leftover stripped units from the project and cut them into the same size strips

 and put them in the mix.

Once that was done I sewed them all end to end and the fun began!

I now have a lovely lap quilt, ready for borders and quilting, and no leftover strips! Hooray!!

November 27, 2011, Piecing UFO
Flange in Photos

Natalie commented that she’d like more instructions on inserting the flange from last week’s blog. So here goes…and with pictures 🙂

1. Cut a strip from contrasting fabric 1″ x the length of each side for a ¼” wide flange or 1 ½”  x the length of each side for a ½” flange.

2. Press these strips in half, lengthwise, wrong sides together.

3. Lay a flange along one side of the the quilt top, keeping all raw edges even and pin in place. Repeat on the opposite side.

4. Repeat for the remaining 2 sides.

Here’s a close up of the “keeping the raw edges even” part:

5. If you’re adventurous, you may leap to step 6. If you’re cautious, you may stitch the flanges in place with a basting stitch, all the way around. Use a seam allowance that is shy of ¼” so these stitches won’t show later.

6. Border quilt as usual.

By basting the flanges in place in this way, the flanges look as if they are just a narrow border.

It is “legal” (remember – there are no quilt police) to just tuck the flanges into each border seam as the borders are sewn on without cutting them to fit and basting them in place, but  then you get a different look as in this tumbling blocks quilt:

This look isn’t wrong, it’s just different.

One warning with flanges – they lay on top of the quilt and extend into it ¼” or ½”If there are triangles pieced to the edge, the flange will lay over them and the points will be lost. So they work best on non-pieced outer edges or between plain borders.

Flanges may also be added just before binding.

If you’ve never tried a flange – I highly recommend you do :-)!

October 2, 2011, finishing Piecing
Foundation Piecing

Thanks to everyone who commented or sent me input on the best tear away stabilizer. I enjoyed reading all about it and still want to try the EQ paper.

While teaching this weekend at the Sewing and Quilting Expo in Platteville, WI, a student in one of my classes said that she recently foundation pieced a pineapple log cabin quilt using a wash away foundation and she was pleased with the results. I asked her to send me the name of the one she liked and I will pass it along to you. Do you have any thoughts on wash aways?

Since we’re on the subject of foundation/paper piecing, I thought I’d share a new gadget I was introduced to in a workshop I took in Paducah with RaNae Merrill. RaNae foundation pieces amazing Spiral Mandala quilts. One of the problems brought on by the flood in Paducah this year was that the church where the classes ended up being held didn’t have the right electric set up for multiple irons. Therefore, when RaNae introduced us to pressing with wall paper rollers, it was a hit.

She said the little, wooden “finger irons” had a tendency to stretch the fabric, but the roller didn’t. I’ve tried the finger iron and I didn’t find it worked that well.


But I really like the roller! Using it at home is sure to save me a bit of money on my electric bill – irons use a lot of juice! I purchased the one in the picture in class. They’re high quality and available on her site:

The picture shows the correct way to hold it to reduce stress on the neck of the roller and the arm of the quilter too :-).


Do you have any favorite foundation piecing tips or tools?

PS Jeanie sent me a fascinating site about a design proposal for the  XXII Winter Olympic Games. Click here for some great quilt designs:

June 12, 2011, Notions Piecing
Tear Away

I’m not a huge fan of paper (foundation) piecing, but for some projects its a must. I typically choose it when I want great accuracy in my piecing.

Most often this is when I’m working on a Mariner’s Compass quilt, because I’ve discovered a way to draft compasses any shape and any size with simple paper folding techniques.

For this I use newsprint. “Roll ends” of newsprint can be found at most newspaper offices for very little expense (yielding a good amount of large paper!).

I find the newsprint tears off easily after stitching.

While I was in Paducah I purchased a pack of EQ Printables. The sheets can go through a printer and are supposed to be easy to tear away. Have you tried it? What do you think?

There are currently so many options I haven’t tried: other tear aways, wash aways, heat aways. I don’t have the time (or inclination 🙂 to try them all, so help me please!

What’s your favorite?

Any you would avoid?

June 6, 2011, Piecing
Do Your Blocks End Up Too Small?

Recently I’ve been working on a project that requires very accurate piecing. It got me thinking about the best way to get an accurate scant 1/4″ seam allowance (sa). The reason quilters strive for a scant 1/4″ sa is because we often press our seams to the side and this pressing takes up a thread or two (about 1/16″) to accomplish. When using an exact 1/4″  sa this small amount may not seem like much until it’s mulitiplied by 8 seams across the block. Now the block is 1/2″ too small and that is a problem.

The trick is to use an index card with 1/4″ lines. Cut the bottom of the card on the last line. Place it under the machine and lower the needle into the card so that the left side of the needle just “kisses”  the next line.

Now you simply need to place a piece of tape along the edge of the card, being careful not to tape over the feed dogs.

Remove the card and use the edge of the tape as your guide.

An added benefit is that this technique can yield identical seam allowances on different machines! Let me explain. There are times when I stitch on the same project on 2 different machines (like when taking a class). I can take the card with me, place the needle on the school’s  machine in the hole and tape next to it.

Voila – it works no matter what foot is on the machines. 

This is also a very handy way to keep group projects accurate. If you’re having a “sew in” at guild and many people are making blocks for the same quilt, use the same card to tape everyone’s machine and the blocks will fit together!

Do you have a different way you like? Is the foot for your machine a scant 1/4″? Please share any thoughts :-)!

May 30, 2011, Piecing
A Pressing Issue

Many years ago my quilting teacher, Sharon, taught me the ABC’s of quilting:

A is for accurate

B is for be accurate

C is for continue to be accurate

And then know how to fudge when things don’t work :-)!

Many quilters think that pressing is a relatively unimportant topic, but I disagree. We have wonderful tools for cutting extremely accurate pieces; then we strive to sew a perfect “scant quarter inch seam allowance” on our fantastic sewing machines; only to “iron” them with steam while stretching and smashing them all out of whack. So much for accuracy.

I’ve found that if I press (not iron) my seams – to the side – with a dry iron I can virtually eliminate the need to “square up”. In my opinion, if I rotary cut 100 squares and sew 50 pairs from them, then I carefully press each pair flat; I’ve handled them enough and I don’t feel like wasting more time recutting every one to the size I need. Life is just too short for the extra step if it’s easy to avoid. So how do I press without distorting?

1.  After sewing the seam, lay it down unopened and press the dry iron down at one end of the seam, lift, move and press again without sliding the iron. Continue until the entire seam is pressed. This sets the stitches and gives a crisper result.

2. Fold the top fabric down over the seam and finger press. Once it’s flat, place the hot, dry iron on top of it. Move your fingers down to the next portion, followed by the iron again and repeat for the entire seam.

It’s been working well for me. So………do you agree? If you haven’t tried it, please do and let me know what you think.

PS In my original posting of this blog message, my wording gave the idea that I press the seams open. I almost always press to the side and have made the correction above. Thanks to those who spotted it :-).

PPS I do use steam when the quilt top is done and I want to encourage it to be as perfect as possible :o).

April 17, 2011, Piecing