Category Archives: fabric

Triple finish

Done, done and DONE! Finally, I finished two UFOs and all eight Santa place mats. I hadn’t done any machine quilting since before we moved in 2014, so I chose smaller projects to ease myself back into the groove.

I admit, shame was the motivating factor for crossing the finish line, particularly since each of these projects was started around the turn of the century. First is the 42″ x 42″ Fences ‘n Firs wall hanging.

Designed by Susan Preglow and Cathy Slatterly, the pattern for this was featured in the January 2000 issue of McCall’s Quick Quilts.

I loved the scrappy nature of the design, but as a newbie quilter back then, I had no stash and no scraps, so I used fat quarters and standard, quarter-yard cuts to piece the top. Now, 17 years later, I can’t imagine my quilting life with no stash, although I could definitely embrace the no-scraps aspect of it!

Quilting this little project was an exercise in one step forward, two steps back. Besides not knowing for the longest time how to quilt the tree blocks, once I did figure it out, I ended up re-quilting all 12 of them because I hated the way they looked. The nylon thread I had used just didn’t look right, so I ended up using matching thread. Tension issues led me to quilt nearly half of them yet a third time.

On top of that, I’m hoping the stain in one of the rail fence blocks hasn’t permanently set in.

I’m not exactly sure how it got there; it’s possibly an acid stain from the packing paper the quilts were wrapped and stored in while we moved and built our house. More likely, it was caused by a Texas cockroach (no amount of pest control keeps them ALL away). Disgusting, I know.

The backing is pieced with leftovers from the top:

I used a simple cable design for the border:

Here’s a look at the free motion machine quilting of a tree from the back:

and a maple leaf:

The vertical lines running through the leaf are the ditch quilting lines inside the rail fence blocks.

My machine quilting is definitely improving, but I still find it intimidating.

My second finish is this simple, 46″ x 54″ quilt:

There must’ve been a perfectly good OCD reason for the last square in the bottom row to be red instead of blue, but so much time has passed, I don’t remember what it was.

The squares are quilted with diagonal lines spaced two inches apart and the sashing strips and border are quilted with a single cable design.

It’s made with Aunt Grace Christmas prints, which were available between 1996 and 2001.

Check out these vintage cuties:

Here is the backing fabric:

The only two places I could have bought these prints is Houston or a little shop in Estes Park, Colorado. The striped fabric used for the binding was purchased at the Houston Quilt Festival in the early 2000s.

Completing the binding for all eight Santa place mats is the third and final finish. Here they are with their matching table runner:

Although the curved edges in this project required it, I discovered that I’m not fond of working with bias binding!

It feels good to say “done,” but there’s still a lot on the list, so I’d best keep on keepin’ on.

Thanks for checking in!


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Filed under binding, borders, Christmas, fabric, machine quilting, quilting, scrappy backs, thread

A retail phone conversation

Me:      Hi. Do you carry batiks?

Clerk:  Yes.

Me:      Great. I purchased a batik in another state and need more. It’s a tone-on-tone with a small floral print in a very light gray-green color on an antique white background. Do you have anything that might even remotely match that description?

Clerk:  We might (silence).

Me:      Is there any way you can check?

Clerk:  Not unless I have the name of the manufacturer or the item number.

And…this is why people shop online.

When a call like that came into the shop where I used to work, we would always go to the appropriate section of the shop to at least do a visual check for that customer. Not sure why the person I spoke with couldn’t be bothered to do the same, but no matter, I took my business elsewhere.

Here’s the batik I was looking for:


I bought two yards of it last October when we went to Colorado for my niece’s wedding. It’s perfect for the neutral squares that go with these scrappy 9-patch blocks.



Filed under fabric, piecing

Plaid stars

I’ve been working on these 5-pointed star blocks done in homespun plaids:


The block is composed of 11 pieces, all with at least two bias edges, and is the polar opposite of instant gratification, requiring templates, tracing, cutting, marking, pinning and sewing, one patch at a time. This block is for quilters who enjoy the process and are not in a hurry. Because it’s so labor intensive, it creates fast burn out, so I work on it off and on when I’m in the mood. With 14 blocks completed, I’m a little more than a third of the way through and ready to set it aside and work on something else for  a while.


The quilt containing this block was featured in Rodale Press’ book Fast, Fun & Fabulous Quilts, with credit going to Judith Hughes Marte for the design. It was love at first sight.


Since my first view of the quilt pattern about 15 years ago, I have collected a nice assortment of homespun plaids and stripes, buying only a quarter yard of each; half a yard if I absolutely love it.

This project is the perfect reason to build a stash. Homespuns are not always easy to find, and if you’re going scrappy like this quilt dictates, you need to have plenty of patterns and colors to choose from to make it interesting and keep the boredom at bay.









In the meantime, we have enjoyed having Eric and Ross home for Christmas. They’re going back to school in a couple of days and have yet to go through all the boxes of their stuff. Let the mom nagging begin!


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1,004 patches and climbing

Yesterday I finished adding one more set of rows to my 1930s postage stamp quilt:

SG path 5 rows

Having reached my breaking point of handling 1″ squares (954 of them, to be exact), I packed all the little scraps and pieces for it back into the drawer of my storage unit,


after which the top got folded and hung in the closet. I’ll work on it again, but right now, I just can’t look at it.

It was kind of a relief to see the design wall empty and I took a picture of it so I could share with you how it was made, which I will do tomorrow.

Then I cleaned and oiled my sewing machine and dusted and vacuumed my sewing room in anticipation of starting a new project. I really shouldn’t start a new project but all the snow and sub-zero temperatures have made me wish for spring and this project fits the bill. I’ll explain more in a future post, but just to give you an idea, this is the focus fabric:

The flowers, with their colors and shadings, reminded me of my mom.

The flowers, with their colors and shadings, reminded me of my mom.

In the meantime, here are the next 10 Aunt Grace snowball blocks:


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Filed under fabric, piecing

Back from the cold and frozen south

Houston was COLD last week. Thursday and Friday it was warmer here in Denver than it was in Houston—cold, wet, icy, teeth-chattering, bone-chilling cold—burrrrr! I was so grateful to Rhonda for loaning me her parka and gloves (shiver)!

As usual, I had a great time—got to see the old neighborhood, visit with a few of our former neighbors, see my niece, get a decent haircut from my former stylist, shop at some local quilt stores, have lunch with the girls and marvel once again at the monument to concrete that is now Interstate 10—seven lanes, both sides. What more could a girl ask for?

On Thursday, my niece picked me up at the airport and we went to lunch at one of our favorite pizza places. Dining choices in Denver consist primarily of boring and tiresome chain eateries; the city sorely lacks one-of-a-kind, sole-proprietor restaurants with great food, so when I return to Houston my agenda always includes hitting at least a couple favorite spots since it will be a year before I get to enjoy them again.


Later we went to see her new apartment; it’s in a good neighborhood and close to great supermarkets, tons of office space (if she ever decides to change jobs), and a fabulous bike trail—if she’s so inclined. I’m so proud of her because she managed to get out of a lousy roommate situation before her lease expired—no small accomplishment.

On Friday after my haircut, I ran across the street to Half Price Books and found these:

quilt books1

The blue book titled Taking the Math Out of Making Patchwork Quilts by Bonnie Leman and Judy Martin is a great reference for computing yardage for patterns. I especially like the tables that give you measurements for diagonal sets, including how different sashing widths impact the size of a diagonally set quilt.

The topics addressed in this book are referenced on the back cover.

The topics addressed in this book are referenced on the back cover.

quilt books2

Ever since I started designing, I’ve been on the lookout for block books and I was rewarded this trip with two. I also thought it was time to learn more about color (the book on the left) so I scooped it up. These four books together, all in excellent condition, cost $9.00 to $10.00 less than one brand new quilt book you would find at any quilt shop.


On Saturday, neighbor Joe Ann, Rhonda and her co-worker and I went out to lunch and did our own little shop hop of three stores south and west of Houston. Joe Ann was excited to go to one that had recently opened because she learned it was stocked with Downton Abbey fabric and she just had to have some.

I found some basic Christmas prints

Christmas dots

and a homespun plaid:

purple plaid

Here are the next 10 snowball blocks for my 30s scrap quilt:


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Filed under Christmas, fabric, miscellaneous

Parallel paths: kitchen and piecing marathons

Piecing for the Cocheco Memories sampler is done! I stitched the last border on about 10:00 Sunday night.

For the inner border, I used a golden brown moiré print. Because the moiré is fairly pronounced and busy, I decided to fussy cut strips in order to center just one section of the moiré in the border’s width. It wasn’t difficult to do, just time consuming, but worth the effort.

inner border

The finished border measures 1″ so I cut strips 1½” wide. Since the moiré design ran parallel to the lengthwise grain and I only had ⅝ yard, I had to piece the border in three sections to get enough length for each side.

First, I positioned a 20″ square ruler over one of the moiré stripes, centering it between two lines of the ruler from top to bottom. Then I marked the width at the top and bottom of the ruler lines:


Next, I used a 6″ x 24″ ruler to mark the cutting lines from top to bottom


This allowed me to make sure the moiré stripe was centered in the 1″ width. (It’s hard to get a great visual when looking through the ruler.)

center check

When all 12 strips were marked, I cut ¼” from each marked line to get 1½” wide strips.

cutting close up

final strips

The outer border ended up wider than originally intended after I auditioned two sizes. I thought the one on the right was just too skimpy for the quilt; it needed a slightly wider frame.

CM border choices

To keep the busyness of the stripe in check, I made sure the flowers appeared right side up in the borders on the right and left and positioned the same flower at the top. Cutting on print/off grain can be a little scary, but it was necessary for this fabric.

blue fussy cut

Here’s the finished quilt top:

The red you see in the corner 9-patch blocks will be used for the binding.

The red you see in the corner 9-patch blocks will be used for the binding.

Yesterday I made manicotti for dinner

manicotti done

and Eric’s birthday cake—five months early, but I don’t think it’s realistic to assume that shipping a cake to Afghanistan is a smart idea.

Tonight Eric requested rosemary chicken with bow tie pasta and steamed broccoli.


Filed under borders, fabric, home cookin', kids, piecing

Some sampler blocks

Here’s my show and tell of the completed blocks that are made with the Cocheco Mills fabric:

9 patch

Irish chain

log cabin

Some of the prints in the collection (like the green moiré in the friendship star) have a definite direction, so I stayed mindful of it when cutting and piecing the blocks.

Some of the prints in the collection (like the green moiré in the friendship star) have a definite direction, so I stayed mindful of it when cutting and piecing the blocks.

These fabrics are for the flying geese units which I hope to have done by the weekend:

fg fabrics

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Cross grain strips: not a panacea for all piecing

If you’re like me and dislike working with 40″ – 44″ width-of-fabric strips, consider trying this:

Cut your patches with the longest side parallel to the lengthwise grain (the selvage edge). Having the longest side parallel to the lengthwise grain gives your patches maximum stability because there is little chance of them stretching out of shape.

I’ll use the lawn chair quilt as an example, together with the assumption that the width of the fabric equals 40 inches.

The lawn chair quilt requires (40) 2½” x 12½” white strips.


If you use cross grain (width of fabric) strips, you would cut (14) 2½” strips, then sub cut each strip into 12½” segments. You would get (3) 12½” segments per strip.

Cross grain cutting diagram The sections marked with an X represent leftover fabric.

Cross grain cutting diagram
The sections marked with an X represent leftover fabric.

If cutting lengthwise strips, you would first cut (3) 12½” width-of-fabric strips, then sub cut each of those into (16) 2½” strips.

Lengthwise grain cutting diagram

Lengthwise grain cutting diagram

first cut

cutting strips

In the end, cutting my strips along the lengthwise grain was less efficient relative to fabric yardage required and the amount left over, but every cutting situation is different. I helped a customer at the shop one day who was having trouble understanding fabric requirements for a pattern. After studying it with pencil and calculator handy, we determined it would be more efficient for her to cut strips parallel to the selvage.

I cut strips from the batik fabrics the same way.

I cut strips from the batik fabrics the same way.

In the case of the lawn chair quilt, I was willing to use a bit more fabric in exchange for patches that are more manageable and an easier-to-work-with leftover piece. As with all things quilting, the decision is yours.

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Filed under fabric, rotary cutting

Mrs. ADD and Mr. OCD pay a visit

Mrs. ADD and Mr. OCD inserted themselves into my day yesterday. First, Mrs. ADD demanded that I set aside the table runner and ignore the binding on Railroad Ties and instead, assigned me the task of  gathering all my pink batiks to cut out the next version of the lawn chair quilt. She was quite insistent; you don’t say no to her!

pink batiks

I also washed and ironed the pinks I pulled last week so I could play with fabric choices for Mom’s Red Pink Idea. Now my sewing room is very girly-girl with an explosion (as my niece described it) of pink fabrics everywhere.

Mom pinks1

Mom pinks2

Once all the batiks were cut, Mr. OCD dictated that I organize and straighten that drawer of batik fabrics (man, is he strict!) whereupon I found yet another pink. Here it is, all nice and neat:

batik drawer

I chose this white-on-white dot print for the pink/white lawn chair quilt:

You can't tell from the photo, but those dots are shiny!

You can’t tell from the photo, but those dots are shiny!

We had a nice rainstorm Wednesday evening. Ross took this photo of the storm gathering force:

rain photo

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Filed under fabric, organizing

Mom’s (red) pink idea

I found this scrap of paper tucked between a bunch of stuff in the linen closet at my parents’ house.


Thankfully, I was OCD enough to unfold it before tossing because it contained a sketch made by my mom of a quilt. The colorings in the scan of this image appear red and Mom’s notes at the bottom listed red/white fabric options, including a bit of black, but to the naked eye, the colorings look pink, which I  like better.

Mom's quilt design

I went through my pink fabrics and found some possible choices for this pattern:

My pink stash appears to be hideously large….

My pink stash appears to be hideously large….

I tried to find prints my mom referenced in both her sketch and her notes: dots, plaids/checks and flowers.

Then I drew it in Electric Quilt:

Is this too pink?

Is this too pink?

I’m certain the blocks can be strip pieced and cut with a triangle template to avoid dealing with all those trapezoidal shaped pieces so I’ll be trolling quilt cyber world to locate that technique. In the meantime, this pattern joins the gazillion others amassed in my EQ file drawer of quilts to make—now where’d I put that time machine?

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Filed under Electric Quilt, fabric, Mom