Category Archives: piecing

6 more plaid stars

May’s plaid star blocks got finished in the nick of time – one day before the calendar rolls to June. I spent two solid weekends at the beginning of the month cutting the 130 background patches for the remaining 26 blocks, followed by the cutting of 156 star patches, followed by the marking of all 286 patches and then finally, laying them out.

To tame my OCD tendencies, I tried to cut an equal number of background patches with the stripes running both horizontally and vertically. For the star patches, I tried to use each of the 7 colors (except for brown) more or less equally in each position. I also tried not to use the same plaid in the same place twice, very much possible with my healthy homespun stash. Years of fabric hoarding does have advantages, yes?

Most would not care about any of those self-imposed rules, but my brain requires me to deal with these details.

It’s been liberating to have all the prep work and color decisions out of the way so I can sit and sew whenever the mood strikes or time allows. Also, with this advantage, I should be able to finish piecing the top by the end of the year.



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Plaid star blocks: ramping back up

After two marathon plaid star block weekends at the end of March, I took a couple weeks off. Yesterday I immersed myself back into the groove when greeted by a cool, rainy Saturday morning. I finished cutting the last few star pieces and then spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon marking seam lines on the remaining 286 patches.

I had to revise my decision to go with a 7 x 8 block setting because of the way the quilt is sashed. The pattern calls for vertical sashing between the blocks in each row but NO sashing between the rows.

Image captured from EQ.

In a 7 x 8 setting, the quilt measured 6 inches wider than it was long, which looked peculiar.

A 7 x 9 setting resulted in an almost square quilt by 2 inches. With a jump in the block count from 56 to 63, I had to make sure there was enough background fabric in my stash for an extra 35 patches without too many repeats of any one fabric.

Thankfully, there was, but I spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to get the maximum number of patches from each of the remaining fabrics, most of which, by then, were less than a fat eighth in size.

It’s like playing with paper dolls, but it works!

With 37 blocks completed, there are 26 to go. At 5 per month, I’ll be able to start putting the top together by September or October and then hope for an end of year finish—of the top, not the quilt—as there is a pieced border, which will take extra time.

In the meantime, here are April’s blocks:


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February star blocks – better late than never

I missed my self-imposed deadline for my February star blocks. Now, if February had the same number of days as March or June, and I’d had a day off work, they’d have been done in time. Yeah, that sounds good.

I’m well aware that piecing these blocks falls well outside the realm of instant gratification so, out of curiosity, I set a timer to see how long it took to just pin, sew and press five star blocks: 2 hours, 34 minutes. Yikes! That’s more than half an hour per block. Sewing the sub units together consumes most of that time because of the difficulty in matching all the diagonal seams. Once in a great while, I’m lucky and nail it the first time, but more often than not, un-sewing and re-sewing multiple times is required for a perfect match.

For the next set, I’m going to see how long it takes to mark the seam lines.

Happy quilting!

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I finished piecing two more plaid star blocks and I’m really liking the way they’re turning out, even though the going is slow.

I also finished the second charity quilt required by my guild. Both quilts allowed me to practice quilting on my APQS George, and although I’m still getting used to it, I learned a lot. Now I’m anxious to finish a couple of my own quilts that have been languishing in the UFO pile because they are too big to run under the Bernina with any modicum of success. Twenty inches of throat space is magical!

Admittedly, the quilt is nothing special to look at, as the fabric in the kit put together by the guild is vintage 1990s, but hopefully it will get good use and keep someone warm.

Over the weekend, I upgraded to Electric Quilt 8. It was nice to save a little cash by having the option to download the two guides rather than having to purchase a printed manual.

I got both printed and bound, and worked through the first exercise in the Quick Start Guide.

The user interface is completely different and I really like it. Now I’m wishing for a week off from work to immerse myself in it and start designing again—maybe over the holidays.

My last little tidbit of news is that I scored a free ticket to the Houston Quilt Festival next weekend.

The woman who cuts my hair has a client who works for Quilts, Inc. The client left some complimentary tickets with her to give to her customers so she called and asked if I wanted one! I only have one day to go, so it will be a marathon day, but I’m looking forward to it.

Happy quilting!


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Filed under Electric Quilt, machine quilting, piecing

Resolutions? Yeah, well, maybe…

Last month, in typical New Year’s resolution fashion, I plugged all my quilty UFOs into an embarrassingly lengthy Excel spreadsheet to get a


reality check

WAKEUP CALL……….about the true number of tops languishing in the closet that need finishing—after which I dove deep into piecing my batik zig zag nine patch top.


One project I dug up while compiling the spreadsheet was a Santa table runner and set of eight matching placemats which I had started when the boys were little (around the turn of the century) and stashed away under the bed with a serious promise to myself that I would finish them onedaysoon—ha!


Life intervened and those poor, cute little santas snoozed under the bed until last Thanksgiving when, for about two minutes I deluded myself into thinking that I might be able to finish binding the placemats in time for our company Christmas party—ha! The table runner was completely finished and all the placemats had binding sewn on, needing only hand stitching to secure it to the back, but with eight of them, there was just no way.


The plan is to stitch one per month to avoid boredom, but still finish the set in time for Christmas 2017. Now that’s realistic.

Thanks for checking in!

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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

Scrappy (and pretty) in pink

Last week I pulled all the leftover pink batik cuts from my pink lawn chair quilt to piece the backing for it.

pink white lawn chair quilt

I love the challenge of piecing the puzzle and the satisfaction of using up my stash.


Here is the binding:


Thanks for checking in!

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Filed under binding, piecing, scrappy backs

Is there life after 323 Aunt Grace snowball blocks?

After recovering from being sick in April, I got on a tear to finish all the snowball blocks for my Aunt Grace scrap quilt, although I have no idea why I became so obsessed.


The final three!

The final three!

By graduation day (May 13), I had already sewn two rows together and was starting a third.

No borders yet, and already it’s bigger than the design wall....

No borders yet, and already it’s bigger than the design wall….

I committed to sewing two rows per week, but as things rolled along, I upped it to three rows per week in order to finish piecing the top by June 30, the original date for the blocks to be completed. Mission creep is something I frequently impose on myself.

My OCD goals for this quilt top were

  • repeat no print in any column or row (Believe it or not, this is fun for me.)
  • distribute colors evenly across the top, particularly with the black, orange and brown which weren’t nearly as abundant as the blues and greens
  • distribute like prints evenly across the top

I started by sorting all the blocks by color and then separating those with white corners from those with green corners.

After laying out each row, I collected each block’s mate (same print but with corners of the other color) and set it aside so that specific print wouldn’t be sewn into the top until the midpoint of the quilt or below. This would help to achieve an even distribution of prints across the top.


At first it was fun: 323 blocks with nine different colors to pick from; this is arranging heaven. By the twelfth or thirteenth row, though, I was burning out, and attempting to match all those diagonal seams—1,220 of them—became a huge chore. I plugged away.

Even though I was using my favorite pins,

snowball match points

matching those diagonal seams was a challenge.

Don’t you hate it when this happens?

Don’t you hate it when this happens?

After piecing one top several years ago with diagonal seams, I swore never to make another quilt with diagonal seams, which proves I don’t listen to myself very well.



The borders took longer than I expected. I considered piecing each border strip with width of fabric strips, but decided instead to cut them on the lengthwise grain for maximum stability, to limit stretching and to avoid having to offset the seams in adjacent strips.

border miter

Rather than stitching and mitering each border strip individually, I sewed the three strips together to create each of the four borders prior to sewing them to the quilt. When it was time to miter and match the border ends at each corner, I basted along the 45-degree line to secure the match points between the white and green strips—something my mom would’ve told me to do if I wanted to be sure, so I did. I also pinned along the stitching line because she would’ve told me to do that, too. I miss my mom.

Here is my completed Aunt Grace scrap bag quilt top:

Aunt Grace scrap bag quilt

What’s next? I have no clue.


Filed under Mom, piecing

The best border

Something that frequently gets me into unnecessary trouble is my habit of questioning everything. Twelve years ago, I purchased a magazine with the instructions for making the scrappy Aunt Grace quilt I’m working on. (If you’ve been following along here for a while, you’re familiar with my goal to make 10 Aunt Grace-themed snowball blocks per week.) As block production winds down, I’m looking forward to the other aspect of finishing the top: the border.

The pattern calls for three narrow borders: a 2″ green, a 1″ white and another 2″ green.

AG border1

Simple, right? Right, but I am unable to leave simple alone; it must be questioned.

I didn’t like the busyness of the butted border strips,

AG border corner

so I revised the layout to show them mitered. I think it looks much better, particularly since it mimics the 45-degree angled corners of all the snowball blocks. If I’d checked the pattern more thoroughly, I would’ve learned that the sample quilt pictured in the magazine featured mitered corners, but I do these things the hard way.

AG border2

Still, the border seemed not quite right; it was too chunky. The snowball blocks measure 4½” square but the three borders together measured 5″ wide, so I reduced the size of the white border from 1″ to ½”. It surprised me how much that ½” made the difference in bringing things back into proper proportion.

AG border3

Still, I wondered if the trio of borders needed spicing up a bit, a complete overhaul or if the green/white/green arrangement was exactly what the quilt needed: a calm frame for lots of scrappy snowballs.

Rhonda and I often quilt long distance via phone and email, so I sent her an image of the layout and asked for her input. She wondered what the border would look like with corner squares: one version with solid white and another version with hourglass blocks to pick up the alternate design that is created when the corners of the snowball blocks come together.

AG border4

AG border5

As usual, simple is best, so the 4½” wide border set with mitered corners wins. I just wish I could stop taking the long way around to arrive at the obvious.

Meanwhile, these Aunt Grace blocks from last week and this week mark the completion of 300 blocks, with 23 left to go!



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College orientation: the parent trap

If you’ve checked in today for something quilty, I apologize. The only thing I have for now is the latest Aunt Grace blocks:



I am going through a bit of a sewing/quilting dry spell; plus, I enjoyed time with my niece who was in town for a few days last week, so not much would’ve gotten done anyway.

In the meantime, in the month since graduation, we’ve been celebrating the end of high school. We thought we were done with school.

Apparently not.

We just returned from two days with Ross at college orientation/registration.


It seems, at our son’s school of choice, the act of registering for classes has swelled to epic proportions, necessitating extensive parental involvement in everything but your student’s registering for classes. From that, parents are banned.

While students were going through the orientation program, parents were treated to endless seminars and lectures on the following topics:

Day 1

  • Transitions
  • Safety
  • Academics
  • Faculty Panel
  • Academic Advising
  • Financial Aid, eBilling
  • Resource Fair
  • Interest Sessions

Day 2

  • Supporting First Generation College Students
  • The Ram Life Tips for being a CSU Ram during this energizing session—HUH? (We skipped this one.)
  • Student Health
  • Housing and Dining
  • Career Center
  • Interest Sessions
  • Student Diversity Programs and Services

On the plus side, the program was well organized and well-staffed—very friendly, enthusiastic orientation leaders.

At times it got a bit overwhelming. Mostly, though, a lot of it seemed unnecessary, redundant and a bit of overkill.

A fair amount of the information presented at orientation was covered in the college tour we took last November, and all of it is on the university’s website, so I’m not sure why we were tied up for two days. Can we just meet with the advisor, register for classes and be on our way?

Apparently not.

On the annoying side was the psychology lecture about transitioning your student to college, complete with this strange looking graphic called Bridges’ Transition Model

Bridges' Transition Model

which was coupled with explanations of potential behaviors and interactions that might arise between students and parents in the weeks leading up to moving into the dorm.

Um, here’s a thought: How about kids (and parents who need to) suck it up and deal the way we did when we were that age?

Apparently not.

As the psychobabble continued, a scene from Die Hard popped into my head. It’s the one after the TV station learns that terrorists have overtaken Nakatomi Plaza, and to stretch out news coverage, they call in an author/expert on terrorism and begin to interview him:

Newscaster:  Author of Hostage Terrorist, Terrorist Hostage: A Study in Duality. Dr. Hasseldorf, what can we expect in the next few hours?

Dr. Hasseldorf:  Well, Gail, by this time the hostages should be going through the early stages of the Helsinki Syndrome.

The title of that fictional academic book has always cracked me up and yesterday it was especially funny, given our circumstances.

We also had to endure lame PowerPoint slides like this:



One topic that left us most unhappy was the discussion about the federal HIPPA law. In certain circumstances it’s probably a good idea, but is completely unreasonable when it comes to college students who are still dependents. If your child needs physical or mental medical services, the parents are not allowed access to those records, even though they are the ones paying the bill. Newly added to our to-do list is pursuing ways to circumvent this.

Moving back to the plus column, saying that dining services have greatly improved since our college days is an understatement. Check out the dining hall in the dorm where students stayed the night:

Braiden Hall1

Braiden Hall2

Braiden Hall3

Braiden Hall4

In addition to the tons of choices offered each and every day, students can go online and pre-order a sandwich for pick up the next day if their schedule is tight; they have online access to nutrition, calorie and ingredient information for everything that is served, fresh fruits and vegetables are offered every day, and some ambiance exists in their dining halls, compared to the sterile, military style setup we had in college.

Large lecture classrooms have also improved, with more comfortable seating, better acoustics, and more space to spread out your notebooks and textbooks:


All in all, registration went fine, but the experience gave me a strange feeling, a conclusion that there are no budget issues at this university. By faculty and staff members’ own admission during every seminar we attended, there is a campus resource or service for literally everything under the sun—that no student’s need, want or desire would at any time go unmet—like paying for an all-night buffet, even though you’ll be asleep for nearly all of it. Apparently, there is more than enough money for these offerings, raising a nagging question about the extent to which all these programs, and the staff and infrastructure to run them, have increased tuition? I doubt I would like the answer.

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Filed under kids, piecing