Wednesday, January 31, 2018

You Really Thought I Stopped Sewing?

I was teaching a class the other day and one of the students said, “All you talk about now on your blog are books you are reading. Have you stopped sewing?”


I had three goals this month sewing-wise. I wanted to finish my goddaughter Destiny’s quilt, finish the Squares Plus quilt that I’m making as a gift for my friend Rhonda and get a start on my newest machine quilting ruler class quilt called Continuum.

Destiny’s quilt is 104”x117” – in a word, humongous! I told her that I would try to get all the quilting done and the binding sewn on to the front (the handwork’s on her!) by the time she moved from San Diego to join her husband, who is in med school in Las Cruces NM. She drove off into the sunrise on Saturday, January 27, and I put the quilt into her arms Friday afternoon the 26th – hours to spare, right?

I really love the fabric that Destiny ordered from Spoonflower. She and Nick love computer games and the fabrics she chose reflect this. So now they are living in Las Cruces where it can get pretty cool at night, so they’ll be happy to have the quilt on their bed.

I thought the piecing on this quilt would be quick and easy, not really thinking about all those itty bitty plus signs that meant a lot of 1-1/2’ squares! Small is not my favorite scale, but I love the way it turned out. Finished the quilting early in the month then worked on Destiny’s quilt, then back to Rhonda’s and finished the hand stitching on the binding a couple of days ago. I’ll see her in San Antonio in a couple of weeks and will be able to give it to her then. I don’t think she reads this, so it may even be a surprise!

Both of those quilts have bamboo batting and are so nice and soft and cuddly!

I knew I wouldn’t get the Continuum quilt finished, but I hoped to get enough of a start so that I could let Nuttall's in Salt Lake City know about fabric requirements for the Continuum class I’m teaching there in May. You aren’t looking at a black and white photo here: The quilt was originally made by Leonie West, the genius behind the Westalee ruler line, in shades of grey which is stunning to look at but difficult to figure out fabrics when you see it in a photo. Although I am beginning to learn that “seeing” in grey scale is a good thing and I’ve started taking photos of my quilts in black and white before making final decisions on block arrangements.

For a two day class, I’ve scaled down the quilt so that we are stitching 14 blocks that make a 48-1/2”  wide x 41-1/2” long quilt that is stitched out block by block and then assembled using a quilt as you go method that Leonie calls “Sashlee”. This was my planning sketch to get the math all down before I started cutting.

In my version, there are five fabrics in the quilt – dark, medium dark, medium, medium light and light. I chose dark magenta, dark pink, medium pink (which is also my backing fabric for all the pieces), grey with a small white polka dot and a white on white print as my five. Yesterday I cut all the backing and batting pieces and paired them up.

Today I cut all the top fabric pieces, matched them up with their batting/backing partners and labeled them with Alphabitties, the cute little 1” square plastic alphanumeric markers that I clip onto blocks, rows, etc. – whatever needs organizing before sewing. So now I can grab each top/batting/backing set and start doing the ruler quilting. Getting this quilt done is my first goal for February.

I’ve done a bunch of ruler quilting and teach it many times each year but I have never made a quilt with the quilt-as-you-go method. Have you? What do you think of it?

Friday, January 26, 2018

Leah Does It Again!

I’ve long been impressed with Leah Day and her 365 Day Free Motion Quilting Project. If you missed it somehow, it started several years ago when, at a tender age somewhere in her mid-20’s, Leah decided that she was going to try a different free motion pattern every day for a year, video herself doing it, and post the instructions and the video on her blog,
She had the videos sorted into beginner, intermediate and advanced patterns and then came out with books that illustrated the patterns as well. I have a couple of those books and it’s handy when I’m looking for some inspiration to just pick one up and start leafing through. For instance, last year I was working on a quilt that had wood grain printed fabric in the border and I wanted to emphasize that. Sure enough, a few pages into one of her books was a wood grain pattern that was exactly what I was looking for.
I have been very intrigued by the modern quilt movement and how many of these quilts are quilted with straight lines using a walking foot rather than the free motion that we’ve all practiced like crazy. Leah’s latest book is a primer on how to do this type of quilting, including excellent setup instructions, illustrations for many styles of quilting and patterns for seven quilts. Five of them are pieced, one is quilt-as-you-go and the last is a beautiful wholecloth quilt that is pretty detailed; frankly, I think that I would do the wholecloth quilt in a combination of walking foot and free motion quilting due to the curves. I’m always better with curves in free motion, but I know not everyone feels the same.
Leah covers all-over quilting, ditch stitching, section stitching (where you do different things in various parts of the quilt), quilt-as-you-go and wholecloth quilts. I usually ditch first, but she recommends doing section stitching first, then ditch stitching to enclose that area — I love that she calls this a “victory lap”! Dan thought it was odd that I was laughing while reading a quilting book!
After the quilt patterns, there is an excellent Troubleshooting chapter and binding instructions for quilt-as-you-go (which she calls “edge binding”), straight binding and curved binding (the binding for that gorgeous wholecloth quilt).
As usual for Leah, the instructions are very clear and encouraging; the photography is excellent and very colorful. In fact, I had purchased “Walk: Master Machine Quilting with Your Walking Foot” by Jacquie Gering around the same time, but read Leah’s first because of all the color — it just called to me!
I learned some new things — I am going to try that victory lap as well as some of the walking foot designs illustrated in the book. And I think I have to make the “Infinity Knot” quilt. On the other hand, I know I will never be a convert to the idea of leaving long thread ends, threading needles (“cheater” or not!) and burying threads!
It is also definitely worth a visit to her website,, and I have enjoyed my subscription to her free newsletter. Always good ideas, again with lots of color (!), showing up in my inbox. Leah is definitely one of the jewels in our quilting world and I love seeing and learning what new things she’s coming up with!

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Rainy Night in South Carolina....and Progress

This is the third — or maybe the fourth? — year I’ve been able to go to the Pieceful Hearts Quilters retreat at Hickory Knob State Park in McCormick SC. It’s an accepted (by me) fact of nature that every time I rent a car, the weather is either rainy, snowy or both. Today Nature decided that there would be no suspense, it would rain like crazy the whole 170 mile drive from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to the park. As in full on windshield wipers more than half the drive.

Checked into my room and carted in all my luggage (can’t leave any possible projects behind, right? Lots of choices?). The heater was blasting and when I checked it was set at 84 degrees. I’m one of those people who rarely heats her house and sets the thermostat to 65 degrees immediately upon walking into a hotel room. So — YIKES! Turned off the heat, flung open the door and...

...isn’t this pretty? I LOVE rain! I’ll be here for a few days, mostly piecing quilt backings. I  also brought one project where the blocks are all complete and just need to be sewn together. Catch up stuff rather than starting something new.

I have three major goals this month: getting the quilt that Destiny pieced quilted, putting the binding on Rhonda’s quilt and designing the workshop for the new Westalee ruler set called “Continuum” that I’ll be teaching in May for Nuttall’s BERNINA & Fabric Center in Riverton UT in May.

I’ve been working on Des’ quilt for about a week; I started with big swoopy curves and decided that wasn’t enough quilting, so now I’m going back and filling them in. I’m about half done. It’s 105”x117, so is taking some time!


Here’s Destiny practicing; she even did some stitching on the quilt!

 And there’s a big smile — this was her first time to try out the Q-20....I think she likes it!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

My Reading List

How do you define an “avid” reader? Because I tend to hang out on planes and in hotel rooms, I always have a few books on the Kindle (which, thanks to the free Kindle apps, I can read on my phone and IPad as well as that handy little e-reader) and maybe a physical book in hand. When I’m home, I tend to go the other way – more books, less electronics. I always have several in progress as well as in the queue and as an average read between 10 and 20 books each month, more when travelling, less when home.

Several of my friends are involved in various book clubs and we often discuss what we are reading. I wrapped up the year by reading Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson – even though it weighed a ton when I took it to Cabo San Lucas on vacation last month, it was totally worth buying it in hardback for the beauty of the illustrations and artwork. I sort of justify buying a hardback/paperback because I pass them on to at least one person before dropping them off at a local used book store.

This is my “for now” stack – Dan and I are doing the Whole 30 this month (not an easy dietary task as those of you who have tried it know!) It’s a detox after all the excesses of the holidays. No dairy, no grains, no sugar, no alcohol (I miss my wine!), just real foods for a month. I can do this! So Whole 30 Day by Day is a chapter a day encouragement, recognition of the difficulties and coaching to get you through this. The concept behind a Whole 30 is to pare it down to only real foods, then after a month reintroduce food groups gradually so you can see how your body responds to them and pinpoint trouble areas. So, every day I read a bit .

Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – my friend Andrea facilitates a book club that meets monthly at her Corrective Chiropractic office in Calabasas CA and this is the book she has chosen for next week’s meeting. I raced through it, gave it to Dan to read and plan to read it again so that I can mark it up. I tend to highlight and dog ear pages in this type of book and I didn’t want to call Dan’s attention to what resonated with me. I wanted him to approach the book through his own life filter. There is, obviously, language, so if you are offended by four letter words, you might want to skip this one.

The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory is my “bathtub” book. After a long day, I love a soak in a hot bath with something fictiony and a little on the light side; I know some people take their Kindle into the bath, but dropping it would be an expensive oops, so I don’t. Plus there is a lot of info around that one sleeps better without electronica at the end of the day. Gregory is known for her historical fiction, most of it centered on the Tudors. The Other Boleyn Girl was probably the first of her books that I read, and I’ve read a few since because I really like her writing style. This one focuses on the reigns of Henry VIII’s children, most notably Mary, the daughter of Catherine, Henry’s first wife. These novels are written from the point of view of an observer of the court and are quite engaging.

What’s on my Kindle?

I usually have one book on my Kindle and another on an app that I can read interchangeably (and seamlessly – thank you, Amazon!) on my phone and IPad when I have down time somewhere.  On my Kindle right now, I am reading Ashes Reborn – it’s a “junk” novel of no value whatsoever except enjoyment! Great series where the central characters are Phoenixes (think rebirth amid many flames) – there are also Fae, vampires, werewolves and a bunch of other supernaturals.  Fun series!

This is what I’m reading on my phone. It’s an autobiographical romp by Shonda Rhimes – this is what the book description says: “The mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder chronicles how saying YES for one year changed her life―and how it can change yours, too.” She has a great sense of humor and it is a fun read!

I’m always looking for new things to read, so what are you reading? What have you read and loved and recommend? Do tell!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Back to Work!

I pretty much took the month of December off from the sewing room. We took a much needed vacation and I caught up on some organizing and reading goals.

On to the quilting goals: 

My first goal is to finish Rhonda’s quilt so I can give it to her in February when I see her. The last three steps are to quilt the 30 blocks, quilt the border and do the binding. Yesterday I started working on the blocks.

First, a drawing, then I did a sample stitchout on one of the quilt sandwiches piled on the back of the table. The prettiest fabrics in this collection have peacock feathers on them, so freehand feathers seemed like they would be fun to stitch and would look cool!

I like to be able to look up at the sketch to refresh my memory while I’m sewing.

Sewed a feather in each of the blocks, then figured that I was on a major roll, so started on the border. Same idea — a feather in each corner and then the wavy frond-like things going in the same direction that the border fabric goes. Got half the border done yesterday and the rest today.

Now all that’s left is the binding! I cut and sewed it this afternoon, but still need to get it pressed so that I can do the machine work on it. I may take it with me so that I’ll have some hand work when I go to the Pieceful Hearts Quilters retreat in South Carolina next week — from what I hear it is going to be C-O-L-D!!

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