Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ready for some good news...

   I just spoke with the radiologist and the biopsy was benign!  Woo-hoo!   Lots of prayers of thanks being said around here right now.    I was so in need of some good news.
 Then to really brighten my day, I got an email from The Fat Quarter Shop blog  that I won the recent giveaway for a set of Pat Sloan's patterns.  

 Seeing the variety of items made from these patterns on the blog hop was great. Wall hangings, table runners, pillows, and small quilts popped up from the different quilters who got to try their hand with the patterns.  The pattern was simply the jumping off point for many of them, and they infused their own style into the project.  
  So now I have no excuse not to be creative myself.....a full set of patterns and a release from the anxiety.  Think I need to get busy.
Happy stitching.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

This blog thing...

 I began this blog thing a few years ago as a personal journal of sorts to keep track of my quilting progress and other things I enjoy.  I have  discovered a lot about myself and most of all found a focus in what I do.  Along the way I have  connected with a lot of quilting bloggers and found some kindred spirits.
  Terri at Quiltncards  is one of those.  Terri created and donated a doll quilt---the red cardinal one---for the Get Your Mrs. Claus On project.  Instant connection.   She passed along this blog award to me yesterday.
This award is given to favorite blogs with under 200 followers.
 The Liebster Rules are:
1. Post about your win on your blog.
2. Link back to the blogger who presented you with the award.
3. Copy and paste the award to your blog.
4. Present the Liebster Award to 5 blogs that have less than 200 followers that 
you think deserve  to be recognized.
5. Let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
 So I am sharing the first 5  blogs that came up on my list of Mrs. Claus supporters.  
 Each of these quilters donated doll quilts to the project,
 and I appreciate each one. 
1.  Bea at A Needle in the Hay stack  is such a delight to follow.
She is in France, does wonderful  little quilts.
2.  Freda at Imperamagna  has been a wonderful  encouragement to me.
 The universe needs  more  people like her.   She is currently hosting a
 Jacob's Ladder  QAL,  and she has the cutest  grandson,
 Henry, who wears a red scarf like Harry Potter.
3.  Janet at The Rogue Quilter  has a great blog that is fun to read.  
She is a prolific quilter, and also makes soap.
4.  Dana at Stormy Days  is an animal lover and  has the greatest photos.  
 I always enjoy her take on things.
5.  Mary at Hill Country Quilter  always has several projects
 going and shares  her progress and ideas.  
I hope you will visit each of these great blogs.  
Exactly what is up with blogger.....the editing buttons are
 making a mess of this post.  
Do you think they forgot to take their meds, 
or maybe too many?
Anyway, off to the kitchen.  I am baking for 
 I am baking for the production 
crew at church and making bread.   
Happy stitching.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thoughts on details

  It was great to read all the encouraging comments about my guest post.  Thank you all and welcome to the new followers.  I put  the Color Talk post on a new page. 
 This lovely embroidered card came in the mail from Margaret of the Fiber Friends group in Landrum.  It is just  exactly me, wildflowers and the swirl.  The paper is heavy and embossed--hand made and almost feels like fabric-- and all the flowers and stems are embroidered by machine.

  In the smaller photo you can see the stitches better and all the detail used.  Isn't it always "in the details" that makes  something special?   Whether it is the color and shading, or the curves and branching, it is the little things, those details, that enrich the project.
  I am not always good about finishing the details.  I tend to get carried away with the finished overall project.  I can look at certain quilts I have made, and realize that a bit more time on the details would have been  worth the effort.  Maybe a little more design time when arranging blocks, or extra thought to piecing the border, or even selecting a better quilting pattern----all of these are details.  I may follow through on one and forget the rest.
I think there may be a life lesson here to remember.......
  Insight:  Enjoy the journey. Don't miss the details and joys of the journey by focusing on the destination or end.   
Happy stitching.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Not here today.....but over there

 I'm not here today........
 But I am talking about color and choosing  fabrics  over at
 Sew We Quilt !
 Jump over there and have a read.  Be sure to take your coffee with you, as I did not get to have any this morning.
  And thank you Madame Samm for the invite.   I should be awake enough tomorrow to answer any questions.
 Happy stitching.

Color Talk

This was my guest post on Sew We Quilt February 2012.
 Love color?  Yes!  Always know the perfect color or fabric to pick?  Uh, no.  Have sweat trickling down your neck, or sweaty palms selecting fabric for your next project?  Yep, there I am.
  I'm Debbie from Stitchin' Therapy and I do love color.  When I began quilting, I had absolutely no idea how to choose colors or fabrics for a quilt.  In my first class I was told to use a light, a dark, and a bright.   I never finished that quilt, I wonder why?  Today I  mainly do multi-print, multi-color quilts---scrap quilts and water color quilts--- because the colors make my spirit soar.
   Color is what I notice first about a fabric.  It will draw me in and influences how I react to a quilt made with it.   So before your eyes glaze over and you think "Here comes the color wheel talk, and all those words like complementary and analogous,"  relax!  I'm going to share a simple technique I learned from an artist turned quilter.   The class I took from her was not about technique or sewing. It was about selecting fabrics and colors.  I consider it my secret weapon to creating wonderful, colorful quilts.
  Here's a quilt in which I used  this technique for selecting  the fabrics.   I used 18 fabrics for this bargello quilt, but it all started with one fabric that  I loved.  I  followed the steps below to pick the other 17 fabrics.

Steps to selecting fabrics/colors
   It's a simple idea based on letting the fabric and designers do the work for you.   Find a focus fabric you love that has 2 or 3 colors in it.  The seventh fabric from the left was my focus fabric.....shades of purple to plum with blues and greens.  There's my palette!

  Now select  other fabrics that "play well and are friendly" with the focus fabric.
  •   Select a second fabric based on your favorite color in the focus fabric.  The color doesn't have to be an exact match.  My second choice is right next to it at position #6.
  •   Select a third fabric based on another color in the focus fabric.   My third choice ended up in position #10.  Notice anything?  My selections were a light, a bright, and a dark fabric scheme.
  •   Select a "friend fabric" for the second and third fabrics you chose.  Make it a shade lighter or darker for depth and variety.  
  •   And so on....Try to select fabrics that vary in scale (size of print), and value.  Tonal type prints are great "friend" fabrics.
  •   Finally, stand back about 6 to 8 feet from your selections.  Does anything jump out and not fit?  Replace it.  Look at the ninth fabric.....does it seem too dark?  Yes, probably, but the plum color was so striking with the other fabrics that I left it in to spice things up.  Rules can be broken!
  •   Is the collection of fabric all the same value and seem boring?   Note---Value refers to the lightness or darkness of the color you see.  The overall value of the fabric is as important as the color.  Using a palette of all medium value fabrics will appear flat and boring.  Adding a dark and a lighter value will greatly enhance your quilt.   If you are not sure of the value, take a photo, look at it on the computer.  Squint at it, or take off your glasses like me, and get it out of focus to see the value rather than the pattern and color.  Change it to a black and white photo, and you can easily judge the value.  It is so worth the effort to do this.  

  This is the same photo as the above palette converted to black and white.  I wanted to be sure the darkest values were scattered throughout my palette and not all in a clump.   Don't be afraid of using a dark fabric.  The dark values create depth and let the light and medium value fabrics shine.  

Selecting the dozen different batiks for this one was done in the same way.  
This smaller photo below of the first blocks made  gives you a closer look at the fabrics chosen.  Can you pick out the focus fabric that I used for the palette selection?  
Did you pick the fabric in the bottom left corner?  That was it....a beautiful collection of colors in it to chose from.  Using the focus fabric made it easy!

   Are you a traditional quilter?   In Summer of Love I used 20 different floral fabrics for the very traditional Jacob Ladder blocks. The bold yellow  is predominant, and required a careful selection of other fabrics to be successful.  I began with one floral featuring  lots of colors--including yellow.  Each of the remaining floral fabrics were selected because they picked up a color from the focus floral.  Some were on  dark backgrounds, and others were on  lighter backgrounds, and  2 had very blue tone backgrounds.  And in the end, all of them blended and worked well together.
   Show no fear when selecting fabrics for your next project.  Conquer your  fear about mixing colors and fabrics.  You have been empowered with the secret weapon for fabric selection.... Let the designer and fabric do the work for you.  And now,  you also have a great reason for building your stash.
  Thanks so much,  Madame Samm for letting me share my thoughts on color and how to make it work for us all.
Wishing you all a color filled day and happy stitching.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A couple of options

   I finished up the "no lining" style trashcan bag and wanted to share another option I used in finishing.
  The straps for the handles were made like I described in my first post  ---Out of the trashcan---with a double layer of batting.  To get the length I pieced several short strips together.  I do like the look of it better that way.  I generally like my straps to be about 24 inches, but these ended up about 27 inches.  Once it was completely finished, I decided to shorten them a little.  Don't panic, I did not un-stitch anything.
   I just  folded down the handle strap about 1" and then flipped the handle back up and pinned in place.  This creates a "tab" look just below the binding around the top.
     Here you can see how I stitched it in place by sewing it down  just below the binding.  Then a diagonal line of stitching to the bottom.  Now the straps are 24 inches.
   Another option:
 The handle straps could be made longer and extend down the front of the bag to the bottom seam.  This would allow you to add an outside pocket placed between the straps.  If you want to do that, the straps should be top-stitched down over the pocket edges before the bottom seam is finished and any inside pockets put in.   I would also not use double layer of batting in the stitched down portion of the handles.  Just think the process through before you begin.

One bag in floral fabrics, and one in batiks.  I can think of several combinations that I would like to do this style in.....all blues, toile prints,  black and white prints, all reds, and then maybe a kitchen sink mix where anything goes.  A great way to express yourself!
  So, no more narrow strips of batting in my storage box or trashcan---absolutely none left, and a nice dent in the strip scrap box.   That makes this project a success in my book.
Happy stitching.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The second time around

Much better the second time around on this bag.....easier sewing (I had it figured out now), so it is not so thick.  First, let me remind you that this bag has no lining.  Several emails asked about that.  Each of the strips encase the batting between the layers, so it looks the same on the inside as the outside.
  I am going to assume that readers have basic construction knowledge.....but if you have questions, please ask.
  The measurements I am giving will make a small bag that is  about 10" high and 11" wide when finished.  Make it bigger, taller, wider by adjusting the lengths and number of strips.
Make the strips:
  Most of my scrap strips are 2 1/2".  I cut 12 1/2 long pieces---36 in total.
  I cut batting scraps into strips 3/4" wide.  Short pieces are fine to use, just butt the ends together.
  Turn under one long edge of the fabric strip and press down.
  Center the batting strip on top of the wrong side of the fabric.

Fold the long edge of fabric that is not turned under to the center over the batting.
Fold the turned under edge of fabric to the center over the batting also.
Press without stretching.
Straight stitch along the folded edge.  For thread I decided to use a light blue/purple on top and bottom.  It shows on some fabrics and blends on others.  Just remember that you are stitching from the wrong side, what will be on the outside is in your bobbin.

Sew the strips together:
 Let the fun begin.  I began by sewing 2 strips  together at a time with a zigzag stitch. Machine settings on my machine was for 5.0 wide and 2.5 long stitch.
  Once I had several pairs sewn, I began to sew the pairs together to create 2 different units---one front and one back piece.  I kept adding strips until each section was 14" wide.
  I pressed each section and then squared it up to
 12 inches by 14 inches.

Sew the sections  together:
  For the side seams I used a straight stitch seam....look close, it is a narrow 1/8" seam.  You can take a wider seam if you want.
  For the bottom seam,  I used a 1/4 " seam.  I joined the back and front and a strip of fabric to fold over the raw edge.  Note that I just folded the end edge in toward the center of the bag.
  The extra strip of fabric is folded once towards the seam--about 1/2".  Then it is folded over to the other side and top stitched down.  This encases the raw edge of the joined strips......no lining needed here.

I made 2 pockets by joining some shorter cuts of covered batting strips....one about 8" wide and a second one 6 inches wide.  I used extra strips folded in half to cover the raw edges of the pockets and then top stitched them into place on the inside....be sure you are stitching them in place on the inside.

Square off the bottom:
  This is a thick seam.....just sew slowly.

Turn the bag right side out.....and see if it stands by itself.  Now just the handles to make and attach and bind off the top.  Tomorrow......  I'm done for today.
Happy stitching.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Bag is done...... as you can see,  it can fully stand by itself!  I think a little adjustment / refinement  of the technique is needed.    Note the button I used is one I picked up in Alaska.....made from deer or moose antler.

I used basic tote bag construction.  I made 2 sections, one for the back and one for the front.
Size of each section was 14" across and 13" high---this would give me a bag that finishes up about 11" by 11" and 3" deep.
   Mistake #1:  Using my usual technique of making the handle straps for the body that I showed before.  I like a double layer of batting in the handles, but NOT here!  So, I will modify my technique and use a single layer of batting when making them for bag #2.
  Mistake #2:  I cut out the corners at the bottom--like I usually do-- to eliminate the triangular flap when creating a square corner for the bottoms.

 I ended up with a very thick and exposed edge that I do not like.  Here's a link that shows how to stitch  across the corner to square off the bag, and you have a triangular flap.   I will keep the flap / corner triangles on bag #2, and just tack them down. That will give me all covered seams.

Joining the side seams:    No zigzag stitch here.....I just straight stitched very close to the finished edge.  In the photo I  joined 2 narrow yellow strips for the side seam.  No problem with this for me.

 The inside:  The bottom seam of the bag was covered with a folded strip of fabric and top stitched down.  Again, thickness was a challenge here, but the finished edge looks good.  I only added one pocket---again using folded strips on the raw edges and top stitching in place.

 Finishing the top edge:  Usual technique worked fine.  I used a strip of fabric 2 1/2" wide, folded it in half.  I  stitched it to the wrong / inside of the bag over the handles and the loop to close.  The folded edge comes over to the outside and is top stitched down.

     I know I have sent you over to The Nifty Stitcher before.  But please go again and check out her video as she stitches her feathers.....especially if you are on the fence about trying this month's free motion challenge.  She makes it look so effortless that her video deserves a look.    
   Another stolen quilt.....click here to read Bonnie's post .
I am just back from being smashed, squashed, squished, poked and prodded......you get the idea.  The radiologist did find a small dense area and a biopsy is scheduled.   I still have the other procedure to endure next week, so please remember me in your prayers.    Happy stitching.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Out of the trashcan

    I spent a great day on Tuesday with  The Fiber Friends in Landrum / Tryon area that  meet at The Tryon Arts and Crafts School .   I shared my journal quilt challenges and in return enjoyed seeing their projects---fabulous silk dying (shibori),  a beautiful  jacket done with shasiko stitching, a series of wall hangings based on a photo and everyone was different.  They have a series of challenges planned that will be fun to follow.  Thanks for all the wonderful inspiration, ladies.
   One quilter was carrying her items in a tote that really caught my eye, and me without a camera!  On close inspection, I realized it was constructed  like I make the handles for tote bags and purses.  The finished "handles" were stitched together with a zigzag stitch much like the clothesline wrapped bowls and bags.  That means the inside is finished off like the outside---no lining---and the bag itself has structure and does not flop over.   Oh, the possibilities!  
    While putting everything away yesterday, I found trimmings of batting in the trash can from a few dolls quilts I had finished up.   Shame on me!  I could turn them into a bag.   I cut the batting waste into 1 1/2" strips and 1 " strips, and began making "handle" pieces last night.

Technique to make finished "handle":
   Strip of fabric  (3 1/2" wide)  is placed wrong side up and 2  1" batting strips are  placed on  top down the length of the strip of fabric.  (Or use a 2 " wide strip if you have scrap batting that wide).
   You can see I used all the scrap / waste of batting!  Just butting the ends up to each other.
.    Then press the long side edges over the batting---about 1/2 on each side.

  Then fold down the center matching the long edges.  Press well.
  Stitch along the long side about 1/4" from the edge to secure in half.

   Now join the finished pieces using a wide zigzag stitch.  Be sure to catch both pieces as you stitch.

 This is the first small section that I put together last night.  I used whatever leftover short strips I had and pieced them together if the strip was too short.
  I also mixed the width size of the fabric strips.  There are 2 1/2" strips (with 1 1/2" strip of batting encased), that finish at about 3/4".  And the 3 1/2" strips (with the 2 1" strips of batting encased) that finish at about 1".
Since this is an experimental project, I am winging it with the measurements.  I figure I need about 28 of the finished strips to sew together to make the 2 sides of a small  bag.  I plan on binding off the top and adding a couple of pockets to the inside.
Happy stitching.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Feathers round 4

   The month is not over yet....so feathers are still in the works.  Feeling brave about the free motion feathers, I gave it one more round.  I tried a feather on a mug rug.  This one was drawn with pencil.  I am still not good on the outlining.....I like the swirls better.  :)   How about a plain simple feather?

   Next round, was done free hand....I only drew the spine on for shape using chalk.  No outlining here because this is on a doll quilt and I did not want the stiffness of the micro stitching.  Plain is good!

I was very pleased with myself and took way too many photos!   I know I am not approaching being really good at this---I've seen some absolutely great blogs at the challenge --- check out the Nifty Stitcher  .    But what a great feeling to finally catch on to it.  I think I had a serious break though in muscle memory and the tear drop shape.

Insight:  I can quilt feathers!  Big improvement  comes with lots of  practice.

And remember the heart shaped leaves from last month.....I combined them with a flower to quilt up this doll quilt.   Guess you can tell I am doing a happy dance with all this new "variety" in my quilting motif ability.
  I will do more practice on plain feathers....I want them fuller and more curvy.
  Happy "feather" stitching!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


   Lots of new little quilts have been posted to Get Your Mrs. Claus On Flickr group album.  Check them out and enjoy the variety.   Nicki has been great about sending me photos as she receives the quilts from the group at the HGTV board.  She has it so organized and makes it all look so easy.  A super big thank you to her and all the Mrs. Clauses who are helping make this year so great.  

   I got the rows sewn on the water color, but it looks very muddy to me.....the border just blends too much.  So I tried a bit of cording  to create a separation, but it was not distinct enough.  Right now I am debating on using the narrow strip of black bias.  The photo below just has the bias pinned to it.

    I will live with this one  on the design wall  for a few days to be sure I like it before finishing it up.
Happy stitching.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Knockout in Round 3

You decide.  Is this a KO in round 3?
  I went with a darker fabric--very old scrap--and lighter thread to see what I was doing better.  Not perfect, but I did figure out a couple of things that work for me.  This one is only 8 inches square.
  This technique requires lots of thread and stitching to make the plumes look good.  Lots of thread and who notices the bobbles anyway?
  I got tired of outlining and reverted to a few swirls and curls to keep me interested. Outlining is like coloring within the lines and I was never good at that.
  My stitching lines are not as close as the tutorial suggested.  But this is the distance between stitching rows that I am comfortable with.  I can live with it.
  And finally, the feather police should not be allowed anywhere on the planet earth and will be "stitched"  to smithereens on sight!


Round 1 was drawing and trying to follow the drawn pattern.
Round 2 was gaining control and movement.
Round 3 was understanding what I was doing and finding my way to doing this technique.

  I had lots of comments about my tries yesterday.....and lots of encouragement.  Thank you all.  I also realize that this tutorial is scaring a few as well as frustrating many of us.  So that is why I am sharing my 3 rounds with this---the good, the bad, and the ugly--(I used to have a Clint Eastwood poster on my wall).   Remember this challenge is about improving our skills and that only comes from trying.  If I didn't quit, neither should you.   I plan on at least one more round, using better fabric, before I call this done.
Happy stitching.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Doing battle with feathers

    Before I forget.....do you like to read?  Do you tend to use a slip of paper to mark your place like I do.  Take a look at these really special bookmarks at Juanita's blog.  She does beautiful art quilts, and until recently all by hand--no machine!  She has a series of landscape book marks that are beautiful, and for sale.  Drop by and say  hello.
     I have been drawing feathers, and drawing and drawing for this month's tutorial by Diana Gaudynski  at SewCalGal .   This is about the 10th  page of practice and I thought I finally had a hand on it.  So on to fabric and thread.  I set my machine like she suggested and started.  Go slow and try for tiny stitches, no gloves, and keep the batt  straight--as in North and South with no flipping it around.  
This is round one.  First the thread kept breaking.  I tried a new needle and re-threaded everything.  It is hard to see white on white, so I switched to a red thread so I could see where I was going and had been.  Oh, boy...that was awful   Back to tan thread and another feather.  And trying to outline was even more frustrating.  She does not recommend gloves , just bare hands for FMQ, but I don't have control without them.  I was not pleased at all with the effort.   I don't like micro stitching.   I put it away....almost in the trash can. I quit!
  This is round two from this morning.  I decided that I would give it one more shot, as I am not a quitter by nature.  This time I set my machine up as I usual do.  I also drew the feather onto the fabric with a pencil before stitching.  You can still see some of the marks that I did not get erased completely.   I don't have or use the blue disappearing marker---one very bad experience and I threw them away.   Anyway, on with the gloves, adjusted my speed and tension and started on the feather spine.  Up, down, and onto the plumes......I did much better overall and even managed  to almost follow the drawn lines and the outlining sort of consistently.   I did not try for those tiny stitches, but instead achieved even  stitches.  
  Insight:  Practice creates muscle memory for drawing and free motion stitching.  When you get frustrated, stop!  Try again later.  
  So, if you are taking the Free Motion Challenge, I wish you great success with feathers.  I have a long way to go with them.   Happy stitching.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

A new addition

  I love pen and ink style art work.  The one on the left was done by my daughter of the window in the cottage where her Grandfather grew up in Philadelphia.  The top one is of  The Chapel on the Hill at Copper Center, Alaska where my husband's parents were first stationed.  The tree is a winter view of an oak---it is actually a photograph---that we bought on a trip to Virginia.  And the newest addition arrived yesterday.  Here is it's story....
   Last month I read a blog post on The Quilt Rat  about a project Jill was collecting items for, including a thrift store wool coat , threads, and beads.  I was intrigued with her re-cycling idea and offered Jill some antique silk threads that I have had stored away for years.  And that began a series of emails and a trade.
  So what did I want in exchange?  A zentangle from her hand.  Do  click over and see her collection.

    I think it is exquisite!  So perfect for me as the cardinal is my chosen symbol of hope.  I love that she chose to include the swirled branch, as well as the other swirls, which is my favorite motif for free motion quilting.  I just can't stop looking at it and admiring the detail.    Thank you, Jill.  
Happy stitching.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Finding comfort

  The calendar may say Groundhog Day--and 6 more weeks of winter, he says---but it feels and looks like Spring.  So if this is Winter, the daffodils (and 70 degrees)  must be wrong!  

  I thought I would change out a few wall hangings today, and ran across this early small quilt of tulip blocks.  It is one that is full of memories and gives me much comfort.  I "learned" to stipple on this one....my first attempt and full of stops and starts.  And then I attempted leaves and stems in the border areas.....really not very good, but after many years of washing,  who can tell?
  The blocks were won at guild in the mid 90s.  A quick glance at the fabrics should tell you that!   I finally put them together in 2002, as Forgotten Tulips.  This was considered an unusual setting at that time---our quilting  ideas sure have changed in 10 years.
   Two of the blocks were made by dear ladies who have passed on, and I do treasure them.  They give me comfort and make me smile.
Insight:  Surround yourself with comfort---especially  found in a quilt.  Your path will seem easier.  

   Water color update:   This one is fused but not sewn.   It is pretty large right now--about 40 inches and 50 inches, but that will change when the seams are stitched.  
  After the HVAC guys finished their work yesterday, I had to rework part of it because many pieces ended back up on the floor!  They were more in a panic  than I was, but I knew  I needed to get it fused down.
   So how did I get it fused?   Small travel iron and pressing while still on the design wall.  My design wall is construction insulation and the foil covering is placed to the inside, so it will handle the heat from the iron.  I begin pressing at the bottom and work my way to the top.  I just need to press enough to hold everything in place to get it off the wall.  Then I can move it to the ironing board for a solid and final pressing to fuse each piece well to the interfacing.  Off to start the seams.
Happy stitching.
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