This One Was Supposed To Be Easy

Primary quilt top 3

For several weeks now, I’ve been struggling with a quilt that just ended up being really hard. It took a good bit of thought to begin with, and then it didn’t turn out quite the way I had wanted. (It’s a gift, so I’m holding off on showing it here.) Anyway, after that, I wanted to work on an easy, mindless quilt.

So I took out the Riley Blake fabric I had gotten at the Herrschners sale. There is enough going on in the fabric that I decided to let it do the work.

Riley Blake fabric

I pulled some primary-colored fabrics from my stash, along with a bit of green. Within minutes, I decided to cut the main fabric into 16″ squares (because it was going to do the work) and then sash those squares with my stash fabric. Easy! I got the whole top planned, cut, and pieced in a couple of hours.

Primary Quilt top first

So, who can tell where this is going? Yep . . . I didn’t like it. I didn’t like that I had sashed only two sides of each square, but that’s all the stash fabric I had. I tried to remedy that by adding the turquoise fabric to the two sides that didn’t have sashing on the squares. But I didn’t like that, and I didn’t want it on all four sides, either. And I didn’t like that the blue and turquoise fabrics were so similar.

The “easy” quilt top turned out to be one that I took apart. After ripping the seams and pressing the fabric, I went a lot more straightforward on my second attempt. I kept like colors together. I just did easy.

Primary quilt top 1

It’s very simple, I know. But I think it will be a nice charity quilt for a baby or preschool boy. It’s certainly bright and fun. I’m thinking about quilting it in an all-over pattern of stars. Of course, I’ll need to learn how to quilt stars. But that should be easy.


Traveling Quilt Block #2

Kims traveling block 3

At tonight’s Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild meeting, I’ll be showing the quilt block I made for Kim’s Traveling Quilt. Kim had asked that everyone in the group make a mini quilt (9 inches square) and finish it with white sashing.

I’m a little nervous about what Kim with think of my block. It’s a good bit different from her original block.

Kims original traveling block

Kim’s block is quite a bit darker than mine. While she gave some of her fabrics for us to use, I wanted to add some of mine as well. For the first block I made I pulled from my stash of solids.

Kim traveling block aborted

But it just wasn’t me . . . at all. I was in an improvy mood, so I decided to try some wonky stars instead. And I’m also on a kick where I make a few blocks and then piece them into a solid background (see my Pinwheel Quilt).

Kim traveling block and mine

So, I hope she likes it. Everyone cross your fingers, OK?

Wisconsin Fun

Herrschners fabric

Earlier this month, I spent several days up in Wisconsin, at Mom and Dad’s, hanging out with family and friends. The day after I got there, Mom and I headed to the Herrschners warehouse sale. She and I went a few years ago, and I was excited to go again. Everything, including yarn and fabric, is nicely discounted, and you never know the treasures you’ll find.

Herrschners yarn

I didn’t find any yarn that caught my eye this time (which is fine since I’m still working through my yarn from last time), but I did buy a bit of fabric. It’s hard to pass up fabric at $4.99 a yard.

Herrschner fabric purchase

The first fabric on the left is for a Quilts of Valor project I hope to start soon; the next two are great boy fabrics for charity quilts; and the rest are just for me.

Moms next quilt

It wasn’t long after we got home that Mom started planning her next quilt with some of the fabrics she picked up at the sale and some from her stash.

The next day my sister Carrie and her husband Doug and my sister Jenny and her two kids came for the weekend. I noticed my niece Stella (age six) was carrying around a book she had made. She’d thumb through it every once in a while at Mom and Dad’s.

Fashion bookFashion book 2Fashion book 3

It turned out to be a fashion book. The top photo is the cover; the next one is my favorite drawing in the book (I like the lights and the pattern on the dress); and the last one is one of Stella’s favorite drawings (her other favorite drawing is also of Elsa from Frozen). It was so fun to page through it and see all her creations. She’s got a great sense of color already.

It wouldn’t be a trip to Waupaca without at least one hike around “turtle lake” at Hartman Creek State Park. Near the lake is a small outdoor amphitheater that we always stop at first.

Ivan on stage

There Ivan performed a song from The Aristocats, the play he was in recently at school. Ivan played the head dog, and when he performed for us, he started with a bit of dialog to set the scene and then launched into his song. It was just like on a recording of a musical! For the play, the kids passed around a microphone, so that’s what Ivan is holding here.

Jenny on stage

For the last twenty years, at least, any time we come to this stage, Jenny performs a stirring recitation of the poem “Queen Anne’s Lace.” She first read the poem in one of our old Childcraft books.

Stella on trail

We didn’t see any turtles on the lake. But there were lots of dragonflies on the trail. And a silly six-year-old.

Hartmans spider

And a dam with a gigantic spider on an old piling.

Hartmans ferns

A few days later, Mom and Dad and I went back to the park to take the Allen Lake trail. I love the gorgeous ferns!

Birthday fabric

Finally, the weekend included a bit of a birthday celebration for me. My sister Carrie gave me a compact, absorbent towel for my car (with a “Don’t Panic” label on it, for all you Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy fans) and a lovely scarf. My sister Jenny let me select a piece of vintage fabric from a treasure trove of fabric she picked up at a yard sale. I selected this border print. I can’t decide if I’ll make a skirt or a quilt with it, but the piece is large enough for either.

It was a great trip, as usual. And I’m a lucky girl to have an awesome family I love hanging out with.

Finished Pinwheel Challenge Quilt

Pinwheel Challenge Quilt sideHere it is—my finished Pinwheel Challenge Quilt! As I mentioned in my first post on this quilt, I received the fabrics as part of the Michael Miller Fabric Challenge through the Modern Quilt Guild. All the pinwheels were made with the challenge fabric, and I added the solids and a bit more of one of the challenge fabrics.

Pinwheel Challenge quilt final

For the quilting, I just echoed around the pinwheel shapes, which got a little wacky as I got further out and the pinwheel echoes collided. I probably should have drawn more of these echo lines to ensure they were straight. But I just went for it, so some of them are more than a bit off. For the orange strip and bottom fabric, I just quilted intersecting wavy lines. I hoped maybe this would conceal the crookedness of the bottom fabric a bit.

Pinwheel Challenge quilt backHere’s the back of the quilt. I like that you can see the quilting of the pinwheels (although from this distance, you can’t see the closed part of the pinwheel and can only see the outline, which looks a bit like an unfortunate symbol—let’s ignore that).

After I bring this quilt to the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild meeting tonight and I get a label put on, it will be off to Project Linus. I hope it brings someone a bit of joy.

Closed: Book Giveaway!

Kosbab book cover As some of you may know, I’m fortunate enough to make my living editing craft books. Someone has to do it, but I sometimes can’t believe I’m one of the lucky few who read craft books and work with craft authors every day.

One book I worked on recently was The Quilter’s Appliqué Workshop by Kevin Kosbab. In it, the author explores three different appliqué methods—raw-edge appliqué, prepared-edge appliqué, and needle-turn appliqué—and presents projects using each.

For this particular book, I didn’t actually see the projects until I received a copy of the printed book. And I love them! The style is modern with a retro feel. And even though I’ve done only raw-edge appliqué to this point, I definitely want to try my hand at the other two methods, too.

Kosbab table runner projectThis table runner project is in the prepared-edge chapter as the white appliquéd circles are made from bias strips. Appliqué, bias strips, and curves?! Yeah, I know, but see how cute it looks!

Kosbab pillow projectAnother favorite project of mine features these pillows. The trees are needle-turned and the tree centers are hand embroidered. For me, a project like this is just about slowing down and taking the time to do some hand work. I enjoy it when I’m doing it, but it seems hand projects rarely make it to the top of my to-do list. This pillow might be the exception…

The exciting news is I have an extra copy of this book to give away to one of my blog readers! Just comment on this blog post by midnight EST on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. One person will be chosen at random on June 12, 2014 to receive a copy of The Quilter’s Appliqué Workshop by Kevin Kosbab absolutely free! This contest is open to everyone—family, friends, and non-quilters alike. Your comment can be anything—say hello, state your favorite kind of appliqué, or just share something about a project you’re working on now. To leave a comment, you do need to include your e-mail address, but only I will be able to see your e-mail; it won’t appear in the comments.

Good luck!



And we have a winner! Peg, it’s you! I’ll be e-mailing you to ask for your address. Thanks to all who entered—I really appreciate it!



Pinwheel Challenge Quilt

MM Pinwheel quilt detail 2I’m participating in my first fabric challenge! The challenge is through the national Modern Quilt Guild and is sponsored by Michael Miller fabrics. Each participant received the same six fat eighths of the Michael Miller Petal Pinwheels line; the challenge is just to make something quilted from that fabric, adding only solids or other Michael Miller fabric. As an additional challenge, the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild is encouraging our members to make their quilted item a quilt for Project Linus.

The fabric colors are right up my alley, so I was excited to get started. I had wanted to make a boy quilt from the fabrics, but they were just too girly. I feel kind of like a dork for making pinwheels from a fabric with Pinwheel in the title, but it just seemed to make sense.

MM Pinwheel quilt detail

I’d used this same pinwheel pattern for another quilt, but this time, in addition to making the original pattern (from Modern Blocks by Susanne Woods), I adjusted the pattern to make one pinwheel larger than the original and several that were smaller than the original.

MM Pinwheel quilt topI tried something different for the setting and kind of made the pinwheels float on the blue background. I placed the pinwheel blocks where I wanted them to be and then added the blue fabric to connect the pinwheels and fill in the background. I didn’t have quite enough blue fabric for the whole background, so I bought some of one challenge fabric and put it on the bottom along with a strip of orange (the same orange I used on all the pinwheel centers).

I swear I didn’t cut the bottom fabric that crooked—and I noticed it too late in the process to want to change it. Could it be possible the fabric was printed crooked? Rats, nonetheless.

MM Pinwheel quilt backFor the back of the quilt, I used more of the yardage I had purchased. But I also added a section of leftover challenge fabric pieces (including one more pinwheel for kicks).

I’ve already finished the quilting on this one, thanks to a sew-in day for the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild. I’ll show photos of that once I get the binding finished up.

Flying Birds Quilt, Takes 2 and 3

Crane blue top

Back in August of last year, I posted a piece titled “The Quilt I Might Take Apart.” I had made a quilt using some great fabrics, but I didn’t like the way the floral fabric repeated so often and regularly.

Flying birds 2

Well, after letting it sit for a few months, I did take it apart. And then I let it sit for a few months again. But this past weekend, its sitting time was over. Because I was going to finish this quilt top!

As I was taking apart the quilt, I decided to leave the block units (as I saw them, anyway) intact.

Crane block

My challenge was to come up with a setting for these blocks that would work, ideally with the fabrics I had left in my stash. After a good bit of thought, I came up with this sketch.

Flying Birds sketch

The green sashing lines would be the floral fabric that I didn’t like in Take 1. This time, it would be cut into small pieces, so the repeat wouldn’t be an issue. The pink sashing lines would be a pink stripe I had used in the quilt already. I liked this setting because the blocks weren’t placed statically in a row and had a bit of movement.

So I sewed the whole top together that way.

Crane pink top

And then I realized I didn’t like it . . . again. The pink was too dominant (I probably could have guessed that from my sketch). And it turns out I like that pink fabric only in small amounts.

After letting it sit for only a few hours this time, I started thinking about other fabric choices. Greg was a great help during this process. It’s so nice to have someone with whom to talk through these decisions. I can tell that being my quilt sounding board isn’t his favorite thing in the world, but he’s a good sport, and I trust his opinions. He didn’t like the pink either.

Crane sashing test

Back to the stash. I liked the idea of adding more blue to the quilt, so the blue fabric shown above had some appeal. But I thought using it for both the horizontal and vertical sashings would be too heavy, again. Then I found some blue fabric left over from my recent messenger bag project. So I took out all the pink sashing and added blue.

Crane blue top

This quilt top is done. Or at least I am done with this quilt top. I think I like this setting the best, but I may need a bit more distance before I make that determination. I like that the quilt reads as blue and teal, anyway.

I didn’t follow a pattern at all for this quilt, and I think that shows. Designing quilts is not as easy as it sounds. The top turned out looking much more chaotic than I would have liked; the small image of it on my camera looks like a jumbled mess. But I wouldn’t say this attempt was entirely unsuccessful. I certainly learned a lot from the experience. My top three lessons: don’t assume big chunks of fabric will read as resting areas—they won’t if it’s a busy pattern; make more detailed sketches to determine how busy a quilt will actually look; simplify, simplify, simplify.

I’m not sure yet if I will add borders to this one or just quilt it and bind it. It may have to sit for a bit before I figure that out.


Messenger Bag for Spring

Spring Messenger BagSpring has finally sprung in these parts, and this weekend it was time to switch over to a spring/summer purse. But I didn’t really have one I wanted to switch to, so I made one—the beauty of knowing how to sew!

First, I stopped by Sewn Studio to find some fabrics. I thought about getting heavyweight fabric but decided to just go with regular weight once I saw this pretty blue floral fabric by Joel Dewberry. Next I hunted around for messenger bag tutorials and ended up using this one from No Time To Sew as a guide. The size and shape were just about what I was looking for, and the instructions are nice and clear.

As I cut out my pieces, I made the bag a bit longer than was called for in the tutorial—her bag is about 8 inches long and mine is a little over 9 inches. I also changed up some of the pockets.

Spring Messenger Bag outside panels

Above are the outside panels for the bag, which I stiffened with fusible fleece. I thought her idea for the panel pocket was super cute, so I made one for the front panel. For the back outside panel, I added a small, low zippered pocket for keys.

Spring Messenger Bag lining panels

The lining panels, above, are interfaced with just plain fusible. I added another zippered pocket on one panel; on the other I made a divided pocket for my phone, hand sanitizer, and a pen. I love knowing exactly what I need in my bags!

The tutorial called for an adjustable strap, but I just didn’t feel like fussing with that. So I made just a regular one. But I did feel like fussing with a two-fabric strap, and I wanted to get it nice and stiff, so I again used both the fusible interfacing and the fusible fleece.

Spring Messenger Bag strap folded

I cut the strap sections to 3 inches wide and the fusibles to 2 inches wide. I ironed the fusibles to the center of the strap fabric, leaving the 1/2-inch seam allowances unfused. I thought sewing a tube with the strap and turning it right side out with all that fusible would be tough. So I sewed one long seam, with wrong sides facing, and then folded up the seam allowances for the second seam.

Spring Messenger Bag strap pinned

I then pinned the folded seam allowances together and sewed about 1/8 inch from the edge. It’s not perfect, but it looks good. I think it helped that I could press the seam allowances crisply thanks to the fusibles forming a guideline.


Spring Messenger Bag side

Overall, I’m happy with the way it turned out. I kind of like that the side of the bag has two fabrics, and I think the inside fabric of the strap adds a nice pop of color. The strap could have been a smidge longer than 40 inches, just because I like to my bags to hang a bit below my hipbone.

The bag is already filled up and in use. Hooray for spring!


Canton Inspiration


This past weekend, Greg and I took a little mini vacation to celebrate our anniversary (three big years!). Our destination? Canton, Ohio. Why, you might ask. Well, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is there, and that’s always held some interest for me. But I knew Canton was the place for us to visit when I heard it is the home to the National First Ladies Museum. When I hear National First Ladies Museum, two things come to mind: dishes and dresses. And what’s not to love about that?

The tour of that museum started in a bank building a few doors down from the main museum. In the bank they had only a portion of their collection of official china sets from different presidents. The oldest dishes I remember seeing were Lincoln’s; my favorite were Harry Truman’s (because they had a pretty teal edge).

The bank building also housed the special exhibits, and right now they are showing The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist. The paintings were all small landscapes, all nicely done, but I have to admit, I would have preferred a dress exhibit.

Next we walked over to the Ida Saxton McKinley House, which was Ida McKinley’s family home, although the McKinley’s did live there for a short time as well. The first floor of the home had been gutted years ago, but it was now restored to close to what it would have looked like in the Victorian era.

McKinley wallpaper 2

This photo shows the many different wallpapers on the wall and ceiling of the front entry of the home. I love how the Victorians mixed patterns.

McKinley wallpaper

There were photographs of some of the home taken in the late 1800s, and the photos were used to restore the rooms as accurately as possible. This wallpaper is an exact replica of the wallpaper in the dining room of the home. Great texture.

McKinley wallpaper 3

The second and third floors of the home had more of the original woodwork and furnishings. This wallpaper combo was in the office of William McKinley; the overall vibe of the room was masculine, but there’s no getting away from pink wallpaper on the ceiling. The ballroom of the home was dedicated to all the First Ladies and included photos and bios of each.

First Ladies Flash Cards

At the gift shop, I picked up a pack of First Ladies Flash Cards. It turns out, I do not know my First Ladies. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t know my presidents that well either. A few of my favorite images from the deck: (top row) Lucy Hayes, Edith Roosevelt, Helen Taft, (bottom row) Lou Hoover, Grace Coolidge, Jacqueline Kennedy.

McKinley Memorial

Since we were in McKinley mode, we decided to go to the McKinley Memorial and Presidential Library and Museum. The Memorial was on a hill overlooking a park and cemetery.

McKinley Memorial floor

McKinley Memorial floor 2

Inside the Memorial were the sarcophagi of Ida and William McKinley and their two small daughters. I love the marble flooring.

The Presidential Museum was really more of the Stark County Historical Museum. But there were several items that caught my attention including an early vacuum cleaner and the face of an old clock.

Vintage vacuum

Clock face

The next day we had a great time at the Pro Football Hall of Fame (sorry, I was too busy looking at Packer stuff to take photos). And later in the day, we stopped by the Belden Village Mall where I found this lovely tile design in the women’s bathroom. What a perfect quilt design!

Belden Village tile

We also did a bit of hiking, stopped by one comic book store and one fabric store, and even got caught up with Game of Thrones thanks to free HBO at the hotel. Definitely a fun and relaxing weekend.

Tote Bag Swap

Tote bag for swap

For the April meeting of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild we were asked to bring a tote bag to swap. I was in the mood to make something small but challenging, so I purchased some heavy clear vinyl and intended to make a clear storage bag for the swap. But it turns out, vinyl is kind of hard to work with. And even the patterns that called for vinyl required that the piece be turned inside out, which creased and distorted the vinyl too much for my tastes.

Aborted vinyl bag

So, I decided against challenging and went with a simple and fun bag I’d made in the past. The pattern is the Reversible Tote from the book Stitch by Stitch by Deborah Moebes.

The bag is very basic, but that leaves a lot of room for modifications. Instead of cutting the bag pieces to 18 inches square, I decided to make mine a bit smaller at 15 inches square. And while the pattern doesn’t have pockets, I like to add at least one to my bags.

Tote for swap pocket piece

Tote bag for swap detail

This time I opted for a simple flat pocket that’s lined with the fabric I used on the outside of the bag. I sewed it to one of the lining pieces, adding a seam down the center to create two separate pockets.

I also added interfacing to the lining pieces, just to give the bag a bit more body. Next time, I want to remember to add the interfacing to the outside pieces rather than the lining (it just felt odd to me to have the lining stiffer than the outside), and I need to remember to interface the handles. I kicked myself last time I made this bag for not interfacing the handles, so I wrote myself a note in the book for next time.

Tote bag for swap

The interfacing gave the bag a very cute shape, I think. And look at this seam matching.

Tote for swap detail 2

Impressive, I know. Now, maybe this is the only seam that matches this well, but they’re all closer than I’ve gotten in the past.

At the meeting, I was thrilled to receive this cute bag from the lovely and talented Andie Johnson.

Andie bag

The front of the bag is a UFO block that she put to very good use. Look at all that great quilting. And her boxed corners meet up perfectly.

Andie bag detail

The inside of the bag is nice and deep, and it even included a bit of fabric and a cute note card. So much fun. And I like that the zipper allows the bag to open all the way.

As luck would have it, Andie received my tote, too. She seems pleased with it, despite the lack of interfacing in the handles. I think I officially have the bag-making bug again, so off to find some fun patterns!


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