Hexie Succulent Garden

succlent1When I first wrote about making hexie blocks for the Bee Hive Swap, I really didn’t think I’d ever make any more. I mean, sure, it had its appeal. But that’s a lot of hand work. Then, this summer, with two family vacations and a surgery to recover from, I needed some hand work.

Even before I started the project, I came up with a name for the quilt. Since the block is named Grandmother’s Garden or Grandmother’s Flower Garden, I would make mine in all blues and greens and name it Grandmother’s Succulent Garden (succulent as in cacti, aloes, etc.). Great name! Now I had to make the quilt.

I rushed to gather supplies before my family’s trip to Michigan in July. I ordered the hexie templates from Amazon but didn’t realize how the templates were measured. The template size is the size of one side. So the templates I wanted would be 1″ hexies. I ordered 2″ hexies, thinking it would be the width of the shape, and they ended up being huge.

I looked and called around town and couldn’t find 1″ cardstock hexies, so I ended up buying some plastic templates from Joann.


The plastic templates were certainly sturdy, but they were also very slippery. I had a heck of a time basting the fabric around them because the fabric would slip off center. But they worked well enough to keep me busy in Michigan.

Before my next trip, I did track down some 1″ cardstock hexies. The cardstock wasn’t as stiff as the templates I had received from Tara for the Bee Hive Swap, but they worked better than the plastic.

Finally, my mom sent me some fusible hexies made by Pieceful Patches. You fuse these to the back of your fabric, baste around the shape, and then remove the paper. The templates can be reused for as long as there’s fusible left to stick to the fabric. While the paper is thin, I did find that my finished hexies were the most accurate using these templates.

So using three different kinds of templates (!), I made hexies. Lots and lots of hexies. Well, 21 “flowers” to be exact.




My first plan for a layout was to connect the flowers with a light fabric, so that each flower would stand out.

succlent-hexie-settingI ended up not liking that look as much as I thought I would. The flowers stood out almost too much, and I liked the way they looked in a group.

Rather than go through the pain of sewing more together only to change my mind, my dear husband created one flower shape in Illustrator for me. From there, I could duplicate the shape, change the colors, and try some different layouts.

Succulent1The first thing I learned was I couldn’t get a straight line of flowers if I wanted the edges of each one to be horizontal. (My thought with this layout is I could add patchwork of some kind below the hexies to make the piece closer to quilt size.)

Succulent3The edges would have to be at a slight angle for the line of flowers to be straight.

Succulent4Or I’d have to add filler hexies to keep the edges horizontal.

Succulent2Or if I made a lot more, I could just cluster them, and then the straightness wouldn’t matter as much.

So that’s where I am on this project. I have a name and 21 flower blocks. And I have a funny feeling that’s where it will sit for a while.

Wisconsin Fabric Fun

olivejuice1Last week was my somewhat annual fall trip to Wisconsin. The weather was gorgeous, and while the leaves had only begun to turn, the bright blue skies helped it feel very autumnal.

While I was there, Mom and I managed to work in some fabric fun. First, we traveled the hour down to Ripon, Wisconsin, and went to Bungalow Quilting and Yarn. Mom had been to the shop once before and thought it would be one that I would like. Wow, was she right!

bungalow5The house was packed with yarn and fabric. I liked that the fabrics felt very curated, like someone took time to purchase just the right ones. Most of them would be considered modern fabrics, but there were a few batiks and novelties thrown in there, too.

bungalow6 And I couldn’t help but love the Wisconsin quilt they had on display.

bungalow2Even the bathroom was a feast for the eyes, from the sewing pattern wallpaper to the bathtub filled with yarn.


bungalow4I was so overwhelmed by the choices (and the fact that we were a bit pressed for time) that I ended up purchasing large cuts of a couple fabrics that I like to have in my stash along with a few new pieces.

bungalow1(I put that green Lizzy House cat fabric in everything.)

Later in the week, we made our way to the western edge of the state, where our first stop was at Olive Juice Quilts in Onalaska, Wisconsin.

olivejuice2This super cute shop was actually huge inside. The fabrics, again, were primarily modern, but they had sections for Christmas prints and reproductions, too.



olivejuice6And they had fat quarters cut of a vast majority of their fabrics. I find I really appreciate having fat quarters available, especially when I’m visiting far-away shops, because I often don’t have a specific project in mind and just want to try a little bit of a lot of things.

olivejuice7(Although my choices do look pretty coordinated, don’t they?)

While we were there, we picked up our reserved copies of Kaffe Fassett’s Bold Blooms (a book I actually worked on for ABRAMS) because that evening we were going to a lecture with Kaffe and Brandon Mably. We even boldly interrupted Kaffe while he was working on some needlepoint there at the shop to ask him to sign it.


boldbloomsinterior After bumming around La Crosse a bit, enjoying the lovely day, we headed back downtown for the lecture. Olive Juice Quilts had a nice little shop set up with Kaffe fabrics and books, and we even got goodies for attending the lecture: a magazine and fat quarter.

Brandon gave a short introduction and Kaffe came on and talked about how he moved to England and got started designing. Then he narrated a slide show that included a lot of interesting inspiration photos, behind-the-scenes shots from photo shoots, and finished projects along with some that are still in the works.

Afterward there was a signing session, and Mom got another book signed. This photo was taken right after Kaffe complimented Mom on her jacket (!)—a great way to cap off fabric fun with my mom.


Finished Quilt of Valor

qov-quilt-smallThe quilt I made for the Quilts of Valor program is finished! As you may recall, back in March, I pledged that 2016 was the year I was going to make a quilt for this program. Seven months later, it has come to pass—not too shabby!

When last I posted about this quilt, the top was complete. Since then, I made a back for the quilt with a blue and white stripe fabric and a red and white polka dot. I knew I wanted the quilting to be more intricate than I usually do for my quilts, so I asked Holly Seever from the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild if she’d be willing to take on the job.

Holly has long been wowing the guild with the quilting she does on her domestic machine, but she recently purchased a longarm machine and began taking on projects for other quilters. I wanted to keep the star theme going in the quilting and suggested maybe adding some red thread, too. Other than that, I left the quilting design up to Holly.

I couldn’t have been more pleased with what she did.


Each of the star blocks had this same quilting pattern. I love the swirls and pebbles in the corners. And it looks even more amazing on the blocks with the blue backgrounds.


The blue fabric looks completely different with the quilting, which I think is pretty cool.


And she quilted the same star design in the plain white squares using that red thread we talked about. I think that adds just the right amount of color.


And the quilting looks super cool on the back of the quilt, too.

With the quilt expertly quilted, I added the binding—a red solid to go with that red thread.


Next, the quilt needed a label. The Quilts of Valor program requires that each quilt have a label that includes all of the following: the name of the person who made the quilt, the name of the person who quilted it, the name of the program, and space to write in the name of the recipient and the date it was received. The great thing is, QoV provided a link to Modern Yardage, where they sell labels for just this purpose. There were several to choose from, and even with shipping, the cost was less than $2. I really appreciated this convenience.


I’m not thrilled that the backing fabric shows through the label, but I tried to line up the label information spaces with the stripes of the fabric so it looks kind of intentional.

Finally, each Quilt of Valor needs a presentation case. Many of these are simply pillowcases made in coordinating fabric, which was easy enough to do. I used a star fabric that didn’t make it into the quilt for the body of the case and used leftover fabric from the quilt for the trim and cuff. I followed the burrito (or sausage) method for making the pillowcase using a tutorial from The Seasoned Homemaker.


The tutorial was very easy to follow. And it even included fancy French seams (no raw edges) on the interior!


With the quilt finished and labeled and with the presentation case made, I requested a destination for my quilt from Quilts for Valor. Within a day, I received a note asking me to send the quilt to the Warrior Transition program at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Here, soldiers who are med boarded out (meaning they don’t return to their previous duties due to medical issues) are shown several quilts, and they can choose one to take home with them. The director of the program said, “I never see a Soldier leave my office with one that doesn’t have a tear in their eye.”


So I shipped the quilt there on Monday. I know it will find a good home soon.

Dressing Downton Exhibit

edith-flapperAnother dress exhibit came to town! Am I a lucky girl or what? This time, the exhibit was at the Taft Museum of Art in downtown Cincinnati, and it was titled Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times. Because it was all clothing from the television show Downton Abbey. Yay!

I loved Downton Abbey when it first came out—that first season rocked. But I have to admit that I lost interest after (spoiler!) Cousin Matthew died. However, I did continue to keep loose tabs on the story lines—and the costumes.

So it was still pretty exciting to see the clothing up close, along with, in many cases, still photographs of the actors wearing the costumes.

The majority of the pieces were in the main exhibit space, where the photographs could be posted. But ten more outfits were scattered throughout the rooms of the museum, placing them in context in the Taft home. The peach dress, worn by Lady Edith, at the top of this post, was displayed in the Taft Music Room.

dowager-purple-fabricThe first dress I saw was this one worn by the Dowager Countess. The fabric and trim are exquisite.

mary-riding-coatIt soon became clear that I loved all of Lady Mary’s coats. This is her riding coat from the first season.

mary-red-coatSorry for the bad photo of this one, but I had to show it. Look at the placement of those buttons!

mrs-hughes-keysThis is Mrs. Hughes’ uniform. The keys on her belt were the only “accessory” she was allowed to wear.

matthew-bootsHere are Cousin Matthew’s boots as part of his military uniform. I love all the buckles.

edith-jacketNext was Lady Edith’s bicycle riding outfit (you can kind of see the still photo behind the mannequin). I really dig the pocket detail on the jacket. And in the background are clothes worn by Lady Sybil and Branson, back in his chauffeur days.

cora-embroideryHere is a beautifully embroidered piece that Cora wore.

edith-embroideryAnd speaking of embroidery, here’s a piece worn by Lady Edith. The thread colors look so pretty on the darker fabric.

There were 36 pieces in the exhibit, including evening wear worn by Lord Grantham and some of the later pieces worn by Rose. I’d tell all my Cincinnati friends to check it out, but I saw it on one of its last days here in the city. The tour has been going since February 2015, and it looks like it’ll keep going until January 2018. Check out the full Dressing Downton tour here.

Remaining Hive Blocks

Snowball finishedThe Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild Bee Hive Swap continued over the summer, and in fact, at tonight’s meeting we hand off the last of the blocks for this session. I’m going to miss making these blocks each month. Each one was an interesting challenge and opened my eyes to new techniques and block styles. Here’s a rundown of the last three blocks I worked on.

Wanta Fanta Block

Becky found this block on the Blossom Heart Quilts blog. Becky provided the white fabric and asked us to use a different fabric print for each of the other pieces, for a completely scrappy look. The block is composed of four small blocks, two of which are pieced and two of which are paper-pieced.



When you put the four blocks together, they form the block at the top of this post. And when you put more of those blocks together, you get a cool curved effect even though all the blocks are made with straight lines.

Unfortunately, to get that effect, your piecing needs to be pretty accurate. Mine was not on the first try.

Snowball error

I fixed that oops. It’s still not perfect, but hopefully it will work well enough.

Four-Pointed Star


Next up is the Four-Pointed Star Shona asked us to make. She asked that we use a printed fabric as the background and a solid fabric for the star. It’s an improvisational block, so the instructions were pretty loose. Each quarter of the block has two rectangles that are placed at an angle to create halves of two different points.


My greatest challenge for this one was figuring out where to place the rectangles so all the background fabric pieces ended up right-reading. That did make my brain hurt a bit.

18 Half-Square Triangles

Finally, for this month, Jeanie asked us just to make 18 half-square triangles using a print fabric and a contrasting solid. She even provided instructions for a quick method to make them.


Cut 9-inch squares from each fabric. Draw horizontal and vertical lines at 3 inches and 6 inches.


Then draw horizontal lines in one direction through all the squares.


Layer the two fabrics right sides together. Then sew 1/4 inch from the diagonal lines, sewing on each side of the lines.


Cut on the horizontal and vertical lines (top row). Then cut on the diagonal lines and press open. Each square results in two half-square triangles.


And that results in 18 half-square triangles! Jeanie then asked us to trim these to 2.5 inches. For some reason, I have trouble with half-square triangles, and for most methods I have to cut my fabric larger to begin with in order to get the correct size finished pieces. But I was able to trim all of these to the right size with no problem!

You can catch up on my other Hive activity here, here, here, and here. There’s talk of starting a new Bee Hive Swap in January, and if that happens, I am in!

Patchwork: The Game

patchwork_box-coverGreg and I were recently in the market for a new game to play after dinner. Rack-O and Yahtzee were getting old, so we went online for recommendations for two-person games. And it was then that we discovered Patchwork.

Given my affinity for quilting, the game seemed worth trying, but the reviews were all very positive as well. So we ordered it off Amazon and gave it a try.

It is dorktastic—super dorky, no doubt, but also really fun and challenging. I love it. And not just because the person who last used a needle gets to go first (did I mention it was dorky?).

patchwork_gamestartThe goal is to earn buttons—the currency of the game—in order to purchase fabric pieces to fill your quilt board. At the start of the game, each players gets five buttons.

patchwork_pieceshapesThe fabric pieces are similar to those in Tetris or Blokus, so part of the challenge is to purchase the pieces that fit together most efficiently to fill your board.

patchwork_gameboardThe players take turns moving around the game board. If you land on a space that touches a button, you get a button payout, earning more buttons for purchasing fabric pieces. If you land on a space that touches a leather patch, you get that patch to fill in a single space on your quilt board. Disclaimer: I do not approve of the use of leather patches on actual quilts. Or the use of buttons, for that matter.

patchwork_myfinalboardAt the end of this particular game, this is what my board looked like. I had earned a lot of buttons along the way, but I also had a lot of empty spaces. You need to deduct two points for each empty space, so I had a big deduction in this game.

patchwork_gregboardGreg, on the other hand, had very few empty spaces (in fact, I’m guessing this was a record for us). He ended up winning the game by ten points/buttons.

The game goes very quickly—usually about 20 minutes. I like that there’s a lot of different things to consider as you play. It really does take some strategy to figure out how to earn the most buttons and get the pieces you need for your board. And there’s an element of luck to it, too, because only certain pieces are available for you to purchase on each turn.

Even if you’re not a quilter, I highly recommend Patchwork as a fun, two-person game. If you’re not a quilter, though, I’m not sure who would go first, but I’m sure you’ll figure something out.

Shark Block #2

Sharkblock#2Funny. I hadn’t intended to take the summer off from blogging. A few different family vacations, a little surgery, and two months have flown by.

I’m going to ease back into the swing of things with this shark block that I made for a quilt that the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild and OHCraft group are putting together for one of our members. She could use some quilted love, and she loves pirates, so a pirate quilt it is!

As you may recall, I made this block previously for a CMQG Round Robin and then turned it into a wall hanging for my niece. This time I used a few printed fabrics (although not for the sharkiest parts—the eye and mouth—which I think need to be solid), and I really liked the way it turned out. I kind of think all sharks should have word searches on their bellies.

The block is one I purchased from Craftsy. I was surprised by how easily it went together this time. Don’t get me wrong—I still had to unsew a lot of seams. But somehow the flow was better and not nearly as frustrating.

So far, the quilt also has several ship blocks that use pirate-printed fabric, a paper-pieced crab with an eye patch, and a sea turtle, and the words “yo ho ho.” Hopefully this block and all the others will help our fellow member feel the love.

Pulse Blocks

Pulse blocks

After the tragedy at Pulse in Orlando, the Orlando Modern Quilt Guild decided to use their skills and resources to bring at least a little comfort to those directly effected. The Guild is organizing an effort to provide quilts to the survivors and the families of the victims.

Each quilt will be made from heart blocks using a tutorial from Cluck Cluck Sew, and all of the hearts are to be in rainbow colors.

The goal to make over 100 quilts is a huge one, so they’re looking for assistance from anyone who can help. A member of the OHCraft group that I’m part of saw the call, and she’s working with our members to make at least one quilt for Orlando.

The first step is to make blocks, so I created three. My stash is pretty light on rainbow colors on the red and purple side of things, but I did manage to find some fabrics in other colors that I thought would work.

Pulse orange

Pulse green

Pulse blue

I hate there are so many victims of violence like this that need comforting, but I’m glad to be able to be a small part of that comfort effort.

Hexie Swap Block

Hexie step 5

Here we are at another month, and that means I’ve worked on another swap block for the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild! I really do like this hive structure for the swap (read more about it here) because I’m getting to try blocks and techniques I truly would not have tried on my own. This month that block is Grandmother’s Flower Garden and the technique is English paper piecing.

Tara was the Queen Bee for June and she provided everything we needed to make her block: instructions, the paper-piecing templates, and even the fabric! I just needed to add thread and stir.

Hexie step 1

The thing is I had never done English paper piecing before. I knew in theory what to do—fold the fabric around the template shape and then hand stitch the fabric hexagons together. So I did what I always do when I have to try something new: I put it off . . . and complained to Greg about how much work it was going to be. Then Greg said, “Well, what can you do to make the process easier?” And since I hadn’t started it yet, I didn’t really have an answer. So I had to stop complaining—at least to Greg.

I finally cut the jelly roll strips I received into 2.5-inch squares and thread-basted the fabric to the templates. To do this, I folded the fabric over one side, took two small stitches to hold the fold, then made running stitches to get to the next side. There I folded the fabric, took two small stitches, made my way over to the next side, and kept going. The basting took longer than I thought, and I was really having a tough time seeing why people liked this technique.

Hexie step 2

With all my pieces basted, I started to arrange the block, but the large dotted fabric I received was throwing me for a loop. Some pieces were primarily gray and others primarily light green, so they didn’t look very cohesive when I placed them randomly.

Hexie step 3

So I made the bold decision to arrange them like a pansy face. I preferred them that way—I hope Tara does, too.

Hexie step 4

Once I started piecing the hexagons together, I did understand the appeal of the technique. The methodical hand sewing was quite fun, and it went quickly, too.

Hexie step 5

Tara asked that we leave all the templates in the fabric so that she can remove them when she’s ready.

I feel a little bad that Tara is receiving this piece with all my beginner’s mistakes. My corners don’t all meet, and it’s not exactly flat either (as you can see by the giant shadow on the left). But I am glad I gave this technique a try, and I may buy my own set of templates to have around for when I need something to work on by hand.

Improv Challenge

Back in January of this year, the members of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild were issued a challenge to create any sewn item using improvisational piecing techniques. We had two education segments prior to the challenge to get us in the improv mood, and then we had four months to complete our pieces, which needed to include a color we were arbitrarily assigned. We were also instructed to keep our projects on the down-low so we could anonymously vote for our favorites.

The May meeting was the big reveal for our challenge pieces. Each piece was assigned a number, and from the roughly 25 entries, we voted for the best use of improv, best use of our assigned color, and viewer’s choice.

After the winners were announced (I didn’t win anything), everyone identified which piece was theirs and talked a bit about their process. As we came to each piece that was spread out on the tables, the maker of that piece came forward. Finally, my piece was up, and I was about to step forward . . . but then someone had to leave, so we jumped ahead to her piece. Then it was my turn . . . but something else happened, and we were delayed again.

Finally, it was my turn. As I walked to the table, I said, “Sometimes I like to make projects that make me laugh. This is my piece, Creepy Dolls with Improv Border.”

Improv Challenge

And it was like everyone in the room breathed a sigh of relief, kind of as if they weren’t sure if I knew how weird my entry was. And then they laughed.

It all started when I was assigned my color: Grellow (the assigned colors were all Kona solid colors for easy identification). It wasn’t required, but I ordered a half yard of Grellow just to have a feel for the actual color. I had it sitting around my craft room for a few weeks, to give it a chance to inspire me, when I got to thinking about some fabric I received from a friend.

My friend’s aunt has passed away, and my friend let me pick some pieces from her aunt’s fabric stash. One of the pieces I took was a weird border print with dolls.

Creepy border fabric

Grellow was very similar to the background color of the calico print in the creepy dolls fabric! With that realization, I became very excited about this challenge.

I decided to start with a panel with two of the dolls.

Creepy doll panel

From there, I selected solid colors from my stash, including Grellow, to use in the border. At first, I just had Grellow, orange, green, and red, but that was crazy bright. When I asked Greg’s thoughts, he suggested I add a dark purple. What would I do without him?

With my palette, I started randomly cutting and piecing sections for the border. My first sections were just strips cut with scissors. Note that I threw in some of the background calico as well.

Creepy Improv section 2

Creepy Improv section 4

After a while I decided to jazz things up a bit with some triangles. These, too, were cut with scissors and just pieced together to fit.

Creepy Improv section 3

Creepy Improv section 1

I trimmed my sections to 4 inches wide and pieced them together to fit around the sides of the panel. If a section wasn’t long enough to fit the panel, I’d just piece together a few more bits of fabric and sew them on to the strip. To be extra improvy, I sewed the top border on first, then the left side, the bottom, and finally the right side.

Creepy Dolls pieced

With the top done, it was on to quilting. I didn’t think any color would look good for the quilting thread, so I used invisible thread for the first time. The brand I purchased was pretty much like fishing line. Apparently, other brands aren’t that stiff, but the stuff I had made the quilting a bit of a challenge. I used yellow thread in the bobbin.

Improv Challenge

The quilting is just wavy lines from the top to the bottom. But, in an attempt to enhance the creepiness of the dolls, I quilted around their faces and hands and didn’t sew through those parts with the wavy lines.

Improv challenge back

For the backing, I used another piece from my friend’s aunt. I didn’t have enough of any one fabric for the binding, so I made a two-fabric binding following the instructions in the book String Quilt Revival. The finished piece is 24 x 26 inches.

I honestly thought I had a chance at one of the prizes in the improv challenge until I saw some of the other entries. They were amazing (you can see them here). But I am still really proud of this piece and its crazy colors. I like the way the background calico in the border blends with the doll panel. The whole piece makes me smile.