Shark Wall Hanging

Shark front quilted

My first Christmas gift for the year is done! This shark wall hanging is going to my shark-loving little niece Stella. As you may recall, I gave her a shark skirt a few years ago. And since she’s still into sharks, the shark-themed sewn gifts will continue to come her way.

This wall hanging is a result of the traveling quilt/round robin exchange I participated in last year for the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild. I started my traveling quilt with this shark block.

Shark blockThen each member of my group made a block or blocks to go with it.

Shark top Ellen made the fish, and Teresa made the Shark Teeth blocks at the bottom. On the back I used Kim’s Saltwater Taffy blocks and some more fish.

Shark top back

I had originally planned to make a boy’s charity quilt with my blocks, but that was going to take a lot more paper-piecing on my part. So instead, I reworked my block (taking off the borders) and some of the other blocks I received (some of the fish were sewn together), added some solid ocean-colored fabrics, and pulled it together for this 18 x 21-inch piece.

With the top and back pieced, it was time for quilting. I quilted around the shark and his features to make him stand out as much as possible.

Shark detail quilting 2

Then I just quilted wavy ocean lines over the rest of it, including over the fish.

Shark detail quilting

I used the same light blue thread for the quilting on the front and back, so the back looks a little weird. But I like that you can see a ghost shark coming in from the right side.

Shark back quilted

Since the back is almost as designed as the front, I didn’t add a hanging sleeve yet. But if my sister would like one, I’ll sew one on after I give it to Miss Stella.

Shark front quiltedIt was fun to manipulate the different elements to make a cohesive piece. Thanks to all the CMQG ladies who contributed blocks!

To check out the original shark paper-pieced pattern, click here.

Completed Pirate Quilt

PirateQuilt_FinishedOne more quilt done! This weekend I finished my pirate charity quilt, which the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild will donate to the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky. The quilt is twin size, so it’s big for me (and for my quilt holder, who has requested smaller quilts going forward).

According to my blog records, I’ve had the top of this quilt done since July. I started quilting it in September and finished up in November. Not too bad. The quilting is very simple and definitely not dense, but it should hold the quilt together.


The back is a little more plain, in case the boy who receives it gets tired of the front.


Here’s hoping the quilt brings someone a bit of comfort.


Giving the Sawtooth Stars Quilt

Aummy with quilt

Not only is my Sawtooth Stars quilt finally finished, it’s now in the hands of the person I made it for: my aunt, Mary Ann Doyle.

Aunt Aummy, as we call her, has been a special aunt to me and to many of my sisters and cousins on my dad’s side of the family. She remembers all of our birthdays, made Christmases at the farm extra special, and takes care to know each of her nieces and nephews—and great-nieces and great-nephews—as the individuals we are.

So I wanted to make a quilt just for her. Blue is her favorite color, so I used that as the background. Then I made 18 large stars, one to represent each of her nieces and nephews. Each star is made from a different fabric.

Sawtooth finished detail

Around the large stars, I placed 27 small stars, one to represent each of her great-nieces and great-nephews. Again, all the fabrics are different, for a total of 45 star fabrics.

Sawtooth finished 4

I didn’t have enough boy-looking fabric to assign one star to each person, but I did make the two yellow stars at the top with my two cousins who have passed away in mind. You can read more about the making of the quilt top in this previous post.

I did the quilting myself on my home machine. I sewed straight lines from the corners of the stars and did close wavy lines in the blue background. I struggled with the quilting, as I mentioned in this previous post, but it certainly serves its purpose. The photo at the top shows the quilt after it was washed, and the close quilting made it extra crinkly and cozy looking.

Sawtooth back

I pieced the back with two Amy Butler prints plus a few extra pieces to fill out the size, which ended up being about 67″ x 72″.

And I added a label to the back, of course.

Sawtooth label

The binding is a little different for me. I didn’t have enough of the blue on the front of the quilt for the whole binding, so I made a two-piece binding.

Sawtooth double_sided binding

I followed the tutorial in the book String Quilt Revival. It calls for two strips the length needed for the binding: one strip is  1″ wide and the other is 1.5″ wide. After some preparation, these are sewn together (which had to be the most boring thing I’ve ever sewn). It’s then sewn onto the front of the quilt and folded over to the back for hand stitching. I really like that the seam of the two strips sits right on the edge of the quilt, giving it a very nice finish.

This one has been in the works for about a year, so it’s kind of exciting to have it completely done and at its new home. Now, on to whatever is next!

Wisconsin Fun 2015

Hartman Creek

October is a beautiful time of the year to go home to Wisconsin, and last week, I did just that. The main purpose of the trip was to spend some time with three friends from high school. We met in Appleton on Saturday, went to the farmer’s market, the Trout Museum, had a tasty lunch, got some cupcakes, and did a little shopping at the mall. It was a lovely time.

I have photos of none of that. But I did take a few shots of some of the other fun I had while I was up there.

On Sunday, Jenny and the kids came to Mom and Dad’s to visit. It was a warm day, so while I was waiting for them to arrive, I got out the sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk

My design looked even better with the addition of a cute girl.

Sidewalk chalk 2

Mom and Dad were feeling under the weather, so Jenny, the kids, and I decided to check out the changes that have been made at South Park. They’ve really fixed it up nice, with new shelters and a great playground area. We spent some time on the fishing pier, too.

Shadow Lake

Back at Mom and Dad’s, we did a little painting and dyeing using some dark sunflower seeds Jenny had gotten. The seeds looked black, but when they got wet, they were actually purple. Jenny soaked them in water, and I used the color as a wash behind my doodle.

Sunflower wash

Mom was feeling a little better on Monday, so we took a walk at my favorite park, Hartman Creek State Park. The hike around Hartman Lake (aka Turtle Lake) was windy, but pretty.

Hartman beach

On Monday night, Mom didn’t want to spread her cold germs around at the quilt guild meeting, so we stayed home and did some improv sewing. Mom gathered up a pile of scraps, set up two sewing machines and an iron, and we just sewed.

Improv with Mom

Mom made an improv cross block.

Mom improv

I started making an improv Log Cabin to get loosened up.

Log cabin improv

Then I decided to make a piece that said “Mom fabric” to me. Her scrap pile has more reds and blacks than mine ever will.

Mom fabric improv

Finally, I wrapped up my session with the beginnings of an improv Halloween wall hanging. I’ll cut out a silhouette of something spooky and put it in the middle.

Halloween improv

Next week, I’ll share the last big event of the weekend: gifting my Sawtooth Star quilt to someone very special.


Wisconsin Wall Hanging

WI finished

As a girl who loves her home state, I was super excited when a member of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild brought in a paper-pieced Wisconsin block for another member who also happens to be from Wisconsin. I had no idea such a block existed.

So when I had a little down time last week, I found the pattern on Craftsy and dreamed of all the Wisconsin-themed gifts I’d be giving this Christmas. Then I made the pattern. It turned out to be the most difficult paper-piecing project I’ve attempted. So, FYI, those Christmas gifts aren’t going to happen.

I played it safe with my fabric selections, choosing one solid that looked the same on the front and the back. And I colored the pattern pieces so I could easily see which sections were to be state and which were to be background.

WI colored pattern

As is always the case when I’m paper-piecing, I tried to skimp on fabric, using my smallest bits for the small sections. And as is always the case, I regretted it when those small pieces didn’t quite fill the area needed and had to be taken out. Between that and just messing up the pattern, it was rough going. Especially for the southeastern part of the state.

WI take one

Nothing really matched up the way it should as I struggled with putting the large lettered sections together. And I accidentally used a different green for the large triangle in the middle. But I could see where I could do better, so I tried it again.

This time did go more smoothly. In addition to coloring the state sections of the patterns, I stitched the perimeter of each section after I pieced it. This made sewing those sections together so much easier because the edges of the fabric weren’t flopping over.

WI take two patterns

I still made a few of the same mistakes that I made the first time through, but overall it was much easier. And it turned out looking nicer, too. Although southeastern Wisconsin still has its struggles.

WI take two

After a bit of thought, I decided to turn the block into a wall hanging. I added a gray and white polka-dot border and then added a wider border of Amy Butler Violette fabric.

Before I started the quilting, I decided to locate Waupaca, my hometown, on my newly pieced map (and I had Greg verify it so that it would be reasonably close). I made a red French knot there (per Greg’s suggestion) and then sewed a free-motion spiral out from there. As with my mug rug from last time, my circles are nowhere near perfect, but I just wanted them to be fun.

WI quilting

I used a piece from the same Amy Butler collection for the backing. The finished piece is about 16 inches square.

WI back

WI finished

Despite its imperfections, I kind of love the way it turned out. I really like the colors. Now I just need to figure out where to hang it. Somewhere that’s in my line of vision during the day. To remind me of home.

Mug Rug Re-Do

Circle mug rug

Recently I had to take a break from my two big quilting projects and actually make something. And there’s no project as quick and satisfying as a mug rug.

The one I made was really a mug rug re-do. I made this blue and gray circle block back in March as a Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild challenge to try pieced curves. I brought the block out again a few months ago when our challenge was to try the magic binding technique. With this technique, you sew a two-pieced binding that leaves a narrow strip (or flange) of the second fabric on the front of the piece.

Circle mug rug with flange

The technique has you sew the binding to the back first, then fold it over to the front and machine sew in the ditch between the two parts of the front binding. I tried it first with an orange flange, but I decided that took away from my goal of it being a blue and gray piece.

So I made the binding again, this time in gray.

Circle mug rug gray flange

The finished mug rug sat in my office/craft room for a few months. Then I realized I really didn’t like it. I loved the block. But I didn’t like the quilting. It was too linear for my first piece with curves. And I didn’t like the binding. I think the orange in the blue binding fabric was still too much orange. And I didn’t like that that the binding wasn’t as taut as I have it when I bind in my usual way.

So I took off the binding and took out the quilting. Which was probably a little nuts in hindsight. But I really wanted to like this piece.

I re-quilted it with gray thread instead of blue, and I echo quilted around the circles to help show them off. The quilted circles are by no means perfect, but I think that just adds to the fun of the curves.

Circle mug rug detail

And I bound it in my usual way with a muted medium blue. The result is a more subdued piece. But I like that it’s more about the circles now, which was why I made the block in the first place.

Circle mug rug

I’ll use the magic binding technique again, I’m sure. One woman at Guild reversed it so the flange was on the back of the quilt. I liked that because it would allow me to keep the binding on front taut and add interest to the back, which is usually a little boring anyway.

Rankin House, Ripley, Ohio

Ripley OH

This past Labor Day weekend, Greg and I took a road trip on Hwy 52 east of Cincinnati. The road follows the Ohio river, and within 50 miles of the city, you hit some pretty significant historic sites.

Our first stop was the birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant. He was born in a one-room home in Point Pleasant, Ohio, and lived there only a year before the family moved to nearby Georgetown, Ohio. The home had a few personal artifacts that were donated by the Grant family including the leather-covered chest he brought to West Point and his presidential stationery. The tour guide pretty much forced me to take a photo with this life-size cutout of Grant. He was my height but thinner during the war years before adding on all that “presidential weight.”

US Grant

Grant Memorial Bridge

The Grant Memorial Bridge, shown above, is on the street in front of the property.

About 30 miles further down the road was Ripley, Ohio, the site of the John Rankin House, which was my primary destination on this little trip.

Rankin plaque

The Rankin House was a stop along the Underground Railroad for over 2000 escaped slaves. The house stands high atop a hill overlooking the Ohio (the first photo was taken in the backyard of the house). The family would put a light in the window each night to guide those crossing the river to safety. From here, the family members would take the slaves to their next stop, usually in the same night that they would arrive.

The Rankin House is my favorite kind of historic home—it has a good story and lots of pretty decorative touches. As soon as I walked in the house, the painted linoleum on the hall floor caught my eye.

Rankin painted linoleum

The hallway led to the sitting room. The people who restored the house were able to dig through the layers of paint to determine how the room was painted while the Rankins were there.

Rankin living room 2

The brother-in-law of John Rankin built the fireplace mantles in the home. Each had decorative cutouts along the top edge.

Rankin living room

All of the furniture and decorations in the home were period pieces, not from the family. But they were still pretty. Here’s the rug in the sitting room.

Rankin living room 3

The bedroom featured another brother-in-law-made mantle and more stenciling on the walls. The restorers found a section of the original painted walls and replicated it throughout the room.

Rankin bedroom mantle

There was a third mantle on the first floor in a second bedroom. I love how each one is a bit different, and it’s the notches in the top that tie them all together.

Rankin dining mantle 3Upstairs there were two large bedrooms: one for the boys and one for the girls. The Rankins had thirteen children, and at least some of the grown children lived there with their own families at times; at one point there were nineteen people living in the home. Here’s a rug from the girls’ room and some pictures tacked to the wall of the boys’ room.

Rankin girls rug

Rankin boys room

On our way home, we took a different route that took us past the Ulysses Grant Boyhood Home and Schoolhouse in Georgetown .

It’s pretty amazing all the history there is to see in areas not too far from Cincinnati. Watch out, Honey, I think I see some more road trips in our future.

American Sign Museum

Sign Welcome

I’ve been meaning for years to visit the American Sign Museum here in Cincinnati. It opened in 2005, and finally, this past Friday, thanks to Super Summer Hours, Greg and I went. And we loved it.

The museum’s sign collection includes pieces from throughout sign history, starting with hand-carved wooden letters and going through the neon age.

This sample was in the lobby of the Beverly Sign Company. It showcased some of their gold leaf fonts. I love the descriptions in the arrows: “Nice for a bank,” “Pretty popular,” and everyone’s favorite, “The husky one.”

Sign Beverly samples

In our history lesson of signs, we learned about trade signs. These signs featured imagery that would indicate to someone who couldn’t read what the business did. Shoes were a popular motif as were watches.

Sign trade sign

These art deco neon signs were two of my favorites.

Sign Art Deco

While there were a lot of Cincinnati-centric signs, the signs have come from all over the country. The satellite came from a mall in California, I believe.

Sign room shot

I was dying to flip through all these lovely letters.

Sign lovely letters

One of our favorite examples was this salesman’s sample. The letter R glowed purple in an art deco box, but it was really just a white R illuminated by a red and a blue neon light.

Sign purple R

The R above by itself looks like this D.

Sign letter D

I meant to take a photo of the cool salesman’s suitcase, but in a sign museum, you get a lot of extra stuff in your pictures, too.

Sign signs

We signed up for the 2pm tour, as the tours were highly recommended by the museum web site. And I’m glad we did. Oddly enough, there weren’t a lot of signs about the signs, so the tour guide really helped put it all in context, and he told great stories about the signs, too. As a bonus, at the end of the tour, we were given a demonstration by a neon sign maker whose business is housed in the museum building.

It was truly one of our best Summer Hours Adventures. I would highly recommend a visit to the American Sign Museum if you’re ever in Cincinnati.

Sign for Kara


The Quilting Blues

Quilting Sawtooth Star 1

This past weekend, I spent all my sewing time working on the quilting for my Sawtooth Star quilt. As I mentioned last time, I already had about 10 hours in on it before this weekend. And yet Saturday before I started, I once again contemplated tearing out all the quilting.

Why would I tear out all that work? Because . . . everything.

OK, I’ll be more specific.

  • I don’t like my quilting. I just don’t think I’m very good at it. Yes, I could get better by practicing and by reading up on how to do it better. But I prefer to just will myself to get better, and so far that hasn’t worked, much to my frustration. So I look at my uneven stitches and non-rounded ends and cringe.
  • I’m way outside my comfort zone on this one. My preferred type of quilting is minimal straight lines. But since this is a gift (note to self: do not go way outside comfort zone on a gift), I wanted to add more quilting than usual. And I thought some motion would be nice to go on the background. So I’m doing straight quilting in the stars and wavy back-and-forth lines in the background. As you can see, the fabric is kind of pulling in the background. I’m hoping washing it once it’s finished will hide some of that.

Quilting Sawtooth Star 2

  • The back looks even worse. There are brief moments when I think that maybe the front isn’t so bad. And then I turn it over. It’s complete chaos. I used a navy thread in the bobbin, and I was very far into the quilting when I realized how much it was standing out against the light fabric (the fabric registered in my mind as navy, but it’s really quite light). So I switched to a lighter variegated thread in some areas, but of course, it is tough to keep it only on the light fabric. So now there’s light thread on the navy fabric. Oh, and those uneven, wonky stitches really show up in thread that accidentally contrasts with your fabric.

Quilting Sawtooth Star 3

  • And all that busy threadwork on a busy fabric is going against every one of my aesthetic instincts.

Quilting Sawtooth Star 4

So, what to do? I’m open to suggestions. But for now, I’m forging ahead. “Just get it done” is my new motto. I’m getting a little better at the back-and-forth lines, so I don’t hate every one that I make. And I do like the movement in the front background fabric.

But, man, is this a chore. Just a very un-fun project. And I probably have another 8 hours at least before the quilting is done. Then I’ll get to see how wavy the edges are, thanks to my directional wavy lines. Sigh.


Paper-Pieced Stars

PP star orange

Lately, most of my sewing time has been devoted to quilting my Sawtooth Stars quilt—I’m making it to give as a gift, so I wanted to put more quilting into it than I usually do. Ten hours in and I’m not quite halfway done with the quilting. Ugh. Big projects like that don’t provide me with the immediate satisfaction that I crave from my sewing, so I decided to give myself a break and make up some paper-pieced stars.

It’s hard to believe that I’m paper piecing for a break, considering how hard it was to wrap my mind around my first paper-pieced projects. But now that I’ve done several, I really do find it to be fun.

I’ve been wanting to make a quilt with stars of all different shapes and sizes placed in a random fashion, so I did a search for star patterns and came upon a treasure trove at Wombat Quilts. There Cath has links to tons of paper-pieced patterns, many of which she designed. I downloaded several to get started.

PP star pink

The orange star at the top of this post is called Stamp Star and is 8 inches finished. The pink one above is the 8-inch Stripey Star. Now that I’ve made this one once, I realize that there’s a cute pinwheel in the center that I’ll want to play up more next time.

PP star green

My initial thought was to have a mix of white and off-white backgrounds for the blocks, so I made up this 6-inch Starry Night block. I’m thinking these colors might be a bit too muted for what I’m going for, so this guy is getting set aside for the time being.

PP stars grouped

My plan is make bright pink, orange, and yellow stars on a primarily white background. You can see I have a yellow one started above. We’ll see how/if it all comes together, but for now, these blocks are a nice diversion from quilting.


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