I’ve always had an affinity for telephones. My mom and dad started dating while they were both working at the local phone company. Mom was an operator and knows a lot about area codes and geography because of it. Dad was a cable repair technician and retired from the phone company after over 35 years. He would call the house sometimes while he was checking a customer’s phone for a daytime chat.

So I have a tendency to notice telephone quilt patterns. There are several cute ones, but this paper-piecing pattern by Cynthia Frenette struck a cord (ha!) because it looks just like I remember the phones at our house looking.

I decided to try my hand at the pattern by making a mug rug for Mom. The phone is red, of course.

It’s really a fun block to make. The finished block is 10 inches square, so most of the pieces are large and even the small ones are manageable. It’s also a great way to use up scrap fabric. The circles for the dial need to be appliquéd on. I wasn’t trying to make a masterpiece, so I just fused them on for raw-edge appliqué. Easy enough.

The block was so fun that I decided to make a wall hanging for myself. I picked solids from my stash in some of my favorite colors. I used two different fabrics for the dials. Neither has numbers, but I think they get the idea across.

Next, I needed to figure out how to quilt it. I really prefer simple quilting that emphasizes the piecing, so I ended up just outlining the phones.

I did a tiny zigzag around the circles to keep them from fraying too much.

And look! There’s the outline of the phone on the back!

I did the same quilting on the wall hanging. I used quilting to separate the earpiece and mouthpiece from the handle because, as a kid, I liked unscrewing those pieces and looking inside.

I was looking for an easy project that would make me happy. And these telephones definitely did the trick for me.


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.

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.


A Problem of Bearding

It’s been a frustrating few weeks in quiltland for me. I was so excited to start on the quilting for my latest boy’s charity quilt. But as soon as I started quilting, the quilt started to beard.

What is bearding? It’s when the fibers of a quilt’s batting migrate through the fabric and are visible on the top and back of your quilt.


The causes of bearding that I’ve always heard are things that I thought I had avoided.

Polyester batting: The stiffer fibers of polyester are more likely to make their way through the fabric fibers. But I had purchased cotton batting for this quilt, and cotton is thought to rarely cause bearding.

Low-quality fabrics: Fabrics with a looser weave are more susceptible to bearding because the batting can easily make its way to the top of the quilt. That’s part of why I always purchase my fabrics at quilt stores, where high-quality 100% cotton fabric is available.

Too-thick needles: Another possible cause of bearding is a sewing machine needle that is too thick and creates holes that the batting fibers can travel through. This one really got to me because I actually bought quilting needles for this quilt. I usually just use a universal needle to quilt, but I had recently read that a quilting needle is sharper and makes easier work of the quilting.

So what the heck?

I then came upon this article at Quilters Dream. In it, the writer states that the real cause of bearding is static. Static is something I have a lot of.

The writer of the article says that even high-quality cotton batting can beard if there’s enough static. And the dyeing process darker fabrics go through make them more likely to promote static. Plus it’s been a wild winter and the heat has been running non-stop in the house. So basically, the perfect storm for bearding.

Many sources will tell you there’s no way to stop bearding; you just need to let it run its course and eventually it will stop. But this writer contends you just need to stop the static. She suggests spraying the quilt with Static Guard, but I’d hate to do that to a quilt I’m giving away to charity. Her other solution is to place anti-static dryer sheets in a spray bottle with water and spray the quilt, then let it dry.

I’m going to give it a try, and I really hope it will work. I love this quilt and hope that the bearding abates enough that it can find a new home. More shots of the finished quilt in my next post.

Boy Column Quilt on couch

Finished T-Shirt Quilt

T_shirt quiltComing in just under the 5-year mark, I’ve finished my T-shirt quilt! The quilt is titled “A Few of My Favorite Things” because I’ve used my favorite old T-shirts that I could part with and some of my favorite fabrics (from about 5 years ago). It’s been a long time in the making, and I can’t want to snuggle up under it.

Previously, I had blogged about making the quilt top (with some embroidery added to fill in some of the white space on the T-shirts) and finding the right border fabric (you can read that post here). The latest hold-up for this quilt was the quilting. When I finally worked up the gumption to dive in to the quilting, I did a few blocks and then realized I didn’t like it. So then it sat for a while (months) longer while I worked up the gumption to take out that quilting and start again.

The quilting I ended up with is just straight lines in the printed fabrics and tack-down stitches on the T-shirts. Nothing too fancy or dense, but it all takes time.

T_shirt quilt detailWith the quilting finally done, I was ready to get this project off my list. But I still had the binding to do. I auditioned a few solid and solid-reading fabrics, but Greg and I both thought they would be a visual let-down given the rest of the quilt. So I went with this orange dot fabric. It turned out brighter than I thought it would, and it’s possibly a bit distracting. But the fabric is definitely one of my favorite ones, so I think it works.

The back is one fabric, just a pretty print I got on sale at the Herrschner’s warehouse sale last year.

T-shirt quilt back

I love this quilt for so many reasons. First, I’m proud that I made the whole thing myself. I learned a lot while making it, especially about working with knits. And the shirts and the fabrics bring back so many memories. A few of the shirts I received as gifts from my friend, Lynn. Several I associate with my sister, Carrie. One I received from my sister, Brenda. Two I bought on work trips for my first job. And then there’s the fabric, many of which I bought on shopping trips with my mom. So, so many wonderful memories. All wrapped up in a quilt that I can’t wait to wrap up in.

The Need to Make

crocheted wrapMan, was I in a bad way last week. I don’t know if it was the steroids and antibiotics I was taking for my sinus infection or the fact that the week started out with my husband enjoying MLK Jr. day off while I worked away. But I was fussy and annoyed all week. By the time Thursday rolled around, I found myself thinking, “If I could just sew…” or something, anything, that was real.

I’m lucky that my job does involve making things: books and online classes. But still, books don’t become real until well after I’m done with them. And online classes get posted, but it’s not like I can touch them. After a hard week of making virtual things, I needed to make something that I could touch.

Friday night I finally got my chance. I worked on the crocheted wrap above while we were watching TV. As I was happily going along, I actually found myself thinking, “Oh, I’d better save.” But that’s the great thing about making something real. You don’t need to save! It’s right there! Yeah, it took me a while to get out of the work frame of mind.

Saturday, I finished sewing the rows onto my yellow and pink plus quilt top. It’s not squared up yet, but another big check in the “done” column.

Plus top on chair

And I was still so intent on working with my hands that I actually started working on my T-shirt quilt again. I had started quilting it at least 6 months ago, but I had decided I needed to start over. And unsewing the quilting is the worst, in my mind. It seems like such a huge step backward. But the quilt was going to sit there until I did.

T_shirt quilt portion Once the old quilting was out, I re-basted it, and started again. For right now, I’m just quilting around the blocks of fabric (be it T-shirts or other). I’ll go in and add a bit of quilting to the T-shirts (I got the idea to use a decorative stitch to tack down the T-shirt blocks here and there from a blog post by Nancy Zieman). And I may add some more quilting lines to the fabrics, too.

T_shirt quilt quilted

There’s still a long way to go on all of these projects. But, man, did it feel good to work on them.

Finished Quilt for Ronald McDonald House

In record time, I finished the quilting for this quilt that I’ll be donating to our local Ronald McDonald House charity. (Here’s my blog post on making the quilt top.) I usually get stalled on the quilting. I don’t practice enough to be good at it, and because I’m not good at it, I don’t practice. You can see my problem.

But for this quilt, I decided to dive into the quilting before the first layer of dust settled on the quilt top. Because of the animal theme, I titled the quilt “Roar,” and I quilted that into the brown fabric on each side of the quilt.

In the four-patch blocks, I just did a simple X and then stitched in the two ditches.

And for the animal blocks, I highlighted one animal face in each, and then added more stitching to fill in the block. You can still see my yellow chalk lines in this photo.

After giving a whole presentation to the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild on labeling quilts, I would be remiss not to have one on this quilt. (Here’s a link to part one of my blog posts on quilt labels, based on that presentation. And here’s part 2.)

And finally, a quick look at the back of the quilt. I had small pieces of the animal fabric left, so I incorporated them into the back along with some of the other fabrics I used from my stash.

This really was a fun quilt to work on, not only because of the fun animal fabric, but because of the size, too. 40 x 40 rocks! It’s large enough to do a fun design, and small enough to quilt easily—and get done quickly. I think my next charity project will be a girl quilt of this size for the Ronald McDonald House. I’m already gathering girly purple fabrics for it.

T-Shirt Quilt Top

It’s been several years now since I began this quilt that I’ve titled “A Few of My Favorite Things.” It all started, as I’m sure many t-shirt quilts do, with a cleaning session. I had to get rid of some of these old, sometimes ratty t-shirts. But I loved them so much—there was a reason I held onto them. Some were gifts, many were from places where I had many fond memories, some just made me laugh. But what to do with them?

I had made t-shirt pillows in the past. And those are great for one or two super special t-shirts. (I had gotten the t-shirt above my freshman year in high school on a band trip to Minneapolis. It was well loved, believe me.) But I had a lot to move out this time. A t-shirt quilt came to mind, but I wasn’t really a fan of ones I’d seen in the past. They were so…t-shirty.

After looking at the pile of t-shirts for months, I realized that part of what I didn’t like about some t-shirt quilts was the white space around the individual t-shirt designs. To make the shirt blocks square, you sometimes needed to include a lot of extra t-shirt (thus making the quilt t-shirty).

So, if white space was my problem, I could easily fill that with embroidery! I got out my floss and needle and just “doodled” on the shirts to fill them in.

Next, I thought that if these were my favorite t-shirts, it would only make sense to pair them with my favorite fabrics. I cut strips of the fabrics to make a bit of a log cabin design around each block. I then filled in with more strips to create the three vertical panels that make up the quilt.

With the panels done, the quilt sat, and sat…and sat as I waited for the right border fabric to come my way. I took the quilt to fabric stores a few times looking for the right fabric, but nothing seemed to work.

That is until this year when I brought the quilt out again. I tried new fabrics from my stash and found that I kind of liked this blue city fabric from Michael Miller. I hadn’t intended for this to be a blue quilt, but once I put the fabric by it, it picked up all the blue that was in the quilt already. So now it’s a blue quilt!

Of course, the next step is quilting. This has me stumped again. It needs some good, firm quilting (sewing the t-shirts to the fabric gave me a little trouble, and so the top if not very smooth), which I can do in the fabric parts. But what do I do for the t-shirt areas? Really, what do I do? Let me know your thoughts—I’d love to hear them!

Quilting String Quilt #2

I can’t believe it, but I’m actually excited to be doing the quilting on this wall hanging. Even super excited! I started yesterday afternoon, and it’s going very well. In fact, I can’t wait to get back to it after my work is done for today!

A couple of things worked in my favor and allowed me to have a good quilting experience this time around. First, I came up with a quilting plan that I like and that works. There are a lot of stops and starts, which in this case means a lot of matching up of sewing lines, but so far it has gone pretty well. And, as I’ve mentioned previously, a lot of the pressure to make those lines match exactly is off since the whole quilt is a bit wonky by nature.

A second factor in my pleasant quilting experience is the Chaco Liner by Clover. It actually works as well as I’ve heard. The little gear that dispenses the chalk makes a very satisfying noise when you use it. And the lines it makes are clear. I’ve noticed that the lines do wipe away very easily, so I have been marking just the areas I’ll be sewing in the next few minutes. I tried marking more than that, and the lines were gone by the time I got to them. Although, I admit I was doing a lot of rearranging and maneuvering between marking sessions, so that could have been a factor.

Here’s hoping today goes as well as yesterday, so I can start building a bit of confidence in my quilting abilities!

String Quilt #2

And the string quilt #2 wall-hanging top is complete! As I mentioned, my first string quilt used scraps from previous projects. For this one, I wanted to use some of my favorite current fabrics, focusing on the orange and green ones that make up the bulk of my stash. I’m pretty pleased with the way it turned out. Not all of the seams line up perfectly and a few stars are missing their points, but one of the things I love about string quilts is the imperfections are part of the charm. So I just added a few more imperfections of my own.

I’ve decided not to add borders to this string quilt either. To me, there’s so much going on that adding a border seems like just one more thing. Of course, one theory would be that a border could keep the chaos of the strings contained a bit. But I think I’m going to let a turquoise binding serve that task.

So next up is the quilting: the part that usually holds me up for several months…well, more likely several years. Because it is a nice, manageable wall-hanging size, my plan is to quilt it myself using all straight lines. The straight lines will be outside the ditch (because stitching in the ditch isn’t as easy as it sounds), adding to the geometric lines already going on.

Part of my quilting issues come from not having a really good, reliable marking tool. So my ears perked up recently when the women at the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild were talking about the Chaco Liner marking pen from Clover. Several of them have had great success with it, so I purchased one from Lavender Street in Montgomery (a shop dangerously close to my home), and I’m going to give it a try.

To learn how this quilt came to be, you can refer back to this blog post. And to read about some of the quirks of working on this quilt, you can take a look back at this post.