Friday, September 29, 2006

This one was fast!

Round 3 is a "Plain Jane" round - at least that's what our instructor calls it. It's used to create a visual break and a place for the eyes to rest, as well as a chance to "correct" the size of the piece so far. Finished measurement after this round is 36".

"Round 4" - from class 5 - isn't a round at all. She obviously figures everyone needs some time to catch up. This round consists of four 6" blocks that provide the "cornerstones" for the next border. I'm doing four Ohio stars with chintz centers. "Round 5", which is the round we received instructions for on Thursday night, will complete this fourth border. I'm leaning toward doing dark flying geese with light backgrounds, though there are several other blocks to choose from. Choices, choices - I may eventually decide I need to make three different medallions!

Before I can choose the fabrics for the geese I need to refold my fabrics so I can find them again. They suffered a lot making this so far, and are in a giant heap on my cutting table instead of a nice stack. It's pretty hard to see what I've got at this point, so taking time to straighten up is definitely going to be the next "order of the day".

Round 2

I am having so much fun with this medallion that I don't want to do anything else - including sleeping or eating! Or going to work - but that goes without saying, right? We got more beautiful fabric in our class packets last night. I wasn't able to finish the second round in time for class so I was able to use some of the new fabrics in it. I just finished stitching it to the center. I did hour glass blocks because I had so many quarter square triangles left over from making the center. I also thought it was a nice way to echo the same shape. I should be able to catch up now before the next class. The next border to go on is a narrow stop border, then a 6" border with something different for the cornerstones. Once I finish that border I will be all caught up. Of course I have WAY more fabric than I need for this quilt top, so I'm thinking I may start a second and even a third medallion. There are so many neat options each month to choose from for the borders.

Tomorrow I'll be sewing for "Quilt Pink" all day. We should be able to put together two tops and backs by 4:00 p.m. tomorrow. There are two of us longarmers in the guild, so we will each quilt one. They are providing what sounds like a yummy lunch for us. I'm hoping to remember the camera so I can take some pictures to post tomorrow night.

Is there anyone else that's doing something special for Quilt Pink day?


1. Cool evenings
2. Wispy morning fog that speaks loudly of fall
3. Penne pasta and Italian sausage for dinner
4. Color printers
5. Quilt history books


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Another round completed!

My husband has open house tonight at the high school where he teaches so I'm all alone without a need to cook dinner. So I've been working on my medallion since I got home from work at 4:00. Round 2 is now done. I love it! I chose a simple row of pieced squares because the other choices - appliquéd scallops, sawtooth, and square in a square - looked a little too complicated to be right next to my more complicated center. I'm sure enjoying working with these reproduction fabrics!

I choose the chintz that came in my first kit for the very center - here is the excerpt from "my dear husband's letter" that talks about it: "My old friend Hobbs had a bit of chintz on the shelf I thought might suit that quilt you spoke of making to grace our own bed. Mr. Hobbs kindly gave it me for less than usually, but it still came dear. Pleaseacceptt this little bit of gift from your loving husband whilst you stitch that quilt to warm our bed once I return." After reading that how could I not feature that in my quilt.

Some of the other fabrics in the center came from my dear sister Hope who wrote, "Your husband told me you begin a quilt. Myself thought perhaps you would care for some from my piecebag to put into your new quilt. Sarah sends some from her new dress - the light one with the flower and other bits." Every month our kit includes a letter from a relative, with family news as well as a bit of information about the fabric that's included. This gives us a tiny bit of an idea what it must have been like back in those early days of the United States after the revolutionary war. This is so much fun!

I hope to get at least one or two more rounds on tonight so I have a nice start to share at class tomorrow night.

I also included a few pictures of fall decorations at our house. These were taken last year - I won't have time to put them out this year until Sunday.

Thank you, everyone, for hoping I start feeling better. Today was much better - no dizzyness and not much headache. My main problem is dust mites - but if I cleaned as much as the doctor said was needed to eliminate that problem I'd have time to do nothiing but clean! I'd rather quilt and tough it out with the sinuses!


1. The chance to take such a wonderful class from Eileen.
2. Reproduction fabrics
3. Leaves beginning to turn with a marvelous blue sky as the background.
4. Lemon for my diet pepsi
5. Scrambled eggs, bacon and toast for a fast easy dinner


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I have a center!

After a couple false starts and stitching then ripping then stitching some more and ripping some more, I finally finished the center block for my pre-1830's medallion quilt. For those of you who are recent readers, I talked a lot about this class in my next post after the first class last February. The class is taught by AQS certified quilt appraiser and quilt historian Eileen Trestain. Since Thursday will be our seventh session (out of 11) I'm a little late getting started, but I hope to make good progress from now on. I have so many period fabrics to choose from it was hard deciding what I wanted to use, so finally I just started pulling from the stack at random. I knew I wanted to put the chintz "sent to me by my husband" when he was up north visiting family. I can hardly wait to put on the next rounds. For each round we have at least 3-6 different choices of appropriate designs. We are learning so much interesting stuff about life in those times. This has been one of the best classes I've ever taken.

I came home before noon as I was suffering dizzyness and severe sinus pain from allergies. Laid down on the bed to try to read the work I brought home, and immediately fell asleep. After sleeping for a couple hours the dizzyness was gone but the severe sinus pain is still there. Allergies are so wonderful! I need to head to bed for a good sleep, as I have a class to teach tomorrow morning at work. At least it's a short class.

A short, quick post

I'm really tired this morning because I had so much trouble going to sleep last night. Our son and daughter-in-law came up to show us the latest ultrasound, and tell us they are having a girl. I'm really thrilled - I wanted so much for this baby to be a girl. That means a granddaughter next February and a grandson sometime next year when the adoption is complete. I'm sure my husband is thrilled but he never shows any emotion - other the other hand I'm just floating on cloud 9!

Finally got all the summer decorations put away yesterday afternoon. The cleaning folks come today so I'll start putting out fall stuff after work today. I go all out for fall - I have more fall stuff than any other season except for Christmas. I've put up pictures of the two fall quilts I've finished. The first is an old Country Threads pattern. The second is a class sample for a Precision Piecing class that I used to teach in the early 1990's at Daisy Kingdom. I love this quilt. The border fabric is a copy of an early reproduction print - it was the "theme" fabric that I chose all the other colors from. It's now on the back of the couch in the living room.


1. Healthy mom and granddaughter to come.
2. Time with family
3. Ultrasound
4. I won Phase 10 dice - I hardly ever win any games!
5. Good books to read


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Customer quilt finished

And it's the last one I have here. Not sure whether I should now try to do one of my own or not. Seems like every time I get the last customer quilt done I get in another couple within a week. Guess I shouldn't complain, as they help me make the machine payments.

I forgot all about showing you my newest pincushion - I guess because I don't use it. It sits in the window of my sewing room. I posted a picture of it back in January or February but I'm sure many of you weren't reading my blog back then. This is a "make do". Our foremothers in the 18th and 19th centuries made something new out of things that were broken because they were too precious to throw away. This is made from a candlestick. The fabrics are silks such as would have been used for clothing in the early 1800's. I made this in the early 19th century medallion class that I'm taking. I finally found a center that really grabbed me, thanks to the museum pictures posted by Mismatched Quilter. I'd not started my quilt because I was waiting for inspiration for the center. Thanks Katie - I'm ready to start now! Good thing as we've already had six of our 11 class sessions!

One more pincushion, trash and a block

I have lots of pincushions, tins and pin boxes upstairs in my longarm room, but most of them aren't at all interesting - just containers of big yellow-headed pins I use to pin quilts to the machine leaders. Only one is at all interesting, so I'll talk a little about it.

I made the eggplant from craft felt years and years ago when felt was thick and rich feeling compared to the paper thin stuff you find now. The pattern was from an old McCalls Needlework and Crafts magazine - anyone besides me remember those? I started buying them when I was about 12. I made very few things from their patterns, but spent many long hours drooling over page after page of wonderful things. I bought every issue and saved every one until sometime in my 30's. I imagine this pattern was from the mid-1960's. I made the first eggplant after we were married in 1969, and wore it out so I had to make another, which is also starting to show it's age. These pincushions were called "vegetable pillows", and there was also a bunch of celery, an onion, a tomato, a carrot and others. I made the celery for the neighbor across the street within a year or two after we moved into the neighborhood. Wish I still had the patterns - they would be great in felted wool.

I guess someone asked about trash, too, as several bloggers have posted pictures of theirs. You don't find much in my trash in the way of fabric scraps since I save crumbs and cut the rest into squares, bricks and triangles. I use tissue containers for my trash - they work wonderfully! Downstairs I have one on my cutting table, one at the sewing machine, and one on the ironing board. Upstairs I have one by my bobbin winder, one at each end of the longarm table at both the front and back of the table and one on my Pfaff cabinet. We have lots of them because we both suffer from allergies, and they are so easy to toss - box and all - when they become full.

Yesterday I finished the prep on the remaining two appliqué blocks for Heirloom Stitches, and finished the stitching on the small 6" block. Then I sewed the borders onto the auction quilt for Northwest Medical Teams so I can finish my appliqué where it overlaps the quilt body from the border. I cut into crumbs the scraps from the two months' of Heirloom Stitches blocks. Doesn't sound like that much now that it's written down, but it felt like a full, busy day! Today I have the baby quilt to quilt for a customer, and then I'll make the binding for Broken Dishes. Hopefully I can get it machine stitched onto the quilt today so I can do the handstitching while watching the last week of Mariners baseball for this year.


1. Homemade sourdough bread
2. A perfect day of beautiful fall weather
3. The housecleaners that come every other week - the best gift I've ever given myself
4. Jim Shore figures for fall
5. A basket of gourds and Indian corn


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Much better!

A block called "Blossom and Berries" looks much better with the berries, don't you think? Can't believe I forgot about them and thought the block was finished!

This completes all the installments that I've received. Supposedly it's through August, but since I didn't get this block until August 31st, I'm taking the liberty of calling it the September block. Especially since September is rapidly drawing to a close and I've not received that installment in the mail yet. A picture has been up on her site for most of the month. It looks like three very easy blocks to complete this time - one appliqué and two pieced. You can see a picture of them here, as well as a picture of her newest Halloween quilt. I absolutely adore this new quilt called "Trick or Treat". I want so badly to get the kit - usually the only way to get her patterns - but I'm going to be good and not order it. That's a quick saving of $85! I'll just cross my fingers that eventually she puts the pattern for this one in a book.

I retrieved the rest of the blocks from the closet where they are hanging clipped to a skirt hanger, and laid them out of the floor to get a picture. I really like the way this quilt is looking! Of course I have no idea how they are going to be stitched together - there are still four more months installments to come. The quilt is called "Posies and Points" - clever name, don't you think?

Saturday morning

I know you are all waiting to hear my decision. No, I am not going to Quilt Expo. I'd pretty much decided that before I asked what everyone else would do, but I was very curious to see your answers to that question. Very interesting - they were all over the board. Lots of great ideas and recommendations. Thank you so much for all your input.

After all these years of collecting fabric, patterns, books and other quilty things, I know the only thing that works for me is to stay away. It would be different if I had very little extra money and knew I HAD to control my spending, but since I have a well paying job that is not the case. It is incredibly easy for me to rationalize any purchase when I know I can afford it if I want it. I really don't mind not going. The whole purpose of the Expo is the vendors - the quilt show is minor and secondary to the shopping. I always find the Hoffman Challenge to be fun to see, but since Hoffman fabrics no longer appeal to me I get no inspiration from the quilts. There are always other quilts I enjoy looking at, but I've rarely seen one in the style of quilting that I am currently doing. So it doesn't bother me to miss the show. Besides, I already have enough inspiration in my collections of books and patterns to last several quilters lifetimes. And I have lots and lots of quilty things to do at home this weekend. I can take the $8 I'd have to spend on parking and the $5.50 entry fee and buy myself a goodie and coffee at Starbucks before I head out for my 9:30 haircut app't.

Love seeing everyone's pincushions - thanks, Evelyn, for such a great sharing idea! I started gathering mine together for a picture and was totally surprised at how many there were. In this picture you see only the downstairs pincushions, which doesn't include the several boxes and tins I also keep pins in. (I'll share the upstairs ones later.) The yellow one is made from fabric with paper dolls on it. One Tangled Threads meeting two of the members announced they had a project for us to do that evening. They'd bought fabric that meant something special to each of us - I loved paper dolls as a child - and did a bit of preliminary cutting and stitching. That evening we finished the pincusions and each took home a treasure. I love this one, which lives by my featherweight. I don't remember where I got the turtle that lives by my ironing board. The blue wrist one is left over from my clothing construction days, and holds an eclectic collection of needles. The tiny thumb pincusion lives in my appliqué basket and holds short appliqué pins. The wool flower was a gift from an outgoing board president to the members of her board in my North Star guild. The strawberry I made as a program project one night at North Star guild. The project was led by the friend that I bought the hand dyed wool from that I'm using in Warm Nights. I don't use the last two for anything but decoration.

I was going to rejoice about finishing the September block for the Jan Patek mystery, but after downloading the photo and renaming it "Blossom and Berries" I realized I've not yet sewn on the berries! They are all prepped and waiting in my appliqué basket. I'll finish during the baseball game today, then I'll collect all the blocks so far and take a picture of them together to post, as I've not done that for awhile.

Better get dressed - don't want to be late for the haircut!



1. Pumpkin Spice lattés
2. Pumpkin and cream cheese muffins
3. Starbucks - no surprise there!
4. Helpful, encouraging internet friends
5. Jeans and flannel shirts


Thursday, September 21, 2006

A dilemma . . .

What would you do? Curious minds want to know.

The Portland Quilt Expo starts today and runs through Saturday. This huge vendor mall and quilt show is held every September at the Expo Center in Portland, Oregon. The show consists of one of the traveling Hoffman Challenges plus a themed show of quilts by local quilters. It's always a wonderful show. Then there is the vendor mall - dozens of booths by quilt shops all around the country and vendors showing the newest gadgets for our obsession. I love going. I've gone almost every year. But I always spend a considerable amount of money every year.

So I'm trying to decide whether or not I should go. My daughter says go if I just see the show and not set foot in the vendor mall. Can't do that - they are all in the same huge room. I could go and leave my money, checkbook and credit card at home, but I know myself better than that. I don't have that kind of will power. Besides, my favorite shops would have no trouble letting me take stuff home and then call them with my credit card number. (I know it by heart anyway, from all the online ordering I've done.) My husbands only comment was "remember, everything you spend delays your retirement that much longer".

Right now I'm leaning toward staying home and sewing instead of going. My common sense side currently has the upper hand. But the other side is right there behind whispering "you'll be REALLY sorry if you don't go. You can go and just look at the new books. Would a spending spree really be that bad? You DESERVE this!" My common sense side is replying " you know yourself well enough to know that if you go you will spend money - you have no will power at all when it comes to quilting."

What would you do? Would you stay at home or go? I know what the right answer for me should be, but I'm really struggling with it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

From top to bottom:
Wyoming Valley, Pinwheel, and Corn and Beans. Union Square and Duchman's Puzzle. Autumn Leaf and Wreath.

I was able to stitch a few more of the blocks together. Pinwheel and Corn and Beans are really lower in the quilt - there is an Oak Leaf block from this month that I still need to do. It fits in directly below Wyoming Valley.


1. A big pot of homemade soup.
2. Fresh baked bread and real butter
3. Weight Watchers Ice Cream treats
4. A haircut for Shadow
5. A productive two day weekend


What I did this weekend

If you remember at the beginning of the weekend I was choosing how I'd spend the two days. There were so many options! As it turned out the chose wasn't hard at all - it almost made itself. I've not done much with my BOM's for awhile, and I decided I wanted to catch up. I think this was motivated by the fact that Friday the September installment of Heirloom Stitches arrived - two weeks after the August installment arrived on the last day of August. So that's what I did. First I prepped the appliqué for the August Jan Patek mystery block. It's a very simple block - the appliqué should be done in just a couple evenings of stitching. Next I finished the appliqué on the last July block - a wreath - and finished the Union Square block since the missing piece of fabric had finally arrived in the mail about 4 days ago. Then I cut all the pieced blocks from the August and September mailings - 5 blocks. I finished piecing the last one about 8:45 tonight. That leaves two small appliqué blocks from the September mailing and then I'll be all caught up with this project. Hopefully I can get those two appliqué blocks prepped tomorrow night.

I also made the first big pot of homemade soup for the season. It feels so good to be making cool weather meals again! This was a big pot of navy beans with onion, carrots, celery and ham. It tasted so good tonight! I served it with hot homemade bread, applesause and my favorite white wine - Muller Thurgau. (There are supposed to be two little dots over the "u" but I can't figure out how to do that.) I went to the store to get what I needed while I was waiting for Shadow to be done with his haircut. He was so overdue he was looking really bad. Saturday I also ran coffee and goodies from Starbucks to my daughter's and son-in-laws where they were painting the house. Did some picking up around the house, but more is needed. Hopefully tomorrow night.

Well, Blogger seems to be stuborn tonight - letting me load only the one picture. I'll have to load the block close-ups in another post. This is where I am with Heirloom Stitches as of this evening. Not all that many blocks left!

A few more hints . . . .

Eileen asked how closely to the seam should she clip. I clip right up to the seam without clipping through the seam. You want each half to fold nicely the direction you want it to go.

Use a short stitch -15 to the inch. That way the seams don't come apart without backtacking, and you can be confident they will hold well even when you clip right up to them or "pop" them at the ends when crossed by another seam so as to press them in a little whorl.

Use spray starch or fabric sizing to make your fabric nice and stiff-crisp before cutting - especially if you are cutting small pieces for a fairly intricate block. (Stick to fabric sizing if you might have a bug problem where you live, because bugs like to eat starch.) This gives the pieces a lot of body and helps you control them while stitching. I'd do this even if you are using "new" fabric that hasn't been prewashed.

If I am stitching something that I often have trouble turning out the right size - like a square in a square - I cut the triangles oversized and then square up the block part after stitching. You should be able to figure out the proper unfinished size of the block part, but if you can't just be sure to center your ruler over the block and leave your 1/4" seam on all sides. This probably often occurs for me when part of the block is set on the bias, like in a square in a square or this basket block or the points of this star.

None of these hints will help you sew the block together correctly, however. You are on your own for that. I freely admit that I am "spatially challenged" and do this much more often that I'd care to admit. So I still keep a "reverse sewing machine" handy at all times.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Guess I match my birthstone . . . .

You Are Emerald Green

Deep and mysterious, it often seems like no one truly gets you.
Inside, you are very emotional and moody - though you don't let it show.
People usually have a strong reaction to you... profound love or deep hate.
But you can even get those who hate you to come around. There's something naturally harmonious about you.

No wonder I feel pulled in two directions much of the time!

Thanks Finn!

You Are 45% Left Brained, 55% Right Brained
The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.If you're left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.
The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.If you're right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.

A little bit of this and a little bit of that . . . .

I'm so glad Blogger and Bloglines are feeling better and playing together nicely today. I had a HUGE list of updated blogs this morning, and it included all the blogs where I found updates yesterday. So it looks like nothing was missed, it just took awhile for everything to show up.

Thanks to everyone for their nice comments on my tutorials. I really enjoyed teaching quilting, and I miss it. I've not taught classes now for over 13 years. Once I started working at the credit union my schedule changed, and the store where I taught - Daisy Kingdom in Portland, Oregon - stopped offering classes. I used to teach a lot for the guild, but I've let others take the spotlight the last 15 years or so. Hopefully I'll have at least one grandchild who wants to learn. In the meantime I'm enjoying sharing my knowledge with all of you who find it useful.

Sweet Pea asked a question that made me realize I left out another important detail when I wrote the seam allowance tutorial. She asked whether I carefully removed the "wall" when I needed to do other sewing. It certainly would get in the way for applying binding, doing paper piecing, etc. I'm lucky enough to have two machines, so I do nothing but piece on the featherweight. The "wall" stays in place all the time and I do everything else on my Pfaff that lives upstairs in the longarm room.

If you have only one machine here is the solution. When you are building the "wall" start with a strip of wide masking tape. If you are really careful when you stitch you can test the placement with only one strip by watching carefully. Get that one strip in exactly the right place, then build your "wall" on top of it. You can't see it on my machine, but I have one strip of masking tape under the red strip. That is never removed. When the sticky wears out on the "wall" and I need to build a new one, I have the location marked by that one strip of masking tape. Remove your "wall" as needed, but keep that one strip in place so you'll know where to put it back.

Eileen asked if I could post a link to my pressing tutorial. Happy to oblige, Eileen! Find pressing information here and here.

A few more hints . . .

Everyone knows about opposing seams, right? When piecing a block make sure to press seams that will meet together in opposite directions. That way they can snuggle right down next to each other as they are being sewn together. If both are pressed the same way it's very difficult to get those points to match exactly. Sometimes pressing opposing seams is in direct opposition to the rule of pressing to distribute bulk evenly. Don't worry about that - just clip the seam so you can press part of it one way and part of it the other way. When you are stitching along use your fingertips to feel the seams snuggled right up next to each other. If they are too close together your fingers will feel a spot that is too thick. If they aren't touching exactly your fingers will feel a tiny valley in between the seam allowance. As I said before, I piece as much by "feel" as I do by sight.

Is everyone aware of what the feed dogs do? These are the jagged pieces of metal below your presser foot that move when the machine is running. They feed the fabric through the machine. Does everyone know that machines are designed so the feed dogs will pull the bottom layer of fabric through faster than the top layer? This is so you can ease a larger piece to a smaller piece - like one does when setting a sleeve into the armseye of a garment. If you are stitching two parts of a block - or two blocks - together and one is a little bit bigger than the other, put the one that is bigger on the bottom. Pin the beginning and end of the spot you are easing and stitch away. As long as the difference isn't too great the feed dogs will ease in the bottom piece and no one will be the wiser. An even feed foot, also called a walking foot, is designed so both layers of fabric are fed through the machine at the same speed. So if you have a walking foot on the machine you use for piecing use it all the time - unless you are trying to ease a larger piece to a smaller one. Disengage the walking foot while you are stitching those pieces.

You've probably heard the "rule" about always pressing to the dark side. It's written in most every quilting instruction book that I've seen. Ignore it whenever necessary. Press to the dark side when possible, but first press to distribute bulk evenly and then press for opposing seams - both are more important than pressing to the dark side. Just take a quick look to make sure there is no edge of dark seam allowance showing on the right side of the block. If a dark line shows just trim it off a bit.

I'm posting a few more pictures of the wrong side of pressed blocks in case some of you find this useful. All of them should enlarge if you click on them.

And now into the sewing room to stitch. I have so many things I want to do I'm having a terrible time deciding which project I should work on today. I might even start a new one - either the Warm Hearts quilt with the beautiful Mistletoe Manor fabrics or the center for my medallion - since we are over halfway done with the class I really need to get started, don't you think?

Have a wonderful quilty day everyone!


1. Rain, blessed rain!
2. Quilt shows
3. Weekends
4. Hand dyed wool
5. Strong, hot tea with milk - my morning drink of choice


Friday, September 15, 2006

I hope Blogger and Bloglines are feeling better!

Something was so wonky in Blogland today. I got up at 5:00 as usual, turned on the computer and made myself a cup of tea. I sat down to read my emails - curious how many there might be since I posted the second installment of the seam allowance tutorial last night. I was surprised to see there were hardly any emails. And not a comment on my posting. No messages from any of my yahoo groups either. That was SO odd! So I pulled up Bloglines - there were five updated blogs. I read through those and checked my email again. Nothing. So I pulled up my blog - or should I say I tried to pull up my blog. All I got was a nasty blue screen with an error message on it! Well, that explained why I had no comments. Apparently my blog came back sometime this afternoon. I noticed that I Bloglines was still showing no updates, including the fact that I'd sent an update last night. So I pulled up my entire list of 128 blogs and started checking each one. Guess what - many of them had been updated today and Bloglines never got the message! I've caught up reading all of them now, so I'm posting something on mine to see if maybe Bloglines is working again. I hope so, because I did get a notice tonight that Judy Laquidara at Sunshine Quilts had updated her blog. I'm afraid I neglected to leave much in the way of comments as I was reading, because I needed to check all 128 feeds. I sue hope by tomorrow morning both systems will be back to normal - I've become very dependent on spending daily time with my blogging quilty friends!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Seam Allowance Part II

Updated - Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Notice the little red "wall" with the white hearts on it? That's the secret. You want to build yourself a little "wall" that is the exact seam allowance width away from the needle that you need. Mine is a fancy little wall that you can get at quilt shops - I got it in a goodie bag. A built up wall of masking tape works fine - that's what I used for years. A piece of moleskin or other "foot stuff" that has a sticky side works well. Many people use a pad of Post-It's that they've ripped off so it's just the right height. You want it tall enough so you can easily butt the edge of your fabric right up next to it but not so tall that any pins you have in the block won't glide over the top of it. You'll sew your seam as much by feel as by sight - my fingertips have become very sensitive as to whether or not the fabric is just touching the edge of the wall as I sew.

Notice the wall starts considerably in front of the presser foot. That's the problem with 1/4" feet - the fabric needs to be in the right position in front of the foot in addition to under the foot. That way you know it is going straight through and not at an angle. If your feed dogs get in the way of your "wall" - which may very well happen on a zigzag machine, just cut square notch out of the "wall" to expose the feed dogs at that spot. If you have a featherweight, make sure it doesn't extend over the gold paint as it will eventually cause the paint to flake off.

Position a ruler under your presser foot, and drop the needle so it touches the far right edge of the 1/4" line. Make sure the ruler is straight front to back, then drop the presser foot. While the ruler is in place build your "wall" so it is exactly next to the edge of the ruler. Make it a fat 1/8" tall, or a little taller. 1/4" is too tall. Remove the ruler.

Cut 3 short 1 1/2" strips - I use about 4" lengths - two dark and one light. Using your "wall" as a guide, seam it together as shown in the picture. Press well to the dark strip. I use steam. Measure the finished size of the center strip with your ruler. It should measure exactly 1". If it's too narrow then your seam allowance is too fat, and you need to move your wall a smidgen to the left toward the needle. If the center strip is too fat, then your seam allowance is too narrow, and you need to move the "wall" a smidgen to the right away from your needle. Move the "wall", then do another test piece. Keep working at it until the center strip measures exactly 1". It might take a few tries, but once you have it you are set! As long as you train your eyes and your fingertips to keep the edge of your seam right next to the "wall" - and it doesn't take long at all to train them - your seam allowance will be the perfect width for your personal pressing and cutting methods, machine and thread.

If your machine has a top loading bobbin then your "wall" will go right over the bobbin opening. You can still make this work for you if you take an exacto knife and slice straight across the "wall" right where the door over the top of the bobbin opens. Sort of like a draw bridge opening. Your "wall" can split in half, with half staying with the machine and half lifting with the bobbin case. When you replace the bobbin cover the entire "wall" is back in position. (Thank you, Quilt Pixie, for reminding me that I forgot to address this issue.)

Notice in the picture of the wrong side that how the seam allowance is a scant 1/4" - it doesn't even touch the 1/4" mark on the ruler.

More to follow - opposing seams and a bit more about pressing.

Precision Piecing - the beginning

I've added a picture to this post.

I thought I would give you some preliminary information to think about while you are waiting for the seam allowance tutorial. Remember, this is what works for me. If this isn't something you want to worry about then don't - there are no quilt police. Just skip this post and the next one. I'm hoping you'll decide to stick around because what I'm going to show you is so easy, natural and painless that you won't know how you managed without it.

All quilters know how to piece, unless they do nothing but appliqué. What many quilters don't know is how to do it precisely. Sometimes their points get chopped off and their seams don't come together where they should. Many quilters don't worry about this, and that is perfectly fine. Many worry about it a lot, struggle, do a lot of ripping, and can't figure out how to prevent it from happening over and over. This tutorial is for that latter group of piecers - the ones who worry.

There are three key elements at work here: (1) accurate cutting, (2) accurate stitching, and (3) careful pressing (not ironing!). We'll save accurate cutting for another day. Careful pressing I've already talked about in a prior post. The lesson for this week is accurate stitching.

Stitching accurately is totally dependent on a consistent, accurate seam allowance. (Notice I didn't say anything about a 1/4" seam allowance - are you shocked?) Once you master that you will seldom if ever need to pin a block together before stitching. You will hardly ever need to square up a block. Your blocks will always be the same size when finished, and that size will be exactly what the pattern says it should be, whether the pattern is from a book, a purchased pattern or magazine, or a pattern you designed yourself. You can master this without any special attachment - no 1/4" foot is required. I piece everything on my featherweight, and though I have two different quarter inch feet I hardly ever use them.

The key is to find the correct seam allowance that will make the finished block parts measure exactly what they are supposed to measure. Usually that will NOT be a true 1/4" seam. If you take a true 1/4" seam you probably have problems, at least now and then. There is a good reason for this - the thickness of the thread you use takes up a little bit of space, as does the turn of the cloth when the seam is pressed to the side. If you stitch with a true 1/4" seam, the turn of the cloth and thickness of the thread subtracts from the size of the finished piece rather than the seam allowance itself. This is especially true for rotary cut pieces, as rotary cut pieces to begin with tend to be a tiny bit smaller than pieces cut the old fashioned way with templates. I'm not sure why this is true, but it is. It probably has something to do with the thickness of the pencil line traced around the templates, and where one cuts on that pencil line. So the correct size seam will be a scant 1/4" - almost as small as a 3/16" seam. Exactly how scant depends on your machine, the way you press and the thread you use. All 50 wt. thread is not the same thickness - did you know that? Some threads such as Aurifil than be thinner than others such as Guttermann or Coats and Clark even though they are both 50 wt.

Stay tuned - I'm going to teach you how to find the exact scant 1/4" that is right for your machine, the way you press, and the thread you use. Then once you've determined the width for "your" seam allowance, I'll show you how easy it is to keep it exactly the width it should be from day to day, week to week and year to year (as long as you don't change machines and/or thread types).


1. Morning meeting at work cancelled
2. Rain on my windshield.
3. Delightful people who work at our Starbucks
4. Colored printers and colored markers
5. Fat free half-and-half - an oxymoron if I've ever heard one!


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tiny geese

Evelyn asked me to take a picture of the miniature Flying Geese quilt with my thimble so you could compare the size of the thimble to the size of a goose. I decided to throw in the pencil to just for fun. The larger "goose" triangle is a 1 1/2" square cut diagonally in both directions. The two smaller triangles in each "goose" are made from a 1" square cut once diagonally. The finished "goose" measures 1/2" x 1". This was the first time I'd ever tried paper piecing and it was so easy because all the triangles were cut exactly the right size needed. None of that guessing that you've cut the fabric big enough - that's the problem I usually have with paper piecing. This one was so much fun to make! I did all four rows of geese in the morning class at guild, then came home in the afternoon and sewed the top together. I had it quilted and finished by bedtime. I don't bind these little ones - instead I turn the back to the front, fold under the edge and hand stitch it down. The only quilting on this one is in the ditch on the vertical rows. It was too think to hand quilt anywhere else in the body of the quilt and the borders were too narrow. I posted the picture I took today and the old picture so you can see how much this has faded. It is made from 80's calicos which have very poor fade resistance. The label on the back says I made this is 1992.

When I was reading and answering comments about the miniatures I realized that a post on how I get such precision by using a seam allowance trick might be appropriate. The key to these little guys isn't talent at all - it's the ability to sew a perfect 1/4" seam. I can show you very easy way to do that. It's the way I taught ever student I ever had, and is basically foolproof. Once you can do that you can piece anything, no matter how difficult. I just need to take a few pictures to illustrate the post. I'll try to get that done in the next 2-3 days if you readers are interested.

Bedtime now - 5:00 a.m. comes very early. Suddenly it seems so dark in the morning when I get up, and I'm using my headlights when I leave home at 6:30. A sure sign fall is here - that and the cool evenings and golden leaves I noticed on some of the trees on my way to work this morning. I love fall!


1. Fall weather
2. Fall colors
3. Fall breakfasts of oatmeal with cream, raisins and brown sugar
4. Fall colored prints and plaids in my stash
5. Fall decorations

Did I happen to tell you fall is my favorite season?


Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Here are more of my past projects. I love making miniatures, and at one time made a bunch of them. A few are paper pieced but most of them are not. The designs come from an older book I have by Donna Thomas called Small Talk, published in 1991. Her directions are fantastic. They are done with the standard 1/4" seams, which are then trimmed to 1/8". Miniatures are lots of fun to make because they go together so quickly, you can have a completely finished quilt in a day or two, they take very little fabric, they make great gifts unless you give them to a non-quilty person who thinks they are a potholder, they look great on the wall or in baskets, draped over a miniature quilt rack or displayed with teddy bears and or dolls. They don't use up stash very quickly - that's about the only downside I can think of. They aren't hard as long as you can sew a true 1/4" seam - and are especially easy if they are paper pieced.

The first quilt, Cake Stand, measures 11" x 13". The second quilt, is Churn Dash. It measures 9" x 12". The third quilt. The Double Irish Chain measures 10" x 13". Cross-eyed Puss is my favorite. It measures 10" square. Shoe Fly is a little larger in scale with only 6 blocks - it's one of the "beginner" lessons - and measures 8" x 10". All of these quilts are from "Small Talk" by Donna Lynn Thomas.

The sampler was made in a class at a retreat called "Quilting By the Sea" sponsored by two Oregon quilt shops. I made it in 1992. It measures 10" x 14". It was a lot of fun to make.

The last two are paper pieced. The log cabin was totally out of my scrap "string' bin. It measures 16" square. This is the first time I ever tried using the back side of a fabric for a "light". It worked well! After all, you pay for both sides of the fabric. The Flying Geese is paper pieced, and was done in a guild class in the early 90's. It's a tiny 7" x 8". These two have been displayed a lot and are very faded. Just makes them look old - in my humble opinion of course!

If you've not tried miniatures but are a confident piecer you should give them a try. Bet you can't make just one!


1. Quilting friends at my house tonight.
2. Dove ice cream bars for treats
3. A patient, understanding hubby
4. Co-worker friends
5. A shoulder to lean on when needed.