Friday, January 27, 2023

Rainbow Road


I finished a UFO! This little (30" x 30") quilt has been laying around for 15 years (at least!). I found the fabrics at Walmart many years ago. That was when Walmart actually had a fabric department. Or rather, before they eliminated their fabric department then brought back a much streamlined version. Yeah, I know - they aren't the best quality fabrics. But I couldn't resist the fact that they are all the same print in a rainbow of colors! I only bought a little bit of each - maybe a 1/4 yard? I don't recall exactly.

Back when Walmart had the fabric department, they sponsored a quilt block contest. To enter, you just had to make a 12" square block, any design, and you had to use fabrics purchased at Walmart. Since I had already purchased these prints, I decided to enter. I made a Road to Oklahoma block and made each of the steps a different color, arranged in rainbow order. So I called it Rainbow Road, and entered it at the local Walmart. To my surprise, it won a prize! It wasn't a grand prize, or even a first prize, but it was a prize for the best block at that store! And it came with a $25 gift card. Being a new quilter at the time, I was thrilled!

Now back to this quilt. I decided that I couldn't do anything with just one block, so I made three more. Then I surrounded them with a border of 2 inch finished squares, again in rainbow order. That's when progress ground to a halt. I don't recall exactly why I set it aside, but I suspect that I hit a creative roadblock. It wasn't big enough for a baby quilt, so I didn't know what to do with it.

When I found it in my UFO bin a few years ago, I realized that I didn't have ANY of the fabrics left. Whether I used them or donated them, I'm not sure, but there weren't any to be found in any of my bins. So it went back into the bin for my brain to stew over for awhile.

When Karen Montgomery announced a UFO finishing challenge on her Nine Patch a Day Facebook page,(

I dug through my bins and, in the process of listing all my UFOs, I discovered it again. I also found many more UFOs, but that will be the subject a different post...

This time, however, I had an answer for how to finish it! I joined the Creative Quilters group that is part of the Quilt Company East Quilt Guild a few years ago. These wonderfully artistic ladies introduced me to the technique of using 'facing' on a quilt rather than binding. Facing a quilt isn't as durable as binding, so it isn't really suitable for quilts that will be used and abused. It is however, the perfect answer for a quilt that will be displayed. A traditional binding stops the eye at the edge, whereas a facing is invisible from the front, so the eye doesn't hit that hard stop. This makes it a great technique for art quilts and other wall-hangings.

If you are interested, APQS has a great video demonstrating the technique:

I found a nice soft yellow print in my stash and used it for both the backing and the facing. I used my walking foot and stitched straight lines on either side of the 'steps', and did gentle curves in the central diamonds and the border. I plan to hang it in my sewing room, because it makes me happy just looking at it!

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Project Quilting 14.2 - Pink Tint

For this week's challenge, the first rule is that some shade of pink must dominate the project.  I have absolutely no problem with that!  Pink is my favorite color, and has been as long as I can remember.  I remember making a 'hot pink' jumper in Home Ec class in 10th grade.  I was absolutely thrilled that the material for a jumper came in that shade.  Looking back, I'm sure it was eye-watering, but it WAS the 60's! 

Humming happily to myself, I dug happily into my stash, trying to figure out what I wanted to use, and what type of project it should be.  Last week, I made a baby quilt. This week was looking to be a quiet one without a lot of commitments, so I decided to make another one.  It's always good to have baby quilts on hand!

I'm trying to use up "stash" so my first criteria for these challenges is to use what I have and not buy anything.  Most of said 'stash' is stored in plastic bins in the basement.  I know that you aren't supposed to store fabric in plastic, but my basement is very dry and no moisture can in to the bins and cause mold, mildew or other nasty fabric-destroyers. Anyway, I headed to the basement to start my fabric spelunking.  

Once there, I came across several shoe box sized bins that contain 'nickels' or 5 inch squares of fabric.   I believe that these nickels were the inspiration for the charm packs that are now made by the fabric companies.  When I first started quilting, I discovered an online group that was dedicated to making the quilts in Pat Speth's Nickel Quilt books.   The group would swap pairs of nickels according to the theme that was decided upon that month.  Sometimes, it was a type of reproduction fabrics, like 30's or Civil War prints.  Sometimes, it was just a color, or a type of color - like brights or pastels. Since I never actually made any of the quilts, my nickels are still stored according to color and theme.  I decided that now was a good time to start using some of them, so I grabbed the bag of pinks.

Now, which pattern?  Since I knew that I was starting with 5 inch squares, I looked through the Nickel Quilt books.  Unfortunately, none of the quilts seemed that they would be adaptable to a quilt that I could finish in a week, so I put them away and kept looking.  

My next thought was that I could use the Accordion Sewn Triangle method, developed by my friend Beth Helfter.  I first encountered Beth when she was a member of the Scrap Squad group put together by Quiltmaker Magazine.  I applied to be a member, but was instead chosen by the editors to be a 'Scrap Addict', which was a group that made scrap quilts from the blocks in Bonnie Hunter's Addicted to Scraps column.  So Beth's tenure at Quiltmaker corresponded with mine, and I've followed Beth ever since.  I have done some pattern testing for her, which resulted in two of my quilts being in her books.  The Accordion Sewn Triangle technique is a way to easily make scrappy half-square triangles from squares.  I pulled out her book Oompah! and saw a star block that I could upsize to use the 5 inch pink squares. (Oh, in case you're wondering - Oompah, accordions... get it? ^.^)

If you want more information about the Accordion Sewn Triangle method, Beth has a couple of videos on You Tube that explain and demonstrate.  The first one is

Now that I had an idea and the fabrics, I started out making the first accordion, pictured on the left.

When made with 5 inch blocks, this accordion makes a star block whose name escapes me at the moment, but which finishes at 16 inches.  I considered making four of them and doing a straight setting with sashing, but decided that was boring.

Instead, I decided to do a medallion style quilt with the star as the center.  I planned to surround the star with 4 inch strips, then add more HST around that which would make a 32" quilt.  I made 24 more HST from the nickels and put them around the star on the design wall.  It was OK, but kind of eh. It needed to be bigger.

Adding another 4 inch background border would have worked, except for the fact that the background fabric that I had left was about 2 strips too short.  Of course!

Back to the stash!  I found some nice pink 2 1/2 inch strips left from one project or another, and they turned out to be just enough to add a 2 inch accent border around the star medallion.  That made just enough of a difference to allow me to cut the 4 inch outer border strips from the remaining background fabric, with an inch to spare! That made me really happy, so I decided to name this project 'Tickled Pink'!  

Tickled Pink - 40 inches square

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Fill-in Projects

While I was going through my stash looking for fabric for last week's Project Quilting challenge, I came across a few kits for small quilting projects and decided that they would be good fill-in projects for the weeks in between challenges.  

The one I decided to work on first was a snowman pillow that was part of the Button Pillow series by Karen Montgomery of The Quilt Company.  I finished the pillow top and added a zipper to the back instead of making the cross-over back that the instructions call for. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for remembering how to do it.  You know how they say that pride goeth before a fall?  Keep reading....

Instead of storing my seasonal pillows when they are not in use, I've been making pillow covers and reusing the same pillow forms.  The pillows take up a lot less storage space that way. Realizing that the pillow form that would fit the new pillow was already in use, I decided to just make a new one rather than buy one.  

I found the muslin that I had bought some time ago for a long forgotten project, cut out an appropriately sized chunk sewed it together.  The next step was to find something to stuff it with.  I have lots and lots (and lots...) of left-over batting scraps.  I remembered being told that flat batting doesn't make good pillow filling because it isn't fluffy enough.  So I reasoned that if I cut it into small chunks, there would be a lot of air in between the pieces, which would make it 'fluffy'!

Again feeling proud of myself for figuring that out, I got out an old cutting mat and an old rotary cutter with a 'dull' blade.  My cutting table was piled high with other things and I was too lazy to move the clutter.  So I laid the cutting mat on the floor and spread out some of the leftover batting strips.  I then proceeded to kneel on the floor beside the mat and started rolling the rotary cutter back and forth over the batting.  Once the first batch was in small chunks, I put it into the muslin pillow cover and spread out some more.  After repeating this several more time, I was feeling pretty happy with the results.  The pillow cover was getting nice and full and squishy, just like a pillow form should be.  For the next set of batting strips, I put my hand on the mat beside the batting to give me a little more stability.  Can you figure out what happened?  

OUCH!!! The next thing I knew, the middle finger on my left hand had a gash in it that was bleeding profusely!  I'll spare you the gory details (#5 stitches!). In the past, I've always used a ruler with my rotary cutters, and have never done any 'freeform' cutting.  From now on, I'll clean off the clutter and use the table so that I don't have to lean on my hand, or I'll buy one of those cut resistant gloves.

All in all, I was very lucky.  I didn't cut any ligaments or tendons, and the gash is on my left hand. And my husband doesn't mind doing dishes!


Saturday, January 7, 2023

Project Quilting 14.1 - The First One

I was heading to bed on Sunday night when I realized that it was the first Sunday in January, and Project Quilting was starting!  On Challenge weeks, I am normally chomping at the bit, refreshing my screen every few minutes while I wait for 1 p.m. Central time.  But this year, I just didn't put two and two together until about 11 p.m. (Eastern). I considered just waiting until morning to check, but my curiosity got the better of me.

As I was heading for the computer, I thought that maybe Trish and Beth would wait a week to post a challenge, since January 1 was a holiday.  But nope - there it was!

I have to admit that the theme this time really stumped me. ONE??  One what?  One block?  One item?  Once in a lifetime? None of the examples that were given were particular enlightening to me.  I slept fitfully while my brain stewed on it all night long.  Note to self - next time, don't wait until bedtime to check the theme of a challenge!!

Somewhere in the middle of the night, it occurred to me that there were other examples of 'the first one' that I could use.  The first item in a sequence, for example.  That really got me thinking (and NOT sleeping)!  For example. there are many different alphabets - Greek, Roman, Cyrillic, etc.  and each one has a different symbol for the first letter.  Maybe I could do something that took each 'A' and applique them on to ... something?  

I considered making 'one' single block and using the different "A"s on it, and turning it into yet another potholder or mug rug, but that idea really didn't appeal to me.  For the past few PQ seasons, I have made a LOT of potholders and mug rugs.  There is nothing wrong with that, and sometimes, that is the only thing that I have time to make.  But I'm craving something different this year.  I decided that I really want to make a series of baby quilts.  I'm putting that here, realizing that I may not be able to make a baby quilt for each challenge, but I'm going to try.

OK, back to "one".  As my brain churned while I was trying to sleep, another idea popped in.  Another 'first in a sequence' is the first element in the periodic table - Hydrogen.  The symbol for hydrogen is the letter H. There is a traditional quilt block that is an H, and it is very easy to make! And before you ask, yes, yes I am a nerd!  I freely admit it.  I have a Bachelor's degree in Biology, but my minor was Chemistry.  

So having decided what direction my project was going to take, I finally managed to get to sleep!  

The next day,  I opened my computer and found the copy of EQ7 that I occasionally use.  I had several commitments this past week, so I knew that the quilt would have to be quick and easy.  After playing around with H blocks, I came up with a setting that I liked, and that wouldn't take too long. 

I went digging in my stash and found a Fisher-Price Stacker (set of 10" squares) from  Riley-Blake Fabrics and decided that this would be the perfect way to use some of it.  I also discovered that I had some 2 1/2" strips left from a white Kona Cottons fabric roll that I had used in a previous project so I used them in the H blocks and for the sashing.  

Normally, I would use more of the 2 1/2  inch strips for the binding, but I really didn't want a white binding.  Some of the 10" squares were striped, so I cut them into four 2 1/2 inch rectangles each and stitched them together to make the binding.   A quick all-over meander on my Bernina B590, an evening sitting in front of the TV stitching on the binding and it's done!  With a whole day and a half to spare!

My 'H' baby quilt


Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Flying Geese - PQ 13.6

It's hard to believe that this is the last challenge for Project Quilting 13.  The time has just seemed to fly by, which is maybe why Trisha chose Flying Geese as the theme for the final challenge?

I laughed a little when I saw the topic for the challenge, because my entry for the first challenge consisted of bright flying geese blocks made into a potholder.  I honestly considered making a matching one for this challenge, because ... matching potholders, right? But I ultimately decided against that idea.

I have several patterns that use flying geese, and a couple of them are for baby quilts.  I always like to make baby quilts to have on hand to gift to new mothers.  But unfortunately, I knew that this was going to be another short week for getting the challenge completed.  I am going on a quilt retreat with my guild, leaving on Thursday and not returning until Sunday evening.  The retreat center is about an hour from me, and is in a very rural area. I wanted to get my project done, posted and linked by Wednesday afternoon,  just in case the retreat center doesn't have a good internet connection. 

So again, I needed to have a small project.  I considered another potholder, because I can always use them,  and started looking around for ideas.  I remembered a block that I had seen that had geese flying in a circle. This looked like a possibility until I realized that the block finished at 12 inches square.  I resized the pattern so that it would finish at 8 inches, looked at all those tiny paper-pieced pieces and said Nope!

I am not a big fan of paper piecing.  I realize that it is great for projects that require small pieces and sharp points, but I just can't seem to get my head around working upside down and backwards!  

But, Project Quilting calls the weekly projects 'challenges', right?   So I challenged myself to do a small paper pieced project and (maybe) get better at it.  Using a discarded Starbucks cup sleeve as a pattern,  I made a paper pieced flying geese cup cozy.  

My very first seam had to be ripped out because I had put the wrong fabric on top and the goose fabric went the wrong way.  That didn't bode well for the project!  Instead of balling it up and throwing it in a corner, which I was sorely tempted to do, I persevered.  I got out the smallest seam ripper that I own and took out those tiny stitches.  Fortunately, the edges of the paper were intact, so I didn't need to draw a new pattern.  

Taking a deep breath, I started again.  Once I got into it, it really wasn't so bad.  Lining up the fabric on the wrong side of the paper is a bit fiddly, but I only had to rip out a few more seams before I got it done.  

I had planned to overlap the edges slightly and stitch it across the edge to finish it.   You know what they say about best laid plans, right?   It turns out that the finished size wasn't long enough to go around my mug with any overlap.  Well, darn!!!  Starbucks cups must be narrower than the cups in my house.  

I really didn't want to start over.  After mulling over the problem, I realized that a lot of cup cozies use a button and elastic in order to let them fit around multiple sized mugs.  So I dug into my button box and found a coordinating button, and grabbed some cord elastic that was left over from making masks.  TA-DA!  It fits not only the cup that I planned to use it on, but it also wraps around and through the handle of many of the mugs in my house!


So that's a wrap for Project Quilting 13.6!  Yes, pun intended!

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Rhythm and Repetition - PQ 13.5

The fifth challenge for Project Quilting year 13 was posted this past Sunday.  I really enjoy the creativity that PQ engenders in me, but I also bemoan the fact that some weeks I just don't have enough time to do the challenge justice.  

This is one of those busy weeks.  You would think, as a retiree, that I would have all the time in the world to devote to quilting.  Sometimes, that is the case.  This week, not so much.  

I belong to a Concert Chorale, and this weekend is our annual Classical concert.  We are singing works by Bach, Brahms, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Schubert and Dvořák - in their original languages, plus a few American folk songs, 'show tunes' and spirituals.  Needless to say, I've been putting a lot of time into learning the music and learning the languages.  We have not one, but two dress rehearsals this week, and two concerts this weekend.  

Today is Ash Wednesday, and I am the cantor for the Mass this evening.  The music minister sent out the song list on Monday,  and there are two songs that are new to me, so I had to spend the time to learn them.  

Much as I love singing, this is all cutting into the time that I have available to come up with a creative project for Rhythm and Repetition!

When I read the blog post about the challenge, I really wanted to do something Escher-esque.  I have always been fascinated by his work.  I also have an excellent book written by Jinny Beyer about tesselations that has been begging to be used. I think that it would be fairly easy to design a simple tesselation and turn it into a quilt, and I would learn a lot in the process. 

But knowing the time restraints that I am under this week, I compromised.  I made a small project so that I could complete it in fairly short order, but I used techniques and shapes that are new to me so that I could learn something new.  I've only done set-in seams once before, and I have never put binding on a quilt with 60 degree angles on the border.  So I re-learned how to do set-in seams using my  sewing machine, and I learned how to bind outside angles other than 90 degrees. I also had to figure out how to fill in the area between the star and the edge.  Hint - it involves rectangles cut on the diagonal.  

9 1/2 x 10 inches

The shape that I've never used before was the truncated diamond used to make the star.  It was cut using a ruler called a mini Hex-N-More by Julie Hermann of Jaybird Quilts.  I think that she calls it a Jewel.  It is basically a diamond with a point cut off. It could be pieced by sewing a half-hexagon to one side of an equilateral triangle, but using the ruler takes out that extra seam. 

The repetition comes in a couple of  different ways.  Obviously, the jewel shape is repeated six times around the center hexagon. But a more subtle repetition is the hexagon motif itself.  There is the one in the center, and the whole project is a hexagon, but drawing a line connecting the peaks also creates a  hexagon, as does drawing a line connecting the inside angles. 

I'm not really sure what to call the end product.  It's a little too big to be a potholder, but a little too small to be a table topper.  I guess that it could also be a big mug rug or a candle mat....Whatever it is, I'm done and I'm happy with it.

Friday, February 18, 2022

PQ 13.4 - Mining for Diamonds

This week's challenge presented so many possibilities, so many ideas!   

A few year ago, I made a Lemoyne Star baby quilt out of part of a layer cake, and it really turned out nice.  But the more I thought about it, I realized that I had completed that one as a Project Quilting Challenge! (PQ 11.6 - Vibrant and Vivacious).  So I nixed that idea.  I didn't want to do the same thing twice! And besides, I have a big quilt in progress on my design wall right now.  All the blocks are in just the right places, and if I took them down to put up a different quilt, they'd get all mixed up, even if I labeled them.  Ask me how I know....


I considered making a mug rug, like this one that I made from a Kimberbell embroidery file.  But mug rugs seem kind of overdone, (especially by me ;->) and I was in the mood to do something different.

As I was mulling over ideas and digging through my stash, I came across a small piece of harlequin fabric that I had printed using a fabric sheet and my printer.  As an aside, I don't know about you, but I am not very fond of the fabric sheets that are sold for use in a home printer.  The ones that I have tried all seem to be very stiff.  

At the time that I printed the harlequin fabric, I had been playing around with ideas for a guild challenge for a Mardi Gras themed wall hanging.  I didn't have the time to go searching local quilt shops or order online and wait for delivery, so I bit the bullet and tried the printable fabric sheets.  As it turned out, the fabric ultimately didn't make the cut (pun intended) for the wall hanging.   I hate to waste things, so I put it in my 'someday I'll figure out what to do with it' drawer.  It had been languishing in that drawer for several years.  Since the harlequin pattern is made up of diamonds, I thought that this was the perfect time to use it.

Still going with the Mardi Gras theme (I mean, what else can you do with a fabric that is green, gold and purple diamonds?),  I decided that a mini banner to string across the fireplace would be apropos.  I cut out the letters spelling "Mardi Gras!" from the fabric sheet, then cut out green, gold and purple felt rectangles and sewed them on top of each other to make little panels.   I thought that using pinking shears for the gold would add an interesting detail to the panels.  Maybe it does, but cutting the soft, flexible felt with the pinking shears that I have was a pain in the tuchus.  Next time, I will stabilize the felt before attempting it! 

I used fusible applique and for the letters and carefully ironed each letter onto a set of rectangles. Note the word 'carefully'... on my first attempt, the iron was too hot and I almost fused the felt to the iron!  

Then I strung the little panels together on a length of purple yarn and hung it over the fireplace. 

To tell you the truth, I am not thrilled with the outcome.  The diamonds in the harlequin fabric are a little too big and the letters lose definition from a distance. I may take a black marker and go over the edges of the letters to make them stand out better, but it is finished for now. 


The last character is an exclamation point. 
 I used it to balance the two sides of the banner.

Close up, you can see the diamonds,
and the letters more clearly.