Sewing Memories

This week blasted by because our two adult kids came to visit! It has been a week of fun and relaxation.

My daughter and I decided we would spend some of our time together sewing. She found a book Simple Modern Sewing, 8 Basic Patterns to Create 25 Favorite Garments by ShufuTo Seikatsu Sha. Book Her choice for our project was a shirt coat with pockets that had only five pattern pieces. How easy! When will I learn not to say This won’t take long. This will be easy.?

The only part of simple in this project was—hmm—nothing. The pattern was on one big sheet with all the pieces superimposed on each other. To make matters worse, there was another garment included on top of the shirt coat pattern. That was insane. Of course if we had followed instructions, we could have made it easier on ourselves by outlining the necessary pieces with highlighter before tracing, but that was in another part of the book. One could make the case that the instructions are simple, but vague is a better descriptor. This book is definitely not for beginners! To make matters worse, the fabric choice, although beautiful, was very difficult to sew because it stretches. Thankfully with the experience in garment construction we have gained over the years we were able to pull this off!

ConstructionWe spent four days (off and on) in my sewing room. The two guys would pop in occasionally to check on our progress. This process is reminiscent of most of the projects that we have worked on together over the years. We tackled a wedding quilt one time that was crazy. We had a deadline. We had never made a quilt before and we really didn’t know what we were doing. Another project was Roman shades for her living room. I was visiting her and once again we had limited time. We kept on saying: After we finish this step the rest will be cakewalk. This is our new mantra when we work together. We say it and then we giggle.

The glorious part of all of this is that we spent a week together struggling and laughing. With the constraints of life and distance, this is one of the best gifts a mother can have. The shirt coat is almost done. Our firstborn will have an addition to her wardrobe when she and her brother return to the East tomorrow. The bonus is a week full of memories!

Thankfully, I managed to finish piecing block #2 for Leah Day’s Building Block Quilt Along. The nine-patch block went together very smoothly, thanks to the piecing tips from Leah. I followed her instructions to a tee, and my corners are pretty much perfect.Block#2 How I wish I had this knowledge last summer when I strip pieced a queen sized quilt. I’m looking forward to quilting these blocks—in a very quiet house.

I’m linking up with Leah Day’s FMQ Project Link Up.



Whoa! Slow Down!

I learned a huge lesson this week while quilting Block #1.3 for Leah Day’s Building Blocks Quilt Along. I’ll see if this holds up in the future.

Before I quilt any of my blocks, I make two or three practice sandwiches. My goal this week was to concentrate on two aspects of free motion quilting, but in the end, a third was thrown into the mix. I really want to learn to quilt in every direction so my stitches will be the same whether I’m going from left to right, right to left, top to bottom, etc. This will be useful when I quilt a large quilt. Also, I want to have nice even and juicy stitches. With this in mind, I quilted a couple of sandwiches, and a new problem cropped up. I was finding knots on the back of my practice pieces. This was because I didn’t have control of my needle when I was stopping to reposition my hands and then starting again. The needle would go up and down a couple of times and of course, there would be a knot on the back. . . Not pretty.

So, I made another sandwich and analyzed what I was doing wrong. (From what I understand, this isn’t a problem with some other machines. But all machines have different features.) I spent awhile starting and stopping and realized that I have to concentrate on exactly where I’ll move my hands before I step on the foot pedal. With my machine set to the slowest speed, I was able to watch every stitch being formed and it was amazing. Knowing exactly where I was going before I moved eliminated the knots. As you can see, there is only one small knot on the back of this block. I still need more practice in stitching from right to left. The one rounded corner and the not-so perfect ditching occurred when moving in that direction. Hopefully as I practice more, I’ll be able to keep this kind of control as I gradually increase my speed.  Overall, my stitching looks better than I have ever seen it going at a slow pace.

Block 1.3


This method of learning is so helpful. I have been free motion quilting for almost two years now. I have always used thread color that blends with quilt tops to cover any flaws. Using solid fabric with contrasting thread makes it easy to see where one must improve. Also, I am feeling more empowered using a darning foot with the control it affords me. Thank you Leah Day. This is an awesome way to learn.

It All Came Together!

In the end of November I finally finished my Block of the Month 2012 quilt from a Craftsy course. Amy Gibson was the instructor for the quilt top. Leah Day offered Free Motion Quilting a Sampler on Craftsy in conjunction with this. It was an incredible project that taught me so much. I highly recommend both! I wasn’t sure where I was going to use the quilt. The colors really didn’t go in any of our rooms.

A couple of weeks ago, we decided to put a twin bed in my sewing room so we could have an extra guest bed. I removed a small table that was nothing but a magnet for stuff and completely reorganized. I reasoned that with the twin bed, I could put a finished piece of furniture grade plywood over it to use as extra work area and store it under the bed when not needed. This new furniture arrangement opened up a wall where I decided to hang my quilt.

Craftsy Quilt

I had two large square pillow forms that have been stored in my linen closet begging for covers for years. I just never knew what I wanted to do with them. Well, last week I had the brilliant idea of making patchwork covers out of scraps from the quilt. This won’t take long, I thought. I can knock these covers out in a day or so. I used my Accuquilt to cut out squares that were 4 7/8″ and then made piles of half-square triangles. (Ha! Ha! I spent four days on this project. Typical!)

At any rate, I quilted one of the covers in the spiral design from the Building Blocks Quilt Along and used another circular pattern from Diane Gaudynski dubbed by one of her friends as Diane-shiko. This pattern is usually used in smaller scale for filler, but I like the way it worked on my half-square triangles. pillow

I also decided to use cotton batting instead of the polyester bat that I have been using. I like the forgiving nature cotton has for hiding the flaws in stitching and it is so much softer after the final wash.

In the process I learned a lesson about Frixion marking pens. I thought that heat was the way to remove marks, but I read that steam is better. I now hold my steam iron a few inches from the piece and give a blast of steam. The marks disappear instantly and most ghosting on dark fabric is usually eliminated. Any ghosting that remains washes out in the final machine washing as long as you don’t iron over it.

quilt and pillow

So here are my pillows and my Craftsy quilt. I’m happy about how it all came together. I’m looking forward to piecing Block 2 next week.

I’m linking up with Leah Day’s FMQ Project Link Up.

Portable FMQ!

Three years ago, just after I retired, I was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and visited the Pine Needles Sewing Center. (This place is in the top three of my favorite Quilt Shops.) I hadn’t really done much sewing since the mid-1980’s. The quilts on display were awesome. I knew right then that I wanted to start quilting. I had made a few small quilts in earlier years that were quilted with a walking foot as well as a couple other quilts which were finished by a long-arm quilter, but that was the extent of it. I wanted to learn how to quilt my own projects. I mentioned this to a neighbor who did a lot of quilting, and she cautioned me that it was very difficult to free motion quilt.

I found Leah Day on the Internet, and the quilt bug bit me. I LOVE to quilt and it is such a bonus that I can see my projects through from start to finish. I have been trying to figure out how to take my quilting on the road when we travel for long periods in our motor home. My Bernina is too big to haul along. I own a vintage 1929 Singer Featherweight that I never considered using for free motion quilting because I was always of the notion that you have to drop the feed dogs in order to fmq. When I saw a post on Facebook of a Featherweight, it occurred to me that I might be able to use my little Singer when I’m traveling. (I am now a proponent of feed dogs up. It makes nicer stitches.)

Well, much to my amazement I can free motion quilt on my little old Featherweight! I have to use a spool stand because Isacord doesn’t fit on the spindle of that tiny thing. My Supreme Slider is too big, but eventually I’ll cut down the one I have and buy a new one for my Bernina. I find myself moving my right leg whenever I need to lift the presser foot because my Bernina has the free hand system. If my hands were any larger, I would have to quilt one-handed because the harp space is so small. I could never do a standard quilt on this. I’m still working on perfecting my stitches and will have to figure out how to enlarge my work surface. It’s crude, but it’s fun! It will be perfect for small projects.



I get almost giddy thinking of how cool it is to do a relatively new process on such an old machine. I like to dream about the person who used this machine 80 some years ago and wonder if 80 years from now someone will be using my Bernina. (Hmm.)

This week, I finished the second pattern of the first block group of the Leah Day’s Building Blocks Quilt Along. The pattern is all straight lines, and I think I’m finally getting the feel of working hands and feet in concert. I am looking forward to quilting the spiral.

Block 1.2 front

Block 1.2. Markings and all!

Block 1,2 back

Block 1.2 back. Ditching is improving and I feel that using just the darning foot and not the BSR affords more control.

I’m linking up to Leah Day’s Free Motion Quilting Project Link Up.


I missed posting last week. I had been working to get “caught up”, trying to incorporate into my quilt  all the lessons that Leah was presenting for Express Your Love. I finally painted the corner motifs and started working on concentric circles. The painted corners of this quilt are very distracting and overwhelming. I will have figure out a way to tone them down. (It’s hard to keep in mind that this is just practice and experimentation, and it can’t be perfect.) Concentric circles are difficult for me, and I’ve been working on them for several days, piling up all those sandwiches! I’m able to stitch this pattern a little better than when I first started, but my sample is a far cry from Leah’s. Once I feel confident, I’ll use them in the remaining rays.  Meanwhile, I’ve been spending most of my time piecing a couple other quilts, just for a little diversion.





This week I completed a birthday present of three nesting “Humbug” bags. I love making small projects that allow me to practice FMQ. As a matter of fact, the reason I got started with free motion quilting is that I waIMG_1507nted small amounts of quilted materials to use for these bags! (Now look what has happened! I discovered I love FMQ!) At any rate, I have a huge stash of beautiful, discarded silk ties that make great patchwork material for these little beauties. I used to just stipple them, but now I try to practice a different pattern for each bag. This time I used Paisley, Heart Paisley, and Concentric Squares. The three different size bags are perfect for the traveler, as they fit into corners of a suitcase. They’re great for storing makeup, electronics cords, golf tees, or any other item you can think of. And they are fun to nest when wrapping the package. The pattern comes from and is super easy to put together. It includes an explanation why these bags are called humbug bags.


I’ve also been working on my friendship quilt. I added some more detail to the outer design.  My textile paint arrived yesterday, and in the same package I received a copy of Karen McTavish’s “Mastering the Art of McTavishing”. How serendipitous was that?! I’ll embark on the adventure of textile painting this weekend, and try to get the rays of the quilt filled with McTavishing. I started the process last night. It is going quicker than I thought it would, and is really fun. I just have to get better at it.