The 21 Year Old Rug Update…

Because I have whined so much about the Vermont Shells hooked rug, I promised myself that I would not discuss the rug until it was done – but it is in the home stretch! While filling in some “holidays” and cutting ends, I was mulling over what sort of yarn to whip the edge with. And then I decided to make a braided edge. It will probably take longer, particularly as I don’t quite remember how to attach the braid, but it will be a lovely finish. {I’m so ready to be done with this rug…}

Here are some of the fabrics that I auditioned. The fabric on the left is the one that I used to hook the dark edge of the border, and I could certainly use three lengths of that, but braiding is much more interesting when several fabrics are used. The plain brown is the fabric I hooked around each of the clam shells and I liked the idea of adding some green, so I ripped 2″ strips of the first three wools and braided a quick sample.

Braid ideas

Sampling is important as it is impossible to know 1) how the fabrics will look when they are folded and braided and 2) how the braid will look against the rug. It looks pretty good.

Braid one

For the next sample I subtracted the plain brown and used the blue plaid. I liked the idea of echoing (in very dark values) the main colors of the shells. I like it!

Braid Two

Braiding is a good project to do while watching the Olympics because I can start and stop easily. {And can you believe the amount of commercials??? Holy Cow I am glad that we are watching a day behind. Peter says he is getting a sore thumb from fast forwarding and even with handwork it would drive me mad to watch so many inane commercials.}

The other project I am working on while viewing the Olympics is the Halloween Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt. I haven’t worked on it in quite some time… It’s getting to be that time of year. Maybe I will try to finish it for Halloween of 2017… {It could happen.}

Halloween GFG

Merry Christmas to Me Quilt!

Yippee! Because of The Big Move last year and settling in, I have not completed a quilt in two years…Not good, but life can get in the way of things. Completing this quilt is a big deal for me as it is a completely hand sewn Grandmother’s Flower Garden. For a very long time it is my “baggie project” that I tuck into my suitcase when I travel. It goes everywhere until I start to piece the flowers together and then I pull it out now and then at home. Although I don’t care when I finish it, I think from now on that I should make note of when I begin a hand sewing project; people always ask. In looking through past blog posts, I see that I finished the top in 2012, just before we started the house re-do and move, so it’s been waiting. And waiting.

Cat Christmas

In late Summer, I dug out the top and started preparing it. I have my friend Beth do the machine quilting and actually getting the top ready for her takes some time and patience. I press it 4 or 5 times and use spray starch at least twice. Machine quilters need the tops to be flat and hand sewing is naturally textured – not to mention that the top gets bundled up in a closet when I am not sewing it. Then there is sewing the backing, which is s something I do not enjoy doing and measure many times to make sure that I am sending the proper size! I have been saving this darling Santa fabric from Nancy Wolff for a long time for a Christmas backing and added the big dot as a filler. (The skating cat is a design of her as well.) After I sent the quilt to Beth, she sent me some recommendations for the quilting pattern and thread color. Kelly green thread disappears into the background fabric but shows up nicely in the pattern hexes. And I don’t recall the name of the pattern, but you can see it’s bells and holly leaves and swirly vines. Very sweet!

Merry Christmas to Me backing

Last week, I decided I’d better get to finishing it up before Christmas was over! I decided to use a great striped fabric for the binding and that it would be fun to make it look like a candy cane, so I cleared away the Santa making detritus and moved the turkey pattern. Making bias binding takes room on the cutting board and care to make sure that the stripes go the way you want and not look higgledy piggledy. I haven’t made bias binding in ages, but with careful cutting, it went smoothly. (Check out the photo above to see a detail of the binding).

Bias binding

I really look forward to washing these handmade quilts because of all the spray starch I use to make them behave. The quilt is stiff now, and I’m waiting for a sunny day to wash it. We use these quilts and I want them to feel good. Washing will make the quilting threads will sink in and the bias binding will relax. And I need to get the label on as well, but for now, the cats are loving it and we are too!

Christmas quilt on the new couch

Framed Log Cabin Quilt

Hello from the studio! It’s still here, with its lovely cool pink walls, waiting for me to work again. It has been so beastly hot here  – I think I will be spending the afternoons working here in the cool.

I am still organizing the room… Sometimes I think I am crazy, arranging and re-arranging everything, but I have noticed that other quilters do this as well. Sometimes the dotted fabrics want to be together, sometimes the novelty fabrics want to be seen on a shelf rather than hiding in a bin and now the batiks all want to be stacked together . Whenever I sift through my fabrics, I see new color combinations and think of more quilt ideas. More UFO’s are not what I need, but I love to design quilts in my head.

I am calling this quilt pattern, framed log cabin. Though I like the looks of this design I am not thrilled with it. I am hoping that as I piece more rows together, it will be more exciting… ;-D

Framed Log Cabin

But, progress is being made, with Gizmo’s help!

Gizmo & log cabins

I am also working on pressing and trimming the Christmas Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt to send to my friend Beth for machine quilting! It’s a lot of work to get all the seams flat and the quilt top smooth. This is NOT something I enjoy doing, though it is fun to see it again as I try to make it tidy for her. I am planning on using several of my large Christmas fabrics for the backing. I just have to dig the Christmas fabric bin out of the closet and see what I have.

Pressing GFG


What I Did On My Summer Vacation {ha!}

School children all over the USA have written themes with this title so their teachers have time to test them and get everyone organized for the year. I was always guilty of making my Second Graders write this. I honestly did want to know what they did…..

Just in case you aren’t a regular reader of mine, my husband and I spent most of the Summer living in The Residence Inn in Greenville, SC as we searched for a house and thought I’d share my Summer projects. None of these is particularly creative, but space and “head” constraints made these the perfect projects.

This is a “semi homemade” project that my crochet teacher suggested to me. Have you noticed how much fleece fabric there is in fabric stores? It’s incredible! I buy 1.5 yards of it, which when trimmed makes roughly a square. I use a funny rotary cutter which makes slits in the fabric and crochet an edge around it. They will make inexpensive gifts. The pool ball one is for a relative who just bought a pool table which is in a basement and felt cool to me. Obviously the Christmas ones will be given away in a few months. We have a passel of great nephews whose mothers will not let them use the quilts I have made for them, so surely they will use these once a year.

Crochet edges

I also worked on the Granny squares a bit. I chose an eggplant color to use as a background or connector yarn and decided to crochet a row of it around each square. If you don’t do that, the connector yarn really shows up as lines and looks unattractive. Doesn’t the purple frame each square nicely? I’m wondering about doing another row so they really pop…


The Halloween Grandmother’s Flower Garden made an appearance now and then. Usually it’s one of my favorite things to do, but for some reason, not this Summer.

Halloween hexes

(I worked on the Vermont Shells rug a good deal but am saving that for another time.)

Many, many boxes have been unpacked, but theres a lot to go. I am so looking forward to unpacking and arranging things in my studio area. To say that I have pent-up creativity is an understatement! But I am grateful that I like working quietly with my hands. I don’t know what I would have done all Summer otherwise.

Bits of Free Time for Fiber Therapy

I really shouldn’t complain, but my job for most of this year has been doing house projects and I’m pretty tired of it. I haven’t sewn or quilted on the machines for weeks and at night I have been too tired to do more than stare at the T.V. Before we went away, I thought I had a few days to myself, so I pulled out the half square triangles and started sewing blocks. The feeling of fabric running through my fingers and the hum of the machine made me so happy. As you can see, I got two blocks done and then the realtor called to schedule a showing and so I cleaned up. My sewing machines are being serviced now, so I won’t be able to work on this for a while.

Half square triangle quilt

In another bit of spare time, I pulled out a crochet UFO to complete. I took some crochet lessons a few years ago and made a cute hat. I do not have a photo of that hat, because I left it in a restaurant in Dubuque Iowa! This was the second crochet project that I did. It just seemed like a really fun thing to do and so 3D. This is how it begins…..looks like nothing, right?

Potato chip beginning

It’s called a potato chip or ruffle scarf and I have seen a lot of them in yarn stores and boutiques recently. To make it look ruffly, you crochet  2 stitches in one loop and one in the next and so on. It was amusing to watch that noodle-y foundation row of plain crochet plan become spiral and ruffly in shape as I worked. I plan to wear it with my wool Winter coat and thought it would be fun to add in a sparkly yarn for the last row. I also made it much longer than the pattern suggested as I wanted to be able to wrap it many times around my neck, like a boa!

Potato chip crochet scarf

While we were in our cabin in Hendersonville, I sewed on the Halloween Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt squares. As I pulled them out of their bag, I realized that I had quite a stack. When I spread them out – – – lookee here – – – it’s starting to look like a quilt.

Lots of hexes

I sew a middle and then the “petals” row first. When that part is done, I audition the “leaves” or outer row. You can see above and below, how I try out several possibilities.


This morning I pulled out a purple tone on tone dot that I have. It’s what I have been envisioning for the background or connector fabric. I think it will be good and I so love purple that it will be fun to sew. This is going to be a very busy little quilt!

Background choice

Now I have to collect and pack projects that I can work on in a rental apartment. We will drive to Greenville in two cars….just how many boxes and suitcases and bikes and cats will fit? More importantly, how many sewing machines and fabric will ?

Hello from Hendersonville

Whew – what a whirlwind the past few weeks have been! We chose a realtor and signed a contract with her on Saturday the 27th of April. The unpredictable Chicagoland weather decided to cooperate and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were in the 80’s and so the front door and porch area were finally painted! By midweek, as she spread the word about our house coming on the market, we started having showings. The sign went up on Friday and we were officially On The Market!

For sale!

On Saturday we started the drive to Hendersonville. We had chatted about getting away after the house was listed and Peter decided he’d like to see Hendersonville and start his part of the where-to-live-next work. So I quickly found this fun cabin in the mountains. And here we are! It’s what people call a staycation for Peter because he is only taking a few vacation days off. But we are away and not having to polish the sinks or vacuum or close the cats up in a closet!


Hendersonville has has a cool, wet Spring too, but there’s lots blooming. We have been enjoying the azaleas – they are few and far between in Chicagoland.


Peter was working hard yesterday, so I decided to amuse myself by heading to an antique mall that I discovered on my last trip here. I found this funhouse mirror that I thought would be great in our new bedroom!


And this life sized pair of carved lions made me laugh out loud! I am sure that this is what Peter and I looked like about two weeks ago! We were exhausted and so stressed out about getting the house ready. I most certainly am the one snarling at him and he is trying to be polite and turning his face away as he snarls too. ;-D


I discovered several quilts tucked away in the booths but I pulled this one out for a closer look. The workmanship is exquisite!!! And what an unusual pattern and pretty fabrics. There are pieced 8 pointed stars and some appliqued heart shaped flowers. Teeny, tiny grandmother’s flower garden shapes are also appliqued on the backing fabric with such teeny, tiny stitches.I wish the photograph was better. I don’t let myself buy old quilts but I was sorely tempted by this beauty. Sadly for me, the dealer knew what an amazing quilt this is and priced it accordingly….


There’s lots more news to share with you, but for now, we are enjoying the lovely mountains of North Carolina.

P.S. as usual, I am having trouble with WordPress on my iPad! I thought I published this yesterday ….. I’m trying again.

A Weekly Dose of Triangles: just the beginning

I have stacks of the leader/ender triangles done. Last weekend, I pressed and cut them to size, and finally it was time to play. (Now that I have finished playing with the triangles, the design wall has to come down. The painters are coming…)

Loads of triangles

I know that many of you who read my blog are not quilters, so I though a little lesson was in order, and if you are new to quilting, perhaps you will enjoy this as well. If I make a quilt using just one shape, it will be called a charm or one block quilt. Many quilters pooh-pooh this sort of simplicity, but wait until you see what these simple shapes can do. Let’s look at some common charm or one square patterns.

These pieces are made up of equilateral triangles. Remember Sophomore Year geometry with Miss Detweiler? If so, then you know that these triangles measure the same on each side.

Equilateral triangles

Back to geometry class, can you see that these shapes are 60 degree triangles? This pattern is called tumbling blocks or baby blocks. They are such fun to play with; to form a block you sew a light a medium and a dark piece together and you get this 3D illusion.

Baby block stack

I call this shape swirling stars and it’s the curvaceous relative of a baby block. Look at the baby block above – can you see where six 60 degree pieces intersect? So these pieces can make the same shapes as their straight-laced cousin.

Spinning star

Here is my favorite shape – a hexagon. Not only does its six-sided shape make many, many lovely designs, it can be divided in half, in thirds and even in sixths, if you want to do some really nasty piecing. Handy hexagons

If you are interested in starting a charm quilt, Pat Yamin has loads of templates for all of these fun shapes and more.

Please stop by next Friday to see some of what the humble half square triangles can do! It’s quite amazing.

Merry Christmas Grandmother’s Flower Garden Quilt

Ta dah! Here is my latest Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt top, the result of several years of hand sewing in hotel rooms, on vacations and at odd moments at home when I needed hand work. And to be clear, it’s hand pieced; I only do English paper piecing on tiny hexes. Each side of these hexes measures 1.5″.

Christmas Grandmother's Flower Garden

This was a lot of fun to piece.

A Santa square

I try to avoid buying Christmas fabric (and Halloween too!) but it calls to me in fabric stores!

Skating dog

What’s great about a Grandmother’s Flower Garden sort of design is that it combines lots of fabrics that would not look good right next to each other.

Blue snowman

I plan to piece the backing as well, with some of the bigger Christmas prints, which will reduce the stash a bit… I would have liked to get it quilted for Christmas this year, but because of its size, it’s low on the machine quilting list.

Skating cat

Happy Halloween Quilt!

I have a lot of Halloween fabric; a collection in the making for some years. They mostly do not “go” with each other and so I look at them every year and wonder what I might do. This Summer I thought “Grandmother’s Flower Garden!”. It is the perfect way to make fabrics play with each other. I use a background or connector fabric between the hexes and I can move the flowers around so that the colors don’t clash so much. {;-D}

This is how I begin these quilts, which are my take along when I travel project. First I cut a bunch of middles that I think will be fun. This is going to be a very busy quilt!!!

I use a hexagon that measures 1.25″ on a side and so I rotary cut strips of fabrics 3.25. I cut a bunch and tuck them in a baggie. I also take along a clipboard with sandpaper on it for tracing the hexes, scissors, needles, pins and thread. I also have readers with a light in them, though I must say that motels have much better lighting these days. It is very fun to sit in a hotel room and spead the middles and “flower” sections on the bed and audition what goes with what!

I sew a “leaf” row as well, but I always choose that after I have sewn the “petal” row. These Halloween fabrics are definitely telling me how they want to go together.

For those of you keeping track; I allowed myself to begin the new Halloween quilt, because the Christmas one is too ungainly to transport. Check it out!!! I am working on this one during football games.

Although I don’t know if I will have it quilted for this Christmas, the top will be done….yippee!!!

Teaching an Extreme Beginning Quilt Class: the class

Here’s the rest of teaching extreme beginners~

When participants come into the classroom, the table with quilts draped on it is the immediate draw! I like to provide samples showing several colorways and also different shapes that work well with a hexagon shape such as diamonds and stars. Seeing finished quilts is a good inspiration….

To begin the class, I have the participants introduce themselves. Though it does take some time, it’s useful information. I take note of who can sew and/or may be a quilter. These people will be able to work more independently and might help their neighbors. And it is a library class – I want “the locals” to get to know each other and perhaps make a friend.

When I start to talk, I begin by defining the project, which is piecing a hexagon; piecing being the operative word. In the US we call the craft quilting and so students gleefully say that they are quilting. In most other parts of the world where I have traveled or lived, they call the craft patchwork quilting, which is a much more general term. Most of them probably will not get to the quilting part! ;-D

The obvious goal is to get everyone sewing seams. Because I can’t be everywhere at once, I explain how to mark the middle hexagon so that some ladies can get started with that task. Two or three at a time, they prepare centers for the flowers and there is a table set up for this. (And I hope that If they mark and cut a quarter-inch seam, they will remember how to do it when they get home.) It makes the experience more personal and means that not everyone is sitting and waiting to get started sewing. For the Glen Ellyn group, I cut green and orange hexes for the petal area and because of the time of year, included some Christmas and Halloween fabrics.

For the first hour or so, the rhythm is this: I demonstrate how to sew a seam to 2 or 3 people sitting next to each other and continue around the room. The learning objective is to sew a straight line, on the line, on both sides! I spend some time talking about this and the importance of doing so. Sometimes I pull the stitching out, much to the horror of the stitcher. But if I feel they can sew on the line (I had a lady with a broken arm once….) then I encourage them to do so. By then, the first group needs to know how to end a seam and I show them that. I get around the tables as fast as I can and then re-check them. It takes about three times around the room to get people comfortable with the sewing part.

When everyone is sewing, I start to show them more general things, such as how to make a strong knot. Threading needles is another thing that most people can’t do and the poor lighting makes it even more difficult.

The reality is that you will have a variety of people in every class that you teach! Several years ago I learned an interesting tidbit at a workshop on teaching rug hooking. The leader said “each person has paid the fee and each person should get the same amount of attention”. It was an ah-ha moment for me. You may have someone who has stitched before and is working quietly. You may have a woman saying “I can’t make a knot, I don’t know how to finish a row, I cut the fabric without a 1/4” “. At the end of class you should have spent an equal amount of time with both the “needy” student and the independent worker.

When someone finishes a flower shape, then I start to demonstrate how to press the hexagon shape. Towards the end of class, as they’re sewing away, I explain how I start my grandmother’s flower garden quilts, with strips of fabric and cut middles in a baggie. I hold up a top being pieced together, when I have one,and talk about how to fill in the odd spaces at the edges of a hexagon quilt. Another finish I discuss is how to applique or sew the grandmother’s flower garden piece on a square of fabric. This can be made into a pillow or wall hanging. Don’t get too detailed. The librarian who pushed me into doing the flower basket class kept asking that I talk about batting. Good Grief! The reality is that most of the people in the class are not going to make a quilt! I also tell them about local quilt stores (not chains with nasty fabric) and what is available in the way of classes in the area. Many librarians will pull out quilt books and have them in the room, which is a nice touch.

The Glen Ellyn class was small (it was pouring rain that night) and everyone completed their hexagon. Because I had extras, I encouraged them to take another packet of petals and mark a middle to work on at home. They were a fun group.

After my initial library teaching gig, I began getting e-mails about teaching and couldn’t understand what was happening. It turns out, at least in Chicagoland, that area librarians get together once a year and have meetings and share information. And – they compile a list of people who have taught for their library and were well received. I was “on the list”! When you are a no name quilt teacher, it sure is a nice surprise to get e-mails about teaching out of the blue!

If you like to teach, I would suggest checking out local libraries. It’s a fun job and certainly gets your name “out there”!