The Sewing Room


When Does Housework Come Before Needlework?



                               ONLY in the Dictionary!






Lately, at least at my house, just about everything else in the alphabet has come before housework as well!

Organized Chaos - Stacks of Clothing

The image above is NOT my house but for the past two months it may as well be. The best way to describe my home – especially my sewing room, is organized chaos. Stacks of books, baskets of fabric, bins of unfinished projects, bags of more fabric… However, I’ll save my “Sewing Room Blues” for another post.


I read a quote earlier today that stated the best way to keep dust off your furniture is to top everything with stacks of fabric.

Here are mine 🙂



Dust will to have work pretty hard to find it’s way onto this table-top! And here is a bonus tip – keeping fabric that is shipped to you in its original clear plastic wrap makes it a little easier to dust the “furniture” when that mood hits!


So…since I’m admitting I haven’t done much housework lately, what exactly have I been doing?

Quite a lot, actually. However, my focus has been making these cute lap quilts.



It has been just over 2 years since I joined a volunteer quilt group at the hospital where I work. We typically choose a Saturday each month (or every other month or as a majority of us are available) to spend the day piecing, cutting, seam ripping, re-sewing, talking, sharing, eating, more quilting, ironing, sweating, more eating, more talking…

The small lap quilts we make are given to our patients and their families when they transition to palliative or hospice care.

However, – between the busy holidays, the ridiculous weather (thank you Polar Vortex) and a couple of bouts of some sort of flu / stomach virus / crud, our quilt group hasn’t had a chance to meet since November.

As a result, almost every minute I’m not at work (or doing something that loosely resembles housework), has been spent making a few lap quilts – four are completely finished. I’m taking a break from piecing the fifth to write this short post!

The first is made from a 6″ Jelly Roll featuring reproduction civil war prints by Boundless fabrics. These are left over from the jelly roll I bought over 2 years ago and this particular fabric is forever sold out. However, Craftsy (now called Bluprint) carries this exclusive fabric line and many other fabric choices are always available.

For this specific project I chose shades of red and blue fabric strips paired with an ivory background.



Since the strips were 6″ x 42″ I cut the strips into 6″ squares and the ivory background into 6″ strips as well. Then I paired the print with a solid or a red with a blue and made into HST’s (Half Square Triangles).

Using my portable design wall I arranged and rearranged the solid squares and HST’s until I found the configuration I liked. I’m calling this one Star Squared. (No doubt there is a block or quilt already made with this pattern that goes by another name – I welcome anyone willing to correct me on this!).

Once I created the star consisting of the 16 inner squares it became apparent this original size, even with a typical 3″ border, would not be large enough. Being a design consisting of HST’s and squares it seemed reasonable to sew a few more HST’s and simply add them (and few more solid squares) to the perimeter.

Now I was having fun! Arranging and re-arranging these squares to find the right configuration is actually quite fun and it is amazing just how many designs and configurations you can create with these little HST gems!



This next quilt is made from 2 charm packs – the print is “Voysey” from the V&A Archives for Moda. The solid is from the “Caramel Macchiato” fabric line from Wilmington Fabrics. Both were “Daily Deal” bargains I purchased from the Missouri Star Quilt Co. and the “On-Point” pattern is an adaptation from one of Jenny Doan’s YouTube videos.

The colors are wonderful and the print is a folksy print that reminds me of William Morris’ craftsman style design motifs from the late 1800s. I wish I had better lighting for this image. I’ve chosen to take these images in my front room – even a quick ray of sunshine would make a huge difference!


On Point Lap Quilt

These next two quilts are made from fabric donated to our quilt group. I took the liberty to create a basic pinwheel design for the top quilt and the pattern for the second top is from a sketch hand-drawn on a piece of scrap paper. I don’t recall if it has a specific name but the pattern kind of reminds me of a baseball field so I’m naming this one “Home Run”.






There you have it – how I survived (and continue to survive) the Polar Vortex and why a dictionary is the only place where housework should come before needlework!

Leave a comment and share how you are surviving this insanely cold weather and please feel free to include an image showing us what you put before housework!

It doesn’t have to be sewing/needlework – it can be anything!

I can’t be the only one who puts just about everything before housework!


What is Better Than a Four Patch Quilt Block?

Disappearing Four Patch Quilt Block

Answer: A DISAPPEARING Four Patch Quilt Block!




So, what exactly is a Disappearing Four Patch quilt block? Simply put, it is a basic four patch block with four additional cuts, and a turn of four (or five) fabric pieces. Eight additional stitch lines later and the result is a block that looks more complicated and time-consuming to make than it actually is.

And why make the four patches disappear?

As a beginning quilter, I was quite content piecing 5” squares however, after I mastered the skill of nesting seams, I wanted to try something a little more complicated but not as complicated as points and triangles. The disappearing four patch seemed to fit the bill.

This pattern is also a fun way to improve your basic quilting skills and help you bust through a stash of fabric scraps and the design is simple enough to allow you to create a small quilt from start to finish in one weekend.

Now on to the how!

The design that offers the greatest impact is one that uses high contrast – contrast between print and solid as well as contrast between color as well as contrast between high and low volume.

For my project I’m using four 5” squares of fabric.

Charm Square Quilt Fabric

Step 1 : Place right sides of one solid and one print square together and sew a 1/4″ seam.

Sewing Fabric Squares w/ Right Sides Together

Repeat for the next set of squares. Press the seams toward the print side.

Step 2 : Position the top and bottom rows with right sides together and sew a 1/4″ seam .

Sewing Top & Bottom Rows Together

When ready to press I chose to press these seams open. This reduces the bulk of fabric and eliminates the need to remember to alternate the direction each is seam is pressed later on when I have additional rows to sew together.

Seams Pressed Open

Now you see a Four Patch Block:

Four Patch Quilt Block

Step 3 : This is where a rotating cutting mat comes in very handy. Place the block on the mat and a ruler positioned on top to measure 1 1/4″ from the center seam. Along the right-hand edge is where you will make your first cut.

Using a rotating mat prevents you from having to move the fabric around – instead it is the board that moves – the best way to ensure accuracy and consistency with each cut.

Cutting the Disappearing Four Patch Block

Then turn the board 45°, position the ruler again so the right outside edge is 1 1/4″ from the middle seam and make another cut through the top and bottom squares. Repeat this step twice again making a total of four cuts. The block will appear as shown in the image below:

Cutting the Disappearing Four Patch

Step 4 : Once all four cuts are made it is now time to make the four patch disappear.

Simply take each middle strip set and turn around and turn the center square the same way. What you want to see now is an alternating pattern of print with solid.

Turning the Four Patch Pieces

Step 5 : Sew each piece to create a row – there will be three.

Then sew the bottom to the middle row then add the top row to this set. Press the seams open – again this reduces bulk, especially in the seams that join in the middle of the block.

Disappearing Four Patch

                                                      The result:

Disappearing Four Patch Block

                             The Disappearing Four Patch block.

Using 5″ squares sewn together in this fashion results in a block can easily be trimmed to a 7.5″ or 8″ square – a nice number to use as part of a larger quilt.

More Great Reasons to Piece a Disappearing Four Patch Block!

The above example is just one variation of the disappearing four patch block design. Grab a few fabric scraps, sew four patches together and cut into (9) individual pieces. Then, take these pieces to your design wall and see how many configurations you can come up with! Create a design you like and sew it all together.

If making a quilt is not on your agenda, this block could easily standalone and be used for a number of other useful items. Add a back, banding and batting and this block is quickly transformed into a hot pad, pot holder or mug rug.

That’s the beauty of this pattern – there is no right or wrong way to piece these fabrics together. The appearance of the finished product is up to you!

What will you make? Leave a comment and post an image of your outstanding creation here!

Want more Disappearing Patch blocks? Stay tuned! My next post will illustrate many unique variations as well as interesting free motion and long arm quilt patterns that will make these Disappearing Blocks pop!


The Quickest & Easiest Way To Warm Your Heart & Soul

While very few of us would argue the benefits of a warm heart and soul but what about the rest of your body? What if there was a quick and easy way to warm other important areas – for example your neck, shoulders, knees, hands…

So, once your chilly body parts are warmed it would stand to reason this warmth would naturally extend to your heart and soul as well, right?

Of course!

Now we have the “what” and “why” settled, it’s time to tackle the how = easy and the when = quickly!


In a previous post I hinted at my next project. It would involve these fabulous fabrics that I purchased here:

Quilting Fabric

Fun fabrics plus a need for heat equals – DIY Rice Bags and Cover!

This is a project that is quick and easy because it only involves sewing straight stitches – no piecing together a complex pattern or even true quilting for that matter – unless of course, you want add that extra touch.

These little gems are wonderful! I was introduced to these many years ago from a friend who also taught me a new weaving technique. Over the years we have lost touch but I’ve never forgotten her “microwave rice bags”.

Each year as Christmas draws near and I begin to make my list of gift recipients I try to think of giving something unique yet useful…something I would want to receive. After a little brainstorming, the idea to make rice bags once again surfaced near the top of my gift-giving list.

This is something that can be as easy or as complex you want it to be. They can be customized, personalized and re-used over and over. The cover is removable and washable so they are as easy to care for as they are to use.

The image above shows the single handled striped inner bag (before it was filled with rice) along with the cover made from the snowflake printed fabric.


For the most part, yes.

My first attempt with a project like this was about 20 years ago and the only sewing I did was for the cover. The rice filled hot pad was actually a sock that I sewed closed. Very utilitarian – it did the job but wasn’t much to look at.

I’m now at a point in my life where I have the time and resources to bring together a little higher level of form and function. This particular rice bag is, in some respects, better than my first however, during the construction process I began to think of better ways to do this. No doubt, I will probably make several of these and anticipate during the process I will make improvements on both the technique and appearance and will post as an update in the near future.


1. Choose two different fabrics you would like to use. Fat quarters are great size to begin with and for one rice bag you will need a total of (4) fat quarters – or (1) yard of fabric total. This translates as follows: (2) fat quarters or 1/2 yard for the bag and (2) fat quarters or 1/2 yard for the cover. When finished, if a larger or smaller size is desired then it is easy to adjust the measurements.

2. For my project, I cut (2) rectangles, 18″ x 7″ from the striped fabric.

Next, I cut (2) rectangles, 20″ x 8 1.2″ from the snowflake print.

3. The top edge – and only the top edge – of all four rectangles need to be folded and stitched. This creates a finished opening that doesn’t fray. The other three sides will be sewn to the matching fabric with right sides together.

I began with folding down 1/4″ on the short (top) side of each striped rectangle and press. Fold again another 1/4″, press and stitch along somewhere around an 1/8″ from this folded edge.

Fabric Cut Fold & Stitch

This is where I began to have one, of many, “I-should-add-_____-to-make-this-pretty-and-or-more-functional” ideas. This time I felt having a handle attached to the rice bag would be useful and serve at least two purposes.

1. To make it easier to hold the bag steady while sliding the cover on or off.

2. Use the handle to place the bag closer to your skin or keep in place if wrapped around your leg or shoulder.

Another confession: I love fabric selvages – especially those with a nice fringe, written text or sample colors used in the manufacture of the fabric. Since the striped fabric is a woven ticking fabric with a nice even fringed selvage, I decided to use about am 8″ length to create the handle.

Placing the right sides together (with the woven material I chose here, both sides look the same) I stitched the remaining three sides together, clipped the corners, turned right side out and pressed flat.

The top right image above shows the finished bag ready to be filled with rice. Whether you choose to add a handle or not don’t fret about the appearance of the inside edge. Once it is filled with rice this entire opening will be sewn closed and out of sight.

At this point you have a couple of options. The easiest would be to fill the entire bag about 2/3rds full of rice, sew closed and call it a day.

Those who know me also know I’m not known for ending a project so quickly and “calling it a day”. Where is the story in that?

Pondering on the size of this bag I felt the finished bag would be easier to drape and fold if it were divided into separate compartments. I like the number three so I went with that!

Three compartments would only require two additional stitch lines. I simply divided the length of the bag by 3 and used an air soluble pen to mark each of the two stitch lines. One stitch line may be enough but this particular bag is a little large and rice can get heavy AND it’s much easier to prevent ripped stitches than it is to go back and repair later.

A bag like this will get a lot of wear and tear.

Now, back to the bag!

No exact measurements are needed – this is something you can just eyeball.

Once the lines are drawn, go ahead and fill with rice. Again, no exact measurements here – I just filled enough so the rice came to about 2/3rds the distance between the bottom of the bag and the two stitch lines.

Bag Mark Fill & Stitch

Sewing the first dividing line was easy. Sewing between the second and third compartments was another story. Using one hand to keep the rice pushed to one side of the sewing line was almost impossible. After a couple of trials and twice as many errors I had another one of those “light bulb” ideas.

The solution? A clear glue stick! In fact, after using it for the 2nd and 3rd compartments I’m recommending using it for the first one as well. It’s easier to do than it sounds and will save you tons of frustration and headaches.

Rice Bag Construction


1. Use a large scoop or spoon and funnel and pour rice into bag.

2. Fold top of bag down and using one hand as a guide, reach inside with the other holding the glue stick and glide the glue around the bag where the marked stitched lines are located.

3. Pinch and press closed then take to the ironing board and run your iron for 3-4 seconds over the glue strip. It isn’t permanent but will hold long enough to walk to your sewing machine.

4. Position to lay flat and stitch along both lines.

5. Return to upright position and repeat steps 1-4 for the next compartment.

6. The final step is the easiest – glue around the inside at the top, iron closed then stitch.

7. The bag is now finished!


After finishing the bag you may be thinking – “I’m not sewing another stitch… I’m done”.

But let me assure you, this next part is really super quick and easy. Just sew together two pieces of fabric, turn right sides out and call it a day.

I will admit, that was totally my original thought however, as is typical of me, I began to have more of those “how-can-I-make-this-prettier” ideas and one of those ideas involved using some left over piping across the top edge to give the cover a more finished look.

The first image below shows the process of adding piping to the right side along the top (short) edges that will become the opening for the cover.

Once the piping is attached to both edges place right sides of the fabric together and stitch a 3/8″ seam around the perimeter to join three sides (exactly as you did with the rice bag) leaving the top end (with the piping sewn on) open.

Rice Bag Cover

Next, clip the corners, turn right side out, press and it’s ready for use!

Since rice is somewhat large, I hung the rice bag from the handle then slipped on the cover by sliding it up.

When ready for use slide the cover off and place rice bag in the microwave.

For a rice bag this size it may take as long as 2 minutes to fully heat. Start with 1 minute, turn the bag over and heat for another 1 minute. Be careful, as these bags are HOT!


If your heart, soul and anything else needs a little cooling down, these bags can also be used as COLD PACKS!

Place them in the freezer for 1 – 2 hours, cover and use as needed!

Has anyone else made rice bags like these? I would love to hear about your experiences – what worked – what didn’t.

Please feel free to share any tips or suggestions to help me and others improve upon this design!


The Quickest, Easiest & Cutest Christmas Ornaments I’ve Ever Made!


Being Human I Have a Few Weaknesses

Shiny objects, cute puppies, cinnamon rolls, buffalo plaid, pretty fabric and, of course, anything Christmas, just name a few.


Christmas Tree Ornament


Another weakness (as the title of my site would suggest) is quilting and sewing however, the specific pattern or design that is making me swoon these days is the pinwheel pattern.

The minute I felt like I had mastered the techniques of sewing squares together I decided to bite the bullet and give making a quilt top using the pinwheel design a go.

As beginning quilting or quilt piecing goes, triangles and pinwheels are not typically anywhere on any list of quilting and sewing techniques suggested for a beginner – like me. But how can one resist? The pattern has such a fun and playful appearance and the potential color combinations is, if nothing else, inspiring. With all that going in its favor what is all the fuss? Piecing all those triangles can’t be that difficult!


Pinwheel Quilt Tops


Turns out it kinda is and there were a few tips and techniques I should have mastered first


My first two “finished is better than perfect” pinwheel quilt
tops shown above were actually not that difficult to make.

A closer look however, reveals what is difficult – getting every
point to perfectly match up with an adjacent point or corner.

But all that fuss is for another day.


Today, I want to show you a super quick and easy way to create a fabric ornament into the shape of a 3-dimensional pinwheel.

These can be used on a tree, to embellish a gift bag or applique onto a pillow. This is a design that with just a change of colors or design motif can be adapted to any season of the year!

A project like this is also a great way to use up those fabric scraps or remnants from a precut bundle. For these ornaments I’m using left over fabric from last year called “A Moose for Christmas” – a fabric line by Cheryl Haynes for Benartex fabrics.

This particular fabric line may not be available in your local fabric store but it can still be purchased here.


Let’s Get Started!


For each pinwheel you need

  • (2) 5″ squares of fabric – (1) print and (1) contrasting solid.
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Iron and ironing surface
  • Air soluble marking pen
  • Button or other sew-on embellishment
  • Needle and thread


Preparing the Square

Part 1

Stitching & Turning Fabric Square

  • Place each fabric square with right sides together.
  • Stitch around the entire perimeter of the square leaving about a 1 1/2″ opening for turning.
  • Clip the corners and turn right side out.

NOTE : The opening shown in the 3rd image above is almost too small. I was able to turn the square right side out but it was a bit difficult. Don’t be afraid to make the opening closer to 2 or 2 1/2″ – closing it later will still be very quick and easy.


Part 2

Marking Fabric Squares

Use a long thin object with blunt end (chop stick, paint brush) to push out the corners and smooth the edges then press flat.

Turn the square so the solid side is face up and mark a 1 1/2″ line from each of the four corners toward the center.

Once marked, take a sharp pair of scissors and cut on each of the four lines from the corners you just marked.


Making the Pinwheel

Part 1

Sewing 1/4' Around Fabric Square

At the sewing machine, stitch 1/4″ from every open edge.

It’s a little tricky sewing around each of the cut lines but using a 1/4″ presser foot with a metal “fence” is a perfect guide.

If the points are somewhat ragged or uneven this is a good time to once again use your sharp scissors and just trim off any excess you don’t want showing.


Part 2

Folding Fabric Squares

Next, fold up every other point toward the center. A small drop of glue can be used here or – you can do as I did – fold up one corner at a time and secure with a stitch until all four corners are folded.


Finishing the Pinwheel Ornament

Finished Pinwheel Ornaments

Stitch a button or other embellishment in the center. This gives the ornament a nice finished appearance and hides the tips of the folded corners.


Other finishing touches:
  • Stitch a small loop on the back to thread an ornament hanger.
  • Stitch a larger loop to be used as a hanger.
  • Stitch or pin onto a long piece of jute or ribbon for use as a garland


If you have already tried this technique or if this is entirely new and you want to give it a try please include a picture of your creation in the comments below. 🙂


Pinwheel Christmas Ornaments

UPDATE:  New images showing how these Pinwheel Ornaments look when placed on two of my indoor Christmas trees.  


How Small Business Saturday Makes You a Better Person

Total Reported Spending at Independent Retailers and Restaurants on Small Business Saturday Tops an Estimated $100 Billion since the Day Was Founded by American Express in 2010 ~ New York (Business Wire).




You may be asking what does an event like Small Business Saturday – which occurred 2 weeks ago, have to do with quilting, sewing or creativity in general?

Actually, there is more in common than you might think. People, like myself, that are driven to create and share that creative spirit are the small business owners that thrive in the entrepreneurial environment SBS was designed to foster and support.

Each year since 2010, the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, (sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday) has been designated as Small Business Saturday. The intent is to generate a renewed interest in small businesses and restaurants while simultaneously helping these local entrepreneurs compete with larger retail outlets for holiday shopping customers.

I’m all for anything that gives any small business an economic boost and I make it a priority to participate and contribute in any way I can. As for me, I love the personal attention you receive in a small business or restaurant and I will choose first to frequent these shops any time of the year.

Small Business Saturday 2019

My goal for next year is to create a quilt fabric road trip” – or, “MyQuiltingSpace Trek – Part 1” and see how many businesses I can visit on this one day. Although my primary intent will be to spend money, this will also serve as an excellent opportunity to discover businesses that are new to me and to meet and network with these inspiring and innovative business owners.

As a tribute to the individuals and their respective businesses who consistently provide me with endless inspiration (and fabric!) my contribution for this year’s event focused on the two stores listed below.


My First Stop:

The Quilter’s Station.



I feel so fortunate to live only 2 miles away from such a wealth of fabric, patterns, notions and expertise.

This one-of-a-kind quilt shop is locally owned by Rita Briner and specializes in primitive fabrics as well as reproduction prints, woolens, flannels, and home spun wool. Walking through the isles viewing bolt after bolt after… of fabric you soon realize this experience is no different from being a kid in a candy store.

Each time I walk through the door I pretty much lose my mind and almost immediately find myself darting off into a myriad of directions. I’m easily drawn to the patterns or woolens sections although my original intent was look for cotton fabric that would pattern and color and coordinate with the fabric swatches in my hand.

Am I the only one that does this? I mean just take a look at the image below…what you’re viewing is just a very small sampling of the eye candy you’ll find when you first walk through the door!



On this particular Small Business Saturday I was able to remain somewhat focused and with the help of her friendly and knowledgeable staff I was able to locate and choose the exact fabrics I was looking for:



Stay tuned to see the transformation of these fabrics into something that will warm your heart and soul!


Second Stop –

The Missouri Star Quilt Company

I could write a novel on this mercantile wonderland – what I refer to as the “Quilting Mecca of Missouri”. It is actually several stores that occupy a large portion of all available retail space within downtown Hamilton, Missouri. Each of the 14 different quilting shops that encompass the Missouri Star Quilt Co., is decorated and stocked according to a theme. For example, ‘Batiks Boutique’, ‘Man’s Land’ the ‘Machine Shop’ and ‘Penny’s Quilt Shop’.

Should you be interested, you will find doing even a small amount of research on the origins of the MSQC and owner, Jenny Doan to be very worthwhile and inspiring. The connection between the MSQC and JC Penny is also quite interesting.

I never tire of hearing her story.

Traveling to the MSQC is a good 1 hour and 15 minute drive from my home so needless to say it is not a shop I am able to physically frequent too often but the online store is every bit worth a visit. This is how I used the Missouri Star Quilt Co., to contribute to SBS.

The day I discovered the MSQC I subscribed to their daily emails so turning on my computer and opening my email was the most effort I had to make! From my home and the MSQC home page I was able to shop a huge variety of fabrics, patterns, kits and notions. On this day, I was able to make use of the “Daily Deal” and with the offering of free shipping and other freebies I was delivered a box of goodies that made me feel like it was Christmas morning!

Below are fabrics from the Scandi 5 fabric collection by Andover:



Taking a look at the website earlier today with the hope of making a second purchase makes me more thankful that I bought this fabric bundle when I did as it is now listed as “Sold Out Forever”. Whew! Thank goodness for Small Business Saturday and the Missouri star Quilt Company!

These winter themed fabrics will make a wonderful quilt. I have in mind a couple of patterns I’d like to use with this fabric. As soon as I decide and begin that project I will be posting about that process so stay tuned!


So how does spending money at a small business or restaurant make you a better person?

According to, “The unofficial shopping holiday now has 70% awareness amongst U.S. consumers, with 64% of survey respondents indicating that their primary motivation for shopping on the day after Black Friday was to support their local community.”

Every few months we read where a large powerful company purchases another large company. And then another. The fear of consumers and small business owners alike is the inevitable end result – one or two large oligopolies whose purpose is to seek out other smaller businesses to purchase and control leading to a market monopoly.

Is a retail monopoly really so bad?

A large homogenized behemoth that disregards the value of the individual creative spirit and stifles efforts to facilitate innovation and ingenuity may provide convenience to the masses in the short term but the long term effects can be devastating. Historically, the existence of a lack of diversity within any culture has resulted in the death of many natural entities – species of animal, human and horticultural life to start with.

It is my hope that through the efforts of Small Business Saturday and other entrepreneurial events that the public will take notice and do what we can to preserve these valuable community establishments.

As our communities prosper, then as consumers, we too share in that prosperity.

The skills and talents of local businessmen and women will always need a platform for expression and service. A large, soulless corporation does not allow for this.

When you support any small business on Small Business Saturday as well as every day of the year you become a wiser, happier, more responsible and valuable consumer.

And these attributes are what make each of us a better person.









The Magic Trick to Sewing Seams That Line Up Perfectly – Everytime!


Is it fair to call it magic when you take a few fabric scraps…




And add quilter’s grid interfacing



To create a fabric panel where every seam and every corner of every square is perfectly matched?

I guess the answer depends on your definition of magic and the number of seams you’ve ripped out and re-sewn trying to get those seams to nest and perfectly line up.

As for myself, I’ve ripped out way too many stitches and usually for a simple project made up of nothing but squares! So when I discovered quilter’s grid I felt like I had won the lottery! The first time I tried this product I had only one word for it – magic.

The “Magic” is in the interfacing – specifically, Pellon 820 Quilters Grid. It not only transforms scraps of fabric into nice and neat pattern but it can do so with greater seam accuracy, less time and fewer headaches than sewing row by row using the traditional piecing methods.




For me, the time-consuming aspect of piecing (40) 2″ squares lies in the mistakes made, seams ripped out and stitches having to be re-sewn. Using Quilters Grid Interfacing to piece the fabric squares above was done WITHOUT RIPPING OUT ONE SEAM! Ever.

Remember in a previous post where I described the necessity of cutting accurately so seams would nest and line up perfectly? And no matter how perfect the cut and alignment, if a consistent 1/4″ seam isn’t sewn then the whole block will look a mess?

Now is the time to stop stressing and put those old rules on a shelf and save for later. Time for new rules, a new technique and a whole new product to make it happen. So first…


New Rules:

  • The 2″ square (or whatever dimension you desire) does not have to be exactly perfect but it does need to fit within the grid lines.
  • What is most important is the fold along the grid line – not the sewing – that ensures accuracy
  • Basting is replaced with fusing. A couple of seconds with a hot iron and the interfacing is semi – permanently fused to the back of the fabric. This allows you to move the entire piece from ironing board to sewing table and then move the piece around the machine as you sew without the worry of it shifting or moving out of place.

The Product:

Pellon 820 Quilters Grid

This is a thin fabric made from 100% polyester. It has a rough side where the adhesive is infused and a perfect 1″ grid printed over the entire surface that is visible from both sides.

A Closer Look:











Have you seen what is often referred to as a “Postage Stamp” quilt?



Typically, it consists of a series of many, if not hundreds, of tiny 1″ or 1.5 “(“postage stamp” size) squares of fabric sewn together in neat rows. I can’t say for sure if quilter’s grid was used here but if it were me making a postage stamp quilt top like the one shown above (from RedPepper Quilts), quilter’s grid interfacing would be the only way I would be able to get every square to line up so straight and perfect.


Up to this point I’ve discussed the positives of this product however, there is a downside that it worth a mention – using an interfacing such as this does alter the drape of the fabric. The nature of this product is to reinforce or strengthen fabric and as a result will cause the fabric to stiffen up. If a quilt’s drape or, ability to bend and fold easily (say, for snuggling) is most important then piecing small squares using this grid may not be the best option.

For many of us who quilt, and especially those starting out, we may not be at point where this level of perfection is necessary and would rather take the philosophy: “Better Finished Than Perfect”!

If you still want to use the quilter’s grid interfacing and more drape is desired, then I would suggest using larger fabric squares (6″ or so) or even rectangles! This will allow more space between the stitch lines and the end result isn’t a fabric panel that is too firm and stiff to work with.


The Technique:

Place a 2″ square of fabric within (4) grid squares on the back (rough, adhesive side) of the interfacing. Place a non-stick pressing cloth on top and using a hot iron, press, holding the iron n place 3-4 seconds. Raise the iron and move to the next section pressing (hold down only – do not “iron” or slide the iron from one section to the next). This process will adhere the rough side of the interfacing to back of the fabric.



More Magic!

In my example, I have fused (40) 2″ squares into a rectangle measuring (8) squares wide x (5) squares deep. I find it easier to start with the short rows.

Step 1

– Fold ON the grid line. Keeping the fabric WITHIN the grid lines allows for the fabric to fold almost automatically and exactly on this line. Once the entire row is folded, stitch a 1/4″ seam from the folded grid line. (It’s not visible in this picture but I’m using a 1/4″ presser foot with a “fence” along the right side to ensure a consistent 1/4″ seam.

– Continue stitching each of the short rows.



Step 2

– Iron the seams so they lay flat.

* Note* I’m not sure if anyone else does this but when I’m using smaller 2″ squares, after stitching, I will trim 1/8″ from the fold line. It significantly reduces the amount of excessive bulk and makes it so much easier to iron flat when finished. If larger squares of fabric are used, this step could be eliminated.



You can see in the image above the squares have been stitched along the shorter rows and the corners don’t perfectly line up but there is nothing to worry about! Once the perpendicular lines are stitched every corner will magically match up!

Step 3

– Fold again along the lines perpendicular to the ones you just stitched.

The image below illustrates the fabric’s appearance after the short vertical rows are stitched. I used clips to keep the rows straight while stitching the longer horizontal rows.



Should this be your first time using this technique, don’t worry if things look a bit weird.  A quick glance at the panel before ironing it flat will make you think you’ve done something wrong! However, don’t let the appearance discourage you – iron it all out and the result is…magical!

And This is Just the Beginning!

Once you’ve completed all the steps above the result is a fabric panel that you can do most anything with. Depending on the size needed and the specific project, this could be just one of five panels that you could sew together to make a tote bag.

In my example below I quilted a solid gray fabric to the back. In the interest of time I took a couple of short cuts by rounding the corners and sewing a remnant of store bought piping around the entire perimeter to give it a proper finished look.

The result – a nice sized mug rug!



Had I  more time to spend, I could have finished the edge by attaching binding. Another option – sandwich with a backing fabric and batting, turn inside out, top stitch and the result could be used as a hot pad on your counter top or as an over sized pot holder.

Looking at this I am able to envision a multitude of possibilities! I can also see this as a front panel for a pillow. Simply add a contrasting border, backing fabric, piping around the edges then fill with poly- fill or a pillow form!

What ideas do you envision with this technique and this product?

If you have used Pellon 820 Quilters Grid and this or a similar technique before please leave your comments and / or pictures below!

I’m continually inspired by the creativity shown by readers like you!




An Invention Almost Better Than Sliced Bread

It’s been a while since the onset of the specific technology which led to the phrase, “Better than sliced bread”. Since the turn of the century (the 20th century), to be exact. And during the time span between then and now the technological curve has taken a sharp bend and continues to do so today.

Growing up I witnessed very few spectacular inventions. My parents had the same rotary phone for who knows how many years before upgrading to a push button phone and continued to use that same phone for at least 30 years. I used the same black and white television from childhood through my sophomore year in college. Who does that anymore?

So what does all this have to do with sewing and quilting?

Technology and the always changing landscape of new and improved products. Every day – every few hours someone has or is in the process of inventing a better mouse trap.

The better mouse trap I’m speaking of here is the Oliso iTouch Iron.

I’ve been using mine for almost 2 years now and for the most part I have no real complaints. Maybe, except for the color. The gray and white is not bad but I wanted yellow…not a huge big deal.

However, for all its technological advances, the greatest attribute of this iron is safety. The design and functionality have incorporated a special feature called “Auto-Lift Technology” that renders the iron pretty much impossible to burn anything or accidentally tip over.

The iron is never in contact with any surface unless your hand has a firm grasp on the orange dotted sensors placed across the top of the handle.

Grasping the handle automatically lowers the iron onto the ironing surface. Once you remove your hand a set of “Scorch Guards” lower, lifting the hot sole plate off the fabric and will remain in this position until you grasp the handle.

OK, So It’s Safe But Is it Any Good at Ironing?

The short answer: Yes.  This iron also includes the same features you would find in a typical iron found in use in many homes today – a reservoir for water, steam and spray settings, a fabric and temperature selector, and a pointed tip for detailing.

Another nice feature is the light display. When red this alerts you that the iron is off or has automatically shut off after 8 minutes of non use. (There is Pro version of this iron that will remain on for 30 minutes of non use). When the light is green this lets you know the iron is on and ready for use.

If a more traditional ironing experience is preferred the iTouch feature can be switched to the “Off” position. When not in use simply position vertically as you would a traditional iron.

Getting back to safety – even with the iTouch feature turned off, should the iron accidentally knock over into a horizontal position, the scorch guards will automatically engage to lift the sole plate off the fabric.

With these safety features you may be thinking they must have skimped on the remaining attributes or reasons for purchasing an iron in the first place.

Q: What about leakage through the steam outlets from the water reservoir when the scorch guards are engaged?

A: They have that covered. The iTouch iron has a “zero-drip” feature that automatically shuts off steam anytime the scorch guards are extended.

Q: Is there more than one steam option?

A: Actually, there are 3 options for water or steam delivery.

1) A simple spray which is good for removing wrinkles.

2) Burst of Steam – A strong downward steam delivery when temperature is set on the wool/cotton/linen setting.

3) Vertical Steam – Useful for removing wrinkles from curtains or garments oriented in an upright position.

What is Not to Like?

Now that I’ve covered the positive features of this iron it seems only fair to discuss the two items I’ve discovered, so far, that I’m not entirely thrilled with.

The first: The noise. Each time the auto-lift feature is engaged it makes an annoying noise. I don’t quite know exactly how to describe it as it is not terribly loud but it is there. Over time, I’ve learned to tune it out – somewhat – however, there are days when I really don’t care to hear that noise each time, I grasp the handle.

The second is the overall weight of the iron. It isn’t heavy – 3.7# however, I had a much older iron – just an iron with no bells or whistles. It was smaller than the Oliso but significantly heavier. Somehow, the design of this older iron made ironing much easier and quicker. One run over a wrinkle and that was it – gone forever! With this, and every newer iron I’ve owned in between required many runs back and forth before removing a wrinkle.

Overall Verdict

As you can see, the positives far outweigh the only two negatives I have encountered with this wonderful iron. The safety features alone are worth the price of admission!

I would love to hear about your experiences with the Oliso iTouch iron.

There are also so many other great ironing products on the market – let me know your experiences with another type or brand of iron and which brand you prefer!

I’m always on the look out for a better mouse trap!


The Top 5 Best Reasons to Make a Quilt

Let’s start this conversation with the frequently asked question, “Why do you make quilts?”

This question could apply to almost any topic. Why make anything? In this day and age when basically most every item you need can be commercially manufactured, mass-produced and purchased at a much lower price and in less time, why would you go through the time, trouble and expense to make anything – especially a quilt?

I have to be honest, when someone asks me this question it is not any easy one to answer. Especially when there are a number of online avenues that advertise ” 3 Piece Quilt Sets” for under $100 or $200. Add to this, the number of retail chain and outlet stores that have many, many quilts/comforters/blankets available for sale in all sizes and price points, the idea of making a quilt gives me pause and has me asking the same question.

The simple cost of making a quilt alone certainly adds to the difficulty justifying such a venture.

However, …there are many qualities that distinguish the quilt or blanket you buy in a brick and mortar or online store from what you piece and quilt yourself. Below are the top five reasons why I love to make quilts and the reasons why I will continue to make quilts for probably as long as I live!

1. Fabric Quality

Designer quilting fabrics are manufactured using the highest quality materials and techniques. The thread count is higher than basic cotton or cotton/blend fabric – typically 60 x 60 threads per square inch. However, some fabrics have a higher thread count. These fabrics almost feel like silk. Take a look here if you want to read more on designer quilting fabric.

2. Quilt Pattern

In this sense, I’m referring to the quilt pattern as the specific color or colors of the various shapes sewn together to create the overall quilt appearance – the “How it looks”.

For example, let’s say you are in the market for a quilt pieced into a “Double Wedding Ring” pattern using fabrics from a favorite designer and / or manufacturer, the most probable way to accomplish this is to make it yourself – (or have it made).

Another scenario – you have cherished fabric from clothing worn by your children when they were young and want to use it to create a quilt in the double wedding ring pattern to give as a gift when they marry. The only way to make that particular quilt is to make it yourself. That specific item will not be found on eBay or Amazon!

3. Quilt Design

This describes the actual “quilting” process – the design used with needle and thread to create the “quilted” appearance.

This example shows a very traditional design – the Continuous Line Cross-Hatching pattern on a very traditional quilt pattern – the Irish Chain. You can read more about this quilt here.

This is such an easy and common pattern – it can be found everywhere. It is the quilt pattern used in the manufacture of coveted and high end bags and purses such as this iconic handbag :

Modern long arm quilting machines however, have taken the basic, traditional quilting technique to an entirely new level. Using creativity and imagination to place stitches into an intricate pattern instantly transforms any pieced quilt top into a one-of-a-kind work of art. Again, this creation is an item not easily mass-produced – yet. ( Sadly, I’m sure someone, somewhere is working on this…)

Looking closely at the image below a variety of quilting patterns have been used. This snot only adds dimension to the quilt top but allows specific fabrics and design elements to stand out and become more prominent.


4. Originality

This is for those of us who have an insatiable need to maintain our sense of individuality and resist, at all costs, the trap of following the crowd. Not that the “crowd” are a bad bunch of people but as for me personally, I have no desire to have home decor / bed quilt, etc. to be a replica of what 2,000 other people have purchased.

It is my personality and design style that I want to stand out! And for this reason, my creations, for the most part, are designed to fit the recipient. If what I have designed and created happens to appeal to the masses I consider that a bonus!

When it comes to gift giving, originality is always at the top of my list.

The image below is a baby quilt I finished about a month ago.  It is not a 100% original – the pattern was purchased from a designer and the fabric here.  However, I highly doubt there is another baby quilt with the same pattern and fabric combination!


5. Charity

I belong to a quilt committee at the hospital where I work and our mission is to make quilts to be given to our patients and families who transition to palliative or hospice care. For me, this quilting group represents a unique and creative way to give back – not only to the recipients but within the group as well.

Members of our group represent all skill levels – some cut fabric, others piece quilt tops, others do just the ironing or tying off. True, when we meet it is primarily for the purpose of replenishing our quilt stock but these 6 – 7 hours are also an opportunity to learn or instruct new techniques or share quilting tips.

Each of us is well aware of the potential struggles involved with making any quilt and anytime we can offer a tip to make any aspect of the process easier for another makes the event a win-win situation for all.


There is no better way to spend a cold snowy day than making a quilt which is exactly how I spent this Monday! I should give thanks to my sewing machine and fabric stash for keeping me off the streets! So, in preparation for our next quilt meeting, I pieced these two tops today:

The first is an adaptation of a pattern called “Off the Rails”. The second is made up of practice blocks in the “Disappearing Four Patch” pattern. Both quilt tops shown above are made using scraps from my stash. They are not perfectly color coordinated however, these images taken with my phone camera and less than optimal lighting do not render the color representations to be even less accurate. To get a better picture of the fabrics used, material of similar color and pattern can be found here. Once the batting and backing are added, the perimeter top stitched and the quilt the layers tied together they will be ready for giving.

So, there you have it. My top 5 (and a bonus) reasons for quilting.

What are your reasons for making quilt or for making anything? Is the reason you began quilting still ring true today or over time have you developed a new source of motivation or inspiration?

I would love to hear your thoughts!


Should You Buy a Long Arm Quilting Machine ?

To Buy or Not to Buy

Since I began quilting as a serious hobby I have had many people ask me if I own a long arm quilting machine. When I answer “no”, they seem surprised and often reply with comments such as, “Don’t you need a long arm to quilt?” Or. “I thought every quilter used a long arm quilting machine?”

Needless to say, this type of answer must be accompanied by an explanation and a definition. A simple “no” won’t suffice. It is interesting to see the reaction after I explain why. Their question is replaced with, “Oh… now I see.”

I Need a Definition!

The long arm quilting machine gets its name from the shape and length of the arm which is long allowing for an over sized throat to accommodate large quilts. Typically, the machine is attached to the frame (could be a large table) where the machine itself is placed on a track that allows the machine to be smoothly rolled along the length of the frame. As one section of the quilt is quilted the operator grasps the handles and slides the machine down to the next section.

On the surface this sounds like quite a deal – especially the computerized versions. All you do is load your quilt, select the program, set the needle in position and press the ‘on’ switch. The machine does all the work while you head poolside with a book and a bowl of berries!

Ahhh…” Quilting is so relaxing!”

However,…there is more to this type of long arm machine that meets the eye and the more you know the better you understand why more – actually, a great majority, of quilters do not own one.

Things To Consider:

1) They are HUGE.

The overall foot print is 3′ – 4′ wide and up to 14′ long. This image gives some perspective regarding the amount of space required if installing in your home. It my guess the quilter in this house also “wears the pants”. Not many family members would be willing to sacrifice this amount of real estate for something with such a small monitor and no remote control!

The example above is also a very high end computerized model. It not only has the capabilities of quilting very large and king-size quilts like all long arm machines, the claim to fame are the exquisite quilt designs. The speed and accuracy of this machine cannot be matched with hand quilting or even quilting on a mid-arm machine.

2) The Learning Curve

A long arm machine is not one you begin using straight out of the box. If you do purchase a machine like this, it will need to be set up by a trained professional. Next, you will need to invest time and money in your own training to learn how to use it and devote ample time to practice. After that you may need even more training and then more practice before feeling confident and comfortable using this on a daily basis or with a customer’s quilt.

3) The Price

A brand new long arm with every bell and whistle imaginable will set you back in the $14,000+ price range. Generally, those who do make this purchase are actually making a business investment (as this could be a business deduction – if that helps).

Lower priced models starting in the $3,000 – $4,000 price range are available. They have a much smaller footprint and are somewhat more affordable.

The advantages

1) A quilt loaded onto a long arm machine will have the layers rolled onto a large roller. This keeps the layers in place and provides the perfect tension on the fabric needed for consistent quilting.

2) This machine can produce quilt patterns that cannot be duplicated by hand or any other type of sewing machine.

One example of a long arm quilt pattern

And a few more examples so get a real feel for what these machines can do!

3) A large quilt with a pattern of minimal to moderate complexity can be done more quickly and efficiently = no mistakes or errors (unless a mistake was made while programming the quilt pattern).

4) A unique and eye-catching quilt is needed for display – to be considered more of a “work of art” than a pretty item that also provides warmth.

What about hiring someone to quilt for you?

If you want an elaborate and / or intricate quilting pattern or, if you are like me, it is not feasible to own one your best bet is to locate a shop or individual to do the long arm quilting for you.

Again, this service is not particularly cheap but as I always say – you are getting what you pay for. Once you fully understand the process of long arm quilting and the price is easily justified.

Middle of the road pricing is about .02 cents per square inch and if often determined by the quilter’s projected base pay. A quilter wanting to earn $25 per hour would base pricing of the quilt on this number.

For example, charging .02 cents psi for a queen sized quilt measuring 90″ x 100″ = 9,000 square inches.

9,000 x .02 = $180 which is typically for the labor only. Additional costs could include the cost of thread, batting, binding and backing, labels and / or hanging loops.

Taking this $180 and dividing it by the number of hours required to complete the quilt (say 4 hours) the net result is $40 per hour. Which sounds good until you factor in other costs: cost of the machine, electricity, time spend meeting with the client, driving to and from fabric shop, purchase price of batting and backing, cost of owning, running and marketing a small business and the top dollar amount is quickly reduced to $20 – $25 per hour.

The Verdict: Is it feasible to own and operate a long arm quilting machine of your own?

What I have presented probably appears to be more in favor of the argument against rather than for buying a long arm machine.

However, for the independent, small business quilter where this type of purchase is more of an investment the verdict is an unequivocal yes. Additionally, the return on that investment is only limited by the amount of time and energy you have to devote to the business of long arm quilting.

As far as long arm quilting for personal use goes, as long as you have the space, the skill level and the price easily fits within your budget there isn’t another reason (that I can think of) not to make this purchase. The more I am able to do for myself the better however, if owning a long arm machine allowed me to provide a needed service for others that would be a complete win – win situation!

I would love to hear stories from those who use a long arm machine either for themselves or as a service to others. What additional advantages have you observed to using this type of machine and / or what disadvantages have you encountered?


My Top 4 Beginner Patterns & Projects Using Fat Quarters


Moving Past the Square

As a beginning –
intermediate quilter, each day I am more appreciative of the time saving value precut
fabrics have to offer. Sewing together 5″ squares is quick and easy
but there are times when you want to create a pattern with more variety and
visual interest and yet not be so complicated and time-consuming that your
quilt top becomes another layer in your pile of unfinished projects.

I’m always on the
lookout for those interesting patterns that look complicated but in fact are
surprisingly easy to piece together with or without using pre-cuts. The
Disappearing 4 Patch is one such example and instructions for this block can be
found here (link).

However, before getting
into pattern selection I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite fabric
cuts: the fat quarter. The name is derived from the way in which
one yard of fabric is cut. The illustration below shows how a one-yard
cut (36″ x 44″) is divided to yield (4) rectangles each
measuring one quarter of that yard. It’s the 22″ width of fabric
that gives it the name “fat”.


Fat vs. Non-Fat

No dieting here…the fat quarter has just the right amount of thread count and inches. The 18″ X 22″ cut of fabric is such a convenient size to yield a variety of sizes and colors – and it is this variety that creates the visual interest that draws the eye to one quilt over another.

If, during your next fabric shopping spree, you find yourself undecided as to what type of precut fabric to choose I have compiled a short list of items to consider. Chances are, a fat quarter bundle is exactly what you need!

1) The long, narrow fabric cut is ideal when a pattern calls for a variety of shapes or one just one shape in a variety of sizes.

2) Strips cut along the selvage (with the grain) do not lose their shape.

*NOTE* Any fabric cut in the opposite direction or “crosswise” can become very stretchy and as a result will add to the difficulty nesting seams.

3) Fat Quarters are not just for quilting – it is my go-to fabric cut for a variety of other projects: tote bags, organizers, place mats and mug rugs to name a few.

Below are just two examples of how a fat quarter can be cut to piece a quilt top. You may also notice when choosing a pattern that is labeled “Fat Quarter Friendly” the fabric cuts produce very little waste – an important factor when using expensive, high end or limited edition fabrics.


Show Me the Quilts!

Fun and fabulous quilt patterns and fabrics can be found in your
local fabric or quilt store however, this market also has an incredible online
presence. One such resource is
A few more of my favorites are the Missouri Star Quilt Co., The Fat Quarter Shop
and The Moda Bake Shop.

I should note that the website for each of the examples listed below can be accessed by simply clicking on the image. Another bonus – the pattern for each of these examples is FREE!


This first example, “Flower Show“, is probably
one of the quickest and easiest quilt tops to make. The print / solid
color is basically a series of rectangles cut into two different sizes.

Each of the white background / sashing (white) strips
could potentially be cut into strips the same width as the larger print
rectangles by the entire width of the quilt top.

Simply sew the print rectangle to a solid rectangle – and repeat
this pattern until the desired width is achieved. This would be one row.

Next, sew that patterned row to a long strip of white.

Before you know it, you have strip sets that can be sewn
together and your quilt top is ready for a border!



A second Google search of fat-quarter-friendly patterns placed this wonderful quilt image before my eyes. The quilt was made by Polly @ Pieces by Polly.

Taking a closer look, each “square” is made by creating a half-square triangle. True, this involves a few more straight cuts with a rotary cutter and ruler but these individual pieces cut from a fat quarter are larger than the typical 5″ square making the creation of each ‘square’ much easier. And these larger sized squares translate into a quilt top that can be pieced together and completed much more quickly.

I have some metallic Christmas fabric similar to this in my Christmas stash – it’s worth taking a look to see if I have enough to give this one a try!




Quilt Fabric is Not Just for Quilts

If you aren’t yet ready for a Christmas project here is one featuring an autumn theme. However, as we all know, the chevron pattern is season-less and theme-less. Do you have scraps of favorite fabrics stashed away in your sewing closet or basket? Here is a great way to use them!

And it’s not necessary to limit yourself to these yummy autumn colors. This pattern can be adapted for any season or holiday. In place of pumpkins make large fabric Christmas ornaments, apples, watermelons, beach balls. Reduce the size of the table runner to a mug rug size – the pumpkins reduced to a pin cushion and you have the perfect gift for the sewist on your birthday or Christmas list. You are only limited by your imagination!



Quilting fabric makes the most adorable mini treat and gift bags! The construction is just as quick and easy and provides a perfect canvas for most any embellishment. These bags require only (2) fat quarters. If a larger bag is needed – for example, a tote bag, just add another fat quarter – or two.

Cut another square or rectangle of fabric and attach to the front for a pocket. Add ribbon, a key chain, buttons, pins, charms or badges. In addition to these bags cute factor is their practicality. They are durable and reusable.


Be Inspired!

The goal of this post is to provide a short but very sweet introduction to fat quarter fabric cuts and the variety of projects that can be created. It is my dream that when you hear the term “fat quarter” you become inspired, get out those lovely fabrics fabrics and create something unique today!