Downtime Sewing • Odds ‘n’ Ends


Or as my friend used to say, “Time flies whether you are having fun or not.” So what have I been doing?

Spelling Bee Blocks_April 2016

Blocks for our Spelling Bee for Carla, who has just opening a knitting shop.  I made two and then one more for Simone, whose daughter is getting married and she’s making the wedding dress.  She gets a pass, I’d say.MCM Bee Sewing

I made bee blocks for Mid-Century Modern Bee, for Stephanie, who doesn’t really run a blog, but is here on Instagram.  Actually she’s in Russia, but try not to hate her.  It looks like a fabulous trip.Shopping Bags Scout auction packet 4_16

Did (what I call) Duty Sewing to make an item for the Scout Auction at our church.  I was thinking Scouts=Food, so I picked up four boxes of treats at Trader Joe’s, a Dairy Queen gift card and two shopping bags, and wrapped them all up fancy.  It’s to help raise money to send boys to camp.  I used to be in the boat of forking over moolah for Scout camp (I had three boys), and am really really happy to be at this end: donating, rather than doing.planted garden_April16

Planted my summer garden.  This time we didn’t buy the fancy-schmancy tomatoes at the Swanky Garden Center, but instead went to the local nursery and Lowe’s.  They look much healthier.  Things that grow in my garden are an endless fascination to me, and I sometimes check the seedlings daily.  I’m #goofyaboutmygarden, thank you very much.Market Sewing

Did some market sewing for a friend.  I also made plans to go to market, courtesy of Painter’s Palette Fabrics, who I sewed a quilt top for. . . and now I get to see it!  Can’t wait–so excited.IG Fun April 2016

Perused Instagram.  I had no idea that people still crocheted granny square bedspreads.  My horizons are widened every time I follow a hashtag that’s new to me, in this case #makersmovement, which is for (duh) people that make things.  We used to be called crafters.  I like the term Makers much better.Halloween Blocks

Finished up last month’s blocks for the Halloween QAL and got the blocks ready for this month’s post on May 13th.  You know, when you break down a quilt into chunks, it’s much easier.  And I know I would have never have gotten this far, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I had to make the bits of the quilts to post.  Thank you very much for putting up with me.First selfie

Cleaned out Started cleaning out the photo cupboard, where I found my First-Ever Selfie, painted when I was six years old and in Brownie Scouts.  Interestingly, we didn’t have a dog at that time, even though I painted one in the picture (wishful thinking?).GameThrones1 Dbrovnik street

Found out that the street where we stayed in Dubrovnik, Croatia in 2014, was one of the sites used in Game of Thrones, a show I have never seen.  In the top photo (taken from the web somewhere) is the scene from the movie.  The middle photo is their comparison of how it looks when it’s not been movie-fied, and the bottom photo is taken by me, leaning out our window, looking back up the street.  I found this out one day when I was reading the NEWSPAPER (yes, I’m that old) and saw the top photo.  I ran upstairs to compare mine with theirs, then found the middle photo on the Internets.Costco macaron

Another eureka moment was when I discovered that Costco sells macarons.  Yes, I have two boxes in my freezer right now, but I gave away the coffee-flavored cookies to a neighbor (I hate the taste and smell of mocha/coffee).  I’ve also gotten three bids on a new HVAC system, and one guy is wandering around my house right now, taking mea$urement$.biscotti

In the cooking department, I made biscotti to take to my son, who lives in Normal Heights, in San Diego, California. My recipe is *here.*

Normal Heights Fabrics

Found out there is a fabric store in Normal Heights, in a former movie theater, which had some silk shantung, perfect for working on my Four-in-Art project for the May reveal.  I’ve also been to the doctor’s twice, but the patient — like Mayor Shinn’s wife in the movie The Music Man — will recover.


Coming soon to a blog near you, on May 1st.Design Wall April 2016

And my design wall last week, as I was figuring out a scene for under the Christmas Tree (next step is coming May 2nd), working on my Four-in-Art art quilt, and enjoyed a completed mini–a sample to check on how my pattern worked for some more market sewing, which I’ll show you very soon.  (You know the game.)  Now back to the sewing.

New Quilting Machine

HQ Sweet 16_1 HQ Sweet 16_2 HQ Sweet 16_3

So here’s a short story:  This all started two years ago when I test drove a Bernina FancyPants Machine during one of my Road to California classes.  That thing could do everything but cook dinner, and I pined about it for a year.  I love my current Husqvarna Quilt Designer machine, but it is coming up on it’s 14 year-old birthday and one morning, I woke up with an unhappy touch screen.  Horrors! and so the intensity of my search increased, or at least the anxiety of wondering when my machine would conk out on me.  Then I took a domestic free motion quilting class with David Taylor this year at Road to California and at first, I was unhappy that we were working on Handi Quilter’s Sweet Sixteen machine–what?  No teensy weensy harp space of my regular domestic?  But the techniques are the same, so I took to this machine like a duck to water.

HQ Sweet 16_4

Now I needed TWO machines: one to replace my aging Husqvarna and this new Sweet Sixteen quilting machine.  But I only had resources for one.  After some time to think about it, I decided I could prolong the life of my Quilt Designer if I took the quilting tasks off its back.  One afternoon last week, Richard of Quilter’s Cocoon toted this up to my guest bedroom, set it up for me, gave me my first lesson (so happy I’d had the day with David Taylor to augment what Richard was teaching me), and I was up and running.

Except I wasn’t.

I didn’t touch if for two days.  Scared? Excited? Thinking I was out of my mind?  All of the above?  But I finally put together a mini quilt sandwich and went to town, trying out new stitches, using the two rulers I’d purchased, taking it out for a test drive. Notice how all four corner blocks are different; I was having fun.  No, I don’t name my machines (but know a lot of people do, and invariably it’s always my childhood nickname of Betsy — which explains why I don’t do it) but we do refer to it as the “quilting machine,” to keep it distinguished from my “regular machine.”  (By the way, the pattern for this quilt — Ribbon Star Beauty — will be up on Craftsy later on this week.  It’s a fun little mini that sews up quickly.)HQ Sweet 16_5

My daughter has a new shop in her small town of Kingman Arizona, The Farmhouse Kingman.  I plan to send this to her so she can use/sell it in her shop.  If you drive through Kingman on your way to somewhere else, stop by and see her.  She’s in the old section of town, with a cute shop of fun farmhouse decor items.

And that’s the whole story.  Now back to quilting.

Hallowe’en 1904 QAL–Step Three

Step 3 halloweenQAL

Welcome again to the Hallowe’en 1904 Quilt-A-Long.

halloweenqal_pattern cover

As a refresher, we are making this quilt, a pattern from Blackbird Designs.  I must admit it took me a while to re-orient myself to what-the-heck-I-am-doing in this process, but I dragged out my box of stuff, found my pieces am ready to get going.  (If you aren’t making this quilt with us, scroll down to read about making 8 half square triangles at one time, as well as some tips for shaping bias strips.)

Springtime 2016

And of course, it’s lovely springtime in Southern California, so that really makes us feel like working on Halloween stuff, but we agreed to work early so we could hang our quilts up at the first of October, not the last.  While the original quilt has twelve blocks, my friend Leisa and I are making a quilt with nine blocks, and so have adjusted all the quantities accordingly: four blocks with appliqué and five blocks with stars.

In Step One, we gathered supplies.
In Step Two, we did all our cutting.  There is a cutting chart you can download and use to guide you.
Now, in Step Three, we making the appliqué blocks with the Halloween shapes on them: pumpkin (2), pumpkin with cat (1) and moon and star (1).  We’ll also talk about how to make half square triangles (HST) more efficiently, and then about appliquéing the whole thing down.  Here we go.


Leisa came over for an afternoon, and we started by tracing around all the templates, getting our motifs organized.  We decided to add a black cat to our pumpkin, so here is the PDF file: Halloween Cat.  Print it at 100%, so it ends up about six inches tall (or tweak it to make it bigger or smaller–whatever you like).  We wanted the cat facing to the right, so flipped it over and traced the outline on the back with a black marker pen.  Then Leisa traced it out for us on the fusible stuff.


Remember that it has to be backwards, to be facing the right way.  We used Steam A Seam 2, following their directions of which paper to trace onto, and then cut the shape out loosely, after which we ironed it onto the back of the fabric.  I recommend using either a pressing cloth, or a larger piece of their release paper so you don’t get any gunk on the iron.Halloweenqal3_11

(pumpkin leaves)Halloweenqal3_12

Cut out all your shapes and then set them aside.

Now grab a stack of your dark and light 7-inch squares.  Layer two together, so the light is on top.  You’ll be making HST eight at a time in this next step.  This is not a new idea, but it’s explained pretty well *here* and *here* and *here.*

Somewhere in my web travels I picked up this chart: HST 8 part

I wish I knew where it was from, because it’s a great chart with lots of sizes.  If you know where it’s from (I couldn’t find it in my searches) let me know so I can give them proper attribution.


So basically, you draw two lines across the two diagonals of your block, then stitch 1/4″ away from either side of the line.  It looks rumply because you’ve been sewing on the bias.Halloweenqal3_3

Take it to the ironing board and press and steam out the block so it lays flat, and the stitching is nestled into your fabric.

Now you’ll be cutting across the block in two ways, as shown by all these extraneous photos.  I’m sure you’ll get it after seeing all these.Halloweenqal3_4a

First cut side-to-side and top-to-bottom. Don’t slide them apart–mine are that way just to show you.Halloweenqal3_4b

Then cut along your penciled lines.  Again, do it while everything’s together.  Mine are apart for illustration purposes only.Halloweenqal3_5

Take the triangles to your ironing board and press to the dark side (insert Star Wars reference here). Halloweenqal3_6

I use a Bloc-Loc ruler (6 1/2″ size) to true them up to 3 inches square; it has a groove in it that fits neatly over your seam and makes truing up much easier.  You’ll need three sets of these blocks for each large block in this quilt.  You’ll repeat this process, choosing different darks and different lights.  Let’s do that math again.

Each Eight-at-a-Time square makes. . . 8 HST.  You need 24 HST per quilt block, so you make three sets.  I tried to vary my fabrics, using three different lights and three different darks (or oranges).  You’ll find out why you want variety in a minute.  After they are all trued up to 3″ square (all 24 per block), set them aside.Halloweenqal3_7

Take the smaller light background squares, and choose four.  Stitch them together:Halloweenqal3_7a Halloweenqal3_8

Choosing either black or orange, sew on four large triangles, two at a time, to your set of four light squares.

Grab your stack of HSTs.  Starting with one set, distribute them around the block, two per side, spacing them randomly.  I also put my smaller corner blocks down, so I can make sure to keep everything as random as I can (trying NOT to match the fabrics, but sometimes it happens. If it does, don’t fret).

Here’s mine (orange HST) and Leisa’s (black HST).Halloweenqal3_9

Start with the lower edge of triangles; sew them together in a strip.  This goes on very smoothly if you are using a 1/4″ seam allowance when you stitch (not 3/16ths” and not 5/16s” Strive for accuracy).  Press to the dark side (okay, I couldn’t resist).


Matching up that center spot, pin, and then stitch the row onto your larger block.  Press toward the larger block.

Now for the side rows: pin, but add on the corner blocks on each end.  Press the row’s seam allowances toward the dark side EXCEPT for those corner blocks.  On those, I pressed toward the corner block, so that putting this together would be easier (the seams will nest–you’ll see what I mean).  Now attach them to the larger block, matching those corner seams, and stitch.  Press toward the block.



Get your cut-outs, and start playing.  Remove the backing paper and you’ll find it easier, as the fusible stuff is tacky and will adhere lightly as you arrange and re-arrange.Halloweenqal3_14

When you like where things are, fuse them to your block, following the directions that came with your fusing product (I use a cotton setting, lifting the iron on with an up-and-down motion until it’s adhered, but don’t mash it flat and sear it into the cloth.  Easy does it).Halloweenqal3_15

Leisa’s block.Halloweenqal3_16

Leisa’s pumpkin in place.Halloweenqal3_17

Now it’s time to make that curlicue vine/stem.  Cut a bias piece of fabric, 1-inch wide and at least 14 inches long.  Fold it in half, with the right sides outside.  Stitch in fat 1/4″ seam.Halloweenqal3_17a

Trim the seam to a scant 1/8.”Halloweenqal3_17b

I use bias pressing bars and insert them into the tube, rolling the seam allowance to the top.  Press lightly.  Remove the 1/4″ bar, and press the bias lightly.  You don’t want to mash it flat, but you do want to set the bias tube so the seam remains to the back side.Halloweenqal3_17c

On a padded surface (I use my ironing board), coil and pin one end fairly tightly, then using the pattern pictures as a guide, loosely curve the curlicue stem the other way.  Steam it with your iron, then let it cool.  Remove the pins.Halloweenqal3_18

Drape it/arrange it/fiddle with it on your block.  I concentrated more on the coiled up section, then let the curve artfully drape back to the center of the pumpkin, not worrying about how long it was.  Halloweenqal3_18a

I decided to sew it down by hand.  First sew the outer edge, then the inner edge (shown below), coaxing that inner edge flat with nudges from your finger and by taking smaller stitches.  You are not necessarily aiming for *flat* but more for *nice curve.*  After stitching it down, give it a little steam from your iron to press it lightly.Halloweenqal3_18b Halloweenqal3_19

Next one is prepped up.  I cut off the extra stem about 1/2″ below the pumpkin’s edge and folded this end  (as well as the inner coil end) under 1/4″ and tacked the edges down.Halloweenqal3_20

I’m not a huge fan of machine-done buttonhole stitch, although I really like it on others’ quilts.  If you are skilled at that, try that stitch.  For me, I went with a medium-wide satin stitch, my needle just over the edge of the piece.  Halloweenqal3_20a

I lifted up a leaf a bit as I got to the end, another advantage of not searing your applique piece into your fabric.  I ironed it back down again after I was through.Halloweenqal3_20b

Pumpkin is on.Halloweenqal3_20c

Here’s my secret to getting even appliqué stitching without having the bobbin thread pull up to the top: two sheets of computer paper.  It also prevents stretching as you stitch.  I’ve backed all my stitching with this for years and years and years–it comes off easily, like tearing perforated paper, and makes your stitching nice and smooth.  After stitching down the pumpkin (the shape at the bottom of the stack), stitch down your leaves (next layer up) and finally, your cat.  In some quilts, I’ve seen a star in the middle of the pumpkin.Halloweenqal3_21

Well, that’s it for this step: because we’re doing nine blocks, we chose to do four with cut-out motifs.  You’ll need to adjust whatever you’re doing to the number of blocks you’ve chosen.Halloweenqal3_21a

Close-up of my appliqué.  If truly this bias thing is driving you mad, feel free to try Thelma’s method of drawing a shape and fusing it down.


Now I need to get busy and finish these!  I have all of this month to do it in.  Next post in the Hallowe’en 1904 QAL will be May 13th.  I plan to finish up these three, then make scads and scads of HSTs, getting ready for the next steps.  Hope you can finish yours, too!


Halloweenqal3_24white pumpkin

Here’s my latest block.  I cut down the moon because it needed to be more round (according to my husband and I always listen to him) and I smallerized the star, then put them both on a white pumpkin.  I did two layers on that white pumpkin: the fabric you see and I underlined it with some cream solid fabric so the black wouldn’t show through.  I created a stem (2 1/2″ inches high), and a smaller moon and star for inside the pumpkin (PDF file of the patterns are here: StemStarMoon_OPQuilt).  Print it out at 100%.  I’m much happier with things now.  Don’t be timid about playing around with your pieces and colors until you find what makes you happy, too.

1halloweenQAL logo

Here’s our schedule:

Step 1 (Preparation): February 2016–buy all the fabrics and find the pattern.  Mine was purchased from Common Threads in Waxahachie, TX (  The quilt measures 90 by 90, which is too large for me, so I’m only doing nine blocks.  Each block is 20″ square, and with the outer borders, that should come to roughly  65″ square.  I may change my mind, but this looks good from here.

Step 2: March 2016–Cut out the quilt: the tan backgrounds of the squares, the border triangles, the smaller half-square triangles, strips for the wonky stars, but save the piano key border for later.

Step 3: April 2016–Assemble four blocks and add large appliques; use Thelma’s method (of Cupcakes and Daisies) for adding the curlicue stem. Make and add half-square triangeles (HSTs) around these blocks, using the 8-at-a-time method of HSTs.

Step 4: May 2016–Cut and make the wonky star blocks from templates and strips. We’ll be using Thelma’s method.  I’m doing five blocks, so will need to make twenty wonky stars and true them up.

Step 5: June 2016–Assemble the rest of the star blocks, adding the large triangles on each corner and their HST borders. In the pattern, and in the photo above from Thelma, they are mixed up and varied, but also harmonized (some have a mix of orange and black, some have just black, some have just orange.)  Make your own rules and go with it.

Step6: July 2016–Arrange the blocks on your design wall and stitch together.  Cut the pieces for your borders.  Make the four corner pinwheels.

Step 7: August 2016–Sew borders together and attach them to the quilt.


Song and Color • Prepping for Four-in-Art Quilt

LaSagradaFamilia_12 LaSagradaFamilia_13

It’s hard to believe that just over two weeks ago, I was sitting in La Sagrada Familia in the center of the nave (they’d roped off the center section to protect it from the crowds), seated quietly, soaking up the colors and sights and sounds that were swirling around me.  Aside from the two gorgeous choir lofts shown here, there are all kinds of stained glass windows, interesting sculptural features, an inspiring Christ under a unique baldacchino.  As I sat there, just under the hub-bub of the tourists milling all around me,  I became aware of choral music.  Strains of it reminded me of Faure’s Requiem.  At other times I thought I could float along on the melody of Ave Maria.  Then I was sure Handel’s Messiah was the melody I was hearing.  It was all very ethereal, a peak Easter experience for me.


The reason why I’m writing about this now, is that our yearly theme for Four-in-Art is Color, and this quarter’s challenge is music.  At first I’d played around with representing a musical score in colors, sort of a sing your way through the rainbow sort of thing.  Or pick out visual elements of music, say a treble clef or bass clef or some sturdy quarter notes, and arrange them, in colorful fabrics, in a composition.

But once I was in La Sagrada Familia, I knew I had to interpret that experience somehow, for it truly was an immersion in color and music.  I’m still working on it, but here are some more photos from that place for you to enjoy.  Our reveal is coming up in three weeks, so I’m actively thinking about it, trying out ideas, trying even harder not to work on a deadline, in order to create something I’m happy with.  See you May 1st for the reveal of our quilts.

LaSagradaFamilia_14 LaSagradaFamilia_15 LaSagradaFamilia_16 LaSagradaFamilia_17 LaSagradaFamilia_18 LaSagradaFamilia_19 LaSagradaFamilia_20

P.S. is my travel blog; it takes me months to write up my trips, so nothing from Spain is over there yet.

A Little Inspiration, A Little Bit of Work

Sometimes, like after I’ve been gone from sewing for a while, I need to ease my way back into the creating.  Sometimes I like to visit blogs by quilters, such as Jane Sassaman.

Sassaman collage quilt

(from Jane Sassaman’s blog)

Kevin Umana

(from Kevin Umana’s IG feed)

Other times I like to check in with artists. . .


. . . and graphic artists. . .

inspiration Sagrada Familia

. . .architecture (photos of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona). . .

Alcazar Tiles

. . . and other makers’ work, like yours:

Quilt Makers

But then I remember that applying the seat of my pants to the sewing chair is what gets things done.  Or as Chuck Close put it:


What gets you going, after a dry spell?

I really loved reading about all your travels, and hoped-for travels.  You do inspire me to consider new destinations to investigate.  Congratulations to Betty, our winner of the pearl cotton threads:

Betty Winner Threads


I’ll get those out to you in the mail.  Look for my note via email.

Oh Christmas Tree QAL • STEP 3


Here we are again, gathering together for the next step of the Oh Christmas Tree Quilt-A-Long (#ohchristmastreeqal), using the pattern found in Quiltmania’s Simply Moderne, issue #3, designed by Wendy Williams of Flying Fish Kits.

ohchristmastree3_flowers1 ohchristmastree3_flowers2

At this point, you’ve been working on your flowers for a month, and if you are like me, that first one was like jumping off a high dive, and thinking the pool was empty and you’d go splat.  But you didn’t, and your flower circles are looking wonderful and you are actually having a great time.  Keep working on them, you’ll need 21 of them in the various sizes shown on the pattern.  I have to admit that all of mine are not the “perfect” size, as some are larger than what is called for.  I mocked up the tree the other day (I’ll show you this at the end) and it was okay.  So no fretting.  Just #startyourneedles and keep creating and stitching.

But. . . this month we’re adding two easy tasks: leaves and birds.  First up, birds.


Remember all that tracing you did of the birds, and how you labeled them and marked the dashed overlap lines on a folded piece of freezer paper, so you’d be making two copies of the bird (one regular, and one reversed) and you stapled it together to keep the pieces from shifting? Now’s the time to get them out.  Hold them up to the light and transfer the dashed overlap marking on the wing to the wing piece on the other side, then cut them out and start picking your colors.ohchristmastree3_birdsB

Be bold!  Red beaks! purple bodies! wild wings!  I ironed down the freezer paper patterns, using a wool setting (NOT your regular cotton setting–or you’ll scorch the wool), and then cut them out.  I tucked the beaks under the body, guesstimating where they’d go (hint: NOT even with the top of the body) and pinned them.  Then I place the wing on the bird, using the dashed overlap line to place them, then pinned that in place.ohchristmastree3_birdsC

(No worries…I fixed that purple bird’s wing before I pinned it down!)ohchristmastree3_birds1

Wendy of Wendy’s Quilts and More gave me a tip to sew on the beak first.  I just used a few overcast stitches to get it on securely.  I’d never qualify for a bird plastic surgeon, that’s for sure.ohchristmastree3_birds2 Then attach the wing by blanket stitches (or overcast stitches, or a back stitch or a running stitch), beginning where it attaches to the body and work your way around the lower edge and back up again. ohchristmastree3_birds3

Now do the floaty part of the wing, and tie it off.

Add a few French knots, or seed stitches, or whatever small decorative stitch.  Cut a teensy circle of white, then an even teensier circle of black and secure them both with a French knot, done with white thread.  I started by cutting 1/2″ squares of white felt, then rounded them off, and then cut smaller squares of black and just kept going around and around, cutting, until it was the right size.  Be prepared to sacrifice a couple of eyeballs until you get the hang of it.ohchristmastree3_birds4a

Ta-DONE!ohchristmastree3_birds4b ohchristmastree3_birds5

I got fancy with that red bird, attaching the wing with running stitches, and doing a zig-zag stitch across the wing.

ohchristmastree3_63birdsallI took them with me on my trip to Portugal and Spain (pictures of that trip are on my Instagram, to the right and on a previous post) and was able to get them sewn without too much trouble on the [long] flight out there.  These go MUCH more quickly than do the flowers, so I’m also adding LEAVES to this month’s tasks.

ohchristmastree3_leaves1 ohchristmastree3_leaves2 ohchristmastree3_leaves3 ohchristmastree3_leaves4

Okay, that wasn’t hard!  I traced half of all the leaves I’d need onto freezer paper, doubled it over to get two layers, then cut them out.  Iron on to your felt using a wool setting, and cut out.  Repeat for the inner, smaller, leaves.  I cut a few out of a different green just to give some variety.  Place the smaller leaves as shown, setting them closer to one end.  Using a backstitch, sew them down.  It’s tricky near the tip, but you can see how wobbly mine are and how it really doesn’t matter.  (Last time I checked, The Creator didn’t use a ruler to create his leaves either, and our world is the more beautiful for that variation.)


So I was curious as to how I was doing at this point, so I smoothed my tree up on the design wall, and stabbed pins through all the flowers and the four birds I’d finished.  Then, ACK! I was stuck.  What number flowers were where?  What had I sewn and cut and what was I lacking?  I got out all the baggies of labeled flowers and set up a little station on my ironing board, right below the tree.  I wrote out post-it notes labeling the flowers as in the pattern, and then a master list of where they were supposed to go.  I then lined up the circles from the pattern, drawn out on freezer paper below each sticky note, so I could see the relative sizes.ohchristmastree3_mockup2

Now that I was organized, I could figure it out.  I had enough of certain flowers and needed more of others.  Some of the directions in the pattern were wrong, so I corrected for those:

OhChristmasTree_pattern errataIf you want it to look like the one in the magazine, Flowers 6: should read “floating above branch 2” and Flowers 7: should read “on branch 3.”  I say, just squinch them all in where they’ll look good.  This is just a test run, but later we’ll do it for real.

After a while, I could pin up what I’d cut out, fabric medallions, layered felts and all, and was pretty pleased with how it was coming along!  I’d encourage you to do this interim step, if only to give yourself a little pat on the back that you’ve come this far.  After taking the photo, I put everything away in the proper baggies, and planned to keep stitching flowers and finish up the birds.

ohchristmastree3_64stitchingAt the last minute, I decided to take a bunch of the flowers with me on our trip, squeezing them into a cute bag made by Sherri of A Quilting Life.  I snapped a photo of my stitching on the airplane tray table.  I kept stitching until I had nearly all of the flowers done:


And after getting home, I did another mockup. I didn’t pay too much attention as to what number flower should go where, but instead put my largest one on top, then the next two largest on the lowest limbs, moving on up the tree and thinking more about size and color placement. I’ll let this stay up on the design wall for a few days while I move things around.  I did have one dud–a flower I ended up not liking, but that’s pretty good, I think.  I only had three flowers left to finish, which I did yesterday, so I’m ready to move on to the next phase.

A recap of where we are:

January, Step “prepare”: buy the magazine, books, gather your fabrics, buy the felt/wool, buy/find the pearl cotton. 

February, Step 1: Make the tree on the background and stitch it down.  

March, Step 2: Make 21 flowers.Keep stitching, keep stitching!

April, Step 3: Make 10 birds and the leaves.  Keep stitching, keep stitching!

May, Step 4: Scene at bottom of tree.

June, Step 5: Appliqué down the flowers.  (Wendy gave me some tips for this last week, which I’ll pass along.)

July, Step 6: Appliqué down the birds and the scene.

August, Step 7: Sawtooth border (reds); sew together and attach.

September, Step 8 (finish up Quilt-A-Long): Make wonky star blocks, sew them together and attach border #2.

See you May 2nd for the next step: scene at the bottom of the tree.  Wendy’s done one scene, the pattern shows one, and I’m cooking up another.  See below for the giveaway.

#startyourneedles for the #ohchristmastreeqal

Giveaway Banner


Initially I wasn’t going to do a giveaway, but after visiting with Anna in Barcelona, I thought it would be fun to have a Spanish connection from our trip.  In Barcelona, I purchased five balls of size 8 pearl cotton (my favorite size) and will send that to the lucky person who is chosen from comments left below.  I’m also including a 1 yard piece of metallic purple embroidery floss that I purchased in Lisbon.  Even though it is a little like sewing with tensile steel, it makes fun accents on our flowers (I used mine for some back stitching here and there, and also for some French knots on another flower).

Please leave a comment below, telling me either where you’d like to go a a trip outside the US and why, or the place where you had your favorite trip (outside the US) and why.  I love to read about other people’s trips, or their hoped-for travels!  I’ll let this run for a few days, then will close it off and chose a winner.

UPDATE: Comments are closed now.  Thanks for writing!

The Thread in Spain Stays Mainly on the Train

ThreadonTrainin SpainThe title of this post came from Cathy, one of my Instagram readers, after I posted the above photo.  I was on a train, in Spain, wrapping thread onto a little organizer.  It totally cracked me up, so I thought I would write a bit about my trip, and the hunt for threads.  In an interesting ironic twist, it rained all that afternoon.


It all started here, with me packing a few of my Oh Christmas Tree hand-sewing pieces along on our trip to Spain and Portugal.  I crammed everything into a wee bag and am so glad I did.

Stitching on Airplane2It helped keep my sanity while on the long flight over and on our various ground travel segments while in Spain and Portugal.  Like a train (above).


Or a bus from Antequera-Santa Ana Train Station to Granada (they were working on the rails so we had to be bussed in).


We first went to Lisbon, and I thought I’d brought enough threads for what I needed, but when my husband spotted this little shop, I couldn’t resist going in and buying a couple of more.

Threads_Lisbona5I definitely needed some purple threads. Check out those larger organizers, which is what they called them.  Nice big tabs so the threads don’t fall off.


This shop was next door, and to buy threads, she pulled out her color card, scurried to the back room, and brought back a flat box of DMC, from which she selected one for me.  The first shop I went into, I had a hard time communicating what I wanted because they spoke Portuguese and I didn’t.  I mimed a sewing action, and somehow they figured out what I wanted.Threads_lisbon1 Pearl Cotton Lisbon1

This was from another shop next door to that one, and I chose a couple of skeins. I found out they had metallic embroidery floss in colors–something I’d never seen in the States–so purchased some purple. It’s a bit like sewing with rods of steel, but I split the floss apart into 3 threads; it makes a fun accent on my flowers and birds. Pearl Cotton Lisbon2

Fabric Shops Madrid 2016

The next city I went hunting for thread was Madrid.  In case you ever go there, here’s a map.  I needed regular thread for the appliqué centers of the Oh Christmas Tree flowers, and had left my spool of thread at home (or else it had already gotten lost, which is entirely possible).

POint Zero for MadridIt’s all near the Puerta del Sol, which is the center beginning point of All Points in Spain, which of course, is where the fabric shops are located.  Fabric Shops Madrid 2016_2

As I joked on Instagram, we quilters need a sultry babe like the Maja to be our pitchwoman.  (This comes from a famous painting in the Prado Museum, which is in Madrid.) So this time I had looked up how to say “pearl cotton” in Spanish, tried it out, and even though I’m no slouch in the accent department (having lived in Peru when I was a teenager and having progressed through 7 years of Spanish), they had no clue what I was asking for.


This lovely woman came to my rescue.  Stephanie is an ex-pat American who has lived more years in Spain than in the US, and took me around to three other shops, all in the same block, helping me find my thread and of course, I bought another couple of balls of pearl cotton.  The selection is amazing there!Threads_spain10 Threads_spain11patchworkfabrics

I was excited when I saw the signs for “patchwork.”  This selection on the shelves. . .is it. Threads_spain13

In the photo, one woman is doing embroidery, one is doing lace making, one is making a log cabin and the rest are just sort of looking busy for the camera.  Stephanie told me that lace making, with all the bobbins, is big there, and that she’d made an entire tablecloth.Threads_spainBCN

And then we went to Barcelona, where Anna of @annaorduna, met me.  She and I had corresponded on IG, and she was teaching a class here at BCN Patchwork.  Notice the interesting flower tiles in front of the shop.  That’s the emblem of Barcelona and I saw it everywhere (check my IG feed, to the right).


She was lovely, and she and her class of two women, the shop owner and another employee gave us great suggestions for places to go and see and to eat dinner.  I also asked if she had pearl cotton (this seems to be an obsession with me right now) and they did!  The shop employee asked me what color and when I said “all colors,” she brought down from their storage room 7 different trays of pearl cottons.  I selected a few for the giveaway for my Oh Christmas Tree post (coming on Saturday), and then one more luscious golden orange color for me.

Threads_spaintiles1 Threads_spaintiles2 Threads_spainpatchwork Threads_spaincliniqueOther quilts-related things I saw were hexagonal tiles, designed by Guadi for one of his houses, a sweet little ceramic bin with a simple checkerboard-on-point in the historic La Pedrera house, a series of Patchwork Magazines in El Cortes Ingles department store and lastly, a Clinique Giveaway.  Oh, how I wanted that one (why do we always get the flowery Clinique pouches–I want this one!), but with the prices for American cosmetics roughly double what I would pay here, I had to leave it in the store.  But now I’m determined to make one for myself, in just those colors.  Actually I saw tons and tons of tile designs, all over Lisbon and Spain, giving me lots of inspiration for future quilts.


Still stitching.  I hated this yellow chain stitch, so I took it out.  Below is what finished up with, then sewed to another larger felt circle when I got home (I didn’t carry any felt with me, and although I saw lots of felt in Madrid, it was all acrylic–yuch).Threads_spain5 SpanishInspiration

Another place I got inspiration from was the costumes of the participants in the Procession in Barcelona.  See that gridded lace-like background?  Why couldn’t I try that on one of my circles?xmastreeflowerX_1

I started by marking the divisions of the circle with pins, then stitched it, as shown, moving from a lower point on the inside to a shifted-over point on the outside.xmastreeflowerX_2

Went back in and subdivided those.xmastreeflowerX_3

Now I’m working going the other way, so that it makes an intersection.xmastreeflowerX_4

All done.xmastreeflowerX_5

Now I went in and put little French knots at each intersection.  I started out with three-wraps of thread, but it was too big, so went down to two-wraps of thread.  And no, I didn’t take out the first few.  There is so much going on in these flowers, I didn’t worry about being perfect, and I’m guessing you didn’t notice at first that some knots were bigger and some were smaller.  Now you can.  This is another reason NOT to point out flaws in our quilts to anyone else.xmastreeflowerX_6

Now for another type of border, one that I learned when I was 12 years old.  (Thank you, Mom, for teaching me how to embroider.)  Begin by doing a simple backstitch around the circle, shown here in red.xmastreeflowerX_7Bring up your needle in a different color just in the middle and using the eye of the needle, weave your thread in and out those stitches, as shown.

Don’t pull them too tight–you want a lovely little serpentine loop to show.xmastreeflowerX_9

I chose a slightly different color (because I had tons to choose from) but you could use the same.  Bring up your needle where you did in the first one, then weave in the opposite direction, completing the loopy design.  Or you could just stop with one thread. xmastreeflowerX_10

I was worried that I was supposed to do an even number of backstitches. . . or an odd number of backstitches, but decided not to worry about it and just make it work.  Can you see where the problem was?  Yes, now that I’ve told you, but you couldn’t see it before.  Just make it work, and don’t worry about it.


Here’s another stitch: the herringbone, my style.  (I’m sure there’s an official name for this.)  I numbered the sequence for you.  Start by bring your needle out at 1, then poke it to the back at 2, then before you’ve pulled the thread all the way through, bring your needle up at 3, right in between 1 and 2.  Now tighten up the thread.Herringbone_2

Go up to the outside edge, and poke your needle down at 4, then out at 5.Herringbone_3

Complete the stitch by poking it to the back at 6, then bringing it back out before you’ve drawn it completely through, at 7.


We’re repeating now, but I’m showing you how I catch the two points with one slide of the needle.  Go through at 8 and come out at 9.Herringbone_5

Then over to 10 and out at 11.Herringbone_6

You can start to see the completed stitch here.  I don’t mind the little gap at “x” but if you don’t like it, close it up by taking bigger “bites” of your needle.Herringbone_7

Here’s the completed stitch all the way around this circle.  I worked this in size 5 pearl cotton–big and fat.

ohcrhristmastree_spain flower

ohchristmastree_plane stitching

On the way home, a ten-plus hour flight from Frankfurt to LAX, I couldn’t sleep.  So I watched movies I’d already watched before, flicked on my overhead light and kept stitching and stitching.  I finished all of these on the plane home.ohchristmastree_plane flowers all

Here, posing in all their beauty on an airplane tray table, are all the flowers I finished on our trip.  I hope you are posting them on IG with the hashtag of #startyourneedles or #ohchristmastreeqal so we can all borrow ideas from each other.  Keep stitching–don’t worry if yours are not finished.  We still have a couple of months to go, so just take them with you and add another round wherever you can.  I’ll show the completed set of circles and the tree, all mocked up (again) on my next post on April 2nd, plus I’ll be hosting a giveaway for those Barcelona size 8 threads.


(posing here with metro tickets from our trip)

I’m glad to be home, and looking forward to our next part of the Oh Christmas Tree Quilt-A-Long!


Three Mini Quilts and a Few Thoughts on Deliberate Practice



The Road to a Friend’s House is Never Long, Quilt #159

I started this July 2015, and you know what happened to me shortly after that, so it was nice to get it fixed up and quilted, because I’d had a purpose in mind: a gift for a friend.


Leisa likes it!  Pattern coming soon.  I used the new Northcott labels I bought at QuiltCon.  I just cut them apart, backed them with freezer paper, and ran them through my printer; see the complete how to under the tab “Tutorials,” above.

Thread Doodles_front

Thread Doodles, Quilt #160

And then there’s this one, a mini quilt made as a class sample for the Free Motion Quilting Class I’m teaching in late summer at Quilter’s Cocoon.  I had to think of a way for the students to practice their stitches, yet display what they’d learned in a pleasing way.  As soon as they master one of these stitches, I’ll have them stitch it onto their own class sample.  They may want to finish it all up that day, or may want to add to it as they get better.  Thread Doodles_back

I’m big on naming my quilts.  Another Northcott label.  After they are printed, I cut a square of lightweight interfacing and fuse it to the back the “light” section of the label so I won’t see the fabric underneath.

Electra Magnetic_front

Electra Magnetic, Quilt #161

I seem to be finishing up quite a few things lately, a nice change from the months November to February, where I felt swamped all the time, unable to seemingly get to anything.  Do you have times like that–like you see everything around you and just can’t get to it at all?  Where you are climbing, climbing Mt. NeverFinish and wish you could find the summit?  That’s why these minis feel like a success story to me.  Electra Magnetic_back

So, with all my rainbow-type quilts this past year, I’ve about run out of names.  Combine that with the funny comment I got on one of my quilts that they thought it looked like Hal the computer from the Space Odyssey 2001.  This quilt might also suffer from that comparison, so I thought I’d go with it.  The electromagnetic spectrum is all the colors, from those that we can see to those that we can’t; they call it “wavelengths, both visible and invisible.”  Okey, dokey.  So I feminized that idea and came up with Electra Magnetic, mother of Hal.

I’m still working on these patterns, and should have them out shortly.  Well, maybe not this week;  I’ll let you know.

But let not’s stop there today.  I have Brain Pickings in my Bloglovin’ Feed, and occasionally they hit a streak of book reviews on topics that interest me, and recently they did a review of Ursula LeGuin’s latest revision of her masterpiece on creative writing, Steering the Craft.  Brain Pickings references her written piece “How do you make something good?” and notes that:

LeGuin Quote1

Isn’t that also what quilters deal with?  We can make a decent quilt from stuff from the garage sale or someone’s basement (with that embedded fusty smell), but why not go for better ingredients?  We are surrounded by loads of high quality quilt fabric.  Perhaps instead of focusing on accruing endless supplies of this good fabric, why not focus on being good?  That means getting in those oft-cited 10,000 hours of practice, but as Joshua Foer noted, sometimes just making and making doesn’t bring us to the place of making something good.  Foer Quote 1

According to Joshua Foer, this is called hitting what is called the “OK plateau.”  That’s when we are just going through the rote mechanics of quilting, making quilts of only rectangles, or traditional fixed patterns in a loop that’s known as thinking from “bottom-up,” where we are good-enough, automated, rote practices to get our work done.  Yes, even those modern improv quilts with their fluid patterns can get stale.  Daniel Goleman notes how we can get stuck here:

Goleman Quote1

Foer also emphasizes this point: our deliberate practicing must be hard for us in order to engage that higher focus of creativity.  I, like many of you, can cut and stitch until I’m so bored I can’t slice one more piece of fabric or sew one more HST.  I’m falling right in line with studies that indicate that about four hours of concentrated deliberate practice is about the most amount of time we can do anything well.  At that point, we have to take a break and do other things.  Perhaps that’s why we are sometimes distracted by a new quilt, or a new design, or a new piece of fabric, as we try to restore our ability to refocus.  Perhaps we just need a break, in order to deliberately practice well.   But what I learned from these authors is that when I do come back to my quilting, I must “counteract the brain’s urge to automatize” and actively concentrate on what I’m doing.

So take a break, read that magazine, scroll through your IG feed, and then get back to it with a determination to make it good, make it better, and to fully engage.

Oh, yeah. My take on QuiltCon.

Quiltcon Stats

This popped up in my email one morning, and it about wraps it all up, as far as I’m concerned.  No, I never met Claudia, but I did meet a few other fine quilters, including some from different countries than California.  (That was a joke, people.)


Since it’s been over a month since QuiltCon, I thought I should get around to writing about my impressions.  The show was held in Pasadena, California and the Registration Desk, Vendor Mall, part of the quilt show, and lecture room were in one building.

QuiltCon bannersAcross the courtyard was a large older room with high clerestory windows (building behind these banners) where the rest of the quilts were, and to the other side of that, was the building where the classes were held. While pretty close together, I did miss Austin’s intimacy, but the great part about being here was that the weather was unseasonably warm which made everyone except those Californians happy (we want rain).

Silliest moment for me:

Bacon Brownie

Hollering Polo! to Eileen’s (@luckycharm93635) Marco! as we bumbled out of the restaurant after topping off our 50/50 burgers with a bacon-brownie.  And yes, we did the Marco! Polo! thing all conference long, whenever we’d see each other.

(I’m behind the camera)

Moment when I realized that none of us quilters ever charge enough for our quilts:


When, during our From Maker to Making a Living class, I glimpsed the majesty of Jacqueline Sava’s spreadsheets and listened to her funny and wonderful stories about making a living.  She’s the SOAK lady, and to support her, I went down to the selling floor and bought a bottle of Flatter, in the Fig flavor.  So so yummy-smelling and it works, too.  A whiff of it and it brings back that class and the belief that I, too, can be as successful as she is.  Kidding.

Moment when I realized that I’ve missed mucking around in paint all my whole life:

BlockPrintingBlockPrinting Paints

In Lizzy House’s block printing class.  Even though I was beyond tired (and I’m pretty sure she was too), we had a great class of doodling, carving, printing, sharing.  This was my last class of QuiltCon, and after this, I met up with Lisa and Simone and we drove the 90 minutes home.  We’d stayed for two days and two nights, beginning with an early morning (up at 4:30 a.m.) on Thursday, and ending Saturday night.

Moment when I realized that my QuiltCon experience had shifted from taking classes, to hobnobbing with the Women of QuiltCon:


This is the only photo I have of me ( at the end of the table, nearly on Lorena’s lap) and Lisa (third down on the right, with glasses and blonde hair) and Simone (second down on the right, with brown hair).  The rest of the time we passed like ships in the night, or sat next to each at lectures.  I met several quilters I’d only followed on blogs or on IG, and deepened friendships with many of these fine women.

Moment when I realized that quilting connections could be made from other subjects:

Lecture Notes

Simone’s notes from Victoria Findlay-Wolfe’s lecture

One of the highlights for me at QuiltCon this year were the lectures, and Bill Kerr’s lecture in particular.  I filled pages of notes of him talking about the branching connections we make from the choices that come into our creative lives, and he used Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes around Chicago as an example.  Victoria’s lecture was also good, as were Luke Haynes (I wish I could have gone out to see his exhibit of fifty log cabin quilts) and others.  Usually I hit the vending floor’s mix of lectures, but hardly made it to any this year, and the ones I did, I thought sounded like commercials.

And in other ways (witness my badge collection):

QuiltCon2016 buttonsQuiltConBag

Some QuiltCon eye candy is this tote bag and the signature quilt (hanging below).QuiltCon_quiltBestofShowRibbonFriedlanderapplique

Moment when I learned I should have left class at noon, like my buddy Martie did:


This was in our third conference/discussion of the day in a class where I found I was more interested in learning about how to make a panorama photo on my iPhone, than in listening to the adroit conference/discussion by our very well-learned teacher.  When you know you are just done with a technique, it should be okay to go. The teacher was fabulous.  I wasn’t, obviously.  If I’d left, maybe I would have seen more of the quilts.

Moment when I realized that creativity was all around me, and I was slightly besotted by it all:


(That’s besotted using the archaic definition) Glimpsing the fabulous booth from our Los Angeles shop, Sew Modern.  That camper!

Moment when I found my personal Best of Show quilt, and wanted to grow up and be Yvonne Fuch (@quiltingjetgirl):


Happy Moment:


Lots and lots of them, but especially when I turned the corner and saw my quilt Focus in Paintbrush Studio’s booth.  Thank you Paintbrush!  It’s made from Paintbrush Studio’s line of solids, Painter’s Palette Solids, and I used the leftovers from making them a quilt for their booth at market, which will remain under wraps until then. (Well, okay.  Maybe just one sneak peek…)

SneakPeak Starry Compass Rose

Another set of happy moments was finding quilts in the show from people I knew, and also when Cindy Wiens showed me the quilt she’d made for Lucien fabrics, using another design of mine, Semaphore:

from LiveAColorfulLife’s blog

Yes, I couldn’t find the photo I’d snapped one late night in her room, so I borrowed this one from her website.  And here’s another of hers, hanging in the show:


Moment when I realized that I should skip going to Savannah-QuiltCon-East2017 and just stay home and sew:

QuiltConIG-5 QuiltConIG-1 QuiltConIG-2 QuiltConIG-3 QuiltConIG-4

When breezing through my Instagram feed, where I’d posted most of the quilts, and realized if I was ever to get a quilt in this show, I’d better stay home and get busy.  So next year, I’ll be at QuiltNon, home and grateful for the chance I had to go this year, and looking forward to QuiltConWest in 2018!

Final Thoughts:

Most of the quilts I found fascinating are on my Instagram feed, to the right.  Scroll back through the feed to see them, or follow me on Instagram (@occasionalpiecequilt) and see them that way.  Take screen shots of the ones you love, compile your own QuiltCon collection and use them to inspire you further!

Hallowe’en 1904 QAL–Step Two

Step 2 halloweenQAL


Happy March 13th!  My friend Leisa and I got busy this month, cutting up our fabrics so we could show you this step.  I’ve made some alterations to our Master Plan (below).  If you’re not making this quilt–see you at the next post!

Fearless Leaders HalloweenQAL

Yep, we got a little goofy on some of the cutting, but don’t worry! We made it through, and so can  you.  Remember that Leisa and I are doing only NINE blocks of the original twenty as we want wall-sized quilts, so if you are making the big one, your numbers and cutting time will increase (I know that’s a duh.)

HOWEVER, at the end of this post, I’ve included a smallerized version of this quilt, thanks to Mary Burton, one of my readers, who often “shrinks down” quilt patterns in order to make the full compliment of blocks.  So you can make a smaller quilt, by also making smaller blocks.  More, later.

halloweenqal_pattern cover

As a reminder, we are following this pattern by Blackbird Designs, so of necessity, to protect the pattern designers, I won’t show complete measurements.  But where I’ve deviated or made up my own pattern, I’m happy to share.


We started here.  I didn’t have the pattern when we were buying, so we went a little overboard on some things, but amazingly, we ended up fairly on target for most of the fabrics.  I would probably add another green, if I were doing it again.  Download and print out the PDF of the cutting chart: Cutting Chart for Halloween Quilt

Here’s a part of it:


Across the top I identify the piece, then the color of the fabric and the number (#) of those pieces for one block.  Then I added my column of number (#) for 9 blocks.  You get to fill in your info on the last column.  Keep reading. . . while you enjoy this wonderful quilt from Thelma, of Cupcakes ‘n Daisies:

Thelma’s Quilt, of Cupcakes ‘n’ Daisies

As you look at YOUR chart, you’ll need to decide how many star blocks you want, how many appliqué blocks you’d like to make.  Then, further subdivide your appliqué choices into how many pumpkins?  how many cats?  how many moons/whatever?  The pattern includes the pumpkins, stars and moons, but for the cat, you’re on your own (that’s what we have Google Image for–just type in silhouette halloween cat).  Thelma’s owl is referenced in *this* post.  Leisa and I are making 5 star blocks, 1 cat-on-a-pumpkin block, 2 pumpkin blocks, and 1 moon block.

We are doing the 8-way method of making half-square triangle blocks (HST)–more on this in the next post–but for the size of HSTs we need to go around the outside edge, we need to cut 7″ squares.  Since there are 24 HST around the outside of one large block, you’ll need three sets per block of these 8-way HSTs–three of a dark (orange or black) and three of a light (tan/off-white).  I couldn’t decide ahead what I wanted where, so I planned to cut 27 of each (dark, light) and I’ll figure it out as I go along, but then I’m okay if I have to mix orange and black HST points around the outside.  Refer to the chart.  Quickly, here’s all that we cut:


Cut seven-inch squares on this step, half in light and half in dark (orange/black) fabrics.halloweenqal2_fabriccuts2 halloweenqal2_fabriccuts3 halloweenqal2_pumpkin block

Then to make sure I was on track, I thought I’d better sew up one of these 8-way HST things and cut the triangles for the corners around the appliqué just to make sure it all worked.  It does.  I’ve put on the leaves on my pumpkin, but not the curlicue stem (that, and appliquéing them down will come later–I’m just testing).  By the way, this block measures 19 1/2″ (finished)– just to compare it to Mary’s version of 9″ (her instruction sheet further down; keep reading).

ATTENTION: If you are going to appliqué down your stars onto the center of your background blocks, skip ahead to the next section.  This next discussion (somewhat confusing until you start the actual construction, but I’ll do my best to explain it now) is for those who want to make wonky stars.

halloweenqal2_star block

Let’s talk about the Wonky Stars.  Here’s a sample (without the HSTs) to see how the fabrics are all placed around.  There are four pieces for the star centers, and five pieces that make up the star backgrounds.  Sew them together, trim and you have our block. halloweenqal2_wonkystar2

While this cutting-bigger-and-shuffling thing was big in the 1980s when we’d make wonky nine-patch blocks, it’s currently being taken to new heights by the Buggy Barn.  But generally you make a pattern for the star bigger than you need, then sew it together after shuffling the pieces.  I’ll give you this template next month, but above you can see one of the earlier prototypes.halloweenqal2_wonkystar3

The stars in the blue/light print are my first prototype and you can see I cut off the points.  Re-draft.  The next set (the lower green/white) just looked weird.  Re-draft.  I am pretty happy with the top two stars (green white) as their proportions look okay to me, and when I did them up in the fabrics of the blocks (above), they still looked okay.  So, how did we figure out what to cut?

First, following Thelma’s lead, I made plastic templates for each piece, then divided them up by star-center and star-background.  Leisa laid out the templates on the cutting board, trying to see how economically we could fit them onto a strip of fabric.  She came up with a 4″ strip of fabric for the star backgrounds (and it will take 18″ of that strip for one background set) and a 3 1/2″ strip for the star centers (and you’ll use 11″ of that strip).  So you can get two complete star backgrounds from one 4″ by WOF strip and three complete star centers from one 3-1/2″ by WOF strip.

The trick is, though, that you need a variety of prints to make the wonkiness.  Since there are 4 pieces to the star center, you’ll need at least 4 strips, each of a different fabric.  For the star backgrounds, you’ll need 5 different strips.

ARE YOU THOROUGHLY CONFUSED?  Me too, and I already did it.  Just download the chart, follow along how many we cut (or count the number in the photo) and get everything cut.  Don’t give away your extra fabric, in case you need more, and tuck it all away in a box until April 13th, when we’ll start constructing the appliqué blocks, and I’ll show you how to do the 8-way HST blocks, too.  Wonky stars are coming in May.

NOW, here’s Mary Burton’s measurements for her smaller quilt.  She writes:

“The blocks finish at 8.5 inches with piano border finishing at 3″ so the quilt will be 40″ square.  I love mine. I don’t usually make bed quilts so I reduce lots of patterns.”


I’ve purposely left this photo uncropped so you can use the outlet for a gauge as to how elegant this smaller version of the quilt is.  Really fabulous, and I love the way her backgrounds in the star blocks go from medium to light.

She and I corresponded back and forth several times.  She mentioned that:

“[Going smaller] isn’t harder when you are an experienced quilter. You just take your time.  Take two squares, sew your seam and measure  that piece to be sure you have the measurement you are supposed to have.  Do that until you get the correct measurement.  If you do that you should not have to pin.  Also, you will always be able to use that needle position for all future projects.
The only part that I had to slow down for were the half square triangles because they are so small.  If you use the easy angle ruler, they actually cut and go together fast.  I just learned how to use it this year and it’s wonderful.   Since I made this quilt last spring I just cut 2-inch squares in half and sewed my triangles together and then squared them down to 1 1/4.”   The Easy Angle ruler leaves that step out and you don’t have any fabric waste.  You do have to find your correct measurement though.   You don’t measure your seam, you measure those 2 squares after you sew them.
I did press my seams open because of so many seams. You can use any technique you wish. I always use whatever works for me. If you have never use the Easy Angle ruler, Bonnie Hunter has a tutorial for it on her site.   Don’t bother with the tutorial from the manufacturer.”
Download her instruction sheet here: Burton_Halloween1904  And if you want to thank her, leave a comment and I’ll forward it on to her.

By the way, I’ve changed some of the schedule stuff below.  Just keeping’ things up to date.  See you next month!

1halloweenQAL logo

Revised Master Schedule:

Step 1 (Preparation): February 2016–buy all the fabrics and find the pattern.  Mine was purchased from Common Threads in Waxahachie, TX (  The quilt measures 90 by 90, which is too large for me, so I’m only doing nine blocks.  Each block is 20″ square, and with the outer borders, that should come to roughly  65″ square.  I may change my mind, but this looks good from here.

Step 2: March 2016–Cut out the quilt: the tan backgrounds of the squares, the border triangles, the smaller half-square triangles, strips for the wonky stars, but save the piano key border for later.

Step 3: April 2016–Assemble four blocks and add large appliques; use Thelma’s method (of Cupcakes and Daisies) for adding the curlicue stem. Make and add half-square triangeles (HSTs) around these blocks, using the 8-at-a-time method of HSTs, here and here. In the pattern, and in the photo from Thelma, they are mixed up and varied, but also harmonized (some have a mix of orange and black, some have just black, some have just orange.)  Make your own rules and go with it.

Step 4: May 2016–Cut and make the wonky star blocks from templates and strips. We’ll be using Thelma’s method.  I’m doing five blocks, so will need to make twenty wonky stars and true them up.

Step 5: June 2016–Assemble the rest of the star blocks, adding the large triangles on each corner and their HST borders. In the pattern, and in the photo above from Thelma, they are mixed up and varied, but also harmonized (some have a mix of orange and black, some have just black, some have just orange.)  Make your own rules and go with it.

Step6: July 2016–Arrange the blocks on your design wall and stitch together.  Cut the pieces for your borders.  Make the four corner pinwheels.

Step 7: August 2016–Sew borders together and attach them to the quilt.