Friday, February 27, 2015


Hello friends! Well, it has been a hard, hard week around here. I am really happy to put this one in the archives. But at least we are getting to the end of February and March starts on Sunday. You know what happens in March--spring!

Since it's been such a rough week, let's get right to the pretties and feel better, okay? First up, I made the turtle block for the Elephant Parade quilt:

I call him Ted, because that goes with Fred the frog. Ted looks a little chilly.

I bought Lorna's pattern and am an impatient sort, so I made a couple of the flowers, thinking that would mean that I could put together a couple of rows. Well. . .

Yep, that yellow flower (which is red in the pattern) is too small by about a half inch! Not sure what I did wrong there. I'm considering just putting a wider white strip on top and calling it good. Since the first row had no yellow flowers, though, it went together fine:

Indoor picture since it kept bleaching out from the snow outside.

It's looking good. Happiness! This quilt kind of reminds me of the work of the late Pam Bono--does anyone remember her patterns? They were a little fiddly but always looked spectacular when finished. I might just have to dig out one of her books and play around some.

In a few spare minutes, I also made these lovely pink string blocks for RSC15:

Eight blocks! With more strings still in the bin. They may just stay there, though, because 8 seems like a lot.

After I made the string blocks, I tried something I've never done before with the pieces that were too small to use for the string blocks. I made my very first ever crumb block:

Is there a better time for an outdoor picture than when it's 12 degrees and sunny?

Yikes! I have mixed feelings about this, actually. I'm not really sure I did it right, and it feels weird not to have everything align correctly. But it's square (6-1/2 inches) and not "wonky," so it's growing on me. I have a LOT of pink left, so I may make a few more of these.  Just so I can get comfortable with them, you know, not because I like it or anything. Anyone have suggestions on what to do with crumb blocks?

And since this is the end of pink month, let's have one final pink treat:

Strawberry chocolate chip cookies! (Recipe HERE. The dough was kind of gross, but the cookies taste good.) Aren't they festive? The perfect thing to end February with, I think.

Hope everyone has a good weekend. I plan to make a blanket fort and hide out until Monday morning. Ha ha, just kidding! I'm getting my hair cut and then doing other dull adult-like things, probably including shoveling some more snow at least once. Good times!

Happy sewing!

Linking to Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict  and TGIFF and also Angela at soscrappy for RSC15.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Weathering the cold

Hi everyone! Are you all used to the cold yet? I have no more jokes about the cold, so maybe I'm used to it, but I'm still counting the days until spring. (26 days!) It cannot get here soon enough. I know spring brings its own troubles, but at least we'll be able to go outside without the air hurting our faces.

We had a quiet weekend, but we did leave the house many times, once for pancakes. (Yum!) I even went out and walked a couple of miles on Saturday. (I hate the treadmill that much.) I did a lot of cutting for various projects and also made up this guy:

This is the frog block for Lorna's Elephant Parade quilt along at Sew Fresh Quilts. I think he's adorable. I've taken to calling him Fred the Frog. Fred may need an entire quilt of his own. First he needs a mouth, but I'm planning to do all the embroidery of the eyes and other details at once at the end.

One notion that I found really helpful for Fred's eyes and many other projects are these Perfect Circles:

These are Mylar circles in many sizes that you can iron over, trace, gather fabric around, what have you. These are super useful if you're no good at drawing circles, like I am. The set I have goes from about 1/4 inch circles up to about 2 inches, and there is a set for larger circles as well. I really like these. (I have no affiliation with anyone who makes or sells these, I just find them really helpful.)

I've also got some baby elephants to show you:

Cuteness! This is about half of the elephants I have to make. I've cut the others but haven't made them yet. Looking at the pattern, now that I have Fred and some baby elephants, I might just have enough for one row of the quilt. That's progress, huh?

I love the polka dot elephant! Right now I'm feeling like I might have to make another one of these with multi-colored elephants. I suppose I should finish this one first, but the pattern is really easy.

For the Kaleidoscope quilt, I'm making up these two side pieces this week:

Not stitched together yet, but not hard at all. After I finish these, the next step is 12 log cabin blocks, which should also go fairly quickly. There are really only three more steps until I can assemble a large part of it! I am happy with the progress I'm making here, even if some of it has been frustrating.

That's what I'm up to this week. I need to make the turtle block and finish those baby elephants, and then I'll  be all caught up on the Elephant Parade quilt. I'm also anxiously awaiting March's color announcement for RSC15. I'm hoping for purple--how about you?

Hope you are all caught up and doing well on your projects. One good side effect of all the snow and cold is that it forces us to stay inside and sew. Or clean, but who wants to do that?

Linking to Linky Tuesday,  and Let's Bee Social.   Come on by and say hi!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Odd Fellow's tutorial

Hi all! Several months ago, a reader asked if I would post directions/ a tutorial for the Odd Fellow's block, and I promised that I would after I finished the quilt. To keep that promise, here are detailed directions for making the Odd Fellow's block in a 12 inch size, complete with pictures.  If you're not interested in this block, just skip over today's post and come back tomorrow for something a little more to your liking (baby elephants!). I really do encourage you to try this block, though. It looks complicated but it's not very difficult and it's very satisfying once you finish.

According to quilt historian Barbara Brackman, the Odd Fellow's Chain block originated before 1895 (it's #2170 in her Encyclopedia, if you're curious). It's frequently seen in antique quilts, and is usually set with all the seams matching so that secondary patterns are formed. Sometimes it is all one color, as mine are, and sometimes the larger star formed in the block is in a contrasting color. This pattern can change a great deal by using different colors in different places, so play around with it and have fun!

General tips:

These blocks have a lot of seams, which can lead to some bulky intersections. I have never pressed seams open, though I know a lot of people do, and that might help for a block like this. I have tried to include some more traditional pressing instructions in the directions. Do whatever makes you most comfortable and makes your block lie flat.

One thing that I found very helpful in making this block was to measure at each step. This saves a lot of grief later on. I've included measurements in each step below.

Let's get to it!


For each block, you will need less than 1/4 yard of a background fabric, usually white or black or another neutral like tan or gray.  You will also need about 6 inches (by width of fabric) of a contrasting color. In my quilt, the backgrounds are white and the contrasts are various colors, except for the one block where the values are reversed.

Contrast is really key here. You want a strong contrast between the backgrounds and the colors so that the pattern of the block can shine.


From the background fabric, cut:  3 4-1/4 inch squares, 1 3-1/2 inch square, 8 2-3/8 inch squares,  and 12 2-inch squares.

From the contrasting color, cut:  4 3-7/8 inch squares and 12 2-3/8 inch squares.


This block is composed of several different units and is most easily assembled in sections. These sections go together at the end to make a great finished block.

First, make the center:

Use 2 of the 4-1/4 inch background squares and 8 of the 2-3/8 inch contrast squares to make 8 flying geese units. There are several methods for making geese units, including cutting apart the squares and attaching pieces individually. A tutorial for a faster method is HERE.  Measure and make sure that your flying geese measure 2 inches tall by 3-1/2 inches wide. Trim if necessary.

Use 4 of the flying geese (the other 4 will be used in the side pieces), 4 2-inch background squares, and the 3-1/2 inch background square to make a center block:

Pressing your seams toward the center block makes the points of the geese lie flatter. Finished, it should look like a slightly unbalanced sawtooth star and should measure 6-1/2 inches square.

Next, make the corner pieces:

Use 4 of the 2-3/8 inch contrast squares and 4 of the 2-3/8 background squares and your favorite method to make 8 half-square triangles that measure 2 inches each. Combine these with the remaining 2-inch background squares as shown in the photo to make corner pieces:

I pressed the seams toward the contrast color and twirled the seams in the resulting 4-patch unit. Once assembled, the corner pieces should measure 3-1/2 inches. Make 4 corners.

Then, make the side pieces:

First, cut the remaining 4-1/4 inch background square diagonally twice, making 4 triangles:

For the next step, a ruler or corner trimmer is very handy to cut off the dog ears before stitching so that the pieces align better. If you don't have one, don't worry, but if you do, this is a good time to trim all 4 triangles.

Then, cut the remaining 2-3/8 inch background squares and all 4 of the 3-7/8 inch contrast squares once diagonally, like so:

Lay out the cut pieces as shown, using the remaining geese from step one:

To assemble these pieces, begin by adding the triangles to the sides of the geese. Watch your orientation--the geese should be pointing up. Press toward the backgrounds.

Trim the dog ears, then add the background triangle to the top of the piece you just made. If you didn't trim the triangles beforehand, it is very helpful to finger-press the center of the triangle and align it with the point of the goose to make sure the placement is correct.  Press toward the background triangle.

Finally, add the contrast triangles to the sides of the piece, pressing toward the contrast fabric after adding the first one.

The side pieces should be 3-1/2 inches tall and 6-1/2 inches long at this point. Adjust or trim if necessary.

Finally, assemble the block:

Lay out the block as shown:

Attach two of the side pieces to the center, making sure that the geese point toward the center. Press toward the center.

When stitching the corner pieces to the remaining side pieces, pay attention to the orientation of the triangles in the corner pieces. It's easy to get them turned the wrong way. Attach the sides of the block and press toward the center.

Et voila!

You're finished with a great-looking block! This should measure 12-1/2 inches to finish at 12 inches in a quilt.

Hope that helps you create a great quilt!Any questions, feel free to email me.

Linking up to the new Tips and Tutorials Tuesday at Late Night Quilter. A lot of very good things to learn over there. See you in class!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Odd Fellow's Gathering

Hi all! Hope you all are well and warm. Still very cold and very sunny here, but it's supposed to warm up into the teens tomorrow, so there may be light at the end of the tunnel. At this point, 15 degrees will feel like a total heatwave.

I have a great finish to share today--the Odd Fellow's Gathering quilt!

Thanks so much to the commenter from last year who gave me the great name for this quilt! This is the second quilt from the Rainbow Scrap Challenge last year. This is a traditional block called Odd Fellow's Chain, and I made two Odd Fellow's blocks each month in the color of the month. Most of it was scraps, including the backgrounds, which are all scrap white on whites.

This was a tough quilt to photograph! I took it to the park but the sun was too bright against the snow and washed out all the color. I took a few others outside in the afternoon, but as you can see, it blew around a lot. It was also very, very cold outside and I didn't want to mess around with it too much more. I finally ended up taking this one indoors:

That is a sunspot or something, not a stain on the carpet! I swear!

As you can see, I once again went borderless. I just didn't find anything that I thought really complemented the quilt, and I think having no border enhances the piecing. And it was plenty big enough without another border. This is about 66 by 66. I used a very small sashing which finished at 1/2 inch wide, just to separate the blocks a little bit and so that I didn't have to match all of those seams. I think it saved me a lot of trouble and but still lets the pattern come through.

Artsy photo in the snow!

I think my favorite block here is the "odd man out," which is the reversed values block. He adds a fun touch to this very cheery quilt, I think. And I do like the secondary patterns created by placing the blocks together. See the stars in the corners, and the economy block shapes where the sides come together? Nifty, huh?


That's my big finish for this week! I am so pleased with it--and so very happy that it's done! I'm pretty sure I never would have made a whole quilt out of this block except for the challenge, so I am extra glad to have a finished quilt from the blocks I worked on this all year. (If anyone is interested in making this block, I do have a tutorial to post on Monday.)

The last picture I have for today is the view through my sewing room window:

Icy! Time for a thaw, I think!

Everyone have a great weekend. I had planned to take down some wallpaper in the bathroom this weekend (which is a horrible chore, if you've never done it) but now I think I'll wait a couple more weeks until it gets a little warmer.  I've put it off this long, what's a little longer, right?

Happy sewing! Stay warm!

Linking to Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Amanda Jean at crazy mom quilts along with Angela at soscrappy for RSC15.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Hi everyone! Is anyone else out there cold? This is getting just a bit ridiculous. We're in the single digits and supposed to go even lower (like a high of zero) later this week. It's light for a bit longer every day, so I know that it's getting closer to spring, but it sure doesn't feel like it. And here's my other question--how come the cold doesn't kill off every single mosquito egg? You would think they couldn't survive this, but I'm sure they'll be out in force again come summer.

I have some complaining to do this week. First, here is the next block for the Kaleidoscope quilt:

It's a lovely block, isn't it? It better be, because it was a bear to make. (Especially because there are 4 of them in the quilt.) All kinds of weird measurements to make a block on a 5 by 5 grid come out to 12 inches square. When was the last time you made half-square triangles that have to finish at 2 3/8? Yeah, me too. It was weird and frustrating.

Then there are these blocks:

 Double 4-patches, right? Easy peasy, except that the directions wanted them to be 16-patches, which makes no sense at all. Why sew together 4 squares of the same fabric? Sadly, some of the directions for other parts are also weird. One month's directions call for a specialty ruler (which I don't own and won't buy) and say "follow the directions that came with the ruler to make 8-inch square blocks." Arrgh!

There are a few other odd things about this quilt kit. See this wad of fabric?

For years, I thought this was quilt batting, not fabric. (Hey, if it was all wrapped up in plastic in a quilt kit, you might think so too!) That's why I thought it was a kit for a large wallhanging and not one for a bed quilt. It came with this note:

So, there should have been 9.5 yards of this fabric, right? There were more than 11. And, the envelopes for each month are a mess. Some of them have way too little fabric, and some have way too much. A bunch of them don't have the same colors as in the pattern. I feel really lucky that I got so much fabric so cheap, but the mess is annoying. Thankfully, a lot of the fabric in the kit is still available, so I ordered a few pieces just in case. If there's some that I need but can't exactly replicate I'll have to make do.

Okay, well, that's probably enough complaining.  Good to get it off my chest, though! As my grandmother would have said, "quit your bellyachin' and  get to work!" I guess I'd better do that if I ever want to finish this quilt. The colors really are pretty and I bet I can figure out the blocks with no directions. I'm sure I'll be glad I muddled through when I'm done.

It's entirely possible that the weather is affecting my attitude (is that why they call it "bitter" cold?), but have you ever bought something that didn't quite turn out to be what you expected? Or encountered really (really) awful instructions? What did you do about it? Did it affect how you felt about the finished quilt?

Happy sewing everyone, and here's to a break in the weather very, very soon!

Linking to Linky Tuesday, Fabric Tuesday, and  Let's Bee Social. Be sure to stop by!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Love-ly weekend

Hi all, and a happy Valentine's Day weekend to you! Hope it's warm where you are, because we are freezing. Seriously, it's about 5 degrees right now. But very sunny, so it isn't as bad as it could be. True story: I once had a student from California who thought that freezing (32F, 0C) was as low as the temperature went, and when people said they were freezing it meant that it was literally 32 degrees outside. Boy, was she surprised that first winter!

Here is a project I finished up this week:

Sunshine coming through the window!

Yep, it's hanging on the mantel because it's so cold and windy out. This is about 34 by 34 and was adapted from a Bella Solids pattern by Moda that I got at a quilt group I belong to. I hoped to have it quilted by now, but life gets in the way.  Pretty sure you know how that goes. Check out that successful checkerboard border! These get so stretchy that sometimes I find them difficult, but this one gave me very few problems.

After I made this little quilt I looked at it and realized that it would have made a great 4-leaf clover if it was done up in green. Why do I get great ideas after the fact? Anyway, there's an idea for someone else.

There were just a few cut-off triangles from this little quilt, and I used them to make this up:

A tiny broken dishes block! This measures 4 1/2 inches square. I have no idea what I'll do with it, but it's very cute!

I also finished this:

Hah! That's all my fabric, nicely stowed away in the closet. This makes me so happy. Each of the boxes on the bottom either holds a work in progress or completed blocks for an ongoing project like the Paper Dolls. On top are the backings (on bolts) and anything less than a half-yard. (Note to self: no more fat quarters.) Anything over that is folded on comic book boards and stands up nicely. It's not a big stash, but it's the right size for me. And now it's all organized and sorted and ready to use! Happy dance!

Now to sort the books. And the notions. And. . .everything else.

Hope everyone has a great holiday weekend. The hubs and I have big plans to have pizza and popcorn and a movie on the couch for Valentine's Day. I'll even let him pick the movie because I don't have to cook! Whatever your plans are, I hope it's great!

Linking to Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Amanda Jean at crazy mom quilts. Stop by and wave!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Little dresses

Happy Tuesday morning everyone! I hope you're already having a great day. Over the last few days we have had lots and lots of sunshine,which makes me really happy. We're supposed to get more snow today, though, and then the deep freeze. I'm starting to really be ready for spring.

I have been making a bunch more Paper Dolls blocks with my pink scraps.

Festive headwrap, and funky gray hair!

These are fun, and I have a lot more pink scraps than blue ones, so there are more choices. I must not like blue very much, because I really have very little of it. Never thought I had something against it, but somehow it doesn't show up in the sewing room much. Hmmm.

These used up some of the pink scraps, including some that had been hanging around here for a long time.  I actually had to stop myself from making more because there were more scraps to use up. I feel certain those other scraps will be showing up somewhere else.

Gosh, those dolls are fun to make!  As you can see, the hairstyles continue to be a challenge:

Strapless in the snow, with a flip!

My other project so far this week was somewhat related, but real dresses instead of doll dresses: 

Little dresses!

Okay, these don't look like much, but the backstory is good. In January, Kimberly of Kimberly's Quilting and Sewing had a great series of posts on your fabric stash (the first one is HERE) and many of her points hit home with me. The series is really worth reading, even if you don't think you'll find anything there.  One of Kimberly's points was about fabric that will never get used. This is true for me--I save everything, but will likely never use some of the leftover yardage or prints from many years ago. She suggests having a small project that makes up quickly to give to charity.

These little dresses are my charity project. They are made mostly from the leftover half and 3/4 yards from old projects. I don't want another quilt made with these florals, but what little girl wouldn't love one of those dresses?

These dresses will go to an organization called Little Dresses for Africa.  It's a great organization and they sew up really fast, as clothes go. Not "knock it out in half an hour" fast, but quick enough.  Seriously, there is almost no cutting involved. I got the free pattern at Nancy Zieman's charity page at Nancy's Notions. There are also a lot of other organizations listed there with a lot of other free patterns and ideas. Some good uses for old fabric. . .

So, I'm nearly done sorting and pulling out fabric for charity projects and having fun making little things. I hope to also make some little elephants for the Elephant Parade quilt later this week, and I'm working on Kaleidoscope blocks. A lot going on, but lots of progress!

Hope everybody gets some sewing in this week, and that there is very little snow to shovel to get in the way of that. Stay warm!

Linking to Linky Tuesday, Fabric TuesdayLet's Bee Social, and soscrappy.  Be sure to stop by! 

Friday, February 6, 2015

The elephant in the room

Hi all!  Hope everyone has had a great week and been very, very productive. I had a fairly good week, but didn't get nearly as much done as I wanted to, in sewing or other things. I blame this:

Notice the sunshine! And the extra-deep snowdrifts!

Pretty! But a pain in the butt to shovel and drive through. And very cold! It was -2 degrees when I took today's pictures. Thankfully, we are just having a normal Wisconsin winter. Our daughter in Maine had 70 inches in 10 days, which is enough to make anyone think twice about leaving the house.

Anyway, I did finish a few things sewing-wise. Mostly I worked on cleaning and sorting in the sewing room (more on that later) and making this guy:

An elephant! Lorna over at Sew Fresh Quilts is having a quilt-along with her pattern Elephant Parade. It is a very cute pattern and she's basically giving it away as a part of the quilt-along, in that all the cutting and sewing instructions are given on the blog. I wasn't going to make it, I really, really wasn't, but I thought I'd make just one elephant. You know what happened next:

I made him a bunch of friends! I guess I am making an Elephant Parade quilt. Or at least some more elephants. Because after I made these, I thought "who says that elephants have to be gray?" So. . .

Yep, a pink elephant! I'm sure she'll make it into the quilt somewhere. I'm also thinking a polka dot elephant would be darned cute. Maybe a polka dot baby elephant? We'll see!

Anyway, that was what I actually finished this week! Hope you got a lot more done than that. Everyone have a great weekend! I'm hoping to sew and move my fabric into the newly finished closet.

One more thing to mention--if you look at the sidebar, there's an ad for my good friend Leanne's custom embroidery business, The Sewcial Life. You should definitely check it out! She does beautiful work at very reasonable prices, and she made me some fantastic quilt labels. I'll bet she would do the same for you!

Linking to Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Amanda Jean at crazy mom quilts. Stop by and wave!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Classic Stitches--Pink

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Classic Stitches quilt! This month's color is pink, and the block for this month is hearts.

I know hearts are every where in February, but I promise you will love these. These are super-easy, sew up really quick, and can be made in several sizes. I think I learned to make these about 20 years ago to practice the stitch and flip method, so I'm calling them classic hearts. The photos and sizes given in the tutorial are for 6 inch blocks, with cutting directions and options for other sizes given at the end.

For a 6-inch block, cut 2 rectangles of pink scraps 3 1/2 by 6 1/2, plus 4 2-inch squares and 2 3 1/2-inch squares of background.

The heart shape is created by using the stitch and flip method to add the squares to the rectangles. First, draw lines corner to corner on the back of each of the background squares:

Place one 2-inch square on the top left of each rectangle, right sides together, and stitch on the marked line.

Press the resulting triangle up toward the pink.

At this point, I always unfold the triangle and trim the fabric underneath 1/4 inch from the marked line. Many people leave this fabric intact or trim out only the middle layer. Do what makes you most comfortable.

Repeat at the top right with the other 2-inch square. Notice that the second square overlaps the first by a tiny bit.

Take the 31/2-inch squares and align them in the same way on opposite sides at the bottom of the rectangles--in the left bottom corner of one section and the right bottom corner of the other.

Stitch, flip, and trim.

To finish the block, stitch the two halves together and press! (Press the center seam either to one side or open, whichever you prefer.) This should yield a block like this:

And that's it! Very fast, cute hearts. Make as many as you need or your scraps will allow. Ten 6-inch hearts will make a 60 inch row, and 6 will make a 36 inch row.


Switch the colors, which will make white hearts on a pink background, like this:

For 3-inch finished blocks, cut 2 pieces 2 by 3 1/2 from pink, plus 4 1 1/4-inch squares and 2 2-inch squares of background. Assemble as above. Four 3-inch blocks can be combined to make a 6-inch block or they can be used alone. Twenty 3-inch blocks make a 60-inch row, or 12 of them make a 36-inch row.

Cute 3-inch blocks.

For a 12 inch block, combine 4 6-inch blocks or 16 3-inch blocks or a combination of these to make a 12-inch block. Alternately, you can make a giant 12-inch block using 2 6 1/2 by 12 1/2 inch pieces of pink, with 4 3 1/2 inch squares and 2 6 1/2-inch squares of background.

For my quilt, I chose to use a row of very darling 3-inch blocks (with an accent block in another color) because of the size of most of my pink scraps:

Very hard to get a picture of the full row! I need the snow to go away so I can put them up on the fence again. Here are (parts of) my two rows:

I also made a 12-inch block using 4 6-inch blocks:

And here are the two 12-inch blocks together:

That's month two of the Classic Stitches quilt! I hope all of it made sense and was easy to follow. Enjoy using your pink scraps and come back on March 3 for another exciting episode!

Linking to Linky Tuesday,  Let's Bee Social, and soscrappy.  Be sure to stop by!