CHQuilts: 2020

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Cats+Quilts=Love

Pictured above is my beloved cat, Ryan napping on my latest project, a Dresden Plate quilt I’ve been anxious to finish. I started it years ago. But I decided it was time to finish. Well thanks to Ryan, maybe not today.

Ryan loves to make herself comfortable on my quilts. I take her adoration as an extreme compliment.

I guess she fell asleep after wearing herself out stretching, writhing, and contorting herself into odd angles, as cats often do. I realized quilting was futile, so I gave up trying to free motion quilt with a cat on top of the fabric. This is a pretty large quilt and moving it under limited space of my little sewing machine is a challenge anyway, but with the weight on one end, really made things difficult. I decided it was time for a lunch break.

Ryan is always up for providing the entertainment to my tiny quilting space, or pretty much any other activity for that matter. This cat is like none other I’ve ever known.

Ryan and her sisters were born 13 years ago on a hot July day on the front porch of the home I share with my husband, John. Her mother is a pretty and petite Calico cat, a stray until she decided to adopt us.  She kept hanging around the house, peeking in windows until we finally gave in and let her come into the house. She wasn’t much more than a kitten. But one day she decided indoors was not her thing. She broke out the screen of an open window and took off into the woods. She didn’t go far, and rarely was out of sight, but it was far enough apparently. One day I noticed her girth had changed. She was a little rounder in her middle. I knew immediately that she was pregnant.

Timi was pretty young to give birth, so I wasn’t sure how well things would go. I was there to help if need be. I read up on what to do before the big day so I was prepared. I had a birthing box ready for Timi, all lined with the latest edition of the local news of our town. Another box was lined with a baby afghan left over from my own kids.

One late morning I was sitting at my computer desk when Timi jumped up to the window next to me. She climbed onto the screen and was clawing in a frenzy and was meowing in a voice I hadn’t heard before. I knew it was time. I met her on the front porch, she jumped into the box and before long I saw the most adorable little gray and white kitten. Timi cleaned it, licking, licking, licking until it was dry and fluffy. She had no qualms about letting me take her kitten. That was my introduction to Ryan and it was love at first sight. I held her gently, talked to her, and kept her warm in my hands.

Timi then delivered another, and another, until there were five. I love them all, but Ryan and I have something special between us.

I was very impressed with how Timi settled into her new role of motherhood. I’m not sure what my role was, but I know it changed my life as much or more than it did hers.

I decided I couldn’t part with any of the kittens, so I kept them all. The last one born lived only 11 days. The third one—Boo—was born with a deformity and weakness on her right side. She was basically a three-legged cat. She lived to be 11 years old and was my second favorite. I still miss her every day. Then there are Kenni and Kasey. There is no shortage of kitty love around here.

This period of my life marked a huge quilting hiatus for me, but once I got back to it, I found I had partners. The girls just love snuggling in a new quilt, or an old one for that matter. Only Ryan likes to be involved in the process however. I guess it started when I did most of my quilting by hand. She loved to sit beneath the quilt while I worked on it. I guess once I decided to adapt to machine quilting, Ryan did too. Now, she seems pretty content to sit on top rather than under it.

Having cats just adds one more dimension to my love of quilting. Now if only I could get the girls to stitch-in-the-ditch or hand sew binding, I’d have it made.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Revamping a project, quilting feathers

One of the best aspects of quilting is learning a new skill. I’ve just done my first freehand feathers on a quilt I haven’t worked on in what seems like ages.

I mentioned this quilt project in a recent post—a Dresden Plate quilt that I was hand-quilting. I started it quite some time ago, but decided I wasn’t enjoying working on it very much.

I haven’t given up on hand-quilting by any means. I still find it to be fulfilling in many ways, but this just wasn’t the right project for it. Perhaps my problem was the way I was quilting it.

I started in the middle of the quilt, stitching in the ditch on all 20 blades of the Dresden plate motif. With all the seams coming together, I found I was fighting with needle, wearing out my poor ole, aging hands, and just was unable to achieve the kind of stitches for which I knew I was capable. I ended up abandoning the project after completing about 6 blocks. There were 20 in all. I loved how the quilt looked, but the struggle I was having just took away from any enjoyment I know quilting can be.

I also made the mistake of not using a hoop. That wasn’t as much of a problem, but added to it, as I decided to leave work on just the blocks, leaving the sashing until later. Since I had spray-basted the backing and batting, and left the quilt sitting for so long, I noticed that the layers weren’t as tight as they had been. I didn’t have actual pleats and puckers in the backing fabric that was where I was headed. It could have become a real problem. It didn’t help that a soft, cushy, bulk of fabric sat in the middle of the living room for months at a time in a house full of cats.

One day I decided that if I was ever going to finish what would likely be a beautiful quilt, as well as one I would enjoy completing, I needed to rip out the hand quilting stitches and begin anew on the machine. I am so glad I did.

This was like starting a whole new project

I am still stitching in the ditch between and around the blades, but it is so much easier to let the machine do the hard work. I didn’t know how I was going to quilt the sashing and nine patches connecting them, or the space around the initial design. So, I did what I always do; I let the quilt speak to me. It did. I would do feathers inside the sashing and horizontal and vertical stitches in the 9-patches along with simple radiating lines in the background of the block so as to not take away from the beautiful fabrics in the motif.

My only problem is that I’ve pretty much avoided quilting feathers. I’m just not very good at them.So, to gain my confidence; I watched You Tube videos and searched for beautiful images of feathers all over the internet. My goodness, there are some beautiful creations out there. The only problem with this is that sometimes it gets to be overwhelming.

My next step was to do what I always do when I have decisions to make; I pondered what I had just learned. Then, I got out the paper and pencil and drew four lines to represent my sashing and started making feathers. They were pretty weird-looking at first, but soon, I got the hang of it.

So, once I felt comfortable drawing them on paper, I went to my sewing machine. There, I drew a nice curved spine and made my first free-motion, free-form feather.

I am pretty pleased with myself, but more importantly, I’m excited about working on and finishing this quilt. This is the second time I will have quilted a full sized quilt on my little Janome sewing machine. At one time I never would have believed it possible. Quilting has reinforced what I already knew; anything is possible.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Applique--now this is fun!

applique blocks.jpgThe first three months of work on my latest quilt project, Afternoon Delight, the 2020 Block of the Month for members of The Quilt Show has included both a learning curve and skill builder. I have never really done much applique as noted in previous blog posts. But that has all changed now.

This project is just what I needed. And, it is really enjoyable to just sit in front of the television and stitch.

These applique blocks, shown above, are the result of the first three months of this year-long quilt project. I decided to hand applique these blocks, since hand works is the most enjoyable and with which I have the least amount of experience.

Shoo-fly blocks.jpg
These applique blocks along with the pieced blocks, at right, represent just three months of work. There are 64 blocks in all in this quilt.

I’m thrilled with my progress though. Not only am I current and even a little ahead, as related in my previous blog post, but this quilt is going to be lovely, and oh, so colorful. I’m using fabric from prior projects, so as I work, there is already a familiarity to this. Honestly, I love everything about this project.

I have enjoyed the applique process the most. I liken it to being a kid again. What a great activity. It was like I was back in kindergarten again, passing the time with my cutting, pasting, and sewing.

My scissors are a little sharper now; cutting is much more precise as I create templates out of thick freezer paper. Pasting doesn’t include a jar with a brush attached to the cap, but rather uses spray starch squirted into its own cap, and painted on with an artist’s paintbrush. The sewing isn’t done in holes punched out of cardboard cards using yarn and a huge, dull needle either. Today’s project uses a fine milliner’s needle, silk or cotton thread, and very tiny stitches.

There is also lots of pressing with an iron in today’s projects. I didn’t iron in kindergarten, but I did try my hand at it when I was little. My mother used to let me iron pillow cases and sometimes, my doll clothes. I loved to iron. It all came to an abrupt halt one day though when I ironed my doll’s plastic raincoat. I’ll never forget it. I was about five years old. The raincoat was light blue with double white stripes going vertically and horizontally to form a tiny checkerboard. As I put the hot iron onto the back of the coat, I couldn’t figure out why the iron wouldn’t glide smoothly across it like it did on the linens. I kept trying until I saw smoke and smelled something burning. My mother saw what I was up to and snatched the plug out of the wall. Oh, what a smelly, nasty mess.

My applique experience has been nothing like that. However, it wasn’t so easy at first. I made a couple of those blocks three times because I just wasn’t happy with how they turned out.

I tried various methods and techniques, but finally found the one that feels right for me. I’ve really enjoyed making these blocks and can’t wait until the next patterns come out in April.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Nothing is perfect, but I have to at least try

Shoo-fly blocks.jpg
I’ve been working diligently, trying to get caught up with my latest quilting project, a Block of the Month (BOM) that began in January. I finished the last of six blocks for this month and was so pleased with myself that I thought I would do two more.

This quilt will have nine Shoo-Fly blocks in all. I was to make two in each of the three months of this year. I got a late start, but am all caught up; in fact with the last two blocks I created, I’m a little ahead of the game.

Each month also required completion of four applique blocks, but that is another topic for another time.

I decided to take a picture of what I had done so far.

Uh oh! Some of these are not like the others!

What is wrong with this picture?

It looks like I have some seam-ripping to do. Those pesky little four-patches are seemingly facing the wrong way in three of the blocks—both pink ones and the top purple one. What I was I thinking?

As a consolation to myself, those were the first blocks I did. They definitely got better as I went.

In all honesty though, I’m not sure it really matters. These blocks will not be set side-by-side as they are shown here, when the quilt is finished. My mistake will likely not even be apparent. Nonetheless, I think I will hone my unsewing skills and take the three offending blocks apart. If I don’t, this will bother me every time I snuggle up with this quilt. Quilts are never perfect; nothing is, but these mistakes will have to be fixed. That is just how I roll.


Sunday, March 8, 2020

I've started a new project

CHQuilts: Afternoon Delight quilt top


I’m pretty excited about my latest quilt project, a BOM (block of the month), which is really applique-rich, entitled Afternoon Delight. This quilt will be a real challenge for me because I haven’t done much applique. Frankly, I’m not very good at it even though my very first quilt, completed back in 2003 was appliqued.

I hope I can accomplish this, since it is such a far cry from where I began, with this simple Rose of Sharon quilt top I finished 17 years ago. 


I have actually done only a little applique since then. I admit that the little I’ve done has not been stellar. 
CHQuilts: My first quilt
But, what better way to practice, with all these applique blocks. I do love a challenge, and this proves to be just what I’ve been looking for.

This pattern was originally designed by the late Sue Garman and was adapted for members of The Quilt Show by Barbara Black. Barbara does a wonderful job of explaining the techniques used to make these beautiful blocks and offers tips and hints to help her readers make this lovely quilt.

This project began in January and will take a full year to complete. The pattern is free to STAR members of The Quilt Show, one of my favorite places on the Internet for quilting how-to’s, beautiful eye-candy, and the best quilting inspiration. When I don’t have time to quilt, I just watch the shows, hosted by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims. I have mentioned previously but it is worth repeating, I am a big fan of Alex Anderson. In fact, I wrote about her inspiration in making my first quilt in a previous blog post. You can read it here.

Of course, I am running late. There were six blocks to be completed in January and six more to make in February. I have two more to finish before starting on the six for March. I will detail my progress and show pictures in subsequent posts. But for now, suffice it to say, I plan to learn plenty as I enjoy hone my applique skills. I plan to do all of the applique by hand. I’m making it very scrappy, using fabric I already have on hand. It will be very colorful. I look forward to sewing in the evenings while I watch TV. 


There is no better way to watch television than by not actually watching it as I sew.


The only real challenge is trying to maneuver a lapful of tiny pieces of fabric with needles, thread, pins, and my favorite cat who loves to snuggle on my lap. No worries! I’ve got this!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

My quarter-inch seam is too big!

CHQuilts:quarter-inch seamI came upon this realization after much scrutiny and 20 years of making quilts; my quarter-inch seam is just too big.

I’ve measured seams many times before, which always looked about right, I’ve read so much about the dreaded scant-quart-inch, and I’ve tried different sewing machine feet. Something was just off. After all this time, it is time I do something about it, even though I thought I had. Yes, I’ve had issues sewing blocks and rows together in quilts over the years, but I attributed it to just that is how it was. I presume it will be much easier now.

The light went on for me, when I began a new project; The Quilt Show 2020 BOM (Block of the Month) designed by the late Sue Garman. Something in her instructions demonstrated perfectly what my problem was.

In this quilt, Afternoon Delight, the instructions emphasized the importance of precision sewing, not to mention cutting, and pressing. Each has an important role to play in quilt making. I knew that. I just didn’t know I had a problem. Now I do.

There are 64 blocks in this quilt, with each measuring 7 ¼-inch. With so many blocks needed in a row, a small discrepancy could add up, making the task of assembling the quilt, difficult at best. >To insure that seams are just right, the instructions called for a practice piece to test for sewing accuracy. It suggested cutting three pieces, 1 ½ by 3 ½ inches. Sew them together. The entire set of strips should measure exactly 3 ½ inches square. If not, there is a problem. I had a problem, but I fixed it, as seen in the illustration at right.

I was a little perplexed because not only did I use my quarter-inch foot on my sewing machine, but when I measured the individual seams, they appeared to be right on the money. But when I measured the three pieces, it was too big.

This wasn’t the first time I questioned my quarter-inch-seam. I wrote about it in a prior blog post. I wasn’t sure what to do about it until I decided to simply adjust my needle position, two clicks to the right. I tried to make the three piece sample again. And, it worked! I’ve finally achieved the perfect quarter-inch seam.

I didn’t come up with this answer myself. Thanks to the Internet, and the trusted quilters of the Quilting Board, and a little sleuthing, I learned that often times, the quarter-inch seam made with the default position on the Janome sewing machine, even with the specially designed quarter-inch foot, is too big.

The default setting on the Janome is 3.5 mm. Therefore, whenever I turn on the machine, I have to remember to move my needle two clicks to the right, to 4.5 mm. to come up with the perfect seam. Perhaps it is time to write a letter to Janome asking them to change the default. I may just do that.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

I just had an epic quilting day

I finally completed my latest quilt top. This quilt—Sizzle—the 2019 Block of the Month project from The Quilt Show was designed by Becky Goldsmith, who did an awesome job creating and sharing this lovely pattern and providing instructional videos. She also included numerous tips and ideas that were very helpful.

This project took up most of 2019 for me, even though I got a pretty late start on it. The blocks were paper pieced and the border was appliqued.

The project was billed as a kit, but the pattern was free to members of The Quilt Show, co-hosted by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims. I love this show and have written about it many times in CHQuilts. I decided to pick my own colors and fabrics for this project. It is similar to the color of the kit fabrics, but I wanted to use my own. I really enjoyed picking my own color combinations for each block. These are some of my favorite colors.

This project offered great challenges for me. This wasn’t the first time I’ve done paper piecing, but these patterns were fairly complex. Each endeavor honed my skills. Ironically though, each attempt at something new, whether I’ve done it before or not, always feels like a first. Perhaps the real skill I’m really improving upon is simply overcoming the fear of cutting into all that beautiful yardage.

Like paper-piecing, this wasn’t the first time I’ve used applique on a quilt, but the technique, which I’ve described in a previous post in CHQuilts, was new to me. I am pleased with the results.

I’m not sure what kind of backing fabric I want to use or if I want to piece the backing. And, I have no idea how I want to quilt this quilt. I may spend some time working on other projects as I attempt to figure that out.

The second part of my epic quilting day had to do with a quilt I’ve had lying around unfinished for far too long. It is a purple Dresden Plate quilt that I chose to hand-quilt. I decided to work on it last night, while listening the Donald Trump impeachment hearings.

I found that I was just not enjoying the hand-quilting as much as I once did, at least not on this quilt. That was a reason I wasn’t working on it. I just didn’t want to admit it to myself. But last night, I decided to be honest about it. I just wasn’t loving it like I normally do.

There were many reasons for this, not the least of which included some wrinkling in the backing fabric. That is a real no-no!

I had initially spray-basted the quilt sandwich and over time, and this neatly folded piece of fluff in the living room became a favorite resting place for one or more of my cats, the integrity of the quilt sandwich had broken down. I made a big mistake as well, in trying to quilt all the ‘plates’ first instead of starting in the middle and working outward. In fact, I hadn’t even decided what to quilt in the borders. That decision along with some marking should have been done from the middle out. I also quilted without a hoop. By not working from the middle out, it was dangerous not to use a hoop and keep the backing tight. I had only completed the quilting on five of the 20 blocks.

Additionally, I wasn’t careful about how I pressed seams, so trying to work the needle was difficult. I no longer have calluses on my fingers so pricking my finger and the edge of the thimble was just not comfortable. I also noticed that my eyesight isn’t what it used to be. For all these reasons I decided I would quilt this quilt on my sewing machine.

With all these factors, I made the decision to remove all the stitching I had already done. I grabbed my favorite seam ripper and began making a huge pile of thread. I got all of my “unsewing” completed that evening.

Just having that decision made, and having a clean project ahead, I’m getting a little bit excited about finishing this quilt.

I really enjoy hand quilting it isn’t drudgery as this one was. When there are just two layers of fabric and batting, which was not the case with these tiny blades of the Dresden Plate, hand-quilting is a joyful activity. That was not the case with this project. I think I knew I would never finish it. So, that has all changed. I’m excited about pressing the fabric again and starting over with my sewing machine. Truthfully, I can’t wait to get started. I suspect this will be a beautiful quilt.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Happy Quilting New Year

My quilting life seems to be shaping up for the New Year. Only 13 days in and I can envision a completed quilt top in the near future. I am also contemplating a new project, another Block of the Month (BOM) quilt from The Quilt Show—entitled Afternoon Delight. ..more about that in the coming days.

This quilt—Sizzle, a design by Becky Goldsmith for The Quilt Show—should have been completed in a year, and I am a bit behind, but that’s of no concern to me. I try not to fret over time because I just don’t seem to have enough of it and because I so enjoy every aspect of quilt making. It would be just wrong to put pressure on myself to finish a project on a schedule. That would detract from the pleasure I derive from the process. Quilting is not a one-step endeavor. There are many steps. I try to face each one with exhilaration and excitement. There is no dread in quilting because I know I will either learn something new or practice something that I want to improve upon. That is a kind of pressure too, but it is not a negative. Trying to conquer my untested skills is just a part of it. I like a challenge and tend to pick projects that will eventually make me a better quilter.


Yesterday I finished the first side border on my Sizzle quilt. Today I will finish the second. The top and bottom borders will take a little longer simply because they have more applique pieces.

There was some time between finishing the quilt blocks, sewing them together, and starting on the borders. I was hesitant. Although the applique pieces were already cut out and prepared with the raw edges glued under, I was concerned about a design issue. I didn’t have quite enough white-on-white fabric, the same one I used in the quilt top. I tried to determine how to cope with this. I could have used the off-white background fabric. I could have used one of the colors already in the quilt. Or, I could have made smaller or different borders.

Then I found that I had a very similar white-on-white fabric that read the same shade of bright white as the one I had used in the quilt. Without a magnifying glass to identify the pattern, the two looked very similarly. Once quilted, the difference might not even be discernible close up.

Once I found my color confidence, it was time to cut the fabric. Eight pieces cut to 7” wide by the width of fabric were all I needed. The white paisley print is lovely. Being a 60’s child, I just love paisley. I will have to replace this next chance I get. I love working with fabric that I love.

My next decision was about the color thread and the stitches to use. I settled on two colors of thread and three different stitches. I practiced sewing them until I was pleased with the results.


My applique is not perfect, but isn’t bad. The stitches will hold the pieces in place, which is their purpose. The overall effect is good. So, all-in-all, I’m happy with how this is going. On to finishing the borders and thinking about backing fabric and batting for this lovely quilt.

I hope this quilt speaks to me as my others have because right now I have no idea how I am going to quilt it.