Measuring Up!

Over the years I have learned how to cut fabric from different sources, all with excellent reasoning for why their method is the best. Whether the fabric is lined up with the mat lines or the ruler lines, there seems to be good reasons for both. The bottom line is being consistent – having a sharp rotary blade, quality tools, and care in cutting for accuracy and personal safety.

There is the school of thought that uses the lines on the mat to line up their fabric and cut the pieces. My issue with this method is that the mats wear out too quickly from using the same popular lines over and over. In addition, some mats have lines up to 1/8″ thick which can throw off some patterns depending upon those 1/8″ measurements for accuracy in piecing. I will admit that it is tempting, especially when cutting strips, but the possibility of getting bowed strips with this method is multiplied because of those little differences in measurement. One alternative to this is to use June Tailor’s Shape Cut or Shape Cut Plus. It is made to cut multiple strips in 1/2 inch increments. A tutorial is available at The small version is readily available at your local JoAnn Fabrics store, but I have only seen the large version in quilt shops. It is most likely available through online shopping as well.

Using the ruler as a guide is my preferred choice as many of the designs I sew need precise cutting. Being off even 1/16″ can cause problems with the finished size of the block as well as trying to sew them together for the quilt top. When I started quilting I used Olfa rulers, but the yellow lines became annoying and difficult to see the measurement I needed. Years ago, a quilt teacher introduced me to Creative Grids rulers and I was sold! The lines are thin and in black and white, which seems to be easier for me to see as I have aged. In addition, the rulers have built-in grips on the bottom, preventing them from sliding as you cut. Creative Grids are only available through quilt shops and they have developed many specialty rulers over the years. After all, a girl can’t have too many rulers, right? The entire line can be viewed at .

Whichever brand you choose, you still must decide which sizes to purchase first. On a limited budget I would opt for the 6 1/2″ X 24 1/2″ to cut strips and segments for most patterns. From there it would be helpful to have a 12 1/2″ square, the most common block size, and perhaps the 6 1/2″ square for smaller units. I might be embarrassed for you to know how many rulers I actually own, but my new favorites are the 2 1/2″ X 12 1/2″ and the 4 1/2″ square. You can find a use for any ruler you buy and get carried away with the possibilities.

There is a wide selection of specialty rulers and templates used for a particular shape or block from Creative Grids and dozens of other retailers. Some of my favorites include the Hex N More and Sidekick by Julie Herman of Jaybird Quilts ( ), the Marti Michell rulers (  ), and almost any of the templates from Missouri Star Quilt Company.

Marti Michell’s cutting methods are different in comparison to others, but definitely deserve attention. She has also developed a cutting plan for the blocks in the book The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt, simplifying the process for making the sampler blocks by cutting all the pieces for ten blocks at a time. That quilt is on my list but I can’t say how soon I will be cutting my teeth on it.  Another one of her ruler sets I absolutely love has templates made especially for 2 1/2″ strips, also known as jelly rolls or Bali pops, making it easy and convenient to cut a variety of shapes for different blocks.

No matter which cutting method you use, remember to be consistent throughout the same quilt and the results will be fabulous!

This week I have some ideas forming in my mind for a couple of new quilts and I am always seeing new things to whet my fabric appetite. My crystal ball tells me some great fabric lines are coming our way over the next three to four months. You can check them out on the Future Pre-Cuts pages at Green Fairy Quilts ( ) and on the Coming Soon pages at The Fat Quarter Shop ( ). I know I will be adding to my collection!



Of Course I Need Another Sewing Machine!

Well, maybe I don’t need another machine, but I have been looking at some beauties on Ebay. I am so enamored with the repainted Singer Featherweight machines listed for sale. Now if your mom or grandma had one of these, it was most likely black, however, there are some mint green/ white ones out there. These machines didn’t live in cabinets, they were housed in black boxes shoved to the back of closets then brought out and used like the little workhorses they are. They are coveted by many quilters today as they weigh only eleven pounds and are the perfect traveling companion for vacations, retreats, sewing days, and even classes. They sew a wonderful straight stitch and if you are lucky, they may even have attachments for several other functions. I am fortunate to have two- one bought for me by my husband to take camping, and one that belonged to a dear friend. However, since the day I saw the repainted versions on Ebay I have had an overwhelming desire to own another one. Of course I am drawn to the purple, but find myself wanting a red, or yellow, or even an ocean colored beauty.

It is possible to have your own machine painted almost any color of car paint available, but I couldn’t bear to change either one of mine. It is quite expensive but there is a great deal of labor involved. First, the machine is completely disassembled, all the paint stripped off, then painted with two coats of automobile paint, the gold designs reapplied, and finally a clear coat covers the entire machine giving it an incomparable shine. The machine is reassembled, any worn or defective parts replaced and sent back to its anxiously awaited home. This process could cost as much or more than you paid for your machine! Hence my hesitation. I have discovered that the big sister to the Featherweight, the Singer 301, also looks beautiful repainted and does not carry quite the price tag, so I am pondering the idea of purchasing one. From what I have read, they weigh seventeen pounds, are strong machines, and the feed dogs drop for free motion quilting. Thanks to the wonderful world of Facebook, my cousin is sending me one she is not using. If I like it, I may take the plunge. I do have a birthday coming up after all… We’ll see.

This week I had a good bit of Happy Mail. My Wishes kit came from The Fat Quarter Shop (, but I am sad to say I have not had time to cut it up and make that first block yet. The fabric is beautiful and I am excited to participate in this Quilt Along. (Check out my first blog post for more details.) I also received a nice package from Green Fairy Quilts containing a layer cake (Daydreams by Kate Spain) and two charm packs (Sphere by Zen Chic and Modern Roses). It is hard to resist Green Fairy Quilts. The owner, Judi Madsen, is an amazing machine quilter, but even more than that offers some of the best prices on the web when it comes to pre-cuts, along with FREE shipping. This past week was a big jelly roll sale (I refrained) but I am looking forward to her crazy Monday special! That girl knows how to tempt your wallet! I did give in to a Daily Deal from Missouri Star- a Daydreams charm pack to go with my layer cake. More on that later!

This week I also had the opportunity to watch two new Youtube videos by Jenny Doan of Missouri Star Quilts. The first, The Disappearing Pinwheel Quilt, is based on the same concept as The Disappearing Nine Patch or The Disappearing Four Patch (also tutorials from Jenny) and helps you create a quilt that looks much harder and more complicated than it really is to complete. I have some half square triangles made for another Jenny Doan pattern, but I am seriously considering turning them into this adorable quilt! I love fast and easy and this is it.

The second tutorial I watched is called Five and Dime, and uses a layer cake and a pack of charm squares. Again this is an easy peasy quilt that anyone can make and be successful! Basically, you are top stitching the charm square onto the layer cake square, then cutting them in fourths, mixing them up, and re-sewing them into new squares. The pinked edges add a bit of touchability to the quilt. While the colors she used are much different than the ones I choose most of the time, the lesson is clear and fast to duplicate. Definitely on my to-do list!

One of the benefits of watching tutorials is the ideas that begin to form in your mind and the creativity that is sparked. Although I have been quilting about thirty years, I always learn something. This week, a new quilt idea came to me. Now I am not sure there is really anything new under the sun, as they say, but I can’t wait for those charm squares to get here because I have a quilt simmering in my mind. I wonder if I have seen it somewhere before, but I drew it out, figured up the sizes, and calculated how much yardage I need for borders and binding. I am excited to see it become reality.

If you have pre-cut squares or strips that you are not sure how to use, one of the best guides is from the company that started the whole craze, Moda Fabrics. Their pattern website is called the Moda Bake Shop ( ) and has more patterns than you can imagine. You can even sign up to receive an email whenever a new pattern is posted. The patterns use readily available materials and often have step-by-step pictures of the entire process, perfect for beginners or seasoned quilters alike! On the site you will find valuable information about the use of pre-cuts as well as ideas to create your own patterns. There is a search engine so if you have 10″ squares (a layer cake), you can search “layer cake” and dozens of patterns will be at your fingertips. The same is true of all the pre-cuts offered by them. If you are a Pinterest fan, they also have boards to follow. One of my favorite features is the printer friendly options and I have a notebook of great patterns to prove it!

One of my goals this week is to learn how to load photos to my blog so I can share some of my ideas and work with you. Don’t forget about the book signing this coming Friday at The Book Loft (see last week’s blog post). Check out a tutorial or two this week with Jenny Doan or any of the other great teachers on the internet. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new. I will have some new quilts and ideas to share with you next time. For now, have a pieceful week…

Make A Wish!

Have you ever had an eyelash come out and someone tell you to blow it away and make a wish? Or wished upon a star or your birthday candles? Sometimes it is hard to tell whether or not those wishes will come true, but there are those wishes you CAN be sure about- those made by critically ill children through the Make A Wish Foundation. Make A Wish grants special wishes for children battling serious illnesses everyday with the help of thousands of volunteers just like you and me.

I bring this up because right now there is a special way quilters can support the Make A Wish Foundation. My favorite online quilt shop, The Fat Quarter Shop is sponsoring an effort, supported by Moda Fabrics/ United Notions to raise money for the foundation by having a quilt along.

What is a quilt along ( QAL)? It can take different forms. Sometimes it is a group of people working from the same book or pattern with predetermined timelines using their own fabrics, such The Farmer’s Wife book, The City Sampler by Tula Pink, or Dear Jane. Some QALs offer a special kit for everyone to make the same thing similar to what Fat Quarter Shop did in the summer of 2013 with their Deck-ade The Halls QAL to celebrate ten years in business ( a deck-ade, get it?!). In the QALs I have followed, the group is usually connected by the Internet through Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, a blog, or other technological means of sharing their progress through pictures and posts.

In this QAL, Fat Quarter Shop offers a kit to make a sampler quilt from fabric designed by the Sweetwater girls called “Wishes” and a kit for a special pieced backing. The pattern for each block is available at the beginning of the month starting in January 2014 and going through December 2014. Participants can download each pattern by logging onto the website. While there is no charge for each pattern, quilters can opt to donate money through the website each month, quarterly, once, twice, or whatever is comfortable and it can be any amount. Kimberly Jolly, owner of the Fat Quarter Shop has set a goal of raising $5,000 and Mark Dunn, owner of Moda Fabrics has eagerly agreed to match donations up to $5,000 for a total of $10,000 or more!

One thing I love about the quilt is that the blocks are 14″ and it has a beautiful pieced border. The quilt kit colors are bold and cheery, but I can see this pattern working with batiks or Civil War fabrics. I love a sampler quilt because you make one block of a pattern and learn or practice certain skills, then move on to another pattern and skills. This would be a great experience for beginners as the blocks are not complicated. There is a supply list to get started and more information at The Fat Quarter Shop website and blog. Go to and help make some wishes come true!

As it happens, Rita Fishel of Creations Sew Clever is starting a block of the week in her entertaining emails beginning Monday. If you have never met Rita or been to her shop in Chillicothe, you have missed out! She is one of the busiest people I know, but she always has time to lend a hand, or an ear, or a shoulder to other quilters. Her newsletters are always poetic and newsy and, of course, there is a recipe or two you will want to try out! The block patterns she will be including in her newsletter, from what I understand, will be accompanied by a Bible verse and a story making this a special undertaking. If your sewing group or church circle is looking for an activity this would be a great one. In order to receive the patterns, you must be on her mailing list and she will not be resending any, so get signed up! Go to her website and click on “Contact Us”.  Once there, sign up for the newsletter and get ready for a treat! Even if you are not a quilter, you may find the weekly recipes, Bible verse, and block  interesting. Did I mention this will run for 73 weeks?! Rita is quite the woman!

I know this has been a long post, but I wanted to share with you the opportunity to meet a New York Times best-selling author. On January 17, Jennifer Chiaverini will be at The Book Loft in German Village signing books at noon. She is well known for her quilt related books about quilters and their visits to a special bed and breakfast, Elm Creek, but it is her historical novels that are gaining her much acclaim. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker is about the remarkable relationship between Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, a freed slave, who became her confidante and shares a look inside the private lives of the Lincoln family during their tumultuous life in the White House. Her latest novel, Mrs.Lincoln’s Rival, chronicles life in politics and high society in Washington, D.C. in the 1860’s. As it turns out, her rival is the daughter of the renowned Chase family of Ohio, Kate Chase Sprague. Though I have read the quilting novels I have not read either of these books. They are high on my reading list and judging from critical acclaim and economic success, they will not be disappointing!

In looking forward to my next post in a week, I would like to add something ongoing to the blog. Should it be something like a website of the week, a book review, a particular quilting skill, or a pattern? It is difficult to decide what people would be interested in reading about. Feedback and suggestions are highly encouraged! What do you think?



Off and Running!

As the New Year dawns I wish I could say my husband is off and running, but his hip replacement was eight days ago and it may take a little more time for that. However, medical science is amazing and he is very lucky to be located near great doctors and medical facilities.

I AM off and running with my quilting goals for 2014! Having purchased another pre-cut just minutes ago, I must say that I am giddy at the prospect of new fabric, especially in the form of a jelly roll. This line is very new from Moda and it is called Chantilly. Chantilly was designed by Lauren and Jessi Jung, a mother/ daughter design team that brought us Birds and Berries last year. I made a wonderfully quick quilt from a pattern in the Easy Quilts magazine and it came out beautifully! I will post a picture in the next couple of days.

My fabric habit, especially where pre-cuts are concerned is tempted daily by the great people at Missouri Star Quilt Company and Green Fairy Quilts. If you have not checked them out, Missouri Star has a Daily Deal everyday with a significant discount and hundreds of You Tube videos showcasing almost every quilting technique you can imagine, most using pre-cut fabrics. Green Fairy Quilts is a great place to find the latest pre-cut fabrics from Moda and Riley Blake at big discounts and – wait for it – FREE SHIPPING in the continental United States. What a deal!

Yesterday while shopping in Amish Country (Ohio) I bought a charm pack of Bluebird Park. It is a beautiful line and will make a great baby quilt. I am using a pattern from Villa Rosa Designs called LaFrance. It finishes at 36″ X 45″ and all you need for the front, in addition to the charm pack, is one yard of fabric! If you have not seen Villa Rosa Design patterns, check them out. They are very easy designs, usually using some type of pre-cut, and they are printed on a full color laminated post card and retail for about $2, depending on where you purchase them. I have made several of their designs and have just ordered seven new patterns from them, so I will be busy!

I heard a superstition that whatever one is doing on New Year’s Day will be something they will spend much of their time at in the coming year. New Year’s Day 2013 I made sure I spent part of my time at the machine, and lo and behold, I got some amazing projects finished this year. For 2014 I am taking no chances – I will be in my sewing room today and tomorrow planning out projects for the coming months and petting and organizing my fabric. What will you be doing?