Monthly Archives: June 2013

Simplify again.

Back again, it’s ME.

Yesterday since the selection of TV shows was so dismal, I started to go back through some of the things I’ve recorded on the DVR. I was way behind on the Sewing with Nancy shows and started there. I watched two episodes of a series where Nancy super-sized some of Grandma’s favorite one patch quilts. She did the tumbler block (thimble shaped) in one episode and Grandmother’s Flower Garden in the second. Those hexagon pieces are the latest pre-cut from Moda, joining the jelly rolls, charm packs, etc.  I’ll be interested to see how the designers show new quilters how to work with them. Usually the dreaded “Y-seam” puts people off. In Nancy’s technique she actually used half-hexies, (trapezoids to me the former math teacher), to completely avoid the Y-seam issue. You can watch those shows at her website I believe, since most of her past shows are archived there. Yep, I found it for you. Click here to watch Grandmother’s One Patch Quilts.

BTW, do you remember that at each of our guild quilt shows there is an award given specifically for grandmother’s flower garden quilts? Maybe you’d like to go for it; check out Nancy’s idea.

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a quilted Michelin man

ME back again,

Here is a big name designer including our worst nightmares of quilted clothing in her ready-to-wear collection for this fall. If the model, who probably is as big around as one of my arms, looks like this in it, can you imagine any “real” woman’s figure being flattered by this coat? Couldn’t find many quotes of the price, but one I did find was $650. No there is not a missing decimal point. Six hundred fifty dollars. Yowza!

Have a look here, and see if you will be see wearing one this year. If you will, I take it all back. It looks great on you!!


Filed under garment sewing


It’s ME again,

After I finished perusing the book I talked about in yesterday’s post, I went to my other quilt book purchase: Simplify retro by Camille Roskelly. Camille is one of those “modern” quilters who is building a following on a national scale. She and her mom are the team of Moda fabric designers known as bonnie and camille. You might have loved the very popular Moda lines Ruby or Sky or Bliss that they designed. Camille’s premise in this book is using classic blocks, with modern fresh fabrics, often super-sizing the blocks. I’ve been looking for ways to make some of what I think of as the bedrock blocks of quilting, like a churn dash, or a log cabin, more fun for beginners. Generally I’ve liked those classic blocks in a smaller size, like a 4″ or 6″ or even smaller finished size. Seeing them over-sized has given me some new thoughts. We’re talking really big blocks now, 24″ or 36″. I like the focus that puts on the fabric choice(s) and that some of the “nitzy” work of matching the block parts is simplified for rookie quilters when the blocks are bigger. You can easily make a baby quilt or table topper from just one humongous block and a border. Of course not all blocks will work for this idea-for example I can’t imagine a 36″ four patch being much fun, but how about an Ohio star?

What block is your favorite? Maybe you can make something for yourself quickly from one, or maybe 4, of that block done in a very large scale. What block do you think would be fun to try out for this technique?


Filed under "modern" quilting, quilt books, Uncategorized

“We Love to Sew”

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

How are you this fine rainy day? I just finished marking a set of place mats for quilting. They will be another set of samples for the seminar class I am teaching this fall: Get Out of the Ditch. I borrowed some hand quilting stencils from our guild library and am adapting them for walking foot quilting. I used my favorite marker for this task: Crayola washable markers. That’s right, the ones kids buy for school. I have been using them for this sort of thing for several years and love it. They are very easy to work with, to see while stitching, and to wash out when you’re finished. It’s actually time for me to start watching for them as loss leaders in back to school supplies since some of mine are drying out and/or have worn out tips. Also time to stock up on the Elmer’s washable school glue that I use for so many tasks in the sewing room. Often is a loss leader at school supply time as well and can be purchased so cheaply that it’s almost like stealing it! For you traditionalists, gluing makes mitered borders so easy that you might be tempted to put them on every quilt!

A few posts back I wrote about Annabel Wrigley’s new book for tween sewers called “We Love to Sew”. (BTW thank you to the commenters who gave me some good ideas for projects to do with my sewing buddy. Will definitely be suggesting pajama pants since she seems to live in them!) I ordered a copy of the book and it arrived yesterday. What a great book for kids! It is written for the tween sewer. The photos show kids’ hands, and kid models. It definitely has very cute, kid appealing projects. For the most part it is a girls’ book, but some of the projects could easily be adapted to be made by or for boys. There are 28 projects in the book under the headings Accessorize, Five-Minute Fancies, Wear, Use, Decorate, and Cuddle. It doesn’t talk down to the young reader, but it is written in language they will understand. Appropriate cautions to get adult assistance are included where necessary. I don’t know if I’ll be giving this book to my sewing buddy for her birthday, which was the original plan, or keeping it as a teaching tool. Maybe I should just order another copy. If you have a youngster–maybe grade 4 up to grade 8 or 9–who likes to sew or wants to learn, this would be a great book to use with them.

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Filed under garment sewing, gift ideas, quilt books, sewing with/for kids

shakin’ your booty

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

Get up off that chair, step away from the machine and do the Quiltmaker Shuffle!! How fun this would be at a class or a meeting after we’ve all been sitting for too long!?  Give it a try, you already know the motions: hand stitching, free motion quilting, shopping, sewing, you’ll see. Lots of giggling to be had.

click here to do the Quiltmaker Shuffle!

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the next generation of quilters

Hi y’all, Mary Ellen here.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile then you know that I like to listen to Pat Sloan’s podcasts for American Patchwork and Quilting while I walk the dog. One segment of the most recent one was about a new author, Annabel Wrigley, and her book, We Love to Sew, containing projects for teaching tweens to sew and quilt. Great things at her blog too. click here to visit.

I have a little sewing buddy who lives next door. She is the official babysitter for my dog, whenever I need someone to feed him or let him out when I’m at work or gone for long periods. She works for fabric. When she was tiny she asked me if I would teach her to sew. I told her when she turned 9 that we would start. She never let me forget it. We got a later start than she wanted, but she’s been sewing for about a year now. She even got a sewing machine of her own for Christmas. Apparently she tells her cousins all about it, and has let a few of them try out the machine. She has a lap quilt that we made from bits in my scrap bins (you’ve heard about those many times!). We did old time string quilting on telephone book page foundations. She made 9 blocks, each a different color family of scraps, and we attached them with simple straight sashing. The backing is a plush fleece. We tied it instead of quilting it for a faster finish, since once the end was in sight she wanted it done, with a capital D. We’ve made a tote bag for herself with horses on it (another of her loves), a messenger bag for her sister to take with her for her year abroad, an apron for grandma’s birthday, and a pouch for her makeup. Running out of ideas that interest her right now. I’m looking for a few good ideas to have up my sleeve when her sewing mojo returns. Any suggestions? I’m thinking that some time this summer she’ll be bored and looking for a project.

Annabel gives some tips for having a successful experience when sewing with kids. She talks about wanting to make sewers for life, making the experience fun so that the kids will keep returning to it again and again. The first hint she mentioned was giving up on perfect. Many sewers I talk to can relate terrible experiences with tearing out seam after seam in home ec class. Those zipper fiascos have scarred many a stitcher for life! Some of us still are very hard on ourselves when our blocks aren’t quite perfect. Letting go of that a bit makes the quilting experience more fun. Every binding doesn’t have to be hand stitched, every point doesn’t have to be perfect, if the seams don’t match at the corners it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve been sewing since I was quite young, and there was a time in high school when it was not fun for me. I was like every teen girl wanting to have the latest fashions, and dress like all the other girls. With limited funds that meant sewing my own clothes (remember when that was cheaper than buying them?). Of course I wanted lots of clothes so I had to be at the machine for long stretches. Sweat shop sewing took the fun out of it. Similarly through college, although once jeans became acceptable garb for nearly everything, and the relaxed hippy style became some what mainstream, the pressure to crank out clothes on the machine eased up. Eventually I got back to sewing garments for fun and individuality. Then quilting entered the picture! For a long time I rarely sewed a garment. I’m starting to get back to the enjoyment of wearing something I’ve made myself. Still finding it hard to get good fabric (other than quilting cottons) but just bought some 100% linen for a skirt. If you really comb the racks at the big J store there are a few quality fabrics hidden amongst the dreck. Now I’ll try to enjoy the thrill of the hunt!

Back to my original theme. That next generation of sewers and quilters. Have you taught any one to sew or quilt? How was the experience for the two of you? What project(s) did you do together? Do you have a personal nightmare story of sewing that nearly put you over the edge? Do tell please.


Filed under garment sewing, scrap quilting, Uncategorized

your inner finger painter

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

We all know that quilting is good for the soul. We do it for a variety of reasons-seldom, in this day and age, is it a necessity for warmth and shelter. We get more esoteric value from it. But most of this confidence that quilting is a “good thing” is just a “hunch”. No science to confirm it. … Until now.

At the guild meeting the other evening a friend shared an article from Prevention Magazine for me to use here at the blog. It’s from the June 2013 issue, and the article’s heading says “Medical research says: Put Some Fun in Your Summer…and the surprising reasons why you should”; the author is Sarah Mahoney.

Here’s the excerpt she thought we’d be interested in:

“FIND YOUR INNER FINGER PAINTER  While most of us gave up coloring by middle school, any creative endeavor–whether painting, writing, or photography; crafts, cooking, or gardening–”is about as close to childhood play as many of us get,” says Dr. Saxbe. For example, researchers at the University of Glasgow, in the UK, studied quilters and report that in addition to the well-being that comes from the sense of flow of their craft, the women get mood boosts from the colors of the fabrics used.”

So the next time the urge to splurge in the quilt shop hits you, remember it’s just what the doctor ordered.

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what goes on in our heads?

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

I’ve been sitting here with my coffee watching the rain come down. It’s such a rarity these days. (NOT!) Actually I think I’m watching my grass grow. I missed my opportunity to mow yesterday and will now pay the price for procrastinating. That lawn will be too heavy to mulch it, so I’ll be emptying the mower bag repeatedly whenever I am able to get out there. I only have only garbage can which I dedicate to yard waste and my lawn will over fill it. I either need to mow more often, or buy another can. The compost bin is full so that will not be an option til I use more of it.  Oh well..this makes for a great day to sew!

I’m working on some fabric scarves from an Amy Butler pattern. She calls for voile but I’m using some regular quilting cotton from Art Gallery Fabrics. Their fabrics are luscious, in design and texture, but they are heavier than voile. So far I have adapted the pattern by making my scarves narrower. I wish our local shops would carry more of the unusual fabrics, such as the voile and home dec fabrics from these new designers. And way up at the top of my fabric wish list would be some Liberty cottons. I’m sure the owners have the dilemma that their customers don’t ask for them so they don’t carry them. But my response would be-how will your customers learn how superb those fabrics are to use if no one sells them? Hmmph! I guess that is where the internet comes in. Sadly there is little demand for our brick and mortar retailers to add those “unusual” fabrics to their inventories. In the “old days”, when I did quite a bit of garment sewing, I loved to purchase fabric off the beaten path. Raw silks, cashmere wools, Pendleton wools, rayon batiks, …  They made for great garments that no one else had. Often I could get them at sale prices, because not many sewers used them. Do you remember those days when sewing your own clothes was actually cheaper than buying them? Particularly for folks like me who had “champagne taste and a beer pocketbook” as my mom used to say.

I think I’m aging myself. Saw a great book at my local quilt shop yesterday full of funky garment patterns with very cute design elements. The fabric choices were so much fun. Sadly I think they would look much better on a younger woman who either has the body or the attitude to carry them off. I know I’ll be going back to that book every time I visit the shop. I’m going to keep thinking until I come up with a fabric combination that I think a woman of a certain age (my age!) could wear. Almost all of them require zipper insertions! It has been many moons since I’ve dealt with a zipper in a close fitting garment. I don’t wear close fitting any more. How about you? I subscribe to Gilda Radner’s fashion philosophy. Here are two of my favorite quotes from Gilda on this topic: I base my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” and “I sometimes stand in front of a mirror and change a million times because I know I really want to wear my nightgown.
A student shared this visual of what goes on in our heads that I think you’ll enjoy. I recognized most of the areas as being in my quilter’s brain. You too?

quilters brain

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Filed under gardening, garment sewing, local quilt shops, Uncategorized

there’s an app for that…

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

How many times has a tech savvy, usually younger, person said to you “you know, there’s an app for that”? Well here’s an app that you might find useful if you are one of those folks who collects apps like the rest of us collect fabric. It’s an app from Schmetz needles, that will tell you just about anything that you might need to know about sewing machine needles.

What size needle should I use with this fabric?  on the app

What kind of needle  for this project? on the app

What’s the difference between all these kinds of needles? on the app

I often get asked needle questions while making demonstrations or teaching classes and this app answers just about all of them. See what you think: click here.

I last wrote about the skirts I was making from the “Cute Skirts” pattern from Favorite Things. I have finished all three views of the skirt now and I love them all. I think I’ll be looking for some fabrics for other seasons of the year and I suppose that will mean tights or pantyhose (I just can’t do the bare legged thing with any shoes other than sandals!). I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve pulled on panty hose since I retired, and they weren’t happy occasions. I’m now working on visors to go with the summer outfits. My bosses found the pattern while they were at Quilt Market, and I’m trying it out. The first one was so easy, until I put the bias trim around the edge. Should have followed my hunches, instead of the pattern directions I think. I frogged stitched it while watching tv last evening (rip it, rip it!) and will be trying again shortly. I have made girly baseball caps for myself and my nieces in the past and used peltex for the brims. This pattern calls for Soft and Stable. It is light and firm and easy to work with. (This product reminds me of head liner like that used in a car’s ceiling. You can buy headliner by the yard at the big J store, but I have only seen Soft and Stable in specialty stores or online. I haven’t sewn with headliner in a really long time, so the next time I’m scrounging for something to use my 40% off coupon on, I’m going to re-visit the headliner and see how similar it is to the Soft and Stable, the color selections, price, etc. I’ll report back!) One clever thing about this visor pattern is the method the designer uses for closing the adjustable “tabs” at the back of your head. She uses curly shoelaces that don’t need to be tied. (I found them in black and white at Walmart, and in lots of colors at an online site.) I’m going to keep this clever closure idea in mind to use on other kinds of projects. So simple and easily adjustable. The designer is Annie Unrein, the same one behind the product called Texture Magic, that you might be familiar with. She has lots of free info at her website. Click here.

I’ve been attempting to catch up with the weeds in the garden, and fortunately (or not) Mother Nature has kept me from overdoing it by raining fairly regularly. I’m dividing perennials and using a limited (compared to my past history) number of annuals in the garden this year. I need to get some perennials that bloom later in the season. I think I buy the ones that are in bloom in the spring because they are so refreshing in the garden centers after a long winter that I can’t resist them. And I also seem to be a bit heavy on purple in the bloom colors. Gotta work on that too. Anyone want to trade plant divisions with me? I’ve got hosta varieties galore, sedums, perennial geraniums, lysimachias, astilbes, etc. Most of what I’d like to trade are plants for shade or part sun. I don’t really have any spots of full sun, other than where I stick the lettuce and tomato plants.

Heading off to the sewing room, TTFN!

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