Category Archives: gadgets

For the love of…

Hello my quilty Valentines!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

EHartman-ValentineRight from the start – how about this cool Valentine? Isn’t it just beautiful!? Even better, you can have a pattern for it – this is the newest creation from Elizabeth Hartman of Oh, Fransson! blog – one very talented modern quilter! I just love how this is patchwork, multicolored, has depth, interest…just fun!

Speaking of fun – did I had some last Friday! I went to a lecture/trunk show/demo by amazing sisters, Jenny Pedigo and Helen Robinson, of Sew Kind of Woderful designs. They are long time quilters, have been professional long-arm quilters and now they are just playing and creating new, beautiful designs, using their new Quick Curve ruler.

I saw this ruler a while ago and of course had to buy it asap, but – of course AGAIN – did not have a chance to play with it yet! So this came as such a treat and so timely! Sisters are just wonderful, passionate and inspiring and here is some of the photos I took:

2014-02-07 06.50.55 2014-02-07 06.52.06 2014-02-07 06.53.33 2014-02-07 07.07.59 2014-02-07 07.41.05 2014-02-07 07.43.22 2014-02-07 07.43.32You would think these are really not so easy to make, but they are all made with the ruler, and very few basic blocks! I am so itching to try it now!!

Oh and did I mention both sisters are amazing quilters? Just look:

2014-02-07 07.36.25 2014-02-07 07.36.49 2014-02-07 07.37.17 2014-02-07 08.33.54 2014-02-07 08.34.21And as a “cherry on the top” here is the face of Grinch!!

2014-02-07 08.34.46So, are you intrigued yet? Will you try this new ruler? Or have you used it already? Do share if you did! I promise to share my trials soon!

Speaking of trials – I am always trying new quilting motifs. Lately I find a lot of inspiration, great tutorials and ideas with Lori Kennedy, of The Inbox Jaunt – a great blog to follow!

Sew…who is ready for the February meeting? Me – your humble program speaker…well, almost! 🙂 I will be talking about how I go from inspiration to a new quilt design. What tools do I use, what computer programs, what are my experiences when writing instructions for others.

It occurred to me that we can use this forum, our blog, to have questions ahead of time! So – is there anything you are particularly interested in hearing? Do you have a specific question? Is there an area you would like me to try and cover? Post your questions in comments and I will do my best to answer and incorporate it all into my presentation. Thank you!!

Leaving you with one of my “doodles” inspired by Valentine’s Day, love, the “melting” of two hearts together…red one and blue one becoming a purple one… I call it “Stitched Together”. 🙂

SMS-Stitched together2Wishing you love today and always,


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Filed under "modern" quilting, eye candy, free motion quilting, gadgets

Christmas crafting

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

How have you been? I’ve been AWOL for a while-busy with Christmas preparations. I’m sure you all understand. One of the things I’ve been up to involves Mod Podge. Yes that goopy stuff from the old decoupage crafting craze is still around and going strong. It’s quite amazing what you can get to stick with it. Did you know there is a Mod Podge made especially for fabric? Me either. I found this review (click here) by accident at the site for Craft Test Dummies. After reading what it has to say about the improvement in the fabric texture, I think I will check out whether any of our local big box stores, with my 40% off coupon, have any of the fabric Mod Podge in stock. I do quite a bit of crafting with fabric–making fabric flowers and embellishments in particular—and if it performs as well as the tester says then I’m in. I love using my Big Shot die cutter, and will be using our guild’s cutter more in the future. (Update on that guild cutter coming soon)

By the way if you do crafts or DIY projects of any kind, you should check out the Craft Test Dummies website (click here). All sorts of gadgets and craft supplies get honest reviews. In addition, there are lots of project ideas and tutorials. Being a gadget lover, I have purchased so many over the years–but not with 100% satisfaction. The more I’ve visited their site, the more I’m a convert. I will be checking out more of my possible purchases with them before I make the spending plunge. Hopefully I won’t be buying any more lemons. Anyone want a strip cutter machine?


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Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

I’m back at the sewing machine in earnest now. The yard work is done, and the machine is back from its tune up. I hate sending it away, but it does make a difference in its performance and sound. Working on a Christmas table runner from an Edyta Sitar pattern, and a springy wall hanging that is a sample for a class I will be teaching in April.

Was cruising some of my favorite sewing blogs this morning and came across these cool pattern weights. At least that’s what the designer had in mind for them, but I can see some other uses as well. I love their shape and when she used the correct mathematical term for them in her directions I was sold. Tetrahedrons–yep. You can take the girl out of the classroom but I still like to call things by their correct name. These make such a great arrangement in her photo. Great gift idea for a sewing friend. Click here.

I found those weights from links at the Sew, Mama, Sew annual Handmade Holidays blog entries. Every year in November at Sew, Mama, Sew there is a round-up of links to cool things to make. They categorize them nicely and I find them very inspiring for year round–not just holiday–projects. Definitely you should check them out if you are looking for some gift ideas. Most of the links are to free patterns, a few are reviews of patterns on the market. Even if you’re not going to make a lot of handmade gifts this Christmas season but  you enjoy “making stuff”, I think you’ll enjoy the visit.

Awarding blog candy at tomorrow night’s guild meeting celebrating our 40,000 visitor milestone. I, personally, have reached a blog milestone too. This is my 200th entry at this blog. Boy I do run on, don’t I? I’m thinking up a way to celebrate that too, so stay tuned.

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quilting supplies-cheap!

Hello all, Mary Ellen again.

Before I retired it would really frost me to start to see “back to school” ads in July. The summer isn’t even half over yet! Now I don’t mind at all because some of my best quilting supplies are bought in the back to school aisles. Probably my number one supply purchased at this time of year-in quantity-is Elmer’s washable school glue. I buy both the glue sticks and the liquid glue. It allows me to avoid pinning in many projects, and actually has increased my accuracy.

The most frequent use of the glue is for “basting” my bindings to the back of the quilt before I sew them down by machine. When I first learned to stitch a binding on completely by machine, I was not happy with the way the back would look. Despite my best efforts at pinning or basting in the ditch, the stitching on the back of the quilt was always too far from the fold of the binding and usually was spaced very unevenly from the fold. Now as I am pressing the binding to the back, I glue it exactly where I want it so it just covers the stitching holding the binding to the front and then dry the glue with my iron. Nearly perfect bindings ever time!

Second most frequent use of this glue is for invisibly stitching two lengths of border together so the pattern on the fabric flows continuously across the seam. Since most commercial patterns have you cut your borders on the crosswise grain to save fabric, you will have to place a seam in any border longer than 40 inches or so. On a very busy print this is not a problem, but otherwise I find that the border screams “look at me” as the pattern is broken. Those of you who have sewn home dec items such as curtains or slip covers may have learned a technique for hiding the seams so the patterns will flow continuously across long runs of fabric. I have stolen that technique and use it in my borders. It does take more fabric than it would if I didn’t have this pet peeve, but much less than buying enough to cut the borders on the lengthwise grain. Glue basting helps me to get these seams placed perfectly so they are nearly invisible. I won’t go into the technique here, but if you don’t like those broken patterns it’s worth learning. Any book on home dec sewing will have the general explanation in it.

And the third common use for me is to help me get a perfect miter when I decide to miter my borders at the corner. I don’t do this often, mostly because the fabric I choose won’t compliment that miter enough to make it worth the effort. I no longer avoid the miters though since the glue makes them easy peasy.

I have heard from a few long time quilters that Elmer’s washable school glue is the same stuff that is sold under the name of a big name in quilting for a much higher price.

So…start watching for Elmer’s to be the loss leader at one of the big box stores and stock up!

If you have a school supply that you often use in your sewing room, please share the idea with us all.


Filed under gadgets, tips and tricks

some new books

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

It is a beautiful morning here in the neighborhood-truly, not tongue in cheek this time. The canine and I had a great walk in the sunshine, and by the end I had taken off my gloves and hat. (whisper-I think spring is in the air) When we returned home, I took a circle around the garden in the spots that aren’t too squishy wet to see what’s up. It’s time to do some clean up of the parts I can reach from the paths–too early to walk on the beds. Don’t get overly anxious you gardeners out there. It’s not good to pack down the dirt walking on it too soon. Lots of leaves are in the beds from our Snyder trees-no matter how late the last fall raking occurs, more leaves come down after. The daffodils are looking great, the hellebores too. Starting to see bits of green on many of the perennials. Got to thinking of my nana and thought I should bring some forsythia inside to force. She always had branches of things in jars on her windowsills in early spring. She would force them into bloom, and then usually get them to root. They would be returned to the garden to expand the stock! I always think of her when I spot the first shrubs blooming. She had a flowering quince bush the size of a Volkswagen bug that was gorgeous every year. Haven’t seen one like it since.

I ordered some new quilt books for myself and they all arrived this week. Our blog discussions of modern quilting were the inspiration for these titles: 15 minutes of Play by Victoria Wolfe Findlay, Liberated Quiltmaking II by Gwen Marston, Modern Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman, and not so modern Happy Trails:variations on the Classic Drunkard’s Path by Pepper Cory. I think my favorite is Victoria’s book. Her outlook on the process and her love of scraps are transmitted so clearly. She shares her love for her grandmother’s scrappy crazy style quilts that inspires her own style today. I’d love for us to have Victoria at a seminar in the future. I think both traditional and “modern” quilters would enjoy her. Great book for the guild library. I don’t own Gwen’s first Liberated book but I have seen many quilts in its style. Very fun way to work. Jackie G’s seminar class this year is a child of Gwen’s technique. Both of these authors have a tempered disregard for rules that the Quilt Police might want to enforce about the use of color and color placement, precision of points, placement of grain. And that disregard makes for some great quilts. Both authors intersperse reflections on their point of view and creative process throughout the pattern directions.

Surprisingly the 12 patterns in Elizabeth’s book  are noticeably more structured than Victoria and Gwen’s. The piecing is more complex (lots of pieces requiring precision matching, and quite a bit of curved piecing) than her first book introduced. But that is what she was aiming for–the subtitle of her book is “12 quilts to take you beyond the basics”.  I feel the first book (which I also own) was for the young woman, just joining the ranks of quilters, who wanted to make pretty things from fresh fabrics in a somewhat “Pottery Barn” style. Now she has some basic skills and can “take it up a notch”.  Elizabeth does have more construction knowledge than some of  the other modern style designers whose patterns I’ve read.  I don’t always agree with the methods she chooses, but then I seldom follow a pattern the way its written. I notice that some of the newer pattern designers do things in “old school” ways; perhaps after they’ve been at it as long as some of us have, they’ll come to the streamlined methods we have developed over many years of quilting. (That really sounds snooty, doesn’t it?) I do really like Elizabeth’s style and will make a couple of these quilts. The patterns she includes for the pieced backs are as nice as the fronts! They can be quilts on their own, but what fun surprises to turn over your quilt and find some piecing similar to the front. Also great for those times when you have muddy paw prints on the front of the couch quilt and want to give the quilt an Irish wash because company’s coming. (Ask me about my mom’s explanation of that expression.)

Pepper Cory’s book is a reprint of an oldie but goodie. The original copyright date is 1991! I’m getting into the Drunkard’s Path block these days. I have recently come upon a circle ruler from Creative Grids that makes cutting very accurate circles a breeze. The secret to painless(relatively speaking) curved piecing, in my humble opinion, is correct cutting and accurate seaming. Once you’ve got those under control, blocks like the one which is the basis of the Drunkard’s Path are easy to sew. And you have so many layout options, for quilts which look much more complex than they really are, that you can have fun for days coming up with your own designs. These new rulers and gadgets that come out so frequently these days are helping to make blocks, that used to require templates and hand piecing, achievable on the machine.

Have you purchased any new books or patterns lately that you can tell us about? With the price of them so high these days, we should share our opinions. If you’re willing to share some reviews, I’ll archive them here for others to check out before purchasing. I’m off to work on a quilt from a Pam and Nicky Lintott jelly roll book–a mom and daughter team who’ve written several very good books on using precuts. Pretty quilts, well written patterns that you can count on to have no mistakes, which is a rarity!


Filed under "modern" quilting, antique quilts, gadgets, gardening, quilt books

seminar stuff

Hello all, Mary Ellen back again.

By now I hope you all know that Pat Sloan is going to be our featured national teacher at our fall seminar this year (September 18-21). Over at her blog today she has posted some photos of student projects from a class she is teaching now for another group of quilters. If you’d like to see some samples of the work they are doing, in the same classes that Pat will be presenting for us, click here. Pat loves to share photos of the classes she teaches. That will be us in the fall (don’t forget your lipstick!)

Keep an eye on our visitor counter. At 35,000 visits (wow, I’m still amazed!) we’ll have several special things for you. Prizes, tutorials, etc.

What would you like to see us write more of in the future? AMQG activities, links to other sites, ramblings about nothing in particular?? Let us know–your suggestions will help me anyway, when I’m stumped for a topic.

Here’s one idea I’d like to try out. I’d like us to do an online “show and share” now and then. Send me photos (my e-mail is in the roster, or you can post in your comments) of whatever you’re working on, completed projects, new tools or books, anything quilting related that we could share. Or we could have themes for each upcoming show and share here at the blog. What do you think about that? Of course some of you would have to actually share!!

The first one, my photos to come soon, is going to be about scissors. Gather yours together and take a photo of your collection, or just zero in on your favorite pair. This is for all of you “cut-ups” out there!

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not your grandma’s yo-yo’s

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

Are you like me, buying lots of “one-use” gadgets for your sewing? If so, you probably have at least one of those Clover brand yo-yo makers in your sewing room somewhere. Maybe it’s a basic circle, for the traditional yo-yo shape. Or perhaps you went for one of the unusual ones-the heart, or the pentagonal flower, or the butterfly.

Here’s a clever use of those tools, from the designers at Nancy’s Notions. Nancy demonstrates in this video how to use those yo-yo tools for a smocked effect. This really got my creative juices flowing. What can I do with this idea? The holidays are on the horizon-this effect makes a simple technique look quite glamorous. I love those kinds of things, don’t you? Sometimes it’s so easy to fool the recipient of your gift into thinking it took hours to make it, and quite a bit of skill. I’ll never tell–we’ll make it our secret!


Filed under gadgets, Uncategorized