Another UFO Bites the Dust – A Story about Long-Arm Machines

Y’all, I did something… I bought a thing, and I’m not sure exactly what it is. I’ve seen it called a mid-arm machine but I’ve also been told it’s a tiny long-arm. At any rate, it’s Uber-fun to drive. (Yah, it’s called “driving.” I didn’t make that up.)

Meet Quita. (Because anything that costs this much $$ should have a name.) She’s a Q’nique 15 Pro from the Grace Company and she sits on my 5-foot Brother Dream Fabric Frame, also made by the Grace Company.

I bought the frame as a package deal with my Brother Innovis VQ2400 but I really liked sewing on that machine so I took it off the frame, which I’ve been using for fabric storage for a couple of years. Meanwhile, my finished tops are stacking up faster than I can quilt them using only my VQ2400.

Enter Quita. Already, I finished my orphan block quilt started in 2017 and just yesterday, I finished quilting another long-time UFO – my Stripey Hawaiian baby quilt. I’ve gotta come up with a better name for that quilt. Maybe while I’m binding it, I’ll think of something.

This quilt already has quite the story to tell. My cat ravaged it, I fixed that problem, then started quilting it on my Brother machine using some echo quilting. See below. But that wasn’t going well, so I folded it up and threw it in a corner until Quita came along. Now, voila, it’s done except for the binding. 

I know… it’s pretty terrible, but I have a few more small quilts to practice on, so hopefully I’ll get better soon. Until then, I’ll probably still send out my best and biggest quilts to my favorite long-armer, but one day… one day, I too, shall be a great long-armer. Maybe. I hope!

My Beautiful Mess – A Story About Orphan Blocks

I know a few people whose very first quilts are stunning, but most of us have to make a mess before we can create something beautiful. This quilt is a HOT mess, but a lot of learning happened here. And it’s not all bad. There are quite a few elements I like. Most of all, I like that it’s finished.

What exactly is this quilt? It’s a mish-mash of blocks from quilts I started but never finished. Orphan blocks. Most quilters have some. Maybe you start a sew-along but don’t have time to finish. Maybe you try a new technique and hate it. Maybe you lose your pattern. All these scenarios are represented in this quilt.

I decided to turn my orphans into a quilt because I got a new long-arm frame and wanted to practice my free-motion quilting. My inexperience shines through but that’s okay. I’m giving it to the dog, and she loves it.

I try to focus on the positive. What do I love about it? The tiny pinwheels in the photo above are adorable, and so freakin’ old. Many years ago I started a blue and white sampler quilt. I loaned the pattern to someone and never got it back, so I had a lot of blue orphans. They are sprinkled throughout this quilt. It’s probably just as well… my ambition far exceeded my skills at that time, so these blocks are definitely subpar. Those two blocks in the bottom corners of the top photo… I quite like those but they too are older than dirt. You can tell because the background fabric is muslin. When I first started quilting it was an unwritten rule that all background fabric had to be muslin. I don’t know why I only ever made two of those.

I’m famous for joining sew-alongs. I’m infamous for not finishing them. Many of these blocks came from the Splendid Sampler. It was fun for a few weeks but I lost interest, thus I had another tidy stack of orphans. And that house… I thought I would enjoy making a scrappy house quilt, and I did, but not with that particular pattern. Into the orphan pile it went.

Making an orphan block quilt is easy. Just lay out all your blocks, jig-saw style, until you have a composition you like. Fill in the gaps with something that ideally ties everything together. I bought that black/pink polka dot fabric at a yard sale and I had LOTS of it, so I used it for the back and binding too. It’s super-improvisational but that’s what makes it so easy. No complicated math, no stress. Just eyeball everything and trim as needed.


To Piece or Not to Piece-A Story about Quilt Backs

This weekend I’ve been putting together quilt backs. It’s not as glamorous or exciting as making quilt tops but it has to be done, right? 

I have friends who buy 108” fabric for quilt backs and I’d probably be smarter to do that too but I like to piece my backs. It takes longer, sure, but I like the scrappier look (of course) and it satisfies my personal quilting rule of working from my scrap buckets first, my stash second, and only buying fabric for a current project in an emergency.

I do buy fabric – lots of it – but usually only when it’s on sale or I find it at a thrift store or yard sale. When I do buy it at a store, my go-to quantity is one yard. If I really like it, I’ll buy two or three yards, but that’s not usually enough for a quilt back. So, I piece.

My process goes like this…

1) I lay my quilt top on the floor or a bed. If it’s the floor, my dog lays on it. If it’s the bed, the cat hops on.

2) I start with any leftover blocks or fabric from the quilt top  and arrange those over my quilt. It’s like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle.

3) Depending on the size of the gaps I need to fill, I pull from my scrap buckets or my stash.

4) I don’t try to do any math or precise piecing here. I just aim to have a back that’s a couple of inches larger than the top on all sides. If I’m sending it to a long-armer, I’ll ask how much overage she requires and aim for that amount. Ish. Like I said, I don’t go for perfection here. The outer edges will get trimmed off at the end anyway.

5) If I’m not trying to use leftovers from the quilt top, I’ll sew together two or three pieces of yardage from my stash. Each quilt is different, but I’m almost always pleased with the end product. I end up with two quilts in one, and isn’t that efficient!

How do you make quilt backs? I’d love to hear your process.

Magnolia’s Serendipity Quilt


Aloha y’all. Welcome to my very first Linky party. My spell check keeps changing that to “kinky” party, but I’m just not that kind of girl so if that’s what you’re looking for, move along. If you want to talk quilts, you’re in the right place.

I pride myself on being humble. (I KNOW that’s an oxymoron. Just shut up and keep reading, k!) 🙂

Let me say that again… I pride myself on being humble. For real, I have a hard time extolling my own virtues. But sometimes – and it’s usually quilting related – I just can’t lie to myself or to you, and I have to shout, “DAMN I’m good.” The story of this quilt is one of those times, and it was never supposed to happen…

First, there was the class I didn’t want to take. I am on the board of my local quilt guild and we had the amazing Krista Moser coming to town to teach three classes for us. I wanted to take her Woven Jewelbox class but most of my friends were taking Semaphore Stripes. I gave in to peer pressure and took both, and I’m so glad I did.

Second, there was the fabric I wasn’t supposed to have. Since I over-extended my budget by taking two classes, I vowed to use only fabric from my stash. I needed stripes and there wasn’t much to choose from, but I did have one thing. It was part of a fabric line I bought 23 years ago to make my daughter’s crib set. (I would call that “vintage,” wouldn’t you?) Sadly and happily, I never made that bedding so the striped fabric was just sitting there, waiting to be used in THIS quilt. I started with that and pulled whatever I had that matched. I grabbed 30-year-old fabric, brand-new stuff and from every era in between.

I was supposed to have two stripes but I only had one. Still, I was fairly pleased with my fabric pull. Then I got to class and my friend asked my advice in choosing between a couple of stripes she had brought. One totally worked for her and the other didn’t – but… People… it matched my fabric selection like it was made specifically to be there. I couldn’t have done as well if I had gone into a store and bought a complete line of fabric. She offered it to me, and it made my quilt sing. Thank you, Leslie!

Third, so many things. This pattern is not my usual style. It’s not rooted in tradition, I can’t cut it with my Accuquilt, and I didn’t pull a single fabric from my scrap buckets AND, it’s got Y-seams. Y-frickin’-seams, People. In short, I would never have made it if I hadn’t moved outside my comfort zone and took that class.

I don’t know about you, but every time I look at this quilt, I say, “Wow!” It’s just so vivid, so bold, so modern – you wouldn’t think you could get this look from a bunch of vintage fabrics, would you?

And to bring this story full circle, I’m giving it to my daughter Magnolia for her 23rd birthday. She never got that crib set I planned, but this quilt will serve her better and for longer than a crib quilt ever would have.

I sent her a picture today and she loves it. She said triangles are her favorite shape. I didn’t know that but, like everything about this quilt, it’s serendipity!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Birdie in My Cabin

Remember this scene from Little Miss Sunshine?

Olive: Grandpa, am I pretty?

Grandpa: You are the most beautiful girl in the world.

Olive: You’re just saying that.

Grandpa: No! I am madly in love with you and it’s not because of your brains or your personality.

That scene captures perfectly my feelings for this quilt. You see, I often make ugly quilts. I love those too. They have great personality and hold deep meaning for me, but they do not fit the commonly held definition for beauty. Birdie in My Cabin does in my humble opinion.

Imagine a parent who has a bunch of ugly children and then, out of the blue, gives birth to a future Miss America. That’s me right now! I love my other kids, but this one is super-special. (I know we’re supposed to espouse the beauty of all children, but that’s not reality if we are being totally honest with each other, and I think we should be, don’t you?)

Let me give you the facts… This quilt measures 65 x 70 inches. It is a log cabin design, very traditional, but the following elements plant it firmly in the modern genre:

  • Low-volume fabrics with fresh accents in soft aqua/turquoise with an occasional punch of orange
  • Star sashing – I love this element and will use it again!
  • Faced binding, hand finished with big-stitch quilting

My friend Barb Rubio of Camokai Studio here on Oahu did the long-arm quilting for me, and it too is pretty and sweet. We decided on a light grey thread that accents nicely without overpowering this quiet composition.

Every quilt has a genesis. Mine is usually a fabric but sometimes it’s a pattern. In this case it’s this adorable birdie print. I used it as the center of each block and also for the majority of the back.

The other fabrics are a mix of vintage and contemporary prints. They are all from my stash or scrap bin. This soft floral print is at least 20 years old. I made a sweet, smocked dress for my oldest daughter from it decades ago. I had a tiny piece of Tula Pink’s Saltwater Octo Garden that made it into the mix, and I don’t remember where or when I bought this orange/turquoise piece but it works perfectly for a little punch of color. The stars in the sashing are a Kona cotton I had on my shelf. 

Designing a new quilt is my absolute favorite part of the process and I love to challenge myself by using only what I have on hand. I feel like when you can sneak a few vintage pieces into a quilt, you create something truly unique.

If I had to describe Birdie in My Cabin with one word, it would be “tweet.” I mean, “sweet.” It’s soft and pretty and quiet. I think it would make a great baby quilt, but too bad because I am keeping it for myself. Maybe I will give it to my grandchild one day…if she is not ugly. Haha. Just kidding. (As if my gorgeous girls would have anything other than beautiful children!)

Back of Birdie in My Cabin

I Put a Hex on You

You know how some quilts are super-special? They have a back story, they have great meaning and you invest a lot of emotion into them. They give you ALL the feels… Well, this is not that kind of quilt. This is more of a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of quilt, if you know what I mean.

I Put a Hex on You

That’s not to say I don’t love it, because I do. I really do. The colors are fun and bright, the fabrics are playful, and the pattern is pleasing to the eye. This quilt is basically eye candy. I’m not emotionally attached to it, but I like looking at it.

If you’re wanting a good time, you should definitely give this pattern a try. It goes together so quickly and it’s fun. I finished it with simple but effective straight-line quilting.

The genesis of this quilt

My inspiration was two-pronged: a) this lovely daisy fabric. It’s been in my stash forever. As I drove into work one morning, I was contemplating how I could finally put it to good use. That’s when I remembered b) the new tool I had recently purchased, this hexagon template from Missouri Star Quilt Company. I have the large which works perfectly with layer cakes (10-inch squares). It does a fabulous job of showcasing your favorite prints. You can also get the small hexagon which can be used with jelly rolls (2.5-inch strips) or charm packs (5-inch squares).

My favorite thing about this quilt is the fabric. There’s some grunge (Moda Grunge Hits the Spot in Vert), which is one of my favorite fabric lines of all time. I would love to have a bolt of every color in every pattern. There’s a little Cotton + Steel in the form of tiny pandas. (Cotton + Steel Paper Bandana Panda Bebe Pearl) Lots of florals and dots and a few baby deer. How cute is that?

So cute!

The back is also adorable (Michael Miller Road Trip Hit the Road in Celestial). Even though I bought it recently, it wasn’t specifically for this quilt so I’m going to say ALL of the fabric came from my stash. Yeah! I get so excited when I use my stash. The really cool thing about that is – it all goes together so well, it could have been a single line of fabric. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t happen every day for me. I usually end up buying something for a new quilt.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Asian…

… and also something blue.

I am so super-stoked to have finished this quilt top today. It’s a UFO from waaaayyyyy back – about 2013 to be more specific. I started it when I lived in Peyton, Colorado.

“Something Old” is most of it. The red/brown/cream daisy fabric was my original inspiration. I loved it then and I love it now.

“Something New” is the backing fabric, which I adore! It’s Pastiche in flame orange from In the Beginning Fabrics. It’s a perfect match to the fabrics I used on the front. With it’s rich, vibrant colors I’m tempted to call it the quilt top. 

“Something Borrowed” is this little bit of cherry blossom fabric donated to my quilt guild’s freebie table by a friend. With it’s Asian vibe and coloring, it fits right in and adds to the quilt’s story in such an impactful way, I’ll never look at it without thinking of my guild and my friend.

And check out that creamy kanji fabric (above). I bought it when I visited my soldier hubby while he was stationed in Korea. (What a trip that was. If you ever get a chance, you must go. The fabric district is A-mazing!!!) I don’t have a clue what the kanji means. Hopefully nothing awful. Haha.

As I mentioned, the project has a great oriental vibe, hence the “Something Asian.” It reminds me, not only of the aforementioned trip, but also of the six years I lived in Japan. Of course, the “Something Blue” is self-evident. I just need to finalize the placement and iron those buggers down.

I have a strong love/hate relationship with this project.

I hate that it’s so imperfect. I never make perfect quilts but this one is quite, quite flawed. My skills were definitely less impressive in 2013, which you can see clearly in some of my pinwheel points. My aesthetic has also changed and I’m not as enamored of the pattern as I once was. I wouldn’t say I hate it, but… I don’t love it. In fact, I almost chucked the whole thing, but I had completed more than half of the blocks so it would have been a terrible waste.

So, what do I love about it? I mostly love that it’s nearly finished. 🙂 I love the colors and the fabrics and the story. Ugly though it may be, it’s a keeper. I can’t wait to snuggle beneath it, thinking about my quilting buddies and reliving my adventures in the Orient.

Mahalo, Y’all, for stopping by.


Accuquilt Block Design Contest

Aloha, Y’all.

I did a thing… I entered the Accuquilt Block Design Contest. Here’s my entry.

If you sew with me, you know how much I love my Accuquilt Studio, right? So when I saw the contest, I was super-excited. There’s some stiff competition though. I would love it if you would take a moment to vote for my little block. I think it’s kind of cool. Just look what happens when you put it into a quilt…

Those secondary patterns are so pretty, aren’t they? This block is something of a skill builder. It’s got some curves and Y seams, but it’s also got a lot of easy, straight seams so you can learn without stressing yourself too much. haha

I just ordered that chisel die for the pieces that make up the y-seam. As soon as it arrives, I’m going to start sewing this quilt, and trust me, I need a lot of work on my y-seams, so it might take a while. I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

I first called this Central Square, but driving home from work yesterday, I came up with a better name: “Y U Seam So Drunk.” Because of the Y-Seams and Drunkard’s Path pieces. Get it? Haha. Anyway, thank you for looking, and remember… vote early and vote often. 🙂



My Cat…Asshole or Quilt Designer?

I’ve been working on this quilt for quite a while. I was going to call it “In the Stacks” because it reminded me of rows of library books. It was to be a gift for a friend who recently had a baby. My plan was set.


My cat had other ideas…


What an asshole she turned out to be! Albeit a very cute asshole.


Luckily, appliqué can cover a multitude of sins, and Accuquilt makes it super-easy. This is the Go! Critters Die (#55030), which also includes a dragonfly and a bumblebee. I use it a lot. Butterflies are very much my thing.


This was my first attempt at echo quilting with my walking foot, and I still need a lot of practice, so I don’t know if I’ll end up giving this quilt to my friend, but…


…to be honest, I like the design better now, with the butterflies. Don’t tell the cat. She already suffers delusions of grandeur. She’ll start thinking she’s the better quilt designer.

New name: “Flight Lines.” 

Aloha, Y’all.

Ugly Quilts

Aloha, y’all.

I have a confession. Sometimes I make ugly quilts. On purpose. Not for nothing though. That would be crazy, right? 

You may be asking yourself, “Why would anyone intentionally make an ugly quilt?” Believe it or not, there are several reasons. When I made Churn Dash Aflutter, I was living in Alaska with my two daughters while my husband served an unaccompanied tour in Korea. Money was tight so I challenged myself to create a quilt top using nothing but my stash. I wanted to make the kind of quilt my great-grandmother might have made. Something practical and warm using whatever materials were at hand. I had a small amount of one gorgeous fabric, the butterfly print, and that became my starting point. From there, I focused mostly on color, so some of the other fabrics aren’t true quilting fabrics, but they do kind of match. Also, I didn’t have a good quarter-inch seam at that time so my churn dash points are cut off. Lesson learned. Overall this quilt is ugly, yes, but it has its good qualities and I love it despite everything, because of the memories it evokes.

My latest finish is ugly as well, but it’s also quite beautiful in it’s own way. I call it Found Treasure. I didn’t even make most of it. A stranger did. See, I have this quirk. I cannot leave fabric at a yard sale or thrift store. If I find it I buy it, and occasionally I score real treasures, like these colorful strips – sometimes called Chinese coins. 

When I pulled them out of the bag, I thought, “How sad. Someone spent a lot of time making these strips and for whatever reason, didn’t finish them.” I set them aside for months but kept thinking about them – and their maker. Finally, I knew I had to finish this unknown woman’s quilt. Maybe her spirit was compelling me. Maybe I’m just weird. Whatever.

It took me several months to come up with a design, then a few more to sew the top. I set aside the finished flimsy for over a year, but eventually, I got started on the quilting. I worked on it here and there until this month my quilt guild had a day-long sew-in. That gave me just the time and motivation I needed to “git er done.”

I have a name for my ugly quilts. I call them Picnic Quilts. They’re the kind I don’t mind taking to the beach or on a picnic – if I EVER decided to go on a picnic. Which I probably won’t. Ants. Flies. Need I say more? But that’s what I call the quilts anyway, because Ugly Quilt is an over-simplification for these wonderful, beautiful, slightly unattractive creations.

Have you ever made a Picnic Quilt? I’d love to see it.

[NOTE: Better pictures to come in a few days. It was too late when I finished to get any good ones and I just couldn’t wait to write about it. :)]