Finished: a winter table runner












It all started with a visit to St. Louis last summer to stay with my friend, Sandy. After catching up on our lives and other news, she posed what I thought was an innocent question, but turned out to be anything but.

“So, have you been doing any quilting lately?” she asked.

“Yes, I just finished a large quilt for my bed,” I replied, not seeing the “Danger, Will Robinson” signs screaming all around me in flashing neon.

“Great! I want you to make a table runner out of this holiday fabric I have for Vee (her daughter),” said Sandy. “She wants one, and I hate to quilt. I’ve got the fabric right here. It shouldn’t take long at all.”

It was game over at that point. She had me, and there was no getting out of it. Since I was a guest in her home, I could hardly refuse, especially when I couldn’t come up with a good reason fast enough after saying I’d just finished something.

Sandy didn’t give me any direction other than to make it modern in style. So far, so good. But she only gave me four pieces of fabric, two of which were practically the same, and I was determined to make something that I could finish quickly using only those four.

Enter Pinterest. I remembered  seeing a number of holiday quilts that used strips and half-square triangles to create blocks that looked like wrapped presents. I then went to InDesign and drew the blocks so I could determine the best proportions, ones that I could use with my Accuquilt Go! Cutter to speed things even further. Each present block finishes at 9×12 inches. The strips are 1 inch finished and the half-square triangles are 2 inches finished.

(If you’re looking at the picture up top, you’ll have to decide which of the long strips you’ll do in one piece and which you’ll have to cut. I realized that once I started piecing!)

The blocks came together pretty quickly, which I followed up with some basic stipplin after outlining the ribbon and bow. Then I used the alternate striped print for the binding, which is my favorite part of the whole thing.

I’ll admit, I grumbled a bit while working on this. But, the good news is Vee loved the tablerunner, and I got a great design for a runner of my own.


Finished: projects from a whirlwind year








With everything going on last year, it seems I didn’t get around to posting a couple of projects I finished last year. Better late than never, I say, so here they are from the top:

First, my finished cover for my Quilter’s Planner 2016. When you purchased the planner, you received instructions for how to make a quilted cover. I decided to to for a scrappy look with some fabric from one of my very first quilts. I didn’t put the zippered pocket on the cover because to be completely honest, I haven’t gotten over my fear of zippers, but hope to conquer that sometime soon, and because I just didn’t think I’d use it, so why put myself through the trouble. I actually like the flat look, and it’s nice not to have to break up the angel fabric at a point where it was interesting. Needless to say, that’s the block I designed (complete with tutorial) on the open page in June.

Next up, two pillowcases for the daughters of some good friends. The first, black and white graphic with a pop of red on the inside. The second features fabric from a pen pal in Australia. How can you not love the duck-billed platypuses and the roos?

After finishing the beast I’m taking a break from quilting and have started an Orlane shawl as my lunchtime knitting project. Hopefully I’ll have a finish on that for you soon, but here’s a sneak peak:




Finished: Napoleon plus-sign quilt and some lessons learned















I finished this quilt — at long last — a few weeks ago, but for a variety of reasons wasn’t able to get photos until last Sunday. A drained battery led to a long nap, so I didn’t take these until late afternoon, catching the golden-hour light photographers love. I can see why they do. Even with my limited skills and the fact that I shot in a somewhat somnambulant state, the colors in these photos are probably the most accurate I’ve ever gotten with Lola (my Nikon D3200). I still need to work on my compositional skills, but hey, one thing at a time.

After 10-plus years of quilting, this is the first one I’ve ever made that was large enough for my queen-sized bed. The drop from the top of the mattress to the frame is long, and any quilt has to be at least 108-inches wide, before washing, to cover everything. Each block of the plus signs is six inches finished — a wonderful size for showing off large scale prints and leaving room for plenty of variety.

Since its completion, I’ve washed the quilt once, and while the shrinkage was minimal, the red dye ran, even though I used three color-catchers. Thankfully, the color ran pretty evenly, and only on the black/tan bird toile, turning it kind of a mauve color. I prefer the original tan, but at least it doesn’t look too out of place. Maybe it will come out with future washings. The experience has definitely inched me closer to the pre-wash club.

Though it’s far from perfect, and it took forever, I love how the straight-line quilting turned out. So clean and simple, and a great choice for a such a busy look. But here’s the thing. While I’m very happy to have a quilt that fits my bed and certainly glad to have another finish, overall, I’m not really that keen on this quilt.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I looove me some plus-sign quilts, whether they appear stacked together like this one, or with each plus surrounded by a background. And I do think the individual fabrics here are quite lovely on their own. But I had my doubts about this project from the start, and that definitely wasn’t a good sign.

The problem is, my taste has just changed too much since I bought this fabric more than a decade ago. With no solids to give the eye a rest, the quilt is too busy for me, and I’m tired of the jewel-toned color scheme. My style now is much more contemporary, bold and graphic, but you’d never know that looking at this quilt. In fact, I’m not sure you could tell that about most of what I’ve made and posted here.

In the past year, as I’ve dealt with moving to a new state, starting a new job, selling two houses and buying another, and getting involved in other activities, I’ve given a lot of thought to how I want to use the limited time and interest I have in making things. From now on, unless I really love the fabric/yarn/pattern/floss/combination/etc., I’m not going to make it, even if it means selling, donating or throwing things away mid-project. The rest of my life is too short to spend time on things I no longer like just because I once invested time and money in them or because I could donate the finished project. I’d rather let go of the supplies now and let someone else have the enjoyment of making something they love. The other truth is, I really don’t need all this stuff.

Of course, mistakes happen and directions change, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned here is to trust my instincts and when in doubt — don’t.


Linking up with Amanda Jean at Crazy Mom Quilts.



Finished: reusable unpaper towels tutorial

Have you seen the rolls of reusable unpaper towels on Pinterest or Etsy? They’re a great way to help protect the environment by not using paper, and you can show off some cute fabric. Over time, this eco-friendly version will probably turn out to be cheaper than the tree-made variety with their continued use, as long as you don’t try and scrub a grill grate or other rough surface with them.



Want to make a set of your own? Sure you do! Here’s how:

Supplies: (enough to make 12 towels)

  • 1 1/8 yds. quilting cotton or flannel (If you use flannel, you may need a little more since it shrinks more than quilting cotton.) You can do all the same fabric, use one of each from your favorite collection or mix it up with a patchwork version.
  • 1 1/8 yds. terrycloth* (You can also use the inside part of an old towel; how many you’ll need will depend on how much is still usable.)
  • 48 sets of plastic snaps (24 male, 24 female) I used Kamsnaps, a wonderful company that uses proceeds from their sales to help rescue animals. You can even get the snaps in fun shapes like flowers or hearts.
  • Snap pliers (Again, I used Kamsnaps, but you can also buy these and the snaps at a big-box craft store)
  • Soluble marker (optional)
  • Awl
  • Thread
  • Rotary cutter, mat, ruler
  • Scissors
  • Empty paper towel roll

Start by pre-washing ALL your fabric in hot water with a color-catcher, if necessary. This is absolutely essential if you want your towels to stay flat and nice looking. Quilting cotton and terrycloth shrink at different rates, and pre-washing helps keep them the same size in subsequent washings. It also removes any sizing chemicals used by the manufacturer.

I like to serge the cut edges of my fabric so I don’t wind up with a tangled mess of threads to cut off. I put the blade down first so I don’t cut the fabric by mistake.

Next, iron both sets of fabrics as smoothly as possible. You can use spray starch if you think it helps your cutting accuracy; I didn’t bother. These towels are going to clean up spills and messes, so it’s not a time to worry about perfection.

Starting with the quilting cotton, fold the fabric in half, lining up the selvages; trim them as close to the selvage edge as possible. Then trim the cut-side edges so that you have 1 yard of fabric. Subdivide and cut both sets of fabric into 12 12-inch squares. Be prepared for all the terry fuzz that will go flying all over your cutting surface.

Note: A standard American paper towel is an 11-inch square, and while some quilting cotton is 45 inches, allowing you to get 12 12-inch squares from a yard, a lot of it is only 42 or 43 inches, especially once you cut the selvages. You can either cut 12 equal pieces, which is what I’d recommend, or make scrappy versions with the leftovers. That’s easy to do with the quilting cotton, but the terrycloth? Not so much. (Don’t ask me why I know this.) I say close to size is good enough. The important thing is to have the cotton and the terry match in size, but even with that you can fudge a bit since the terry stretches.

Place one square of the quilting cotton, right-side down, on top of a square of the terrycloth. Pin like crazy to help reduce any shifting while sewing. Mark the spot for an opening on one side that’s large enough for your hand to fit in.


Stitch all the way around the edges using a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Reinforce the starting and stopping points with a few back stitches as shown at the top of the photo below.


Clip the corners and any excess terry that stretched/shifted while stitching.


Turn the fabric right-side out and poke the corners with a chopstick or other pointed item, being careful not to go through the fabric. (Again, don’t ask me how I know this …)


Roll the edges in your fingers to get the seams as straight and close to the edge on each side as possible. Press each side as you do this keeping your fingers out of the way. For the side with the opening, press the fabric down then clip in place, making sure that the edges align evenly. On the cotton side, sew 1/8-inch away from the edge, closing the opening as you go. Here’s a scrappy version I made with some leftover pieces:


After you’ve made all 12 towels, it’s time to install the snaps. The Kamsnaps website has video if you need help, but it’s pretty easy. On the top, using a water-soluble pen, mark a spot in each corner that’s 1-inch from the edge on both sides. If you’ve used different fabrics and care about the order they’ll come off the roll, now is the time to arrange them in the order you prefer.


Take the awl and poke a hole through all the layers in either the top or bottom mark on the far edge (the one that comes off the roll first), then place the masculine side of the snap through the hole, with the rounded flat side on the quilting cotton side. Place a masculine cap on the terrycloth side and slide the rounded flat side into the plier base. When everything’s aligned, give it a good squeeze to set the snap.

Place another masculine snap in the spot directly above or below the first snap (not diagonally across). If your fabric has a direction, pay attention to which side you place the snaps, since they need to be all in the same direction to work. On the opposite side, place a feminine snap in each of the remaining spots, also with the flat edge on top.

For your second towel, install four more sets, this time putting the rounded flat cap on the terrycloth side in all four places. Make sure your feminine side snaps are on the edge that connects to the masculine side on the first towel, so you’ll be able to snap them together.

How I managed to get all the right snaps on in the correct places on all my towels without a single mistake, I’ll never know. Here’s a look at the masculine side snap all installed.


Note: I only used four snaps per towel, but I have seen sets that use six. The extra snap does make the edges flatter, but I didn’t think it was worth it. (See note about scrubbing spills above.)

Snap your towels together and roll them onto an empty paper towel roll. Then stand back and admire your work!


These towels aren’t as cheap as a roll of paper towels, to be sure, but they are a whole lot cuter. It did take me a few days to work up the nerve to use them, but now I can’t imagine using anything else. I only use the paper version for things like toilets or something that would stain badly.

Speaking of stains, when I wipe up a food spill, I rinse the towel out immediately and then use a little dish soap, rubbing till the stain is as out as I can get it. I then wring it dry with my hands and let it air dry or throw it in the laundry basket, depending on how dirty it was. I know my set won’t stay bright white for long, but I’m OK with that.

I made a jumbo roll of 18 towels, and with rinsing/air drying, I haven’t gotten to the end of the roll yet. When they get too gross to use, out they’ll go and I’ll make new ones.

*A note about terrycloth. I made most of my set using terrycloth yardage. It’s thinner than the terry found on bath towels and a lot easier to cut with a rotary cutter. I did use some less than new hand towels on a few of these and would do so again rather than throw the towel away. However, there is a lot of waste with the regular towel, so bear that in mind before you cut.

Have fun making a set of these. I have a feeling they’ll be pretty addicting.




The Quilter’s Planner 2016

With the move I made a few weeks ago, it’ll be awhile before I get back to any stitching, but I wanted to give a shout-out to my friend Stephanie at Late Night Quilter for the new 2016 planner she’s created just for quilters. It’s a fabulous one-stop-spot to organize your life and creative projects, all in one place.


There are monthly and weekly calendars, as well as project planning pages. Take a look:

I love the free space at the bottom to include notes, doodles, whatever!


Track all the steps you need to take to complete the project, and list your supplies, including the ones you need. Attach an inspirational picture or sketch a block design; you can even attach swatches of fabric with included sticky dots.

She’s also included a swatch saver, graph paper, free-motion quilting practice pages to develop muscle memory and goal-setting prompts. If that’s not enough, there are eight full quilt patterns from well-known designers: Cheryl Brickey (Meadowmist Designs), Yvonne Fuchs (Quilting Jetgirl), Amy Garro (13 Spools), Lee Heinrich (Freshly Pieced), Mandy Leins (Mandalei Quilts), Pat Sloan (Pat Sloan), Kitty Wilkin (Night Quilter) and Stephanie herself (Late Night Quilter).

To keep you inspired, there’s gorgeous artwork pull-outs by the talented Kelsey Boes from Lovely and Enough and a reference section for quilting calculations and common construction techniques.

Of course, I can’t help but be a little biased. Not only is Steph my friend, she’s added original quilt block designs from awesome quilt bloggers, including one from yours truly!**

You can order your planner during the pre-order campaign at Indiegogo until Nov. 30.  There, you can watch an incredible video about the project, see more photos and read a lot more details.

The planners will ship in December and should arrive in time for holiday gift giving with a 95 percent guarantee. With everything going on for both printers and shippers, Stephanie wisely advises the planner might arrive in January, so that’s why it’s not 100 percent a sure thing.

I am so proud of my friend for doing all this, and I know the planner will be a great addition to anyone who loves quilting and needs a little help organizing their life. And seriously, isn’t that pretty much all of us?


** I receive no compensation for this post or for the block I designed. I’ve paid for my own planner, and the opinions here are mine. Photos are used with permission.

Finished: the Halloween quilt

A lot has been going on over here in the past few months, namely that I moved to a different state for a new day job. It’s all very exciting, and I’ll tell you more about it at a later date, but since today is Halloween, I wanted to share my finished Halloween quilt.

DSC_0003When I started this quilt, I hadn’t yet become interested in modern quilting the way I am now. As I thought about the quilting, I seriously considered removing the border to make it more modern, but I didn’t want that fabric on the back since it was the one I loved most.

DSC_0011DSC_0002Moving forward, I started quilting by stitching in the ditch around the on-point squares (three-inches finished with a one-inch finished border for those of you playing at home), and stopped in the middle last year at this time when I was two-thirds of the way through.

I took it up this spring and debated ripping again, but decided I would rather get it finished than take out what I’d already done.

DSC_0001To be honest, I’m not really crazy with the front. Oh, I still love the fabrics, but the top just isn’t modern enough for me. When I finished hand-stitching the binding, I even thought of ripping it all out, cutting the border into the three-inch squares and setting the entire quilt on point. There would be lots of great opportunities for fussy-cutting.

I even have enough of the setting triangles left over to do that, and I’d probably make the quilt a little less rectangular in shape. Right now, it’s a twin size at approx. 72×90 inches, but I think I’d add one extra row to the width, depending on how many squares I got from the border.

DSC_0008Now that I’ve used the quilt for awhile on my bed folded like a runner, I’m bothered a little less by the front. Also, with so many other quilts to make and/or finish, do I really want to spend the time redoing this one? Probably not.

Thankfully, I did go modern on the back:

DSC_0005This Halloween fabric didn’t have the vintage vibe of the rest, so it was perfect for a modern back with lots of negative space. When I’m feeling modern, I fold it to the back side. Other days, like today, I show off the front.

DSC_0004DSC_0006I don’t always plan it, but one of the things I love to do with my quilts is create unexpected surprises. I love the little witch peering over the binding here: (try not to notice the extra threads!)

DSC_0012Happy Halloween everyone!


The 2015 Fabri-Quilt new block blog hop

My good friend Stephanie, who blogs over at Late Night Quilter, asked me if I’d like to participate in the Fabri-quilt new block blog hop by designing a block with their new line of solids.

Fabri-Quilt-New-Block-Blog-HopNaturally, I jumped at the chance to join the more than 60 bloggers who over four days this week have each designed a new 12-inch finished block and provide a tutorial for their readers. Of course, I’m running late, since this is the last day of the hop. But better late than never!

Fabri-Quilt generously donated fat eighths in each of the following six colors, aka the Watermelon Summer palette from the Prairie Cloths solids line: (from top left to right: chartreuse, turquoise, coral, aqua, lapis blue and white). The blocks will be made into charity quilts.

color-palette-3As anyone who has seen my modern quilt Pinterest board knows, I’m a huge fan of plus-sign quilts. They’re quick, easy and make a bold impact. So, while scouring the Web for ideas, I found an image of the flag from the country of Georgia, and knew I had found my inspiration.

Flag_of_GeorgiaHere’s my interpretation, using the lush Fabri-Quilt colors:

block design1What I like about this block is that it’s easy and is great for using up scraps. You can make it in solids, as I have here, or you could go scrappy with prints. But now that I’ve gotten my hands on this fabric, I can definitely say I’ll order more of it in the future.

To make the Georgian flag block, here’s what you’ll need:

Six fat eighths, each a unique color, cut as follows:
Lapis blue — cut two 2.5-inch strips; subcut one strip to 2.5×12.5 inches, subcut the second strip into two pieces, each 2.5x 5.5 inches

Chartreuse, turquoise, coral, aqua — cut one 1/5-inch strip; subcut to get 2 pieces of each color 1.5×1.5 inches and 1 piece that’s 1.5×3.5 inches

White: cut six 1.5-inch strips; subcut to get 16 squares that are 1.5×1.5 inches each, 8 strips that are 1.5×5.5 inches each and 8 strips that are 1.5×3.5 inches each.

Begin by sewing a white square to each side of a colored 1.5-inch square ensuring you have an accurate 1/4-inch seam. Press your seams toward the middle solid. When complete, your finished strips should measure 3.5 inches.I like to measure my strips as I go, just to be sure I’m on the right track. Sometimes I oversize them, as you can see below, and then trim. Once you’ve done this, proceed with all the remaining 1.5-inch squares.

DSC_0001Next, take one of the strips you just made and sew it to the same color 3.5-inch strip. Press toward the single strip. Repeat with the remaining three-square strip in the same color and attach it to the opposite side of the single strip. Press toward the middle. Your completed plus-sign should be 3.5-inches square.

DSC_0004Sew a 1.5×3.5-inch strip of white on each of two sides of the plus sign, and press toward the white strip. Follow that by sewing a 1.5×5.5-inch strip to the remaining sizes; press toward the white. Your finished piece should be 5.5-inches square. Repeat this process with all four colors.

DSC_0008DSC_0005Take one of the 5.5-inch strips of the dark lapis fabric and sew it to one of the plus sign squares; press toward the lapis, then sew the other side to another plus sign as shown above. Press toward the lapis. Repeat this process with your remaining plus blocks.

DSC_0010Sew the remaining 12.5-inch lapis strip to one side of one of the two pluses you’ve just sewn; press toward the lapis.

DSC_0011Do the same thing with the other side and you’re all done!

DSC_0012A note about the fabric: some of the bloggers said they had a lot of shrinkage when working with the fabric, either during pre-wash or using a steam iron. I’m not a pre-washer, so this didn’t happen for me. I do use steam, but again, not a problem. Just be sure to check your measurements throughout and you should be fine.

Others had trouble with the colors bleeding, especially the red salmon color. I didn’t have that issue, but to be safe, you can put a small piece in a glass of hot water to see if it runs. If it does, it’s time to pre-wash.

But wait, there’s more! There’s even a giveaway! You could win a 1/2 yard bundle of lovely palette by visiting each day’s blog host. And if you want an easy way to view the blocks, I hear some of the bloggers have created Pinterest boards just for the swap.

Monday, August 31st
Host – Yvonne @Quilting Jetgirl

Kelly @Quilting it Out
Martha @Once a Wingnut
Irene @Patchwork and Pastry
Cassandra @The (not so) Dramatic Life
Andrea @The Sewing Fools
Bernie @Needle and Foot
Silvia @A Stranger View
Wanda @Wanda’s Life Sampler
Sandra @Musings of a Menopausal Melon
Vicki @Orchid Owl Quilts
Jess @Quilty Habit
Diana @Red Delicious Life
Chelsea @Patch the Giraffe
Margo @Shadow Lane Quilts
Renee @Quilts of a Feather

Tuesday, September 1st
Host – Cheryl @Meadow Mist Designs
Wednesday, September 2nd
Host – Stephanie @Late Night Quilter

Hannah @Modern Magnolia Studio
Cindy @Stitchin At Home
Abby @Hashtag Quilt
Lisa @Sunlight in Winter Quilts
Carrie @Chopping Block Quilts
Eleanor @Cat Approved Quilting
Brianna @The Iron and Needle
Tish @Tish’s Adventures in Wonderland
Jan @The Colorful Fabriholic
Sarah @Smiles Too Loudly
Beth @Cooking Up Quilts
Leanne @Devoted Quilter
Liz @LizzyClips Design
Kim @Leland Ave Studios
Kitty @Night Quilter

Thursday, September 3rd
Host – Terri Ann @Childlike Fascination

Helen @Midget Gem Quilts
Jinger @Trials of a Newbie Quilter
Anja @Anja Quilts
Kathryn @Upitis Quilts
Mary @Quilting is in my Blood
Emma @My Handmade Home
Francine @Mocha Wild Child
Dina @Living Water Quilter
Deb @The Farmhouse Quilter
Lori @SewPsyched!
Amy @13 Spools
Denise @CrafTraditions
Sandra @The Bias Edge


Quick and easy: The modern lily pad quilt tutorial

Excuse me, is anybody still out there?

I know, I’ve been gone awhile. Truth is, I lost my blogging mojo. Seems like a lot of other bloggers have too. It’s modern life, right? We’re all a little too busy and stressed, no matter what our station is. And since blogging isn’t my full-time gig, it’s all too often the first thing to go when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

So, to return (hopefully) to a more regular schedule, I’ve got a tutorial for you, one that’s quick and easy, takes advantage of pre-cuts or die-cuts, and is perfect for a gift or to donate to a deserving charity. I’m calling it the Modern Lily Pad quilt, and you can customize it however you’d like. Finishing at 54×66 inches, it’s a nice lap size.

Lily pad pinMaterials:

  • Inspiration/background fabric: 2 1/2 yds. (based on at least 42-inch width).
  • Eight additional fabrics for lily pads: enough to make 160 (2 1/2-inch) squares. (If you want all your pads to have the same eight fabrics, you’ll need 2 WOF strips at 2 1/2-inches wide or 3 half-width strips at 2 1/2-inches wide if using fat quarters. You can also use 2 1/2-inch pre-cut strips.)
  • Batting: a 60×72-inch piece
  • Binding: 1/2 yard or use any leftover strips from your lily pad pieces for a scrappy look.
  • Backing fabric: 3 yards (based on piecing the back together)
  • Thread
  • Basic quilting supplies: rotary mat, cutter, rulers, scissors, sewing machine
  • Optional supplies: die-cutter

Start by cutting 5 (6 1/2-inch) WOF (width-of-fabric) strips; then sub-cut those into 25 (6 1/2-inch) squares for the lily pad rows. Use the leftover fabric on the last strip to cut 20 (2 1/2-inch) squares for the centers of your lily pad.

Next cut 6 (6 1/2-inch) strips down the length of the remaining fabric for the sashing rows. If your fabric is directional, or you don’t like cutting lengthwise (like me) you can cut 8 (6 1/2-inch) strips across the WOF and then piece those rows. The two additional rows divided into thirds will be enough to piece.

Once you’re done you should have 6 rows that measure 6 1/2-inches wide by 54 1/2-inches long. Be sure to pay attention to directional fabrics when you cut.

There are 20 lily pad blocks, so you’ll need 20 (2 1/2-inch) squares of eight different fabrics if you want each block to look the same. If you want to go even more scrappy, you’ll need a total of 160 (2 1/2-inch) squares.

I began with this cute frog fabric that I’ve had in my stash for far too long. I loved the bright colors and knew it would be perfect to help me choose my additional fabrics.

DSC_0004 Here’s a closeup:

DSC_0005I chose the same eight fabrics for each block and used my Accuquilt Go! Cutter to cut them into 2.5-inch strips.

DSC_0001 DSC_0003 DSC_0007 Next, using the same die cut, I cross-cut my strips into 2.5-inch squares. So easy!

To make the blocks, I started by sewing three squares together using a 1/4-inch seam to make a row, then sewed three rows together. I pressed my seams open, but you could press to the side (alternating sides and couching seams) if you prefer.

Each block had one square each of my eight fabrics; the middle was the background fabric. I also varied the placement of the fabrics. Here’s an example with a finished block:lilypadblockTip: I could have taken a photo of my design wall to remember my order, but since I forgot, instead I worked row-by-row, going from left to right, always putting the second piece on top of the first and sewing a scant 1/4-inch seam. I chain pieced the three rows keeping them in order and then went back and added the third square to each row.

You also don’t have to be that fussy about it. I just wanted a scrappy look. It’s really up to you how how the nine-patch blocks look; just make sure to keep your inspiration fabric in the center. Otherwise, have fun and don’t worry too much about where the remaining fabrics go.

Tip: for a cute idea, you could fussy-cut the center squares, something I might do the next time I make this!

After you make all 20 nine-patch blocks, sew one nine-patch block to one of the 6 1/2-inch squares of background fabric. After I did this, I put them up on my design wall to see where I wanted each block to go.

Once I was happy with the placement, I could sew the blocks together by row, adding the last background square at the end:

lilypad-wallWhen you have the lily-pad rows completed, they should measure 54 1/2 inches. Make sure your sashing rows measure the same. Then it’s just a matter of sewing all the rows together, starting and finishing with a sashing row. Your final quilt top looks like this:

lilypadquiltTo make the back, I used up the leftover frog fabric and 2 1/2-inch squares in a random improv fashion, about 3 inches larger than the top on all sides. (I forgot to take a photo, so here’s a closeup of the finished back.)

DSC_0019Now it’s just a matter of basting and quilting, using your preferred method. I pin-basted this on my sewing table using Denali clamps. I also forgot to take photos until after I was well into the quilting, (no brain that day) but here’s a post-process shot:

DSC_0001Essentially, these work the same as when you tape the back/batting, etc., but stay much more secure. They come in a package of 14 in assorted sizes. I bought mine from Amazon, who doesn’t seem to carry them anymore, but you can buy them from Sears. Well worth the investment.

For the quilting, I was going to do a simple stipple all over, but my machine’s tension was badly off and multiple attempts to fix it didn’t work. Thankfully, it still makes a good straight stitch, so I opted instead to do a wide cross hatch.

DSC_0002The key thing on this type of quilting is to start and end well. I first started by using painter’s tape, after lining up my ruler on the 45-degree line along the top of the nine-patch blocks.

DSC_0003It helps to decide if you’re a righty or a lefty when placing the tape, though that can change in order to not have so much bulk under the machine.

DSC_0004The problem with this method is the tape doesn’t always stick too well, especially after multiple uses. I found the Hera marker to work much better.

DSC_0006Ok, I have a confession to make here. I didn’t mark the lines all the way through. When it came to the blocks, it was pretty easy to line up to the next point on the diagonal. The 6-inch space between blocks was a little tougher, but I have a pretty good sense of alignment on these things and it seemed to work out.

If that bothers the perfectionist in you, by all means, mark all the way through. But as you can see below, the stitching is nicely aligned and not marked saved me a lot of time. In fact, I found I did better going by eyesight than by the marked line.

DSC_0002When you’ve finished quilting, trim the excess batting and backing from your quilt, squaring it up as you go. A large square ruler placed in the corner is a handy way to do this.

Another confession: I do trim my quilts before binding them, but I don’t worry if they’re not perfectly square, especially if it means cutting off too much to get it even.

For the binding, cut 6 (2 1/2-inch) strips of your binding fabric. Seam them together (either with straight or bias seams) to make one long continuous strip, at least 250 inches in length. I sewed mine with straight seams, which you can see on my tutorial for an easy fleece blanket, but you can see how to sew them on the bias here. You can also see how to attach it to your quilt (both front and back). I like to attach mine starting at the bottom.

Tip: Once you have your binding made, you can wrap it around a ruler that’s not in use and slide it off to keep it untangled until you’re ready to put it on your quilt.

lilypad-bindingAttach the binding, throw it in the machine for a wash/dry (many charities will only accept washed quilts; I wash mine using Dreft baby soap) and you’ve got a great quilt for a deserving someone. That person might even be you!

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Linking up with Amanda Jean at Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday.


Tutorial: large reversible tote bag

Before I went to QuiltCon a couple of weeks ago, I decided I would make a bag to carry my class supplies. I had wanted a new one ever since I made a practice bag out of fabric from an old comforter.

I learned a lot by making that bag, including what not to do. After carrying it for the past 18 months, the first thing I knew I would do with a new bag was to make it bigger and with more pockets. I’m really pleased with the end result and am happy to share it with you.

totebagpinThis is an open-style bag that measures 18x24x6 inches when complete. Here’s how to make it:


  • 3/4 yd. solid fabric for exterior (I used Kona Cotton in School Bus — my favorite!)
  • 3/4 yd. muslin or other lightweight cotton. (This will be underneath the lining, so make sure it’s something that won’t show through, like dark fabric against light.)
  • 3/4 yd. print fabric for outside pockets (mine is from Joel Dewberry’s “Notting Hill”)
  • 1 1/2 yds. print fabric for inside pockets (I used two different fabrics, 3/4 yd. each)
  • 1/3 yd. of contrast fabric for binding on all pockets
  • 3/4 yd. of cotton duck or other plain heavyweight fabric. (Make sure it’s a solid color that won’t show through the quilting cotton.)
  • 1/3 yd. print fabric for straps
  • Two pieces of scrap batting, each one measuring 24×30 inches
  • Basic quilting/sewing supplies: thread, rotary cutter and mat, ruler, washable marker
  • Painter’s tape

1. Begin by cutting two main body pieces, 20×26 inches. This will allow you to quilt as desired, then trim to 19×25 inches. I like this method because I find when I straight-line quilt, the top can shift a bit, and not be as straight as it should when it’s time to square up, leaving you with a smaller finished piece. And yes, straight-line quilting can be a time suck, but on a piece this small it wasn’t too bad.

2. Baste the layers in your preferred method. If you choose to straight-line quilt as I did, instead of marking the fabric, take a piece of painter’s tape and a ruler to set your first line, as well as the subsequent anchor lines. Before placing the tape for an anchor line, make sure you measure a distance that’s divisible by the amount you use for spacing between your stitching lines.

Mine are 1/2 inch apart, so that means my anchor lines will have to be either inches or half inches away. Anchor lines of stitching help prevent shifting, but over-sizing and trimming guarantees accuracy.

DSC_0021DSC_00103. Once you’ve finished quilting, trim the front and back main pieces to 19×25 inches.

DSC_00114. Exterior pockets: Cut two pieces of your print fabric, 13×25 inches each. Cut two pieces of cotton duck, 13×25 inches each. Attach one of the print pieces to one of the duck pieces, stitching them wrong sides together about 1/8-inch from the top edge.

5. Cut a strip the full width of fabric, 2 1/4-inches wide out of a contrast print for binding. Fold it in half and press. Trim to 25 inches and stitch the strip to the front side of your pocket, 1/4-inch from the top edge. Press the strip toward the top, then flip to the other side and press again. Turn piece back over to the front and stitch in the ditch to secure the binding to the other side. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the back front pocket.

This is fabric from the interior pocket. I wasn’t crazy about this print after I ordered it online, so I used it to line the interior pocket (instead of the duck) where it wouldn’t show.

6. Pin the pocket piece to the front and mark a line with painter’s tape 3 inches from the bottom and stitch the pocket piece to the exterior at that line. Next, stitch around the entire perimeter of the pocket, 1/4-inch away from the edge.

7. For the pockets, Measure 8 1/2 inches from the left-side edge and mark with painter’s tape, using a ruler to make sure it’s straight. Stitch along the edge of the tape, making sure to back-stitch and secure at the top of the pocket. Repeat these steps 8 1/2-inches from the right-side edge. Repeat the above steps for the back of the bag.

DSC_00197. For the lining, cut two pieces of print fabric, 20×25 inches. You want this piece to be taller than the quilted piece in order to make the bag reversible. Make the pockets in the same way as you did for the exterior pieces. including stitching 3 inches from the bottom. If you would like to customize your pockets, e.g., make one smaller for sunglasses, now is the time to do so. Sunglasses generally need a 4-4 1/2-inch wide pocket.

Here are my interior pieces. Do you see a stitched line 3 inches from the bottom? No, you don’t. Learn from my mistakes, people.

8. Take the exterior pieces and pin them right sides together. Wonder clips work really well for this and are much easier to use than pins. Sew around the perimeter, leaving the top open, with a 1/2-inch seam, back-stitching at the ends and using a smaller stitch length. Do the same thing with the lining pieces.

DSC_00229. Fold the corner, lining up the seams as close as possible. Since the exterior is bulky, it will help to have the seams go in opposite directions. Using a ruler with a 45-degree line, line the edge of the bag against that line, leaving 3 inches exposed.

Draw a line with a water-soluble marker at the 3-inch mark as shown below (3 inches is the distance between the arrows); pin in place. Stitch across the line, back-stitching several stitches to reinforce the ends and using a shorter stitch length. Trim 1/2-inch from the seam line.

dsc_0017 copyDSC_001810. Turn the bag right side out and using a blunt object like a chop stick, push the corners of the bottom sides out. Do the preceding steps on the lining pieces, except don’t bother to turn the lining inside out.

11.Take the lining piece and fold a little less than 1/2-in from the right-side of the top over to the wrong side; press in place. Make a second fold 1/2-inch wide and press in place again. Put the lining inside the exterior of the bag and pin or clip the fold over the top of the exterior bag as shown below. Top stitch along bottom edge to secure lining to bag.

DSC_002412. Make handles: Cut the print fabric you’ve chosen for the handles into two strips, each one should be 5 inches by the width of fabric, approx. 5×44 inches. I trimmed my handles to 5×42-inches. Cut two pieces of the cotton duck the same size. Attach the duck to the wrong side of the printed fabric and stitch along each edge with a 1/4-inch seam.

Fold and press 1/2-inch on both sides as shown below, the fold the strip in half and press again. Open the strap and fold in 1/2-inch on the top and bottom. Re-fold in half, making sure your edges are all nicely tucked in. Pin and stitch 1/4-inch around the entire strip. Repeat these steps for the second strap.

Or you could be lazy like me and only stitch on side, but this is what it will look like when you go to press it.

13. One at a time, line up the strap ends so the middle point of each one is at the same place as the stitching line of your pocket, which should be at the 8-inch line. Place the bottom of the strap 2 inches below the top of the bag and pin in place.

Do the same thing for the remaining three strap ends. Stitch them securely in place with a shorter stitch length all around the 2-inch portion that’s on the exterior bag.

DSC_004414. Now, go out and use your bag and marvel at all the compliments you will receive!

If something doesn’t make sense, or you’d like some help making your bag, either leave a comment below or email me at

Linking up to Link a Finish Friday, Whoop Whoop Friday, Thank Goodness Its Finished Friday, Fabric Frenzy Friday and Show Off Saturday.