Friday, December 28, 2007

Address book cover

As part of my end-of-year organizational activities, I went through my old Rolodex to update and purge addresses and phone numbers. Seems like everyone I know is moving every few years or so, and I had a lot of work to do. I decided to give the updated information a new home. I purchased a binder-style address book, and made this quilted cover for it this morning.

I started with a piece of felt, covered it with fabric scraps, and quilted them down. Then I tucked under the edges, sewed them down close to the edge, and folded under about 3 inches on both ends to make the sleeves to hold the binder. Voila!

I have purchased a small photo album "brag book" and intend to put photos of some of my art quilts in it. I sometimes meet people and end up talking to them about what I do, and a lot of them have absolutely no idea what an "art quilt" is. I figure a picture is worth a thousand words, so I intend to make a cool cover for my brag book and pop it in my purse, just in case I run into someone who is curious... or maybe someone who just happens to want to commission a large work ... :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Making paper snowflakes

I grew up in Pittsbugh, Pa., where there never seemed to be a shortage of snow by Christmas time, but here in North Carolina (where it was 80 degrees several days last week!) we haven't had a decent snowfall in years. Gosh, I'm tired of dragging my kids around on their sled in the mud and about 1/4 inch of snow! So my daughters and I decided to make our own blizzard this weekend – with paper snowflakes.

We stuck them up on our front window using double-sided tape and now we feel frosty even when the thermometer is not!

Here are my directions for making them:

Start with a piece of white paper, the thinner the better. Fold up one end so that the edges meet along one side and you have a nice point at the corner. Crease very well with your fingernail. (Sharp creases and presise folds are the keys to making nice snowflakes.)

Trim the excess paper so you have a triangle (a square if you open it up).

Fold the triangle in half again and position your new triangle with the longest side down, so it looks like a little mountain, like this:

Here's the trickiest part. You now have to fold this triangle into thirds. Start on one side and give it your best guess. Fold it gently, without creasing, because you will probably have to adjust it a bit before you get it right. (Don't worry, you'll get the hang of this after you've done a few snowflakes.)

Now fold in from the other side. Inspect it from both sides. You should have it folded into thirds. If not, go back and adjust it. Then crease well. Make sure the point at the top is sharp and precise.

Here's how it looks from the other side (I think it resembles a rocketship):

Trim off the "tails" (or the flames, if you are envisioning a rocketship) so that you have just a triangle again.

If you open it halfway up, you can see how it is folded into thirds (sixths if you open it all the way up):

Now, cut your design. Use the sharpest paper scissors you have. You can also use hole punches to punch circles in the interior. Remember that the shapes you cut into the folded sides will be doubled (a semicircle becomes a whole circle). You can cut smooth curves, or sharp angles. Have fun and experiment. Here's my design:

And here's the most fun part! Unfold your snowflake and enjoy. Don't you feel the chill in the air?

You can do this activity with fairly young children. My seven year old enjoyed it, although she had a hard time cutting through all the layers, so we had her draw her design in pencil, and then I cut it out.

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow! pleeeeeeese!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Machine quilting motifs

Some of the students in my Beginning Machine Quilting class today asked me to post some of the free-motion quilting motifs I have used in my quilts. So here goes...

Here's a square spiral. I used a wonky variation of this in my quilt "Harbinger's Hope" (second photo).

Here's a meander:

A spiral:

A star:

A loop-de-loop:

Here's a list of some good books on the subject of free-motion machine quilting. These first three books are on my bookshelf, and I can recommend them:

Mastering the Art of McTavishing by Karen McTavish. A good book to read and study if you want to develop your own free-motion quilting motif for an all-over design to use in open spaces between appliqued shapes.

Coloring With Thread: A No-Drawing Approach To Free-Motion Embroidery by Ann Fahl. Great tips on threads and troubleshooting thread and tension problems, with an emphasis on art/pictoral quilts.

Guide to Machine Quilting by Diane Gaudynski. Diane walks you step-by-step through every aspect of free-motion machine quilting, with an emphasis on spectacular traditional designs (like feathers).

Here are some other books that were highly recommended on that I'd love to add to my bookshelf, but have not yet read:

Machine Quilting Made Easy by Maurine Noble

Quilt As Desired: Your Guide to Straight-line & Free-motion Quilting by Charlene C. Frable

Continuous Line Quilting Designs by Pat Cody

Easy Machine Quilting by Jane Townswick

Heirloom Machine Quilting, 4th Edition: Comprehensive Guide to Hand-Quilting Effects Using Your Sewing Machine by Harriet Hargrave

Machine Quilting: A Primer of Techniques by Sue Nickels

Show Me How to Machine Quilt: A Fun, No-Mark Approach by Kathy Sandbach

250 Continuous-Line Quilting Designs: For Hand, Machine & Long-Arm Quilters by Laura Lee Fritz

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

DeLane's version

My friend, DeLane Rosenau, is making up my Bohemian Bouquet Mystery Block-of-the-Month blocks (see my Nov. 19 post) using different fabrics. She is fusing and doing satin stitch, instead of needleturn. Doesn't it look fabulous?

Sunday, December 9, 2007


This morning, I made this set of pincushions using a pattern in the December 2007 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting magazine. Stacked up like this, they remind me a bit of the holiday puddings I saw the Christmas I lived in Scotland, right down to the button cherry on top!

The designer of the pattern, called "Petal Pincusion Stacks," is Roseann Meehan Kermes.

Here are three more I made for some of my quilting friends:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Perfect Circles

I used to think my appliquéd circles were pretty good. Then I tried out a product by Karen Kay Buckley called “Perfect Circles” (about $12 retail) and discovered how much better they could be. The product consists of a bunch of heat-resistant plastic circles of different sizes (four of each size) and a metal ring on which to store them.

The first step is to find the circle the right size you need. Simply place the circles on top of your pattern until you find the right size.

Next, find a circle that is about 1/2 inch wider than the finished circle size you need (so you have 1/4 inch more all the way around).

Take this larger circle and place it on top of your fabric, and trace around it. I love using a quilter's sandpaper board (see photo above) for this step, since it holds the fabric in place while you trace around the circle.

I have tried a million different kinds of quilting markers. The ones I like best are shown in the photo below. All are mechanical pencils. The colored ones are by Clover, and are available at many quilt shops and online. They come with a set of leads, and you can buy refills once they run out. They are a bit on the soft side, and tend to snap easily, but if used with a gentle touch, they leave nice dark lines that are easy to see. And the lines are very thin, which is important for accuracy. The yellow and pink ones are marvelous for marking dark fabrics.

The one on the far right is a regular mechanical pencil with a 2B 0.5mm lead refill. 2B is the softest lead you can buy for mechanical pencils. It is hard enough that it doesn't snap, but it leaves a very dark, crisp fine line. You can buy the leads at office supply stores next to the mechanical pencils. If you don't use the 2B leads, you'll be frustrated with a regular mechanical pencil; the leads are too hard and they snag in the fabric and don't leave dark enough lines.

Now cut out your circles on the line. Here is a photo of the circle I used to trace (on the right) and the fabric circle with the plastic circle (the right size you need to applique) on top of it.

Take a fine needle and strong cotton thread (I use hand quilting thread). Thread your needle and knot the end. With the fabric right side up, sew a running stitch about 1/8 inch from the edge. Note: with the bigger circles, you can actually machine stitch with the largest basting stitch, around the edge.

Place the fabric circle right side down, and place the plastic circle in the center of it. Pull on the thread, until the fabric pulls up around it.

It should be very snug. I usually take a few stitches through the little pleats to secure it before the next steps.

Spray some Magic Sizing or spray starch into a small bowl. It is very foamy at first, but will eventually turn back into a liquid. NOTE: I do have some concern about Spray Starch, as I fear it might attract moths or silverfish, which can eat holes in fabric. Magic Sizing works just as well but does not contain starch.

Using a clean brush, brush the pleated surface with the Magic Sizing until it is wet.

Make sure the thread is pulling the fabric up tautly, into a perfect circle, and then iron it until it is dry. Use a medium high heat; if you are too hot, the plastic WILL melt. It is heat resistant, not heat-proof, I discovered!

When the circle is completely dry, use a seam ripper to cut some of the threads, just enough that you can get the plastic circle out.

Pin the circle down and appliqué it. Voila! A perfect circle.

I have been using Perfect Circles for my Bohemian Bouquet designs (see post below) and have been very pleased with the results. Take a look and let me know what you think!

Karen also has “Bigger Perfect Circles” with even larger sizes.

For more information about Perfect Circles, go to

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Time to shop

My wonderful husband researched how to add a shopping cart feature to my website and helped me set it up, so I now have a way of selling my patterns online, in addition to the shops and distributors who offer them. Hooray! He is my favorite IT (Information Technology) guy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

First block done!

Here's the first (center) block of my new Mystery Block-of-the-Month quilt, Bohemian Bouquet, finished.

Quilters Loft Company, the quilt shop where I teach in Mooresville, N.C., will be offering this quilt as a kit (with the patten and fabric) each month. The starting session will be a class on Saturday, Jan. 12 from 10 a.m. to noon. The price for the pattern with the fabric kit will be $19.99 per month (January through November). Quilters Loft will also have the patterns available on their own, in case you want to choose your own fabrics.

If you live farther away and want to order fabric kits, please call Quilters Loft Company at (704) 662-8660. If you just want the patterns, they are now available for preorder on my website, The price is $5 per block, or $55 for the entire set (plus shipping). The first block pattern will ship by Jan. 15, 2008.

I am doing my blocks using needleturn appliqué, but if you want something faster and easier, you could do fusible appliqué with satin or blanket stitch around the appliqué pieces. This center block is 20 inches square, so even though it looks intricate in the photo, the shapes are actually large, and the corners rounded. I do recommend that you have some experience with appliqué if you want to do it as needleturn. These patterns will be rated intermediate to challenging.

To see the layout for the entire quilt, see my October 13 post. The colors and fabrics shown in this photo are representative of the fabrics and colors I'll be using in the rest of the quilt. I'm planning to use a lot more fabrics, and it will be quite "scrappy," with some additional colors (blues and purples).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Punchneedle madness!

I must admit that I have been quite entranced … okay, obsessed … with punchneedle embroidery lately. I've completed these two designs in the past week! They only take a few hours, are very easy, and the finished result is really charming.

The design at the top is “Fraidy Cat” by Brenda Gervais/With thy Needle & Thread Punchneedle Designs. I dyed the background fabric with instant coffee granules to make it look old and spooky.

The design below is “Angel with White Wings” (although I changed the wings to gold and the background to green) by M. Shaw/Hooked on Rugs.

If you want to try punchneedle embroidery, my best advice to you is to buy the Cameo punch needle and threaders, and the Cameo hoop designed specifically for punchneedle embroidery. When I tried this craft for the first time, I used a regular embroidery hoop and it didn't hold the fabric tight enough, and I was very disappointed in the results. With the right equipment and a little practice, it is really easy and fun to do.

You can use regular embroidery floss you buy at the craft store, but the hand-dyed flosses (mostly available online) create wonderful irregularities in the color that really look wonderful in folk art and primitive designs.

I also love and highly recommend the book Punchneedle Embroidery: 40 Folk Art Designs by Barbara Kemp and Margaret Shaw (a Lark/Chapelle book, 2006). It is a great resource for those new to the craft, plus you get 40 fantastic designs to use, and complete descriptions of how to display and frame the designs once they are done.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Wool bead bracelet

Just made this fun bracelet from beads I felted from wool roving. I strung them on stretchy bead string, then tied on bits of batik fabric and wool yarn. My friend, Vickie Clontz of Annie's Keepsakes ( gave me the instructions for making the beads.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Cell Phone pouch

A free “use me and share me!” pattern by Susan Brubaker Knapp

Check out all the other great free patterns for hand-made last minute holiday gifts offered through Cotton Spice this November at

If you’d like to print out a copy of this pattern, click here to download the PDF.

- Scraps of fabric for outside
- Piece of fabric for backing approximately 10″ square
- button or charm
- perle cotton or thread (to tie button or charm)
- 1″square Velcro
- thread for piecing and quilting
- batting, approximately 10″ square
- caribeener clip

Please read all the directions before you begin!

1. Measure your cell phone. Use this formula to determine how big to make the outside of your pouch:
Width: (cell phone width x 3) + 1″
Length: cell phone length + 2-1/2″
For example, my phone is 2″ wide so I needed a piece 2″wide by 3-1/2″long, so I needed a piece for the outside that was 7″x 6″.

2. Sew your scraps together to create a piece for the outside of your pouch. Cut a piece of batting 1/2″longer and wider than your outside piece. Cut or piece a backing piece 1/2″longer and wider than your batting piece. Layer in this order: backing piece (face down); batting; pieced outside (face up).

3. Pin and quilt. An overall quilting motif that is fairly small is best. I used a square spiral on one pouch, and a pebble design on the other. Trim this piece for the outside of your pouch, using this formula:
Width: (cell phone width x 2) + 2-1/2″
Length: cell phone length + 1-3/4″
For my phone, I needed to trim my outside piece to 6-1/2″ wide by 5-1/4″ long.

4. Cut a strip of fabric 2″ long by the width of your piece. (In my case, this was a piece 2″ x 6-1/2″.) Fold it in half lengthwise, right sides out, and press. Pin it to the top edge of the outside, with raw edges aligned. Sew the strip to the outside with a 1/4″ seam.

5. Fold the binding around to the back of the outside and pin. From the front, sew right under the binding edge, catching the folded edge on the back side.

6. Fold the outside, right sides together, with the binding at the top. Pin along the raw edges, and sew a 1/4″seam.

Then zig-zag along the same raw edges. Take care and go slowly; you are sewing through many bulky layers.

7. Turn the pouch right side out.

Cut a 1″ piece of Velcro. Take one half and position it at the center of the inside back, just under the binding, and sew it down. Take the other half and position it at the center of the inside front, just under the binding, and sew it down.

8. For the loop, cut a piece 4×2″. Fold it in half lengthwise, right side out, and press. Then fold in and press each side again. This leaves the raw edges inside the strip.

Topstitch very close along both long edges.

9. Sew the strip together in a circle by folding it in half, and then making a 1/4″ seam along the short raw edge. Turn right side out. Fold the loop in half, tucking the seam at one end. Pin the loop to the top of the back of the pouch, and sew it down so that this spot is trapped in the new seam and does not show. Take care and go slowly; you are sewing through many bulky layers.

10. On the front, hand sew on a button or charm at the top. This makes it easier to pull the pouch open when you need to get out your phone.

If you add a caribeener clip to the loop, you can clip your cell phone pouch to your purse strap, belt, or to a loop inside your purse. You are done! Enjoy!