Natalie’s Baby Quilt

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve written a blog post. But I hadn’t realized just how long it’s been until I went searching for the post I wrote about William’s baby quilt. Well, William is now 4 years old and has a beautiful baby sister named Natalie, who is 4 months old. Talk about time flying by…

I wanted to make a quilt similar to William’s quilt, but I wanted it to look a little different. So to coordinate with Natalie’s nursery, I pulled pink and coral and lavender fabrics from my stash. Of course I had to add a few new fabrics, including a crazy cat print so the family’s cat Cole would be represented.

I cut 25 WOF (width of fabric) strips 2 1/4″ wide from all the fabrics. Then I cut each strip into two or three varying lengths. I made a big pile with all the strips and stirred them up. Using the basic process for making a jelly roll race quilt, I sewed the strips together in random order (note the ends of the strips were sewn straight across and not on the diagonal as William’s quilt).

I quickly ended up with a sewn rectangle about 35″ wide. Next I worked on the pieced letters for Natalie’s name. I made the name section 7″ x 35″. The letters are about 4 – 4 1/2″ tall. I followed the basic techniques in Tonya Ricucci’s book Word Play Quilts.

I cut across the rectangle about 10″ from the top and inserted Natalie’s name. Then it was time for quilting and binding.

Here’s Natalie on her new quilt. Those curls…those rosy cheeks! She’s playing with a little coordinating taggie toy I made with leftover fabrics and ribbon loops. I think she likes it 🙂

A Double Wedding Ring Quilt – “Never Say Never”

I never thought I’d make a double wedding ring quilt. I admired them, but didn’t have any interest in making one. It wasn’t the piecing that turned me off. I am an old-time garment sewer. Pinning and sewing curved seams doesn’t scare me. But in recent years I have enjoyed working improvisationally, making odd shapes of fabric work together and moving quickly without any pinning or worrying that things had to fit a certain way.  Double wedding quilts were just too fussy for me.

And I never thought I’d make a quilt with those “tacky” novelty and commercial licensed fabrics I saw in the stores. I did not like them at all. Maybe they were OK for a child’s quilt, but fabric snob that I was, I had no interest in adding them to any of my projects.

Well, never say never!

When my nephew and his partner announced their upcoming wedding, I wanted to make them a special gift. Usually when one of our nieces or nephews marry, I take vintage trims from my husband’s grandmother’s stash and sew a sweet little pillow to commemorate the special occasion. See one of my pillows in this post. But that just didn’t seem right for these two guys. I needed something more modern, but still with a nod to the traditional.

Inspired by Victoria Findlay Wolfe‘s fabulous book, Double Wedding Rings Quilts – Traditions Made Modern, I started thinking about making a large scale double wedding quilt. I wanted it to reflect the guys’ eclectic interests, so I found myself looking at those novelty fabrics in a whole new light. I found several Dr. Who fabrics (They are big fans.), as well as dragons, beer bottles, old books (my nephew is a librarian), and mustaches. I even located a print fabric of Corgi dogs from England (My nephew loved his Corgi growing up.). It was a wild mix of colors and patterns, to say the least. IMG_3761Of course despite knowing about the wedding months before the actual date, I still waited until the week before the big day to start this project. I had to move quickly, which meant I just followed my instincts and listened to the Tim Gunn in my head – “Make it Work!”. Victoria’s Retro Poly Mod pattern was the perfect design to use for this quilt. The pieces were large and would show off all the crazy prints and I only needed to make four blocks to make a 60″ square quilt. Here is the first block. To speed things along, I decided that all four blocks could be pieced in the same way. I selected the solid gray fabric to calm down all those crazy prints and colors.QuiltBlockThe top sewed together easily, and somehow the quilting angels helped me get it machined quilted quickly (Don’t look too close if you are a member of the quilt police.). And since we had a long car ride to get to the wedding, there was time to finish the hand sewing of the binding in the car.

Quit on CoachC&RThe boys were very happy with their unique wedding gift. I hope it makes them smile whenever they use it. Cheers to two guys starting out married life in a modern way.

Congratulations, Chess & Robert! Wishing you many years of happiness snuggled under that quilt.

Baby Quilt for William

Ever since I first read about jelly roll race quilts, I knew I would have to stitch one…someday. And I’ve always been interested in trying improv patchwork alphabet letters…someday. So when my niece had a baby boy, I decided that someday was now. I would combine a quick jelly roll race quilt with personalized patched letters to make William a baby quilt.


I pulled together a bunch of precut strips, as well as solids and prints from my stash, in a happy orange, yellow, turquoise, and green color scheme. I cut the stash pieces into 2 1/2″ strips to match the width of the precut strips. Since I was making a baby quilt and wanted the fabric colors and prints to change fairly frequently, I cut my strips 18″ – 21″ long. (Traditionally jelly roll race quilts are made with strips cut across the entire width of the fabric yardage – about 40 – 42″.) I stitched them together on the diagonal into one long strip and then proceeded to sew them together in the standard way a jelly roll quilt is made. I ended up with a fairly square patched quilt top, and then cut it straight crosswise, about one quarter of the way down from the top.

Quilt top cut crosswise and ready for the name strip.

Quilt top cut crosswise and ready for the name strip.

Next I stitched the improv letters. So much fun. I chose to make them all in bright orange fabrics that would “pop” against the turquoise background fabric. I wanted tummy time to be interesting for William. Who knows, maybe one day his quilt will help him spell his name!


I stitched the William strip between the two patched sections, and I was ready to layer the quilt and finish the quilting and binding.

William celebrating his three month birthday on his quilt.

William celebrating his three month birthday on his quilt.

Looks like William is happy with his quilt. It sure was a fun, quick project for his great-Aunt.

March Madness Duke Basketball Quilt

Back in the summer, when our daughter and son-in-law announced they were expecting their first child in late February, we teased them about the timing of the big event. They are both Duke grads and huge college basketball fans. What’s a better time to be home on maternity leave than during March Madness?!

Here's Ollie, born 2/28/15, just in time for March Madness! One week old and sporting his Duke Blue Devils hat.

Here’s Ollie, born 2/28/15, just in time for March Madness!

In anticipation of Ollie’s arrival, I designed a March Madness basketball quilt. My inspiration was the layout of Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium and the project became a lot easier to envision when I discovered that Robert Kaufman makes a basketball court fabric panel. Perfect for the center of the quilt.

I studied the stadium layout and used the seating arrangement for the patchwork pattern around center court. (Originally I thought I could follow the entire layout, but quickly realized I would end up with a king size quilt…a bit too large for a baby quilt.)

As for the color palette of the quilt, of course I would be using lots of Duke blue and white, including a Duke Blue Devils logo print. But I needed to add something else. The discovery of a basketball print led me to include several orange fabrics. Orange dimple dot minky (which looks a little like the textured surface of a basketball) was a natural choice for a soft, cuddly backing fabric.

Here is our little Cameron Crazy grandson on his quilt. He’s just one week old in this picture so I’d say he is definitely one of Duke’s youngest fans.

Ollie's first game day...trying out his Duke basketball quilt for the first time.

Ollie’s first game day…trying out his Duke basketball quilt.

After that picture was taken, I decided the finishing touch on the quilt needed to be an embroidered “Baby K Court” on two sides. (Their last name is Kelley.) I positioned the stitching strategically to mimic the “Coach K Court” wording on the court at Cameron.

20150320 206Let the Madness begin, Little Ollie. Go Blue Devils!

Tips for Making Baby Headbands

It’s hard to believe our granddaughter is 6 months old. She is growing so fast…including her head, which means that she has outgrown all her cute baby headbands. Last week I decided to take a day, pull out my stash of ribbons and buttons and embellishments, and make her a wardrobe of headbands. I created a total of 14 different styles – two weeks of stylin’ baby accessories.

Here she is ready to watch basketball, wearing her College Game Day bow!

Ready for College Game Day - Go Nova!

Ready for College Game Day – Go Nova!

And here are the 13 other headbands:

The Many Faces of Claire - and her Headbands!

The Many Faces of Claire – and her Headbands!

There is so much info online on how to make elastic baby headbands that I do not think I need to write a tutorial. But, I do have a few tips to make them fit a growing head a little longer.

Th 5/8″ fold-over elastic by Dritz is great for these types of headbands. It’s soft, easy to work with, and comes in lots of different colors and patterns. Most tutorials suggest taking a length of elastic, placing the ends right sides together, and sewing them together to make a seam. I find that a little bulky so I simply overlap the cut ends.

I start with a length of elastic cut to the size of baby’s head plus 1/2″. There are “standard” head sizes but our girl is off the charts (So smart, she is…gonna be brilliant in school!). I want to make sure the headbands will be big enough now and adjustable to last for awhile.

I overlap the ends 1/4″. Using a doubled thread in the needle, I hand slip-stitch one cut end in place.

Overlap the cut ends and stitch them together.

Then I sew the finished edges together along one side, sew back down the other cut end and across the opposite finished edges.Step2I take small stitches and make sure the ends are securely knotted. The desired bow or embellishment is sewn or glued to the outside of the headband, over the overlapped seam.

To make the headband adjustable to a growing head, I form a 1/2″ pleat by folding the elastic back on itself and securing it with a few small stitches. These stitches can then be removed when the headband gets a little snug. (I like to use contrasting thread so it is easy to see what stitches need to be snipped.)


When using crochet lace elastic trim such as the type I used for Claire’s College Game Day bow, I do sew a regular seam on the machine. But, I can still fold and hand stitch a little tuck to the inside of the headband to make it adjustable for a growing head. A large bow or embellishment will cover up the stitching.

Hopefully this group of headbands can be worn for several months. I have a feeling I will be making lots more. They are so quick and easy to make, and it’s so much fun to see her wearing them. A girl just cannot have too many accessories!

Let’s Go! Baby Projects to Sew

Our first grandchild is almost six months old and another grandchild is on the way any day now. So needless to say, I’ve been inspired to design baby quilts and baby projects to sew.

CanopyOpen&QuiltHere’s a peak at a car seat tent and tagged quilt that I just designed for the winter issue of Modern Quilts Unlimited magazine.

CanopyWindowOpenThe tent (or some folks call it a canopy) features a peak-a-boo window that can be closed for warmth and protection or can be opened to check on baby and provide ventilation. To keep it from getting too heavy, no batting is used. The tent is simply backed with flannel and lightly quilted.

Betsy&QuiltThe coordinating tagged quilt ties onto the car seat handles to keep it in place for the ride. Ribbon loops along all the edges are a fun and entertaining touch for a busy baby. And once you get to your destination the quilt can be used as a play mat. (MQU Editor Carol Zentgraf’s granddaughter, Betsy, gave both projects her approval!)

I fell in love with these fabrics from the “On Our Way” collection by Riley Blake. They are colorful, fun, gender-neutral and perfect for these projects. I was so excited to discover they had both flannels and quilting cottons in the group.

Winter15CoverCheck out the Winter 2015 issue of Modern Quilts Unlimited, pages 38-45 for all the details and complete instructions.

Lisa Call’s Abstraction Class

After considering taking an online art class with Lisa Call for over a year, I finally made the commitment and joined her fall 2014 Abstraction class. I had heard many good things about Lisa’s classes and was anxious to study with her. I am not sure exactly what guided me to take a class in abstract art. Frankly, many types of abstract art do not appeal to me. However, I was looking to find a way to discover more about myself and to learn how to express ideas in my own unique way.

Taking Lisa’s Abstraction class was a real eye-opener for me. I learned about Abstraction art and the various art movements and studied the works of the influential artists of those “isms”. I practiced basic design principles in relationship to the studies done for the class assignments and I discovered how to critique my own work by taking the time to really look at it and write down by thoughts. But most importantly I learned more about myself – what kind of work I like to do, how to take inspirations and translate them into finished work, how to quiet the critic within, my preferred methods of working, and the whispers of a “voice” that will guide me forward.

Initially I worried I would not have enough time to devote to the class work. (“Maybe I should take the class at a later time….This is such a busy time in my life….Can I handle the assignments?….etc.) But I was drawn to sign up and I am so glad I did. There are always excuses to not do something but I realize that taking this class was important to me as I work to find meaning and direction by creating with the skills and techniques I have honed over the years.

Lisa is a very positive, sharing teacher who continually encourages her students to explore and grow. I like how the class was structured with weekly e-mails, assignments, recorded lectures, group and individual calls. It was very interesting to see how each individual approached the assignments and found their way. Because Lisa’s class was online and was 10 weeks long, I felt that I learned more than I would have if I had taken an in-person workshop or retreat. There was time to digest the material and the challenges kept me moving forward and engaged. The group and individual calls provided the personal attention and gave several opportunities to ask questions or request specific feedback.

Here are photos of my completed assignments. It is very interesting to me how my work changed and how much more comfortable I became as I worked through each challenge.

Abstraction Class assignments

Abstraction Class assignments

Now that I have completed the class, I find myself with a new direction that I want to focus on and explore in my work. I am excited to have found a technique that excites me and am anxious to see where “action stitching” may lead.



My Ribbon Skirt is Featured in Stitch Magazine

Hot off the presses! Check out page 47 of the winter 2014 issue of Stitch Magazine. That’s my ribbon skirt – created with rows and rows of beautiful Renaissance Ribbons, including my favorites from Parson Gray, plus coordinating laces and other trims.

RibbonSkirtPageI sewed all the ribbons and trims onto a base of Parson Gray’s fabric from FreeSpirit. The skirt is fairly simple to make…just one pattern piece for the yoke and five rectangles for the slightly gathered tiers.

Winter 2014 issue of Stitch Magazine

Winter 2014 issue of Stitch Magazine

You can order a copy of the magazine here. Or, look for it on the newsstand or at your favorite sewing or quilting store.

Now you have an idea of what to do with all those precious ribbons and trims you’ve been collecting. Sew them together and make a skirt. Wouldn’t this be cute in a child’s size with lots of bright and colorful ribbons? Think I need to work on that idea!

How to Sew a Yoga Mat Bag from Precut Strips, Fat Quarters and Ribbons

Bargello Yoga Mat Bag

Bargello Yoga Mat Bag

This Bargello Yoga Mat Bag is one of my favorite designs from Precut Patchwork Party. It’s a fun way to use a roll of coordinating precut fabric strips. Two lengths of ribbon form the straps and two fat quarters make the lining. Sew a little gift for a friend…..or for yourself!

Materials Needed to Make Yoga Mat Bag

Materials Needed to Make Yoga Mat Bag


T-Shirt “Quilt” Tutorial

A few years ago I made a quick and easy T-shirt quilt for my daughter Emily, and I recently made a coordinating one for her hubbie, David. It’s was a great way to use T-shirts that were full of memories and just too special to toss. (It also got rid of that box of old T-shirts sitting in a crowded corner of their apartment.)

David's T-Shirt "Quilt"

David’s T-Shirt “Quilt”

By definition, a quilt is made up of 3 layers – top, batting, and backing. I hesitate to call this a quilt since it does not have a batting middle layer. The top is the patchwork of T-shirts and the backing is polar fleece. I didn’t feel the need to add any batting. So if you are a member of the quilt police, you an call it a throw or a blanket or a “quilt” (with quotes).

I began by separating the T-shirts into four groups, based upon the width of the printed images I wanted to use. Then I cut off the sleeves and a sliver off the sides and the neck openings to rough cut each shirt into a square or rectangle. I divided the pieces into four groups that would become the four vertical columns of my finished quilt. I determined that the finished columns would be 16″, 11″, 14″, and 12″ wide so as to use as much of the printed T-shirts as possible. I calculated how long each finished rectangle would have to be to end up with four columns about the same length. I moved a few pieces around until the measurements worked. To the width and length measurements of each square or rectangle I added about 2″ extra for trimming and seam allowances.

Organizing T-shirts and rough cutting them into rectangles.

Organizing T-shirts and rough cutting them into rectangles.

T-shirts are made from knit fabrics, and knits can stretch and be tricky to sew. Fusible knit interfacing (Pellon Easy Knit) is a great stabilizer that makes knits easy to control. It comes in white and black. (Use white on white and light colors. Use black on black and dark colors.) Cut squares or rectangles for each rough cut T-shirt piece. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to fuse the interfacing to the back of each piece. Be careful that the hot iron does not touch the printing. Sometimes the inks will smear. Trim the squares and rectangles to the desired finished size, allowing for 1/2″ seam allowances on all sides. Line up all the pieces in each of the four columns and double check your calculations to make sure the columns will be the same length (Gotta love my old school calculator and paper and pencil…so high tech!). Then sew the pieces together in each column to make four long pieces. Press the horizontal seam allowances open. Sew the four columns together and press the horizontal seam allowances open.

Iron on fusible knit interfacing. Trim each rectangle to the exact size needed. Double check to make sure the 4 columns will end up the same length. Sew the rectangles in each column together and press seams open.

Iron on fusible knit interfacing. Trim each rectangle to the exact size needed. Double check to make sure the 4 columns will end up the same length. Sew the rectangles in each column together and press the horizontal seam allowances open. Sew the four columns together and press the vertical seam allowances open.

Use polar fleece yardage for the “quilt” backing. It should be 3″ or more wider and longer than the finished dimensions of the patched T-shirts. Lay the fleece right side down on the floor or a large table. Center the wrong side of the patchwork front against the fleece. Smooth and pin to hold. With thread that matches the color of the fleece, machine stitch down the vertical row seams (stitch-in-the-ditch). Stop and start the stitching at the edge of the front, back stitching a few stitches to hold at each end. Start with one of the seams at the center of the “quilt” and work out to each side Stitch the outer edges of the front 1/4″ from the cut edges. In the same way, sew across the horizontal seams of the quilt, starting in the center of the “quilt” and backtracking and over-stitching as necessary where the squares and rectangles do not align straight across. Stitch the outer horizontal edges to the backing 1/4″ from the cut edges.

Lay out fleece backing. Center patched T-shirts on top of fleece and pin. Stitch-in-the-ditch to quilt along the vertical and horizontal seams.

Lay out fleece backing. Center patched T-shirts on top of fleece and pin. Stitch-in-the-ditch to quilt along the vertical and horizontal patchwork seams.

The “quilt” is now ready to be bound and rather than apply a separate binding fabric, I brought the extra fleece to the front to cover the raw edges of the T-shirts. Use a ruler and rotary cutter to trim the excess fleece 1 1/4″ beyond the edge of the T-shirt edges. To finish the edges, fold the excess fleece to the front of the the “quilt”. Begin by folding one corner down and securing with a drop of glue 1/4′ from the cut edge. (Elmer’s School Glue works great and it washes out when the quilt is laundered.) Fold down the excess fleece along one edge and glue, taking care to keep the glue about 1/4″ from the edge. Use a few pins to hold the fleece in place until the glue dries. Fold down the excess fleece along the adjoining edge and glue. Continue to glue the remaining corners and edges.

Trimming fleece and folding the edge to the front of the "quilt" to create the "binding".

Trimming excess fleece and folding the edge to the front of the “quilt” to create the “binding”.

A neat miter will be formed at each corner. Use a few pins to keep the folds in place. Sew the fleece binding to the “quilt” by machine stitching 1/2″ from the folded edge. With small sharp scissors, trim the excess fleece close to the stitching line. Zig-zag stitch over the trimmed edge to neatly cover the straight stitching and finish the cut edge of the fleece.

Pin mitered edges at corners. Machine stitch 1/2" from the folded edge of the fleece. Trim excess fleece close to stitching. Zig-zag stitch over the raw edge of the fleece to neatly finish the binding.

Pin mitered edges at corners. Machine stitch 1/2″ from the folded edge of the fleece. Trim excess fleece close to stitching. Zig-zag stitch over the raw edge of the fleece to neatly finish the binding.

I used 30 T-shirts (backs & fronts) to make this “quilt”. You may need more or less, depending upon the size of the T-shirts and the dimensions of the printed areas.

I think you will find the finished “quilt” nice and heavy and warm and won’t be missing that extra layer of batting that would make it an official quilt.