One off, One on

Have you ever noticed that when your only goal is to complete a project everything goes wrong?

Your machine acts up. The threads skip. Lines aren’t straight. You get ripples. The backing puckers, or edges get folded into your stitching.

Connections had to come off the spreadsheet to make room for Amazon Star.

Amazon Star has been nicely tucked into 10 little bags. cutting

There is also a bag of scraps (just in case I make a mistake). Whatever is left at the end of the project may be used for a pieced back, or may find its way into my scrap supply. Small scraps have already been made into pre-cuts, and anything smaller than 1″ (ridiculous, I know!) is in a bag, just in case I ever want to do anything with fabric confetti. If I get into spring cleaning mode, it just may end up being donated for doggie bed stuffing.

Connections, on the other hand, has been on the spreadsheet since a quilting cruise in the fall of 2016. It was in the quilting que – with 11 projects ahead of it. Working through them one-by-one was suppose to improve my quilting skills. At least that is what I had hoped. This piece was small and should not have been a problem.

DIY construction

Pattern ‘Connected’ by Carol Moellers

But it was. I will not bore you with details. Lets just say it had to do with my piecing of triangles and my straight line quilting which was not very straight. But its done, and turned out not too bad, considering. I am calling it DIY Construction.

With one added to the list, and one coming off the list, it was on to the next step of the Circle Game. The borders are prepped and ready for applique. borders

They will be coming on holidays with me, moving the hours spent in airports or on planes from tolerable to enjoyable.



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QOTB Virtual Trunk Show

Over 100 ladies of our local guild braved cold temperatures in the -30C range to see my Quilting on the Beach Trunk Show. It was such an honour to present these finished pieces to them, and now to you.

For this virtual trunk show, I thought a background of snow might be good for contrast. If nothing else, it sure reminded me of why quilting on the beach in February was a good idea! Actually doing an outdoor photo shoot in January is rather challenging. Maybe I will tell you more about that later.

One week of classes, one year of quilting. Here are the results. The classes were all described in detail last year, so I will simply link to those posts in case you want to read more about them.

Leaf Design  – My Manitoba Maple almost didn’t happen. I had to start back at square one as it had to be simplified and enlarged. This is my first start and finish of 2019. I’m glad I didn’t give up. It’s the only leaf of its kind in this forest; definitely an original. qotb6

Seminole Piecing – One pillowcase finished, gave up on the second one. I will keep the book that came in our kit and may (?) attempt this again sometime in the future. qotb&

Hawaiian Applique – I finished my original piece and then decided to try my hand at designing a similar block. Came up with “The Mighty Oak”, thinking it could be the center block of a large quilt. Not happening anytime soon…


Ginger pattern by Barbara Bieraugel

The Mighty Oak

Indigo Dyeing – Maybe it’s a good thing we have winter and this can’t be a year-around activity. I could go on experimenting forever. Knowing what to do with all of the dyed fabric is another thing. Here are a few of the things I made. It also makes wonderful ‘sky’ fabric on landscapes, and you may recognize it from my Advent piece.


Quilt with blocks from class


Mini Indigo (thanks Alysse!)

And then, fabric that was going to be a pillow became a bag…

Shop Hop:

There is something wrong with this 2018 Big Island Shop Hop Stained Glass panel. Its that a snowscape and ocean scene don’t go together. Well actually, its that I got the pattern reversed (but I’m okay with that). qotb2

The next one is a very simple piece that I consider part of my QOTB collection because I bought the fabric there and the colours just seem so happy and tropical. qotb4

This last piece is called Dance of the Dragonfly, a pattern I bought because Dear Hubby liked it. He continues to be such a good sport in supporting my hobby (obsession?) that I just had to make it for him. It is now my favorite piece as well. qotb1

A Winter Photo Shoot

It took the better part of a week to actually get all of these pictures. It went something like this…

…Wait days for it to ‘warm’ up (-20 sounded good). Then I grabbed several quilts and walked down a path looking for some good props. I managed to get one picture before my phone froze.

…The next day was cloudy with snow on the way. Oh, and a little windy. My quilts did not want to stay put. However, I found that putting the phone next to the skin (isn’t that what a bra is for?) kept it warm enough. My fingers weren’t.

…Another day the weather conditions were as perfect as they could get but I had another obligation that lasted until 4:00. By the time I got to the park, the sun was setting and there wasn’t enough light. Whether it was temperatures, wind, lighting or snow, things just changed too fast and the conditions were never optimum.

…By now I was determined to get it done. I found locations close to the car so that I could keep the car running. That way I could return to the car between each picture to change the contraption of pins/elastics on the quilts, and warm my hands. Took awhile but I finally figured out how to work faster and smarter.

That’s it for my QOTB 2018 experience. Next week is QOTB 2019. Thinking of you and wishing you another successful year!

Posted in 2018, fabric dyeing, mini-quilts, travels, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Blue Monday

They said today was Blue Monday. The most depressing day of the year.

They said to avoid the blues, do something you enjoy. I listened.

I have been chomping at the bit to start a new quilt. This one by Judy Niemeyer… jn pattern

I was thrilled to score the pattern last June at our Guild’s Member’s Garage Sale but I resisted buying fabric, knowing that if I had it, I would start the quilt. “No, no, no,” I said to myself. Finish the Quilting On The Beach (QOTB) projects first, finish piecing the Circle Game blocks, finish some old projects, start new ones that have due dates.

Some of you know that my QOTB projects ended with a trunk show last Thursday. Should I not treat myself with something new? Saturday, I bought the fabric. 17 fabrics, 20 meters just for the quilt top. Gulp. jn fabric

It was my first attempt at using Joen Wolfrom’s 3-in-1 Color Tool, and I went with this yellow-orange split complementary colour scheme. jn color wheel

Still, I told myself that I couldn’t start until we get back from holidays. But the announcers convinced me to do something I love – cutting fabric, following the puzzle of instructions (28 pages!) and picturing the final product months (years?) before it is done. jn cutting

Another first – I received coloring pencils for Christmas and decided to use them with this project since they were kind enough to include a colour chart in the kit. So far, it’s telling me that I might want to change up some of the colour placement. jn chart

After almost 12 hours of cutting, I have a big mess, I’m only about half done, and I feel stiff. Pretty good workout in more ways than one. I avoided feeling blue by playing with fabric.

For those waiting for recipes from Ken’s Kitchen, here are the first ones of 2019.

Hope you did something enjoyable today!

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FMQ Skill Builder

If you are anything like me, you want to improve your free motion quilting skills without experimenting on a large quilt that you have spent a lot of time and money on. I have done that, and regretted it – everything great until the end, and then embarrassed to the point it becomes little more than a dog bed.

The advise often given to improve FMQ is to practice on sandwich blanks. I did some of that, but it always felt aimless. I would stitch the same familiar patterns; ones I was already pretty good at. It also lacked real quilt problems – where you have to negotiate tight corners or small spaces, where you get distortions because of thread build-up and where you have to think through the order in which you do your stitching.

If you want to practice your FMQ skills and have something to show for it in the end, here is a great way to do it:

Pick a panel you like. Landscapes are good, as they will have fewer starts and stops. Also, darker landscapes will be more forgiving than lighter ones. Here is one I bought to make up as a Christmas gift. I will post both the before quilting… moose before

… and the end result.  Hopefully you can see the difference. moose final

The first thing to do is to pick a focal point and stitch around it to outline it (in my case, the moose). The focal point will be quilted the least, as it will puff out (and therefore appear closer) when the areas around it are densely quilted.

Tackle your project, following these general principals:

  1. Start in the middle (distant shore) and work out as much as possible (trees, upper right; trees, upper left; water and grasses, lower right; water and grasses, lower left).
  2. The key to achieving a 3-D effect is the density of stitching. Whatever you want to appear closer (moose, logs, bigger trees, rocks) should have less stitching. The dense stitching around those area will make them stand out. However, overall you will need to have the stitching balanced so you may need to make some things up as you go, or add general filler stitches in certain areas. I had to do that in the upper center area. moose background
  3. Work your colours in groups, and try to pick at least 3 of each – a light, medium and dark (especially the greens). You can get away with less if you use variegated threads, but you may be challenged by them as well. They have a tendency to stitch dark threads when you want light, or light when you want dark. Use shiny threads sparingly. moose2
  4. As quilters we often want to make everything perfect and symmetrical. But nature is not perfect or symmetrical.  Variety is a good thing. Vary your stitches. Don’t outline everything. Don’t highlight all the grass, or all the leaves, or all the branches.
  5. Make 3 overall passes.
    • For the first one, stitch an outline (or a partial outline) around the larger items. I started with the distant shoreline, then moved on to the moose, the tree trunks and logs in the foreground. For this step I used only black thread and was able to do all of it without changing thread colour.
    • In the second pass you will add most of the detail. It will be the most work, and will have the most number of thread changes. You will work all areas simultaneously but always background to foreground, dark thread to light thread. Darker threads are more forgiving, and backgrounds have fewer details, which gives you a chance to practice before you get to the front where the stitching will be more obvious. The foreground will be more detailed and lighter in colour but even there, I started with the darker colours – green grasses, rust leaves, purple water – before moving on to lighter golds. moose grass
    • In the final pass, add highlights and finishing touches. Your highlights will be minimal, light in colour and if you like shiny threads, this is the time to use them. moose1Also, in this pass, look for areas that sag and simply add some stitching. In my case, I had to stitch some fur on the moose, some tree trunks in the background, and lines in the water. moose detail
  6. If you don’t like something, keep going. More stitching usually looks better than not enough. Also, with dense stitching you can ‘eliminate’ a stray stitch without it affecting the integrity of your project.
  7. Save the most challenging sections for last. You will gain confidence as you go.
  8. You are done when the stitching is balanced and you can’t think of anything more to do that would add to the picture.

So, what will you do with your project? The obvious is a wall hanging but there are many other options. Your panel may be appropriate for a baby blanket or a lap quilt. Add borders to ‘frame’ it, or make it into a quilt using your favorite QAYG method. Finally, you could fold it in half, sew three sides, and face one edge for a quilted pillowcase.

In any case, keep stitching! It’s all forward progress.

Posted in Skill Builders, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Looking Back, Moving Forward

One week of Quilting on the Beach (QOTB) in Kailua-Kona Hawaii last February hi-jacked my plans and kept me stitching for a whole year. I am not complaining. It was fun and I learned a lot. During the process, I could re-live the memories and think about the places we visited and the people we met along the way.

New Year’s Day saw me working on the last piece prior to my big reveal. Here it is, partially complete. leaf 2019

I will be doing a QOTB Trunk Show at Manitoba Prairie Quilter’s January meeting (Jan 17th). Come if you can, or watch for an E version on a post shortly after.

When I wasn’t working on QOTB projects during 2018, I was more than likely playing the Circle Game. All 16 blocks were hand stitched and enhanced with some big stitch embroidery. They are back up on the design wall – A gentle reminder to keep going even when the end doesn’t seem anywhere in sight. circles

There is still a long way to go. Four borders, appliqued scallops and hand quilting. Sorry about the quality of the photo. A better one will be posted at some point in the future.

In 2018 my blog had almost 20,000 views and 6300 visitors. Most of the time I do not look at the stats. My blog does not cost anything, and I don’t make any money from it.  I do not want to be controlled by the potential for profit and try not to get carried away by stats, but at the end of a year it helps to give me the bigger picture. My posts on Ruler Guided Quilting for 2017 continue to be popular, with Block 5 being viewed most often. block5

I find that interesting as it would not be my favorite. It’s a tough call but I think my favorite would be Block 6 block6

Or even Block 4 block4

That was my beginner series of Ruler-Guided Quilting. This year I want to do more. Come along and give it a try! To get you started, in the next couple weeks I will post a Free Motion Skill builder exercise. You do not have to be good at FMQ to use rulers – in fact, rulers can help make your FMQ better – but you do have to  be comfortable with it so its a good starting point.

Next up is Designing with Rulers. You may have purchased some but are you unsure of what to do with them or what to stitch?  You can watch U-Tube videos, but why not come up with your own designs. I will be teaching a class at the Crocus Conference hosted by the Manitoba Prairie Quilters at the end of April. Join us if you can.

After that, I hope to come up with more complex designs that combine different ruler shapes, or combine FMQ with Ruler-Guided Quilting. Did I mention that there are also about a dozen quilts on my ‘to do’ wish list for 2019? Stay tuned. We will have a lot of fun and we have a lot to accomplish!

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Advent Revealed

If you had asked me to make an art quilt for Advent, it would never have looked like this. advent

Improv provides mystery. It is unpredictable. And special.

Details of the overall design and symbols for the first two weeks of Advent were discussed in my previous post. Then I became worried. There was space for two large elements, one border, a few small spots and filler stitches for all four candles. It was the large spaces in particular that had me worried. Would there be anything to put in them?

In the last song of the third week I had my answer. “…Into the desert and into the night I’m going to send my sweet pure light…”. I already had light going into what looked like night. All I was missing was the desert.advent desert

Then I sat on pins and needles waiting for the 4th Sunday of Advent in order to complete the 4th circle.

Other things started to go wrong, or so I thought. “Born a child, and yet a king” required something kingly and all I could think of was a crown. It would have to be near the center and would have to be in all four quadrants. Once stitched, I hated it. There was no choice but to keep going. I was just glad I had stitched it purple so that it faded into the background. A crown has to have gems, so this one received circle diamonds. advent crown

The concept of ‘come’ is an interesting one that I have contemplated for several years. The only symbol I could think of was that of open arms. Once again, it had to be connected to the center candle, going out in all directions. The call is all inclusive to the weary, hungry, joyful, broken, those with faith and those without. You may have thought it was a star but there is no star in Advent and the fact that it looks like a star was unexpected.

Another surprise occurred with the hearts. I contemplated adding hearts in the first week when I read the words “bind in one the hearts of humankind”  but considered it too common of a symbol. Then in the third week it came up again as “The Lord looks on the heart…” I added hearts on all four sides, between the candles, in essence connecting the glow of one week to the next. Then it occurred to me that the spaces where the candle rings overlapped (containing the words come, cry, watch, and wait), and later used for the flames of refining fire now looked like eyes. Could I be reading too much into this? Sure. But there are no rules here. advent hearts

So do you want to know what is in the center of the fourth candle? It wasn’t easy. This is what I had to work with “…(I was) dried up river…burned out forest …You brought the spring time green of new life…”. Somehow it went with the ‘…broken in so many ways…’ that I had put into the border of this candle in week one and the love theme. advent forest

The filler stitches were added at the end. Candles 1 and 3 received a meandering stitch representing storm clouds in week one, and ‘untie the cords’ in week three. A spiral stitch was used for weeks 2 and 4 – first to repent, turn around, and then as water.

This simple 25 square inch quilt contains the essence of the Advent story.

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Advent, Part 1

After two weeks of Advent, here is a sneak peak of my Inspirational Improv piece so far…


It started with a piece of Indigo fabric dyed in the summer, with Advent in mind. The circles representing the candles were hand stitched and gathered prior to dyeing. advent7

Three of the candles were stitched purple and one was stitched pink. These are the traditional Advent candle colours representing hope, peace, joy and love. The center Christ candle is white, representing the light of the world. The white reference lines are chalk. I had to dye the fabric with full circles, but wanted the candles to have an incomplete feel, like the continuation of time.

Once my structure was in place, I started to add the elements according to readings and songs. Some are more specific, and other are over arching. The ‘Light’ extends to the four corners;  the Branch of David is stitched around the entire piece, without end; and, Peace, joy, hope and love were stitched into the borders of the candles for each specific weekadvent5

We ‘Come, Cry, Watch, Wait’ was stitched into the intersecting circles of the 4 weeks. Later, the same space became the flame for “refiner’s fire” and was stitched yellow.advent6

“I am broken in so many ways” ended up as a border under the candle for Love. Appropriate, don’t you think? advent2

The tree, a symbol of new life and hope ended up front and center in the first week of Advent. advent9

You will see in the border under the tree stitching to ‘light a path through darkest night’.

The stitching for ‘We are like grass fading in the wind’ in the second week of Advent leaves a lot to be desired (now you really know that I cannot draw!)adventa

However, I LOVED the “… high made low, the low not so, the crooked straight, the straight not so’. That was an easy one. advent3

Now may be the time for a disclaimer. The fabric didn’t dye a perfect blue. My stitches aren’t evenly spaced. The circles aren’t perfect. For that matter, it is not a perfect representation of anything – history, theology, colours or shapes. However, it is an interpretation and the process is definitely worthwhile.

I will post the end result after Christmas. In the meantime, I hope that you will have a great holiday, and that you are able to share special time with special people.



Posted in 2018, Inspirational, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Pumpkin Crumb Cake

Ken’s Kitchen grew 5 pumpkins this year. On December 1st, I declared that fall was officially over and he needed to do something with the final pumpkin. He roasted the pumpkin, pureed it and made this pumpkin crumb cake.

I thought it was one of the best yet. Others agreed. There were so many requests for me to share the recipe, that this post will be short and sweet – giving you only that.

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Inspirational Improv

I love everything Christmas! Decorating. Buying gifts. Baking. Family. Santa. And yes, the Biblical Christmas story.

We did not celebrate Advent when I was a child. My first exposure came when I was an adult and they started to light different coloured candles during the Sunday services. I did not know what they meant, but it was a nice tradition to add to our growing list. Now, Advent calendars are popular. One more way to convince parents to buy not just 1 gift but 24 additional gifts!

Really, Advent is about slowing down. It is reflection. It is stillness. It is anticipation. It is about taking time away from the busyness of life to reflect on the real reason for this season.

For me, this is hard. I will keep going, keep sewing, until the days are all gone. I do not seem to have the ability to put my mind into neutral and I can’t seem to concentrate on anything unless I add fabric and thread.

That’s where Inspirational Improv comes in. So far, I have only done this on paper. It was great – you can erase your work or change your mind as you go.

But this year I want to go one step further. A little more risk. I want to work with fabric and stitch my designs every day. They will be permanent once made.

Here is how it works:

  1. Pick a topic that you would like to study and document in art form. Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, so this is a perfect starting point for those who celebrate Advent. But it could also be Hanukkah, a family prayer flag, a historical event, or another topic that you are passionate about. Ideally, you want something with a definite start and end point. Make it manageable.
  2. Meditate on your selected readings and/or songs every day. I will follow the menu from the Sunday Services at Saint Benedict’s Table. If I was making a family prayer flag, I would meditate on one person each day. If I was doing a historical event, I would restrict my meditations to chapters in a book, specific characters, or years in a timeline.
  3. On the first day, decide on your size and overall structure. It doesn’t have to be big. The first time I tried this was Lent. I used a small sheet of paper and drew a path. It ended up being a path that went through the wilderness. This time it will be about the size of flip chart paper and the 5 candles will form the structure.
  4. With each meditation, determine what kind of object(s) to add to your picture that reflects your reading and/or thoughts that day. You do not have to be an artist to do this (I can’t draw a simple chair!). Use whatever ability you have at your disposal. It may be colour, shapes, words, or shading. In my case, it may be different types of stitching or a combination of everything mentioned. I usually restrict it to one object per day (although I may repeat the object) and I do not remove it once that day has passed.
  5. Continue adding objects and filling the spots in your ‘picture’ every day. Since you do not know what you will be adding in the future days, there is a sense of mystery. You have no idea what is coming and what it will look like in the end. Just know that you will be amazed. Remember too, that this is very personal. It is your project and it will have meaning to you alone. It does not need to ‘turn out’ and you don’t have to show it to anyone else. Having said that, I may share my progress with you in the coming weeks but only if I am feeling brave.
  6. Document your symbols and the source of inspiration. The more abstract, the more important this is. Ha!

I hope you will consider doing this with pencil and paper if nothing else. It will stretch your creative process, help you interact with the material, and help you remember details you would otherwise forget.


Posted in 2018, Inspirational, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Making Peace with the Moon

My first quilt of 2018 was a challenge quilt due in March. The challenge was to make a Christmas wall quilt which included a piece of white frosted fabric, and a button.

When I came across the Peace Moon pattern by Laurel Burch, I knew it was the one I wanted to make. In fact, I just had to make two (again!). It’s too hard to make something you love and then give it away!

Wouldn’t you know it? The gradated fabric I challenged myself to use in 2018 fit in perfectly with this pattern. Laurel Burch was ahead of the times. gradients

Sewing the quilt together was so simple it hardly qualified as piecing. Raw edge applique also is little more than tracing, cutting and ironing. So far, so good. peace1

Then it was time to pull out the paints and pens, as instructed in the pattern. peace7 Now it gets risky. I played it safe by starting with the holly leaves… then the flowers. I found out that:

  • Sharpies might be permanent, but they bleed;
  • dark fabric pens work well, but light ones don’t;
  • paint doesn’t work as well on fabric as it does on paper or wood. It is difficult to shade, and often the colour looks grey once it has been applied.

I am a minimalist and I can’t draw. So this really goes against the grain. I would quit, but something had to be done with those birds! After some penwork and some paint, this project hit rock bottom. It looked primitive, amateurish.  I had to walk away.

A break always helps give new perspective, new ideas. The lines were too short, too few. I had to make more, and make them bolder. Laurel had a lot more detail in her picture including hundreds of little white dots. There really are times when more is more. As for me, I decided to stop with the pens and paint while I was still ahead. peace8

It was finally time for some stitching. Things could still go south…

And they did. The post so far was a draft written in January. I finished the quilting on one and was hand stitching the binding when…

I spilled coffee on it.

My white moon was no longer white. The permanent fabric markers bled. The Heat and Bond lifted.

Good thing I had two underway. It was a scramble to finish one (with stitching in place of markers!) in time to be auctioned off at our local quilt show. The other was put away -out of sight, but not out of mind. Could it still be rescued?

This week I decided to find out. Some free motion quilting where marker lines used to be, satin stitching in places the Heat and Bond had lifted – and more for extra insurance, a little hand embroidery, and jewels just because I wanted to give it a little extra love. peace9

It looks a little weathered and worn, but then again, it has been through a lot. Hot water baths… bleach… and every other solution people have suggested.  Plus a whole lot more stitching. Reminds me of life. It has a story, and I think I will keep it.

This week I also finished several Quilting On The Beach (QOTB) projects and started on Christmas gifts. Of course I can’t show you any of these but watch for the electronic QOTB Trunk Show in January!

Finally, here are some recipes from Ken’s Kitchen:

Until next time, keep creating and keep on stitching!

Posted in 2018, art, gradients, recipes, Uncategorized | 6 Comments