Rainbow Garden Block

Last Saturday we worked on our fourth block in the Rainbow Garden Series. It was a lovely peach flower, but the best part of the class was the show and tell…..

Class participants brought their previous blocks, now decked out with terrific hand stitches, bright threads, and brilliant beads.

They all look so different!



Here are a few more…


It’s always fun to see everyone’s homework. There are so many possibilities with stitches, threads and embellishments, it is so interesting to see the variations.

This month our block is a large blossom with two little buds.             After tracing the pattern onto freezer paper – we laid it out on the following wool pieces:

IMG_1285[1]Then we cut everything out and arranged it on the design wall:


This will be a fun one to add stitches to. Some french knots and beads in the center, tufted stitches on the petals and some bright additions to the buds.

For those of you that are doing this project at home, I would like to invite you to send pictures of your work. We would love to see what you are doing, I will post them on this blog.

I know it can be hard to stay caught up during summer. Kids are home from school,  gardens need attention and the lakes are beckoning,  but this is a year long block of the month… you will have time to catch up if you are behind.

Happy stitching!!












Row by Row Experience

Like most of the other Washington shops, we are participating in the Row by Row Experience, which is a summer long shop hop. It is happening in many other states, is no cost to the consumer, and started on July 1st. You will have all summer (until September 2nd to be precise) to stop by participating shops and pick up your free ‘row’. The rows are 9 1/2″ x 36 1/2″, each shop has designed their own personal row with a “seasons” theme.

The patterns are all original and different. Fun to collect!! The best thing (besides free, unique patterns) is that when you complete a quilt top with at least eight rows and bring it to a participating shop… you win 25 fat quarters!! Now, there are rules… you have to be the first one to claim the prize at that shop (one winner per shop) and you can only claim a prize at one shop. But hey, pretty simple…. fun to play!!

I had a hard time designing my row. Mostly because my biggest issue is my indecisiveness. The theme was “seasons”, we could pick one season, two, do all four…. it could be pieced, fused, embellished… OMG. Too much to decide!!

I did two rows… oh yes, start to finish… then finally did my third row, I liked that one alot. I decided to do all four seasons, all connected with a common sun in between spring and summer, a common tree in between summer and fall and blowing leaves in between fall and winter. I really liked it, then I decided to add a poem to be embroidered. I love the poem, “Spring is the time of year when you find Summer in the sun and Winter in the shade.” But I was worried I might lose people with that… not everyone wants to take the time to add the embroidery. Sad but true…



picture the sun up above the sun flower……


No nose yet…

So I made a fourth and final draft. I am pretty happy with it. I opted to make the four seasons individual which I think is more versatile, and easier for the beginner, and I used buttons instead of embroidery. I also used fusible web, which is not always popular, but I really don’t know why. I love it!!! So simple, so fun, so easy to reproduce a pattern onto a pillow, a towel, a bag, a shirt, a label, a center quilt block…. super fun and endless possibilities.

IMG_1194[1]If you are not familiar with fusible web, this is how I made my row….

Start by picking your fabrics. I wanted something textured that was going to read solid, so I picked Basic Grey’s “Grunge” fabric. It comes in yardage, layer cakes, charms and jelly rolls. 36 fabulous colors!! I used a layer cake so I could pick my favorite four for my backgrounds.


Then I laid things out so I could select the other colors I wanted to use…


I have my pattern drawings so I know what I’m looking for (flowers… leaves… etc). I also selected the buttons I wanted to use. They were bright, I wanted the colors to look good together.

Incidentally, we put together a button pack with all 26 buttons for you for only $11.99. We also put together a fabric kit for $19.99 that also includes the 26 buttons.


Next it’s time to start the fusible web process. Fusible web is the the term used for both the product and the technique. There are several brands of fusible web. The old standby ‘Steam a Seam’ is no longer my preferred fusible. They recently went through a change with their release paper and I don’t like it. There are several other brands out there, but by far my favorite is Lazy Girls new product ‘Fusi-bond Lite’. It is affordable, easy to use, consistent quality and comes on a bolt.

IMG_1158[1]To use, you trace the pattern onto the paper side of the fusible web, when you trace it you want to make sure all of the ‘components’ of the flowers and individual items are separate.

IMG_1159[1]Trace all of the images this way. I separated the blocks, just to keep track of my pieces easier.


Then iron the images onto the back side of your fabrics. The reason I used batik for my first version is I like the fact that there is no right or wrong side to batik fabric.  It makes it easy when you can’t make a mistake!! But again, for this version I have my grunge fabrics. I also, again, rough cut around the pieces just to make them more portable.

IMG_1191[1]Now it’s time to cut them out.  I like to sit in my comfy chair in my jammies with my standing ott lite. I have my pieces on a paper plate (I would like to say I have a pretty vintage serving tray that fits nicely in my lap… no such luck). I do have a lap tray that I use with my computer and with embroidery, but for fusible pieces you really want something with a “lip” so you don’t lose your little bits.

IMG_1192[1]I use the paper plate to hold the little cut pieces and my trashy bits. My favorite cutting scissors are the purple handled scissor by Karen K. Buckley. They are teflon, so the fusible won’t gum up your scissors, and they have a nice serrated edge, so cutting fine points and small edges is a breeze!

After everything is cut, it is time to arrange the pieces on the background block.  Peal off the paper backing, and once you have the design the way you like it, iron it in place. You will want to “press” your iron, don’t drag it across the fabric. If you drag it, you may disrupt the arrangement.

The fusible web is not permanent. It will stay in place until you have time to stitch it down. I prefer to stitch it down during the machine quilting process.

SO… I hope you all decide to do join the Row by Row Experience! It is going on nationwide. If you have quilting friends or families near a shop in Pennsylvania, Texas, California… etc…. have them go in and get you a pattern… what a fun themed collection for a great quilt! Incidentally… one other rule I may have failed to mention… the patterns have to be picked up in person, since the idea is it is a shop hop. So no mailing any patterns. Bummer.






Plant more Thyme

If you have some time to watch the documentary on happiness by Roko Belic… I recommend it. It’s called “Happy”, it’s about 90 minutes, available on Netflix, and it’s quite good. He has scientists that explain what happiness is, who has it, and how to get it…. good information, right?!?!

My very brief summary of his movie is that 50% of your happiness is inherited, you are either born happy, or not. (You know those people that have a great attitude no matter what happens… and those that are always grumpy, even when they don’t have to be…); and 10% is socioeconomic (you’d think it would be more, but we all know money can’t buy happiness); and the final 40% is how you choose to spend your time – work, hobby, family, altruism, spiritual pursuits, etc.

The fact that we have control over 40% is pretty good. We can choose happiness. We can create it. The question for me is always… do I have enough time?

I would love to have more time for more happiness. Right after dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, accounting, etc. After everything is done, then I can spend time in the garden, in my sewing studio, in the backyard with the dogs… it’s not about finding something that makes me happy, it’s about finding the time for it.

Obviously the answer is balance. Stop working with enough time left in the day to create happiness. Then again, I feel pretty lucky considering my work is the hobby that makes me happy. That wasn’t always true, but I heard someone say once, “If your life isn’t happy, then you’re not doing it right.”

My job and my life do make me happy, I just don’t always feel I have enough time to get everything done. I would have enough time in the day if I didn’t have to sleep.

Today I decided to finish my garden. I love nature. Love it!! When I was a kid my dream job was forest ranger. I was never one of those “ballerina” or “teacher” girls. I wanted animals, trees, plants and even bugs. Bees are my favorite.

I did down size my garden this year. We are going to be gone for 10 days and I am worried about someone else finding the time to properly dead head, water and weed.

I have a large strawberry patch (I’ve been eating about 20 strawberries ever morning for two weeks now), raspberries, an herb garden with catnip, herbs and teas and lots of flowers.


june 2011 084102

june 2011 087


So today I spent time in my beautiful garden.  I didn’t get any of the paperwork, patterns, emails or sewing done that I needed to, but I am indeed happy.

When I was done for the day I found in my long arm studio my thyme was dying…. it didn’t get enough attention. Irony? Clearly that will have to be my focus tomorrow.



So until next time… remember 40% of your happiness is based on how you choose to spend your time.  So turn off the TV, stop playing online poker and find something purposeful.


To Market to Market……

Part of being a shop owner is the purchasing for the shop. Fabric vendors (Moda, Hoffman, Andover, Art Gallery, etc) will come to us. They bring multiple stuffed suitcases and show us “strike offs” of fabrics that will be available in the coming months. We  order fabrics that we will not see for three to four months.

Market is different. We have the option of fall market in Houston every October, or spring market in varying locations (last year Portland, this year Pittsburg). Market is filled with pattern designers, book authors, new notions and more. It is four days of shopping, shopping, shopping. We take classes and look at EVERYTHING trying to pick the things that our customers will find interesting. We have to choose our upcoming BOM patterns and sift through all of the new ideas to see what is smart… and what is not….

This year we started by visiting some of our favorite people…



Terri Atkinson has the distinction of authoring three patterns on the top twenty in the U.S.   We love all of her stuff.  Super smart designer.


Tula Pink is showing her new fabric line. Beyond fabulous!! We ordered every piece… every color…. can’t wait for it to arrive!!


And of course we had to see what Sue Spargo has been up to. We are working on a workshop with her – she said she would love to come to our shop (her son went to college in Ellensburg!).


We are going to start a “Bird of the Month” Stitchery class in October… but for now that is a secret! I have to get started on the sample first…


We are also going to do a “Towel of the Month” club. I think that sounds like a lot of fun. We are going to laser cut the fusible appliques with our newest purchase… the Silhouette!

Here is a close up:


In addition to the applique, each towel has a cute little sewing technique lesson, this one features the folded ridge.

At the moment, we are crazy with at least 10 boxes coming in every day. It will be a challenge to display everything well enough to see what is new, interesting and intriguing. This means it is “clearance time”!! 24 new bolts in clearance yesterday, 14 so far today.

Rainbow Garden Block #2

This is our second Rainbow Garden Block. I thought I would post a few quick pictures for those of you that are doing the block at home. We mailed the kits out last week so you should have yours by now if you are doing this block of the month with us. I don’t have many stitches on mine yet, but at least you can see how it goes together.


As with the first block, I trace the pattern pieces onto freezer paper then iron them to the wool.  I cut everything out using my teflon Karen K Buckley scissors, and layer the pieces on my cotton backing that has been cut to 13″ x 13″.


Start with the petals and stems.


Then the center.



IMG_0615[1]Then the accent.

For the next step, I took a little creative license. I think the pattern called for another oval then a little circle, but I thought that looked like an eyeball. So I left the little circles off. I thought it would be a good place for some beads and french knots!

Last step is to add the leaves, then have fun stitching things down! Next block will be on it’s way in just 3 weeks!

Rainbow Garden Block #2
Rainbow Garden Block #2

Wool Flower Pincushion




This sweet little wool flower pincushion was our featured “Pincushion-of-the-Month” for our last class. We typically have seasonal pincushions (Christmas trees, bunnies, pumpkins, etc) and now that we are finally having some nice weather, I wanted to do something with flowers!

This pattern is pretty simple, we have a free template for you at the bottom of the post. It is a simple pdf file you can download, print off, and use to make your own Spring Pincushion! We also have a few kits available on our website for just $8.99. The kit includes the linen fabric for the top and bottom (in lime green or red), the template for the flowers and all of the wool to make your bundle of fresh flowers. We don’t often offer the pincushion club pattern/kits to those not in the class, but we had a little too much fun with this one. And since it was my drawing, I can give it away if I want!

The kits will come like this…. with lime green or red linen.


So let’s get started!! It was pretty simple to make.

I started with two pieces of linen, 4” x 10”.



This is Moda’s linen, it retails for only $12.99                                                                                  and comes in quite a few fabulous colors.

Next, take the  drawings and trace about 15 flowers onto freezer paper, all varied sizes (there are four flowers and a leaf on the template).  To use freezer paper with wool applique  you put the plastic side down and trace onto the paper side, then rough cut around them before positioning them on the color of felt you would like to use.

Then take them to the iron and iron the freezer paper to the wool.  The purpose of the freezer paper is of course to make a cutting template, but it will also stabilize the wool while you cut it.


I always use Karen K Buckley’s Teflon scissors when I cut wool. The blades have a nice serrated edge that prevents that occasional “slipping” you might feel with regular scissors. If you can’t find these in your local shop, we sell them for $19. They are a must have for all of our wool classes


After you have cut out all of your flowers, just throw the left over stack away. In theory you can use the iron on templates up to three times, but I find with wool, you really want the stabilization of the cutting line, So I don’t often reuse them.


  The next part is the BEST PART!!! Flower arranging!

Just layer your flowers, grouping colors and shapes, beads and maybe some french knots. You will want to stay at least 1/2″ away from the edge so that the flowers don’t get caught in the seam.

Then layer the other piece of linen on top, right sides together, and sew around the edge, using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Leave an opening for turning and filling.


Next comes the four box bottoms. Pretty simple. You just line up the seams, making a point, measure in 1/2 inch and sew across, then clip off the tip.


When you have done all four corners, turn your pincushion right sides out. Carefully.

image (1)

Final part… the stuffing. I poured in about a cup of walnut shells (my favorite pincushion filling), then I topped it off with a tiny pit of poly fiberfill. I do that so I can stitch it closed without the walnut shells falling out!

image (3)


This was our class making their pincushions…..

And these were their finished tops!!

Have fun making your own spring pincushion!! 

CLICK HERE to get your PDF flower template







I finally finished the quilt that was on Pinky. This “Log Cabin Garden” is a great pattern from the Woolen Willow. We did this as a block of the month. It is made of wonderful flannel (“woolies” by Maywood Studio) and wool applique.

Each log cabin block is a 12″ block, so the wool applique section is 24″ x 24″. That black cat is 19″ tall!!!

I took the picture with the quilt laying outside in the backyard. I hope the light is good enough for you to see the lines and the echoing. I still have to remove some of the chalk, I like the iron-erase chalk, so removing it will just take a second.

My next quilt loaded on the machine is one of the quilts for the retreat house. It is a half log cabin pattern that features a center block, it is my pattern, I call it “Crackers”.


It is a pretty easy to make using jelly rolls, or in this case, bali pops. The center blocks are wonderful fabric images from Tom Murphy photography.


This little guy is my favorite!!! I will post a picture when it is quilted, I am heading to quilt market in Pittsburgh, so it will be a week.

Happy Quilting!!!

Too Much to Do!!

Such a busy week!! Lots of late nights, and still too far behind!

I teach 15 classes/month, five are this week and I have only done the preparation for two of them. That may not sound so bad, but three of the five are hand stitching. Yikes.  Maybe I need to step it up by adding earlier mornings to my late nights!

One reason I am so busy is because of our new venture. We bought a beautiful five bedroom, two bathroom house that we are turning into a retreat center. It is a beautiful home, but it needs a little work, and unfortunately, we closed 7 days later than anticipated.

We already scheduled the open house… which is just 3 weeks away.


Does this yard look like it is ready for an open house? Two sore days later, it is starting to look better, even the grass is starting to green up. But we still have to re-tile the bathroom, fix the grout in the kitchen, fix a kitchen cabinet, replace the kitchen sink, put in the bathroom pedestal, install all new appliances, fix some dry wall, paint, install window coverings, shampoo the rugs, clean, and of course, furnish.

In addition, we are making 10 new quilts for all of the beds. Yes, I do have LOTS of quilts. Just none in the size I need!!

Worse yet… I am leaving for quilt market next Monday. Brianna and I will be gone for a week, we’ll get back just four days before the open house for the retreat house.

But I am not panicking. My life is often like this. I just have to slow down and focus. Prioritize and complete thing at a time. My favorite quote is wisdom from India: “To consume an entire elephant, you must take one bite at a time.”

So tonight, I am finishing up a quilt on the machine and working on one of the upcoming classes.

I have three customer quilts to get done before I can start quilting the retreat house quilts. This one is called Log Cabin Garden. It was a block of the month we just finished up. It is flannel log cabin blocks with wool applique. The original pattern had 6 different applique patterns, I drew up 3 extra so we would end up with an 84″ x 84″ quilt.

log cabin gardenThis is the original pattern, I added a goose, a saltbox house and a tree (pics tomorrow when it is all the way done). We cut a few more kits after the class due to it’s popularity in the shop. The flannel, pattern (plus the extra three) and all of the wool is just $280. We have three left. It’s a very good price considering the amount of wool that is in the kit. The cat pictured is 14″ tall!

IMG_0557[1]The hardest part about quilting is the planning. Feathers? Outline? Filler? Edge work? Stencils? Too many options for a busy brain. For this quilt I am going to do a random primitive feather in the border, diagonal lines, echo and a filler.

The feather is the easiest part. I love feathers. I always have to be careful – not everything looks good with feathers on it.



I always start with a line. I feather around the line, then stitch my center line last. I think that may be backwards, but if I don’t do it that way, I end up with a very thick, scribbly center.


I like primitive feathers, they have separated plumes.IMG_0558[1]For the diagonal lines I first need to draw the lines. I am using a chalk pen and a basic ruler. I am not guiding the machine along the ruler, I am just using the ruler to mark the lines, one inch apart. I like to use the chacoliner filled with the iron off white chalk.



IMG_0561[1]This was my last picture, but I was actually halfway done when I stopped. I like the way it is turning out. My machine is a trooper. Flannel back, wool batt, flannel top and sometimes three layers of wool. No problem for my 18g needle and 50 wt thread. Full picture tomorrow.

On to class prep for A Rainbow Garden. WONDERFUL quilt!! Our new wool block-of-the-month for this year. We just started on our first block.




This block is wool applique on Diamond Textiles wovens. We’ve added Kathi’s embroidered suggestions and my favorite… beads! I have a bunch of the french knots done, but lots of embroidery left!

But it will have to wait…I have to head to bed. Up early tomorrow to finish the machine quilting, make a pincushion for pincushion club, cut the blocks and type the handout for Prairie Women’s Sewing Circle and piece the shower curtain for the Retreat House.

IMG_0443[1]Fred is unconcerned with the amount of work that has to be done. He heads to bed by 8pm every night (wish I could do that). He is our blind lab. You’d never guess he was blind. He gets around just fine. His nose is beyond perfect.  And no.. that is not a staged picture. He sleeps in the spare room with a pillow, a cat and a teddy. He doesn’t get a quilt… he sheds too much for that.

So it’s time for me to make like Fred… and head to bed.

Good night!

Late Night of Machine Quilting

Even though every spare moment is filled, I find I am not half as stressed as when I was working in medicine. And although I am often running behind with my projects… there is a tiny bit of joy in the fact that it is my job to quilt. Tonight I worked on an upcoming class, spent some time planning the quilts for the new Retreat House (soooo exciting!), and now I have to finish a customers quilt.

I love to longarm. I have been machine quilting for 16  years. I started on a Gammil Optima, but now I have an Innova, in fact I have the first Innova. My serial number 001 (there is a 2007 in front of it). I bought his first machine and I was his first dealer. To date, we have sold 372 machines. I’m not sure if that sounds like a lot or not. It seems like a lot…. it was a lot of 2 day owner classes! IMG_0542At home, I have Jordan’s old bedroom converted into “Pinky’s” room. Interesting fact… the Innova was first called the Pinky, and it only came in 18″ pink. The name was changed to Innova the second year, and the 26″ was added in the nice “champagne” color we know today. The 22′ model didn’t come until a few years later and it is now our top selling model.

The quilt I am working on as a lovely “Raining Cats and Dogs” pattern by Bunny Hill. We did this as a block-of-the-month and just finished up in February. IMG_0546


I love mixed daisies.


Really fun quilt. Many opportunities to add filler after outlining with the ruler. There are lots of starts, stops and knots, but I always hide those in the seams so they’re not noticeable.

All done. This quilt is all finished up. I thought I would share these few pictures, but at the moment I don’t have a great way to hang up a quilt and take a better picture. I will figure something out before tomorrow night.

In the meantime, before it is too late, I still have to complete quarterly taxes, check e-mails and write the pattern and sales sheet for tomorrows class.

But as I said before, no stress, just a lack of time.I love my job, I just wish I had 48 hour days!

Crumb Cake Class Prep

Tomorrow is a “quilt-in-a-day” class called Crumb Cake. Super simple pattern, addicting, and it truly uses up every “crumb” of fabric. It’s a funny story about this pattern. About 7 years ago a frequent customer came in with 14 Crumb Cake quilts she made in one month! When I asked her about the pattern she told me she made it up. She did a class at the local guild and showed us all how to make it. We were hooked! I asked her if I could write the pattern up for her and she reluctantly agreed.  I had it written up within a few days, giving her full credit on the “by” line. It was a popular pattern, I sold hundreds and gave several classes, always giving my customer her full credit and monetary reward. Then, a few years later, while at market in Houston, I walked by the Embellishment Village booth and noticed the Crumb Cake pattern. I stopped and looked at it. It was the same quilt, with a copyright date of 1996!! I was horrified. I am very much a “rules” girl, I would never copy a pattern (knowingly) and of course it is a crime… punishable with a $25,000 fine!

We quickly removed our patterns and replaced them with the Embellishment Village version. We never spoke of it again until they took their pattern out of print in 2009. At that time I contacted them and confessed my story, asking if I could republish the pattern. They said it would be fine if I kept the name the same, and mentioned that our version (we did construct it a little differently) was inspired by Embellishment Village. So, after narrowly escaping incarceration… the pattern is still a favorite of mine and the shop!


My class tomorrow will be attended by Rachel, our new office manager. She has been trying to learn how to quilt and tomorrow is her second class. You can follow her fun blog “Frazzled Patch” as she takes beginner classes and explains foreign words like “jelly roll” and “square up”.

I am getting Rachel’s fabric ready tonight. The best part about the Crumb Cake is it uses up stash fabrics, leftover strips, bits and pieces, and it is a great use for those panels we collect but don’t know why….

I have selected a panel that would be great for Rachel. This is an older Clothworks Halloween panel that is super cute and will be perfect for Rachel and her two darling little boys.

Now I just have to find about 12 fabrics that would go with it.IMG_0535

We can also use “bits”. I tend not to save a lot of little pieces. After all of these years I just find that I don’t use them up. Everything on my fabric shelves is more than a yard. I have two drawers with just panels, and I have a few shelves with full fat quarters. But, I do have a secret stash of bins. They are labeled by color, and they have smaller pieces. They are in the closet, and not used often enough. Crumb Cake is a perfect pattern to wittle those down a bit….IMG_0533IMG_0536OK, Rachel’s project kit is ready. I will spend a little time cutting some strips and sewing some panels together so that I have a working sample to teach from… and Rachel has a head start!!

I have some certainty Rachel will blog about her adventures in the class tomorrow. She will also show the steps. We can hope the finished quilt will appear soon! In the meantime… I have another one of these cute panels left. Just like the one I gave Rachel. I would like to give it away.

Rachel tells me there is some way to fairly do a drawing using a “counter”? maybe I have that term wrong. Anyway, I think all you have to do is “like” this post. We will draw a name on Friday, announce it, and we will put it in the mail to you!

I have LOTS of fun things I can get rid of this way….. stay tuned……



Back Road Journal

Little treasures discovered while exploring the back roads of life


Master Gardener, amateur photographer, intermediate quilter and lover of day trips around New England

Beyond the Patch

Young Professional and Young Arm Quilter

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