Monday, December 31, 2012


I did it!!  The tally this morning, December 31, 2012, stands at 213 5/8 yards!!  Hooray, hooray, hooray!!  I know some of you did your own "use it" challenge this year -- how did you do?  Let's face it, anytime you use some of the stash, it is good whether is was 12 yards or 200 yards!

And in the process I've finished 25 quilts of all sizes and descriptions -- over half of them were probably to be donated to my favorite causes.  I did 10 other small sewing projects -- pillowcases and such from my stash.  When I add in my knitting projects, I've finished 44 projects this year.  All in all, it has been a good year in the sewing room!!

So now what?  It would be a shame to let the momentum I've established slip away!  I've been thinking about this for several weeks and decided to make my goal for 2013 to finish 13 of my oldest UFQ's.  That might not seem like many but I have to leave time and energy for current projects and teaching samples.  I've spent my spare time the past couple weeks going through the UFQ shelves and picking out my target projects.  So this year, as I work through them, I'll share my progress and ideas. 

Actually, I've already dealt with one of the "olds" when it resurfaced (but it won't count on my tally since I did it in 2012). 

Since closing my quilt shop in 2005, I've become quite adept at repurposing UFQ's.  That's how I handled this one and you might be inspired by my solution to try your hand at repurposing.   Read on!

At the turn of the century (I love saying that), I was still consulting for King's Road Imports creating trade show samples.  The last project I did for them was to "write" a pattern for a design created by a fabric designer to showcase her fabric collection in 2001.  It was a beautiful collection of fabrics inspired by birds, so you know I loved it.  And her quilt design was unique.  But she didn't sew, so piecing her design and writing clear instructions was very challenging.  I got a sample of the quilt together for that season's trade shows, wrote instructions, and we began to make a sample for the shop since I had ordered the collection.  Well as was often the case with gorgeous fabric, it was gone before the sample was finished and the staff was likely struggling with my instructions (not a good thing), so the sample was abandoned and has been safely tucked onto a shelf since then.

Lots of stuff was cut, most of the pieced units for the large trianglar sections around the center were ready to set together, and there was plenty of fabric.  But just looking at the border of turquoise triangles around the center motif brought back memories of struggling and I was not interested in finished this quilt!  It's hard to throw away stuff that you've cut and pieced.  During the past 5 years, I've repurposed dozens of unfinished teaching samples and shop models into some pretty charming quilts -- sometimes smaller than they were intended and sometimes larger.  So that is what I decided to do with this pile of pieces.

There seemed to be enough pieced units to make a crib size quilt.  I cleared off the work wall and put up all the partial units as though I was going to piece them into the big corner sections.  The challenge to any project without a plan is getting started without knowing where you are going.  For me, the best approach is always to put the stuff up on the work wall and then wait for an idea. 

Once the pieces are on the wall, I can see the possibilities more clearly.  By removing the corners of each trianglar section and pushing everything towards the center, an almost complete quilt top emerged.  An evening of sifting through all the cut pieces in the box produced enough additional units to fill the center.  And another evening assembled everything into a finished quilt top perfect for my annual contribution to my guild's community quilts project.  The leftover pieces went into the scrap boxes  to wait for a new destiny.  The leftover fabric went into the stash!!   

It was a great warm-up exercise for revving up my enthusiasm for tackling really old UFQ's!!  I've identified 13 that seemed to be some of the oldest and some of the least done!  Several are tops ready to be quilted.  Several are stacks of blocks ready to set together.  One is about 25 years old.  Another hasn't even been started.  And in the back of my mind, I'm hoping the renewed focus will inspire me to tackle more than the 13 I've set aside. 

What's next?  The Quilted Village from the late 1990's!!  The blocks have been pieced for a decade (thanks to my friends in the long standing Erie Street Friendship group).  The stumbling block has been the embroidery details to be added before the blocks are set together.  Check back soon to see where I go with this one!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

32 and 1/2 days and counting!!

It's Thursday, November 29, 2012 and the official tally stands at 186 and 7/8 yards!  25 1/8 yards to go.  The plan for the afternoon includes putting together two backings, so by the end of the day it should be over 190 yards. 

Early in the fall, I showed you some of the 6 pointed stars I was making for a sampler.  Since I booked a workshop at Quilt Quarters in Carmel, Indiana focusing on those stars, I decided to set them together so the shop could have a sample of the possibilities for the workshop.  I thought you might like to see it!

What do you think? The border print inspired the color scheme back in September.  It was one I found on my teaching trip to Colorado in August.  Of course, I didn't have enough to cut one piece borders on the lengthwise grain -- especially since I wanted to miter the corners.  And I didn't have the time to go hunting for more of it. 

The dilemma was how to piece it without making it look like I ran out of fabric.  No matter whether the borders were cut on the lengthwise or crosswise grain, they would need to be pieced.  Fortunately, I left the border fabric folded to the approximate width I was considering hanging on the work wall.  When I came back into the sewing room a couple hours later, I noticed that the print is strongly directional.  Now that may not bother some of you, but for me, its a condition that has to be controlled. 

My solution?  Piece the borders at the midpoint so that I could reverse the strips and the direction of the print switches thus fooling the observer to think I have everything under control.  So I cut the fabric to the length needed for half the border strip remembering to allow extra for the mitered corners.  Then I cut that piece into 8 equal strips (about 5" wide). 

I have discovered (the hard way, of course) that when a large scale print is cut into lengthwise strips, the strips often look like two different color ways.  So before going further, I spread the strips apart on the cutting table, and sure enough, it did indeed look like I had two different color ways -- four of the strips had more aqua and less pink than the other 4.  I paired the strips based on that.  Each set was sewn together so the print goes up on one end and down on the other.  Then when I put them around the quilt on the work wall, it was quickly obvious that the more aqua/less pink borders needed to be opposite each other rather than adjacent to keep the quilt looking balanced.  As you look at the photo, none of this is apparent, but if I had not managed the print the way I did, it would have stuck out like a sore thumb and made the quilt less successful. 

Mary's Rule -- look before you stitch!!  If you maintain balance, it is always easier to look at the quilt.

If you think you'd like to learn how to piece these stars (and more), consider signing up for the HEXAGON & THEIR ALLIES retreat in March, 2013.  All the info is posted on my website at

So it's time to go make those backings and chalk up a few more yards to the tally!!  Check back soon to see how this all ends!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunshine = ENERGY

Gosh, it feels good to have the sun shining in my office window this morning.  I hope the folks on the East Coast who felt the full power of Sandy are being blessed with some of this liquid gold this morning!!  A sunny day lifts my spirits and fills me with energy, so I'm attacking my "to-do" list with vigor this morning and posting a progress report is #1!!

I'm happy to report, I'm still on track for using 212 yards of glorious quilting fabric by the end of 2012.  The count this morning is 176 7/8 yards!  And I think I'm beginning to see one of the benefits of using so much of what I already own -- there is actually over an inch of empty space at the top of all my shelves!?!  That's exciting.

And there are still 3 projects that I've cut and not stitched that haven't been tallied.

I spent 3 days last week demonstrating Marti Michell's new Tesselating Windmill tool during the Amish Country Shop Hop at Mercantile on Main in Coshocton, Ohio.  So I took along stacks of fabric organized for quilts using that tool.  What an efficient strategy Marti has developed for that tool!!  Last Sunday, during the annual Wildwood Quilt Guild's show in Mentor, Ohio, I was tired of standing and cutting, so I stitched one of the windmill quilts together.  This one is destined for my charity quilting group's annual donation of children's quilts to Laura's Home, a wonderful ministry of Cleveland's City Mission. It's ready to layer and quilt!!

Of course, one can't be expect to spend 3 days in a 
quilt shop without shopping . . . . can one?  I wish
I could say each one was purchased with a specific purpose in mind, but I've been an impulse shopper for too long.  I can defend several of them though -- the strippy one (third from the bottom) is for the border of my fourth windmill quilt.  The blue one in the middle has birds on it -- do I need to say more?
The brown one (with the owls) is for the border of a windmill quilt I'm going to make for my grandson.  The pile of blue quarter yards on the left is for a new 6 pointed star project, the white on white quarters on the right and the polka dots are to replenish indispensible basics, the oranges and purple are just because they were good ones.  The one on the bottom will be a terrific inspiration for something and there are a few Civil War pieces wedged in there to expand that assortment in my stash.  There I've justified all of it but I'm not going to tally it up!

So I have to use about 5/8 of a yard per day for the rest of the year to make my goal.  Binding 55 quilts will take care of that!  Or I could make 27 pillowcases.  Oh, gosh, I forgot that I donated half the strips from my 2 1/2" strip stash to the charity quilt project this week -- that's at least another 3 yards!!  And there is a very old project on the work wall that has finally made it to the border stage -- borders and backing!! 

I know a few of you out there have also been attacking your stashes this year -- I'd love to hear what sort of progress you are making!! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Piecing with a gang!!

Fall is busy -- hooray!!  Classes to teach, lectures to share, marketing to be done . . . . but it interferes with my piecing big time!  So I was delighted to be able to escape for a couple days last weekend by going on a sewing retreat with friends from my quilt guild. 

We filled the lovely conference room at The Inn at Amish Door in Wilmot, Ohio with all our stuff and went to work.  I took 7 projects in various stages of undoneness.  I confess that I'm puzzled by gals who "start" a project to work on at a retreat like this because I'm never at a loss for a project.  Someday before the end of the year, I'll count how many are going on in my studio -- I'll feel overwhelmed but you'll feel better about your own list of "in progress".

I started out with binding a beautiful Baltimore Album sampler that my mother made.  She appliqued the blocks back in the 90's and set it together after she retired.  During the past two years, she appliqued the border and this summer it went to our machine quilter.  Since it's a very white quilt, I needed to do the trimming and binding outside of my house full of black, hairy animals!  The hand stitching has yet to be done and the plan is to do that in the coming week.   And there goes another 5/8 yard of the stash!!

Then I tackled a pile of "friendship" blocks that have been laying around the shelves for mmmmmmm 5 years?  Not really sure.  Since I'm going to quilt this piece in sections, it didn't take long to get the two halves together.  Now I just need to make the time to layer it and start the quilting.   I was also able to set aside about 8 yards of fabric from the stash for the borders and backing!!  I'm getting closer.
Kaleidoscope to be quilted in sections

But it's going to have to wait on the beautiful Kaleidoscope top that I'm doing the same way.  Two quarter sections are finished and on Sunday morning at the retreat, I made the backings and layered the third and fourth sections.  I've had great success getting large quilts finished since I read Marti Michell's book, Machine Quilting in Sections!!  I won't ever do another large quilt any other way.  I want this to be a soft, drapable quilt, so the quilting is not real dense.  Believe it or not, I can do one of these sections in 2 hours -- that makes it very doable and it doesn't strain my old neck and shoulders!  All the fabric I'm using for this project has already by added to my tally but at some point one does need to completely finish a project and I'd love to have this quilt ready for my bed by mid-December!

The fourth project I worked on has had me stopped for several years.  It's a BOM I purchased as kits from Jean Wells' shop in Sisters, Oregon in the late 90's.  And it slowed me down this weekend -- it took most of Saturday to piece twenty 3" blocks for cornerstones (thanks goodness I had cut them at some previous time) and 31 sashing units.  All the sections are finally ready to set together but remind me never to do another checkboard sashing -- talk about time consuming!!  And then, at 9ish Saturday evening, I realized I had run out of fabric for the sashing -- one strip short!!!  It's a good thing I have lots of practice with that issue.  Fortunately, I found just enough of a compatible color in the leftovers from other parts of the quilt and scattered it throughout the sashing units to fill in the gaps.  And I think those little rust squares will add something to the quilt!

What about the other 3 projects -- well, they are back on the shelves and will have to wait just a little longer.  They were the smallest of the 7 and actually as I'm writing this, I'm thinking I might just cancel one of them -- haven't cut any fabric so it would be easy to put back into the stash!?!  Sometimes, a gal just has to get real with herself!!

I'm closing in on 165 yards for the year -- 73 days and 47 yards to go!!  That's only 5/8 of a yard a day -- I can do that!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Piecing for a purpose

Nine months ago, I took a risk and booked my favorite retreat location, The Inn at Amish Door in Wilmot, Ohio for a weekend in order to present a seminar focused on piecing with hexagons and the shapes related to them (60 degree diamonds and triangles).  For the past 6 months, much of my quilt making has been focused on preparing for this weekend.  And this morning, I am happy to say it was a successful weekend!

I had twelve willing participants most of whom have been long-time students.  It's fun to teach for them.  I know what they know and they know what to expect from me.  They are all part of my regular winter retreat at the same location and it was delightful to be welcomed with beautiful fall displays instead of ice and snow.  It was easy to settle into the familiar space and soon everyone had their table organized and work walls set up -- ready to learn and sew!

We alternated lecture/demonstration sessions with sewing sessions.  There wasn't a BIG project as I wanted everyone to enjoy learning the necessary skills and experimenting with all the design ideas I had gathered together!  Once the basic skill of set-in piecing is learned, the design possibilities of this group of shapes is vast!!

The best skill is learning how to chain piece set-in seams -- it's a skill I'll be sharing regularly with several new workshops I'm developing as a result of this seminar.
Soon everyone was working on the blocks that caught their eye.  Everyone in the group benefitted from all the different experiments that were going on -- both from the point of helping with decision making and enjoying the results of other people's work.

My goal was to teach people the skills necessary to enjoy this challenging group of shapes and based on all the smiles and activity and chatter, that was achieved.  I look forward to seeing the results of this seminar over the next couple years as these gals start their own projects fearlessly.

Of course, we weren't all about sewing!  There were leisurely meals with friends, a bit of shopping, a proper English tea on Saturday afternoon to tide us over until supper, some great spasms of laughter, and lots of singing Happy Birthday to one lucky gal. 

And all of the preparation moved me a bit closer to my goal of using up 212 yards of fabric this year -- I'm still on target with the bonus of having some great finished quilts!!  Daily sewing can lead to finished projects!!    Look how this piece has grown since I posted the first photo of it in early August -- one more row to be added at the bottom and then the borders.

155 3/4 yards down 
 56 1/4 to go!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


It's the end of August and I've been traveling more than I've been home this month or at least it seems that way -- actually, I've only been gone for 14 days.  But it's limited my ability to use up fabric.   

I've been traveling with this paper pieced project using 1" hexagons -- enjoying it immensely -- can hardly stay away from it!!  But it's not using much fabric. 

So how to meet my 17.66666 yard per month goal?

I did it by giving away about 25 yards of fabric!!

It's likely that I won't notice a few yards are gone, but it's hard to let go of it just the same!  I've been pulling pieces out of the stash over the past few months in colors I don't use any longer and stacking them in a corner of my studio.  The original plan was to use those for backings but as I prepared to leave last week on a mission trip with a group from my church, I learned that the Red Bird Mission in Kentucky has a quilting group at their Senior Center.  They make quilts and sell them to raise money to fund the center's programs.  So the pile went into a bag and traveled down with me. 

I also went through a box of unquilted tops with backings that have been haunting me since I closed the shop.  They are the last shop models and pattern samples that I had not been able to let go.  Five of them went with me.   There are still 3 or 4 in the box -- the older they get, the easier it is to let go of them!

The ladies were pleased to have the donations and I spent a delightful hour with them.  They showed me their work and we talked about fabric . . . . of course.  I sat at the frame with them for a bit, but didn't have the courage to take up a needle and add a few stitches.  Their frame is suspended from the ceiling and swings like a hammock -- I don't know how they were able to make a stitch without jabbing themselves as the entire frame moved to and fro.

Now that I'm back in the studio, I have deadlines to work against again.  This is a sample I'm finishing today for a workshop during the Lake Farmpark Quilt Show this winter.  Paper piecing -- love how realistic it looks.

And the work wall is filling up with 6 pointed star variations for the Hexagons & Alllies Seminar I'm teaching later in September.   Aren't they fun?  I've been knocking out two or three a days and have no idea what the quilt will look like when finished -- just feeling my way along at this point.

Of course, there is a price to pay for all this fun -- the cutting table has returned to it's native state of chaos in spite of my best efforts to keep it tidy.  The large print on the left of the photo was the color inspiration although I don't think the style of the print will work with the whimmsy that is going on in the blocks.  Might be the backing?

So I'm at 149 yards with the best sewing months of 2012 ahead.  I've been able to stay at stitching in spite of traveling thanks to the hand piecing project and I find that makes it easier to get back into the groove in the studio.  Recently, I've realized that one of the benefits of working at my craft every day is that I feel a lot more creative and have more momentum to keep moving!  So bring on the fabric -- I'm fired up to chop it up and stitch it back together!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Status Report!

116 3/4 yards to date!! 

I'm a little behind -- about 7 yards.  There are two reasons for the slower output at this point.

There's been quite a bit of hand stitching going on around here and it's hard to "burn" through lots of fabric rapidly in that mode.  This is a sample I stitched last week for a workshop I'll be offering during the 2013 Lake Farmpark Quilt Show.  It's a pattern that has been lurking in my stash for over a decade.  It's part of a beautiful sampler of fruit portraits from the Piece O'Cake gals.  I had long since decided to do a smaller version and am pleased with this first one -- 3 more to go!

I'm traveling quite a bit in August and need some compact road work.  As part of my fall seminar, HEXAGONS & THEIR ALLIES
, I'm putting together an English paper piecing style sample.  I loved a Grandmother's Flower Garden variation I saw on E-bay that used a variety of sweet florals for the outer circle.  One thing I have  is lots of sweet florals.  So I've organized the supplies for my trip to Denver to lecture for a couple quilt guilds next week.  Of course, I had to make one of the flower units just to see if it would work . . . . okay, 3 of the flower units.  If you've never tried this technique, my experience has always been enjoyable to the point of not being able to stop -- just one more, just one more.  I do have to leave it alone this week or I won't meet the deadlines I have!

The second reason for the slow down is that at some point, one does need to quilt some of these fabric- eating quilt tops!!

This is a hand quilting project that I set to work on several days ago.  It will likely keep me occupied during the evenings through the month of September.  I'm starting with the outline quilting around the appliques in the hopes that the consistancy and length of my stitches will improve by the time I get to the planned "chicken wire" background quilting. 

This sample came home with me yesterday from a workshop I taught at The Sew'n Place in Chambersburg, PA.  (Nice shop and lots of new fabric!!)  It's the deadline project this week -- destined for a baby show on Sunday.  The 6" blocks in the center of each "star" are from that charming book, The Farmer's Wife.   I designed the setting to make a few blocks go a long way fast!! 

I'm off to my studio to layer it today! 
Quilt it tomorrow! 
Bind it the day after!! 

Ta-dah!!  Another one finished and on it's way to a happy new home!!



Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Hooray, hooray, hooray!!!   I hit the 108 yard mark today as I made the backing for the tessalated windmill sample that I showed in the last post!  

As I was cutting that sample of last week, I looked across my cutting table and realized it might be time to clean it off.  

What do you think?

So, I decided that when the sample was set together and the backing made, I would work on clearing off the table.  And even more ambitious than that, I would finish one of the unfinished projects cluttering the opposite end!!  I would not be distracted by the lure of an interesting piece of fabric that might be lurking there!!  I would be focused!! 

By golly, I did it this afternoon -- in under 2 hours!?!  The cutting table is cleared off -- turns out most of the clutter was piles of new fabric or fabric that I used on recent projects and hadn't put away, or teaching samples that I needed to return to their slots.   What a surprise to discover I have TWO big cutting mats on there?!?   (Just kidding -- I knew that.)  Tomorrow I may reorganize it a bit -- put the tool baskets in more convenient positions.  And I probably should clear the clutter on the floor away from the edges of the table so I can walk all the way around it.  If my son was here, he would have some smart remark to make about there being a table there.

And here's the lucky project!!  A stack and whack with a gorgeous fall fabric -- it's a huge hexagon and I've always thought it would make a great tablecover.  Trouble is that I don't have a round table -- I have a long rectanglar table.  So it's never been finished.  It's laying on the table right now as I consider how to reorganize it a bit and make it a rectangle.  First step is to take off the right and left rows and I'll do that this evening while I watch an English mystery -- easier to unstitch while diverted!!  That will give me 6 hexagons I can move to the ends to make it longer and we'll see what else happens.  It will be great to have it ready for the fall this year!!

A good day in the studio!!  I hope you are able to get to your cutting mat today!!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Too hot to think?

You may find this surprising, but I'm not a big fan of hot weather . . . . or maybe it's high humidity.  Regardless of which it is, it has a serious impact on my energy level.  But yesterday found me with a deadline to face and a need to sew in spite of my compromised energy level.  I needed to prep for a workshop with a new tool from Marti Michell -- her Multi-size Tessalated Windmill tool. 

So I got out the tool and made a plan for a small sample with one of the middle size blocks that can become a child's quilt for my charity work -- I had given the booklet that comes with it a (quick) read several days ago.  I needed to chose 25 different prints -- no problem -- I have that!

But I'm so hot and sleepy -- I don't want to make that many decisions.  IDEA!!  I could use one print for every other windmill -- that means I only have to pick 12 fabrics.  Half as much work. 

And since it's going to be a child's quilt, I head for the "novelty" print shelf which is the little overstocked and could use some thinning -- the old "two birds, one stone" approach is in gear!  We never seem to have enough "boy" quilts so I think frogs or bugs -- something crawly or slimy!  The perfect piece is jungle critters, bright colors, and there is more than I need!

Next stop is the "bright" drawer -- all the bright colors are in one place so I won't be tearing through stacks of fabric -- just lay my focus print on the floor and start piling on a dozen prints suggested by the colors in the focus fabric. 

The key to using more of the fabric you already own is definitely to make it as accessible as possible.  Have you ever thought that your stash is the best assortment of fabric in the world?  Well, it is personally selected for you by you and you do have good taste, don't you?  But if's it's hard to find the right stuff, you don't have it organized for easy access.  It might be something to redo about your stash!?!

I also needed a "border" print for the piece but I have no big yardage of bright prints -- so when I don't have what I need in one piece, I try an assortment in that color.  The color that catches my eye the most in the focus print is the turquoise, so I eliminated the turquoise from the contrast windmill prints and pull several small pieces for the border.  This is my final assortment.  What do you think?

Of course, once I got the fabric pulled, I got excited about starting and by the time the fireworks started I had half of it pieced . . . . . and there went another 2 yards of the stuff!!  With the backing and borders I finished during the past week, I'm just 3 yards short of the halfway point!!!  It's interesting that the focus print is looking like a background since the print and color contrast of the other fabrics is so strong.

And the tool and the instructions?  Excellent, as always!! I recommend it!! 

P. S.   I thought you might like to meet one of my "supervisors" -- he makes sure I'm not cheating on my fabric calculations!! 

Back to the machine!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Good intentions!?!

A few days ago, I noticed that I had two empty days in a row on my calendar -- there was nothing scheduled!?!  Aha, I thought -- two days of sewing time!!  And so I made a plan!  There were 3 quilt tops ready for borders plus organizing their backings.

But I was torn -- the weather was so perfect, it was a shame to be inside bent over the sewing machine.  No problem, just move the sewing machine out onto the front porch!!  And so I spent 45 minutes organizing that, then up to the sewing room to organize the projects. 

The border decisions had already been made for two of the projects, so it was a simple matter of calculating and cutting -- quickly done!  The third border was going to require more thought, so that piece went up on the work wall for comtemplation as I worked on the other two projects. 

The challenge of prepping backings these days is always how to do it with the fabric on-hand?  Because I insisted on having these bees scattered consistently around the border, I ended up with 4 not very useful strips of fabric.  Their length was fine but together they only contributed about 12" of the 55" I needed for the width and it seemed like a good idea to use them in the backing so they would not be lurking in the stash.  I thought using a turquoise fabric with them would look good but when I got to that stack of fabric, there was hardly a piece more than 1/2 yard.  So I pulled a dozen or more pieces and started thinking.

I decided that the leftover border fabric should not touch the edges of the backing because it might get trimmed off when it was time to bind the quilt.   So the turquoise needed to be on the outer edges, so I needed 5 bands of turquoise.  I calculated how much width I needed to generate to get a wide enough backing and divided that number by 5.  The bands in between the border strips needed to be 8" wide.  So I went to work cutting lengthwise pieces from each of my turquoise fabrics 8 1/2" wide and what ever length the piece was -- that varied from 9" to 27".  The only thing left to do was stitch the pieces together end to end to make five bands the length needed for the backing. 

Net results are that I used all of the border fabric and a bit over 2 yards of stash fabric.  Pieced backings with lots of seams can be a problem for hand quilters but for machine quilters, as long as you maintain the integrity of the grain of the fabrics as you put them together, it's not a problem.  The lengthwise grain of all the fabrics is consistent on this backing.  One down and two to go.

But of course, you already know how this story ends.  I did get one more set of borders sewn on but the second backing is still a pile of fabric on the ironing board and the top needing contemplation to design the borders is still on the work wall being studied.  House guests have arrived and it's gotten hot -- still I've burned through 16 yards in June and the running total stands at 97 yards . . . . and there are still a couple days in June?!?!  I can't let summer keep me from my mission to use 212 yards this year!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In Spite of Choas!

 . . . . . I've had a very productive day.  I edged and transplanted in the new garden border before it got hot.  I baked sourdough bread -- it was flat again but I think I've figured out why that is happening, so next week I'll test that theory.  And I finished a quilt! 

Are you wondering how I get so much done in spite of chaos?  It's quite simple -- I ignore the chaos!  Not for long -- usually just long enough to meet a deadline. 

So today, the only way to get this little top quilted by the end of the day was to set up my extra table in the middle of the office which happens to be the only tidy room in the house at the moment.  The view is good, there is a fan over my head, and I can stream music through my computer. 

The piece is 35" by 45" and is a teaching sample for Baby Blocks for Beginners (clever name, huh?) that I'll be teaching this fall at The Sew'n Place in Chambersburg, PA.  I decided to push all the way to the end of the project so that when it has served its purpose, I can gift it to a friend who is expecting his first grandchild in the fall.  He is Japanese and the focus fabric is a gorgeous koi print. 

The quilting design was inspired by the background design of the focus fabric -- one of those lovely Oriental flowing waves designs.  I rummaged through my thread collection (always purchased impulsively) for something that would blend with the fabrics in the top.  I found 3 partial spools, any of which would work, called the nearest shop to discover they didn't have another spool of any, and started anyway.  I used the third choice in the bobbin and my first choice in the top -- ran out of the bobbin thread about 3/4 along and the top thread made it until the last corner.  So it was good that I had another option in reserve.  Best part is that I used up all those ends and no one will ever realize it!

I think to classical music, but I machine quilt to rock-n-roll -- preferably stuff from the 80's.  I stop to stretch my neck and shoulders every hour or so (and maybe dance a bit).  Drink lots of tea.  And in 2 1/2 hours, it was done!!  See the safety pin?  It's my marker for threads that have to be woven back in and I put it there as soon as I stitch past it.  What an easy way to be sure I don't miss any of them!

So here is the finished product.  And it brings me to a total of 93 1/4 yards of fabric used so far this year.  In a perfect world, I'll be at the 106 yard mark by the end of June . . . . but I'll be okay if I'm not.  My sewing groove is back in gear at this point and that's a critical piece of this effort!!!  Right now it's time to adjourn to a lawn chair and finish the hand sewing on the binding!!   

P.S.  Did I mention that I started this quilt on June 13 and I can't believe it's finished today -- June 19!?!?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Another one FINISHED!!!!!

It was a lovely weekend in Northeast Ohio.  I spent the late afternoon on Saturday hand stitching the binding onto this quilt -- another one finished!! 

I call this piece Autumn Hillside -- the color scheme was inspired by a long drive along the Ohio River during the fall several years ago.  The forests in that area have more oak than this corner of the state, so the fall color is more somber, lots of browns and rusts with sparks of red here and there.  This photo does not show the big stitch hand quilting with pearl cotton -- guess I need a few detail photos, too.  I enjoy the technique because it tolerates imperfection nicely and over the past three years since I discovered it, this is the 3rd piece I finished doing it.  I didn't use up much fabric (just 1/3 yard for the binding), but it's good to finish one!

The fabric gobbler this past week was this kaleidoscopic layout of hexagons.  So far I've used
 about 2 1/2 yards of fabric and it's 36" by 48".  The  border will be the large swirly print in 3 of the hexagon motifs.  It's one of the samples for the seminar I'm offering in September that will focus on hexagons, 60 degree diamonds, and equilateral triangles.  I stumbled onto the setting on my design wall but now that I've copied it into EQ5 (still haven't upgraded?!?!), I've been playing with other arrangments/expansions of it.  This one uses 2" hexagons -- think I'll do another in a smaller scale.  Once I mastered "chain piecing" hexagons together, it was hard to stop so the piece almost flew together.   A clever student (named Mary) when I was teaching in Watertown, NY last month figured it out and shared it with me.  Very cool.

This evening, my guild had their monthly meeting and it was a "sit and sew" session.  I spent the time taking the borders off a quilt top -- it just didn't do anything for the quilt and I found a better option on a shopping foray a week ago.  I suppose that means I have to subtract it from the tally of fabric used, but perhaps not -- it could become part of the backing! 

Tomorrow I have to focus on a couple new teaching samples (tops only) that need to be in a shop for display by the end of June!!  More fabric to add to the tally!!  And then Thursday, I'm off to the NQA Show in Columbus for the day -- hope I don't succumb to the stimulation too enthusiastically!!  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Time to refire the enthusiasm!!

It's a piece of rhubarb custard pie with whipped cream (the real kind!).  Doesn't that look like a good way to start the day.  It's more balanced than one might think -- rhubarb is a veggie or fruit and the custard part uses eggs and milk.  There isn't that much sugar and I use a very thin pie crust!!

May was a crazy month -- some of it fun and some of it, not so much.  I did NOT sew 14 days during May between the birding and the gardening and some sort of muscle issue in my upper right arm and a setback for my Mom.  Needless to say, I did not reach the goal of using 17.66666 yards of fabric during May.  But not to worry, there is  always next month and it is here!!

6 new valances waiting to be hung!

For the past week, I've been focusing on getting back into a productive routine and have managed to use about 8 yards of fabric by making a new set of pillowcases for my bed, a Lorax pillowcase for my librarian daughter, new valances for my office (to go with the summer veggie garden wall hanging that rotates into place this week) and backing a charity quilt for my group that is currently working hard to organize a dozen quilts to send with the Chardon United Methodist Church's youth mission team who will head down to Appalachia later this month for their annual work week.

The impact of coming a bit unwound during May is that I will need to up the monthly total goal to about 18 1/2 yards.  Even with slow down, I've managed to use 81 yards this year and that's about 20 yards ahead of myself at this time last year. 

Yesterday, I cut fabric from my stash to use for a workshop with Bonnie Hunter when she visits the Ashtabula Friendly Quilters later this month.  Denise Guthrie from Mercantile on Main in Coshocton, Ohio (nice shop, one of my favorites) and I are taking the workshop together and since neither of us need a new UFQ, we've decided to take the team approach and minimize the impact!  We settled on a fabric theme (Civil War) and she is cutting the lights from her stash and I've cut the darks from my stash.  We also decided to make half the blocks so we'll each have a smaller quilt.  Good strategy -- half the work, half the fabric (all out of our stashs), and we'll get to enjoy working together and learning something!  Something to consider next time you and friend take a workshop together!

Today, I have planned an "artist's date" agenda for myself to stoke the motivation!  Julia Cameron explains this strategy in her excellent book, The Artist's Way.   It's meant to be a day on your own (no shopping with friends), exploring and enjoying the stimulation and ideas you encounter.  I'm presenting my project for the NEORQC 2013 Getaway (I'll be posting the details for this on my website, this morning at their meeting.  It's in Lordstown, Ohio and so I've mapped out several stops to make as I meander back home this afternoon -- they include Olive Grace's Quilt Shop near Cortland, the bulk food store in Mesopotamia, maybe the big daylily farm east of Middlefield (if they are open), and any interesting antique shops I see along the way.  My binoculars are always in the car so I might give in to a birding distraction, too.  The whole idea of the day is to just let it happen.  I forget to indulge in these dates regularly -- it's easy to push what seems like an indulgence aside when the schedule and the commitments are overflowing, but it's just as important as all the stuff with deadlines. 

What will you be doing to motivate yourself today?   Make it good!           Mary

Thursday, April 26, 2012

From the road . . . .

This past Saturday, I was on the south side of Atlanta, GA -- did back-to-back lectures for the Tara Quilt Guild of Morrow.  It was a relaxing weekend for me -- checked out a couple of nice shops, was a highly indulged house guest of a very good cook, and met some charming Southern ladies! 

I'm currently in Watertown, NY -- just finished two days of workshops with the North Country Quilt Guild.  I enjoyed meeting them and working with them -- lots of active, productive quilters.  They have a show coming up the weekend of June 9 and so there was lots of talk about being "ready for the show".

When I asked how the two groups discovered Mary Huey in Willoughby, Ohio, they both shared that they "just stumbled across" me through my website!!  What fun for me!

But being on the road separates me from my stash and my sewing machine.  So the only option for hitting the 17.666666 yard goal for April was to give it away!  And that's just what I did.  Someone asked me if that "counts" -- sure does!!  After all, it's my game so I get to make up the rules.  And it was fabric that has been in the stash for perhaps 20 years, heavier goods that were being "saved" for totebags and such.  But I don't actually make totebags, so what's the point of having it stashed.  I found a group of gals who make wheel chair bags and could use the sturdy stuff so I hope that soon it will be happier fabric as they use it for their projects.

A young gal, Erin who has been in my classes for the past two days has also set a goal for 2012 and is also writing a blog to stay accountable.  She just launched her quest to make "52 quilts in 52 weeks with $52 dollars to spend on each one."  I've read her first couple entries and am looking forward to following her progress!  If you'd like to get inspired by her quest, go to

Next on the trip agenda is 6 days of hiking in the Adirondacks -- those of you who have known me for several years know hiking and birding are just below quilting on my "like to do" list -- so I won't be using fabric but I'll be de-stressing and that will fill me with new energy for "stash-busting". 

Have a good week and keep sewing!!



Thursday, April 5, 2012

On Target!!

In spite of my quietness for the past month, I have managed to stay on track -- as of today, I've used 55 yards thus far this year.  But it will be a challenge to hit the 17.66666 yard mark in April since I'm traveling to teach and going on a hiking adventure at the end of the month.  And my spring bird watching always distracts me at this time of year.  I also need to focus on quilting a few pieces.  I've always been able to generate more quilt tops than finished quilts.  Right now I don't have any deadlines -- perhaps I'll need to make up a couple -- they always work!  I need a fairy quilting godmother.

Here's an updated photo of the tumbling blocks quilt!  I'm so pleased with it.  I auditioned red, green, and blue for the borders and stayed with a simple print.   Each color looked good with this scrappy quilt, but I have a soft spot for blue and so it was the winner.  That's the beauty of a true scrap quilt -- you can make it appear to be any color you like with your choice of the border fabric.  I'll keep the quilting simple -- with so many different prints, fancy quilting would be lost on it.  And since the backing is made, I could layer it up today and quilt it tomorrow . . . . well, I could.  This will be a new workshop in the fall, so if you are interested start setting aside a box or pile of 2 1/2" strips of scraps and leftovers! 

The other fabric eating projects this past month have included Easter pillowcases for my grandchildren and a ballet totebag for my granddaughter.  I do plan to make a pair of spring pillowcases for my bed today.  I change my bed quilt with the seasons and just put my original Marie's Scraps on the bed this morning.  It's a twin than I lay sideways on the bed so there is not enough to cover the pillows -- pretty pillowcases will fix that.  I also will change all the quilts that are out in the living room plus a wallhanging and the valances in my office to give the house a lighter look for the season.  It's like redecorating without having to paint (yuk).

Today is my day off from the world -- need to spend much of putting the sewing room back to rights.  Between the winter sewing frenzy and taking some fabric out of my mother's stash before donating it to a group, there are lots of piles around it.  Piles aren't good -- they are easy to create, but the make the room an unpleasant place to be.  So making the effort to tidy up is worthwhile.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A scenic view!

This is the view from my sewing machine today.  Many of you saw me piecing these tumbling blocks at the Farmpark Quilt Show this past weekend.  I have a long standing reputation for working on "something" during shows and this old project surfaced last week when I was tidying up my 2 1/2" strip box. 

One of the best modifications I've made to my sewing room over the past few years is to make this workwall larger and put it directly across the room from my sewing machine -- every time I look up from the machine, there it is!!  And because I'm always looking at it, I find that solutions and decisions come much faster as I work through a quilt -- that's good!  The faster the decisions come, the more I get done.

I've just passed the 46 yard mark on my quest -- not bad for two months work!  Over the past couple years, I've turned to my stash for quilt backings rather than buying new yardage.  It seems my small quilts are always just a few inches wider than the standard piece of fabric -- no problem, just slice it once or twice and insert either leftover pieces from the front stitched into a strip or strips of another fabric.  This is the back of my rick-rack quilt made with batiks and those are all the leftover pieces -- notice they are not in my scrap basket never to be seen again! 

Instead of giving away fabric that has become "ugly" during it's long residence in my stash, I set those aside for potential backings.  4 or 5 half yard cuts quickly become a lap robe backing when I stitch them together -- not wide enough?  Add a piece to the right edge of the first one, the left edge of the second one, etc so that when the pieces are sewn together, those seams are staggered from side to side. 

How about all those left overs from a stack of fat quarters used to make the "scrappy" top?  Once I've used them for a quilt, it's unlikely that they will get used again.  So a backing they become!  I stack 5 or 6 together, trim the top and lower edges straight -- you don't even have to know what they measure if they are stacked together because you trim all of them at the same time.  Set them together side by side with the lengthwise grain going vertically -- repeat these rows until you have enough length to finish the backing.  And there you have a backing which uses up between 4 and 6 yards of stash!  Now you can go out and reward yourself by buying a new and beautiful yard of fabric! 

Time to head back up to that tumbling blocks -- it's half way to being a finished quilt top!!

Mary Huey

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And there was a little pause . . . .

I should have known that there was a speed bump ahead when I made so much progress in January at using fabric from my stash!!  My Mom took a tumble two weeks ago and I've spent lots of time "waiting" here and there for this person and that person.  But when life happens, I'm glad I have my hand work organized as a quick fall back.  That totebag with my knitting which is always waiting by the backdoor got more attention than usual.  One pair of socks down and another in process!!  And my "big stitch" handquilting project was waiting to help me unwind every evening. 

Happily, Mom is on the mend and this past weekend my students in the Economy Stars String Piecing workshop I taught at the Lake Metroparks Farmpark Quilt Show helped me get back to my machine and some happy stitching.  The work they produced was inspiring!  

My goal for them was to use my quilts as an inspiration for their own pieces rather than copying my work exactly!  There were some interesting color combinations that grew out of their own fabric collections -- I love the way Diane graded the value of her diamonds so that the center of the star glows!

Kathy's background was going to be lime green but some auditioning with other possiblities resulted in a much better fit for the scrappy color combination she was using.

Jan's inspiration was a flowery assortment of discarded hospital gowns that her daughter rescued when she worked at a nursing facility -- they are destined for a charming wedding quilt.

I have to confess that when Phyllis announced she was using some red and yellows from her stash, I was skeptical -- I know that's a popular French Provencal combination, but I have trouble with how bright it is . . . but I was wrong -- she made a great top and I love how cheerful it is!! 

Diane worked out of my scrap bags -- they are very easy to access because I have my leftover strips sorted by colors!  There are six bags just waiting for someone to dig into them!  I set the stars with larger than necessary squares and triangles to make it easier to square them up by trimming them down.

Linda's version is the work of someone who has been quilting for a long time -- her fabrics were full of memories for both of us since I had sold many of them to her over the years!  Those blues and warm browns that were available in the late 1980's are still unbeatable in my stash!

If you wish you had taken this workshop, let me know.  I'm glad to offer it again! 

And now I have quilts to finish!!

Mary Huey