Monday, October 3, 2016

Maggie's Swinging into a Square Dance

Month Five! For real! Can you believe it? The BOM has just marched on this year and it feels like every few days that I'm getting a friendly reminder from Jacquelynne to kindly get off my butt (my words, not hers) and make my blocks and blog about how amazing I am (again, my words, not hers). So here we are, and here we go!

Ha! Remember my butterfly sitch last month? I just noticed the butterfly is on the logo up there. The whole thing. Jacquelynne really is so much better than I am in all ways.

So this month we make five blocks. ACK! FIVE! Does this mean in month six I'm making SIX, because if so I better start now. I saved it all til yesterday and while they weren't hard, between picking out all my scrappy fabrics and cutting and sewing all five it was one of those projects that "expanded to fill up the time allotted," ie took me all day. However, I love my blocks, so well worth it.

I decided to add a little more color and scrappiness to my blocks, so I chose to use five different fabrics in each of my four main colors (blue, purple, green, yellow) rather than just yellow. So that meant a dive into my scrap bins.

I know many scrappy quilt designers like to preach that you should cut and order your scraps into special sizes, like 5" squares and 2 1/2" strips. To this idea, I always say "What happens when you need a bigger piece of scrap, or feel like doing something more exciting than using a couple of different sizes?" To my knowledge, none of the famous designers who order their scraps has actually heard me ask them this nor have they felt the need to answer me personally, but whatever. To each their own. My bins are scraps from tiny to just under 1/4 yard and I like it that way.

Actual randomly sized scraps found in my purple bin.
 I found what I needed and cut them all into the size given. Because I am a quilter, I own tools to cut things, and that is what I do. Doesn't bother me at all that they weren't all precut to 2 1/2" strips. Because now I have more of most of them in bigger sizes and I STILL got to use them in this project. #winning

You can probably tell my greys were all different too. Because why not. My middle name is Random.

Cutting and sewing for an afternoon lead to five blocks, three illustrated here, along with the cautionary tale of "If you store your scraps in jumbled bins as I do, they tend to be wrinkly even after pressing." Bad news: I was too lazy to repress them before taking this photo. Good news: I can and will press them to death before I put the quilt together.
What you can't tell is that all these whites are different, even within blocks. This is a truly scrappy quilt.
Remember my issue with that one purple last month, and my musing that, should I decide to care, it might not really go with the rest of my purples? Well, I think making these blocks scrappy has sufficiently rendered the point moot. One of my constant quilting mottoes, along with "Perfection is Overrated," is "Whenever possible, Deflect." I think all this color does that well.

I'm already kind of excited about an idea I have to add a little more color to these alternate blocks. This of course assumes I will finish it. Because as you can see, I don't even have the whole thing together although I should, and you likely will never return to my blog to see if I do finish it because this month has proven I am slacking. Here's hoping we can all just picture it for now. I do promise to have it together AND WITH BORDERS next month! You heard it here first.

Someone who never slacks is this month's giveaway sponsor - Christa Watson of Christa Quilts. I've gotten to know her professionally over the last couple of years and she is a wonder. She designs fabulous modern patterns and wrote the best book on machine quilting I've ever come upon (no money was exchanged for me to say that) "The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting," which she penned along with Angela Walters. Angela covers the long arm parts, and Christa covers the domestic machine parts. As I am a domestic machine quilter, or of as I call it the "roll, stuff, swear, drink, repeat" variety, her tips on quilting designs and using your tiny machine for big quilting impact are amazing.

However, disclaimer. The book is amazing but that is not the prize this month. Never fear, though - Her patterns are just as fabulous! I mean look how cute!

In order to win the pattern pack, you must leave a comment for me telling me your favorite fall soup or stew. Recipe optional; you know we are all just going to look it up on Pinterest anyway if it sounds good. I considered asking you to tell me your brand of iron given my nasty wrinkled blocks, but that was just boring. And iron is only good to eat in cereal.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bloggers Quilt Festival - "Snack Bandito"

As always, the BQF has snuck up on me. And as always, I don't have any sort of fantastic amazing quilt that might be remotely in the running for a prize. But what I do have is a little project I designed for a shop in NE to use as their Row by Row row (there has to be a better way to say that), which I just love and hope you will as well!

Many times the Row by Row row (there it is again) is designed by a shop employee, or a designer who lives nearby the shop, or even a famous designer. I fall in none of those categories, having designed this row for The Quilt Basket in York NE - NE standing in this case for Nebraska, not New England, mind you. So imagine my surprise when they contacted me and asked if I'd be interested. Imagine further my concern about whether I could design something they could be proud to use as their Row by Row row (hereafter to be referred to as the Triple R) when their vision was to have "a vertical Triple R featuring a corn row with a raccoon sitting at the bottom chowing down on an ear of corn." That may not have been the exact wording, but it for sure was the gist. I do love me a challenge, though, so I was happy to give it a go.

Don't you love the first step of the design or quilting process, which is fabric shopping? I was told to go with fabrics that were batik-y and tone on tone-y (my terms, not theirs, but I knew what they meant) so that when they were kitting the design, they could find easy substitutions to what I was using out here in the eastern NE.
 Found the greens, greys, and the best corn fabric EVER IN THE HISTORY OF CORN FABRIC. This will be much more obvious in the next photo.

I love designing machine applique, but have to admit I am a weird form of designer who really can't draw very well. Often my shapes end up much more realistic in fabric than they do with just pen and paper. The corn I figured I could fake okay by looking at photos of corn, but the raccoon could be an issue. Thank God for coloring books! Thankfully I found a cartoony looking raccoon I was able to use as a model and made my own for this row. Using Mistyfuse as my fusible, I was able to cut out all the various racoon parts and fuse him all together first, just to make sure I had the right scale compared to my row and corn size. Isn't he pretty cute?

Super extreme closeup. Because why not.
 The corn was less fun to make, but only because corn doesn't really have much of a sparkling personality. But it had to be done. I used a random piece of background to play with the scale of the corn vs the racoon and see how many leaves, etc, I would need to fill the space.


Once I was happy with the scale and shapes, I fused the corn and raccoon to my Triple R background, and the fun began! A little zig zagging around the raccoon parts gave him a personality - and some blue eyes.

A little thread painting gave my corn a little silk. I was pretty proud of that part, even if it may not have been exactly how corn is found in nature. But hey, it's a quilt, right? Of a cartoony racoon eating corn. Perfectly realistic wouldn't have blended with my brand of imperfection.

A little zig zagging to smack him onto the background and we had the design.

The Quilt Basket really only wanted the row as a row, but I took it upon myself recently to go ahead and finish it off as a wall hanging. He seems like he's pretty happy about being a real quilt now, not just a Triple R.

I do love an unbalanced border for a little interest. If you imagine hard enough, those little yellow squares can turn into corn kernels, right? Or maybe that's really stretching it. Either way, I like it.

A few close ups:
As always, I'm not a fabulous machine quilter, but I am a very enthusiastic one.

Now and then, the perfect back appears.
We used the name "Home 'Sweet Corn' Home" for the Triple R, but I'm calling my version "Snack Bandito." Right now all of the Triple Rs are "in the vault," so to speak, and if you missed out on getting the directions from The Quilt Basket this summer, you are out of luck until November 1, when the shop is allowed to sell kits. I believe they plan to do so. I also may release a pattern including the borders and finishing options early next year, or may even add a little something or someone to make it a bigger quilt. Time will tell. For now, though, I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about the background of designing this Triple R!

Thank you for stopping by! I'd love to know if you participated in Row by Row this year! And especially if not only you participated, but you actually collected this row. And oh my goodness, if you participated, collected, AND made the row?? The trifecta! Please if so share a photo with me at! I don't think I can ever be tired of seeing my designs made up in actual fabric by amazing quilter peeps!

Enjoy the BQF!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Block #4! Maggie's Dance Card is Getting Full!

Well, thank God for this sew along. Otherwise, I obviously would have no need to blog! Have I mentioned August is not my favorite month? And clearly I had nothing good to say. So let's hope September is better and this isn't the only time you'll be hearing from me!

One of the reasons I was only too happy to lend my blogging and sewing services to this sew along is that as a designer, I rarely have time to work with someone else's pattern. Between all the designs in my own head and trying to work on those, weed out those that don't work, get a few out into the world each year, and sharing them on the road with lectures and workshops, along with these other people living in my house and demanding attention, it's honestly a real treat to just follow someone else's lead for a bit, and of course to put my own little touch on it in the form of scrappiness!

The green/blue/purple/yellow theme continues with block #4!

And you know what else continues? My overarching lifetime theme of imperfectionism.

Nice job on that butterfly placement! Woo hoo!

You might wonder if I noticed the problem before I added the grey corner. You might not be at all surprised that yes, I did, but my next thought after an expletive was "What the heck ever." Sometimes butterflies fly just out of our sight. Let's pretend I wanted to get all philosophical with this block and the meaning of butterflies we just can't quite reach, rather than the true fact that I suck at applique placement.

In other imperfect news, I am still trying to decide if I should redo the purple in block #2 - top left in this photo.

True to my word at the beginning, I've kept it scrappy and used different greens, blues, purples, yellows, and even different greys and whites in each block. It's all being pulled from my scrap bins every month. My actual yardage stash is likely feeling very neglected. In any case, though, the purple in block #2 is a bit more on the maroon side than the rest of them. Can I live with it? I'm not, after all, one to stress over these things or be one with my seam ripper. I am, however, one to be obsessive about color sense, and I think I generally have a good one.This purple just might not work. But I'm willing to do some alternate blocks next month and see if I can settle it down a bit.

I'm sure you all have opinions. Feel free to share them. I may or may not take your advice or my own even, but it's always nice to have options and ideas.

This month's giveaway is sponsored by Deanne of Snuggles Quilts. Who doesn't love a snuggle?

Win three of her beautiful patterns just by entering! In the comments, to celebrate the end of my least favorite season and the beginning of my favorite, tell me what you are looking forward to most about this fall. If you hate fall, that's okay, but I hope you can find something to look forward to in the next few months or life will just be sad. Sad like half a butterfly. We don't want that.

Happy sewing! 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Maggie's First Dance BOM #3

We're back! And guess who is not only your blogger of the moment today, but also the prize sponsor this month? OMG......IT'S ME! And my Mod-ified Trees kit! 

 So crazy, right? And here you all thought I was just hanging out behind the scenes, putting together my blocks and blogging wittily about the process. But as with all of us, in reality I'm so much more. This post should prove that by the end!

Let's get started on Block #3!

As you can see, mine continues in that blue/yellow/purple/green scrappy theme, and this time adds a touch of whimsy in the form of "I threw this thing together the night before I left for 10 days in Vancouver and Alaska and I didn't even bother to trim it before snapping the photo." But you get the idea. It's (basically) done and awaits only some machine applique thread work and trimming.

I'm going to show you in a second how I went about using the Transdoodle by Mistyfuse with my applique pieces because it might just be my most favorite new notion, but first let's point one thing out....remember my fancy little tip last month about flipping your fabric over and using the "wrong" side if it is just a little "too"? Well, this month my grey fabric was just a little too dark and features that little trick..and if you compare the photo above of the pieced grey pieces with the photo below of the grey piece I used for applique, you can totally see it. It's like two fabrics in one! Who wouldn't love that?

But yeah, on to the Transdoodle! Mistyfuse Iris is one of my sponsors for my Teal Mini Swap (more below) and in addition to sponsoring a blog giveaway, she also was kind enough to throw a Transdoodle in for me because I said I was a little bit fascinated with the idea of it. And then I used it for this block and man, I'm even  more so! It's a packet of tracing papers of different colors and tones (dark to light) with a powdery substance (not anthrax) (I'm assuming) on one side which you use to trace your applique shapes onto your fabrics prepared with Mistyfuse. No more #2 pencils and parchment! 

So here's what you do. First, rough cut your applique pieces (NOT THE SHAPES!) and fit them together as best you can on a piece of Mistyfuse. I used one about 10" square(ish).

It works much better if you can place the Mistyfuse on parchment first, but it is hard to see the Mistyfuse in the photo when I did that. So here's what it really looks like. I promise the Mistyfuse is there.

Then you are going to want to put a second layer of parchment over the top of the whole thing and press well. The Mistyfuse just kind of melts right into the fabric.

You can either cut your pieces apart once they are all fused, or just leave them together. I opted to leave them together and just line up my shapes with the fabrics I was going to use for them, but either way will work. Do what works best for you.

 To transfer the markings, I layered the Transdoodle sheet (I'm using white here, since I started with the flower, which is a dark color) on top of the WRONG SIDE of the fabric (ie the Mistyfuse side)
 Then all you have to do is trace with some sort of sharpish/bluntish object that won't make a mark, like a hera tool, a dry ballpoint pen, or raid the "weird tools" slot of your notions box and grab the kabob stick you use for turning tubes. That's what I used.
 I of course forgot to take a photo of the flower, but here you can see how the leaf shape turned out when I used the Transdoodle. Pretty cool, huh? Then all you have to do is cut it out and place it!

 Thanks Jacquelynne for another lovely little flower block.

Along with Maggie's BOM, I'd like to take a moment to talk about my current project, one that Jacquelynne was kind enough to help me out with by being a blogger and giveaway spot herself last week - My annual Teal Mini Swap. It's a mini swap (natch) and fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, and I'm running it for the fifth year to coincide with September being Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

Each year, I've been blessed to have quilters come together from all over the USA to join me in this event. Participants pay $15 to register, $10 of which is donated to Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. The rest goes to my expenses, which thanks to the USPS are not insubstantial. Why OCRF? Simply put, they are leading the way in both research and awareness for this deadly horrible disease, and have been doing so ever since my mom was first in treatment 16 years ago. Even 14 years after her death I still receive their newsletters and am amazed by the advances, most of which might have kept her alive long enough to meet her first grandchildren in 2002 had they been available then....but it's still never enough. I don't want more women to be affected. I don't want quilters to have this disease happen to them. I can't prevent it, but I can use my  internet presence to make a difference each year. To date, my fundraiser has raised over 7000 dollars (including this year's registrations so far) for OCRF. Sure, it's not millions. But it's a start.

This year's fabric sponsor (I'm big enough for a fabric sponsor, anyway! Woo Hoo!) is Moda, and swappers all receive a piece of this fabric, modeled by me, to be used in the mini they will make for their partner.

 Registration began last week, and will continue until August 29. We've already got participants from 44 states and I'd love to turn the whole map teal!

Here's a few of the cool minis swappers received last year. You can see even more by scrolling through our Teal Mini Swap Facebook group. The talent in this group amazes me more every year.

Jacquelynne was lovely to help me out with the kickoff, so please check out her blog too! She just might inspire you. And if you want to register to join the swap, I certainly won't stop you! Let's kick ovarian cancer to the curb and run it over with the car for good measure.

But now back to this month's BOM giveaway, my cute little Mod-ified Trees kit. This silly little pattern is way fun to whip together and takes just an afternoon - FOR REAL! It's almost as much fun to pick out the fabrics, so I love putting together the kits!

It's even a really great pattern when done in country colors, like one customer made!
To enter to win the kit, please leave me a comment telling me if you like the color teal, or if you think teal is the color of gangrene. Or both. I suppose they don't necessarily have to be mutually exclusive options! If you don't like teal, do tell me a color or palette you prefer to use instead when you create. We all have our favorites!

Thanks for stopping by! I look forward to Block #4 with you!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Vinnie Loves Maude Quiltalong #5 - Dessert is Served and it Tastes Like Quilting Thread

We made it to the end, though not without more drama than should happen on a first date. Thank you all for your kind words and your patience as our time together was disrupted by the very unexpected death of my mother in law. I'm very hopeful that the rest of the summer will be full of only happy things. Happy things, like the finishing of a quilt!

Is there anything that can bring a quilter simple joy quicker than the last stitch of a binding? I can't think of anything right off the top of my head, actually. Maybe the smell of a new jellyroll in the morning? The sound a new blade makes on your fabric, hopefully not to be followed by the sound of a scream of pain coming from your own mouth as you run over a finger? I guess actually the simple joys are pretty endless.

 We've reached the final stage of our QAL, the one where in pattern booklets the directions often start and end with "Quilt as Desired." Often causing palpitations and stress sweat, am I right? If you check out page 7, #2 under "finishing" you'll see that even in my pattern booklets I try not to leave you completely hanging. It's here that I wrote "The cover quilt was machine quilted with loops in the prints and outlines in the low volume areas, and wavy lines in the borders."
Here's what that meant - loops big and small in the body of the quilt.
  Admittedly, that's still a pretty generic description. How big are the loops? Do I mean all the prints, both outer and inner circle thingies? What color or weight thread did I use? What cocktail did I prepare to celebrate when I was done quilting it all on my home machine? I mean really, the unanswered questions are still there. (The answers: Both big in the background and small in the prints; yes, all the prints; 40 wt coral thread, and red wine.)

Sometimes all that a quilter needs to stop "quilting paralysis" is to have a jumping off point. Maybe it helps. Maybe it doesn't. But I can sleep better at night knowing my own patterns contain a little quilting encouragement in the form of "WWBD" (What Would Beth Do) at the end.

Though it is hard to see, I did do very similar quilting on the famous runner.
Hopefully you can zoom in!

 If you are looking for a more modern looking option that is as simple as it comes but looks pretty darn amazing, I believe you can't go wrong with random wavy lines. I used them to finish this extra block I had from the swap and I personally think it is pretty darn cute.

The key with the wavy lines? Don't make them perfect! Don't make them parallel to each other. Wave some in while the line next to it waves out! The less they line up the better! How can that not appeal to my imperfectionist base?

Don't believe me that they need to be imperfect? Make some wavy lines all perfectly parallel to each other. I think you'll find the overall design turns boring. At least it sure does in my opinion. And if you hang out here enough, you know that I DO have opinions.

Wavy lines too free love-hippie-style for you? No worries. As much of a pain as straight line quilting is (sorry, not trying to discourage anyone from trying it, but make sure you clear your schedule for several days if you go this route), it always looks (and feels!) amazing. 
My lines are 3/4" apart. Because I know you were asking in your head.
This photo of my finished QAL quilt shows how I not only straight line quilted my top, but I divided it into sections on the diagonals to do so. Not only did this make me feel like I was accomplishing the quilting quicker, because who doesn't love being able to check off a section as DONE, but it also made the quilting stand out more and add more movement. Way fun.

A lot of people like to use painters tape or some other marking tool on their quilt when they straight line quilt, and it's definitely a great way to ensure your lines stay completely perfect. But you know me. Like I care about completely perfect. When I straight line quilt I'll mark the very first line along the diagonal so I know I'm off to the right start, then I just eyeball it. Having received plenty of compliments on my quilting over the years, a few of them even deserved, I know I don't feel the need to get all crazy with marking. But you might. If so, I say go for it.

Thanks so much for playing along with my little QAL. Having never done one before, I had no idea what to
expect or how to make sure people felt involved, and I am not sure I did all the right things. But for a first time it was fun and I think a good start. Hopefully you got a little more info about how these blocks came to be, how to create them, and what you can do with them once you do.

These lessons, and the FB group, will live on for as long as Blogger and FB allow, and I encourage you to share your photos and your experiences in the group!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Block #2 Maggie's First Dance BOM

The resounding message I received from my first block posting was heard loud and clear - "WE LOVE YOUR COLORS!" Well, thank you, hotties every one of you. You have impeccable taste when it comes to color sense.

I loved all of the blocks I saw from my fellow bloggers, so I know this is high praise indeed.

As you may recall, I had decided to go with "scrappy" as my theme for this BOM, but that's about as far as I had gotten in my planning. Your love of my colors made me cement my thought that I might keep the same color families (green, purple, blue, yellow, white, grey) for each block, but use different fabrics of those colors in each block. So that's exactly what I did.

Forgive the wrinkles. Not only is it still scrappy, but it flew 800 miles stuffed in a suitcase.
You may note that I tried a little something new with this block, and that something was thread painting the center part. In my mind, this was going to be quicker than tracing and cutting out and fusing and appliqueing all the little pieces down. This notion proved to be laughably inaccurate and proved yet again how very entertaining it must be to live in my mind. But whatever. It was an experience.

It's pretty clear that I used the time-honored motto of "If you can't do it well, do it with enthusiasm." In all honesty, it's frightening how many areas of my life this motto has been applied to, but that's a story for another day. In this case it was worth it to try something a bit new and see what happened. That's another of my mottoes (nod to Dan Quayle) and I'll never regret being adventuresome! I'm not sure if I'll attempt it on another block center or not, but I'm glad I gave it a go.

It was a pretty simple method - pin the block pattern to fabric and stabilizer, outline with thread of choice, and color it in with back and forth or loopy loops. When you get right down to it, all thread painting is is coloring in with thread.
One tip I can give about fabric choice that I use frequently: if your fabric is a little too "too" on the right side (a little too dark, a little too printy, a little too textured, a little too much in any way), flip it over and use the back. I did that for both white and grey in this block, and it really helped keep things from getting too "in your face" with the grey and too "why is the alphabet scattered all over the background" with the white. Check it out! You just doubled your fabric stash with that one tip! Feel free to buy me a drink sometime.

Since I brought this block all the way to Minnesota, I figured I'd better give it a little photo shoot for you.

Once you make your own block, give it a photo shoot of your own and share it in any of these ways so we can all see it!

So on to the giveaway. This month we have two sponsors, and if you are in the continental US, you can enter both!

The first, available for US addresses only as those pesky shipping regulations make sending aerosols across borders prohibitive, is a prize pack from Therm-o-Web. I love a good adhesive for applique or basting, and I'm sure you do as well!

For our international and HI and AK friends, Michele at the Quilting Gallery is offering up a prize pack of pattern and template for "Starlight."

To enter for the international prize, you will need to head on over to and enter directly on Michele's blog. She's a spunky Canadian who will be happy to help out our international friends! If she gets a winner from Juneau, though, I may offer to deliver it in person as I'm headed there soon!

To enter to win the Therm-o-Web prize, please comment where you live, and what you would have me do if I were to visit your town (a favorite restaurant, special park, tourist attraction, etc). You just never know...I might find myself there and need something to do!

See you next month!

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