Quilting in the Summer: Dogs in Sweaters

Dog in Sweater.3

Dog in Sweater.2

Pattern:  “Dogs in Sweaters” quilt and pillow pattern by Elizabeth Hartman.

Fabrics:  Scraps!  In retrospect, I should have matched the white(ish) background, but I set out to use scraps, and those were the scraps I had.  The darker muslin is from a freebie fabric bag that came with a pack of yarn I bought 20 years ago.  The backing is from a Norwegian duvet cover donated by my dear friend.  The cotton seersucker cover had been her mother’s favorite and was no longer usable because of some rips in the 50-year-old fabric.

Made for:  My non-biological sister in Texas who has metastatic pancreatic cancer.  She is fighting the good fight.  She LOVES dachshunds, and I know she will be amused by this pillow cover!

Modifications:  The original pillow case pattern finished in a size for which there were no readily available pillow forms.  So, I eyeballed it and ended up with a cover that takes a standard sized pillow.  I also did not do the three-layer quilted backing, opting for a double layer of the seersucker.

Thoughts:  I am rubbish at quilting, mainly because I am a piecer, not a quilter . . .  I think the wavy line quilting turned out OK though.  The dachshund required many little pieces of fabric; not frustrating, but needed patience.  So worth the effort for the “cuteness” factor!

Learning Curve: Lone Star Quilt

“I am missing Texas . . .  Will you make me a Lone Star quilt?”

GF is from Houston, and every once in a while, she threatens to move back, but mostly she tells me she misses Texas.  I don’t understand it, but I take her word for it.  So I went searching for a Lone Star quilt pattern, and found Terri Ann Swallow’s Jellied Lone Star Quilt on the Moda Bake Shop website.  I liked her pattern so much that I hunted down what may have been the last existing jelly roll of “Feed Company” by Sweetwater.  How hard could it be?  After all, it’s supposed to be appropriate for ambitious beginners, and I was under the impression that I was now an intermediate quilter.

I should have paid attention to the part about starching the fabric first . . .

And this is what happened:


Lone Star Quilt #1

See those huge puckers?  When your points aren’t at perfect 45° angles, your sewn top is never going to lie flat.  Ever.


So, the quilt top is going to become this floor quilt (some day):


After much stomping and whining, I made some DIY sizing using potato vodka and distilled water (1:2 ratio), bought a new jelly roll — “Mama Said Sew Revisited” by Sweetwater — and unleashed my not-so-hidden OCD with a vengeance:

Lonestar 2

Lone Star Quilt, version 2!


The finished quilt is 90 inches by 90 inches, and I did the quilting at Jukebox Quilts on one of their super duper Innova longarm machines.  I fell in love with the stylized modern “chain link” stitch; I think it provides a nice counterpoint to a very traditional quilt pattern.  The star I made is bigger than the original pattern, and I chose to insert the white pieces surrounding the star using Y seams.  In retrospect, I probably should have used the same off-white fabric for the entire background, but at the time I thought it would be more interesting to have two different whites.

I will not make another Lone Star again; as with knitting, I don’t like using the same pattern twice.   It’s a learning curve, right?

A Maker

Just recently, a couple of weeks in fact, I became aware of the term “maker” as applied to crafters/artisans/diyers . . . .  I like it.  I am a maker of things useful and otherwise, interesting and otherwise, beautiful and otherwise.  I make.

Cavy On

A Floor Mat for the Guinea Pigs!

Pattern:  The letters are from the Moda “Spell it with Fabric” blog hop, reduced to 3/4 size.

Fabric:  The blue background fabrics are from Amy Butler’s “Daisy Chain” collection; other fabrics are stash scraps.

The Cavies (aka guinea pigs Tula and Chia) live in the basement in the summer; their house is at the bottom of the staircase.  I made this floor quilt for the landing in front of the cage, partly for The College Kid’s amusement, but mostly because I have never made fabric letters.  The backing fabrics are Joel Dewberry home decor weight scraps, the batting is also made up of scraps from other projects, and the binding is made from one of Mom’s nightgowns.  This was a fun project, and the letters were addictive to make.  I also sewed a whole set of letters at full size for one of Emily Dickinson’s pithy poems . . . .  that one is a “someday” quilt.

A Lesson in Quilting

Chain Link front

Chain Link Quilt

A few years ago I entered my “red-and-grey” phase and bought a bunch of — you guessed it — red-and-grey fabric collections.  And then I couldn’t figure out a good pattern for them, so they all sat in the stash.  Last year, I ran across a vintage block pattern from the 1930s that formed the basis for the Chain Link Quilt.  The pattern appeared as part of the “Nancy Page Quilt Club” series, a Depression-era creation of an enterprising home economist named Florence La Ganke Harris (1886-1972).  In the original pattern, the block finished at 10.5″ square, but of course the size is easy to manipulate by varying the width of the patterned strips.  The block is easy to assemble, and as the author commented in the advertisement, the “over and under effect is both good and unusual.”

I broke into my Etchings by Three Sisters jelly roll, and began to assemble the blocks.  And then I got bored.  This is why the finished quilt ended up with patches of bright blue, greens, and yellows, most of which came from Mom’s housedresses.  She was, after all, born in the early 1930s.

Pattern:  Chain Link Quilt, from Florence La Ganke’s Nancy Page Quilt Club.

Fabrics:  Etchings, by Three Sisters; various red and greige scraps from the stash; patches from Mom’s housedresses

Modifications:  I used 2.5″ strips, so the finished block was somewhere around 14.5″ square


1.  I should have planned better for the over-and-under effect, but I piece the same way I knit, more or less on the fly.  Oh well.

2.  I know some people say that you are not a REAL quilter unless you actually quilt your own work.  Well.  Fighting words, right?  I learned TWO new skills with this project: (1)  Quilt-as-you-go, and (2) actual quilting.

For the QAYG, I wasn’t thrilled about any one method out in blogland, so I came up with a combination method that involved a fair amount of hand-sewing.  Since I have more than a touch of OCD, it’s all good.  As for the actual quilt pattern, I probably should have gone with something curvy/flowy, but at the time I was quite enamored of Anne Bright’s “Square Dance” pattern, so that’s what I went with.



The back, as well the batting, were all scraps; the purple is part of a sheet (c. early 1980s) from Mom’s linen closet.

I love the border fabric.  I love all the hand-piecing and hand-sewing I did on this project.  And I love Mom being part of this quilt.

The Perfect Point

About a year ago, I started making the Swoon Quilt, by Camille Roskelley.  Yes, I know, I was late to the party.  For a few weeks I chugged along, sewing each block with scraps from all the quilts I have ever made in my short quilting life.  Then I lost my sewing mojo as the house buying and house moving and house selling stuff just went on and on . . . .  I had only one block left to do, and I finally got around to it after a 3 months hiatus.  I LOVED my fabric choices for that last block!  And then I discovered that somehow, my bare-quarter-inch seam had shifted, and that last block was about a quarter-inch off on all sides.  Sigh.  This is by way of explaining why the finished quilt has extra patches in the background color, because of course I had to stick to the “scraps only” rule, and wouldn’t you know I had no more Moda “snow” left, and I had to fuss with not just the last block, but adjacent blocks too.  Anyway.  I did finish, though, and I love my Swoon, fixes and all:



As a result of Swoon, I had even more triangles than I had before.  Then I found the Mod GeoCruiser quilt by Kelli Fannin (read about her inspiration here).  I had been wanting to do a bicycle-themed quilt for DH, and even though this is a cruiser bike (and a girly one at that), and he is a road bike fanatic, I thought it was a fun design that he would like.  It also helps that he is the most un-macho man I know 🙂  So this is the quilt top:

Mod Geo Cruiser

Mod GeoCruiser

I learned how to make really sharp points with this quilt: cut the triangles larger than specified, then trim down after sewing.  Really simple idea, right?  The small amount of fabric waste is so worth it, because despite my best efforts, I do not have a consistent quarter-inch seam (as I proved with Swoon).  I’m still not fond of triangles, but at least I can sew really good ones now!

My cruiser is made up of scraps from previous quilts, plus fabric from Mom’s house dresses.  I really like the idea of having bits and pieces of her dresses in this and all future quilts; the therapist tells me what I’m doing is taking Mom with me.  That is a very comforting thought.

Finished: Basement!

We built our new house knowing we were going to have to finish the walkout basement so The Teenager would have somewhere to live.  DH and I wanted single-floor living, and we got that in 1250+ square feet main floor:  master bedroom suite, his-and-her offices, a guest bathroom, and one continuous space for kitchen, dining room, and living room.  The plan is compact and efficient, and we both like having no hallways.

The basement is pretty much the footprint of the house, minus the crawl space under my office.  We did not finish the basement at the old house because it already had 2000 square feet of living space, and the crappy aluminum windows leaked in big rainstorms.  By the time we built the new house, the city had adopted new building codes that required a comprehensive drainage systems around new constructions.  This is especially important because our new house is about 100 yards from the innocuous-sounding Spring Creek.

Our favorite contractor (who did all our remodels at the old house) finally got going on our basement in mid-February.  Eleven weeks and $32K later, I am declaring the basement DONE!  Well, except for the glass surround for the shower stall, which is being fabricated even as I type . . . .  I hope.

DH's Exercise Room

DH’s Exercise Room

Why yes, those are interlocking play mats from Home Depot 🙂  We had an extra curtain rod, so we are using it to store exercise bands.  The floor here (and everywhere in the basement) is polished and stained concrete.  It turned out beautifully, but had I known about the xylene solvent (“It’s a double benzene ring,” said my brother the chemist) and how toxic-smelling it would be during the first 10 days, I would have had asked for the polish without the stain.

The exercise room is in a Jack-and-Jill setup with The Teenager’s bedroom.  The bathroom is spacious, and is perhaps nicer than our master bathroom:


The Teenager chose the cabinet, in “Purple Gloss,” which looks like a dark eggplant color.  It is indeed very glossy!  It has a solid surface top with integrated sink.  We asked for the extra-large sink, and a good thing because it is the only one in the house large enough for washing sweaters.



The shower base is also solid surface, and because this is a teenager’s shower, the tiles are very large for minimal grout lines.  The decorative strip is made up of glass tiles in shades of pale grey, with blue accent tiles that were left over from her bathroom remodel at the old house.

Storage cubbies!

Storage cubbies!

Our contractor hates wasted space, so he built these cubbies to take advantage of the space under the staircase.  The short side of the space is in The Teenager’s room:


She now has more storage space than she has ever had, but no doubt she will manage to use it all.

Finally, gratuitous pictures of sewing projects:


I sewed the curtains from IKEA linen and the last of my bicycle-themed quilt scraps.  The Teenager chose the fabrics, so I think she actually does like those curtains.

Floor quilt

Floor quilt

This was the third quilt I ever made, and not as successful as I originally envisioned.  I was in my orange phase at the time 🙂  However, it does work well in her room to cut the chill of the concrete floor, so all good!

Final thoughts:

I would not recommend doing this, but because of our timeline, I picked the floor color, the wall paint, and the bathroom colors independent of each other.  It worked out, but while I like the floor color (supposed to be “terra cotta”), I think I could have gone with my original choice of turquoise!

Reuse Reduce Recycle Project, Part 3

About a year ago, while waiting for the builders to start construction, I started making curtains for the new house.  I bought UNWASHED linen from Ikea, and after getting them home, understood for the first time why WASHED linen was such a prized commodity.  The linen actually turned into this lovely, mid-weight fabric after laundering, but it was so drapey that I could not for the life of me cut a straight line.  I struggled through 25 yards of material (did I mention all the windows are 7 feet tall and really wide, and I was sewing 100″ x 104″ panels?) and decided that I was never going to make full length linen curtains again.  Ever.  Unfortunately, I still had basement windows left . . . .   but luckily, I also had many fabric scraps left over from various quilt projects: IMG_3283The walkout basement has a very large east-facing window, and in the morning, these panels look like stained glass.  They are of course too long for the windows: the short story is that I thought 9 foot ceilings really meant 9 foot ceilings, but of course I forgot about the various space-occupying plumbing and HVAC elements, one of which runs right into the top of the window so that I cannot hang the curtain rods anywhere except inside the window frame.  Sigh.  And I am just too lazy to shorten the curtains, so for the forseeable future, the bottom of the panels will remain gently folded on the window sill.

I took up quilt-making because like most doctors, I have a touch of OCD in me.  There is something very satisfying in cutting precise geometric shapes, sewing the precise seam, matching the precise points.  A plastic surgeon attending told me once that I was dextrous, and unfortunately for me, I have never forgotten that comment.  These curtains are scrappy, improvised, and obviously imperfect, and I felt so free when I was making them.  I look at them and I smile; they make me happy.