Sampler Block Shuffle – Block 1

Those who have hung around me for a while know that I rarely make a block/pattern like the pattern says to make it. Don’t ask me why because I’m not sure I have an answer. It just seems to me that when I look at a quilt block for example I sometimes see it put together differently than the directions say to put it together. Such was the case with the first block in Moda’s Sampler Block Shuffle. What the directions said to do and what I did to come up with my block are two different things. How so? Well, I’ll show you. WARNING: This turned into somewhat of a tutorial so be prepared to be reading for a while. Here’s a bit of music by one of Victoria’s favorite fellers to enjoy while reading since it seems to go quite well with me doing this block my way.

First, I want to make it perfectly clear that the directions given for the first block, designed by Sandy Gervais, are correct as written, and my sharing here of how I went about making this block is in no way a criticism of the block’s design or designer. I guess you could say I’m just following through on what my mom taught me long ago. She always said that there was more than one way to skin a cat (not that we’d ever actually do that in reality of course), which is probably why my brain saw a totally different way of putting this block together.

If you’ve not already found the patterns they are under the “Free Patterns” tab at the top of the page. The first three patterns are only going to be available for a short time and then they will be replaced by new block patterns. Meaning…go find the patterns, save them, and don’t procrastinate about doing it!

Again, if you’ve known me for a while you know that I hate drawing on fabric. I have no definite answer for why that is, but I just do. For me it’s akin to someone raking their nails across a chalkboard (~shudder!). I will go to great lengths to keep from having to draw on my fabric. That being said, my first change to this design was to use Thangles and make half-square triangles (HST) instead of marking squares to sew on either end of a rectangle. That meant that the strips that I used to make the HST units could also be used to cut solid squares from the background fabric, a white tone-on-tone dot, as well as the dark fabric, which was the red fabric in my block.

Some folks who have never used Thangles think that they’re difficult to use Pic-Blk 1-Thangles Cvrbecause they don’t know which size to work with. Actually, it’s very simple because the finished size of your HST unit is in dark black print on the front of the package and the width of the strip you need to cut is given right underneath it. In this case, I knew the finished block was to be 6” square. Since there are four sections across the block each section had to finish at 1-1/2” square doing it my way. So, I pulled out my 1.5 Thangles and set to work. Another clue in this case as to what size Thangles to use was the size given for the solid squares for the background and Print 2, i.e. 2” squares.
Pic-Blk 1-Components
Once I figured out how many of each HST I needed, I took my Thangles paper, measured it and found that I would need a 2”x6” strip set to make four HST that were red and yellow. I would need a second 2″x6″ strip set to make four HST that were yellow and white. I also needed to allow for the solid squares so I cut a 2”x15” strip from the background fabric, a 2”x15” strip from the red fabric, and a 2”x13” strip of yellow fabric. From those three strips I ended up with all the components for the square.

I’ve used Thangles for a while now because to me it’s like paper-piecing and I Pic-Blk 1-Thangles 1can sew on a line, more or less. Here are a few things that I have learned work best for me. I always use a 50 wt. silk finish thread when piecing. I put the fabric strips right sides together with the lightest colored fabric on top. I pin the Thangles paper in the open triangular spaces to the strip set so that it doesn’t shift while sewing. Instead of sewing right on the broken line I sew just to one side towards the solid line. That means I’m sewing into my seam allowance just a thread orPic-Blk 1-Thangles-Seam Line two in the fabric and allowing for the thickness of my sewing thread. When I fold the HST open, it won’t be too small because I’ve allowed for the thickness of the thread I’m sewing with and for the threads caught up in the seam line. I sew down one broken line, lift my presser foot and pull the unit out a little so that I can flip it and sew down the other broken line without cutting the thread. Hopefully, you can see the thread loops at the sides of the photo to the left. This saves both thread and time. Depending on what size Thangles I’m using I may or may not do the same when moving from one HST section to the next. In this case I repeated this practice so that I didn’t have to cut my thread until I had essentially chain pieced all the sections for one unit and moved on to the next unit.

Now it’s time to cut the HSTs apart. Obviously you’re going to cut on the vertical solid line. What’s not always so obvious, meaning you might need your reading spectacles here, is a very thin white line that is between the other thin solid black lines going across the paper from side to side. You want to cut across that thin white line to separate the sections. The more accurately you do this the more accurate your HST units will turn out.
Pic-Blk 1-Dog Ear B4 Trim
One of the other pluses in my mind when using Thangles is that there’s already one dog ear cut off for you. Yes, that’s another thing I don’t like doing because I’m always afraid I’ll cut it crooked or cut into my seam allowance and compromise accuracy. I’ve found that if you fold back the paper on the seam Pic-Blk 1-Thangles-Dog Ear Trimline, you have a nice guide for cutting of the second dog ear neatly and without cutting into your seam allowance. I place my blade up against the edge of the paper and push down firmly in order cut off the little triangle that’s sticking out to one side. Voila! No more dog ears.

Pic-Blk 1-Squarg UpBefore I tear the paper off I press the triangles, fabric side up. Thangles are printed with a special kind of ink so there’s no need to worry about the ink being transferred to your fabric when heated. The darker fabric will be facing up which means you’ll be pressing to the darker fabric as we most often do. I then take my HST unit to the cutting mat and make sure it’s the size it needs to be, in this case 2” square. I prefer to use a 4-1/2” square ruler for this step. That way I can see all around the edges easily.

Now comes the even funner (yes, that’s a word in my vocabulary) part, laying outPic-Blk 1-Layout all the components of the square. I use a block keeper which has a fuzzy texture to do this as it will keep each piece in place until I’m ready to sew it. If I have to leave for some reason, I can fold the attached clear sheet of plastic over it to protect my layout from intruders in my sewing space be they two legged critters or four legged critters. It has also saved me from sewing the wrong side of the seam or a HST in the wrong direction more than once.

Pic-Blk 1-Pin HSTThe pattern directions have you sewing two squares and a rectangle together to form a unit and doing this four times. Then you sew the four units together as you would a four-patch. I, on the other hand, sewed my components in a row and I did this for four rows. I guess you could equate that to a sixteen-patch. To make sure the points for HSTs turned out all right, I pinned them either side of the seam line. Since the seams are pressed to the dark side they line up without any trouble at all.

Pic-Blk 1-PinningWhen sewing the two rowsPic-Blk 1-Alignment together I wanted to make sure the seams in the first row were pressed in one direction and the seams in the second row were pressed in the opposite direction. To help keep things lined up I pinned on either side of the seam within the 1/4” seam allowance space. If you can do this so that the fold on top is going away from you when you’re sewing then the seams should line up and look great once sewn. I learned this trick by watching Alex Anderson on The Quilt Show. If you’ve not already signed up for this extravaganza of learning you need to do that right after you finish reading this post. Pic-Blk 1-Rows 1 n 2

Another trick I used I also learned on The Quilt Show from a lesson with Jo Morton. Instead of pressing whole seams to the dark, she sometimes snips a seamPic-Blk 1-Cut Seam so that those who want to face towards the right can and those that want to face toward the left can. It makes for a flatter seam and reduces bulk. You just have to be careful and not snip through the seam. It’s an interesting idea and does make things nice and flat as a result. Once I had all four rows sewn together I pressed the joining seams open.

Pic-Blk 1-Finished BlockMy preferred block size is 6″. I like how my block turned out and am pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever done a block in red and yellow. I just picked up two strips that I had close at hand, you know, those strips I tear off the ends of new bolts to straighten them up. Now I have to decide if I want the rest of my blocks to follow this bright color path or not. What do you think?

GIVEAWAY! If you’d like to make a block just like this one, leave me a comment by Sunday, November 8. I’ll give one person, drawn at random, a sweet sixteen (approx. 9”x11”) of each of the fabrics I used. That way we can match or you can reverse the colors if you like and make your block look totally different. I’d love to see your blocks and Moda would too. You can post them at #modasamplershuffle. I’m guessing that’s an Instagram site. I don’t have one set up for the shop yet but am working on it. I’ll let you know once I’ve got it up and running.

So, start pulling out some scraps and lets have some fun!


21…Can You Believe It?!

Yes, Victoria turned 21 on the 29th. Can you believe it?!!! It doesn’t seem possible that 21 years ago God presented us with a baby girl who miraculously survived having the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice. Had she not come a week early I fear she might not be here today. While we had already picked out the name Victoria, the circumstances surrounding her birth made that name, which can mean victory, victorious, or conqueror, all the more fitting.

So what’s has she been up to since her last birthday? Well, the big news is VA-Graduationthat she graduated from UAH on May 3. Yes, she finally graduated and has put college behind her. Needless to say she’s ecstatic to be out of school. But, for all her grumping and gripping about having to go to college and take a bunch of “stupid” classes she did very well, especially if you recall that she went in at the age of 16. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in music performance and had the third highest GPA in the College of Liberal Arts. She was also one of the first to graduate from the newly accredited Honors College and the first harp student to graduate from the music program. To put these accomplishments into perspective, while in school she coached gymnastics, taught ballroom dance classes and private lessons, and taught harp lessons. Now you can better see why she was gone more than at home during the school year.

Another biggie for her was buying a new-to-her concert grand harp this past March. Seems she’d outgrown the semi-grand we’d bought her and needed the VA-HSV Harpslarger harp to play some of the selections for her senior recital this past April. It was a great recital, and in addition to playing several solo pieces she was joined by The Harps of Huntsville for one number, a violinist for another number, and a VA-Sr Recital 2015pianist and her harp teacher for the last number. It was one of those times when you wished the music could go on forever, but in reality, you know that a harpist’s fingers can only last for so long.

Her new harp was also a plus when she was asked by the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra (HSO) to play in their England: A Sea Symphony as second harpist along with her harp teacher, Katherine Newman. The concert was on September 18. She and Mrs. Newman added so much glitz to the setting with their matching gold harps. It was thrilling to see her sitting on that stage with a full professional orchestra. This is what all her years of hard work have been for.

Pic-VA-HarleyAnother big purchase for Victoria since her last birthday was of a 1970 Harley Davidson Electra Glide. Yes, she is the owner of a very large and powerful motorcycle. It had belonged to Rick’s late cousin who took excellent care of his bikes. At present it needs a bit of work so it’s not on the road. A month or so back Victoria witnessed an accident between a truck and a motorcycle. She’s having second thoughts now about actually riding her “new” bike. What she figured out after seeing the wreck was that she had an 80% chance of losing a finger she needed for playing the harp and only a 20% chance of losing one that didn’t matter, i.e. her pinkies. She’d also be in a world of hurt (no pun intended) were she to lose the use of her legs or feet. It’s pretty tricky dancing or changing the pedals on her harp without them. If her face were messed up in a wreck she couldn’t compete as a ballroom dancer because looks are part of the equation in addition to dancing ability. So, she might just decide to sell the bike to her dad and be his scooter trash (that’s the person who rides behind) on occasion.

Pic-DecWhile Miss Martha was away last year, Victoria took over making the samples for the Li’l Woolies projects and packing the kits. Miss Martha returned to work back in February and inspected Victoria’s work. I overheard her tell a visitor that Victoria had done a better job than she could have done on the Li’l Woolies samples. That’s high praise indeed coming from one so skilled as Miss Martha. Together, they have been working on our monthly handwork offering, With Thy Needle, and it’s good to see them working as a team again.

October 29 is the perfect day for Victoria to turn 21 because it’s also National Cat Day. If you’ve followed us the past 11 years you know that Victoria is a cat person. When she was four or five she prayed every night for kittens. Her prayers were answered when Rick found several newborn kittens just off the front porch one day while he was mowing. We’ve had cats, in varying numbers and colors, ever since. Currently, we only have two left outside, Nike and Sylvester. They were Belle’s children from a few years back. Sadly, Belle is no longer with us. Victoria was given a little butterscotch colored kitten and when Belle found him in her room she was not at all happy. Victoria was afraid Belle would hurt the kitten, so she put her outside. We’ve not seen her since. Yes, we think Belle got mad at Victoria and ran away from home. We’ve greatly missed her.

Big RedJust before Labor Day, Victoria was given a fluffy, adult male cat. It took about two weeks before he’d even come out from under the couch in her room. He’s been a very quiet, very shy cat. She’s been waiting until her birthday to give her dad the good news about her “early birthday present” and that she once again has a cat in her room. This cat with no name is getting more curious though, and I’ve heard him meow a couple of times when she wasn’t at home. It’s about the only time I’ve been thankful that Rick’s hearing isn’t what it used to be. I don’t think he’s going to be overly thrilled that we have an indoor cat again, but maybe he’ll get over it when he realizes how happy it makes Victoria to once again have a cat to keep her company when she’s at home.

Another couple of milestones this past year included a second trip to New York City over spring break with the Huntsville Youth Orchestra. That was a surprise because after the first trip she said she wouldn’t go back. This time, however, they dangled going to see The Phantom of the Opera under her nose and she couldn’t resist. That plus Mrs. Newman and one of the other harpists went so she knew she’d have a good time even if she were in NYC. She also managed to fit in two trips to the beach this summer as well. One was a graduation gift from us and the other was with some of her friends from the dance studio. She comes by her love of the beach honestly because if I had my choice of places to live it would be at the beach.

As you might guess we are indeed proud of our youngest daughter. Her stubborn determination got her through the past four years of college with flying colors. She’s enjoyed teaching all her students be they dancers, gymnasts, or harpists. We’re hoping that she’ll continue to enjoy her youth unencumbered until the right young man comes along. That will be our prayer focus for the future. It would be such a shame for her to settle for anyone less than the man God has in mind for her. Please join us not only in wishing Victoria a very happy 21st birthday, but in prayer that she will wait upon the Lord to guide her as she walks into the adult world which all too often is like walking through a field full of land mines. One false step could be the end of a very bright and promising future for this talented young lady.

Love ya darlin’!

Another Cute Spider!

Oct Spider
We’ve never celebrated Halloween as a family. No, our poor, poor deprived children never went trick-or-treating, but they also never lacked for candy because I would go the day after and buy candy I knew they actually liked for half price. They had a lot more candy and it was all eaten as opposed to being thrown away. Of course, since we homeschooled, our children could dress up any day of the year that they liked. They didn’t need a special holiday for that either. Personally, I think they came out much better than their peers in the long run.

When you own a quilt shop you don’t always have the luxury of skipping some holidays. That’s because we sometimes pick a set of patterns by a designer who likes holidays that we the owners might not put too much emphasis on, if any. Because of that, you invariably end up with a project that has icons of a holiday that you’re not keen on. Such is usually the case with Halloween and Christmas especially.

This year we did Buttermilk Basin’s With Thy Needle series when Miss Martha came back to work in February. While the designer used wool for these 8” square projects, we used the much less costly wool felt. After all, we have 50 colors from which to choose. Anyhow, Miss Martha took off like a shot with these little projects and we found it difficult to keep up with her. You’d think she missed stitching while she was retired for one year. She should be finishing up the projects for the last two months here before long. In truth, it’s been a joint effort between her and Victoria, with Victoria packing the kits and doing some of the embroidery work while Miss Martha stitched down all the big pieces.
With Thy Needle Base
The base pattern for this group gives you three alternatives for displaying your handwork. You can frame it in a wooden frame, stitch it into the center of a wall hanging, or make a hanging that allows you to change out the project each month while also keeping track of your needles, pins, and scissors. My plans were to do the latter because I liked the idea of hang the larger piece from a yardstick. Notice that I said “plans”. I’m sure you’re not surprised when I tell you that I’ve not made the background that these projects are supposed to hang on yet. No, I knew you wouldn’t be.
With Thy Needle-Oct
The project for October has a jack-o-lantern wearing a witch’s hat. While we don’t push either of these symbols we can’t dictate what others choose to do. After some debating, we went ahead and made the project as it was designed. Well, we sort of made the project as it was designed. I thought that there should be more light shinning through, so our pumpkin’s eyes and mouth are reversed and have more yellow than black. The kits are packed so that you could do whichever way you prefer. After all, flexibility is a good thing when it comes to stitching. I do have to admit to liking the little spider hanging from the hat though, along with his web in the corner. Being a crazy quilt fanatic I relate those two things with good luck, which I need heaps of these days. It appears our spider has lost a couple of his legs though, so some of his luck may have run out. I sense a fix in the near future.
With Thy Needle-Oct
This is how our version turned out. Didn’t they do a great job!

Even though this series is quickly coming to an end, we do have some kits left if you’d like to claim a set for yourself and get started. Miss Martha is especially pleased with the colors of the one for November and should be bringing the one for December in soon. I’ll try to remember to post those as well, but in the event that I forget, or find something else to post, you’ll just have to come in and see them in person. Trust me, they’re much better in person than they are in a photo.

Spindly Spider Pincushion

SNT-2015 Spider w Bent LegsNow that our fall Stitchin’ Camp has come and gone, I can share with you what we made for our campers. Is this not the cutest thang!!! The number for their door prize was pinned to a spider like this one. After their name was called they picked a spider out of a large box with a sea of spiders in it. Based on the number pinned to their spider, a number that was folded up so it couldn’t be seen, they were given the prize that matched that number. That way, no one could accuse us of playing favorites and giving one camper a better prize than another. The prize they took home was based on the luck of the draw. Speaking of which, on the bottom of one spider, with the number 13 pinned to it, was a tiny red hourglass stitched on the belly. The camper that picked that spider got an extra prize!

As you might guess, plans for camp always start months ahead of time. So, when I ran across a pattern by Elaine Walsh that was in the Fall 2011 issue of Simple Quilts & Sewing I knew our campers would love them. Of course, being the rebels that we are we didn’t follow the pattern exactly. Heaven forbid! We just used it as an inspiration and made a couple of changes so our spiders could stand on their own eight legs.

As always, the making of the spiders was a team effort. I did the majority of the cutting out while Victoria sewed the majority of the spiders together. After I realized she could make two spiders to my one it was a no brainer on my part to let her do them all. Yes, bless her heart, she stitched and stuffed 23 of the 25 spiders that we made.

The original pattern called for baby rickrack for the legs. While I had that item in stock, Victoria suggested pipe cleaners, better known as chenille stems these days. Since we decided to change out the legs we had to change out the fabric for the body because I SNT-2015-Spider Equiptdidn’t want to sew over the metal parts of the legs and then try to turn the spider inside out as instructed in the pattern using the rickrack for legs. We opted for black wool felt for the bodies. Rather than cutting out the body pattern given on the pattern sheet, I used a lid from a candle that I had on hand that was just about the same size. Given there was no seam allowance needed when using the wool felt, I figured the resulting spider would be about the same size. I used a white marking pencil to draw around the lid on a folded piece of wool felt which meant I could cut the top and the bottom of the spider at the same time. I cut the strip about 3-3/4” wide, and from one width (approx. 36”) I got five complete spider bodies.

I traced the eye pattern on a scrap piece of Transfer-Eze, cut on the drawn line, peeled off the paper backing, and stuck the sticky film to a scrap of white wool felt. Then I cut out the white of the eye. This became our eye pattern and was used to cut out eyes for all 25 spiders, times two. I just noticed that I don’t have the original eye that I used to cut out all the others, so one of our campers must have a spider with an eyeball that has Transfer-Eze on the back. That’s OK though, it won’t hurt anything.

Before sewing the spider together we placed a teeny weeny (3/16”) black button from Hillcreek Designs in the center, more or less, of a white eye. Then we stitched that unit, times two, to one of the black circles to make the top of the spider. The bottom circle was added and the two pieces were buttonhole stitched in order to keep them together. Before getting too far around though, the legs, which were cut to 8”, were added one at a time. This made it easier to stitch around one side than it did around the other. That’s because by the time you get to the other side of the body you have all four legs to deal with at one time. Yes, that’s a bit tricky so take your time if you decide to make these yourself. Also, if you need a smaller or larger spider just find a circle the size you need, i.e. saucer, drinking glass, spray starch can, etc. You can easily have a whole army of spiders in various sizes. You can have mommy spiders, daddy spiders, baby spiders…you get the picture.

Of course, it should go without saying that you have to leave a hole in order to stuff the spider to, in this case, make it pincushion worthy. We used Poly-Fil and tried to stuff it fairly tightly. This helps to hold the legs in place, but they can still slide from side to side, so if you let a child play with these do keep an eye on them as the legs might come out all together. Tightly stuffing your spider also helps to keep the pins from pushing through and out the bottom. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll still poke through if you push them hard enough so be careful when picking up your spider once he has pins in place. That’s when picking him up by the legs would be a good idea. By the way, in case you don’t already have Poly-Fil on hand, we do carry a small 2 ounce bag in the event you only want to make a few spiders and don’t want to buy a huge bag and have to find somewhere to store it.
SNT-2015 Splatted Spider
Once made, your spider will look like this. No, one leg isn’t longer than the others, it’s just an optical illusion. Rick said the first one he saw looked like a splatted spider, and after he said that I could see why he’d think so. We had other designs in mind for our spiders though. We wanted them to stand up, so we bent the legs in two places (refer back to first photo). You could bend them only once if you prefer. After all, it’s your spider and you can make his/her legs do whatever you want them to do. You could even add a little bow to one side of the eyes in order to differentiate your girl spiders from your boy spiders. We didn’t do that though because time was a bit of an issue. Yes, even though I found the pattern a while back, as in a couple of months ago at least, we didn’t make the spiders until a few days before camp began. I know, I know. I don’t set a very good example for my daughter where getting things done ahead of time is concerned. I do set a great example though of waiting ‘till the last minute and pushing, I mean persevering, to get things finished. Does that count for anything? Anything at all…? I mean, surely that life skill will come in handy one of these days when she’s handed a project that needs doing in a hurry. Won’t it?

Speaking of projects, Victoria will be helping in the decorating of the dance studio this year for fall. Instead of using these as pincushions, she will be taking a few of our spiders to the dance studio to use as decorations. She might even hang one or two from the ceiling all tangled up in that white fluff stuff that’s supposed to look like spider webs. We ended up with four extra spiders that she can use. There should have been five extras, but we had to give Miss Martha one. Yes, we HAD to give Miss Martha one because she whined about wanting one. I know…if you know Miss Martha you’re not surprised one little bit to hear that.

All in all I think our campers liked their little spiders. Hopefully, every time they use it they’ll think of all the fun they had at camp and endeavour to join us again at a future camp. I’ve said it before but have to say it again. I have an awesome group of ladies who come together for camp. They’re not always the same ones, although many don’t miss a camp if they can help it, but they’re all awesome. I cannot brag on them enough! Not only are they patient with me when I’m slow in getting information out to them on camp, but they’re always helpful and willing to teach a newer quilter in my absence. They get so much accomplished during our three day camp that I’m getting more and more tempted to close the shop and join them. Who knows, maybe one day I will!

We Have a Winner!

BlueRibbonBefore I could even get the shop door opened this morning, I had someone parked out front waiting on me. That someone wasn’t here just to shop either. No! That someone brought her finished quilt for the Row by Row Experience contest. Yes! Now we have a WINNER!!! And yes, our row was amongst the eight that she included in the quilt. Super! Who is our winner? Her name is Stacy Houk. She’s a local supporter of the shop and has been ever since we bought it back in 2004.

Stacy had help from her daughter in obtaining rows from outside of our area and in deciding which rows to put into this quilt. The quilt will eventually make its way to her daughter’s house, but for now it will be on display here for all who visit us to see and marvel over. Then I think she needs to enter it into our local county fair, or better yet into the Tennessee State Fair.

One of the criticisms that has cropped up with regards to some of the first quilts to be submitted to participating shops is that the quilts haven’t been completely complete. While the quilts are quilted, bound, and do have a label per the contest rules, many of the appliqué elements aren’t necessarily stitched into place. Sometimes none of them are. They’re just ironed on with a fusible webbing product. Anyone who’s worked with raw-edge appliqué knows that if it’s not stitched down it will eventually release from the project and might even fall off completley. Ask me how I know this. If you don’t believe me I can show you an example of what happens to a quilt when the appliqué elements are not stitched in place.

MermaidBubblesI can honestly say that every element on Stacy’s quilt was stitched in place as it should be. In fact, not only were all the appliquéd pieces stitched down, she even added quite a few extras. For example, the mermaid has some lovely golden tresses thanks to the Razzle Dazzle thread that has been couched down. Even her eye and lips are stitched around as are all the little bubbles.
LemonadeH2O Bottle
Then there’s the sugar bowl. It has “sugar” beads pouring out of it and into the lemonade pitcher. The pitcher looks like glass because Stacy used a clear plastic for the pitcher. The bottle of water that helps to make the lemonade was also made using that plastic. Look at all those little drops of water pouring out of it that were stitched around, not to mention the stitching done on the lemons to make them look like they’ve been sliced. Makes my fingers tired just thinking about it.

The first row had lots of raindrops. All those raindrops were pieced! It would have been much easier to make each raindrop from one fabric, but I love the effect of the pieced raindrops much much more. In fact, I love that technique so much that I’ve been working on a project that does something similar with a couple of the appliquéd pieces. That will be show-n-tell probably when the snows of winter are falling.
HOQ SunbrellasStacy even got extra creative with our row. The designer had used a blue fabric for the background and we had suggested you could also use tan to simulate sand thanks to a suggestion from Jo. The first weekend of the RxR hop a lady came in and suggested that the row could be split in half lengthwise with tan (sand) on the bottom and blue (water) on top. What a great idea! I wish I’d of thought of that. Stacy took that idea a bit further and split the row into three parts – sand, water, and sky. I love it! She said she carried out my idea of using scraps in the sunbrellas and pointed to a bright piece of fabric with jungle animals that had been used in a special quilt that she’d made. You can see it in the circle on the sunbrella as well as in the section on the right of the photo.

There was another row with pieced umbrellas and she hand embroidered the handles on each one of them. The more I looked over her quilt the more I wondered if she’d even been sleeping for the past several weeks.
Pic-Winning Quilt-Label
Last, but not least, her label listed the name of each row, the shop it came from, and the city and state of the shop. The edges of the border around the label were stitched down by hand with a blanket stitch. I told her Miss Martha would be proud of her because I know for a fact she would.

You can tell Stacy put a lot of time and effort into her quilt. She’d hoped to get it further along with the rows she had on hand before her daughter and grandson visited in July but said she spent too much time cleaning house. Why do we do that for our children? It’s not like they’re real company or anything. But I digress… Amazingly, even with the welcomed distraction she managed to get her rows put together, embellished, and quilted before anyone else around here. Yes, I am impressed to say the least. Can you tell?

Now, before you get the impression that Stacy is Wonder Woman, I must tell you that the quilt was actually quilted by someone else. Yes, Stacy had it longarm quilted by Rhonda Griner who did a great job, as always, and got it done in record time. I don’t even want to think how much more difficult it was for Rhonda to quilt given all the little extras Stacy added, but she rose to the challenge and did a fantastic job. Well done Miss Rhonda!

So, put your hands together and join me in a big round of applause and a heartfelt congratulations to Stacy! Oh, yes. Feel free to give a long and loud whistle while clapping if you know how. If you don’t know how I’ll be glad to teach you next time you visit.

Winning QuiltWinning Quilt-Stacy

Eleven Years Ago Today…

CA-Hpy Anniv-BrightWe became the new owners of Hooked on Quilting. What was meant to be an investment in our children’s future and a real-life learning ground for them has proven to be that and so much more. Not only did our children learn to interact with older folks, something that I personally think is vital but missing in today’s society, they also learned to help some of those older folks by carrying machines upstairs when we were in our original location, or heavy bags filled with treasures out to cars. When anyone would give them a little tip you’d have thought they were King Midas. To say they were thrilled, not to mention pleasantly surprised, would have been an understatement.

In addition to learning how to get along with their elders, Victoria and Nathanael both learned to make a Convergence Quilt from Ricky Tims when he came to the shop in April 2005. They both did a very good job if I do say so myself. Ricky Tims and VictoriaAfter the workshops were over and we had some free time, I remember having them tell me what to do while I cut their strips. Since they were only ten and twelve respectively at the time, I didn’t want to take a chance of either of them losing a finger via the rotary cutter blade. They did all the sewing together of the strips and walked me through every step of the project. I think if we’d had a class with them as teachers the next day, their students would have been able to make a top just as they did. It was a testament to the great teaching ability of Mr. Tims, and the fact that they actually sat, listened, and learned during the two days he was with us. Oh yes, we can’t forget that they even got to wear his cowboy hat. What a thrill that was!

What else have they learned? Well, Victoria has been working at Dance Rocket City for the past year and a-half as a ballroom dance instructor who also has to sell folks on the positive aspects of learning how to dance. She will tell you that she learned her selling techniques from watching Miss Martha who has always professed to being able to sell an igloo to an Eskimo. After watching Miss Martha for several years, I have no doubt that she could do just that and even make sure they had a polar bear as an indoor pet. In addition to learning how to gently persuade people that they needed to learn something new, Victoria also learned to blanket stitch from Miss Martha. She does a great job according to her teacher. That ability was a blessing for me when Miss Martha retired at the end of 2013. Victoria was able to pick up Miss Martha’s M&M Club where she’d left off and finish the samples and pack the kits. All I had to do was make sure we had enough patterns and wool felt.

Of course it goes without saying that we have met and learned to love some of the most wonderful ladies, and a few gentlemen, in the world over the past eleven years. It’s always such a boost to see all the projects that are created and you can bank on the fact that I’m always looking at the fabrics to see which ones (hopefully several of them) came from this shop. It might sound odd, but it’s like having a little piece of myself infused into their project. That’s because when I buy fabric I buy it with not only my eyes but with my heart. It’s hard to explain really. Maybe the act of buying fabric will be a topic for a future blog post.

While I might be the owner of the shop and some folks think I know everything (I have no clue where they got that idea from either), I actually learn something new almost every week from those who pay us a visit. Sometimes I learn something new about quilting and sometimes it’s more of a life lesson. Either way, I too am learning as are those who grace us with their presence from time to time.

I wrote about the shop’s anniversary in June 2011. After re-reading that post, I realized that not a lot has changed. There are still more projects on the wanna-do list than will ever be done, seasoned quilters are still pulling from their stash, and there is still a great need to involve new folks in our creative pastime. So, it appears that as the old saying goes, a woman’s work is never done. We need to get busy and do those projects, use up that stash, and get some new blood into our world of quilting before having a brick and mortar quilt shop to visit becomes a memory of the past.

The Merry Month of May

May has always been a favorite month for me. When I was much younger it was my favorite monthBalloons because it meant school was winding down and summer vacation was getting closer and closer. Plus, my birthday was in May. When I was younger I didn’t mind birthdays because it meant there would be cake and ice cream – two of my favorite food groups.

When we lived in Albuquerque, I had a friend leave a lovely little May Day basket on my door. How she managed to get up early enough in the morning to hang that basket on my door still amazes me. It was the first, and only, such basket that I’ve ever received. Given that it was over 20 years ago you can tell what a lasting impression her gesture and generosity made on me. I’ve often thought that I would follow her example and surprise special folks in my life, but I’ve never gotten around to doing it. May 1 always seems to sneak up on me somehow. You’d think by now I’d know to be watching the calendar and start making plans by mid-April, but I think I never make it because April doesn’t have a 31st day. That’s my excuse anyhow. Were I to be honest, I would have to say it’s because I’ve never been overly good at planning ahead of time for some things, and putting together May Day baskets seems to be one of those things. At least I do a decent job planning ahead for Stitchin’ Camps.

To say it is now May just floors me. My brain is still back in January somewhere. Then again, my brain is used to being left behind. Next thing I know, it will be October and I’ll be wondering where the summer went. As I’ve said before, I don’t know where my time goes, but it sure goes there quickly.

Speaking of time passing quickly, I had thought that I’d have lots of time to do lots of things by closing the shop three days a week. Not so I’m afraid. I’ve gotten more done than I would have had the shop remained open six days a week, but I’ve not even scratched the surface of all the different areas in my life that I’d hoped to get straightened out. I still find myself behind and doing some things at the last minute that I thought I’d be able to do ahead of time. Some things I’ve not even started to tackle, mainly because the job seems to be so big. I keep telling myself that you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time, but you have to identify him and catch him before you can even begin. Maybe there’s where my weakness lies. I have yet to really identify what I want to do with what I have to work with.

One of the things that seems to take up a lot of my time is clerical “stuff.” When asked about owning a quilt shop I’m quick to point out that it’s a good thing I took typing in high school and had several business courses in college. The experience I had as a secretary and administrative assistant in my former life has come in handy too. If I had to give myself a title I’m not sure it would be “Shop Owner” but more like “Glorified Secretary.”

I’d hoped to do a better job of blogging this year, but as you can see I’ve not managed to do so. In thinking about it, I’d like to ask you these questions. And yes, I really would like to hear your answers. Do you prefer bloggers who send you something every day, once a week, once a month? In other words, how often do you want to hear from me? Also, do you want to hear about life in the quilt shop past quilt related information? In other words, how much of our lives do you want to share in over and above what goes on inside the shop? I ask because some of the bloggers that I tend to follow post daily and include details of the goings on in their life that to me would be something I’d share with a very close friend or relative but not with hundreds of unknown readers, not that I have hundreds of readers but I gather they have. I know I’ve written about the kids in the past, mostly on birthdays, but that’s mainly because those who visit the shop regularly, and some who just visit on occasion, have watched them grow up during the years that I’ve had the shop. I mean, Victoria was just nine when we bought the shop, now she’s 20. While none of us have changed that much or look any older, she definitely has and does. It’s a good thing she doesn’t read these posts isn’t it.

Should I make the posts more frequent and therefore shorter? Although I won’t guarantee that posting more often would result in shorter posts. Once I get on a roll with a thought it’s like a snowball rolling down a very long, very steep hill. It takes a good long while for the end to be reached. Would you like to see tutorials, or posts dedicated to book reviews? Do you want me to share links to freebies like quilt or embroidery patterns or BOMs, or do you have enough of each to keep you busy ‘till the year 2525?

Do you even read blogs any more? One of the bloggers that I’ve been following for a while now recently posted that she was going to be blogging less and using Facebook and Instagram more. I don’t particularly like Facebook, and I haven’t a clue how to use Instagram, nor have I ever used Twitter. Yes, you might say I’m still in the dark ages where social media is concerned. Because of that, blogging is easier, and more meaningful to me. That’s because it’s like writing a letter to a friend. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and receiving, letters. You should see my collection of stationery! I know we’re all very busy these days, but those other forms of keeping in touch just seem somewhat cold and impersonal. I know for a fact that posts on Facebook that go more than three or four short sentences tend to not be completely read. So in my mind I’m thinking it’s a waste of time to post something that no one is going to take the time to read through to the end. Am I missing something?

Since I don’t have an actual web site, I tend to use this blog in place of one. That’s why there are all those little tabs running across the top of the page. Each tab represents a different section of the shop. Which of those could you live without and which could you not live without? For instance, if I put coupons on more often, how likely would you be to use them? I’ve put some on in the past and not seen a single one brought into the shop, and we’re talking about 40% off coupons here. So, it’s another one of those things where I feel I’m wasting my time designing and posting if no one is going to take advantage of them. Again, am I missing something?

Yes, you might say I’m at a point where I’d like to simplify my life. With Victoria graduating this Sunday, I’m looking at being able to possibly make up for lost time and to spending more time with her doing some fun things. I know, she’ll probably end up spending her newly freed up time at the dance studio teaching folks how to waltz and such. But I can dream and when I dream I dream of having quality time with her where I’m not having to teach her something she doesn’t really care about learning or drive her somewhere she needs to go. She thinks she’s going to be able to go to the beach multiple times this summer, and I wouldn’t mind being able to go with her. You see, I love the beach just as much as she does and have done for much longer than she has.

So, help me out here. What method(s) of keeping in touch with shops do you prefer and how often do you want/need to be reminded that they’re still out there waiting to serve you? This inquiring mind really wants to know.

Gotta Stitch

Since I missed blogging over all the holidays at the end of last year I thought I’d wish you a Happy Groundhog Day this past Monday, but that didn’t happen either. My plans were to do that as well as share a little project that Victoria stitched and call it a “Make it Monday” thingy. But, the day came and went, and I didn’t get around to it. So, here’s her little project and we’ll call it a Work in Progress (because it doesn’t have a backing or hanging tabs yet) in order to qualify for the linky party of the same name, but I haven’t a clue as to how to link to others who show off their works in progress on Wednesday so this will just be between us. One of these days I’ll get better at this technology stuff and we can link up all over the place.

The Mittens Were Hung by Blueberry Backroads

The Mittens Were Hung by Blueberry Backroads

Weekend before last, Victoria went to a dance competition up in Nashville. She didn’t compete herself but went to watch her friends compete and play cheerleader for them. She also ended up buckling shoes, zipping dresses, going for coffee, and mending holes in garments. She said she didn’t know how they could have managed without her. I’m sure they would have, but I’m equally sure it was nice to have someone that young and energetic to do the running, especially since some of the dancers did multiple dances over the three day event. I think she said one of the instructors who took his students to compete ended up doing over 100 dances! I could have misunderstood but think about doing half that many dances. It’ll make your feet hurt out of sympathy if nothing else.

Anyhow, before she left she asked me to put something together for her to work on. She already had the November Li’l Woolies turkey to finish up but knew that wouldn’t be enough. I think she took some crochet as well. She wanted something small and something that she could stitch. I had already printed the snowman onto Transfer Eze so al I had to do was add the borders, stitch in the ditch between the white background and inner border so it would stay attached to the batting that she HAS to stitch through. Yes, she will only stitch through batting. She won’t just use a petticoat behind her stitchery like normal folks. It has to be batting because she doesn’t want to have to fool with a hoop. Needless to say, she does beautiful work and has stitches so tiny that over the years folks have been fooled into thinking that the project was done on a machine rather than by hand. The plus of doing it through the batting is that the piece looks like it’s been quilted without having to actually quilt around or through the stitchery. I hate it when folks stitch over their handwork in an effort to quilt their project. I know. To each his own, but it makes no sense to me to take the time to hand stitch a piece and then machine stitch over top of the stitches, oftentimes distorting the design.

I tried counting her stitches, she does backstitching by the way, to see how many she had per inch. On one side of the snowman it looked like she had 13 stitches per inch, but I was measuring on a curve. Her stitches were so tiny and so close together on the red brim of the hat and the green edge of the scarf, that it was almost impossible to see where the stitches started and ended. It was like they are one smooth continuous line. But, with determination, and the aid of my reading glasses, I finally decided that it looked like she had 14 or 15 stitches per inch. I could say she’s so good because she’s extremely nearsighted, however, in all honesty I think it’s because she had some good teachers as she was growing up and soaked up all their tips and tricks.

Li'l Woolies - November by The Wooden Bear

Li’l Woolies – November by The Wooden Bear

She did get the turkey finished but not in Nashville because she ran out of floss. That she finished this past weekend. Miss Martha was our blanket stitch person, but when she retired at the beginning of last year Victoria had to take over and finish the samples for Li’l Woolies. She didn’t really care for blanket stitch, but I think she did a great job in Miss Martha’s stead. Even Miss Martha complimented her work when she was here this past Saturday. Since Miss Martha is picky it was high praise indeed coming from her.

Now that Miss Martha is back part of Saturday, the two of them will no doubt be sitting down for some serious stitching together just as they did when Victoria was much younger. There never seemed to be a generation gap between the two of them when they were stitching together. Miss Martha might be old enough to be her grandmother, but you’d think there were two teenagers sitting together chatting and laughing when they put their needles to fabric. It’s a very comfortable togetherness.

No More Teenagers in This House

I knew this day was coming, but I tried to convince myself that it would be just another ordinary day.Dlimah Teapot Unfortunately, it isn’t just like any other ordinary day. It’s the day our youngest left her teenage years behind and turned 20. Yes, the big 2-0. WOW!!! Isn’t she lovely!? She’s posing here for a photo with a wonderful little teapot that I won from I figured she’d look better in their blog than I would. One thing among many that I do miss is having her here for tea every day.

I remember when I was a teenager thinking that I wouldn’t even live to see 20. It seemed like such an old age to me for some reason. Of course I did make it to 20, and far beyond, but when I look at Victoria she doesn’t seem old at all. Rick still calls her “little girl” and I tend to still think of her as such. Is that the norm for parents? Your children have birthdays and get older, but you get stuck at a certain age in your mind for them to be and even though you know they’re no longer that age you still treat them as if they are.

I’ve had a very difficult time the past four years coping with my semi-empty nest. With Victoria and Nathanael both going off to college at the same time I went from having two children standing in front of me aggravating each other while I was trying to concentrate on something to being totally alone in this big old house for hours on end. No, I’ve not coped well at all, although I have gotten a little bit better now that it’s Victoria’s senior year in college. I wouldn’t say that I’ve arrived though.

Can you believe it?! Victoria is a senior and in about four more weeks she’ll only have the spring semester to go before she graduates. Yes, she’s already started the countdown. I’m sure these past four years haven’t flown by for her, but they sure have for me. She’s not been impressed with college I’m afraid and will be more than happy to put it behind her. I think it would be a good idea for her to get a little more education since she’s still pretty young and unattached, but she says enough is enough.

So, what has been going on in her life since her last birthday? Mostly more of the same really. For someone who said they never wanted to be a teacher, she sure does a lot of teaching. In fact, she seems to enjoy teaching quite a lot and from all accounts does a good job. She still has her two harp students, she still coaches gymnastics, and she still teaches ballroom dance lessons. At the beginning of this month she tested to become a certified ballroom instructor at the bronze level which means she’ll make a bit more money per hour…always a good thing. She’s done a couple of ballroom competitions with her students and thoroughly enjoyed them. This video is of a piece that she and her student, Will, did at the summer showcase. It was a tribute to his wife who passed away suddenly at the beginning of the year. They also did this at his first competition.

Since Victoria has always been competitive, going to ballroom competitions are right up her alley. She’s gone as the “pro” part of the couple so has not been the one being judged at either competition but hopes one day, after she graduates, to find a dance partner to work with and compete. Competing is an expensive thing to do with all the costumes you have to have. It’s a good thing that she knows which end of the needle to use because I get the feeling that she’s going to have to figure out how to sew some of these costumes given that they can cost $4,500 each, or more, depending on how much bling they have. Yes, she tried on one of those pricey dresses, orange of course, and has been looking for just the right pattern ever since. That stretchy fabric will be a challenge though so this new sewing venture should be interesting. Happy Harpist

She’s still playing for weddings and occasionally at Bridge Street. She took second place in a competition in the UAH music department back in the spring which gave her $4,000 towards her tuition this school year. Rick was glad of that and is also glad that come January he’ll make her last tuition payment. I think he has plans on buying himself a new car after that.

On the down side Victoria did have to give up being a Chargerette this year. There just weren’t enough hours in the day to cover all the bases she had to cover so reluctantly she dropped that from her to-do list early in the semester.

Her spring semester should be fairly easy class wise, but then again, she has to work up all the music for her senior recital. She’s going to need all the practice time she can get because this recital has to be an hour long and has to have even more impressive pieces than her junior recital had. I think she has that scheduled for April 19, 2015 so if you’re in the area and want to join us please feel free to do so. I’ll be sure to have it posted on the blog calendar once I know the date is absolutely set in stone.

Thankfully, she was able to step in at the beginning of this year and take over Miss Martha’s M&M Club kits and samples. She’s done a very good job and has already told me to be looking for something to do for next year. I gave her a pattern tonight and she’ll look it over to see what she thinks. It will be all handwork of course because she can’t take her machine to school with her nor can she watch her TV guys with a sewing machine making noise.

I’m glad she still lives at home and doesn’t seem to mind commuting to Huntsville on a daily basis. Sylvester She has taken to spending the night at her harp teacher’s house on occasion when her activities or work keep her late in Huntsville and she has to be back down there early the next morning. I’ve been worried that she’ll come to like it too much and decide to move down there. I asked her about it not long ago and she said that while she enjoys being close to where she needs to be so she does not have to drive 45 minutes plus one way, she misses being home with us and her cats. I have to wonder though just which of us she misses the most sometimes. I think her friends still kid her about being an old maid cat lady on occasion, but she takes that in stride.

All in all she has a good life I think. It’s a very busy, and I’m sure somewhat stressful life, but she takes her responsibilities very seriously. Sometimes she bemoans the fact that she never got to be a teenager since she started coaching gymnastics when she was 15, but then I remind her that it was her1988 Fiero idea to take on all these responsibilities, not ours. She says she needs money and has had to fork out quite a bit this year on her little white sports car that she just HAD to have. At least I think all this work, studying, and practicing should keep her out of trouble for the most part. I know she has all the opportunities in the world to get into trouble, but I trust that she’s smart enough to know better and that with our prayers and the prayers of her friends and other family members she won’t feel the need to do things that would hurt her, us, and others who love and think highly of her. Last year I asked that you pray with us on her behalf, and I ask the same this year. She’s a special young lady, and I pray that God gives her the strength and wisdom to remain so.

Happy birthday Little Girl!

Just Two More Months!

Sorry for being away so long, but I’ve been busy. I know, you’ve been busy too. Life seems to just zip by faster and faster with each passing day. I say that because it hadn’t occurred to me until one of my visitors today asked what the date was. When I said it was the 25th my first thought was that it was my mother-in-law’s birthday. Then the number, 25, sunk just a bit further into my brain, and I realized that in just two months time it will be Christmas Day! Can you believe it?! CA-Dec 25

Were it not for the fact that we didn’t put a tree up last year I’d probably just now be ready to take down the decorations. Yes, I can be that slow to getting around to doing things I don’t particularly enjoy doing. I enjoy putting up the tree, getting out all the decorations that have been collected over the years, and being reminded of special times and special people connected to those decorations, but I do not enjoy having to take down the tree and pack all those lovely baubles away again for a whole year. That’s why I like the fact that we celebrate Christmas for 12 days. It allows the tree to stay up until at least January 5th, if not a little longer depending on what’s going on in our lives at the time. My sister takes her tree down after lunch on Christmas Day. It’s amazing to realize that we actually came from the same family. The only answer I have is that she had to have been adopted.

So. Are you getting ready for Christmas? Have you started your gift making or do you plan on buying everything? Of course, my intentions are always to make something for everyone, but with the shop to keep up with, that hasn’t happened in over 10 years now. We will make fudge for lots of folks without a doubt. Last year we made over 30 pounds of fudge to give to friends, co-workers, and family. We use a recipe that my grandmother mom used when I was little. I’ve taught Victoria how to make “our” fudge so she does the batches for all of her little friends and co-workers. Everyone seems to look forward to getting that fudge each year. I for one just enjoy getting to sop the bowl every now and then. That was the part I enjoyed doing as a child, but once my own children came along they took over the bowl sopping, and I was lucky if I got to lick the spoon. We play Christmas music while we make our fudge so it will taste better. I’m almost convinced that part of why it tastes so good is because we play Christmas music during all the stirring that has to be done.

Now that the proximity of Christmas has been pointed out to you as it was to me today, where are you in the process? I know I have lots left to do but am pretty sure I have all the gifts I need to get for at least one person on our list. As for making things over and above fudge, I’m not sure I’ll do any better this year than in years past. I do have one of a four part gift done, except for sewing up the side opening where it was turned inside out. Maybe if I could make one part each week I could at least get that done for one of my closest friends. Then there are the 11 blocks I need to make for the block exchange of my sewing circle. How I got talked into doing that again I’ll never know. Needless to say, I’ve got to get on the ball because those blocks are due to be shared long before Christmas Day gets here. Yes sir. It’s a good thing that the light bulb popped on, and I finally realized how close we are to Christmas. I’d hate to have been caught unprepared again this year. Now if I can only figure out when we’re going to have time to put up the tree and get it decorated…

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