Mask Making Mania

  • Materials Used:
  • 2 pieces of 7″ x 9″ fabric
  • 1 strip of 1 to 1+1/2″ x 7″ fabric
  • 2 strips of stretched 1″ x 6″ T-shirt fabric
  • Optional: some type of filter and/or wire

Along with everyone else, I am making fabric masks. I am also making masks from special microbial fabric the hospital provided for them. The fabric masks will go to family, friends in need, and special places that need at least some form of protection. I looked at and tried a lot of different patterns, until I came up with something that works for ME. It may not work for you, and if that is the case maybe you can adapt it to work for you.

People are insisting these masks need some kind of wire to go over the bridge of the nose. I always tend to overthink things, and my first thought was… won’t they need to be washed after wearing them in public? What happens if you sew those wires into the mask? Won’t they rust? So, I created a sleeve, much like a sleeve to hang your quilt, over the bridge of the nose. I don’t have enough pieces of wire, pipe cleaners, or twist ties to sew into the mask anyhow, so a sleeve is what you get. Find your own wire.

Also, people are suggesting a place in or on the mask to add a hepa filter of sorts. So, I adapted for that as well. I made 2 different kinds of masks, the ones that do not have pleats but look like jock straps across your face and the ones with pleats. Don’t get me wrong. I am fine with the ones that look like jock straps. The other ones don’t take as long for me to make, and I made fewer mistakes with them… except for those darned pleats. I’ll get to those in a minute.

I start out with 2 pieces of 7″ x 9″ quilt shop quality and/or batik fabric. Most masks are using 6″ x 9″ pieces of fabric, but I can’t seem to get my pleats to work right so I just added an inch. They’re supposed to be under your chin and almost up to your eyeballs anyway.

This is where I accommodate the use of a filter. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance with right sides of the fabric facing each other, I sewed 3 inches on either end of one 9″ side and then sewed along either side of that seam to hold each side of the seam in place. See where the rotary cutter peeks through? That’s a slot for inserting a filter. You should have 3 inches sewn shut with a 3 inch hole for inserting the filter and then another 3 inches sewn shut on the other end.

Next, I sewed along the other 9″ side.

By this time, a lot of people are having trouble finding elastic, and are using elastic headbands, pony tail holders or are making fabric ties. As I experimented, I had problems with getting the elastic to fit around my ears correctly. Plus, it wasn’t very comfortable. I wanted to try the option of using T-shirt fabric, especially since I had some brand new T-shirts that need to go to the thrift shop (that is closed right now). So, I cut the sleeve of a T-shirt into 1 inch strips. If you stretch them, they will curl to a round shape. Cut those into 7 (corrected) 6 inch strips.

At this point, you are going to sew a 6″ T-shirt strip on the inside of either/both open sides. Make sure you have an edge of the strip sticking out in each corner and that the rest is tucked safely inside so that it doesn’t get caught while you are stitching.

So, now the mask is all enclosed and needs to be inverted. This is where that slot for the filter comes in handy. Turn it right side out through the hole and voila!

Next, I sewed that little wire sleeve at the bridge of the nose… along the opposite side of the filter “hole”. I cut about 1+1/4″ x 7″ strips for my sleeves. Some people may like it a little tighter so 1″ wide would work for them. And, some people probably need a little wider, so 1+1/2″ would be best for them. Find what works for you. This happened to work for me. There are a couple of ways to sew them on. First, you want to turn under each skinny end and sew those down and then you can either iron the long ends under about 1/4″ inch and sew down on top of those. OR, I found I like sewing an open side along the top edge and then sewing on top down the other side. I know I’m not explaining that well, and I apologize. In the picture of the black and white fabric, you can see the fabric is barely tucked under the top of the mask (on the back side). I sewed along there and then turned the mask over to sew along the other side. It gives a tad more wiggle room for the wire.

And, now we come to the part where I had the most trouble of all… making the pleats. Some directions I’ve seen give you precise measurements to use. Others tell you to make 3 pleats; that’s it, just make 3 pleats (of whatever size you like). I had masks that were longer on one side than the other and looking pretty sad. I just saw a trick this morning for which I do not have pictures. But, this person suggested folding your mask down the middle along the 9″ side and ironing a crease. Then open it up and fold both edges to that middle crease and iron creases there. That way you have 3 creases to guide you. I’m going to try that with my next mask, but I suspect I will end up having the same problems as before. So, my advice for you… just do the best you can. It’ll all work out okay.

Find your mask style and please stay healthy and happy.

*Note: this post has been corrected to reflect a correction. I wore a mask with 7″ elastic today, and it was not tight enough. But, if I get the elastic too tight, it pulls my ears forward and is uncomfortable. That was the reason I switched to T-shirt fabric. My recommendation is that, before you sew the T-shirt fabric or elastic in place, put the unfinished mask up to your face and gauge how long you think it should be for YOUR face to make it snug, but not uncomfortable. You need to be able to breathe but allow germs to float inside your mask.

Dresden Plate with a Jelly Roll

Making a Dresden Plate quilt was on my Bucket List (the mental list of the many, many quilts I want to try before I die). Problem is that I really am trying to use fabric I already have. I’m bad about buying jelly rolls, because I figure I can easily make something without having to cut all those strips. But, they sit in my studio.

So, for this quilt, I decided to use one of my Riley Blake jelly rolls. I don’t know if you can see or not, but there are 20 points on these Dresden Plates. Twenty-two rolls came with the set, but I left 2 of them out, thinking I could use them in the border somewhere. But then I didn’t. Funny how as you are making a quilt, your journey takes you down different paths than you had originally intended. Anyhow, 20 strips… what size ruler do I need? A circle is 360 degrees. Divide 360 by 20 strips, and you will need an 18 degree Dresden ruler or template.

I wanted big blocks, so I extended a bit beyond what the template showed for where I should cut the tip end. I would be folding the strip lengthwise and sewing that top end to make a tip when it’s folded back, so it wouldn’t be missed when it’s tucked to the back. Missouri Star Quilt Company has a tutorial on how to make the plates here.

I finally finished it and tried some different quilting techniques on it. Those who know me, know that I try to make each quilt unique and add special touches. And, I’ve done those all freehand. I do not have a computer for my machine… yet. I am saving my pennies… it’s on my bucket list. 😉 But, I have a couple of the quilting designs on this quilt digitized and available for those who DO have a computer for your quilting machine.

The Crosshatching frame inside the block is available at Legacy Quilting.
The Eyelet Lace border design is also available at Legacy Quilting.

I wasn’t sure what fabric to use for the binding. I love using striped fabric for binding, and my friend, Tina, showed me some striped fabric that would be perfect for this quilt. It picked up that color of blue and the red. But… I ended up just using what I had and repeated that 1/2″ blue border. Saving my pennies…

For those of you who don’t know, I am no longer quilting for hire. The arthritis in my spine won out. So, now I am doing a few other things. One of them is digitizing machine quilting designs. Yes, I can do that for other people’s designs and have done that. My hope is that this will eventually lead me to getting a computer for my machine. Maybe then, I can think about quilting for hire again. I don’t know. That’s a lot of money and a long way off.

A couple of things I’ve done lately is cut my own extension table to fit into my sewing machine table. I ordered an insert 8 months ago, but have not gotten it yet. Yes, I’ve called the shop several times. I finally gave up and made my own. It’s not pretty. I still need to paint it white. But, it feels so much better to be able to spread out the fabric to be sewn without it catching on the edge of my machine.

Not pretty, but it does the job!

Also, Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival was Father’s Day weekend. A quilt that I had quilted for Joan won 2nd place in Viewer’s Choice. It’s a really cute scene of Mom taking care of her baby, so I can see why people liked it. The pattern is called “Love from Above” by Charley Harper. You can buy it here.

I was surprised at the quilting. I thought I hadn’t done a good job on it, but time passing gives you a new view – it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. But then, the lighting was very complimentary to the quilting great as it bounced off the trees and tall grasses that were stitched into her quilt.

No photo description available.

What was really cool is that both Joan and I got a ribbon for her quilt.

Yay! Thank you, Voters!

The next Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival will be in 2021. Their website is This year they did an awesome job meeting the needs of so many quilters. Check out their site and try to make it next time!

Forest Galorest

I loved this pattern from Java House Quilts the first time I saw it.  If you love it as well, you can purchase it yourself here.  I started working on this quilt back in September.  The applique would be needle-turned, meaning by hand.  The edges would be turned under and stitched down by hand vs fusing down a raw edge applique onto the background and machine finishing the edges (a tedious, but much quicker method).  I figured it would take me about 2 years to finish; a nice project for me to work on in the evenings before bedtime.  My daughter was going to start “trying” to get pregnant soon.  Maybe this would make a nice baby quilt.  If she never conceived, I could keep this quilt for myself (trying not to get my hopes up).  Her older sister took several years of trying to conceive naturally and then several attempts of in vitro before getting pregnant.  So, 2 years… I would have plenty of time to casually work on this quilt.

Then, in October, she told me she was pregnant.  Or, was it late September?  She was due June 2nd.  I was shocked, floored.  Surely, it was too soon to know for sure… a false positive…  I admit it.  One of my first thoughts was about this quilt.  How on earth would I get it done in time?  It has plenty of big pieces but also LOTS of tiny pieces.  I figured I’d better get busy.  As I got farther and farther into this quilt, I was kicking myself for not machine appliqueing it.  It is what it is.  And, I am done now.  I’m late for the arrival, but I am done.  He’s about a week old now and a cutie patooty!

The question once I finished it was how to quilt it.  The more quilting you do on a quilt, the more thread you add to that quilt and the heavier and stiffer it gets.  This was for a baby, so I wanted it to be soft… or at least as soft as I could make it and still add details to it.  You will notice there are plenty of gaps in the quilting where it seems like there should be more quilting.  That was intentional to prevent the quilt from becoming too stiff and heavy.  I stitched down enough to give the effect of what I wanted and then let the rest go.  Sometimes you’ve just gotta “let it go.” 😉  My desired effect was playful, yet polished.

Simple swirls were stitched inside the appliqued blocks around the animals and flowers.  My instinct was to put something formal on the outside edges of the pieced blocks, but I ended up putting animal paws there instead.  They are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s okay (Let it go!).  The way you make these animal paws is to stitch a curvy triangle with 2 ovals going up one side and 2 ovals going back down the other side, all as a continuous path with no starts and stops.


What should I do with those outside odd blocks along the border?  I could have added nature scenes, but that would involve intense stitching.  It needed to be open and flowing.  So, I opted for something formal and polished in those areas; feathers and curved cross-hatching.  Traditional feathers would be nice, but I chose bumpy ones to mimic butterfly wings.

I did sneak some playfulness into some of those areas.


As for the borders, I started at the bottom and stitched a very loose fern to mimic a grassy look.

Moving up the sides, I stitched pine trees on the left by the raccoons and bear.  My pine trees got worse as I stitched more and more of them (Let it go!) up towards the owl.

On the right, I transitioned the ferns into leafy vines to meet the squirrels at the top.

At the top I transitioned the leafy vines to meet the rays of whatever that circle thing is around the owl’s head.  It could be the moon.  Or, it could be the sun.  Whatever your imagination sees is what it is.

A couple of notes… as far as the binding goes, I had a hard time deciding which fabric to choose.  I finally decided that I wanted to see that darker blue repeated somewhere in the quilt.  It’s one of my funny idiosyncrasies; I believe you need to repeat fabrics in a quilt to make it look more polished or professional.  So, I chose that darker blue for the border and had intended to make a piping of the pale blue stripes that you see very little of in the quilt.  The pale blue stripes are around the little square blocks where I stitched curved cross-hatching and also in the corners of the border.  To get that effect, you create a faux piping within the binding.  Here’s a tutorial by Margo Clabo from “The Quilt Show” of how to create that.  For whatever reason, I decided I wanted to go with 1/4″ piping, so I cut my strips at 1 3/4 inch for the pale blue stripes and 1 1/4 inch for the solid blue – after stitching the strips together and then folding that wider pieced strip, I’d have a 1/4″ piping instead of 1/8″ inch piping.  That was a mistake.  It turned out to be a flange.  There’s nothing wrong with a flange, but I was worried about it flapping around.  So, I stitched it down.  I’m okay with that.  It still looks fine (Let it go!), and I still get to see both of those fabrics along the border.

Also, if you are wondering how I place appliques on their blocks, I draw out the original design onto a piece of plastic first.  This particular piece is one of those pieces of plastic that hold papers together with a strip of hard colored plastic, while the clear plastic acts like a folder for the papers.  I use a vis-a-vis marker which stays on there until I run water across it.  I don’t know whether or not a dry erase marker would work.  If you have tried that and it does, please speak up in the comments.

My goal is to teach you something new with my posts, if I can.  So, I hope you learned something today!


Blessings Come in Strange Packages

I started this post 2 months ago and never got it finished.  It needs to be put out there for those of you with or without disabilities and for those of you who struggle with wanting your life to be better… but it’s not.
For those of you who know me, you also know that I am legally blind in my left eye – I’ve posted about it before here.  I get to go to different eye doctors on a regular basis; my regular eye doctor who prescribes my glasses and watches for more cataracts, my glaucoma doctor, and my retina doctor.  I suspect one reason my business took so long to pick up was because people wondered how or if I could see.  I joke about it and tell them that when my bad eye bothers me, I just close it; something they can relate to, because they know they can see with one eye.  One of the reasons for this post is because I want those of you out there who are going through hard times or have something you think you need in order to survive to know that it really is not the end of the world.  It feels like it is when it first happens.  You hit the panic mode and you are just sure this is the end of the world.
Actually, I have been very busy working on customer quilts lately.  Yes, they continue to watch my other eye along with my “bad” eye.  The bad eye has a section where the retina will never lay flat against the side of the eyeball.  And, I recently had a lot of problems with my eye pressure.  The Glaucoma doctor thought he was going to have to go back in and mess with that tube shunt.  But, they got the pressure under control and it’s all good.  As for my other eye, it plays tricks on me to scare me, I think.  My retina doctor has told me that if I suspect even the tiniest bit that I have a problem to come in and get it checked out – I have learned my lesson.
As for being blind, while I was laying there on my side, I tried to hand sew using just my hands and touch.  Your sense of touch heightens when your eyesight is in jeopardy.  My retina doctor didn’t even want me to do that, and I suspect it is because of trying to thread a needle.  I honestly do not know how I ever get a needle threaded anymore, but I do!  A trick I’ve learned is to put my finger behind the hole of the needle to help me along.  I don’t know how that helps me other than it gives me confidence in being able to thread the needle.  I’ve bought needle threaders, too, but you need to be able to see the hole to get those threaders through.  I think what got me through my ordeal was finding out about Diane Rose, the Amazing Quilter, who is blind in both eyes.  You can see a YouTube video of her here:

As for my quilting machine, I am saving my pennies to buy a computer for it.  They are so expensive and I love, love, love doing freehand quilting.  But, I don’t know what the future will bring, so I am trying to plan for it.  I am also looking at creating different ergonomic (for the eyes, etc) notions for quilters.  Bad things happen, but there was nothing I could do about it in my case, so I (finally) decided to just make the best of it; live with it and not complain.  And, I also want people to believe that they can accomplish things beyond what they believe they are capable.  I hope you know you can!

 I remember trying to figure out why this happened to me; what the purpose was.  One day I was feeling sorry for myself, because my depth perception was messed up due to having such low vision in one eye (it’s 20/400; I can see the big honking E and that’s about it, so that makes me legally blind) and I thought my mom was lucky because she didn’t have to deal with that – she ended up completely blind in one eye.  And, then I laughed at myself, because I’m betting my mom would have traded with me to be able to see anything at all (blurred shadows) out of her blind eye.  So, that is when I started thinking I was the lucky one.  The weird thing about the messed up depth perception is that it makes the texture of my quilting pop out at me while I am quilting.  For whatever reason, I can see well enough to quilt.  And, in some ways, I think it makes it better for me.  Maybe that was the plan God had for me, I don’t know.  I DO hope my blog posts help other people.  That’s the whole idea.  And, I think that may have been a part of the bigger plan all along, too.

As for Diane Rose, she was what got me through the whole ordeal.  The day I watched that video was the day I changed my attitude.  If she could sew and make quilts being blind in both eyes, I needed to suck it up and stop feeling sorry for myself.

Moral of the story… everyone has an issue, whether or not they admit it.  The grass is not always greener on the other side.  We can overcome many things; I think the secret is to maintain a positive attitude.  Hang in there, folks!  One day you will look back and see the lessons in whatever is your current cry-sis.

Personal Stretching

You may or may not think the title of this post has something to do with personal growth, and you’d be right.  It’s just a different kind of personal growth than what you may be expecting.  I’ve “kind of” taken a month off quilting for others so that I could finish one of my own quilts.  Well… that and deal with the holidays, which can easily eat up a month in itself.  What you may not know is that quilters who do the quilting for others struggle to find time for working on their own quilts.  We are always looking for a way to get our own stuff in, but we also have bills to pay, so we know that working on our own stuff would interfere with paying the bills.  So, guess what gets left out?

This latest quilt of mine is hand applique.  When we travel, I need something to do and to keep my hands busy so that I don’t go stir crazy.  I worked on the applique on this for a couple of years.  I mixed a couple of patterns, using Piece ‘o Cake Designs’ “My Whimsical Quilt Garden” (you can find this pattern here) and some patterns from Kay Mackenzie’s book Inspired by Tradition.  And, if you want to see more of these patterns, you can find her book here.  I like the simplicity of Kay’s patterns – her patterns make it easy to do needle-turn (hand) applique.

Anyhow, here is a sneak peak of the top.  I chose bright colors for a cheerful quilt.  A lot of the fabric is “In the Beginning” fabric; most of it is Jennifer Heynan’s designs.  She has a blog that I follow and is listed in the sidebar on the right.  Bright and cheerful… The name of it is “Dawn of a New Day” so named because it has dark borders with bright colors all over the quilt as well as white backgrounds for the blocks.  It makes me think of new beginnings (wonder if that’s because a lot of it is “In the Beginning” fabric) and a hopeful future.

IMG_2141   IMG_2138

I am planning/hoping to put this in some quilt shows, so I quilted it to death (a personal stretch for me).  Here is a picture of the back.


This took me FOR. EVER. to finish.  Well, I’m not exactly finished yet.  I still need to put on the binding.  I thought I was never going to get this done!  All I can say is that the cost of quilting this for someone else can easily cost over $500.  Divide that by a month, and that’s a salary of $125 week of back-wrenching work.  And, that’s not including overhead costs, taxes, and other IRS requirements taken from it.  Anyhow, I apologize if it seems like I am complaining.  I just couldn’t believe how long it was taking me to finish this quilt.  I’m glad it’s done.  I’m not completely satisfied with the results, but this is the best I can do with where I’m at as far as being a professional quilter.  At some point you’ve just gotta stop and say, “This will do.”

Speaking of back-wrenching work, 2014, for me, was a year full of back pain and migraines.  For awhile I was getting massages to help with the pain.  It did help, but only temporarily.  I got to the point where I just couldn’t afford it anymore and stopped.

I asked my doctor about it and she sent me to Physical Therapy.  I thought, “Sure!  Whatever!  It’s not going to do anything.” But, you know what?  I was wrong.  My doctor and my physical therapist pointed out that I am probably hunched over a machine all day.  How did they know?  This is not good for your back.   My physical therapist explained that our body is made to stand tall, with your head up and your chest expanded/not drawn in.  When you are hunched over all day, you stretch out those back muscles, but that leaves the muscles in your chest contracted.  Eventually, if you don’t do something to counter-act this posture, as you age, you will “sink in” to this hunched over posture.  I can see some of you who sew on your domestic sewing machine thinking about this right now.  Yesterday I spent the day sewing on my domestic machine, and my back is madder today than it’s been in a long time.  So, yes, all of you who work hunched over, the following stretches will help you.

I graduated from Physical Therapy, but I still need to do my stretches EVERY day.  When I don’t do them, I can feel it.  Is it going to take away my pain completely?  No.  But, it makes the pain more manageable, and I feel so much better now.  So, here is the top page (of 4) that my physical therapist gave me to do.  I am to do these stretches every day and the following 3 pages 2-3 times a week.  True confession… I am not good at that 2-3 per week thing.  I try to keep up with it, but…  However, I do these every day and when something else is hurting, I’ll do an exercise on the last 3 pages.  You might try some of these yourself and see if they work for you.  If not, you can also “Google” exercises for your neck, upper trunk, shoulders, spine and back.

physical therapy0010

I do hope that if you are in pain when you work, that you will find a solution.  There’s no reason to continue with pain in your life.



Quilts from Days Gone By

What do you do when you know someone hasn’t finished a project that needs finishing, and this person hasn’t finished it because he or she is not able?  Do you help?  If it’s something you specialize in, do you offer to finish it?  As it turns out, I’m guilty on all charges.  Not only did I offer to help, but I offered to finish these quilts.


It started out to be one quilt.  My husband’s Aunt Joyce has this quilt that she had started in the late 1980s, possibly in the early 1990s.  She was planning on giving it to her son when she finished, but she never finished it.  And… it was hand quilted… well, what she got done, which was most of it, was hand quilted.  All she had left to do was 2 borders and the cornerstones.

I’m not a hand quilter, and I haven’t been a hand quilter since I started my first full-sized quilt.  It’s just too hard on my hand and wrist and it takes waaaaay too long – I don’t have the patience for it.  But, Aunt Joyce is like a second mother to me, and I just can’t leave it unfinished for her son.  She’s in her mid 80s.  So, I offered to finish it for her.

When I was looking for the matching fabric for the borders that she had stashed away, I found a quilt top that looked very much like the hand-quilted one.  I figured I could finish that, even though it needs to be quilted entirely, by machine pretty quickly… probably sooner than the hand-quilted one.  I think I’m going to quilt feathers into the borders – there are plenty of wide open spaces.


I didn’t know which side is the top, so I put the blocks that I thought might have the most stretch at the top, specifically the block with the hexagons.  That way I can try to tame it before it gets “stretched in” to the bottom.


I hope I can do this quilt justice.  The blocks were hand pieced.  This is one of those dilemmas where you don’t want to sabotage a hand-pieced quilt with machine quilting, so what do you do?  I don’t have time to hand quilt it, so it’s going to have to be machine quilted.  I will, of course, continue to hand-quilt the one that was started that way.  I think it would bastardize it at this point to machine quilt it since most of it is hand quilted.

What are your thoughts on machine quilting a hand-pieced quilt top?  Tough Decision, huh?




Family Quilts

May has been a whirlwind of a month.  I’ve got lots to share with you today; lots of pictures and lots of thoughts.  Please forgive me up front if I bore you with my personal “adventures.”

First off, I’d like to share Judy’s quilt with you.  This was a quilt made for a family reunion (which was held Memorial Day weekend), for auctioning off to help raise money for family members in need.  I think Judy is a jewel for doing this and for being so charitable with helping others.  She doesn’t get any money for what she does or donates, but it’s for a good cause!  She said each year the bids for her quilts get bigger – I think they like having her quilts and a part of the family’s history.  Really cool!

I don’t have as many pictures as I’d thought, because some of them accidentally got deleted, but here’s a full shot of her quilt.

Stephenson Quilt

And, here is a close up of the blocks.  Judy said the colored parts of the quilt blocks reminded her of hands and feet holding on to each other, much like a family does.  Cool, huh?  So, now do you see all the inter-connectedness of the blocks in the full shot above?


I added my touch by quilting swirls and heart-shaped leaves as in a family tree and vine.   I also added a “title,” so to speak, to the quilt to make it more of an heirloom for future generations.


And, I added some early generation names/couples with years.  I think if I were to do it over again, I’d put the couples in their own block with the following generations in blocks below them.  That way, the quilting density would be more even.

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The result?  This quilt sold for $1,400!!!  Wowzers!!!  Of course, it was Judy’s brother who bought it (what a loving brother!), so you can imagine why he bought it.  But still!  That’s a lot of moo-lah!

Another quilt I’ve been working on in May was Claudia’s quilt.  This quilt did a number on my head.  Not that it was Claudia’s fault by any stretch of the imagination.  She is a dear and was a dear for being so patient with me during and after my mini-melt-down with her quilt.  It took me a couple of weeks to finish it.  This quilt is a Christmas gift for her brother, who is a farmer.  I think Claudia is smart for working on her Christmas gifts all year long and not waiting until the last minute.  She’s bringing them to me as she finishes; smart move since I am now booked until September.  Each quilt I receive after today will get in the queue and before I know it, I will be booked through Christmas.  So, if you are thinking about quilts for Christmas, let your quilter know as soon as you can!  Some of us are booked a year out and some are booked only a few months out.

So, what happened with Claudia’s quilt?  Sigh… it was perfect, simply perfect.  I was crooning over how flat it laid, how square it was, and how the patches all met so perfectly together.  Since her brother is a farmer, we decided to put wheat on the quilt.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s made with homespun plaid, so wheat would be a great design for a guy and a farmer at that.  I started out quilting shocks of wheat in the corners and rows of wheat in the border and then added a row onto the quilt top (this was supposed to be semi-custom; an edge-to-edge allover design similar to a pantograph with a separate border).  I decided it needed something between the row of wheat and the border and so I added clouds.  Simple!

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And, that, my dears, was my UN-doing.  At that point I could see all sorts of things on this quilt top.  The patches reminded me (as they did Claudia also!) of looking down from an airplane at the fields of patchwork land.  And, I wasn’t sure the wheat was what she wanted after all.  Don’t get me wrong; I thought it worked well, but it seemed like it needed something, and if Claudia wasn’t happy with it, there’d be an awful lot of frogging (rip it!  rip it!) to do.

So, I called Claudia and sent her a couple of pictures to make sure she was happy with it.  We talked about it and Claudia said it was okay for me to add something if I wanted.  NOTE: CLAUDIA SAID IT WAS OKAY!!!  We started talking about farm items to add, and that’s where I fell into the abyss of artist wonderland.  I hung up the phone and went back to look at the quilt.  My mind went wild with ideas of drawing a barn, a windmill, and a whole entire farm!  Some cows, some sheep, rolled bales of hay, a barn cat…here some wheat, there some wheat, everywhere some wheat, wheat…




But, wait! This is not MY quilt!  And, about the time I started drawing in the windmill, my husband comes down and asks… “What are you doing?”  Eyes big and glazed over with entranced excitement, I responded as any one would do and said, “Nothing!”  And, that is what brought me back down to earth and started my mental battle with my quilting of other people’s quilts.  When I quilt a customer quilt, it is my intent for my quilting to be in the background of the quilt, to be subtle so that the first thing you see is the quilt and then you can see the indentations of where the quilting is.  I want it to compliment the quilt top, but not overpower the quilt.  I don’t want my quilting to be at the forefront of the quilt.  And, that was what I was seeing with Claudia’s quilt.

I cannot begin to explain the mental anguish I went through after I’d gotten this far on the quilt.  And, actually, at the point of my husband asking me what I was doing, I just had the windmill and the top of barn drawn/stitched on along with the rows of wheat that had been sown and rolled into hay bales.  I went back and forth, back and forth with what to do.  I was feeling so guilty for “taking over” Claudia’s quilt.  And, I was, at this point, stuck.  I couldn’t seem to get myself to work on it anymore, I felt so bad about it all.  I just wanted to cry, because I had just sabotaged my philosophy that the customer comes first; the reason why I don’t like to suggest quilting styles to my customers – I want it to be theirs, not mine.  All I can say is that Claudia has been such a dear throughout this whole thing.

Finally, I had to do something.  I needed to move forward so that I could get on to the next customer quilts.  I wrote down on a post-it note the things Claudia had suggested said I could add to the quilt and I put that on top of the quilt.  I would put those things on there and then just put rows of wheat.  This was not my quilt.  It was a difficult couple of weeks as my machine sat idle, but I finally pulled my head out of my butt and finished the quilt.  I was shaking in my boots as I finished it, nervous about whether or not Claudia would be okay with her quilt.  I decided to send pictures and an invoice to her of the final product when it was finished so she could be prepared when she picked up her quilt.

Here is what I added (per post-it note; my way of saying Claudia “approved” me doing this beforehand).  Well… the barn cat was my husband’s suggestion after he’d seen the anguish I was feeling from drawing all over somebody’s quilt.  Yes, the tractor has a flat tire; it’s a fact of life on the farm.  😉

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What the wheat shocks look like on the back of the quilt…


And, here is the finished product, front and back.  Claudia has been so gracious about this quilt, raving about how beautiful the quilting is.   I could hug her for being so kind.  I’d like to think that when we step back from the quilt, we see the patchwork farm fields.  I sure hope her brother sees the patches through the fields (trees vs. forest analogy).

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And now for the moral of the story…

In 2011, when I was supposed to start my quilting business, I developed a retinal detachment in an area of my eye where I would not notice the symptoms.  By the time I started having symptoms several months later, a lot of damage had been done.  The surgeons repaired what they could.  I ended up having 8 eye surgeries (6 on my left eye and 2 on my right eye) between 2011 and 2013.  I spent a lot of time laying on my side on the couch in 2012 with waaaay too much time to think (several months of laying there doing nothing; no reading, no sewing, no getting up and walking around, etc).  And, I did a lot of “negotiating” with God.  I am legally blind in my left eye with my eyesight being 20/400 in that eye (20/40 in my right eye).  Sometimes they test me at 20/200 if I’m having a good day.  My depth perception is messed up, but I can pick up textures in a quilt top like never before, I think because of the lack of depth perception.

When I FINALLY was able to sew again and quilt again, I was surprised at the art I was able to create with my quilting.  I don’t know how I do it.  I just do it.  I think I must have an angel on my shoulder, because I can’t believe that it’s me stitching those stitches.  So, there’s a part of me that thinks I must have been given a gift and I should share it with others so that they, too, can smile.  This is what I struggled with when I was working on Claudia’s quilt just now.  How do I know where to “help” and not to help, “share” and not to share, “give” and not give?

It is my belief that we are put on this earth to help others.  We are here for one another, not just to make ourselves happy.  Sometimes bad things happen to us, but it’s okay.  Because through those bad things, lessons can be learned if we just allow ourselves to learn the lesson.  I think there was a lesson for me through this whole process.  It was a reminder to me that the quilts do not belong to me, they belong to my customers and they are the ones who need to be happy, not my egotistical artsy-fartsy mind (or… my evil twin) that may think I am creating heirlooms and giving a gift to others through my art.  Yes, I am a Thread Artist.  But, that does not mean I need to put “my stamp” on every quilt that passes my way.  I can enhance quilts without overpowering them.  I only hope I can remember that with the next quilt that passes my way.  <sigh, but laughing out loud>

By the way, I have a video on my YouTube channel if you’d like to see how I draw the tiny wheat kernels.  The link for it is here, but it’s not a good video at all.  I ran the camera myself, and the handles of my machine are in the way so you can’t see anything the first half of the video.  If you zoom past the first half, you might be able to see SOME of it – lesson learned for next time!


Déjà vu

Currently I am in between customer quilts and have pictures of quilts that I cannot post due to the fact that they will be raffle quilts.  The customers prefer that they are not “revealed” until the official reveal, if you get my meaning.  Anyhow, I figured I’d show you something I’ve been trying to finish for myself.  This was part of a quilt guild challenge to make something from our charm square exchange.  This quilt has been on and off my quilting machine’s frame more times than I care to think about (in between customer quilts).  I’ve decided to name it “Jewels of the Valley.”  All I have left to do is finish the binding on it, and clean it up (trim threads, etc.).


In other news, remember this quilt?  It was in another one of my blog posts a long time ago.  You can read that post here.

Tree of Life full view

You can also find it at the bottom right of this page, listed under NQA’s 2013 show winners.  It won 1st place in the Scrappy Quilt Division.  Right now it is in a traveling exhibit for International Quilt Association.  If you go to IQA’s Quilt Festival in Chicago, you will be able to see it in person in their Timeless Treasures exhibit.  It will be in the same exhibit at the Quilt Festival in Houston this fall as well.  So, please look for it at either place.  I don’t know if it will be at Market or not.  The show in Chicago will be towards the end of June.  If you can’t make it to either the Chicago or the Houston show, here are some close-up shots so you can get a better look at what I snuck into the quilting.

Fairy smelling the flower…

Tree of Life detail  of fairy


tree of life quilt fairy stitching detail

Elf sitting on a mushroom…

Tree of Life quilting mushroom and elf

And with light “exposing” it…

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Troll under a bridge

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Embellished with button berries and vines made from couched yarns

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Some shots of the borders and down below with “light on the subject”…

tree of life 040         Tree of Life border quilting

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And, finally the label…inside and the cover.  You lift up the cover to find the label of all the contributors to the fabric in this quilt.

Tree of Life label outside  Tree of Life label underside

Tree of Life was from a HST (Half Square Triangle) fabric exchange done through The Quilt Show’s forum.  After watching Edyta Sitar on The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims, quilters from all over the world sent in HSTs to exchange with each other.  With the help of several others, more specifically from Clara Lawrence, Debbie Wolf collected and ran a “sort” for the more than 600 people who participated in the exchange and then mailed them back to everyone.  I couldn’t just “not” make a statement with my quilt of triangles from many lands.  So, figuring the quilt grew from a seed that had been planted with many hands of many friends, I decided it had to be a Tree of Life.  Then, I quilted in fairies, elves, gnomes, trolls, bees, and other creatures as helpers in creating this quilt.  There is a lot of symbolism all over in this quilt; I had a great time putting it together and watching it come to life.  What triangles I could not fit onto the front of the quilt went onto the back of the quilt to cover the label.  I just couldn’t leave anyone out.  As for the design, well… I took one of my old dishes and traced the design and then took it to Kinko’s and had them enlarge it for the 36″ center medallion.  Overall, it’s about 75″ square.  I do hope you get a chance to see it in person.  Who knows?  Maybe I have one of your triangles in this quilt.  You can ask the White Gloved person/helper at the show to let you peek at the label to see if your name is on there!

Best Laid Plans… to be continued

The past 2 weeks have been crazy.  I even checked this past week to see if there was a full moon, but it’s not until Valentine’s Day.  Two weeks ago I was working on a client’s quilt and also working on a pattern to make a purse.  I was asked to teach how to make a quilted purse, so I came up with a pattern and then needed to make it up so I could tell how easy or difficult it would be for the students.

Then, one of my husband’s 2 favorite aunts died.  My husband was to be a Pall Bearer, so we needed to drive to Ft. Worth, Texas for the funeral… a 10 hour trip on a good day.  We hurriedly packed up and drove down to temperatures in the 70s.  I thought weather changes were pretty dramatic in Kansas City and Denver, but we found that it is so much more dramatic in northern Texas and Oklahoma.  We came back home Sunday.  We knew the drive home would be “iffy” when it came to the weather, but we figured we had it planned between snow and ice fronts.  Well, we were wrong – that was between 2 weather fronts in the Kansas City area.  Sunday morning before we headed back home, we checked the weather and the road conditions and chose the highway that looked like it was in better weather and traffic conditions.  What a long day that turned out to be!  There were cars, buses, and trucks off in the ditch and paralyzed on the highway pretty much the whole way through Oklahoma.   I guess they don’t “expect” snow and ice???  Because they sure weren’t prepared for it!

TX and Oklahoma 011

Anyhow, to make a long story short, this was the beginning of the “wrench” put into my best laid plans of getting customer quilts done.  And, that’s the way it seems to go for me – my life is either feast or famine (crazy busy or nothing going on).  Aside from our Snowmagedden here in Kansas City this week, and my husband being home from work because of it until Thursday, the phone’s been ringing off the wall this week.  Everyone seems to have an issue that needs my help.

But, enough about that…  I was determined to put a big dent in this quilt yesterday – it’s been on my quilting frame for almost 2 weeks now.  I am almost done.  I just need to do some work on the borders and then go back and do a once over check.  I will take another picture of it full length after I finish it and will post it later.

wilma 6 007

Oh… one more thing.  My friend, Trisch Price has a new book that just   came out through My Stars, the modern division of the Kansas City Star Quilts books.


If you go to this site you can see one of her quilts that I quilted for her.  It’s one of 18 quilts that are in her book.

String of Pearls

Also, they are having a give away.  If you leave a comment on their blog, you just might win her book!  So, please go check it out!