Quilting schedule for the new year

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Someone asked on twitter recently, so I figured I’d better write out how my schedule works, what’s in the queue and how far out I can schedule new quilts to be made.

I like to leave myself lots of time, since I only quilt on my weekends and a couple nights through the week. The rest of my weeknights are for things like errands, visiting grandchildren and spending time with the husband or my teenage daughter (the last one left at home). Also sleeping.

Right now I say I am booked till March 2017, which means I have enough to keep me busy until then and any new quilts started now will not be finished until then.

Want a tshirt quilt? We’re looking at a March finish.
Want a custom quilt? Yep, March.

Right now I am slightly ahead of schedule, but I still have a list that needs doing. These are all customer quilts somewhere in the completion pipeline.

Harley quilt
Night Sky quilt
tshirt bag
improv baby quilt

+plus two more in preliminary early stages

Fear not, though – at least two of these are near completion or will finish up soon. Most of these will be out the door by the end of January.

So you can start the new year by counting up your tshirts to make a tshirt quilt and get on my list, or finally think about having a custom quilt made to your specifications.

Some custom quilts can take a good six months or so to sort out details, choose fabrics, gather supplies and then there’s the design time…

Any other quilts you see in progress on my various social media accounts are ones that are in my personal backlog and I’m finishing up “just because.” I work on these as creative exercises and a break between client quilts. Most of them will be offered for sale. If you are interested in one you’ve seen – just ask!

As always, any quilt you’ve seen that I’ve made previously that was sold or gifted can also be made just for you. The pricing on the tshirt quilt page is a good place to start – custom quilts are more, depending.

Because I can’t not quilt

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Last night I was at yet another guild meeting, being in two guilds and it being the holiday season, and we were once again talking about all things quilting.

It is slowly dawning on me that maybe other people who enjoy the same hobby as I do haven’t been doing it as long as I assumed and maybe don’t even partake as often. Challenging my own assumptions here as I too insist I am not the fuddy duddy old grandmother traditional muddy fabric quilter.

Talking to other ladies who do not have dedicated sewing rooms and who do not sew almost every day but maybe get a couple hours in once a week, if they’re lucky.

Talking to other ladies who make maybe six quilts a year, slowly and with a purpose – for  a son’s wedding, a new baby, an older child off to college. A reason, a means to an end.

How do you do it, they ask, and I see half the question in their eye of “why?” as well. “You’re so… driven,” they remark. I make light sometimes, saying I don’t really clean my house, who likes cleaning right? I’d rather sew.

Sometimes, if I think we have time, I tell them a small story.

Do you know any writers, I ask? I work with some writers, I know some writers and a musician. The thing is, they have to write. The words, the music, it is there – in them – and it has to come out. There’s no reason, no reasoning,  it just is. The music wants to come to life, the story needs to be written.

That’s how I quilt, that’s how I sew. I have to.

In every house we’ve lived in, no matter the state of renovation. In any stage of life – babies underfoot, teenagers borrowing the machine, no room dedicated and yet there I was, sewing in a corner because I had to.

I look at a scrap of fabric and get ideas. I see the garment, I see the quilt block.

I look at quilt tops unfinished, and see the quilting.

I close my eyes and there it is – yet another design. I try and record it somewhere, a scrap of paper, notebook, sticky notes at the side of the bed on the nightstand full of half asleep scrawls and rustic sketches I look at sideways with awake eyes.

I moved my work desk and laptop to our sewing room / future office, to make room for the Christmas tree. Only temporary for the holidays, I said. The busy holidays where less sewing happens. But I’m here, surrounded by piles of fabric in various stages of design and completion.

It’s been four days since I’ve sewn anything. I’m feeling the pull.

Four days, and I tell myself if I just swing my chair across the room and sew for ten minutes on a work break, I’l be fiiiine and hope I don’t forget I have a day job.

Because I can’t not quilt.

I moved!

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Well, I didn’t move my blog, I just moved my whole house, over a month ago. We’re still getting settled.

I think I lasted two whole weeks before I set my machine up a corner to sew something, anything, just because I needed to.
After a couple of location changes, I took over half of what will be our home office. The other half is the husband’s tools and things he needs to finish working on some parts of the house.

Did I mention the renovations? No? The house we bought is an old house, but with a new addition. The previous owners bought the place, started renos and ran out of money, then had to sell. Their loss, our gain I guess. All the hard and expensive stuff had been done, as far as we were concerned. We still had electrical and plumbing to finish, and there’s no trim anywhere, but we finally got enough done to move in.

Best part? I *WILL* have a dedicated sewing room some day, in the new basement. It is currently unfinished, just concrete. We even had to build the stairs to get down to it. so it will be a while before that is done, but it will be done to my specifications.

For now, I do have the most incredible view. That helps.


The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting

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Recently I received a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting for review. I’m not sure if you noticed but I really like to machine quilt! That is my favourite part of quilting . So not only was I super excited to have a chance to read this book, it was written by two of my favourite quilting authors.

I have known Angela Walters online for what seems like a long time. I first met her when helping her out with her blog way back in the early days before she even had any books. I soon became a fan. I now own most of the books she has written. Christa Watson came on my radar in the last year or so, but I quickly became a fan of her style as well.

Both ladies are wonderfully engaging and friendly. This comes across very well in their book. I love how they both tackle the same quilt top in different ways. I always wonder when I see a longarm quilt design how I might adapt it to domestic machine quilting, and this book can help with that. I really enjoyed reading their thought processes on why they both chose to quilt certain designs in certain areas.

There is an extensive section at the front of the book about tools and rulers, plus how and why to use them. There is also a section on the advantages of quilting on either a long arm or a domestic machine. I really appreciated this section, since I have been thinking about a long arm purchase in the future.

While this book does have quilt patterns, they are light on directions (two pages each quilt) for piecing and assume you have a knowledge of the basics. That was fine with me, because I need to get down to the quilting part! They go over how to do any markings needed and where they started on each particular quilt.

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They even include a design for a wholecloth quilt. I was excited to see this, as a wholecloth quilt is on my bucket list. I will probably do this project from the book first, and combine techniques from both quilters to make it my own.

I would probably not recommend this book for a real beginner, only if you had some fmq under your belt and were very confident. I would recommend this for anyone who has been machine quilting and is bored with the same old thing. If you are wondering how to get those drool worthy designs on your quilt that you see everywhere online this book will help get you started.

I was provided an e-book copy of this book entirely free for the purposes of review. I like this book enough that I’m going to buy the print version so I can reference it more easily.

A king size tshirt quilt for Chris

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I’m still working my way though final posts about quilts I’ve made over the past couple years. This quilt I finished last year. It is still talked about!

Chris Lema contacted me about my t-shirt quilts and asked a hard question. He only had 14 shirts. Could he get a king size? The shirts were XL to XXL and all from the same WordPress hosting company.

Could I even get a king size quilt top from only 14 shirts? I did some quick calculations, gulped, and said “Sure!”


Such a tiny box on arrival, compared to some.

This would be one of the first t-shirt quilts where I used some of the plain leftover pieces from the backs and sides and sleeves to help make up the fabric needed to bring the quilt up to size. Since I made this quilt, I’ve done this on almost every one.

As I went through the shirts, I made sure to cut the largest pieces possible from each one – including blank blocks. There were not a whole lot of scraps left.

Then it came time to arrange the blocks like a puzzle for the final layout. In quilting, we are often told for blocks you don’t like or ones you wish to de-emphasize, put them around the edges.  In this case, I clustered the printed shirts in the middle for best display and made sure the blank blocks were along the edges. The plan was to treat the blank blocks as a single area of negative space and fill it with the same quilting.


Once I had that sorted, in my head and on the floor,  I checked in with Chris about design options. He said the scariest thing I think I might have ever heard.

“Do what you like, I trust you.”

Big gulp. o.O For anyone who has clients of any kind, this can be simultaneously the best and worst thing ever. Yay! We get full control and free reign!  And then… what if they don’t like it? What if this is not what they imagined?

After I talked myself down off the ledge, I realized he would not have entrusted me to make him a quilt if he didn’t 100% love my work. So with that in mind, I strove to make it as excellent as I knew how. Knowing Chris though my regular day job, he strives for excellence in all things and has high standards. Not 100% perfection, but excellence.


With that in mind, as I worked on the quilt top I thought about the quilt back. The shirt were all from WPEngine, which has a distinctive blue as their main branding color. The first problem was the printing process on the shirts were all different so the blues are all slightly different.  Then I had an idea – I would get the official color right from their website!

Sometimes being a computer nerd is pretty handy.

Then I used a site to convert hex color codes to the matching fabric from various brands. Voila!  I ordered ten yards of Kona cotton in Breakers, because it is indeed the best out there. (sorry, could not find the site again 🙁  )


When the top was all sewn together, I had to move furniture to lay it out.


And the basting went on forEVER! This was only the second King size quilt I had made.





Finally, we get to the fun part – the quilting! Again, for each shirt I picked a design to complement the shirt itself. This often requires more thinking and staring than actual quilt time.



Sometimes if I get stuck, I’ll do graffiti quilting – little bit of everything in there.


I did choose to use matching blue thread for the quilting, so it would match the back but highlight the stitching on the front. All the shirts were black, grey or white. The blue was a unifier.


When I got to the larger blocks, all I did was draw with chalk the spine of the feathers so they swooped and swirled around the outside of the quilt, framing the inner blocks. The bumpy bits are all freehand.


Near the middle top, I had a spot that dipped down a bit, so I filled it with this medallion. Fun fact: to place this section in my machine for stitching, I had to quilt it upside down and sideways.


Here’s another feather swooping around the corner.


The back view really highlights all the various stitching.


In the end, I had maybe barely half a yard of blue fabric left, half a spool out of four spools of thread, and the box of pins were all the ones used for basting.

I used the same fabric for binding the quilt edges, as a nice frame. I even added a sleeve at the top so they had the option to hang  the quilt on a rod if they chose to display it.

On a sunny day, right after washing and drying and careful inspection for any hanging threads or missed spots, I hung it on my clothesline for some final shots to send to Chris before mailing.




So big!


Chris LOVES his quilt so much! I still see it mentioned on twitter, so I figured I’d finally do the long awaited write up.

As my own worst critic, I’m still pretty happy with how this quilt turned out.

Time spent:
– box arrived in February
– fabric ordered in February
– cut & pieced in March
– quilted in April / May over weekends. I did not count all the hours but there was a good 16 hrs of just quilting.
– shipped and received in mid to late May
– smiles: forever

Machine issues

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So, somewhat of an unexpected hiatus on the sewing and quilting front, and the blogging thereof.

A couple weeks ago,  I started quilting on a long-waiting quilt top and suddenly it stopped forming stitches, like the bobbin was empty. Except it wasn’t.

Which meant, horror of sewing horrors, the timing was off. In short, something expensive. WELL, the hubby and I are go-getters, so we took a large chunk of the day to watch some videos and strip down the machine.

Yes, it was scary. But then we got it working! A stitch would form when we manually turned the wheel. I got it all back together & the hubby went off to do errands. I turned it on, it was fine. I went to sew and… nothing.

Then I couldn’t get the cover back off completely until the hubby came back. Turns out we forgot to reconnect the motor. And THEN it worked again. So many facepalms.

We are getting ready to move into our new (old & renovated) house so not a lot of sewing has been done. Packing and lugging boxes and cleaning, yes, but not much quilting.

I finally got back to the quilt giving me issues, and it seemed like I continued to have them, even though stitches were forming fine. Hubby suggested I go slower than usual, so that was a bit of an adjustment, and it felt like the quilt was hard to maneuver – even though it was only lap size.  I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

At any rate – I did finish the quilt in question, though near the end I thought to myself, “I’ll just put it back to full speed and floor it like I usually do.”

And it happened again. This time it  only took an hour to fix – having done it before – and at 3/4 speed I finished the rest that day.

I’ve since worked on another quilt needing quilting, and so far it’s been fine. I’m not sure I want to test it on high speed again though. I’ve also been extra careful about oiling it regularly (it has a light) and cleaning it way more often and not sewing over pins. So  I don’t know if it’s me pulling something when quilting, or something is slipping when it runs at full speed. It’s a really good, really expensive machine that doesn’t have these issue, so… I dunno.

Charity quilts

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I’m a member of two quilt guilds here in Fredericton, and something most quilt guilds do is make quilts for charities.

The members donate fabric, batting and even money. Some have work days where they sort the donated fabric and plan quilts. Sometimes they even sew them up. Then others volunteer to quilt and bind them.

So that’s what I did.

I got a quilt from each guild to finish and quilted both of them up. I made sure to keep them in separate piles so I wouldn’t forget which quilt went back where. This week, I delivered both.

The first one was this one bordered in a deep green. I liked the green. Hourglass blocks alternated with four path blocks, and I quilted the squares with a curving line next to each seam. The triangles in the hourglass blocks got a looping swirl. I did use my walking foot first to stitch in the ditch and stabilize the entire quilt.


This was the one that also gave me thread issues and I broke two needles because of a pin in the spool of thread, ugh.


Not five minutes after I handed it over to the lady in charge of the charity quilts, it was handed to a fellow member to give to her friend who has cancer. I hope it provides her with some comfort & warmth.


The next night, I went to the other guild and handed over the second charity quilt. This one was backed with fleece and did not use batting. I got overly ambitious with the quilting designs, using swirled hooks in the blue sections and looping Ls in the white print, which wound up invisible. Either way, it’s still cuddly and useable. I think this one is going to Transition House.


On top of donating quilt to various organizations, and things like the placemats one guild made for Meals on Wheels, both guilds regularly contribute to other charities and whoever has a need. At one meeting a couple members are working directly with Syrian refugee families. Many of us have things to donate, so we’re working on pickup, and we also passed a motion to donate money too.

Both guilds heard of a fellow quilter in need – an art quilter and teacher from Nova Scotia has cancer and money was raised from members and matched from the guild accounts.

The big thing I noticed about this is there were no announcements in pubic, no press releases, no social media – the ladies just go out and do it. We see a need, we pass a motion, we send funds and we pull together.

I like that, and I’m happy to do what I can.

(I brought home two more quilt tops to quilt).

Pinwheel baby quilt

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Sometime last year I did a quick and easy throw quilt from Tula Pink’s Elizabeth fabrics and very large rectangle snowball blocks. No pictures or write up yet though, sorry.

But! The triangle bits cut off the corners were plentiful and quite large. Enough to make a baby quilt for sure. I sewed up each corner as I cut them off – working on two quilts at once – and played around a bit with layout.

Still need cornerstone dashing on the sides, but this baby quilt top from scraps is almost done. #quilting

Pinwheels are pretty straightforward, so to liven up the boredom, I also added sashing with cornerstone blocks from more scraps. The white sashing itself was from my white scrap bin too.

I swear, this fabric is going to live on forever… I also have a runner from more scraps from the same project.

All done! It's about 38" square, baby quilt sized. Gonna sell it so if you want it holler. Ready in January.

I posted a picture of the completed top and Kathy contacted me to claim it for her granddaughter. Fun! Anything for a fellow member of the cool grandma club.

For the quilting, I wanted it to be nice and custom and pretty and basically what I call quilting the heck out of it. But first, I stitched in the ditch around each block. Technically I could have left it there, it was secure enough. But you know me!Today's project. Some might think this is done or they may stop here. I ditched along the seams in all directions for stability for the next steps. After lunch I'm gonna quilt the hell out of this and you can see the difference. ?

I wanted to challenge myself as well, and time it so I could see how long it took for me to quilt when focused.

The sashing has back and forth lines, sometimes called switchbacks.

Each cornerstone has “bumps” – a curved line that goes from corner to corner.

The pinwheels also have bumps in each triangle, but with them all together almost form a flower. It only took a couple of blocks to figure out the best way to travel with the least amount of back tracking.

An hour and twenty five minutes. That's how long this took me to quilt. This includes changing the needle that was giving me issues and stopping to wind 3 more bobbins. Yep, I quilt fast.

Did I mention I hate breaking threads? Most of the quilting here is done all in one go, save for bobbin changes.

The small border around the outside, same width as the sashing, is done in half feather bumps, just to soften the look a bit. I had trimmed the quit after the first step of straight quilting, and by the time I got to the borders was kicking myself. Some places I was holding on with my fingertips!


Super happy with those corner turns too.

So, time spent doing the initial straight quilting was 20 minutes. I stopped for lunch, swapped out the walking foot for the FMQ foot and went at it, knowing what to do for each section. I quilt fast and at top speed. Time spent for the custom work? An hour and a half. Maybe an hour and 20 mins.

Then it was on to the fabric choices for binding. I sent Kathy a picture with options.


She picked the green stripes. Perfect! I cut it on the bias, because bias striping is always a great choice.


The finished quilt.


All this puckered crinkly goodness is after washing. It already looks like a family heirloom!

Have a look at the back.


When the quilt arrived at Kathy’s place she said the same thing my mom always says. “The pictures don’t do it justice!”  😀

Thinking about a longarm

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For those of you who are not quilters, or not familiar with a long arm, it is a quilting machine. It looks like a sewing machine, but it is on rails on a track. The operator moves the machine over the quilt, instead of doing what I do now – maneuvering the quilt through the machine. A long arm is pretty much the Holy Grail of quilting equipment.

I super love quilting. Well, I’ve been sewing for 30+ years, quilting off and on, but when the modern quilting movement hit and free motion quilting became popular, it was something that really struck me. I wanted to try it so I did.

And I LOVED it.

Eventually I upgraded my trusty 25 year old machine to a shiny new Bernina QE 440. Holy wowzers. Any struggles I had learning to FMQ were solved. All I needed then was practise. And boy howdy have I been practising!

For the past two or three years I have been treating my quilting hobby as if it were a business. The volume of quilts being finished is pretty good – around 25 a year. Some of them have hours and hours of quilting time. On one (not gonna say which one) I’m sure there were 16 hours put in. (No, I didn’t charge enough and the price I did charge made me gulp anyway.)

I have a full time job too. That’s not going to change. I’m perfectly happy right now being a part time quilter. And as in any kind of manufacturing business, one of the biggest ways to increase your business if you can’t increase the time, is to produce things faster.

That’s the other thing you can do with a longarm. It’s just *faster*. Even with the custom quilting work. If you ever wonder why I’m so hard on my on work, it’s because the people I look up to are not only long arm quilters, but leaders in the field. You know, people like Angela Walters, Karen McTavish,  Judi Madsen, Karlee Porter.

So, what’s stopping me? Well for starters – the price. YES I know I have a Bernina, which is like the Ferraris of sewing machines. But we got a deal on it (shop model) and … my mom bought it for me. In return, I do all her quilting. Fair enough.

A longarm starts at $5,000 US dollars for the most basics of models, for small quilts. They also come in sizes. So that 5K model? It only does baby and lap size quilts – no larger. You want one that will let you do up to king size? Now you’re looking at 12K. You want computerized controls? Shoot up to $20k.

If you’ve ever sent your quilts out to a longarmer to quilt for you – now you know why they charge what  they do.

Longarm machines also take up a LOT of room. The largest have 12 foot tracks. Plus you need to put them somewhere you can walk all around them.

Those of you who don’t follow me anywhere else may not know we bought a house last year. well, a year ago last November. We are still renovating and haven’t moved in yet.  Renovations are expensive! Plus my new sewing room currently looks like this:


It will not be finished before we move in.

Another challenge is you can’t just go to your local quilt shop or fabric chain and pick one up. They are sold via dealers. The closest to me are Halifax or Montreal. Minimum 6 hour drive in either direction. And what happens if I get one and it needs maintenance or repairs?

Plus there’s so many different features and add-ons, I don’t even know what I want or need yet. I need more exposure. While there are 3-4 people locally (within 100kms) who offer longarm services, none of them (to my knowledge) rent time on the machine to other quilters or give lessons.

So yeah – for now this is on my dream list. I know that “someday” it may be possible, but realistically it will be 2 to 5 years before I can even seriously look at some.

And take for a test drive.

And do the quilting I dream about.

Until then I’ll just drool and doodle and be the best domestic machine quilter I can.


Triple Treat Modern quilt

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One of the pattern books I go back to a lot is Happy Hour from Atkinson Designs. They all use up fat quarters and work up fast. They are especially good for showing large scale modern prints. I wish their site showed more of the patterns in the book. There’s really mostly three main ones, but she does three more in alternate block sizes, plus a couple bonus patterns. For this quilt, I did the Triple Treat pattern, which is basically a large square block divided into a small rectangle, skinny strip, then larger rectangle.

I dug through my stash and pulled out a variety of prints from various lines and designers but stuck to a loose color scheme of pink, light teal and this lime/ chartreuse.  I’d found a length of floral print that had all these colors in them. Some of the challenge here was using up odd bits from my stash that were not full fat quarters, and the other was being too enthusiastic and not completely following directions.


Either way, it still worked out and unless you compared the blocks to the actual pattern, you would never know this. While digging out pictures, I realized I started this quilt back in August of 2014 so I really have neglected to write about this one.

It’s got a nice wide border and is a decent twin size.


By the time November rolled around, I managed to have it quilted with just a plain white backing.


Closeup of some of the prints. The green is really not that brown, it was hard to get a decent shot that showed the green properly.


I can’t remember if Ron helped me lay this one out or not. Probably not.

For the binding, I tried out a new technique with a flange, sometime called double binding. I used a solid pink to pull out the pinks in the quilt, paired with a blue and brown polka dot.

IMG_6969 IMG_6974

Totally impressed myself with the corners.


The quilting was an all over flower pattern, pretty easy, lots of bumps. You could use Lori’s peony technique explained here, it’s very similar. I left the borders unquilted.


Such yummy, yummy texture. And it works up fast!


Some memories in these prints – a top for Izzy as a baby, a purse, a tote bag, some leftover bits from Ayla’s quilt. An Amy Butler print and a couple polka dots that are hiding apples.


Those fold lines wash right out.

If you love this quilt, it is also for sale in my Etsy shop.