Saturday, December 28, 2013

Rows of Faith

September was my month to design the quilt layout for the Faith Circle of do. Good Stitches. I've learned over the past year that it is an interesting process to work on a quilt with a community of people. You absolutely have to go into the process with grace in your heart, and look at the final product as a quilt of beauty, not a quilt of perfection. 

Lessons I've learned:
  • it's best to select a block design that does not require points to match up when blocks are joined together
  • everyone has their own definition of a 1/4" seam
  • asking for a white background means you will get mostly white, but an off-white is sure to show up someplace (the reverse is true if you specify off-white)
  •  there will always be someone who is struggling to get blocks mailed off on time (and sometimes that someone is me!)
I list these things not because I'm being critical...really it's quite the opposite. I list them because I believe that in the end none of these things really matter, and they provide a reason for us to extend grace to one another. In the Faith Circle we make our quilts for Restore Innocence and the girls helped by this organization don't care about any of the things listed above. What matters to them is finding hope and believing that people really do care about them. 

Here is the completed top for the Faith Circle September quilt. I still have to square off the side on the right before it is ready to quilt. 

Have you learned any lessons from working on projects with other people? If so, I'd love to hear about them :o)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

All's Quiet in the Shadows...

...really, it's not. All is entirely too busy in the Shadows of the Blue Ridge resulting in my blog being pretty much silent. Before I catch up on what's been happening here let me share a couple of Fall photographs:

Views of Fall

Views of Fall
We are so fortunate to have a Civil War preservation park directly beyond our back yard so we enjoy beautiful views of the woods all year around. I really have no favorite season as they each have beauty of their own. 

Okay, now that we are all calm and peaceful from the beautiful views on to the descriptions of stress what's been going on over this way:

At the end of the summer I was all prepared to dive right in and begin on the fabulous Penny Sampler class taught by the talented Rachel Houser {}. For about the first 4-5 weeks I was able to keep up with the pace of the class. Here is my sampler quilt so far:
Mock up of Penny Sampler Quilt
The super idea of using the black line drawing and pasting pictures of each block on top comes from Nicolette {DutchComfort}...she's brilliant! Anyway, by now I should be finished with almost all of the blocks and starting to stitch them together. I hope to make some good progress on these blocks this weekend.

One thing that has been taking up so much of my time is these mean, green hunting socks:

Mean Green Hunting Socks

I am so happy to say they are almost finished!! I've been kind of making the pattern for these up as I go along...maybe they are a kind of Frankenstein of socks, if you please. I've used little bits of instructions from several different sources and had to redo portions of them a few times to get them just right. They kind of have a funny story behind them. Last year during Christmas I was teasing one of my brother's-in-law that I was going to make him a pair of homemade crochet socks. Mostly I was doing this because I knew he would never take me up on the offer. Well, my other brother-in-law overheard me and said that he would wear a pair of crochet hunting socks if I could make him some. I could never say no. He chose green camo for the color. Wow was it hard to find yarn in right shades. This yarn is Ivy Malagrigo Sock Yarn. It's the first time I've used their sock weight and I have to say...I can't wait to make a pair for myself...not in green, though!

All of the other busyness is not so fun as sewing on sampler quilts, or crocheting socks. Mostly it comes from the school year starting back up again and attending way too many meetings. Hopefully things are now coming to a more manageable pace. 

Happy Fall to you! Here's to cozy mugs of hot chocolate and snuggling under quilts :o)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The art of teaching

Teaching someone to perform a tactile skill is an interesting undertaking. You often don't realize how much is involved...such as learning how to hold fabric as you sew two pieces to thread a needle and not unthread it again every time a stitch is taken...just exactly how is a knot made...and the list goes on. 

I teach in a public middle school (grades 6, 7 & 8 so students are usually between the ages of 11 and 14 years old.) Along with two other teachers I advise and teach an after school Handworks Club. Our goal is to teach a love of making things by hand to our young students. Last year was our first year and we had no idea what to expect. Most of our students had little to no experience doing handwork projects. 

Class sample made by me.
One of our main projects was hand stitching and quilting 9-patch doll quilts. These little quilts only measure out at 12" square, but it took almost five months for our group of girls to make them. Wow! We learned that there is a lot involved with teaching someone to sew. Maybe making a quilt, even a doll quilt, was a bit much for our beginning sewers.


This year we are working on simpler projects. The first one is a tapestry bookmark. The purpose of this project is learning how to hold fabric (or felt in this case), tie a knot at the beginning and end of a seam, and do the running stitch. The great thing about this bookmark is that it does not matter how big or small the stitches end up as variety adds to the visual interest. 


Our next project will be decorating needle books. Again we are working with felt because it is so easy to hold. I went ahead and used my sewing machine to attach a page inside each book and the girls will practice stitching to decorate the front and back cover. Then, they will put the needle book to use holding their class needles.

Stuffed Owl~Handmade
Pattern and tutorial for this little owl can befound here:
After the needle books we will move on to this sweet little folded owl. It is such an easy pattern with just three seams. The girls will have a lot of fun choosing cute fabrics to make their owls. We have been blessed with fabric donations from members of a local quilt guild and the local quilt shop, The Scrappy Apple

It should be a fun hand sewing unit! 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Planning a Sampler

This Fall I enrolled in The Penny Sampler online class taught by the talented Rachel of Stitched in Color. The main class project is a beautifully designed Scandinavian sampler quilt which Rachel named, "The Penny Sampler." The class focuses on developing skills in three areas:
  • machine applique
  • precise piecing
  • machine paper piecing
Rachel teaches these skills through mini stand-alone projects. The first skill we are working on is machine applique with various techniques to choose from. 

Dogwood Blossom~practice project
I chose to try the stitch and flip method to create my dogwood petals and then use sketch stitch applique to attach them to my quilted-in-advance background fabric. I seem to be on a grid-quilting roll lately...really like the look of it. It is super fun to sketch stitch! I think I've found something I will continue to enjoy and will add variety to my quilting skills :o) I ended up using my darning foot and free-motion quilting for the sketch stitching. I love the "slightly" messy look of freeing! (Note: this is a stand along project...not part of the Penny Sampler quilt top. It can be used as the front of a pillow, although I may just set this aside for now and try making a quilt-as-you-go mini medallion quilt with it.)

I used three online color palette builders to help me select the colors for my Penny Sampler quilt top. The photo I used for my inspiration is not mine so I'll not post it for public viewing. However, I will show you the rich, beautiful colors that resulted from it!

Fabric Pull!
I am really loving these colors! Deep, dark chocolate browns, teal (this word does not even need any's super all by itself!) rich eggplant purples blending into lively magenta's, mustard yellows, and creamy neutrals. Sounds good enough to eat!

Rachel provided us with a black-line master of the quilt top so we can color it in to help balance out the use of color across the quilt.

Sketching out plans
Clearly I need more depth to the variety of shades in my colored pencils :o) I just have basic colors so the shades don't match up too well with my fabrics, but I do get an idea where I want to put my main colors. 

This is going to be a fun Fall! Hope you have a great Labor Day weekend~I'm off to work on my next class assignments :o)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Summer Reflections

One thing I especially love about being a teacher is the cyclical pattern of the years. It appeals to me to have starting, pausing, and stopping points. It is exciting to begin each new school year with all it's potential stretching out before me. There are long-standing holidays and breaks throughout the year I anticipate and enjoy. Finally, comes the end of the school year with the prospect of summer fun and relaxation. Students are not the only ones who enjoy this pattern of life. Looking back over the past couple of months I've enjoyed working on several projects during the summer break.

Modern Chevron Baby Quilt

The first project of summer was this Modern Chevron baby quilt for my great-nephew {pattern by Rashida Coleman-Hale}.This pattern is such a fun twist to zig-zag quilts. I used straight line quilting in the solid white areas and left the colored fabric unquilted to make a nice soft quilt. 

Pinwheels Baby Quilt

Next, I made this pinwheel baby quilt as a silent auction donation to benefit a children's charity through my professional teaching organization. I made these pinwheels with squares of fabric left over from the Modern Chevron quilt shown above. I have to admit that I am really smitten with this quilt...pinwheels are just so classic. I am thrilled that it raised $150 for the charity :o)

Yellow Ribbon Quilt

Woven ribbons is a quilt to symbolize that none of us stand alone. Our lives are intricately woven together with those we love. This yellow ribbon quilt is for my dear friends who are separated by a military deployment for the next year. {pattern by Melissa @

African Flower Coin Purses~Finished

I'd been seeing the sweetest quilted frame purses on flickr and fell in love with their charm. When I found frames at my local JoAnn's store I thought the shape and size would be a perfect fit for crocheted African FlowersCrochet has always been a great love of mine. It is so soothing to sit with yarn and quietly crochet. These two little purses made sweet little gifts for a meet up with college friends.

Faith Circle of do. Good Stitches

Once all of the scrappy triangle blocks arrived from my bee mates in the Faith Circle of do. Good Stitches I set about putting them together into the quilt top. It needed to be a bit longer so I requested input from friends. Melissa, our bee leader, suggested the wonderful staggered squares for the top and bottom borders. I am so pleased with how this quilt turned out! We make our quilts for Restore Innocence. {scrappy triangle block by Ashley of}

Divided Basket :o)

Towards the end of summer I started working on this divided basket for my dear friend. This is the perfect project to use fun fabrics! I thought the subtle apple print on the front pocket fabric would be the perfect background for grid quilting with red thread. I was so happy to find just the right project to use the Meadowsweet polka dots (lining) that has been in my stash. {pattern by Anna of Noodlehead}


Using fabric scraps from the basket I made up four little coasters to tuck inside along with some fun apple treats ;o) {apple design by Charise of Charise Creates

Lanyard   Quilt Fabric = Perfection!

Finally, just in time for the start of a new school year I made myself a new lanyard. After  contemplating my fabric for quite a while I decided that Mama Said Sew would be the perfect choice...a great way to share a little about who I fun!! I am super thrilled with how this turned out ;o)

It's nice to look back and see finished projects! I also have quite a few additional starts and a whole stack of work-in-progress. Enough to keep me busy through the fall and winter :o) How about you? I'd love to hear about what you worked on this summer...maybe what was your favorite finish? 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

For the love of Epp {English paper piecing, that is}

Last summer I was introduced to the wonders of English paper piecing. It was love at first stitch. The more I quilt the more I love hand that hand stitching, applique, or hand quilting. Here are a few of the Epp projects I've been working on:

English paper piecing work

The jewel star pillow is the only complete project so far. The mini lone star is the focal point for a wall hanging and the grandmother's garden hexies will be a small pillow. I just love very single stitch from the basting to the joining of the various shapes. Please ignore the fact that I am showing you a photograph containing unfinished projects while I continue on to write about yet another project I'm getting ready to start :o)

When I saw the Mini QT Swap group on flickr had selected Epp and foundation piecing for the next swap round I just knew I had to ask to participate! I'd participated in a swap round with this talented group of ladies before when the theme was True Mini. Here is the quilt I made for that round. 

I was so excited to find out that I'd been paired up with Jen of SewWhat! We are both middle school teachers and if that does not make us two birds of a feather I don't know what would :o) After spending some time looking through her photo pool and reading her blog I'd made some notes on what I thought she may like in a little quilt. Now it's time to dive into the design process!

Mini QT EPP Swap!

I thought I'd try sketching out some designs to see what I was going to be able to do in a 12"x12" (maximum size} quilt. I found a lot of inspiration in the photo pools for these flickr groups:
Ferris Wheel Along
English Paper Piecing/Foundation Piecing
60 Degree Diamonds

English paper piecing templates

After working out a layout I'm pretty sure will work I used the incompetech Web site to draft template paper. This is a great site for making almost every shape used for English paper piecing. Now I've cut out all of my template papers and I'm ready to begin selecting fabric.

The current state of my fabric

I am really fortunate to have a well stocked stash. For several months I participated in the Stash Stack Club sponsored by Pink Castle Fabrics. You can find information about the club here. It was a really good way to build up the blenders in my fabric stash. I'm happy to say that I've really been putting them to use!

I'm off now to pull fabrics. I'd love to hear about what you are working on!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Hooray for fun mail!

Don't you just love getting something in the mail besides bills and junk? Today I received this beautifully wrapped package of fabric from the Sew Lux Fabric & Gifts shop.

Sew Lux ~ Beautifully Packeged!

I've ordered fabric from Sew Lux before and am so impressed with the lovely way they wrap their packages. I'd say they go the extra mile to make you feel like the beautiful fabrics you ordered are really special! Wouldn't you?

Fun fabric purchase :o)

Here are the lovely fabrics that were wrapped up in that pretty paper! A Day in the Life {Sky colorway}, the paint by number deer print from Erin Michael's Lush Uptown line is one of my *all time favorites* I just may have even more of this fabric coming in additional colorways... It will be added to the fabric I have stashed away from the first time the Lush line was released. {What can I say? I married into a hunting family.} The three beautiful gray fabrics (Leaf & Dot, Posie, and Bouquet) from Denyse Schmidt's Flea Market Fancy line are destined to become this new bag:Straight Stitch Bag

I've gotten into the habit of making the bags I carry. See here and here and even here. It's really a fun way to strike up a conversation with people and introduce them to modern sewing. I am drawn to this change-your-mind SLIPCOVER BAG because the outside "skin" is removable. I plan on trying to make it reversible, too. This allows the look of the bag to be easily changed up. I'll be working on this bag in September when imaginegnats is sponsoring the Selfish Sewing Week...have you heard of it? The idea is that after all of the preparations necessary to get kids back to school it just may be time to sew something fun {or necessary} for yourself :o) Go check out the flickr group and sign up! I just may not be able to wait for September 23 to get started :o) 

How about you? Do you have a project that has been just waiting for the right reason to pull it off the shelf and get started? I'd love to hear about it in the comments! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Measuring progress & fun new swap!

Little by little I'm making progress on the scrappy triangles quilt. I've had some requests to see a picture of the entire quilt back so here it is. 
May Faith Circle Quilt Back
It's quite bright and I hope cheerful! I bought the butterfly fabric because butterflies are the symbol for Restore Innocence. I knew I'd like to try my hand at some improve piecing so I bought 1.5 yards of the butterfly print and added additional fabrics from my stash. I'm hoping the finished product comes across as modern and fun. 


In case you are wondering I ended up using spray basting. It's just so quick! I had the backing, batting, and top laid out and basted up in about 30-40 fast! When the weather is nice I spray baste outside on our deck. I sweep it off well and then have a nice large area to work on. 

Free Motion Quilting on a home machine

Before I started quilting I did a quick refresher on free motion quilting using a home machine since I've not done it in a while. I really like this great tutorial posted by Oh FranssonIt's a learning process to quilt on my home machine. I have a Janome DC3018 sewing machine and I really like it. It's not one of the large Janome machines which makes it a bit of a challenge during the quilting process because the harp opening is quite small (just 4.5" x 6.5".) This causes a lot of "stuffing" when trying to move the quilt around while meandering/stippling. 

Quilting close-up
It's hard to post this close-up picture because the "oops" areas are glaring out at me. As you can see it's not perfect, but hopefully the young lady who receives this quilt will know it was made with love and that things in life are rarely perfect. Just a few more quilting sessions and I should have this quilt all ready to bind!
Fat Quarter Blender Swap
I'll leave you with this announcement...there's a fun new swap if you're interested! flickr member, Rockislander, is putting together a Fat Quarter Blender Swap.  Requirements are basically to have a flickr account and agree to the swap rules.  All of the details can be found here

Monday, July 22, 2013

Oh those quilt backs

The sticking point for me on most quilts ends up being the quilt back. By the time I get to this point I'm just ready for the quilt to be finished. I often turn to the Quilt Backs flickr group to find inspiration. This is the back for a quilt I am making for the Faith Circle of do. Good Stitches.

The final yard.

The front is called Scrappy Triangles. Each of the ladies in the Faith Circle made triangles using scraps from their fabric stash. This quilt is a good way to put tiny fabric scraps to good use. This fun block was designed by Ashley who blogs at Film in the Fridge. The tutorial can be found here

Scrappy Triangles Top~May, do. Good Stitches

Next up is the basting process. I'm still mulling over pin basting or spray basting. I really like how securely the quilt is held together using spray, but at the same time it leads to a more "structured" feel when quilting. I've toying with idea of doing an all over stipple pattern. I've never done free motion quilting (FMQing) on a quilt this large and I'd kind of like to give it a try. If not, there is always straight lines...I like them, too!

Here's a scripture verse to inspire me to finish this quilt...maybe it will inspire you, too!
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning...  Ecclesiastes 7:8a

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Doing good stitches...over a lifetime

In truth I can't remember when I was not sewing, crocheting, and quilting; it seems like I've been doing these things all my life. When we were growing up my mom taught my sister and I how to sew clothes for our Barbie dolls, make bean bag toys, and crochet scarves. Next came 4-H and learning to sew culottes-anyone remember those? Later was junior high home economics class with Mrs. McMurtray. She taught us how to cook without actually touching any of the food (a practice I do not continue) and how to sew tea towels and skirts. My skirt was a lovely burnt orange ultra suede wrap around - documented in a photograph that I cannot locate...too bad, I know :o)

Cross Stitch & Needlepoint

     Next came years of cross stitch and needlepoint. Just like with my quilts I have projects in various stages of ever being finished. For a time the go-to wedding gift was a cross stitch sampler. 

Working on the tulips cross stitch
I was so proud to make my mom the cross stitch tulips. I secretly worked on it while at college. Now that she is gone it has found it's way back to me.

Then, combined with lots of gardening and computer work, my hands began to suffer fatigue. So, I pulled out my $99 Singer sewing machine and decided to try a log cabin quilt. With some help on fabric placement from a new neighbor I made my first quilt top (no picture, darn!) It was a Christmas present for a dear friend who I knew would graciously receive it - wonky sewing and all. Not having any idea how to quilt it I tied it with red yarn. 

Quilt blocks for Faith Circle of do. Good Stitches
Fast forward about 15 years and I'm still quilting. It was my desire that God could lead me to use quilting and sewing as a way to be His hands and feet in this world...even in very small ways. One way I've been blessed to be able to do this is through the Faith Circle of do. Good Stitches a virtual bee. Through participation in this group I've been a part of 20 quilts so far. Initially the Faith Circle made quilts to meet needs found in our local churches. Earlier this year we adopted Restore Innocence as the recipient of our quilts. "Restore Innocence restores victims of child trafficking back to the innocent children God created them to be." -quote from the Restore Innocence Web site. 

do. Good Stitches is the brain-child of Rachel of Stitched in Color and I believe there are currently 19 circles - including international! Periodically, as members come and go, there are openings in the current circles. In addition, when there are enough quilters, Rachel will begin a new circle. If you are interested check out the information here

Monday, July 15, 2013

To Begin a Blog...

How does one begin a blog...exactly? Putting writing out there for people to read. Already knowing that correct punctuation and sentence structure have never been a strong area. Maybe that doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things...maybe blog readers are gracious, kind people who know the risks writers take when sharing thoughts and ideas.

Since I often wonder how blog names are selected I'll share my reasoning. Most of my life I've lived in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Old, strong, beautiful mountains that have witnessed much in the passing of time. They bring a calming peace to the landscape. In my younger years I lived just east of these mountains, now I live just west of them. In the endless possibilities of life I find mountains to be a visual reminder to limit the focus. 

We are fortunate to own a little part of a mountains range in the Appalachians. This range runs parallel to the Blue Ridge. Our land has three old roads running across it and also three runs of stone. The one in this photo is truly a wall. It makes me wonder who built it and when?

Our little piece of the the Appalachians - just west of the Blue Ridge

Someday we plan to live here, and I plan to quilt here...someday.