Pyramid pillow

I’ve been toying with the idea of making quilted pillow covers for a while now, and a recent visit to a shop that is looking for submissions finally gave me the kick in the pants I needed to do it. I still don’t know if I will pursue selling them, but at least now I have an idea of time and material costs. For the record, it took me 3 hours and 6 minutes from cutting fabric to zipping it closed.

Pyramid Pillow

This uses leftover fabric from the Baby Pyramids quilt, though it didn’t save me any time in cutting. I cut the triangles smaller for this pillow, so everything was cut new. It is pretty easy to cut and piece equilateral triangles (and I’m a little obsessed with them now), so I’d say this is comparable in time to making a cover of 3″ squares.

Pyramid Pillow zip

I used an invisible zipper because that’s what was handy. The front is quilted and the back is a double layer of solid fabric. I’ve made covers with envelope backs and they’re quick and easy, and look fine, but I wanted something a bit more finished if I try selling them. Sewing a zipper in is not at all difficult, and I really like the way it looks, especially using the invisible zipper. Good thing I have quite a few from when our local Hancock Fabrics went out of business (six years ago).

The pillow is nice and firm because I used an 18″ pillow form inside a 16″ pillow cover. I don’t remember where I read that tip, but it makes all the difference. I don’t think it would work as well with an envelope back, though.

By pure luck, I happened to see the Pillow Collective link up at Amy’s Creative Side, so I’m joining in. Now on to the next one!

And for anyone doing the Botanical Block of the Month, block 2 is pieced, photographed, and posted… it is just waiting to publish on March 1! This being ahead of the game is a strange feeling…


TYSS: Variable Star fillers

The Variable Star, though a block in its own right, is also a great base for other, more complex blocks simply by filling the larger center square with another pieced block. You can also piece the corners for further interest. Here’s a sample of several different variations, with different blocks in each center. The bottom left and bottom right corners show what you can do with pieced corner and color placement.

Variable Star Samples

For the Test Your Skills Sampler, we’re using the basic Variable Star block in three different sizes as fillers. You’re going to make two 8″ finished (8 1/2″ unfinished) blocks, three 4″ finished (4 1/2″ unfinished) blocks, and three 4″ finished blocks with the center filled. If you’re following the white and bright version, the 8″ blocks are blue, the 4″ empty center blocks are orange, and the 4″ filled center blocks are each their own combination of colors – the star points (flying geese) are the same within one block, and the center square is a different fabric. All three filled center blocks are different combinations.

Variable Star2  Variable Star   Variable Star3

The basic Variable Star is just an uneven nine patch block where four of the patches are flying geese. As before, the Skill Builder posts provide detailed instructions to create flying geese units, so choose your favorite flying geese method from the posts linked below. There are two block sizes, 8″ finished and 4″ finished, and the measurements for flying geese units for both are below. The cutting and assembly instructions for completing the block are at the end of the post.

Skill Builder Series: Part 8A – Flying Geese

Skill Builder Series: Part 8B – Flying Geese

Method 1: Large and Small Squares

Skill Builder Series: Part 8B – Flying Geese
This is my favorite method for creating flying geese. It doesn’t waste fabric and you sew before cutting so bias edges aren’t an issue.

8″ finished blocks (make 2)
This block requires four 2″ x 4″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 3″ squares for star points
(1) 5 1/2″ square of background fabric

4″ finished blocks (make 3 identical, and 3 in assorted colors)
This block requires four 1″ x 2″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 2″ squares for star points
(1) 3 1/2″ square of background fabric

Method 2: Traditional

Skill Builder Series: Part 8A – Flying Geese
Although this is the traditional method for assembling flying geese, it can be tricky, especially since you’ll be working with bias edges. If you’d like to try it, I still recommend cutting your pieces slightly larger and trimming the finished units to size. For this method, you need:

8″ finished blocks (make 2)
This block requires four 2″ x 4″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 3″ squares for star points, cut diagonally once
(1) 5 1/2″ square of background fabric, cut diagonally both ways

4″ finished blocks (make 3 identical, and 3 in assorted colors)
This block requires four 1″ x 2″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 2″ squares for star points, cut diagonally once
(1) 3 1/2″ square of background fabric, cut diagonally both ways

Method 3: Rectangle and Squares

Skill Builder Series: Part 8A – Flying Geese
This method is best if you’d like to create some extra HSTs or don’t mind wasting a little fabric. It is the easiest method, but the most wasteful.

8″ finished blocks (make 2)
This block requires four 2″ x 4″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 4 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ rectangles of background fabric
(8) 2 1/2″ squares of star point fabric

4″ finished blocks (make 3 identical, and 3 in assorted colors)
This block requires four 1″ x 2″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 2 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ rectangles of background fabric
(8) 1 1/2″ squares of star point fabric

Method 4: Dimensional (One Seam)

Skill Builder Series: Part 8A – Flying Geese
This is a fun method for creating flying geese, but it adds a lot of bulk at the center and you will have flaps of fabric that you need to either sew down or be careful not to catch in the presser foot when you quilt it. I especially do NOT recommend it for very small flying geese units, and it is not a good choice for the 4″ finished blocks, though I have provided measurements below anyway.

8″ finished blocks (make 2)
This block requires four 2″ x 4″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 4 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ rectangles of background fabric
(8) 2 1/2″ squares of star point fabric

4″ finished blocks (make 3 identical, and 3 in assorted colors)
This block requires four 1″ x 2″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 2 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ rectangles of background fabric
(8) 1 1/2″ squares of star point fabric

Assembling the Block

Once you’ve created your flying geese units, you need to put them together into the blocks. You’ll need to cut additional squares for the corner and center piece of the blocks:

For each 8″ finished block (make two)
(1) 4 1/2″ background square for the center
(4) 2 1/2″ background squares for the corners

For each 4″ finished empty centered block (make 3)
(1) 2 1/2″ background square for the center
(4) 1 1/2″ background squares for the corners

For each 4″ finished filled centered block (make 3)
(1) 2 1/2″ “other” fabric square for the center
(4) 1 1/2″ background squares for the corners

To assemble the blocks, lay out the pieces in order, matching the illustration above. Assemble the block just like any other nine patch, making sure you turn your flying geese units so they create the star points. See this Nine Patch Skill Builder post for details. You may also want to review this Quarter Inch Seams Skill Builder post. If, like me, you prefer to press your seams to one side, press toward the plain squares. Press the top and bottom seams toward the center.

Beautiful monster

There’s a local organization called Friends of Noah. They are a non profit, all volunteer group that supports pet rescue, education and fostering of dogs, cats and rabbits. It’s a wonderful group, and today they had a spectacular fundraiser called Arftic Art for Animals. It had artists and products of all types – jewelry, fiber art, soap and lotion, and a huge variety of pet products and service from treats to collars to costumes. There was even a demonstration of canine acupuncture (and the dog loved it).

For me, the highlight of the show was the booth by Aunty K’s Guyz, a collection of crocheted softies unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I wanted to take three or four home with me, but limited myself to Squish. Now, I don’t need a softie, and this wasn’t a cheap purchase, but I fell in love with her. Though the artist told me it wasn’t her intention and in fact she didn’t notice the resemblance at first, Squish has googly eyes that resemble nothing so much as a pair of lopsided breasts. At my age, I see something similar every day! Check her out:


Isn’t she wonderful? She’s sturdy enough to be a toy, and creative enough to be art. She is, to quote Ne-Yo, a beautiful monster. If you’d like to see some of the artist’s other work, check out her Etsy shop, Aunty K’s Guyz. You can see some of the others I was looking at, including Sylvester, a handsome birdie, and Ornella, another feminine monster.

And now I have the song Beautiful Monster stuck in my head. Wanna share?

On wedding quilts

I seem to be feast or famine when it comes to quilting, and we’re definitely in a feast period. In addition to the Botanicals project and the baby quilt, Mom and I have two wedding quilts on the docket. Fortunately one wedding is in June and the other wedding is next year, so neither will be rushed. The first wedding quilt is for my cousin, a math professor in the University of Wisconsin system. Oh, it’s for her fiance as well, but I’m using her mathematical background as inspiration for the design. I looked around for ideas, starting with a riff on the Shakespeare in the Park pattern by Judy Martin. Have you seen this? It’s a combination of the Snail’s Trail block and a star block. I played with different stars and came up with this in EQ7:

Shakespeare in the Park Broken Star

While I love this quilt, I think the math connection is weak. However, I strongly encourage you to pop over to Judy Martin’s Pinterest board of quilts made by other people from her patterns. I hadn’t realized how many of my favorite quilts were designed by Judy Martin!

Next I moved on to the Rolling Waves pattern by Jane Koelker, first seen in the August/September 2008 issue of McCalls Quilting. Here’s my EQ illustration:

Rolling Waves

The math aspect is a little stronger and I think my cousin would get a kick out of the optical illusion of movement, plus it’s a pretty simple quilt to make. However, I wanted to see what else was out there, preferably something more strongly math related. I came across fractals and was intrigued. Now, the word was coined in 1975 so it didn’t make its way into schools until well after I graduated, but it’s taught in grade school now. I dug a little further and found some incredible images of fractal at the Fractal Science Kit website in the gallery pages. Specifically, I found this. It inspired me to draw it up in EQ and, with some modifications, got this:


I’m calling it “Fractalish” because it isn’t quite mathematically correct, but both my mom and my aunt like it, so that’s what we’re going with. It’s going to be big – 110″ square, but it isn’t actually all that difficult. The way I wrote it uses both half square triangles and flying geese, but it would be more fractal-like if it was constructed entirely of half square triangles. I can see a pattern in the future, and that’s another reason why I chose it – there’s just something about not following someone else’s design that makes it more fun for me.

Botanicals BOM: Block 1 – Tangled Briars

I have the first seven blocks done and I debated whether I should just post the written instructions in PDF form or demonstrate the block as well, which means sewing the seven again. I decided it was best if I showed pictures, so it looks like I’m making two quilts, too! I’ll probably do a simple lap size version in addition to this green and pink version:

Botanicals BOM Sandi

I just love this layout, don’t you?

So, on to the block:

Tangled Briars is a nice block to start. A few half square triangles, a couple of squares, and you’re done. If you have a favorite HST method, you’ll need to make 16 half square triangles that finish at 2 inches, and 4 half square triangles that finish at 4 inches. If you don’t have a favorite HST method, check out the Skill Builder posts for several options, or try the methods below. Although I will provide complete instructions for each of the blocks, I strongly recommend you check out the Skill Builder posts, not only for HSTs but for fabric preparation and quarter inch seams as well. I won’t go into the extreme detail here that we did in those posts, and there’s a lot of useful stuff there. Also, you’ll notice that I prefer to cut my pieces slightly larger than truly needed and trim the components to size before assembling the block. Some of the women I sew with prefer to cut them even larger than I do, so in the PDF of this block you’ll see alternate cutting sizes. If your blocks tend to turn out smaller than they should, you might give those sizes a try.

From the background fabric, cut (2) 6″ squares, (2) 5″ squares, and (4) 2 1/2″ squares.


Cut (2) 5″ squares from the center fabric for the larger HSTs.

Cut (2) 6″ squares from the points fabric for the smaller HSTs.


To make the larger half square triangle units, draw a diagonal line on the back of the two 5″ background squares, then draw two more lines 1/4″ to either side of the center line.


Place the squares right sides together with the 5″ squares of the center fabric and sew just to the inside of the two outer lines.


Cut on the center line and press to the background fabric.


You will have four HSTs. Trim to 4 1/2″ aligning the 45 degree line on your ruler along the seam line.


To make the smaller half square triangle units, you’ll do essentially the same thing you did above, but times four. Draw the diagonal line on the back of the 6″ background squares, plus one on each side, then draw the diagonal lines in the opposite direction.


Place the squares right sides together with the 6″ points fabric and sew just inside the four outer lines.


Do NOT cut the diagonals yet – instead, use your ruler to cut the 6″ square into four 3″ squares, in a + shape. Without picking up the fabric, then cut the center diagonals.



Press to the points fabric (not the background). Trim to 2 1/2″, aligning the 45 degree line on your ruler along the seam line.


Assemble each quarter of the block. Lay out the half square triangles and square.


Sew the top two small HSTs together and press to the points fabric. Sew the background square to the left side and press to the square.


Sew the other two half square triangles on one side together, pressing toward the points fabric. Sew that unit to the large half square triangle and press to the center fabric. Sew the top and bottom sections together.


Repeat for all four quarters, then sew the quarters together, making sure to turn two quarters so they point in and two so they point out.

There’s your first block! Any questions? Click here to download a “short version” of these block instructions in PDF form.

Please visit the Botanicals BOM Intro post for optional settings with fabric requirements and links to all blocks that have been posted so far.

Baby Pyramids

I was able to quilt it, so here’s the finished front.

Baby Pyramids

Well, almost finished. I have to hand sew the binding still. I love office supplies – they come in handy in all sorts of ways.

Binding clips

Here’s the back of the quilt, and you can see my rigged up hanging method.

Baby Pyramids back

One corner didn’t stay up, so I MacGyvered it. Any MacGyver fans out there? I still carry a Swiss Army knife because of that show.

MacGyver it

Buttercup gave the quilt her stamp of approval.

Buttercup stamp of approval

Quilting marathon

This is the most productive – for quilting – weekend I’ve had in ages. Saturday was Stitch & Bitch, though the weather and other commitments meant that there were only three of us here. It worked out well because we did more stitching and less bitching. The other kind is fun, but we’re talking about productivity today.

Mom working on Botanical BOM

Mom finished testing the last of twelve blocks for the Botanicals BOM. Well, she tested the first draft of the pattern. Let’s just say I’m rewriting it. Fortunately, the overachiever is making two quilts, in slightly different colorways, so she can test the rewritten instructions as well. Later today I will post the instructions for the first block.

Mickey was working on her project, a five yard bundle that she picked up either the Quilt Expo in Madison or the International Quilt Fetival in Chicago/Rosemont last year.

Mickey pressing

As for me, I started working on a baby quilt for a co-worker. She knows I’m making it, and since that’s the case I asked her for input on fabric choices. She shared photos of the nursery and bedding they have: soft brown walls, white beadboard and woodwork, and bedding with peach, pink, turquoise, raspberry and orange. I had no idea where I wanted to go with this, so I looked through my EQ files and came across an illustration of a Kaleidoscope quilt I worked out for someone.


I liked it and decided to stop looking and start sewing. I cut a few 60 degree triangles thinking they should work, though I was at least smart enough to only cut about 40 triangles before testing.

Baby Pyramids in progress

(By the way, the color smears on the table are fingernail polish. It works for me.) When I sewed a test block, I found that the triangles would NOT make a Kaleidoscope block. Well, duh. Of course they wouldn’t. Do NOT go thinking you’re smarter than the EQ rotary cutting instructions. Still, I kind of liked the look of the 60 degree triangles so I drew up a new EQ project, this time using the Thousand Pyramids technique.

Baby Pyramids

Bingo! That’s perfect. I used the Kaleidoscope idea of making squares/hexagons that are two alternating fabrics, but the effect is more subtle in the Thousand Pyramid design. It was surprisingly easy to construct – I took photos for a future tutorial, in case anyone’s interested. But here’s where the marathon part came in: I worked on this quilt from about 10:00 am Saturday until 2:30 am Sunday morning, then again Sunday from about 11:00 am until 9:30 pm that night. I finished both the quilt top AND the back, which I’m also quite proud of. I’m home sick today and I may put it on the frame and quilt it if things go well. I may actually finish an entire quilt, concept to binding, in three days.

Because I’m so close to completing it, I’m not sharing a photo of the top and backing just yet. Instead, here’s a little sneak preview. Maybe later today I’ll have the full reveal!

Baby Pyramids sneak peak