Catching up

It’s been a busy, difficult few weeks. My uncle, who was diagnosed with throat in August (see this post about the week from hell), passed away. He declined rapidly in the last few weeks, and I’m both sad that he’s gone and glad that he didn’t suffer for long. Over a ten-day period Mom and her sister, Mickey, made a couple of matching hug quilts for my uncle and his wife. I don’t have a picture of Mike’s (we were in a hurry to get it to him), but this is the one we made for his wife. Mike’s quilt has a light gray background and is in shades of blue, green and brown. His daughter has claimed it, which makes us happy.

Judy's Hug Quilt

It’s based on this quilt from Needle in a Quiltstack, though I didn’t follow a pattern, just made it up in EQ7 and started cutting.

Before that, I committed to an art project that nearly did me in. I play with other artistic things – I enjoy drawing, and have slapped paint decoratively on furniture several times. I’m just good enough not to embarrass myself. You can see some of it in this dresser:

After 2

Makeover Step 1 Nearly Done

(See the Botanicals BOM Rosebud block on the table?)

A local botanical garden (Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, WI) is celebrating their 25th anniversary, and they are doing an art fundraiser. Their volunteer made Adirondack chairs, which the Gardens sold to local artists, school classes, dilettantes like me – basically anyone who wanted to participate. We painted the chairs then returned them to the Gardens. They had them clear coated by a local auto shop and the chairs are on display throughout the Gardens until September, at which time they’ll be auctioned off. Here’s my chair:

Painted Chair 1

And since it isn’t quilting if a cat isn’t involved:

Painted Chair 2

If you look closely at the girl’s arm, the edge of the quilt, and the arm of the chair you can see a row of ants marching. They continue under the arm and down the leg. I do face painting at the Gardens when they have children’s events, and the ants are my favorite thing to do for very small, fidgety children because they’re super fast. They’ve sort of become my trademark, so of course I had to include them here.

Finally, Mom has been working away at the Fractalish quilt for my cousin’s wedding. I can’t lie – I really haven’t done much on this, though it will be up to me to quilt it. The thing is so large, the only place we had room to lay it out was the garage. The yard was just too wet. We put a tarp down on the garage floor, but even that wasn’t quite big enough. This photo is before all of the sections were sewn together – it’s a top now, measuring something like 108″ or 110″. Really, really big.

Fractalish on garage floor


The hits keep coming

Its been a rough week. I need to share some history and explain who’s who for the full impact.

My mom is the oldest of five kids, two sisters and two brothers. You’ve seen her sisters in my Stitch & Bitch photos. Pat, the older of the two, passed away two years ago. Her younger daughter (who lives in California) is married to the son of another member of our quilting group, Becky, who has been battling some health problems. Mom’s youngest sister, Mickey, is married to Leo, with three adult children, Russ, Joe and Grace. Grace lives in Washington state, halfway across the country. Mike is Mickey’s twin brother.

Last Wednesday, my uncle Leo had a small heart attack. Because Grace and her family were about to leave for a two week vacation and because the heart attack was so small that they weren’t even sure at first that’s what happened, they decided not to tell Grace, afraid she’d cancel the trip to come see them. This was a fantastic vacation, hidden in the wilds of Canada and almost completely out of contact – no phone, no internet. After Grace left, the doctors did an angioplasty and decided that Leo needed a triple bypass, which they scheduled for the weekend. During the surgery they changed their minds and did a quadruple bypass.

Over the weekend, we heard that Becky (my cousin’s mother-in-law and one of the ladies in our quilting group) had taken a turn for the worse.

Monday, my mom’s brother Mike (Mickey’s twin) told us he had been diagnosed with throat cancer.

Tuesday, we learned that Becky had been given last rites.

Wednesday, my uncle Leo came home from the hospital.

Early Friday morning we got a call from my aunt Mickey that they were at the University Hospital and their son, Joe, had shot himself. He would not survive. Through the Canadian Mounted Police, they were able to locate my cousin and she and her husband are flying back tomorrow.

Later that day we learned that Becky had passed away.

Joe’s body is shutting down and he is on life support. His two sons, ages 18 and 21, made the decision to donate his organs and tissue, and they’re just waiting until the recipients can be set up. I am so proud of them for making that choice. Although they’ve had some help from family, Joe did not have life insurance or a will and so they are making all of the decisions and assembling the money to pay for his funeral. There’s been some talk of a golf outing or other fundraiser to help financially. I can’t offer much in the way of money, but I CAN offer a quilt for auction or raffle.

So I don’t end this on the lowest possible note, here’s a quick video of Becky and Patty (not my aunt, just some crazy lady who came by to sew!) at one of our quilting days. Becky is on the right. Watch it – you can’t help but laugh.

Sister’s Choice pattern

I’ve received several requests for a pattern for the Sister’s Choice quilt, so I added a PDF pattern to the free downloads at the right side of the page. This pattern is for a QUEEN size quilt, larger than the one I made for the show. Here it is in the larger size, in my aunt’s colors:
Sister's Choice

We had a lot of fun picking out the fabric yesterday! I hope to get photos of Karen’s progress at next month’s family quilting day.

August Quilting Day

Yesterday was a busy, busy day. We had our August quilting day with a record NINE people attending who either worked on projects or showed projects they had been working on. We’re still squeezing into the basement, so I apologize now for the less than stellar photos. Lighting isn’t great for photos, although I have tons of lamps set up at the workstations.

Lisa wasn’t able to attend last month, but this month she brought her Challenge Project. It’s absolutely adorable – I think the smallest squares are 3/4″. Unfortunately, she said “never again!” (We’ll see about that…)

Lisa's challenge project

She also showed her amazing Criss Cross quilt – she finished it as a summer quilt, so it’s tied without batting. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and it’s only her third quilt (and her first bed quilt). I love how she went with a dark background, which really emphasized the sparkle of the light blocks. I wrote the instructions for this, and they’re available here.

Lisa's show and tell August

She also made a valance to go with it:

Lisa's show and tell August 2

Finally, she made this wall hanging:

Lisa's show and tell August 3

We’ve created a monster!

Our newest contributor is Nancy, my mom’s aunt. Nancy has been doing embroidery and cross stitch forever, and she made this pretty baby quilt:

Nancy's show and tell August

A couple of weeks ago, she asked my mom for some suggestions on how to put together a quilt from just a few embroidered blocks. They talked about several possibilities, and Nancy chose to frame the embroidered blocks and add alternating snowball blocks. I think the bright colors she used really emphasize the stitching on her main blocks. With the addition of a pieced border (and possibly one or two plain white borders to set it off) this will be a fabulous twin size quilt.

Nancy's show and tell August 2

Nancy's show and tell August 2 close up

Mom is working on a winter wallhanging with pieced blocks and framed snowman blocks. It’s adorable, although she’s a bit frustrated with the work. The pieced borders on the snowman blocks are really difficult to get just the right size. It’s becoming a chore, but she’s much better at meeting goals than I am, so this will probably be completed before our next meeting.

Mom's show and tell August 2

Mom's show and tell August1
(So that’s where I get the pinkie thing from!)

Karen brought the completed top for her bright quilt. We got together a couple of weeks ago and really blitzed on this one. We had it finished except for the two borders. The inner triangle border was a challenge, but Karen got it all to work out. Mom was a little iffy on this one, but now that the top is done she really likes it. Karen will tie this quilt, and it then it will be raffled off.

Karen's show and tell August

Becky had two show and tells – her completed Challenge table runner (last month the top was done, but it hadn’t been quilted)…

Becky's show and tell Aug

… and her INCREDIBLE Tumblers quilt. She bought this in a kit at the International Quilt Expo in Chicago this spring. There were a few bumps in the road – the pieces were pre-cut, but some of them were cut wrong. Fortunately, the vendor was wonderful and they sent her an entirely new packet of tumblers!

Becky's show and tell August 2

Finally, Mickey’s show and tell was this cute little bag from a pattern called Abby’s Treasure Box by This & That. Is this not the most adorable thing ever?!

Mickey's show and tell August

Once we finished the main show and tell, we talked about the next basket block. I had instructions written (okay, so I wrote them that morning – at least they were done!), but I wanted to make a block to check my math. I was able to finish the block (see previous post) and handed out the patterns as people left. You can download the pattern here or from the bar at the right.

Here are everyone’s basket blocks so far:

    Basket Block 1

Mom's Basket Block 1 Mickey's basket block 1 Becky's basket block 1 Lisa's basket block 1 Basket Blocks 1

    Basket Block 2

Lisa's basket block 2 Jean's basket block 2 Mom's Basket Block 2

Pat didn’t bring her second block, and Karen and I haven’t done either block 1 or 2 yet (but she has a better excuse). I’ll add them as soon as possible.

Several of the ladies (Mom, Pat, Karen and Mickey) worked on a new bag pattern from BarBee Designs. Barb creates the most awesome patterns – she calls them Pockets A Plenty bags for good reason. They purchased patterns at Quilts in the Park last week and were hoping to make the bags in time for the Quilt Expo next month. Becky didn’t have her fabric cut out so she worked on something else, but she’ll be making a bag, too. I cut all of the fusible fleece the night before, and everyone cut their fabrics at home so they could get to sewing right away. This is Barb’s newest pattern, a mini bag that has options for a single or double strap. The ladies are making the single strap water bottle version.

Lisa wants to make a bag, too, but she’d like to start with something a bit easier. I showed her the best tutorial I’ve found for making zippered pouches and she’s going to start with a makeup bag. I explained how to box the corners, in case she wants to play with making a larger zippered bag. We just need to talk about straps…

I actually managed to sew for a while, although I was slightly hampered by a small visitor we had. My cousin and her family are visiting from Washington state, and I had a few things that would interest a girl of her age. The most useful was a box of washable Crayola markers. I gave her a couple of “tattoos”, then let her go to town drawing on herself. She drew on me a bit while I sewed. What the heck – it washed off.

Tattoos from Raine

I figure I can blame this ugly picture on the markers, right?

Here are a couple of photos of Raine (who is a smart, funny, determined, and well-behaved little girl). It’s actual very appropriate that she be included in a post about our family quilting day. She was at our very first family quilting day, back when she was a newborn. We got together to make a wedding quilt for Nancy’s son, and Mom, Pat, Larry (her husband), Mickey, Jean, Grace (my cousin), Adam (her husband), Raine and I were all there.

She’s showing off her heart tattoo, and you can see a bit of the yellow elephant on her arm. This is the second round – she went to the bathroom and when she washed her hands she cleared most of her arms. The aunt who helped couldn’t resist cleaning off her face, too, although you can see a few purple remnants on her nose.

Raine showing tattoo

Here she’s “singing” into the fan. I used to love to do the same, to get that fun buzzy effect on my voice.

Raine talking in the fan

Although it looks like she’s airing her pits, she’s really just singing. She threw up her arms exuberantly, and I lucked out.

Raine airing pits

See how cute she is? Love the pigtails! No, she didn’t bring the toy. That’s a Jibba Jabber that I received for Christmas about 15 years ago.


Because the relatives were visiting, we invited the rest of the family over for a picnic. Unfortunately, it was hot and muggy, so we mostly stayed inside. It was nice to have so many people together, and hey, any excuse for my mom to make potato salad!

Our next quilting day is actually a no-sew day. We’ll be going to the Wisconsin Quilt Expo in Madison on September 12. We’re signing up for lectures and spending the entire day there. This is one of my favorite quilt shows – it’s big enough to be worth the drive, but small enough that you can see it in a single day. They have inexpensive lectures as well as several free lectures on the show floor. They also have a limited number of sit & sew classes that are reasonably priced. Their food is MUCH better than the stuff you can get at the big show in Chicago (Rosemont). Although this year we’re bringing our own, the provided food is well presented, reasonably priced, and very tasty. They usually have a small buffet of hot food, as well as individually priced sandwiches, salads and desserts. If you’re within a couple of hours’ drive from Madison, Wisconsin, check it out! It starts Thursday and ends Saturday. You can learn more here.

Gawd, I hate having my picture taken

…aka, Family Quilting Day July 2009

Last weekend was our monthly quilting session and there is so much to show! A few months ago, I suggested a fabric challenge, like the Hoffman Challenge. I pulled several fabrics from my stash and we chose one as the challenge fabric. We could make anything we wanted as long as it included that fabric. It was a surprise, so no one could see anyone else’s project until the reveal. Here are photos of everyone’s challenge projects:

First, the reason for the post’s title – me, modeling my project:

Sandi's Challenge Sandi's Challenge Reverse

And yes, these photos are smaller because it’s my blog and if I want to post my ugly pictures smaller, I will.

Next we have Karen’s challenge project. Karen isn’t finished with hers yet, but she’s turning this into a bed quilt so we have to cut her some slack. Also, these are SO not Karen’s colors, so it was REALLY a challenge for her. Her Family Star BOM blocks are laid out on the floor further down this post, and you’ll see what I mean about the colors.

Karen's Challenge

Then there’s Pat’s project. Also not quite finished, she created a beautiful flower garden. Notice that each potted flower includes a piece of the challenge fabric.

Pat's Challenge

Becky is family by extension. She is Pat’s daughter’s husband’s mom. (I just like saying that.) They were talking about people being surprised that they got along with each other, considering the stereotype of mothers-in-law. I’m glad they get along, because I like having Becky in our group (even though she’s a bit camera shy – she’s looking down or away in most photos that include her). Here’s her challenge project:

Becky's Challenge

Finally, here’s my mom’s project, a two sided garden flag. Isn’t it adorable?

Mom's Challenge

She made it to put at the corner of the house next to the neighbors during their daughter’s graduation party. You remember… the one we made the Good & Plenty quilt for? Taking a slight break from the quilting day photos, here’s the bag I made for the quilt.

Good & Plenty gift bag

I used the reversible patchwork bag tutorial by Pink Penguin for inspiration. Next time I do one, I think I’ll make the drawstring holder thingies a little wider. They were difficult to pull on such a large bag. It’s probably the perfect size for a smaller bag like in her tutorial.

We were trying to figure out how to wrap it and finally I said I’d just make a bag for it. I assembled strips from the quilt’s leftovers, used the backing for the lining, and put this bag together the morning of the party. Best of all, it’s big enough to put a regular pillow in so she could use it as a sham if she wanted.

Here’s the graduate with Mom and I when we gave her the quilt.

Good & Plenty gifted

Laura was very pleased, in no small part because now she knew why her mom was stalling about redecorating the bedroom. They made a deal – if Laura decided to go to college locally, they would give her a bedroom makeover. Laura’s mom helped choose the fabrics for the quilt, so it all went together perfectly. Now she can finally have her room.

Okay, back to the family quilting day…

We did show and tell, and of course, everyone but me had something to show. I really need to sew more and plan less…

Karen found some partially finished embroidered pillowcases, and she picked up some fabric to go with them.

Karen's show and tell 1

Karen's show and tell 2

She also brought along a quilt top that we put on the frame – Mom quilted it and finished by the end of the day so Karen could take it home with her.

Karen's show and tell 3

Apparently, Karen’s had this top finished for quite a while. It’s a gift for a good friend of hers, Lala, who joined us for the day. Sorry, no photos of Lala – she was hiding behind all of the quilts that Pat held up.

Karen also showed us her completed blocks from our last quilt along, the Family Star BOM. You can see why I said the bright challenge fabric is not her comfort zone!

Karen's Family BOM

Finally, she showed us the fabrics she picked out for our current basket block quilt along.

Karen's basket fabrics

If you’ll notice in previous pictures, she dressed to match her new fabrics!

The next quilter is Mickey, mom’s youngest sister. Mickey just moved back to the area from Washington state, and has been living in a motor home for the past couple of years. She stopped quilting during that time, but now that she’s back in a larger house she’s going full force again. Here’s her first project:

Mickey's show and tell 1

She also picked up a cute fabric piece with the Quilter’s Alphabet on it, and a coordinating print.

Mickey's show and tell 2

Pat is Mom’s middle sister (Mom’s the oldest), and she’s our most prolific quilter. Every time we get together she has at least two projects to show! This time around was no exception. First, she found a needlework book from the late 70’s, early 80’s. She remembered Mom saying she wished she had a book with needlepoint stitches, so when Pat found this at a rummage sale (I think), she snapped it up.

Pat's show and tell 1
(See? Becky’s hiding…)

Pat’s blue and yellow quilt is made from a charm pack called Sunshine, by April Cornell for Moda. We all oohed over this one – both Mom and Karen have the same charm pack.

Pat's show and tell 3

She also showed this quilt – I’m not sure the pattern name, but it’s adorable!

Pat's show and tell 2

Finally, our newest quilter is Jean, Mom’s sister-in-law. Jean’s always been a wonderful seamstress, but she dipped her toes in the quilting waters when we got together to make a wedding quilt several years ago. She helped make the blocks for her daughter’s wedding quilt, then took a little break (if helping plan a wedding, managing a house and working full time can be considered taking a break), but she joined us a couple of months ago to work on a baby quilt. I think Jean’s our dark horse quilter – she’s building confidence, and once she’s sure of her skills nothing will get in her way. She could challenge Pat for the title of “Most Prolific.” Here’s Jean’s basket block:

Jean's Basket Block 1

She’s the only one of us who actually did the homework from last month! Karen chose her colors, and Pat decided on Batiks, but wasn’t sure how she wanted to use them. After bouncing ideas around, she decided to use ONE batik fabric in each basket block, using a white background. Because batiks are so varied within the same piece of fabric, she’ll still get a lot of movement without too much busy-ness. Once that was decided, she knuckled down and made her basket block. Here are her’s and Jean’s side by side – amazing what a different the fabric choices can make!

Basket Blocks 1

In the last week, Mom’s been working away at her basket blocks. She wants to go scrappy again (this is real progress for her, since she tends toward 3-4 fabrics per quilt). This time she’s going a little softer, and the two baskets she has finished are gorgeous! But that photo is for another post…

I’ve been struggling with my fabric choices. I thought I was going to use a 40’s repro as my inspiration, but, well, I just wasn’t inspired. I’ve avoided cutting the fabrics, and I finally realized this morning that I needed to make this quilt with the intention of giving it away. That way I can choose fabrics without the pressure of “loving” them. I decided to use the brown and blue color scheme that we’re doing for the other neighbor’s graduation quilt. He doesn’t graduate until next year, so we have some time, but we’ve already chosen the fabrics and pattern. As I cut the basket quilt blocks, I’ll also cut the strips for his quilt. This will give us a head start on the project.

Okay, having said that… I’m off to cut fabric!

(Sorry, everyone. My blog – only photos of ME get to be posted itty bitty.)

2009 Family (and Friends) Basket Quilt Along

As I’ve mentioned before, our family gets together, along with a few friends, once a month to sew and gab (or, as we sometimes refer to it, “stitch and bitch”). Last year we decided to do a Block of the Month featuring stars. Each month one of us chose a star block and I wrote up instructions for making it in the 12″ size that we had decided upon. We finished the BOM (at least, SOME people finished the BOM – mine is only half finished) and took a little break while our stitch & bitch sessions become more of a shop hop session for a couple of months in a row. Last month we decided it was time to start a new Block of the Month and we chose baskets for our theme. We’re doing it a little differently this year since the number of basket blocks is considerably more limited than the number of star blocks. I’ve found a bunch of basket blocks (say that three times fast!) and I’ll just choose each month’s block from that group.

We agreed that it would be nice to share the blocks with others, so I’m posting each month’s basket pattern on this blog. I’ll link to the patterns on the sidebar. Each pattern is available in a single sheet PDF that will have an illustration of the block as well as at least one blank block to color in. It will have all of the cutting and sewing instructions you need to complete the block.

As I’ve noted before, I’m a notorious procrastinator. That said, I will have the blocks posted no later than the second Saturday of each month. We generally meet on the first Saturday, although sometimes other plans get in our way.

I’d love to hear from you if you decide to join us! Here are the blocks. You can download the PDF instructions by clicking on the block.

Block 1 is the same block I used in the Basket Case pattern.
Block 1

And this is block 2. It’s actually easier than block 1, but I was in a hurry to get the first block ready for everyone so I started with one that was already mostly written.
Block 2

May Quilting Day

Today was family sewing day, and both Karen and Pat made incredible progress on their projects. Karen has been working like crazy on a Schoolhouse quilt that her group will raffle next month. We worked on it last week – Karen, Mom and I – and made a lot of progress. Karen continued to assemble the blocks into rows with red sashing and white cornerstones, and today she finished the center of the top. All that’s left is the border, a cute red white and blue print, that I cut for her before she left.

Karen's Schoolhouse Quilt

Pat handed me a stack of fabrics (the watermelon print, purple, red and dark green) and said, “I want to make something with this.” I showed her my “Easy Quilts” file on EQ6, and she chose the woven rails. We pulled a couple more fabrics (the light green, gold and cream) and I started cutting strips while she sewed. The cream background is 2 1/2″ cut strips, and the centers are 4 1/2″ cut strips. The blocks will finish at 8″, and she’ll add a couple of borders to make a large lap/small twin quilt. It took the two of us about two or three hours to reach the point of finished blocks. She’ll sew the blocks together and bring it back (finished) next month.

Pat's Woven Rails

As for my progress, well, I didn’t actually sew anything. My machine was on, briefly, but I spent my day cutting. Well, cutting, chatting, and eating the awesome Big Crumb Coffeecake with Rhubarb from the Smitten Kitchen blog. By the way, her Blondies are also incredible – I like them with cranberries, white chocolate and pecans. And a little Jim Beam.