For All Who Learn the Hard Way, Like Me

For All Who Learn the Hard Way, Like Me

Autumn Sunset, the pattern, is ready.  I’m currently quilting it (well, I stopped to write this, but you get the picture).  I have a couple of suggestions for this project, and quilting in general to help curb the frustration factor.

  1.  Keep a notebook next to your sewing machine.  Do not move it or put it someplace safe.  It needs to be right where you can get your hands on it.  Write down the threads you’re using for your current project.  Also note any changes you make with regard to needle size and tension.  Even when you use the same machine, things seem to work differently for some projects.  I opted for free-form leaves on Autumn Sunset, using Aurifil 40 weight on the top.  After changing the bobbin thread type twice, the needle twice and messing with the upper tension at least 6 times, I finally got pretty much what I wanted.  While I will tell you that I ended up with Aurifil #40 in the bobbin, a #90 topstitch needle and notching down the tension to 4.8, it would’ve been nice to start with a plan closer to the one that worked.  Write it down.  Someday you’ll thank yourself for this.DSC_0169
  2. Clean out the bobbin assembly A LOT, especially when you’re quilting.  It should be the first place you look when the top thread breaks.  I have no idea why a lint filled bobbin case breaks thread, but it seems to.  It should never look like the inside of the lint trap in your dryer.
  3. Set a timer and take a break.  Take a break earlier if things are going badly.  Please trust me when I tell you that gritting your teeth and battling it out wastes time and energy.  When you get back after your break, it’ll be easier to see what the problem is and how to fix it.

The center part of Autumn Sunset is being quilted with variegated thread.  Because the thread changes from very light yellow to orange to dark purple, the question is, what to use in the bobbin.  No matter what I do, from time to time the bobbin thread shows on the top.  I thought about putting the matching variegated thread in the bottom until I realized that it would almost never match up.  There’s probably more yellow than anything else in that thread,  so I went with yellow for the bobbin thread.  If some yellow pops out in the middle of a purple patch, I’ll deal with it.


The free flowing leaves is one of my favorite quilting themes.  If you quilt yourself into a corner, just wander out through the leaves to a good area to start making leaves again.  Also, if one turns out kind of weird, just pretend that an unexpected storm clobbered the daylights out of it and keep going.

Fall is really here.  We had enough rain yesterday to actually soak into the ground and by this time of year I’m about done with watering the flower pots so it works out.  It’s time to tear out what’s left of the veggie plants and put in some tulip bulbs and chrysanthemums.  Summer came and went too quickly.  Luckily, fall is lovely here and I intend to enjoy it.

The Northwest Quilting Expo opens in Portland (at the Expo Center) this Thursday and runs through Saturday.  Lots of cool quilts and vendors.  I can hardly wait.

Look around our site and be sure to check out our patterns on the “Shop” page.  All our Halloween patterns are on sale.

Enjoy fall and Quilt For Fun!



Fall for New Beginnings

Fall for New Beginnings

I hope that you had a fun Labor Day Weekend.  Sunday and Monday were cool and cloudy here and while Barb and I planned to both can some tomatoes and freeze fresh peaches, the peach-freezing didn’t happen until this afternoon as the peaches were not ripe enough.  The whole process takes time, but there is just something about a taste of summer in December or January that is so special.

I think fall may be my favorite season of the year.  After the obligatory cool and humid weather of last week, we have sunshine and 80 degrees.  The reds and golds of autumn are right out my window and the nights are cool enough for good sleeping.  Even though it’s been a while (and then some) since we had anyone in school, fall seems like a beginning, a time to get organized and possibly some new shoes.

I find that I’m in the mood to clean up and make a list of my UFO’s.  It’s kind of like getting a new notebook and crayons for the first day of school.  (Remember the smell of floor wax and new crayons?) When I’m deeply into a project, I rarely stop to put things away.  The plan is to clean up after I finish the current project.  What really happens is that I get distracted by 1) taking a class that has nothing to do with what I’m currently working on, 2) the season changes and I’m no longer interested in what I was working on, but want to start something new, or 3) the sun comes out and I go outside and ignore the mess.  So every 2-3 months I need to haul my wandering mind into the present moment and create a neatness, which lowers the anxiety level and fools me into thinking I will get it all done.  Mostly, it’s the simple things:  throw away the empty starch can, put the rulers back in their assigned places, and refile the fabrics I took out to test and then didn’t use and didn’t put away.  Today I put a new cover on my ironing table and put away/threw away a few things that appeared to be nesting there.  It makes me feel tidy.



(The thread spools on the window ledge were customized by Toby when he was a pup.  He managed to bite most of the way through so that there are few pieces that are longer than 12 inches.)  Even the small things give me the illusion of control.

The Northwest Quilting Expo is just around the corner and I’m ready to be newly inspired.  There is a lot of quilting talent in the Portland area and it’s fun to see what new things have been created.  There’s also a whole boatload of vendors to tickle the imagination and empty the wallet.  I can hardly wait.

Speaking of inspirations, the quilt I showed you last week needs just a couple more pieces appliquéd.


Since I’m doing it by hand, it takes a while.  The colors in that quilt inspired me to go off on a little tangent of my own.


I really liked the oranges, yellows and purples and found that I had some batiks with varying degrees of all those colors and went for a gradation in the background.  It’s made up of six-inch double square blocks and the pumpkin plant is fused on.  The plan is to have the pattern ready by late next week.  We can take pre-orders so it will go out as soon as possible.  This pattern will be mailed so that the appliqué pieces will be accurate.  We’ll send these first class (as opposed to mule train) so they’ll get to you fast.

All our Halloween patterns will be on sale through the 10th of October.  It’s about now that I think I have plenty of time for Halloween projects, but these autumn weeks are pretty full and go so fast, it’s good to get started now.

My tomato crop is kind of puny this year, but there’s plenty of zucchini.  Luckily, there are plenty of zucchini recipes out there:  zucchini bread, chocolate chip zucchini bread, chocolate wave zucchini bread and of course all-chocolate zucchini bread.  I’m even known to use it as a vegetable! Truly, about the only thing better than zucchini bread in all its variations is pumpkin bread.  It’s a shame I don’t like to make salad nearly as much as I like to bake.

Someone brown and furry (not to mention freshly groomed and wearing her new collar) is telling me it’s time to get her some dinner.  Just look at that cheesy smile.  Ella is not terribly subtle at the best of times and comes on pretty strong when it’s meal time, so I’d better get with it.


I’ll work on the new pattern as fast as I can.

Quilt for fun!


Perfectly Fall

Perfectly Fall

We’re having a beautiful fall day.  I’m surprised there are any leaves left on the trees after the storm we had last weekend.  It was a bummer for the trick or treaters as it was rainy and windy.  We had the fewest kids ever and now there is candy in my freezer.  I’ve eaten my favorites out so it doesn’t call to me.

It smells like fall outside this afternoon.  The damp and leaves and just a hint of smoke which surprises me as it’s been illegal to burn leaves for years.  Someone must have a fireplace going.


These mums and some volunteer lobelia are all the non-green colors in the vegetable garden.  Most of the greenery is California Poppies.  It’ll probably be too cold for this bunch to bloom, but I like the fluffy leaves.



I love these leaves even though they only have color on one side.  I suspect we’ll have some clogged storm sewers in our future.


Some cool light and shadow stuff going on here.  This is what fall looks like in many parts of the west.

I started my “Finished List” the same day I blogged about it and I’m really getting into this idea.  It’s perfect for me as I’m a great starter and an intermittent finisher.  As in , “I started Christmas shopping,” because I ordered one thing.  Sweet Husband’s goal is to be finished by Thanksgiving.  My goal is to not buy anyone anything stupid.  The list sort of goads me into finishing something, no matter how small and that feels so good.

A week ago Wednesday I took a class from Pat Pauly.  She spoke at our guild Tuesday night, which was very entertaining.  The class was on her New Leaf pattern. I like the idea of this more than I like what I did.  I have never brought all the right fabrics to a class.   I finished the top by the weekend and while I’m not crazy about some of my fabric choices, I will quilt and bind it before starting a leaf of my very own.

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But first, I will quilt this Christmasy runner and get the pattern up on the Shopping Page.



 This is the perfect time to finish last year’s projects that didn’t quite make it.  And yes, the runner was pieced last year.  A couple of weeks ago I took it out and found a mistake, fixed it and now I’m ready to quilt it.  Thankfully, I had the foresight to cut the binding and pin it to the top.  I have many regrets about not thinking to do that in the past.

If you finished last year’s projects (and I would be very impressed by that) and you haven’t gotten fabric for a new project, you’d better get on it sooner than later.  It’s such a downer to find the perfect fabric but there’s not enough on the bolt and the shop isn’t getting any more.  I really hate that.

Quilt for fun, because it would be silly not to.

Try, Try Again

Try, Try Again

It’s a beautiful, cloudless fall day, the kind that makes me think, “We don’t need any cold, wet winter.  Let’s just do this until spring.”  Okay, yes, we need winter.  But I’m going to enjoy the heck out of this while I can.  Also, sunny days make me more energetic so I need to take advantage of that.

On that note, I remade the very marginal winter cabin I put up last week to some thing I like much better.  It involved buying fabric because even though I have a big stash, it doesn’t always have what I need.


So far it’s only been fused and I’m looking forward to adding some detail and quilting it.  The ultimate plan is to put a house block on each end of a runner and have the center be the fabric on the border of this block.  This way I won’t hide a block under the candles or flowers or whatever the centerpiece of the table might be.  It’ll probably be a week or so before this is finished as I have a couple of Halloween projects to finish.  I’ll show the block as I go along.

For those who are spider phobic, stop reading now and go to our Shopping Page.  We’d love for you to make one of our patterns and show us your work so we can show it on the Gallery Page.

So here’s the deal:  it’s fall and we have spiders.  They use my garden decor to anchor their webs and catch lots of bugs that I don’t really want in my house.  (It’s still warm enough to leave doors open for the dogs.)  The spiders are industrious little guys and there’s always the possibility of getting a neat picture of a web on a damp morning.


This one has caught some dinner and seems to be doing a little repair work on the web.


This big boy’s (or girl’s) web shows up a little better against the bricks.  Nothing currently caught in the web, but he doesn’t look like he waits to eat.  This concludes the bug portion of the blog.

Thank you for indulging my “Nature Moment.”

There’s still time for an Autumn themed quilt and we have some ideas for that on the Shopping Page.

If you have an idea for a quilt pattern you’d like us to create, let us know.

Ups and Downs

Ups and Downs

Earlier in the week I said I’d do a Holiday House block.  I did it and I’m not in love.  Think I’ll try it again with different fabrics.  (Fabric shopping – break my heart.) My stash is missing a couple of things, so I’ll fix that and see what happens.  Sometimes the first try doesn’t work out.  Such is life.


This block is mostly fused as will be the improved 2.0.  I’d like it to be finished while I’m young.  I’ve had some agonizing run-ins with fusing, but have a new favorite.  Here’s what I’ve found.

Fusibles – fabulous and frustrating.  When you have lots of little pieces or not much time, it’s a great way to go.  The trick is to find a fusible that does it all.  And I ask a lot of fusibles.

1.  It should actually fuse.  If the fabric piece still ravels or falls off before being quilted, it’s not saving time or looking good.

2.  It should be reasonably easy to handle.  When the glue falls off the backing while you’re cutting it out, it’s all but useless.

3.  If it’s hard to sew through or too stiff, it may work well for some crafts, but doesn’t cut it for quilting.

4.  If for any reason it makes you want to weep openly, throw it away.  The few dollars you’ve “wasted” are not worth as much as your time and sanity.

I’ve been messing around with fusible for years.  I enjoy some hand appliqué, but it’s not ideal for some projects, especially those with a looming deadline or a million tiny pieces.  My current favorite is Steam-a-Seam 2.  Before you hit the “X”, let me assure you that I realize that SS2 has gone through some changes in the last couple of years, some of which did not have satisfactory results.  However, the newest version is a hit at my house.   The most annoying issues have been solved.  The adhesive has paper backing on both sides.  The plain side comes off easily.  The gridded side (that you draw on) stays attached to the adhesive until you take it off.  It’s sticky enough before fusing to stay where you put it, but is easily moved which is good for those of us who never put the piece in the right place the first time.  Once fused, it has a reasonably soft hand and is easy to sew over.

Most of our trees still have leaves, but this guy, in a local parking lot decided to be finished.


Let’s not rush into winter; there’s still a lot of fall left to enjoy.

There are new specials on the pattern page.  See what you can whip up for fall.


This was our first pattern and a sentimental favorite.  Love those fall colors.

As always, Quilt for Fun


Sew Fall

Sew Fall

Monday, October 5

As I write this, it’s sunny and about 80 degrees.  A bit later I will go out and water the flower pots mostly just to be out in the sun.  Oregonians don’t like to waste sun.  The veggie plants are all out (except for the lettuce, which is doing wonderfully well) and some mums will go in that space later this week.  I didn’t have the heart to tear out some California poppies and a few tough lobelias and the volunteer tomato.

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I also have some dahlias that don’t give up until it turns cold.  I like these guys.

 Last week I went to Southern Oregon to visit my mom (The Matriarch).  On Tuesday it was 88 which is pretty warm even for there this late in the year.  It’s also been very dry.  That part of the state usually has cool nights by now, but 79 degrees at 8:30 pm is pretty balmy.

Flower pot watering here usually lasts from sometime in June to about the middle of September.  This year we started in May and we’re still at it.  There comes a point when I don’t care as much as I did in the spring.  Then I turn on the TV and poor South Carolina is floating away!  Prayers for them that they dry out quickly.

Most of my Halloween decorations are out.

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I’ve had this lantern a long time and it always reminds me of a few episodes of having a bat in the house.  FYI:  An open door to a dark room in September is an open invitation to a juvenile bat.

Sweet husband cut out the witch several years ago from plywood.  Her cauldron will be out there soon.

And the new quilts are up.



Sew Scary, above, is a panel with some cool borders.  I like it because it’s a bit steampunk and also because there are those who think I am sew scary.

The quilt below is an older one made of fun panels set into twist and turn blocks.  Just right for snuggling up to Halloween.


The weather says,”no, no, no,” but the calendar says “get with it” so my goal for the week is a Christmas/Winter block.  It took me a while to figure out how I wanted it.  I was looking for the fine line between same old Christmas red/green with a Santa and a winter scene that could be anytime of winter.  It’s not that I don’t love Santa and traditional colors.  It’s more that I have a ton of Santas and Christmas colors.  Maybe something a bit more subtle.

Which reminds me that the Starshine Runner is great with Halloween prints.  One of its earliest incarnations was this small Halloween runner.  It would also be great with some general fall prints.  Please don’t ask why one thing reminds me of something completely different.



And finally, if anyone knows what the behavior below is about, please pass it on.  Ella goes out the open half of the French door and then stares in through the closed one.  It must be interesting inside her head.


My name is Ella Bella Poodlehound and I like to stare at you through the glass.