Monday, February 01, 2016

Chocolate Snails (Trails) on my Wall

5 Snail's Trails BlocksCombine the designated color for this month's  Rainbow Scraps Challenge and the February Block Lotto choice and, in my mind, I keep thinking Chocolate covered Snails (Trails). Ugh.

They look better than they sound ...

For the Block Lotto this month, we've expanded the second color beyond the RSC accent color of pink to include pastels and low volume prints in any color.

After I went outside and took a blocks in the wild photo of my blocks for the block pattern, they went back on the wall, in an on-point orientation (I was curious).

Here are my blocks as cover girls ... and a link to the block pattern.

Snails Trail - Quilt Block Pattern

I realized when I was outside taking photos ... I don't think I've seen a snail since moving to New Mexico. Maybe they don't like the dry climate?

In addition to directions for rotary cutting and traditionally piecing the 6 inch block, the pattern includes an introduction to paper foundation piecing, a foundation pattern and step-by-step directions for using that technique for making the block.

My First Quilt It's probably because this is the first block I paper pieced, that I think it's a good place to start. This little wall hanging is my fist quilt. It was made from four 4-inch blocks, made from two cotton prints re-claimed from shirts and a bit of white-on-white suggested by another student in class. I hadn't YET committed to quilting or started a stash.

(I am sure I must have a better photo of this little quilt ... but this sad little photo is the one I found).

The quilt teacher that day also pointed out that the same foundation can be used to make a completely different block by replacing the 4-patch with a square and using a different fabric placement.

I think the "new block" variation would be a great pattern to use for scraps. Square-in-a-square-in-a-square-in-a-square?

Completed block A completely different block

I am joining the lists for Monday Making on Live Laugh Quilt and for Design Wall Monday on Patchwork Times.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Counting Blocks - January

I decided to join Prairie Moon Quilts' 350 Block Challenge this year ... not so much as a goal-setting exercise, but just because I became curious to find out just how many blocks I would make over the course of a year.

Here's my list for January, for a total of 32 blocks.

4 Birds-in-the-Air for the Block LottoUntitled
4 more Birds-in-the-Air blocks for my Rainbow Scraps Graduated Sampler4 Scrappy Birds in the Air blocks - Coming together?
6 more Birds-in-the-Air blocks for Old MacDonald's Mystery Sampler6 Birds in the Air Blocks
1 (failed) pineapple test block–I am still hating those bias edges that using the cool tool produces.Pineapple Block
1 Rolling Star block (which became a pillow for the #intrepidthreadchallenge).Untitled
16 abstracted letter blocks... with which I plan to move forward next month.Can you read this?

Under-the-wire Finish for the #intrepidthreadchallenge

challenge fabricsLast fall, Julie at the Intrepid Thread created a challenge based on using fabrics of her choosing. She has a great way with putting fabrics together and so I knew I wanted to play.

Here are the fabrics.

I love text on fabrics and scrappy backgrounds and knew that I would use those mini-charms in whatever I made.

After I saw the fabric, I had lots of ideas ... a few that played ping pong in my head for far too long.

Ultimately I decided to chase down something else that has long ping-pinged in my head: the traditional block whose name is on the tip of my mind whenever I see a modern Swoon block.

I flipped through Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns and decided Rolling Star, published by The Rural New Yorker on 6/4/1932 looked to be an ancestor to Camille Roskelley's Swoon.

So I started here, and resized it to work with the mini-charms, added a seam that I thought would make construction easier and set to work.

UntitledI used a combination of shapes cute from templates and rotary cut squares and half-square triangles.

I started by putting together the center, then assembled the chunks that would surround it.

I expected the Y-seams in the star in the center ... but was a little surprised when I realized that there would be a lot more Y-seams when it came time to put all my chunks together.

Realizing this block had more Y-seams than I thought

But, as the saying goes, all's well that end's well ... and here's my finished pillow. 

Finished PIllow

The finished pillow measures 12 by 16 inches.

Quilting DetailThe front is simply quilted with loopy feathers, wobbly matchsticks and doodle-y daisies and loops.

The back is made from the rest of the pink fabric, along with a coordinating fabric from my stash, in a simple lapped construction.

Although it was made as a pillow cover, it may end up serving as a table mat at my house.

Thanks, Julie, for the interesting challenge.

Not only was it fun for me–once I finally decided what I wanted to make–I have really enjoyed seeing everyone's creative projects on the Intrepid Thread Challenge Link Up Party.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Moral of the Story is ...

Pineapple Tool + BlockI wanted to play with scraps yesterday afternoon, and thought to FINALLY try the pineapple tool I purchased at a quilt show a couple years ago.

I had recently seen a photo of a traditional pineapple quilt and the colors made me think, rainbow scraps challenge.

So I unwrapped the Pineapple tool and made a block.

The ruler IS terribly clever ... but you end up with a lot of bias edges including most of the edges in the finished block (everything that's blue or purple in my block).   I know that a lot of new methods do create blocks with bias edges, but personally I almost always find a way to avoid them in my quilts–it just makes it easier to put the blocks together and quilt them without stretching.

I still like the idea of a scrappy pineapple quilt in my future and I will likely make a few more blocks before completely writing off this method, but the moral of the story for me yesterday was don't wait to try the gadgets, patterns and speciality rulers ... if you find out they aren't "you" ... you can pass them onto someone else while they are still the latest hot new thing.

Joining the link lists for Rainbow Scraps Challenge and Oh Scrap! and the Lessons Learned linky on Quilting Mod.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Another Slow (Knit) Stitch Sunday

It's counter-intuitive, but the easier a knit pattern is, the more slowly I work myself through it ...

Sweater ProgressThe sleeves for the sweater I am knitting are seed stitch, which provides an interesting texture, but feels a little like Knit 2, Purl 2, Repeat forever and ever ... ad nauseum

The pattern is Helga, which is available for free on –I have modified the pattern to make it a few inches longer and to knit the body and sleeves in the round to eliminate some seams ... the only thing I avoid more than boring knit patterns is sewing together knit garments ...

I have been itching to start hand-piecing a quilt block I designed, but I know I need to push myself to finish this ... so I will be knitting along with the ladies of Downton Abby tonight.

I hope to finish this and get to some quilt-related slow Sunday stitching soon.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Quilt Along with Me

A few quilters have expressed interest in quilting along with me as I put together two very different sampler quilts from the monthly 2016 block patterns for the Block Lotto. This makes me happy because I love designing sampler quilts.

This post contains more complete information for those who are committed or may be sitting on the fence and provides an introduction to the quilts and a little bit of information about me to those visiting for the first time from Quilting is More Fun than Housework.

Thank you Cynthia for featuring my scrappy project this week for Oh Scrap!

If the Block Lotto met the Rainbow Scraps Challenge, fell in love, married and had a couple of kids, they might look like the two very different sampler quilts I have designed using the twelve block patterns we will be making for the Block Lotto in 2016. But you don't have to make lotto blocks to enter into the monthly drawing–everyone is invited to choose one of these babies quilt designs and quilt along with me. 

Graduated Scrappy Sampler Quilt

In this quilt, the only uncertainty is the blocks we'll make.  You'll need to make four of each of the 6 inch blocks each month and sew them together into a 12 inch (finished size) four-patch. Each set of four fits into one of the spaces in the setting. This quilt will measure 60 by 78 inches. 


I plan to make the rainbow-colored quilt on the left as one of my Rainbow Scraps Challenge projects this year. Each month I will make the blocks and cut fabrics for the graduated setting for the band that matches the color of the month.

I think this design would also really work well using a light-to-dark set of graduated fabrics in one color as shown on the right or choosing just two colors for the setting and alternating them from top to bottom.   Blocks could be made in colors that match or contrast with the bands in the setting.

I designed the bands in the setting to be made from a scrappy bunch of large and small rectangles. 

  • Large rectangles are cut 4 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches
  • Small Rectangles are cut 3 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches

For the top and bottom bands, you'll need:
  • 21 large rectangles  (approximately 1/2 yard total fabric)

For EACH of the six bands in between, you'll need: 
  • 6 large rectangles
  • 15 small rectangles (approximately 3/8 yard total fabric)

Colored squares, cut and organized by color/lineMy plan for making the setting is to cut those rectangles as I am going through my scraps each month for RSC and saving the arranging assembly step until the end or as all three blocks in a row are finished.

I might not find all all the scraps I need in a given color in the designated month, so I'll keep track and as I pull more fabrics from my stash or acquire new fabrics, I will cut a few more squares in the colors I need.

I'll be using the same system I adopted when I was cutting hundreds (and hundreds) of squares for the Tokyo Subway Map Quilt Along last fall and use a small zip lock bag for each band, with an index card on which I will write what I need, for that band/color and note my running total of what I've already cut.

Here's what my progress looks like so far with my January blocks made and some of the blue and purple rectangles cut. This will become the bottom, left corner of my quilt.

The beginning ...

Note: If you aren't a fan of the scrappy idea for the setting or wanted to use something like scrappy crumbs, made into your own pieced fabric for the setting, you could also use a combination of rectangles and larger rectangles and pieced long strips of fabric.

For the top and bottom bands:

  • 1strip 6 1/2 by 60 1/2  
  • 2 large rectangles 
  • 2 larger rectangles cut 6 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches 

For the middle bands:

  • 1 strip 4 1/2 by 60 1/2 inches 
  • 2 small rectangles 
  • 2 larger rectangles cut 6 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches

Old MacDonald Mystery Sampler

There is a whole lot less to say about this sampler quilt design–if you have read this far, you're probably glad about that.  Old MacDonald popped into my head as I was designing it and may give you some insight into my vision for this quilt. 

This quilt has no sashing or borders and is made from 99 lotto blocks in a 9 by 11 grid to create a 54 by 66 inch quilt.

You might decide to add borders (or extend the quilt with more blocks) if you want a larger quilt  or feel it needs borders.

The number of each of the lotto blocks you’ll need to make this quilt varies from 2 to 15.

The quilt is a little bit pictorial (a sort of abstracted landscape), a little bit folky and has a lot of leeway in the choice of colors.

If you decide to suspend disbelief and play along, I’ll give you color clues each month to help you choose colors that will work in the quilt and still be “you.”  You may decide to deviate from the Rainbow Scraps/Block Lotto colors for the month in this quilt ... but it will also work if you stick with the RSC/Block lotto colors of the month.

For January, you will need 6 Birds in the Air blocks in colors that suggest a summer sky. I used shades of blue, tinged with purple and aqua, and cream for my blocks. You might choose colors that suggest a sunrise, sun set or even a summer 's night sky. Note that the colors you choose here will influence your choices in future blocks.

I noticed that I had quite a few batiks in my scraps, so decided to make this sampler from batiks only and use only prints in the Rainbow Graduated Scrappy Sampler–it will be interesting to see if my scrap bins will be able to sustain my self-imposed rule . . .

Here are my "sky" blocks.

6 Birds in the Air Blocks

Blog Badge 

I have created a blog badge for the Old MacDonald Mystery Sampler. It links to a page on that contains all the basic info and will be updated each month as the new block is announced.

Join the Old MacDonald Mystery Sampler Quilt-Along

If anyone decided to make the graduated sampler with me and wants a blog button, I can make that happen.

The January Block Pattern - Birds in the Air

Birds in the Air is the January block. For the Block Lotto and these samplers, it is made as a 6-inch finished size block.

The pattern includes two methods for making the block to choose from–your choice may be based on your comfort with working with bias edges–and cutting measurements for making the block in 7 sizes from 3 to 12 inches.

All the block patterns for the Block Lotto (and these samplers) will be free for the first 10 days the month–look for the code you'll need on the first-of-the-month posts on

Birds in the Air Quilt Block Pattern

This Birds-in-the-Air blocks in the snow photo was inspired by Angela's color inspiration for the RSC this month, snowflake.

About Me and Why Samplers?

As a person who has worked in and around technology throughout my career, when I began quilting in 2000, I immediately went online looking for other quilters.  I joined many, many online fabric swaps and block exchanges and led more than a few myself.  Like my profile says, quilting is one of the "high touch" things I do to balance my "high tech" work life.

I started the Block Lotto on a quilting forum in 2002 as both a way to try a new block or technique or color/fabric combination without having to make enough blocks for a quilt on your own and an activity to help new quilters who wanted to join block exchanges to practice following rules to make blocks.

When it comes to quilting styles, I am an omnivore and love learning and trying them all.   If you click around my blog, you will find traditional, modern, and art quilting . . . and everything in between.

So, when I choose or design blocks for the Block Lotto, each year is a collection of styles and techniques, but I also think about how well the blocks will play together in a sampler quilt. If only in my head, each year has an overall theme.

This year, all the blocks will be 6 inches square (finished size). They represent a mix of traditional, improvisational and original pieced designs. Some are more abstract/geometric, some are pictorial and one is a Block Lotto favorite that we’ll revisit in a new color way. All the blocks can stand on their own in quilt settings, but many also do interesting things when 4 blocks are sewn together.

Most years, I have designed a sampler for the blocks, began a sampler of my own from the blocks and ... some years I even finish my sampler quilt.

This is my scrappy black & white sampler made from the 12 inch blocks from the first year of the Block Lotto ... I am still using it.

Perfect for a cold but sunny day

And here is my queen-sized Mod, Mod Sampler quilt from 2014.

It's a Mod Mod Sampler Quilt - Finished

You can find other examples of the Mod Mod quilt (along with other eye candy) in the Block Lotto Gallery. 

In terms of construction, the Graduated Scrappy sampler is more like my first sampler and Old MacDonald's mystery is similar to the second.

You can read more about the Block Lotto here:

About the Block Lotto

And, if you like the Birds in the Air block and want to join us, the details for January are here:

New Year, New Block and Birds in the Air

I am joining the link list parties for:

Scraptastic Tuesday (January edition)
Rainbow Scraps Challenge

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Proof of Concept

Can you read this?If you can read this  . . .  I don't know what, if anything, it says about your beautiful brain, but I'd be interested to know.

Yesterday afternoon, I needed to do something completely different and resurrected an old idea/pattern for a set of abstracted alphabet blocks.

Rather than making a set of letters, organized alphabetically–which would make some of the more abstracted ones easier to "see," I decided to piece a few words.  These are the ones that popped into my head.

I used part of a layer cake for the letters and a neutral solid (that admittedly contrasts better with some prints in the collection than with others).

I like what I see, but do you see what I see and can you read this?

Joining the list for WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Soup's On

Vegetable Broth
It's soup season at Sophie Junction and I have found a few new recipes to add to my collection of perennial favorites.  Here are eight from my list of go-to recipes for soups.

When I get into soup-making mode, I always start by pulling out the slow-cooker and making vegetarian stock. Having some delicious stock on hand is the first step to yummy soup. There is no doubt when you are cleaning/chopping these colorful veggies, that the result will be tasty, healthy goodness:

Diabetic Vegetarian Stock

The same day I make the stock, dinner will be a simple soup that uses it, based on what's in the fridge–it's usually French onion soup. This recipe is an easy one.

Carmelized Onion Soup

Lately I have tried two others that were made because of what was in the fridge–I love finding recipes with ingredient search–and they were both pretty good and worth making again (and again).

Curried Carrot Soup (photo from Allrecipes)

Cashew Cream Kale Soup

I've also been cooking a couple of old-favorites that I've blogged about before:

Spicy Tomato Lentil Soup

Eat the Rainbow Black Bean Soup (photo from Fatfree Vegan)

Ever since ordering some creamy, sweet butternut squash soup in a restaurant in Lansing, Michigan, I have been a fan ... and willing to try almost any butternut squash soup recipe that crosses my path ...

For Thanksgiving, I tried a new-to-me, slow-cooker recipe from a new-to-me foodie blog with a great funny name, Gimme Some Oven.  I was wary it might be too sweet because of the added apple, but the sweetness was balanced by the cayenne and other spices.

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup (photo from Gimme Some Oven)

On Sunday, I mentioned my ingredient scavenger hunt as part of an afternoon of running errands–I was on the hunt looking for preserved lemon, dried apricots and fennel. I needed them for a recipe spotted on the New York Times, I wanted to try.

Moroccan Chick Peas with Chard (photo from NYT)

Even though I can now count how long it has been since I lived in the south of France in decades, I still remember how many of the cafes served Moroccan dishes as the plat du jour on Thursdays ... so,  although the combination of ingredients in this one was curious, I have to say, they had me at "Moroccan."

Sometimes, you just have to suspend disbelief and take a chance.  I'm glad I did exactly that with this interesting combination of ingredients and spices. It will be lunch for me a few times this week.

Do you love soup at this time of year as much as I do?  Please share YOUR go-to favorites in the comments ... because I DO love to find something new to sample and maybe add to my list.
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