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.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Post-Holiday Re-entry into Normal (whatever that is)

Yesterday I woke up too early–from something that happened in a dream, I think. I was immediately wide awake, feeling well-rested and happy and knew I had been dreaming about something, but couldn't grab hold of anything that would help me remember what it was.  It must have been a good one. I wandered into the kitchen, fed the cats and made my morning late, decided it was too early and too cold and crawled back into my warm bed.

Out of (a bad) habit, I grabbed the iPad on my nightstand and checked for email ... and ended up chatting a bit with someone who plans to suspend disbelief and jump into the Old MacDonald's Mystery Sampler and quilt along with me.  Her vote of confidence reinforced my inexplicable happy, optimistic mood.

I quickly filled up my morning pages (journal), then turned on the TV for some breakfast television–I know, TV in bed, another bad habit–enjoyed an interview with Lily Tomlin on Sunday Morning and the luxury of staying in bed a little longer than I should.  I picked up my knitting–more on that later–and wasn't really paying attention to the TV when Sunday Morning became Face the Nation with Donald Trump doing his thing and provoking us all (OK, mostly women and especially Hillary Clinton).  Thank you, Donald, for that push out of bed. 

Migas with Black-eyed Pea SalsaWhen I returned to the kitchen to find breakfast, I glanced at the clock, saw that it was later than I thought and decided to make the effort to treat myself to brunch for one.

I had some cooked black-eyed peas left over from New Years day and some rarely-seen-in-my-house tortilla chips and bacon and decided to make the Homesick Texan's New Years Day Migas with Black-eyed Peas Salsa.

While the eggs were cooking, I was thinking how some recipes are like souvenirs from travels or experiences. I found the Homesick Texan's blog after my first trip to Quilt Festival in Houston. I had gone with a friend to Ninfa's for dinner and loved their "green sauce" so much that when I returned to Michigan, I went looking online for a recipe. I found it on the Homesick Texan, a blog written by a woman who was living in New York and recreating the foods she missed from home. I started following her blog, way back when.  I had never heard of migas (eggs scrambled with various things including strips of crispy tortilla strips) until I lived in Austin. She suggested this recipe for New Years brunch last year.

The calm of the day felt like a return to normal life after the holidays. As a bonus the sun was shining and the temperature had climbed to something above freezing.  I decided to run a quick couple of errands and come home and quilt.

UntitledI went to Santa Fe Quilting, looking for Michael Miller fabrics so I could make the next block in the Everything Old is New Again challenge for Modern Quilts Unlimited.

The traditional inspiration block this month is the Double Pinwheel.

I had a design idea I liked and walked into the quilt shop–the only one in town–planning to pick up Cotton Couture (solids) or some other Michael Miller fabric (a requirement for the challenge) in bright red, dark red and gold.

But, incredibly, there were hardly any Michael Miller fabrics in the shop. With the help of a friend from the guild who was working there, we went through the whole store, color by color, theme by theme and found a total of 8 to 10 bolts of ANY kind of Michael Miller fabric ... all but three–three that wouldn't play nicely with one another–were Fairy Frost. Those sparkly Fairy Frost fabrics just aren't me ... but since time I don't have enough time to order anything online or make the trek to Albuquerque or Las Vegas (NM) to continue the hunt, I will be making a glitzy, sparkly Double Pinwheel-inspired block for the challenge this month.

It all took so much longer than I thought it would to look through all those bolts and the result was disappointing, but that, too, was somehow a return to normal. For whatever reason, I rarely find what I am looking for at the only quilt shop in town.

I quickly made the trip to the Trader Joe's to pick up a couple odd things I needed for a recipe I wanted to try, but couldn't find at the nearby chain grocery: fennel, preserved lemon, dried apricots ... can you guess what they might become?

By the time I got home and put things away, I had run out of steam, probably because really, I didn't get enough sleep before I woke up feeling all happy and rested.  My plans for dinner were simplified. I didn't have the creative or physical energy to settle into a quilting project afterward, so my Sunday evening Slow Stitches were of the knit and purl variety.

I am working on a sweater, made from yarn reclaimed from a commercial sweater I couldn't resist in the store a few years ago. It was on sale and I bought even though it was probably two sizes too large.  I did wear it for a while, but ultimately decided it was just TOO oversized and I unravelled it and put the yarn in my stash until the right project came along.  When I saw the Helga pullover sweater in the new patterns for winter on, I knew it was the one.  My gauge swatch was exactly what was needed for the pattern, so I jumped in.

Never I Have Ever ...I was on a roll, happily knitting the 3 inch ribbing at the bottom of the sweater, until I noticed this.

Eagle-eye knitters will spot that I have done that thing that you're always supposed to guard against when you are knitting in the round–twisting the stitches when you join them into a circle.  For the non-knitters, I found myself knitting a mobius, which can work if you're making a scarf (AKA infinity scarf), but not a sweater.

So I ripped it all out and CAREFULLY, started again one evening–wrapped in a cozy flannel quilt with the company of my ever-helpful, textile-loving cats.

Knitting with Johnny and Grace Hopper
I snapped this iPhone photo to capture the moment.

The new year prompts us to make resolutions, plan for the future and reflect on what aspects of our lives are worth bringing forward with us as we move forward in life and blogging and which things, people, habits are maybe best left behind.

A few months ago, I wasn't sure I would bring the Block Lotto forward with me in 2016–obviously, ultimately I decided it was worth it.

Last weekend, I knew I needed to get back to the practice of Slow Sunday Stitching ... the return of Downton Abby last night was a nice bit of synchronicity with that practice.

After my twisted start, things have been progressing quite quickly–or as quickly as a knit with all that cabling can ...  The front and back (knit together in the round) are done and I'm now working on the first sleeve, which I am also knitting in the round–more carefully joined to avoid the mobius affect.

Knitting Progress

I suppose this rambling, steam-of-consciousness post is also a sure sign of a return to normal (for me) after the holidays ;-)

If you have read this far ... I'm sorry.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Scrappy Synchronicity

I love scrappy quilts and have always looked upon both the Block Lotto and the Rainbow Scraps Challenge as wonderful motivators to use my scraps and make scrappy quilts.

This year, they are even more tied together–if only in my mind–for a couple of reasons:
  1. The fabric guidelines for the Block Lotto have been chosen based on the color of the month for the Rainbow Scraps Challenge. 
  2. I have designed 2 mystery sampler quilts–one more of a mystery than the other–that are suitable RSC projects. 
4 Blocks in SnowThis month's lotto block is a 6-inch traditional Birds in the Air block made in blue or purple with white.

As I was making my blocks, I started thinking about Angela's theme–snowflake.  She provided this beautiful snowflake inspiration. 

I was thinking that how those who live in snow and cold weather often have a different feeling about snow and snowflakes (and the freezing temperatures that are part of the equation) than those that do not. I confess that I don't think pretty blue/purple images when I think snow.

But, the idea of snowflakes as a theme, inspired me to bundle up, take my blocks outside and photograph them on my snow-frosted deck. I have new admiration for those that photograph quilts in snow without disturbing the snow ...

You can find more information about this month's Block Lotto here:

New Year, New Block and Birds in the Air

And, you can download my Birds in the Air quilt block pattern here. Using the Payhip service is something new for me, so I would appreciate hearing about your experiences.

The pattern includes traditional and alternative methods for constructing the block and cutting measurements for making the block in 7 sizes.  Check out the Block Lotto to find out how to get the block pattern for free for the first 10 days of the month.

Both sampler quilts I have designed for this year's lotto blocks could be made scrappy or not ... but in my mind, they are definitely scrappy.

Old MacDonald's Mystery Sampler is the most mysterious of these two designs. The name popped into my head and stuck, so that may give you some idea of the theme.

It measures 54 by 66 inches, without borders or sashing, just 99 six inch blocks in a 9 by 11 grid.  The number of each of the 12 blocks you'll need for this quilt varies between 2 and 15.

For this month, make 6 Birds in the Air blocks in colors that suggest sky (I'll be using pale blues and purples combined with medium blues).

The other sampler quilt design is less mysterious because I can tell you that you need to make 4 of each of the monthly blocks and I can share the setting with you.  It measures 60 by 82 inches.  Although this once can certainly be made NOT scrappy, I have come to think of this design as RSC Meets the Block Lotto.

Here is the setting in three color ways.  Each of the open squares represents 4 lotto blocks, sewn together as a 12 inch 4-patch.

  2016Sampler-Gray-Scale-Setting     2016Sampler-2ColorSetting     2016Sampler-RainbowScrapsSetting

Thinking scrappy, the sashing and borders are constructed of small squares.  I envisioned using black and white prints in the gradated setting on the left. The blocks could be also be black and white, maybe with pops of color (or a single bright color used as the background fabric in the blocks). The middle quilt is a simplified 2-color setting–I was thinking QOV quilt when I played with the idea of red and white setting fabrics and predominately blue blocks.

I plan to make the rainbow version on the right. I'll be going through my scraps and constructing the setting units as I make my blocks.  I suspect that my quilt colors will have an over-all softer look than this quickly constructed graphic.  My four Birds in the Air blocks will fill the spot on the left in the bottom row.

I will be sharing more information–beginning with fabric requirements for those that need them–if anyone is interested in quilting along with me.

I am joining the parties for Scrap Happy Saturday and Oh Scrap!  Please let me know if you're interested in joining a quilt-along for one of these block lotto samplers.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...