Thursday Tutorial–basic and almost traditional!

I’d almost bet one of the first blocks you made when you were learning about quilting was a four patch. Easy to learn and easy to do in an improv way. And since I’m also about quick, I love to work in a stack and slash manner.

I like to make these blocks with each part being a different color so I usually start with four square-ish fabrics, stacked right sides up. As with other improv blocks, these can be any size.

With your rotary cutter and a ruler, make a cut across the stack, somewhere near the center, but off center. Make a second cut across the first cut, so that you have four stacks of pieces. Now you need to re-arrange the stacks by moving one piece from the first stack to the bottom of that stack, two pieces from the next stack to the bottom of that stack, 3 pieces from the top of the next stack to the bottom of that stack and you can leave stack number 4 as is.

Cat throw1

Cat throw2

Sew the layers together, not trying to match edges! My system for keeping things straight as I chain piece these is simple. I lay half of each block on each side of the needle.

Cat throw4

Then I sew the top pieces (top half of the block) followed immediately by the bottom pieces from the same block. As they come off the machine each block is kept together and ready to sew the next seam, with no confusion as to which half goes with which block. You only cut the chain piecing threads between blocks and the pieces of each block stay together.

Cat throw5

When you are trying for wonky, you are happy when your seams don’t match. But sewing them together can be a problem if you are used to precision piecing. Place them so that they overlap enough to make a seam and sew along the straight edge. You may certainly trim to make an even edge but I don’t usually bother.

Cat throw6 Cat throw7

When you are trying for wonky, you really don’t want to match those seams. But sometimes, just by accident, you match more perfectly than when you are trying to!

Cat throw8

Cat throw9

So, that’s how you do it. Trim up your blocks to size, lay them out and bam! you have a quick quilt! I have often used them as a border, too. It adds another level of interest that you don’t get with a single fabric border.



Thursday Tutorial-wonky nine-patch

Wonky nine-patches are definitely my favorite scrappy block to make. I’ll show you a finished quilt first and then tell you how to get there.

Build a Scrappy City

These are potato-chip blocks—you can’t eat….make just one! I like to use just two square-ish pieces at a time. Any size you wish, remembering that the finished block will most likely be an inch smaller than your starting size.

Stack right sides up.

Make two cuts from top to bottom, at a bit of an angle.

Switch the center strips and sew each layer together.

Re-stack the blocks and make two cuts again, across the length.

Switch the center strips again and sew each layer together. BOOM! You’re done!

I’ve shown this several times over the years……………….

And I add variation by inserting pieces into some of the larger blocks, too.

And if you go back to the very first picture, you can see that you can make these ANY size and even incorporate different sizes into the same piece. Mainly, remember to have fun!!!

Thursday Tutorial-triangles

Grab a stack of fabrics from the scrap pile. Cut a square-ish chunk from the stack, any size with which you wish to play!


Stack and cut triangles–right up my alley. Make a cut right through at an angle on one side. Your second cut should start down a little from the top on the other side. That gives you room to trim without cutting off your point after the block is sewn together.


Switch the center triangle by moving the top one to the bottom of the stack and sew each side…and I hit a “Duh!” moment. I sewed the full cut side (right side in the picture) first and then sewed the shorter cut side.


It will work, but take a closer look at the top.


It’s supposed to have the full cut side covering that shorter cut side! I did sew the rest of  them the correct way.


Make quite a few and get a feel for the best size in which to  trim them. You can always add a strip to a small one, if you need it.

Don’t forget that these can be more like rectangles than squares when you make them this way. And they don’t even all have to be the same size. I only made the height on each of mine the same for ease of assembly.

You can certainly make these with only a couple of fabrics at a time. There will be a bit more variation of the angles that way. I had such a huge stack of fabric that I kept cutting and sewing until I had enough for an entire quilt!

I also thought about mixing these with solid color blocks or with other pieced blocks, but those are variations for another quilt, another time!

Next time we’ll look at my favorite quick block…wonky nine-patch.

Adding Bias

To answer a question about adding bias strips…I first learned this little technique when I thought I would love applique and wanted the easiest method possible for narrow bias stems. I’ll keep this as basic as possible because once you get the concept, you will want to do it the way it looks best in your project.

First thing is to cut some bias strips, as wide or narrow as you want. They do not have to be ‘true’ bias, just close to that 45° angle. I’m not going to show extremely narrow–that’s a bit fiddly and I’ll let you play with that on your own.

Fold in two and press.

Now you are ready to stitch the bias strips to your background, and you can do curvy lines or straight. For this sample, I chose curves. Sew close to the raw edge.

You may pin your bias down where you want it or you can simply curve as you go if you’re doing improv. Then all that’s left is to fold that bias back over the stitching and press it flat. That covers the raw edges and you can make various choices for the other edge.

Sometimes you need to gently persuade the bias to lay flat, especially if you have made very tight curves, but gentle curves are happy to do what you want.

Final finishing decisions are where you will want to add your own touch. (I’ve used very dark thread so you can see what I’m talking about!) You can hand stitch the edge down. Not ever going to be my first choice, but perfect for applique flower stems. I usually machine stitch the edge.

If you use matching thread, it doesn’t show, but I often use this method for wider strips and like to stitch on both sides of the strip.

You can sew the whole thing down with a zig zag or a fancy stitch, instead of a straight line.


Boy, those look pretty ugly done right over the top of the straight line, don’t they?  Pretend the straight stitch isn’t there! Sorry……………..but that’s all there is to it! Took about 5 times longer to write this than to do it, of course!

Questions? I’m happy to go into greater detail but try it first. It’s easier to do than all my words, words, words would have you believe!

Time for introspection

Self isolation is a wonderful time for a lot of “self” things…reflection, evaluation, self care. And I think I’m going to do some of that. There are lots of posts on FB about ways to keep yourself occupied during quarantine. I’ve never had a problem finding tons of things to do and I love being home with time to do them. But those posts are also illustrating many techniques that I may have learned or tried and thought, “oh, I’ll get back to that when I have more time.”

I think now is that time.

Yes, I’m spending some of it finishing up old projects. Like this one, that was made as a sample, along with the one I showed you the other day.

It was so poorly sewn together that the first thing I did was remove those wonky borders. I decided that since this is the school we are fans of, I will make this bigger so hubby can have a new quilt for his recliner.

Not sure exactly how I’ll make that happen, but I picked some fabrics with which to work and it will be a ‘background’ project to work on while I reflect and explore other options.

I have often said that I want to incorporate more paper into my work. I have learned how to do some of that and want to learn much more. Now’s the time.

I would like to utilize more of the beads, buttons, ribbons, yarns and foo-foo stuff that I have acquired………..or make a decision to pass on much more of it to others. Now’s the time for that decision.

I want to dye and paint and print and stencil and it’s so messy and the results are so wonderful and I always have an excuse to not make that mess. Now’s the time.

I have more fabric than I can sew up in the rest of my lifetime. I love it. I love looking at it and dreaming about it and feeling the texture of it. Do I need to keep it? Will it hurt anyone or anything if I have this huge hoard? Will it help anyone if I can share some of it out? These are some big decisions and now’s the time to seriously ask myself for some answers.

Self-reflection and maybe some tough love for those hoarded items. Now’s the time.

Self care includes taking long walks, since the gyms are closed. Love doing this and it also gives me lots of time to think about these issues.

Gotta do it. Now’s the time.


Now I know what I don’t know…

I’ve been meaning to make a needle keeper, since I have a ton of needles around ready to be used for various tasks. I’ve been using a strip of quilt trimming but it just isn’t cutting it anymore!

I’d like to be organized and label things so I know what type and size of needle I’m using but my brain doesn’t really work that way. So…on to the construction of the actual book.

I have a cover. Quilted fabric, just needs filling. It’s about 5 x 8.

And I could certainly cut some felt pieces and sew them in and be done with it. But I saw graduated pages someplace and thought it was a cool way to go.

It soon became obvious that the cover and pages would NOT go together!

Pages hanging out or cover not covering! And trying to fold it over like a flap…

not going to work at all!

So now I have to decide if I want regular pages, a new cover or something else entirely. I think I need to get sucked into the black hole of the internet a bit to look at ideas for needle books that might be a lot cuter than this plain Jane idea!

I have these little pages…maybe I can use these for a new cover!

I’ll be thinking about it while I’m doing some other stuff today. I need to do a bunch of chores that are not in the studio and it’s obvious that there is more to this than I thought. I need to LEARN!


Playing with a new idea

As I read other people’s blogs,  I am often struck by the designs of their wonderful quilts. While I no longer use the patterns of others or even use regular, straight and even sized blocks, occasionally something speaks to me and makes me want to quilt in a more traditional manner. And this week, that’s what happened.

And in this case, working with one of the many ruler sets available will make it “easier, faster, more accurate.” So today I decided to make a little test sample and check it out. FYI, I’m using the TRI-RECS ruler set. It’s been around for a while and it’s still readily available. Usually that means it might be a good set. Can’t say yet ’cause I’ve never used this set before!

I have more turquoise scraps than anything else, so that’s what I grabbed. I even had some triangle shaped pieces that only needed quick cuts with the ruler to be ready to use. I found some bright yellow fabric, just enough to cut 9 of the larger triangles and I was ready to assemble.

Here are my 9 blocks and they are quite accurate. The rulers really did help.

Rather than throw them back in the scrap box as useless samples, I decide to actually put them together into a little wall hanging. One less UFO to feel guilty about! Played with different arrangements, and this is what I liked best.

Different or same center square…

And decided that leaving one oddball triangle would be stupid. So I put them together, found a bright border and it’s ready to quilt.

Fun little wall hanging, ready to brighten up a spot on someone’s wall. And verification that using this ruler set will help me in making my final project.

I have decided that this 6″ size is not my favorite, though, and I think that’s the largest size this ruler comes in. I’ll have to check that out and decide if I want to re-size for my project or use them this size. Looking forward to working on this, though I think it will be my project for my quilt retreat in April, not an immediate quilt.