A Flock of Singers


This is a message from one of our Northern Material Girlfriends. She had a BIG birthday recently and we surprised her with a quilt to celebrate.

My dearest Material Girlfriends,

My Flock of Singers is beautiful… it was quite the surprise too!  You all are SEW sneaky!  And I love that they are each personalized, with Doris’ hand on each to do the blanket stitching. Y’all motivated me to get the quilt racks up so Amelia, my Gammil,  knows what she’s supposed to be doing…even with the CAD, she needs guidance and someone to turn her on.

The flock hangs right behind Amelia, and next to a shelf that really needed to have a collection of little sewing machines, and a squirrel of course.

I really like that I got another year too!  Dad took the flaming cake and blew out the candles last year sew I didn’t have to age, and this year my MGs gave me another!  Probably unintentionally, but I’m gonna take what I can get…And the quilt is firmly attached to the rack with Amelia and Gilmore (Brian’s cat) to guard against takebacks.  (Lisa’s Note: Yikes! I mistyped the year on the quilt label!!)

A chain stitch child’s Domestic, the MG Singing ‘Singer’ music box, my Singer chain stitcher that Dad helped me make doll clothes on, and an electric Singer Sew-Handy.

My view…it’s a happy place to be…Amelia (Earhart) Gammill with her little windsock (cause she’s sew fast).  There’s a king size quilt on today…found out I needed to move the old girl around a bit sew she didn’t hit the walls.  Fortunately she’s on wheels.  I suggested to Jon that we needed to move another wall…

Thank you all for the lovely quilt…I’ll deliver the hugs personally…sometime sewn!
Judy, Amelia and all the girls… and Gilmore, the quilting kitty.
Lisa’s note: We kept Flock of Singers a secret until Judy’s birthday but now the pattern is available.
Fabrics by Marcus Brothers Primo Batiks and Aged Muslins.
Pieced by Katheline Monnier who tested the pattern in Riley Blake fabrics.
Quilting on all three Flock of Singers by Lora Zmak.


To cut or not to cut?  That isn’t really the question.
The question is: WHAT are you going to cut with?

Last month, I was teaching a class that used fusible appliqué. One of my students was in a small panic because she hadn’t brought her paper scissors and only had her fabric scissors. How was she suppose to cut the fusible appliqué paper??? Oh my. She borrowed my fabric scissors. I’ve always used my fabric scissors to cut my paper appliqué product. If any sticky residue was left behind I just cleaned it off with rubbing alcohol and never worried about it. But my student got me wondering. Was it an urban myth? Does cutting paper with your fabric scissors cause them to dull faster??

So I did a little bit of research and this is basically what I learned. Yes. They do. Surprised? But why? Well, paper has a clay like porous glue that will dull scissors. But wait! Fabric has sizing and dyes and fibers that will dull scissors too. Basically, whatever you are cutting is going to eventually dull your scissors. If you are using two pair, one for fabric and one for paper, they will dull half as fast. Go figure.

Now using that same logic, if you have LOTS and LOTS of scissors, they dull even less as fast. Don’t you love my math??

I love scissors and I have lots of them.  I have leopard handle Gingher scissors that I inherited from my mother-in-law.  She passed away 14 years ago, and I think of her every time I use them. I have dark metal scissors that were my grandmother’s. She purchased them during World War ll. They didn’t nickel plate them during the war. Mother used to hate taking those ugly scissors to Home Ec class. All the other girls had shiny scissors. I lived in Canada for 13 years and I can tell you this American girl loved having her American handled scissors. I have a couple of Italian scissors that I really like the feel of. One pair is for appliqué and the other is a rounded tipped one that I clipped to the end of my lanyard to use at the long arm. I use my spring loaded Fiskars ALL the time. I find it really saves my hands. And a pile of ‘other’ scissors. I figure if I have scissors everywhere, my family might need one, they won’t be picking up my nice scissors in order to cut tags off a new sweater. The pile in the photo is just what I collected from my sewing room.

It has been YEARS (15-ish?) since I have had my nicer scissors sharpened. My cutting edge reflections, reminded me I was over due. I gathered up my nice shears and searched for a reputable sharpener. Oh my. Not very many out there. My local sharpener here in Clayton was closing his business due to a failed eye surgery. We were both ready to cry.  Who could I trust with my treasures???? He recommended Vito’s in Walnut Creek.

Vito’s is located close the Kaiser Walnut Creek hospital and was fairly easy to find. I brought 5 pair of Gingher shears, two smalI Italian scissors, and one pair of hair cutting clippers. I collected them one week later. I was was so PLEASED!! Vito’s did a fabulous job and was very reasonably priced. Every pair cut smooth, they opened and closed easily and were super sharp again! He charged $10 each for the Ginger shears, $7 for the hair cutting clippers and only $5 each for the Italian embroidery and thread cutters.

Do you have New Year resolutions for 2018? Whether it is finishing projects, learning new skills, or diminishing your sizable stash, you are going to need a good pair of sharp scissors!

I am ready for the New Year!  Snip, snip.

Happy Quilting,

Lisa’s Note: I’ve had my scissors sharpened by Absolute Sharp. He has had a booth at the Alden Lane Nursery “Quilting in the Garden” show every year as well as at the Livermore Farmers Market. He is located in Pleasanton. (925) 281-4285.

Remember! Little scissors for little cuts. Big scissors for big cuts.

Organizing My Quilt Room

I did it!

The guests arrive tomorrow and my office/quilt room is ready to be turned into the guest room. Check out my GORGEOUS office now.

It actually took less time to sort and tidy than I had anticipated. It appeared to be an overwhelming project (see last week’s post). But I had the closet rearranged the evening after posting. The next day I purchased more plastic bins for my fabric stash and they were quickly filled. (Eek)

The new ironing station baskets arrived Thursday and Material Girlfriend, Diana Garnhart, help me assemble them. Not to hard a task! We carried them upstairs and set them in place. The next day I filled the baskets with my all my projects. Yep, all 12 baskets are filled! I also recovered my ironing surface. The room is so refreshingly tidy. I wanted to start a new project or rather, revisit one that had been hiding in the closet, but…. company is coming.

This is what I started with:

Walls, I had painted them a light buttery yellow. I like color. White would be just too bland for my creative room. I wanted a wall color that would coordinate with whatever I pinned on it. My Ikea office table is black and the Murphy table is a reddish wood color. I repurposed a small black 3 drawer dresser and a small black and wood color desk from my son’s old room. I felt it tied all the furniture pieces together quite nicely. We added laminate wood flooring that had the same wood/black colors.

How I organized all my shtuff:

Patterns: The closet now holds all the Material Girlfriends Patterns stock. They are organized in plastic bins with handles on the top so I can easily pull whatever patterns are being ordered.

Fabrics: The fabrics are organized in clear plastic bins with white lids that seal. I have a small dog but she sheds like a big dog. It’s her super power. She hangs out with me all the time. The bins keeps the fabrics out of the sunlight, dust and fur free. I can quickly see which color bin I need to pull from under the Murphy table.

Projects: Quilts that need binding and labels, or that are done but just waiting for me to finish the pattern, hang out in a large straw tote on top of the Murphy table.

Unfinished projects now go into one of the baskets in the Ironing station. I love these new baskets. It is easy to pull a basket and take it with me to class or sit it on top of the Murphy table to work from.

Tools: My small tools and small rulers fit in my pink Yazzii bag that lives on top of my Murphy table. Easy to work out of and it is a quick grab to go to class. I also have a Yazzii mat that is under my NEW sewing machine (Baby Lock Soprano – I was good girl this year.) The mat keeps all the necessary sewing items right at my finger tips.

Rulers: I store my rulers in the wooden slats. I have three. One is for triangles and it sits on the small black dresser. The other two are for rulers and squares and sit on the Murphy table.

Other Organizational items: Also on my Murphy table are my cutting mats and a Wrapped Clothesline Basket. The basket holds my scissors and rotary cutters. I also toss into the basket any scrap fabrics that I can cut into 3/4″ strips, Wrapped up Baskets Pattern. Other scraps are cut into 2 1/2″ squares and put in the top right fabric bin under the table for a future checkerboard quilt. Tiny scraps get tossed in the trash can on the floor.

I also have a smaller Wrapped Clothesline Basket near my sewing machine that holds threads and bobbins for any project I’m working on, plus the basic thread colors. The other bagillion threads are in a Dr. Who lunch box on the top shelf of my sewing desk and on a spool rack hung on the wall by my desk.

On the ironing table, I have a small tote that holds all the ironing items such as pressing cloth, tephlon sheet, iron cleaner, water bottle, spray starch, measuring cup with spout for refilling the iron, labels for quilts, etc.

Putting items away immediately after use is always the best way to stay tidy but I know myself all too well. I dump and plan to put it away later. So my strategy to stay tidy is this straw basket on the small black dresser. ANYthing that needs to be put away goes in the basket. Whether it is fabric, notions or a wayward sock that my dog brought me, will go in the basket if I’m not in the mood to put it away at that very moment. Then I can empty the basket on a regular basis, daily, I hope.

The Ironing table: I was asked how does the table not fall off the surface? Dave Garnhart built this wonderful table for me. Measure your ironing surface then add 3″ to all sides. Cut some plywood to that size. Take smaller wood, mine is 1 1/2″ wide and deep, cut to the same length as the plywood. That gets nailed to the underside of your plywood surface, positioned so that your table nests between them. I used 2 layers of left over batting and some muslin to wrap the top and staple gunned it to the underside. This is a picture of the underside of the table surface while I was adding the new fabric. Muslin shows all the water stains so I finally got smart and picked a fabric that would disguise all those ugly spots! Besides, it is really pretty too.

Lora was born organized (blah). I asked her to take a video of her studio and she’ll describe her organizational secrets in a future blog.

Happy Organizing!


Confessions of a Messy Quilter

“Hello, my name is Lisa and I am a messy quilter.”

“Hello Lisa.” reply the imaginary support group circle in my head.

It’s bad. See the embarrassing video link of my office/studio/sewing room. Yup… Support group, here I come.

I can just imagine your response.

If this were my entire house, I’d be reenlisting with a fabulous support group at FlyLady.net I joined her support group for messy peoples 17 years ago and the tools I had learned have generally kept me tidy. Really. But as I prepared for the traditional Christmas foofaraw downstairs, all my sh..tuff got dumped in my office/sewing room. Now, if I could just shut the door and deal with it January 1, I would. But the behemoth of a table against the wall is a Murphy bed and it will need to sleep a guest Dec. 19th through the 26th. I’m sure it would be more comfortable if I could actually open said Murphy bed. *sigh*

I’ve got my work cut out for me. I’m rolling up my sleeves and taking a hard look at my storage issue. What can be tossed, what can be put away and what can find a new home?

My closet has WONDERFUL shelves that my husband built for me. I’m going to reshuffle so I can get the patterns in the closet. The fabric bins that are currently in there, are easily stackable and sealed with plastic lids. They can be re-organized under the cutting table/ Murphy bed. My project baskets that are everywhere will… hmmm… uh…  I need a new storage solution.

I don’t like my ironing board. It’s wobbly and the legs bent in half when I set a suitcase on top. (Okay, I over pack.) I rebent the ironing board legs straight…but, it lists to the left. A sweet friend of mine built the extra wide and long ironing surface that sits on top of the wobbly ironing board. I like the top. I don’t like the bottom.

I saw in the current American Patchwork and Quilting magazine a storage solution of a black wire cart with six lined wire baskets. I think this will work for me. I’m ordering two. I can put my wonderfully wide and long ironing surface on top. This will give me 12 lovely baskets to put my projects in! $55 each, get your own here.

I have a plan!! I’ll get to work and report back after I have the wire basket doohickies set up with my projects and ironing board.

Do you need a plan for your sewing space too? Get a timer, and a hot cup of tea. The timer is to keep you on track. Set the timer for 10 minutes and go through Pinterest (Lisa’s Sewing Room Board) for sewing room ideas. If your tea turns cold, you’re done collecting ideas. The tea is my back-up timer because I always seem to go beyond the 10 minutes on Pinterest! Now, get to work.

Thanks for being my support group!





We’re at it Again!

Come see us at the Tuleburg Quilt Show, in Stockton! The show is at the San Joaquin County Fair Grounds, Building 2, this Saturday and Sunday.

We will have our Hot FlashDEALS!

Deal #1 Buy 2 patterns, get the 3rd pattern 50% off*.

Deal# 2 Buy a pattern and a kit, get a 2nd pattern 50% off*.

*50% off the pattern of lesser value.

PLUS!! Get 15% off your Yazzii bag (not advertised in the booth) by saying “Hot Flash my Yazzi Bag”.


Check out our booth

We hope to see you sewn!

Lisa & Lora

Material Girlfriends

Shhh… Have I got a deal for you.

No, not the Brooklyn bridge. Way more fun than that.

Material Girlfriends have been setting up a booth at local Quilt shows (this is our 3rd time). And this weekend we will be at the Alden Lane Nursery “Quilting in the Garden” show! You’ll not want to miss this show. It is the most beautiful outdoor quilt show EVER. That’s tomorrow and Sunday.

We have a 10′ x 20′ booth we’re sharing with In Between Stitches and it is full to the gills with lovely, fun, wonderful quilting patterns, kits and fun stuff.

But wait, there’s more. We have deals.

Did you catch that? Here is the sign.

But if you want a Yazzii bag, be sure to say, “Hot Flash my Yazzii” for 15% off your Yazzii purchase. It won’t be advertised in the booth! Don’t forget to pick up your purple hand fan. All the cool quilters have them. Ha!

Thank you Kelly! Your help was amazing.

Lora climbing up and down, up and down, up and down, putting up the tent and quilts.

Carolyn (mom) hold up one of the quilts. Don’t let the quilts hit the dirt!

Carolyn calling in reinforcements!

We hope to see you this weekend!! Come through the front entrance at Alden Lane Nursery and hang a left. Listen for the laughing and you’ll know you’re headed the right direction!

Lisa and Lora

Material Girlfriends

We Want You!

Actually… Alden Lane Nursery Wants Your Quilts. But that was too long for a headline. Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore, CA, has put on the most fabulous of quilt shows for… gosh, I don’t know how long. The first one I attended was in 1999 and I haven’t missed one since. This annual quilt show is the reason I started quilting! Really! Quilts are hung on lines strung between giant California Heritage Oak trees. It is a “must see” if you’ve never been. This free “Quilting In The Garden” show will be September 23 & 24.

So back to the the headline (it’s even longer now). Alden Lane Nursery Wants Your Quilts for the Quilting In the Garden Show. Every year a featured quilt artist or two are invited to display their quilts, as well as quilts from quilters all over the valley. Cyndee from Alden Lane Nursery, recently sent me an email saying she needed more quilts from the community! Material Girlfriends to the rescue! Of course we can help, but the show is just around the corner so we need you to act NOW! 

I already hear the excuses. “Mine isn’t good enough.” Yes it is. There is no judging, no prizes, no win, no loose. Plus the quilts are hung 20 feet in the air so no one is going to see if you have any points missing. It is our duty as quilters to support the events that promote and honor the quilting arts (did that guilt you into it?). So go to this link,

Quilt Show

scroll down a bit and you’ll see the part about Open Call for Quilts. Download your form and send it in right away! Tell them the Material Girlfriends sent you.


(Image shamelessly stolen from Keepsake Quilting Labor Day Sale Ad and Material Girlfriend logo added)


Lisa and Lora

Panels!  A Love/Hate Affaire

I love panels.  Lisa hates them.  Why???

Well to start with, a panel quilt takes all the fun out of quilting for my sister. She is the Perfect Piecing Princess. There is very little piecing in a panel quilt.  She also loves appliqué!  And there is no appliqué in Panels. So for Lisa, a panel just sucked all the joy out of quilting.

But for me??? I love how fast they are! I can have a quilt top ready for quilting in little over an hour. And I love the quilting part. The thread painting, the meandering, the sculpting of a flat surface with thread and adding beautiful dimension and texture. Yes, I can get carried away. To me Panels are fast and can be beautiful and fun.

Against Lisa’s will, Material Girlfriends has design two patterns using panels. Of course, Lisa has added her love of piecing and has coaxed a simple cut of fabric into something gorgeous. Our new pattern is called Bella Notte. It uses a panel in its center blocks.

This old pattern is Livermore Run. It was design several years ago. It used a smaller panel. I’ve just remade it using a fall wreath panel by Robert Kaufman. Super fast and fun for me, pretty piecing for Lisa.  A happy ending for a plain panel.

And I have a freebie for you! This is a pattern I wrote!  Yep.  Me, myself and I.  Lisa didn’t even have to help me (much). MaterialGirlfriends.PanelBorders.Pattern It is simple borders on a larger panel. There is obvious differences in Lisa’s and my quilt design skills. Ha!! This simple Panel border is great for baby quilts and wall hangings too.

Sew fun,


Lisa’s Note: It is true. I confess to be a Perfect Piecing Princess, but these ARE lovely, aren’t they? If you want a kit of any of these, we will have all at our booth at the Alden Lane Nursery show “Quilting in the Garden” the third weekend of September. And…. let me show you Lora’s quilting. She said she just followed the lines on the angel and then did a little meander in her background. LOVE IT. You can do this too on your domestic goddess, I mean, machine. Need a little coaching? Come hang out with us at Lisa’s Finishing School. I’ll ooh and ahh while Lora coaches you through. (Use a smoke mono-poly “invisible” thread on top and a cotton or cotton/blend in your bobbin that matches your backing.)



Make a list, check it twice and then…


Part 3 …sit next to my sister.

by Lora Zmak

In Between Stitches Preview Party – Lora is in the middle

Whether you sit next to your sister-sister, sister-friend or your sister-quilter, we are in this together!

If you forgot to bring something to class, it is okay to ask if you could borrow the missing item.  It is a great way to start a conversation with a sister-quilter you’ve only just met.  Most of us go to class for the giggles and fellowship that women need and enjoy.  We need to get out of the house and make connections.

Just on a side note, there are a couple of things you really shouldn’t ask to borrow, unless you are best buds or truly related to the lending quilter. The first is a rotary cutter.  Those blades dull and are expensive.  One or two cuts is okay, but if you have a whole project to cut out?  You might need to buy another or buy a new blade for the lender.  Specialty fabric marking pens and pencils – these too dry up or are used up.  Consider picking yourself up another one.  Usually quilters are very sensitive to not borrowing something that can get ‘used up’.  Sometimes a new quilter doesn’t have that understanding yet.

I think we have covered everything that we need to bring to class in the previous three posts, but how about what not to bring?

What NOT to bring??

Do not bring any bad or trash self talk. Encourage yourself!  You can do this!  We spend 75% of our time in our own heads.  Make it a nice place to be.

Do not bring a bad attitude.  We do this for fun.  And it is fun, especially if you allow yourself to relax and enjoy the creative process. Don’t worry about not getting much accomplished.  The real reason you are here is to connect with other fun women.

Do not bring the stresses of a crazy busy day.  Leave all those in the car….I’m sure they’ll be waiting when class is over.

See you in class!

Making My List, Checking It Twice, part 2a

by Judy White

Quilting in the Garden September 2016 (Judy is third from the left)

Oh my…Lora and Lisa, the founders of Material Girlfriends are each such incredibly talented women, but they just wouldn’t be where they are and sewing a straight ¼ inch seam if it wasn’t for their village!  I know they’ll admit it and laugh, but it’s true…there is a LARGE village behind them, cheerleading and bragging (Carolyn and Doris), proofreading patterns* (Judy, Teresa, Katheline, Diana, Dianne, Jennie), testing patterns (Georgette, MG Slave Weeks), feeding them (retreats and MGSW), it goes on and on.  After reading “Making My List, Checking It Twice”, parts 1 & 2, I was thumping my head and wondering if they’d paid attention in the featherweight class at all?? 

I should probably tell y’all, I’m their Judy. (The one on the left.) I’m that woman, no, not THAT woman who finishes every project and has it to show at the next class or guild meeting (and by finished, that’s the top, with all the applique, piecing and embellishments attached, quilted, bound AND labelled!).  No, I’m the other one…that woman who has a little of everything, including the tools, to fix stuff.  The other one you want to sit next to because she’ll help you solve…Stuff.  Stuff, like the sewing machine that’s got an attitude and has a thread in her crack that’s really uncomfortable!  When we meet for Material Girlfriend Retreats (or Slave Week), they bring their tired, their poor, their huddled masses of thread nests, gears and flywheels yearning to breathe and run free…Ok, just a little literary license there…So after being their Judy for years, they told me I should teach a class on maintaining Singer Featherweights…And they all came!  We had fun, but did they listen and remember to put some basic sewing machine tools on their ‘Making My List’ List??  No…Oh my thumped head!

Sew Sewists**, take care of your machine!  Especially if she is a vintage girl, like a Featherweight.  (If you have a newer machine, follow your manufacturer’s directions for maintenance and cleaning!)  She is your main tool in this quilting process, and deserves a little attention at class or retreat (or Slave Week)!!

Judy’s Bare Essential Tool List

Reading glasses and a cleaning cloth:  If you can’t see that bit of thread stuck in that crack, how are you going to get it out?

Screwdrivers:  Good quality blades that FIT your machine’s screws, usually a 3 or 4 inch and a micro screwdriver for changing bobbin tension (YES, you CAN do that!)

Brush:  A double ended sewing machine brush, bristly on one end and paintbrush shaped on the other end, for cleaning DRY linty places.  Use a rag or q-tip for oily or greasy places.

Tweezers or a hemostat:  For when your fingers are too short or won’t fit.

Dentist’s pick:  Yup, just ask at your next cleaning…the hygienist will scowl and ask what you’re going to use it for?  And you answer, of course, that you need it for cleaning your sewing machine.  (She’ll be relieved that you’re not scraping your own teeth.)

Makeup mirror:  Makeup?  Naw, sew in your jammies.  Use it to put under your needle shaft when you can’t find the hole to put the needle into.  Or better yet, a Mechanic’s Mirror…That little mirror with a swivel on the end of a stick…so you can see in and around and chase little bits of thread and lint.

A spare lightbulb:  Unless you have a LED light.

Bright flashlight:  No the flashlight on the iPhone is not enough to see into the dark crevasses of sewing thread knottiness.

Sewing machine oil:  In a refillable oil pen.

Extra needles:  Shall I tell you a story about the needle that was rusted into the needle shaft?  Change your needles!!!!

Bobbins:  6 of them.  Wind 6 bobbins with the thread you’re going to be sewing with and clean and oil your machine after they’re gone.

Chocolate:  Duh!

Corkscrew:  One with a bottle opener also, so you can choose.

Makeup Bag:  NO, not for foundation and mascara, that stuff stains fabric!  Put your tools in a pretty makeup bag and it’ll be a pleasure to pull it out after using 6 bobbins to clean up your most faithful sewing buddy.

Happy Machine, Happy Sewist.  May all your seams be nested, and not your thread!

Your Judy

The Featherweight Whisperer


*Did anyone else notice that we should remember to bring a peddle to class to use with our sewing machine?  Yup…They might peddle Material Girlfriend patterns, but I’ll pedal my bike back to pick up the pedal to use with my sewing machine!  Proofreading is SEW hard!  I’d rather SEW!

**We used to see SEWER when referring to a person who sews, but that can just come out all wrong and confusing if it’s pronounced in plumbing way…Sewist is SEW much nicer!  But alas, the spellchecker wants to make me a sadist, sexist, or just sweet.