Back to Basics

BW.Block1Duck Track Block

To me, September is like a reboot month. We make all these New Year resolutions to do better, be more organized, blog more regularly blah blah blah and then we fall flat on our face after a few months. But in September, it is like I can hit the re-start button. We’re headed into a new season and for some reason I can refocus on my goals. (Maybe it’s because my household has gone back to school and to work and I have more time for me!)

Sew let’s get back to basics. Accuracy is always on my list of improvements. I dislike seam ripping and I like to get it right the first time. When I teach a class, we always start off checking the seam allowance. The seam allowance is usually the guilty party when the block doesn’t turn out the correct size. However, there are really four elements to making the block the correct size.

  1. Cutting
  2. 1/4″ seam
  3. Alignment
  4. Pressing

Cutting your fabric. Be sure you iron out all wrinkles and folds (steam is fine). Have good lighting, your proper glasses, and a sharp rotary blade. Always stand when cutting. Sitting is convenient but standing over your ruler allows for better accuracy. Always cut once away from your body and don’t see-saw back and forth. If your blade is skipping or you’re having to cut several times, time for a new blade. If you’re ruler is sliding, try non slick grips on the back and anchor your pinky on the non-cutting side of the ruler.

Your 1/4″ seam needs to be accurate. Most modern sewing machine come with a programmed setting for piecing. It is marked by a P. I can’t tell you how many students I have helped find the correct setting for their quarter inch seam. They’d been using tape when all along their machine had a perfect setting for them. Be sure to know your machine’s settings and have the proper foot. MEASURE that quarter inch before you start.

Alignment is so important. Some ladies sew like it is a race. I’m guilty too. And none of us like to be last in the class room. But it isn’t a race and accuracy is more important than finishing first. Take your time. Align that fabric up perfectly. Take time to pin. Ask yourself, “What’s the point?” When sewing points, be sure to align the ends at the point. If the fabric is slightly long or short at the other end it isn’t going to matter as much as getting your point to be at the quarter inch seam.

Pressing Matters. Press first with the seam closed (no steam). Open the pieced item and from the wrong side of the fabric, knock the seam, with the side of the iron, the direction the arrow shows in the instructions. You’re just knocking it over. Then from the front do the same, making sure the seam hadn’t folded over on itself. When pressing, I hold one side of the fabric taunt while pressing with the iron – not tight enough to stretch the fabric but to enough to press the seam well. No steam in my iron unless I want the piece to grow. This is where so many blocks fall short, is in the pressing.

If your block doesn’t turn out the size it was supposed to, examine these four elements to find the culprit.

Feel free to reboot along with me. September is a new month, a new season, a new day. I hope these tips help you with your accuracy.

Sew on my good friend,



Scrappy Hunter Star

Lora and I spent last weekend with the Amador Valley Quilters Guild and had an absolute blast!! What a fantastic group of women! We spent Saturday talking about our quilting personalities and the psychology of color. Then it was show and tell time (bring and brag time?) for the Material Girlfriendfriends. We sold lots of patterns. Our mother, Carolyn and a life-long friend, Diana ran our sale table. They worked hard!!!

20160611_141358 20160611_144410 20160611_144549 20160611_144726 20160611_144928On Sunday, Lora and I taught the Amador Valley Quilters Guild workshop at the Livermore Library and made this Scrappy Hunter Star quilt. The class sold out so there were several women that didn’t get the opportunity to make this fun quilt. Here is a free download of the ScrappyHunterStar.Instructions. This is available for a limited time only so download it now and not later! This is the Class Supply List for.HuntersStarQuilt .

Lora and I didn’t write this pattern. But… because of our quilting personalities, we didn’t leave it as it was. The first half of the pattern is by Jennifer, the blogger of the Go check out her blog. She is like a breath of fresh air. Her photos are in the first half of the instructions. The second half, page 3 and on, are our modifications. I’ve highlighted the three different color ways of the same block in the image below.

diagramforLora20160612_120249 20160612_15350420160612_153252 20160612_153314 20160612_153321 20160612_153325 20160612_153337 20160612_153351 20160612_153655Aren’t the Scrappy Hunter Stars beautiful?!! I honestly thought every student had a successful color/fabric combination. We had a delightful time and hope they let us come back next year!



The T-shirt Quilt

Out of all the quilts I’ve created, you want to know which is my husband’s favorite? It’s his super hero t-shirt quilt. Michael calls it his Woobie. Sleeps with it every night too, unless it is displayed at In Between Stitches to advertise my T-shirt quilt class. Which is where it is right now. He goes to visit his t-shirt quilt regularly and insists we need a guard and bullet proof glass to encase the best and most valuable quilt in the store.

TShirtQuilt3When I was getting ready to make my husbands super hero quilt, I laid all the t-shirts he had ‘retired’ onto the dining room table. I called Michael over to take a look at the arrangement.

“What are you doing woman!!” he exclaimed.

“I’m making your t-shirt quilt, remember?” I defended.

“No!! You can’t mix Marvel and DC on the same quilt!” and he quickly removed all the DC t-shirts from my arrangement.

Since I was then short for the lay-out I wanted to make, he went into his closet and retrieved more Marvel t-shirts for the quilt. Really? What was I thinking? I naively thought a super hero was a super hero! So I made the Marvel t-shirt quilt and he LOVES it. Now it is time to finish the DC hero quilt. I’ve enough t-shirts to finish it.

Why the attachment to t-shirt quilts? T-shirt quilts are quick and easy to make. Cost less to make than other quilts of the same size. Yet, t-shirt quilts tend to be the most loved quilting creations. It’s because they are full of memories. So many memories are tied to each t-shirt. Last Christmas I gave a 49er/Giants sport t-shirt quilt to my brother-in-law and a German Shepard training/events t-shirt quilt to my father-in-law. Both were extremely delighted with their gifts.The t-shirts were full of happy memories to them.

A couple other t-shirt lay-outs.


TShirtQuilt1If you have a stack of t-shirts and always wanted to make a cozy memory quilt, join me for the next three Thursday evenings at In Between Stitches for my T-shirt quilt class. Click on this link to register for the class and we can get your quilt top done in the  evening classes from 6-9pm. You can choose any lay-out design from the t-shirt quilt book and I will help you create a custom beloved work of art out of those worn out tees.



December Bite Size Block


“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… La la la la la” wish I knew all the words to the song. But isn’t it wonderful? I love love love Christmas time. We’ve even had thick frost the past few days that made it look like a winter wonderland here in sunny Livermore. And you MUST stop by In Between Stitches. The new window displays by Leslie Emery are a frosty sight to see. Just beautiful! The window on the left features the small version of our new pattern, the Double Arrow by Material Girlfriends.

20151130_184508 20151130_184519

This is my last free block download for the I Love Us Year Round pattern! Wow, the year just flew by. The December block is shown at the top of this blog and you can download the instructions here ILoveUsYearRound.all pages36-38. You can now download all the blocks, from the January blog to now, to make the outside portion of the I Love Us Year Round quilt. If you should want the interior pattern as well as a hard copy of the January through December blocks, you can pick up this beautiful 40+ color pages pattern from In Between Stitches by clicking here.

ILoveUsYearRound.Cover.8.5x11.flatThe December block is fun! We get to enjoy a little piecing in making the Half Square Triangles, a little paper piecing in making the pleated Christmas tree and a little appliqué for the colorful light bulbs. I will be teaching this block at my next Bite Size class, Sunday, December 13, at 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Join me for some quilting merriment and we can all sing, hum and la-la-la to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” as we sew up the December block.

Now that song is going to stick in your head all day. LOL!



Christmas Elf Mug Rug

Merry Christmas!


Here is a fun gift for you. This cute little mug rug also makes a great hostess gift and would be perfect for a mug rug swap with your quilting friends.

The Material Girlfriend Christmas Elf Mug Rug paper piecing pattern was given by In Between Stitches in Livermore, CA, during the recent Jingle Bell Shop Hop. This is where you can learn to paper piece it! If you missed the Shop Hop and didn’t get your copy, you can download it FREE for a limited time. ChristmasElfMugRugPattern

Here is a tutorial. Yep, that’s me. Keep in mind TV adds 50 lbs and 20 years to your looks. My sweet husband, Michael, was my camera man. We’re taping in my dining room (oh, so professional) because my new office/sewing studio was just vacated by our eldest son and we’re in the process of painting it a light buttery yellow. (I’ll write a post with some pictures when I have it all done!)

Now, if you didn’t catch all that and don’t want to sit through the chipmunks music again, here are a few easy steps.

  1. Copy your pattern onto some foundation paper. You can use printer paper but Carol Doak’s foundation paper is so much easier to remove. You can also use Alex Anderson’s foundation paper and leave it in. It will dissolve after it is washed. Trim away the bottom portion of the pattern. You only need to paper-piece the hat.
  2. Trace the lines and numbers on the back of the paper. This is to assist you in positioning your fabric.
  3. Pre-cut your fabrics. I estimate an inch or more bigger than the space it will cover.
  4. Start with number one. On the back side of the paper where you drew the lines, pin right side up the fabric piece so it covers the entire area by at least a quarter inch on all sides.
  5. Position the fabric for number 2 right sides facing together on top of the fabric for position 1. Check the position. Imagine if you sewed on the line between 1 and 2 to make the seam, then as fabric 2 is opened, it should cover the entire area of spot 2 plus a quarter inch beyond. Pin to hold it in place, flip it over and stitch the line between 1 and 2 with a small stitch. I use 1.8 on my machine’s settings.
  6. Finger press the seam open. Does the fabric generously cover position 2? No, seam rip and try again. Yes? Trim the seam to 1/4″ using a postcard to fold the paper over and an Add-A-Quarter ruler.
  7. Before adding fabric for position 3, it is easier to pre-trim the seam allowance on the line between two and three before adding the next fabric. From the front, align the post card on the line between 2 and 3. Fold the paper back over the postcard. Butt the Add-A-Quarter ruler along the card edge and trim the quarter inch. Now you can easily align the fabric for position 3.
  8. Continue in the same manner until you’ve covered all the pieces. Trim on the outside solid line and tear away the foundation paper.
  9. Cut a background rectangle 2 1/2″ x 6 1/2″. Trace the face onto the paper side of double-sided light fusible web. Follow your products directions. Stick to the wrong side of your fabric and trim out on the line. Trace the nose and mouth and then stick to the right side of the 2 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ rectangle aligning the face at the top edge of the rectangle. Heat set in place. I did a blanket stitch around the curve of the face.
  10. Sew to the bottom of the hat and give it a good pressing.
  11. Quilt and bind. You can add some rosy cheeks with fabric paint or crayon if you want.
  12. What about the hat’s pom-pom? On one mug rug I traced a quarter on some fusible web and created a pom-pom from some chenille. On another, I sewed a jingle bell. A button, yo-yo or yarn pom-pom would be just as cute! Have fun finishing him up.

If that still didn’t help, come see me. I usually work Thursdays at In Between Stitches (call ahead to be sure I’m there) or join me at one of my Lisa’s Finishing Schools for Wayward Quilters classes. We meet every other Saturday evening. Check the In Between Stitches class calendar for dates. The classes fill up quickly so be sure to reserve your spot as soon as possible.

If you’re new to my blog, be sure to follow. Every month I put up a new free block pattern.



November Bite Size Block

November2015BiteSizeBlockLog Cabin block. I used to dislike this block. Twelve years ago I was going to make a log cabin quilt for my cousin Heather’s new baby boy. It took me 3 hours to make one little log cabin which turn out half an inch smaller than it was suppose to be. There was lots of seam ripping because I’d sewn the wrong color on the wrong side. “No way. The baby will be in college by the time I finish this.” Plan B. I made an Irish chain quilt instead.

Fast forward 10 years from then. Melissa Emery Grech, at In Between Stitches was giving me the opportunity to teach the Start Quilting class. One of the blocks was a log cabin. I cringed from QPTSD (Quilter’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). That first class, I assisted Melissa as she taught the class. When we got to the log cabin block, she taught a method she said she learned from Eleanor Burns. OMG!!! This was so much easier than the tediously torturous way I had made that first block so many years ago. I loved it. No pre-cutting the many small strips and you made multiple blocks at a time “chain piecing”. I love it! I was cured!

We American quilters have long considered this block to be the quintessential American design, though the pattern really dates back to ancient Egypt. But to us, the block represents log cabins on the prairie with red center squares for the hearth, light values on one side for the sunny side of the house and dark values on the opposite side for the shady side of the house. The hey-day of the Log Cabin quilt in this country was in the third and fourth quarters of the 19th Century.

Try out this very American tradition. You can download the instructions for the November Block for the I Love Us Year Long pattern instructions here ILoveUsYearRound.all pages34-35. If you’re local, you can join me next Sunday, November 8 from 1-5pm at In Between Stitches in Livermore. We’ll also start the background blocks for the center House Block as well.

As the weather chills, start a red square fire in the hearth/heart and cozy up in your own little cabin/home and stitch some tradition of your own.





October Bite Size Block

Pumpkin Time!


What’s not to love about Pumpkins? Okay, maybe the guts. But pumpkin is used in all kinds of cooking in the fall, from Pumpkin Spice Lattes to Pumpkin Seed Cranberry Chips (the bomb from Trader Joe’s). Pumpkin is even a favorite term of endearment and who didn’t learn this favorite poem in their childhood?

Peter Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her!
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well!

This month’s block is one of my favorites from the I Love Us Year Round pattern. I confess, I designed the block but my sister, Lora put it together. The leaves are just the icing on the pumpkin spice cake. The three leaves are layered appliqué creating dimensions and beauty. She carefully (and slowly) did a blanket stitch around each machine appliquéed layer in a matching thread. When she quilted it, she quilted in the vines giving the leaves even more dimension. Delicious!

If you’d like to make this pretty block, just down load the pattern here. ILoveUsYearRound.31-33pages. When you add blanket stitches to your machine appliqué projects, remember before starting to test your blanket stitch settings and change your machine’s foot to an open toe. You want plenty of space to view what you’re doing! See, easy as pumpkin pie.

I’m teaching this block tomorrow, Oct. 4, at In Between Stitches from 1pm – 5pm. If you’re local, join us for some fun. You can contact In Between Stitches or register for class online.

PumpkinSpiceRumLatteI’ll sign off with my favorite pumpkin recipe. Brew some nice hot coffee. Fill 3/4 in a mug, add a little William Sonoma’s Pumpkin Coffee syrup, a little half and half, a splash of rum (or two splashes), top with whip cream and sprinkle with pumpkin spice… hmmm… perfect. However, too much of a good thing and you’ll end up doing some seam ripping. 😉



September Bite Size Block

What am I forgetting?

September2015BiteSizeBlockI’ve got three lists. Got the camp gear, food, directions, tickets, batteries, check. I gave instructions to the boys and Grammy, check. Left money for their groceries and adventures, check. I sent in my invoice for work, watered the plants, filled the pool, check.

What am I forgetting?

Balanced the checkbook, paid the bills due while we’re gone, check. Filled the car with gas, checked the brakes, tires and other automotive stuff, check.

What am I forgetting?

Cleaned the house, tidied the yard, fed and watered the dogs. Check, check and check. Okay, we leave at the first crack of dawn…for 10 days. What am I forgetting?

We’re home now but despite the three lists, I forgot a few things. Does that happen to you too? I forgot to fill out the school athletic paperwork for my son’s high school cross country team, plus there was a physical required (thanks Grammy for taking care of that!).

And I forgot to write my blog. I try to upload the new block on the first of every month. I even had it all ready a week prior to leaving on our vacation. All I had to do was write a quick paragraph and hit upload. Well, I remembered on September 1 but I was in the middle of a Nevada desert wilderness that had spotty cell and text coverage. No internet. None. Just blowing dust and a bunch of crazy campers.

It is very nice to be home where I can finally complete the things I forgot. This month’s Bite Size block is a breeze compared to last month’s teeny tiny Half Square Triangles! Download the instructions to make this pretty block ILoveUsYearRound.InsidePgs28-29. You can also join me this coming Sunday, September 13 from 1-5pm to make this block. I will be teaching the many different techniques in making Half Square Triangles so don’t pre-cut your fabrics if you’re coming to class. If you have Lynn Wilder’s Patchwork Math Using Quilting Design Components book, bring it with you. If you don’t, it isn’t required for class, but I will be showing you what a gold mine her book is. It is definitely one you’ll want as a resource in your personal Quilting Library.

Can you believe I also forgot that it was my dear husband’s 50th birthday the day after we returned from our trip? He turns 50 on the 8th! I don’t know why I didn’t realize there wasn’t more time between our return and Mike’s birthday!  Perhaps I needed a fourth list. Fortunately, his birthday wish was a family trip to Old Sacramento and the train museum. Quick calls to the boys and it is all arranged.

Now… what else am I forgetting?




August Bite Size Block

A Hot Summer Daze.


I love the relaxed pace of summer… what am I talking about? Relaxed? When has my summer been relaxed? This summer has blown by like a convertible on a hot road going 100mph! It is already August 1 and my niece and nephew are back in school with my boys hot on their heels, going back in just a couple weeks. Remember when we started school AFTER Labor Day? Sometimes I think we just cut our summer too short.

Today I saw an End of Summer Sale 30-50% off!No!,” I silently screamed in my head, “Not the end of summer!” They were already putting harvest and Halloween items out on their shelves. I held back the tears, bought my few summer clearance items and hurried out. Summer is not over. It isn’t. It won’t. So, to celebrate Not-the-end-of-summer, let’s make this beautiful Sun Burst Star. Just click ILoveUsYearRound.InsidePgs25-27 to download the instructions.

This block is full of little 1″ finished half square triangles. But don’t break out into a summer sweat! I like using Star Singles when a pattern calls for eight or more Half Square Triangles. You can make eight at a time, quick as a wink. However, if you don’t have Star Singles, no sweat, because the block pattern includes the traditional non-paper method of making the half square triangles. A12135bI will be teaching the Not-the-end-of-summer Sun Burst Star at In Between Stitches on Sunday, August 9, from 1-5pm. You can sign up for the class here. I will be sharing Star Singles so you can try a new method as well as demonstrating other quick Half Square Triangle methods, tips and tricks.

Hanging onto summer!




July Bite Size block

July2015BiteSizeBlockI love my country. I hope you enjoy today, celebrating all the benefits and blessings of being an American.

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”  ~Erma Bombeck

I hope you’re a doing your patriotic duty by participating in a bbq, parade and the firework show! Later this week, please enjoy this free block and have fun sewing it up. ILoveUsYearRound.InsidePgs23-24 I will be teaching this block next Sunday, July 12 from 1-5pm at In Between Stitches. You can sign up for this class here. Also, since we are now half way through the I Love Us All Year Long blocks, this class will also be a “catch-up” class. If you missed any of the previous classes, you can come to this one and learn any of the blocks from January to July. I will be bringing the instructions and examples for all of the previously taught 2015 Bite Size blocks.

Have a wonderful Independence Day!