Monday, June 30, 2014

Design Wall Monday

I have a bunch of binding to finish up (a couple of T-Shirt quilts, quilts for family and friends, and of course a quilt for me), but I do have something on my design wall also - Charming Stars made out of Kansas Trouble  and shirting fabrics. When I get this done, it will be a class sample for M & E Quilt Shoppe.

It is difficult to see here, but the star points are a variety of reds and the centers are a variety of greens. In this picture, there are two different shirting fabrics used for the background. There will be four different backgrounds in all, as well as four different reds and greens. I don't plan to add a border and the red and green leftovers will be used for a scrappy binding. 

Since most of the samples I make for the shop are constructed out of more modern fabrics, we decided that I needed have a sample with a more traditional and scrappy look. And just because I can, I'm going to make a small version of this (probably a table runner) using a single dark background (maybe black or dark blue), and the stars will be bright solids. I'm checking my stash for these fabrics, and I have yet to tell Mabel and Ethel about that. I think it will be a nice surprise. :-) 

Here are the rest of the block in various stages of completion. You can see the fabric variations a bit better in this picture.

I hope to get this top completed today as well as at least one of the bindings. We'll see...

I wrote up a tutorial on making these blocks that you can see HERE. Or, you can go to the "Tip Tuesday" Archives tab at the top of my blog and find it there. It is listed as the Charming Star Tutorial and was written on June 10, 2014. It really is an easy and fun block. The floating points certainly help make it stress-free, too.  

On another note, unrelated to quilting, I was looking at the newspaper online today and saw a headline for Dear Abby. I actually read the letter and it brought back memories that I want to share with you all. 

At 2 p.m., July Fourth, I would love nothing better than for all Americans to stop briefly and give our country a ring ... well, three rings to be exact.

On July 4, 1963, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed the ringing of bells nationwide with the words, "Let's ring freedom bells!" I was a White House aide then, and I vividly recall how exciting it was when bells rang across the nation coast to coast. Since then, many Americans have forgotten to keep the tradition going. Let's start again!

From one American to another, I ask all citizens to help me revive the ringing of bells at 2 p.m. this July Fourth in celebration of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. It's easy. Ring a bell, shake your keys, tap a glass or find a bell-ringing app on your smartphone. It will give our country a much-needed sense of unity and connection to our past as one nation, one people.

The Ironworkers, Sheet Metal Workers and Firefighters International Unions of the AFL-CIO, The National Cartoonists Society and Malmark Inc. have joined with No Greater Love in this special celebration of our freedom and the guardians who protect us -- our troops, firefighters and police.
Please, Abby, make your millions of readers aware of this effort. As inscribed on the Liberty Bell, "Let us proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." -- CARMELLA LASPADA, FOUNDER, NO GREATER LOVE

I'm glad to help. I agree that shared traditions are the glue that binds us together as a nation. So readers, on July Fourth, take a moment to quietly reflect on what this holiday is all about. Then make a joyful noise and thank God for his blessings on our country and the freedoms we enjoy today. That's the American spirit!

Even though I was only two in 1963 when this began, I remember ringing bells on July 4th. I decided that I'm going to do this Friday. I even set the alarm on my phone for 1:00 so I remember. What do you think? Want to join me? 

Check out what other quilters have on their design walls today. 

Go to Judy L's Patchwork Times

Be prepared to be inspired!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Happenings with Pictures!

Last weekend was our annual sisters' weekend, that actually lasts longer than the weekend. As usual, we had a blast catching up and just plain enjoying each other. This is the first year we have not gone to Burr Oak for the event. 

Instead, everyone made the trek to my house this year and I was thrilled. I've always taken my sewing machine and over the years, everyone started doing the same. Here you can see five of the seven work stations that we set up. 

Pat was teaching us all how to make umbrellas and we had a blast. We made a total of 13 full size umbrellas in one day and two children's umbrellas were made the next day. These are so much fun. 

Thanks Pat! Now I see fabric and think, "Oh, that would make a great umbrella."

I worked on a couple of projects that needed finished up for classes I'm offering. I finished my table runners but forgot to take pictures before I dropped them off at the shop. :-(  

I finished my Jewel Box wall hanging and LOVE how it turned out! I'll be teaching this at M & E Quilt Shoppe in Sandusky. If you happen to stop in or send them a message, tell them Agnes sent you. That's my "shop" name. Don't you think it fits in with Mabel and Ethel better than Joanne?  

Ann was busy working on her Fabric Boxes. She's making a HUGE number of them and I can't wait to see them all done. She is her own little sweatshop!

After I finished up the projects that needed done, I pulled out my Prairie Star and began working on that. I'll get this done. It just seems like every time I pull this out to work on, something with a deadline pops up. I WILL get this done!

As I mentioned recently, Nikki and family have moved back up near us and I am thrilled! To help get her acquainted with some kids her age, Quinn attended a Vacation Bible Study camp this past week. She had a wonderful time and met some kids that will be in her class come Fall. Last night was the End of Camp Celebration and Jack and I joined them for a Family Fun Night Carnival. 

It was a lot of fun and they had a bunch of stuff for the kids to do. All three kids went through an obstacle course, although Ronan only made it half way through because he couldn't figure out how to climb the one set of inflated stairs. Of course I didn't get the camera out until after they had done that, but I did get some pictures of Quinn and Nikki rock climbing. 

Look at Quinn! She was nervous at first, but did a great job. She got a little over half way up before she had to stop because she couldn't figure out how to reach the next stepping stones. She was a bit too short to grab with her hands and still have her feet touching a lower rock. She did a great job and said that it was hard to do and her legs started shaking.

It's a bit difficult to see here, but Nikki is on the right and Quinn is on the left. I  love how the sun is shining across the picture through Nikki and on to Quinn!

After rock climbing, all three kids waited patiently to go into the bouncey castle. Can you tell the sun was kind of bright? They had a great time in there!

And finally, after the fun times out side at the Carnival, everyone went to the sanctuary for a brief program. When the minister called the kids up to sing, Quinn jumped up and ran on stage. I had hoped that she would stay close to the front so we could see her, but nope. She went toward the back and finally ended up just about in the middle of the pack. I know it's difficult to see, but there she is, right under the big red and yellow arrow. Even though she was in the middle of crowd, we did have a clear shot at seeing her. 

She wanted me to take a picture of her doing the hand signs and choreography for the song she liked the most. Of course grandma obliged.  :-)

I'm going to be doing a bit of sewing this afternoon and them we're heading to Nikki's house for a small cookout. 

Enjoy your weekend! I know I will.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday Archives!

If you are looking for Tip Tuesday! click HERE.

Today's themes for Tuesday Archives are Dogs and Dots.

Val's Quilting Studio

Well, I don't think I have anything dog related, but I do have something dots related. I actually posted about this a couple of weeks ago for my Tip Tuesday! entry on Stress-Free Stars. I never get tired of this block and quilt, so I'll post it again for Tuesday Archives. 

HERE is the link to the tutorial on how to create your own Wonky Star Blocks.

And here's the final quilt that was made using the dottie star blocks I made.

Check out other Dogs and Dots posts by visiting 

Tip Tuesday! - Design Walls and Accessories

Welcome to
"Tip Tuesday!" - Design Walls and Accessories

I love learning new things and then sharing that knowledge with my quilting friends. So, every Tuesday I'll provide some tips, hints, tricks, tutorials, shortcuts, etc. that I've learned over the years and share them here on the blog. 

"Tip Tuesday" will be a collection of information about a wide variety of subjects garnered from a large variety of sources.  I am not an expert by any means and do not take credit for being the great wizard behind all of these hints and tips. I will gladly give due credit whenever possible.

These tips will be archived and accessible to you just by clicking on the "Tip Tuesday" tab above. 

Read, enjoy, and be inspired! 

I love my design wall!

My husband built this wall for me while I was away on a retreat a few years back and it has been awesome to use. HERE is a link to the original construction of the wall. I continue to thank him for surprising me with this. :-) We've made a few changes over the years, but basically it has stayed to the same and it most definitely has served its purpose. 

My design wall center unit measures 60" x 74" and it is covered with a dyed flannel grid. The grid is called Creative Grid by Maywood Studio and it comes in white, but since I use a lot of white background fabrics, I needed something different so the blocks would nit "blend in." I thought about dyeing the flannel black, but I use a lot of black too and knew that I would not be happy with that choice. I finally decided on the brown because both white and black stand out against it. I use brown fairly often, but it is usually a chocolate or much darker brown, so this works perfectly for me. I've seen this flannel sold at a number of online stores, but I think Tennessee Quilts has it for the lowest price that I've seen recently. If you call or place an order with them, tell them you heard about it from me - Joanne from Ohio. :-) That's the shop where I've taken my Judy Niemeyer workshops and I've had so much fun every time I've been there. They are such nice people!   

Anyway, back to the walls. My design wall has two "wings" or extensions that can be added or removed as needed. Each of these extensions measures 18" x 74" so when I have it fully combined, my design wall measures approximately 96" x 74". Like I said, I love my design wall!  Check out the construction of the "wings/extensions" HERE.

I've heard a lot of quilters say that they don't need a design wall, or that they don't have room for one, but I think they would be surprised how helpful it really is to have one. I feel that even if I wasn't designing quilts, the wall would be useful. Having one certainly helps me stay organized and not pick up a couple of blocks and have them in the wrong order or twisted around. (Ok, I still do it sometimes, but that's usually because I'm talking and not paying attention to what I'm doing.) 

Design walls can be very elaborate and expensive to build, but they don't have to be. Even if you have a limited amount of space in your sewing area (and budget), I'm sure you can create a design wall for yourself. I've seen design walls that are portable and temporary and can be dismantled and stored away until they are needed again.

Check out this small door design wall that I found on the Sew Many Ways blog. This is a great use of space!

If you have some wall space, this idea from Sew Katie Did is awesome.

If you need ideas on how to create your own design wall, simply "google" "design wall for quilting" (or some variation of that), and you'll get lots of links to peruse. One of the links listed through this "google" search will take you to a Pinterest page that has LOTS of ideas. I know from personal experience that you could spend a large amount of time (hours!) checking out all of the websites and blogs that provide information on design walls. 

Don't ask me why, but I've continued to check out the sites even though I have a wonderful design wall. Maybe I'm looking so I can help a student or friend come up with a wall that will work for them. No matter why I keep looking, I just do and I find it very interesting.

There are a couple of things (accessories) that I have on my wall that I find very useful and think you may also. 

First of all, I have attached two measuring tapes to the design wall. The one at the top is pinned in place and it pretty well permanent. The second one is going down the left side. I don't have this pinned down as well as the one on the top because I want to be able to move it to the outside edge of the "wing/extension" that Jack built for me. 

These tape measures help me know the size of the block on which I'm working, as well as the size of the entire quilt. It also helps to accurately line up quilts when I lay them out or when I'm trying to keep things in order. It's also helpful when trying to decide border sizes. Each square in the grid is 2" x 2" so it's easy to do the math and visualize the finished product.  :-)

Since my wall is made from insulation board, I can stick pins in it. This allows me to have a pin cushion nearby and even a copy of the pattern on which I'm working. 

The pins are helpful when I'm doing paper piecing and the blocks don't want to stay put and "adhere" to the flannel. They also helps when I want to audition fabric for borders. I can pin up large pieces of fabric, stand back and make my decision. 

What's your design wall look like? What are its best features and what would you change if you could?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tip Tuesday! Rotary Cutters

Welcome to
"Tip Tuesday!" - It's All About Rotary Cutters

I love learning new things and then sharing that knowledge with my quilting friends. So, every Tuesday I'll provide some tips, hints, tricks, tutorials, shortcuts, etc. that I've learned over the years and share them here on the blog. 

"Tip Tuesday" will be a collection of information about a wide variety of subjects garnered from a large variety of sources.  I am not an expert by any means and do not take credit for being the great wizard behind all of these hints and tips. I will gladly give due credit whenever possible.

These tips will be archived and accessible to you just by clicking on the "Tip Tuesday" tab above. 

Read, enjoy, and be inspired! 

We all know how much rotary cutting has changed the world of quilting. So when I saw this article on, I felt that it was too good to not share. 

Rotary cutters have almost replaced the need for sewing shears for quilters. Many quilters are using rotary cutters to cut all the strips and pieces required for a quilt. Rotary cutters have even crossed over into card making and scrap booking.

Rotary cutters come in at least four sizes. The 18mm, 28mm are very good for small cuts and cutting in the new circle cutting acrylic tools now available. The 45mm is the standard size used by most and the 60mm is recommended by many strip quilters. I use the 45mm cuter for most strip cuts and the 28mm for sub-cutting smaller pieces. The 18mm is excellent for trimming triangle points for ease of piecing. The 60mm cutter will cut faster and more layers but if you have a small cutting area you might find it too large to maneuver. You will need to try out several sizes and decide which ones work for you. A person with a small hand may also find the 60mm cutter handle too large.

There are several different brands of rotary cutters. Some have straight handles and some have curved or ergonomic handles. Go to your local quilt shop and try out the brand of cutters they stock and decide which brand works best for you. Remember if you purchase one with a curved handle it comes with the blade set up to use for a right handed person. If you are left handed, you will need to take the blade assembly apart and reverse everything for a left handed person.

Again as with any other tool, be sure to buy a good quality rotary cutter. A good rotary cutter will last a long time. If you find the safety shield or the screw area is wearing, you might want to replace your rotary cutter. I have recently noticed that a new cutter on sale is not much more expensive than a new replacement blade.

Safety Tips

Be sure to always close your rotary cutter so the blade is protected before setting it down on your cutting table. If an open cutter fell off the table it could injure your foot. Be sure to keep your rotary cutter out of children's reach.

Replacement blades are readily available but some quilters consider rotary blades rather pricey. I try to purchase a quantity of blades when I see them on sale and try to get a maximum cutting time from each blade.

Tips To Keep Your Blade Sharp

First always use your rotary cutter on a special mat designed for this purpose. Don't try to substitute another product. A good mat is just as important as the cutter itself in keeping the blade sharp. Be careful when cutting to not accidentally scrape your blade against the ruler or cut through pins. You could damage the ruler and dull or nick the blade. Once the blade is nicked it is difficult to cut as each time the blade comes around to the nick it leaves a small place the width of a few threads uncut. This can be very frustrating to have to go back and cut those little places again.

To Clean Your Rotary Cutter

Your new rotary cutter will come packaged with a small amount of oil on the blade. Do not wipe it off. Leave it on, it will not harm your fabric and your cutter will cut smoother.

When cutting very linty fabrics, be sure to clean your cutter often. To clean the cutter, remove the screw on the back of the area where the blade is attached. Remove the nut; remove the curved washer, and the screw. Lay everything on the table in the order that you removed it -- pay attention to the direction of the washer and nut. Also remove the blade protector. Clean the blade and the black plastic shield with a clean cloth moistened with a few drops of sewing machine oil. Place a small drop of oil on both sides of the blade and replace everything in the order you removed it. Most rotary cutter packages have a diagram of how to reassemble the cutter. Next time you purchase a new cutter, save a package to refer to when assembling your cutter after cleaning.

Many quilters tighten the screw so tight that the blade doesn't roll easily. To test this, open the cutter and place the blade on your mat without fabric. Roll the blade across your mat. You will want the blade to turn easily on the mat. If the blade seems tight loosen it, and if it is loose and sloppy, tighten it. When the blade is rolling freely it is much easier to make a cut through your fabric.

If you find you need a new rotary cutter blade and one is not available, take your rotary cutter apart, clean and oil as instructed. When reassembling the cutter, replace the blade in reverse of the way it was before. My brand of blades has little numbers on one side that usually show when the cutter is assembled. If you turn it over so the numbers are toward the safety cover, you might get a few more hours of cutting from the reversed blade.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Charm School

Last month, I conducted a Charm School program for my guild. 

Now, if you know me at all, you'd know that I am the one who needs to ATTEND charm school but since this was about using charm squares in quilts, it was ok for me to be the head mistress of this session.  :-)

I'm going to share pictures of the quilt tops that were completed that day, as well as a link to the post on our guild blog so you can see all the pictures of the day's events. It was a lot of fun and very productive! All o the new quilts will be donated, as soon as I get them quilted.

Here's the link...

I made a sample of each of the quilts being made for the event. Each of the pictures below will show the original (you may have seen some of my samples in previous posts here), and the newly created quilt. I love seeing how different fabrics change the look of a pattern. 

Here's Color Splash - the original is on the right and it is bright, fun and cheery. The new top was made using more Kansas Trouble and Thimbleberries type fabrics. It has a really warm and cozy feel about it.

Here's Quilter's Symphony, so named because my sample (on the left) was made using Sweet Serenade charm packs. (This is the same quilt as my Dressed to the Nines). The new top was made using a variety of scraps that just felt right together.

Here's Charming Stars. My version is red, white and blue, which I really like. (I posted a tutorial on making this star block HERE.)  I think the new version, in red, cream and green is gorgeous and I think adding a border of Christmas fabric will look great.

Here are the two versions of Split Level. Mine is the one on the right (I posted about it for one of my Tip Tuesday posts HERE and a Design Wall Monday post HERE

And finally, these two Disappearing Act quilts looks so different simply because of fabric choices. Mine (on the left), was made using a handful of solids that I had on hand, while the new only has a dark background surrounding a variety of novelty fabrics. I think the picture makes this look like an Irish Chain quilt. You can see the piecing progress of mine HERE,  HERE, and HERE

I love sewing with other people. It gets my creative juices flowing. 

I'm going to admit right now that I am most productive when I'm by myself, but I do like to socialize sew with others.  :-)

What about you? Are you a solitary quilter or do you prefer to work with others? 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tip Tuesday! - Charming Star Tutorial

Welcome to
"Tip Tuesday!" - Charming Star Tutorial

I love learning new things and then sharing that knowledge with my quilting friends. So, every Tuesday I'll provide some tips, hints, tricks, tutorials, shortcuts, etc. that I've learned over the years and share them here on the blog. 

"Tip Tuesday" will be a collection of information about a wide variety of subjects garnered from a large variety of sources.  I am not an expert by any means and do not take credit for being the great wizard behind all of these hints and tips. I will gladly give due credit whenever possible.

These tips will be archived and accessible to you just by clicking on the "Tip Tuesday" tab above. 

Read, enjoy, and be inspired! 

As promised, I'm posting a tutorial on a simply pieced star block. This is another stress-free block that I just love and I've called it Charming Star.

I like that fact that this block can be made using 5" squares, but I especially like that the points of the star "float" and the unfinished block is 13.5". Now, if need or want a block to finish 12", you're probably thinking that this block is too big, right? Well, here's the secret. Since the points "float," this block can easily be trimmed to 12.5" unfinished and you won't be cutting off the points. Yippee!!

In case you don't understand what I'm saying, I'm sure that the pictures (many, many pictures) in this tutorial will help you visualize it. :-) 

Let's make the Charming Star!

You'll need 4 identical charm squares for the background (pink), 4 identical charm squares for the star points (white print), 1 charm square for the star center (green), and 8 - 3 1/2" squares of the background fabric (pink)

You'll be making a nine patch block that looks like this. (You guessed it. This starts as a disappearing nine patch block!)

Press all seams open.

I never used to press my seams open, but I've been doing it quite a bit lately, and I have to say that I like it. It reduces bulk and with careful pinning, it is very accurate.

Once you have the nine patch block all pieced and pressed, cut it in half, both directions. You will have four quarter blocks that look like this. They should each measure 7".

Mark a diagonal line on all of the 3 1/2" background squares.

Diagonally sew a 3 1/2" square to each outside edge of the quarter units that were cut earlier. Sew directly on the line that you drew earlier. See the next couple of pictures to be sure that the orientation is correct.

Trim 1/4" from each sewn seam and press the seams open and out to the corners. Sew and trim all four quarter units.

You should have four quarter units that look like the picture below. 

Lay out the four quarter units to form a star.

Sew the sections together, paying particular attention to the intersections of the star points. Pinning will make matching the points easy.

Voila! You've just sewn a star block using 5" charm squares!

Do you notice the "floating" star points?

This block is 13.5" unfinished (13" finished). If that size is too big, you can easily trim the block down. See the picture below for how to trim this block to 12.5" unfinished.  

Line up the 1/4" mark of your ruler to the tips of the star points. Cutting here will reduce the size and also make it easy to match points 

Here are a couple of quilt tops made using this star pattern. As you can see, I really like the floating stars.

I'm playing around with mix and match block units coming together. So far I like the idea of changing up the center blocks, but I can't share a picture just yet because the one I have it too blurry. I'm thinking about adding a sashing to see what that looks like, and of course I can always add borders.

I can see lots of potential with this block and these quilts!

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Have a wonderful Tuesday!