Quilted Potholders — Piecing Improv

very first potholder -- Oops!

very first completed potholder with an Oops!

I was baking cornbread for dressing on Thanksgiving and burned my hand on the cast iron skillet as I pulled it out of the oven.  My potholder was basically worn out, not to mention it was old and nasty looking.  I think I  bought the potholders I was using when I first moved here in 1990!  Needless to say, they needed to be replaced.

I had recently purchased a yard of Insul-brite, which is a thin mylar/polyester batting to use to make things like this.  I also had some scrap cotton batting and LOTS of cotton batik fabric scraps.  I had intended to make some potholders at the quilt retreat I went to recently, but just didn’t have time.  So, I put that project on the back burner and forgot all about it until I burned my hand.

the back of the first completed potholder

the back of the first completed potholder

Last night, I decided it was time to make a potholder!  I started improv piecing a 7 and a half-inch square (I pieced three at the same time) by pulling scraps out of a bag and just putting them together.  Then I dug deeper into the bag of scraps and started finding pieced units that I had been given at past retreats.  I always try to get the batik “trash” that my fellow retreaters want to get rid of while working on their projects.  I even found large pieces in my bag that some of the retreaters had thrown out.   The back of the first potholder I completed was one of these pieces.  I finished piecing the front of potholder number one first, so that’s why it was number one.

one side of potholder two

one side of potholder two

I put the walking foot I bought a couple of weeks ago on my featherweight sewing machine and quilted the little “quilt sandwich”.  The first one has the top, a piece of cotton batting, the Insul-brite and the backing fabric in the “sandwich”.  I had never used a walking foot or had much success in machine quilting until this project!  The walking foot made all the difference!  To say I was thrilled, was an understatement!  I even woke up about two hours early today because I was excited to get back to making more!

I finished the first one and put a binding on it.  All the potholders I’ve ever bought had a binding.  Then I realized I had forgotten the hanging loop.  Oops!  So, I just sewed it on.  It’s not pretty, but I love the potholder anyway.

my favorite side of potholder number two

my favorite side of potholder number two

I pretty much had the front and back of potholder number two pieced last night, but since the binding thing was such a fiasco, I decided to leave it off of number two.  So, I used both pieced squares from last night for the next one.  I decided to add another inch to the squares so that I could finish them in a different way.  So, I quilted the front and back separately.  One of the sandwiches had the pieced square, cotton batting and the Insul-brite.  The other had the pieced square and a piece of cotton batting.  I wanted a little extra protection in this one, so that’s why I added the additional batting.  I quilted each side and then put them right sides together, with the hanging loop in between the two pieces, all the raw edges lined up.  Then I sewed them together leaving about four inches open in the middle of the bottom side for turning them right side out.  I also reinforced the corners.  Then when I turned the “quilt sandwich” so that the right sides were out, the hanging loop was in the correct place.  All I had to do then was to close up the opening I had left.

I need a little more practice on closing that opening before I start giving these out as gifts, but over all, I’m happy with them.  I think I’ll make an oven mitt next!

Posted in little things, quilt retreat, quilting, quilting friends, sewing | Tagged

Happy Thanksgiving!

I cannot claim to have made this cute turkey dish.  It was served at our last day of retreat for brunch.  I just had to share it.  It's so cute!

I cannot claim to have made this cute turkey dish. It was served at our last day of retreat with brunch. I just had to share it. It’s so cute!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  May your day be filled with love and gratitude!

Posted in quilt retreat, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized

Fourteen Year Old Quilt in Progress

close up

close up

I started this quilt for my oldest granddaughter fourteen years ago!  I showed the main, center portion to her mother at her baby shower.  I had intended to finish it before she was born, but I apparently put it away and totally forgot about it.  Years later, when I did think about it again, I thought I had indeed finished it and given it to her.  I couldn’t understand why I never saw it being used!

Imagine my surprise when I found it in one of my quilt fabric boxes within the last year!  I think it may be my oldest UFO — Unfinished Object.  I showed it to my granddaughter recently, telling her the story behind it.  I didn’t think she would want it.  She’s not much of a “pink” girl.  I decided if she didn’t, I’d finish it for myself.  Well, she wants it!  Not that I blame her a bit.  It’s a fun quilt!

The center portion is the large hot pink squares with little dots and the nine patches made with the same pink and the cheddar yellow.  The problem is how to enlarge the quilt to a full size from a crib sized when fourteen year old fabric is no longer available for purchase.  So, I went out and bought lots of new fabrics, hoping to add oranges and more pinks and cheddars.  Then I packed it up to work on at my recent quilt retreat.  It didn’t work as well as I had hoped.  The contrast was just too jarring.  (I wish I had taken pictures to show you!)

the start of a plan

the start of a plan  (the center piece is on the right and folded in half, so you only see three and a half of the blocks) 

At this point, I’m planning to add three rows all the way around the center to enlarge it and continue the same pattern.  Sort of thinking of the three new rows as a border.  For the first row surrounding the center —  I’ll use the larger dot fabric for the large squares and the nine patches made from the original cheddar and a new pink with tone on tone flowers. (You can see these in the photo, just click to enlarge.)  The next two rows — I’ll use the same tone on tone pink for as many large squares as I can.  At this point, I do not have enough of the pink I’m wanting to use to finish two full rows.  I may be able to get more when I head to OK for my next visit or I may not.  If I can’t, I’ll try to substitute something else.  I’ll use the original pink with small dots and cheddar for the remaining nine patches.  I hope to bind it in a hot pink also.   Should be interesting to see how it actually turns out.

I’ll update you again the next time I get to work on it.

Posted in grandkids, quilt retreat, quilting, UFO | Tagged | 2 Comments

Hubby’s Quilt!

hubby's quilt

hubby’s quilt

Last weekend, I got to go to a quilt retreat!  I used to go to several a year.  Now, I’m extremely lucky to get to go to one or two a year.  This was my second retreat this year and both were at my favorite retreat center in Eustace, Texas.  I wish I had taken more photos because I actually accomplished quite a lot this time.  That’s rare for me.  I usually visit with friends more than I sew.

This is the quilt I started for my hubby last Easter at my last retreat.  I worked on it at my son’s in August and September also.  Those were really the only days I had to sew.

the back of hubby's quilt

the back of hubby’s quilt

It was a quick quilt, using the Batting Buddy ruler system.  I talked more about the quilt and rulers in this post.  All in all, it was a very quick quilt to make.  I pieced and machine quilted it at the same time.  The only thing I did differently than the ruler system suggests is that I added a traditional binding when it was done.  My one tip, if you should ever decide to make one of these quilts, is that you wash your backing fabric and make sure you cut the backing pieces on the straight of grain.  The second photo shows the back of the quilt.  I had to  use more than one fabric for the back since I didn’t have enough of the first one I bought.  When I found the second and third fabrics, I couldn’t decide between them, so I added both.  I love the way it turned out!

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

*I’ve linked this post to crazy mom quilts — finish it up Friday!


Posted in hubby, quilt, quilt retreat, quilting | Tagged | 6 Comments

Some of my Supplies for the Pink Hex Quilt

Hex N More ruler

Hex N More ruler

I never really told you how I was actually doing the preparation work for the blocks.  If you aren’t familiar with hand piecing, this may be interesting, if you are a hand piecer, maybe you’ll find some new supplies to try.

First, I’m using the Hex N More ruler from Jaybird Quilts to cut my hexagons.  I’m cutting the largest one possible with the ruler, but for those of you who may want to try this with a smaller hexagon (half hexagon, triangle or jewel shape), the ruler comes with instructions for four sizes and all four shapes.   If you buy this ruler, safeguard your little instruction booklet that comes with it.  I had misplaced mine and sent an email to Jaybird Quilts asking a couple of questions, but never heard back from them.  Fortunately, I found the booklet days later.  I’ve added little non-slip circles to the back of all of my rulers, this one included.

marking the block for sewing

marking the block for sewing

Once I have the pieces cut out, I then mark the sewing line on the back of each piece of the fabric.  I use my Omnigrid ruler that I’ve had forever to get the 1/4 inch sewing line.  Any ruler that is longer than the piece you’re marking and has a 1/4 inch line will work.  I put the fabric on top of a piece of fine grain sand paper which I’ve placed on a cutting mat.  I like to put it on the cutting mat because I can then turn the mat (or sand paper) without having to move the fabric to mark the next line, plus the sand paper doesn’t shift on the cutting mat like it might on a slick table.  Then line up the ruler so that the 1/4 inch mark is lined up with the edge of the fabric.  Hold it in place and mark with your favorite marking tool.

Sew Line pencil and refills

Sew Line pencil and refills

For this project, I’m using my current favorite, the Sew Line pencil.  It comes with one color of marking “lead” when you buy the pencil, but you can purchase four other colors for refills.  The five colors are yellow, pink, white, green and graphite.  I believe the refills are ceramic.  I’ve never had any problem with the markings not coming off the fabric when I want them too.  I’ll have to admit, that I have not been as happy with the graphite colored lead as  I thought I would.  It came off on my hands, making them pretty dirty while stitching.  Not what I was hoping for or what I had experienced with the other colors I’ve tried.  The only I have not tried, so far, is the yellow.

clockwise from left -- Mettler thread, Clover needle threader, Hiroshima needles, and Clover patchwork pins (fine)

clockwise from left — Mettler thread, Clover needle threader, Hiroshima needles, and Clover patchwork pins (fine)

After marking the sewing line, I pin two pieces right side together, using Clover fine patchwork pins.  They are thin and strong and perfect for most projects.  Then I thread the Hiroshima milliner needles with the Mettler silk finish thread using the Clover needle threader  and start sewing!  Mettler thread just happened to be what I had on hand.  I have no favorite yet for hand piecing.  I wanted something strong enough to survive my grandson and thin enough not to distort the blocks.  This is what I came up with this time.

Sew with a running stitch starting at one end of the line and stitching to the other end of the line, being careful not to stitch into any of the seam allowances.  You also have to stitch on the line on both the fabric facing you and the one in the back, so stop every few stitches to look at the back and make sure you’re still stitching on the line.  I knot my thread to start and then I take a back stitch on top of the first stitch.  After that, I take three stitches, back stitch and three more stitches, back stitch, continuing on until I get to the end where I back stitch and then knot.  I learned to make the knot I use to finish a line of stitches in this youtube video.  It’s fabulous!  In fact, I wonder if it’s possible to start the stitching with the same knot technique?  Something I’ll be trying soon!

Posted in hand piecing, hexagons, quilting | Tagged , ,

My New Needles

fabulous needles!
fabulous needles!


I had been trying all of the different needles I have on hand to piece these hexagon blocks — betweens, straw, sharp, milliner — you name it, I tried it.  I finally settled on using a Richard Hemming & Son large eye “Sharp” needle in size 9, but still wasn’t happy with the feel of it all.  I wasn’t able to get the stitches as small as I had wanted, I was having a lot of trouble getting the needle to easily hit both drawn sewing lines at the same time and it felt like I was stitching with something as wide as a spaghetti noodle and it felt just about as dull as a noodle too.  I’ve used these needles in the past with no problem, so it’s possible the real problem is that I’m hand piecing batik fabric which is fairly tightly woven.  Regardless, it wasn’t working as well as I needed it to, so I started looking for a solution.

When Catherine and I were going to the different quilt shops, I finally remembered to ask one of the ladies at Quilters Connection  about hand piecing needles.  She showed me the Hiroshima needles they had recently been able to start carrying.  The sized 10 Milliners looked long and thin, which was what I was looking for, but I didn’t think my needle threader would be able to thread its small eye.  She demonstrated that it would work with the thread I’m using and that they were very sharp and smooth — which I do think is the reason for the high price.  So, I gambled and got two boxes.  These needles are pretty expensive!  You only get 6 needles for $8.50 compared to less than $5 for about 20 for most other brands.

I tried them last night to sew that last seam on block three.  It was amazing!  I was getting much smaller stitches with less effort, the needle is about the width of the line I’ve marked to sew on and I was hitting it easily, plus the needles are sharp enough that they have no problem getting through the tight threads of the batik fabric.  I am happy with the needles!  I think they are worth every penny.  I didn’t explore the different types of needles made by Hiroshima, but I already feel that I’ll need them.    Can’t wait to head back to Dallas.


Posted in hand piecing, hexagons, quilting | Tagged , ,

Pink Hex Block Three done!

block three

block three

This week has been delightfully busy with the visit of my friend Catherine!  We explored several quilt shops, an art gallery and various restaurants over three days.  We cleaned a bit in my storage shed, visited my mom, watched one episode of Outlander (the new Starz series!)  and we talked and talked and talked.  We had the best time together!  We always do though.  We’ve been friends for close to 30 years.  She lives in Colorado now, so we only see each other a couple of times a year.  I’m not complaining though because before she retired, we only saw each other once every year or so for a single day.  We’re hoping our next visit will be longer and involve actually getting to sew together.  I can’t wait!

Being on the go so much, didn’t leave much time for sewing.  Yesterday, was the first time I’d had time to pick up the project.  I only had one seam left on this block, so I was able to finish the third block of the Pink Hexagon quilt!  Hope you like it.

Posted in hand piecing, hexagons, quilting | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Pink Hex Block Two done!

block two 001I finished this one last night.  Two done, eight full ones to go.  Then there are the four partial blocks before putting them together with the background.  I’ve started block three.  More to come!

If you missed seeing the first block, click here.

Posted in hand piecing, hexagons, quilting | Tagged , ,

First Pink Hex Flower

first hex flower done!

first hex flower done!

I finished hand piecing the first  flower for the pink hexagon quilt on Wednesday afternoon.  I started it Monday night.  I sewed a little on Monday and Tuesday, but did most of the work on Wednesday when I really should have been doing chores and errands.  I enjoyed the sewing much more than what I should have been doing!  It measures just over 23 inches wide!  I didn’t even think to measure how long it is though.  I had to hang it on my closet door in order to show you the whole block.

I had thought about using that dark pink for all of the background pieces that will surround and separate the flowers, but I wasn’t crazy about the way this particular fabric frayed while I was handling it.  Granted, I’m new at this and possibly it won’t fray as much as I get more skilled and at ease with my stitching, but you never know.  If you want to check out my earlier post, you can see the pattern I’m using to piece this.  The background fabric will go where the white hexs are in the pattern.

Posted in hand piecing, hexagons, quilting | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Quilt for Hubby — in progress!

the first three rows!

the first three rows!

I started this quilt at my last quilt retreat earlier this year.  While visiting my son and grandchildren last month, I had about a week to work on it some more.  The pictures were taken with my iPad, so they aren’t great quality.  I’ll be taking more with my camera when I’m finished so you can see what it really looks like.

In my opinion, this is a non traditional quilt.  I’m using the Batting Budding rulers from Prairie Sky Quilting.  You cut out the backing fabric and the batting, using the rulers.  The backing ruler has a square opening in the center for batting placement (centered in the wrong side of the backing fabric).  Then you just sew your scraps onto the batting and through the backing, being careful not to sew off of the batting onto the backing piece, piecing and quilting in one step.  After squaring up the fabric on the batting piece, you then finish the edge.  To do that, you fold the backing fabric toward the edge of the batting and then fold it one more time, so that it covers the batting/fabric edge.  At that point, you sew it down.  If I’d made this on my Viking instead of my Singer Feather Weight, I would have used a zigzag stitch to make the fabric edges flat.  Since I did use the Feather Weight, I could only straight stitch.  There is about a quarter-inch of fabric loose on every front seam.  I’m concerned it will wear badly.  We’ll see.  I may have to go back and zigzag it all.  Because of this edge technique, I plan to add a traditional binding.  Otherwise the back of the quilt will wear like the worn out binding I showed you in this post.  Being the back of the quilt, that would be almost impossible to repair.  I haven’t quite decided if I’ll finish it the way the pattern calls for and then add the binding on top of that or if I’ll cut off the backing fabric to make it flush with the top, as it would be on a traditionally pieced quilt before binding.

hubby's quilt -- almost done!

hubby’s quilt — almost done!

You may have noticed the white squares of paper pinned onto the blocks (top photo shows them well).  They show the row and placement within the row for each block.  I had very little room to lay out the design of this quilt at my son’s house.  I ended up having to do it on top of the coffee table.  I could only lay out 18 blocks at a time.  There are 90 blocks total.  So, mistakes were bound to happen.  Only one block is not turned incorrectly.  Hurray for that!  It didn’t bother me enough to rip out all of those seems to fix it.  Now, all I have left is to join the two pieces in these photos.  Then I’ll bind it and be all done.  It may be a while before I work on this one again though, probably my next quilt retreat in November.  I do have a couple of tips in case you want to make one like this.

  • You must prewash your backing fabric!  That way you can be absolutely certain your backing pieces are cut out on the straight of grain.  I didn’t prewash my backing fabrics and I’ve had some bias edges I hadn’t counted on.  It’s been a bugger at times!
  • If you don’t have enough of one fabric to use for the backing, use similarly colored ones that coordinate with each other.  Remember that your “backing” will show on the front.  Don’t pick something that will be too jarring when placed next to all of those strip pieces.

More on this when I finish.


Posted in hubby, quilting | Tagged | 3 Comments