AMB/Clothworks Blog Tour Quilt


Several months ago, I posted this photo of the “license plate” I designed for the AMB/Clothworks Blog Tour. One blogger from each state was asked to design a license plate representing their state. Those license plates have now been sewn into a quilt and I thought I would share the photos of the completed project.


Toni, who works for Clothworks, was given the task of assembling these fun blocks. Putting together this much color and design had to be a challenge. She chose a grey border and white sashing around each block.

amb-license-plate-quilt (2)

Then she placed a small red border around the blocks, and finished it off with a wider blue outer border.

amb-license-plate-quilt (3)

Then it was sent off to the long-arm quilter for some straight line quilting, which is perfect for this quilt.

amb-license-plate-quilt (4)

What clever ideas!

Manusco Show Management has picked up the quilt for display in their 2015 quilt show schedule, so the quilt will be traveling to California for Quiltfest in Palm Springs, and Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara in October. I am looking forward to seeing it in person at PIQF!



Birds of a Feather

This is one of my favorite little birds. It is a Western Phoebe. I volunteer once a week in a local public garden, and last week one of these sweet little birds followed me around the garden, watching me rake up leaves and watching for the worms I accidentally uncovered. (Sorry, worms!) Phoebes seem to prefer sitting on the tip of things like sprinkler heads, or a fence post. The ruffled feathers on their heads make them look like they just got up and forgot to comb their hair! They have a sweet song and lovely colors. So why am I waxing poetic about birds?

This month’s Quilting Arts magazine introduced their new Reader Challenge called “Birds of a Feather.” They ask for a 9″ x 9″  quilt based on a bird theme. It may be made of any materials, must be quilted, consist of three layers and be bound or closed along the edges. They request two low resolution images be emailed to them by April 3rd to Finalists will be posted on their blog at on April 8th.

So, if you have a favorite bird, why not take the challenge and make one of these tiny quilts?

Until next time,


Best Quilting Apps for the iPad

The iPad’s compact size and portability make it the perfect tool for the quilter. A number of very useful applications have been designed specifically for quilting. Many of these apps can also be used on iPhones, androids and smart phones, but the iPad’s larger screen is easier to read. Go to the App Store on your iPad if you wish to purchase these applications.


QUILT CALC – The Quilter’s Little Helper by Robert Kaufman Fabrics

Quilt Calc is a very handy quilting calculator. It helps calculate how much backing and batting you will need for a quilt top, piece count and pieces to yardage area to help you make the best use of your yardage, how much binding you will need to make, and calculating border yardage. It will also help calculate set-ins and corner triangles for custom border work. It provides measurements in inches, as well as making metric conversions.




This app provides 102 rotary cut quilt blocks in five different sizes. Each block has accompanying design details and construction diagrams, as well as easy to follow rotary-cutting charts. There are also helpful reference tables, including  yardage requirements. A very handy, easy to use, no-math tool for every quilter.




This quilt design application allows you to audition any color, or any fabric, in virtual blocks, borders and quilts of your design. Experiment with color combinations, and try blocks in straight settings or on point. You can save your design and take it with you to the quilt store to shop for fabrics. You are able to photograph and save images of fabrics, which can then be imported into your quilt design, to quickly determine how the fabrics will look in the completed quilt.

You can photograph the fabrics in your stash and save them to the fabric library so you can audition them in a quilt design. If you are out shopping, you can easily pull up photos of fabrics you already own, to find the perfect coordinating fabrics.


BlockFab – HD and QuiltFab

BlockFab is a free fabric calculator utility application. It is not a quilt design app. However, it will let you quickly see the results of various design, color, and layout possibilities. If you have a pattern you like but you want to customize it by changing the size or number of blocks, or by adding a pieced border, BlockFab will calculate the fabric required.

Choose from a small library of  50 grid-based blocks, or from a library of common patch shapes. Then choose the number and size of blocks or patches. BlockFab will determine the amount of fabric you need to buy, and will give you hints on cutting  the blocks or patches, based on the cutting assumptions used for calculating the fabric needed. Both English and metric units of measure are supported.

QuiltFab is a related free fabric calculator utility for determining the yardage needed for the quilt backing, binding, and for up to three borders. Type in the size of your quilt top and the calculator will do all the necessary math for finishing your quilt.


Quilting Wizard

Quilting Wizard allows you to test fabrics for your project while you are browsing at the quilt shop or at a quilt show.  A unique feature is the ability to photograph fabrics using the iPad (or iPhone) and immediately apply them to a quilt design that you have created and stored in the app. You can also store the fabric photos in your custom fabric  library for use at a later time.

To design a quilt, you select the fabrics for your quilt in the fabrics palette, and then select blocks from the block library. Fill the blocks with fabric. Place the blocks in the quilt grid. You can go back to the block design to adjust the fabrics until you are happy with the placement, and then you can see the finished quilt in the quilt view. You can be sure the fabrics you are purchasing will look great together in your finished quilt.

Quilt design software and quilting calculators do a good job of determining how much fabric you should buy for your project, but it is always best to round up to the nearest quarter yard to make sure that you can finish the project without running out of fabric.

Until next time,


NaBloPoMo – The Cure for Benign Neglect!


I read the daily posts of a writer named Brent Riggs who writes about blogging. Last week he wrote a post asking if we were responsible for neglecting our blog. The answer in my case is: yes. It isn’t because I have nothing to say, it’s because I am having the trouble finding the time. Or at least that is what I keep telling myself. So, I am going to participate in NaBloPoMo this month: National Blog Posting Month. The idea is to set a goal and try your best to reach it. My goal is to blog every day this month. It may be a photo, or writing about a prompt that is provided for this challenge by the folks at Word Press, or my favorite subject: quilting.  It will help me get back to scheduling the time to show my blog a little love, and re-engage with you, my friends. So stay tuned, and we will see how close I can come to meeting this goal!

If you write a blog yourself, you might be interested in participating. To read more about the project, click here.

Until next time,


Making Quilts Using Men’s Neckties

I have published an article on about using discarded men’s neckties for quilt-making. You can read the tips in the article, which I have linked at the bottom of this post.

This subject first came to mind a couple of years ago when a friend of mine gave me a huge box of beautiful silk neckties. Her husband, a physician who wore a lovely tie to work every day, had died and she couldn’t bring herself to throw them away. I have taken the ties apart, sorted them, and cleaned them. What now?

I have been considering two patterns for this project (which I will return to my friend as a loving memory of her husband). The first is the classic pieced “Bow Tie” pattern. Necktie fabric would translate well, and the solid background fabric would make the tie fabric pop.

Bow Tie

The templates for a 6 inch Bow Tie block can be found here: BowTiePDF. You can easily increase the size of the block by taking it to the copy shop and increasing the size of the templates.

The second block is a very easy foundation-pieced block called “Starched Shirt.”

The Shirt


It would be fun to make 12 to 16 of these blocks and use Oxford cotton or other men’s shirting fabric for the shirt, and a variety of beautiful silk ties.  This pattern is for a 12 inch block and it will print out on four pages. Tape the pages together, using the registration lines in the margins, and cut out the foundation pieces.

(3/1/2015: UPDATE. The digital paper-piecing pattern I originally posted had an error that I have been unable to correct. I am posting a new link for templates for the same 12 inch block. I apologize for the failed original link! Happy piecing.) The new link is here: StarchedShirtPDF.

I have noticed a number of unique ideas for quilts using men’s ties on Pinterest.  This “Tie Burst” quilt from is terrific because the entire top surface of the tie is used without the need for piecing.


This quilt, which was inspired by the book “Daddy’s Ties,” by Shirley Botsford, was made and pinned by blogger, Shout4Joy. The pointed angles at the end of the ties are a perfect fit for the blades of a Dresden Plate block.


This quilt, based on the Storm at Sea pattern, was made by the pinner in memory of her father. It was posted by Thimblebug6000 at Quilting Board.


Men’s neckties can be used effectively in a variety of quilt patterns. They are generally busy prints with strong directional patterns so they need lots of solids around them to calm things down visually.  Visit a closet near you, or take a trip to the thrift store, and try your hand at making a unique quilt using men’s neckties!

Here is the link to the article: Tips for Making Quilts Using Men’s Neckties.

Until next time,



Calculating Side and Corner Triangles



Setting quilt blocks on point in a diagonal setting creates triangular spaces on the edges and in the corners that need to be filled in to make the quilt square. Use these simple calculations to determine what size triangles to cut for those spaces.

Calculating Side Triangles

Lay the quilt blocks out on the floor, or put them on a design wall, arranged in the desired diagonal setting.

Count how many side triangles are necessary. Do not include the corners.

The total number of triangles = (a).

Divide the total number of triangles by 4 = (b). Round up to the nearest whole number. This gives the number of squares of fabric you will need to cut.

Take the diagonal measurement of a block used in the quilt = (c). Add 2 inches to that measurement. The total = (d).

Cut the number of squares of fabric (b) to the measurement in (d). For example if (b) is 6 squares and your measurement (d) is 15 inches, you will cut 6 – 15 inch squares.

Cut each square into quarters diagonally.

Lay these triangles around the edges of the quilt.

Calculating Corner Triangles

Cut two squares of fabric the size of your blocks, plus 1 1/2 inches. For example, if the blocks in the quilt are 12 inches, cut two 13 1/2 inch blocks. Cut these in half diagonally

Place these triangles in the corners of the quilt.

Note: These triangles will be slightly larger than necessary, but the excess can be trimmed away when the borders or binding is added, ensuring that the edges of the quilt will be even and square.

Using some simple math calculations, you can easily determine the size of the triangles to cut for finishing your diagonal setting. Experiment with using a different color or print in the side and corner triangles to make the blocks appear as if they are floating on the background.

Until next time,




Where to Find Quilting Calculators


If the fabric calculations for your next quilt look like this, you might benefit from a quilting calculator! The good news is there are a number of free, easy-to-use calculators available, specifically designed for quilters.

Quilter’s Paradise offers a calculator that will make a number of calculations for you, and it’s free. It will calculate how much fabric is needed if you want to cut a given number of fixed sized pieces, how much fabric will be needed for each border, as well as calculations for batting, backing and binding. It will also provide measurement conversions. This calculator does it all.



The Quilter’s Little Helper  is a free iTunes App for smart phones and iPads. This App is extremely handy, as it lets you do the calculations while you are on the go. If you are in the quilt shop and need to figure out the amount of yardage you need to buy, you will have the tool to do it. I use this App on my iPad all the time and I love it!

The Vrya website offers two versions of their calculator, which you can use for free online. You are also able to purchase a version for off-line use for $3.50, which is very affordable. This is a nice option if you want to make the conversions without needing to go online. The classic calculator offers yardage estimates based on the shapes used in each block: squares, triangles, half-square triangles, half-rectangle triangles, quarter-square triangles, trapezoids, and parallelograms. The flash calculator makes the same calculations, but you can simply click on the shapes you want to use, enter the number needed and it instantly makes the yardage calculation for you.


If you would prefer a more portable method of calculation, you might consider the Quilter’s FabriCalc, a hand-held calculator. Not only does it perform all of the functions provided by the internet calculators, it also offers the ability to do a reverse calculation to find the number of shapes that can be cut from a piece of fabric, will calculate the cost of the yardage, and will store fabric yardage solutions for six individual types of fabric. The $22.00 price tag seems worth the money.

These easy-to-use calculators eliminate the need for pencil and paper calculations and provide yardage estimates that makes it possible to buy all the fabric you will need for your project without the fear of running out of a particular fabric part way through the project. Put these calculators in your quilting tool box.

Until next time,




How to Get an Accurate Quarter-Inch Seam

When I first started quilting, one of my biggest frustrations was finishing a quilt block that was supposed to be 12 1/2 inches square, but I would frequently end up with something closer to 12 1/4 inches. Why? I used the quarter-inch mark on the stitch plate on my machine. I dutifully went out and bought a quarter-inch piecing foot. My blocks were still finishing less than 12 1/2 inches. Dozens and dozens of blocks later, I have the answer!


#1. Thread matters.

Yes. The thicker the thread, the more space it takes up in the seam. You would not think the tiny circumference of a strand of thread would make a difference, but it does. For piecing, use a 50 weight thread both in the bobbin and for the top thread. A much heavier and thicker 30 weight will take up more space in the stitched seam. When you add up all the seams in the block, this loss makes a difference. Most threads marked “Quilting Thread” are 30 weight. They are meant for quilting the top, not for piecing.



#2. Use a scant quarter-inch seam.

After you have sewn your seam and folded it over to press it, a tiny amount of fabric will be lost in the turn of the fabric. Just like the thread issue, if you add the tiny fabric loss across all the seams in the block, it matters. Add the loss of space from thread plus the loss of fabric in the fold, and this can account for as much as a quarter-inch loss in overall block size. That is why your 12 ½ inch block turned out to be 12 1/4 inches. This is where the scant quarter-inch seam saves the day. The scant quarter-inch seam is sewn just shy of the seam line by a couple of threads. To do this, we need to know where the quarter-inch seam line is.


#3. Measure the scant quarter-inch mark on your machine and mark it!

The truth is the quarter-inch mark on your seam plate is, most likely, inaccurate. Your quarter-inch foot may be inaccurate, too. Measure where the quarter-inch mark is for your machine, using your favorite machine needle. There are a couple of ways to do this. One is shown above. This quilter has placed her clear rotary ruler under her presser foot and has lowered her needle until it is pressing down on the quarter-inch mark on the ruler. She will then place a piece of masking tape exactly along the edge of the ruler to mark the true quarter-inch mark on her machine. In the future, when she places the edge of her fabric against the tape, she know she is at a quarter-inch. But wait, that doesn’t mark the scant quarter-inch.

To mark the scant quarter-inch mark, cut a strip of four-squares-to-the-inch graph paper. Each square will be an accurate quarter-inch. Trim it evenly along one of the vertical lines. Place the graph paper under the presser foot, and using your hand wheel, lower the needle until it pierces the paper just shy (by a couple of thread widths) of the first line in from the edge. Take a piece of masking tape and place it along the edge of the strip of paper, mark the exact scant quarter-inch mark. (You can do this using the ruler method too, but this technique is a little easier to see and you can visually check the results by looking at the hole in the paper made by your needle.)

When sewing your next seam, line your fabric up with the line marked by the masking tape and you will be ensured of sewing an accurate scant quarter-inch seam.

There is one last thing you can do to help achieve an accurate seam.


#4. Sit in the same chair, at the same height, when you sew.

After starting a new project, always try to sit in the same chair, at the same height, when you sew. Sewing while sitting in a different position can make a significant difference in the quality of your seams. It is very easy to get a different measurement when you are viewing your project from a different angle.

Using these four tricks have helped me produce blocks that are the correct size. So, if you are frustrated with inaccurate seam widths, try these ideas and see if your accuracy improves.

Until next time,


EQ Block Base – Block 5

Things are starting to shape up in the Electric Quilt Block Base project. This is block number 5 in the project, so the personality of the quilt is starting to emerge.

This block is #1775 in the Block Base software. It was a fast and easy block to sew together which is always a plus. This is a photo of what the blocks look like so far:


The new block posted today is another fun pin wheel block. I can now start choosing colors based on what I have done already to make sure these blocks are going to coordinate. If you use Electric Quilt software, of if you have the Block Base software, it’s not too late to join us in project! Click on over to and check out all the other Block Base projects posted on the blog.

Until next time,


Playing Catch-up!



Our son Ben’s wedding is now a warm memory. I have taken down the Thanksgiving decorations and put them away.  I was finally able to take the time to catch up on some sewing. I feel like I haven’t been in my sewing room for a month!

The first project was finishing Blocks 3 and 4 in the EQ Block-Base Sew-Along. This is Block 3, which is #2448 in the Block Base software.


I may have gone a little overboard on this one. I will wait to see how it plays with the other blocks and decide whether or not to do it over. I actually like the colors in this block, but the variety of patterns may be too much.
This is block #4, which is 2049 in the Block Base software:
I made this block a lot calmer, with lots of white space, to compensate for the craziness of block #3. This is the first four blocks as a group:
The next project was to finish my block for Rachel in the Around the World Quilt Bee II. Rachel asked for a geometric block using “berry” colors. Her starter block used lavender, dark pink and some orange, so I put orange in mine, too, for a little interest. This block is called “Braided Bounds.”
I took the photo at night in low light, and the flash distorted the colors, unfortunately. This is better in person. It was a little tricky sewing the pinwheel units to the center square, but I enjoyed making this block.
So, it is back to the machine to get started on Block #5 for the Block Base Sew-Along, which was posted Monday. I am hoping to get ahead of the game this week.
Be sure to come back and see some more photos of quilts from Festival in Houston.
Until next time,