To Embellish or Not To Embellish

When I think of embellishments, I think of jewelry, or bling. That is the most common form of embellishing, oneself or one’s clothing. Just about anything can be embellished, and in the world of quilts, oftentimes art quilts are the most heavily embellished. Quiltmakers often adorn their quilts with applique, embroidery or cross-stitching. Sometimes you will even see buttons, ribbon, beads, twine and other creative additions, especially on smaller, art quilts.

I’ve thought extensively about embellishing my quilts, but what holds me from it is that I generally make larger quilts that are warm and snuggly, or baby quilts for the crib. I don’t think adding something small and hard would make those quilts better.

Although, large quilts can certainly be embellished. This was the Texas Department of Agriculture State Fair Quilt that was created from many individual block submissions by quilt makers.

I had the honor to quilt it (unfortunately quilting an embellished quilt can be VERY tricky). The embellishments definitely added to the beauty and depth of this piece. Check out these beautiful blocks below:

I added tassle-like acorns to the ends of a few table runners once, which completed the look. I did embellish one small quilt with an interesting binding. Pictured below, this pattern is called lemonade, and I made it in a miniature size, perfect as a table topper.

The other embellishment I did was on a mini wall hanging. The purpose of this quilt was solely visual pleasure, and I made it during a class on quilt weaving (I can expand on that later). I named it “Button Explosion”.

I did embellish these birdhouses like crazy, but I felt they needed it to become what I had imagined.

This is a picture of my embellishments bin.

You can see a number of clearance tags in there, because I usually build this inventory through clearance sales at local craft shops. I buy what jewelry, charms, stones, ribbon, patches, buttons, etc. that look interesting to me and just throw them in the box.

I think I just need to make the leap, and create a smaller, smaller-scale quilt that is meant to be hung on the wall and embellished to create a total artwork.

NOTE TO QUILT MAKERS: if you do intend to embellish your quilt, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do so AFTER the longarm quilting has been completed. Otherwise you risk having some beads that need reattachment.

Thank you for perusing my friends! Happy creating!!

For the love of fabric

Most quilters will tell you that they just love going to the local quilt shop, quilt shows, fabric stores, and just can’t help themselves when they’re there. While they don’t usually disclose the amount of their purchases, they will entertain you with descriptions of the copious amounts of fabric that they just HAD to have.

As a quilter I can confirm that this is true, and if I didn’t do it for a living it might genuinely be an addiction. Just to give you an idea, these are my fabric bins:

They are all full. I have them sorted pretty well by base fabric color. Some have long yardage of a few fabrics, some have many fat quarters and small lengths of 2 yards or less.

The sad part really is that there is more. I have this stack of scraps I just found, and this box of scraps, and these other bins with more fabric. Oi vey!

When I go to the fabric store, my intentions are always to buy what’s on my list, which today, included pink fabric (on the top edge of the purple bin on the table there), yellow thread and fusible interface. I got all three. Plus some pretty blue fabric, remnants of yellow with butterflies, Dallas Cowboys fabrics, blues, reds, purple and black. White on tan, pink dots, a pretty brown, marbled yellow… the list goes on. Seriously, I bought all this.

I would imagine that most other quilters are in a similar position. We have really good intentions, but going into a quilt shop is like sending a five year old into a candy store! All those pretty colors and neat patterns, ideas churning with each quilt or pattern spotted along the wall. I know that every piece of material that enters my cart has an intended purpose at that point. It’s just a matter of executing that vision. Or, I truly believe that I will absolutely NEED that color and pattern in an extreme yardage in the near future. Need I tell you! 

Of course, in the case of Paducah, I had the OPPORTUNITY, which is entirely different, but sometimes overlaps with the need bit. They had whole bolts of cream and black marbled EXTRA WIDE fabric, which is great for backing! Well, I found it for almost half normal price, so… I couldn’t help but buy it! Yes, I bought two whole bolts. Those are pictured to the right below with 10 yards of stabilizer tucked behind and a few bins with what? YEP, FABRIC!

Maybe it’s not an addiction, maybe it’s just an obsession. But then, is that really much different? Happy shopping, and happy quilting my friends!

An Interesting Project

I had the opportunity to listen to a very interesting speaker at a guild meeting, her name was Helen Ogden Widener. She discussed the book she had recently written and the research she was able to conduct, as well as the quilt she constructed from reproduction materials to recreate the subject of her book.


Helen wrote about the quilt created by Elizabeth Patton Crockett. Yes, Crockett like David Crockett. She was his wife, and she made a beautiful postage stamp quilt sometime between 1850 and 1860. The book is titled Scraps of Life and is full of pictures of the original quilt kept at the Alamo, as well as interesting facts of the time and a pattern to recreate the original quilt at the back of the book. (For more information on this book, click here.)

When I recently went to my retreat, I brought with me a grocery store bag full of small pieces of material, each measuring about 12×5″. The pieces are comprised of cotton, wool, linen, madras, and a variety of combinations thereof. They were given to me by a friend who’s occupation is buyer for menswear, particularly dress shirts and slacks. They no longer needed their samples, so rather than throwing the material out, they gave them to me. I hadn’t figured out what to do with the pieces yet. Until tonight.

I finally made the connection – I am going to use these rectangles as the basis for my recreation of the Elizabeth Patton Crockett quilt. I will need to use some materials of greater quantity for the outer portions of each block, but I believe I can make a very pretty and functional quilt, with the look and feel of an older quilt by using these pieces from my friends.

So my message to you is that sometimes inspiration takes time to evolve. I have had many an experience that I wanted the light bulb to come on but it didn’t. Once I stopped watching the proverbial pot, my idea was revealed.

My friends, I hope you have the patience to let your inspiration find you. Sometimes it means taking a break from what you love to let your brain cool off and refresh. Happy quilting!!

Retreat! Retreat! Retreat!

Haven’t been? You are seriously missing out! Not sure what a “retreat” is (I’m talking the noun, not verb type here)? Well… it’s like a mini vacation that someone might take to get away from life just for a few days. You retreat to a location with others that enjoy the same hobby, get tons of work done (if you like, it’s not required), mingle and chat with new and old friends, eat great home cooking and have fun.

I recently enjoyed my first quilt retreat at the lovely Heavenleigh Escape just outside Decatur, TX. The drive itself was beautiful; we’ve actually been on those roads previously on the motorcycles. Arriving to the retreat I found a log home with a red steel roof, flower beds and shrubs lining the stone path to the door.

Looking around I noticed the horses, cows, the mule (which I later learned goes by the name Jack) and plenty of chickens roaming around, a few are in their caged area below.

I also later discovered their pig, Wilbur, a skinny kitty and 4 dogs, one of which was nursing.  We were fortunate enough to meet the five tiny, three-week old puppies a bit later in the weekend.

Upon entering the retreat, I found a quaint kitchen with a breakfast bar and a large work area. It was bedecked with plenty of tables, an ironing area, tv’s, cieling fans and a rocking stereo system. There was a bathroom and bedroom on the main floor as well.

At the top of the stairs I found another meeting area, with plenty of seating and a large TV. There was another bathroom, 3 additional bedrooms and a door leading out to the deck. I was so excited to be there I could hardly wait to get started!

I did end up completing quite a few projects, all from my stash of UFO’s (unfinished objects) that had been sitting in a bin, some up to a year! They were in various stages of perparation – I had some blocks cut already, some were just a collection of materials I knew I wanted to make something from. Check ’em out below!

We listened to a variety of music and watched 2-3 movies over the weekend. Our host, Tammy, was the MOST AMAZING cook! She took eggs from the chickens outside for breakfast and made plenty for everyone at every meal, including dessert after dinner.

Oh and here are the little schnauzer puppies:

She also hosts scrapbooking retreats, and the retreat is available for weekdays as well as weekends. If you are local, I would HIGHLY recommend checking THIS out. If not, ask around your local quilt shops for a retreat near you! It’s such a great, relatively inexpensive getaway. For me, it was invigorating and I can’t wait to go back again!

Happy quilting my friends!!

How to make a T SHIRT quilt

I am going to do my best to keep this simple. What this post will lead you to is a finished quilt top, with stabilized t-shirts, separated by sashing and surrounded by a border. I can’t tell you how much material you will need because I don’t know what size you want to end up with, but you can count on 1-2 yards of sashing material and border material (each).

Required items:

  • t-shirts
  • stabilizer (I like to use Pellon heavyweight fusible, available at nearly any craft/sewing shop) – you’ll need a yard for approximately every 2 shirts (unless your squares are going to be small)
  • sashing material
  • border material
  • hot iron, set to ‘cotton’
  • sewing machine and thread
  • rotary cutter and self-healing cutting mat (also available at sewing/craft stores)

The process is as follows:

1. Cut the shirts! The main point of step 1 is only to separate the front from the back and take the sleeves off.

2. Decide which panels from the front and backs of your shirts you would like to include in your quilt, discard the rest. Count your panels so you can ensure the number works, ie if you have 28 panels and want to make the quilt 4 x 6, you need to cut out a few more, or make your quilt 4 panels across by 7 long. Or you could find another shirt and make it 5 across by 6 long (30 total). If you have two panels that are small logos, they can be sewn together into one block.

3. MEASURE!!! This step will help you determine the size of your quilt, because it is based mainly on the size of the panels. Check the smallest and largest size your squares could possibly be based on how they are currently cut (approximately, they aren’t square yet) AND the logo/picture on the panel. If the smallest panel you have cut is 10″ x 10″, then your squares will be maximum that size. If the largest logo you have is 8″ wide x 4″ tall, then your smallest possible square would be about 9″ wide x 5″ tall.

4. TRIM the panels to about 1″ wider and longer than you want them to end up.

5. Stabilize your t-shirts. To be perfectly honest, the part of my job I like the least is ironing, but this is really REALLY a necessary step. On your ironing board, place your first panel face down. Put stabilizer on top of it, bumpy side down and press.

If you move the iron back and forth you may incline the shirt to stretch, so just press, and pick your iron up and press again until you’ve covered the entire shirt.

Your stabilizer should come to the edges of the shirts, or at least close.

6. TRIM, yes again. Notice how the stabilizer made your shirts less stretchy? Since we now have STABLE squares/rectangles, we can trim them to the size we want them to be (making sure we include 1/4″ seam allowance on each side, of course).

If you want your quilt to be nice and flat, ensure those squares are all the same size.

7. Add sashing. This is a fun part for me, because it’s really starting to come together. First you need to decide how big you want the sashing to be, and that may be based on how large you desire the final product to be. Let’s assume you want the sashing to end up 2″ wide, so you cut 2.5″ strips out of the material you want.  Stack your shirts all facing the same way (ie face down, top of shirt away from you). Lay a shirt on top of the sashing strip, and sew. When that shirt is attached, place another shirt on your strip. Then basically chain piece until your sashing isn’t long enough to fit another shirt. Get another sashing strip and begin again. I can usually get 3-4 tshirts along each sashing strip.

8. IRON, yes again. uuuuuuuggggghhhhhhhhh. Iron the seam towards the sashing, which it will be inclined to go towards anyway.

9. More sashing… Lay the shirts all the same way again, say face down, top towards your left side. Lay your shirts one at a time on the sashing and sew, just as before.

10. hmmm, IRON? Y E P!!! Again.

11. Lay out all your panels in a large area (like the floor or a big table). This is where you can decide what your eye likes, and which squares you want where based on color or logo.

12. Assemble rows! If you need to, pick up two squares at a time from your layout, so as not to confuse yourself. If you can pick up a row at a time then do so. When you complete each row, there will be one side without a sash. Add the sash at that time. You can also use this as an opportunity to attach sashing to the bottom (or top, whichever is missing sashing). Doing that at this point alleviates the need to sew a long seam.

13. Sew rows together to complete the center! This step is as easy as it sounds!

14. Border time!! Decide how big you want your border to be to frame your great work of art, and cut it 1/2″ larger. PIN THE BORDER TO BOTH SIDES OF YOUR QUILT! Measure your top so far through the center and that’s as long as your borders should be for the sides. Be wary of WAVY borders if you don’t measure and/or pin!!! Once the sides are attached, then measure/pin the top and bottom borders and attach.

YOU ARE DONE!!! Can you believe it? There are plenty of ways to make it more complicated and intricate, but this is a good starting point!

Best of luck my friends, and happy quilting!!!

A Great Quilting Resource!

Unfortunately I had not heard of Darlene Epp until recently, but when I found out about these pocket guides I was so excited to find them and order my own set!

These are not only a great help for quilters, but for quilt makers that want more involvement in their quilting designs. This can give the quilt maker ideas on what the quilter may use for borders, sashing or all over patterns. 

I highly recommend all 4 guides pictured below. They are available at a variety of sites, including (Darlene’s website). It is worth a visit to her website for additional patterns and ideas for quilting designs. I bought my pocket guides here, where I obtain other supplies occasionally. 

Enlarged View

Enlarged View

Enlarged View

I hope you find these guides useful. If for no other reason than inspiration to create a unique design on your own. Happy quilting my friends!!

Family Fun Crafts

I have always been sincerely devoted to doing things that are productive. Literally, anything I involved myself in had to have an outcome that achieved something, or produced something that I felt was valuable, usable or necessary in some fashion. My lesson has been learned, that there is much value in the actual act of artistic exertion as well as the visual pleasure gained upon completion of the project.

Recycled ToteBut, as an ode to the old me :), I am sharing this website, which has some great ideas that are in fact, productive. Some of the projects listed here are just fun, and some have a purpose that YOU may find useful! The one pictured above is one of my favorites! It’s made from those plastic grocery store bags!!!

Cardboard Petal Picture Frame

What I really love about this site is that there are constant updates to projects that mirror the season. We have searched for neat costumes to make at Halloween, Valentines handouts and boxes for notes and party ideas for Independence Day.

I hope you find some fun there, or if nothing else, perhaps some ideas  on how to keep your kids busy! Check out!