Thursday, January 24, 2019

Treats for You

If you've been following along for a while, you know that about one year ago, I released The FLOCK, a new, innovative bird block kit series featuring pieced block made from precision laser cut shapes. After many requests to produce a 'lighter' version of the series, The FLOCK Lite was introduced this month.
Since I've had a few questions about the two, I thought I'd take a little moment to make some comparisons.

PLUS keep reading because there's a tasty treat to be found at the end!

The FLOCK vs. The FLOCK Lite


The FLOCK has always been and continues to be the BEST way to receive the newest bird block patterns, and pre-cut fabric and kits within this innovative program.

Here's what you get when you enroll in The FLOCK:
  • A new, original bird block design each month.
  • 100% of the fabrics needed to make the block are included, curated to match the bird species being depicted
  • Kits are delivered to your home each month.
  • All fabric shapes (many of them are odd shapes that are not easy to cut using standard rotary-cutting methods) are precision pre-cut and ready to be pieced (not paper-pieced). Applique pieces are pre-cut and pre-sewn.
  • Open the package and sew!
  • Detailed pattern instructions and full-color step-by-step illustrations
  • A practice unit to sew each month
  • PDF version of the full-sized templates is delivered to your email about two weeks after the block kits are shipped.
  • No defined start or end date. No one is behind regardless of when you start
  • Access to members-only tips and member pricing on previously released block kits.
  • Entrance to an online facebook group to discuss and share questions and progress.


The FLOCK Lite

The FLOCK Lite is, simply and redundantly put, a lighter version of The FLOCK, with blocks that are released in PDF format one year after their original release in The FLOCK.

What you get when you enroll in The FLOCK Lite:

  • PDF format Pattern and full-sized Template set for the block released as a kit one year prior. Sent to your email shortly after your purchase, then upon renewal each month.
  • Tips for cutting the templates using freezer paper
  • No pre-cut fabrics
  • No practice unit, although Practice Unit instructions are included.
  • No defined start or end date. No one is behind regardless of when you start
  • Access to members-only tips and member pricing on previously released PDF version block patterns and templates (each available one year after their original block release date).
  • Entrance to an online facebook group to discuss and share questions and progress.

CLICK HERE to join The FLOCK Lite.


Tropical Fruit Cake

Now, for the sweetest deal!

Since I'm headed to Fort Lauderdale this weekend where I'll board a cruise ship as a quilt teacher with Stitchin Heaven Travel, I've got a little bit of the tropics on my mind, even as snow and cold are in the forecast in my backyard (and front yard, too, for that matter!)

This recipe for Tropical Fruit Cake is so stinking easy, and so stinking delicious, I thought I'd run in past you, just in case you want to sail away with me, if only in your dessert selection paired with a quiet dinner at home!

There are only four ingredients:

  • 1 package of yellow cake mix, the moist, pudding kind is best
  • 17-ounce-ish can of fruit cocktail
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13x9x2" pan.

In a mixing bowl, blend the cake mix, the fruit cocktail, and eggs until moistened. Then beat for 2 minutes at the highest speed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. The fruit cocktail will be chopped up and blended into the mix.

Sprinkle coconut over the batter. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean.

Cool completely, and drift away to the Caribbean with every bite! Enjoy!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Finish the 'Finish'

As I mentioned last week, I've been trying to make the time to finish up a table runner inspired by the Journey to Paducah pattern on the AQS blog.

And this week, it's done. Since binding is one of those 'quilting essentials' and since we have some new quilters following along, thought I might provide the run-through my binding steps.

The first few quilt binding steps can be found here if you missed the message last week.

Once the binding is made. I start on one side of the quilt (or table runner, in this case). Top of the quilt facing up, raw edges of binding and trimmed quilt top aligned.

I secure the layers with lots of sturdy pins, about one pin every 2-3".

I start sewing (1/4" from the edge) at about the halfway point on the side of the quilt leaving about 12" of binding unsewn at the front end, so I can connect it at the back end. Assuming my corners are the standard 90 degree angles, I make a 45 degree turn about 1/4" from the end of the trimmed quilt and sew off the corner. This keeps the corners crisp over the quilt's lifetime of use and washings.

Before I start sewing again. I fold the binding to the right at a 45 degree angle, then I fold the binding on top of itself at a 90 degree angle (from the raw edge) then pin the binding to the quilt to repeat the process for the next side. At the corner, I start sewing the 1/4" binding seam right at the edge over the folds I just created.

I repeat the miter, pinning, and sewing, until I'm almost back to the beginning. I stop sewing about 12-15" away from my starting point. If I did a good job estimating how long my binding should be (last week) then I should have a long tail for the continuous binding connection.

Continuous Seam

There are lots of variations on these next few steps. This is how I create the continuous binding seam. First I place the two binding ends so they meet, and fold the binding ends back so the folds just touch, or 'kiss.'

Then I measure half of the binding strip width away from the fold and make a makr. In my case, I cut my binding strips 2-1/4" wide (in last week's article), so I measure 1-1/8" away from the fold.

I make two marks, one on each side of the fold.

Next, to create a little slack so I can maneuver things a bit easier, I accordion fold the quilt - just the space between the start and end of the binding seams  - and pin it with a sturdy pin. I then open and place the left binding end onto the work table, so I can see the mark (red arrow, top photo), and then open the right end of the binding, open the fold and re-fold, wrong sides together so the marking is directly on the fold (bottom photo) and align the markings and edges as shown (dashed lines, bottom photo). . . .

Then I open the fold, and make a diagonal mark that runs basically parallel to the quilt edge. . . secure the binding layers with pins. . .

. . .  sew on the line and trim 1/4" away from the seam.

Press the binding seam open (I usually finger press at this point). When I unpin the quilt, and align the remainder of the binding and quilt edge, everything should lay flat.

A few more pins to secure the layers, and sew!

Almost there. . .

Securing the binding by hand

For the last part, I make myself comfortable in an easy chair.

Last week I said that 'technically' the binding should be cut 2" wide. Once sewn to the front of the quilt, ideally, the binding fold, turned to the back, should just cover the binding/quilt seam (red arrow). You can see that I have more than enough of the binding folded edge to accomplish this so I really *could* have cut my binding strips narrower. The 2-1/4" width just gives me a little extra comfort level.

As you can see, the binding stitch is a lot like an applique stitch. Sink the needle into the quilt (with thread that matches the binding), travel through the quilt guts, and come up to grab the very few threads of the binding fold.. and repeat. 

I take a couple extra steps at the corner.

As I approach the corner, I park the needle, and miter/fold the binding so the bulk on the bottom is opposite the bulk on the top.

Once my stitching arrives at the corner, I take a stitch along the diagonal (yes, my needle has a severe bend in it  - how difficult would it be to grab a new needle? - why do we do this to ourselves?)

I then take a stitch through all the layers to the front and grab the binding miter fold.

Like the 45 degree turn when I'm sewing the binding to the front of the quilt, this extra step helps to ensure that the corners stay square over time and use.

Ta da!

And the pay-off! Finito!

(Of course, I added a label to it!) Now, it's ready for gifting! Not even a full month after Christmas. Not bad!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

In a Bind

This is one of the projects I've been mentioning over the last couple weeks. It's a table runner based loosely on the Journey to Paducah pattern on the AQS blog. I didn't want to make the whole quilt, and I unearthed a fat quarter bundle from my stash that really isn't my cup of tea, but the combination of fabrics and project would be a perfect gift for some friends - it suits them beautifully! 

I started well enough in advance (I thought) to have this little project done by Christmas.
I am fairly certain, there might be one or two other quilters who may have had a similar circumstance this holiday season. Not *you* of course, but, perhaps someone you know. . .

We are two or three weeks after Christmas, and my table runner is 'done.' Quilted, too! So it's time to bind it. 

There are about a million different variations to bind a quilt. This is my step-by-step process that has served me well for many years and many quilts.

First, I start by trimming the quilted sandwich. I trim the backing and batting even with the quilt top (above).

In this case, I'm using wool batting for this project, so those long bits of batting scraps are perfect for pin cushion or biscornu stuffing. Save those!

I cut my binding strips 2-1/4" wide from selvage to selvage.

Technically, double fold binding is supposed to be cut 2" wide. Once folded to 1" wide and sewn with a 1/4" seam, 1/2" inch will live on the front of the quilt and 1/2" will live on the back of the quilt. But that doesn't leave much for the quilt thickness. That's why I cut 2-1/4. Conversely, many folks cut strips 2-1/2" for binding. It's a preference.

I don't typically do bias binding, although, technically, bias bindings are said to wear better.

Next, I do a rough measurement of the quilt (or runner) perimeter. My runner is a rectangle about 15 by 50". So roughly, 2 times 50 is 100, plus 2 times 15 is 30. Or a perimeter of 130". My binding strips will be about 40" long so I'll need 4 strips--3 strips times 40" is only 120" so that won't make it around the perimeter, but 4 strips times 40" will be 160" - plenty!

I loved math back in high school, and I'm so glad that I use it - both the simple stuff and the more complex stuff - nearly every day!

Connecting the strips with a diagonal seam is just about the only time I use the lines on a cutting mat. Line up two strip ends right sides together, one horizontally and one vertically with the cutting mat lines, draw a diagonal line connecting the intersecting edge points, pin on both sides of the line, sew on the line and cut 1/4" (give or take) away from the seam. Connect all four strips into one long one.


Press seams open (to reduce bulk).

Then press the entire binding strip, wrong sides together.

Now, I have approximately 160" of binding that is ready to add to the runner or quilt.

Since I ran out of time, this will be continued next week!

By the time you read next week's newsletter, this project should be bound, labeled, and ready to gift.

Unless it's not.

Hey, anything can happen!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Old, New, and In Between

When I wasn't celebrating holidays with family and friends, I set aside some time to work on projects. Some old, some new, and some fall somewhere in between.

First, before I get too far along, in the last newsletter, I mentioned something about using the waste threads from my ornaments as bird nesting material. I don't actually put out thread and yarn scraps for the wild birds to use in their nests. It's actually not a good idea - threads can get tangled in tiny birds' feet and legs, eventually strangling them. 

holiday ornaments and holiday DIY gifts

This article gives a really good overview of what to include and not include if you like to put out nesting materials for your wild feathered friends. Be sure to read through the comments for more specifics than outlined in the article. It may seem early to think about this kind of thing, but migrating birds start hunting for nesting sights as early as February and March even as far north as my area (central New York), and even earlier in other parts of the country.

Back to stitchy stuff. . .

Old stuff. Just before Christmas I lamented that this project (below) wasn't going to make it under the Christmas tree gift pile this year. And it didn't. But I'm happy to say that during the week in between the holidays, I spent some concentrated effort to get the four-block table runner to the ready-to-quilt stage (below, below). The pattern is loosely based on Journey to Paducah a free pattern from AQS. 

holiday ornaments and holiday DIY gifts

holiday ornaments and holiday DIY gifts

Sorta Old, Sorta New Stuff. Every month, a new bird block is released and a block kit, including pre-cut fabrics and pattern, is shipped to members of The FLOCK. Before any kit is shipped, I make the block at least twice, once with scrap fabrics and once with the 'real' fabric from the kits. Then I use the 'real' block to make a quilted sample - like in the photo below.

The flock bird quilt blocks

But that doesn't leave me with any 'real' blocks to make into projects. That means I make more blocks 'when I have time' which translates to: I don't get back to it! I started making bird blocks on a regular schedule this past week. The Gray Catbird block (one of my favorites!) is shown, in progress, below.  

The flock bird quilt blocks

New stuff. I'm a jigsaw puzzle girl. Love them! Perhaps that's why I like quilting so much, quilt blocks feel like jigsaw puzzles to be solved. Normally I don't have time for them, but treat myself to one or two puzzles during the holiday season.


I spread out the pieces on a table, then listen to a recorded book. I mentioned something a while back about the Outlander books, that they didn't really grab me when I first tried listening. Well, I gave them another try. I'm on book two. Lordy, they are long. Good thing this puzzle is a toughie. Plenty of puzzling time ahead if I stick with the 7 (plus 2) books to come in the series.

Not New but Not Old either. These hardanger sampler blocks are on hold for the moment. I ran out of thread. I'm using some variegated threads  from Artfabrik (my favorite for any kind of embroidery) and ran out of this color - I think it's called Wild Rice.

Now that I've looked up the website, I should place my order before the next 'squirrel' crosses my path.

hardanger embroidery

Definitely New. I've had the threads for this cross stitch project for a while. I love the bright colors. This is going to be a very stylized hummingbird. It kinda looks like a flying fish right now, but give it time. . .

Lots of teeny-tiny X's in this one. I'm using 32 count jobelin cloth - that's a pretty high thread count. I might be blind by the time I'm done stitching!

hummingbird cross stitch embroidery

I think that should keep me busy into the first few weeks of 2019. How about you? Did you start something new, play with something you've already started, or forget the stitching all together and get cozy with a quilt, a movie, and a cocktail or two?

It all works for me! *Wink!*

Happy Stitching!