Saturday, December 14, 2019

Favorite Color and Least Favorite Color

For the suggested topic of your favorite color... super easy for me to answer: BLUE! In all shades and tints. My least favorite color is black, I think. My quilts tend to be fairly colorful. But I’m going to pull a bunch of finished projects and check my color usage. The photo above is an original design that I created for a guild block of the month project.

My pattern tester did it in alternate colors, seen below. This color palette gives the quilt a southwestern feel.
Other quilts I’ve finished that contain blue... and have photos:
This is a sampler I designed and made as a block of the month another year. The blocks are all a 9-patch grid, and are each made in three different sizes.
Here’s a simple pattern, made with jelly rolls and white background fabric. The colors are typical 30’s so this is a clear medium blue. It definitely stands out in the photo. I made this one long to fit an extra long twin bed.

Sorry I don’t have photos of more projects. I also don’t have access to most of my quilts. When we add on my studio next spring it will definitely a storage closet with shelves for finished quilts. I’m also planning on lots of stash storage.

Guess that’s all for now. I’ll be back with some stash photos later today.


Thursday, December 12, 2019

Catch up time!

     I’m so bad... my memory isn’t what it was and if I don’t have a list, I forget things. My calendar currently needs “Blog Post” at the top of each day. The suggested topics for the days I’ve missed were:

     7 - Dream project
     8 - Skills I wish I had
     9 - Favorite tip
   10 - Top 5 books
   11 - Most impactful class

     I’ve been thinking about these topics for days leading up to now and I honestly am stumped on most of them. I have been quilting for so long, and taken so many classes over the years, that I can’t think of anything I haven’t tried. My sewing skills are pretty solid, and I’ve made so many quilts, that the day7 and 8 topics are unanswered. I’m not saying I’ve done it all... not by any means. But I’ve done what I want, and tend to stick with what I’m good at and enjoy. For example, I tried hand quilting but didn’t enjoy it, so I machine quilt.

     I can share a favorite tip, easily. And this is a step that a lot of quilters skip entirely. Do you wash your fabric before you use it? When you purchase fabric off the bolt, that bolt has most likely come from the Far East; Korea and Japan do a lot of fabric printing. The fabric is treated with various chemicals during production, then the bolt is treated with insecticide before shipping.

     When we would receive a shipment of fabric at Little Lamb Quilt Shop the bolts came in plastic, either bags or shrink wrapped. Unwrapped, the fabric has a strong smell at first. I would get a headache handling the new bolts. One of my employees loved the smell of new bolts and could be seen sniffing the bolts while shelving them. The process of the chemicals coming off the fabric is called outgassing. (Def: Outgassing (sometimes called offgassing, particularly when in reference to indoor air quality) is the release of a gas that was dissolved, trapped, frozen, or absorbed in some material.) Not all the chemicals are removed during this process.

     My process for all fabric that I buy involves several steps. Working with a stack of fat quarters, half yards, or yardage:

  1. I open the fabric up and drape it over a drying rack or the rails of the longarm for a couple days to air. If I try to handle it immediately it gives me a headache.
  2. I serge the cut edges of every piece of fabric.
  3. Sorting by color, I machine wash and dry every piece. I use hot water and quilt soap. Rather than buying the small bottle of soap the quilt shops carry, I get a large bottle of Orvus Paste
    Soap from the agriculture store as it’s actually intended for washing horses. In looking for it online today, the same size jug is $29.95 at the ag store and $39.95 from Amazon. 
  4. Next, I iron with starch. I use Faultless liquid starch and mix it 1/3 starch with 2/3 warm water in a spray bottle.
  5. I spray the FRONT of the fabric with starch and fold it with the starch inside. I do this for all the fabric I have washed, working in batches. Leave the fabric sitting for a few so the starch soaks in.
  6. Next, I iron all the starched pieces on the BACK. If you iron directly on the side where the starch was sprayed you can get flakes.
  7. Now, spray the BACK of the fabric that you just ironed with starch. Set aside for a few minutes.
  8. Iron from the front of the fabric.

You end with a nicely starched, insecticide free piece of fabric. I find it much easier to cut and sew then unstarched fabric. You don’t need to wash your whole stash at once (I’d be weeks doing so). Try this with your next small project and see what you think.

I found another bottle design that says “The original gentle & bright cleaner, Ideal for cleaning horses, livestock, pets, quilts and delicate fabric. Guess they are trying to market to everyone now!

I was going to try and do a video of handling both starched and unstarched fabric but I don’t have a tripod yet. I did buy a nice Nikon camera during the Black Friday sales the day after Thanksgiving. Now to outfit it so I can show you what I’m doing.

I’ll be back later today with the topic for the 12th. This one is easy - favorite color!


Saturday, December 7, 2019

First Quilt and Oldest UFO

     Again, I missed a day posting so I'll cover two day's topics with this post. I know I've said that I'm not unpacked from the move last summer, mostly due to space. I can't wait till next spring when we add on my studio. It will be a great time to go through all of my quilting stuff and put it away in an organized manor.

     My first experience with quilting was in college (1976-1980). I was home over the Christmas and New Year's break and was bored. I had a sewing machine in my dorm room and was usually working on a garment of some sort. I didn't think to bring something home to work on, so my grandmother showed me how to piece and quilt by hand. I made a small pillow, which I still have somewhere. I liked the end result but did not like doing it all by hand. I didn't do anything else with quilting till 2000.

     My husband and I were just married and we bought a home in my hometown of New Milford, Connecticut. I hadn't lived there since I left for college but I enjoyed being "home" again. Mark worked in Danbury, about 15 miles away, and I worked at home on programming projects for two companies at that time. This left me more flexible and able to run errands...

     One day, I was waiting to pick up a cat from the vet and decided to stop at the quilt shop in New Milford. I had been driving by it regularly and thinking I should stop and see what they had for fabric. I walked in and saw a sample for a class... and signed up. As I continued to take classes I knew I'd found my purpose. 

     Here is a photo of my first quilt, plus cats. I tried to get them off but they wouldn't accept that this quilt is not for their enjoyment. Every time I put a cat down one jumped right back up. The pattern is a simple 4-patch set on point, made with quilt shop flannel. I later learned that flannel is considered somewhat difficult to quilt with. Also, setting blocks on point seems to scare some people. The quilting was simple in the ditch and echo quilting around the alternate squares. 

     Ok, so I have to admit I have way more UFOs than I do finished quilts. This is partially because while I owned Little Lamb Quilt Shop in Barrington, NH, from 2004 to 2011 I had a bad habit of trying to make everything that came into the shop. My addiction at the time was with Thimbleberries... all things Thimbleberries. My business partner, Camille and I even went to Minnesota for a Thimbleberries seminar with Lynette Jensen. We ran the Thimbleberries Club at the shop every year from 2005 to 2011. 

     The oldest UFO that I could find is a Thimbleberries Club Quilt from 2005. It was two quilts that year, Sunrise and Sunset. The shop opened in 2004 when that year's club had already started, but we liked Thimbleberries enough we started to offer the club to our customers in 2005. This year there were two quilts that were each made over six months, called Sunrise and Sunset.

     Shops were able to purchase kits in the fall of 2004 so that you could display samples of the 2005 club quilts. I made the Sunrise quilt and my business partner made the Sunset quilt. My Sunset quilt is still in the box. It looks like I started to cut the green fabric. Oh well, back in the closet of UFOs...

Note: I wrote this post on Friday, then forgot to publish it. So I'll be back tomorrow with big news. Thanks for visiting!



Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Studio Plans and My favorite tools

     Today’s suggested blog post is to share my favorite tools. I will, but first I want to share my studio plans. I neglected to say that I am going to put a 20’ x 45’ studio addition onto my home. The process of approval has taken months, and we’re stalled at needing a septic system test with 6-8” of snow on the ground. Oh well, I guess we’ll start in the spring.

     My #1 favorite tool is the purple thang. Since it is made of plastic it doesn’t break things if you sew onto it. I sew with it in my right hand while I guide pieces under their needle with my left hand. It can also be used for poking out corners and things like that.

     My second favorite thing is the Famore Cutlery EZ Stitch Snip with micro serrated blades. I keep a pair handy by each of my machines. They are perfect for clipping threads, but also work good for trimming fabric from small areas, such as in a machine embroidery design. Serrated blades assist in precision cutting. They are on sale from Famore direct for $15.00 a pair. See (No affiliation or compensation.)

   My third best notion is Aurifil thread. I buy basic colors in large cones. The smaller spools are great for colors that won’t be used a lot. I do like to do machine embroidery with cotton thread sometimes, as an alternative to shiny poly embroidery thread.

   Please stop by tomorrow to see what I’ve been working on. The suggested topic is first project. I think I can put my hands on the first quilt I made... I know I’ve seen it since I moved. I’ll also show some current projects, as I’m always working on more than one!

Thanks for visiting,


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Sewing space and machines

Hope everyone who got snow is dug out and has power. It’s been a long time since we had this much snow this early in Connecticut. And it was blowing and drifting! My nephew came with a snowblower and cleaned it up for today. Winter in New England is off to a good start!

Following along with the blog posting schedule from Cheryl at, yesterday was supposed to be showing your sewing space. Today is to show your machine(s). I am combining the two topics into one post so that I am back on schedule.

My sewing space at the moment is the living room of my home. When I was going to move from New Hampshire to Connecticut I spent a few weeks looking online and went to see several properties. I ended up buying an 1,100 square foot ranch with attached garage. I thought it would be plenty of space for me. And it would have worked better if I hadn’t bought a HandiQuilter Amara longarm on a 12 foot frame. It was my housewarming gift to myself. Trouble is, it would only fit in the living room.

I’ve recently added plastic storage drawers under the bed of the machine. They are great for holding rulers, threads, etc. for the longarm. I also labeled a couple units with the strip and square sizes that Bonnie Hunter’s Scrap User System calls for. As I finish a project and have scraps I am immediately cutting them into the possible sizes and storing them in the correct drawer. Check out for more information.

An unplanned use of the drawers are as amusements for my cats. I have a varying number of cats over time, but right now I’m up to 5; 3 are young, purebred Maine Coon cats, one of whom is still a kitten. They have discovered how much fun it is to go behind the machine and push the drawers out into the room.

I have two machines that I sew on regularly, a BabyLock Destiny II with embroidery (left), and a Bernina 770 that is in for cleaning right now. I am waiting to receive my new Bernina 880 that I traded in a non-functional Bernina 830 for. It was the first larger body machine and I bought it immediately. I really wanted that larger embroidery hoop. So I got a good 5-6 years on the machine before it started having tension problems. I had it fixed twice but it will no long hold a good tension setting. Turned out it was a flaw with the machine and Bernina came out with a nice trade in package this summer. I hope to have my new machine soon, and will be selling the 770. It is the same body size but without the embroidery module. I’ll post about it once I have the new one.

Next to the BabyLock is a work table where I can cut and press as I’m sewing. It gets piled with too many things from time to time but it’s usable right now. The top visible is the center of last year’s Quiltville mystery quilt. I haven’t added the borders yet because I’m still trying to decide if I want to make it bigger to fit a bed.

I also have a BabyLock Ovation serger. This is a top of the line model from several years ago. My intention was to make clothes with it. Turns out I use it to serge the edges of my fabric before I wash it and that's all, so far. I'm fussy about how I handle my fabric and I'll post about that another day. I do wash everything, and iron with starch, before using it.

My last BabyLock machine is a 10 needle embroidery machine. I do a lot of machine
embroidery so when I had the chance to get this monster I did. I love being able to make quilt blocks so fast. With the largest hoop and the 10 needles I can set up and run out multiple blocks much faster than with my single needle machine. I made embroidered presents for my great-nieces and great-nephews last Christmas. The 3 baby boys got these 3D baby blocks. The 2 toddler girls got purses. Now to think of what to make for this year.

Behind the embroidery machine is a Brother Scan 'n Cut, and an Accuquilt Go Big electric cutting machine and a collection of dies. I love the accuracy of both these cutting methods. Demos of both will be future posts.


The last part of my sewing space is the fabric storage. I have a stash that probably beats small shops. I still have Thimbleberries fabric from my quilt shop that closed in 2011. Above are photos of the central hallway of my home. There are three IKEA Billy bookcases with doors in this shot. The photo on the right shows what is inside one of them. I also have a huge closet with plastic storage buckets containing fabric and UFOs as well. I'll post more about stash soon. I've developed a system that works well for me.

Lastly, here is my ongoing project storage at the moment. It lives at the end of the longarm across from my work table. I have several block of the month quilts in progress and each has it's own box. I also do a Saturday Sampler program at a local quilt shop that is in a box. And the front several boxes you can see here contain prewashed fat quarters of multiple fat quarter bundles from current floral fabric lines. This way, if I need to make a quick table runner or an embroidered project, I have fabric ready to iron and go. 

Thank you for visiting me today. I hope you'll stop by again!



Monday, December 2, 2019

Welcome back!

     Hello to my past followers, and maybe some new ones. I have been very lazy about sharing what I'm sewing on here ever since I moved in July 2018. And here we are at the end of 2019! I saw a post a month or so ago from Cheryl at about a 31 day blog post challenge for the month of December. It seemed like a good way to try to get going again. And then I missed starting yesterday. Oh well, better late than never, right?

     To introduce myself, my name is Mary and I have been sewing as long as I can remember. I grew up in a small town in Connecticut that still had a 5 & 10 cent store. They sold individual stamped blocks for embroidery that my great-grandmother started me on. I still have them somewhere and will share when I find that box. As a side note, I moved last summer from a large Victorian home in Portsmouth, NH, back to northwestern Connecticut, near where I grew up. I am now in an 1,100 square foot ranch and still have lots of boxes I haven't unpacked. I am planning a studio addition but didn't get it started this summer; next year, for sure.

     As a teenager I had fabric available that my grandfather had saved from the factory he worked at in New Milford, Connecticut. He would bring home bolt ends and strike offs and they were in a metal cabinet in a barn at my grandparents home. By the time I was sewing clothing for myself the fabric choices were pretty slim, but there were still lots of solids. My grandmother, mother, sister and I all sewed so competition for the good stuff was stiff. Once I started working after school and during the summer I bought my fabric. I started quilting in college, on a used machine I bought from another student.

     I also owned a quilt shop in New Hampshire from 2004 to 2011, called Little Lamb Quilt Shop in Barrington. It started with a partner and the plan to carry kids fabric and wool. It was the best job I've had, combining so many of my skills, including accounting and web design. Unfortunately I began to have health problems that made the physical side of the business too much for me.

     Now, I am retired and try and sew some every day. My current project is the Quiltville Mystery Quilt that Bonnie Hunter starts the day after Thanksgiving and continues for several weeks with clues on Friday. I collected the weekly clues for 2013 to 2017 before actually making one of the quilts. I still have them saved and hope to get back to make them. This is my 2017 On Ringo Lake quilt made with controlled scrappy reproduction fat quarters.
I have all of the parts of the 2018 mystery, Good Fortune, made and the blocks are assembled. It has several pieced borders that I am finishing between other projects.

Here is my step 1 for this year's mystery with one of my cats, Seamus. I look forward to the clues coming out each week. Be sure to visit Bonnie Hunter's blog for her daily posts. Since I'm a quilter I have lots of other projects in progress. Plus, I'm just now thinking about any Christmas presents I want to make. So this will be a busy month, with lots of things to share. I hope you can stop back again. The suggested topics for the blog hop are below.


Thanks for visiting!

Monday, July 22, 2019

A little sewing today, plus new kitten antics

     Hope you have air conditioning or a place to go with AC. It’s been terribly hot in Connecticut... saw 101 on the car thermometer a couple days ago. That’s just not nice. Usually we’ll see 80-85 and call it hot. I am lucky in that I have central air conditioning that I’ve had set on 75 for a week or more. Once it gets to the desired temperature it does pretty well maintaining it. Since I am often sitting at the computer or sewing machine that is plenty cool for me. I think the cats would like cooler, but I run the thermostat. 😸

     I am so enjoying my new kitten, Rory. He is a pleasant soul, and is getting along with my 1 year old Maine Coon, Walnut. They were a little standoffish the first day or so. Now, Walnut is being very patient with kitten antics. The two older cats are still undecided and avoiding the kitten whenever possible. They’ll get over it. And just wait till Walnut’s brother comes home in a month or so!

     My only sewing today was this month’s block from a local shop, the Yankee Quilter in Seymour, CT. I joined their block of the month program for the year. They showed the finished quilt, right up front. Programs I have done in Maine and New Hampshire often were a mystery until the end, so this was nice seeing what you are making ahead of the monetary commitment that a bed quilt is.

     Today’s block has the 54-40 or Fight unit as part of the block. The pattern included paper templates to make this with, but as I have every quilting ruler/template ever made, I had the right ones.


I used some Omnigrid Glow Line Tape to mark the size pieces I needed to cut (yellow). This made cutting nice and easy, with no mistakes. Sometimes triangles can be tricky to get the angles right. The other pieces were squares and rectangles so quickly cut. It went together beautifully, and I like the finished block.
     Not sewn together yet, but all there.

     I’m making plans of what I want to do as regular posts (weekly, monthly, ?). If you have any suggestions of what you’d like to see, such as tutorials, finishes, original patterns, etc., please leave me a comment. Anyone that had started on the 101 Patchwork Patterns blocks with me two(!?) years ago, I am gearing up to continue. I haven’t found the blocks I had made, so I’ve started over using 30's prints. I’ll post a page with updated photos when they are done and I’m ready to move forward with new blocks. In the meantime, if you are interested in starting the quilt, click the 101 Patchwork Patterns tab just under the page header. The quilt is a medallion style layout and block 1 is a larger center block. The rest of the patterns posted are all the same size and make up the first round of blocks surrounding the center. There is an Electric Quilt drawing of the planned quilt layout you can check out, too.

    As always, thanks for stopping by.