“Polka Tot” Revisited

5 02 2017

Deb MacDonald, an editor at McCall’s magazines, recently sent me the following picture and story of a mother/daughter quilting duo.


“My mother Arrabelle Frock of Westminster, Maryland made the Polka Tot Quilt from the August/September 2015 issue of McCall’s Quick Quilts.  As you can see from the attached picture it came out awesome!  What a wonderful Christmas gift from my mother.” –Kathy

McCall's QQ Cover Aug. Sept. 2015Kathy also wrote that her mother likes the quilt so much, she is considering making another one for herself. If you need a cheerful project to chase away winter doldrums, make “Polka Tot.” It is quick and fun to make. Display the quilt diagonally as a table topper or hang it in your sewing room or gift it to an expecting mother.

If you are not a Quick Quilts subscriber, you can purchase the magazine for $3.00 from the Quilt and Sew Shop.




“Polka Tot” Variation

8 07 2015


“Polka Tot” is published in the August/September issue of McCall’s Quick Quilts. On July 9 I am the guest blogger on the McCall’s blog, writing about my inspiration for the quilt. Click here to link to the McCall’s blog.

Bowties come in many sizes, and I thought you’d like to see a larger quilt made in manly fabrics. An overflowing container of homespun plaids as well as some stash fabrics that look like bowties served as the colored portions of the blocks. I auditioned several shirts (thrift shop finds) for light background. I was all set to use squares of the mostly white shirt you see in the center of the picture.


Prior to sewing, however, I realized that I needed a more subdued background to complement the muted homespuns. If I used white, the viewer’s eye would be overly attracted to the white rather than to the dark, rich plaids. Fortunately, another shirt in the bin suited (pictured lower center).

DSCN7459The traditional “Bowtie” block has a set-in center square. This is tricky for a beginning quilter and a bit time consuming for a speedy sewer like me. So I opted for a quick, uncomplicated method of construction. A small colored square is placed in one corner of each large background square and sewn together on the small square’s diagonal. The resulting triangle is flipped toward the corner and pressed. Excess seam allowance is trimmed away. The the background squares with “snowball corners” are joined with large colored squares to make “Four Patches,” i.e. “Bowties.”

If you would like to make a lap-sized version of “Polka Tots,” cut the larger background and colored squares 4 1/2″ and the small colored squares 2 1/2.” This yields 8″ finished blocks. I cut the red plaid inner border strips 2 1/2″ wide. I made 35 blocks, and the quilt measures 44″ x 60.”

When planning the quilt, I knew I wanted a red inner border; therefore, I did not make any red plaid bowties so the blocks would contrast with the border. Now that the quilt is complete, I realize that the red plaid border does not show up with as much contrast as the black polka dot border does on the baby quilt. Maybe I should have used a bright orange and green plaid instead of the red, or maybe the red plaid is just fine. It is subdued in hue like the rest of the rich, muted fabrics. What do you think?


Enter the drawing for an Aug./Sept. issue of McCall’s Quick Quilts by leaving a comment below. The top winner will receive 1/2 yd. of black and white polka dot fabric in addition to the magazine. The drawing will occur on 15 July.

“Polka Tot” Published

29 06 2015

I am so excited to share a published quilt with you! Click here to read McCall’s commentary about the quilt.


“Polka Tot” appears in McCall’s Quick Quilts, Aug./Sept. 2015 issue. Magazine subcribers should already have their copies, and it will be on sale in fabric and book stores on June 30.

McCall's QQ Cover Aug. Sept. 2015

The polka dot fabrics in bright colors are so cheerful! What baby wouldn’t love this quilt? At 38 1/2″ square, “Polka Tot” is perfect for tummy time. It can be compactly folded to fit in a diaper or stroller bag.

You can read more about this quilt on July 9 when I’m a guest blogger for the McCall’s blog. I will have several copies of the magazine to give away and pictures of a bonus, manly lap quilt to share.



First Quarter Challenge – Yet More Inspiration

30 03 2017

This year I’m making a concerted effort to use some of my pre-cuts, and I’ve challenged blog readers to do the same. If you’ve been following along from January through March, you’ve seen creative ways to use Fat Quarters and/or Quilter’s Candy.

Ilse sent a picture of a modern mini quilt using Brigitte Heitland’s Zen Chic collection. She wrote, “At the 2015 Nürtingen (Germany quilt) exhibition, all helping hands received a Quilter’s Candy pack from one of Brigitte’s many quilt fabric series, with the request to transform them into something special to exhibit at the upcoming 2018 show.”

The simplicity of Ilse’s quilt spells sophistication, don’t you think? I love the wavy quilting lines–close together where the colored squares are densest and farther apart toward the edges of the quilt where the squares are farther apart.

It will be so interesting to see all the quilts made with Quilter’s Candy in next year’s exhibition. (Be sure to send pictures, Ilse!)


Several other blog followers were inspired by recent posts. Darla sent a picture of a “Holly Hobby” placemat made by her sister, Anna. My post on the vintage “Little Dutch Girls” quilt reminded her of the placemat made years ago. I love the sweet embroidered flowers on the bonnet and sleeve cuff.

Helga contributed a picture of her “Sternen und Herzen” I Spy quilt in response to my question on the “Eye Spy” post. The quilt is about ten years old and remains at Helga’s house. All the grandchildren and young visitors can enjoy looking at it when they visit her.

Stephanie, inspired by the Polka Tot post, shared a picture of a patriotic quilt she made for Army Chaplain Sam Boone. She increased the block size to 9″ and used scraps and fat quarters from stash. Bowties are Chaplain Boone’s trademark, so this Quilt of Valor design suits him to a T.

With the first quarter of 2017 behind us, it’s time to look ahead to the second quarter’s challenge. Your role is to roll up your sleeves, unroll your jelly roll, and get the ball rolling on a new quilt!



McCall’s Quick Quilts Magazine Winners

15 07 2015

Congratulations to the winners of the magazine give-away!

McCall's QQ Cover Aug. Sept. 2015

The top winner was Bonnie– who receives a magazine and 1/2 yard of black and white polka dot fabric. The fabric is  enough for the inner, accent border of the “Polka Tot” quilt.

Two additional winners are Susan and Beth T. I will email you ladies asking for your street adresses so I can send the magazines to you.

If you didn’t win this time and your newsstand doesn’t carry McCall’s Quick Quilts, you can order a copy from the Sew and Quilt shop. Just click on the picture of the magazine cover above. Paper and digital copies are available.

One Quilt Leads to Another

25 05 2016

IMG_20160514_084032_899Remember this quilt? It’s my “Stair Step” baby quilt made with strip-pieced “Rail Fence” units. This is my Fat Quarter Challenge project for May. You can read the blog post about it by clicking here.

I had some leftovers from the project and promised to show you the quilt made from them. Ta da! I sewed “Four Patches” from the leftover strip-pieced units and then framed them with 2 1/2″ strips. In order to make nine 8″ blocks, I added a pink and white polka dot fabric. The sashing is also cut at 2 1/2,” and cornerstones of various fabrics used more of the remaining FQ scraps. A 4″ wide mottled hot pink border (gifted from my friend Deb) completes the project. The finished quilt measures 40″ square, the perfect size for a baby girl.


The quilt backing is a soft, white flannel with multi-colored polka dots. Using light yellow thread, I meandered with loops and double loops, softening the straight lines of the “Framed Four Patch” blocks. True confession: I don’t always wash my fabric prior to sewing, but I do wash flannel. Flannel is more loosely woven than quilting cotton and therefore shrinks more when washed.

Note:  This design is similar to “Pandora’s Box” found in the book Jelly Roll Quilts by Pam and Nicky Lintott. You can see many examples of the quilt by typing “Images of Pandora’s Box quilt” in your browser.

Orphan Blocks Find Homes

5 01 2015


With the holidays behind me, I’ve had some time to sew this past week. Instead of totally concentrating on UFOs and WIPs (UnFinished Objects and Works in Progress) . . . of which I have plenty, I spent several happy hours designing and sewing a couple of baby quilts. You saw the top for “Celebrate Life!” in my last post. Here’s the finished quilt. I meandered single loops and double loops with aqua variegated thread and bound the quilt with aqua fabric. Remember . . . you will find a link to the instructions for this quilt on my “Patterns” page.


The quilt pictured above was actually the second quilt I made. The design morphed from the quilt shown below. Prior to sewing “Celebrate Life!,” I fiddled around with 6 1/2″ blocks that daughter Trinity had leftover from her “Slant Six” mystery quilt.


I arranged the blocks in diagonal rows on my design wall, adding some medium gray print and cutting a few more squares of textured dark gray print. I’ve heard babies can easily focus on black and white and red. What do you think?


Next, I thought to find a purpose for a “March to Spring” orphan block in the center of the quilt. So I replaced the four center squares with the 12 1/2″ block. Do you like the quilt better now? (“March to Spring” was published in Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks, vol. 9. Click here if you’d like to order a copy of the magazine form Quiltmaker.)


Then I contemplated adding large red squares to coordinate with the small red squares in the patchwork block.


Yes, I like that much better. The bold red lends sparkle and fun, don’t you think? The quilt evolved from drab to fab! I added a 3″ wide black polka dot border so the quilt would measure 42″ square.

There were a few 6 1/2″ blocks leftover, so I used them to expand the backing fabric.


I quilted loops and double loops in gray thread and bound the quilt with Kona black.


Now for your mission, should you choose to accept it . . . use one of your orphan blocks to make a quilt. Send me a picture; I’d love to share it with blog readers. aby.quilts@gmail.com


Choosing fabrics for the “Slant Six” Mystery QAL

26 05 2014

Daughter Trinity visited this past weekend, and after persuading her to join the fun of joining this summer’s mystery quilt-a-long, we went shopping in my stash for the required fabrics.

Her selection started with the print of vintage cameras. We purchased it at Hobby Lobby last summer with the idea of making a tote bag for Trinity, a talented photographer. The bag hasn’t “happened,” so she is repurposing the fabric for the background (Fabric 5) of the “Slant Six” mystery. I know I suggested a plain, light background fabric, but I believe the rather large print will work well.


Fabric 1 is black, Fabric 2 is gray, Fabric 3 for the accent is red grunge, and Fabric 4 is the red polka dot print. After the patchwork is complete, Trinity will decide on a border fabric.

For my “Slant Six” mystery quilt, I want to use some leftover flip flop fabric to make a bright beach-themed quilt. I believe there is just enough for the print (Fabric 4). and for a border.


White will be my background (Fabric 5), the orange print is Fabric 1, the stripe is Fabric 2, the mottled blue is my Fabric 3 accent.

I will post Clue #1 (the cutting instructions) on June 1 under the Mystery Quilt tab on this blog. You have about a week to gather the fabrics you need for the lap quilt. At this point, on the Mystery Quilt page you will find a link to the document containing the fabric requirements. You will also find a link to a very helpful document depicting many successful fabric combinations which my friend, Karlene, put together.

Several QAL participants have asked if scraps may be used instead of yardage. The answer is . . . yes, but it will be easier if you use yardage because the instructions are given for strip-piecing. If you really want to use scraps, I suggest waiting to cut pieces for Clues 2 and 3 as they are posted.

Here is an example of a way to use scraps instead of yardage to make a blue-themed quilt:  For Fabric 1, choose several medium blue tone-on-tones or small prints that are the same value. Fabric 2 is a lighter shade of blue. For Fabric 3, the accent, you could use a very dark blue. Fabric 4 is the print; you could use several prints of medium scale. For Fabric 5, the background, you could use several different fabrics as long as they are roughly the same light value.

I can’t wait to see your fabric combinations for the “Slant Six” mystery QAL! Email me a picture of your fabric selection, and I will post it on a subsequent blog.