“Pick Up Sticks” Small Quilts

At a quilt retreat in September, Colleen demonstrated the “insert” style of improv piecing. We each made several blocks using 1″ strips and light green background squares. The plan was to make small quilts to put into Operation Christmas Child “shoeboxes.”

Since the retreat, Colleen has trimmed the blocks to a uniform size and sewn them into three quilt tops. She passed them to me for machine quilting and binding. If you zoom in, you can see the quilting designs I chose: loops and meandering, “Paper Dolls” pantograph, and freehand contour echoing.

Each quilt measures about 36″ square, and we hope to roll each tightly, fitting it into an OCC box along with a small doll, dolly blanket (from more “Pick Up Sticks” blocks), hygiene items, and other small toys. It is our prayer that these group-made quilts bless children in need of comfort, joy, and the gospel of Christ.

“Roman Stripe”

“Come sit a spell, and if you are chilly, cover your lap with this quilt!”

I made the patchwork for this quilt several years ago. Since then it sat in my UFO pile while I debated about whether or not to make it larger and add patchwork star borders. Each 3” block is composed of three 1 1/2” x 3 1/2” strips, two matching lights and a dark blue or red. This is a value reversal of many Roman Stripe quilts; most of the time a lighter strip is flanked by two darker strips. The blocks are arranged in a 10 x 10 grid. I like the over-under woven look.

By adding a 2” wide inner border of light print and a 4” border of navy solid, the quilt is a perfect size for a vet at our local VA hospital. I freehand quilted stars and loops over all with royal blue thread. A red print binding echos the red patchwork strips nicely.

What project in your UFO pile do you want to finish this month? Leave a comment below; I will be your cheerleader. It feels great to transform a top into a useful quilt that will bless the recipient!

“Star-Crossed” BOM Lap Quilt

As an active member of Tarheel Quilters Guild, I enjoy participating in the block-of-the-month activity. The parameters are simple: 1) the BOM coordinator chooses, prints, and distributes a pattern, 2) guild members who wish to participate make one or more blocks in the size mandated and with the colors stipulated, 3) for every block I make, a slip of paper with my name on it goes “in the hat,” 4) at the next guild meeting, a winner’s name is drawn “from the hat,” 5) the winner takes all the blocks and rises to the challenge to make a quilt with them.

Star-Crossed Lap Quilt

Due to the pandemic of 2020 our guild did not often meet in person, and participation in the BOM activity was not up to par. If you are a quilt guild or club or bee member in your locale, I am sure your group experienced similar circumstances. For the month when “Star-Crossed” was the BOM, we mailed our blocks to the guild president, and she drew a winner’s name. I contributed two blocks and won eight!

After making a ninth block, I set them together in a three by three grid. With sashing and a border, this is the perfect size for a lap quilt for a veteran at the VA Hospital in Fayetteville, NC. The VA is one of the charities our guild sponsors.

A close look at the blocks reveals that some of the makers used two different reds/blues, and others used the same tone-on-tone. (Whether or not to use the same tone-on-tone was not stipulated in the instructions.) In my opinion, the blocks with two different fabrics manifest a subtle shading. The sashing between the blocks resembles a window with nine panes and adds depth to the quilt. Admittedly, the hues of the sashing and border are more muted than the blues, reds, and yellows of the blocks; I used what I found in my stash. But it’s not all bad; the subdued sashing and border allows the bright blocks to shine brilliantly.

While visiting Trinity last week, she set up her computerized Handi Quilter to stitch “Becker’s Shooting Star” edge to edge design with pale yellow thread. We felt pale yellow would blend nicely with all the colorful fabrics yet show up on the white background. Hooray for the red, white, and blue! And hooray for another finished UFO!

How did your guild, group, or bee maintain fellowship and momentum in the midst of “stay at home” orders?

Starring . . . Charity Quilts

At the end of March, I taught a workshop on Zoom for the Tarheel Quilters Guild. About a dozen of us tuned in at 9 a.m. with coffee cups and fabrics in hand. After chatting for a few minutes, I explained the basics of making “Scrappy Stars.” Incidentally, “Scrappy Stars” is the first block in this year’s QAL, “Options.” You will find links to instructions for this block on the “Options BOM QAL” page of this blog.

Instead of making individual blocks from 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ rectangles, most of us strip-pieced 2 1/2″ x 40″ background fabric strips together with colorful 2 1/2″ x 40″ strips and cross-cut them at 4 1/2″ intervals for a speedier finish. We checked in with each other via a second Zoom meeting at lunchtime. Everyone showed her progress, and I answered a few questions. We scheduled a final meet-up at 2 p.m., but technical difficulties beyond our control preempted our plans. Lesson learned: Schedule a 45 minute beginning Zoom session to tell all instructions and tips for the entire project.

Tarheel guild members enjoy making baby quilts for the NICU of our local hospital, and our “Scrappy Stars” workshop increased the number of quilts our charity chairwoman can offer these little ones and their parents.

I recently made Sawtooth Star baby quilt of leftover fabric from the “Hello Spring” BOM I facilitated at Sew There! Quilts and More in Angier, NC in 2020. The instructions for the Flying Geese units for “Hello Spring” yielded large “waste” triangles; I used these to construct star points for my baby quilt.

The center Sawtooth Star measured about 10″ square; I increased the size to 12″ with a narrow frame. This 12″ square became the center of a 24″ Sawtooth Star to which I added three borders, bringing the size to 36″ square. I quilted the “Happy Times” edge to edge design with light pink thread and bound the quilt with fuchsia tone-on-tone fabric. This was a quick and easy way to transform an orphan block into a baby quilt. I will definitely use this idea again!

“Giant Star” Published!

Exciting news . . . the Quilting Daily company has produced a brand new magazine, Fons and Porter’s Quick + Easy Quilts, and my “Giant Star” quilt was selected for publication in the inaugural issue! The magazine editors have included quiltmaker’s stories related to the quilts as well as several yummy recipes.

This is a fat quarter friendly quilt; you need just four fat quarters and 3/4 yd. of background fabric to make the quilt top. Leftovers from making triangle-squares are used for the border. At 37″ square, the quilt is perfect for a wall quilt or a baby quilt.

“Cosmo” from Northcott Fabrics is the line my editor requested for the teal and gray quilt. I quilted Es and 3s freehand overall with gray thread.

I enjoyed making this quick and easy quilt so much that I made a second quilt and persuaded my editor to print a picture as an alternate colorway – “Branded” by Sweetwater for Moda. I ordered a tan fabric for the background and plaid fabric for binding, but my daughter, Trinity, suggested that I use plaid as the background instead of the tan. I love the effect! Trinity quilted Whole Lotta Stars edge to edge (designed by Patricia E. Ritter, distributed by Urban Elementz) with navy thread on this quilt.

Look for this magazine at your favorite newsstand, or click here to link to the Quilting Daily store’s selection of magazines. A digital edition is available for sale.

Cowboy Quilts for Twins

The NICU of our local hospital is not currently receiving donated baby quilts due to the COVID-19 epidemic. In fact, hospital staff is not encouraging people to visit patients at all. But when they open their doors again, these two quilts will be in the bundle delivered to the tiny babies who need extra medical attention.

In mid-March, I taught a “Giant Churn Dash” baby quilt workshop to members of my guild, the Tarheel Quilters. My friend Karlene gave me the FQ stack of cowboy themed fabric (an older Riley Blake line). I made one quilt in the workshop, sewing along with my students, and I made the other a week or so later. It is a quick and easy pattern; you will find a link to the instructions on the Patterns page of this blog. You guessed it – the quilt design utilizes 2 1/2″ strips, and I bet you have some in your stash just begging to be used.

Generally I match the quilting thread to the color of the background fabric, tan in this case. But this time I chose a high contrasting dark brown so the quilting design would show up well. Can you see the cowboy boots and hats? (The pantograph, “Stetsons and Boots” was designed by Dave Hudson of patternman.com.)

Have you made a baby quilt lately? What pattern/design did you use?

“Irish Chain” Finished!

Here we are on Friday the 27th, heralding the final weekend of March. Will you have some time to sew/quilt? Will you be working on your “Churn Dash” blocks for the “Sisters” BOM QAL? (If you are new to the blog, click on the “SISTERS BOM QAL” tab to see the first three blocks in our 2020 quilt along. All the participants attest that the blocks are not too difficult, so you can easily catch up and quilt along with us.)

I’m happy to report that my UFO, “Irish Chain,” is finished. Since I intend to gift it to a senior at the VA Hospital or a local nursing home, I thought about quilting a meandering motif all over. This would be a simple and quick design. But then I took a closer look at the floral and vine print in the “Nine Patches” and thought of free- handing heart-shaped leaves and loops. I really do enjoy quilting this design; I can quilt it at an even speed and don’t even engage the stitch regulator feature for my longarm! I used a medium dark gray thread which blends nicely in the darker fabrics and adds a bit of texture to the light gray background squares.

I bound the quilt with the same red print as the setting triangles (an older VIP Cranston print transferred from my mother-in-law’s stash to mine; thanks, Cynthia!). Tip:  If you apply both steps of binding by machine as I did on this quilt, make sure the bobbin thread matches the color of the border on the front of the quilt. For example, my border triangles are dark red, so I used dark red thread in the bobbin as I applied the binding first to the back of the quilt. By doing this, the machine stitches of Step #1 won’t show glaringly if I fail to completely cover them when I fold over the binding to the front of the quilt for Step #2 stitching.

While sewing this quilt, I found myself humming and singing a favorite hymn, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” We surely can rely on His help during this COVID-19 pandemic. How comforting to know He has the whole world in His hands! Click here to listen to this hymn via You Tube.

Workshop Summary

This past Saturday, I offered a workshop for making the “Giant Churn Dash” baby quilt to Tarheel Quilters Guild members. About ten ladies attended; we had a blast sewing together! Pictured below are Joy and Maureen who are focused and concentrating as they sew. And you can tell that Colleen is in her happy place with fun fabrics in her hands!


While most workshop participants used 2 1/2″ strips leftover from jelly rolls for the strip-pieced units, some cut strips from stash or fat quarters. Karen modified the instructions so that she could use 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ rectangles she has cut and saved through the years.

Due to obligations at home, Anita could not attend the workshop as planned. But she sewed along with us while at home, and we exchanged pictures in the afternoon. Instead of placing a white square in the center, Anita featured an airplane print that she also used to back the quilt.

Several ladies affirmed that they would make this quick, easy and versatile design again. Yolanda plans to make two from the same pretty fabrics; they’ll be given to twin girls in the NICU of our local hospital.

On Sunday, at the guild meeting, we showed our quilt tops to those in attendance. Barbara was our over-achiever, she made 3 quilt tops and quilted all on her new longarm overnight.

I encouraged everyone to access the instructions on the Patterns page of my blog. Like you, even those who could not attend the workshop may still make a “Giant Churn Dash” baby quilt.



Giant “Churn Dash” Baby Quilt

Since “Churn Dash” is the March block of the month in our “Sisters” quilt along, I have a pattern variation to share with you.

I’ve designed a contemporary baby quilt based on the time-honored design. One giant block is all you need to make for this quilt! Click on the Patterns tab in the bar beneath my header picture (or in the drop down menu on your smart phone). Once on the Patterns page, you’ll be able to click on the link to the printer friendly instructions for the 24″ block and two borders.

As you might surmise from looking at the picture, the rectangles are strip-pieced from 8  2 1/2″ strips. You can use leftover jelly roll strips or you can cut 2 1/2″ wide strips from stash as I did. In addition, you need about 3/4 yd. of light background fabric and 3/8 yd. of a theme print. I’ll be teaching this quilt as a workshop on Saturday to fellow Tarheel Quilters Guild members. When 20 of us complete our quilts, our NICU charity coordinator’s stockpile of baby quilts will be greatly increased.

I selected coordinating quilting designs for my two Giant Churn Dash quilts. For the “Under the Sea” theme quilt, I chose light blue thread and a pantograph of sea creatures.

And for my “Pretty in Pink” quilt, I quilted a freehand design of heart shaped leaves and large flowers with pink thread.

I’d love to see a picture of your Giant Churn Dash baby quilt! Send a digital photo to aby.quilts@gmail.com

“Steppin’ Up” in Pink

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Marlene, who collects and distributes baby quilts to the NICU on behalf of my guild, says her stockpile is dangerously low. Each month 20-30 quilts are needed to comfort newborns with medical issues. I volunteered to teach a speedy baby quilt design in March at a guild workshop. The completion of 15-20 workshop quilts should boost the pile Marlene keeps in reserve.

In the meantime, I made “Steppin’ Up” in pink prints. The half yard of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ fabric I found in my stash made the perfect border.

You can find a link to the instructions for “Steppin’ Up” on the Patterns page of this blog. Although the pattern calls for 10 strips, I just used 9 strips each cut 4″ x 40.” The addition of a 4″ border yields the perfect size for a baby quilt. I quilted a freehand, all over design of hearts and loops in light pink thread.

The pleasing outcome of this quick project has me wondering what other fabric combinations from my stash would look great in this design. I am sure I have 9 blues, and/or 9 greens, and/or 9 reds that would work, with a fun border print, as a baby quilt. What color(s) would you use from you stash for “Steppin’ Up?”