Thursday, December 31, 2020


Remind me next year that December is the perfect time to hand-quilt a quilt. At least it was for me this year. Though it's been years since I hand-quilted a big quilt, it seemed the perfect choice when Carolyn Friedlander announced her RAY quilt along. I knew RAY's piecing would go pretty quickly, and I was thrilled to use a bunch of my CF stash as well as mixing in several other solids and substrates. Quiet evenings at home allowed for quilting a little nearly every day.

I've done a bit of an overkill sharing the progress on this one. But it was fun for a change, and good motivation.
I'm a little bummed that the forecast is just rain and more rain over here. IE. Not great photo weather. But that doesn't mean I didn't manage to get it done, and I'm happy about that.

The finished quilt measures 67" x 72", and is bound in Kona Ocean. I'm not sure if it's my quilting, basting, or what, but the quilt is a little 'poofy' in some areas. The quilting is a whole lot less dense than my usual, so that could be it too. Whatever, it's a nice, cozy quilt, and I'm plenty happy with it. Definitely a good way to finish up this year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

At the Table

Wow! I kind of took a break from sharing new recipes I've tried during this stay-home time, didn't I? Admittedly, I did slow down a bit in the kitchen too, but there have definitely been some worth sharing, so let me catch up a bit.

New York Times Cooking has been a source of many good meals these past months. For one thing, we found that orzo, while not being a new ingredient to us, was definitely a good pasta shape for quick one-pot meals.

Sweet Potato and Gruyere Gratin was one we made for our mini-Thanksgiving dinner, and it was delish.

Colu Henrywho is a NYT Cooking contributor and author of  Back Pocket Pasta: Inspired Dinners to Cook on the Fly (which I still cook from regularly by the way) offered up the recipe for Roasted Tomato and White Bean Stew, which we really enjoyed too. It also landed on the NYT Cooking's 20 Most Popular Recipes of 2020. [I'm a NYT Cooking subscriber, but I'm hoping you can access those links too.]

Not sure how we happened across Fine Cooking's Slow-Cooker Beef Chili with Beer and Lime Sour Cream, but it's a keeper. That Lime Sour Cream is a revelation.

I continue to follow Smitten Kitchen and we tried Sour Cream and Chive Fantails for Thanksgiving. They were really fun to make and I'll definitely keep these on the list of successes.

On Christmas, I also made up Small-Batch Eggnog just for fun and oh my it was good. We used dark rum in ours, but the recipe suggests several options, and there are lots of variations in the comments on Deb's post.

After ooh-ing and aah-ing over Amanda Jean's homemade pizza, she clued me in to the Thin-Crust Pizza Dough from Allrecipes. Oh yum. My pizza may not look too appealing, but it definitely was; and I really liked making pizza in a cast-iron skillet.

Finely, one of my very favorite new-to-me recipes is Half-Baked Harvest's One Pot Spicy Alla Vodka Pizza Pasta. SUCH good flavors! 'Pizza Pasta' describes it perfectly. It IS pasta, but it tastes like pizza. I don't know, but the combo is a winner.

So that's it for now. Feel free to check the Tuesday at the Table tab if you want to see what else I've been cooking. And leave any suggestions in the comments as always!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Give It Away

A few years ago I was asked, "What do you do with all those quilts?" A valid question! My reply, in short, was, "I use, donate, show, share, and store them." Yes, all of those things. And I was reminded of how remarkable it can be to share them, when the other day, a card arrived from some friends. It was a Christmas card, but at its heart, it was also a 'thank you.' 

It mentioned a small quilt, Spiraled Jungle, that my friends chose a few years ago from a handful that I had made that needed a home. And in it they see a variety of scenarios - different scenes at different times. In a recent one, they saw the center 'map' background reflecting the mess that life can be, with the spirals representing a band of people sharing one another's load. There was much more that they wrote, but you get my drift, right? To them, this 'jungle' was so much more than fabric and thread, and that really touched me. In fact, I felt honored that somehow a piece of my work could evoke such thoughtfulness.

Now I know not everyone would respond like my friends and that's totally ok. I'm not even sure I would most of the time. Our work can be 'just' fabric and thread and still be beautiful and meaningful without overthinking it. But this is still a reminder - to you and to me - that in the midst of all the making, if you get a chance, give some of it away. Who knows? It just might have more stories to tell.

Monday, December 28, 2020


Hi there! Not your normal post, but I just wanted to let you know that there have been alot of you lately that show up as "no-reply" bloggers when you make a comment on one of my posts. What that means is that an email is not connected to your comment, and there is no way for me to respond.

That's sad for me, since it's my habit to respond to pretty much every comment on my posts. Oh occasionally I need to skip a few; but in general, if you take the time to comment and connect with me, I definitely want to do the same by responding.

A few of you have even asked questions that I am unable to answer without having your email. So you might check, especially if you've been commenting regularly and have gotten no response. If need be, always do feel free to contact me via email, Because we're all part of the same community, and that's worth taking care of, right?

Quilting the RAY Quilt

After achieving the monumental task of making a backing and basting, my RAY quilt sat for a day or two but luckily I was able to reach my goal of beginning the hand-quilting before Christmas arrived. And it's going ok! The hardest (ie. part I like least) is the marking. Due to the range of  fabric colors in the quilt, I'm actually using three marking tools:

That's all a little fiddly, but it's working. Like Carolyn did on her first RAY quilt, I'm marking several parallel lines, 3" apart, quilting them, then going back to mark more.

For the actual stitching, I'm using a Tulip Long Sashiko needle and perle cotton #8 in royal blue. I'm also not using a hoop, which I believe is my first time doing that on this large of a quilt. It's interesting! But doing big-stitch quilting using that large needle allows me to load quite a few stitches on the needle at a time. And I would have thought I'd have had to be really cautious with the tension of my stitches, but they seem to settling in just fine, albeit not totally straight and even. 

So I'm feeling hopeful about having the quilting done by the end of the year! Wish me luck!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Working Small

For some time I've been of the mind that 'making a quilt' doesn't necessarily mean it has to be big. My friend Jill/@pieladyquilts said basically the same thing in her talk last weekend, and I appreciated her unknowing affirmation. Then Paola/@thecultofquilt shared a post with her latest 'experiment' and expressing the same sentiment. Alot of us have grabbed on to the respite that working small provides. 

I think of Gwen Marston often when I get a twinge of guilt over working small. But I figure if small "sketches" were ok for Gwen, they must be for the rest of us, right? Fact is, I find that working small is a great motivator. I can try a new idea, a new technique, just take a breather - whatever, making small takes alot of the pressure off at least for me.

With Crosscut (24" x 24"), I tried a method of piecing blocks together just to cut them into blocks to piece them together again. At the time, it felt excessive, but it led not only to a well-loved tutorial, but a sewalong and an avenue for folks to dabble with improv, even now.

StringSong (24" x 24") was another exploration into 'create it to cut it up,' which over the years has become a favorite 'technique' for me when I just want to play.

Playing with scale was one of the impetuses behind Nine of Ten (14 1/2" x 20 1/2"), something I don't consider often enough, but need to.

Relatively Subtle (17" x 17") was a palate cleanser, clear and simple, and though I created in fabric a doodle from my sketch book, it was in the quilting that I really got in the groove.

With So Wrong It's Gotta Be Right (17" x 17"), it was in response to a given challenge on the use of 'one wrong color,' and though I remember my viewers didn't think anything was wrong at all, it still was definitely exploring a concept, and the small size was all that was needed.

Scrap Leather (17" x 17") was a foray into minimalism in piecing and maximalism in quilting and it remains a favorite to this day.

Finally, Loosely Connected (11" x 11") was totally one of those where I didn't know where I was going at the outset, but just started cutting and sewing. It evolved, let's say, even into the quilting and the micro-binding. This one still screams of the best kind of creating for me, and hangs in my studio as a reminder.

So I know some of you aren't really into miniature quilts, that big and 'functional' is where it's at, and that's totally ok, obviously! But I really do love the space working small opens up for me, and I fully intend to keep on going there.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Best of 2020

It's always fun to join in Cheryl/Meadow Mist Designs annual 'Best of' linky party. There's a variety of ways to go about it, and as is my tradition, I'm choosing to base my 'best' solely on reader views of blog posts, counting up from #5 to the most viewed post of 2020.

#5: More of Those Littles - I'm pretty sure this post was heavily viewed due to Krista/@poppyprint's ruler sleeve tutorial for a 4" x 14 1/2" ruler.  SO many folks commented on Krista's post that this was their favorite size ruler, that I had to try it, and I must say, it's now a standby on my cutting table. Plus, the ruler sleeve was fun and quick to make. [Krista's tutorial is still stored in her IG Highlights.]

#4. Cross Country - I'll confess I took this class solely to meet Anna Maria Horner, which was as much fun as anticipated, and along the way, I fell in love with my Cross Country quilt. I didn't have alot of AMH fabric in my stash, but I used most of what I had in this quilt - both front and back. It's not my 'normal' style in the least, but I'm really glad I made it, and best of all was working beside Anna Maria making some of the fabric choices for different sections.

#3. Scrap Stacks - I'm kind of surprised at this one! A scrap quilt totally inspired by Nicholas Ball's Inspiring Improv 'stacks' technique, I'm not quite sure what folks liked about this one - the "live" edges, the color progression, or what, though none of that matters of course. This one was decidedly fabric play at its best.

#2. Sidetrack - Another scrap quilt, this one is still a favorite of mine too, and it was so enjoyable to make, considering its small size (24" x 25"). Actually, it was begun from scraps of Grayness, yet another scrap quilt, and indirectly led to the larger courthouse steps quilt, Autumn Steps. All of that just adds to its story. 

And (drumroll) #1: Let It Be - It is so apropos that this scrappy quilt was the most viewed on the blog this year. Measuring 70" x 55" x 67" x 50", it is the wonkiest quilt I've ever made, and at the time, it felt so, so necessary to leave it just as it was. Made back in May, when nothing made sense, and we were beginning to realize that things would be very different for much longer than we'd hoped, accepting its shape as it was felt obvious and important. And this is the quilt that I've snuggled with the most in all the months since. It's kept me company, and added a little joy to many days. As have all of you....

So that's what you all thought was 'best' here on the blog. Can't thank you enough for sticking with me and following along in this year unlike any other. Many, many thanks!

Linking up with Meadow Mist Designs' Best of 2020 Linky Party!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a Christmas
pause filled with wonder and hope.... 
and a healthy, joyful New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Seeing Well

So the other day, I posed a query in my IG stories....

There were multiple responses on three pretty basic themes:

  • Glasses. Low-magnification (1.0-1.25) readers really help some folks.
  • Aging eyes. Um, yes, that's always a possibility. That and a few folks suggested being checked for cataracts. My friend has been checked and there's no sign of them, but still, something to consider if you are experiencing the same issue.
  • Lighting. Yes, this was the most common response. There were many suggestions - a bright task light, be it table top, floor lamp, or one that clamps - all depends on the person's work space [mentioned were Daylight Slimline lamps and OttLite; I also have a Stella that I love]; direct light, preferably daylight bulbs (mentioned several times!); a reading LED light that sits around your neck to shine right onto your handwork [something like this]. 
All good suggestions! And obviously, finding the one that works for you is key. If you have other suggestions, please leave them in the comments! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Fancy Straight Line

Scrolling through the quilts I've made this year, it seems that some sort of grid was the most popular quilting design I used. I do love a grid! But I also used Jacquie Gering's "Fancy Straight Line" from her WALK book on three separate quilts, and I admit it, I'm a fan.

Becky/@keepmeinstitches and I were comparing notes after she recently used this quilting design for the first time, and we agreed that varying distances between the vertical lines was a fun part of the process. Usually I do a first go at the vertical lines, go back and do the zig-zags, skipping a vertical space periodically just to mix things up; then I go back and invariably add another vertical line here or there - whatever feels right in the moment.

So anyone else used this quilting design? OR what else have you tried this year that will stay in your repertoire? Inquiring minds want to know!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020


One of my great joys, creatively-speaking, these past years has been being a member of Bee Sewcial, an improv, solids-only bee. I remember I had stepped back from all my bees when the invitation came to join Bee Sewcial. And I couldn't resist. Let's just say it's often been challenging, and that's exactly why I joined in. I think it's helped shape my personal work in a way that I've really enjoyed and been grateful for.

That said, puzzling is always the hardest part of these Bee Sewcial quilts for me. Most often (all but once) I received back blocks in a whole range of shapes and sizes. That's part of the challenge, right? And it leaves alot of room for the maker's own inspiration and interpretation as they respond to the given theme. Since I've used a variety of methods to puzzle my blocks together over the years, I thought it might be interesting to actually note what those have been. So here's a listing of my Bee Sewcial quilts, the prompt given to my bee-mates, the quilt size, the year the quilt was finished, and a brief description of how I puzzled the blocks together.

1. Mod Mood, Bee Sewcial Goes Mid-Century, 62" x 65", 2015 - For this one, I used a technique I'd seen Katie/Sew Katie Did use, and it let me create some order in the midst of the chaos of various-sized blocks. I began by making an 18"x22" frame of painters tape on my design wall, then pieced together a few blocks to fill the space, using other solids as filler as needed. And so it continued, making several more composite blocks in the same manner. When I still had blocks from my bee-mates left over, I made a few more smaller block sections. This post shows the 'grid' I created, which pretty much disappears in the final quilt.

2. Baconrific, The Bacon Consideration, 56" X 64", 2016 - For this one, I placed all the blocks on the design wall, forming a large rectangle, though a few 'holes' were left remaining. I filled some of them with my own bacon-inspired blocks, made to fit; but in three instances, I filled the spaces with circular "pancetta blocks," aka Improv Layered Circles. Besides doing their filler work, the trio of circle blocks added some extra interest, at least to me.

3. Looking Up, Looking Up, 75" X 60", 2018 - This quilt received the most traditional of finishing techniques - improvisational sashing. 

4. Homage, A Sketch Inspired by Gwen Marston's Liberated Patchwork Style, 56" X 60", 2019 - Once I put all of my bee-mates' blocks on the design wall, I followed my own prompt and made more improvisational 'sketches' to fill in the blanks. Nothing more than that.

5. Modular, Modular, 68" X 82", 2019 - This is my only Bee Sewcial quilt that actually uses some negative space to show off those blocks. I also used thin (1/2" finished) orange sashing(?) to add some movement as well as to connect with the orange segments in each block. 

6. Rings, Improv Double Wedding Ring blocks, 60" x 60", 2020 - For this quilt, I actually asked for two 12 1/2" blocks. I had in mind to arrange them in a pretty traditional arrangement, but no ideas beyond that. Though once I'd received the blocks, I did try arranging them more separated, but I really loved how they looked right next to each other. That way they also better reflected the traditional design. So then, that left how to 'frame' them to make the design look finished. Let's just say the blocks were up on the design wall a long time before this improvisational frame came into view. And once I had that vision, the rest, as they say, was history. And lastly, I think revisiting the improv stripes used in some of blocks really helped integrate the frame and make the design a 'whole.'

So thanks for indulging me! I've had this post in mind for a long time - both for you and for me - and I'm glad I was finally able to made it happen.

I’m participating in a 31 day blogging challenge!

Monday, December 21, 2020

RAY quilt back & basting

Well once I got my RAY quilt top done, I took a little breather to do other things, but eventually rounded back to making a backing for it. I began by sewing all my leftover cut strips in a loose courthouse steps design, taking liberties considering the fabric I had. That section ended up at 32" square, and then I just started adding fabric to bring it to size. And don't worry, I ran out between rain squalls to grab a photo, but since then it's gotten a really good press.

After that, I just kept moving, because it was time for basting and I really do dread that part! Considering that I had hand-quilting planned, I chose to forgo my normal spray baste, and started in with the pins, which I hadn't done for soooo long. And it was going great. Until I ran out of pins with half a quilt to go.

Lucky me, I had seen Bob Bosscher thread baste his quilts with a herringbone stitch, and I'd been keen to try it. Bob has a great tutorial in his Instagram stories, and before long I was underway. And I didn't half mind it!

So I've proven that a combo method does work - ha. And before you know it, I hope to be quilting!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Scrapmaster

Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining in with South Florida MQG to hear Jill Fisher/Pie Lady Quilts speak on "Unlocking the Joy in Scraps." Please tell me you already follow Jill. If you enjoy sewing with your scraps or have even the slightest inclination towards improv, I highly suggest doing so. 

I've been following Jill for years, and in addition to her amazing quilts, she tells the best quilt stories I know (here's an old favorite). During the trunk show yesterday, it had to be obvious to everyone, that Jill not only loves and tells a great quilt story, but they are a key element to most of what she does. Jill also has very good advice. She's got me thinking about how scraps from one project can lead to another - and another - and on and on. And about 'responding to' our work as it progresses, rather than over-thinking it. And her manta, which is thankfully one I already know and adhere to myself, "Just sew!"

See Jill's most current work in The Closet Game - it was so hard to pick just one to share here - and when you get a chance, lose yourself in her other quilts and their stories. You won't be sorry.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Not to Be

So QuiltCon Together acceptance letters went out yesterday, and I had a mixed (but overall happy) outcome. And I was preparing to share about all of it in this post, but I've noticed that this year, alot of folks are holding back on sharing their acceptances, and just sharing their 'rejects'. That's due to the nature of the 2021 quilt show being virtual. So I think I'll follow their lead and let you be surprised. But here are two of my quilts that will not be in the show in February:

Cutting Corners was entered in the Improvisational category, and I kind of expected it not to make the cut. Total fabric-play, this one, and made entirely of scraps, it still makes me very happy.

Modular was entered in the Group category, as it was made in conjunction with Bee Sewcial, the improv, solid-only bee I'm a part of. I'll admit I was really hoping this one would get in, as I'm very pleased and proud of the finish. But maybe another day....

So if you're on Instagram, do take a look through the #quiltconreject hashtag. We know they can't all get in, and this infamous 'show' is always spectacular.

Friday, December 18, 2020

My New Favorite Thing

In a recent newsletter, Carolyn Friedlander shared some dishtowels she had made, and suddenly I really wanted to make some for a gift. Carolyn had made hers from her Euclid fabric, a linen-cotton blend, so using what I had on hand, I chose a pairing of Essex Yarn Dyed in Charcoal (I think) and a stripe, Essex Yarn Dyed Classic Wovens in Steel. I used the same tutorial Carolyn had from Purl SohoClassic Mitered Corner Dishtowels.

It was suggested to prewash the fabric, and uncharacteristically but obediently, I did. I knew immediately after that it was the right thing to do - the hand of the fabric was so lovely. And you know? Those mitered corners sewed up like a charm. Unfortunately I totally didn't think to get a photo of them on the back side, but trust me, they are neat and tidy.

And from there, the towels sewed up like a dream. Though I thought the stripes could stand on their own, I echoed them by hand-stitching on the plain gray using perle cotton. At 15" x 25", the towels are a nice size - not too big, not too small. You know now I really want to make some for myself!

Thursday, December 17, 2020

2021 Planning Party

It's time for Yvonne/Quilting JETgirl's #2021PlanningParty, so I'm taking a moment to look ahead. First though, I want to glance back at the plans I made this time last year.

The Quilts
  • Overall, the biggest success of the year has to be that I was still inclined to sew. More than ever, my quilting kept me centered in some very turbulent times.
  • Specifically, my Begonia quilt and the 2020 Summer Sampler did get done at the beginning of the year as hoped. Happily I was able to finish at least one quilt a month throughout the year. Some small, some large, a finish is a finish. Though I didn't use Enchanted, the Kona color of the year, I did manage to focus on Pantone's Classic Blue in Utterly Blue as well as Blue II, so I'm good with that.
  • Stash-busting was successfully a priority, and I enjoyed the challenge. And through November, I was able to use over 100 yards of fabric from my stash. I feel good about that! I also incorporated scraps into several quilts, so that goal was definitely met though the scrap basket is still full.
  • The hope for a Christmas quilt didn't pan out, but maybe someday!
The Community
  • I was able to blog 2-3 times most weeks, though the hope of expanding from just sharing what I make didn't really happen. This year has been weird, and though I sewed plenty, getting out of my routine of basically sharing projects didn't evolve much.
  • Publishing The Scrap Basket newsletter every 3-4 week did happen, and the readership has consistently grown. More about that below.
  • Learning more Instagram features didn't really progress as I'd hoped. I'm in a quandary about whether I should make my account professional, which might unlock some new features. I did try to post on stories more, and was successful (enough) there.
  • Another IG improv sewalong did not happen either. I just didn't have the focus to put into it.
New Directions
  • Neither the artist challenge I had hoped to do nor any progress on monetizing my blog panned out, but I was successful at doing more "surprise" making and gifting, especially through about August. I made and gifted impromptu gifts to at least 10 of my friends or family members, so that felt really good to do.
So considering everything, I'd say 2020 was successful, but maybe not forward-thinking as much as I'd hoped. So on to 2021....

The Quilts
As usual, quilts are where I'll spend most of my sewing time. My goals surrounding them are minimal though.
  • Of course I want to make something with 2021's Pantone colors of the year, Ultimate Gray and Illuminating. Once I get official Pantone swatches, I'll begin the process of choosing fabrics. 
  • Dare I say there are no wips lurking about? Still hoping to finish my RAY quilt before 2020 ends, but if not, promptly in 2021.
  • More stash-busting and scrap-using is definitely in order. AND improv. The goal of at least one finished quilt project a month really encourages me along, so there's that too.
  • And Bee Sewcial, an improv and solid-only bee, is heading into our 7th(!) year together and I anticipate the group growing a bit. This bee has really challenged me over the years, and I look forward to more of that.
  • I definitely want to keep up with the handwork I've been doing this year, and continue to be open to learning new techniques. Thus I joined Blair Stocker's Snowflake Sampler to learn chicken scratch embroidery. 
  • I'm also currently working on a large Dropcloth Sampler, and finishing that in the new year is also a goal.
The Community
Again, mostly I want to do more of the same:
  • Regular, frequent posting on the blog here and on Instagram. They pretty much go hand in hand for me.
  • I plan to carry The Scrap Basket into its 6th year, though as much as I enjoy publishing it, I keep debating if it's cost-effective. Prices have jumped with a growing readership, and considering I publish just once every few weeks, it's costly. At this point, I consider it a gift to my community and justify it that way.
QuiltCon Together
  • It's not the same as QuiltCon, that's true, but I'm really looking forward to QuiltCon Together, and have signed up for a pretty full experience.
New Directions
  • Is it bad to say I have nothing major planned? So much is uncertain, I'm giving myself the grace to take it as it comes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

RAY quilt top

Well when I posted my RAY quilt progress the other day, I wasn't sure if I'd have a finished quilt top to share any time soon or not. Luckily, the stars aligned to give me a couple of hours of uninterrupted sewing time, and that's all it took. Ta da!

Originally, I had chosen 18 fabrics, but when it came right down to it, one just did not 'fit', though I tried several time. So 17 it was. I have one little section - there on the center left - where several fabric junctures kind of bunched up, but oh well. I (obviously) can live with it. The top measures 67" x 72", and now I'm hoping to squeeze in making a pieced back so I can be hand-qulting by Christmas. Now wouldn't that be nice?!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

I Remember

On October 17, 1966, I earned the Junior Girl Scouts Sewing badge when I was 10 years old. 

When I saw the suggested prompt for the 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge was "Earliest Sewing Memory," I was at once glad I actually had one; and also, was happy to have proof. From reading through the requirements for the aforementioned sewing badge, apparently I learned how to use all the basic sewing tools, about different kinds of cotton, how to use pattern books, as well as how to sew a variety of types of seams, edge finishes, and fasteners. I could name the parts of a sewing machine, and knew how to thread it and run it. And as the final hurrah, I made this skirt.

The last item on the list of requirements was to list ideas for future sewing projects I would like to sew. Boy I wish I had that list as well. I sure hope I was able to accomplish some of them!

I’m participating in a 31 day blogging challenge!