Monday, December 27, 2010


This has absolutely nothing to do with quilting but this is the only blog I write and I think it is important information so I will post it here. My friend's step-father just died last week and he had one of those policies that would/should pay for his funeral. Most people think you can sign the policy over to the funeral home and all the expenses will be covered. Maybe some work that way but this one didn't. They had to sign the policy over to an agency that will pay the claim in a couple of weeks but they had to pay the funeral home up front. They didn't have the money to pay so they were forced to borrow it from the agency at 40% interest!

This doesn't seem legal, moral or fair to me in any sense but when it comes to a dealing with the death of someone whose final arrangements must be taken care of in a timely manner you don't have many options. Funeral homes know this and I feel they take advantage of  the family of the deceased. This is just my opinion but it makes me wonder how some people can sleep at night.

Read the fine print is all I can say.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Newest Angel

This is the latest version of my Angel pattern that I have sewn out. I have gotten such a wonderful response to the earlier version that I decided to work on the original design and have made some changes. Anyone that got the earlier version and would like to have the newest version can send me an email and I will send it out.

Anyone else that would like to make a donation to The Cleland Family Fund and receive my Angel pattern as a "Thank You" from me would be much appreciated.

Nicole Cleland is a friend of mine who was involved in a car accident earlier this month with a drunk driver. Her 7 year old daughter Lexa was killed in the accident and Nicole has more surgeries ahead of her and about 5 months of recovery. There is no telling when or if she will be able to return to work.

The Cleland Family Fund is set up at The First National Bank:
2550 Brownsville Rd.
South Park PA 15129

Send me an email after you make your donation and I will email you the pattern for Lexa's Angel.

Thank you!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Kate's Angel

This is my new friend Kate's version of my design, Lexa's Angel. My post about my friend Nicole's situation struck a chord for Kate as she has had her own family tragedy to deal with and she generously made a donation to help a total stranger. My friend Nicole was involved in a car accident a couple of weeks ago in which she lost her 7 year old daughter, Lexa.

I don't have any new information about Nicole's condition right now but I know she made it through her most recent surgery. I'm not sure how many more she will have to endure but she is holding her own at this time.

Nicole's car was struck head on by a drunk driver when she and her 2 daughters were on their way to pick her husband up from work. Her 11 month old daughter is being cared for by family members until Nicole is well enough to do it herself. There has been no indication as to when that might be, unfortunately.

If anyone would like to help Nicole and her family, there is a fund, THE CLELAND FAMILY FUND, set up for them at The First National Bank, 2550 Brownsville Rd, South Park, PA 15129, 412-831-4800.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chautauqua Institution Summer Program 2011

I got an email confirming my proposal to teach at Chautauqua Institution has been accepted! This will be my second year on the special programs faculty and I am really excited to be participating. This year I will be teaching 2 weeks instead of 1. My class will run the first week and again the sixth week and will be open to daily students as well as those that want to take all the sessions. I don't have all the details yet but will post them as soon as I can.

Last year my class was three sessions, 2 hours each and I taught my own design called Lakeview. It was a paper pieced design in which I had the opportunity to show how to get a directional piece of fabric into a quilt. I haven't decided what the project or projects will be this time around but I want to show the technique for directional piecing again as well as a paper pieced "Y" seam.

If you've never been to Chautauqua Institution you owe it to yourself to check it out. It is one of my most favorite places in the world! Their website is

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snide or Truthful?

There has been a discussion lately on a Yahoo Group for quilt designers about quilt magazines and whether they are worth buying anymore. Someone had criticized the magazines for lacking design inspiration. Another designer commented that if we, as designers, are looking to the magazines for inspiration we aren't working very hard at coming up with original and innovative ideas. Another designer took great offense to this statement and after I added my two cents (which maybe I should have kept it my pocket) personally emailed me and told me my reply was "snide" and she was leaving the group because she had had enough of snide comments. I simply stated that there are designers out there who change the color of a design and call it their own and there are designers out there who know a great design/idea when they steal it. But I think the kicker was when I said, "If the shoe fits, put it on." She took that as a personal attack, I think. I certainly didn't mean it that way and after we emailed back and forth several times, with me trying to apologize for offending her, I gave up. After all, the only people who would be offended by what I said are people with a guilty conscience or a lack of confidence in their design abilities.

I sent an apology to the group just in case others thought my reply was "snide" but I have gotten nothing but positive replies. I didn't apologize for what I said but more like how I said it.

Anyway, I'd love to hear what others outside of the design industry think about the quilting magazines. I think one magazine, in particular, has stepped up its game. The latest issue of Quiltmaker has some amazing quilts in it and their special issue, 100 Blocks From Today's Top Designers, is genius. I may be biased since I had a block in the first issue and might have one in the third, but either way, I think the concept is really great.

Do you still subscribe to magazines? Have you dropped some and picked up others? Are you more likely to buy a book or a pattern over a magazine? Do you scour the internet for free patterns? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Christmas Angel is born

In a season that should be filled with joy a tragedy is especially hard to understand. This past Saturday night, my friend Nicole and her 2 daughters were on their way to pick up their father from work when a 23 year old man who had just left a bar on the South Side of Pittsburgh crossed the yellow line and struck Nicole's car head on. Her 7 year old daughter, Lexa, was pronounced dead at the hospital later that night. Nicole's other daughter was treated and released to her family as Nicole is in critical condition and has several surgeries and about 5 months of recovery in front of her.

This young man was able to get out of his car and run away. He was found hiding behind a building not far from the scene of the accident. There are so many labels I want to give this "man", but it would be useless and a waste of energy since his own guilt and whatever punishment he is given by the courts will have to suffice until he is judged by God.

I have decided to try and help Nicole and her family instead of focusing on his lost soul. There is a fund set up for Nicole and her family that is accepting monetary donations and I am offering to send anyone who donates to that fund an emailed copy of my design, LEXA'S ANGEL, pictured above.

Donations can be sent to:
The Cleland Family Fund
c/o The First National Bank
2550 Brownsville Rd.
South Park PA 15129

I know quilters are very generous people by nature so I hope if you are able to send anything, you will. I will be honest and tell you I have no way of knowing if someone actually sends a donation but I trust that people are generally good.

After you make your donation, send me an email at and I will email you the pattern.

Thank you and God bless you,

Friday, December 03, 2010

Paper Piecing using the card method

Madame asked me to post a picture using the card method for paper piecing so that's what I am doing! This picture shows the card (blue) which I placed on top of the foundation covering the number 1 segment and folding back the paper on the line between the number 1 segment and number 2 segment. I then line the 1/4" mark on my rotary ruler with the fold of the paper and trim the exposed fabric.

The next picture shows the same thing but using the Add-A-Quarter Ruler instead of a rotary ruler.
I hope this helps Madame.

Quilting Gallery Contest-VOTE NOW!!!

Voting is open for the Quilting Gallery's weekly contest. This week's theme is stars and there are some amazing quilts being shown. Its worth checking out just to see these beautiful quilts.

This is a picture of my own entry called Chocolate Raspberry Torte, and although I am very proud of it, I can't honestly say its the best one there, so go take a look and see what you think!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Are you afraid of paper piecing? Here are some of my tips.

So I admitted yesterday I don't know my way around a ruler very well (although I do have students who would disagree with that statement because I can fake it when I have to) how many of you are willing to admit you are afraid to try paper piecing?

When I teach paper piecing I call it quilting by numbers. The number sequence is so important to successful paper piecing. When I design a paper pieced pattern, I try to make the number 1 piece the biggest piece in the unit. It doesn't always work out that way though and I think that confuses people sometimes. They naturally want to start with the biggest piece and add the smaller pieces afterward. There are times when you can ignore the numbers a little bit but those times are not the norm. So my first piece of advice is to make sure you start at number 1.

The first piece of fabric always goes right side up on the blank side of the paper and should be cut larger than the space it needs to fill. It can be pinned or glued in place. I prefer flat head pins because it bothers me when I can't get all the paper out when the block is finished. I like the flat head pins best because I can lay a ruler on top of them and the ruler doesn't "seesaw".

The ruler I like to work with for most of the project is the Add-A-Quarter Ruler. When I first saw it, my thought was, "I don't need ANOTHER ruler!". But when I tried it, I knew I had to have it. It has a lip that measures a 1/4" so I don't have to worry about putting the 1/4" mark of my rotary ruler is the right place each time I have to trim.

After I have my first piece of fabric secured to the foundation, I turn the foundation printed side up so I can place a card on top of the number 1 segment lining up the edge of the card with the line between the number 1 and 2 segments. I fold just the paper back over the card right on that line. Next, I place my Add-A-Quarter Ruler on top of the foundation making sure the lip of the ruler catches on the fold of the paper. Now I can trim the first piece so it has a 1/4" seam allowance. The next piece of fabric is placed right sides together on top of the number 1 piece lining up the edge of the number 2 piece with the trimmed edge of number 1. I can pin this piece in place if I feel the need, but if I use a pin I make sure it isn't close to my sewing line. All of the lines drawn on the foundation are sewing lines so I make sure my pin doesn't touch the one I am getting ready to sew on. I lower my stitch length so I am getting about 15-20 stitches per inch. On my Bernina I set it at 1.5. On Babylock machines, where you have to choose between 1.4 and 1.6, I would choose 1.4.

The shorter stitch length serves a couple of purposes. The paper takes up some space so when it is removed you don't want your stitches to be loose. The shorter stitch length makes them a little tighter. Also, with more stitches per inch, the paper is more perforated and will be easier to remove later.

Now its time to sew! Turn the foundation over, printed side up, and sew on the line between the number 1 and 2 segments. Start stitching at least a 1/4" before the line starts and end at least a 1/4" after the line ends. It is impossible  to sew too far in paper piecing because any extra stitches and fabric will be trimmed off before adding your next piece. This second piece of fabric needs to be pressed open and trimmed before adding the number 3 piece. If the sewing line for number 3 piece intersects the first sewing line, when you fold the paper back on the line the first 2 pieces of fabric will fold back with the paper. Simply grab the fabric and gently pull it away from the paper so the fabric will lie flat on the cutting mat and the foundation folds back neatly on the line. Use your Add-A-Quarter Ruler or rotary ruler to trim the exposed fabric to 1/4" and continue adding your pieces in numerical order.

Paper piecing is really a simple process and can give great results without making you want to tear your hair out. I have been able to use directional fabrics and make sure the design ends up where I want it. I can also get every piece of fabric into the project on grain if I think it is important to the success of the finished piece. I know of one quilter who won't take a paper pieced top because the grain line is all over the place most of the time. That isn't the case with mine. I can also paper piece a "Y" seam very easily. I will talk more about these techniques later so check back!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Ok, I admit it, I am math-challenged. I hate having to figure out measurements and worry about an accurate seam allowance. I'm a "ruler tapper". I don't trust the numbers I see so I have to count the squares with my finger to be sure. After 10 years of quilting, I can sew an accurate, or at least consistent seam allowance, but with paper piecing I don't have to worry about it.

The last class I took was about 9 years ago and was a paper piecing class. From the moment I learned the technique, I KNEW this was how I wanted to make every quilt for the rest of my life. Even if I want to make someone else's design, the first thing I think about is whether I can paper piece it or not. Then, if I decide I can, I redraw the design in my computer, print out the foundations and off I go. Most of the time, the design is actually simpler and can be done with less pieces by paper piecing than by rotary cutting the shapes. For example, I saw a pattern that was done with half square triangles that looked like diamond shapes when they were pieced. The design resembled the flights on an arrow, but by doing it with half square triangles, there were twice as many seams. That means more fabric, more matching and more chances for bad intersections when matching.

There are some patterns that really can't be sewn using any other technique unless you enjoy driving yourself crazy. Consider the Mariner's Compass. Can you imagine cutting all those points out with a rotary cutter and templates and thinking you will ever get it together right? I can't. Or the New York Beauty block? I love both of those designs but would never attempt either if it weren't possible to paper piece them.

What about miniatures? The quilt I posted a picture of in my last post had pieces that are less than 3/8" square. There might be someone out there who would be able to put that together with templates, but I can assure you, it wouldn't be me.

I think you owe it to yourself to at least try this technique. Its not for everyone, I suppose, but if you have a good teacher and the desire to learn something new, it might end up being your favorite technique, too.