Cardinal Christmas

Every year, I try my darndest to have a new Christmas Quilt for the holidays.  My journey this year began with an image that I stumbled across on Pinterest. This image was posted by: with the caption: Quilt Inspiration: Free pattern day: Woodsy Winter quilt


*NOTE- the image is not a quilt, but a drawing


The Pattern:

Because I shy away from patterns as a rule, I didn’t click on the link. Instead, I saved the image and thought about how I would go about making something similar.  I truly hate rules, so wanted to find the best way to make my own version in an organic sort of manner.

One of the things that drew me to this image was the way it allowed for larger prints to be showcased instead of cut up into tiny elements that were then lost.

The Fabrics:

My next job was to find suitable fabrics.  I did have a cute grey with trees and cardinals already waiting for a perfect project.  Next I needed something with a dark presence.  A poinsettia print fit the bill.

Another print I found in my stash was a small red cross pattern in gold.  Because the poinsettia print also had gold mixed in, this was a perfect choice. The last print was for background and sashing which was also in my stash, a gorgeous white with gold snowflakes.

Can you see a pattern emerging?

The last fabrics I needed were some solids to break up all these beautiful prints.  I chose a green and a red – of course!

*NOTE: when I went to put it all together, the green I chose just looked dirty, so luckily the Rock House Retreat had a gorgeous sage green from Moda on hand to save the day.  You can read more about Rock House and the wonderful time I had at Retreat HERE!

The Process:

In looking at the inspiration image, it may at first seem that this quilt was a Jelly Roll candidate.  This was not the case as a Jelly Roll is 2.5″ wide.  In order to showcase the large print fabrics, I chose to utilize 6″ strips instead.

I began by cutting all the fabrics into 6″ strips.  Of these, I cut the large print fabrics into random sections that were quite long.  The red and green I cut into 1.5″ and 2.5″ sections.

At this point, I used the design board to begin laying this all out.

Rock House Retreat TX

It is at this stage that it is very important to try to go for a random look.  At times, I thought this looked like a DNA Fingerprint Report!

The trick was to create a random look that was pleasing to the eye.  At first, when I placed the pieces on the design board, they ran up and down in uneven lengths.  That was OK because once I had the look I wanted, I simply cut the ends so that everything was even.

Sashing and Borders:

As I mentioned above, the sashing and first border was created using the gold snowflake background fabric. It is so lovely and brought all the stacks of internal fabric together.  For the outer border, I used the red/gold cross.  The size of all these elements were 2.5″ (2″ finished).  This choice lends a bit of continuity to the design and allows your eye to appreciate the larger print fabrics.

Long Arm Quilting:

I chose to quilt an edge to edge design that had lots of space so that the focus remained on the beautiful fabrics.

You can about image my excitement when I found this pattern, it is called… wait for it… Christmas Cardinal!!  How could I not use this edge to edge pattern?  The pantograph comes from Urban Elementz if you want to get it yourself.

As an additional unifying element, I used gold thread front and back for the quilting. As you can see, it was a perfect choice.


The final element was the binding, which I completed with the same sage fabric that was in the quilt.

I began this journey with an inspiration image and some beautiful stash fabric, and what I ended up with is a Christmas Quilt I am proud to display over the holidays.

Cardinal Christmas

What holiday projects do you hope to finish before Christmas?

Many Ways to Applique

How I Applique


Applique can be beautiful and one of the most rewarding additions to the quilting process.  From art quilts to children’s wall hangings, the additional images found on applique quilts provide much depth and meaning to the work we do.

I love applique because even the most plain quilt can come alive because of it.

My First Applique Quilt – RATS!

The first time I made an applique quilt, it was not to add whimsy or depth – it was to cover a hole/mistake in the quilt. Applique can be the quilt worlds best eraser and it looks like you meant to do it!

While I do not have the quilt today or even a picture of it, I can describe my problem and how I solved it.

I use my quilts, a lot!  There was a cute purple quilt that I would throw on the bed at night for added warmth and comfort.  Unfortunately, it was also during this time that my Rat Terrier was doing a lot of chewing.  You guessed it – she gave me a couple choice holes!

In honor of her actions that caused this quilt to be more custom than intended, I did an applique Rat over the area.  It turned out so cute!

Rat AppliqueLittle Spaz

Yep, the little lady bug above is my sweet Spaz, the quilt eater!

I continued to use this quilt for warm and comfort and it continued to gain rats until I just plain wore it out.  I love my dog and thankfully she eventually outgrew this stage!

What is Applique?

noun: appliqué

ornamental needlework in which pieces of fabric are sewn or stuck onto a large piece of fabric to form pictures or patterns.

Out a Western Window 2015 Applique Quilt

Applique can be the icing on the cake for a quilter.  Adding cute, whimsical characters to a baby quilt or other elements to a more adult theme can really make a difference in the finished product.

Applique also allows the quilter to take a more basic design and bump it up several notches.

-OR- it can act as the ultimate eraser when a mistake is made that you don’t want others to see.

It’s OK!

These are tools of our trade and we should never be reluctant to use them to the fullest!

Applique detail

Above is an example of applique that was used to validate my design choices.  I wanted to use the horse fabric in such a way that it resembled looking out the window at a herd of horses.  While representational, when I added the flower pot with cactus and kitty sitting on the sill, the intent became clear.  Both of these elements also take the focus away from the blocks that I put together in the wrong order!

Using custom quilting that resembles wood grain helps to lend credence to the design.

Applique can be a great element to help decide on custom quilting.  This is very evident on my 2016 Row by Row Quilt.  Each Row offered an opportunity for custom quilting just by using the applique’d elements for a guide.

Row by Row 2016

Types of Applique

While there are many types of applique for quilting, the three below are the most popular.

The most common methods are:

Fusible (raw edge)

Raw Edge Applique

Using fusible material, you can iron your element right on to your quilt. Then use either straight stitching (as is show here) or a blanket stitch to sew your design down.  This, I feel, is the easiest and less time-consuming method.

The key to this method is using a fusible sheet to the wrong side of the design.  This serves to hold your fabric pieces in place so you can use your machine to sew them down.

I used this method for the flowers in my Hippie Rainbow Flowers Quilt.

Freezer Paper

Freezer Paper Applique

This technique utilizes freezer paper as a base for your pieces which is then removed after the element has been pressed.  I like the concept of being able to pre-draw an entire design.  After the design is drawn to scale on the paper, each element can be cut out and utilized.

Because the individual pieces turn out so crisp, they can be either hand sewn or machine sewn to the quilt top. You can also use glues and fusible sheets to adhere them to the quilt before you sew them down.

Gigi’s Thimble has a wonderful how-to article on freezer paper applique.  Check out her step by step guild for more information. She does a great job of relaying this technique through words and pictures.

Needle Turn

Needle Turn Applique

This image was borrowed from Kathy K. Wylie’s website, Canadian Quilting. Kathy is very accomplished at hand applique.

Needle Turn Applique is one skill that I would love to learn. So far have shied away from.  This is pretty curious, if you think about it because I love to relax at night and bind. Maybe I need to rethink this.

What is your favorite Applique Technique?


I just couldn’t help re-blogging this wonderful article by Angie, visit her blog for more interesting articles:


What ARE Blender Fabrics?

That’s a question I was asked recently and I was caught off guard. I mean everyone knows what Blender Fabrics are, right? They’re…you know…the fabrics that blend…together…with each other…for the purpose of………….


Can I be honest?

I have never been very good at choosing colors, prints and/or patterns for my quilts. In fact, when I first started out, my teen son was my secret weapon. He’s an artist at heart and has an eye for things like that. I discovered this by accident one day while fabric shopping, with him in tow. At first, he was so bored and so resentful I had dragged him into a fabric shop of all places, that he was moody, sarcastic and mean by turns. I was wondering how to separate his head from his body without getting arrested for murder when…

…I started choosing fabrics.canstockphoto23182044

As I began to stockpile several bolts of different colored prints in my basket, I just happened to glance up and catch the strangest look on his face as he was looking at my choices. It read, “I smell something dead.”

I asked, “What? What’s the matter?” He tried to play it off as “nothing” and re-affected the dazed and bored look. But, I knew better. When I picked up the next bolt of fabric, the “UGH” look was back. This time, he didn’t wait for me to respond. He asked, “Are you really going to put all those together? They’re awful!”

He began explaining to me that I had chosen way too many BIG/BOLD/BRASH prints and not enough blender fabrics. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think he really used the term “Blender Fabrics”, he was after all, a 15-year-old teen-aged boy who didn’t really know anything about quilting. I think what he actually said was, “…you know, the go-ey-together-colors. Like this…”. He reached for a blue batik. Even though he and I didn’t know it at the time, he was teaching me about Blender Fabrics.

Blender Fabrics are the glue that hold our designs together and bring about that artistic coalescence we all dream of when designing quilts.


Take this quilt (above) for example. The Focus fabric is the tan floral in the center of the star block. The BLENDER FABRICS are all the other colors and small-ish prints surrounding it. The Maroon, the dark green, the light colored green; the white print and solid white. These are all the BLENDER FABRICS that frame and enhance the Focus Fabric.

They are essential and incredibly important.

Shopping For Fabric.

Walking into the fabric department of any store, or into your Local Quilt Shop can be intimidating. Especially when you’re like me, devoid of any artistic talent or skill whatsoever when it comes to choosing colors, styles and print.

One of the first things I learned to do, after that experience with my son, was to take him with me every time I went fabric shopping. His eye for color and print is amazing. However, that didn’t work for long. Once my secret weapon was discovered and his sister began teasing him for being a “sissy quilter”…I was on my own again.

BUT, he had taught me to find ONE focus fabric and choose my other fabric by how well they frame the Focus. But, I still had a lot to learn.

So, I asked around and learned that fabric manufacturers can also be a secret weaponselvage

Right here on the selvage of most fabrics, the manufacturers print dots of colors that indicate which colors are in the fabric in question, let’s say your Focus Fabric. These dots can then be used to search out blender fabrics of those same colors and in that same color family.

(FYI: The selvages are the bound edges that run along the fabric’s lengthwise grain. Not all manufacturers include these helpful dots. But, most do…)

Okay, so answer the question. What ARE Blender Fabrics!

Blender fabrics are produced in groups or families (often right alongside the Focus prints and patterns) that are tone-on-tone in color, that BLEND with other more artistic prints and patterns. Think: B3971_andover-1yd-dimples-1367620114456atiks; think small, very small prints that read solid (look to be solid from a distance), and or 019a91441ef2f2b025b3909eb2681b5e--pink-color-quilting-fabricsolid color fabrics with no print or pattern at all.









Of course, your pattern will lead you in the number of fabrics you’ll need to purchase.

Often patterns read:

You will need:

1 background fabric

1 focus fabric

1 solid dark fabric

1light fabric

1 medium tone small print fabric

These are your blender fabrics.

So, why bring them up, these glue sticks made of cloth called Blender Fabrics? Because, when I was asked about blender fabrics I realized, we don’t often pay a whole lot of attention to these unsung heroes of quilting. Without them, the Focus Fabric would just be a big floral print hanging out by itself on a dull and boring background. Not all that pretty and not all that interesting. Only with her friends, the Blender Fabrics, will she become the Focus she’s meant to be.

I guess my point is this: Pay as much attention to–and spend as much time choosing– your Blenders as you do your Focus and you’ll end up with a gorgeous quilt!

Elegant Log Cabin Quilt

An Elegant Affair


This post is about an elegant log cabin variant that is beautiful and easy to make.

Sometimes fabric just speaks to us – do you know what I mean?

The fabric chosen for “An Elegant Affair” sure fits this category.

You may have noticed from many of my quilts, that I really love high contrast. When I saw the gray and plum in my stash, I was confident that black and white were the right colors to make them pop.  The more I looked at all the fabrics laying on my design table, the more I saw a 20’s elegant party.  The men all dressed in top hats and tails – black and white of course, and the women in beautiful jewel tones.  The plum color with its beautiful pattern reminded me of something an elegant lady would wear.

Now that I had my colors and concept, it was time to create a design. Many of you may remember this quilt on the wall at the Rock House Retreat in September.  You can check out the entire post here: Rock House Retreat – September 2017.



Original Layout

I do have an affinity for log cabin quilts, but the standard format just didn’t have the look I was hoping for.  That was when I used my Electric Quilt 7 program to design the block from the ground up.

The original design is pictured below. At the advice of some of my fellow retreaters, I flipped the left and right mid blocks so that there was a black secondary border all the way around. Another difference from the finished product is the patterned, black border which resides on the draft, but not in the finished product.  After putting all the blocks together and auditioning this fabric, it was clear that it was way too busy and not elegant at all!  Instead, I decided to use this fabric for the backing.

Elegant Affair First Draft

Gem Log Cabin Block

As I said, this elegant log cabin quilt is different in that there are small squares moving in from the one corner. Because of the Gem in the center, I call it the Gem Log Cabin Block. The actual block looks like this:

Log Cabin Elegant BlockHaving that small square of plum fabric nestled in the center provides just enough color that the block retains it’s elegant format.


Adding the borders was fun too!  Because that first black border was created by the turning of those side blocks, adding the first border was easy.  I chose to use the plum first because so little of it was used in the quilt.  I also wanted to keep the black and white together.  A small grey border followed the plum and then a large white border and finally black binding. This log cabin quilt was now properly framed.

Border choices for an Elegant Affair

I knew I wanted to do custom quilting, so I started playing with the border treatments first.  The white border was screaming for feathers.  The gray border was so small that I could have left it be since I stitched in the ditch for all border elements.  Ultimately, I felt that to add a line down the center would provide for more texture and framing for the quilt.

Quilting the Blocks

Lastly, I had to come up with something for the plum border.  At first I couldn’t decide, so I switched to the block design.  In many cases, I would chose one or two designs and then multiply them to see how the design would play out along the quilt. In this case, I didn’t.  Instead, I started playing with the block, first choosing a curvy featherish design for half the square. This half represented the fancy dresses of the ladies at my Elegant Affair.  The other half was angular and proper as fitting a nicely turned out gentleman.

*NOTE: most log cabin quilt blocks are quilted using this same approach, cut the block in half and quilt each section separately.
Elegant Block Quilting Diagram

With the block finished, I was able to agree on the quilting for the plum border.  I did angled lines with corner pieces that mimic the mid-sections of the white, feathered border. Yes, I flipped the quilt at the end to do the other sides of the borders.

Corner Quilting for an Elegant Affair

Everything was coming together!

In order to remain consistent when quilting the blocks, I decided on a format and stuck to it.  Each angled section began to the right of the feathered half.  The image below shows how each row was marked out for consistency. I used chalk and/or soapstone pretty consistently throughout this quilt for marking.

It was a total surprise when the quilting was finished.  I had no idea how each block would relate to the one next to it.  Below is a section of the quilting.  I love all the secondary patterns.



Finished Quilt

Ultimately, I am so very happy with this quilt. I have no idea where I am going to use it or what I will do with it!  For sure it will make a wonderful addition to my “From Kits to Custom” trunk show.

An Elegant Affair Close Up

Not everything works out as planned – trying to take pictures on a windy day can be problematic! Every time, I got the quilt set up, the wind would come whipping through and it would take off!

At least you can see my pretty fall mums!

Photos in the wind

Well, it’s time to move along to the next project.  The next quilt I have planned is going to be a challenge. Each block is made of templates with lots of Y sections.

Rolling Star Quilt Block

What is your next quilting project?

Rock House Retreat – What a great experience for my first retreat!

No matter how long you have done something, you can always try something new.  For me, that meant attending my very first retreat this past weekend at the Rock House Retreat Texas. This retreat is located outside of Weatherford TX in Santo. Because I was going solo and knew no one that would be there, I was just a little nervous.  Luckily, that feeling didn’t last very long!

Thank you Jo Lynn and Bridgette for making my stay so enjoyable!


First Impressions of my First Retreat

I had heard about this retreat during a presentation held at our Johnson County Quilt Guild.  Jo Lynn presented “How to be a Thrifty Quilter”.  She also provided information about her new retreat center.  When I heard her say “you do not have to cook” I just knew I had to try it out.

When I drove up – early as usual – there was already someone at the retreat.  This is where I met Bridgette for the 2nd time.  Bridgette was to be our cook and friend for the length of our stay and BOY can she cook!  But I will get to that later.

Rock House RetreatI will admit that due to the single story layout and new construction, the building itself does a very good job of hiding all the treasures within.  On the other hand, it was so nice to be able to drive my truck right up and under the covered area to unload.  There was even a handy wheeled cart to help.

I opened the door and fell in love with the open layout with a huge kitchen, dining area and work room all laid out for optimal comfort.  I just couldn’t wait to get started.

While this retreat is not built adjacent to any quilt shops, the owner did have a small area where you could buy essentials and precuts.

Rock House Retreat TX

Relaxing area where essentials and fabric was for sale

If you walk out this door, you could relax on the patio in one of the comfy rocking chairs and watch the birds.


Bridgette showed me to the room I would be staying in – it was beautiful.  All the quilts on the beds were made by Jo Lynn ONeil and they were stunning in their simplicity.  There were 3 beds per room and all the lamps were so cute with their bases filled with bobbins and thread.

The bathroom was beautiful as well.  The sink was made from a treadle machine and the walk in shower was so spacious.

Later, I was to find out that the beds were pillow soft and so comfortable.

Time to Sew

Originally, I had mentioned to Jo Lynn (the owner of the retreat) that I was a standing quilter, so she had set up one of her cutting tables for me.  Unfortunately, she had no idea just how tall my regular table is.  This option turned out to be too short to stand and too tall to sit.

Rock House Retreat TX

Never fear, I tried the seated option on one of her regular, heavy-duty tables and spent the next 3 days sewing non-stop!  The custom Bernina chairs that this retreat provides were beyond comfy and my back did not get sore, even after hours and hours of quilting.

Pretty soon, folks started to show up.  I met so many new friends and even (2) Nancy’s!  There was Nancy and Bill (a married couple that quilts), and Nancy and Connie and finally LuAnn.  Everyone was so friendly, I felt that I fit right in from the start.

Here are the projects I worked on during the retreat.

Rock House Retreat TX

Finished binding this donation quilt

This is called An Elegant Affair. I had so much fun making this one. I can’t wait to quilt it!

Rock House Retreat TX

Quilt designed from a Pinterest image

What’s for Dinner?

And breakfast, and lunch and dessert?

If you looked closely at the pictures of the rooms, you will see a large rolling cooler.  I brought munchies and the like just in case I got hungry – I DIDN’T!

Our meals were delicious and plentiful and Bridgette was also an open book – she shared her recipes with everyone.  Not one of us ever complained that we were hungry and I brought home most of my extra food.  I will pack much lighter next time!

Facility Overview

There are quite a few things that makes this retreat a real.. treat!

More Power!

Did you know that each and every outlet is on it’s own circuit?  You bet!  This means that we had our irons on while we sewed so we did not have to keep getting up and down when we were working on our piecing and blocks.

For larger ironing jobs, there were two separate ironing boards with plenty of irons to use.

Let there be Light!

One thing I was told to be mindful of was lighting.  There is no shortage of lights here.  Jo Lynn even added extra lighting after the fact to ensure that everyone could work with ease.

Safety First

The facility was equipped with cameras in all the public rooms and the entire place was locked up at night.  This included the front gate as well.

All the bedrooms had a lock on their doors as well.  If I hadn’t already felt 100% comfortable with everyone there, this sealed the deal.


There were several zones for temperature control as well as electronic thermostats.  The room I stayed in was very comfortable and also included a ceiling fan.

Rock House Retreat TX

Zoned temperature and hi-tech systems made this such a comfortable experience

As I said before, comfort seems to be a high priority at the Rock House Retreat TX.  From the chairs in the main room to the beds from morning to night, I felt very comfy.

Making New Friends

Because I knew no one else that attended, I got to make many new friends!

I really can’t say enough good things about my time at Rock House Retreat, TX and while this was an open retreat with no education scheduled, Jo Lynn even took the time on Saturday to show us all a new applique technique.

Rock House Retreat TX

Jo Lynn ONeil

If you are looking for a fun and relaxing retreat with all the bells and whistles – you need to come here!  I am already thinking of my next getaway 🙂

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