Quilting with Kids

I recently donated this quilt, Octopus’s Garden, that was made at Blakely Elementary School in 1997 to the Bainbridge Island Kids Discovery Museum (KiDiMu). This fish print quilt is featured in my book, Creative Quilting with Kids, now out of print, but still available second hand on Amazon. See the book for more pictures. The quilt looks great in the toddler play area of the museum, hung on the yellow wall. I’m delighted that it is now out for people to enjoy, rather than being stored in my closet!


I worked in collaboration with the Art Specialist, MJ Linford and the fourth graders. We had a real octopus, rock fish and cabazon donated from the local grocery store. We used rubber fish too, which I have also donated to KiDiMu for their art projects with kids. The fourth graders were eager to paint the critters for printing. The background piece was prepared ahead of time. There are wonderful fabric possibilities to create the rocks and weed. These were applied using Steam-a-Seam2 fusible applique. The painted critters were arranged carefully and the background cloth placed over the top. We pressed the fabric gently using the back sides of spoons and the palms of hands. It was astonishing so see that even the suckers on the octopus’s tentacles were printed and the kids were very excited to see the results. They wrote the words of the Octopus’s Garden song in the border around the quilt. It was a fun project. The kids also brought t-shirts to school to print with fish so that they had a take home memory.

Bargello block baby quilt

I made this quilt for my new great-niece from my Bargello blocks as featured in my book, Bargello Quilts with a Twist. This month, I am going to England so will be able to deliver it to baby Bea in person.


I used 20 Bargello blocks arranged in the style of a Log Cabin Straight Furrows pattern. The fabric was designed by me when I was a consultant for David Textiles several years ago, and we produced three lines that would appeal to young quilters. The detailed shots below show how I machine quilted the quilt on my home domestic sewing machine (Viking Designer I).

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The serpentine stitch is very easy using the walking-foot and also really forgiving. It is much easier than stitching in the ditch or stitching an accurate straight line from corner to corner of the block. The pattern created by the blocks is strong and the fabrics are busy, so there is no need for an elaborate quilting pattern which would not show up. You can see how the stitch is much more visible on the light colored fabric which reads as a solid. On the floral fabrics, the stitch disappears.

Quilt N’ Cruise to Alaska

I was thrilled to be one of the quilting teachers on this 10 day Quilt N’ Cruise trip to Alaska on-board the Golden Princess cruise ship, sailing from San Francisco on 10th August and returning on 20th August. This enormous ship had about 2,000 passengers, 70 of whom were quilters taking classes from the four teachers. Not a moment at sea was wasted! We had a two day class while we were sailing north to Juneau, and then two days of classes on the way back from Ketchikan with a break of a day for a stop in Victoria. The Alaskan scenery was spectacular and the quilting was great fun!

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The camaraderie was excellent and my students were enthusiastic and productive. I loved making new friends and acquaintances and the benefits offered by two day classes giving us more time to get to know each other and to make progress with the projects. My concerns about the teaching space were soon dispelled when I saw the size of our dining room classroom. It was a huge room divided into different areas. Despite my large class sizes, my students had plenty of space to spread out if they wanted to lay out their blocks etc. Each teacher had their own area and we didn’t disturb each other at all. We couldn’t have irons in the classroom so used wooden irons which worked out just fine and students could go to the laundry rooms to iron their completed strip sets and blocks.Here I am with my 26 Bargello Quilts with Twist students.


In addition to class-time quilting, students could sew in their own cabins and there was a room available on several evenings for communal sewing. Some people opted to stay on the ship instead of going on land excursions. I was astonished at the work done and the progress made. By the end of the trip, several people had their Bargello blocks assembled into quilt tops. Coline Simmons worked tirelessly and completed 100 Bargello blocks to make this lovely queen-sized top! Coline also took my second class on the way back to San Francisco and completed 49 template-free Kaleidoscope blocks! Here is Marina Muller with her Kaleidoscope Puzzle quilt top. I taught Marina at the South African Quilt Conference in 2013. It was such a delight to have her with us on the cruise, all the way from Namibia!

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Thank you to all of my students and to Terry Caselton of Pam’s Travel for giving me the opportunity to teach on this cruise. I hope that I’ll have the chance to meet some of my students again, if I teach at their guilds or we are able to cruise together another time. Here’s my Kaleidoscope Puzzle group.


Studio Tour

My new house is 1,250 square feet and has a single car garage. While I was in away teaching in April and May, the landscapers removed two enormous bushes from my front garden and extended the retaining wall. I’ve enjoyed planting my choice of shrubs and flowers,


My studio is the upstairs room with the large window above the front door. The room won’t stay this tidy for long! As soon as I have caught up with my administration, I’ll start quilting again and the surfaces will become covered with fabric and new projects. This half of the room, (left picture), shows my cutting table, office area and on the right hand side you can see my work wall. The IKEA shelves for storing part of my stash fit nicely on the back wall. In the bottom left of the picture is the corner of my sewing table.

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The sewing table occupies the other half of the room. This large piece was custom made for me about 15 years ago by the cabinet-making husband of a quilting friend. He also made my cutting table. In my house search, a pre-requisite was a room large enough to accommodate these two bits of furniture and my desk. I have the lovely big north-facing window so there is plenty of natural light, but no direct sunlight which is perfect. The view looks out onto the other town houses and a stand of tall Douglas Firs. Right across the street is a cherry tree that was loaded with beautiful blossoms when I moved in. It’s very quiet as the main road is over on the other side of the house.

Another important feature is having adequate storage space. Here’s part of the closet behind the sewing table. I have more fabric and metal shelves housing my plastic bins of patterns. This cupboard extends much further to the left and I have a smaller set of IKEA shelves and a more plastic storage bins. The bathroom off my studio is another storage area. I have a tall skinny bookcase in there for all my files, my two travelling suitcases, and I use the tub for miscellaneous items.

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I’ve been used to having a spare bedroom with a bed to store all of my quilts flat. My new house has two rooms upstairs – my bedroom and my studio, so I no longer have this luxury. I have two quilt racks which I use for large quilts, one in my bedroom and one in the living room downstairs. The dilemma was how to store the many quilts that I haul in and out for my lectures and workshops. Several months ago one of the speakers at my local quilt guild, Kitsap Quilters Guild, brought their quilts rolled on Styrofoam swim noodles. This is my solution and so far it is working well. I have eight or nine noodles and the quilts are rolled by topic, e.g. Bargello block quilts, template-free Kaleidoscope quilts. These rolls are stored in a lower section of my large built-in bedroom closet. They are easy to access and I can unroll them or roll them back up again on the bed.

Quilt Your Own, Stafford, TX

On my recent teaching trip to Texas, I visited Quilt Your Own, in Stafford (outskirts of Houston). Owner, Chris Ginkens runs a community quilting studio where clients who have completed a three hour private rental orientation class, may rent long-arm quilting machines for $34.95 per hour. All the machines are professional quality APQS.

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There are three large long-arm machines and a sit-down mid-arm. They have batting and wide goods fabric available for purchase and members of staff ready to assist the quilters. The nine-patch quilt is a quilting sampler with a variety of all-over quilting patterns.

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For quilters wanting to take a break, there were two wonderful armchairs. Chris made sections of patchwork from her choice of fabrics and then turned the project over to Sophie’s Upholstery, a business operating a few doors away, to complete the upholstery. I loved these bright and cheerful chairs.

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The Disappearing Pinwheel

My small quilt group met recently and our prolific member, Joanne Bennett, shared an attractive and ingenious pattern with us. Watch the video and give it a go!


The technique used is the “Disappearing Pinwheel” demonstrated in this video by Jenny Doan from Missouri Star Quilts. The block is remarkably easy to construct beginning with two 10″ squares of contrasting values (in the above example light cream fabric paired with a color). Large Pinwheels are constructed and then cut into nine pieces. The center piece is the small Pinwheel and you also get four half-square triangles and four squares made of two rectangles. Rotate these pieces to make the Shoo-fly or Monkey Wrench patterns surrounding the small Pinwheels. In the version below, Joanne has switched the Pinwheels to create more variety in the colors of each block.


Happy Halloween!

T’is the season for decorating with pumpkins, Halloween quilts and Trick or Treaters. I didn’t carve a pumpkin this year, but enjoyed the colorful display and seeing all the pumpkins in the field at Suyematsu Farm, less than a mile from my house.

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On my recent trip to Colorado, it was fun to see the special Halloween displays in the quilt stores. The Golden Quilt Company had this wonderful window at the store entrance. The Halloween quilt was hanging in Laughing Ladies Quilting in Berthoud. I love this pattern, complete with bats in the borders, candy corn, haunted houses and the witch on her broomstick.

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Holly’s Quilt Cabin in Centennial had lively looking shelves of Halloween fabric with decorative Halloween quilts and artifacts. I’m not one to make holiday theme quilts, but I felt inspired by these displays. When I got home, I looked through my stash and found some harvest, pumpkin and spider fabrics that could be used for this season.

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My new pad – moved and settling nicely

On the 4th of June, I moved house and I have pictures to share with you. I’m still sorting and unpacking, but every day it gets better and better. The house, which I’m renting from a friend, is only about four miles from the old place. It’s close to Wilkes Elementary School on the north end of Bainbridge Island in a sunny location with a lovely garden.

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The whole process of moving is a huge upheaval, and it certainly gives you pause to ponder especially when you need to downsize. Just how much of the stuff that you’ve accumulated, do you really want to move to a new place? If it’s been sitting in a box untouched for the last 13 years at your old house, what are the chances that you are still interested in it or that you would miss it if you no longer had it? I’ve been trying to give myself permission to let go of things that I really don’t want, but I’ve been hanging onto for years for a variety of reasons. I know that my creativity can be stifled by clutter and I’m making efforts to reduce it all. I didn’t have time to do a good job of this before moving so I’m ditching stuff as I unpack.


I’m enjoying making my new home and putting things where I want them. I waited about two weeks before hanging any artwork on the walls and for several days I had all the pieces spread out in the living room so that I could see them, and decide where to put them. It was a kind of auditioning process, not unlike the way in which I make decisions in designing my quilts. Each day, I knew with certainty where various pictures should be hung and I gradually put them up over a period of about a week. These two Mongolian pieces made by women at the Mongolian Quilting Center, are hanging the long passage way. The blue table runner has twisted Log Cabin blocks made from silk scraps discarded by a clothing manufacturer in Ulaanbaatar. The other one, A Day in Mongolia, is felt appliqué and depicts a traditional Mongolian scene, the animals and many items important in Mongolian life and traditions.

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In my old house, I had a spacious studio. Here, it is split between three small rooms, one of which is an office. The office is great, but I haven’t had any time to quilt in the studio room. Initially I thought my sewing table was too large and that I would have to store it in the garage. I was excited when I worked out how to arrange the room so that it would fit, and by removing the bi-fold door of the cupboard, I could also fit my cutting table into the same room. The cutting table is not fully extended, but there is plenty of space for cutting and in my old studio, the end of the table was just used as a dumping ground.


Across the passage there is another small room which I use for storage. I have a full-sized bed to store all my quilts flat, there are bookcases on two walls and my IKEA fabric storage shelves on another wall. Upstairs in the spare bedroom, I have my smaller IKEA unit for more fabric. I tried to sort my fabric when I packed and gave several boxes away to a friend whose church group makes quilts to send to Africa. The criterion I used was, “if I saw this fabric in a sale, would I buy it?” If the answer was “no”, then the fabric was put in a box to be given away. I still have too much and should really have given away all the “maybes” too. Another purge can be a project for this coming winter.

Teaching in Federal Way

I recently taught and lectured in Federal Way for the Crazy Quilters. We had a half-day Kaleidoscope Puzzle Quilts class and my students had enough time to cut out plenty of kites and wedges and then play with their design layouts.

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There was a large hall adjacent to the classroom, so when it came to designing, some of my students moved in and spread out their pieces on the floor.

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It was so much fun seeing the patterns come alive. The value placement and fabric make such a difference and we had a great variety. The students learnt a great deal and were inspired by looking at other student’s choices and making layout suggestions. These traditional Kaleidoscope blocks can take on quite a contemporary look like this black and orange on-point example.

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Studio tour

My apologies for the lack of a blog last week. The time is slipping away rapidly as I’m absorbed in getting our house ready to sell. Remodeling has been quite an education and I’ve had little time to spend in my quilting studio being creative and running my business. I love my studio and decided to give you a pictorial tour. I’m really going to miss it when house sells and I have to move. This has been my creative haven for over 13 years.

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I’m fortunate to have a magnificent sewing table custom made for my sewing machine with a big surface perfect for sewing large quilts and plenty of storage space underneath. There’s also a large cutting table. When I swivel my chair round from my machine, I’m at my desk and computer.

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The open fronted IKEA shelves are great for storing fabric and the double mirrored closet also houses fabric, thread and assorted supplies. The bookcase is full of inspiring quilting books and I’m constantly using my 72″ x 72″ work wall. I’m hoping that wherever I move, I’ll have the space for another set up such as this.