July 2012 Archives

imageI’m in the process of moving to a new place this week so my studio is in disarray. And I’m using a stock photo since I can’t find my camera. Anyways, my move made me think about traveling with sewing like what to pack when going to a class, a conference, or sew in. I decided to share with you my favorite tool to take, the Bernina Lady’s Knife. When I first saw this thing I thought, “OMG a Swiss army knife made for me.” I had to have it. Here’s Bernina’s description of it:

“The versatile tool, dubbed the 'Swiss Sewessential: the ultimate Swiss sewing accessory', consists of 17 superbly crafted individual tools, including a special rotary knife, awl and hem-measure, and combines outstanding BERNINA quality with WENGER's tried-and-tested precision. The practical pocket sewing tool's 'multifunction tool' represents a further sophisticated innovation launched by BERNINA: the universal tool encompasses a handful of individual gadgets that are a breeze to remove and reinsert.”

What I love about it is it really does have the essentials of sewing. I usually bring my full size rotary cutter but if I forgot it I can whip out the lady’s knife. Forgot to bring marking chalk, it’s got it. Need an eyeglass to thread a needle, yep there is one on it too. Oh, seam ripper went missing for the twentieth time, just yank the one from your knife. It’s awesome! I don’t use it as much at home but I do love taking it with me on the go. I’ve also found it to be a great conversation starter. As you know quilter’s love seeing and learning about new sewing toys.

Well, I need to get back to packing. My fabric won’t do it itself.



My good friends, the Jastine, celebrated the birth of their second boy, Benjamin, over Easter weekend. Today I want to share his baby quilt. I finished it up and mailed it to the family last week. I really had fun making Ben’s quilt.

I noticed in Christine and Jason’s baby registry there were a lot of pirate themed stuff. They picked the theme to coordinate with older brother, Jackson’s, room. The ships were pieced together using the Set Sail pattern from the book Modern Blocks. I made them three different sizes. The little colored flags were hand appliqued on. On the back I pieced a Mariner’s Compass. I can now tell you that was not as easy as it looked. I basically winged it from a compass picture.


I machine quilted the quilt in a free motion style on my regular sewing machine. The sea was quilted in an ocean swirl pattern. The boats were stitched to look like wood grain. I even quilted a skull and crossbones on the top right black sail of the pirate ship. For the sky I mostly stitched clouds with stars but I added a few special touches.


The Jastine family LOVES Star Wars. Dad, Jason, knows the movies by heart, has read all the books, and has a collection of figurines. Jackson has emulated this love too. I figure Ben will too as he grows up. When I started planning the pirate quilt I wanted to do a night scape with a moon but I had the idea of the moon being the Death Star. So I quilted a Death Star in the sky and of course added a few X-Wings chasing a TIE Fighter.


Apparently when the Jastine got the quilt, Christine kept telling Jason, “Look at the stitching, look.” He finally saw the surprise!

I also added another cute touch to the quilt by embroidering Ben’s full name. On the two British ships I stitched HMS followed by his first and surname. The pirate ship just has his middle name (you can see in the image above). I originally thought of embroidering his name on each flag of the ship but Richard came up with the idea of his name being the the ship names.

The border is comprised of a thin red flange and a 1 inch white sash. I have been addicted to adding flanges to quilts. They add such a nice touch. The binding is made from a great brown and ivory wonky stripe fabric.

The Jastine has claimed this will be a family heirloom. Which is fine, as long as it’s a well loved and a well used family heirloom.

I hope you enjoyed checking out Baby Ben’s quilt as much as I enjoyed making it.

Happy Sailing,


One of the most useful tools a sewer can have is a rotary cutter. These are great for cutting out fabric quickly and many layers at once. They are basically super sharp pizza cutters for fabric. You don’t have to be a quilter to have one. I even use mine to cut out clothing patterns.


Rotary cutters come in three sizes, 18mm, 45mm, 60mm in diameter. The 45mm is a great size to start with because it’s the most versatile. The smallest blade is good for cutting around curves and tight corners. The largest is awesome for cutting through many layers and thick fabrics. You’ll find after you’ve used a rotary cutter you’ll end up buying multiples and all sizes.


You’ll find many different handle styles for rotary cutters. Straight handles, curved, and even ergonomic. The best way to see what handle you like is to go to a quilt shop to try them out. I find I like my curve Olfa handles and my ergonomic Martelli.

One thing you should get in the habit of doing when owning a rotary cutter is to make sure to always close the blade when not in use. Many cutters have safety latches or automatic closures to aid in this but it’s must to do.

Two tools you will need to utilize your rotary cutter is a cutting mat to protect the blade and sewing surface and a rigid acrylic ruler which aids in making straight cuts. These are essential partners for your rotary cutter.IMG_2587

You will find that rotary blades can add up fast in cost. Depending on how much you use it, you will quickly go through blades. Another tool that is nice but optional is a blade sharpener. I have found the in store hand held sharpeners not to do a very good job. The best sharpener on the market is the TrueCut Power Sharpener from The Grace Company. It can sharpen any blade size with just the push of a button. It can also sharpen a blade no matter how dull it is. It runs anywhere from $50-65 but you will find it’s worth it if you can continue reusing blades.


Safe cutting,


Elie the Elephant


I finished this quilt just before Mother’s Day to send to my friend Carrie, who had a little girl over Thanksgiving. The quilt is made from Cloud 9 organic cotton fabrics, the baby line with elephants. I wanted to do something simple and sweet. I made up a bunch of pinwheels of varying sizes then laid them out in a format I liked.

Most of the top is made with white Kona. The sashing is made from scrap bits of the prints. In each corner of the sash are tiny little pinwheels.

Keeping it simple I was able to have fun with the quilting. I designed an elephant pantograph for my long arm to stitch. Instead of using white thread I used a coral color that matched the coral in the fabric prints. I really love how the quilting came out.

The back is a giant pinwheel made of the prints. I love multi fabric binding edges so I used a mix of the prints to create it. Rarely do I hand sew or embroider but I thought the quilt needed a little of both. The elephant was hand appliqued. On the flag I embroidered Carrie’s baby’s name, Eliana.

I also made Eliana a stuffed elephant toy. The pattern is Heather Baily’s “Effie & Ollie Elephant” pincushion. I felt the pattern was small so I blew it up on my printer to make a larger version of it.


Above is Eliana enjoying her new quilt. I’m happy to know she likes it. Hope you enjoyed seeing it too!



I want to start blogging more so I thought if I came up with a regular weekly post I would do so. So here’s a start, Tuesday’s Tips, Tricks & Tools. In this weekly post I’ll talk about some of my favorite sewing tips, tricks I’ve learned over the years, and some of my favorite tools to use. I’d like to share some of what I have learned that makes sewing more enjoyable.

Let’s start off with one of the most important tools you will want for sewing, the sewing machine. I first learned on my mother’s sewing machine, a Kenmore. It was a great first machine. It was a metal beast that could eat through anything and had a whole bunch of cams for lots of fun stitches. As a college graduation present my dad bought me a Bernina Activa 240. I still kept the Kenmore as a backup. Then last year I bought the Bernina 8 Series 820 and sold my first machine. It was hard to let the Kenmore go but I was happy knowing it was going to get use and not sit and collect dust. It went to a very talented friend of mine who makes some amazing things on it.

When you first start out, it’s good to get a nice machine that does the basics. You don’t need all the fancy bells and whistles and you certainly don’t need an expensive one. You don’t want to invest in something that you may not enjoy. Plus a simple machine to start is great for a backup, to pass to your kids or friends, and much lighter to carry to all those sewing classes you’ll want to take. I have friends that still sew on a classic original electric Singer. All it does a straight stitch and zig zag. If it does the job it’s a great machine. 


As you progress in your sewing skills you may want to upgrade your machine. When you decide to do this I think it’s best to try out a variety of machines first. Most dealers will let you come in and play on them. They can also help you decide what model will fit with the type of sewing you primarily do or plan on doing. As much as I love Bernina and highly recommend checking them out, it really comes down to preference. So check out a Bernina dealer, Husqvarna Viking, Janome, and Brother. Find which one sings to you because this is a machine you’ll be with for a long time. Chances you’ll stay loyal with the brand. The upside of this is all those fancy feet and tools you’ll end up accumulating usually fit on all the models of that brand, so if you do decide to upgrade you won’t have to replace all of that.

The key for any sewing machine is how well you take care of it. Keeping up with maintaining it will keep your machine running for years and less problems for you when sewing. Make sure to clean the lint out regularly, oil your machine, and keep a cover over it when not in use. I usually clean the lint out after every project. If it’s a larger project like a quilt I will clean it multiple times. I also do the same with oiling. Make sure to run a scrap of fabric through the machine after oiling to keep the excess from getting on your project. I also highly recommend taking your machine into a repair shop once a year to get maintained. They basically open the whole machine up and give it a good cleaning. It’s amazing how well your machine will run after it’s yearly visit. A cover will keep dust from getting in your machine when you are not sewing on it. It’s best to get in the habit of even covering it at night even if you do plan on sewing right away in the morning. Most machines come with a simple plastic one that will do the job or you can make a fun colorful one.

As for thread, needles, and all the other parts of the machine, we’ll get into that another week. But for now go out and find a machine that’s right for you and start sewing!