It Seemed Like Such a Good Idea!!!

As I had looked at all of the circles in the center of my Color Wheel quilt, I realized that I wanted to do a gradation fabric to put behind them. My thought was to have black on the edges, working to a grey in the center. I knew that I could piece one with various shades of black to grey but didn’t want to have a lot of seams to applique over.

SO…..I decided to dye it myself!!!

My plan was to dye several yards of fabric black and then to “dip-dye” a large square of fabric, keeping the edges in the dye bath at all times and slowly lowering the other parts into the bath as time went on.

Getting set up

I was excited as I set up all of the bits and pieces needed for the job…..

I loved the look of the dye powder when it first hit the water for dissolving…..

It was interesting to see all of the colors separating out!!

After dissolving, I added the dye to the water bath that already had the salt dissolved in it…..

Speaking of salt, it took a bit of work to figure out how many cups of salt were in a pound. When I googled it, I was told that it was 1-2/3 cup but that seemed like too much, I ended up measuring how much was in each box that contained 1 pound, 10 ounces and then figuring how many cups I needed……

Dyeing the fabric

I put the first fabric into the prepare dye bath and stirred it well……

Then I started dipping the gradation piece. I had an epiphany to use a small slice of a pool noodle to provide a handle for the dipped piece….

I put it in the middle of the square and folded the fabric over it. It provided a great way to keep hold of the fabric……

For the next 30 minutes, I slowly dipped the fabric in and out of the dye bath, leaving the edges in the bath most of the time.

Also, I added a half yard of fabric for the last 10 minutes of dying time so that it would not be as dark as the rest.

When the dyeing time was up, I removed the fabric, added dissolved soda ash to the bath and returned the three fabrics. For the next 90 minutes, I stirred the bath every 5 minutes.

Then it was time to remove the fabric…..

….and start the rinsing process……

After a bunch of water baths and several wash cycles, the fabrics were ready to dry, although I couldn’t see much difference between any of them…..

And, sure enough, my fears were confirmed……

There is virtually no difference between the full dyed and the dip dyed fabrics and the fabric dyed for a shorter time is only marginally lighter.

Since I am a newbie when it comes to dyeing, I have NO idea what I did wrong. I had read that you needed to double the amount of dye powder when dying black so maybe I added too much. Alternately, maybe I left them in the dye bath for too long during the dye process or maybe during the activation process.


If nothing else, I have several yards of black fabric!!!!

A special visitor…..

I did have one exciting thing happen……this sweet Rat Snake decided to slither thru my outside rinsing area…..

She was between 4 and 5 feet long and made her way past the door into the garage (at least I closed it before she got there) and into my flower garden, quickly dislodging a chipmunk and a baby rabbit.

I have told Michael and that I will not weed the flower bed for at least the next 10 years!!!!

Although I am disappointed in the results, I may try it again this weekend, but only use a small amount of dye and try to get a grey rather than black. OR….I may just buy another fabric…..OR I may come up with another idea!! Time will tell!!!


I Cant Help It…’s in my genes!!

My husband, Michael, is a geneticist who loves to observe people and make comparisons between related individuals, noticing where genetic similarities occur. When he takes a good look at my creative ancestry, he can also see similarities that have endured through many generations. As the title says “I can’t help it…’s in my genes!!”

In particular, the Quilting Gene flowed freely thru many past generations and has landed squarely on me. I am fortunate that I own a number of quilts that were made by my “fore-mothers”, starting with my Great Grandmother…..

Nancy Louisa Messer was born in 1876 in my current home state of Georgia. She married John Albert Hall in 1894 and moved to DeKalb County, Alabama, and then to Commanche, Texas where she lived for the rest of her life. Her death was in 1954, three years before I was born.

She was of the generation of women who made quilts for the sole purpose of keeping her family warm, although, like women before and after her, she used them as an exercise in creativity.

This is one of her quilts, made in the 1930’s…..

The pattern is a variation of a Caesar’s Crown and is made from whatever scraps she had on hand at the time.

I love all of these blocks, but especially this one made with a bright plaid……

It is 63″ by 82″ and is HEAVY… would certainly have kept my grandmother and her siblings warm on those cold December nights in Texas.

Even though I never met her, when I look at this quilt, I feel a deep connection to her and I am proud to be her Great Grand-daughter!!

Circling around for the perfect circle…..

After a week of experimenting, I think that I have finally found the way to prepare perfect circles for hand appliqueing… on to see my technique……

Last week, I talked about my plans for the center of my Color Wheel quilt….you can read about the decision process here. Now it was time to put the idea into effect which meant preparing LOTS of circles for hand applique.

When I was at Houston last year I spent a few minutes listening to Karen Kay Buckley talk about her method of preparing applique pieces before sewing. I not only listened, but did a little retail therapy, coming home with a bunch of her templates including two sizes of “Perfect Circles”……

Karen’s templates are made from Templar which means that you can iron on them and they will not melt and can be used over and over….all VERY good things!!

I started with the smallest circle, thinking that I knew EXACTLY what to do. Well, the finished circle had lots of little points and dips and was not circular at all. Okay….let’s start over and try a few different things!! After having made almost half of the needed circles, I now have a fairly good protocol!!!

Getting it ready……

I first placed the template on the reverse side of the fabric and made numerous dots around the template so that I would know where the circle would go……

On the first few, I drew in the entire circle but realized that I was just making more work for myself to remove all of those heavy lines… dots it is!!!

Next step is to sew a running stitch around the circle…..

I tried using the sewing machine to sew around the larger circles, but it never looked as good as hand stitching. Also, I had originally pulled the thread knot all the way thru but found it was better to leave BOTH strands of thread loose so that I could gather from either side. ALSO, it is important to both start and end the stitching on the FRONT side of the fabric.

I took it to the ironing board and brushed Magic Sizing on the outside edge of the circle…..

Originally I had sprayed the entire circle but decided that it was unnecessary and just made a bigger mess…….

Now For the Magic……

I put the template in the middle of the fabric circle and started gently pulling BOTH of the threads until the fabric gathered around the perfect circle template…..

While holding the two gathering stitch ends tightly, I pressed the edge of the circle until it was dry, then moving the iron carefully over the gathers until it dried as well. After flipping the template over, I did a final press of the circle……

Removing the template…..

Before taking the template plastic out of the circle, I learned that it was SUPER important for the entire circle (and template) to be cool. Then I loosened the gathers close to the string tails and pulled out the template, leaving something that did NOT look like a perfect circle……

The final step was to carefully pull on BOTH of the thread tails until the edges laid down again…..

The first few times I did this, I pulled too hard and misshaped the circle again, so be GENTLE!!!

When it was back in perfect shape, I turned it over again and gave the front one final pressing.

The result is one PERFECT CIRCLE!!!!!……

I know that these don’t look round but I promise that they are. The pinning distorts how they look in the photo!!!

So, the current status is 50 circles made and 58 to go!!!

As I am working on these, I am starting to think about what fabric I want to put in the middle of the quilt and I am toying with the idea of a black gradation that gets lighter as it moves to the middle of the piece. And that means that I am going to have to dye it myself….of course it cant be easy!!!

And then I have to actually applique all of these circles!!!

Displacement activity…the quilting way

Do you every suffer from a creative block that is caused by being too scared to continue on? This post details the latest of such blocks for me and how I put the ensuing displacement activity to good use…….

In the previous post, I talked about the plans that I have made for the interior square of the Color wheel Squiggle…..lots of circles arcing from the center. I ended the post with the question of whether or not I could actually accomplish this feat!!! This is where my displacement activity sets in……

My husband, the biologist, told me that the classic example of displacement activity is when there is a mouse in a cage with the snake. Knowing that it is about to be eaten, the mouse starts preening itself rather than running away. Fortunately, my quilt is not a snake, but I sometimes feel that I am about to be bitten by it!!!

In most cases my displacement activities include internet surfing, computer game playing, and LOTS of doing absolutely nothing. This time, at least it was something productive……

As I posted about here, I had purchased a cheater cloth piece to do some machine quilting practice and was happy about what I had accomplished so far. Then I noticed that there was a small strip at the top of the quilt that I should have cut off before I added the borders and basted the quilt……

So, I put my displacement skills to good use and unpicked the small amount of “in the ditch” quilting, cut off the offending strip and then re-sewed the border…..

This looks so much better and will ready for me to get back to quilting on it…..

At least my displacement activity resulted in something being done this time!!

What is your displacement activity…..and PLEASE tell me that you do this as well!!

This time I listened!!

A couple of posts back, I talked about not listening to that small voice that tells you that you are doing something wrong.

Well, I did it again!!!! But this time I actually listened to my inner self and stopped before it got too far along and was able to fix it without too much trouble.

I decided that the problem was occurring because I was trying to add too many fabrics into each section so I would cut them smaller and smaller and it was easy to get the angle wrong. To combat that I decided to limit the number of fabrics to 20 in each section.

After I selected the fabrics for a section, I laid them out…..

and matched them to the color wheel……

If they lean to the previous color then I move them to the front of the piecing lineup and if they point to the next color they move to the back. Then it is a matter of intermixing the dark and lighter fabrics and get to sewing….

One of the things that bothered me early on in the sewing process was that I was sewing over and over thru a scrap piece of fabric…..

…..and it seemed like such a waste!!! So, I pulled out my 1.5 inch scrap squares and started making four patches (ala Bonnie Hunter)……

I ended up with about 75 – two inch four patches to use in some future unknown project!! I know that it slowed up the sewing process and was probably silly to do, but it did make me feel better!!

Before long I was finished with the “squiggle” part of the quilt……

….and started the process of trying to winnow down my ideas about what to put in the center of this colorful square. At one point I was thinking about appliqued 70’s type flowers but decided that it was too much of a departure from the Squiggle. Then I thought about piecing some sort of blocks in that area, but again it just didn’t seem right. Michael suggested that I have circles moving across the quilt, changing in colors from one side to the other. He even wanted one color to be “eaten” by the other color…..sort of like a Pac-man.

Then I started thinking about Catherine Wheels…..circular fireworks used in England, especially when celebrating Guy Fawkes day…..

I first thought about piecing a center something like this…..

…..but I was concerned that the weight of the center piecing would overtake the color squiggle.

However, I really liked the circular look of the Catherine Wheel so started thinking of something along these lines……

I was initially thinking about having 24 arcs….one for each color in the wheel, but then I decided that it would be too cluttered. Also, I wasn’t really looking forward to appliqueing over 200 circles!!! Then there was the issue of how the arcs would work up into the corners. My solution to all of these problems was to just do 12 arcs….four sets of 3 each.

Now my only problem is to see whether or not I can actually plan, prepare and hand applique all of those circles…….time will tell!!!

Barn Quilt Revisited…. successfully this time

A few weeks ago I posted about going to a Barn Quilt class and posted my mostly unsuccessful block….

I enjoyed learning about the technique and was determined to not be beaten by it. I sanded the board well, covered it with several coats of Kilz, and painted it with a base coat…..

As I looked at the colors of paint that I had available, I decided to go with an Autumn themed block to start with. I mixed some brown and white paints to get an interesting color and started the process. As in the class, I marked the center points of each of the “patches” in the block but didn’t actually draw the lines in. Instead, I used painters tape to mark off each section before painting.

After removing the first line of tape, I came to the understanding that I didn’t know exactly what I was doing…..


Then I remembered that, when I had helped to decorate the church for Vacation Bible School, we stuck the masking tape to something else first so that some of the stickiness was gone and it wouldn’t take the paint off of the walls. I started out by sticking it to my clothing but was still having trouble with it pulling the paint off. Then I started sticking it to skin so that the oils would definitely take out some of the stickiness……

I also realized that I didn’t need to stick the entire piece of tape down, but just needed the painting edge to stick well. I re-taped the inside and covered up some of my mistakes……

….but now I need to fix the outside squares and triangles. That caused a problem since I had mixed the original paint and was never going to get the color the same. So, even if all of the pieces didn’t need to be repainted, I mixed up some more paint…..

…..and easily repainted the outside patches……

Now it was time to tackle the inside pinwheel, but I had gained a few insights that made the process easier.

Firstly, I used pieces of tape that I had already painted on but just used the opposite side. It definitely saved some time!! I then used the tape edges to mark out the area that I needed to paint…..

After a light coat of paint, I moved to the hair dryer and gave it a quick going over…..

Then back for another light coat of paint and immediately, CAREFULLY, pulling the tape off…..

After another stint at the hair dryer, I was ready to move to the next area to be painted. I continued in this manner and, before I knew it, the block was fully painted.

One of the things that I learned as I went along was to use two thin layers of paint rather than one thick layer. Since I was having good success, I decided to go back and fix a few areas that hadn’t painted well when I had started, like these brown streaks…..

Once I had figured out which color of paint I had used……

….it was a simple task to make the quick corrections.

I am thrilled with the final result…..

I had worried that it would take much longer to do the block with tape rather than free hand but, in fact, I worked for less than 2 hours on the design.

I am planning to hang it on my front porch so will need to seal it well before I can call it completely finished.

This was so much fun and so simple to do and I am thinking that all of my friends and family might expect to see one coming their way at Christmastime…..oops I shouldn’t have said that!!!

Finishing the quilt from “you know where”!!

If you have been reading this blog for the last little bit, you have heard the saga of the Christmas pineapple quilt. To make a long story short…..

  • I kept changing my mind about how to make it
  • It doesn’t have a “hook” and I think that it is pretty boring
  • I used my new Wool Pressing mat and ended up being allergic to it. Consequently, I was also allergic to the quilt top!!

Continuing on, I sent it to a friend to quilt and she had problems with it too. First of all, she had tension issues and had to take out a lot of quilting. THEN, she wasn’t happy with the backtracking on the pantograph and wanted to re-do the ENTIRE thing. I said ABSOLUTELY not!! It was at this point that Michael gave it the name of the Quilt from “you know where”!!

So, the goal for today was to get it trimmed and get the binding put on, and I DID IT!!

I started out by making yards and yards of binding, using lots of strips of Christmas fabrics……

Once the binding was made and ready to attach…..

….it was time to square up the top. I had planned to use the laser square but realized that there wasn’t any border on the edge so basically I just “squared” it up based on the edge of the piecing. It may not be exactly square, but it will be finished!!!

As I was sewing all of these bits and pieces together to make the binding, I kept thinking of all of the joins that I would have to miss at the corners. And, sure enough, it was the very first corner that I came to…..

ARGH!!!! I cut some of the strip off and reattached the rest of the binding and off I went again!!

In case you haven’t figured this out, I was really ready to get the quilt finished and was putting the pedal down when I was sewing the long stretches, and then…..

Of course I ran out of bobbin thread…..about half of a side back!!! Will I NEVER finish this quilt!!!

As I finished sewing the first pass on the binding, I realized that I don’t know what color of thread to use when I sew the binding on the top. I normally try to use something that matches so that the stitching doesn’t show but, since I had used lots of different fabrics, that wasn’t possible. Finally, I noticed that the quilting had been done with a creamy gold thread so I used that for the binding. It worked well and, before I knew it, I had finished the quilt.

It immediately went into the washing machine to get rid of all of the things that I was allergic to and then off to be displayed on the bed…..

It will be a great addition to our Christmas decorations and, most importantly, I can put it in the FINISHED column!!!

It’s Pesto Time

One of my favorite parts of summer is getting to use all of the fresh herbs that we have growing in our herb bed but my favorite of all is making fresh Pesto. Michael and I both LOVE to eat it and this year has provided a bumper crop of Basil so today we spent a few hours making SEVENTEEN batches of Pesto to freeze for later dates.

This year we planted 5 Basil plants….3 from our local Lowe’s and 2 special ones from a nearby nursery. It has proven to be a good mix as the special ones don’t have as much aroma but definitely put on more leaves. When we mix the two it makes a perfect blend.

Here is the before and after of the bushes……

I felt a bit like Santa walking in with my big bundle of basil……

…… try saying that three times over!!

After washing and spinning the leaves……

…..Michael takes over with the preparation. The recipe is simple…..Basil, Garlic, Salt, Pepper, Pine Nuts and Olive Oil…..

and he has the technique perfected…..

We mix all of the batches together at the end…..

…..and then split them into meal-size portions…..

It was a good result from a few hours of work…..


That Niggly Voice…..

You know how you are sewing along and something just doesn’t feel right? But you ignore the feeling and keep on working!!! That is what happened to me this week.

I had been busy with work deadlines the past two weeks so hadn’t found much time to be progressing with my Color Wheel quilt, so I started trying to do 15 or 20 minutes each morning. One of those mornings I was working along and ended up having to take a couple of stitching lines out and irreparably tore the foundation paper so I added more paper to the back and kept on going.

But as I would sew off of the edge, I was having to sew over lots of edges that I hadn’t had to do before. I was excited to be getting something done so decided that it was okay and just kept going……WRONG!!!

So…..I finished up the blue side and was happy with how it looked…..

On Saturday I started working on the green side and, for some reason, had a look at the finished blue section. The first thing that I realized was that I had sewn the sections together in the wrong order which is why there isn’t a lot of definition between the colors.

Then I had another look at it and realized that the slant of the strips was not correct in one particular area…..

Gee I wish that I had listened to my inner voice!!!!

So, 1 hour later I had made the needed corrections and was ready to move forward with the green side.

It also looks so much better now because the colors actually flow from one color to another!!

The moral of this story……

….and LISTEN to yourself!!!!

Friday Evening Block Party

Several years ago we had a guild speaker who talked about the history of Barn Quilts……

As often happens, I was madly in love with them and started immediately planning one to go on my front porch (in lieu of a barn). I researched it online, bought paint and wood and planned my 48 inch design. Then I started trying to figure out how to mark the design, how to attach it to the brick on my house and many other how to’s……

At this point I was paralyzed into inactivity and, as I tried to work out of my paralysis, the wood started to warp……argh!!!! The project died there.

So, a few weeks ago one of my friends posted on Facebook about signing up for a Barn Quilt class at a local-ish Bed and Breakfast. I contacted my friend Linda and off we went!!!

The class was held at The Firefly at Madison (, an “Artistic Country Retreat”……. “The Firefly at Madison is a breath of fresh air. A petite French Country estate, complete with lavender, roses and herbs, chickens and ducks (and fresh healthy eggs!) and a peaceful setting just outside lovely small town Madison, Georgia. Ellie can offer you art and creative writing classes and workshops in her open, sunny, copper roofed studio or you can just relax on the charming brick patio or sunroom with a cup of fresh mint tea and listen to the tumbling water of the rocky falls.”

We arrived to find a beautiful setting for our class…..

We were given a 12 inch lightweight board to work with…..

….and started the first step by painting the background…..

Next we had to draw the quilt block in pencil, starting with marking dots at every intersecting line in our grid and then drawing in our design……

Probably the biggest hint of the night was to NOT draw in the actual grid lines, but just the lines that you are going to paint on!!

Then we started painting in the design….

Now, at this point, I did NOT shine. I have done very little painting and it was obvious that my “brushwork” was not up to par. The woman across from me really had it down pat…..

….as did others in the group…..


This was my end product…..

I am not super happy with this particular board, but I now know how to get started on one of my own….but I will probably use painter’s tape to mark out the designs rather than doing them freehand.

It was a fun and relaxing way to spend a Friday evening and I came away with a new skill…..what could be better!!!