Blog Archives

The weekend of the exchange block

Sonja Koch from NWA Modern Quilt Guild brings us exchange blocks to make at least once a year. Most of us make one or more blocks, putting our names in the hat for each block we make. Last year we made wonky stars (using green, orange, and grey), made one quilt for charity and then there were enough blocks for three lucky winners to make their own quilts. Here they are, as shown at our first ever quilt show, held last month. (Top left) NWA MQG Wonky Star Galaxy, Hazel McFall; (Top right) Wonky Starry Night, Leeanna Walker and members of NWA MQG (quilted by Brenda Bell); (bottom)Wonky Stars, Debbie Wheeler (quilted by Sonja Koch).

This is Wonky Churndash by Sonja Koch; the guild also did this as a block exchange using these colors.


This time, our block uses a pieced-curve technique and is also a great block for using up scrap strips. For the center of the block, sew together strips (approximately 5-1/2 inches long, any width) to make a strip set that’s about 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches. Make sure the strips on the ends are wider than the other strips so that you don’t end up with a tiny strip near the seam allowance. Then cut two sides with gentle curves. I placed my ruler on top of the strip set to hold it in place and to keep my fingers away from the rotary cutter. Keep the curve gentle, or it will be difficult to sew. Strips do not necessarily have to be trimmed (see below).



Next, place a black strip (approximately 3-inches wide) underneath the curve and cut the black fabric, following your original curve. Note that the black fabric is even with a line on the mat and both pieces should be even at the top. I switched to my smaller rotary cutter, which made cutting the curves a little easier.

P1120607Match the points of the two fabrics and sew the two pieces together with an 1/8-in seam. Sew slowly and keep matching the edges as you go, turning in order to follow the curves. Press to the black. (I used a letter block instead of a strip set here.)

Square up to 8 x 8-inches. I marked the 8-inch marks on my ruler.

There were all kinds of leftovers in my scrap box. This was a 23-inch strip set that was supposed to be water in another project. I cut it up and sewed it back together. I was patient today–it took me several tries to get this to 8-1/4 inches.



Here, I used a directional fabric left over from donation quilts. The fabric came from a program in Minnesota for at-risk babies and children.


I made a total of 11 blocks and alternated the direction, since some of the pieces were directional just to see how it looked. Elvis has entered the building (block 3). By the way, I did not make an appreciable dent in my scrap box, but I have an idea. That extra strip set? I had made a wide strip set and cut it in half. Each half was 4-7/8 inches wide–I was barely able to make a 8×8 block, which is why I suggest starting with 5-1/2 inch long strips.


Yo, Sonja. I said this would be addictive–I used up my black fabric, so I’m moving on now. See you in June! Thanks for the 10-minute tip and video.

LAST OF THE DOGWOODS. My dogwood is finally blooming. The leaves look curly and wilted, as do the ones at Crystal Bridges (last photo). Dogwoods make me happy.



Back in the land of the living…

or how I almost gave up quilting (and everything else). I live with chronic inflammation and pain from rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Basically everything I do hurts my back, but I was in excruciating, almost constant hip pain for four months. Then one day after pretty much overstretching trying to relieve a spasming piriformis muscle (near the sciatic nerve), I got up and my hip gave a loud pop–and relief. I started doing these exercises which I had found in the Parade insert of the Sunday paper, Move Away Your Pain by Mary Sauer. Go to the links below and remember to consult your doctor before bending at the waist (thank you, Rita Rudner).

Speaking of doctors, I asked to be referred to the rheumatologist who originally diagnosed me in 2008 (he moved away and returned, but after three years, you’re a new patient). I thought perhaps the AS was progressing. My primary care sent two referrals–they didn’t get them. I hand carried the referral myself–still no response. Since I had no response after leaving messages, I decided I will just fix this myself. About the only thing I can do to help myself at this point is lose weight. Four months of being sedentary and eating Lays Wave Potato Chips, Swalty Popcorn and drinking cokes put on another ten pounds. My blood pressure was up. Now I am on a quest to lose 60 pounds. Most people who know me here have never seen me at my normal weight. I was underweight or normal weight until age 45. An underactive thyroid, total hysterectomy and being misdiagnosed started the weight gain. I still cannot walk without my hip going into spasm, but hopefully that will improve. I am going to stick with this South Beach diet until people start asking if I am sick. Right now, as far as I am concerned, you cannot be too thin. I have one pair of zip up pants that I can wear. I don’t eat much bread but I love white potatoes. The first week has not been hard except that I really don’t get enough to eat some days. If I have a headache or feel lightheaded I have carrots (sugar/starch). I have added tortilla chips (carbs) to my salads. I do not feel guilty. Results after one week: lost 2.5 pounds and 1.75-inches. My blood pressure is back down to 117/70 (I also put my sea salt away). It’s a start. And the quilting? I finished quilting my current project, wove in all the ends, and have to decide whether I need to block it. I didn’t get Less is More finished for my local quilt show but I’m going to enter it in the Modern Quilt Showcase at Houston International. Deadline for entry is June 22. I can do that. I am back to #doonething. This week: finish/recycle reading pile and get rid of the last dregs of paperwork. It’s all good.

P.S. I had a large post in draft and last edited it on March 3. Two days ago, I tried to edit it again and it was all over the place so I decided to just start over. I. Never. Give. Up. Next time, I’ll post all about Less is More–back to quilting posts. In the meantime, have a great weekend–it is finally spring here and supposed to quit raining, so I’ll leave you with a new dogwood photo.


Quilting, Crafts and Getting Things Finished

The year before I retired, I took a lot of quilt classes and because I was still working, did not finish one thing.  Some of those projects are still not finished for one reason (or three).  Somehow I can’t let go of them because I still love them.  If I ever get caught up, I will have a  new procedure–no more than three ongoing projects at once.  Sometimes you can finish something from beginning to end, but sometimes you need to put something aside because you just don’t know what to do next.  So I have this sample for hand quilting practice.  I pulled it out today and did one line of stitching.  Anything that requires crunching my hand in a fist quickly brings on cramps and finger triggering.  So my only recourse is to either do one line a day or learn a different way to quilt.  Liuxin Newman has a different thimble (hole in the top) and a different way to quilt, placing the thimble on the middle finger and quilting with the hand open.  Check it out.

A huge thank you to Thomas Umstatdd for the excellent tutorial on inserting a hyperlink into wordpress.

I only have one section to finish.  What am I going to do with it–probably use it as a background or as a journal cover.  My pencil lines are fairly faint so you can’t seen them in the photo so I have outlined the entire project and the last triangle which is about a third finished.  One of the things I do not like about the project is our instructor had us use polyester thread to match the muslin.  I guess it will be okay when it’s finished but I wish I had used a slightly darker, heavier  thread.  It will not win any prizes for hand quilting but at this point, it just doesn’t matter.  My stitches are smaller on the back than on the front.  All of this kind of gets my vote for big-stitch quilting (or quilting by machine).


Today I did quite a bit of cleaning up and putting away of things.  Oh and here is another use for your favorite stiffener. Silk flowers are often bundled up to save space in packaging and so the petals on non-wired flowers can get folded.  You could iron them carefully with a tiny iron but I sprayed some product in a little container and painted the backs with a stiff brush, pinned them down a little and let them dry.


I love these little flowers–they remind me of Dogwoods, which are a favorite of mine–they just make me happy.  The dogwoods here will be in bloom in a couple of months, maybe three, depending on the weather.


Next week I will be diving into the dreaded basket and bringing out all of my unfinished angels.  I used to crochet a lot of angels and snowflakes and baskets, and as you know, doilies.  I no longer have any styrofoam forms but I usually had to make up my own forms from tag board and cover them with plastic wrap.  Oh, goodie–I still have that Press and Seal–should work like a charm.  I feel like this post is a little disjointed.  I have bronchitis and need to go rest now. Typing is acting up anyway. May fortune smile on you today and may you stay healthy.