Quilting and Gardening go Hand in Hand

Karen Snyder’s new book, Quilts from my Garden, features twenty projects that incorporate all of the colors of the garden with recipes that will have you dreaming of summer trips to the farm!   Reds, greens, yellows and vibrant blues enhance the patterns in the quilts.  But, they are not ALL quilts. 

Item #Z1320
Quilts from my Garden
Retail $22.99

Most of the projects are quick and easy so they can be completed in an afternoon!  So, take a mini-vacation and enjoy sewing a beach bag, a lavender sachet, or even an adorable flower-shaped pin cushion and scrap catcher!  These clever designs make great gifts.

Consider hosting a summer class or party to make a pinwheel quilt.  Make fabric pinwheels and stick them in flower pots for the centerpieces.  Sew a pinwheel quilt in the afternoon.  And, serve date pinwheel cookies for dessert.  And, yes, the recipe and patterns are all included!

Or, plan a beach holiday with friends and get together to sew beach bags before the event!  A planning party can turn into a sewing party.  This basic pattern is sew simple that a first time sewer will walk away with a smile!  The simple projects in this book are a perfect way to entice your non-sewing friends into a hobby that brings you such joy!  Who knows – your next get together could become a sewing retreat or a trip to a quilt show! 

But, I have to tell you, the first time I looked at this book, I was hungry – and all I remembered were the wonderful recipes!  I wanted to go whip up a batch of baked beans, strawberry shortcake and scones.  This book includes recipes for all of our childhood favorites that graced every pot luck and picnic!  Karen shares charming anecdotes that make every recipe and pattern personal.

After you have savored the recipes and the stories, read the book again to enjoy the projects and patterns.  Consider making a gift basket and including one of the projects with one of the recipes.  The corn and beans table runner would be a perfect companion to jars of corn relish.  What a wonderful hostess gift!

Karen will be signing copies of this newest book at the Checker booth at International Quilt Market in Portland, Oregon in May.  Stop by and see her.  How can you not love a woman who embraces two of our favorite past times – cooking and sewing! 

z0934.jpg   z0745.jpg
Item #Z0934                                           Item #Z0745
Retail $22.99                                           Retail $22.99

Small Sewing Projects Offer Opportunities To Try New Techniques

 This is an article that was originally on the Lazy Girl Designs Blog.  If you want to learn more about these smocking products go to http://www.clover-usa.com/videos.html where you can watch two different videos.

Lazies, I’ve been dying to play with the new smocking products from Clover Needlecraft. Small sewing projects, such as the Wonder Wallet, can be a great way to test out a new technique. I decided to showcase a little smocking on the cover of this Wonder Wallet.


Wonder Wallet with smocking detail on cover.
Fabrics are City Girl by Benartex.

Clover Smocking Products
I talked about the new smocking products from Clover Needlecraft in a recent blog post here.

Getting Started
I loved this yummy green fabric and I paired it with the Diamond Design smocking product. I used four of the six strands of embroidery floss, in a luscious cream color to coordinate with the fabric. I used one of the Clover needles and their new needle threader for this project.

Here is the fabric before smocking.

Diamond Design smocking product
from Clover Needlecraft.


Here is the fabric after smocking.

Pleat Management
I needed to trim around the smocking detail in order to incorporate it into my Wonder Wallet project. Due to the gathered fabric at the center of this piece, the fabric did not lie flat. So I arranged the pleats a bit, pinned the corners to my ironing board to hold everything in place, then pressed the whole thing every so lightly with a hot iron.

Tape Instead of Pins
It’s hard to tell in the photo below, but I put a piece of clear tape above and below the smocking. I used the tape to help keep things manageable while sewing along the cut edges. Click on the photo to enlarge and see the tape. I left the tape in place while I sewed this into to cover piece of the wallet. As an alternative, you could also turn under the edges and topstitch the smocked detail onto a finished item.

Smocked detail trimmed for Wonder Wallet project.

Final Thoughts
I like how this project turned out. I smocked a small piece of fabric, then incorporated it into the rest of the project. I found the smocking product easy to use and I’ll look for ways to use it again in my designs.

What do you think? Have you tried smocking or the new Clover smocking products? Do you think there is a place in your sewing repertoire for a little smocking? Post a comment and tell me about it.


Alaskan Quilters Share their Secrets

The mother/daughter team of Marguerita McManus and Sarah Raffuse have created “Crazy Shortcut Quilts – Quilt as You Go in Half the Time!”.  But after reading the book, there is much more to it than that!  Their techniques can be incorporated into any project – and there are times they should be embraced by every quilter – you just may not know it yet!

Item #Z0973
Retail $22.99

Many of us are involved in organizations that are making quilts for kids, babies, soldiers, cancer patients, etc.  These are wonderful programs that make us proud to be quilters.  But, they also can become expensive.  Most of us are quite willing to donate fabric and sew, but few of us have the ability to machine quilt these donations.  Paying for the machine quilting has become a problem.  Not anymore! 

Marguerita and Sarah show you how to piece blocks – quilt them – and THEN sew the quilted blocks together  to complete your quilt.  Since the quilting follows the seams of the pieced blocks, anyone can do it – no meandering required!

It is the perfect opportunity to use up all of those scraps of batting.  And then there is the decorative stitching!  Many of us have paid way too much for a sewing machine that had all of the bells and whistles – but don’t quite remember what we were planning on doing with all of those stitches!  No more!  Marguerita and Sarah use these decorative stitches to machine quilt their projects and enhance their quilts.  And, as an added bonus, any imperfections are disguised if you stray from the seam line.

The threads can be changed on every seam so you may actually use up THAT stash as well! 

Since the blocks are quilted individually – and then sewn together – it is possible for anyone to quilt even a queen sized quilt the very first time!  After the initial machine quilting – which is done in manageable sizes – the blocks are sewn together with straight seams.  You just roll up the rows and stitch!

Marguerita and Sarah will be signing copies of their book at the Checker Booth at International Quilt Market in Portland, Oregon in May.  Stop by and see the samples.  Their enthusiasm is infectious! 

Bringing your Garden Indoors with Cutting-Garden Quilts

On the dreariest February day you can imagine, I came across Melinda Bula’s “Cutting-Garden Quilts” – and she reminded me that spring is just around the corner! Although I don’t have a green thumb – and only dream of the gardens that inspire her quilts – she shows you how to create them out of fabric – with breathtaking results!

Hollyhocks by Melinda Bula

Melinda wrote this book for two different audiences. For those of you who have an artistic eye and are perfectly comfortable designing your own garden, she leads you through the process that she uses to create these quilts. The instructions are written in such a conversational style that she has taken all of the intimidation out of the projects! I felt like I was sitting at her kitchen table as she talked me through the process.

Cutting-Garden Quilts
by Melinda Bula
Item #B848T
Retail $27.95

But, honestly, I really belong to a different audience! For those of us who need more support, she has included patterns for five projects that are created out of fabric – like Paint by Number sets. And, once you are comfortable with the techniques, you will have the confidence to design your own pieces.

Melinda has included photographs of many of her pieces for inspiration and has shown her journey through the creative process. Each piece is dated so you can see how her techniques have evolved – and how quickly you can “grow” as an artist too.
Melinda will be signing books at the Checker booth at Spring Quilt Market in Portland, Oregon. Stop by and visit – her quilts are eye candy for the soul!

Social Climber Roses

To view more pictures of her beautiful quilts, visit her website at www.melindabula.com.

A True Beginner’ Project, no Experience Required

Lisa Maki of Crooked Nickel Quilt Designs has created the perfect beginner projects.  She uses Quilter’s Gridded On Point Pellon (Item #821P) – a fusible interfacing – as a foundation for all of her patterns.  Since the interfacing is printed in a 1″ grid, placing the fabrics and designing your quilt could never be easier!  It is 45″ wide so smaller projects are a breeze – but queen size quilts are not a problem – just use a double width of the interfacing.

Point Taken
Item #CNQD2 Retail $10.00

It is so simple – just place the fabrics on the lines printed on the interfacing.  Cover with an Applique Pressing Sheet (Item #BTD209 – Retail $20.99) and iron to hold in place.  Then, just simply fold the interfacing on the lines and sew – you can’t get any easier than that!

A Great Companion Item for Charm Packs and 5″ Squares

And, her company is called Crooked Nickel Quilts for a reason.  Her patterns use 5″ squares – so they are easy to cut with the new Creative Grid Charming Strip Stashbuster Ruler (Item #CGRCSS) – and easy for shop owners to kit.  Use scraps or charm square packets since they look great in planned fabrics – but truly come to life in more scrappy versions – my favorite! “And Your Point with a Twist” looks like a quilt my grandmother would have made – and because it uses 5″ squares, it is a perfect way to showcase your favorite fabrics.  The larger pieces give you an opportunity to view the actual designs.

And Your Point with a Twist 
Item #CNQD1 Retail $10.00

Where to Begin

Start with something simple – but elegant!  A smaller project can be finished easily in an afternoon class – and will reassure your customers who are hesitant about using a fusible product in their quilts.  Frankly, I was too – but after using it one time, found that those fears were groundless.  “A Few Pointers” includes the patterns for a pillow, wall hanging, or table topper.  For those of you looking for a sewing project for Girl Scout, Home Economics, or 4-H groups, the pillow would be perfect.  The Pellon fusible interfacing is lightweight but does add some stability to the project.  And that is NOT a bad thing!

A Few Pointers
Item #CNQD6 – Retail $10.00

The Advantages of Interfacing 

This stability has added advantages.  We made the “A Few Pointers” Tabletopper.  The interfacing added just enough stability that we used a scrap of flannel instead of batting.  The project layed perfectly flat on the table.  AND, since the finished project is totally stabilized, there is absolutely no stretch to the fabric so machine quilting a project yourself has never been easier.

If you have an embroidery machine, showcase some of your embroidery designs on five-inch squares and incorporate them into your projects.  The interfacing will stabilize the design and eliminate the need to quilt through the embroidered designs.

This would also be a perfect solution for an autograph quilt.  The Pellon stabilizes the fabric so it is easy to autograph.  A finished quilt with light fabrics could be totally finished and signed at a wedding, shower, family reunion, birthday party, etc.

Children could “color” the squares and they could be heat set later for a perfect teacher gift.  And, since the interfacing adds stability to the fabric when folded and sewing, if you have a machine with a lip for the 1/4″ foot, even a young child could run the edge of the fabric along the edge of the foot to create perfect seam allowances every time.  A second grade teacher was in the classroom when we were reviewing this technique and said that she wanted to try it with her students.  You can’t get any easier than that! 

Class IdeasChristmas fabrics will be arriving in quilt shops in the next few months.  Why not promote these fabrics by hosting some holiday classes?  Wouldn’t it be nice to actually have some presents done in advance – and show your customers how beautiful these new lines are?The “Skirting the Point” Christmas Tree Skirt is the perfect solution.  It is a generous sized tree skirt that makes a great, affordable gift – and can be completed in an afternoon!  And, what a great wedding gift – just in time for all of those summer celebrations.  Just quilt by stitching in the ditch – and wrap it up!   And, I bet you can’t make just one!  You’ll want to make one for everyone in your family.  Or, this would make a great family project.  I have a group of friends that design something every year for Thanksgiving week-end.  When dinner is over and the men are all napping while watching football, they sew a memory.  Have everything ready and they could all go home with a finished tree skirt – just in time for decorating.  Include some light fabrics so you could all sign and date the squares to turn this simple project into an heirloom.        

Skirting the Point
Item #CNQD8 – Retail $10.00  

Helpful Hints from the DesignerFor those of you who have not used fusible interfacings, Lisa shares hints that she has learned along the way.  First of all do not use steam with the pressing sheet.  If you do get some build up on the pressing sheet or the bottom of your iron – and it is inevitable – just clean the surface with a dry non-abrasive scouring pad.  Then run your hot iron over a dryer fabric softener sheet.  It will be as good as new!If you iron a fabric in the wrong place, just reheat it and peel it off of the interfacing.  Just that easy! 

This truly is the perfect group project for beginners.  All they have to be able to do is iron and sew a straight line.  Seeing their faces light up when they have completed their first quilt is what it’s all about!  They’ll be planning their next one before the iron has a chance to cool so have plenty of kits on hand….. 


The Secrets of Machine Quilting on your Sewing Machine

The latest in the Basics & Beyond series by Landauer Books once again shows why they have become staples in every quilter’s library.  Before you read the first word – and believe me, you will read every single one  – you will appreciate the attention to detail incorporated into each book.

It is a hardback with a hidden-spiral so the pages will lay flat next to your sewing machine.  And, there are over 200 pictures and illustrations so you can visually view the process – every step of the way. Whether you would like to machine quilt a small project – or a queen size quilt – Lynn will walk you through the process, step by step.  She has been quilting and teaching her techniques for years so she’s incorporated her no-fail techniques into each and every page.  Lynn Witzenburg is truly an expert!

Item #L11216 – Retail $27.95

The Basics

Let’s face it, many of us love to applique and piece projects but when it comes to actually finishing them, we turn them over to the experts – and send them out to a machine quilter.  But, what if YOU were the expert?  That means you would no longer have to wait in line to complete your quilts.  In our area, many of the machine quilters are booked six months in advance!  And, the money that you would spend on quilting could be used to finance the materials for your next project.

Think about it.  You could buy everything Lynn recommends to get started – including her book – for the price of sending out one quilt!  So, why not give it a try?  Just check out this supply list (book3.pdf).

The Tricks of the Trade

Lynn includes tips and helpful hints on almost every page.  And, frankly, I looked at the pictures and read the tips during my first sitting.  But, she drew me in.  In the middle of a blizzard, I got a cup of coffee, snuggled in a quilt, and sat down to savor every word. 


Frankly, I have always been intimidated by machine quilting.   I’ve even tried it a few times – but with less than stellar results.  But Lynn went into such detail that she gave me solutions to the problems I encountered – and instructions and tips that stopped me from trying anything bigger than a placemat!

And Then Move on to the “Beyond”

After you have mastered the basics, Lynn explores more advanced techniques such as trapunto, bobbin-quilting, and free-form feathers.  She even explains how to design original borders.  So this book is a must have for all machine quilters – even those of you who are more experienced. 

Lynn has also included several projects with the machine quilting designs included.  Why not consider teaching a series of classes using the same book.  Start them off with the basics and move on to the more advanced techniques.  Trapunto, bobbin-quilting and free-form feathers could all be demonstrated with white on white fabrics to make an assortment of pillows. 

Your students will be able to finish it in class – and will learn how to adjust the bobbin tension (without shuddering); use water soluble thread; and quilt larger projects.

This book covers it all – and explains it in such simple terms that you will refer to it again and again.  I shared it with all of my favorite machine quilters – and they gave it a five star “must read”.  But, don’t stop here.  Check out the other books in the series – Applique and the Knit Book.  You’ll be glad you did.

l11118.jpgItem #L11118 – Retail $24.95
Item #11216 Retail $24.95

Turning Tee Shirts into Memory Quilts Just in Time for Graduation

T-Shirt quilts are the ultimate graduation gift – if you can pry the clothes away from your favorite scholar!  And, they are quick and easy to make.  I know, we always say that, but this time it is really true – you don’t have to be an experienced quilter to make a memory.  Instead of piecing blocks for your quilt, you are simply stabilizing the stretch in the T-Shirts or sweatshirts and cutting them out to the size you prefer.  It can’t get any easier than that!

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Item #704407                                             Item #FC2319 
Retail $ 18.95                                            Retail $8.00

Patterns and Books

There are several patterns and books available that will explain the process in greater detail.  All of these publications remove the intimidation factor.   A Scrapbook You Can Sleep Under and a pattern by Four Corners are for more experienced quilters.  They have detailed information to help you design your own layout and personalize your quilt.  There are many examples shown to get your creative juices flowing!

cq010.jpg     tq01.jpg    
Item #CQ010                                            Item #TQ01                               
Retail $14.95                                             Retail $8.95                                 

Item #1256QD
Retail $9.00

If you are a beginner, the patterns above generally suggest cutting all of the T-Shirts to the same size.  They are just as beautiful!

Designing the Top

This is when those large Creative Grid square rulers are your new best friends!  My favorite sizes are the 12 1/2″ (Item #CGR12); 15 1/2″ (Item #CGR15); and 16 1/2″ (Item #CGR16) squares – but if your child is big enough to play linebacker for Ohio State, you may need the 18 1/2″ (Item #CGR18) square too. 

Item #CGR12
Retail $21.00

As a rule of thumb, twenty T-Shirts are needed for a twin sized quilt; thirty will make a double or a queen.  But, remember, you may want to use the front AND back of some shirts.  You may even want to incorporate small designs on pockets and sleeves into your finished quilt.  These often work well as corner posts in the borders and sashings or as quilt labels. 

This is not the time to turn into Martha Stewart!  The shirts that are the most worn and stained are their favorite shirts and HAVE to be included in the quilt top.  If they are in pristine condition, they never liked them – and there are no memories attached to them.  When the shirts are stabilized, even a hole or two won’t matter!

Place the Creative Grid rulers on the shirts to decide what would be the appropriate size of the finished blocks – but don’t cut them yet.  First you have to design your quilt and stabilize the shirts.  Make a list of the T-Shirts and the ideal size of the finished square.  Then it’s time to get out the graph paper and sketch out a lay-out for your quilt! 

Preparing the T-Shirts

Easy-Knit is a fusible stabilizer that comes in white (Item #EK130PWHT) or black (Item #EK130PBLK).  It is very light weight and doesn’t add bulk or stiffness to the finished quilt.  Believe me, you won’t even know it is there!  When ironed to the wrong side of the T-Shirts, the stretch of the fabric is eliminated so that these fabrics can be sewn to cotton successfully.  But remember, for those of you who are used to only using one setting on your iron – hot – you are ironing a polyester knit that will melt, so adjust the heat accordingly or use a pressing sheet.  I usually just place a square of muslin over the Easy-Knit so I don’t have to worry about it! 

Cut the Easy-Knit at least two inches larger than the size of the squares you wish to cut.  The entire block – including the seam allowance – must be stabilized or you are wasting your time.  Cut up the sides of the T-Shirt and across the shoulder seams.  Then iron the stabilizer to the back of the design.

After the shirts are fused, place and center the appropriate sized ruler on the shirt and trim. 

Adding the Ah! Factor

Many times if you are designing your own top, there will be little nooks and crannies that are created because not all of the blocks were trimmed to the same size.  This gives you an opportunity to truly make this quilt your own!  Add autograph blocks, those logos you saved from the pockets and sleeves, or photographs transferred to fabric.  Easy as Pie Designs even makes a panel of silk screened quotations that can be sewn into your completed top.  Any or all of these additions can be the perfect finishing touch!

Item #EAP103
Retail $ 20.00

Finishing the Top

Since the T-Shirts are stabilized, you can now sew them into a quilt using cotton fabrics for the sashings and borders and “quilt as desired”.  But even those simple words can add meanings to your quilt. 

It takes a village to raise a child, so consider giving your machine quilter a list of the family and friends who are important in your child’s life.  They can machine stitch their names into the quilt as they are performing their magic!  Or, consider having them stitch in the name of the college of their choice.  Favorite quotations are also a nice added touch.

If the finished quilt is less than 58″ wide, consider having the top quilted to fleece.  You don’t have to use batting, it washes beautifully, and has that “snuggle” factor that we all love.  It has the added bonus of being reasonably priced – at around $9.00 a yard for 60″ wide goods – it is the best bargain going, and you save the price of the batting!

OR, you may want to consider using a light fabric on the back so that it can become a canvas for family and friends.  At the graduation party, you could have everyone sign and write a personal message to the guest of honor! 


When you have a graduate in your family, it also means that you have become “attached” to many of their friends who will also be leaving the nest.  A quilt may not be possible for all of them, but consider making them floor pillows!  One T-shirt in the center of a pieced 24″ quilt will brighten any bed – and can be completed in an afternoon.  They don’t even have to be quilted – sew buttons at the seams.  If you use fleece for the back, you don’t even have to sew buttonholes – how easy and creative is that!

Incorporating Photos into your Quilts has Never Been Easier

What if you didn’t have to transfer your photographs to fabric?  What if you could design quilted frames and wall hangings to showcase your favorite memories – and change them out at will?  Jean Boyd can show you how to make Pop-Out Picture Quilts.  This creative lady has designed settings for your favorite photographs.  You decide whether you would like to transfer them to fabric – or not! 

Pop-Out Picture Quilts 

In some cases, she has designed wall hangings that showcase an entire collection of photos.  These patterns are perfect for displaying memories of a special vacation.  Or consider highlighting all of the school photos of your favorite grad. 

Thanks for the Memories               
Item #JBP330                                  
Retail $9.50                                       

Pop-Out Picture Quilts – School Days
Item #JBP304
Retail $9.00

These quilts are so easy!  Just think about it – most photographs are printed to just a few standard sizes, so sizing is not a problem. 

Little Picture Quilts 

But there are times when a single photo can stand alone – and the results can be striking. 

Item #JBP308                                       
Retail $6.00                                            

Item #JBP305
Retail $6.00

What great gifts!  Or make a gallery of these quilted photos for your own walls! 

Pop-Out Picture Books

If you can do a photo, why not an album?  Jean designed a series of Pop Out books that are also beautiful – and allow you to change the photographs at will.  In my favorite, she combines her favorite photos with her favorite quotes to make an heirloom quality gift.

Item #JBP322
Words of Wisdom
Retail $9.00

Hang Ups

But what if you didn’t want to display your favorite quilted photos on walls?  Once again, Jean has an answer!  She has designed a series of “Hang Ups” that fit black metal display stands. 

Item #QDS12                                   
Retail $16.95                                   


More Hang Ups
Item #JBP328

View this slide show to see all of Jean’s designs.

Photo Transfer Fabrics 

If you are already comfortable with fabric photo transfer, however, by all means do so.  Use Jean’s designs as a stepping off point to your own imagination. 

Use these patterns as an opportunity to teach a photo transfer class.  Embellishments and embroidery are an obvious add-on class.  Try the new fabric sheets available from Electric Quilt.  They have gotten rave reviews from many experts and have the added bonus of being as soft as the fabrics in your quilt.  AND, they can be quilted – by hand or machine.  Photo transfer has come of age.

Why not consider teaching a series of classes, using a different photo transfer sheet for each.  There is nothing better than hands on experience for your students.  You can learn together.  And, by opening packages – and sharing sheets – it can be affordable, as well as educational!  This experience can make you – and your students – an expert in photo transfer.

Item #p-fabric
Retail $16.95 for six sheets

Oldies but Goodies, Books that have Stood the Test of Time

Doug Hand, one of our most experienced sales reps, compiled a list of the classics!  To make his list, the book had to be in print for at least 10 years.  Some have been around for 20!  And, they are all still best sellers.  It is like looking at a list of Oscar winners – you can’t put it down until you see how many you’ve read.

The authors

There is a reason that some of these women have become household names.  Out of 140 books, for instance, Eleanor Burns is responsible for 30 of them – some dating back to 1988!  Can you imagine??  No wonder she is a role model for so many of us!

It reads like a who’s who of quilting – Nancy Halvorsen, Elly Sienkiewicz, Kaye England, Kaye Wood, Karen K. Stone, Marti Michell, Judy Martin, Debbie Caffrey, Marsha McClosky, Milligan & Smith, Judith Montano – the list goes on and on.  And in many cases you may be familiar with their new books – but this will give you a chance to visit their “roots”!

It’s like loving a new book – and finding out that there is a whole library full of others by that same author!  Go to the Checker website (checkerdist.com) and search by name – you’ll be surprised that many of your favorites also design patterns and gifts.  

The Techniques

These books run the gamut!  There are classic books of quilt blocks; compilations of pieced quilts; and books that specialize in teaching techniques – machine quilting, fabric folding, redwork, applique, crazy quilting, etc. 

Join us on a walk down memory lane.  How many of them make your own personal list of favorites?  Click on any of the Greatest Book Groups below to view them.