The Final Step…

Okay, quick recap…since this is continued from last week.  The foundation fabric was made, a grid was drawn, and the cross hatch quilting was done.  Now what?  The next step is to measure the quilted square.  Remember that in the previous blog, the finished square needed to be 13 ¼-inches.  We cut the original background 14-inches square because it would become smaller as we quilted the grid.  Now when I measure the square after the quilting process, it did measure smaller – 13 ¾-inches.  I’m not going to cut it down to the desired size yet, as the applique process may shrink it a bit more.

At this point, things are proceed as per normal for machine applique.  For this Sue, I am going to use raw edge applique. While this process has somewhat fallen out of “vogue” in quilts at the present, I still love this technique.  And since my piece is already sandwiched (backing, batting, and top), I can use the raw edge applique as part of the quilting.  It will half the time and double its duty.  You gotta love that. To begin this process, I flip the pattern over, place it on my light box and re-draw the pattern on the wrong side of the paper, all the while making sure I leave extra margin for the pieces that go under other pieces.



After the pattern is traced on the back side of the pattern paper, I then trace the individual pieces on a bonding agent. I prefer Soft Fuse or Steam-A-Seam Lite for most of my raw-edge applique work.  I cut apart the bonding agent, leaving a paper margin around each piece of about ¼-inch.  The next step is the to fuse the Soft Fuse (which is what I am using for my April Sue) to the wrong side of the fabric.  When I cut the applique pieces out, I will cut on the drawn line, so my pattern pieces will be the accurate size.  If I didn’t leave that ¼-inch margin around the initial Soft Fuse pieces, there would be a chance when I cut them out of the fabric, they would be smaller than they needed to be.  And while I don’t think this really would have mattered a great deal with this piece (with the exception of the leaves and one or two of Sue’s details), if you’re working with an applique pattern that has lots of small pieces, even an 1/8-inch can cause a big difference, not to mention a huge headache.

Now, using the right side of the pattern as a guide, I fuse the pieces into place.


I will wait until later to fuse the leaves.   Those will be the last applique pieces  I press into place.  I will remind you that at this point, the background is not a smooth piece of fabric.  It has already been quilted, so there is a lot of texture.  I had to be a little more aggressive with the fusing process to make sure the pieces would stay in position during the applique process.

The next step is to decide what kind of thread you want for the machine applique.  Remember the machine applique will serve two functions for this piece.  It will hold the applique pieces in place and will serve as part of the quilting.  I wanted the cross hatched background quilting to be understated so that it would not overwhelm any part of Sue and her surroundings.  I chose a cream-colored, standard 50-weight piecing thread for that.  It nearly disappears into the background, which is what I desired.  The first applique piece I fused down was the tree (minus the leaves).  I wanted the tree quilting to resemble bark as much as possible, so I drew wiggly, irregular lines on its surface with a Frixion pen and decided on Superior Thread’s King Tut’s machine applique thread to work in the details.  I used my Janome’s applique foot for the blanket stitch around the applique pieces and used the walking foot to work in the details of the bark.  I did use Superior Threads Bottom Line in my bobbin for the entire process — both applique and quilting.


I like Superior Thread’s King Tut line for several reasons.  First of all, it’s an extra long-staple cotton thread that is variegated.  I don’t like to use variegated thread on my long arm (and the reasons why will be discussed in a later blog), but I like using it in my domestic machines for applique or quilting.  The extra-long staple means that it can take some serious abuse without breaking or “linting up” your machine.  The variegation serves applique work well, as it can blend into numerous backgrounds, saving the quilter time – you don’t have to keep switching thread colors.  But what I like most about this thread is its appearance.  It’s a 40-weight, 3-ply thread, meaning it’s a bit heavier in appearance and if you’re adding details that you really want to “pop” on a piece, this thread is a terrific choice.  I was introduced to this particular thread at a Sue Nickels workshop.  When I returned home, I purchased several spools from the Super Thread website.  Since that time, I think I have a spool in every color.  It is truly awesome thread.

I also used a variegated King Tut on Sue’s umbrella and raincoat and the puddles, both in the applique work and in the quilting details.



The bark detail in the tree serves as quilting, as does the details in Sue’s umbrella, raincoat, and the raindrops splashing in the puddles.

However, on the leaves, Sue’s hand on the umbrella, and the umbrella shaft, I decided not to use the King Tut 40-weight thread…and here’s why:  the size of the pieces.  If you look closely at these pieces, you note that they are either the smallest pieces or the thinnest ones.  The size of the thread would have completely overwhelmed these applique parts.  Remember the smaller the number of the thread, the larger its diameter.  The average piecing thread is 50-weight or 60-weight.  Hand applique thread is usually 80-weight.  King Tut thread is 40-weight, so it’s pretty thick.  I wanted the fabric to still be seen and not completely overtaken by the applique thread.  Therefore, I used piecing thread for that – Mettler thread in greens and  ecru, and Aurifil in black.  And while the umbrella shaft and Sue’s hand on it required no additional quilting since those pieces are so small, I did quilt in the veins in the leaves.


Finally, I trimmed the block down to 13 ¼-inches and bound it.

And then I had to think about the embellishments, since that was part of Matthew’s challenge for our guild members.

I used a scrap piece of green fabric and fringed it, to make some grass to hide the tree roots….



And I added some crystals for raindrops.


Overall, I’m really happy with this piece and had a ton of fun making this block.  I always wanted to make a Sunbonnet Sue Quilt, and I did just that, even if she’s wearing a rain hat instead of a sunbonnet.  I used raw edge applique, which is a technique I love. I had a wonderful time picking out fun fabrics to applique, including the really neat polka-dot fabric I found for Sue’s rain boots — it exactly matched a pair of rain boots I saw at a big box store!  I used a technique I hadn’t used in a while (quilt it before you applique it), and my thread choice got to play center stage instead of being relegated to the background.


Wins all the way around in this Quilting with Excellence exercise.




Meagan underwent surgery on Tuesday, March 27 and it was very, very successful.  The surgeons believe that the cancer was contained only in the cervix.  They removed her cervix, Fallopian tubes, uterus, pelvic lymph nodes, and 2 cm around all of that to make sure they got clean margins.  The ovaries were fine, so they were left where they were.  Dr. Kelly is very, very optimistic that we’re looking at a complete recovery here.

What happens now?  In two weeks or so we will get the results of her pathology report on the 2 cm of margin removed.  If it’s clean, then we’re done.  Meg will have to have a Pap Smear every three months for two years and then every six months for five years — if the cancer decides to make a return appearance it will be in her vagina.  At the end of five years, if no cancer cells show up, then she will be declared cancer-free.  If the margins are not clear, then she will undergo radiation and perhaps chemo.

Either way, her chances of remission/recovery are 95%.  We will take that any day of the week.

I cannot emphasize it enough:  Get your annual physical and if your insurance won’t pay for yearly Pap Smears, Planned Parenthood offers them for free or at a reduced rate.  It was a complete fluke that Meg’s cancer was caught – not by her OB/GYN, but by her PCP.  Otherwise her next Pap Smear would have taken place in November 2018.



Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam

DSC01091 (1)







Quilt It First?

I love to applique.  It was one of the first quilting techniques that I learned after I was introduced (and had somewhat mastered) piecing.  I really like taking bits of fabric and creating pictures.  I find myself pulling from both the right and left side of my brain with this process and enjoying then mental “high” it puts me on.

I love hand applique – needle turn, freezer paper, back basting, Mylar, and Appliquik.  Each of those produce a different look, depending on the mood you want your quilt to evoke.  You want a softer look to your quilt?  Try needle turn or back basting.  Want your edges sharp and leaves to have a perfect point?  Freezer, paper, Mylar, or Appliquik all work well.  Or toss several techniques together for variety.

For years I only did hand applique – and for a couple of reasons.  First of all, once it was prepped, it was extremely portable.  It was perfect to throw in the car and take with me as I waited for my kids at ball practice or dance lessons, or to keep me busy while we were on a trip (as long as I wasn’t driving). It also was the only method I had been taught, so it was the only method I knew at the time.   However, as with any handwork, hand applique is inherently slower than anything that can be produced on machine.  And from what I had heard from “applique purists,” machine applique wasn’t anywhere nearly as pretty as the applique produced by hand.

So, I did it all by hand – until a few years ago when I had the wonderful opportunity to take classes with Sue Nickels and Kim Diehl.  Both of these ladies do beautiful machine applique using two completely different techniques.  Sue does primarily raw-edge applique (the outside edges of the applique pieces are not turned under, but the pieces are fused into place and the edges are finished by either a zig zag or blanket stitch).  Kim uses a technique loosely called “It’s done on machine, but it looks like it was done by hand.”  The edges of these applique pieces are prepped much like freezer paper applique – the edges are turned under and the pieces are glue basted into place.  Then a modified machine hem stitch is used to sew around the edges.

I fell in love with both methods.  And while I still nearly always have some kind of hand work in progress, I have begun doing more and more of my applique on Big Red (my Janome 7700).  And yes, it is faster than hand applique, but it is also different from hand applique and helped me gain another set of skills.  However, once the piece was completed, then I had to quilt it.  And if you look at pictures of the quilting done around applique, a lot of the background is cross hatched.  This is a picture of basic cross hatched quilting.

Cross hatched quilitng


You can see it’s like a grid and while most cross hatching is done on the diagonal – so the squares are set on point like diamonds – it can be vertical and horizontal so that it looks like a lot of tiny squares, all lined up in rows.  It’s great for open spaces and since there tends to be open space around applique blocks, a lot of quilters use cross hatching as their “background” quilting stitch. Including me.  I like it.  It’s neat, clean, unobtrusive, and quietly elegant.

However, I admit when you’re trying to line up all those stitches around your applique pieces and quilt around them, it’s a real pain.  But there is a technique I use that gets eliminates that problem.  I did not “invent” this method.  I’m not sure who did, but I’m pretty sure this method did not originate with me.  And as I was using this method last week, I wanted to share it with you.

You may remember that the first vice president of my local guild issued a challenge to our members to make one small quilt for each month of the year.  I chose to take the challenge, so every month I make a 13 ¼-inch square quilt to hang on a tabletop stand that I have in my entrance way.  There is always an additional challenge thrown in with each quilt – such as use a certain color, employ a certain block, etc.

For the month of April, Matthew’s challenge was to use embellishments.  It could be as simple as a fancy machine stitch, hand embroidery, machine embroidery, beading, etc.  Other than that, we were left to our own devices.  Since my little quilts are the first thing you see when you enter my home, I wanted my quilts to echo each month’s theme – such as April Showers Bring May Flowers (now guess what is going to be on my May quilt…).

Let me also confess at this point, that I am a huge Sunbonnet Sue fan.


I know that among quilters there are generally two camps – those that love her and those that hate her.  I love the innocent little girls who wander into a world of everyday adventure with  large hats (usually  sunbonnets) pulled over their faces so you can’t see their eyes.  I just love the simplicity and warmth of this quilting character.  I collect quilts with her on it…sewing tools with her on it…

But I’ve never found time to make a quilt with her on it.  And I have two patterns with her on it I really, really want to make.  So, I decided that for my April quilt, Sue with her huge bonnet, would take center stage.  And the quilting technique I was going to employ was “Quilt It Before You Applique It.”  I know, I know, usually the quilting is almost the last thing you do.  So, this may be new to you, but I think you’ll really enjoy employing this skill from time to time.  I am going to take it step by step, and this will continue over at least two blogs.

This is a great technique to use if your applique block is really busy.  You can get all those grid lines in before any applique is put down, so there is no stopping and starting to get over anything.  I will admit that I’ve never used this skill set with hand applique, only with machine.  I think it may almost be too thick to perform well with any hand applique.  You’ll see what I mean as we go along.

The first step is to determine how large the finished block needs to be and cut your foundation fabric larger.  My mini-quilt had to finish at 13 ¼-inches square to fit on my quilt rack.  So, I cut my foundation fabric 14-inches square.  I do this because I know that as I quilt, the fabric will draw up a bit.  If I cut the foundation fabric the same size as I needed the finished quilt to be, by the time I finished quilting, it would more than likely be smaller than what I needed. Let me also mention the fabric I use as the “foundation fabric.”  For some blocks, such as Baltimore Album blocks, the “foundation fabric” will be the background fabric.  In my case, this was the pattern I was basing my little quilt on:


My “foundation fabric” was not the background fabric. I was creating the background fabric – sky, grass, trees, mud puddles, etc.  If you’re working through the same process, it would seem to be perfectly fine to pick a fabric that is of inferior quality and not worry if it is on grain because that fabric is not seen.  That is not a good idea.  Poor quality fabric, especially if it’s not on grain, will make your block (or in my case, my quilt) unattractive. Even though it’s not seen, such material will not enhance your block’s appearance.  Chose a quilt-shop quality fabric – even if it’s muslin – and make sure you put it on-grain.

The second step is to starch the foundation fabric.  I find regular starch, not Best Press, works best.  It gives the fabric enough “umph” to withstand any abuse this technique is going to give it.  Once your foundation fabric is prepped, if you’re making a landscape, such as is the case with my mini-Sunbonnet Sue quilt, you’ll begin to layout the background.  If the foundation fabric is your background fabric, then you can omit the next several steps.

There are a number of landscape fabrics on the market, sold in various quilt shops and on-line venues.  These are the textiles that look like sky, leaves, water, etc.  It is very important when you prep the material, you cut it the way it should be seen.  For instance, I had a fat quarter of “sky” material.  If I didn’t cut it the correct way:


The clouds would be on their sides.


So be careful when using these fabrics that you orient your pieces the way they need to be seen.

After placing the sky, I needed to add the grass and background hills.  I decided early on in this monthly challenge to only use the fabric in my stash.  I pulled out various mini-bolts until I came up with these three greens – a light, medium, and a dark.  The lightest will be used on the hill positioned furthest away from Sue, the medium at the next position, and the darkest at the closest point.  This works to give my background some depth.   If all the hills and grass were the same green, the block would look flat and one-dimensional.



Now comes the quilting.  I also decided to challenge myself to do “micro-cross hatching” with Sue.  This is tiny cross hatching, about ½-inch square.  If you decide to try this “quilt it before you applique it” technique, I wouldn’t recommend you go that small with your first project. Also, I did not quilt this on Loretta the Long Arm.  With small pieces such as this,  I still  work those out on either my Janome 7700 or my Juki 2010Q. I have found that by the time I spend several long minutes loading  such tiny pieces on my long arm, I could already have it at least half way quilted on a domestic machine.    That, and I still have a long way to go to perfect my ruler work on Loretta.

Mark your grid on your background fabric.


This step should be take no matter what your background fabric is.  Then make your quilt sandwich per normal – backing, batting, and top.  Finally begin quilting.  I begin mine by making an “X” across the entire surface, running diagonally from corner to corner to stabilize the sandwich, and then begin to fill in all the lines. No matter what domestic machine I’m using, I always have a walking foot on it for this process, as that foot feeds all three layers through the machine evenly.


This will take some time.  Be patient and have fun with it!  I’ll explain more next week!

For those of you that have texted, emailed, or messaged me about Meagan, I would like to give you an update.  Her surgery is scheduled for March 27.  It will be a radical hysterectomy.  Her pelvic lymph nodes will be biopsied during the process and if they are clear of any cancer cells (and they appear clear on the MRI), she will not have to have any radiation.  If there is any chance the lymph nodes may contain cancer cells, then she will under go at least one round of radiation – no chemo.  While I am incredibly thankful that she’s at stage 1 and not 4, I am anxious.  Continue to keep Meagan, our family, and the cancer team in your thoughts and prayers.


Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam



It’s Hip to be Square….

Okay, we’re going to get down and dirty with this post.  When do you square up your quilt?  Before you quilt it or hand it off to the quilt artist?  Before you put on your borders?  At the very end – just before you attach the binding?

Before Loretta the Long Arm came into my life, I squared up twice.  The first time was right before I put the borders on.  The second time was after the top was quilted and I was ready to bind it.  But working with a long arm, even though it’s only been slightly over a year since Loretta stitched her way into my heart, has changed the way I view piecing completely.  Prior to undertaking my own long arming, I would square up the top before I put on the borders.  If the long arm artist couldn’t get my top to lay down on the frame without much trouble, then it was the artist’s issue, not mine.

Boy did I ever have an arrogant “quilter-with-a-checkbook” attitude.  And I was wrong.  Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.  I want to go back and apologize to every long arm artist that ever had an issue with my quilts.

I have learned, through working with my own long arm, talking with other long arm artists, and long discussions with a NACQJ (National Association of Certified Quilt Judges) judge, that quilters ideally should square up after every step in the piecing process.


I know what you’re thinking, because that’s exactly what I thought.

  1. It takes too long.
  2. If you square it up at the end, that should take care of any issues.
  3. Won’t it just “quilt out” if you’re a little off?

The idea in our 2018 Year of Quilting with Excellence is to make our best work become a habit and not an exception – like when we’re working on a quilt that will be show-bound.  Part of this means re-examining the basics and making sure we’re hitting the mark with those.  And one of those basics is squaring up.

So, let me tell you a little secret about me.  I really, really dislike squaring up.  I’m a short person (I’m 5’4” on a good day) and handling a large quilt top is difficult for me.  And if I have to perform the squaring up on the floor, my knees vehemently protest.   I’ve learned that if I square up in small bits, when it is time to make sure the top is square, I don’t have so many issues.  And nothing is more discouraging than getting to the very end of a quilting project and discovering that top is so un-square that you may never get the thing squared up enough to quilt it well.

Let’s take this process from the top, and that first step is your fabric.  Because whether you’re purchasing fabric for your project, or have dug through your stash to get it, or a mixture of both, the fabric and its condition is important, not so much in making sure your fabric is squared up, but in keeping your blocks looking squared.  As mentioned in a previous blog (Don’t Go Against the Grain, published September 17, 2017), fabric has a lengthwise grain, a cross-wise grain, and a bias.

warp and weft

Most quilt patterns call for the pieces to be cut on the crosswise grain (the borders being the exception – those work best cut on the length-wise grain).  Referring to that blog I wrote not too long ago, the easiest way to make sure the fabric is truly on the crosswise grain is simply to snip into one of the selvages of the fabric and then tear the material completely across the crosswise grain to the other selvage.  Then refold the fabric, with the selvages matching at the top and the torn sides matching on the right-hand side, and press.  Now the material is on grain.

Why is this important?  If your fabric isn’t on-grain, eventually the blocks will droop (especially if the quilt is a wall hanging), even if the blocks had been squared up in each step of the process.

So, make sure your material is on-grain.  That’s step one.   Let’s look at step two – and this is taking into consideration that you’re constructing pieced blocks and not appliqued ones.  Appliqued blocks will be given their own blog.

The best quilting patterns, in my opinion, are the ones that give you the measurements of each completed component.  For instance, let’s pretend we are making this block:

Block 1

It’s 10-inches square, unfinished.  If you’ve quilted for any length of time, your mind has immediately broken this block into four components:

Section 4

Section 3

Section 1


Section 2

What would be really helpful is to know what each of these sections should measure as you are constructing them.  That way we would know what each four-patch should measure and what each half-square triangle should measure and if they’re off any, we can fix that issue immediately before putting the blocks together.  In this case, each four-patch should measure 5 ¼-inches before you sew them together in the block.  So, as you get busy making all those four patches for your quilt blocks, you should stop and measure them to make sure they’re 5 ¼-inches square.  Same thing with all of those half-square triangles.  No matter which method is used to construct them, after they’re made, measure them.  They should all be 5 ¼-inch square.  If they’re too small, you may have to toss some of them and start over.  If they’re only off a little, your seam allowance or thread may be the culprit.

If they’re not exactly 5 ¼-inch square (and let’s face it, how many of any of our blocks are perfect?), the best-case scenario is that they’re a little big, because it’s always easier to make blocks smaller than bigger.  You can always take away, but it’s hard to add.  So, how do you accurately trim down a block?  There are a few different ways, but here’s how I handle it.

  1. If you’re like me and you’ve quilted a while, chances are you’ve amassed quite a few rulers.  As a matter of fact, you may have one that’s exactly the size needed.  But if you don’t that’s okay.  Pick the one that’s closest to the size of the block.  It doesn’t have to be exact, but the ruler does have to be the same size or larger than the block component.
  2. Place the block component on the cutting mat and center the ruler over it. Line up the horizontal and vertical seams of the component with the lines on the ruler.  Make sure the 45-degree line runs diagonally from corner to corner.  If you’re using a ruler that’s not the same size as your block component, that’s fine.  Just start with one corner of the block, trim as little as needed, then use the trimmed sides to reset your ruler and square up the other corners.
  3. That’s all there is to it.  With all the block components the correct size, the quilt block should come together easily and be the correct size.   However, you still must square up the entire block when it’s completed.  This is done in the same manner you squared up the block components.




Because I squared up each component of this block, I didn’t have to square up the completed block at all — it was on the money.

However, I do have a little trick you may want to use if your blocks are a smidgen too small.

  1. Take a sheet of freezer paper and draw a square the same size as your unfinished quilt block should be.  Cut the square of freezer paper along this line.DSC01197
  2. On the dull side of the freezer paper, draw a line ¼-inch from each edge. This will show you where you seam allowance will fall.
  3. Draw a horizontal line and a vertical line in the center of the square. Then draw a diagonal line from each corner, making an X in your square.
  4. Position this freezer paper pattern over your quilt block, shiny side down. Make sure the horizontal and vertical lines are centered and the diagonal lines are running corner to corner. If the edges of the fabric fall outside that ¼-inch seam allowance, you’re good to go.  DSC01203Press the freezer paper to the wrong side of the quilt block and use the drawn ¼-inch seam allowance as your stitching guide.  After the quilt is finished, you can remove the freezer paper.
  5. Make sure you don’t use a Frixion Pen for this. Oy-vey.  Ask me how I know.

Once your quilt center is complete, the next step is to plan your borders.  And the following applies whether or not your borders are pieced, appliqued, or plain strips of fabric.  The first step in making the borders is not the construction of the borders themselves but making sure your quilt center is square.

  1. Press the quilt center.
  2. Lay out the center on a flat, level surface. Take a tape measurer and measure the quilt center lengthwise in three places – several inches in from both the right and left side and once in the middle.  In an ideal world, these measurements will be the same.  However, since we don’t live in an ideal world, all three of these measurements may vary a bit.  Take the average of these three measurements.  That average is the length you will need to make the left and right borders.
  3. Repeat the same process horizontally for the quilt center. The average of these three measurements will be the length you need to make your top and bottom borders.
  4. When you construct your borders, decide which is going on first, left and right or top and bottom. For the ones that are sewed on first, remember to add the width of the border to the second set of border units to be sewn on.  For instance, I always sew my left and right borders on first.  Let’s say the length of my left and right border units is 90 inches long and 8 inches wide.  When I sew those on, I’ve increased my quilt center’s width a total of 16 inches (let’s don’t consider seam allowances at this point).  So, if my quilt’s horizontal measurement averages out to be 70 inches wide, I’d need to add 16 inches to that to make sure that my top and bottom border measurements are long enough (70 inches + 8 inches on the left and + 8 inches on the right).  My top and bottom border should be 86-inches long to completely cover my quilt center and the left and right borders.

And I know what some of you are asking right now – Why can’t I just cut the borders whatever length I know is more than I need and then just whack the excess off?  The border process – cutting on the lengthwise grain to the exact measurement that you need – helps to square up the center and stabilize it.  That, in turn, will make it easier to quilt whether it’s quilted on a domestic sewing machine, mid-arm, or long arm.  It will lay nice and flat and look wonderful.  If you cut the borders out to a longer length and then cut off the extra once the border is sewn on, you risk the possibility of the entire quilt not being square.  However, if you’ve squared the quilt up each step of the way, the borders are really a pretty painless process.

If you haven’t…well, then be prepared for a lot of pinning and easing fabric in or pulling it to see if it will stretch a little

So now the center is square, and the borders are on and it’s quilted.  We’re good, right?

Nope.  One more squaring up to do.

The last step is putting the binding on and you have to square up the corners.  Typically, once the quilt is quilted, there is excess backing and batting around the top and those must be trimmed off before the binding is sewn on.  It’s very important to make sure that those corners are 90 degrees.  I use a large, square ruler to help me do this.

  1. Lay your quilt top out on a flat surface.
  2. Use a square ruler in the corners. I often lay another longer ruler beside of it, so I won’t have to move my rulers so much before I rotary cut the excess.
  3. Trim off the excess batting and backing and then bind.


The last step is really simple and at that point it’s easy to get in a hurry and not be careful.  However, I’ve seen quilt judges lay a piece of paper in the corner of the quilt to make sure that it’s a true 90-degree angle.  DSC01204If your quilt is show-bound, don’t be slack in this area.

And there you have it.  Square up at each step and your quilt will be easy to quilt, look divine, and hang beautifully.  Not to mention garner high ratings with judges, if that’s where it’s headed.

It’s truly hip to be square….and Quilt with Excellence!


Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam



Just Do It

Not all my blogs are about quilts, quilters, and quilting.  This is one of those blogs.  And if you’re squeamish about the technical terms of anatomy, you may want to skip this week and wait until next Thursday’s blog.

There are no pretty pictures of anything in this blog. Except Sam.

There is however, a hefty amount of raw emotion and truth-bomb facts.

I am a mother.  I have two absolutely wonderful, intelligent children.  I have been blessed with one of each.  A son, Jonathan Matthew, and a daughter, Meagan Elizabeth.  This blog is about my daughter.

My daughter is in her early thirties.  She has educated herself well, going back to college to earn an additional degree while having two toddlers under foot.  She is due to start grad school soon in logistics.  She has two adorable daughters that I frequently write about.  She’s married to a great guy.  On top of all that, she’s my next-door neighbor.

Last week she was diagnosed with stage 1 cervical cancer.

Of all the words that, as a parent, you expect to come out of your child’s mouth, I can bet my bottom dollar that “I have cancer,” is not three of them.

The diagnosis came after 15 years of normal pap smears.  The “ironic” thing (if you believe in such, I prefer to think it’s Divine Intervention), is that this pelvic exam came about with Meg’s appointment with her PCP to get a refill on a medication.  She wasn’t due for an OB/GYN appointment for a few months.  It was this appointment that caught that growth on her cervix.  It’s about 2 cm.  It is contained.

We are prayerfully hopeful.  She has to have an MRI performed tomorrow to double-check a few things, but overall, the prognosis is good.

I am thankful for physicals.

I am thankful for doctors that are careful and caring and cancer teams that are angels in scrubs.

I am thankful for friends that are in the field of oncology that have answered dozens of questions in real English that I can understand.

I am thankful for my quilting friends that have offered to cook meals, tend children, and do laundry.

I am thankful that we live in a part of the United States that has a cancer care unit that is in the top 25 in the nation.

I am thankful for a lot of things.  Meg could have opted out of that pelvic exam and the tumor not be discovered for months.

So… March is National Women’s Month.  We’ve done a lot.  We garnered the right to vote in 1920.  We’ve burned our bras, our dinners, and our candles at both ends.  We’ve marched for equal rights, equal pay, and good child care and education.   We will continue to march…

Right into your doctor’s office for physicals.  Ladies, I know you hate them – I do, too – but they could save your life not only for yourself but your family and friends.  As Meg so succulently put it on her twitter account – Save the boobs, but check your box.


Be like Nike – Just do it.


Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam (who is neutered and has nothing to check in this area…)



The “A” Word



Once upon a time I was a high school teacher.  I taught science.  I love teaching, and I loved the kids.  What I didn’t necessarily enjoy was the parent/teacher conferences.  If the teen was performing wonderfully well, those things were a breeze.  However, if the kid was having some issues with the subject (and the issues weren’t behavioral), sometimes those meetings did not go so well.  If a student was struggling to understand some concept (especially if that concept dealt with the mathematical side of chemistry and physics), I could just about bet my last full bobbin that the parents/guardians would push extra work, extra tutoring, extra time spent with the concepts so that the teen would begin to fully grasp what was taught.

In other words, “Let’s make this kid spend just about all his extra time on this subject and take away some of the time he spends on the subjects he’s good at or finds easy.”  And that’s a natural inclination, especially when you’re dealing with getting that teen through this school year and onto the next one – or graduation, which produces even more stress.

That works, to some degree.  I found that the additional work and study generally helped most students push through, come to an understanding, and do at least average enough to muddle through the rest of the school year.  However, what I also discovered was that this process, while helpful gaining an understanding of the science class, was actually harmful to the student in the subjects he did well in.  That student atrophied in at least one of the other classes he or she excelled in.


Atrophy means a gradual decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect.  So, if Johnny spends just about all his study time perfecting his knowledge of how to balance chemical equations, his literature skills – which he normally does really well with – may actually suffer to the point that his “A” in language arts meanders down to a “C” because he’s not using them much at all.

So, what does any of this have to do with quilters and quilting? Well, the same thing.  Except we don’t carry the pressure of having to pass a test.  But let’s look at it through the quilting experience.

We all have certain designers we love.  We have certain blocks and techniques we love.  We all have certain patterns we enjoy making.  The issue is, we tend to gravitate towards those.  And since there is basically no outside pressure keeping us in check, we almost automatically make those every time we begin a quilt.  Allow me to throw in a personal experience as an example.

I mentioned a couple of blogs back that my guild’s first vice president threw out a challenge to us to make a mini-quilt every month – about 12-inches square – to display in our home somewhere to celebrate the season.  February was red and hearts and all things Valentine’s.  March’s quilt is to incorporate green, for St. Patrick’s Day.  My February quilt was this:



It’s red and pink and all heart-y.

But the hearts are paper pieced.  For those of you who have read my blog for a while, think back a ways.  What quilts have I recently worked on or completed?

Farmer’s Wife – paper pieced

Halo Medallion – paper pieced

Dear Jane – paper pieced

Do you see a trend here?  I love paper piecing and that little February quilt went together like a charm just don’t look too closely at the binding.

However, I wasn’t always good at paper piecing.  As a matter of fact, I was pretty darn terrible at it and worked hard for several years to become not only comfortable with it, but good at it.

When time came to design my March mini-quilt, I automatically thought about an Irish chain done in purples and greens.  I worked with EQ8 and came up with one and immediately thought “I don’t need no stinkin’ paper piecing pattern.  This is squares.  I can piece those.”

Before I began on my paper piecing self-improvement mission, I could piece just about anything thrown at me.  But I found that piecing all those one-inch squares was challenging now when it used to be easy.  And while I still had no trouble matching and meeting corners, the quilt, that was supposed to finish at 13 ¼- inches (mine’s a bit larger than the challenge but it fits on the display rack better at this size), it meandered out to almost 14-inches.



My piecing skills have atrophied.  I need to work on this.  Pronto.

So, I’ve said all that to say this:  Continually change up what you’re working on and the way you approach your piecing and quilting.  Keep your strengths exactly what they are – your strengths.  Work on new techniques or the ones you want to be better at, but don’t neglect the areas your naturally talented in.  Work on both.  If we want anything to atrophy in our lives, it’s cellulite.


Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam

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