Thursday, March 31, 2011

The blocks are coming!

Hooray! I got word yesterday from Nikol of Sewtropolis that log cabin blocks are starting to arrive. Thank you so very much! I can't wait to see what you've made.

It's sort of like the calm before the storm around here. I'm trying to wrap up various projects so I can devote every minute of my spare time to piecing and finishing the Log Cabins for Japan quilts before the end of April.

Sadly, I can't show you most of what I've been doing lately. I've got several PDF patterns in the works that are top secret. Yesterday I finished piecing the back of my Minneapolis Modern Quilt Guild black and white challenge quilt and in a fit of inspiration, finished the machine quilting, too. All I have left to do is sew on the binding. I can't wait to reveal the finished product in May. I'm terrible at keeping secrets.

In the meantime, here's a little something I will show and tell. Remember my test blocks from ages ago?

Ta da! I finally made myself a pin cushion.

I love how it turned out, but I think I need another one that reads "Spring." Some people change their wardrobe according to the season, I change my pin cushion....

Please keep those blocks coming in and don't forget to post photos in the Flickr group.

Best wishes,

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How's your block coming along?

Are you making a log cabin quilt block for Japanese Tsunami/quake survivors? I hope so! I've rounded up lots of local quilters who are ready to help out with making your block and others into quilts for people in need in Japan. Please send your block(s) in by April 8th. That's right around the corner so get started today!

Out of curiosity, I decided to weigh my 10.5" quilt block along with an envelope with my handy dandy postal scale to see what shipping would cost. My block + envelope = .6 oz. According to the US Postal Service, a letter under 1 ounce costs only 44 cents to mail. That means you can send your block for a mere stamp. What a deal! So please don't let shipping costs deter you from making a block. Fold it up nice and flat and stick it in a standard envelope, stamp it, and send it out the door. A "large" envelope costs 88 cents to mail (up to 1 ounce). Two ounces cost $1.05. Still a steal.

Here's where to send your block(s): 

Attn: Log Cabins for Japan
5 West Diamond Lake Road
Minneapolis, MN  55419
I think it's fair to say that those of us who sew have a special bond with Japan. This past Saturday I went shopping at one of my local fabric stores, Crafty Planet, and picked up a couple of Japanese fabrics to add to my vast stash (I can't help it!) - some sweet indigo turtles and Melody Miller's Ruby Star Rising vintage radio print by Kokka. Then I headed over to Joann to take advantage of a 25% off coupon. I picked up Clover marking pencils (made in Japan) and a new Olfa cutting mat (made in Japan). See what I mean?
Japanese sewing goodies
 As I was driving home, I heard a story on All Things Considered on NPR about a Japanese elementary school located on the coast that was hit by the Tsunami. Tears poured down my cheeks as I drove down the highway and I couldn't help but count my blessings. Listen to the story here, then make a block.
P.S. If you're local, please let me know if you have any extra batting or backing fabric you'd like to donate to the cause. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Make a Block, Make a Difference

Calling all quilters and sewers.  Let's make quilt blocks for Japanese quake/Tsunami survivors. You don't need to make an entire quilt or even be an experienced quilter, just sew together a simple log cabin block or two. A group of local quilters and I will piece the donated blocks into tops and finish the quilting and binding.

Don't know how to make a log cabin block? No worries. I've posted a tutorial here or search for tutorials on Feel free to use your own technique, too. Symmetrical, wonky, whatever - the more variety the better. I just ask that all blocks be 10.5" square (preferably a tiny bit larger so we can square them up to 10.5").

Finished blocks are due no later than April 8, 2011, so get started today! If you've never made a log cabin block before, you'll be amazed at how quickly they come together. And be sure to add a photo of your block(s) to the Log Cabins for Japan Flickr group.

Please send your block(s) to:

Attn: Log Cabins for Japan
5 West Diamond Lake Road
Minneapolis, MN  55419

I will send the finished quilts to Quilters Newsletter, who will then send them on to their friends at Patchwork Tsushin in Japan for distribution to people in need.

Thanks for your participation. And a big thanks to Sewtropolis in Minneapolis for their partnership on this project. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Best wishes,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Simple Log Cabin Block Tutorial

Here's a tutorial on how to make the world's easiest log cabin block.

9 different fabrics of your choice (see measurements in the instructions to insure you have enough)
a rotary cutter
a mat
a clear plastic ruler
high quality thread, either cotton or polyester (I prefer Gutermann or Mettler)
sewing machine
A 1/4" piecing foot is nice to have, too, but if you don't have one, mark your sewing machine or place a piece of painter's tape on your machine 1/4" from the needle.

The key to success with quilting is to make sure your 1/4" seam is actually one quarter inch. Make a test seam then measure it. If it's not 1/4",  adjust the position of your needle on your sewing machine or move your visual guide until you get it right. While 1/16th if an inch may not seem like a big deal, those tiny amount add up the more seams you make and suddenly your block is too small!

Always sew pieces right sides together.

Simple Log Cabin Anatomy
This diagram indicates the order in which the fabric pieces are sewn together to make the block. A is the first piece and I is the last. Please note this diagram is not to scale.

1. Start by cutting two (2) 2.5" square blocks from different fabrics. These are pieces A and B in the diagram. Piece A is the centerpiece. Sew the two squares together using a 1/4" seam allowance. Press the seam open.

A & B sewn together prior to pressing seam

2. Next, cut two (2) 2.5" tall by 4.5" long pieces from different fabrics. Place piece C facing right side up. Put piece AB on top of piece C, right sides facing, along the length. Pin the seams. Sew. Press seam open.

Magenta strip is Piece C - 2.5" x 4.5"

Please note that this photo is out of sequence, but it's here as an example of how to pin the open seam so that the fabric doesn't fold over when sewing. Stitch right over the pins, but go slowly.

The back side of the block so far (pieces A, B, and C). Seam allowances are pressed open.

3.  Piece D goes on the left side of the block. Pin and sew. Press open seam.

Piece D is 2.5" x 4.5" and is sewn to the left side of the block.

View of block before I pressed the seam open
4. Now cut pieces E and F. They are both 2.5" x 6.5" long.  Pin piece E along the top of the block, and sew. Press seam open.

Dimensions or pieces E and F

Sew piece E to the top of the block

Line up piece E and pin along the existing seams. Stitch.

5. Pin piece F to the right side of the block. Sew seam and press open. Are you getting the hang of it?

Piece F (yellow) is also 2.5" x 6.5"

6. Cut pieces G and H from your desired fabrics. They are both 2.5" by 8.5" long. Pin piece G to the bottom of the block and sew. Press seam open.

Piece G is 2.5" x 8.5" and is sewn to the bottom of the block

7. Pin piece H to the left side of the block. Sew. Press seam open.

8. Cut piece I 2.5" by 10.5" long. This is your last piece!! Line it up with the top of the block, pin and sew. Press seam open.

Piece I is 2.5" by 10.5" long. This is the last piece of the block.

Finished! Just pretend you don't notice that the dark green piece is a little short...

Viola! You've made a 10.5" square log cabin block.

Now that you know the process, the sky's the limit. Try making a log cabin with a 2.5" square center but all the other pieces are 1.5" wide. Or, make no two strips the same width and see where you end up. Play with prints, play with colors. Raid your scraps. Have fun!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Log Cabins for Japan

I was planning to write my next post about making my first log cabin blocks, but that feels so inconsequential compared to what's going on in North Africa, the Middle East, and most of all, Japan. My head, heart, and soul ache for the Tsunami victims and their loved ones. And the nuclear crisis seems like a cruel joke.

Today I had an idea, though. It was inspired by Red Pepper Quilt's recent log cabin block swap post. I'm calling this idea Log Cabins for Japan and it's simple.  Make a 12.5" 10.5" square log cabin block - symmetrical, wonky, whatever.  Then send your completed block(s) to me. I'll assemble a group of local quilters to piece, quilt, and bind the donated blocks and we'll get them to Japan. I haven't worked out the logistics yet, so please stay tuned.

In the meantime, please leave a comment with your e-mail address if you'd like to participate. I'll be posting more this week as I get the details worked out, including a tutorial on how to make log cabin blocks. They're fun and easy to make.

For now, take a look at my very first log cabin blocks. I threw these together last week after spending the day organizing my overflowing, out of control scrap bin.

Here's the before:

And after:

I didn't have any specific plans for these blocks but now I do. Will you join me and make a few, too?

If this isn't your thing, perhaps you'd like to join in Luana's (from efforts to send quilts to Japan. Details are on her blog.  And if you can swing it, please make a monetary donation to the Red Cross.

Best wishes,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Small Announcement

For the last five years I've been sewing and selling tote bags and other accessories under the name Lemonade Bags. Here's an example:

It's been great fun. I've met some wonderful people along the way and enjoyed their kind compliments. But the hours required to make the bags have taken their toll on me. When I started this business I had two children. Now I have three (and I'm pretty sure toddlers count as extra). Also, I was starting to feel more like a factory than an artist. I still enjoy sewing bags, but as inspiration strikes and as time permits.

Something happened to me since the birth of my daughter, Gwen, two years ago. I fell in love with quilts and quilting. I can't believe how much, really. I was never a fan of quilts (even though my grandma was a quilter!). I didn't understand the amount of labor and love that goes into making them. Traditional quilts didn't jive with my aesthetic, either. But times, they are a changing. The modern quilt movement is so inspiring and exciting and I want in. Plus, I'm excited to grow as an artist (if I dare call myself by that name).

So, keep an eye on me this year. I've started writing several quilt patterns and my brain is bubbling over with more ideas. I'm excited and anxious to move into a new direction that involves more creativity and less production.  The first step in my transformation was letting my web site,, expire last week. My trusty e-mail address is no longer, so contact me here on my blog or via my Etsy shop.

I'm definitely going to need some encouragement as I take this leap. I've got loads to learn but I'm feeling up to the challenge. And seriously, if you need a bag just drop me a line! I've still got a million yards of delicious Japanese fabrics just begging to become arm candy.

Best wishes,