Japanese Quilting Study Group- A Finish and Progress

Welcome back to this month’s edition of the Japanese Quilting Study Group!  If you’re just joining the series, you can see previous posts here.

Looking back over previous posts, I’m a little chagrined at how many more “progress” posts I have than “finish” posts.  Even though the forward to this book specifically states that these projects are time-consuming, I underestimated the complexity.  But I’m learning so much, and that’s truly the focus of this blog series, so we’re still on track!

First up today, some finished pictures of the Little Crosses project.  This mini-quilt has actually been done for a while, and is happily settled in to its new home at my sister’s house.  This quilt is totally her colors, and completely NOT mine, but I still kinda miss having the quilt around.

Little crosses finished!








The bowl and whisk in the corner of the picture are souvenirs from my trip to Japan many years ago.  The cup was from my host family’s tea set, and the bamboo whisk is used for mixing powdered tea and boiling water in the cup.

little crosses detail






I’ve also been working on my Soda handbag, although slowly.  I’ve already made some pretty big mistakes on it.  Like quilting edge-to-edge on the gusset and back of the bag.  You’re supposed to trim the front and batting after sewing the seams, then fold the backing fabric over to encase the raw edges of the seams.  Quilting edge-to-edge means there’s no way I can trim that front smaller.  Oops.  I think I will create binding from the lining material and encase the seams that way.  It’s a few extra steps, but should work.

soda handbag







The top of the bag is finished with a facing.  Reading through the instructions, I think that’s like a binding that you just turn completely under instead of leaving half on either side of the bag, but it’s still confusing me mightily.  And I still need to find suede tape for the handles.  I was hoping to get it at JoAnn’s so I could match colors to my fabrics, but I couldn’t find it anywhere in the store.  Now I’m off to look for it online.

So, that’s how far I’ve gotten on this taupe journey.  Hopefully next month I’ll have a finished purse to show!  I’ll also have a guest post for you from a wonderful art quilter who has actually MET Yoko Saito.  I can’t wait to hear her stories!!

Happy Stitching!


Posted in Japanese Quilting | 4 Comments

Jocelyn’s Japanese Garden

Earlier this week, I recieved the most delightful e-mail from Jocelyn in Perth, Australia.  She included (and gave me permission to share) this GORGEOUS quilt she made from my Japanese Garden pattern.

Japanese Garden by Jocelyn







How cool is that?!?  I’m mesmerized by her fabric choices, the purples really make the blocks in the middle stand out.  Best of luck with the quilt show in September, Jocelyn!!

Happy Stitching!


Posted in Happy Mail | 4 Comments

New Downton Abbey Fabrics from Andover

So, last week I promised new and exciting stuff on the blog, and it doesn’t get too much more new and exciting than gorgeous upcoming fabric lines!!! Andover Fabrics is releasing five new collections inspired by Downton Abbey, and they asked me to create a couple of patterns using them.  Happiness.  For today, let’s play with the new Egyptian Collection, which will be available at quilt stores in February.  The following images are mood boards, provided by Andover.


















Anyone else humming “Walk like an Egyptian” yet?  Oh, it’s just me? Moving on then. . .

Here’s the grouping of fabrics I’m using in my quilt.  The red and black on the left are from the Lord and Lady collection coming out this fall.  (Can I just add how happy I am that Cora finally got some fabric?)

new Downton Abbey fabrics from Andover






As you can tell from the photograph, that black and bright print just begs for fussy-cutting.  I LOVE all the bright colors and unusual designs. Here are some of my first blocks for the new quilt:

Downton Abbey from Andover- block one- Emily Breclaw








Downton Abbey from Andover- block two- Emily Breclaw







Downton Abbey from Andover- block three- Emily Breclaw








If you’re thinking these blocks look familiar, you’re right. This pattern is going to be similar to my Japanese Garden  pattern, but bigger and simpler. The quilt will be twin-sized.  I’ll post more pictures and updates as the quilt progresses.  I can’t wait to see how this one turns out.

Now, I’m off to fussy-cut some more of those beautiful centers.  It’s so fun to see how each block comes together.  And I guess I should finish watching season four, too.  Much as I love that series, season four has just been more than I could handle.  What’s on your design wall, or movie list, this weekend?

Happy Stitching!





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Book Review- Forest Fairy Crafts

Not sure how summer zoomed by so quickly, but my kids go back to school in less than a week.  Between getting them ready, and some new quilts on tight turnarounds, I’m running a bit crazier than usual these days. So, if you will permit me, I’m pulling a post from my idea files for today.  If you follow the blog closely, you’ll see the kids’ ages are not current, as I wrote this last summer.  However, my kids pulled out the crafting boxes just today and made MORE gnomes and fairies, so the post is still absolutely relevant.  Enjoy, and I promise fresh, new, exciting content next week!

Forest Fairy Crafts cover







When Stash Books asked me to explore Forest Fairy Crafts with my kids, I jumped at the opportunity. Fairies are right up our alley, so to speak.  Our home is full of dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures, and not all of them belong to the kids!

As a disclosure, you should know I received a promotional copy of the book.  But I’m thinking about purchasing a second copy, as it became “well-loved” rather quickly with an adult and four kids trying to read it simultaneously! We made projects from every section of the book.  My older two children, aged 11 and 8, made all of their fairies and gnomes completely independently.  My younger two girls, aged 5 and 3, needed help, but were still able to actively participate.

I was especially impressed by how well this book “spoke” to my kids.  The analogies used to explain the hand stitches are fantastic! The directions cleverly illustrated felt amounts without measurements, so my children were able to figure out how much felt each fairy required.

I think the fairies themselves are the best testament to how much we enjoyed this book.  My oldest son at first remained aloof from the crafting, believing fairies and gnomes to be a bit “too girly”.  Then he discovered he could take the wooden pegs we bought for the gnomes and use the patterns to create dwarves instead.  He’s reading Tolkien right now, which explains the company of thirteen (but not the ninja dwarf in the foreground!)












Not to be outdone, the girls made the Ninja fairies.







Then they made Flower Fairies. My 8-year old daughter made these without help, and she was absolutely thrilled with the results. (I love the grin on the momma fairy’s face!)

mom and baby






While she was doing those, I made several with the younger girls (and the one on the far right is a “little sister” fairy of my very own!)

flower fairies






Eventually the girls wrangled wooden pegs away from their big brother, and made some Gnomes themselves (although he still helped some draw faces).







We also made several Mermaids.  At the time of this post, the 3-year-old’s pink polka dotted mermaid is still missing in action, but you can see the “tricky” and “fancy” tail variations in her big sisters’ mermaids.







Finally, we made a couple of the Treasure Keepers.  My 8-year old turned the Owl into a softie.  We modified the Unicorn instructions to make a giraffe for my 5-year old.









These projects were so simple and fun that I would lose my kids for hours at a time amidst piles of felt and silk flowers.  Often, the only time they’d surface would be to ask for more pegs and wooden beads (I underestimated their interest during the first two craft store trips.  Then I started buying the value packs of fairy heads and gnome bodies!)

Making the fairies was simply the start of the fun.  The kids have also played with them, packed them along on our summer road trip, and included them in all sorts of adventures.  The fairies have held up beautifully, and we haven’t had to make repairs yet, which is more than I can say for some of their store-bought toys.

Overall, this book is a lovely and satisfying adventure in fairy-crafting for children and adults alike. The projects are well-suited to young artists, and the fairies are perfectly sized for little hands and big imaginations.

Have you ever created a fairy?

Happy Stitching!


Posted in Book Reviews | 3 Comments

Japanese Quilting Study Group- Sharing the Journey

Welcome to month six of my blog series, Japanese Quilting Study Group.  This post is part of a series chronicling my journey through Yoko Saito’s book, “Japanese Taupe Color Theory.”  For this post, I’ll be sharing excerpts from a wonderful letter Cathy Slovensky recently sent me. Her comments follow in italics, along with the gorgeous pictures she shared.  Please note: as per her e-mails, she started working on these less than two months ago!  I’m amazed at how many beautiful projects she has made.

First of all, I can’t believe how much I’ve learned in just a month of working on the various projects. The subtleties and variances of the fabrics and how they change depending on the surrounding colors have become very obvious to me in light of using the taupe color wheel. I will never look at fabric the same way again. I am so grateful that Yoko Saito has shared her creativity and wisdom with the world. I also love that she encourages us to go off the grid and do our own thing with the blocks. It is very freeing (and forgiving)!

The biggest obstacle I ran into at the beginning was finding fabric in my stash that would fall in line with the taupe color wheel. Most of my stash contains Kaffe Fassett (and friends) fabrics, so this was a challenge. Thankfully, I had some reproduction fabrics, some old Red Wagon homespun fabrics, and some Japanese taupe squares a friend had shared after making a Daiwabo quilt. I also tea-dyed some of my lighter fabrics. Before beginning each project, when choosing the fabrics (using the book to guide me), I cut small fabric swatches, double-taped them onto a half-page of cardstock, lettered them, and wrote the name of the project on it. I flipped the cardstock over and roughly sketched a diagram of each square, putting the fabric letter that should be used for each pattern piece. This really helped when piecing the squares, because I could just flip the cardstock over to see which fabric I had to cut and in what shape.

Cathy's blocks and tools







Inspired by your Greek crosses from the blog, I decided to start with them as well (Spicy
Salt/Greek Cross). I enlarged the patterns by 20 percent  and made plastic templates for the pieces. I did the same with Aqua/Wheel, but by the time I embarked on my third lesson, Forest/House, I decided that I could save some time and effort by transforming some of the quilt patterns into foundation patterns. So with Café au lait/Quilt
in Light and Dark, Dark Cherry/Block in a Box, Green/Triangles, and Forest/House,
I created foundation patterns and printed them out on 100 percent cotton white

Cathy Slovensky's projects







So that’s as far along as I am on the journey. I did one of the Pink/Capsule squares and wrote a note to myself on the cardstock (“Not for the faint of heart!”). HA. I’ll return to it, but I think my next endeavor will be the Nut Tart/Log Cabin. I’d like to play around with the log cabin quilt square (as Yoko Saito suggests); I followed her lead in the Forest/House squares too, changing up the shape and size of the doors and the tilt of the roofs. So far, this has been a wonderful learning process and a project that I look forward to working on every day, even if I just complete one square.

I had an unexpected, wonderful experience in terms of the hardwood wooden finger
press that appears in the picture below. I discovered a shop on Etsy called
“The Copper Finch” that makes very nice hardwood presses. I ordered one, but it
was much larger than what I wanted (the presser head was an inch across). I
wrote the shop owner, Carla, and asked if I could return it, and I explained
that I was working on very small quilt squares, as I was working through Yoko
Saito’s book, along with others in a group, via your blog. I told her that I
needed a wooden press that had a smaller head (about a half-inch wide). Within
a few days, her husband had finished a prototype that was one inch in
circumference on the top half but only a half-inch on the bottom angled half.
While it worked well, it still wasn’t quite what I wanted. I then explained
that I would prefer a press that I could hold in my hand like a pen that was
slender along the entire length . And within a few days—voilà! The press in the picture showed up inthe mail. It is made from Black Walnut and is only a half-inch wide and about 6¾ inches long). It works so well; it is lightweight (about 3/8 of an ounce),
the angle of the press is perfect, and—what I love best—it is also smooth and beautiful.

Wooden finger press from The Copper Finch







Many, many thanks to Cathy for sharing her beautiful projects!  I’m inspired, and I think I’ll head over to The Copper Finch for one of those lovely finger presses.

Happy Stitching!



Posted in Japanese Quilting, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

My 2014 Hoffman Challenge Quilt

Today the winners and travelers for the Hoffman Challenge were posted.  I’m over the moon that my quilt will be travelling for the next year! Here are some photos of the overall quilt, and close-ups to show the quilting and blocks.

2014 Hoffman Challenge Emily Breclaw








I named it “Fiesta on the Riverwalk.”  I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, with all of the gorgeous Hispanic influences.  The fabric made me think of Folklorico dancers, embroidered Mexican dresses, the Battle of the Flowers parade, and all the posters my mom has collected from the Night in Old San Antonio festivals.

The challenge rules stipulate a “noticeable amount” of the challenge fabric, plus whatever other fabric you’d like.  I used the challenge fabric and one pastel stripe for the blocks, plus third fabric for the background.

Hoffman fabric and thread






I quilted concentric circles in the blocks, and the block intersections, using a wide variety of thread colors.

Quilting Hoffman Challenge






I quilted the borders in a variegated thread, with circles and spokes inspired by the motif in the fabric background.

close-up Hoffman Challenge






The blocks themselves are based on Lucy Boston’s Patchwork of the Crosses.  My hexagons are only 3/4″ on a side (the original quilt had 1″ sides).  I also really took liberties with the symmetry of the blocks.  Traditional POTC quilts are very symmetric, but in mine, I had fun making the designs swirl in unexpected ways.  I also left off the sashing hexagon rows.  However, I English paper pieced the entire quilt, just like Lucy Boston did hers.

center block Hoffman Challenge






The finished quilt is 31″ square.  I can’t even remember how many hundreds of EPP hexies and squares are in it, but it’s a bunch.  If you’re heading to Houston this fall for Market or Festival, you’ll be able to see this quilt in the Hoffman exhibit.  Happiness!  Also, be sure to check out the Hoffman Challenge website.  The winning quilts are incredibly amazing.

I’ve got several other exciting things to share with you over the next couple of weeks, so please stop by often!  This month’s Japanese Quilting Study Group is an extra-special one.  A reader sent me photographs of her taupe projects and they are incredible! I hope to have those posted for you by the end of the week.

Happy Stitching!


Posted in Hoffman Challenge, projects | 10 Comments

Atomic Fireball

This morning I realized I’d never posted a picture of my finished kaleidescope quilt.  So here’s my “Atomic Fireball” in all its wild and fiery glory.

Atomic Fireball






I made it with the From Marti Michell kaleidescope ruler, which you can read more about from the original post.  I quilted it in a huge spiral using my home machine and a walking foot.  It was a ton of fun to quilt. Now this quilt is safely with its new owner, and I find myself missing the bright colors. But I have lots of scraps leftover, and a son who would really like a version of this quilt on his bed too, so perhaps there’s a chance of an encore.

For now, though, I’m working furiously on my American Made Brand challenge quilt, and trying my hardest not to stalk the Hofffman Challenge facebook page to see when they post the results.

Linking up to Fort Worth Fabric Studio’s Friday Fabric Frenzy.

Hope you have a weekend filled with smiles and time to stitch!!




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Downton Abbey Sews Winner and Another Hoffman Block

Thank you so much to everyone that left comments on last week’s post.  The winner of the Downton Abbey Sews magazine and fabric is:

Lorraine, who said: And I liked you on FB.  Good luck hitting 100!!

Congratulations!  I’ll be in touch with you over e-mail soon.

Monday morning I mailed off my Hoffman Challenge quilt.  Whew!  I think the most unnerving part of entering a contest like that is putting your quilt in a box and trusting that it will reach its destination safely.  I’m thrilled that it is finally finished though.

Here’s another block from the quilt:

block two- Hoffman Challenge








Hope you have some time to sew today!!

Happy Stitching!



Posted in projects | 5 Comments

Giveaway Goodies

First of all, congratulations to the winner of the AMB tote bag, Linda, who said:

I also love the dark aqua like you.  I am a new quilter! I love your blog!  I also like you on Facebook.  Have an awesome day!

Yes, I used random.org to pick the winner! :-)  Linda, I’ll be in touch with you soon.

Downton Abbey giveaway






And today, I wanted to do a little Downton Abbey Sews giveaway.  I ended up with an extra copy of the magazine, and am adding in some quarter yard cuts of Downton Abbey fabrics from Andover.  You can use them in your own Legacy quilt, or in several of the other great projects in the magazine.  (I’m crushing on the hexagon notebook cover at the moment.  But the teapot cozy’s really cute too. .. .so many decisions!)

To enter, leave a comment below.  For an additional entry, please “like” TCQ on facebook, and leave me a second comment telling me you do.  And, if you’d like to share this with other quilty friends on FB, please do!  If I hit a hundred likes, I’ll add in a second giveaway (copy of the magazine and fabric).  So sharing won’t detract from odds of winning!

edited to add: I’ll post a winner (or hopefully two!) next Wednesday, July 16!

Happy Stitching!


Posted in Uncategorized | 33 Comments

Sneak Peak at my Hoffman Challenge

The Hoffman Challenge Deadline is eight days away!  I’m within about a day of finishing quilting the borders, and then all I have to do is bind it, put a sleeve on, and label it.  It’s going to be close, but I think I’m going to make it.

Hoffman fabric and thread






I thought you might like to see a little of what I’ve been up to for this quilt.  The only fabric requirement is using a noticeable amount of the challenge fabric (bottom left).  I ended up using the challenge fabric, and the gradient pastel stripe on the right for the entire quilt.  Those two fabrics, plus fussy cutting, equalled an amazing amount of variety!  The blue and purple stripe up on top is the border fabric.  I used more threads than fabrics!  All the gorgeous polyester threads went into hand quilting the top, and the variegated blue cotton was for the border.

Here’s one of the sixteen blocks in the quilt:

Block one








I can’t wait to show you more, probably at the beginning of August.

Happy Stitching!!


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