Yoko Saito Sightings

Welcome to my Japanese Quilting Study Group!  If you’re new here, click on the group tab above to see all posts in the study.  (And if you have a blog, feel free to grab a button and help me get the word out.  Thank you!)

Last year I promised we’d explore the works of other Japanese quilters this year.  But for January, I’m sticking with Yoko Saito.  Her name just seems to be in the air lately.  Before we get to all that, however, here’s a quick progress picture of my Hexagon and Fence post quilt.  The rosettes outgrew their initial box.  Here’s 68 of the little hexagon flowers (I’ll be making 186 total; I still have a long way to go!) and some of the tiny rail fence blocks.

January 2015 progress






For Christmas, I received two Yoko Saito books.  Happy day!  Today I’ll share my impressions of Strolling Along Paths of Green.  If you have not yet splurged on a Yoko Saito book, I HIGHLY recommend this one as a starter.  Unlike Taupe Color Theory, this book includes tons of photographs of the project steps.  The book has a multitude of lovely plant-inspired applique motifs, 18 bag designs and two quilt projects. I’m looking forward to making a couple of these to expand my bag-making skills.  I’ve never been a huge fan of applique, but this book may just convince me otherwise.

productimage-picture-yoko-saitos-strolling-along-paths-green-34_jpg_980x700_q85 (1)








Speaking of lovely floral appliques, have you seen Quiltmaker’s 100 blocks volume 10?  It has a block from Yoko Saito!!!!  How cool is that?!?  You can see it in the top right corner of the cover:









Quiltmaker did an awesome job of explaining the block and including a special tip for making such tiny bias stems.  I’m going to try this one soon, and probably just frame the block by itself for a lovely mini-quilt.

Lately I have spent far too much time on the internet, pouring over some of my favorite bloggers’ impressions from the 2015 Great Tokyo Quilt Festival.  I’m linking to specific posts below, but be sure to scroll around on their blogs, several of them have multiple posts pertaining to the festival.  Someday, I hope to see this show in person, but until then, these blogs are the next best thing! I especially love the exhibit about Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House on the Prairie.

Sashiko and other stitching

Queenie’s Needlework

My Quilt Diary

Happy Stitching!


Posted in Book Reviews, Japanese Quilting | 5 Comments

Mom’s Pencil Box Quilt

Last weekend we finally got to celebrate Christmas with my family, so now I can show you one of my January finishes!!








Last summer, when Sweet and Simple Sewing came out, I knew I had to make the cover quilt for my mom.  She’s a graphic designer, and taught high school art for years.  So I told her to pick out a jelly roll she liked, and I’d make the quilt for her (and review the book for you– double score!)

Here’s my version of the Pencil Box quilt.

Pencil box quilt







Although I’m not terribly confident at applique, I was happy with the way these bright pencils turned out.







I modified the original pattern a bit by leaving out the wide center applique band.  I did that for a couple of reasons.  One, I was worried about a ten-inch wide band of interfacing making the quilt hard to snuggle with, and two, I ran out of time.  But it’s a testament to the book that I managed to finish this project in less than a week.

The backing fabric literally jumped off the shelf and into my cart at JoAnn’s.  Doesn’t it just look like the bottoms of colored pencils?!








And a label shot of the quilt.  I love this method of sewing labels into the binding.  If I don’t do it this way, they usually don’t get done.







In case you’re wondering, yes, my mom loved the quilt.  And mostly, I loved making it.  The instructions were clear and easy to follow.  I remembered from previous sewing mishaps that when sewing long strips like this, it pays to alternate your sewing direction after each long seam.  So happily, I had straight pencils at the end.

The book has other fun projects as well.  I like the originality of the designs.  The hand-bound journal especially appeals to me.  Instead of simply covering a store-bought book, the instructions actually tell you how to MAKE a book.  I may have to try that one of these days.  (The picture below and picture of the book cover are both from the Martingale website.)

4ths B1232.indd









Happy Stitching!


Posted in Book Reviews, projects | 4 Comments

Sunprints by Allison Glass for Andover

I’m still in marathon quilting mode, and can’t wait to show you some finishes next week!

It’s been brutally gray around this part of Texas lately.  I’ve had to set aside my taupe hexies for a while and play with brighter fabrics to keep my spirits up.  And speaking of bright fabrics, how about these gorgeous deep tones?

Sunprints by Allison Glass







The line is Sunprints by Allison Glass, and I love the unusual prints and color combinations.  Thank you, Andover, for this fantastic bundle of sunshine!  Most of this fabric is going towards some secret sewing, but a little bit of it will be in a tutorial I’ll have ready for you the first week of February.

Happy Stitching!


Posted in Happy Mail | 2 Comments

Quilting in Bulk

I hope your new year’s off to a great start!  So many blogs I follow are posting fantastic goals, and quilt alongs, and new projects.  And me?  Well, I’m starting 2015 with a bit of a backlog.  I have a whopping 25 UFO’s still on my list from 2014.  They’re all over my studio, and they’re starting to make me a bit twitchy.

So I’ve decided to plow through as many of them as I can in January.  Then I can get a nice, creative fresh start in February.  At the moment, I’m working hard on six quilts.  One of them is the colossal candied hexagon quilt I started years ago.  It’s going to live at its new home next week, and I only have the binding left to sew!!  Major happy dance.  You can see the red backing and a bit of the quilting in the picture below.  For the full reveal, though, you’re going to have to wait for a bit.  More on that soon, I hope!

borders and bindings






The rest of the picture is all the bindings and borders I’ve made recently.  During the past couple of days, I’ve basted two quilts, finished a top, and put borders on two quilts.  Today I made binding for several of them. So I really am starting to quilt in bulk.  It’s nice seeing the pile of progress.

pile o progress






Later this week, I hope to baste two more quilts, quilt three and bind four.  Yes, it’s ambitious.  But knowing I’m so close to wrapping up these projects and getting them OFF the list is exhilarating.

And lest anyone think I’m an overachiever, I’ll be totally honest with you.  All this quilting has a price tag.  My Christmas tree is still up.  And our family Christmas cards are still sitting on the table, unwritten, unstamped, and unsent.

But enough about me! How’s your new year starting?  Are you in creative overdrive, or cleaning like crazy for the new year, or still recovering from the holidays?

I hope you’re having some quiet moments to sew!!


Posted in projects | 7 Comments

Happy New Year- and EU VAT Update

Wow, 2015 already!! I hope you’re spending the new year sewing.  I’ve got a pile of little taupe hexie flowers all ready for stitching, so I think I’ll ring in the new year with them!!

And before I forget to mention it, I did find a way (with a LOT of help from PayPal customer service) to allow international non-EU digital sales.  If you’re in the EU, please know your favorite quilt stores can still order paper copies of my patterns for you.  And I will be keeping close tabs on these new laws to figure out if and when I can resume digital sales there.  But if you live anywhere else in the world, my digital patterns are still available to you through Craftsy!

So, back to the bright new year. . . .I have so many exciting plans for this year.  The Japanese Quilting Study Group will continue, and I’ll be featuring three prominent Japanese quilters, and their excellent books shown below.  As soon as Teresa Wong’s lovely book is released, we’ll be posting about that one too.

2015 books






New patterns are already in the works.  I’m so thrilled to be partnering with Andover again on some of these. And my one real resolution for the new year is getting back to tutorials on the blog again.  I really dropped the ball on that last year, but I’ve got some fun projects in the wings all ready to photograph and share.

And finally, I need you to hold me accountable on something. . . I’ve been lurking on Spoonflower for months, admiring all the beautiful designs.  And I really, really want to start designing my own fabrics. How cool would that be?  I know posting this on the blog will inspire me to post updates along the way, and actually commit to this idea.  But if you don’t see anything on this subject for a couple of months, e-mail me and say “hey!  Where’s the fabric design ideas?!?”  If this is something you want to try too,  I highly recommend A Field Guide to Fabric Design.

So what are your hopes and goals for the new year?

Happy Stitching!



Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Penguin Coasters

I hope you and your family have been enjoying a wonderful Christmas!!  With all the crazy leading up to the holidays, I have had almost no time to sew lately.  Last night, once the kids were in bed and all the leftovers were boxed up in the fridge, I did escape to my studio for a little fun sewing.

penguin coaster 1






I made a set of four flannel coasters for my brother’s fiancee, who purportedly loves penguins.  Just a bit of fussy-cutting 5″ squares, stitched together pillow-case style with batting, and then a double row of top-stitching to close the opening and give the coasters a polished look. They were finished in less than an hour.  It was so delightful to finish up a project so quickly!

penguin coaster 2






Now, of course, it’s back to bigger projects, and planning for the bright, shiny new 2015.   Next week I’ll share some of those goals with you, as well as my vision for the 2015 Japanese Quilting Study Group.

Christmas is always a good time to focus on what’s truly important, and to reflect all the blessings of this past year.  This blog, and all the wonderful friendships I have made with quilters around the world, ranks highly on my “grateful list.”  Thank you, dear readers, for sharing this quilting journey with me.  Your friendship and encouragement mean so very much to me!

Happy Stitching!



Posted in projects | 6 Comments

New EU VAT Regulations

Less than a week until Christmas, and I have no handmade project pictures for you! I am working on gifties, but several recipients read this blog, so most are going to be shown in the new year.

Much of my time this past week has not been spent sewing, unfortunately.  Through blogging friends I learned about some imminent changes in European Union tax laws that even effect American designers. These laws place several new responsibilities on me as a seller, which include assessing the exact location of the buyer, storing personal information about each customer for ten years, and making sure that taxes assessed get to the correct country.

Until I understand these responsibilities fully, I have to suspend all digital sales to EU customers. At this time, my only means of preventing those sales is to block ALL non-US transactions on my Craftsy platform.

If you don’t live in the US, and would like to purchase one of my Craftsy patterns, they will only be available for purchase until December 27 (and of course, if you’ve bought one already, it will always be available to you!) 

I sincerely hope to find a way through this situation soon, and that I can go back to offering digital international sales.  That’s the whole reason I went digital in the first place!

In the meantime, I wish you a weekend of fun sewing, and time with friends!  I’m planning to baste a quilt (or three!), sew microwave cozies (my own tutorial coming soon!), and get our home decorated for Christmas!

Happy Stitching!


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Progress on the Hexagon and Fence Post Quilt

Welcome to month eleven of the Japanese Quilting Study Group!  You can read all the posts in this series here.

Last month, I showed pictures of my new taupe project, Yoko Saito’s Hexagon and Fence Post Quilt from her book My Quilting Life.

I’m not quite making my goal of sewing five flowers each day, but I am relishing the time I get to spend on this quilt.  The muted colors are soothing, and the hand-stitching is a welcome break from the busy-ness of Christmas preparations.

Yesterday I wanted to see how all the colors would look together, so I put the 50+ flowers and smattering of rail fence blocks up on the design wall.








Loving it!  Once I get more of the blocks done, I’ll start shopping for fabric for the middle solid border.  It’s a brown print in the original quilt.  I may go with something like that, but I’m also really tempted to look for a deep teal taupe.

Here’s some close-up pictures of the flowers and rail fence blocks.

flower close-up one






So much holiday sewing to do, and yet I keep gravitating back to these fun blocks. . . .

flowers 2






rail fence blocks







Next month, I’ll share a bit more about how I’m making the hexie flowers, and some tools that have really helped to make the sewing process more efficient.

Happy Stitching!



Posted in Japanese Quilting | 4 Comments

Midarm Quilting Machine Comparison

Have you ever heard of a midarm quilting machine?  It’s a hybrid between a domestic sewing machine and a longarm quilting machine.  These seem to be growing in popularity, and the variety of machines available is staggering.

Here’s a little overview of what I’ve learned about midarms so far.  First, you typically sit down to quilt on a mid-arm (just like a home sewing machine).  Depending on the manufacturer, the machine is either oriented to the side of the needle (also like a home machine), or behind the needle (which sits you in front, just like on a longarm). You move the quilt around a table, and need to baste the quilt before starting to quilt. (Unlike longarms, where you move the machine, and the quilt is set up on a frame without basting first.)

Midarm quilting machines have two bobbin options.  The first is an L-size bobbin, same as a domestic machine, and apparently better suited to detail work.  The second is an M-size bobbin, which holds three times more thread than the L-size (and is commonly found on longarm machines).  Because of the larger size, M-size bobbins tend to have varying tension depending upon the amount of thread left on the bobbin as you sew.  One of the COOLEST things I’ve learned about midarm machines is that the bobbin holder is UNDER the table.  That means you don’t have to take your quilt off the table and lose your place to change a bobbin.  (If I had the money, I’d buy a midarm for that alone!)








At Quilt Market, I tried out four different midarms.  The first was the Gammill Charm.  This is the priciest of the midarms on my list (around $8-$10,000) , but it was a beautiful, quiet machine.  Sewing on it was very intuitive, as it’s set up just like a domestic machine.  The Charm comes in two sizes, 18″ or 22″ of throat space.  It also has a ton of features, like a mounted tablet, an attached laser pointer, and stitch regulation.








The second machine I tried was the APQS George.  No bells and frills, 20″ of throat space, and very easy to use.  It retails for about $6,500.  I really, really liked the simplicity of this machine, and every review I’ve read about it online has glowed.  It seems like the only reason people get rid of their George is to upgrade to a full-fledged longarm. When you purchase a George, you have the option to configure it for L or M sized bobbins.

I did stop by the HandiQuilter booth and sat at a Sweet Sixteen for a few minutes, but I didn’t get to really experience the machine. This one has 16″ of throat space (thus the name).  The friendly salesman was trying to explain to me why I should go for a longarm instead. Having the machine perpendicular to the traditional domestic set-up was a little disorienting to me, as was the stitch regulator. This machine has M-sized bobbins.






Finally, I tried out the Pfaff Powerquilter 16.0.  This one is also perpendicular like the HQ, ad has 16″ throat space.  What I really liked about this set-up was that the table was completely adjustable.  As in, I test drove it standing up!  And it was surprisingly comfortable.  I really liked the idea of being able to vary your position easily when quilting for days on end. The Powerquilter uses M-size bobbins.

Neither the Handiquilter nor the Powerquilter list prices on their website, and the salespeople weren’t very forthcoming on prices either, but I think they each run somewhere around $5,000.

Now that I’ve tried a couple of machines, and learned a TON, I want to go back and try out all four again.  I’ve decided I’m not crazy about the stitch regulators.  After free-motion quilting on my home machine for years, I’ve learned to “quilt by ear”, and I vary my hand speed based on the sound of the motor speed.  So the machines with the stitch regulation kind of rev up unpredictably, and that threw me off when I was trying to sew on them. I’m sure I could get used to that with a lot of practice, but it seems simpler to skip the stitch regulation (especially since it costs about $1000 extra!)

I’m also trying to get more information on the Martelli Bella Sedere, and the Innova sitdown machine.  So I’ll definitely be keeping you posted as I learn more about the incredibly diverse world of midarms.

How about you?  Do you quilt on a midarm? Longarm?  Or are you shaking your head at the pure insanity of spending a small fortune on a sewing machine?

Happy Stitching!



Posted in Midarm Quilting Machines | 11 Comments

Two Gift Ideas for the Quilters on Your List

How are we approaching the holiday season already?  Seems like just yesterday was the first day of fall. . . Anyway, if your Black Friday plans include shopping, I wanted to share with you two fun new titles from That Patchwork Place that might be perfect for quilty friends.  (Disclaimer:  Martingale provided me with digital review copies of these books.  All opinions expressed below are my own.  All images in this post are courtesy of Martingale.)









First up, A Flair for Fabric, compiled by Linda Lum DeBono (one of my all-time favorite designers).  This book incorporates projects from fifteen Henry Glass fabric designers, with a huge assortment of styles and techniques.  You’ll find applique, piecing, quilts, a sewing caddy, a pillow and an aromatherapy bag.  Some of the projects have a modern feel, others are very traditional.  What sets this book apart, however, is the page that comes after most of the project instructions.  The designers explain ways to use the leftover fabrics (from a coordinated line), with other fabrics in your stash to create a new look.  The tips are so insightful, I found myself skipping to each of these pages to try and absorb all the information at once.  They even covered topics like blending traditional small prints (think Civil War reproduction fabrics) with batiks!  It looks gorgeous in the book, I’m going to have to try out their tips on my own stash before I’ll completely believe that possibility. All of the designers featured in this book donated their work so that the book’s royalties could go straight to the Red Cross and victims of Hurricane Sandy.

3rds B1255_Flair_for_Fabric_CC.indd








I think the tips alone make this book a good addition to a quilting reference library, but I’m also planning to make the cute quilting caddy!










Secondly, I’d like to share Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners by Molly Hanson with you.  If you’ve been around my blog for awhile, you know I’ve reviewed a LOT of beginning quilting books.  No matter how many of them I read, I always learn something new.  This one is no exception.  If this is your first free-motion book, you’ll find all the traditional basics, like tension, supplies, correct posture, and basic designs.  However, quilters of all skill levels will find something new in the project section.  Instead of saying “practice this technique on a scrap quilt sandwich”, she turns each practice piece into something functional- a make-up bag, a small tote, a zipper pouch.  So even if your first ventures into free-motion quilting aren’t perfect, you can still practice on pretty fabric and create something useful. I typically keep several practice pieces by my machine to “warm-up” on before I start an actual quilt.  Being able to turn those pieces into something I can use around the house is like a two-for-one deal!

Final B1278 Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners.indd






I hope your Thanksgiving is full of blessings and some good time to sew.  I’m looking forward to visiting with family and stitching a whole box full of hexies!


Posted in Book Reviews | 2 Comments