About susanstewartdesigns

I think I was born with fabric and thread woven into my DNA. Sewing has been my passion for as long as I can remember! www.susanstewartdesigns.com


This blog post isn’t about sewing at all! But when a photo I put up on Facebook a couple of days ago of some frozen basil pesto cubes I made got just about as many “likes” as some of my prettiest sewing projects, I thought I’d write about it!


Every spring, Mark fills a big planter with basil plants so I can harvest fresh basil during the summer. When the plants are full and fragrant, I make basil pesto. I usually get half a dozen big batches a year. It’s soooo good! Basil leaves, garlic, Parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts or walnuts, and olive oil – the sum is so much more than the parts!

Because I have a lot more than I can use at once, and it doesn’t keep all that long in the fridge, I freeze it. Yep, in cheapie old-fashioned plastic ice cube trays. I pop the frozen pesto cubes out of the trays and store them in zip-top freezer bags. The pesto stays fresh all year. When I want to add this culinary green gold to food, I just get out a cube (or two or three!) Sauces, chicken, fish, burgers, veggies, soups – just about everything tastes great with this stuff added. I try to get a big bag of pesto cubes to Annie each year, as well.

I like pesto, but I like lots of other delicious and interesting tastes, too. I’m not a chef. I cook things that are reasonably healthy and reasonably quick. Because I have exercised almost every day for decades, I’m always aware of the “calorie cost” of food, so I avoid frying, and I really don’t care for things with cream of mushroom soup or Velveeta. I love almost all veggies (except for fresh tomatoes – go figure…) I rarely make deserts, not because I don’t like them, but because I do (although I did make a peach crisp last week that was sooo delicious!)

Along with my pesto cubes, I like to keep my freezer stocked with some really great “flavor enhancers” that let me make some really varied and tasty meals. Here are some of them:


Chipotle cubes. Chopped chipotles in adobo are yummy in burgers, some soups, mixed with sour cream on fish tacos, or mixed with mayo as a sandwich spread. For a while, I would open a can, use what I needed, and end up throwing away the rest, because it’s not something I use every day. Then it came to me – make good use of those ice cube trays again! So I chop up the entire can (or usually two cans at a time), freeze into cubes, and store in baggies. Again, I can take out what I want anytime I need it.

I don’t have any in the freezer right now, but I also freeze chopped sage leaves in olive oil in my ice cube trays. I never liked dried sage, but then I tried fresh. Yum! Try it in turkey burgers. Ground turkey can be very dry, but a sage and olive oil cube, warmed up and mixed in, keeps the meat moist and very tasty. Or spread the sage/oil on top of pork roast. I get those huge pork loins from Sam’s, and when I get home I cut them into pork roasts and pork chops. Again, those very lean pork loin roasts can be dry, but that sage/oil on top keeps it moist. And butternut squash with sage is delicious!

Rosemary chopped and mixed with oil and frozen is good, too. Cut or slice potatoes and mix in some rosemary/oil, then roast. Or use the same way as the sage on a pork roast. Rosemary is such a strong flavor that I make smaller cubes. I’ll make thyme cubes, too, if I can find fresh thyme. These are great in soups. I’ve also had suggestions to make cilantro cubes, and I think I’ll do that, because I rarely use a whole bunch of cilantro before it goes bad.

More things in my freezer…


Fresh ginger. Such a fragrant and tasty addition! It’s not something I use every day, and the ginger would get moldy in the fridge before I used it. So, I peel it and store it in the freezer. All I have to do is grate what I need.


This Microplane grater makes easy work of it. I don’t have a lot of kitchen gadgets (just like my sewing) but these graters in several sizes are things that I use often.

Again, no picture because I don’t have any in there right now, but red curry paste is another thing I like to keep in the freezer. I only use it a few times a year, so I spoon out tablespoon-sized mounds onto waxed paper, freeze, then store in baggies.


On the last things on my “seasoning shelf” are bags of chopped Hatch green chiles. I don’t live in an area where these are available, so I preparee my own. Once a year, for about two weeks, I can buy these chiles. So I go through the process of charring, steaming, seeding and chopping the chiles. That’s more work than I like, but they are so good, and it’s so nice to have them to use. I especially like these on cheeseburgers and mixed into scrambled eggs. Yummy!

Now I’m hungry – I think it’s time for dinner! 🙂

“The Lion King” Challenge, part 2

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the Cherrywood fabrics challenge quilt I made with Kimberly Einmo (King of the Backyard Jungle.) I said I would show you our other quilt when Kimberly posted a photo of it. Well, here it is!

Kim challenge 2

For this quilt, Kimberly made the center block

Kim challenge 1

(sorry about the color on this – the finished quilt shows the correct colors), and I added the borders.

Kim challenge

The giraffes and crown are machine embroidered, and the symbols are appliqued. The symbols don’t mean anything, I just thought they looked right with the rest of the quilt! I sent the top back to her, and she quilted it. She used a Sashiko machine for most of the quilting, and it looks awesome! Kimberly also used a decorative stitch to embellish the narrow sashing and the binding. This quilt was accepted into the exhibit! Yay!

Kim challenge 2


King of the Backyard Jungle

I’ve been enjoying working on collaborative quilts with my friend Kimberly Einmo. You can read about our ongoing projects in my previous post A Friendly Challenge. So when Cherrywood Fabrics announced their current challenge (http://cherrywoodfabrics.bigcartel.com/king-of-the-jungle-challenge) inspired by The Lion King musical, we both jumped at the chance to do a “challenge within a challenge.” We decided to make a 12″ block each, exchange blocks, complete the other’s quilt top to the specified 20″, then exchange again to complete the quilting and binding.

Because the original challenge was named the “King of the Jungle” challenge (before permission was given by Disney to use the name “The Lion King”) I knew right away what I wanted to try for my 12″ block. Four years ago, a couple of kittens were born in our back yard. One of them was an orange tabby, who we named Billy.

Baby Billy

Billy still lives here with us. He’s outside most of the time, but comes in when it’s cold or hot or he wants to check and see if any of our other cats have left any food behind. He’s our big bubba cat. But four years ago, he was a fuzzy, bouncy little kitty.

He was exactly the same colors as the colors included in the fabric pack for the challenge! A little baby lion – a King of the Backyard Jungle! Okay, a great idea… how do I turn this image into a quilt? I had done only one other pictorial-type quilt, David’s 21st Birthday Quilt. I’ve seen and admired photo-realistic quilts, but had never done that technique. What is so great about this collaboration is that it gives both of us the chance to try new techniques and ideas that we wouldn’t normally use. Quilts made for contests or classes or publications don’t offer that kind of playful freedom!

In the photo-editing options on my phone is an option called “cartoon.” It makes the photo kind of like a paint-by-number picture.

King cartoonized

This gave me lines of demarcation for the colors. I outlined each area with a fine-point marker, and numbered the colors.

King process 1

Then I traced this onto vellum, so I could see through it and trace the reverse side onto Steam-A-Seam Lite fusible web. I cut out the fabric pieces and arranged them on parchment paper. (I did some of this in the evenings while I was in Denver shooting my most recent Craftsy class.)

King process 2

As I went along, I changed a few shapes and colors, but basically stuck with my “cartoon” image. When all the teeny tiny pieces were cut and arranged, I fused little Billy to my block background. I used the Cherrywood black fabric, into which I had pieced narrow strips of green to suggest grass and plants, and embroidered a few outlines of plant designs.

Then it was time to thread paint. I’d never done this before, either. But its basically free-motion work, so I stabilized my fabric, dropped the feed dogs, and stitched. It was actually far easier and more fun than I expected!

Here is the block I mailed to Kimberly (I’m sorry the photo isn’t more clear.)

King block

Kimberly decided to run with the “backyard jungle” theme, adding appliqued silhouettes of the animals a baby lion king might encounter in a backyard! She continued the pieced green strips in the background. I was thrilled with the results when she mailed it back to me! I quilted it using wool batting, and was very pleased with how much puff and dimension this gave the kitty and the animal silhouettes.



I was so happy with how the face looks!


And, because edges just need special treatments, I used tiny piping. And because I’m a sucker for little precise details, I pieced the piping so it is green along the light gold fabric, and light gold along the dark gold fabric.

I pieced the backing using up just about every spare scrap of the black and gold challenge fabrics.

King of the Backyard Jungle_back

Notifications went out on Friday, and “King of the Backyard Jungle” did not make it into the exhibit. Oh well, I had a great time making it and learned a lot! However, our other quilt – the one in which Kimberly made the 12″ block, and I made the borders, was juried into the exhibit! I’ll show that when she posts about it.

If you have the chance to do something like this, do it! It has been so much fun to work with a friend whose style is quite different from my own. It has given both of us the chance to stretch ourselves and try new things. Now, I’m off to work on finishing up another challenge…


Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques!

Today is the day! Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques is now available on Craftsy! I’m so excited about this class! My first class, Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques has done well (I knew there were a lot of heirloom sewing fans out there), and I was thrilled when I was approached about teaching a second heirloom techniques class. And here it is!


You’ll learn about puffing, both straight…2261 resized

…and curved.2485 resized

Transparent reverse applique motifs and edges2360 resized

Tiny single and double piping2376

Rickrack bridging…2424 resized

…and a pretty little rickrack and entredeux edging!2304 resized

Bias applique2489 resized

Narrow bias bindings…2269 resized

…and more!

The Craftsy team and I worked hard to give you the best class we possibly could!002 resized

Your lessons are filmed in incredible, close-up detail – you can see every stitch.2516 cropped and resized

You can watch the class as often as you want, anywhere you want, and you can ask me questions and post photos. What fun!

Use this link to get 50% off! Join in the celebration – let’s make this class even more successful than the first! 🙂

Don’t Forget!

Time is quickly running out to enter for a chance to win my newest Craftsy class…

Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques!

You have to enter before the class goes live (and we’re talking only hours until that happens!)

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You’ll learn sooo many great techniques! If you’ve taken Craftsy classes, you know the advantages. But if you haven’t, here are some things to consider…

  1. Craftsy is the fastest growing creative community on the web! Learn, make, share and have fun as you join more than 8 million members in over 200 countries.
  2. Pursue your creative passions in online-video lessons led by the best instructors in the world.
  3. Craftsy lets you learn at your own pace, with online-video classes you can watch anytime, anywhere, forever.
  4. Learning is more fun with the family! Bring friends and loved ones together and have a blast learning new skills.
  5. Craftsy classes let you take virtual notes, so you can write things down as you go and keep all of your learning in one convenient place.
  6. You won’t miss a single, exciting detail of your class thanks to crystal-clear HD video, stunning close-ups and convenient closed captioning.
  7. Craftsy gives you the support to succeed. Use the Craftsy platform to ask questions and get answers from your classmates and instructors.
  8. Craftsy is a creative community where members inspire one another by sharing projects and encouragement.

Maybe you will be the one to win! Click here to enter, and stay tuned!

It’s Almost Time!

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Some of you may have guessed that I recently filmed a new Craftsy class! Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques will be launched soon. Do you want a chance to win a free class? Click here to be entered into a drawing to win – Craftsy will draw a random entry, and I’ll let the lucky winner know the day the class goes live.

Look at some of the things I teach in the class…

Rickrack Techniques2516.jpg2304 resized.jpg2424 resized.jpg

Straight and Curved Puffing2524 resized.jpg2261 resized.jpg2485 resized.jpg

Tiny Single and Double Piping2269 resized.jpg2208 resized.jpg2415 resized.jpg

…and lots more!

Stay tuned for more photos and info. Be sure to follow my blog so you don’t miss any updates. And remember that with a Crafsty online class, you can take it as many times as you want, whenever you want, and you can ask me and other students questions and post photos of your work! Super-sharp HD quality video and audio make it easy to see exactly what I am doing each step of the way.

Dont’ forget to sign up for that free class!

Anyone Can Make A Quilt Like This!

I haven’t written a blog post for quite a while. I’ve been super busy getting ready for – and taping! – my new Craftsy class! It should be online within a few weeks. I’ll be sure to tell you more about it soon, and I’ll have a free class giveaway, too!

But, in the meantime, I thought I would share this little quilt with you. Anyone can make a memory quilt like this!


Three of the blocks were obviously made by Annie, who was probably about 3 or 4 years old at the time. The clown applique block was from a book of applique which I used to make many bibs and t-shirts for the kids. It is fused, and not even stitched around the edges. My Mom put it together and did some very simple machine quilting.

Let’s look at those three “original” blocks!


I have no idea if that is a swimming pool, or a yard, or… next to the house.


This is obviously a Christmas tree. What I like best is that the blond, green-eyed girl has white teeth painted in her red smile!


And here we have a pretty detailed bicycle, although I have no idea what those other objects are!

So folks, don’t always worry about coordinating fabrics, or consistent block sizes, or workmanship. While this quilt will never win any contests, it is still most decidedly a treasure!

Sweet Pea

My husband hates sweet peas. These pretty little flowers smell heavenly, but the vines are aggressive. My dad, a farmer, said that a weed was just a plant that wasn’t in the right place. Well, sweet peas in iris beds are in the wrong place! Several years ago, Mark dug up an entire iris bed to get at all the sweet pea roots, then re-planted the irises. Those sweet peas have not shown their pretty little faces in that bed again!

When it comes to my Sweet Pea pattern, however, it’s a different story!

SP 10.jpg

The pattern got its name because of the twisty spiral skirt, which is like the twisty spiral sweet pea vines.

The skirt gores can be made in the same or contrasting fabrics.

SP 9.jpg

Here’s another version that was in a Sew Beautiful pictorial in 2011, I think.

SP 8.jpg

It’s been one of my best-selling patterns (although people tell me it tends to run long, and if you need to shorten it, that must be done at the waist before stitching the skirt to the bodice.)

Not too long ago, S.G. sent me a photo of a dress she made from this pattern. “I used Swiss Lawn AKA Fairy Fabric. I used shaped lace between the gores because the fabric was too delicate for the serger.  I created the fabric for the bodice by embroidering a lace fill in white rayon all over the fabric, then adding white beads on every other intersection.  I cut my sleeve in a circle flounce to echo the flounces on the skirt. The little girl, who turns 4 next month loved wearing it, it twirls perfectly.”

SP 11.jpg

So when I was making up samples for my Craftsy class, Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques, I picked this pattern for the lesson on tucks, to show multiple ways to use tucks to embellish a bodice.

First, I showed how to stitch plain folded tucks on a block of fabric, then cut out your pattern piece from the tucked fabric. (I’m sorry these photos are sideways – for whatever reason, my photo editor would not save the rotated version today, and I just don’t have time to fight it!)


Next, I showed double needle pintucks, and how they could be combined with a bit of lace.

SP 5.jpg

Here are pintucks stitched close together in trios, with spaces in between just wide enough for the presser foot, where I stitched decorative stitches.

SP 6.jpg

Cross-hatched pintucks create a yoke effect.

SP 4.jpg

And finally, the bodice I used for the finished dress – bias, cross-hatched pintucks, some embroidered Swiss insertion, and curved pintucks!

SP 3.jpg

Here’s the full dress – I used Imperial broadcloth, and a tiny little Swiss trim on the sleeves and neckline.


Here is a backlit photo of the bodice


And another photo of the pintuck detail


Tucks are versatile, and sweet peas can be sweet! 🙂

Last Chance!

Time is running out to have a chance to win $1000 to donate to your favorite charity that focuses on art or craft-type activities. For most of my readers, that would be sewing or quilting. Think Quilts of Valor. Or SAGA. Or Threads of Love. I’m sure you know of many others. How do you enter to win that donation? Everyone who purchases a class from Craftsy through an instructor’s link – this is mine – will be entered in the drawing. March 13 is the last day to have this chance! You don’t have to purchase my class (although I’d like for you to!) Any class will do.

In the interests of full disclosure, I earn a small amount from any class purchased through my link. That means more fabric!

Because I’ve been encouraging people to try out new interests, I thought I should, too. About a week ago, my husband and I watched “Mexican Street Food: Tacos & Salsas.”

Then he made tomatillo/cilantro/avocado salsa while I tried my hand at homemade corn tortillas. We cheated and used a rotisserie chicken, but oh my goodness!Mexican

I am totally hooked on those fresh tortillas! I’ve already made them three times. I had no idea they were so easy. And, no, I don’t have a tortilla press; I just used my cutting board and the bottom of a large saucepan to press the tortillas.

Click here to take this class!

This is another class that, if I had little people in my life, I would take. Not all sewing has to be heirloom or contest-worthy 🙂

In “The Costume Box,” learn to make capes that transform your child into a princess or superhero; wings for a dragon or fairy; no-sew skirts, crowns and sparkly wands; or a sword and armor.


Other classes that I think would be fun (click on the images to read more:)

Okay, I need to stop looking through the class catalog and thinking, “ooh, I want to learn this, and this, and this…” and get to work on my next big project! 😉

Cathedral Lace Windows

When I was preparing for my Craftsy Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques (get it for 50% off here!) class taping, I wanted an adult garment showcasing the Cathedral Lace Windows technique. The Amber Woven Blouse pattern from Style Arc seemed too perfect to pass up!


The narrow front band looked like it would be a wonderful place to place a strip of this embellishment, and have a top that would be sophisticated and not at all frilly.

I chose ivory, black, and gold silk/cotton Radiance from my stash. (Yes, I know, I have a serious case of Radiance hoarding!) A strip of black insertion lace, some tiny cord to cover for piping, a little lightweight fusible interfacing, and I was set to go.


Like the Fleur and Marley tops made as samples for the class, this one is a size 10 to fit the dress form, so it’s a bit too small for me. But I love the way it turned out! I think the top would fit me perfectly in a size or two larger.

The Cathedral Lace Window strip down the center front is the highlight of the top. 1

It was made from the instructions in the class. You can get the class for only $24.99 here, and until March 13, 2016, you can be entered to win $1000 to be donated to your favorite art or craft centered charity (think Quilts of Valor, or Threads of Love, or any other 501-c3.)

In this pattern, the center front strip and front neckline reverse facing are made as a unit, then applied to the blouse front. Be sure that when you’re stitching the center strip down, it is exactly in the center. Yes, I got mine on a little catty-wampus the first time and had to take it off and stitch it again.

I think  that if I make this again, in my size, I would do a couple of things differently. First, I would increase the biceps measurement of the sleeve a little, as I do for almost all Style Arc patterns. I would also lengthen the sleeve an inch or so, and I would finish the lower edge of the sleeve differently. The pattern allows for just 1/4 inch narrow hem. You can’t cut a deeper hem because of the curve of the lower edge, but I would either make a facing or bias binding to finish the edge. I think I would also shape the side seams a bit, or perhaps add a center back seam or back darts to shape the waistline just a little.

This is a nice pattern, and I can think of lots of ways to use color blocking and a little embellishment to make it unique!