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!


An Autumn Portrait

Here in middle of the country, autumn is usually a beautiful time of year. This year has been no exception. The trees put on a colorful show, the skies are often clear and blue, and the humidity lessens. Autumn is nearly over – rain and wind during the past week have denuded the trees, and there is a hard freeze forecast for this weekend, with possible snow flurries.

Twenty-one years ago (I think!) my parents had an autumn portrait taken of their grandchildren. Here are my Annie and David, and my sister’s two sons.


Of course, I made coordinating outfits for everyone 🙂 One girl and three boys, ranging in age from just under a year to eleven years old. I chose a very soft, bright plaid cotton flannel as something that they might all be willing to wear!

I don’t have the shirts Annie and David wore any longer. Annie’s had a V-shaped, bias front yoke that I fringed at the lower edge. I don’t remember doing it, but the picture shows fringe around the collar, as well, so I assume I fringed a strip, then inserted it in the collar seam as I would piping. David’s shirt had an attached hood, and I found a brightly colored lizard button that I added to the chest pocket.

I do still have my nephews’ garments! Thanks, Mom and Cathy, for saving them.


This was Sean’s shirt (the plaids on the front placket really do match, but the way it’s hanging shows that they don’t!) 


You can see that I matched the plaid on the chest pocket. Just as a tip, look at the little stitched triangles at the upper edge of the pocket – this really helps keep pockets from tearing out, and adds a nice professional touch for very little effort!


The cuffs were made with a continuous-lap placket and two pleats.


On the left upper sleeve, I appliqued a colorful lizard to match the lizard button on David’s shirt! I added googly-eye buttons for fun.

All of the “big kids” outfits were from commercial patterns – I have no idea which ones.

Mark’s overalls may have been made from a commercial pattern, or some other pattern, or adapted from a pants pattern.


The smocking was Ellen McCarn’s “Crayon Rainbow.”


I wanted the legs to snap, but wanted fewer snaps than snap tape. So I cut the snap tape apart and spaced them out on the inner leg opening.



The back waist was elasticized. The criss-cross back straps buttoned to the inside of the back waist, with multiple buttonholes to allow for growth.

Finally, these garments have been stored with others that I have made. Do you know that purple boa feathers shed copiously?! I was picking little purple feather shreds off of these garments as I was trying to get photos, but obviously missed some.


And where did the purple feather boa enter into my sewing history, you ask? Well, as a trim on a very sparkly dress! But that’s a story for another day…


A Thousand Days

Today is my son David’s birthday. He would have been twenty-nine years old. It is also one thousand days since he died. How do I know that? Well, sometimes I do strange little math games while I’m walking/jogging in the mornings. For a while, I tallied each day as it passed, but sometime after one hundred I got lost. More recently, after several days of trying different ways to calculate it, and each time coming near a thousand, I found an online calculator and plugged in the dates. Yep, one thousand days…

Nine hundred and ninety-nine days ago, or nine hundred and ninety days ago, or nine hundred days ago, I don’t think I could have imagined surviving to one thousand. It sounds like such a long time. So many days, so many nights. So many tears. Such a piercing pain. But I have survived. Am I “over it?” Never! But the fierce pain isn’t there all the time any more. It still comes back. I can be back in that ICU room in an instant. But sometimes I can be happy, and mean it.

My Mark has been a rock. I’ve cried so many tears on his shoulders. My Annie has been my co-traveler in grief.

So, today is his birthday. I want to try to remember good times…

When David was a little tiny guy, he wanted to be a chef! Like almost all toddlers, he liked playing with pots and pans.

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He also wanted to cook!


When he was four years old, I think, he was a chef for Halloween. Easiest costume ever! I made a huge chef hat from a white posterboard for the band, and a big circle of shiny white wrapping paper gathered and taped to the band to make a big pouf on top. I got white sweats, and safety-pinned wooden spoons, whisks, plastic spatulas, etc. all over him! Fun!

And, as for almost all kids, big cardboard boxes were an endless source of entertainment. For a while, every box had to be made into a stove! He would draw burners and knobs and dials on top, and an oven door on the front. In the oven, on every box, was a birthday cake! And on every cake was a flaming candle, with smoke rising from it! So cute! I looked for a photo of one of his stove-boxes. I couldn’t find one; I don’t know if there are any.

I had taken one of his stove drawings and transfered it to a sweatshirt, then traced it with that plastic-y shirt paint that was so prevalent then. I even had his photo taken in that sweatshirt, (although he didn’t think much of the toy cooking gear; he wanted the real stuff!)


And then, I remembered! I still have that shirt! Thank you, Mom, for saving it for me!


Two birthday cakes in this oven, and probably macaroni and cheese on the stove! 🙂

Drawing stoves eventually went by the wayside, as did playing chef. But David still liked to cook. He stayed with us for several months the summer before he died, and he helped me make dinner almost every day. He grilled, he chopped veggies for salads. We got some Hatch green chiles, and made green chile salsa. One day we made kebabs, and he was so proud of them that I took a photo.

David's kabobs

The last birthday photo I have of him is from five years ago, on his twenty-fourth birthday.


Happy Birthday, David! I’ll love you forever!

Mark’s T-Shirt Quilt

Mark’s birthday is today! Happy birthday! This is what I made for him for his birthday three years ago. He knew what I was doing, because I had to get the shirts from him, but he didn’t get to see how I put them together until his big day.


If you know Mark, you know he has some rather eclectic interests, which are reflected in some of the shirts he chose for me to use! 🙂

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Included are shirts from his high school, his sons’ schools, items from his professional work, and, of course, Texas!


In case you can’t tell, he went to Baylor, which is well represented in the quilt. 😉


I cut the shirts apart, then backed the parts I wanted to use with a lightweight fusible interfacing. Because I didn’t want huge empty, solid areas around the smaller designs, I cut the blocks into a variety of sizes. The right side column is made of smaller motifs, some special fabrics, and a machine-embroidered Texas. It was all put together with yellow and green (Baylor colors!) sashing.

The back is fun, too.


Instead of using a single fabric for the backing, I pulled yellow and green fabrics from my stash, cut them into big blocks, and patchworked them together. This is something you could do for any quilt, but it’s especially nice for a lap quilt or snuggle quilt, in which the back will frequently be seen. The blue fabric is Texas State Flower fabric, left over from the wall hanging I made him years before.

My Texas Star

This Baylor print fabric is one of the strangest fabrics I’ve ever used!


It was from – get this! – a pair of boxers he’d gotten back in his college days! I doubt that he ever wore them. The fabric was a very poor quality, poly/cotton-ish, and loosely woven. But the really weird part was that the green motifs were printed with this rubbery stuff! It was hard to quilt the areas where this fabric was on the back, because the rubbery stuff didn’t slide on the machine bed. Fortunately, this was not a contest quilt!

Quilting was simple and quick. I outline stitched the shirt motifs, did a free-motion wavy line instead of stitch-in-the-ditch of all the seams, and did a loose meander pretty much everywhere else. This quilt was meant to be used, and I wanted it to be soft, not heavily quilted.

About a year ago, Mark had to retire one of his favorite shirts that he couldn’t bear to give up when I made the quilt. It was literally falling apart. So I cut it up, and appliqued it to the back. I re-quilted the quilting lines from the front, using monofilament in the needle so there wouldn’t be double threads, to secure the fabric to the back. I guess I can add lots more old shirts to the back as the years go by!


I think he likes it 🙂


First Stitches

Apparently, I have always loved stitching! My sister was born when I was just a month and a half shy of five years old. I embroidered this little pre-stamped cotton flannel bib for her before she was born. It is probably the first thing I ever stitched.


I’m sure Mom helped me (check out the difference between the two flowers on the left made with lazy daisy stitches, and the one on the right, done with uneven straight stitches!), but I’m also sure that many of the stitches here are my own!


The back is a little messy – it was probably a few more years before I knew how to hide thread tails!


But, all in all, not bad at all for a four-year-old!

I’m glad I have this. And I want to say that one is never too young (or too old!) to learn how to sew!

Our Whole Life

Mom and Dad were married on August 2, 1952, on a very hot day, in an un-air-conditioned church in St. Charles, MO. Legend has it that Mom’s veil caught fire from a candle during the photography or reception (I don’t remember; I wasn’t there!)

Marvin and Gloria 8-2-52

For their 50th wedding anniversary, in 2002, I made them a photo-transfer memory quilt.

anniversary quilt

I used ideas from the book The Collectibles Quilt by Wendy Etzel, 1995, RCW. The book got me started with the idea of a photo transfer bookcase quilt, and I took off from there. (Wendy still has copies of her book available; you can contact her at . The exact pattern for this quilt is not in the book.)

This was the second real quilt I ever made. The first was My Texas Star, half a year earlier. I think this was also the second time I tried free-motion quilting!

I managed to get photos of 5 generations of family, and made enough photo transfers to create 52 “framed” photos on the bookshelves, including my parent’s wedding picture and their wedding invitation.

Our Whole Life detail 3

The titles of some of the “books” are the names of my grandparents, my parents, my sister and me, and our children. Other “books” are titled with significant events or interests in our lives.

Our Whole Life detail 2Our Whole Life detail 1

I added a machine-embroidered a Peace rose (I don’t have a close-up of that) which was my maternal grandmother’s favorite flower, and created a basket made from woven strips of fabric, with a piece of crocheted work spilling out of it. This was made by my father’s aunt, who was born deaf, but crocheted exquisitely.

Our whole Life detail 4

(I didn’t cut up a good piece of crochet work; this was damaged, and I used the un-damaged part in the quilt.)

When they saw the quilt, Mom and Dad were both speechless and teary-eyed, and my father said, “This is my whole life!”

The quilt was hung next to some real bookcases, and causes visitors to do a double-take! It has been the backdrop for many family photos.

Sean 21bday and Annie 018 Sean 21bday and Annie 016Bird family

Yes, that’s a papier-mâchĂŠ-and-feather bird head, but that’s another story…

The quilt was displayed at Dad’s memorial service. I think it’s just about the best gift I ever gave!

A Delightful Vacation!

Annie and I returned from Arrowmont on Saturday. We had a blast! It was everything I’d hoped for – relaxation, gorgeous surroundings, and most especially, time with my daughter.

Because this blog is about “Stitching My Life Together,” I wasn’t sure how to give a report on this trip, because it doesn’t involve sewing. But, read on to the end to see how stitches figure in!

Our vacation started the way many do, with flight delays – ugh! I was to take a short flight, meet up with Annie at O’Hare, then we could continue together. But my flight was delayed, and I missed her by just a few minutes. Then I waited at O’Hare, and she waited at Knoxville, for about four hours, until I finally got the next flight and met up with her.


We had great memories of a pizza place in Gatlinburg which we’ve visited on our previous trips there. After getting our rental car, and following a very roundabout way from Knoxville to Gatlinburg (thanks, GPS!) we got to the pizza place about 10:30PM and had our pizza! There was lots leftover, and being unwilling to toss such yummy food, we bought a little cooler and some ice (not to mention some beer and hard cider!)

The next day we drove up into Smoky Mountain National Park and enjoyed our pizza picnic on a lovely rock table.


Near our picnic was a convocation of butterflies! They were completely unconcerned about our presence, and we were able to get close enough to touch them! How wondrous!


It’s so beautiful in the park, and it was a perfect day.

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We started our woodturning class in the evening. Annie had done a bit of lathe work before, but I was a complete beginner. I’ll probably never do it again, but it’s fun to try new things, and taking a class together is a wonderful way to spend time with someone you love.


We progressed well, with lots of laughter and lots of wood chips. On Thursday, on my third try, I finally managed to make a bowl. (It’s green wood, so it will crack and warp, but it was fun to make.)


And then, Friday, the last day. I had finished my bark-edged bowl, and gotten it nice and thin. I was trying to chisel off the little knob on the underside, and oops! The chisel slipped in my inexperienced hands (this is where the stitching comes in!) So, instead of turning the final project, which was to be a nice cherry wood plate, Annie fought the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge traffic to take me to a clinic to get my hand stitched together. The cut wasn’t very long, but it bled and bled, and had to be cauterized. Fortunately, I cut no important parts, and four little stitches took care of it. I did have a nice big bandage for my travels home!


All is well. It hardly hurts at all, although my wrist and thumb are nicely colorful. I’ll get the stitches out on Saturday, and I’ll start my next adventure on Sunday, which will also involve stitching (but I hope not this kind!)

This morning, I thought about how amazing our bodies are… I can stitch two pieces of fabric together, and they can stay like that for 100 years without the fabrics growing together. But take two edges of a cut, stitch them together, and a week later, they have joined and grown together. The world is full of wonder!


My daughter and I will soon be going to Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts to take a week-long workshop together. Arrowmont is a lovely old crafts school nestled in the Smoky Mountains, hidden just off the beaten path in Gatlinburg, TN. This will be my fifth visit there.

The first time, in 2004, I think, Annie and I took a class in glass fusing. What a wonderful time we had! The next year, she and I tried enameling.

Two years later, in 2007, David joined us, and we took a class in woodworking. It was a blast! Learning something new with grown children, focusing on the task at hand, in beautiful surroundings – well, I highly recommend it!

This is the coffee table David made. After he got home, he finished it, and it was one of his most prized possessions. When everything else in his life fell apart, this was one of the few things he took great care of. It is now in Annie’s living room, and she cherishes it.


This was Annie’s wild and crazy table! She included every technique we were taught 🙂 Unfortunately, it sustained some water damage in a closet and had to be discarded.


And this is what I made. It was supposed to have a quilt made to go behind the wavy lattice, but that hasn’t happened, and the table is still unfinished.


The surroundings are so gorgeous! The entrance to Great Smoky Mountain National Park is just a couple of miles away, and there is a little scenic drive even closer.

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In 2008, Annie couldn’t make it, and David and I took a workshop in bead-making. Hot glass and torches. These are some of the beads he made.


Because they needed to cool overnight in the kiln when we left, the instructor shipped them to us. Sadly, they never made it here. I wish so much I had some of his Arrowmont beads! Aren’t they beautiful?

David had taught himself some lampworking before we went, and fortunately Annie and I do have some of the beads he made at home. She made me a pendant with one of those beads (but of course I can’t find the photo right now!)

I made some beads, too. So what did I do when I brought mine home? Added fabric, of course! I made a quilt. This is “Monochrome.”


It is 45.5″ x 60″ and was made in 2009. It is truly a mixed techniques quilt! It includes English hand smocking (because I needed some hand work to do while my husband was in the hospital for a week), fabric manipulation (inspired from a costume in the stage production of “Phantom of the Opera”), foundation piecing, machine applique, digitized embroidered motifs and free-standing lace. And glass beads above the tassels! It includes cottons, necktie silk, machine embroidery, monofilament, and silk threads, perle cotton, seed beads, glass, purchased tassels, and cotton batting.  Embroidery designs were from EmbroideryOnline, Zundt Designs, and Martha Pullen/Zundt.

“Monochrome” won 2nd place in the Computer-Aided Machine Embroidery category at the 2010 Houston Internation Quilt Festival, and an Honorable Mention at the 2010 AQS show in Paducah.

Here’s a close-up…


And the beads (click on these images to see them better)…

beads2 beads

Now, it’s been seven years since I’ve been there. Annie and I will be learning about wood-turning. She’s done some, but I never have. If previous years are any indication, it will be a fun, memorable, relaxing, and creativity-inspiring week!

A Very Good Dad

Happy Father’s Day! I was blessed to have a very good father. He’s been gone for 20 months now, but I smile every time I think about him.


I’m a lot like Dad (except for the receding hairline!) and I know he was always proud of me. As a farmer, he could have wanted sons to take over the farm, but never once did I feel that he’d rather have had sons than two daughters. He always supported me. I don’t think he really “got” the heirloom sewing career, except that he knew I always liked pretty dresses. But he didn’t really care – if I was happy, he was happy.


Then I started quilting. When my first quilt was not just accepted into Houston in 2004, but I got a phone call that it had won a ribbon, I asked him if he and Mom would like to take me down there in their motor home.


When we walked into that huge show, he said in amazement, “My mother would have loved this!” And indeed she would have!

That was the beginning of 18 trips with them to Houston and Paducah! I think Dad thoroughly enjoyed those trips. I am still amazed at how cool he was driving that big old motor home through Dallas!  Once, at a truck stop getting fuel for the motor home, I got out and went into the convenience store. The trucker at the next bay looked at Dad, looked at me, looked at Dad again, and said, “Good lookin’ woman you got there.” Dad didn’t blink an eye, and replied, “I did all right for myself, didn’t I?” never letting on that I was his daughter, not his wife! He was so pleased with himself!

Mark went with me a few times, but he was working, and usually it was just Mom, Dad, and me. I had quilts in all but one of those shows, I think, and I was fortunate to win ribbons at most of them – and big ribbons at some. Dad would go to the award ceremonies, and to the preview nights. All he wanted to see was me with my quilt. The crowd noise really bothered him with his hearing aids, and the huge venues and concrete floors bothered his back. But he delighted in taking Mom and me!

This picture was at Houston in 2012. My world would change a lot in the next year.


This picture was taken at Paducah in 2013; it was shortly after David died. This was the last quilt show Dad went to, and I think this is the last photo of me with him.


Happy Father’s Day, Dad! You were a good man and a great father! 🙂

Mother’s Day

Here in the U.S., we celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday.  One of the most memorable things I’ve ever done with my Mom is the creation of “Gloria’s Garden.”

Gloria's Garden_full

The quilt is 73″ x 73″, and was made in 2009. Mom chose the fabrics and pieced the top (a variation of “Blooming Nine Patch”, from Traditions with a Twist by Blanche Young and Dalene Young Stone.)  I did the embroidery and quilting.

Gloria's Garden_detail

The lace border and all of the 3-D flowers are digitized free-standing lace, made from over 60,000 yards of thread.  My embroidery machines logged nearly 7,000,000 stitches in the making of this quilt, including over 3,000,000 in the lace border alone.  Embroidery designs are from Zundt and OESD.  That, of course, does not include all the stitching in the quilting, which was all free-motion.


The quilt won 1st place in Computer-Aided Machine Embroidery at Houston International Quilt Festival 2009.


And to my breathless delight, the quilt won the $12,000 Gammill Longarm Machine Workmanship award at the American Quilter’s Society Paducah 2010 show. (Note: I quilt on a table-set longarm machine, not a frame system. I move the fabric, not the machine. But that year, the categories were divided by the type of machine, instead of whether the machine was moved over the quilt, or the quilt was moved under the machine. The rules have since changed.)

My daughter surprised my Mom by travelling to the award’s ceremony.


To make it even more special, Annie, who is a talented jewelry artist, created matching silver brooches for Mom and me.


The flower echoes the shape of some of the free-standing lace embroidered flowers in the quilt, and the flowers I quilted.  The flower center features a small piece of one of the fabrics used in the quilt.

The quilt is now in the permanent collection of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY. The curator of the museum took my photo with the quilt when I was there “visiting” it.

GG at museum

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!


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