Clothing · Sewing · Textiles & Fabric

Pioneer Cosplay

Heritage Day Logo_SB
Logo by Simone

Recently a few of us here were involved in the Heritage Day Celebration, honoring the early pioneers in this valley. It happened last Saturday, on a mildly hot day.  Good day to be wearing all these layers, right?

pioneer dress 2018.jpg

Didn’t Thoreau say something like “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes”?  I think the dress looks like a cross between Mary Poppins and the mother from Little House on the Prairie, an ancient TV show that forever colored our view of what women in the 1850s wore around the farm, and notable for the final show: they blew up all the set houses with dynamite to keep them from the local evil corporate guy.

We hosted a “quilting booth” but instead of that tired old trope of setting out a quilt top so people could mangle it with their stitches, we ran a hexie booth, based on the research I found that quilters at the time were doing English paper piecing.

Quilt of the Mormon Migration_EPP (1)(1).jpg

We had some work to do.  We, meaning, several of us who have attended our quilting group for many years, plus some others we conned into asked to participate.


First, combine four patterns to make a pioneer outfit (seen above). Then start working on the demo goods: hexies.

Pioneer Hexies_1Pioneer Hexies_2

I appliqued them to a tote bag I picked up a couple of years ago at Quilt Market, figuring the “maker” theme was a good fit for hexies.

Pioneer Hexies_0
l to r: Julie, Melissa, me, Laurel, Simone, Lisa. (PS Simone doesn’t really look like this. She likes to pull faces. Her texts always make me laugh.)

Pioneer Hexies_0aPioneer Hexies_0b

We figure we glued up about 500 hexies, total, between this and what Leisa did later on.  It was so good to have these!


It was a team effort: our friend Dennis brought us tables and chairs, and Leisa was the “set decorator,” using quilts from near and far. We arrived at 7:10 a.m. and left at 2:20 p.m., the right amount of time.


We also had some modern hexies there to entice the participants; that is Laurel’s beautiful Modern Millefiore Hexie quilt on the left, with Simone’s hexie pillow (pattern here), and other props.


We had Color-A-Quilt pages for the littlest visitors, as well as create your own quilt block (below).  We had to remind them that it was a visual treat–take a photo with your phone sort of thing–as people kept walking off with my design boards.  That is Julie’s hand you see there, making a mock-up.  She kept these two sections rolling the whole day.


from l to r: Cindy, Julie, Denese, me, Laurel and her husband Ralph, Leisa, Simone

The original crew, plus my husband, Dave (who is taking the photo).  We swapped out two for four others mid-day; we were swamped, so were glad to have them.  Here are some photos from our day:


We were suprised by the number of teens — and teen boys — who sat down and made a three-hexie patch from start to finish.

Pioneer Hexies_3.jpg

Most did not look like this–they sewed them up properly, although sometimes with an interesting twist or two, but we thought this won the prize for “Most Interesting Hexie” of the day.  We had to teach many how to tie knots (about half had no idea how to do that), and we saw that lots of youngsters (and oldsters) liked to be able to sit and sew, a skill not often available to them in other places.


We had a sample quilt set up in a hoop in case anyone wanted to try hand-quilting.  Most were more fascinated by the hexies.  And most wanted to pick through the baskets of cut fabric squares and glue their own shapes, too.


Wee Pioneers


I love sharing our craft with some new quilters!

tiny nine patches

Stats: 3,000 paper hexies purchased
60 needles (only 35 were brought home–don’t know where the rest went)
3 needle-threaders: one from Clover, my friend Laurel, and my husband Dave
2 ten-gallon jugs of water
4,000 cut squares prepped up: fabric donated by Paintbrush Studio and Primitive Gatherings
Project boards that are not dusty: 0
Number of pioneer outfits that will never be used again: 7


Summertime Quilt Fun

Hoffman Tour_1

Our quilt guild organized a tour of Hoffman Fabrics this past Monday. I jumped at the chance to go, as I’d passed up several other opportunities.  I decided that it was summer and it was time for some fun.  So I left the sewing chores behind and drove down to Orange County to meet up with the rest of the ladies.

Hoffman Tour_1a Hoffman Tour_2

We were ushered into a seating area, where a Hoffman employee gave a sneak peak at some of the lines coming out soon.  The one above is a digitally printed fabric, which allows for greater color variation than screen printing, and is done in Pakistan.

Hoffman Tour_3

I love their screen printing, which is done in Japan.

Hoffman Tour_4

They printed all their batik basic colors onto fabric, which someone cut up, interspersing with gray to create this quilt (below):

Hoffman Tour_4a Hoffman Tour_5

I liked a lot of their Christmasy Momento line.

Hoffman Tour_5a

This hedgehog is from the Forest Friends line.  Very cute.

Hoffman Tour_6 chop

We watched a video on how they make their batiks, which all starts with a design being translated into a chop (above).  This is then dipped in wax, applied to the fabric, then overdyed.

Hoffman Tour_8

Sometimes the fabric is dyed first, then stamped, then they remove the dye, as in the case above.

Hoffman Tour_7

I went gaga for their new Me + You line of batiks–so modern looking.  Here’s another view:

Hoffman Tour_7a Hoffman Tour_9 stack

Our group saw a lot of samples; here they are stacked up at the end of the presentation.

Hoffman Tour_10 receiving

Then over to the receiving section, where all these bolts come wrapped in plastic.

Hoffman Tour_10 bagsOne woman said she’d like to sneak out one of these scrap bags, maybe by stuffing it into her bra.

Hoffman Tour_10 more bolts Hoffman Tour_10 new bolts

Wherever you look there is beautiful fabric.

Hoffman Tour_11

I laughed when I saw this: fabric draped over shelves, hiding the mess from the world, like just I’ve done more than once.

Hoffman Tour_12

Lisa and I were on the tour together.  Here we are walking from the loading dock area down to the front of the warehouse.

Hoffman Tour_13

Such beautiful prints!

Hoffman Tour_14

The company’s batik lines got their start by a couple of the sons who were surfers, and who wanted to proudly wear their surf fashion.  The surfboards decorate their offices now.

Hoffman Tour_15

We all could have watched this all day long, but it was time to go.

MCM Bee Block July2105

In other summer fun, I finished my block for my Mid-Century Modern bee-mate Susan, of Patchwork’n’Play.  She chose the Stepping Stone block.  All of the links to the tutorial, plus tips are on our group’s blog, The Mid-Century Modern Bee.

Nightgown Pattern

It was waaaaay past time for a new nightgown, as you can see by the vintage pattern above (the last time I made this was 18 years ago!).

Nightgown yoke

Instead of tucks, I like to add braid.  This is also a vintage braid from my stash, with embroidered edelweiss flowers — a reminder of Austria, where my husband and I went on our honeymoon many years ago.  We’re coming up on twenty-six years of wedded bliss next month.

28090027We had our reception after the honeymoon, at a friend’s home.  If we look tired, we are, as we arrived home the day before from Austria and are majorly jet-lagged.  I still think he is the most handsome man around.  And yes, I did make my wedding dress, although it is not at all like the fashion today–it was made of French laces with entredeaux and ribbons and insertions.  I still have it and love to look at it and think of the girl who made it, so many years ago.

Rosette 3 someone elseAnd then I had another quilty issue that had stumped me for a while: why didn’t I like rosette #3 of the New Hexagon Millefiore Quiltalong? The above photo is someone else’s beautiful rendition, but somehow it just didn’t “work” for me.  I couldn’t figure it out.

Rosette #3I went online and looked at lots and lots of other Rosettes on our Facebook group, and still just didn’t like it.  Then I found this photo:

ImageThese were made by the woman who makes samples for Katja’s shop in Canada, and look what she did with hers (on the right, above).  She simplified those outer blocks.  Bingo.

Rosette 3_1

So in the papers for Rosette #2, I found the shapes, and used them and loved what I saw.  Here’s the first version, above.

Rosette 3_2

Second version, with darker “middles.”  And below, in all its cluttered glory, is the design wall with the full shape.  I’m still not too sure about those far right-hand hexagons, but I’m withholding my judgement on those until I see how they fit with the rosette next to it. . . which is still a long way off.

Rosette 3_3I’ll work on getting these stitched together over the next few weeks.  Katja will be releasing Rosette # 8 in about a week.  That means that, wow, I’m only five behind!


Our Four-in-Art Challenge Reveal is coming up also in a week, and I’m not at all behind on this one.  I also have another tutorial for Circles Block #14 coming up as well.  So even though summer is a relaxing time, the quilting calls my name and brings an order to my life and to my days.  I feel fortunate to have some “summer” time with cloth and thread and design and stitching–hope you feel the same!


Sewing Sewing Sewing Along

Peter's Pumpkin 2014

To get you back in the mood for this post, here’s my son’s pumpkin.  Did I tell you he has a great sense of humor and can write computer code that drives websites?


First up is Keagan, the Egyptian Princess.  I visited my daughter’s home in October and went right to work.  We had to double-line that white sheath because, well, it was white.  Keagan and I talked over costumes, looking some up on Pinterest before she went to school and then I headed to JoAnn’s.  I hate paying a billion dollars for patterns, so picked up one of the $2.99 Quick and Easy patterns that looked like it might work, and added on enough at the bottom to be long enough.  I used the bodice of the dress to fashion a collar out of paper and tried it on her.  Keagan had a few suggestions and I trimmed it to her specifications.


The drapey thing was pinned on in the back with a safety pin, then wrapped around some rubber bands.  Her mother and dad fashioned some gold bands for her (one solution is to cut a Pringle’s can into sections, then spray-paint gold) which she slipped over to hide the hair bands.  She also had some on her upper arms to complete the look.


Maddy wanted to be Elsa.  She had VERY detailed instructions, and since she was recovering from a tonsillectomy I had her at my disposal for measuring.  The dress had to had see-through sleeves and silver at the top of the bodice, and Maddy was very specific about the drapey overcoat thing, wanting it to flow from her shoulders, but since I only had one day to get both costumes done, I went with a “coat-type” construction, made out of organza so it would have some body.


We cut out a giant silver snowflake by tracing it onto the paper side of fusible web, adhering it to the silver lame.  We cut out the lame, peeled off the paper and fused it on.  Because the lame and the organza are kind of “open” this process left a residue of stickiness.  I told my daughter she’d better wash her ironing board cover so it wouldn’t stick to anything she ironed after that.


I’m told both costumes were a hit.

Halloween 2014

Here they are with their brother who was a Mad Scientist-Zombie Guy.  Maddy is not wearing a crown (it’s a bush behind her).  Sure looks like a crown, though.


I was also able to get ahold of the pouch I made for Barbara and check it out, fully loaded.


BarbarasTote_3She says it works great.  I’m so glad I can sew! Thanks, Mom!


Free Pattern for Shopping Bags

As the Governor of California recently signed a bill banning those single-use shopping bags that we all get at the grocery stores, we’ve all been buzzing about what to replace it with.  There is still the paper bag, but a section of the bill suggests paying 10-cents for each shopping bag (even though Ralph’s and Trader Joe’s now offer them for free).  Whether you hate this bill or love it, a shopper still needs to come up with a way to carry their groceries home.


I made my first bags out of lightweight canvas, and figured out how to get two out of one yard of fabric. Because these are canvas, I didn’t need to put the handles all the way to the bottom seam.  However, if you are making it out of lightweight cotton, you might consider doubling up on that to make it sturdier, or yes, buying some webbing for your handles.

Whenever I use these, I get positive comments from the checkers. . . and a whole slew of awful stories about those re-usable plastic bags that some people have.  One clerk told me that he unzipped one and a whole bunch of moths flew out into the store.  Another talked about the smell of those bags that are re-used and re-used.  I think we quilters have the best possible world with our cloth bags, which can be thrown in the washer.  Apparently bags at the produce counter and at the butcher’s counter are still okay, so I don’t have to worry about those grocery items messing up the cloth bags.

Shopping Bag Pattern

I’ve written it up in a downloadable PDF pattern that is free: OPQuilt’s Shopping Bag Pattern.

Just send back some good karma, if you wouldn’t mind, and always practice good attribution, acknowledging that it’s from  To do so, please do not post the pattern on your blog, nor print off five copies for your friends.  Instead link back here, and let them print off their own.  Thanks.


Iron Woman Improv: My Version of a Weekender Bag

Weekender Side A

Ever heard of Iron Woman Improv?  Well, anyone can throw together a bunch of scraps and make it end up sort of squarish-like, but this past week I’ve improv-ed a travel bag for some upcoming travels.  Above is the backside.

Weekender Side B

This is the side with the long big pocket across the front.  The problem with improv-ing is that you don’t know quite where you’re going, which some find liberating and free, which reminds me of the story of The Dot and The Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, which you should read, if you haven’t.  Basically it involves a romantic triangle with the Dot originally falling for a Squiggle, who could sprawl into random sort of positions and places, pulling her heart into anarchy, but no worries!

The Dot and The Line

The initially uptight straight line figures out how to make a bend. . . and then another and another until he has made complex (and even erudite) shapes, wooing that Dot back into his shapely arms.  But I digress.  (But do get the book for this next Valentine’s Day for someone you love. It’s a classic.)  Basically my challenge was how to get from these photos:

Various Weekenders Women Holding Weekenders Screen Shot of Weekenders Sewn

. . .  and this sketch. . .

Sketch for Weekender

. . . to this. . .

Weekender Side C

Weekender Side D

. . . and using a limited supply of my typewriter fabric.  Weekender Bags are all over the web, ranging from about 60 bucks way up to 500 bucks and more.  And certainly I read enough posts of people making Amy Butler’s version of a quilty weekender to know that you really haven’t earned your Quilter Stars until you’ve conquered her pattern.  And that’s where things get interesting. . . because I had NO pattern.  Nothing.  Not from Amy Butler or McCalls or Vogue.  Like I said, I had a sketch.  And this:

Baggage. . . which is the NEW! IMPROVED! (smaller) dimensions of what is considered a carryon.  I have wanted to make this bag for ages, needing a place for my iPad, my camera, my water bottle (carried empty through security, then filled afterwards), my junk and my stuff.  I’ve sketched something like this fifteen ways to Sunday and only now, got around to making it.

Zipper Top Weekender

I also needed it to have those little blue webbing handles that you see there, because I’ve learned that if I can hook it to my rolling bag (yes, we had to buy a  NEW! IMPROVED! (smaller) one for our trips) and get the weight of this second bag –er, personal item– over the wheels, it’s easier on my shoulders and on my arms and wrist.

Zipper Side Weekender

I’d purchased a couple of long zippers in different colors when I was in New York City last time, so I figured what would go with the fabric and pressed it into service.  And even though one of the cities we’re heading to looks like this:

Checking Weather

I didn’t use my Amy Butler laminated fabric, opting instead for my typewriter fabric.

Weekender Pattern Pieces

I first drew up the pattern.  I started with a rectangle of the dimensions from the airline, which is basically a backpack turned on its side.  I noticed that many of the Weekender bags, both Amy’s and all the eight billion other ones I looked at became narrower at the top.  I didn’t take off too much as I wanted the ROOM to carry my stuff.  I was going to go full out for the width dimension, but then thought I would look like I was carrying a fabric-covered brick of cheese or something and it wouldn’t look that good.  And I noticed that many had a wider base moving to a narrower piece across the top, where the zipper lives.  I did that too.  I laid over more pattern drafting paper (which is doctor’s tissue that you can buy in Medical Supply Houses) and traced some side pockets.

First Inside Pocket for Weekender Bag

I LOVE pockets.  So the first step was to cut the fabric way bigger than I needed and then sandwich the Annie’s Soft and Stable in between two fabrics and quilt it.  I had seen all the quilters talk about the expense and the headache of broken needles and the hassle of cutting out eighty-five thousand pieces, and decided I would go this direction.  So, above, you see the quilted purse piece with the handles stitched on, a pocket bound in another fabric for cuteness and stitched on and the first sewing of the cording around the outside edge (you can only see the stitching).

Unschool Plus had a pretty good write-up about her making the Butler Weekender Bag, with lots of helpful links from other bloggers.  I used one of those to make my corded piping by using a narrow strip of fusible web, instead of sewing it together, thereby eliminating another stitching line you have to disguise at the end, because let’s face it, NOBODY is fabulous at inserting cording.

I sewed in this in segments:
Segment One: Quilt and cut out the bag pieces.
Segment Two: Make the pockets and attach (I’ll talk about the other one in a minute.)
Segment Three: Sew handles.  Again, a guess.  I got out my last two travel bags and measured and took the average.  I wanted enough so that I could carry it over my shoulder and then so it wouldn’t drag the ground if I grabbed it and carried it by the handles.
Segment Four: Figure out zipper.  In fact most of the steps start with “Figure out. . .”  I spent a good amount of time sewing this, and an equally good amount of time walking away from it when I wanted to stomp on it and throw it off the roof of the house.

Zipper Trim on Travel Bag

I liked how I’d assembled the zipper in my Bostonian Bag, so found some of scraps of that fabric and did it here.  It’s basically a strip of fabric cut wide, folded in half, then the raw edges folded in.  Above is the first step, sewing the strip down.

Completed Zipper Trim on Weekender

And then topstitched down the other edge.  At this point I was freaking out because the thread in the bobbin kept pulling out from the bobbin tension spring.  ACK! ACK!  I painstakingly would thread it back in, again and again and again, thinking that my bobbin case was damaged somehow.  So there are little bobbles here and there unfortunately, but I don’t think the flight attendants will be grading my construction so I think I’m okay.  I finally just decided to tighten up the bobbin screw and that worked until I finished.  (And then I took my machine in for a tune-up at the sewing machine spa.)

I made the other pocket, the one with gathers, and sewed that on (you can see it better in a later photo and I’ll talk about it then), then made the cording, as mentioned above and stitched that, being careful to clip the piping so it would go smoothly around the corner.

Cording on Weekender Bag

Look ma!  No pins!  You don’t need any–just proceed slowly. Move your needle as far as it will go to snuggle up against that ridge of the cording.  My needle never broke because basically  you are sewing with a giant spear of a needle, if you’ve switched (as so many recommended) over to a size 16.

Clipped Corners on Weekender Bag

Color Plastic Clips

I bought my quilty clips in the children’s stationary section of our local Asian-foods grocery store, so that’s why they are all different colors (about $2.50 for a package). So many sewers/sewists/pick your word testified that the quilty clips were the only way to go.  I agree.

Clamped Seam Weekender Bag

The band around the middle that contains the zipper is now fully clipped to the first bag piece.  It’s at this point that I think I might actually make it.  Thanks to all the Instagrammers who cheered me on.  And on.  I sewed that seam using a size 16 needle (advice from the Experienced Weekenders), and I was so aware that I didn’t have an industrial machine which would have made the job so much easier.  The only thing to do, then, is to forgive yourself your mistakes and keep going.

Inside Pocket and Clamped Weekender Bag

Side Two, clipped and ready to be sewn.  This pocket is a long rectangle, about 5 inches longer that the desired space.  I backed it in that fabulous Backyard Baby fabric, sewing around all four edges, but leaving a space about 1″ unsewn on two of the shorter edges, near the same long edge.  I turned it, pressed the corners out, then stitched a double line of stitching on either side of those little gaps, making a ruffle at the top, and a placket for elastic.  I threaded some elastic through, stitched it on one end to hold it, then pinned the pocket in place, pinning in random pleats on the bottom to take up the fullness.  I started sewing on the right side of the pocket, backstitching to hold the top in place, down the side, halfway across the bottom (going over the pleats), then up the middle to create two pockets.

Just before hitting the placket with the elastic, I gently pulled it take up the fullness, but not letting the purse side buckle.  I stitched over that, turned the piece, and re-stitched over that center dividing line, then across the bottom, then back up the last side.  Just before reaching the elastic in the placket, I repeated the pulling gently to adjust the elastic to fit.  I pinned it about an inch inside the sewing line, clipped off the extra elastic, then let it retract slightly back inside to hide it.  I finished stitching over that.

(I think I’m writing all this down so I won’t forget what I did just in case I lose my marbles and decide to do another one.  Just in case.)

Inside Pocket A Weekender

I finished stitching that second round of stitching-the-purse-side-to-the-zipper-band-piece, then turned it to find those places that needed a bit more stitching or a bit closer stitching, and did that.

Inside Weekender Bag

Binding Seams Weekender Bag

I cut a companion fabric into bias strips 2″ wide, folded them like bias tape, and topstitched them over the slightly trimmed inner seams.  I won’t let you see that, because again, my home sewing machine is no match for the industrial binding machines used in factories.  But it looks fine, and is sturdy.

Oops on Weekender Bag

I had an oops, and covered it with the selvage from Backyard Baby.  I would try to explain it, but then you’d really develop a migraine and swear off bag-making forever.  Let’s just say that even though I have a degree in Clothing and Textiles and have sewn sewn sewn for nearly forty-five years, I can still make big enough mistakes that need a fix like this.  The trick is to forgive yourself for the imperfections and move on.

Bottom of Weekender

And that’s it.  I’ve gone through security and traveled enough that I know what I need in a travel bag.  I need it to be sized appropriately, have a zipper pocket that I can access quickly on the outside to throw my phone in while I go get X-rayed and the bag gets X-rayed, long enough handles to slip over my shoulder and a way to attach it to my bag so when I make long connections it can be carried on my roller bag.  And can it please look good and not cost a bunch?  While I don’t plane-travel all that much, I think that this bag will also work for short hops in the car when I drive to see the grandchildren, too.

So, now I do I qualify for Iron Woman Quilting Improv?  My travel weekender-type bag was made from start to finish in one week, with lots of help from all you wonderful blogging quilters, who laid down a trail for me to follow.

May the typewriter be with you.


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Don’t Put Up My Thread and Needle

Don’t put up my Thread and Needle (617)
by Emily Dickinson

Don’t put up my Thread and Needle—
I’ll begin to Sew
When the Birds begin to whistle—
Better Stitches—so—

These were bent—my sight got crooked—
When my mind—is plain
I’ll do seams—a Queen’s endeavor
Would not blush to own—

Hems—too fine for Lady’s tracing
To the sightless Knot—
Tucks—of dainty interspersion—
Like a dotted Dot—

Leave my Needle in the furrow—
Where I put it down—
I can make the zigzag stitches
Straight—when I am strong—

Till then—dreaming I am sewing
Fetch the seam I missed—
Closer—so I—at my sleeping—
Still surmise I stitch—