Past meets present with Inspired Free-Motion Quilting

I could not be more delighted to take part in the online book tour for Inspired Free-Motion Quilting by Bill Volckening and Amanda Leins. I have been itching to get my hands on this book for a while now because it combines some of my favorite things: antique quilts, free-motion quilting and Mandy.

I met Mandy at International Quilt Market in Houston the year our previous books were published. (Her: Wanderlust Quilts. Me: Modern Style for Girls.) Have you ever had one of those encounters and you just know about someone? Yeah, it was kind of like that. Little did I know that my new friend was an amazingly talented quilter and teacher — but I would soon find out.

And take full advantage of it.

Luckily for me, Mandy was okay with me occasionally picking her brain. I quickly learned that she had a way of breaking down quilting designs that made total sense for me. If I was struggling with something (ahem, feathers), Mandy would send me a sketch with little arrows so I could really see how to move and make the shape. It really helped me visualize how to go from Point A to Point Z and everything in between. Those same illustrations of the quilting designs are throughout this book and I think you’ll find them just as helpful.

Inspired Free-Motion Quilting is like having Mandy right there, along with antique quilt eye candy that serves as the basis for the quilting designs. The anthropology nerd in me totally geeks out over the quilt history included throughout the book. The wool whole-cloth quilts, in particular, really spoke to me. I’ve always thought of quilts as being rectangles or squares, so seeing T-shaped quilts covered in a variety of quilting designs sparked some interesting ideas I may need to explore (my half-canopy iron bed with footboard would benefit from a T-shape).

But first, I will be adapting some of the quilting motifs to some of the tops in my queue. My eye was immediately drawn to the Swag (pg. 64), as well as the Pomegranate (pg. 74). I think both would be great in borders — an area of my quilts where I’d like to add a little more oomph. Normally, I warm up a little more before I try tackling designs but I was so excited, my hands started moving and the next thing I knew, I had a little Swag going on!

I’ve been working on a quilt project since late summer (a Jen Kingwell Spindrift quilt made with Tula Pink’s De La Luna fabrics) and I can already see that some of the FMQ designs from the book can be adapted for those blocks. And now I’m kind of itching to try a whole-cloth piece (maybe with that Dream Big panel I keep petting).

Are you ready to be inspired, too? I’m excited to be giving away an e-book to one lucky winner! Just comment on this post between now and 5 p.m. EST on Sunday, 1/13/19, with your biggest quilting challenge. I’ll use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner and announce it here that evening. Good luck and happy quilting!

Be sure to check out all the other great stops on the tour with more chances to win (and Mandy’s grand prize at the end) :

Jan. 7
C&T Publishing
Bill Volckening

Jan. 8
Amanda Murphy, Amanda Murphy Design
Kim Lapacek, Persimon Dreams
Stephanie Palmer, The Quilter’s Planner

Jan. 9
Teri Lucas, Terific Creations
Lynn Harris,
Debby Brown, Debby Brown Quilts

Jan. 10
Robin Koehler, Nestlings by Robin
Patty Murphy, Patty Murphy Handmade
Mary Abreu, Confessions of a Craft Addict <-you are here!

Jan. 11
Joanna Marsh, Kustom Kwilts
Amanda Leins, Mandalei Quilts

Disclosure: C&T Publishing is also my publisher. I received an electronic version of this book as part of the online book tour. Opinions are solely my own.

Winter Warmth

Handmade gifts make the holidays extra special for me. There’s just something about creating something to give someone I love that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

I decided to knit hats for three of my family members this Christmas, picking out just the right yarn for each and opting for three entirely different patterns. While I could have made things easier on myself by knitting the same pattern three times over, I knew I wanted to make each hat more personal for each of the recipients.

All three hats are made from Knitted Wit worsted weight yarn (bought at Intown Quilters Fabric & Yarn, of course) in colorways (from left) Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Unicorn Farts and Mt. Rainier National Park.

Great Smoky Mountains is the Photographers Hat, made for my husband. He’s from Tennessee and I thought he would love the yarn. The style of the hat is similar to one he’s had for years.

Unicorn Farts: This might be my favorite of the bunch, and not just because I made it for Miss L. I have already made socks for myself with the Victory Sock version of this yarn, I love it so much. I thought a cable hat would be fun to try and the yarn is just solid enough to show off the cables. The pattern is the Traveling Cable hat and I could not be happier with how it turned out.

Last but not least is the hat I made for my father. The pattern is called Two by Two and it’s just all ribbing. The decreases create a really interesting pattern at the crown. My dad wears a lot of hats (his ball cap collection is unreal) and he loves color so I thought he’d like this yarn. It’s a little bold but it looks great on him and he swears he loves it.

Fun with Paper Piecing

Have you ever seen a quilt pattern and just known you had to make it? That’s how I felt when I saw the Spooky Spider by Flying Parrot Quilts. I couldn’t wait to get sewing!

Lucky for me, my boss wanted one for the shop’s booth at Quiltcon in Pasadena. Of course, it meant cutting, sewing and quilting it in record time, but I was up for the challenge.

We wanted to make a fat quarter fabric bundle to accompany it, so I was determined to make it work — even though the pattern calls for a half yard of fabric for the background.

I used a Debby Kratovil technique, suggested by the boss, which involved tracing all the background pieces onto freezer paper. Then I added the seam allowances and cut out to arrange on the fabric. This made it possible for me to make sure I could get everything I needed out of a fat quarter. It took some time but it was worth it when I made that fat quarter work!

Once everything was cut out, the sewing came together pretty quickly. The finished quilt is only about 18″ square (the pattern includes a link to download a smaller and a larger version).

I used the new Slim ruler by Angela Walters to quilt radiating lines, then connected the lines with some free-motion swags to make a quilted spiderweb. It’s subtle but I love the results.

Adventures in Knitting

I never thought I’d knit. I’ve tried a few times in the past — even in the past year — and it never worked. I’ve described it several times as trying to tie my shoes with chopsticks.

But right before Christmas, it just clicked. I was playing around with some yarn and needles and, suddenly, I was knitting. And I pretty much haven’t stopped since.

A sweet friend passed along some cashmere yarn she’d bought, a set of mini skeins, so I hit up Ravelry for pattern ideas. Rather than go with something safe, I decided to try a more interesting project: the Pepperberry Love cowl. Lots of color changes and knitted in the round.  Definitely the thing for someone who’d just learned to knit!

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It was a little challenging and I learned a lot from making it. I stopped a little short because it was more than tall enough. The yarn is soooo soft and I love the different colors that I used. It definitely goes with everything!

Hitting the Reset Button

Life happens.

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve written here. I had big plans for 2017 — and then life happened. My priorities shifted to something that needed my full and immediate attention, so my plans were shelved.

But it was far from a year without crafting. Even in those times when my heart hurts and it feels like the weight of the world is on me, I am grateful to find respite in creating. Maybe 2017 wasn’t my prolific year of making, but I know that my priorities were in the right place.

And now I’m determined to get back to crafting and writing, and eventually dusting off those shelved plans.

I hope you’ll follow along.

On the Road, QuiltCon Edition

What a week! I was fortunate enough to travel to beautiful Savannah, GA, last week to attend my first-ever QuiltCon. The shop had a booth and I was happy to get a chance to go and share the IQ love with quilters from all over the world.


It was such a great experience and I had a blast seeing friends and meeting new people. The first day was bananas: I think none of us left the booth before 2 and even then it was just to race to the bathroom or cram a sandwich down our throats. My friend Lennye and I spent a little while checking out the booths Friday morning before starting work and I may have picked up a thing or two. Working at a quilt shop, I’m pretty fortunate to be surrounded by gorgeous inspiration on a daily basis but I did manage to find one or two things to bring home.  

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I was fortunate to do some book signings at the Intown Quilters booth (thanks, Sarah!) and the Stash Books booth during the trip. There may have been a little babbling about bag making but I can’t help myself. I’m pretty passionate about this latest book of mine and really love being able to introduce people to the book and the concept behind it.

On the last day of the show, I dragged Sarah over to look at the quilts because I didn’t want to leave without getting a chance to see them. Some I’d seen online but many of the quilts were new to me and I’m so glad I had the chance to check them out.


Tackling the Harrison Shirt

I’m really into my commitment to sewing more of my wardrobe. It’s gotten me excited to try new things and — if course — picking out the perfect fabrics.

One of the items near the top of my list was Cashmerette’s Harrison button-down shirt. I considered a lot of shirt patterns. This won out because of the beautiful seam lines and cut. I knew it was a style that’s flattering on me and could be a great staple.


A muslin was a must so I started with some fabric from my stash that I save for such occasions. The sizing was spot on! No changes necessary. Well, that would not have been the case if I’d made a sleeve. But I didn’t and the sleeve is a hair more snug in the upper arm than I’d like.

After the muslin, I cut into the beautiful Regent Street lawn I’d gotten specifically for this shirt. It’s so pretty and has a great hand. Perfect for a tailored shirt.


I really took my time on this shirt. There was some unsewing and a fair amount of hand sewing (not called for in the pattern — I just preferred it). And there was one really unfortunate curve clipping incident that required re-cutting and sewing the collar and collar stand. Totally worth it.


In spite of all the care in construction, I still managed to mess up the buttonholes: they’re sewn horizontally instead of vertically. It’s a bummer but most people won’t notice. I also placed the bust apex button a little higher than it should be, which makes a wee bit of gaping possible.

Overall, though, I’m in love with this shirt. It’s comfortable and flattering, the kind of shirt I can see wearing regularly. On my next one, I plan to slash and spread the sleeve and alter the sleeve length since I rarely wear long sleeves. I also plan to fiddle with the hem a little since I’m not much for tucked in tops. And now that there’s a sleeveless shirtdress option, I can see making even more of these for my wardrobe.

On the ninth day of Hack-mas …


As a gift to you, I’m sharing a hack a day with “recipes” for using my latest book, Hack that Tote!, to create the projects. Some hacks are super easy; others combine elements from multiple patterns in the book. Hopefully, they’ll inspire you to hack a few totes for your holiday gifts!

The seventh Happy Hack-mas project is …


A weekend travel bag! This is the mack daddy of all bags, made right before my most recent trip to Houston for International Quilt Market. It’s an oversized version of the Tubular Frame Purse (pg. 60), made with Kokka linen/cotton canvas designed by Ellen Luckett Baker with a contrasting bottom of Cuddle Suede by Shannon Fabrics. The Echino strapping is a great contrast, although I really wish I’d bought enough to sew between the contrast and main bag seams, then let the straps hug the bag body. This is what happens when you just wing it. The bag fits under the seat in front of you on a plane. I put oversized patch pockets inside and subdivided them specifically for holding my travel essentials, including my personal sized planner.