Creative Pileup

I love it when a plan comes together.  Wait.  That’s not exactly what I mean.  More like I love it when bits and pieces of things that I have learned and experienced come together.  And something awesome happens.

So, here are the ingredients.  1)  A pillow swap challenge for the West Atlanta Modern Quilt Guild.  2)  Osnaberg fabric.  3)  Casey York’s lecture on the influence of art on quilting at QuiltCon.  4)  My incessant desire to never throw away any fiber, resulting in a horde of teeny tiny fabric scraps.  5)  Jackson Pollock.  6)  A class I took about 7 years ago from Joyce Becker on landscape quilts.  7)  A scarf I saw Peggy Barkle wear once.  8)  A small pack of fabric in my SWAG bag from QuiltCon 2015.  9)  A quilt I made several years ago that people either make fun of or love.  10)  My obsession to perfect this improvisational applique technique.

And here is the result.


Creative Pileup

And here’s the how-to:


Background fabric, backing fabric, and batting- all cut about 2″ larger than intended final size.  Scraps- particularly small or thin ones.  Thread- lots, but it doesn’t matter if the thread doesn’t match.  Good time to use up spools.  Spray baste.  Water soluble stabilizer.  Sewing machine and all the usual accoutrements.  (Thank you spell check for helping me use big words.)

1.  Gather your supplies.  I like using Osnaberg fabric for my background and backing.  Also, this stabilizer is from Baby Lock.  2.  Layer background, batting, and backing fabrics.  3.  Sew baste quilt the layers together in relatively straight horizontal lines.

4.  Coat the background with spray baste.  I do this inside of a large garbage bag, closing the ends so it doesn’t get on everything around it.  Be careful not to allow the bag to adhere to the fabric!  5.  Randomly stick bits of tiny scraps, including threads, to the background.  I say random, but in this case I avoided dark pieces, and I laid them in a more vertical fashion because I knew I was going to quilt over it horizontally.  6.  Repeat number 4, coating the top of the scraps.

7.  Cut pieces of water soluble stabilizer to size to cover the project.  8.  Pin if needed, but keep in mind this baby is about to be quilted to death, then quilt heavily through all of the layers, but not to the point where it is finished.  9.  Arrange more fabric scraps to the top.  I wasn’t satisfied with this one.

10.  Arrange again, until pleased.  11.  Baste pieces in place with either pins, a glue stick, or even thread.  Keep in mind they are going to be quilted.  12.  Finish quilting the heck out of it, and in the process stitching down the remaining bits.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

13.  Wash it.  I actually put it in my shower and hosed it down first, then ran it in my clothes washer.  The stabilizer dissolved beautifully.  The pieces shredded beautifully.  The whole thing shrunk beautifully.  I was so excited I took it out of the dryer too early and had to let it dry in my studio.

14.  Square up and finish as desired- in this case as a pillow cover.  My label follows suit with the front and is just a bit of canvas free appliqued on the back.

15.  I prefer to bind pillow covers for two reasons.  One, it looks like piping around the edges, and that’s nice.  Two, it gives it the opportunity of two lives- a pillow cover or a mini.  While breaking most quilting rules is totally okay with me, binding is a rule I really don’t like to break.  I don’t do it to show standards, but I am a little picky about it.  The first pic shows an atrocious corner.  Totally unacceptable.  The only way to fix it was to cut it off and start over.  So I did.  My sweet husband brought me pizza to ease the pain.  Well, hunger pains, but it’s all the same.  See that last corner?  Much improved, and totally worth it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And that’s it.  Hope that @legs_benedict enjoys having it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Would you like to come to the studio and make one of these with me?  I’m thinking sometime in May…

If you build it…

I am so very grateful for my life.  It feels like I say that a lot, and I’d love to be more eloquent and be able to convey the feeling that rises up in the very center of me- so twisted up in sinews and soul that I can’t tell where the heat and energy have originated from.  Gratitude.  Such a heavy word with wings.

Why did my husband and I build a studio?

A couple of years ago I had a moment.  I had been working at a quilt shop for several years, and one day while at work I was standing talking with the owner of the shop.  While we were talking the words “It’s time for you to go” came to my mind clearly- like an announcement on a loud speaker in the middle of a mall.  It caught me off guard so hard that I was distracted, even somewhat disturbed.  Why?  Why was it time for me to go?  I wrestled with the question for a couple of months before I whispered a word of it to anyone other than in prayer.  I thought I knew the answer.  I thought it was to help my husband in his expanding business.  It was a logical explanation, and wouldn’t a prompt like that be followed up with a logical explanation?  I put in my 30 day notice at the shop, but still couldn’t actually let go.  Maybe just fewer hours and more balance.  Thirty days turned into several months.  Maybe I didn’t really have to go.  A relationship that was over, but I didn’t, couldn’t let go of it.  After all, I wasn’t working at my husband’s business at all, so certainly I had been wrong.  Maybe the whole thing was just in my head.  The year wore on, and then suddenly on a very sharp day in August, it became clear that it was no longer working for the shop or for me to continue there.  Such mixed feelings.  Including a loss of direction.  The kids were all leaving home, one by one.  My life had been such a rapid cyclone of change over the last several years that I hardly noticed the winds anymore, and it felt like it was all suddenly slowing down and I didn’t know what to do.  A year of ideas, awakenings, peace, joy, and never-ending change came and went.  But still no solid direction.  Just a stirring that I needed to do something.  To borrow an idea from the movie Phenomenon, I felt like a pregnant woman who couldn’t deliver.  My husband began plans for renovations at his auto repair shop, and as he looked over the building asked the question- “Why don’t we build a studio for you?”  No self-respecting maker could possibly look that opportunity in the face and say “I’ll pass.”

And so it began.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sounds like a dream come true, right?  But if it was a dream come true, why didn’t I remember having the dream?  It’s one thing to feel like that you are meant to be a part of something, but what if you can’t define what that part is, or even what the something is?  Ideas had come and gone.  Some really good ones, some not so good ones. Now I had this very real thing happening right in front of me.  Tangible.  Concrete.  Wood.  Dry wall.  Paint.  And still not quite sure what to say when someone said “So, tell me about the studio you’re building!”  They were full of excitement and intrigue.  I was full of horror and pin pricks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It takes a while for a room like this to be built.  Building codes.  Circuits.  Tables.  Flooring.  Paint color.  Chairs.  Cabinets.  Ironing surfaces.  One thing at a time.  Agonizingly slow.  Not the building.  Just my understanding of what I was actually supposed to be doing with this.  I married this man that believed in me so much that he was willing to make an actual investment in my own unknown.  Not just in word, but in deed.  Probably one of the most terrifying facts of my entire life.  And that is saying something.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As the weeks anticipating opening the studio were bearing down on me, I still didn’t really know how to answer the questions.  How to explain what I was doing, or even why.  It came together so slowly- one little bit one day, then another bit the next day.  Never all at once, and certainly never complete.  Like a 3,000 piece puzzle in shades of blue with no picture on the box.  Even with events advertised and on the calendar, I still didn’t know what I was doing.  The final plan for how the studio would actually work didn’t come into place until a week before opening night.  And I still didn’t know why.  Why was it time for me to go?  Why did he believe in me so very much?  Why was this happening?

Then this happened.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Opening night.  People actually came.  And laughed.  And smiled.  And connected.  And got inspired.  And really excited.  They brought flowers and cookies and chocolate.  They traveled really far.  They stayed late.  They were happy.  And at the end of the night, I finally knew why.

For you.  So you would come.

Out on a F.A.R.T.

You heard me.  A Fabric Acquisition Road Trip.  A FART.

Sometimes A lot of times I feel like a spoiled brat quilter.  This last week was one of those times.  I got to go to Gatlinburg, TN with a couple of friends with the sole purpose of fabric shopping and condo quilting.  The trip wasn’t without a dose of guilt.  The friend that originated the idea and plan wasn’t able to go at the last minute.  My husband was home still recovering from being sick the week before.  I just went to QuiltCon the week before that.  The studio was waiting for me to fill it with creative goodness.  A friend had to teach my early morning seminary class for me. For four days.

All so I could go out on a FART.

FYI & BTW- it was a lot of fun.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures, which is unusual for me.  Perhaps a subconscious manifestation of quilt guilt.

Anyway, we did visit quite a few shops while we were there.  We generally followed the East Tennessee Shop Hop list, and visited 9 of the 12 shops listed on their flyer.  The dates for the shop hop are June 4 – 14, 2015, and you can click here to go to their Facebook page.  I enjoyed all of the shops that we visited, but there were 4 shops that stood out to me enough to justify a whole post dedicated to them.  If I didn’t learn anything else from this little FART, I learned never to judge a quilt shop by it’s exterior.

Gina’s Bernina Sewing Center


This was by far my favorite of the shops that we went to during our road trip.  And honestly, I was shocked.  When we drove up to the property, I was expecting a sewing machine shop more than a fabric shop.  You know what I mean- mostly machines with just enough fabric to support demonstrating said machines, particularly with machine embroidery.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a monogram as much as the next southern girl, but when I’m out on a FART, machines just don’t do   it for me.  I want fabric.  I want color.  I want inspiration.  Well.  Let me tell you, this place delivered.  They have an amazing balance of traditional and modern. Everything from batiks to Tula, from Kaffe to HR.  A little machine embroidery.  A little smocking.  Quilting cottons.  Kids knits.  Seersucker.  Corduroy.  Batiste.  A little bit of everything.  Even fabric with little piles of dog pooh on it, some of which I totally bought.  All I can say is “I’ll be back.”

10816 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37934 ~ 865-966-5941 ~

Machine Quiltin’ By Iva


This was the very first shop we stopped in, and one of only two shops that we visited twice.  It appears unassuming, and maybe even small from the outside.  But once inside I found treasures in just about every corner. This place was packed tight full of fabric, and while it definitely had a more traditional feel to it, it had a surprising smattering of modern designers thrown in here and there.  Also, if you’re a Moda collector, this place is a little bit of heaven with both current and out of print lines tucked in here and there.  I had difficulty deciding, and while I made off with a bag of goodies, I also had to exercise some self control and leave some behind for the next poor fool to walk in those doors.

1020 Old Knoxville Hwy, Sevierville, TN 37862 ~ 865-428-8008 ~ No website, but click here for Luann’s Loose Threads blog- she wrote about this shop in 2011 and took lots of interior photos.  Some of it looks the same, some of it not, but still a good representation.

The Cherry Pit


I have been hearing about this shop for so many years it’s just straight up ridiculous.  People love this place, and I have to say, I do too now.  It does, as one might  guess, have a pretty heavy bias towards traditional quilting, but I have to give props  to these ladies for being open to innovation.  I got the feeling that if I walked in the  store with a Luke Haynes style portrait quilt, or a Denyse Schmidt improv, they  would have fallen over with glorious revelry in the smartness of it.  And the staff  couldn’t have been better.  Accommodating, but knew when to butt out and let me  work through my own process of choosing fabric.  And witty.  And funny.  I love a  funny quilter.  They are twice as smart as everyone else, if you ask me.  However, I  have to say that my dear strictly modern friends would have a hard time at this  shop- I literally couldn’t find a single bolt of solid fabric.  It was kind of odd, but gave  me a challenge for the project I was shopping for.  And I actually really like a  challenge.
115 Bruce Street, Sevierville, TN 37862 ~ 865-453-4062 ~

Pappy’s Quilting Place


Don’t judge an LQS by it’s exterior.  Or it’s name.  Or that it is located in an old gas station.  I think the funniest thing about this shop was that there was a sweet man working there- cutting fabric and running the register.  Pappy, right?  I’m not sure.  I heard him say his sister was the owner.  So is she Pappy?  Or maybe she inherited it from Pappy?  It’s still a mystery because I was too busy shopping to ask.  This shop was definitely the most traditional of the four that I am talking about in this post, but I have to tell you that for this crossover quilter, it was totally worth the drive.  If for no other reason than to try to figure out who exactly Pappy is…

3426 Sevierville Road, Maryville, TN  37804 ~ 865-980-0950 ~

What a fun quilt guilt trip.  Wonder when I can go again…

Tutorial: iPhone/iPad Stand

angela jean:

Brilliant idea! Thanks Michelle for such a great tutorial. It’s on my list…

Originally posted on Factotum of Arts:

As promised here is the Tutorial to make a iPhone/iPad (or other electronic device) stand I posted last week.

iPhone Stand


  • Fabric 12″ x 9″
  • Cotton
  • 2-3 cups of rice
  • Pellon Ultra Firm 1 1/4″ x 5 3/4″
  • Polyester Fill
  1. Start with a piece of fabric that is 12″ x 9″. Fold in 1/2 and press.Tutorial_Size
  2. Sew a 1/4 inch seam at the top, with a 1 – 1 1/2 ” gap, and the side of the folded fabric (refer to black lines).
  3. Fold the fabric so that the side seam is now in the middle at the back. The top will form triangles. I press the seam open for a flat appearance later.Sew along the bottom to form a 1/4 inch seam leaving a 1 – 11/2 inch gap (refer to black lines).
  4. Through one of the holes, feed the fabric through to invert fabric to show right side…

View original 342 more words

What I learned at QuiltCon 2015- Austin, TX


 1.  Austin always smells.  Good like food.  Or bad like skunk.


[American Context #68] Double Elvis by Luke Haynes

2.  You don’t have to get it to like it, and you don’t have to like it to get it.


Self-Portrait, Year Two (Beneath the Surface) by Penny Gold

3.  It’s okay to be uncomfortable.


4.  There are an awful lot of pros to traveling alone.  And some cons too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

5.  When stopping to trade pins or chat for a moment, it is a good idea to find out to whom exactly you are speaking.

Nancy Zieman.  That's all I can say.

Nancy Zieman. That’s all I can say.

6.  I need a set of about 5 or 6 really good questions because “You are amazing” is stupid and a waste of an opportunity.

[The American Context #16] Christina's World by Luke Haynes

[The American Context #16] Christina’s World by Luke Haynes

7.  Documenting credits for each piece of work photographed is essential.  Especially when sharing with others.


8.  Defining modern quilters/quilting is still controversial and subjective.


9.  Next time, get the one with the quilt block on it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

10.  Some things just have to be experienced in person.

Dadgum Bag(s)

I have a tendency to prattle on, and this post might be one of those.  I don’t mind if you skip to the pictures.


Two quick facts about me.  One- I have never really loved making any kind of bag.  I get a wild hair from time to time and make one- only to remember why I don’t make bags.  Two- I try really hard not to cuss.  It is a point of self discipline to me, for several reasons that we can explore on another day.  My friends know this about me, and they think it is funny when I get aggitated and use words like “dadgum”.  Which I use a lot when I am making bags.

With this in mind, it makes total sense that I agreed to lead a sew-in for different types of zipper pouches for the Plantaion Quilter’s guild, right?  There was a call for zipper pouches to fill with toiletries for a local women’s shelter, and of course, I had the brilliant idea that we should get together to make them.  I was taught not to make suggestions unless you are prepared to lead the way, so I didn’t have much choice.  I also wanted hours for my #520in2015 project, so I practiced some bags and packed up my stuff to go sew with the girls.

IMG_8863In my research, I found a handful of tutorials online that I really liked for making zipper pouches, and I was surprised that with a little practice, they were totally doable.  In fact, I learned enough in my practice run that when the girls chose a pattern that I hadn’t actually made yet, I was able to lead it with only a couple of hiccups.

So, here’s a short list of links for zipper pouches, most of which are already pretty prevelant on the Internet.  I learned something from each tutorial, sometimes by doing it wrong the first time.  I learned which way I like best to box the corners, and when it is best to have hidden seams on the inside of the bag.  Of course it isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start.

Open Wide Zippered Pouch by Noodlehead
Fully Lined Zippered Box Pouch by It’s a Pretty Modern Life
Boxy Bag Tutorial by Kelbysews
Let’s Make Dumplings! by Michelle Patterns

With this success, I quickly moved forward, confident in my newfound bag-making skills.  With QuiltCon on the horizon, along with apparent social expectation to swap and wear button pins, I thought perhaps I could make a crossbody  sling bag to sport said pins.  I found what looked like the perfect pattern- simple, not even a zipper in sight.  It was a free download, something I could easily share with my friends.  I even waited until the day before I was to leave for QuiltCon 2015 to make it, because surely with all of my skills it would be a quick and easy project.

Ahem.  It was neither quick nor easy, and I am contemplating returning to my “I don’t do bags” state of mind.  In fact, it was such a bad experience that I am not going to share the link with you.  Not that it would matter, the only part of the pattern I ended up being able to use was the actual paper pattern for the shape of the bag.  I would share the gory details, but I don’t want to waste time or energy on complaining about a free bag pattern, no matter how reputable the designer or the publication.

I did finally end up with an acceptable sling bag, and I actually love it. As long as I don’t think about my ripped off thumb nail while trying to turn it right side out through the 2″x 20″ handle, or how many ways I had to modify the directions, or that I wasted a yard of fabric and interfacing, or… oh, nevermind.  The point is that in the end, it is mostly the bag I wanted.  I love the Echino fabric it is made of, and so glad that Intown Quilters has a pretty awesome collection of it to choose from.  I would have liked to buy it all.  But not to make bags.


So, if you see me and my bag at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin, TX, please stop me and say something nice about my bag. Maybe even help me come up with a better name than Dadgum Bag.  I need the positive reinforcement.

Quickie Infinity Scarf

quick*ie /’kwike/ adjective 1. done or made quickly


This obsession started several months ago when Ellen Luckett Baker of The Long Thread brought samples of her new line of fabrics to the West Atlanta Modern Quilt Guild meeting.  Charms is her latest offering via Kokka, and some of the prints are available in double gauze- an amazing lightweight, soft fabric.  Yummy.  As soon as I touched it visions of billowing curtains and flowing skirts started to fill my head.  It was not to be.  Kokka is an amazing fabric, but quite honestly, is a little pricey.  It’s perfect for an infinity scarf, but the often suggested 2 yards put this project out of budget.  So, I stood in front of the Kokka fabrics at Intown Quilters and plotted and planned.  This was the result…

 Quickie Infinity Scarf

(2) 1/2 yard cuts of Charms double gauze


Use 1/4″ seam allowance throughout pattern.

Cutting-  Trim off selvedges.  Rotary cut both pieces to 16 1/2″ x 30″.  (You can improvise here on the 30″- if you want it a little tighter, make it less, if you want it a little looser, make it more.  You should have up to about 40″ to work with.)


With right sides together, sew the two pieces together on one short side.


 Again, with right sides together, sew the length of the scarf together, making a long tube.


Turn the tube right side out, as shown above.


With right sides together, pin one side of the tube to the other side of the tube as shown.  Only pin about half of the tube.


Stitch the layers of the tube together, turning the tube as you go.


When it gets to the point that you can’t stitch anymore, backstitch and stop.


The hole in the seam of the scarf should look like the photo above.


Hand stitch the hole closed.