Monday, December 21, 2015

Log Cabin Hearts Quilt

Don’t you just love babies!  The way that each time one arrives there is an opportunity to make a new quilt!  (What?  there are other reasons for loving babies?  Oh, of course, that’s what I meant.)

A precious new little lass in my circle of friends meant I could indulge the girlie side and use some of the pretty pinks and yellows in my collection.  I chose a pattern by Evelyn Sloppy from her book Log Cabin Fever.   The design centres around this sweet little heart block:

I don’t usually follow any pattern exactly, but this one seemed perfect the way it was, even down to the colours shown.  I did rotate my heart blocks so that they all pointed to the centre of the quilt, and I used coloured centre squares for the half blocks around the edge, but otherwise the quilt is just like the one in the book. 

My stash of pastel scraps is (slightly) smaller, and the quilt is on its way to its new home.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Another UFO hits the dust!

I came across a stack of Uneven Log Cabin blocks the other day.  They had been prepared as the demo project/sample for a class, and there they sat as yet another UFO. When a project gets to this stage I often find that the satisfaction obtained by completing it can’t compare with the excitement of starting something new instead.  After all, the adventure is over – I know exactly what this one is going to look like.   So I was very tempted to shove that basket of blocks back out of sight and to tell myself that I would get to it some other time.

But my gaze fell on the wall-hanging that lives above my sewing machine for just such an occasion as this.

if not now

Unable to come up with any reason why “now” was not a good time, and not being able to pinpoint a future point in time which WOULD be a good time, I sighed and undertook the task of laying out and assembling the blocks into a quilt top.

Of course, the job really didn’t take very long!  I did hit a snag trying to decide on borders, but I came up with a solution and soon had a completed top.  I pushed on before I could succumb to the urge to rationalize that once the top was completed it could be tucked away until that hypothetical “right time” might appear.  I found a suitable backing fabric, pieced some batting to the correct size, and soon the quilting was done as well.

Binding was made and applied and will soon be stitched neatly to the back of the quilt. 

A finished project! where once I had only a UFO and some good intentions.  And I’m probably a double winner as regards the UFO count – this one is finished, and working on it prevented me from using that time to start another!

plaid log cabin 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Button tree

A few weeks ago I was working with Christmas fabric and made a scrappy tree block.  It has become a little banner to display special buttons.  Some of these buttons are hand-made and others are quite old. 

Scrappy tree

I don’t know if I like that black one with the lace behind it – I may move that one.  And I see that there is room for more decorations on this tree – perhaps a few beads?  Or some glittery chains?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Vintage Butterflies

Recently a friend purchased a vintage quilt top that she hoped could be finished to make a quilt.  There were twelve muslin blocks, each appliqued with four print butterflies.  The print fabrics look like those from the 20s and 30s, the ones we now buy in reproductions.  
The background fabric in the blocks was a nice heavy, closely woven muslin.  In a couple of places we could see what might have been the remains of the ink that would have been on a bag of feed or flour and we wondered if that was the source of the fabrics.  There are 48 butterflies, and we found only two fabrics repeated.  This quilter had access to a wonderful collection of fabrics! 
We noted that some of the solid fabrics used in the butterfly bodies show dark areas around the edges, almost as if the quilter had used an adhesive of some kind.  These areas feel a little stiff, but there was no obvious cracking or splitting when they were stitched through. 
Butterflies block1
Four butterflies circle on each block.
Note the dark edges on some of the solid fabrics.
21_Butterflies block2
Wonderful fabrics!  Some wing tips were
 "clipped" when they got trapped in
 the seams. 
 A group of us were eager to take on the challenge of turning the top into a quilt, but as we examined the top we realized it had a number of issues.  The twelve blocks were joined with wide yellow sashing. It did not lie flat and on inspection it was clear that there were some rather serious discrepancies in size between the rows of blocks and the sashing strips.  We decided to deconstruct the top and see if it could be adjusted a bit for a flatter effect.
As the top came apart we found several kinds of stitching had been used.  Some seams were hand done.  Others were machine stitched.  Some were machine stitched back and forth several times!   Some of the seams went through tips of butterfly wings  -- these were unstitched VERY carefully to prevent damage to the applique stitches. The original sashing strips were found to be quite faded, and even after a gentle washing they showed stains that we could not remove.  We chose to replace this fabric with a new one and were delighted to find a sunshine-y yellow that matched the original nicely.  We did not wash the blocks – we didn’t want to take a chance on any of the colours running.
First step was to square up the blocks.  This was harder than we expected.   The blocks had been torn from the original fabric and while this meant all the grainlines were nice and straight it did not prevent a bit of skewing.   Many of the appliques were very close to the edges of the fabric leaving little room for adjustments. 
We gave up on square and settled for straight.  Blocks were trimmed to the largest possible dimensions and we were delighted when one of them came out the same size in both directions!  We then grouped them, putting three blocks that shared a size in one direction into each row.  Widths of the sashing strips varied to make the rows work out to the same length.  We kept the sashing strips fairly wide so that differences in block sizes would be less apparent.
As we worked we marvelled that the original quilter had managed her job with none of the tools we were using.  Yes, the blocks were uneven, but she had no acrylic rulers, no rotary cutter, no large gridded mats to help.  We wondered what it would have been like trying to make these blocks using a yardstick on the kitchen table!
The re-assembly of the quilt went quickly.  Then borders were added.  The green print is a reproduction that suits the other fabrics well. 
21_butterfly quilt
Finished quilt is 73" by 93" and is ready to be used on a bed.
First idea for quilting was to stitch around each butterfly to make it stand out. However, we could see that the raw edges under the blanket stitch applique  were fraying a little, so we chose an all-over pattern. Not true to the era, perhaps, but this will hold the butterflies in place.
We don’t know who made this quilt top.  The blanket stitch applique is done with three strands of black floss.  The stitching is quite consistent from block to block, so we guess that it was all done by one person.  Did the same person do both the applique and the assembly, or was it perhaps a multi-generational project?  When it arrived the top had a border down one long side only and this looked like it might have been folded over and top-stitched.  The whole piece had been hemmed – a small amount of fabric turned to the back and machine-stitched down.  Was it perhaps used as a curtain? – that might account for the fading we saw. 
Though we know little about the quilt’s previous life, we do know that it is now ready for a new one! 
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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Memories of Christmas past

A few weeks ago I was fighting with my older Christmas fabrics, grumbling because I was just so very tired of them all. 
But now that the Disappearing 4-Patch quilt is completed I seem to have changed my tune.  Here is the finished quilt, tossed over a big chair.  Now I’m loving the way the fabrics work together and I’m afraid I’m going to have a hard time giving this one up!
Christmas D4P
On my design wall – MORE Christmas fabric scraps!
scrappy trees
These tree blocks don’t use up much fabric, but I’ve had fun with them.  I think I like the one with the scrappier background the best.   I’m still trying to decide what to do about the trunk/pot section of the block.  I plan to finish these as small wall-hangings and perhaps decorate the trees with some special buttons and a few bits of sewing room bling.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Struggling with Christmas Fabrics

It’s that time of year again – I’m making another attempt to “use up” the Christmas fabrics that live in a basket on the bottom shelf.  It seems that I’ve fallen for it again – the belief that somehow, somewhere there is a pattern with which I can use all these reds and greens to make a beautiful Christmas quilt!
I’m trying to be analytical about it.  Just WHY is this such a problem for me?
So I took a good hard look at the fabrics in that basket.  Here are some samples of what I found:
fabric collage

There are red fabrics with green on them.
Green fabrics with red
Black with red and green
White with green and red,
And on and on, with all the combinations of red/green/black/white/gold (and a bit of blue).

The large Santa prints have been weeded out, but I still have angels and Christmas trees and baubles and wreaths and stars and holly – lots of holly!  Most of these fabrics have been in my basket for a long time!  In fact, looking at dates on selvedges, I see that some of them are easily old enough to vote!

But all those red and greens (and blacks and blues) look pretty much the same.  One sees a medium-dark value when one squints at them just so.  The white and gold gives a bit of contrast.  When the fabric has red/green/black only, it looks really dark.  When some white/gold is added to lighten it up, it looks blotchy!  The light fabrics are the ones are mostly white/gold with red/green/black/blue figures on them.  Overall these are lighter than the ones with the darker base colours, but they are still very, very busy! 

Any of these fabrics will work well on its own.  It will make cute stockings and bibs and placemats and tree skirts and all the other things we lovingly sew at Christmas time.  But I’m a quilter.  A scrappy quilter.  I am happiest when I put lots of little pieces of many different fabrics together.  And these fabrics don’t play nicely that way!

To use more than one Christmas fabric at a time I’ve usually resorted to adding a lot of something fairly solid – white or gold or brown or black.  But this doesn’t make me very happy, and the project ends up either unfinished or quite small!  Here are some previous efforts:
project collage

So here is my plan.  This time I will keep the fabrics in fairly big pieces.  I have in mind a Disappearing Four-Patch pattern that starts with 6” squares.  I will put each dark fabric with something lighter, and I’ll add in some non-Christmas lights if I must.  Then I will put all the blocks together getting the nicest contrast that I can, and when it is finished I will put this quilt in a sale to raise funds for A Good Cause.  I doubt that the basket will  be empty at that point (sigh!), but surely I will be able to see that it is not quite as full as when I began??
Christmas four patch

Sunday, September 13, 2015

More scrappy rail fence blocks

These are the blocks on my design wall today.  Not sure yet just how they will be set.  On-point, perhaps?  It will be a donation quilt.

rail fence scrappy

Choosing fabrics can be a lot more difficult when we use scraps than it is when we work with a more limited palette. For this project I was working with fabrics in blues, browns, greens – “guy colours”. All I needed to do was make a pile of 2” strips. It took me most of the day, and I must say, it was the arguing that almost did me in!

Maybe this piece?

But I bought that to use for something special.

How long ago was that?

I bought it in that store that closed back in the 1990s.

And no project has been special enough in all that time?

I need to find the perfect fabrics to go with it.

Haven’t found anything that works YET??

Maybe I could use some for this project, but then I might not have enough when the special project comes along.

But hasn’t it already been waiting for years and years?

Well, I could use just a bit.


How about this piece?

But that’s a 2 ½” strip.

Then cut it narrower.

And WASTE a half inch???

How long it been sitting here?

It’s left over from the baby quilt I made for Johnny.

Isn’t Johnny in college now? USE it, for goodness sake!

But then I won’t have it if I need it for something else.

Like there isn’t any more fabric in the cupboard?

Not that exact colour…..

You can see the problem, I’m sure! I finally finished the job, then sat down with a cup of coffee and phoned a friend for a chat. Sometimes a person just gets tired of the sound of her own voice!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Cut from the same cloth

Recently I attended a family get-together.  Eight sisters/cousins/daughters/nieces gathered for a week. We live in far-flung places around the globe so this opportunity to be together was a special treat.  We spent time sharing family stories, especially about the set of grand-parents we have in common.  We took walks, gathered pebbles on the shore, ate wonderful meals, laughed a lot, and spent time sharing textile-related activities –  exploring with wool and with cotton, stitching, weaving, experimenting with colours. 
778 small

We found a surprising range of colour and value in  “ordinary” beach pebbles.

For the occasion I made a series of quilt blocks, one for each participant.  I used a common set of fabrics for all of them.  I wanted to finish the blocks separately, but rather than handle them individually – borders, batting, backing, quilting – I saved a few steps by joining the blocks with wide sashings, then I quilted the resulting larger pieces.  After quilting I cut them apart and the sashing strips became borders. 
blocks in group

Block 1
Completed block.  Bound with the feature fabric. 
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rail Fence quilt

Recently I pulled out my collection of fabrics from Africa.  I had some yardage pieces, plus the scraps that I blogged about here.  (Was that really three years ago?!)
A few of the bits have found their way into small projects such as the International Birds in this post.  But there was still a good selection and it felt like the time had come to actually USE some of these precious pieces.
African Rails block diagram
After some experimenting with Electric Quilt software and a few trial blocks I decided that this 8” block would make best use of my fabrics.  Larger pieces of fabric would be featured in the rail pieces, and smaller pieces could be used in the triangles.  Solid black was used for the alternating triangles and for the small accent strip.  I found a gorgeous piece of Moda fabric for the constant fabric and borders. 

With that plan in mind I got to work and made half a dozen blocks.  I put them up on the wall – and thought, Oh no!  The word “cacophony” came to mind -- all those exuberant prints seemed to fight with one another.  I left them on the wall and went away for a while.  When I came back they seemed much happier together.  I made more, then enough for an entire quilt top.  Each time I put blocks up on the wall I wondered just what I was thinking when I planned this.  Each time I took another look and realized it DID work! 
I added borders of the constant fabric, then a narrow inset border using more of the African prints.  I used some of the smallest pieces in this 1” border, not wanting to waste anything.  African border detail

African quilt back
The quilt is backed with another African fabric that I had set aside thinking it might some day become a garment.  I think the quilt is much happier wearing those flowers than I would ever be!

Quilting was done with more-or-less straight, pretty close to parallel lines, about 1” (give or take a little) apart.  
Every time I try to take a picture of this quilt the wind is blowing.  Those fabrics just want to dance!
African Rails
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Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer Citrus





I must have had oranges and lemons and limes on my mind when I pulled fabrics for this baby quilt.



Citrus colours baby quilt

A quilt had been requested that was “gender neutral” and I think I achieved that by keeping to the orange side of the reds and by emphasizing the greens in the border and binding. 

The blocks worked up quickly using two-inch strips cut from the citrus fabrics and from the crisp white used for the background.

Now I need a glass of lemonade!

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Random Rails -- finished!

Nearly two years ago I made a quilt top that has been just sitting there, patiently waiting, ever since.  I blogged about it here.

Recently I needed a baby quilt.  I pulled out that Random Rails top and decided the colours were perfect, but the top wasn't quite big enough.  I added a couple of borders -- more random strips for the inner border and blue for the outer one.

A Bubbles pattern was perfect for the quilting and orange binding finished it off.

The result makes me very happy.  I liked the top, but I love the finished product!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Little quilts

The stack of blocks made as "leaders and enders" never seems to go down!  It is always fun to try to use some of them up, though.

I took some  9-patch blocks and some spool blocks and made them into two doll-sized quilts.

Three-inch 9-patch blocks with half-square triangles and plain blocks

Three-inch spool blocks with borders

These went together quickly  -- it is easy when the blocks are already made!  I quilted them simply and they are ready for wrapping around some beloved dolls or stuffed animal friends.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pot holders

I just spent an afternoon making a pair of potholders.  They are good potholders.  Well-made, sturdy, functional.    I took my time with them. I carefully chose favourite fabrics from my scraps and put a double layer of cotton batting inside them.  I used a stitch-and-flip method that let me construct both sides at the same time.  I bound them neatly.

They will be given as a gift to a young couple who are getting married this summer. 
Scrappy potholders

I am sure these potholders will not match anything in the bride’s kitchen.   I did not ask what colours she might like or what style of decorating she is using. The two potholders are not the same colours -- they are not even the same colours on both sides! 

Since they don’t match the bride’s kitchen – or worse – look like they were SUPPOSED to match but failed! – she isn’t going to be too concerned about them.  She won’t hang them on the wall to keep them looking nice.  When she moves from this home to her next one she won’t find that they are no longer right and can no longer be hung on the wall so they have to be stuffed into a drawer somewhere.  Until yet another move comes along and she wants to get rid of them in a yard sale but is afraid to because the person who made them (she will have long since forgotten who it is) might come along and see them in the sale and be offended.

No, these potholders are so obviously not made to coordinate with her d├ęcor.  So I hope she will hang them on a hook near the stove and use them.   They will help her take trays of cookies and pans of roasted vegetables out of her oven.  They will get splattered with bacon fat and the edges will be stained with pasta sauce and she will throw them in the laundry.  One day she will look at these potholders and realize that there are holes burnt in them, and stains that will no longer come out and she will decide that they are totally gross and she will drop them into the trash.  That is good -- they will have served their purpose and she won’t have to move them from place to place.

Today as I sat happily stitching the squares and strips together to make these potholders I worked in my love and prayers for Kirsten and John.  The potholders will wear out, but even when the potholders are long gone, the prayers will remain, and that is far more important. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Spring Cleaning Challenge

So what’s a quilter to do?  The UFO list runneth over, several group challenge deadlines are approaching quickly, a stack of tops for donation quilts cry out for batting/backing/quilting/binding. 

And then Electric Quilt posts their Spring Cleaning Challenge.

I was strong and resisted for a couple of weeks.  Then decided that it certainly couldn’t hurt to simply download the files and LOOK at the projects. 

Doomed!  Of course, looking at the projects led to playing with the projects (just to see what would happen if….)

And that of course led to my most recent finish.

Here is my Peekaboo Pinwheels top using the “Scrappier” layout.
Peekaboo Pinwheels

I do have a complaint, however.  The instructions clearly said this would help “use up” scraps.  It definitely did USE some scraps – I stopped counting at 50 different fabrics, and some of them were very old  – but USE UP?  Not that anyone could tell by looking at what remains!

Update on June 1
I received a very nice email from the folks at Electric Quilt to tell me that my entry was one of the winning ones!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In the mailbox

Look what has arrived!
Quiltmaker July/August 2015

And guess whose quilt appears on the Spotlight page just inside the back cover!

The quilt was made for Scrap Squad 2014 and you can read all about it on Quiltmaker’s blog here.  But you will want to check out the magazine, too!!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Group project rail fence

When the Sew Scrappy Club members celebrated the coming of summer with a Sew Day recently, they worked on many different projects, but they also found time to contribute blocks to a group project. 

We constructed six inch Rail Fence blocks using 2.5” strips.  Each person used white fabric for one of the edge strips in her strip sets.  When we pooled our blocks and put them up on the wall we had colourful rails like this:

8_group project rails blocks

Once all the blocks were constructed we divided our arrangement into three sections and with only a little re-arranging in the corners of the layouts we produced this set of tops the perfect size for Preemie Quilts for the NICU at our regional hospital.

8_group project rails top38_group project rails top1



8_group project rails top2










Monday, May 11, 2015

Audition time

The Leaders and Enders project is coming together nicely.  It is on my design wall while I consider borders.

blog audition border

The original plan was to add the strip-pieced triangles in the corners, like those on the top right.  But I also like the way that the plain corner emphasizes the “on-point-ness” of the blocks.  Decisions, decisions.  Luckily, there are no wrong answers, just different ones.  At some point I will choose pieced corners or plain corners and get those borders sewn in place.

It was fun to watch the fabrics come together.  There are some very old fabrics.  The spool print in this block is from the 1950s.  The sweet pink beside it was used in a baby quilt for a child who is now in university. 

blog spool fabric


On the other hand, the black swirl was a fabric I purchased last year for a Scrap Squad quilt.


blog fabrics


With this quilt top nearly ready for the to-be-quilted pile, it is time to decide on another project for leaders-and-enders.  A bin of two-inch squares is at hand…..

Monday, April 6, 2015

The other side of the quilt

blog flannel strips
Many of our donation quilts are backed with flannel. The trimmings from the edges of the quilts accumulate and a person really should do something with them!  The pieces are mostly strips several inches wide, sometimes wider.

I try to make use of these for the backs of small baby quilts.  Sewing strips together is a fairly efficient use of time and materials.    Sewing strips together uses materials -- and time -- fairly efficiently.


But even when the pieces are too small to sew together quickly it can be hard to simply discard them.  A few hours of one’s time can produce a backing like this:
blog flannel pieced blocks
Composing the individual blocks and watching them take shape can be great fun!  Of course, one might wonder how practical it is to devote time to constructing the equivalent of a yard of fabric that could be purchased for just a few dollars! 
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Saturday, March 21, 2015

More preemie quilts

It makes a quilter feel good to use some of her scraps and make them into something useful!  Quilters in our community regularly send quilts to the NICU of the regional hospital.  That’s where these two scrappy heart quilts are headed.
18_Louisa Checkerboard heart preemie quilt18_Louisa heart preemie 2
I am always amazed at how little fabric is required to make a quilt 36” square, but some scraps did get used – a pile of squares of bright kids’ prints is smaller than it was before, and the yellow and blue fabric samples did actually get USED UP – a good accomplishment. 

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

A humble plaid quilt

A finish this week – the binding was completed on this plaid Scrappy Bargello.
Of course, the binding would have been finished a little sooner if I hadn’t done this:
plaid bargello binding oops
Very annoying to have come out short after all that measuring and calculating!   But it didn’t really take long to add in the extra strip.

plaid bargello on chair2

It is not a  grand quilt.  The fabrics are mostly plaids and shirtings, the piecing is simple, and the colours are arranged in no particular order, but as I finished up the last few stitches and draped the quilt over a chair I realized just how much I like this one!

True, it is very gratifying to complete a more elaborate quilt, one with the fabrics placed perfectly and a quilting design that beautifully complements the piecing.  Yet there is also a great deal of pleasure in this simpler quilt.  I enjoy the way one square plays against another, the way the curves of the quilting lines cut across the patches and highlight the combinations of fabrics.  I can imagine this quilt wrapped around someone and providing comfort.  It will soon be on its way to a new home, a donation to a local good cause.  I hope the recipient of the quilt enjoys using it as much as I enjoyed the making.
Plaid bargello
Scrappy Bargello is a free pattern from Bonnie Hunter’s Quiltville site

Monday, February 2, 2015

Scottie dogs – a UFO no longer

While searching for something else in the sewing room I came across the blocks left over from last year’s experiments with Scottie Dogs.   It was time that they became a quilt!

I handed the pile to my friend Donna who worked her magic and combined them into a 36” square top for a preemie quilt.  When the Scrappy Club members saw the results they decided that the big block was too “pixel-ly” – so Ellen took the top home and did some remedial piecing to make Big Scottie look more like a dog. 

Here is the result, all quilted and bound and ready for donation to the NICU at the regional hospital.

Scotties preemie quilt

Here is a peek at the back – isn’t that the perfect flannel for this quilt!!  (You can’t see it in the picture, but the binding fabric has Scottie Dogs has well.)

Scottie quilt back
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Monday, January 19, 2015

Hexagon blocks

Couldn’t show these before Christmas because they were to be a surprise, but they have gone to their new homes and I can share them now.

I was involved in a project to make quilts for some special people.  We used stacking methods to cut large-scale prints into triangles or diamonds and added other fabrics to make 60 degree designs, with inspiration from Sara Nephew’s book Serendipity Quilts.

Here are our three quilts.  In each case the fabric that was cut up in the blocks is also used for the border.

Christmas quilt 1

The feature fabric here is an older Jinny Beyer print full of paisleys and wonderful shapes.  The triangles were pieced into hexagons which were set into rectangular blocks.  Setting fabrics pick up the aqua and purple.  The finished quilt is not as dark as the photo suggests.

Christmas quilt 2

This quilt uses a bright large-scale floral fabric.  Diamonds cut from the feature fabric are pieced into hexagons and arranged into columns.  The columns are separated with checkerboards.

Christmas quilt 3

A softer palette for this one. White and pastel blues and greens turn the diamonds into hexagons.  More diamonds form the dividing columns. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Looking back at a year of Scrap Squad


Scrap Squad quilts

I have completed my year as a member of Quiltmaker Magazine’s Scrap Squad for 2014 --  and I have the stack of quilts to prove it!  (Only five quilts are pictured here  – the other one is travelling at the moment.) 

From learning that I was part of the team, through getting to know the other Squad members and working on our six assignments it was a wonderful experience.  It has been an honour to work with the talented people on the Scrap Squad and at Quiltmaker magazine. 

With each assignment it was exciting to see the lovely quilts that emerged.  I was amazed each time at how different our results were even though we began at the same place!  Each quilter brought her unique sense of colour and design and all the quilts were wonderful.

As a rule I am more interested in the process than in the final product –my UFO collection certainly demonstrates that!.  But Scrap Squad members need to FINISH their quilts and there are deadlines to meet, so I couldn’t simply put a project aside and start a new one when, inevitably, a piece of fabric wouldn’t yield as many triangles or squares as was needed,  colours didn’t play together nicely, or a layout idea didn’t come together as expected,  Each time I took a deep breath, and managed to come up with a solution. 

As a result I have made quilts from patterns that I probably would not have selected on my own, and I am thrilled with every one of them. 

My last project was based on the quilt Spinning Stars that is featured on the cover of the December issue.  See the Scrap Squad post on Quilty Pleasures blog for the details.