Category Archives: Quilt kits

Square is Good!


For us less-than-perfect quilters, the only way to learn how to quilt is to spend time quilting. Lectures, magazines and tutorials are wonderful — and they do help improve our skills — but there’s no substitute for sitting at a sewing machine. The same holds true learning how to use the longarm.

Every time I go to shows, I hear stories about people who bought their longarm machine and immediately started to quilt for customers. This amazes me. My first year’s worth of quilts were … um … let’s just say learning experiences that I wouldn’t want to inflict on a customer.

This red and white quilt is the first large quilt I did on my longarm. The piecing was decent. I had a beautiful red and white backing. There was a guild challenge coming up and I was determined to enter this quilt. I can’t remember the details of how I squared up the back (because it certainly was not square). However, when I took the quilt off the longarm, the back had some major pleats. I was devastated. I’d ruined the quilt because I’d skipped a crucial step of properly preparing the backing. Needless to say, the quilt did not make it to the guild challenge. I shoved it in a storage bin and tried to forget about it.

Is there a happy ending to this story? Actually, yes. First of all, my teenage daughter loves the quilt and it now has a good home in her bedroom. This quilt taught me the importance of squaring up the back fabric, so that pleating has not been a problem in future quilts. I’ve also used this quilt in lectures to show others the importance of a square backing. Finally, it made me realize that I could only concentrate on so many new things at once — until this quilt, my focus was largely on getting good tension — and that it was okay to have some fumbles on my road to being a quilter.

A year later, I just finished a large quilt. The back turned out beautifully and it hangs straight. I can now look at this red and white quilt and feel thankful for the lessons it taught me.

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Hancocks of Paducah Catalog


When I was a kid, I remember my father getting a catalog of fishing supplies. He would study this catalog throughout the winter months, wishing and planning for the tackle “needed”  for the following summer. Forty years later I can still remember this store name and the catalog’s place of prominence on our living room end table.

I’d planned yesterday to be Paperwork Day. The stacks of mail had overtaken our kitchen table and it was time to pay some bills. Unfortunately the first piece of mail I came across was Hancocks of Paducah’s summer catalog. This is 168 pages of eye candy … truthfully better than most quilt magazines. I immediately had to take an hour break and go through this catalog, page by page.

Like my father, I study this catalog. I save it. I re-examine pages. I drool over the beautiful quilt kits. I dream about what I could make. I place orders. I keep it in the family room beside my reading chair.

The catalog is incredibly well organized by color and theme. There are 2″ swatches of each fabric design. There are lots of kits and patterns, as well as great fabrics. Their selection of batiks is particularly amazing.

The catalog sells for $2.00, although it’s sent free to customers. I’d highly recommend getting a copy. You can see their fabric on the link below. Catalog requests are on the top right side of the screen.

Paper Bag Quilting


Over the weekend, I attended a quilt retreat at the Southampton Inn on Long Island. The group project was a scrap quilt. Because I’m not a big scrap quilt fan, and because I had a lot of my own projects that I wanted to work on, I decided to bring my own quilt kits and pass on the group project. However I certainly enjoyed the scrap quilts that were brought for Show and Tell.

As we were looking at the quilts, people started talking about the “brown bag method” of selecting fabric. It works like this: Throw all of your scraps into a paper bag. Pick out a scrap. It’s the next piece to be used on your quilt. Don’t match it to the previous piece, move it to another location, or fixate on the color in any way. Just sew it and repeat with the next piece. When the quilt is complete, the fabrics do work together.

If you’re working on a quilt that requires light and dark pieces (such as a log cabin), use two bags. Choose from the light, then the dark, and repeat. If I were to do this, I would pre-screen the fabrics so that they were similar — such as using a Thimbleberry-type line of fabric rather than a mixture of novelty prints, bright florals, and Civil War fabrics.

However the scrap quilt project  at the retreat used all different scraps. They ran the gamut of colors and prints. The resulting quilts were beautiful. I’m not sure how such different fabrics could work together, but they did.

I decided to try the process with this quilt top.  I had to make 4 patches using a total of 14 different fabrics from my kit. I’d already sewn the 2-patches, but decided to just randomly pair them. I followed the same random process with the border (although I’ll admit I did a bit of fudging to make sure the same fabrics weren’t beside each other.) Overall, it worked very well.

As I was cutting out the kit fabric, the light green bothered me. It did not seem to be the same value as the rest of the fabrics. If I were to make this quilt again, I would definitely leave out the light green, or throw in another couple of fabrics that were a lighter value.

I will definitely use the “paper bag” method again in the future. It is quick and the results are very satisfactory.

(If you cannot see the picture, please go directly to

"Stars and Strips" by Atkinson Designs

Reindeer Quilt


This summer, I spent a couple of very long days cutting, fusing and assembling this reindeer quilt. It is a custom design by Joan Jones of “Seams Like Home.” I’d seen her work at shows and always wanted to make one of her pieces.

I have to say that Joan’s kits are well done. Her patterns are easy to follow and she provides a generous amount of fabric. To be successful, you just need time and a lot of space! You can find her work at

I did a lot of quilting on this, using stitches to mimic fur and also the texture on the horns. For some unknown reason, I felt the need to zig-zag around each piece using invisible thread before securing it with the longarm. On my next project, I will skip the zig-zagging (which took a long time) and go straight to the longarm.

I quilted free style feathers in the red and green border, and used Signature Threads “shadows” to quilt swirls (representing snow) in the black area.

(I’m still working on the photo problem … let’s see if this works for my email subscribers!)

Seams Like Home Reindeer

My (failed) attempt at applique


My quilt shop was offering a block of the month for the Pumpkin Hill quilt. This quilt is hand appliqued and I felt that it was a skill I would like to master. Well, I’ve changed my mind.

At our first meeting we received a wonderful packet of fabric, duly labeled as “cream” or “stars.” Unfortunately, the labeled fabric didn’t match up with the instructions, and many in the class were frustrated trying to decide which fabric to use.

Our second problem was that the leader didn’t have time to show us how to applique. I went home and watched tutorials on Youtube. I tried a practice piece but found needle turn extremely difficult. I also realized that hand appliqueing these blocks was going to take a lot of time.

I then decided to do the “freezer paper method” whereby you trace each component on freezer paper, then cut out the freezer paper and iron (shiny side down) to the back of the fabric. The project has been in this state for the last two weeks.

I’ve been joking that fusible web has been looking pretty good.

This weekend I made a decision — I am going to fuse this quilt and do machine applique. I do not have the time or desire to learn to applique by hand. Maybe I will sometime, but not now. Here’s a link to the finished quilt. It is really interesting and I’m sure that machine quilting won’t take away from the design.

Fabric for Month One of Pumpkin Hill

Aunt Grace’s Garden Party


We had snow Saturday night on Long Island, so it’s not exactly garden party weather. However I decided to sign up for this Block of the Month at my local quilt store, in the hope that the bright colors will help get me through the long winter.

Here’s the finished product. Scroll down to the second quilt.

These fabrics make me smile. I have yet to start the quilt, but the instructions seem pretty clear.

Here’s our homework for the first month, as well as our packet of fabrics.

First Month's Homework


Fabric for Month 1

John Flynn Workshop: Double Wedding Ring Quilt


I’m a quilter who prefers bright fabrics and modern designs, so I wasn’t too excited about making a double wedding ring quilt in civil war fabrics. However I believe that making a double wedding ring quilt is a right of passage, of sorts, for quilters — and I wasn’t going to be the only quilter in history who hadn’t made one. So I signed up for the workshop without my usual enthusiasm, knowing that John Flynn’s classes are all popular and I would learn something.

Surprise! I really, really enjoyed this class. I am in awe at how John applies his engineering skills (who knew that there was actually a use for calculus?) to quilt making and comes up with innovative ways to make classic quilts.

His technique involves sewing together six strips of fabric (their width varies based on the size of the wedding ring — but roughly 2″) and then cutting the sewn fabric into multi-color strips (about 2.5″).

Laser-cut strips of fabric

The next step was to sew a dart into each seam, which creates the curve of the wedding ring. These curved pieces were then sewn onto a melon shaped piece of fabric in the quilt’s background color.

Laser-cut background pieces

Strips are sewn to melon-shaped fabric, and then to square piece of fabric

Next, melon shaped pieces are  attached to the larger piece of background fabric.

This is not a quick process, but it is not difficult. It took me the entire class to make the piece shown above, so I am nowhere near finishing the quilt. As I said in my last post, the laser-cut kits are excellent and save you a lot of time in class. However I’d guess that half the class brought their own fabric. I loved that John told them to cut only two melons and a large background piece — I’ve been to many classes where participants have spent the entire time cutting and never got to sew.

John’s double wedding ring quilts are spectacular. They range from traditional to very modern in design. His binding is exquisite as well. I now understand why this is such a popular class at shows and highly recommend taking this class. Below are three photos of John with his quilts.

Seams Like Home Snowman Kit


This summer I had the pleasure of taking a class, at the Vermont Quilt Festival, from Joan Jones. I had long admired the Seams Like Home kits at many shows — especially the witch.

I am the fusing queen. I love fusing and it was the reason I got into quilting. Her kits give very generous cuts of fabrics, and her directions are good. However, her kits are not for the faint of heart — there are a lot of pieces. These pieces require fusing, cutting and more fusing. She works entirely in batiks and other materials with no right (or wrong) sides, which makes the process a bit easier.

I must say that the results are spectacular. I am quilting the reindeer pattern now, and am excited to complete the snowman shortly.

Her kits are available at

Snowman Kit from Seams Like Home

Critter Kingdom Baby Quilt


This kit — Critter Kingdom by Pat Ashton — was an absolute pleasure. Fabrics were labeled, which I appreciated since all fabrics were black and white.  Directions were easy to follow and there were lots of illustrations. I give Pat Ashton an A+ in design and pattern instructions.

My only complaint is that the animal templates for the monkey and giraffe need to be assembled. However there wasn’t a lot of alternatives, given that neither animal fit on the standard 8.5 x 11″ instruction page. I ended up photocopying these two animals onto another piece of paper, then cutting and pasting them together.

I really enjoyed this project. It is easy to do and would be great for a confident beginner.

The website given on the pattern is

Critter Kingdom by Pat Ashton

Gallery in Red Quilt is Assembled with 2 Borders


The quilt is coming along. I got the individual blocks sewn to the sashing, and then sewn together. The next photo shows the quilt with the first of three borders attached.

I maintain that this quilt looks stunning but am still unimpressed with the written directions. Thankfully they have a good assembly diagram (in color and labelled with each fabric’s corresponding letter) that is a big help.

These photos show a “how not to” photograph quilts. Notice the clear colors in photo #1 compared with the yellow cast in photo #2. Natural light and a good flash make all the difference.

Assembled Blocks with Sashing

Assembled Quilt with First Border