Archive of ‘quilt’ category

the long-lost baby clothes quilt!

baby clothes quilt


last december I had the chance to work on two memory quilts for a wonderful family and I completely forgot to blog about it.  so, while it’s not exactly quilting season I thought I would still share.  they wanted one quilt for their family and one for their little one’s grandmother, which is so sweet. can you see that peak of the hospital blanket up there?  seeing those blankets always gets me choked up!

baby clothes quilt by a happy stitch

I had so much fun making these quilts.  everything was labelled with exactly when it had been worn and so I felt like I really got an idea of this little persons world, which is always so helpful when I’m making one of these quilts!  as if I am an honorary and part-time family member piecing together the story of a childhood. removable duck on baby clothes quilt

{hello ducky!}

the best thing about the quilt I was making for grandma is that it was going to be given to her for Christmas along with a book of pictures of the wee one wearing these clothes!  wouldn’t that just blow you away as a grandparent!  so thoughtful.

giraffe hat on baby quilt by a happy stitchI get lots of questions about these quilts and I know that a lot of people are eager to make them for their own.  which is so wonderful!  if you can quilt, you can make a memory quilt!  my favorite tip is that I always put apply fusible lightweight interfacing to the back of each square or rectangle.  it helps the pieces hold their shape and make the sewing easier.  it adds a lot of time to the quilt making but it’s worth it…especially since once you get sewing you will be working with many different kinds of fabric, you need everything as stable as it can be! I hope that is helpful.

this quilt is fly

I sometimes just do not know what to do large scale print fabrics but I am often drawn to them.  I never want to cut up the print but since I don’t really wear bold clothes, it is rare that I find the right project that keeps the whole design intact.  and it was just that dilemma that inspired this whole cloth quilt.  I had one remaining yard of melody miller’s fantastic pixelated fly print that I just had to use.  so, I paired it with a lovely mint voile that is so super soft and silky and made this lap quilt.  


(aren’t I lucky this adorable boy agrees to model for me?  I could just squeeze him looking at that cute face.  and, he is in this phase where he must wear a button down shirt every day…he calls them ‘handsome shirts’.  I loooove it!)

ahem, the quilt.  I have been wanting to practice free motion quilting anyway.  I really am falling in love with free motion quilting.  so far, I have only tried the swirling, whirling around that I believe is called stippling.  I’m sticking with that for a while but I hope to soon move on to other, more advanced styles.


I did experiment a little, as you can see, with making a little flower design. but, my main goal with this quilt was just to keep the swirls consistent and actually covering all the areas of the quilt and I mostly accomplished that much. wahoo! for me! DSCN6090
the binding is machine stitched, in part because I was feeling lazy and impatient.  but also because I was encouraged by a quilt-mate (yes, that is a word!) from my quilt guild who convinced me that seeing the binding stitches is a cool look.  and, I will say it gives it a sporty look, which is ok with this quilt but I might not do it on something a little more delicate.  the difference actually reminds me of a blind hem stitch versus a straight hem stitch when it comes to hemming skirts.  one is sporty and the other is more sophisticated, both work at the right time.

free motion quilt boythere you have it…not a bad use of a yard, huh?  especially when paired with that adorable boy!


wild boy gets a quilt

if there is anyone in this house that is in danger of taking to the high seas, it is this guy, little J.

so, it is only fitting that his bunk bed quilt is covered in pirates, maps, and ships.  I might as well support his wild ways, as I have no other choice.

the fabric is the latest from sarah jane fabrics, I always like her playful, boyish prints.  they manage to come across as  tough enough that the boys find them fun and I like that the designs are still innocent.  I think our boys are right in that sweet spot when innocence is still possible.

this was one of the few things that were sewn for my family this christmas…between holiday markets and memory quilt commissions I didn’t have much time to sew for family.  but, I squeezed this one in.   it means both boys have semi-matching quilts now, I am a sucker for symmetry, I tell you.

I struggled a lot with pulling this quilt together.  I really wanted it to consist of three prints and three solids including lots of white.  but, I could not for the life of me decide on what the other two solid colors should be and I went back and forth with bright red and yellow and the muted blue and grey that I eventually chose.  I don’t want a quilt to scream at me, I wanted it playful but still calm.  I’m not convinced it was the perfect color choice, still but I’m happy with how it came out.

I did really enjoy the free motion quilting process.  I haven’t done much free motion quilting and I am officially smitten….I hope there is much more in my future.  the stitches on this quilt are not perfect, in fact I see mistakes every time I look at it, BUT it still looks lovely and washes with a great pucker to it.  at the end of the day, free motion quilting is more forgiving…the darning foot just bounces around making it easier to avoid the fabric folding over on itself.  I feel like I don’t have to be so intense about pulling and pinning everything perfectly straight because there is a bit of wiggle room with the bouncing presser foot that just isn’t there with a regular straight stitch foot.  as an added bonus, the end result looks just oh so….well, quilt-y.  I love it.   I will admit it can get quite comical wrestling with the quilt itself while the machine bounces around.  it’s a good thing I work alone.

the boy himself (on the right up there) he isn’t so crazy about this quilt, I will admit.  I mean, he likes it and says he likes it when he’s crawling into bed but opening it on Christmas day wasn’t quite the thrill that came when he opened up the Star Wars lego set.  he was polite and gave me a weak smile but quickly said “are there other gifts for me?”.  the poor plight of the children of mama makers!  sorry kid.


dolores’ quilts

I’m a lucky gal…because I get to do what I get to do.  and, for the past month or so that has been making four very special quilts for the four sons of a woman named dolores.  she passed away recently after a long battle and to remember her, her youngest son John, asked me to make the quilts for all the brothers out of her most precious clothes.

included in the quilts are christmas sweaters, a swimsuit, scarves, summer tank tops, cozy sweaters and even a flow-y top from a trip to vegas….and more than its fair share of memories.

thanks John for a great opportunity!  (please ignore my chaotic house in the background! yikes!)

quilt surgery

brace yourself.

this is not an easy thing to look at and, if you are anything like me, you might just find yourself gasping “OH BUSTER” or even worse…much worse.  there may be some swearing.

but, let me start with the story of a dog and a quilt and a little quilt surgery.  buster is the dog, and I’ve been asked to note that he was a totally adorable and wonderful dog in many respects.  I don’t doubt it.  I saw a picture and he was super cute.  but one day he attacked a very important quilt.  it had been handmade by the aunt of a baby boy who is now all grown up.  it meant a lot to a family and it was nearly impossible not to admire the thousands of tiny hand-stitches laid out with care in meticulous grids that swirled into an irish knot in every corner.

buster, I would imagine (despite his adorable-ness), wasn’t looking at stitch quality as he chewed right through the quilt. yikes!  and, that is how the quilt found its way to me.

could I? would I? save the quilt?

um, yup.

I had to start by cutting off the nearly 1/3 of the quilt that had been ruined.  slicing off the end of a beautiful, heirloom quilt is something I would prefer to do with my eyes shut…and if it weren’t for the fact that I wouldn’t likely cut a very straight line I would have done just that.  but, no luck.  so, eyes wide open I sliced it off.  phew.

then, after undoing many a meticulous hand-sewn stitches I was able to piece together border fabric and backing fabric and re-quilt to salvage the quilt.  there were other minor repairs to the other side and much hand stitching to re-attach the delicate binding.  but slowly and surely it came together.

here is a shot of the newly-stitch, un-bitten border fabric that replaced where buster had munched.   you can see how the binding was weather, love and time worn…in just the way a quilt should be after so many years.

in the end, I was able to save the quilt. albeit in a slightly smaller, slightly altered state.

for the quilt and for the family it was gifted to, it was just another chapter in its life. just another story that has been infused into this families’ longer tale.   and, that is how it works, isn’t it? a handful of imperfect moments leave a mark on us and we figure out how to repair and care for them.  we get older and have the scars or losses to prove it.  after all is said and done, it’s these non-shiny moments that make us more interesting…just like the time we swore at buster, the adorable dog, but, secretly we thank him for the great reminder.


if you live in the upper midwest of the United States, near the great lakes, you know that lake superior is shaped like the head of a wolf.  and if you travel to the very tip of that wolf’s nose, you would be in duluth, minnesota.  but standing on the shore of the lake in duluth you hardly feel like you are anywhere so small as a nose.  you can’t help but be aware that you are on the edge of something vast and great and powerful. the beach is soft sand and the lake looks as endless as an ocean.  the difference is that more often than not you are alone or nearly alone.

as a teenager, I threw more than my fair share of emotions into its deep, dark, cold waters (yay..accepted into college!! boo…first big break-up.).  it’s breathtaking and mysterious and has inspired whole communities of artists, architects and musicians to set up camp.

but sometimes I think there can be something menacing about the lake and its powerful but stoic response to everything. or maybe it is just that the lake itself isn’t always enough.  either way, the towns that dot up and along the lake’s shore are the home to lots of kids with mental health and chemical dependency troubles.  it seems like everyone, including me, has been touched by this problem…sometimes in tragic ways and sometimes in triumphant ones.

and that is why I’m so excited to be involved in a new development in my hometown.  the powerful force that is my mother has been working tirelessly to raise $6 million and build a children’s mental health center called Amberwing in a beautiful wooded area of Duluth that will serve the surrounding area.  the facility is thoughtfully designed to provide mental health resources with innovative programs including art, drama, music, yoga and animal-assisted therapies.  there is a great new report about it here, (it is worth watching to see just how beautiful and thoughtful the facility will be).   part of the fundraising for services at Amberwing is a black tie event coming up at the end of the month called Artcetera with music, wine, and an auction.

and, right there on page 331 is my donation of a memory quilt.   I’m so honored to have thrown my lot in with so many other area artists and craftsmen and I can’t wait to get sewing for such a good cause!

the whole thing got me thinking about craft-ivism (you know craft-activism) and the many ways that crafters can play a unique and heartfelt role in philanthropy.  then a friend wrote about her craft-ivism efforts and I decided to start a pinterest board to keep track of any opportunities I came across.  so, if you can make a pillowcase or a quilt, go check that out!




the bravery of a bunk bed and a quilt to prove it

our oldest, C, is a naturally cautious and apprehensive child…he hates all bad guys and generally spends lots of time considering before he is ready to dive in and give things a try.  we have learned that the best way to be helpful is to give him his time, explain things a lot and take it slow.

and that is why I was slow to respond when he insisted he wanted a bunk bed.  and, by slow to respond I mean I did nothing until he asked again and then again.  I honestly assumed he didn’t really know what a bunk bed was.  finally, one weekend while on an unrelated errand, we popped into a store and showed him the bunk beds. we honestly expected he would realize that the top of a bunk bed was pretty high up there and decide he didn’t want one.

it just goes to show what we know because he was even more excited once he saw them.   given that his increasingly-long body was practically spilling out of his toddler bed we decided –what the heck…let’s indulge him and ‘hey, maybe they will even share a room and we can move some toys out of our living room and into the empty bedroom’.  and, that is when we went to ikea and got the perfect bunk bed.  and even after all that, when the bed was up and ready I still expected him to decide he wasn’t ready to sleep in the top bunk.  of course, he loves it and hasn’t looked back since we got it all together.

{these two don’t share a bed or even a room (yet), it is just impossible for a photo shoot to involve only one person. }

it took a little while for the whole thing to come together, though, because we ordered a healthy eco-friendly mattress from here and they are made to order.  so, in the meantime, I decided to make a quilt because I was still under the impression that he was going to need some encouraging. (I know! in retrospect it is pretty clear that I can be a bit dense sometimes).

I made a bigger version of the simple quilt from amy karol’s book bend the rules sewing and picked two prints from the sarah jane children at play collection, which is chock full of playful and adorably child-friendly prints. in addition to a white fabric, I also threw in a denyse schmidt print and used shot cotton in two different blues for a denim look with a soft hand.  I am a big fan of shot cotton, which is made by weaving together two different colors—one in the weft and one in the warp–giving a bit of depth and dimension to what would otherwise be a plain solid.  (this post at make it perfect goes more into shot cottons if you are interested.)

but the big exciting thing about this quilt is that it is my first free motion quilt!  I have done small potholders in free motion but never a full-sized quilt.  and, there is no doubt about it, I am in love.  free motion quilting involves using a free motion quilting foot, dropping the feed dogs and essentially drawing on the quilt.  it’s more forgiving in the sense that fabric doesn’t get ‘bunched up’ as easily because the foot is essentially bouncing around on top of the quilt.  it is, however, less forgiving in some ways because you have to keep the quilt moving without quilting yourself into a corner or accidentally making some wacky stitches.  this quilt has plenty of wacky stitches but no more than I would expect for a first try.  and, I can’t wait to give it another try with free motion quilting.

see how some of the curves are less than smooth? those would be the wacky stitches. 

that stuff I said earlier about our home having too many quilts was a lie.  a big lie.  our home needs many more quilts, it needs quilt everywhere. it really does.

below is the full front and back view:


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