Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I've been missing in action a bit lately. A bout of food poisoning will do that to you. But, I haven't been completely idle. I've been stocking up for fun upcoming projects. At Whipstitch Fabrics in Atlanta this weekend I found cute fabric to make a couple of funky bags.
These happy yellow coordinating prints are from Michael Millers Peacock Lane designed by Violet Craft
And these two are from Aneela Hoey's sherbet pips collection for Moda.
I love them both!
I also found 'Holiday Hoot' from Alexander Henry, that I think will make really cute gift bags this Christmas.
Then I hit up my favorite online quilt shop and bought several of the prints from Alexander Henry's Larkspur collection. Along with some washable linen, these pieces are going to make a new quilt for our bed (soon I hope). 
And yes, I know they aren't all ironed yet, but at least they are washed. It's a start.

Monday, August 15, 2011

We Call Them UFOs

The first time I saw the term UFO applied to quilting, I was a bit perplexed. My quilts don’t generally fly. But when I realized they were talking about Un Finished Objects, it made much more sense. Those I have to excess.
One in particular has been niggling at me. Several years ago I was involved with raising money and support for the first off leash dog park in Atlanta. When I stepped down from my leadership role in the group, the rest of the team chipped in and gave me some parting gifts. One was a quite large gift certificate to one of my favorite online quilt shops Frankly, the gift seemed like a bit too much, so I decided I would buy fabric and make a quilt that I could donate to a local canine charity.
I found this adorable fabric called something like “painter mutts”,
and then all of these cute fabrics to coordinate.
I even found some cute buttons and do dads to embellish the quilt.
I put together a design placing one of those painter mutts in each block.
I did the quilt math and calculated materials.
I even cut everything out, organized it and started a test on one square.
And then something happened. Who knows what? Maybe it was time to start prepping for the annual holiday party. Maybe I got the bug to work on a different quilt. Anyway, all of this got packed up in a project bag and that is exactly where it’s been. I can’t even tell you for how long, but it’s been years. Pretty sad for something that was supposed to benefit another. Especially because it was supposed to help dogs!
Well today I’ve decided that is just unacceptable. I have many UFOs that may sit in no-woman’s-land for several more years, but not this one. I’m issuing myself a challenge. This quilt top will be pieced before Labor Day… This year!
How about you? Have an unfinished project you’ve been meaning to get back to? Post a comment and I’ll be happy to cheer you on. And on Monday September 5th, we can all reveal our results. Send me photos and I’ll post them here on the blog.

Friday, August 12, 2011


If you can stand just one more project with the wonderful Aviary 2 fabric from Joel Dewberry, take a look at the bag I made this week.
I also made it up in a different fabric (this time the Prince Charming collection by Tula Pink for Free Spirit (Westminster Fibers)with a slight variation – I added a base that allows the bag to stand up.
And I made it in a smaller size. Who knows where this fabric came from. It's been in the stash for a long time and back then I didn't pay so much attention to designers. 
Want the pattern to make one for yourself? Find it here, or post a comment and I'll send it to you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Seriously, where did all this come from? Yesterday I was cleaning up the studio and decided it was time to tackle the mound of scraps left over from countless projects I have worked on during the past couple of years. These piles include everything left over that is less than a fat quarter in size. Astounding, don’t you think? No piece is big enough to make anything by itself, and nothing really seems to coordinate with anything else. Still, it’s all too good to just toss, right?
Then I started thinking about that neat old quilt that Mark had when I met him. He thought his grandmother made it, but his Aunt claims to have never seen it before. That is another mystery that will never be solved, but probably beside the point.
The point is, someone made this really neat quilt and except for the large blue blocks and all the white contrasting fabric, you would be hard pressed to find two triangles that are remotely “coordinated”. Of course this old beauty is all hand pieced and quilted, which is much more effort than I'm up for. However it did set me to wondering if I couldn’t get away with a design that is even more scrappy than this. Something that uses up all of my scraps without cutting into any of the “good” stash.
This is the design I came up with.
Every one of those green triangles will be a different print, and the light triangles will be an assortment of whites, ivories and creams. Hopefully I have enough light scraps, but I will probably need to dip into the stash for some larger pieces. And, of course, I’ll need to back it with something – perhaps just good quality but inexpensive muslin. I guess I’m going to be cutting and stitching for awhile. The smallest blocks are 2 x 2 finished and I need to may 854 of those puppies. I’ll keep you posted on my progress as the pile shrinks.

But whatever will I do if I still have scraps left over? Well there is always this doll quilt that the neighbor lady made for me when I was six...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Can I learn Quilting from a Book?

The other day a friend was visiting with her teen daughter and mentioned that they were making a crazy quilt for the girl’s room. Mom was providing guidance, but the selection of fabrics and the embroidery work was all being done by the teen. We pulled out the crazy quilt I made a few years ago along with the wonderful old quilt I inherited from my mother who had it from her mother. We walked around and looked at the quilts hanging on the walls and I talked a bit about what techniques and materials that went into each.
The next day as we were watching the teen daughter swim at a competition – all of her kids are quite talented and compete at the national level – Mom admitted that she had never taken any quilting classes and was just winging it. Since I had a quilt-as-you-go project in my lap, I used it to explain a few fundamentals and then suggested a couple of books that she could purchase.
This friend is a language teacher, and hasn’t been at it for too many years, so she well remembers the days when she had to stay one lesson ahead of her students. With a few good references, you can teach yourself or your teen to quilt, and even an experienced quilter can benefit from a refresher on the “proper” way to do things, and the shortcuts that really work.
I have quite a selection of books on sewing, quilting, and other assorted needlework. I also devour several magazines each month looking for new techniques and ideas. However I have a few “go to” favorites for specific things. For crazy quilts I love The Crazy Quilt Handbook, Revised 2nd Edition by Judith Baker Montano. Not only does the author provide everything you need to know to get started with crazy quilting, she also gives lots of practical tips and includes an extensive stitch encyclopedia. The book is as much an embroidery class in a book as it is a guide to crazy quilting. 

For traditional quilting Fons & Porter are some of the best teachers and authors. That’s Marianne Fons and Liz Porter. Though they have published more books than I can count, their Quilter’s Complete Guide is a great place to start. The book is a great primer to read start to finish, and that is how it is organized beginning with tools, fabrics and colors for quilts right through binding and finishing your quilt. But it doesn’t stop there. Quilter’s Complete Guide goes on to explain advanced techniques in pactchwork, appliqué and design. The best part is that the book is organized in such a way that you can easily go back later to reference a particular technique or method.

The Quilter’s Ultimate Visual Guide is another solid reference and is organized more like an encyclopedia. Want to learn about curved piecing for example? That comes right after corner squares and before cutting mats. The illustrations really do make this book. Some of us are just visual learners and if you are one, this is the book for you.

I also find Quilter’s World a great magazine for traditional quilt designs, free patterns, and loads of quilting skills and technique lessons. 

For more modern quilting and fiber art I always turn to Quilting Arts. I don’t think I have every opened an issue of the magazine without finding inspiration.

All of the books I’ve used have been around forever and have served me well, but I’m sure there are plenty of new titles out there that I’m missing. I’m curious to know what books and magazines you love. Leave me a comment and share your favorites,  especially which publications you would recommend for beginning quilters.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pattern Shmattern

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a quilted wall hanging I was working on and this past week I finished it! Don’t you love quick projects? It helps that this project is small – about thirty two inches square. But the real difference is in the process. I thought some of you might find a bit of explanation helpful.

Usually when I design a quilt, I spend quite a lot of time on “quilt math”. I calculate the exact dimensions (with seam allowances) for each square and triangle, and also calculate the most efficient way to cut out those pieces to use the least amount of fabric and time. I end up with cutting directions that look something like this. Of course this is very helpful if I am later going to write up this design as a pattern. But I didn't do that work this time. This time I decided to wing it. You see I’m trying to walk away from the idea that the end result must be 100% what I envisioned in the beginning.

This time I did start with a drawing which I showed you here
Instead of the laborious effort to calculate every angle, I decided to blow that drawing up to the actual size of my planned project, take just a few measurements (which I scribbled right on the drawing), and start cutting.

Mentally I broke the design down into a few logical components. The top and bottom borders, center block and the four “corners”. This drawing demonstrates the component break-out, but I actually put this together after the fact for demonstration purposes.

I took rough guesstimates at the dimensions I needed for each piece and then cut everything a bit larger than needed. As I assembled each component, I trimmed off excess.
I made all of the curved pieces as appliqué and in some cases used my handy dandy circle cutter. I’ve been wanting a project to use that tool J.  

For the points, I cut a long strip, folded it over and cut 2 inch lengths. Then I folded the corners down to form the point and sewed them in place.

Making the off-center triangle border was a bit interesting without calculating all of the angles. I cut out one of the diamonds and taped in on the back side of my ruler. Then I made a border strip consisting of a center white strip with black on the top and bottom, lined up the template and cut away. Once the diamonds strips were sewn back together with a narrow spacer piece in between, I trimmed off the excess black fabric at top and bottom and I had my border strips.

Throughout the process I kept laying out the finished components against the drawing to see where something was off or might need to be re-worked. This might all seem like it makes extra work and wastes fabric, which is true. But the process is much more akin to improvisation without any rehearsal. I found it both challenging and fun.
Did the project turn out exactly like the drawing? No, but I like it all the same, and I think as I perfect the array of techniques used in this type of quilting the results will just look better and better. 
Conclusion: Be fearless. It's only fabric and time. Just start cutting and sewing and see what happens!