Musings from the mind of a modern day Sue.

I have been on a hiatus without a post since mid-October. I decided that the part of my life that I commit to quilting was using too much time for blogging – reading and writing. I haven’t been to my feedly account either. Although, I follow a few blogs via email, so I haven’t been totally out of the blogosphere. What I have been doing is using my time to quilt.

I'm currently working on putting these blocks together.

I’m currently stitching these blocks together.

Blogging became a way for me to document my quilting, but I want to be sure that it includes the important stuff, not just anything I do. I follow blogs to connect with other quilters, but decided I needed to downsize and only follow what would provide the most benefit for me as a quilter, as well as, staying up with the latest going on in the quilt world.

My sister & I began an online BOM together called Sew Sweet Simplicity - this is block #1.

My sister & I began an online BOM together called Sew Sweet Simplicity – this is block #1.

I have been more selective in what to attend, listen to and read. Some of my must-dos are listening to Pat Sloan’s weekly online radio show. TimQuilts is a regular read. My two sisters and I decided to start up a regular sewing day and invite family and friends to join us. We have had two events already, with a third planned for National Quilting Day. I even downsized my organization memberships, dropping two and planning to eliminate another when the membership comes up for renewal this year. And, I organized my quilting room over the holidays, so I find I can step into my space and work on a project without sorting through stacks of stuff or clearing an area to work.

I finished all my felt ornaments for the Advent Calendars.

I finished all 25 wool ornaments for both Advent Calendars.

More Wool Ornaments

Obviously my new priorities began before the new year, and I continue to streamline the quilting part of my life. My future objective is to keep the clutter out of the way and focus on those aspects of quilting that are most meaningful. Part of that is regaining time for blogging, so that I can continue to document, interact, and enjoy this craft that I have been doing for the last 35 years. I hope that you will follow along with me as I redirect my quilting journey.

Happy Stitching…

My two sisters and I collaborated on another baby quilt to commemorate the birth of our great-niece. Even though we live close to one another, it can be challenging to work on a project together. We each have our own activities and projects on which to work. But, we break the project down into manageable tasks.

I love making baby quilts and found a cute pattern, Tangerine Zoo, designed by Brandi Frey, in Fons & Porter’s Scrap Quilts Summer 2012. The quilt has nine Dresdan plate blocks with fussy cut zoo animal patches in the center. The pattern used a fabric with an orange background, thus the name “Tangerine” Zoo. I had a fabric with zoo animals in a light green color. We each contributed bright colored fat quarters from our stash to audition. After selecting fabrics, my oldest sister & I took them home to cut out and stitch up the Dresdan plates.

About every month or so, we get together to sew and used this time to work on the Dresdan Zoo quilt. Some of you may have followed the progress in previous blog posts HERE, HERE, and HERE. At this time, I was taking a class on Craftsy on how to make creative quilt backs by Elizabeth Hartman. I used this information to make the quilt back and posted about it HERE. The quilt was now ready for the final quilting stitches.

Enter my younger sister, who has recently begun quilting and taken a fancy for machine quilting. She has always been creative and enjoyed drawing. To her, free motion quilting (FMQ) is like drawing on fabric. She is the resident quilter for our collaboration quilts, but was in the process of quilting two other quilts for her grandchildren. That left the quilt in limbo for several months.

Last month, she finished the quilting and the binding was added. Today, I am adding the quilt label. The sunshine was bright and the weather beautiful, so I spent time outside snapping photographs to document our second quilt collaboration. Here are several different angles and close-ups for you to enjoy.

Dresdan Zoo Baby Quilt

Dresdan Zoo Baby Quilt

A sidelong view of the quilt

A sidelong view of the quilt

Close-up of blocks

Close-up of blocks

Alligator Block

Alligator Block

Hippo Block

Hippo Block

Pieced Back

Pieced Back

Close-up of Quilting on Back

Close-up of Quilting from Back

Dresdan Zoo on Rail

Dresdan Zoo on Rail

The quilt will be sent off to our niece in California, who is not expecting it. But, her brother was the recipient of our first baby quilt collaboration, so it will be a nice surprise when she receives it.

Next up…a bowtie baby quilt for my nephew, my oldest sister’s son. He has a baby son born earlier this summer. We’ve already sewn together the blocks and laid them out in a pattern. My older sister and I are going on a retreat next week-end, where we will finish stitching the blocks together. Then, off to my baby sister for the final quilting touches. And…there’s a wedding on the horizon, so we’ve been talking about collaborating on a wedding quilt.

Happy Quilting!

P.S. I’d love to hear what you think of the photography. I am not a professional, not by a long shot. But, I have been reading up on photography, took a lecture at AQS Grand Rapids, listened to a photography webinar, and had a lengthy conversation with a photographer friend at work. I have been playing around with my digital camera settings and feel that these pictures show the colors of the quilt well. I even think I implemented the rule of thirds into the shots. I’d love to hear your feedback.

I have been stitching a lot in the last few months, just not blogging about it. Blogging can take a lot of time, which impacts how much time I have to quilt. And life has way more important activities than spending all my extra time blogging. But, I thought I would share my next three blocks for the NQA Galaxy quilt.

Squared Star is the July block by NQACT Cindy Schultz. I found the instructions limited, needing further explanation. Maybe it was just me, but as a long time sewist and quilter, they did not make complete sense. The illustrations indicated what needed to be put together, but the words did not provide the needed information. And, the cuts of fabric were incorrect. I figured out the correct size and completed the block.

July BOM - Squared Star

July BOM – Squared Star

Steps to the Stars is the August block. The pattern was designed on EQ7 by Heather G. Tighe, NQACT. The block was pretty straightforward, with basic piecing instructions. I chose to strip piece the 4-patches. I made the flying geese sections using squares and rectangles and the stitch and flip method, while the instructions used triangles and required sewing on the diagonal grain. I find this kind of sewing more difficult and would not teach it to a beginner.

Steps to the Stars - July BOM

July BOM – Steps to the Stars

Finally, the September block is Sawtooth Star with String Pieced Center by NQACT, Fran Kordek. Many of the monthly blocks are variations on the Sawtooth star block. I like this one. The center of this block has four string pieced blocks. A 4-1/2 inch muslin square is used for the base and the strips are added improvisationally. My only mistake was failing to realize that the muslin is cut larger than needed and trimmed to the finished size. I figured it out when my geese units were too short. I usually skim instructions, having a good understanding of block construction. I may have wasted less fabric on the strip piecing if I had realized this first and used skinnier strips for the strings. To correct my mistake, I just trimmed the string pieced center down along the outside edge. I lost some of the outside strings, but the overall affect was achieved.

Sawtooth Star with String Pieced Center

Sawtooth Star with String Pieced Center

I planned to download the next block pattern today, but it isn’t available. I am on target to complete the quilt considering that I have completed all of the blocks, so far. I should probably start selecting some fabrics for sashing and borders. Especially since I found a new BOM that I want to do. Jacquelynne Steves is offering a free BOM called Sew Sweet Simplicity on her website beginning October 27th. She was a featured guest on American Patchwork & Quilting Radio with Pat Sloan on Monday. I grabbed her button and signed up.

Until next time…


I found some time between holiday week-end activities to stitch together another star block for my NQA Galaxy BOM quilt. I accomplished the stitching on the June block, Star of Illusion. The pattern is designed by Debby Kratovil from a “Quilter’s Block-a-Day Calendar” published by Martingale and Company. Cyndi McChesney, an NQA certified teacher, has written the instructions.

June BOM - Star of Illusion

June BOM – Star of Illusion

The block parts are pieced using a quick piecing technique and a foundation paper piecing technique. As I stated last month, foundation paper piecing is not a favorite of mine. This time, I had to draft my own paper foundation. Then, I followed the same process as last month to piece the star points. The corner blocks were quick pieced by making half square triangles (HST) from red fabric squares by drawing a line down the center and stitching 1/4-inch on either side. Then, the resulting HST block was stitched to a white square in the same manner. This produced a block with quarter square triangles on one side.

In the instructions, the red and white squares were all cut the same size. This resulted in the pieced red HST being smaller than the white square. The instructions stated to sew a 1/2-inch seam from the center drawn line. I found this difficult to do, since the seam guide on the machine was hidden by the fabric during stitching. Also, it was difficult to center the smaller red HST onto the white square and ensure that the corners lined up. I wonder sometimes if teachers stitch the block when writing instructions.

I preferred to cut the white square the same size as the red HST section and just sew a 1/4-inch seam from the center drawn line. This was easier to line up and to stitch. Most quilters have a 1/4-inch foot for sewing seams, so that makes more sense. Even the standard foot isn’t 1/2-inch wide. Maybe the teacher was thinking that the white square would be an odd measurement to cut. I simply cut the block to the finished HST size and continued to stitch the parts together to form the block section. The final section still needed to be trimmed to 4-1/2-inches after piecing it together.

Six of the star blocks are now complete, and I’m really not behind, as many of us get with BOM patterns. The July star block pattern, Squared Star, was only just made available to members on July 1st. I decided to take a photo of all six blocks to share, mostly because I purchased a new digital camera and the photos are much brighter and clearer. Some of the previous blocks looked dark or washed out when they were posted. Here are the six blocks in the order that they were stitched.

NQA 2014 BOM - January through June completed blocks

NQA 2014 BOM – January through June completed blocks

So far, I have been able to stick to my color palette of 4-5 red fabrics. Most of the star blocks required one or two colors plus the white background for the pattern. This star block used three and the April pattern used four. It is difficult to determine how the blocks will be set together, but they look fairly good together so far. And, I have learned some new foundation paper piecing techniques while doing this BOM, which is often why a quilter decides to do a BOM. My intention was to use up some old fabrics, since many of these are from the eighties and nineties. I need to freshen up my stash.

Are you working on a Block of the Month pattern for this year? How are you doing?


I continue to work on my Rose of Sharon study quilt. I have three of the four blocks finished. Two are re-sized and stitched together, so that the final size is determined. I then, cut the border strips. The finished size of the quilt will be 48″ X 48″. I have been diligently stitching the fourth block and expect to have it complete tonight. I have also given a great deal of thought into how I will prepare the swags for the border, which will be the next step in my study quilt.

Since I have no project photos to share, I thought that I would share my sister’s latest quilt. I have two sisters, one older and one younger, and we frequently get together to quilt. My youngest sister called me this afternoon to say she had finished her granddaughter’s baby quilt. If I wanted to see it before it was taken home with the recipient, I better come by this afternoon. When I arrived, my older sister had already arrived. Probably because she got the call first and secondly because she only lives a block away. I live three blocks.

Evelyn's Quilt

Evelyn’s Quilt

My sister changed the blue colors in the quilt pattern to purple, giving it a little girl feel.

Bunny Embroidery

Bunny Embroidery

This pattern is one in a set of five designs, and my sister has completed two of them for her grandchildren. Besides doing a beautiful job on the embroidery and piecing, she also did a phenomenal job with the FMQ. The quilt that I made for my great-niece was a simple Charms Squares Baby Quilt (quilt on the left). My sister’s quilt is much more to be treasured, as it should be.

Evelyn with Mom,  Grandma & her quilt

Evelyn with Mom, Grandma & her quilt

Such a sweet little girl and a sweet baby quilt. Now my sister can get to work on the FMQ of our collaborative quilt, Dresdan Zoo, for another great-niece.

Happy Stitching!


With my Bernina home, I was able to make some progress on my current stitching projects. I’m behind on my National Quilting Association Block of the Month. Today, I finished the May star block, a Crazy Star, for the Galaxy quilt. The pattern was designed by Pam Seip, certified NQA teacher.


The pattern is a paper foundation pieced block. Now, paper piecing is not a technique that I enjoy, but I did complete the pattern as designed. Over the years, I figured out a way to make foundation paper pieced blocks, but find paper piecing to be tedious with unnecessary extra steps. The results for this star are not significant compared to a liberated star piecing technique I learned several years ago. Gwen Marston’s liberated piecing techniques produce lovely blocks in less time and without any paper. I would much rather make my stars like this.

Liberated Stars

Liberated Stars

I really like Gwen’s liberated piecing techniques. I have taken several classes from her and made not a few quilts using them. Here are two more liberated quilts – String blocks and Liberated Baskets.

String blocks - quilt on top

String blocks – quilt on top

Liberated Baskets - challenge quilt with Michigan Quilt Network

Liberated Baskets – challenge quilt with Michigan Quilt Network

I also pieced the back for the baby quilt, Dresdan Zoo, that my sister and I have been making for a great-niece. My sister had an orange and yellow leopard print fabric in her stash. She added a small print yellow that reads well as a solid. I had completed a  free Craftsy class by Elizabeth Hartman on pieced backs and used the information to put this backing together. Neither piece of fabric was large enough for the backing and just seaming them together would have placed a seam too close to one edge. I measured the necessary dimensions and determined an appropriate place to add in a strip of the yellow fabric. I also added a piece the same distance down from the top, to give an offset cross shape.

Pieced Backing

If you’re wondering how my Bernina looks, here are a couple of pics.

Bernina virtuosa 155

Bernina virtuosa 155

Repaired machine base

The stainless steel base of the machine had been damaged and was separated about 3/16-inch above the machine base on the front, left corner. The area was raised just enough to make an uneven surface, causing minor issues with piecing and free-motion quilting. I am so glad that I finally got it fixed. I was concerned that the part would be expensive and it was only $23 plus labor. I understand that the repairman had a difficult time removing the damaged part, but was able to get it done and glue down the new piece. The machine looks new again.

Now, I need to get back to my Rose of Sharon applique blocks. My deadline for the quilt study is fast approaching and with limited stitching time, I need to spend as much on this quilt as I can.

Happy Stitching!

My Bernina finally came home after a three week stint for a cleaning and repair. In the past, three weeks without my machine would have been devastating, but I managed this time without any problems. It seems that I have been doing a lot of hand sewing. See my posts about my Rose of Sharon study quilt HERE and HERE.

The quilt shop had five other machines ahead of mine to clean and repair, so I had to leave mine knowing that they wouldn’t get to it for a few days. I also knew that they would need to repair the throat plate area, so a wait for the part delayed the work further. I picked up my baby on Saturday and brought her home. She looks so much better and I expect she sews fine. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to take her for a spin. Our granddaughter had a sleepover at Grandma & Grandpas house and today was a BBQ with family for Father’s Day. The weather is lovely outside and I am enjoying the warm, breezy afternoon as I write this blog post on my deck.

I always find it interesting to note the amount of time I spent sewing on my Bernina since the last cleaning. However, I was surprised to find that I hadn’t done as much machine stitching as in previous years. I purchased my Bernina virtuosa 155  March 27, 2004 at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago. My first cleaning was completed 11/24/06 and I had put 55 hours of sewtime on the machine. The next cleaning was 7/23/08 and I had 83 hours of sewtime. This was followed by a cleaning 9/9/09 with 27 hours of sewtime. I was averaging 33 hours of sewing annually. This time, I hadn’t had my machine in for a cleaning in five years. I really thought it had been less time. I was surprised that there was only 48 hours of sewtime on the machine, which averages less than 10 hours sewtime annually. What’s up with that!

I know that I have been doing a lot of sewing, so I wonder what it is that has shortened my sewtime. Some of this is the type of sewing I am doing. As I said earlier, I am doing a lot more hand sewing. As you can see in several of my recent posts, I am doing a lot of hand applique. I started an Applique Club with my local guild three years ago and made two of these projects by hand applique. I also have several other hand projects in the works – applique, redwork, and hand quilting. But, I still thought that I had done more sewing on my machine than 10 hours.

I began thinking it over and realized that there has been a lot going on in the last five years that has kept me from my Bernina. In these five years, three grandchildren have been born and they take precedence in my life. I haven’t been attending retreats, preferring to stay at home and do stitching with my sisters. We’ve been getting together every month or so for a sewing day. We travel to each other’s house and I usually take a cutting project or hand sewing when I travel, so I don’t have to pack up my machine. You can read about many of these sister sewing days at Modern Sue’s Previous Musings under the Sisters tag. I also started blogging four years ago and that certainly takes away from sewtime. My husband also reminded me that I have had many physical limitations over the last couple of years that has interfered with my ability to sew. I put my Bernina aside last March to undergo a shoulder repair and only began doing my machine sewing  again at Christmas time. I’ve also had surgery on my thyroid gland in 2012 and my right great toe in 2009. Maybe not as limiting as the shoulder repair, but certainly cutting into sewtime.

So, what does all this mean. Well, probably that I need to find more time to sew. Or, maybe I’ve discovered that sewing and quilting aren’t the most important aspects of my life. Relationships are more important than a piece of cloth, thread and a needle. Sewing and quilting are what I do to create things for my family and friends. It is an extension of me, but not all that I am. I may not be the fastest stitcher at a retreat, or the guild member that makes the most quilts to show & tell, or the family member that always has a homemade gift-wait, that one is me! I want to be remembered for being a loving and caring wife, mom, grandma, sister, aunt, friend, or you fill in the blank. My quilts are just an extension of that love and care.

Hopefully everyone had a wonderful Father’s Day. I enjoyed a BBQ dinner with my family. But, tonight is sewtime!


Honeybee Blocks

I pulled out my honeybee blocks the other day. The quilt was planned for my daughter, Melissa, whose name means “honeybee”. It has become a UFO that I need to finish this year. I first started the quilt as an idea for a quilt challenge put on by JoAnn fabrics, planning to make the quilt for my daughter as a wedding gift. She celebrated her third anniversary last week. That’s what caused me to pull out the blocks and revisit the project. She asked me when I was going to finish her wedding quilt.

A honeybee block is a 9-patch bordered with side and corner squares. Then, shapes of a bee body and wings are appliqued at each corner. Check out this link to McCall’s Quilting for a free Honeybee block pattern. I expanded on the idea and placed twenty different 9-patch patterns in the center. I chose a paisley fabric in pink as the main fabric, then added a solid patterned pink similar to the color from my daughter’s wedding. A lighter pink is also in some of the blocks to add contrast. Two shades of green fabrics with leafy designs were used in the block borders and a multi-colored stripe for the bee body with beige wings. All the fabrics are from a Susan Winget Legacy Studio collection that was purchased at JoAnn Fabrics.

Honeybee Block

Honeybee Block

Here is my first block in the traditional pattern. I added buttons in the corners to represent the bee’s head. It also covers up any imperfections in my applique points. I have a few bees to finish appliqueing, so this project has become my take-along project. It’s a lot easier to carry along than the Rose of Sharon quilt study project that I need to finish. The Rose of Sharon blocks are spread out on my sewing table and I would rather not fold everything up into a small bag to carry with me. Instead, it is my stay at home sewing project.

Straight Set Blocks

Straight Set Blocks

Here are sixteen of the blocks in a straight set. Four other blocks would be set in the corners of a wide border.

Diagonal Set Blocks

Diagonal Set Blocks

Here are the blocks in a diagonal set. This would require side setting and corner setting triangles and only two additional blocks. The set would allow for a larger quilt while only having to make one more block.

Closer look at honeybees

Closer look at diagonal set blocks

I haven’t decided how I will set the blocks together. My initial plan had the straight set and planned elaborate applique borders. But, now I am thinking that I just need to finish the quilt. The last four blocks have not been pieced, but they are cut out. I would also have to prepare all the honeybees. I will have to think about this while I finish appliqueing the last block that is already stitched.

Honeybees at the block intersections

Honeybees at the block intersections

I also could add sashing between the blocks, but kinda like the look of the four bees where the blocks intersect.

Quilters always like to get the opinion of others when putting together a quilt. So, what do any of you think? Straight set? Diagonal set? Sashing? Wide borders with applique? What fabric in the borders? I have lots of fabric to use in this quilt and plan to use the striped bee fabric on the back. Still lots of paisley, green and beige fabrics.

Share your ideas!


The first of four Rose of Sharon blocks is complete. I thoroughly enjoyed doing the applique. The preparation of the blocks shapes made the stitching move along quickly.

Completed  Rose of Sharon block

Completed Rose of Sharon block

I took this photo outside this afternoon with such a sunny day. The sunshine was so glaring that this block in the shade was a much better shot. Still, the colors look dull.



Here is a closer look at the block. You can better view the layout of the design and the stitching of the shapes. I haven’t pressed the block yet, and also plan to trim the block down to a 15-inch square. There will be a lot of negative white space to use for free-motion quilting.

My SewBatik Challenge quilt is on to a new venue. Forty-six quilts were on display at the annual NQA quilt show over Memorial week-end. Following the show, 30 of the quilts were sent off to Reno, Nevada to display June 12-14th at an upcoming Sew Original Quilt and Creative Expos quilt show. They will also be displayed in Lincoln, NE – September 11-13th, and Louisville, KY – October 9-11th.

Back to the sewing table to put another Rose of Sharon block together for stitching. What are you stitching up today?


I am working on a Rose of Sharon quilt for the 2014 American Quilt Study Group (AQSG) quilt study. If you are not familiar with a study quilt, check out the guild website to see the Colonial Revival quilt study from 2012. I had read about the quilt study and wanted to get involved with one when I finally joined the AQSG two years ago. I submitted a  participant release form that placed me on a waiting list. This particular study is very popular. Then, I had to find an inspiration quilt that represented the quilt study period of 1850-1865. This quilt can be recreated or inspire a design that must meet certain guidelines. Earlier this year, some of the participants dropped out of the study, so now I am among the fifty quilters that will have the opportunity to present my study quilt at Seminar in September.

I chose my inspiration quilt last Spring and received permission to use it for the study. The inspiration quilt is in the permanent collection of the DAR Museum in Washington D.C. You can view the quilt on The Quilt Index at the following link. The quilt was made in Missouri for Mary Ann Poindexter, who married Dr. John Marshall Staples on September 30, 1852. Her mother and sisters made the quilt. It is dated 1852, so it easily falls within the guidelines for the study. Unfortunately, Dr. Staples died during the Civil War and Mary Ann’s sister Elizabeth presented her sister with the quilt on the occasion of her marriage to Parks Gunn in 1872.

I have been preparing the applique shapes over the last couple of days so that I can finally applique the blocks. Here are the pieces laid out in the pattern design.

Rose of Sharon applique parts

Rose of Sharon applique parts

Rose of Sharon is a popular applique pattern that has many variations. It is one of many patterns with a biblical name, derived from a verse in Song of Songs, “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” Ruth Finley states in her book Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them, page 126, “The best known appliqué pattern of all was “The Rose of Sharon”. Many examples of the quilt still survive simply because they were made as special quilts that did not receive frequent use. Most often, the pattern was made as a wedding quilt, the last of a young woman’s dowry of thirteen quilts. My quilt uses an earlier version of the Rose of Sharon pattern that has a single stemmed rose with several rosebuds radiating out from the central flower. The inspiration quilt used red, pink and green fabrics, but I chose to use two shades of pink. The study quilt will be a four-block design with a swag border, more simplistic than the swag border in the inspiration quilt.

Center Rose Applique

Center Rose Applique

One of the first quilts that I made back in 1981 was a Rose of Sharon pattern. I used a newer pattern design with a center flower and mirror images of vines with rose buds and leaves coming out from the four sides of the center rose. This design is often seen in vintage quilts and is more often made with shades of pink fabric. My first Rose of Sharon quilt was poorly constructed using a raw edge satin applique stitch. Cotton solid fabrics were not readily available in the early 80’s and I did not know any better than to use the cotton/poly blends found in my local five and dime store that sold fabrics. The quilt did not hold up well with continued use by the recipient, my sister. For this reason, I chose to make the Rose of Sharon pattern for my study, so that I could utilize my improved applique skills to produce the quilt. This time around Kona cottons are my choice of fabric. I am also hand stitching the applique pieces, although I plan to machine quilt the finished top.

I have a lot to do before this quilt needs to be finished, but feel confident that it will go quickly. Hand applique is my favorite method of stitching and the portable quality of the project will allow me to take it wherever I go. The next step is to cut out the four white background blocks and position the pieces onto them for stitching. As well, I have to finish my Written Statement to submit within the next month.

I know that many of you enjoy challenges. This is actually my third type of quilt challenge this year. Having a deadline helps me stay focused on finishing a project. How about you? Do you prefer working with deadlines or working along at a leisurely pace?

I’ll keep everyone updated on the progress.

Happy Stitching!

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