WIP Wednesday: Island Chain

This quilt really taxed my brain.  The units for this quilt are super simple and I thought it would be a piece of cake to put together but it was a struggle.  After working on the layout for an hour and a half this is what I had-several holes and chains that didn’t link.

Island Chain layout


Things just weren’t working out and even with using the diagram in the book and my fabric key I couldn’t figure out the layout.  Finally I abandoned it and regrouped.  Things worked out better the second time and now I’m ready to audition borders.  The pattern is Island Chain from Scrap-Basket Sensations by Kim Brackett.  I really don’t use a Scrap-Basket book for every quilt I make, but they have been great resources for my 40 yard dash challenge.

Island Chain top

I found a green fabric in my stash that may work for a border but there is only a yard left of it.  In yesterday’s border confession I neglected to mention that I like to cut my borders on the lengthwise grain.  There is much less stretch when the fabric is cut parallel to the selvage and I don’t have to piece them.  It doesn’t take very much more fabric because I also cut the binding strips from the same length of fabric.  The green I’m considering is a good color but the trade-off is having to piece it.  It will take more brain power that I have today so I’ll think about it tomorrow!



Porch Swing Borders…and my border confession

The UFOs are piling up in my sewing room so I need to at least finish some tops so I can move them and their leftover bits out of there (and into another pile haha!).  Today I sewed borders onto the Porch Swing top.  This was the quilt that caused me so much trouble so I didn’t tempt fate with anything fancy.  Just a single slab border for this one.

porch swing top

This Thimbleberries fabric was perfect for this quilt.  It was one of those wonderful barn reds that work so well with traditional quilts.  I’m always so conflicted about using up these old fabrics because I know I can’t get them anymore but this particular one had been aging long enough.  The selvage read “Christmas Valley 1995.”  Wow, sure didn’t think I had it that long.

porch swing border

As I was sewing these borders on, I started thinking about how my border technique has changed over the years and decided to come clean about how I do it. I’m not trying to convert anyone to my methods, I’m just suggesting that you sometimes need to try different techniques and find one that clicks with you.

In a nutshell, I don’t measure borders at all; simply cut them and slap them on. Right about now probably every long-armer is cringing and wishing I had never written those words, but I have sewn lots of borders and this works for me.

For many years I dutifully measured the center of my quilt, then both sides, averaged the measurements, cut the borders precisely to that measurement, pinned the strips to the top (easing in the fullness all along the length), then carefully sewed the borders to the top.  This meant that no border was exactly the same size as the edge of the quilt top so what I ended up with was fullness either in the top or the borders on all four sides.  That fullness then had to be “quilted out.” For years, I even taught this method for borders but felt like a fraud because that’s not how I was doing it. It just never made sense to me because that extra fabric had to go somewhere and I would end up with puckers in the quilt or wavy borders that didn’t lay flat. It wasn’t fun trying to ease that excess out while quilting.  For me it did not seem logical to cut borders a certain length then try to make the top fit those borders. Plus, it often seemed a top that started square did not remain so after quilting. This was particularly true when there was dense quilting.  Some areas would shrink more than others with the heavy quilting.  In the end, I realized I cared more that my quilt was flat rather than square so I stopped measuring.

Now, I simply cut a length of fabric a little longer than the quilt top, sew it on and cut off the extra fabric.  It sounds counter intuitive but I always sew with the border fabric on top.  For some reason that works better for me in preventing wavy borders.  Since I’ve been doing this, I never have to ease any fabric when I’m quilting and both my top and borders are nice and flat.  For many years I followed the adage to “fit the top to the borders” but since I started fitting my borders to the top, I’ve been much happier with the results.  Maybe my sewing has become more accurate over time or maybe it’s just luck, but it is rare when a quilt ends up with any significant difference in length side to side or top to bottom.  I don’t make quilts to show so no one ever measures, but for my purposes, this works just fine.  As always, your mileage may vary so if you are happy with the way your borders turn out, keep using the method that works for you!


DWM: Fancy Fox II

Staff members were assigned homework at Keep Me In Stitches.  Each of us was asked to make a block from Elizabeth Hartman’s pattern Fancy Fox II using any fabric in the shop.  Here is my block—most likely the most traditional in the bunch, but I can’t get enough gray and navy right now (plus mint and coral!).  You can’t tell from the picture, but this is a large block—20 inches!


Since the glasses shown on the pattern look just like the ones I wear, I appliqued them onto my block.


This was such a fun and easy block to make I “volunteered” to make a baby quilt from the original Fancy Fox pattern (smaller blocks) for a shop sample.  It will be adorable!

Be sure to check out other great projects linked up with Judy at Patchwork Times.

Beautiful Day on the Water

The weekend weather forecast was not very promising and it looked like Saturday would be the only warm, sunny day.  It was beautiful when we got up so we loaded the kayaks on the car and headed up to Door County.  If you’re not familiar with Door County, it’s the narrow peninsula that sits between the bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan.  In addition to the natural beauty of the water, there are state parks, lots of nice restaurants and unique shopping.  Since it’s less than two hours away so we left early and made a day of it.

Our first stop was Peninsula State Park.  This is the largest park in the Wisconsin State Park system and it offers something for everyone—boating, hiking, biking, and camping.  It is our favorite park and we try to get up there several times a year.  The water was pretty calm in the bay but it was pretty windy so out in the open water it was a little choppy but not too bad for paddling.


We were out for two hours and I’m pretty sure my arms will be sore tomorrow.   I doubt I’ll be able to lift a pan, laundry basket or vacuum cleaner or anything heavier than a couple of pieces of fabric to run under the sewing machine presser foot!!

A friend recommended the pizza at Wild Tomato across from the park so we checked it out and were not disappointed.


After lunch we strolled “in town” for a little while, stopped by Wilson’s for ice cream and went back to the park for a hike.


On the drive up I hand stitched the binding on this scrappy Stamp quilt.  This is the first finished quilt from my 40 yard dash challenge.  The second is quilted and ready for binding and two more are pieced and in the quilting queue.  This week will be busy and not a lot of time for sewing but I hope to get at least one more finished.


The quilting in the blocks and outer borders is simple up and down lines.  I practiced circles in the sashing and little posies in the cornerstones.  Easy designs and no marking!

stamp quilting

Estimated fabric out of stash for this quilt:  8.375 yards.  I even found an old Thimbleberries fabric for the back.

stamp back

Jen’s First Quilt

Last winter Jen and I were in the quilt shop and when she saw this elephant fabric she decided to try to make a quilt.  We bought the fabric, picked out an easy pattern and I cut it out then sent it back to school with her.  She didn’t get around to making it while she was at school so when we went on the retreat in March she pieced the top.  I brought it back home and quilted it.  The pattern is Box Trot by Creative Sewlutions.

Jen's quilt-1

Jen doesn’t like quilts with a lot of quilting because they tend to be stiff so I backed this with super soft Moda Snuggles (like Minkee) in Elephant Gray and just quilted a big overall meander.  She really likes and it is a nice size to wrap up in while watching TV or reading.

Jen's quilt-2

She did a nice job on the piecing but I haven’t completely converted her to quilting.  She still prefers to make little things like bags and pillows but I’m sure I can turn her into a quilter!

A Most Eventful Weekend

Part 1:  We have a doctor in the house!

On Friday afternoon our son Bryan donned tam, gown and hood:


snapped a few pictures outside the Milwaukee Theater:




(Bryan and his wife, Laura)

Bryan 5

(Jim, Laura, Bryan and me)


(Laura’s dad, Brian, Laura, Bryan and Laura’s mom, Sandy)

took the Hippocratic Oath:


received his diploma:


and became Bryan J. Roberts, MD.

It was a long four years, but it finally happened.  We are so proud of him and all that he and Laura went through to get here.  It is quite an accomplishment!

Part Two:  Dr. and Mrs. Roberts move back to Appleton

After a celebratory glass of champagne at their apartment we went for a hibachi dinner at Japanica.


After dinner, Laura’s parents and we checked into our hotel rooms to get a good night’s sleep so we could pack up Bryan and Laura’s Wauwatosa apartment and move them back to Appleton.  Thanks to Laura’s organization and several previous trips back and forth we were able to get them settled into their new place by early afternoon on Saturday.

Part 3:  Randall, welcome to the family

While the parents were hauling furniture and belongings up to Appleton, Bryan and Laura were driving to Indiana to pick up this adorable little guy:

Randall Collage

They are so excited to have a pet and he is the cutest little dalmation puppy.  Yesterday they brought him over to run around in our fenced backyard and we had so much fun playing with him.  Hopefully we wore him out so they could all get a nap!  Our cats weren’t so sure about Randall (ran-dall-mation, get it?  haha!)—they watched every move he made from the safety of the sliding door.  We’ll introduce them later and hopefully they will all become friends.

Part 4:  We begin again!

As we were driving to Bryan’s graduation we received this message from our daughter, Jennifer:


She’ll begin work on her Master’s degree in Food Science in the fall so it looks like we’ll still have a “kid” in school for a couple more years!

Finally, not to be outdone by my children, this is what I accomplished over the weekend!  I used two Miss Kate charm packs and cut the tumblers using the 4-1/2” Accuquilt Go! die.  It went together in a snap.

Miss Kate-finished

I rarely use a solid fabric on the back, but I sure like the way the quilting shows up.

Miss Kate tumbler back


So, that was our fun, eventful weekend and it’s back to work today.

How Did I Forget This?

Still not much sewing going on around here but I was looking through some pictures and came across this.


How could I forget this quilt?  There was just a bit of binding left to finish and now it’s DONE!  So, I guess I have finished one of my own quilts this year.  It’s still way below my usual output but there’s plenty of year left to catch up.

The pattern is Hourglass from Scrap-Basket Beauties by Kim Brackett (the cover quilt).  I rarely use a black background in a quilt but I really like how it made all those scraps pop.  Here is a close-up of the blocks and quilting.

hourglass close-up

After this weekend things should slow down and I hope to get back into the sewing room.



Way More Work Than It Should Have Been

Did you ever have a project where it seemed that something went wrong every step of the way?  Well that is this project for me.  The quilt is called Porch Swing from Kim Brackett’s book Scrap-Basket Beauties.  Since it uses 2-1/2” strips I thought it would be a good quilt for my 40 yard dash.  The instructions are straightforward and the blocks really aren’t difficult, it was all just operator error!

First off, I cut the wrong fabric for my outside blocks.  I didn’t catch the mistake even after cutting all 32 of them so compounded my error by sewing these incorrect units into blocks.  After re-cutting and sewing those again I started on the center blocks and quickly realized some of my points were going in the wrong direction.  Argh!  So it was back to cutting and sewing more blocks.

Finally I got it to this point

Porch Swing

but couldn’t leave well enough alone.  I rearranged a few blocks and as I was sewing the rows together I realized I had switched an outer block with an inner one so the secondary pattern didn’t work right.  So, once more, I spread out all the blocks, fixed my mistake and sewed it together.  It’s days like this when I wonder why I think this is fun!!!

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