Fresh air and a nice break

Bow Lake, New Hampshire “Keep close to nature’s heart . . . and break clear away once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”  — John Muir

Lake Tahoe

Well THAT was lovely. I hadn’t originally intended to take that long of a break from the internet, but you know what? It was great. I highly recommend it.

Exeter, New Hampshire

We crammed all of our summer travels into back to back family visits better part of the last two weeks. First with my husband’s parents and brothers in New England, as previously mentioned. We stayed at this amazing AirBnB rental near their home in Exeter, New Hampshire which was cheaper that two rooms at the local generic motel and gave us a lot more room. Not to mention had a LOT more personality! It was build in 1750 and came complete with tight stairways, sloping floors, and this awesome retro crazy quilt in one of the rooms.

Orchard House

We made a few more stops in Massachusetts so see Lexington, Concord and Boston before heading home. Highlights included Louisa May Alcott’s house with my own little women. I’d been many years ago, but it was extra fun to go with them.


Our last day was spent in Boston on the Freedom Trail. I’m a total sucker for history and Boston has it in spades. I love that place. Not to mention Dunkin Donuts, pizza in the North End, and cannoli’s from Mike’s Pastry. Not only are they part of the authentic Boston experience, they work as great motivational tactics. (And not just for the children).

Lake Tahoe

From there we came home, had two days to catch-up on our (my) sleep and laundry, re-pack, and load up the car to drive to Lake Tahoe where we met up with my parents, all my siblings, and their spouses and kids – 24 of us all together.


I grew-up visiting Lake Tahoe with my family multiple times, but this was the first time I’d been back in over 20 years. I’d forgotten how much I loved it.


Most of our time was spent playing at the beach. We did drive over to Emerald Bay one day and hiked down to Vikingsholm – a summer house built by a wealthy woman in 1929.


The house is inspired by Scandinavian architecture and full of beautiful details. The charming house plus the amazing setting and I’m ready to move in any day now. Just waiting to convince the State of California to let me.

sewing at Lake Tahoe

I brought my orange peels and cross-stitch to work – and I got some done in the drive across Nevada and a little at the beach – but not much to be honest.  It felt good to just hang out and talk to family. And now it’s back to reality catching up on laundry and life. But that’s fine too. We only have 3 more weeks of summer vacation (I can’t believe it.)

Emerald Bay sunrise James Udall

And here’s one more parting image of Lake Tahoe (that I didn’t take). Sunrise over Emerald Bay by my brother James. You have to pay the price (waking up at 4:00 am) to get pictures like this, so I’ll have to live vicariously for now. If you need a chance to “climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods” vicariously, check out his other amazing nature photos. You can practically smell the wildflowers and inhale fresh air.

Summer Vacation time

portland head lighthouse

This week we’ve been visiting our family on the east coast (New England). I’ve been looking forward to this trip for a L O N G time and it’s been heavenly. (Above is the Portland Head Lighthouse, at Cape Elizabeth, Maine.)  I’m fond of New England for multiple reasons. The biggest being it’s our time to visit family, it’s beautiful (duh), and it’s so different from where I’m from in Utah/the West. I can’t get enough.

summer hand sewing

I prepped lots of handwork to bring with me on the plane as well as time just sitting and staring at lakes, etc. Including my first cross-stitch project in 12 years. I was inspired by Camille’s version of this Pretty Little London cross-stitch and had to make my own.

Also, I am still working on those blue and red orange peel blocks that I started four years ago. It’s been my ongoing  summer/road-trip hand work for a long time. I’m building up a healthy stack, but need a few more. Maybe this will be the summer I finally get enough finished to make something with them.DSC04465

While here I also got to see this quilt again. I love seeing quilts I’ve given away in use and being enjoyed.

Bow Lake

In the mean time, we’re making the most of water, sunshine, and time to just hang out, be with family, and enjoy what summer is all about.IMG_9490
And now please excuse me while I idle away. See you on the other side.

Gift Certificate from Southern Fabrics

Whew! Last week was a busy one! This week is a little more calm and time with the family including some hand sewing along the way. I’ll share more this weekend.Southern Fabric Logo

In the mean time, we have some pretty fabric pictures, a fabric sale (!),  and a fun sponsored giveaway from Southern Fabric to keep us entertained.  Southern Fabric is an online fabric retailer located in Georgia that happily ships fabric all over the world. They have a great site, easy to navigate and search by color, manufacturer, collection or designer.

They specialize in the latest from Free SpiritModaRiley Blake, Cotton + Steel, Dear Stella, and Art Gallery.  They stock a large selection of pre-cuts, bundles, patterns, and notions.


Some new collections in stock include: Vintage Market by Tasha Noel


Modern Mini’s by Lori Holt

tinsel_mobileand Tinsel by Cotton + Steel



In addition to a lot of new fabric in stock, Souther Fabrics just marked down hundreds of items – some up to as much as 50% off – including a lot of basics,  Amy Butler’s Cameo,  as well as prints from Anna Maria Horner, and Cotton + Steel.

Today, Southern Fabric is giving away a $50 Gift Certificate to one of you! To enter to win, visit Southern Fabric and come back here to leave a comment sharing one of your favorite fabric collections in stock. Giveaway open until Saturday, July 18.

Southern Fabric frequently has amazing one day deals and specials and following them on Instagram or Facebook is the best way to keep up to date on all those opportunities! Thanks Southern Fabric!

Aubrey from Southern Fabrics is also offering a discount to my readers. 20% off all full-priced items (cannot be combined with any other coupons) with Code: diaryofaquilter. Enjoy!

WINNER: Beth T. says  Southern Fabric carries so many great lines. I’m always delighted to find old favorites there–this time I was pleased to see “Aloha Girl”. Maybe I’ll head on back and bring some home. Especially if I am the lucky winner. 😉

Easy DIY Star Baby Quilt Tutorials

I love a simple, classic star quilt block. They’re timeless and traditional, but can easily be given a modern, graphic look because of it’s simplicity and by enlarging its size. Today I’m sharing the measurements for a very simple baby quilt from this traditional block that can be made quickly and easily. It’s a great beginner project as baby quilt tutorials

Yesterday and today at the BERNINA We All Sew site, I’m sharing a simple tutorial for the easy star baby quilt  on the right in the LeMoyne, or Lone Star variation.  On this site, I’ll be sharing the measurements and construction for another variation of the star quilt on the left. Construction is similar, but fabric requirements and layout are slightly different.

Lone Star quilt tutorial by Amy Smart

Here’s to two fun variations on the same theme, not to mention a quick way to use pre-cut 10″ squares to make a quick baby gift or wall hanging. Click here for Part 1 – construction of the Lone Star Baby quilt and here for Part 2 – finishing the quilt at the We All Sew site.

Layer Cake Star Baby Quilt TutorialThis quilt variation finishes at 40″ x 40″. It is a great project for using pre-cut 10″ squares (or Layer Cake squares), calling for at least 21 10″ x 10″ squares. It could be made very clean and simple or super scrappy – lots of room for variations on a classic quilt block.

Baby star quilt fabric requirements

Fabric requirements:

  • 6 light 10″ x 10″ squares
  • 6 colored 10″ x 10″ squares
  • 4 light 9 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ squares
  • 16 strips 2 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ and 4 squares 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ for borders (cut these from yardage or from remaining pre-cut 10″ squares)
  • 1 1/4 yard backing
  • 3/8 yard binding

star quilt tutorial part 2-001

Draw a diagonal line on the back of the six 10″ x 10″ light squares. Match them up with a colored square and sew a 1/4″ seam down both sides of the drawn line.


Repeat with all six pairs.


Using a ruler and rotary cutter, cut all six pairs on the drawn line to create 2 half-square triangle blocks from each pair, for a total of 12 half-square triangle blocks. Press seams toward the dark fabric. Square up each block to 9 1/2″ x 9 1/2″

Star Baby Quilt Tutorial layout

With solid light 9 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ blocks in the four corners, layout 12 half-square blocks in a star motif – 4 blocks across by 4 blocks down. You can use this layout or create one of your own. There are lots of options and variations.

Sew blocks into four rows Press seams alternating directions for each row. (For example press all seams to the right on odd rows – 1 &3 and press all seams to the left on even rows 2 & 4.) Then sew four rows together, pressing seams all the same direction.

easy star baby quilt tutorial

To add borders, sew two sets of  four 2 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ strips end to end. Decide which side of the quilt you want to sew them to and press the seams in alternating directions from the seams on that side of the quilt. Sew two borders to opposite sides of the quilt. Press seams toward the borders.

For final borders, sew two more sets of four 2 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ strips end to end and sew a 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ square to either end. Repeat the process of pressing seams alternating directions from the seams on the quilt side. Pin border at seams and sew final borders to quilt. Press seams toward the borders.

If you would prefer non-pieced borders cut four strips 2 1/2″ x the width of fabric and attach them Here is a simple quilt border tutorial.

pieced quilt back

This quilt calls for a 1 1/4 yard piece of fabric (roughly 42″ x 42″). This is the most economical size for backing the quilt, but will be just slightly larger than the quilt front. If you baste carefully, it should still be big enough all the way around with excess backing fabric on all four sides before you quilt it. If not you may want to piece a larger back.

I extended my backing fabric by using remnants from my layer cake to make a fun pieced strip through the back of my quilt. There are lots of options for quilting you quilt. Here is a simple quilting tutorial. Big thanks to Sew Shabby Quilting for the quilting on this one.

For my binding I cut four strips of fabric 2 1/2″ x the width of the fabric (42″). Sew them together end to end to create one long binding strip. This tutorial shows how to bind – or finish – a quilt.

IMG_7277    Fabrics used for these quilts:

  • (left) Emmy Grace by BariJ for Art Gallery Fabrics (available here)
  • (right) Best Day Ever by April Rosenthal for Moda (still available here, here, and here)

giant lone star quiltIf you’re looking for a larger variation on this design, check out Jeni Baker’s Giant Vintage Star Tutorial.

Home Dec Fabric – Recovering a Pressing Table

One of my all-time favorite sewing tools in recent years, is my portable pressing table. It takes up a lot less room than my ironing board in my little sewing space and it’s so easy to keep right next to my sewing machine for easy pressing while I work. I love it!

Pressing Table cover

Today, as part of the Riley Blake Home Dec Love tour, I’m going to share how I updated my pressing table with pretty Home Decorator weight fabric and share some tips for making your own personal pressing board!

Pressing Table recover


Here are the supplies you’ll need to make your own covered pressing table. First of all, a wooden TV table that you can easily find in places like WalMart or Target. Make sure it has a flat surface on the top. In addition you’ll need:

  • fabric that measures at least 3″ bigger on all sides than the surface of the TV tray
  • at least 3 layers of quilt batting (batting scraps work great) 1 1/2″ bigger than the size of the tray surface
  •  a layer of of InsulBright batting – not essential, but I recommend it
  • a staple gun
  • *optional – Spray paint to paint the legs of the TV tray a fun color


When making my original tray, used the TV Tray Pressing Table tutorial from Oh Fransson.

In addition to that tutorial, I used the helpful hints (and in my case helpers) from American Quilting. They used the Oh Fransson tutorial as well, but have added the Insul Bright layer directly under the fabric – this helps reflect the heat away from the table. They also have more photos showing the steps for turning the fabric under and securing it in place – especially those tricky corners.

old pressing table

I made my pressing table a few years ago and it was scorched and starting to get threadbare and shabby. Definitely time for an update. When I made it originally, I used a regular cotton quilting-weight fabric. I’m sure that added to the threadbare status after only a couple of years. (It does look, loved, right?)

Home Dec fabric Pressing Table

And now here’s the new and much-improved version. Using the Home Decorator weight fabric instead of the regular quilting cotton makes such a difference too. I expect this to last much longer and be much more durable.


Plus, it looks cute.  I love how cheerful it looks next to my sewing machine. I used the Riley Blake Gray and White Dot from Home Dec Basics. And I only used half of a 5/8 yard (the yardage measures 58″ wide) so there’s lots left over to use for a bag or another fun project.

Home Dec Love AD-01 And luckily for me (and you!), right now there’s lots of great inspiration and tons of projects as part of the Home Dec Love Blog Tour on the Riley Blake Designs website where you can find links to many blogs with a variety of ideas- everything from bags, curtains, placemats, and even a hammock!

Check them out for lots of great inspiration!

Pattern Jam – Easy Quilt Design Tool

Do you love to play with fabric combinations? Do you wish that you could see the fabric combinations in different colors, layouts, and border combinations before you commit to cutting and sewing, let alone buying that fabric? Have I got a cool site for you!

PatternJam Large

The new Pattern Jam website is rolling out right now. Pattern Jam aims to be the world’s easiest quilt design platform where you can interact with dozens of current quilt designs as well as a huge library of the latest designer fabric collections.

Pattern Jam Quilt Design website

There are multiple ways to use Pattern Jam. The first thing you need to do is sign in and create your own profile. This way you can save all your choices from the Fabric library as well as all of your customized quilt designs.

From there you can begin to build your own “virtual fabric stash” from the Browse Fabrics button. You can browse fabric samples by color, designer, collection or manufacturer. Then click on the heart icon to add it to your favorites. It’s pretty addicting but the good news is, it’s totally free, you can get a little of everything and your family can’t be appalled by the size of your collection. :)

From there you can Design a Quilt using a very simple interface where you drag blocks into an easily customizable grid and then drag fabrics into you block. This is a great beginner version for customizing quilt designs and a really fun way to play with block shapes and colors. The video above shows you how quickly you can create a whole new design.


This is a design I created from scratch in just a matter of minutes. It’s a really fun (and free!) way to get your creative juices flowing.Heather_Bailey_Lattice_1436213765_watermark

Or you can choose the Customize a Pattern option and chose from dozens of finished quilt patterns to use as your template. Here is a sample of using Heather Bailey’s recent Clementine collection in my Lattice Quilt Pattern. If I were to sew this quilt with this fabric, it wouldn’t necessarily look identical to this, but it gives me a really good idea – especially when you’re choose border fabrics/colors. That can change the whole look of the quilt!

You can see some of the virtual quilts I’ve been playing with under my profile. I warn you now, this is also very addicting. 😉

Many of the quilts in the Customize a Pattern section and instant downloads are available for immediate purchase, with many free pattern templates available as well!Pattern Jam Quilt Design Tool collage

For a limited time, be one of the first to create a profile at PatternJam and receive an invitation to start playing. And better yet, for a short time only, refer 5 quilt-loving friends and you will get 6 free half yards of fabric as a thank you. For real. Visit for all the details. Pattern Jam is still in it’s introductory phase, working out glitches, etc, so your feedback is welcome!

I’d love to hear what you think of Pattern Jam! As an incentive, Emily Taylor – Pattern Jam developer – is giving away 8 additional yards of free designer fabric to one of you. Give Pattern Jam a whirl and leave a comment sharing what you think of Pattern Jam to be entered! Giveaway open until Sunday, July 12 at midnight MST. GIVEAWAY CLOSED


Buffy says 

I started playing with Pattern Jam about 2 weeks ago. It is super addictive…I love how it fulfills the part of me that enjoys sorting fabric, changing patterns and goals with a project. It allows you to play but takes the guess work out of how something will look when it is finished. I sometimes think a certain fabric choice is great for a pattern only to be unhappy once it is sewn up…I love Pattern Jam as a preview, a creator and a mistake fixer! :)