Three small ways to give this Christmas season

A few years ago, I wrote about our warm fuzzy jar and the real meaning of Christmas. In the last week I’ve come across a few small ways to make a big difference for other people. And as a result you can receive your own dose of the “warm fuzzies.” With a small contribution from many warm hearts I think the cumulative effect will make a profound difference. I firmly believe that through “small and simple things” great things will happen.

My awesome neighbor Cheryl is a recently retired Elementary school teacher and is volunteering as a missionary for our church, along with her husband, in Tulcan, Ecuador. While there they have identified some real needs and are trying to make a difference one life at a time. These sweet ladies with Cheryl have a small business selling aprons made from locally produced textiles.

Many of their husbands work 7 days a week to provide for their families, earning only $300-400 a month. These women have found a way to supplement their families’ income by selling aprons and other handmade goods in local markets where there is a demand. The trouble is most of the work is done by hand because they only have one machine between them and it is an old, treadle (non-electric) Singer.

I want to help these women so they can help their families, by getting them at least two new sewing machines (if not more). The machines will be purchased locally, minimizing the cost. Want to help me? I’ve set up a GoFundMe account. I think if enough of us contribute about $3.00 (the cost of a Fat Quarter) we can do this easily! Wouldn’t that be awesome?

(requires Credit Card and a $5 minimum)

OR to contribute via PayPal click the Donate button

(no minimum – I will add the funds to the Go Fund Me campaign)

Lauren is a young mom in Pennsylvania who has committed to make personalized quilts for children fighting chronic illness. I love Lauren’s generosity.
Lauren is looking for donations to help offset the cost to her young family. You can read more about it at the blog FundaQuilt. She has a goal to have 100 $1.00 donations before Christmas.  Want to help? You can donate directly via Payal here or via credit card here
One more: I recently received an email from Sarah, a social work student a Fordham University who is doing an internship at a senior citizen residence in Brooklyn, New York. She has formed a Quilting group for the residents, teaching them how to quilt, and giving them something to enjoy. They just acquired a sewing machine but are in need of fabric donations for the residents to work with. Most of the textiles they’ve been given are too heavy for quilting. If you have some excess fabric to share, this would be a great way to contribute to a cause that could really use it. Go here for more information, or you can email Sarah directly at slee(@) (Remove the parentheses around the @ before you try to email.)
Obviously, there are dozens more similar causes where we can work together to make a meaningful difference for someone. If you’re aware of other similar causes, please feel free to leave the information in the comments section for others to see.

UPDATE: Here are a few other links to great quilting/sewing ways to give:


By far, my favorite part of the Christmas season is finding ways to love others more than we love ourselves = that reminder that “perhaps Christmas means a little bit more.” Wishing a happy Christmas (or Hanukkah or whatever holiday is most near and dear to you and your loved ones) to all of you! I feel blessed to know of so many good WiseMen (and Women). 

Patchwork Tree Quilt Block Tutorial

Earlier this week I shared some little patchwork tree blocks I’d been making. I loved sewing them together into this little patchwork forest mini-quilt. The method for making this blocks is quick and fun and I’m going to show you how right now! (How exciting can life get?)
For my palette I chose a variety of greens in different shades and scales, to create interest and depth. I paired the greens with white-background prints and pulled in just a little bit of red. I like that it gives a hint of Christmas, while still letting the green and white be the dominant colors. You’ll also need a few scraps of brown for the trunks.

Using this method you’ll be making two tree blocks at the same time. First pick two contrasting fabrics. From each fabric cut a 4 1/2” x 4 1/2” square and two 2” x 1 1/2” rectangles. From the brown scraps cut two 1” x 1 1/2” rectangles.

Stack the two 4 1/2” x 4 1/2” squares on top of each other, with both right sides facing up. Using a ruler and a rotary cutter, cut one side of your ‘tree shape. Pull the right side away and make a second diagonal cut to create a triangle ‘tree’ shape. Keep these pairs together, if you are mass-cutting your blocks at once.

You can cut all of your pairs the same way (such as 60 degree triangles) or you can cut each pair slightly different by cutting the triangles at different heights, angles, etc. I really loved giving the trees a little bit of personality and making them all different. This project is very ‘improv’ inspired, so have fun experimenting!

Using the original pair of squares, mix the white sides with the green ‘tree’ and the green side triangles with the white ‘tree’. Lay the contrasting ‘tree’ triangle, right sides together and sew it to the left-side triangle. (Your first seam will always be the line of your second cut.) 
Make sure that the top tip of the ‘tree’ triangle extends 1/4” beyond the top edge of the side triangle and sew a 1/4” seam. Open up ‘tree’ piece and press seam allowance to one side.
Sew the second side-triangle to the other side of the ‘tree’ triangle.

Again, make sure the top triangle extends a 1/4” beyond the top edge of the pieced block. Press seam to one side. Square-off the top edge of the block and the bottom edges of the background triangles so that they are even with the ‘tree’ bottom.

To add the trunk, sew the brown ‘trunk’ piece in between the two coordinating background prints. Press seams toward the brown.

Sew the trunk unit to the bottom of the tree unit. The trunk unit might be wider than the tree unit. That’s okay- just center the trunk under your tree and sew it in place. Then square off sides of the finished block to make them straight edges. My blocks were squared to 3 3/4” wide by 5” long. Yours might be different. All that matters is that all of you blocks are the same size.  
You could change the scale on these blocks as much as you want by starting with bigger or smaller pieces of fabric. The versatility is endless and it’s such an easy one to personalize.
I sewed 25 blocks into a mini quilt. My borders are 2 1/2″ wide finished, but you can certainly make yours however you so desire. Remember, this doesn’t need to be perfect. A little bit wonky and a little bit improv-y makes a statement too. Feel free to make it your own.
I quilted very simply just using straight lines to give the quilt texture, but not distract from the trees. (And because straight lines is all I really feel confident doing.)
I used a red micro-dot as the binding for this quilt to give a tiny bit more red to the design. I purposely made the binding small though, to keep it minimal.
These blocks could be used in all kinds of ways. They’re SO quick to assemble that you could make a whole forest really quickly. I plan to make a couple more pillows or a table runner. I also made a block into a little mini patchwork tag/ornament.

I have a tutorial for the ornament assembly, as well as another little tree block over at the U-Create blog this week. Patchwork Tree Ornament tutorial here.

Since making mine, I’m noticing other little triangle trees pop up on Instagram and blogs. (Great minds!) Like this beautiful Fall Forest pattern and quilt-along at Little Blue Bell.

Have fun making them! And if you make some of your own share them on my Facebook page or tag them with the hashtag #holidaypatchworkforest. I’d love to see all the variations!


If you are looking for other simple sewing projects for Christmas you might be interested in one of these: Felt Snowflake, Easy Stocking, and a Star Quilt Block.

Wrapping Up Christmas

A few images of Christmas this year. I don’t have anything new or too thought provoking to share. But I do have a few thoughts that have been on my mind and I figure I might as well make a record of them.
I had the usual plans to get a lot of Christmas sewing done this year. One thing I’ve wanted to make forever is a tree skirt for our family room tree. There are patterns for so many cute pieced Tree-Skirts but I knew this would not be the year. Then I had a brilliant “a-ha” moment.
Last year I bought this great piece of red with white polka-dot fabric from Ikea, not really having a plan for it. I came across it earlier this month when I was looking for some other reds and realized it would be the perfect tree skirt – it was nice and wide with no piecing required. Since time seems to be my scarcest resource at the moment, I took the 60″ x 60″ piece to my friend Monica and had her stipple the whole thing. Plus she does a much more beautiful job than I would have.
I then cut a 45″ circle from the quilted piece to create the tree skirt, made a slit up one side with a circle for the trunk, added some red gingham bias binding. (For finishing a curved edge, only bias binding will work because it will stretch.) Who doesn’t love a good red and white gingham? I mean, what’s more classic than that?
I was also able to get a table runner and enough for two throw pillows from that same quilted piece of red and white dots! Feeling quite chuffed about it too. So while I didn’t get much other sewing done, I did get the bindings put on the tree skirt and the table runner while watching Elf. The pillows will have to wait until later, but I’ll keep them out with my other red and white pillows through February, so they’ll get their turn.
It has been an unusually busy Christmas season this year. I know I mentioned last summer that I have a somewhat demanding responsibility at church right now. 
This year I’ve also been trying to help my kids do random acts of kindness as their countdown to Christmas and as their “birthday presents to Jesus“. This has been one of the busiest Decembers I can remember. But my plan has worked. As I have consciously chosen to focus on acts of kindness, often setting aside my “to-do” list, and letting myself just help where it was needed that day, I have found the most beautiful Christmas spirit. It has made it a really special season this year.
I have also been trying to do a better job of recognizing the kindnesses given to me and my love ones, as well as the people I cross paths with. One example came as I went to pull out my Christmas ornaments. I found some ornaments (including this vintage glass Santa and the Swiss Frohes Fest) that were sent to me by just kind and thoughtful readers of my blog last year when talked about my love for vintage glass ornaments and collecting ornaments from other countries. What sweet gestures!
Thanks to all of you who are so generous with your support through kind and encouraging comments, and for just stopping by to say Hello! I feel continually blessed by the amazing and kind people found in this community.
I’m going to take the next week off to hang out with these guys as well as other extended family, maybe watch White Christmas a few more times, and take a nap or two. I hope you can do the same.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season with those you love. Sending lots of love to you all from our house to yours!

Gift ideas for Quilters

I’ve been a quilter for sometime now and I worked in a local quilt shop for about 7 years. I always loved helping quilters and/or their bewildered deer-in-the-headlights loved ones pick out gifts at Christmas. So I thought it would be fun to create a list of gifts perfect for quilters. This doesn’t just apply to the holiday season, but could be a good resource year round, or a subtle link to send to those you love who need suggestions for just the right gift for you. (wink, wink)

All of these are my personal recommendations – a list of some of my Favorite Things. I wish I could go all Oprah and pull out my magic elves and share them with you instantly. But sadly, I do not wield such power. So all I can do is present them as a list of helpful suggestions. This list is authentic – no one asked me or paid me to put them on the list.

I have included items in all different price ranges in case you’re looking for that one great thing for someone special, or a nifty little gift for everyone in your quilting guild.

Notions: Notions are a great gift for quilters. There is always some handy new gadget to make our quilting-lives easier. Here are a few of my favorites.

One of my very favorite tools is the Omnigrid Portable Cutting & Pressing Station. This is half cutting mat, half ironing board, that conveniently folds in half and is easily portable, using the carrying handles. I take this with me when ever I go sewing someplace away from home because I can have a convenient place to both cut and press without having to leave my machine. I often use it at home for the same reason.

Another cutting mat that has been on my list for sometime that I finally got this year is the Fiskars Rotating Cutting Mat. (Omnigrid has one too.) This little mat is so useful for quickly squaring up blocks. It’s one of those things I’ve lived without just fine for a long time, but I sure do appreciate how helpful it is now that I have it.

My two favorite cutting tools are the Olfa Splash Rotary Cutterand the OLFA 5-Inch Scissors. I love the Splash because it’s relatively inexpensive, but it’s sturdy, and because it’s SO easy to change the blade. If you don’t have a good rotary cutter PLEASE give yourself the greatest gift and get one. (My favorite are the Olfa’s.) I promise it will make a huge difference. You will thank me and wonder why you waited so long. I received my 5″ Olfa scissors at the Sewing Summit last year and have LOVED them. I keep them by my machine, but I also take them with me on the road because they are small and portable, but super sharp and great for cutting fabric.

Seam Ripper. Who can’t use another seam ripper? I have multiple seam rippers located strategically throughout my house. My favorite is the Clover Seam Ripper

Clover Wonder Clips aka Binding Clips. I have seen and heard talk about these puppies for a long time and finally got some this fall. And I add my love to the love professed by others. They are so handy. And my family walks with much less trepidation and fear of a random pin in the carpet after I have bound a quilt. The one thing that held me back originally was the price, but I found them for a GREAT deal on amazon here.

This is called a Wooden Iron. I saw these for the first time this fall at a sewing conference. It’s a tool for quick pressing simple seams without having to get up and use an iron. I don’t have one yet, but they looked so cool – it’s definitely on my wish list.

Thread: some great thread options include Connecting Threads gift boxes or Aurifil Threads collections from Christa Quilts.

Fabric. Who can resist fabric. Precuts are a great option, but for me part of the fun of getting new fabric, is picking it out myself. I highly recommend Gift Certificates to fabric shops. Pretty much all of the online shops on my side bar (under Sponsors) or your local quilt shop will happily sell you or your loved one a gift certificate. Keep in mind – giving a gift certificate is not a cop out – it’s like giving a present twice. First when they receive it. Second when they use it to buy something they love!

Another fun thing for someone who is just getting started would be a membership in a monthly club from online shops such as Pink Castle Fabrics or Marmalade Fabrics where they send you a bundle of fabrics in a new color each month. Perfect for stash building!

Books: There are a myriad of amazing quilting books right now. One of my favorite new books of the year, and one that is so perfect for gifting because it has so many possibilities, is 500 Quilt Blocks by Lynne Goldsworthy and Kerry Green. 

This book is full of so much inspiration. I bought mine a few months ago and it is still on my bedside table because I love to read it just for the fun of it. In addition to all the block patterns and variations there are also some full quilt patterns and other projects. It’s such a sweet book and I think it’s the perfect gift for any quilter on your list because it appeals and crosses over to many tastes and styles – whether they’re new or experienced, traditional or modern.
Handmade gifts: Let’s be honest. It’s hard to beat a handmade gift. These are just a few little suggestions of handmade gifts – some simple, some more complex -for quilting friends. A cute zipper pouch is always useful to anyone. (The little piggie pouch was a sweet gift from my friend Leigh.) There are lots of great zipper pouch tutorials. One of my favorites is Anna from Noodlehead’s open-wide zipper pouch tutorial.
I also recently tried Anna’s Divided Basket pattern. It takes a little more effort but the results are so great. I LOVE mine – it helps me feel so much more organized to have a place to keep all my supplies together. I can give a great testimonial that it has helped me misplace things far less frequently. I am really hoping to at least make a few of these before Christmas gets here.

A little pin cushion made from a small rice bowl is super easy. Or a bunch of these numbered labeling pins. An inexpensive but VERY useful gift. A friend recently sent me some and I LOVE THEM for keeping track of quilt rows, pieces, etc. There is a tutorial for making these quilt row markers here.

Or a personalized magnetic pin case is also really simple and useful. I love mine so that I don’t have to worry about dumping my pins when I’m sewing on the road.
And if you want uber-easy, these magnetic pin dishes are so simple and fast to make and customize – and are so useful. I used little rice bowls from Pearl River Mart for my pincushion and this magnetic bowl. Any Asian restaurant supply store would have an inexpensive variety. 
One of these pin holders with a bunch of new pins (because don’t we all need new pins once in a while) would be a really sweet gift for a quilting friend. If you’re looking for some quality glass-head pins, Westwood Acres has some really nice ones.
Another adorable handmade gift is NanaCompany’s Needle Book tutorial. This is one my sweet friend Calli made for me a couple of years ago. I love it so much.
Featherweight Sewing Machine Charm Necklace
This is a fun new addition – I just bought one myself. Charmed Collections has a bunch of cute sewing-themed jewelry charms – perfect for a sewing-loving friend!
Finally, a really fun gift would be the gift certificate to take a class, either at a local quilt shop, or online. You can Gift Any Craftsy Class by buying a gift certificate and then let the recipient choose the class that interests them most.
Most of these notions are found, not only at big box sewing-supply stores like JoAnn’s, but also at other craft stores like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. You can use those great weekly coupons to get some great deals on awesome quilting supplies, extra rotary cutter blades, etc. But at the same time please, please remember to support your local quilt shop! You can’t replace the expertise and customer service only found in local shops.
If you have other ideas of gifts perfect for quilters, feel free to leave them in the comments.
Happy Gifting!
This post contains affiliate links.

Triangle star quilt block tutorial

I’ve been playing with 60 degree – or equilateral – triangles this past week and made a fun little star quilt block.
So while I was at it, I decided to make a quick and simple tutorial to show how I did it. The equilateral triangle is a fun one to play with. The best part is that they’re easy to sew together without any Y seams.
For this project you will want 24 light, low-volume prints, triangles and 12 red triangles, 3 triangles each from 4 different red prints.
There are lots of ways to cut 60 degree, or equilateral triangles. I used a new 4 1/2″ triangle die from AccuQuilt, which I love. It makes cutting those triangles so quick and easy. I love that it has the corner tips trimmed, so that you don’t have to clip any corners later. There are also little notches on the two bias sides, perfect for helping to match-up seams.

If you don’t have a triangle die-cut blade, don’t despair! There are some great 60 degree rulers on the market.

For this project, if you are using a ruler, cut a 4 1/4″ wide strip and then use a ruler to cut the 60 degree angles, rotating the ruler to get multiple equilateral triangles from the strip.
Equilateral triangles can also be cut using a regular quilting ruler as long as it has a 60 degree line. Line up the 60 degree lines with the bottom edge of the strip and rotate the ruler to get the equilateral triangle shapes.
Lay out the triangles in the design you want. You will be sewing in them into four straight rows.
Sew the triangles together, rotating the triangles in the same way you did when cutting them.
Make sure to sew a straight seam using an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance. Press the seam allowance to one side.
The quarter inch seam allowance will create a 1/4 inch space from the point of the triangle, leaving the right space for sewing your rows together without cutting off your triangle points.
quilting triangles sewing
If you are sewing triangles without the points removed, use the same method. Line up the new adjoining triangle matching up the long straight edge of the new triangle with the straight edge of the row. The tip of the new triangle will hang down below the row. Sew a 1/4″ seam and trim the little dog-ear triangle tip.
After your first row is assembled it will look like this.
Press all seams the same direction in each row. You need to press the seam in the right direction before you add the next triangle so that the new seam will hold the previous seam allowance down.
Alternate which direction you press your seams with each row. See above where the first and third rows are pressed to the right and the second and fourth rows the seams are pressed to the left.
Pressing the seams as you sew will help the seams nest and points match up more easily when you sew your rows together.
After rows are sewn together, press rows all the same direction. Trim sides.
Layer block with batting and backing. (Use a piece of muslin for the backing if you are making this into a pillow.) Baste and quilt.
When quilting is done, square up the block. I squared mine to 15″ on all four sides. (Your size might be different based on the size of your triangles, seam allowances, etc.) At this point you can bind for a mini quilt.

To make an envelope pillow, cut two back pieces 10″ x 15″. (If your front is different size than mine, cut your back pieces the length of your block and the width being 2/3 of your front measurement.)

Fold in one long side of each backing piece about 3/4″ twice and stitch in place.

Place backing pieces wrong sides together with the quilt block.

 Over lap the two finished edges and pin in place.
Sew wrong sides together (like a quilt) around the edges using a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Cut two 2 1/2″ strips of binding fabric. Sew end to end to create one long strip and bind pillow like you would bind a quilt. I chose to do a machine binding this time.
And that’s it. I’m such a sucker for red and white.

But I also played with this block out of Pat Bravo’s new Rapture collection. It’s always fun to see the look an entirely different palette of fabrics gives to a block.

I’ve made my block into a pillow and added it to my red and white snowflake pillows that I pull out at Christmas. The thing that I love about red and white is that I can leave them out through Valentine’s Day – they’re not just for Christmas.
I also pulled out my favorite Kitschy Christmas Quilt yesterday. That one is made from isosceles triangles and sewn together in the same method. I love how triangles throw in a nice variation on traditional patchwork blocks and they make you look tricky and clever to your friends.

Kona Solids Blocks and Oakshott Modern Maples

I am happy to report that I’m getting my sewing mojo back – or my “sewjo” as my friend Maggie puts it. First of all, I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my Kona Solids Virtual Quilting Bee blocks. (Thanks so much to everyone for their thoughts and input.) For the measurements and instructions on adding the sashing, cornerstones, and borders, see the Sashing and Borders post.

As you know, this was a change from my original plan of a pieced sashing. It had some cool aspects to it, but once I started laying it out, it just wasn’t the look I was going for. I really wanted this quilt to be a stark contrast to the busy Happy Go Lucky version. I wanted it a little more sleek and modern. So I went with the light gray sashing and a few more pops of color with the cornerstones. I also left off the inside border and just let the outside white border be a simple frame for the blocks. I am so happy with how it turned out. I will probably do more color in the binding, but we’ll see.

I also pulled out my Oakshott Rubies Modern Maples from last fall. I ran out of the Essex Linen I was using for the back ground and had a hard time finding more. I finally sent a small swatch to Brenda at Pink Castle Fabrics and she matched it for me! Hallelujah!

Those Oakshott Rubies fabrics are so gorgeous. They’re kind of hard to find in the US, but if you see them, you’ll see what I mean. I also added a couple of gold leaves out of a Kaffe cotton because we have a lot of gold leaves during the fall season here in Utah. It feels good finishing an old WIP (work-in-progress). I’m going to keep it around as is for another week or so and then send it off to the quilters. Next fall it will finally be finished!

And finally, I even got caught up on my BeesKnees blocks! This one is for Sinta. The tutorial for this block/quilt is called Starry Eyed and can be found at the Moda Bake Shop. It’s still one of my favorites.

These improv trees are for Melissa. Aren’t they fun? This is her own design. She has an Improv Tree tutorial on her blog.

Whew! Feels good to be crossing stuff of the list. Just in time to start creating a whole new list before Christmas.