Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 Stitching Success Tracker and My Year in Review

2021 has come to an end and my Stitching Success Tracker was 100% colored in—meaning I did some kind of stitching, patchwork, quilting or related fiber art each and every day in 2021. Some days could be as little as a few embroidery stitches on a sampler or basting one 3/4" hexagon to the free-motion quilting marathon for this year's guild Challenge entry. 

December 31, 2021: Stitching Success Tracker.

I'm feeling good about the projects that were completed this year—some new, some unexpected and a few that were languishing in the UFO pile for quite some time (4 decades for one of them). The photo montages below tell about my year in fabrics and stitching.

Online Challenges keep me motivated

Motivation throughout the year was provided by several online Challenges I participated in. The 100 Day Project (I did two different practices), September Textile Love, 100 Days 100 Blocks, the Dropcloth Picnic Sampler stitch-along, Make Nine 2021 and a Quilting Success Bingo game issued by my local quilt guild.

Online Challenges: The 100 Day Project, Picnic Sampler stitch along, 100 Days 100 Blocks,
September Textile Love and Quilting Bingo

One of the successes from the September Textile Love Challenge was documenting a garment I'd made in 2015. The prompt was "repurpose" and my Tablecloth Jacket was the epitome of upcycling and repurposing. I'm glad to have this special garment documented.

Useful items for family, friends and community

The practical side of me likes to make things that someone not only appreciates, but uses. I made several sets of pillowcases for family and friends, charity quilts and kitty quilts for our pack of tuxedo kitties.

Pillow cases and charity quilts.

Shop samples serve as inspiration to others

For my job as a fabric strategist and sales representative, I support my clients by providing ideas, projects and patterns that can be made with the fabrics I rep. Surprisingly, I made six quilts showcasing one of my favorite fabric lines, M&S Textiles Australia

Quilts and projects made with fabrics from M&S Textiles Australia.

I collaborated with a few longarm quilters to get some of these finishind and they are traveling around to quilt shops and independent sewing centers helping to inspire quilters, sewers and makers.

My Guild Challenge entry

A two-year project that I'm quite proud of is my entry for the 2020-21 Choo Choo Quilters Guild Challenge. The turn-out for the Challenge was exceptional and my quilt, "Alone Together," got the first place ribbon. One of the principles of a guild Challenge is to push oneself and try new things. I did and was very pleased with the results. My experiments and discoveries are documented here.

"Alone Together"
My entry in the 2020-21 Choo Choo Quilters Guild Challenge.

I was also on the hosting committee for the Challenge and made the four award ribbons for the winning entries.

Guild Challenge ribbons.

Guild Challenge ribbons (backs).


It must have been the year for my Australia fabrics because two of my makes—my Kangaroo Nine Lives top and my new Berwick St. tunic—were made from this fabric line (top photos).

Garment highlights from 2021.

The bottom two garments were both made during a Shakerag workshop. The Porcupine shirt was shibori dyed this year (a Make Nine project) and the Tablecloth Jacket was made in 2015 (a response to one of the prompts of the September Textile Love challenge this year).

A UFO quilt was finished!

My final Make Nine finish for the year was a UFO [unfinishing object] string quilt than spanned two centuries. It was happily gifted for Christmas.

"All Together Now" completed December 2021.

Small projects are big successes

Small projects are very satisfying to me. The time investment can be less or more than a bigger project. You never know. Three of these were made in response to the Make Nine challenge, the zipper pouch was a gift for a friend who retired, and the exposed spine artist book was from a workshop I took this year with Doug Baulos. The fabric twine was a new technique I learned and it was rewarding to find a use for skinny fabric scraps and trimmings.

Top row: needle book, fabric twine, crochet cat bed.
Bottom row: boro and rag drawstring bag, artist book, zipper pouch.

All and all, I think 2021 was a productive and well-documented year.

Good night, and Happy New Year.


For those that asked about the Stitching Success Tracker and where to get this cool, creative project management tool, here is my original blog post and where I found this calendar.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Make Nine 2021 photo recap

One never knows what a year will bring. After taking the Make Nine Challenge for three years, it's interesting to see where the focus was each year and what got completed. My Make Nine 2021 had a more diverse mix than my 2020 projects with five quilts, only two garments, pillow cases, a yarn project, a needle book and a boro stitched bag. (In comparison, 2020 had 5 wearables; 2019 had 10 wearables.) Here is a photo summary of 2021.

Completed projects for Make Nine 2021.
Top row: Crumbs kitty quilt; Upcycled and repurposed linen top; Easy & Fun pillowcases.
Middle: Crochet Yarn cat bed; Mindful stitching drawstring bag; tried a New sewing pattern.
Bottom: Charity quilts; Wild Card needle book; UFO quilt.

Make Nine 2021 worksheet

This year, I remembered to include completion dates on the worksheet. In reviewing the completion dates, I think the year shows to be balanced: January, March, April, June, July, August, October, December. I also realize that the more complex projects will span several months. A diversity of easy/quick makes and more involved projects offers a nice variety of tasks available at any given time.

Here is the worksheet of prompts that corresponds to the 2021 Make Nine photos (above). 

Make Nine 2021 completed worksheet.

Stories and processes

The details and the processes for my Make Nine 2021 projects can be found in these blog posts:

  • Crumbs: The year started off with a kitty quilt made with fabric crumbs and patchwork bits. (completed January 9)
  • Upcycle/Repurpose/Mend: my upcycled porcupine shibori linen shirt was dyed in a Shakerag workshop with Doug Bolous. It was a serendipitous project. (completed June 20)
  • Fast and Easy: pillowcases were made for the camper using two fabric panels and a glow-in-the-dark pillow cuff. (completed March 14)
  • Yarn: I crocheted a cat bed from leftover yarns. Unfortunately, the kitties didn't care for it and don't use it. (completed October 17)
  • Mindfulness: Another serendipitous project from the Doug Bolous workshop was a reliquary or rag assignment. An overdyed rag was boro stitched and transformed into a drawstring bag. (completed July 7)
  • New to Me: I made the Berwick St. Tunic with a lovely red fabric print from M&S Textiles Australia. This has become a favorite shirt of mine. (completed April 14)
  • Charity: I finished three cuddle quilts to support my guild's community service project. (completed March 27 and August 15)
  • Wild Card: EPP hexagons made during 2020 lockdown were made into a new needle book. I use the book quite often now that I am enjoying handwork. It takes up little space in the overnight bag. (completed June 22)
  • UFO Finish: The year-end project was a scrappy string quilt that spanned two centuries. Finished at last! (completed December 19)

For comparison, my 2020 Make Nine accomplishments included 4 garments, a knit shawl, pillow cases, a knit dish towel, a kantha zipper pouch and 12 charity kitty quilts. In 2019, I completed the Challenge (with substitutions) and made 10 wearables, a zipper pouch and pillowcases. 

The 2020 recap is in this post. The 2019 recap is at the bottom of this post.

Planning for next year

I do intend to participate in Make Nine again next year.

  • Again I'll list "general prompts" on my worksheet rather than identifying specific projects. This allows for flexibility as unexpected projects present themselves through the year. 
  • My sketchbook has a loose Wish List of things that could fulfill a few of the prompts. I'll add notes as ideas arise. 
  • Dating each project's completion is a good documentation practice I plan to continue.

Make Nine 2021 is a wrap! I'm looking forward to a creative and fruitful new Make Nine in 2022.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Filling the Bingo card with a Bear Paw block variation

One of the last open squares on my quilt guild Quilting Bingo card was, “Try a new project or technique from a quilting book.” I'm usually winging it—sans instructions—when making quilt blocks, but thought I'd flip through the pages of a Missouri Star Block magazine to see what it had to offer. 

Quilting Bingo card and Block magazine, Vol.7, Issue 6, 2020.

One of the first articles was an assembly variation of the classic Bear Paw block. Let's try it!

Bear Paw article in the Block magazine.

Methods for creating the sawtooth edge

As seen in the photo, the Bear Paw block has a sawtooth edge. Following the instructions in the article, I cut fabric for 4 blocks. The batiks are for the Bear Paw (foreground) and light fabrics are for the background. The block finishes at 6" (6.5" unfinished).

Cutting units for the Bear Paw block.

Instead of making four HST [half square triangle] units for the "claws" of the paw, the Block magazine assembly variation uses the "snowball" or "flippy corner" technique for making the sawtooth edge. Here is the Missouri Star Bear Paw video with Jenny Doan. For comparison, here is the traditional block assembly using HST units with Eleanor Burns from Quilt in a Day.

In the Missouri Star video, Jenny also offers an efficient, assembly line sewing process for making multiples of this block. 

Using the snowball corner technique to achieve a sawtooth edge.

The Jenny Doan method with the snowball corner technique is quite simple and eliminates the fussier patchwork assembly process of piecing HST units side by side (for which I usually use pins so I don't knock off any points). There seems to be fewer seams and less fabric bulk at seam intersections (or is this my imagination??). However, there is more fabric waste with the snowball corner method because of the extra fabric layers that are trimmed away. 

Of course, you can always follow quilting legend, Mary Ellen Hopkins' suggestion and just leave these extra layers in... especially if you're not going to hand quilt the piece.

Four Bear Paw blocks with extra half square triangles.

I trim away the extra fabric layers and just add the extra HSTs to my pile of patchwork crumbs... for use in future projects.

A new look at a classic quilt block

So, this was a new look at a classic quilt block! What do you think? I like it... and as I take the time to compose this post and upload my photos, it's growing on me even more.

I learned a new patchwork method which could actually be faster than the traditional method (if you don't take time to sew the trimmed triangles), and it was easy and fun. 

Four Bear Paw blocks using the snowball corners technique.

This quilting dog learned a new trick!

And, I'm marking this square on the Bingo card.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

My last Make Nine finish for 2021: A string quilt UFO

This quilt spans two centuries.
It incorporates fabrics and quilt blocks from four decades—the 1990s, 2000s, '10s and '20s.
It's a string scrap quilt and my last finish for Make Nine 2021, the UFO project.

Scrappy string quilt. Make Nine 2021.

"She had a deep scrap basket."

This string quilt top was finished in April of this year, 2021. The blocks are a combination of left-over blocks from a 1990s quilt, demo blocks from a quilt guild program in 2017, and the remaining blocks are a stash buster with fabrics spanning four decades—including this one. This is what they mean when they say, "she had a deep scrap basket."

String quilt top completed in April 2021.

Free-motion quilting on a domestic sewing machine

With a recent sewing machine upgrade—to a Janome M7—this was a perfect project in which to "kick the tires" and put the machine through its paces. The 13.5" bed made maneuvering the quilt sandwich a breeze. This project prompted me to clear off the card table to the left of my machine and the drawing board at the back of the machine so I had plenty of space to rest the quilt and build a quilting nest.

Machine quilting on my domestic sewing machine.

Scrap quilts are so forgiving! 

You can hide a lot of flaws when quilting a scrap quilt. The variety of fabric prints and colors will camoflauge any wobbly quilting and inconsistencies. At my whim, I did free-motion swirly/loopy designs in the "light" diamonds... and zig-zags and straight line motifs in the "dark" diamonds. All different designs or a "variety on a theme." The different motifs tested the capabilities of the machine and the operator (me).

A sampling of free-motion quilting patterns appear in the blocks.

I practiced rulerwork and ditch quilting on each side of the narrow inside border. I like the ruler foot that comes with the M7.

Rulerwork and ditch quilting the inside border.

The faux piped binding was comprised of a newly-purchased DecoStitch Elements from Art Gallery Fabrics and a Canvas blender from Northcott. The binding was attached completely by machine.

Faux piped binding. Applied all by machine.

I decided to add a meandering doodle in the narrow border. This was a last minute decision, but thought the border was too wide to go without any quilting.

Faux piped binding and free-motion doodle in the inside border.

I took my time sewing on the binding (taking 3 hours) but I got that bobbin thread close to the ditch on the back.

Stitching line for the binding (shown from the back).

I used the royal blue 108" Canvas wide backing [Northcott] for the backing fabric. The the texture from the free-motion quilting patterns shows quite nicely on this tonal wide back.

Free-motion quilting seen from the back of the quilt. 

Quilt Stats

Cotton and poly threads used for free-motion machine quilting.

Here are the quilt stats for the string quilt:

  • top threads: 50 wt, 40 wt. variegated cotton threads [by Wonderfil Threads, Superior Thread, YLI]
  • 50 wt 2-ply cotton thread [Aurifil] for the rulerwork ditch quilting
  • bobbin thread: Glide trilobal poly thread [by Fil-Tec]
  • 19.5 hours free-motion quilting and rulerwork
  • 3 hours to attach the faux piped binding completely by machine
  • finished December 19, 2021
  • finished size: 59" x 83"

All Together Now

It's about time these orphan quilt blocks found their way to a finished quilt! They're All Together Now.

"All Together Now" finished size 59" x 83"

And all 9 of my Make Nine 2021 projects are complete!

Make Nine 2021 worksheet.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

A new, green kitty quilt

Now that we've had several cold December nights, the kitty beds on our back porch are more frequently occupied. Sometimes the kitties sleep single, sometimes in pairs, and sometimes they're in a big black-and-white pile where you can't tell where one cat ends and another begins. This is Stan Leigh and a buddy on my latest, green kitty quilt.

Stan Leigh and friend in a kitty bed.

After the long process of working on my guild Challenge entry, it was nice to whip out a small, stress-free quilting project—like a kitty quilt.

Let's Go Green

This quilt started with a test block. I pulled from my stash of green fabrics and patchwork scraps to go with the orphan block. 

A test block converted into a small kitty quilt.

A loopy, all-over free-motion quilting design was quick and fun.

Free-motion quilting.

The zingy, lime green binding was applied by machine. I think this binding livens it up the color palette.

Machine binding.

Voila! A new kitty quilt for our entourage of tuxedo kitties.

Green kitty quilt.

I think the black kitties look quite dashing against the green fabrics.

Two black cats in the kitty bed with the green quilt.

Friday, December 10, 2021

My Picnic Dropcloth: a stitch and thread sampler

The pandemic moved many of us to the mindfulness and calming effects of handwork—stitching, embroidery, English paper piecing, sashiko, mending, and the like. Something that caught my eye on my Instagram [IG] feed this summer was the Picnic Embroidery Sampler hand embroidery stitch-along hosted by embroidery artist, Rebecca Ringquist of Dropcloth Samplers

Picnic Stitch Sampler from Dropcloth Samplers. 5.5" x 4.25"

Although I couldn't make the stitch-along calendar coincide with my schedule, I did purchase one of the pre-printed sampler canvases to work on at my own pace.

Progress on September 17, 2021.

An ideal portable project for travel

This—and small samplers like this—is a great portable project for traveling stitchers. Minimal supplies are needed and all the bits fit nicely in a small zipper pouch that can be tucked into one's travel bag.

Travel tools for hand embroidery projects.

A sampler is a sampler is a sampler

While this is designed to be a embroidery "stitch" sampler, I think mine is more of a thread sampler. I tested and used a variety of threads from my thread collection—6-strand embroidery floss, perle cotton, and a "new find" was a cotton hidamari sashiko thread [from Lecien] that was the perfect weight and thickness.

Hidamari 100% cotton sashiko thread, size #22/6 [from Lecien]. 

With the multitude of hues and shades available in 6-strand embroidery floss, I used floss for stitching the flowers. The colors and stitches were easily blended and I could "create" intermediate colors by combining strands from two different colors in the needle if needed. For the French knot flower centers I used a combination of 3- and 6-strands of floss.

Progress on October 26, 2021

The surrounding "grassy" area was comprised of a sampling of different threads. I used 8 wt. perle cotton, 3- and 6-strand floss and a hidamari sashiko thread size #22/6. The sashiko thread was smooth and lovely to work with.

Progress on December 5, 2021.

Once the marked areas were stitched, I decided to add a few more rows around the perimeter so all the diamonds were surrounded by green. The finished piece is 5-5/8" x 5".

December 7, 2021. Picnic Dropcloth Sampler. 5-5/8" x 5"

I plan to block the piece and at some point, work it into a larger project—a zipper pouch, small project bag, or possibly a needle book. For now, I'm calling it "finished." It's colored red on December 7 and documented on my Stitch Success Tracker.

December 7, 2021 Stitch Success Tracker.

And I' don’t  apologize for a "messy back." It’s part of my process… part of the structure… part of the form… part of the story.

The back view of my Picnic embroidery sampler.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Guild Challenge 2021: Experiments, discoveries, feedback

Every quilt teaches the maker something! I think you learn more if you try something new, or different, or unexpected... and step outside your "norm" during the process. In making my 2020-2021 guild Challenge, there were things I experimented with, discovered and learned from the process and from viewer feedback.

"Alone Together" by Veronica Hofman-Ortega
Finished size: 65" x 67.65"   November, 2021

New things I tried

A Guild Challenge is the perfect venue for trying new things—techniques, materials, composition, or whatever you've always wanted to try but something stopped you. Your guild provides a safe environment to try something—whether you think you failed or succeeded—and fellow guild members are supportive of you and your endeavors.

In the Discussion and Feedback portion of our Challenge Reveal guild meeting, several participants said they indeed tried something that was out of their comfort zone in this challenge. Bravo to all of you! 

Here are the new things I tried with this Challenge and my discoveries from working on it.

  • I used a wool batting in a quilt for the first time. My usual go-to batting is 100% cotton. I think the wool provided a little more dimension and loft in the unquilted areas. Wool is also a breathable fiber and will provide warmth.
Improv pieced letter blocks.
  • Over the last few years, incorporating words on quilts has resurfaced as a trend. This was my first use of patchwork letter blocks. The blocks were pieced totally improvisationally—laying out the darker fabrics [the letterforms] on the cutting mat and then cutting strips, rectangles and triangles of lighter fabrics for the background. Somewhat like "writing—or printing—letters with fabric." As a typographer, I was in my element creating letterforms again!
  • With this quilt, I experienced a love-hate relationship with rulerwork. I have used rulers before, but not on a large quilt. Using a ruler was easier in the center when the rest of the quilt was not yet quilted (the quilting makes the quilt heavier). As I quilted outward from the center, the quilt got heavier. Turning the quilt for using the rulers in the direction that was comfortable for me got to be more time consuming and cumbersome.
         I'm all about "having fun" with the quilting... and occasionally, this was not a fun part... especially toward the end.
  • The scrappy flat piped binding turned out especially well (in my opinion). I've done flat piped binding (or faux piped binding) on previous quilts, but this time I made the piping scrappy. 

Discoveries and things I learned

  • When quilting the scrappy heart blocks, I initially used a chalk-o-liner to mark a center heart. The second idea was to cut a heart from freezer paper and use it as a template to free-motion quilt around it. Much better, much easier and faster!
Scrappy heart blocks for the border.
  • I'm glad I included the scrappy heart blocks around the outside of the center. At one point (with not much time to finish this quilt before the deadline), I considered just the center section as being the finished piece. I'm glad I "listened to the quilt."
  • Something I learned from making a scrappy flat piped binding was to remember the orientation of the binding strip. With the piped binding process, the binding is attached to the back and rolled to the front for stitching. I understand this, but when I was planning certain fabric colors to coincide with the adjacent patchwork. I laid out the piping strips on the quilt top, but when the binding was attached, it was in reverse order. 
         Thankfully, serendipity stepped in and the color placement turned out well all the same. I chalk this up to it being a "true" scrappy quilt.
  • I really wished I had allowed more time to quilt a quilt this size... especially with custom quilting. I think I would have enjoyed the quilting part more.
Half-square triangle crumbs
  • Crumbs and scraps: It was fun to use tiny triangle trimmings for the HSTs and fabric swatches/scraps for the scrappy heart blocks. This was a welcome, stress-free and feeling-productive process during the pandemic lockdown.
Scrappy heart (before).

Scrappy heart (after).
  • A study in value: The fine tuning of the center section and incorporating the scrappy heart blocks was a good exercise for determining the correct value (lightness/darkness). I actually took out part of one heart (after it was pieced into the top!!) and replaced the fabrics with some of darker value. 

Viewer feedback

This year, my team presided over the Challenge Reveal presentation a bit differently. Rather than having the makers get up and talk about their inspiration and process, I decided to ask for feedback from the viewers for each quilt first. 

So often, quilt makers don't hear what viewers think about, were impressed with, or found interesting about their work. I think feedback is important for the makers... and important for viewers to be able to verbalize what they see in the work.

Here are insights about "Alone Together."
  • viewers mentioned they liked the variety of quilting motifs.
  • they noticed the color/value difference in the center section and the contrasting quilting motifs that helped define that part of the composition.
  • they liked the fussy cut images from The Ghastlies in the "windows."
  • one of my fabric clients, with whom I shared an in-progress photo, keyed in on all the small scraps in the HST units. She identified with using stash fabrics and leftovers during the pandemic. This is exactly what I did! (I believe many of us quilters and makers were alone together doing the same thing!)
With this feedback, I feel my quilt was successful in meeting the Challenge parameters and also was a good composition in itself.

First Place ribbon, Guild Challenge 2020-2021.

Details about the design and piecing phases for making this quilt and the quilting and binding including the quilt stats, are in these previous blog posts. Thanks for reading!

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