The Eyes have it…

Happy Friday!

There are two things to share today – one a tip and the other a funny story about hats.

First the Tip Jar – Needles.  If you sew, you use needles.  Hand or machine – maybe both.  You know they come in different types and sizes, and you know that unlike thread, the bigger the number, the bigger the needle.  Depending on your machine, the flat side of the shank goes to the back or to the side – affecting whether the eye is open from front-to-back or side-to-side.  It always messes me up when I switch from Bern to Feather.


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Taking it on the Road: Quilt Museums

Last week I wrote about traipsing through the countryside to enjoy barn quilts (and lots of readers added comments about barn quilts near them—be sure to check them out for barn quilts near you). This week I’m still thinking about quilts and vacation, but this time it’s quilt museums. Whether you make the museum your final destination or just stop on your way to visit the relatives, there are plenty of opportunities to see quilts around the country. Check the museum’s websites and Facebook pages for information on hours and days of operation—some close for holidays and to install exhibitions. And if you’re not able to visit in person, many of the museums offer great online collections for your perusing pleasure. Talk about inspiration!

Here’s a round-up of a few of the museums dedicated to traditional quilts, contemporary quilts, and art quilts:

The International Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, Nebraska


International Quilt Study Center & Museum , Location: Lincoln NE, Architect: Robert A.M. Stern Architects . A world class museum with state of the art exhibitions.

International Quilt Study Center & Museum , Location: Lincoln NE, Architect: Robert A.M. Stern Architects . A world class museum with state of the art exhibitions.

Established with a donation of 1,000 quilts in 1997, the International Quilt Study Center (IQSC) moved into its current quarters (the building above) in 2008. Just this month they opened additional gallery space, meaning there’s even more to see. Quilt exhibitions this summer include Getting to Know You, Ambiguity and Enigma: Recent Quilts by Michael JamesCovering the War, and Reflections of the Exotic East in American Quilts.

If you’re not sure how soon you’ll get to the IQSC, sign up for their Quilt of the Month: you’ll get an email highlighting an outstanding quilt from their collection. Need more inspiration? Look back at their archived Quilts of the Month—gorgeous!

Texas Quilt Museum in LaGrange, Texas

Texas Quilt Museum Pix 1

Texas Quilt Museum

You may remember reading about this museum in January because it’s the beneficiary of Moda’s Collections for a Cause Mill Book Series 1892 line of fabric. This link will take you back to the post to learn more about the museum’s history. The museum’s summer offerings (which open on July 2) include Intuitive Symmetry: Works on Silk by Judith Content, Kimono Quilts and Kimonos, and Antique Four-Poster Quilts.

National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky


African-American Double Wedding Ring from the Pilgrim/Roy collection

National Quilt Museum

National Quilt Museum

Exhibitions at this renowned museum change 8 to 10 times a year. This summer you can see SAQA: Food for Thought (through July 8), A Tradition of Variations from the Pilgrim/Roy Collection (through August 17), and A Small Miracle of a Southern Island: Quilts of Caohagan (opening July 10). To Honor and Comfort: Quilts of Valor will open August 20.

San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles in San Jose, California

War Bird West (framed) Heavy Metal T-shirts 34" x 38", Collection of Matt Gonzales

War Bird West (framed)
Heavy Metal T-shirts
34″ x 38″, Collection of Matt Gonzales

I Carry the Flame (framed) Harley Davidson T-shirts, leather, denim 15" x 19", Collection of Matt Gonzales

I Carry the Flame (framed)
Harley Davidson T-shirts, leather, denim
15″ x 19″, Collection of Matt Gonzales

This museum opened in 1977 and its website says it is “the first museum in the United States to focus exclusively on quilts and textiles as an art form.” Several exhibitions at this west coast museum close July 5 and the museum is closed from July 6-9 to install the next, exhibitions that include Found/Made, an exhibition of quilts made from found materials curated by Rod Kiracofe, author of Unconventional and Unexpected , and Recycled, Up-cycled, Repurposed Clothing Design: A Slow Fashion Movement (opening July 11).

LaConner Quilt and Textile Museum in LaConner, Washington

LaConner Museum first floor

LaConner Museum first floor

LaConner Seasonal Palettes exhibition

LaConner’s second floor hosts contemporary quilt exhibitions

Located in the Gaches Mansion, this museum first opened in 1997. Though it’s in a historic building and its first floor includes Victorian furniture, upstairs galleries include exhibitions of contemporary quilts. Several exhibits close June 28, but opening July 1 are 30 Quilts for 30 Years: Carol Bryer Fallert-Gentry, Celebrating 20 Years of Art, and Creative Knitting. Weaving Willow opens August 5.

New England Quilt Museum in Lowell Massachusetts

Seasonal Palettes exhibition at the New England Quilt Museum

Seasonal Palettes exhibition at the New England Quilt Museum

This museum opened in 1987 and is located in a building constructed in 1845 as the Lowell Institute for Savings. Through July 26, this museum offers Seasonal Palette, by 37 international quilt artists. AQSG’s Civil War Era Quilts opens July 1, A Summer Celebration of New England Quilts starts July 28 and a Carol Bryer Fallert-Gentry retrospective opens August 20.

Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts in Cedarburg, Wisconsin


In Stitches: Embroidery Needle Arts

This museum is located on a 2.2 acre farmstead and its gallery and education center are in a refurbished barn. Through July 25 you can see In Stitches: Embroidery Needle Arts and then you can take in Second Fiber Arts Biennale: Wisconsin State of the Art (

Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colorado

Gwen Marston's Checkerboard Medallion with Sawtooth Border

Gwen Marston’s Checkerboard Medallion with Sawtooth Border

This museum opened in 1990 with a gift of 101 quilts and has grown steadily.Exhibitions through July 28 include Gwen Marston: Contemporary Quilts and Native American Portraits by Patsy Heacox. Starting July 30 you can see It’s What We Do: 26 Years of Collecting and a 26th Anniversary Challenge.

The Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio

Quilt National 2015

Quilt National 2015

Although not exclusively devoted to quilts, this museum and education center hosted the first Quilt National in 1979. The show is the longest-running juried exhibition of art quilts in the country and takes place every other year. If you’re in the vicinity, you’re in luck because this is the year. Quilt National 2015 runs through Sept 7.

Other museums featuring quilts in their collections, include the Shelburne Museum; the DAR Museum; the Great Lakes Quilt Center, part of the Michigan State University Museum, the American Folk Art Museum.

Do you have a favorite quilt museum, or are there some I’ve missed? We’d love to hear!

Summer sewing…

Happy Tuesday!

One of the oddest things about being a quilter is that while we make quilts all year-round, most of us seem to get the most sewing-quilting done during the summer.  I’ve never quite figured that out because it seems like all of my friends with children are busiest in the summer… when the kids are out of school.

Of course, when I lived in Phoenix, the explanation was easy.  It was too hot to be outside so staying inside – in an air-conditioned sewing room – was better than going on vacation!  It was a vacation!

I have a to-do list of sewing for this summer…


You’ll have to forgive me if it’s a little cryptic but two or three of those things are “in the works” and “not definite” and “subject to change”… by folks other than me.

The BB Star Blocks – Barbara Brackman’s Stars in a Time Warp Quilt-along?  I’ve got 23 made and given that this is the 25th week of the year, I should have 50.  Or at least that was my plan.  Starlight has all the triangles done and now I need to cut background and sew that.  I think I also need to make 5 more triangles… I didn’t plan that well, did I?

Linzee is going to have several posts this summer about “taking it on the road” – she’s chatting with several quilters about taking their projects with them when they travel.  I looking forward to that.

There are lots of quilt-alongs currently underway online – mostly on Instagram.  Jen Kingwell is well represented with sew-alongs for Glitter (pattern available here soon) and It’s A Small World – this quilt published in the Spring 2015 Special Issue of Quiltmania magazine.  (The magazine sold out pretty quickly here so if you want one, grab it when you see it!)


Instagram – #mysmallworldqal

Her wonderful – and obviously very talented – daughter Lucy is the designer of Smitten.  It’s complicated and amazing and super-scrappy and I really, really want to make it but… it’s not on my list.  Yet.  Smitten-QAL#smittenqal and #smittenquilt

In clockwise order, starting in the upper left – Sewlux – Chrissy / Modalissa – Lissa / Cupacake42 – Kimberly / KathrinesQuilteStue – Kathrine.

It can be made by machine using Marti Michell’s template Set H or pieced by hand.  Those templates are pretty awesome!

There’s a Thimbleblossoms Scrappy Sampler Quilt-along – #TBScrappySamplerQAL


In clockwise order from upper left… Etericsson / Aqua_Paisley – Samantha / Sewlux – Chrissy / harthollow – Lisa.

And thanks to Lisa Bongean of Primitive Gatherings, it seems lots of folks are starting to make bowties.  The California location of Primitive Gatherings made a bowtie quilt for their Summer Block of the Week – a very successful program Lisa started several years ago.  This is their quilt…

Primitive Gatherings CA Bowtie Sewalong

The original Primitive Gatherings in Menasha is making this Summer Breeze quilt.

Primitive Gatherings Summer Breeze

I’ll bet just about anything that more than a few people have signed up for both… just saying.

So what are your summer sewing plans?  Do you make a list?  Or do you just wing it?

Have you ever participated in a quilt-along or sew-along?

If you haven’t, I highly recommend it as it’s a lot of fun.  Even if it’s just you and a friend, it’s fun to cheer each other along and share tips.  And you’d be surprised how “inspired” you are to finish your quilt… especially if your sweet friend is really, really fast and always finishes first… just saying.

I’m off to work on my to-do list… and maybe add something to it.

Eat dessert first…

I’ve always liked that adage – “life is uncertain, eat dessert first.”

It explains why I’m not a Size 4 – genetics notwithstanding – and it explains why I am such a pushover for every single incarnation of Moda’s “desserts”… those luscious pre-cuts known as cakes, jelly rolls, candy and turnovers.


I can have pieces of every fabric in the collection – which is so much better than having to decide which fabrics and how much to get of each.  I can have them all.  (Those “Hoarders” folks have a lot of quilters on their “Watch List”.)

You’ve asked many times about pre-cuts, primarily about how they’re made and some of the particulars.  I wish I could tell you that it was some really cool machine that took bolts of fabric and magically turned them into Jelly Rolls.  Better still, a pre-cut replicator like the one on Star Trek.  (Wouldn’t we all want one of those?)

It’s pretty simple – long lengths of fabric are stacked in a particular order based on color, print and so on.  The fabric is cut by machine and the packages are assembled by hand in much the same way that any packaged good is done.  Somebody has to put all those Thin Mints into that sleeve of Girl Scout cookies.  You asked if there might be a video of the process but when I asked about it, it was pretty clear that nobody ever thought the idea of filming the process would be of interest.  (Maybe someday.)

The other common question is always about the pre-cuts themselves – how many pieces, duplicates, why the pinked edges, etc.  Did you know that there is a chart of “Equivalent Measures” on the Moda Bake Shop?  It’s at the top – Weights & Measures.  There are several terrific charts with useful information on the Bake Shop but this is my favorite – I refer to it frequently.

MBS Equivalent Measures


So here’s what I can tell you about each – and show pictures of pretty new fabric.

Fat Quarter Bundles. 


(From left to right… Lorraine by American Jane / Purebred by Erin Michael / Mille Couleurs by 3 Sisters / Bright Sun by A Quilting Life.)

These are called AB Bundles – for Absolutely Beautiful, of course.  An AB bundle is comprised of one fat quarter – 18″ x 22″ – of each fabric in a collection.  There are no duplicate pieces in a bundle of fat quarters – some folks also call these bundles “stacks” or “towers”.

On a side note, for some unknown reason, the ribbon used to tie AB bundles seems to knot very easily, resulting in many quilters being unable to ever untie the bundle and use any of the fat quarters.

Fat Eighth Bundles – F8s.


(From left to right and top-to-bottom, Very Merry by Sandy Gervais / Mon Ami by Basic Grey / Lorraine by American Jane / Chic Neutrals by Amy Ellis / Eliza’s Indigo by Betsy Chutchian.)

As with the fat quarters, these bundles have one fat eighths – 9″ x 22″ – of each fabric in a collection.  No duplicates, just one of each.  They’ve been my favorite for several years because I could combine collections without having a lot of extra fabric – another case of not having to make a decision about which one to get.  And with the larger collections, one F8 bundle was almost always enough to make a nice-size quilt.

Jelly Rolls. 


(Top to bottom, left to right – Purebred by Erin Michael / Mon Ami by Basic Grey / Farmhouse by Fig Tree Quilts / Nocturne by Janet Clare / Collection for a Cause Nurture by Howard Marcus / Windermere by Brenda Riddle / Eliza’s Indigo by Betsy Chutchian.)

A Moda Jelly Roll is always 40 strips of fabric – 2 1/2″ x 40″.  If there are only 32 pieces in a collection, there will be eight duplicates.  It might be 2 strips of 8 of the fabrics, or there might be three of some prints.  It varies depending on the prints and colors in the collection.

These are rolled by hand – and it’s hard!  Try unrolling one and then rolling it back up.  Having recently rolled some strips for various projects I’m working on, I figured there had to be a trick or secret.  There is – the strips are rolled in a “chute”.  It’s the only way to keep it straight.  Tight?  That’s totally dependent on the skill of the Jelly Roller.

Junior Jelly Rolls?  Those are half the size – 20 strips.  They’re available in Bella Solids and some collections, like V&Co.’s Simply Colorful and Ombres.

(The ribbon used on Jelly Rolls seems to have the same knotting issue… of course, it has nothing to do with how cute they look on the shelf in one’s sewing room.)

Layer Cakes.


(Color Daze by Laundry Basket Quilts.)

A little Australian bird recently told me that this is her favorite size of pre-cut because it’s the perfect way to get the widest variety of fabrics for her amazingly awesome scrap quilts.  Her shop cuts fabrics this size – 10″ x 10″ squares – and after folding them, they’re tightly rolled and sold as “lollies”.

What’s in a Layer Cake?  Each Layer Cake has 42 squares measuring 10″ x 10″.  Every Layer Cake will have at least two duplicates since Moda collections are usually limited to 40 different fabrics.

Junior Layer Cakes have 20 fabrics and they’re mostly available in the Bella Solids.

Charm Packs… This is what started all of it.


(Canyon by Kate Spain.)

You might already know that it took me a long time to embrace charm packs.  I thought they were cute but really, what could you make with a charm pack or two?  To date, more than 80 quilts… but that’s another subject for another day.

A charm pack has 42 squares measuring 5″ x 5″ and there will be at least two duplicates.

And finally… Mini Charm Packs. 


(Let’s go with many many different ones.)

Like the regular charm packs, there are 42 squares and there are some duplicates.  The difference is that these squares are 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″, one-quarter the size of a charm pack.  Hmmm… coincidentally, a charm pack is one-quarter the size of a layer cake.

Porquoi?  Because the math works out easily.  The size of pre-cuts is determined largely by how efficiently they can be cut within a 42″ wide fabric without having concerns about selvages.

The pinked edges?  They don’t fray or “thread”.  That means they’re essentially little “lint bombs” but cleaning that off your stretchy-sewing pants is easier to deal with than cutting or sewing a square that has threads along the four edges.

There are also Turnovers, Honey Buns, Honeycombs and Dessert Rolls but not every collection has these.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something – lots of somethings – but I am not forgetting the most important thing…

Karen Seitz!  You’re going to have to put”making an Irish Chain quilt” on your “to-do” because you’re going to have a new book and a Layer Cake.  (Karen – check your e-mail box.)

That’s it for today – Happy Friday!  And have a wonderful sunny, summer weekend!

A Day in the Country: Barn Quilts

Finally, it’s summer. School is out and vacation is in sight. Whether it’s a two-week holiday, four-day weekend, or just a day trip, a short break from day-to-day life can be so refreshing.


This was the only barn I saw with two blocks on it.

Earlier this week I got away for an afternoon, on country roads in Washington County, Iowa, where I went to take pictures of barn quilts. These large wooden squares are painted to resemble quilt blocks and affixed to barns. The displayed blocks may reflect a quilt owned by the farm’s family or simply be a design they find appealing.


This Meadow Flower block is on the barn in the photo below.


Barn Quilts sign

A few of the barn quilts had “official” signs like this one.

The first barn quilt was displayed in 2001 in Adams County, Ohio, and since then whole communities have jumped on the bandwagon and created barn quilt trails, complete with maps noting barn locations. (According to Suzi Parron, who wrote Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement, there are more than 7,000 known individual barn quilts, and Wikipedia says there are some 43 different barn quilt trails.) Barn quilts build community and highlight historic architecture. Indeed, many wooden barns are falling into disrepair and being replaced by metal buildings. It’s easy to understand why farmers might prefer this low-maintenance alternative, but seeing the well-cared-for wooden structures is a real pleasure.

Corn and quilt block barn

This barn is adorned with a quilt block AND an ear of Iowa corn.

I spent a lovely few hours checking out the barns and taking in the sights along the way. It was a lovely, blue-sky day and I enjoyed seeing tidy gardens and clothes flapping on the lines. The communities I visited have a sizeable Amish population and I slowed numerous times to pass buggies at a pace that wouldn’t kick up dust.



It was definitely a break from the pace of my everyday life and every time I stepped out of the car to take a photo, I’d hear the wind rushing through the grass and the corn, and songs of red-winged blackbirds. (And there might have been a stop at a quilt shop along the way.) Such a relaxing day!



This barn has the date 1893 above the quilt block. A sign in the yard noted that it’s a designated century farm—the land has been in a single family for 100 years or more.

When I got home it occurred to me that I didn’t even need to leave my street—two houses within a block of mine have painted quilt blocks on them. (But I’m glad I had a mini-vacay, nevertheless.)



Do you have a barn quilt trail near you? Let us know where it is, so others can find and enjoy them!