Finishing an old quilt top: Spools Blocks


Yesterday on my day off I was super tired and worn out, so I didn’t want to work on anything client related unless I screwed it up. This is almost a given, if I sew when tired.

I went to my sewing cave and decided to look at tops I have waiting to be pieced to see which ones I could do some mindless sewing on. There is one top where all the rows are done, I just have to sew them together, and I had recently dug out a bag of 23 finished blocks that needed sashing.

Sorting out fabric and blocks is a good thing to do when you don’t feel like much else. I also dug out my box of white scraps and found suitable bits to use for sashing.

I cut out the short bits first and dint stop to think how many I needed and cut out far too much. Then I had to dig out more quite scraps for the longer pieces. I would up having to piece the long sashings anyway, but the less seams on those the better.

I also had to decide how to lay them out and with 23 blocks it was either give up some or add some. On a whim, I decided to try and find the original pattern I’d used. Still had the book because it was one of my grandmother’s. None of it was strip piecing, no. Just cut out these triangles and this trapezoid. I almost want to make an easier version for the precuts of today.

It was also super interesting to see how far I’d come with my piecing. Some of the blocks were made with leftover bits from garments I’d made in the mid to late nineties, so there were pieced scraps and bits cut off grain mostly so I would have enough to fit in the blocks themselves.

I also got way better at piecing in general – even if my newer blocks would up a good half inch bigger.

I ran into trouble with one row where I’d added two new blocks and of course hadn’t really trimmed to match. With seam ripper in hand (again) I had to fix some wobbly sashing. That was the fourth and last time I used the seam ripper on this top.

I’d miscounted and wound up with an extra block, then found a very unsuitable block done with rayon type fabric that would never have help up to daily wear. I had to excise it from almost the middle of the quilt. Not to mention whipping up 3 blocks and adding sashing took me well over 4 hours – something I can do in two on a good day.


In the end I have a useable if not sellable quilt top – and one wonky block at the end with some spools cut almost in half to make things even.


I left it on purpose. Sometimes you not only need a reminder of how far you’ve come, but on how you can still make the same mistakes. As my husband says, “Can you still nap under it? Then it’s fine.”

No idea how I’ll quilt this yet – probably something all over, just to get it done. For the backing I think I’ll go with an allover print from stash, just to keep up with the overall bright colors from the front. Then a scrappy or bright solid binding.

Things I’m working on


I went and launched a service to make tshirt quilts from WordPress conference tshirts. That had suddenly taken off.

My mom’s local quilters are asking me for a price list of quilting services.

Everything coming out of the woodwork at once.

Yet, every so often, I get completely inspired and skip the list of must-dos and toss in something else. Like my list is short enough to do this. Oh, I also got some great forms to organize my quilt projects – except it made me realize the list was a total of 40. At least that’s where I stopped.

So. Since mid January:

I made and sold this Disco quilt from Glimmer fabrics. Sorry for sideways. Ready for @houseofgrays ! Will email in the morning. *yawns*

I made this minimalist yet Americana quilt designed by the web designer I work with at my day job. She hired me to make it for a friend.

Yep, job well done I'd say. #quilt #merica #old #flag #callmebetsyross #commision

I’ll be writing this up as a pattern, since I did all the math for you. Had a work trip to Dallas so I delivered it in person.

Did a Take 5 quilt top from stash.
Borders done! And I'm done. </p>
<p>Made two flannel sleep sacks.<br />
<img src=

Sewed some strips from a Moda scrap bag. Figured out what to do next – turn it into a Chinese Coins top. I need to order a matching brown solid to finish.
Mods scrap bag I pieced on Friday. It's so narrow. So my idea is to cut it in thirds or fourths and introduce brown sashing and borders. #quilt #create. #yearofmaking #design

Made a Log Cabin Hidden Stars top from a book.
Log cabin hidden stars quilt top I finished on Friday. Plus backing and binding.

Taught my youngest how to use the sewing machine so she could make some scarves and capes she designed, from Pokemon.
Teaching Emma to sew.

Made a scrappy strip quilt from Sunday Morning quilts. This was unplanned.
For girls who like pink. This wound up bigger than expected. #quilting #pink

Made HST blocks from a small jelly roll and extra solids. Lost motivation.
Will rearrange some blocks for color but yeah. Think I'm making one twin size instead of two baby quilts from these blocks. #yearofmaking

Made a tshirt quilt for a client. Still working on it. This is top of the list.
Thinking of adding borders. @suzettefranck ?

Designed a pattern to use the fabrics I bought on our summer vacation. Super Shoo Fly and I want to write up a pattern for it.
Super shoo fly lap #quilt  Thinking of writing up the pattern.

Cut the pieces for a Northern Lights quilt that has been on the list for ages. Sewed the blocks together in strips.
Just one of the many #quilts in progress.

Made purse sized tissue holders last night with another daughter and now I want to make twenty.
Making tissue holders with my daughter meaghan.

Also pending is another tshirt quilt where the shirt arrived just yesterday, and a QR code quilt for a client. The fabric is on its way already.

Making a bag and purse for a friend (for money!) but she needs to decide what fabric. I introduced her to the world of designer fabrics so it could take a while!

Then this week my cheap iron that I bought last year, and had immediate regrets over, finally died spectacularly. It had seemingly one temperature – scorching. It would scorch cotton on the silk setting and melt things on the highest. Filling the tank with water for steam meant steam shot out constantly, even with the steam switched to off.

I was not sad to see it go, and replaced it with a much better brand. Lesson learned.

So, if that weren’t enough to keep me busy, I do all that around a full time job. No wonder that when I have time to quilt, I barely snap a picture, let alone blog about it.

The trouble with inspiration

I spent a few days being sick, or working on other things, so I haven’t had a lot of sewing or quilting time over the last week. Then when I have had a little bit of time the sheer amount I could work on is almost overwhelming.

But today, some inspiration struck. I pulled out my bags of solids sorted by color and started sorting each colorway into scraps and 1 yard cuts or more.

This led to more inspiration from patterns I’ve wanted to do, but hadn’t yet matched up to fabrics I had.  Of course, now my problem is the pile of “quilts I want to make” has gone up by at least two – wait, three more.

And this leads to my conundrum. The reason I plowed through my finishes last year was to get through the massive amount of quilt tops that were sitting and waiting, some as old as four years. There are still tops waiting but the pile is much smaller now. I think maybe 5 or 6 need basting, all have backings now too. There is one quilt half quilted, one top near complete and maybe two or three in progress.

So, the largest pile at the moment is of quilts to make – fabric pulled, pattern chosen, just waiting for me to cut into it. And today I *really* wanted to cut into some fabric and get sewing.

But that is where I stopped.

And I had to examine why and talk it over out loud to figure it out. I stopped for a few reason – I didn’t want to get interrupted. It was later in the day and I had maybe an hour at most. Why start if I cant fully enjoy it and have to stop just when I really got into it?

Really this shows how spoiled I am at have a day or a two A WEEK to do nothing but sew. Sheesh. And if I enjoy it, I should enjoy whatever timeI have, right? I’ve been known to make sure I sew for as little as ten minutes to make sure I enjoyed a bit of sewing that day.

Another reason was I didn’t want to get stuck with a pile of mostly done quilt tops. Or do a bunch of quilts with no recipient in mind.

But – I have managed to finish a whopping pile of quilts in the last year. While musing out loud I said to my husband, if I do twenty quilts in a year, does it matter if I do them one at a time, after another, or all at once? Probably not.

I mean, maybe if I start all of the ones pending that might be a bit much. I do want to know what it’s like to work on one thing only, but I suspect I’ll get bored. And looking back, I *did* manage to start and finish multiple quilts in a short time frame because I was motivated and inspired. Part of Past Me had started so many quilts at once because I was terrified I was going to forget my plans. But this time, i have things all sorted – fabrics bagged with patterns. There’s no mistaking what I intended, especially with sticky notes left on bundle for backing, borders and binding too.

And so what if some have no intended home yet? some I’m making just for the joy of making that particular pattern, or using that fabric. Some I know I want to sell afterwards. I clearly love the process of it more than the finished object itself.

So why am I making it hard and over thinking?

Of course, now it is the end of the day and I’ve run out of time to sew or even play with fabric. Alas. Maybe tomorrow.

Working through it


On Friday I got word that a good friend had passed away. The details don’t matter, I guess, but hearing the news as people discovered it was terrible.

Kim & I met online, but she wasn’t just my “online” friend. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t actually met in person until last October. We had a lot in common, and she always said she’d take me on a tour of quilts in Amish country near her home.

She wasn’t a quilter, but she loved my quilts and always encouraged me.

By Saturday, news was still spreading, tears were still flowing, and I was beside myself. I had to do something, but there was nothing helpful I *could* do.

So I quilted.

Because Kim was so encouraging and believed in me, I picked up a quilt I had set aside. It had been basted for a good couple of months, waiting for me to work on it.

The truth was, I was scared.

I had an idea and was unsure if I could execute it, even if it was half formed. But Kim knew I could do it. She’d kick me in the behind too, giving me a push whenever I sent long emails full of angst.

Another good friend of mine says everyone grieves in their own way, and for me, I need to keep busy. So I wound a few bobbins, picked up that quilt, put it under the machine, took a deep breath… and quilted.

The design itself is an explosion of foliage trailing across the quilt top. Some sections are breaking out into the borders. It’s a celebration of life – a life well-lived.


I only have a vague idea of what to quilt in the background, between the leaves and loops and fantastical flowers, but I’ll forge ahead anyway.


I’m not even sure what will happen to this particular quilt when it’s done. I only know that every time I see I’ll think of it as Kim’s Quilt.

First Friday finish!


I finished the Glimmer table topper last night, hand stitching the binding down.

I cut the binding 2.25″ instead of my usual 2.5″, on the straight grain.

Press, sew to front, fold to back and even pressed to help turn. Hand stitched in white quilting thread that was my grandmother’s. It still in excellent condition.


Then I realized I’d made a lighter mostly red topper and had a matching mostly green topper from the same line of fabrics.


They even stack nice! All ready for next Christmas.


Linking up to Crazy Mom Quilts and her Friday finishes, which are hard for me to post to, since I do the bulk of my sewing on Friday/Saturday – my days off – and I try and spend little time on my computer. So I mostly forget by Sunday/Monday to go back and link up.