All Quilters Welcome Here


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The new administration has a lot of people scared. No, make that terrified. With actual threats to health insurance, cabinet appointments that seem contrary to what each department is supposed to do, and a habit of firing off tweets that contradict known evidence, it’s easy to be disheartened. Some comments and supporters have made it seem that anyone who is not white, Christian, male and rich will be targeted either directly or indirectly.

In the face of this, some people are standing up to speak who haven’t spoken before. I don’t know if I’m one of them, as those who know me know I speak up about some things on a regular basis, but maybe I don’t use the platform I have effectively enough. So I may try to do something about that.

As this is primarily a quilter’s blog, what does quilting have to do with societal tensions? There is actually an easy answer to that. Picture a quilter in your mind. What do you see? If the answer is an older woman, Caucasian, sitting at a large frame with other older, Caucasian women, well, you’ve just defined the problem. Quilters are not all women, they are not all retirement age, they are not all Caucasian. Heck, they aren’t even all hand quilters. And while this might seem like common sense, the practice of it isn’t.

I didn’t think much about it until I started reading the blog of the Bad Ass Quilters Society. I mean, I knew what the stereotypes were, and I always encouraged every quilter I met regardless of who they are, but I didn’t think about the kinds of discrimination faced by those who fall outside the stereotypes. So my first goal is to think more about it. My second goal is to help others think more about it. (It’s unlikely you know my blog and not Maddie’s, but if you haven’t checked out BAQS you need to go do that today.)


Find out more about #SewDiversity at

When you find out a man is a quilter, are you surprised? Does it depend on what kind of quilt he has made? Does it depend on whether you already knew him or not?

Does a quilt made by a person of color have to be like a Gee’s Bend quilt for you to consider that person a quilter? Would you head toward a different part of the quilt store if you saw a person of color come in? Does a quilt that proclaims #BlackLivesMatter bother you?

When you see a quilt hanging on the wall, do you think less of it because it is more “traditional”, or because of how it’s quilted, or if it is “modern”, or if it would never be put on a bed?

Are quilts only “art” when they hang on a wall and have lots of ornamentation?

Are most quilts not art because they are “women’s work”?

Most people will recognize there are loaded questions in there. But my point is, every quilter, of every skin color, every talent level, every income level, every gender, is a quilter. Some quilts might be better constructed, some quilts might use color schemes or patterns you prefer, but everyone is a quilter and an artist. And once we can get to the point where all quilters are treated equally, maybe that will start being reflected more in the rest of our society.


Trying to Eat Healthier: Reduced Sugar Pumpkin Pie


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Most people who know me well know that this summer I’ve been working hard to eat less sugar and fewer carbs. Since a diabetic episode brought on by prednisone several years ago, I’ve tested my blood sugar occasionally to make sure it didn’t come back. This year it started creeping up again. So I cut out “easy” carbs — you know, passing on the rolls and breadsticks they serve at restaurants and “cheap” carbs like cake and donuts, drinking unsweetened coffee (that’s another post), eating smaller portions, etc. — and lost some weight. One of my doctors congratulated me on taking those steps then told me I had to take it further. Ugh. Okay, time to really crack down!

But I have a few problems: I cannot stand the flavor of artificial sweeteners (and I’ve tried a lot, in a lot of different things, both at home and at restaurants/coffee shops); I can’t eat many of the foods that most diabetics are told to eat more of, due to other issues; and I know for a fact that if I just cut out all the high carb foods I love I will NEVER keep up that diet, guaranteed. I know myself well enough to know that “cutting” won’t last. So I aimed for “reducing”.

One of my favorite foods on this planet is pumpkin pie. I eat it for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. Easter? Sure, I’ll bring a pumpkin pie. July 4th? What’s more American than pumpkin pie? Fortunately, other members of my extended family like pumpkin pie too, so I’m not left eating the entire thing.

But there is a lot of sugar in a regular pumpkin pie, even in the reduced sugar version I used to make (the recipe I use called for 2/3 cup and I’d reduce that to a 1/2 cup). And swapping out sugar for one of the artificial sweeteners isn’t going to work for me. So, going back to that “reduce don’t cut” motto, here is the recipe I’ve settled on. I figured out the sugar in this recipe, using the branded ingredients as marked, and it’s a total of 62 grams of sugar in the entire pie: 36 from the sugar, 9 from the milk, and about 17 from the pumpkin puree (the crust I use has no sugar listed on the nutrition panel). For eight slices per pie, that’s about 8 grams of sugar per slice. I can live with that!


Fresh from the oven this afternoon! I like that one of the cracks looks a bit like a heart…

So here’s my adapted recipe, based on Better Homes and Gardens’ New Cook Book (not so new; my copy was published in 1989).

1 15-oz can Libby’s pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I tend to round it)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (ditto)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 5-ounce can (2/3 cup) Carnation evaporated milk (use the 2% or skim version if possible)
1/2 cup skim milk (I have Lactaid skim milk in my fridge so that’s what I use)
pie crust for single crust pie (I use Pillsbury refrigerated crusts)

Allow pie crust to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375F.

Combine pumpkin puree, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a mixing bowl. Add eggs and beat to preference: my husband likes “solid” pumpkin pie so I use a spoon and stir just until mixed, while my brother-in-law prefers “light” pumpkin pie so I use a hand mixer to beat it until it’s almost fluffy. Add in evaporated milk and milk and mix gently but well.

Place pie crust in 9″ glass pie pan and crimp the edges. Pour in filling. Cover the edge of the pie with foil or a pie crust shield (I love these things, worth the price if you bake a lot of pie!). Bake for 25-35 minutes. Remove foil or shield and bake for another 10-25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. (I’ve baked enough in my oven to recognize when the pie is done to our tastes, so experiment as ovens will vary.) Cool on a wire rack. Makes eight servings.

In the future I may play with this a bit more: reduce the carbs by making it crustless (bake it longer at a lower temp); and/or try unsweetened almond milk in place of regular milk. But today I’ll just enjoy my “normal” pumpkin pie.  🙂  Cheers!

Shifting from Quilting to Weaving


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Happy Fourth of July!



It’s July 4th, and I’m watching a British tennis tournament. Can’t decide if that’s funny or just life.

This post isn’t fabric or book related, so my apologies to those who only visit my blog for those topics. (I know, it’s been a while since I posted about anything, so you are probably shocked to find anything new at all.) This post is my attempt to not be quiet.

There are a lot of thoughts running through my head these days and I will try to put some of them into some coherent form. The Constitution of the United States (original document) seemed to primarily protect the rich white men of European descent. There were a whole lot of groups that didn’t fair so well. And so when someone starts talking about sticking solely with what the Constitution says, I get a bit bothered. After all, if we only stuck with the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights, I wouldn’t be able to vote and many of my friends would potentially be owned by someone. I’m not okay with that.

The passage of time has added amendments, as society changed and we realized that it was really important we recognize the rights of more groups. We should be a nation where every person should feel that someone “like them” is helping to guide the country, whether that’s a skin color, religious belief, identified gender, or other broad characteristic.

With this many different view points present, there will be conflicts. There will be disagreements. In a democracy we are not required to agree with each other, or even to like each other. But we ARE required to listen politely to each other, to argue politely, to not prohibit each other from speaking. We are required to work together. We are also required to protect those being bullied, those being silenced, those being attacked.

I think we need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our country. We need to remember that military might does not make this country strong. What do people talk about when a disaster has fallen on a community? Not what a strong police presence is there. They talk about how that community puts aside differences and works together. We need to do this as a country, not just as a town or a neighborhood. We need the strength of cooperation in our towns, cities, counties, states, and as a nation. We need businesses not just pursuing the most money but pursuing making money while supporting their surrounding area. We need clubs, churches, and other organizations working together to help those who don’t belong to their organizations.

We need to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

Happy Independence Day, friends!

Oh, I would definitely buy one if you just…


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I was a vendor at two different Christmas art fairs the past two weekends. And, I have to say, I exceeded my expectations about how much I would sell at both. The big sales were few, but I was right to think I’d sell a bunch of the small stuff. Card holders were the biggest seller at both events. I was suggesting them for gift cards, credit cards and ID, in addition to the traditional business card holder. I was surprised by a couple of people who bought them: one specifically wanted “the most traditional Christmas looking” one to hold his business cards, so he would feel the spirit during the season; another wanted a nice wintery one to hold her loyalty cards for all the stores she shops at. Okay then, more ways for me to promote them! Handful of card holders

The biggest seller I had last year, the wrist warmers, barely sold. I was ready for the kind of sales I had last year, and had a BUNCH of them made and ready to go, and sold… 4 pairs total between the two events. Here’s where I take pause, and wonder if the really warm weather lately affected sales this year (I mean, it WAS almost 70 yesterday!), or if they just aren’t as sellable as they were before. One person who bought a pair exclaimed, “these are perfect texting gloves!” Okay, another way to promote them! So I’ll hold on to them and try again next year and see how it goes. Photo of fleece wrist warmers in a half circle.

Ornaments were big at the first event, but not at the second. I had three different kinds – pinwheels, quilted, and folded fabric – and all three had fans. Some of the people who had purchased ornaments at the first one also attended the second, so I can’t expect them to buy ornaments again. But there is a market for them and I have to make sure I have plenty available for next year’s events. Maybe I’ll even add another variety to the mix.Fabric Christmas ornaments

Some of the things I sold at the first event were things I had made a while ago as a sample project and just wanted to get rid of them. Which tells me it’s always a good thing to bring those along, you never know what will appeal to people!

But then there were the people who would be looking at a particular item, a lot, and then put it down saying, “you know, I’d totally buy that if it just…” Had cats on it, was purple, was smaller, was bigger, had a zipper, had a key ring loop on it, included a velcro tab, was cheaper, etc. I’m sure every crafter/vendor has heard a variety of these comments. And every crafter/vendor has had to decide how seriously to take the comments. Sometimes the comment is a common sense thing, and I agree with the person and say I’ll work on it for next year. Other times, I politely thank them. It might not be something I can do (I don’t think I charge enough for some of my items as it is; the balance between what something is worth in your time and what you can sell it for is a difficult one for anyone who makes and sells things). It might not be something I want to do (I’m not making a lot of things or money, here, so is it worth my time to do for only a possible sale?).

The ideas I liked, I wrote down on the notepad where I was also recording sales. This way I can keep track of the other things I want to do. For instance, it was made really clear to me that the people attending the second event were majorly into domestic animals: the question “do you have this with cats (or dogs)?” was frequently asked. One person assumed the proceeds from the vendors all went to one of the local pet shelters. (No.) So I’m already buying more cat and dog fabric for next year at that event.

Other ideas? Not so much. I’ll just continue to politely thank them for the idea.  And I’ll continue to try to learn more from each vending experience I have, because I never know which idea will be valuable in the future!

Christkindlmarkt is Coming, and I’m Not Ready!


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The resounding silence on this site is due to one major factor: I have an art/craft fair to get ready for. The Christkindlmarkt show in Pottsville is one of the biggest art fairs of the year in town, a two-day event in the fabulously-decorated Yuengling Mansion that is the home of the Schuylkill County Council for the Arts. (Yes, that is Yuengling, as in the beer company. The family gave one of the family homes to the community to house the arts. How cool is that?)  I had a few items at last year’s Christkindlmarkt, sharing space with my husband and his books, DVDs, etc. from his Mazz Press line, but not much because of my hand injury last August. This year I’m trying to do much better!

Last year, the only thing I could make a lot of were wrist warmers. I have really long arms, and my sleeves tend to ride up and make my wrists really cold in the winter time. So I tried making some fingerless gloves out of fleece. Loved them, so made a few more. They were a hit! And I’ve already had someone ask if I’d have them there this year, so I’ve been trying to make as many as I can, in lots of colors. Here are a few I’ve finished so far:

Photo of fleece wrist warmers in a half circle.

I like to add a blanket stitch around the cuff using embroidery floss, just to make them look a little nicer. That’s the part that takes a while; I have a whole stack of these waiting for blanket stitching.

I also decided to amp up the card holders this year. I sold quite a few when I suggested to people they would be great for giving gift cards. So I’ve made a bunch in a variety of fabrics, both holiday and non. I even found some birthday fabric! I mostly made them from scraps left from making other things: when I’d cut up my fabric for a larger project, I’d also cut off a strip (or a piece) the right size for the card holders, and make a bunch at a time.

Handful of card holders

I also have a few other things ready, like all the purses I made this past summer, a few wristlet purses, a couple of wallets, some other odds and ends (like one wine tote bag and an orange and grey cross-body purse) and some hand quilted things like the reversible table runner I made last year:

Blue black and white table runnerRed black and white reverse side of table runner

Finally, I’m trying one new thing this year: stockings. I made just one stocking last year and gave it to my youngest niece (who just turned 1 year old last week!). So far I only have these four made. I’m hoping to get a couple more made, but time is going fast and I may not get to them.

Red and black Christmas stockings featuring winter puppiesWhite and red Christmas stockings

So, it’s back to the sofa for me to keep doing blanket stitch. Cheers to all, whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year!

Busy, Busy Becki!


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Hello? Anyone there?  🙂  My apologies for the long period between posts! Life has a way of changing our plans, adding and subtracting to what we think we will be able to accomplish, doesn’t it?

Since the last time I posted, I’ve traveled back to Wisconsin to spend some quality time with my family in Madison. Mom and I visited four different quilt stores to pick out fabric for a t-shirt quilt for my second niece. As one of my coworkers put it, that was such a rough thing for us to do.  🙂  I did really well, though, only getting a few pieces of fabric for myself, as I had to haul everything back to Pennsylvania in my carry-on luggage. There’s incentive for ya! (Actually, my parents did have to mail a small box of stuff to me after I got home, but not because I couldn’t fit it in my suitcase.)

This quilt is going to have rows of fabric between the t-shirts, like we did with my first niece’s quilt, but this one is a bit different. Where my first t-shirt quilt was all orange, black and white, this one will be orange, black, white, blue, and grey! I came up with an initial design idea that was okayed by my mom and sister (mother of said niece), so we’ll go with that and see what happens. Here’s the first one I made several years ago:

Sam's graduation t-shirt quiltSo my idea with the second niece’s quilt is to have black around the t-shirts, like above, then have orange and white strips running long way down the quilt, and blue and grey strips running across. In the squares where they meet will be the various numbers she has worn over the years on her soccer teams. That’s the idea, anyway. I have all the stuff, now I need to get started one of these days! (She’s already graduated from high school; my goal is to get this done before she graduates from college. 🙂 )

Last weekend I went to the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza with one of my coworkers who is just getting started with quilting. However, unlike years past, I didn’t take any photos, so I have nothing to display here. We enjoyed most of the quilts; I could tell she wasn’t much impressed with the modern quilts, though!

And now it’s time to really get sewing. I have two craft fairs coming up. The first is the Mahoning Valley Fiber Guild’s Fiber Fair in Lehighton, Pennsylvania on October 10. Of course I have to work that day, but one of the guild members has kindly offered to sell some of my things at her table for me.

Mahoning Valley Fiber Guild's Fiber Fair 2015

So, to get ready for this and other fairs, I’ve been trying to make as many things as possible! One of my favorite things to make, it seems, are these little wristlets:


They offer so many possibilities, it’s kind of like those potato chip ads: it’s hard to just make one! 🙂

Cheers to all!

A Journey of Learning: Is It Possible To…?


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After showing off the first purse I’d made, which was open topped and had no closures, someone asked me “is it possible to make this same purse but with a zipper?” Hmm. Worked a bit with zippers on pencil cases. How much harder could that be? So began a period of experimenting and learning.

After I had made one or two, and took one in to work to show them what I had been wrangling with the previous weekend, I was asked a question: is it possible I could make 10 purses by August? Hmm, 10? By August? Not sure, considering how long those two had taken me! However, I said I’d give it a try. And so began a period of experimenting and learning.IMG_2428

Catching on to the theme here? 🙂

My short notes when making that first purse turned into almost two pages of “if then” instructions, depending on how I wanted to make the next purse. Zippered top? Cut the body pieces x inches by y inches.

Inside slide pockets? Cut the fabric a inches by b inches, sew in this manner.

Outside pockets must be top-stitched.IMG_2424

That really doesn’t look like the batting will stay in place over time. Add a couple of quilting lines here and here.

Handles need to be cut this long to be carried on the shoulder.

Inside zippered pocket? Cut inside pocket fabric this big if using method R, two pieces this big if using method S.

The zippered-top instructions don’t make sense. Why don’t I try it this way… eureka, that looks so much better!IMG_2427

DON’T FORGET TO OPEN THE ZIPPER BEFORE SEWING LIKE SIDES TOGETHER. (In caps, because I forgot to do that at least three times, and decided I was becoming regrettably talented at opening zippers from the wrong side.)

Hmm, that seam didn’t quite even out, I’d better double-stitch that. You know what, double-stitching that whole section for all purses would be smarter.

And so, I’ve reached the last of the 10 purses, which was actually 14 purses because the customer wanted all of them to have zippered tops (leaving out the first two), I needed a new purse for myself, and someone else ordered one. I’ve made this pattern so many times I don’t even need to look at my notes anymore (although I make sure they are up to date, in case I start making something else and forget some of the important things I’ve learned along the way). I really like how these purses turned out. And every one is totally unique, because I don’t have enough fabric to make two exactly the same.10 purses July 2015

Is it possible to…? Probably, if you view it as a journey instead of a test, as a learning experience instead of a “have to”. I’ve had a lot of fun with these, although my sewing machine is probably ready for a break.  🙂

Feeling a Bit Like Mr. Cubbins


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While working on sewing projects lately, I was feeling like I was part of a children’s book. Couldn’t put my finger on it immediately. It was when I was adding yet another change to a project that I realized what it was: I was reminded of Bartholomew Cubbins’ 500 hats.

First purse to include a zipper.

First purse to include a zipper.

For those who are not familiar with the story, Bartholomew keeps taking off hats, and for a while they are all the same. But at one point the hats start getting fancier until he ends up with a hat that is the envy of the king.  (You can find out a bit about the story from the Wikipedia page, but I highly recommend reading the story yourself!)

Second purse to include a zipper, plus a loop inside.

Second purse to include a zipper, plus a loop inside.

I’m not claiming that what I’m making is ever going to get that grandiose. I just keep adding things like an extra set of pockets here, a zipper there, and hey why not a tab or loop in this one? The projects just keep growing under my sewing machine.

Who knows how the next one will be different?  🙂

Adapt, and Adapt Again, and Again, …


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Lately I’ve been playing with wallets. And by “playing”, I mean I’ve been making a bunch of them, trying to figure out the best way to do it: sizes, layers, ways to not kill my sewing machine, that kind of thing.

I started by following directions from a variety of websites, including the card wallet on the Warehouse Fabrics Inc. site. There were a couple other sites as well. I jotted down notes from them all and made a wallet.

wallet first attempt

First attempt at a wallet, inside.

First attempt, outside, orange fabric.

First attempt, outside.

Um, okay. Outside works. Inside is not great. Everything was really super loose and floppy. Adapt!

I reduced some of the cutting sizes and added lightweight fusible interfacing. Here’s the second one I made:black and white inside fabrics for second wallet

The first wallet had the card pockets turned 90 degrees and my cards kept falling out. Not good. So I figured out how to re-do it with the cards this way. Very scrappy, kind of fun, not as floppy, … but killer to tackle on my basic domestic sewing machine. I’m still using this wallet, so it is functional, but it definitely needed to evolve. Adapt!

But someone really liked it, and asked if I could make one for her. This photo shows the inside of the wallet I made:

Inside of third wallet

Inside of wallet showing long scrappy card pockets. Black hook tape on the left side waiting to be cut to size.

Hmm, we’re really getting somewhere now. The cards stay put in the card pockets. Heavier interfacing adds a good level of stiffness. But my machine almost cried every time I made one like this (and I made at least five this way, so I was really pushing it). Adapt!

And, finally, I think I have a wallet design I like, that doesn’t threaten my sewing machine’s existence, that is kind of fun to make. It’s not as scrappy, because those extra double layers in the card pockets made a huge difference to my sewing machine and needle. I also widened the tab. The heavyweight interfacing is cut smaller so I don’t catch it in the initial stitch-around. And I figured out where to stitch down the hook tape on the outside piece, so I can do it on the sewing machine instead of by hand (after the wallet was fully assembled). I think this is the design I’m sticking with:

Inside of two wallets showing orange patterned fabric and reddish orange fabric.

New wallets, with inside colors swapped.

Unless, of course, I need to change it again. Which I did. My sewing student expressed interest in making a small wallet next, and at 12 or 13 she really doesn’t need space for that many cards or a checkbook register. Adapt!

Inside of narrower wallet showing card pockets.

“Half pint” wallet, for someone with less stuff to carry.

I thought this came out rather well. I had just enough of this cat fabric left from some small purses I had made earlier. It’s slightly more than half the width of the standard wallet. Someone could carry a few cards, and cash or receipts or other flat things in the pocket on the right.

Another possible future adaptation is using magnetic snaps instead of hook and loop tape. I’ve ordered some and am awaiting their arrival, and I have a wallet mostly done that just needs those closures to complete. Then I’ll decide which type of closure I prefer, and go from there. Or maybe I’ll just use both. We’ll see. That’s the wonderful thing about sewing, you can keep adapting as the need and desire requires. 🙂