Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Civil War Quilts Book Giveaway

Love using your reproduction fabrics to make Civil War-style quilts?  Well, there's a great book that just came out and Martingale (That Patchwork Place) is generously allowing me to give away a free e-book

The Big Book of Civil War Quilts. Just released!

Books like this provide us with wonderful inspiration to create legacy-worthy quilts. It's a nice collection of patterns for large and small quilts. The book contains six of my previously published patterns from two of my books plus 52 other wonderful quilts by some of our favorite designers. 

Here are a few of mine -  

There are 58  fantastic quilts by Country Threads, Carol Hopkins, Jo Morton and Julie Hendrickson as well as many other Martingale designers.

If you like working with reproduction fabric and scraps, you will love this book!

** To win a free e-book, leave me a comment to enter your name. (You can instantly download this e-book to your computer or other device.) Remember to leave your name and e-mail so I can contact you if you win. Good luck! Winner will be announced on Friday.

  You can purchase a hard copy of the book here. 

Winner was announced. COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Clarissa's Garden and School

As I mentioned in a recent post, I live in a town in northern Illinois that was established in the mid-1800s. 

Sometime in the 1840s, Lyman Wilmot and his wife Clarissa came here from the east coast to settle on 240 acres of land. (At the time, land in this area cost as little as $1.25 an acre).  Part of this land was donated by the Wilmot family in 1848 to build a one-room schoolhouse. Education was important for these early settlers and building schools for their children was often high on the list of priorities when a community was built. Clarissa Wilmot became the first school teacher at the new school. That school no longer exists but a replica of an old schoolhouse was later built for the town's small historical village. An elementary school now stands in place of Clarissa's original school.

My antique Schoolhouse quilt.

For the town's 150th settlement celebration, a local teacher had her class plant a prairie garden with an abundance of native plants common during the 1800s in memory of Clarissa Wilmot. When my daughter was in middle school, we drove past this garden every day. One day it hit me that I really should  make a small quilt to honor Clarissa and her garden and the contribution she made to our town's educational system. It turned into this little quilt with a simple floral motif - 

My Clarissa's Garden pattern is available here.

Have a great Weekend!  Stop by next Wednesday, August 30, for another exciting giveaway! 

Friday, August 18, 2017


The other day, I sewed the LAST stitches on the LAST binding of the LAST quilt for my next book and then sent all of them to my publisher. Yay!

You have no idea how good it feels, to have worked hard and stayed so focused for months to accomplish yet another goal. Writing a quilting book with 17 quilts in just a few months can be totally exhausting as well as exhilarating, whether the quilts are small or large. You still have to stay focused and not veer off track or it just will not get done. I've been living nothing but quilts and even dreaming quilts in my sleep for months. Waking up in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat, thinking OMG - I need to change this or that or even - Oh no! Do I have time to start over? Will anyone really want to buy this? It's been a journey and I thank all of you for following along with me for so many years. I know I say this every time, but I think this book is going to be the best one yet.

The publishing process is often a long one and I know it's hard to be patient before you see the final product. There's still a little work to do - some necessary editing, rewriting, more editing, research and documentation, etc., in the coming months before the Martingale team turns it into another beautiful finished product next year. I'll be sure to give you updates when I get them but for now . . . . I'm done with the big part. I need to take a little break.  Maybe read a good book and then take a nap . . . . or a much-needed vacation.

Have a good weekend. Easier if you stay away from the news but I'm not one who can ignore what's going on in the world or bury my head in the sand and pretend to not be affected by it all. We live in difficult times. We can wish we lived in more tranquil times but the fact is that we don't. I don't have any answers for what is happening but all of us need to somehow come together on some level and realize that we are all more alike than we are different. We need to face the trouble in the world with courage and try to find solutions by focusing on spreading love and compassion toward our fellow human beings instead of hatred. And make the best attempt to elect leaders who couple that compassion with strength of character and wisdom.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Stencil Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the free Stencil Company stencils -

  • Lauren H.
  • Pauline Simpson
  • Nancy Kennedy
  • Donna Lockwood
  • Joyce Carter
  • Debbie (from  fetchr at aol dot com) 

Winners, please e-mail me your mailing addresses so I can know where to send your free stencils.

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway. I wish all of you could have won some stencils. Those of you who did not win, remember that you can always order a few if you go to the Stencil Company's website. They sell stencils in all shapes and sizes but if you're mostly interested in marking small quilts, go to their Sentimental Quilter page to see some stencils I've used. When you place your order, remember to use the coupon code  SQBAUG17  to get a 20% discount. The code will be available until August 17, 2017.

Thanks for all of your sweet comments! It was so nice to read that so many of you are already hand quilting or inspired to try it. I wrote a blog post last year about needles and thread if you are interested in reading more about what I use. But, remember the bottom line -  it's all very individual. Sometimes trial and error when it comes to what needles, thread, etc. to use. What works for one may not work for you so try several different things to find your own hand quilting "groove." Quilting is a journey and when you're learning something new there can be both pleasure and frustration in the process. But, don't be afraid to try something new - it may just bring you some unexpected delight. 

     Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Quilting Stencil Giveaway has ENDED

For the past few months I've been hand quilting some quilts for my next book, due out next year. I know I blog about hand quilting again and again so forgive me for repeating myself. Some of you have heard this before but I like to encourage others to try hand quilting because it can be so satisfying and fun as well.  AND - this week I'm holding a giveaway for some fun stencils for quilting your small quilts to make it even easier for you.

NOTE:  This giveaway has now ENDED.

The Stencil Company has generously offered to let me give away a couple of their small stencils to six lucky quilters. Woo hoo!  To win a set of stencils, leave me a comment. Include your e-mail, link to your profile with an e-mail or another way for me to reach you so I can let you know you've won. If you do not leave your e-mail in your comment or profile then I will have to pass over your comment and go on to the next one. This happens quite a bit when I hold giveaways, sorry to say. I will pick six winners at random and announce them on Friday, August 11. Good luck!

Small quilts that are quilted very simply really appeal to me. When I over-quilt one of my scrappy quilts, it seems to take away from the fabric and I prefer it if the fabric is showcased and not overwhelmed by fancy stitching. That's just me.

For many of us, the act of sitting and sewing small stitches by hand can be almost meditative. The repetitiveness involved soothes, relaxes and calms your mind and lowers your blood pressure. Yes, it's actually good for you.

Little quilts are perfect for practicing your hand quilting. I think it really adds something to these small projects and I always like to do my part to encourage quilters to try it. Even if the first one you try isn't all that good, keep at it and you'll get better. When I've been away from it for awhile and then pick it up again those first few lines of stitching are a little less straight than I'd prefer. But it comes back quickly and you pick up a certain rhythm if you do it long enough and get in the "zone." Straight-line quilting is often easy enough for beginners and if that doesn't quite do it for you, you can always try a quilting stencil to add a little more pizzazz to your quilt.

Quilting stencils are easy to use with a water soluble marking pen or another type of fabric marker. Your local quilt shop probably carries stencils in different sizes along with marking tools. You can often find stencils at booths when you shop at the larger quilt shows. You can also find them online. The Stencil Company sells a nice variety of stencils for small quilt blocks and borders and they have a whole page dedicated to my followers - Sentimental Quilter - on their website.

This little wavy stencil is one of my favorites and I like to use it often. Simple, but a little bit special without overpowering the border.

I don't ever plan on winning any prizes for my hand quilting. I'm not afraid to admit that I still enjoy making things even if I'm not perfect at them. If I waited until I did things perfectly I'd never make anything! A friend of mine said she thought all hand quilting was always supposed to be done free hand and so she was hesitant to try it because she had no skills and was afraid she'd never get her lines straight. 

Goodness, if this is what's keeping you from trying it, please take advantage of tools that make quilting easier. There's a product called Tiger Tape that helps you learn to space your stitches evenly if you're just beginning. You line up the tape along the place you want to stitch and then follow the markings on the tape to keep your stitches in line. If it helps you stitch straighter lines, why not use it? There's no rule that says quilting has to be done a certain way except among the purists or if you're entering your quilt in a show. Then, of course, it matters and it should be perfect. But, if you're just beginning and hesitant to try for this reason - remember, in the 19th century, some wonderful antique quilts were hand quilted. If you take a close look, you'll see that not all of them were necessarily quilted with exceptional skill. Even the average quilter hand quilted her quilts. We all have to begin somewhere and the point is to enjoy the process. You get better with practice. 

If you do become inspired to try hand quilting, you can try several different pens or pencils to mark your stitching lines. There are Sewline colored lead pens or pencils. I've tried a chalk marker but found it erased too easily and I couldn't see the lines. Some like Frixion pens. After trying several different products, I prefer to use a use a fine-point washable quilt marking pen and have found several made by the Clover company that work well and wash out nicely. I use a Clover blue water-soluble marking pen on lighter fabrics and a Clover white pen for marking my darker fabrics. Despite my preferences, some of these other pens may be good options for you so try a few of them and see. You need to find what works best for YOU. 

Here's a tip: Whichever marking tool you try, follow the directions on the package.  If you decide to use a washable marker, after you finish quilting, do not press or place your quilt in the dryer until you are sure that all of the markings have been washed out. I have almost ruined a quilt by not being careful. Depending upon the pen, some markings will be set with HEAT and won't come out easily. (The Frixion pen markings apparently disappear with heat and reappear when cold so again, check the directions.) Just take your time, put on your glasses so you can see the lines (that's a reminder to myself!) and gently wash the top of the quilt with a damp cloth until all of the markings are off. Then, let it air dry. If you can still see some marks, wash it again.

If you believe that hand quilting is really too difficult even before you begin, all I can say is try it before you decide it's not for you. It really doesn't have to be perfect - you will get better with practice. Or, maybe, like me, you'll find that it won't matter if your stitches aren't exactly perfect. My intentions are always good, but sometimes quirky, childlike stitches suit me and my quilt just fine. 

Border stencils that measure 2 or 2.5 inches are perfect for quilting the borders of many of my small quilts and these are some of the ones I'll be giving away.

You can also find stencils in many different sizes that match the size of your blocks. 

Go ahead -  mark the lines with your preferred marking tool. It washes out!

Then, stitch on the lines with a nice glazed cotton quilting thread. I prefer the YLI brand in light brown since it is not as stark as white thread against medium and dark fabrics. It's really more of a tan and goes well with 1800s reproduction fabrics.

Follow the directions on the pen or pencil to erase or wash off the markings. I always play it safe and use cold water instead of hot when I wash mine. 

I am clearly not an expert and my stitches could be a little smaller and straighter for sure but it's still so much fun to sit and stitch and see what the quilting adds to finishing a quilt.  It doesn't have to be heavily quilted - straight lines or Xs are perfectly fine and good for practicing. Even a little bit of hand quilting will give a special look to your small, simple quilt. And, don't forget, if you make a mistake or find that your stitches are quirky or a little less than perfect - oh well, try not to worry too much. Antique doll quilts were not perfect either. We're just having fun here.

Leave me a comment about quilting or making small quilts and I will pick six winners and announce the names on Friday, August 11. Good luck! (And please read the directions!)

*  *  *

P.S. - It has come to my attention that some of you who signed up to follow my blog through e-mail to keep up when there are new blog posts have not activated your e-mail delivery account. When you signed up, you should have received a verification or activation e-mail afterwards. If you did not send a reply to verify your e-mail, it won't work and you will not receive updates. You may have to try again. The follow by e-mail button is on the blog sidebar.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Historic Town and Houses

I love traipsing through old houses whenever I get the chance, catching a glimpse of history. Last weekend I paid a visit to a small historical village in my own town since I hadn't been there for several years.

I live in a town in northern Illinois that was established in the mid-1800s. The area was once the hunting grounds of the peaceful Illinois and Potawatomie Native Americans. The two busy main streets in our now urban town were originally called Two Indian Trails when it was first settled. Sometime in the 1840s, Lyman Wilmot came here from the east coast with his wife Clarissa to settle on 240 acres of land. Part of that land was donated to the village to build a school. If the name Clarissa sounds familiar it's because she was the inspiration for one of my favorite quilt patterns -  Clarissa's Garden. Some of you may know this story. I will try to post more about that next week.

Caspar Ott and his wife Elizabetha raised their seven children in this one-room log cabin home, the oldest standing building in the county.

A log cabin quilt, of course.

An old carriage house.

The area was a stronghold in the abolitionist movement, providing numerous stops on the Underground Railroad, aiding slaves in their journey to freedom. The Wilmot's home apparently served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. 

The house still stands but it has been extensively renovated  in recent years and so is not on the register of historic houses. I wish I could have seen the inside but it was always privately owned. My dream was that if I'd had the money at the time it recently went up for sale I would have bought it and restored it myself. The asking price was quite a bit higher than the salary of this particular quilter, however . . . . 

                                 Deerfield, IL, The Lyman Wilmot House, according to local history a safe house on the Underground Railroad, is documented in one of the few detailed stories that have survived about the Underground Railroad in Lake County.

I'm sure there are many historic houses and villages near where you live. Summer is a great time to explore some of these and get a glimpse of life as it was lived so long ago.