Fancy Work Applique

Each month I receive an email with the next pattern in the block of the month quilt I’m stitching with Lori Triplett and her sister Kay Triplett. Lori is using pre-fused, laser cut appliques and adding touches of hand painting to her blocks. Kay is using needle turn applique with freezer paper on top. And I’m using back basting applique with my Waddington Road Primitives fabrics.

A favorite recent block was a gorgeous cutwork pattern that the sisters call Fancy Work. I studied the pattern and decided there was enough space between elements that I could successfully back baste it using one piece of tan fabric. I started by tracing the full pattern to the wrong side of the fabric. Next I placed a single piece of fabric on the front stacked with both fabrics right side up. I like to complete the basting step by machine so I dropped my feed dogs and from the back I basted on all the drawn lines.

Basted on wrong side

For this tutorial I intentionally used black thread in the bobbin – so you would be able to see the basting on the front. That was a good thing because then I was also able to see it!!

Front side of the basted design

At this point I paused for a reality check. Did I really want to work with those tiny seam allowances? Reviewing the image of the original quilt I noted that this block is repeated three times and each version looks a little different than the other two blocks. I took that as my sign and decided it really didn’t matter how close to the original my block turned out. I set to work and trimmed the entire block.Some appliquers prefer to cut as they stitch but I like to get all the excess fabric out of the way so I can see exactly where I need to needle turn.

The stitching went fine as long as I didn’t try to rush. I just turned a bit and stitched a bit until the entire design was appliqued. I stitched the circles last so I could shape them to fit the open space between the other motifs. At one point I felt disappointed that they had become so much smaller than the original drawing and considered cutting new, larger circles and covering them. But if I had done that I wouldn’t be able to say it was cut from one piece of cloth, and besides, I had already coached myself that it didn’t really matter.

Finished 8″ x 8″ block

The reverse applique was the scary part. All the rest of the stitching was already completed when I took my small sharp scissors and cut a slit. I almost couldn’t breathe. It was a month’s worth of applique work resting on the tips of those scissors. But cut I did! Over the next four evenings I completed one reverse applique slit per night. Slow and steady – each stitch was carefully placed.

I marvel to think how the original quiltmaker got such narrow reverse applique slits in her work, but I’ve decided to concede the small seam allowance prize to her. If you are making this quilt too and are feeling challenged by the small seam allowances relax a little and resist the urge to compare to the original. I like my finished block just fine and I’ll like the other two versions even better because they aren’t quite as fancy!

Here are my first nine completed blocks. I think my Fancy Work block looks nice with the group.

The first nine blocks of the Triplett Sisters BOM

To see the original quilt and learn more about this BOM click here.


Design Wall Monday –

It’s a holiday weekend in the US as we celebrate Labor Day.

Some consider Labor Day the official end of summer but we continue sailing until it’s too cold to be on the water. So, I’m leaving a few works in progress on the design wall as we head out to the lake looking for enough wind for sailing.

I’ve been trying out Marti Michell’s Long/Skinny Sashing ruler to set these sampler blocks together. single block with long skinny sashingsSampler with long skinny sashings Wouldn’t you know it – I am 3 1/2″ short on my inner border fabric so I couldn’t get it finished yesterday! Quilt shop run on the schedule for Tues! These blocks were made using the Marti Michell templates featured over the past year in the Marti and Me Club that I lead at Quilting Bits and Pieces in Eudora, KS.

And here are some sweet little machine embroidered blocks stitched for me by my friend Sherry. (I begged.) Someday I will get them made into a little banner to hang in the cabin on our sailboat.054July emb block June embroidered block

When I cleaned up my sewing room to prepare for my guild’s tour of member’s sewing rooms, I made a list of 59 projects that I found scattered about the room in various stages of completion. I took a few of them with me on our “Quirky Kansas Tour” to have handwork to do in the car. I am happy to show you 4 finished projects. Don’t get too impressed though; that’s 4 down 55 to go!

Winter trees from a Karen Montgomery pattern

Winter trees from a Karen Montgomery pattern

I had to make this project because this is what I see in my yard during the winter months:from Barb 066

Churn Dash Doll Quilt - Reproduction fabrics. Machine quilted on my HQ Sweet 16.

Churn Dash Doll Quilt – Reproduction fabrics. Machine quilted. 5″ blocks

Hand appliqued from a Lori Smith, From my Heart to your Hands, design

Hand appliqued, designed by Lori Smith, From my Heart to your Hands.  16″x20″ machine quilted.


Crochet edge fleece - not a quilt but it was a project on the floor in the sewing room so it made the list!

Crochet edge fleece – not a quilt but it was a project on the floor in the sewing room so it made the list!

I’m linking to The Patchwork Times today. Visit Design Wall Monday to see what others are working on!








Design Wall Monday – Rocking Chairs and Small Ships

Design Wall Monday, hosted by Judy at The Patchwork Times is a fun way to share with other like-minded individuals just what’s going on in the sewing room. Today my sewing room is all neat and tidy with pretties displayed on the design wall instead of works in progress. That’s because my quilt guild had a sewing room tour last Thurs and my room was one of four featured so I had to doll things up a bit. Read about getting ready for the tour and see before and after photos of my sewing room by clicking here.

So here’s a peek at what’s on my design wall:

Synchronized Swimming

from a Marti Michell pattern.

(Made with curved templates for the Marti and Me Club that I lead at Quilting Bits and Pieces in Eudora, KS)

 turtles cropped

And Rocking Chair clip art ideas for a row quilt exchange I am participating in.


And since I’m ready to mess up my sewing room again, I’m on a new mission. Quilters have been asking me about using back basting applique’ on different types of projects such as Baltimore Album quilts with tiny pieces and many layers, Mola quilts with many levels of reverse applique and other designs with many complicated shapes or tiny pieces. I am usually attracted to simpler designs, and don’t often work in the more complicated styles, but I think back basting will work for all of them  – it just requires thinking ahead and working a layer at a time. I’m setting out to prove to myself that it will work.

I went to the book shelf seeking the hardest applique’ patterns in my collection.   I selected three books containing patterns that I consider complicated applique’.

Here they are from Left to Right:

Wilflower Album, by Bea Oglesby; Little Brown Bird, by Margaret Docherty; and some of the designs in Beloved Baltimore Album Quilts, by Elly Sienkiewicz.


First up will be this lovely little sailing ship from Elly’s book. I’m going to stitch it on an 8″ finished block.


It can’t be any more challenging than cleaning my sewing room!


Slow Stitching

My Aunt Jane was a professional dressmaker and alterations instructor. She has excellent hand and machine workmanship but if she could avoid handwork and accomplish a task on the machine, she did. Focusing on her work she found the most efficient way to get the job done without sacrificing quality.

In her later years, retired from teaching and sewing for others, Aunt Jane learned to quilt. She showed me a series of hand appliqued and hand quilted wallhangings that she made in a class. As she held them out for me to see, she groaned and said, “All that handwork!” But she did it. And her quilt work is as beautiful as her dressmaking.

Last month I visited my aunt, now 85 years old. I showed her my new book, “Back Basting Applique, Step by Step”. She looked at every page in the book then closed the cover, handed it back to me and said, “It makes me want to cry.” I asked, “Why?” She smiled and said, “All that applique! It makes me want to cry!” Ah yes, it’s handwork, of course it makes her feel like crying!

As for me, I love applique. I’ve been making appliqued quilts for over 25 years. When I learned to applique in the mid-1980s I stitched entirely by hand. Then I found ways to speed up my sewing – I discovered freezer paper applique and clear nylon thread and was soon making and teaching invisible machine applique. It was fun. It was fast. I was hooked.

With my Bernina sewing machine I got good results but my students were not always successful. Some came to class with old machines prone to tension problems expecting the same results I got with my machine. They were frustrated and so was I. So, I made a decision to quit teaching invisible machine applique, saving us all the aggravation.

But I didn’t stop teaching freezer paper applique – I just switched back to hand sewing. I got nice results. My students got nice results. Everyone was happy.

I wasn’t intentionally setting out on a grand return to hand sewing. I didn’t plan to abandon my sewing machine in exchange for needle and thread.

But something was afoot. Enthusiasm for handwork was spreading. At Quilting Bits and Pieces in Eudora, KS, where I teach appliqué and quilting classes, the customers come from miles around to shop for supplies and inspiration. Known locally for hand work, specifically twilling, embroidery, applique and more recently, Brazilian embroidery and crazy quilting, the shop is a haven for hand stitchers.

When did we slow down? When did I slow down?

I thought back to a visit with my friend Rachel in the summer of 2000. As we chatted I pulled out my handwork and enjoyed her shock when she saw me sewing by hand. When we were neighbors a number of years prior, I was all about doing things fast – and all on the machine, yet there I was doing hand stitching – slow stitching.

Rachel’s amusement at my hand sewing in the summer of 2000 marks a transition in my quilting life. It was the beginning of my return to doing more hand applique. In 2002 I learned about Back Basting Applique – a needle turn, hand applique technique. Now it’s my favorite appliqué technique.

I had no idea that a movement was underway – a slow stitching movement. Just recently I heard the term for the first time, so of course, I did an internet search. I was curious. What is ‘slow stitiching’ anyway?

Slow stitching is embroidery and applique; it is handwork and machine work. It’s stitching – any stitching that is slow, careful and methodical. I found images of hand stitched garments and quilts. I found stories of taking time and developing a relationship with your needle and thread as you sew. You might say that slow stitching is an attitude. Sure, it’s mostly about handwork but it isn’t exclusive to handwork. I think my Aunt Jane’s perfectly machine stitched cuffs and collars and beautifully machine bound button holes are slow stitching too. Aunt Jane didn’t like all the handwork associated with dressmaking; she was focused on the finished product and getting the job done and yet she never lost sight of the importance of working slowly and carefully toward her goal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving up my sewing machine, but let’s slow down. Let’s get to know the feel of the fibers in our hands as we move the needle and thread through the cloth or as we pass it under the machine needle. Let’s enjoy the journey and do some slow stitching!


Design Wall Monday – No sewing at the lake!

I like to take my hand sewing to our sailboat at Lake Perry. Lake Perry is one of the prettiest places in our area and although it is one of Kansas’ largest lakes, on Sunday afternoons it is nearly empty of boaters. When we have wind it is exhilarating to sail across the lake but without wind it can be hot and humid and quite miserable. So I take handwork along to take my mind off the weather.DSC00540

Yesterday I took my Ladies of the Sea border with me to the lake with great plans of stitching while waiting for wind. But I didn’t stitch. Instead we had awesome wind and spent an afternoon of brisk sailing. It’s hard to sew in the wind and besides I was busy taking a turn at the helm or manning the jib sheets. Hey, when you are a sailor, wind is wind – and at Lake Perry you take it when you can get it – the handwork will keep!

Here is a picture of  one third of my first border with a bit more stitching completed. border 1

In addition to my hand applique’ work I have a new project on my design wall. Today I received a package from my daughter. Inside were the final t-shirts she wants in her college T-Shirt quilt. I’m particular excited to get started on this project because it will free up a lot of space in my sewing room when I move all her t-shirts from a pile on my floor into her quilt then on to her own apartment!


So that’s what’s on my design wall! See what others are up to by visiting The Patchwork Times.


Design Wall Monday – Ladies of the Sea

When I started this website I dreamt of it being a collection point for stories about some of my favorite things. I wanted to write about teaching myself to bake pies, about growing up on a farm, the books I love and, of course, quilts. That said, I thought it was high time I posted something about quilts. Today I am linking to Judy Laquidara’s The Patchwork Times through her Design Wall Monday program. Each Monday she hosts a peek into quilter’s sewing rooms to see what others are working on. I have followed Design Wall Monday for a long time – two years, or more, but today is my first time to link my own design wall. So here we go!

I love appliqué. I have multiple appliqué projects in progress at any given time but generally focus on one as my primary project. Currently it is Ladies of the Sea, by Susan Garman of Quakertown Quilts. In Jan I started with great gusto and completed the first four blocks in record time.Ladies of the sea 1 2 and 3

block 4

Then I started a border and my motor stalled. I have been spinning my wheels on it for three months. Maybe, just maybe, by posting it here I will become energized to stay on task! Here is part of the first border:Border 1

I am using Back Basting Appliqué on this project. It is the subject of my new book, Back Basting Appliqué Step by Step, which just released last month. Check it out at shopMartingale.com or click on the author button over there on the right, up on top. My border has most of the first layer of motifs appliquéd and I have begun adding the stems.

Check out what others are working on at Judy’s website by clicking here. And come back to blog.barbsfavorites.com periodically to see what else I have found to distract me from finishing my border!


Just released!

That’s right! Today is the day! June 4, 2013. It’s the day my new book shipped from the publisher. For a year I have seen that date in contracts, e-mails, advance advertising and most recently at the Martingale booth at Spring International Quilt Market in Portland, OR. See? Here I am at market signing copies of an advance shipment.

Book signing 1

But today, June 4, 2013, is the day everyone else can see it. Check it out at Martingale.

Here she is!

Here she is!