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Flying Geese Block Tutorial

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**Click on any photo to enjoy a larger view

This tutorial is for a scrappy flying geese block which measures 16.5″ X 16.5″ unfinished. This block uses 8 flying geese units laid out in a 2 X 4 block placement. This is one possible layout option (all geese pointing in the same direction):

DSC_0366For this tutorial, the background of each Goose Unit will utilize a variety of solid gray OR low volume prints that use gray. The centers of the geese will be fabrics which coordinate with the 2wenty Thr3e collection by Julie and Eric Comstock of Cosmo Cricket for Moda.

There are many ways to make the Flying Geese units. I used two different techniques – one the “traditional” stitch and flip method; the other a quick technique which yields 4 flying geese units with the same center fabric. I was able to get a nice scrappy block using the combination of techniques, but found that it was easier to get an accurate block with the stitch and flip method. Below you will find the instructions for BOTH methods. Each flying geese unit will measure 4.5″ X 8.5″ so that when sewn together, the completed block will be 16.5″ X 16.5″.

Quick Technique to Yield FOUR Flying Geese Units

  • Cut (1) square of fabric which measures 9.25″ X 9.25″ – this will be the center of each unit, or the “geese”
  • Cut (4) 4-7/8″ X 4-7/8″ squares of your background fabric – you should choose four DIFFERENT fabrics to yield a scrappy unit

Cutting.4blocks1Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each 4-7/8″ square (the background fabric):

DrawLine.4blocks1Lay two of these background squares on the 9.25″ square of colored fabric (RST) in opposite corners as shown below. Note, the background fabric squares will overlap slightly in the middle. Your drawn lines should line up so that you have one long drawn line from corner to corner.

Sewing.4block01Sew a SCANT 1/4″ on either side of the long drawn line:


After sewing on either side of the drawn line, carefully cut along the drawn line, separating your work into two identical pieces:

SeparateBlocks.4block SeparatingBlocks.4block02

Press open towards the triangles. I use light spray starch to press on the sew line FIRST, and then carefully pressed the seam towards the triangles. After pressing, your block should look like this:

DSC_0347You will have TWO pieces which look like the photo above. Lay one unit aside and use the other unit to do the following:

STEP ONE: Place another background 4-7/8″ square RST on the last remaining corner of your colored fabric (in the photo above, it is that nice big space below the triangles). Line up the edges along the bottom – you will have some overlaps between the triangles and your drawn diagonal line should go from the corner of your colored fabric up through the middle of the triangles as shown below:

DSC_0348STEP TWO: Once again, you will stitch a SCANT 1/4″ on either side of the drawn line:

DSC_0350STEP THREE: After  sewing on either side of the drawn line, carefully cut along the drawn line, separating your work into two geese units:


STEP FOUR: Press your block open by pressing toward the triangle. Your finished units should measure 4.5″ X 8.5″. There should be a 1/4″ from the tip of each goose to the edge of the fabric (which is your seam allowance):

DSC_0354Take the second piece which you laid aside and repeat steps ONE through FOUR to create your final two geese units.

You should now have FOUR completed geese units which have the same fabric in the centers and a mix of background fabrics. You will need to make FOUR more geese units to complete the final block. To make your block scrappier, it is recommended that you use the stitch and flip method to make these final four units.

Stitch and Flip Method of Making Flying Geese Units

The following instructions will yield ONE flying goose unit. To make four units, you will need to repeat the instructions four times using different fabrics to yield scrappy blocks.

  • Cut out (1) rectangle of colored fabric measuring 4.5″ X 8.5″ (this will make the goose part of the block – or the central fabric)
  • Cut out (2) 4.5″ X 4.5″ squares of background fabric – for a scrappier look, choose two different fabrics

Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each 4.5″ square (the background fabric):

DrawLine.4blocks1Lay one background square on one side of the 4.5″ X 8.5″ rectangle (RST) making sure your drawn line goes from one corner of the rectangle to the center of the rectangle.


Stitch along the drawn line (**HELPFUL HINT: to improve accuracy, stitch just a smidge along the OUTSIDE of the drawn line – ie: in the photo above to the RIGHT of the drawn line – this will give you a little extra fabric for when you do the flip part of the block and you can always trim off excess fabric if needed). IF you have prepared all four units for sewing, you can speed things up by chain piecing – which is what I am doing in the photo below.


Give your fabric a shot of spray starch and press, then flip the lower part of the square over and press toward the corner. Once pressed, you can then re-open the fabric and carefully trim back the excess fabric 1/4″ away from the sew line and then flip the fabric back over. You will have completed one half of the goose unit at this point.

Next place the second 4.5″ square of background fabric (RST) on the opposite corner of the 4.5″ X 8.5″ rectangle (in the photo below you can see the flipped side laying flat):

DSC_0360Again, stitch along the drawn line or just to the outside of it, and again (as above) press with spray starch, flip the bottom up, press, then flip back and trim away the excess. Your unit is now finished.


Putting Together Your Units to Make the Final Block

You will need EIGHT (8) completed flying geese units. Although I used two techniques in making mine, you could easily create all 8 scrappy units individually by using the stitch and flip method.

Lay out your units in two vertical rows, being careful to mix things up a bit. All the points of your geese units should be pointing in the same direction. Once you have a nice layout, stitch together each vertical row, laying one unit on the next, RST, so that the point of one unit is lined up with the flat side of the unit above it.

*HELPFUL HINT: If you have pieced your units correctly, you should have a 1/4″ seam allowance at each point. To be sure not to lose your point, place the two units you are going to sew together (RST) with the point side ON TOP. As you stitch across the point, you will see that the seams have made an “X”. You will want to stitch just a smidge to the outside of the “X” (on the side of the seam) or through its middle, but NOT to the left of the “X” (click on the photo below to see this detail):


PRESS YOUR SEAMS OPEN between each unit.

Here is how your vertical units will look once joined:

DSC_0361Once all the units are joined vertically, you will need to decide if you are going to join these vertical rows so that all the geese point in one direction:

DSC_0364Or if one row will point up and the other will point down:


Once you have decided on the layout, stitch the vertical units together, lining up the seams. Once sewn together, press your vertical seam OPEN (this will make it easier when joining blocks to make the finished quilt).

That’s it! Now make a bunch of these blocks and piece them together to make an amazing quilt!!!

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A Sunrise Quilt for my Sister

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VoileAroundWorld.Front.010001This quilt was made for my sister, Paula who is my best friend and partner in crime when it comes to quilting. In many ways, Paula is my hero…she is extremely courageous, gritty and fearless. I wanted to make her a really special quilt…and this is it.

This quilt measures 72″ X 60″ and I used the Scrappy Trip Around the World pattern. I decided to finally cut into my stash of voiles – fabrics that I have been collecting for about 3 years whenever I saw them on sale, or saw a print I couldn’t live without. Most of them are from Anna Maria Horner collections, but there are also some Valorie Wells prints in there. I controlled the scrappiness of this quilt by making sure that the dark blues always ran down the center of every block…otherwise, I simply paired fabrics any old way.

VoileAroundWorld.OnRail.010001Voile is not all that hard to work with if you control some of the “floatiness” of it – I used light spray starch which really helped with the cutting part of things. I also used a very fine, Microtex needle.

The back is Shannon Minky Dimple Dot in Dusty Rose which I ordered from The Minky Boutique (I first ordered samples in order to chose the color – this shop is very easy to work with and offers discounts on purchases of 5 yards or more).

VoileAroundWorld.Back.010001 VoileAroundWorld.CloseUp0001

The binding is a Kaffe Fassett Shot Cotton which picks up the blues, purples and pinks in the quilt top.

VoileAroundWorld.Binding0001I used the embroidery function on my sewing machine to craft the label, then hand stitched it on the back with perl cotton thread.

VoileAroundWorld.Label010001 VoileAroundWorld.BackReveal.010001

The quilting on this is straight lines following the diagonals and diamond patterns from the front (you can see it best by looking at the photo of the back of the quilt).

The batting is 100% silk for a great drape and lots of warmth.

VoileAroundWorld.DrapedOnSwing.010001My goal was to create a super soft, cuddly and warm quilt that represented something extraordinary. A friend of mine told me it reminded her of a sunrise when I first showed her the photos of this quilt on my design wall…and so that was my inspiration for the name of this quilt!

VoileAroundWorld.BackReveal.020001I was able to deliver this to Paula in person on my trip back to New England…so of course I’m going to show you some photos of that…







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In My Stacks for May

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It has been a long time since I’ve posted a dedicated post about books! Have you missed these?

The other day I sifted through my recent unread book stacks and pulled out several I’d like to read this month. Now, it is unlikely I will get through ALL of these…but I will give it the good ole’ college try!

SavingFishMy current read is Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan (2006 Ballantine Books Trade Paperback Edition) which I am reading for my online book club. I’ve enjoyed Tan’s writing in the past (check out my review of The Hundred Secret Senses which I loved) and I am really liking this novel which is narrated by a dead woman. You have to be an excellent writer to pull that off! And Amy Tan is a wonderful storyteller. Stay tuned for a review by the first of next week.

Invention of WingsI also need to read The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd for my book club. I’ve been seeing a lot of great reviews and comments about this one, so it is a novel I am looking forward to on multiple levels. Have you read this book? If so, what did you think?

Also in the stacks this month are Peirene Press’s latest novella – The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov (translated from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield) as well as a novella by Meike Ziervogel (the editor of Peirene Press) titled Magda. I don’t know why I haven’t read these yet…but I am determined to do so soon.

DeadLake Magda

Other possibilities for this month include:

whiskeybeach ruby FairyTale

  • Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013)
  • Ruby by Cynthia Bond (Hogarth, 2014)
  • A Fairy Tale by Jonas T. Bengtsson and translated from the Danish by Charlotte Barslund (Other Press, 2014)

WhentheCypressWhispers Byrd PTforAnimals

  • When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon (Harper, 2014)
  • Byrd by Kim Church (Dzanc Books, 2014)
  • Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for Animals by Susan E. Davis, PT (JoyCare Media, 2013)

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

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A Scrappy Little Pin Cushion

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scrappypincushion.front010001Sometimes a girl just needs to do something quick with a bunch of scraps that might otherwise be destined for the trash can. So why not whip up a sweet, colorful pin cushion?

I hardly ever use the purples in my stash – but recently I made a couple of Bee Blocks for another quilter…

KarensDivaBlock10001 KarensDivaBlock20001

And there were so many pretty scraps left over.

I used the trimmed edges from that first block…and the gray dots from the second block to make this improv pin cushion.

scrappypincushion.back0001 scrappypincushion.side0001

Both the front and back are pieced…and I did some simple straight line quilting to finish it off. It measures 5″ square and is perfect for my sewing room!


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A Pair of Scrumptious Pillows

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ScrumptiousPillows.Fronts0001*Photos in this post are clickable to enjoy a larger size

Summertime is almost here – so what better than a pair of crisp pillows using the Scrumptious collection by Bonnie and Camille? I had two mini charm packs to play with and thought it would be fun to make two pillows which coordinated with each other.


The first pillow is the Don’t Be Square from the Pillow Pop book (this is one of the pillows the Threadbias Pillow Pop group is making in May). This pillow uses tiny 2.5″ squares and lots of negative space and it seemed perfect for some intricate quilting…so I decided to practice my quilting skills using my walking foot and this tutorial.


I’m happy with how it came out, although there was definitely some distortion in the process. This pillow finishes at 20″ square.

The second pillow uses a pattern by Sherri McConnell and is part of her Simply Small Projects for this year. I really had fun making this one – it comes together quickly and I love the star pattern. The pattern is for a 16″ pillow, but I added on a turquoise border to make it 18″ square.


I quilted it by doing some very simply echo quilting.


I decided to match the backs for these pillows and used up some leftover mini charms to piece a strip across the top of each one. The big pieces of turquoise fabric is something I bought on sale a long time ago: Flora by Lauren and Jessie Jung for Moda (it is a perfect match with the turquoise in Scrumptious!).

ScrumptiousStarPillow.HiddenZipper0001 DontBeSquarePillow.Back0001

Both pillows have hidden zippers.

I couldn’t resist putting them on my bed with some of my other Bonnie and Camille creations!!!


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The Bear – Book Review

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BearI turn over and hug Gwen and snuggle into Stick and hope the sounds will go away. Momma screams like a monster is tackling her. That’s why I know it’s a dream so I should keep my eyes shut tight. It is dark behind my eyes. Momma never yells. Mostly not ever. Except sometimes. – from The Bear, page 10 -

Five year old Anna and her two year old brother Alex (aka Stick or Sticky) are camping on Bates Island in Algonquin Park (just northeast of Toronto, Canada) with their parents. It seems idyllic. And then tragedy strikes. A three hundred pound black bear attacks Anna’s parents in the middle of the night. Anna and “Stick” are spared, but as morning comes, Anna sees the chaos left behind. Her mother whispers through dying lips “Get your brother in the canoe and go to the middle of the lake.” And Anna does just that.

What unfolds is a highly suspenseful, quite terrifying story told in the innocent voice of Anna. As Anna tries her best to care for her young brother, she is haunted by “the black dog” who has become a monster in her eyes. The choice of Anna as narrator is brilliant because Anna is a child, and not able to fully grasp the danger or how to deal with it. Her thoughts return to happier times, then catapult back into the traumatic present. Meanwhile, the adult reader is all too aware of the precarious future facing these two very young children.

The pages almost turn themselves as the days in the wilderness unspool. I was mesmerized, thrilled, terrified and ultimately moved by Anna’s story. I do not want to tell you the ending – but let me just say that it is perfect.

The Bear reminded me of another compelling novel narrated by a child. When I read Emma Donaghue’s novel Room (read my review) I could barely breathe. Cameron’s book took me to that same space – one of almost impossible tension. I think writing a novel from the point of view of a young child must be very difficult, and so when I see an author pull it off, as Cameron does, I am amazed at the brilliance of the feat.

Claire Cameron was inspired to write this story based on a real bear attack on two campers on Bates Island in 1991. There was never any good explanation for that attack, and so the people who who lived in the area were haunted by their imaginations, about the what-ifs and how-comes of such a thing. Cameron writes in her author’s note:

The Bear is based on my memories of and research into this bear attack. I added the kids.

The Bear is a taut, stark novel about family, and about growing up; about tragedy and courage, and what it means to be brave when you are still too young to understand the definition of such a thing.

This book is fantastic and highly recommended for those readers who love to indulge in literary fiction with a thrilling edge. It will appeal to those readers who loved Room by Emma Donaghue.

Highly recommended.


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Pillow Pop Round-Up: April

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BlogButtonHave you checked out the Pillow Pop group on Threadbias? We’re making pillows from the fabulous book Pillow Pop all year long.

We would love to have you join us. If you’re not already a member at Threadbias, why not join – it is free, and it is a great community of sewists.

We chose Urban Seaweed (easy) and Garden District (challenging) as the pillows for April…and here are the wonderful finishes with links back to each sewist’s project page. I hope you will click through to see the entire projects as the backs and quilting on each pillow are also fabulous.

Urban Seaweed: A quick, easy pillow that uses fun fabrics against a solid (or near solid) background.


Margaret put her own spin on this pillow, renaming it Urban Streets and using a wonderful palette of soft grays, pinks and a pop of chartreuse


Marsha’s version in tangerine and turquoise also used fussy cut fabrics to give her pillow an extra pop.


Sippe’s neutral background allows the modern red prints to really shine in her version of the pillow.

UrbanSeaweedMonsters.Kathy UrbanSeaweedDinos.Kathy

Kathie crafted two wonderful versions of this pillow: one in monsters, the other in dinosaurs. I think any child would love these!

Garden District: A trellis of sashing strips allow colorful fabrics to twine like blooms on a vine.


Erica used rich jewel toned fabrics against a textural Essex Linen for a stunning look


Cathie gave her pillow a classy feel by choosing to eliminate the scrappiness in the original pattern


I used fun, whimsical prints to give this pillow a bit of a retro look

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The Secret Life of Violet Grant – Book Review

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SecretLifeVioletGrantSexual attraction. Violet knows what it is; she knows she’s feeling it now, that she’s felt it from the moment he prowled into the middle of her dark laboratory room ten days ago. - from The Secret Life of Violet Grant -

Vivian Schuyler is a sharp, sexy, New Yorker trying to climb the journalistic ladder of the famed Metropolitan magazine in the year 1964. She isn’t looking for a man, and even if she was, she longs to protect a heart that has been broken more than once. So when she goes to the post office in Greenwich Village to pick up a parcel she has no idea that her life is about to take a dramatic turn. The parcel is a battered suitcase which apparently belongs to a Violet Schuyler, a woman Vivian has never heard of; and the man who offers to carry it for her is a blond doctor who takes Vivian’s breath away.

Soon Vivian learns that Violet is a great aunt of hers, a scientist who married her professor (the squirrely and perverse Dr. Grant) and traveled to Berlin…where just before the beginning of WWI, she apparently murdered her husband and fled with a lover. No one has heard from her since. Vivian is captivated and determined to uncover the mystery behind Violet’s disappearance.

In a compelling narrative, Beatriz Williams moves effortlessly back and forth from 1964 New York to pre-war Berlin in the early part of the twentieth century. Vivian’s voice is filled with a sardonic wit which covers a more vulnerable young woman. Violet’s story is written in the third person and is filled with suspense and intrigue. Both woman charge across the pages of this new novel by one of my favorite authors in the Women’s Fiction/Historical Fiction genres.

Williams introduces historical characters such as Einstein, as well as carefully developed fictional characters. She intertwines romance with history for a thrilling story about two women separated by time but connected by family, desire and fate.

I was really happy to see that Beatriz Williams was publishing her third novel this month (look for it in bookstores by May 27th) as I have loved her previous work: Overseas (read my review) and A Hundred Summers (read my review). Once again she wowed me with pitch perfect dialogue, a fast paced plot, engaging characters and plenty of heat in the romance department. Williams is fast becoming my go-to author for Women’s Fiction laced with historical detail.

This is a terrific book which I read in record time despite its over 400 pages. If you’re looking for an entertaining, well-written book…look no further! I loved this one.

Highly recommended.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review on my blog.

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Playing with Quilt Design

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The other day I got a luscious package in the mail all the way from the UK. I finally bit the bullet and ordered a bunch of Oakshott cottons – gorgeous, medium weight crossweave quilting cottons. Here are photos of the Lipari and Italy collections (courtesy of the Oakshott website):

Lipari-group-shot_2 italy-600

Because these fabrics are not inexpensive…and also because my supply of them is limited, I am wanting to plan carefully before cutting into them.

Yesterday I discovered a terrific quilt design tool called Quiltography. It is a paid ap and only can be used on IPad, but it is currently on sale for more than half the normal price. So I bought it and started playing.

Although I have never used a design tool before, I was up and running in about an hour. There is a bit of learning curve, but once I got the hang of things, I started designing like crazy!

The tool allows you can upload photos of fabric from your camera or directly from websites which is awesome. I found the uploaded images to be very true to the actual fabric.

Here are some of the designs I created using the custom block and pre-loaded blocks on the ap (I did not upload all the colors of the Oakshott I bought, but tried to do a fair representation to give me a good idea of what the quilts might look like):

Drunkards Path with Oakshott.curvychain

Wavy Chain

Drunkards Path with Oakshott.Flowerblock

Spinning Flowers

Drunkards Path with Oakshott

Drunkard’s Path

As you can see, I used the same block in different layouts. I could easily have chosen completely different blocks, or combinations of blocks. But I am liking the circular nature of this particular block…now I just need to decide which layout I love, or if there might be other ways of placing the blocks.

Stay tuned for an Oakshott quilt sometime this summer!!!

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Spring Pillows

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If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you probably have noticed a lot of pillows! That is because I am sewing along in a Threadbias Pillow Pop group (actually, I’m helping to lead this group!). I’ve been trying to make at least one pillow for every month to help members of the group as needed. If you want to join us, there is no deadline to sign up. I am really impressed with some of the interpretations of the pillows from the Pillow Pop book  – we have a very creative bunch over there!

I’ve been getting ahead the last few weeks and have three spring pillows to show you today – they are all very different, but to me they represent spring so well. All three pillows measure 20″ X 20″ finished.

GardenDistrict.FinishedFront.010001April’s Pillow is called Garden District … and it was a bit labor intensive, but I made some small changes in the pattern which made it come together quicker (namely, I chose to strip piece some of the petals and used one fabric for other petals in the design).

The fabrics in this one were scraps of Bonnie and Camille collections to make the petals.

GardenDistrict.FinishedFront.020001I used Kona solid in Taupe for the trellis.

The pillow is machine quilted using a red thread and following the pattern of the petals.

GardenDistrict.Front10001I made a simple envelope back to finish this one.

GardenDistrict.FinishedBack0001FreshBloomPillow.Front020001May’s pillow, Fresh Bloom, is meant to represent a vibrant bloom of flowers using fusible applique. The project in the book used multiple colorways and over 80 circles. I decided I wanted something less scrappy looking that more clearly depicted a flower.

I chose three colorways: orange, yellow and gray…and cut about 45 circles of various sizes. Careful placement of each colorway resulted in a pillow which looks like a bouquet of brightly colored flowers.


I quilted Fresh Bloom by stitching about 1/8th of an inch along the edge of each petal and then echoed the entire “bloom” around the outside.

FreshBloomPillow.Back010001 FreshBloomPillow.Zipper0001

The back is pieced and sports a hidden zipper.

PhotogenicPillow.front030001Perhaps my favorite pillow of the three is June’s pillow which is titled Photogenic. I was thrilled to discover some vintage Heather Bailey fabric – two older collections which I bought when I first started quilting and then had no idea how to use those huge prints.

This pillow is super easy to piece and I finished it in less than 3 hours. I chose a print with huge roses to be my focus fabric.

I really like how the turquoise and kelly green prints frame the whole thing.

The back is pieced with a hidden zipper closure.

PhotogenicPillow.back020001 PhotogenicPillow.hiddenZipper0001

I used a simple, straight line echo quilting to make the pillow pop.

PhotogenicPillow.quilting0001I really had a lot of fun making all three of these springy pillows which I hope I will enjoy year round!



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