A Side of Quilts: Learning the Art of Quilting

For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them – Aristotle


 I want to become a master quilter one day. I’m not even sure if there is such a thing as a master quilter, but if there is I plan on becoming one within the next eight to ten years.

Right now I’m still in the infancy stage of quilting. No, wait a minute. Seeing as I can throw a tantrum and pull out a bottle (of wine that is) to help me calm down when my attempts at quilting become challenging, I need to change that to the toddler stage.

I’m currently in the toddler stage of becoming a master quilter.

wine and quiltingIn order to reach my quilting goals, I know that sooner or later I’m going to have to get out and mingle with experienced quilters, but in the meantime I’m content with learning the basics on my own with the help of books, magazines, YouTube, blogs, Instagram, trial and error and classes at http://www.craftsy.com.

As quiet as it is kept, I hold a master’s degree in library science. So it is no surprise that whenever I want to learn something new I first turn to books. I started my journey into quilting with books I checked out from my local library. When I eventually checked out all of the available books I was interested in, I started requesting books through interlibrary loan. They would fulfill my request by buying new quilting books. So if you live in Leon County, Florida and are interested in learning how to  create art quilts check out these two new books:


When I find a book I want to own I usually order it from Amazon. I only own four books on quilting and out of those four my favorite by far has to be the following:

quilting book2This book is 319 pages chock-full of clear, helpful examples, instructions and information for the novice quilter. The pages are thick and sturdy. Not only will they stand up to repeated handling, but mine stood strong in the destructive hands of a real toddler. The photographs are sharp, bright, and plentiful. They are never used as fillers and are always matched with concise instructions. Seeing as one of my quilting goals is to master the construction techniques of traditional quilt blocks, I fully expect to use this book for many years.

The book is divided into five major sections. 1. Getting started 2. Patchwork 3. Appliqué 4. Quilting and 5. Things to make


Like all crafting books, it begins with a “Getting started” section, complete with information on the different tools and other materials you will need for quilting. It covers information on fabric and thread. It explains how to calculate the size of a quilt, and discusses design principles including basic principles of color theory. Nearly half of the section is devoted to the general techniques of quilting, including preparing fabric for quilting and examples of techniques often used when binding a quilt.

You will learn construction techniques in the “Patchwork” section. You will also find instructions on how to complete projects such as pillows, toys, a tote bag and basic quilts completely different from the instructions for the 24 projects in the “Things to make” section at the end of the book.

I recently completed several hexagon stars for my current quilting project by following the instructions on assembling a hexagon star.

hexagon starmy hexagon star

I turned my first Hexagon star attempt into a pocket on a bag using tips from the “Appliqué” section.


Last weekend I finally made a quilt board and am finally in the design stage of my quilt.


The book has about 18 beautiful quilt patterns but I don’t know if I will use them. I hope I do but twice I’ve tried to follow patterns I found in quilt magazines and both times I ended up veering off and doing my own thing. I feel that I will only develop my personal style if I design my own quilts. I also think that I will find greater satisfaction in my final quilts, no matter the results, if I design them myself. Even if I never reach my goal of becoming a master quilter, I think as long as my quilts keep people warm, bring people comfort, and make them smile I will be one happy quilter. And, after all, isn’t that a better goal?

cameron and quilt for blog

Note: I Googled “Master Quilter” and discovered there is such a thing. Well, sort of. Check it out for yourself at http://www.nqaquilts.org/master-quilt/

The Perfectly Imperfect Sewing Blog Post

cam and hat text

Practice Makes Perfect

I wanted to post a perfect blog about my latest sewing project. A blog with a beautiful, crisp, clear picture of a perfect pair of shoes that I had sewn along with an equally perfect picture of my grandson wearing the perfect hat that I had made using this (seemingly) perfect McCall’s pattern.


After all, when it comes to sewing I’m a little obsessed with perfection. I find it both irritating and embarrassing to look at something I’ve labored hours over only to step back and look at the final product and discover mistakes. Maybe the mistake is on a handbag, in a row of top stitching that wandered off slightly but in the most conspicuous place possible, or a seam that didn’t match up perfectly in a quilt.

Or maybe the issue is a pair of infant shoes that, try as I might, I couldn’t get to look like they were the same size, or their elastic bands were crooked or, I’m sad to say, they just looked raggedy.

raggedy shoesphoto(2)

Sigh! Sigh! and Sigh! again. Yes this project had me sighing, cursing, doubting my abilities, and even giving up for a couple of days. Who knew something so little could cause me such angst.

“What kept you going?” you might want to ask me. Good question, because believe me I asked myself that same question. “Practice makes perfect” I would tell myself. “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it,” I would whisper as I pulled out more scrapes to cut out another shoe. I knew if I were to succeed with eventually mastering this sewing game I couldn’t dare let the making of a shoe, an infant shoe no less, get the best of me.

 2015-04-27 16.27.00

Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence. – Colin Powell      

I eventually discovered that simple practice didn’t make my shoes come out perfect. I had to put more thought and precise effort into the construction of this shoe. I had to learn from my failed attempts without an instructor to guide me. One night, as I lay tossing and turning in bed, wondering what I was doing wrong, it finally occurred to me. Maybe the issue was with the steps I was taking before the needle and thread even touched the fabric. The next morning I pulled out the instructions. I reread them, word for tiny little word. I’m not sure if it helped but I did realize a couple of things. First, after sewing four shoes, I realized I didn’t even like how the pattern had me attaching two elastic bands across the center front of the shoe. Seriously, why did I need two bands?

“I don’t want to have to deal with two bands,” I thought to myself, “and a baby can’t even count.”

Realizing that whatever infant I finally found to wear my shoes wouldn’t care if there were one or two bands across her shoe I climbed into my car and made my way to the fabric store in search of other options. The trip was a success. I found these.

2015-05-18 20.01.45

Next, I sat down and quilted a large square of denim fabric, cut the pieces out and took my time making sure I marked my fabric carefully so there would be absolutely no issue with alignment when I attached the elastic bands to the back pattern piece ( #4 in the picture below). I also took my time to assure all pattern markings were transferred properly from the sole pattern piece (#6) onto the fabric. You see it had also occurred to me, while I was doing all of that tossing and turning the previous night, that maybe I hadn’t paid close enough attention to aligning the back piece to the sole thus the right side fell a little behind the left side. With the shoes being so small the slightest misalignment could ruin the final results. (side note, remember when # was commonly known as a symbol for the word “number”)

2015-05-18 12.06.55

Whatever I did differently seemed to work –

blue shoe inside

I wondered if they would look better if I didn’t quilt my fabric so I used plain denim fabric. Here are the results.

denim shoe 1There were a few things I still wanted to work on concerning the construction of the shoes but I knew it was time to move on. After all I had a blog to write and I wanted to try another item in the envelope.

Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it. – Salvador Dali

Because of all the problems I had with making the shoes, I was a little hesitant with trying something new. But I couldn’t quit now. I cut out the pattern pieces for the little boy’s bucket hat. (another side note — why can’t pattern makers put all of the pieces of each item together? I felt like I was on a scavenger hunt just to find the four hat pieces)

I’m happy to report that the hat was easy and fun to make. By now I decided to subscribe to Salvador Dali’s view on perfection and I boldly put red thread in my machine and top stitched the blue denim hat in bright red thread and attached a bright red band to the crown. Having no fear of perfection, I accidentally stitched the top of the band to high on the crown for it to reach the crown’s bottom seam as the instructions stated but by then it was 1:00 a.m. and I didn’t want to take it apart so I quietly tucked the raw edge under and top-stitched both sides to the crown.

photo 3shoes and hat

My work was done. Now I just had to find that perfect model, one that would sit sweetly and pose with the hat sitting perfectly on his head just like the child on the front of the envelop of the McCall’s pattern.

Ummm, on second thought never mind. My little model will do perfectly fine.

Cam hat

Earth Day Sewing

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.” Ludwig van Beethoven

Hi, and welcome to my new blog! Thank you so much for coming. I hope you stick with me as I practice my art and, as Beethoven said to do, force my way into its secrets. With the help of this new blog I hope to explore, learn and force my way into the secrets of sewing.

As you can see from the title of this post, I wanted to post for Earth Day. I’m a little late but the mission and goals of Earth Day should be practiced every day. So here goes.

I start my blog out with a simple, fun project that can also help positively affect the environment.  One of the first things I made when I returned to sewing 9 months ago (after a 20 year sewing hiatus) was a shopping tote. I had been working on eliminating my use of plastic shopping bags and when I returned to sewing I made a commitment to get serious about it. Here is a picture of my first shopping tote. I used charms I ordered from Amazon and fabric I found in the remnant bin at Joann’s fabric store.


I loved that bag and used it regularly when I went shopping but once my sister came to visit and laid her eyes on it I could see how much she coveted it 🙂 and because she doesn’t sew I gave it to her and made myself another one. Here it is.


I added a zipper in this one only because I had just learned how to add zippers to the lining of a tote. I quickly learned that zippers in shopping totes only get in the way, especially when you are trying to shove yards of purchased fabric into it.

Now I hope to encourage others to switch to cloth shopping bags too. Hopefully you will enjoy making your own. It is very easy to do. So easy I made one yesterday and documented the process for you just so you can see how quick and easy it can be.

I wanted my tote to have a little character and texture to it so I added quilted charm squares to my bag but you don’t have to and the process will go even faster.

First I picked out a few charm squares. Charm squares are pre-cut fabric, usually 5” by 5” and come in what is known as charm packs. Because I like to get the most for my money, the packs I buy have 42 squares in them. I decided to only use three for each side of the bag because I only wanted my bag to be around 14 – 15 inches in width.

charmsfor earthday

I then stitched them together and quilted them. You don’t need to quilt yours but if you don’t it might be a good idea to attach interfacing to the strip so that it will be as sturdy as the denim or canvas used for the body of the bag.

stiched and quilted charms

I didn’t want the strip of charm squares to run into the sides of the bag plus I wanted a 15” wide bag so I added a 2” strip of denim to each side.

denim strip

charms with denim

Next I cut out two 15 by 15 inch panels from some denim fabric I had purchased on sale around the Christmas holidays.

denim fabric

I then folded each panel in half, ironed a crease down the middle of it and cut along the crease which gave me two panels 7.5 inches wide and 15 inches long. I then pinned the quilted strip of charm squares between the two panels and stitched them together forming two panels 15” wide 17” long.

Once the panels were completed I used them as the pattern to cut out the lining before I stitched the outer bag together and formed the tote.

bag sewn

And formed the bottom.


I then added a pocket (great for holding receipts, change, and shopping list) to the lining and stitched the lining together leaving a hand sized opening on the side so that I can pull the bag through once I attached the lining to the bag. I prefer a lining without a bottom seam so when sewing large totes I usually fold the lining fabric so that I only have the sides to stitch up.

lining pocket

Finally I added the handles that I purchased( instead of made) by basting them to the denim and

bag handlesbag with handles

stitched the outside of the tote to the lining.

baste handles

pulled the denim through the lining and top stitched around the opening of the bag completing the shopping tote in less than two hours. Here is the final bag.

final tote

I hope you try to make one of your own. If you are interested in more detailed instructions, check out YouTube where you will find many videos on how to sew a basic tote. If you don’t sew and want a bag like this I’ll be more than happy to make you one ($20 plus shipping) just send me an email (aheapofsewing@gmail.com) and I will custom make you one. Or just pick up a reusable cloth bag or two at the check-out of your local grocery store.

For more information on the effect of disposable plastic on our environment please go to earthday.org. You can pledge to stop using plastic bags by clicking on the TAKE ACTION link. Once you are on the page titled A BILLION ACTS OF GREEN click on ACTIONS

I encourage you to read through the different actions. This blog however is tied to the pledge to stop using disposable plastic. http://www.earthday.org/takeaction/endplastic_info.html

As the site states:

“The easiest way to do that is to stop using unnecessary plastic products such as bags and bottles. Instead we need to start using reusable bags, bottles, silverware, dishes, cleaning tools, and other products that are alternatives to plastic. It’s time to end our obsession with plastic and start protecting our environment.”

Thank you for stopping by.

I hope you return in a couple of days when I talk about the quilt I’m currently working on the new project I plan to start.

Hint—it is using this pattern. I’ve never made shoes or hats before so it should be fun.


Ta Ta for now, it’s been fun.

Oh, and I’ll borrow my son’s camera so maybe my pictures will come out much better than the ones here. 😉