Verna Returns!


For today’s Sew Day with my lovely quilt guild, after thirteen months of waiting, the indomitable Verna has finally made it out of the box and back onto my sewing machine for her final round of quilting.

I finished quilting the body of the star a year ago February; I think my last posted picture showed the grid for the orange peels on the red section, which I hadn’t done yet.  You can see those further down; I also did straight lines on the large vintage-print triangles, on the diagonal to echo the hypotenuse, every half-inch, in black so it would be very subtle and let the print speak for itself.

And then, I just got scared of the white sections on the outside.  And then, well, life happened.

But with the Sew Day coming up, I decided it was time for Verna to come back into the spotlight.  As long as I’m stalled on my secret project, I might as well finish a UFO.  (More about that later…)

Using a water-soluble pen, I marked long vertical lines, alternating sets of two and three, making sure they would match up all along the quilt.  To prevent the quilt top from buckling and rippling, all these stitching lines need to go from the center out, and in each section, all in the same direction, which means that there’s no cutting down on starts and stops by going back and forth.

There’s gonna be a lot of ends to bury…


Fortunately that’s an easy thing to do in front of the TV.

In this picture you can see how the orange peels turned out on the red sections.  (It’s a much more forgiving design than I’d expected.)  I’m really happy with how this quilting design is coming together…IMG_6116

Including on the back!IMG_6118

Today in three hours I got all the white sections marked and half of them quilted, so I have every hope that I’ll be able to finish Verna and post her for sale before my quilt guild meeting next Saturday.  Then I can bring her for show and tell!

As for my super-secret project, well, I told you last time that I’ve decided I can’t make it in the way I wanted to, which has produced an understandable drop in enthusiasm for the project.  That, combined with a busy week, means I haven’t started yet on Test Block 3.

But, all hope is not lost.  The other day I took the plunge and bought four yards of a fabric that I had decided to use in the project.  I’d only gotten a fat quarter of it before, to compare to other things I was considering, and the anxiety was mounting that it would disappear before I made up my mind to come back for it, and I wouldn’t even know what it was called!  And I wouldn’t have bought the fabric if, somewhere inside me, I hadn’t decided that I can see this project through.


Only time will tell.

Tune in next time for an update on… something.  🙂


New Pattern for Sale! And a hint…

I recently invested in MacStitch, a really interesting piece of software for designing cross-stitch patterns.  It lets me copy a design onto a grid much more quickly than my CAD program, and then export the design to an easy-to-print PDF chart!  So I figure, from now on, whenever I design a cross-stitch pattern (and I’ve done a few), I’ll just make up a chart for it and list it for sale.  🙂

Which brings me to two announcements.  First, that I’ve now made an updated, easy-to-print chart for my “Once a king in Narnia” pattern (in about twenty minutes).  And there was great rejoicing!

Second, that I now have a new pattern up for sale: “Barracks Sweet Barracks”.


This was commissioned by a member of the Armed Forces to brighten up his military accommodations.  When he explained to me what he wanted, I was only too happy to throw together a design and make him the pillow.

I felt that a certain simplicity of design was called for, and the redwork seemed very appropriate since he wanted it to look traditional and homey.

It was my mother-in-law’s brilliant idea to add the little hearts.

Pillow not included.

On a completely different topic, I’ve been promising a hint about my secret project for a while now, so I guess it’s only sporting to deliver…

I can tell you that it’s technically quite challenging, and that I wasn’t sure from the get-go whether I would be able to make it the way I wanted.  I have now made two test blocks, and while the second went better than the first, this unaccountable gap appeared between two of my pieces, for no reason, in a very irreconcilable way, and I have been forced to conclude that I cannot make it the way that I want.  I will have to go for something much simpler, which I hope will nonetheless be awesome.

This is the first time I’ve started a project and found it too difficult to complete.  I mean, I’ve let things fall by the wayside before, but because I was bored with them, not because they defeated me.

My mother-in-law says this means I wasn’t really stretching myself, but I am now!

So, now I need to make up a third test block with the simpler approach, and see how that goes.

I will also tell you (since I haven’t really told you anything about the project yet) that it is based on the hexagon.

Make of that what you will.

Updates on my “One Year of Stitches” hoop next time!

Life is what happens while you’re making other plans

So much news to catch up on over the last month!

Bad news first: Sadly, I did not make it to the sew day with my guild earlier in March.  I actually haven’t made it once since last August when it was 102 degrees (go figure).  The week before last I spent the whole time in bed with the flu.  My daily embroidery fell by the wayside, and I’m now two weeks behind.

Frustratingly, I’m still recovering, but today I got back to the gym (and did half my usual workout), and yesterday I finished a new thing!

It’s a zipper pouch made in artificial fur!  Use it as a clutch, to hold sewing notions, or makeup, or jewelry… The possibilities are endless.  And when you pull it out of a bag, it will have very charming bed-head.  Now up for sale in my Etsy shop.  There’s just one for now, but I might make more if it sells.

Now for the really big news.

Drumroll please…………………………

My husband has a new job!

At Cambridge University!

Yes, that’s right…  We’re moving to England.

Yep.  England.  It’s both hugely exciting, and very daunting.  There are a couple of million things to think about: getting our visa, whether to join a Cambridge college (and which one), transitioning to the National Health, having to learn to drive all over again, changing all of our everything (phone plan, pharmacy, quilt guild, Amazon, electronic gadgets?), the general lack of electric dryers, slightly different words for lots of things, and of course, the overpowering importance of avoiding office Christmas parties.  And that’s all without the question of where we’re going to live and how long it will take to save up for a house.

Whenever I get overwhelmed by all of this, I take a moment to remember: Cambridge.

We are excited and scared.

Tune in next time for an update on my one year of stitches hoop, the new projects I’ve started that I didn’t have time for, and perhaps a clue about my secret mystery project.  (I know, I teased you with that last time.  But maybe this time I’ll deliver.)

Happy Easter!

The Vintage Linen Returns!

Four lots of vintage Irish linen are now available again in my Etsy shop.  Now the only thing I haven’t been able to find is that Pfaltzgraff pitcher…  (Which is fine, since people kept favoriting it and not buying it.)

My beloved husband is flying home today after his fifth job interview in three months.  Thanks to his TWO tenure-track offers, we have every reason to hope it will be his last interview for a few years, at least.  God is so good to us.

My quilt guild is having a sew day on Saturday, so I’m planning to take some time to work on a UFO or two, and do a test block for a new secret project!  (Really, really secret; it’s going to be submitted to the International Quilt Festival, so I’m keeping it totally under wraps.  Except for my artistic consultants.)

And now, as promised, my One Year of Stitches Hoop!


I saw a couple of people doing One Year of Stitches on Instagram last year, and thought it might be good for me as a spiritual exercise.  The idea is to do a little every day, and not give up on it, for a year.  I’m so prone to put things off and only work on them in long sessions, that it would probably be good for me to really learn that a little every day accumulates too.

I was fortunate enough to be staying with my sister-in-law and her family over New Year’s, and when I asked her on New Years Day whether she had any spare fabric lying around, she pulled out this lovely cotton tablecloth with silver threads running through it, that had unfortunately gotten stained in a few places, but not so much that she could bear to throw it away.  I cut out a section to use for this and, with her blessing, brought the rest home with me.

At first it was hard to only do a little, like one cloud, and then stop, rather than keep going and do a whole bank of clouds, or stars.  And then, some days have been so crazy that I’ve only done a single stitch, as I did for most of a week with these wisteria flowers.  (Which, purely out of my own whim, ended up having blue centers.)  Sometimes I’ve experimented with a stitch or motif I’ve never done before, like this woven rose.


Other times, twice recently, I’ve forgotten to do my stitching for a day, or even two days, and had to make it up later.  Today, to catch up for the last two days, I did the body of this pink anemone.  Tentacles coming soon!


Sometimes I’ve had no idea what to do, and that’s sort of what this geometric section has ended up being for.  The mandala is entirely made up of days when I had no ideas, and just added another layer.  (Not the ampersand, though; it was tricky to couch such tight curves in such a thick thread (Kreinik Size 8 braid), but I had a lot of fun doing it.  And the green Celtic knot (woven through the silver threads).)


If you’re interested in following along on my One Year of Stitches, you can follow me on Instagram at velvetpincushion.  I don’t post a picture every day anymore, but there should be updates at least once a week.

Tune in next time for (hopefully) a quilt finish, and perhaps some hints about my secret IQF quilt!

Updates 2/28/18

Two weeks ago I took over my in-laws’ living room, pulled out all my fabric bins, and sorted through and re-organized my entire stash.

It took three days.


I originally meant to do this before we moved last summer, but since we ended up not being short of space in the POD I put it off, until I finally felt like doing it.  I’ve re-ordered my quilting fabrics and my apparel fabrics, put away a huge pile of scraps, and re-organized all my project boxes.  I also pulled out two garbage bags full of things that I’ll never use that can be recycled, and three boxes full of things I’ll never use that can be given away at Quilt Guild meetings.  (I was given a LOT of free fabric last year.  Some of which I’m keeping…)

Now I actually have a few empty boxes in my craft room, and space on a shelf for another!

The upshot of this is that I’ve finally managed to take stock for the Etsy store (TheVelvetPincushion) and put some of my listings back in it.  I still haven’t dug out the vintage linen (although I have a pretty good idea where it is), but I know where all the other things are, and have dumped several items that were probably never going to sell.  I’m hoping to finish some projects soon and put a new quilt or two in the store, and possibly some zipper pouches!  We’ll see how things develop.

In other news, my husband the physicist has been deeply involved for the last six months in pursuing his next job, which would hopefully be tenure-track and pay more money and enable us to stop moving around so much.  I am thrilled to announce that he now has two offers!   One of them is extremely exciting, and we’re hopeful that in the next month or so we’ll be able to nail down where we’ll be moving next and when we’ll go.  (Which, naming no names, might be to another country!)

And now to go unpack the suitcase that’s been lying on my floor for two days…  Stay tuned for more announcements, and coming soon, pictures of my One Year of Stitches Hoop!

A Change of Focus

I’ve decided to make this blog less about my Etsy store (about which, as you can tell, the news has been kind of thin lately), and more about my crafting in general, which is always ongoing.  I might even sometimes talk about my novel!  (But I won’t tell you what’s in it.  (No really.  I won’t tell you what’s in it.))

I’ve added a page entitled “Projects & UFO’s,” which has a list of my current projects and UFO’s (“UnFinished Objects”), and I’m working on another with a list of all the quilts I’ve finished.  I’d like to make a page for each one with pictures and its story, which will take awhile, but I feel that I’ve already gotten something just out of writing the list.  I often feel guilty about the unfinished quilts that are lying around in boxes, unbegun or not yet quilted.  And my list of projects in progress is prodigiously long.  But I’d never tallied up all the quilts I’ve finished, all the ones I’ve seen all the way through the process from design to gifting.  If my count is right, since the summer I was nineteen I’ve finished twenty-eight complete quilts.  That’s an accomplishment for any quilter, and one that gives me a profound sense of satisfaction.

It’s so easy to list all the things we haven’t done.  Why not take a minute to count the things you’ve finished?


A Foray into Scrap Quilting

First, shop business: as I have returned home, my quilts are once again available for purchase in my Etsy shop!  Head on over to The Velvet Pincushion to see three quilts, two digital patterns, and a PDF manual for the Adler 187.  (I’ll be taking inventory soon to see which other items can be restored to the shop.  Meaning, which ones I can currently find.  (sheepish face)  If it’s still buried in the depths of the POD, it’s going to have to wait until after our next move…)

I am now embarking on a secret project that promises to plumb the very depths of my stash, as it requires a small mountain of scraps.  (Though I’m determined this is also going to be a year of finishing UFO’s.  Don’t judge my over-scheduling.)  Digging through them is like digging through the past.

Some of them I never bought, and have never used: scraps from a swap, or the free table at a guild meeting.  That’s what these are, mostly.


But most of the scraps in my stash conjure up very specific memories.


I used all four of these fabrics to make quilty presents.  The green stripe and the purple stardust went into baby quilts.  The dark green batik became the border for my brother-in-law’s quilt, “The Garden of Orderly Pathways,” and the modern floral became one stripe of many on the outside of a quilter’s portfolio for a friend at my old guild one Christmas.


I realized, looking through this three-tier box stuffed full of scraps, that I’ve been collecting these since I was nineteen years old, the summer that I made my first quilts.  And every single one that comes from a fabric I’ve used, I could tell you exactly which quilt it went into, who got it, and what I was thinking when I designed it for them.  (Although, yes, some of them were bags, but you know what I mean.)

Here’s to another journey in gift-quilting.  Next I’ll need to look through the stash boxes…