March 9, 2015

Mrs. Bobbins

bobbins quilting or non

For more quilty laughter from Mrs. Bobbins, get The Big Book of Bobbins by clicking here! Just $16.95!

March 2, 2015

Mrs. Bobbins

bobbins spray basting


For more quilty laughter from Mrs. Bobbins, get The Big Book of Bobbins by clicking here! Just $16.95!

February 25, 2015

Color Play

By Donna di Natale

Donna di Natale

Donna di Natale

When making a pieced quilt, your use of color and how you place those colors is integral to the design. I’m sure this is something you are aware of if you are an experienced quilter, but if you are somewhat new to quilting, or used to following a pattern exactly as instructed, you might not realize the power of color in pieced blocks.

Here are two quilts from my collection.

Red and white quilt


Prairie Queen quilt

The first one is old – Turkey red and white. Hand pieced and hand quilted.

The other is newer, made of a mixture of vintage print fabric and new solid fabric. Machine pieced and machine quilted.

These facts are obvious. But what can you tell me about these two quilts that isn’t quite so obvious?

Let’s take a closer look at the blocks.

Do you see it yet?

How about now? Any guesses?

Both of these quilts are made from the same block pattern, Prairie Queen. In the older quilt, the quilter used only solid red and solid white to construct the blocks. The blocks were then set on point to create the quilt. In the newer quilt, Prairie Queen, from my book Prized Quilts: The Omaha World-Herald Quilt Contests, I used one print and two solids in the block and used a straight or square set when I put the blocks into rows. What a difference these subtle changes make in the finished quilt.

Now let’s look at how this block changes by simply altering the placement of the color patches.

The Prairie Queen block is made with four red/white half square triangles, eight small red squares, eight small white squares and one center square. Here’s the straight set red and white block as it appears in the quilt.


Using those same pieces but changing the center block to white and rearranging the placement of the other pieces within the block, you get at least three more options.

R&W2         R&W7


When I bought the red and white quilt, I had a difficult time identifying the block name. For one thing, the quilt is so well stitched – and evenly stitched – that it almost took a magnifying glass the find the block within the quilt. Once I determined the block, I still had trouble identifying it. A friend and I were searching Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns when she suddenly claimed to have found it.

Sure enough, she had, but with the colored patches arranged in a different manner. Because the Prairie Queen block name is used for the specific layout found in the purple and white block, I had skipped over the block pattern several times. But my friend’s sharp eye saw how the block was constructed – the individual patches that make up the block.

Now try this. Take four identical blocks and place them next to each other, like this.

Microsoft Word - Document6

Microsoft Word - Document6

Microsoft Word - Document6

This shows you the secondary pattern that is created by placing the blocks next to each other, without any sashing in between. This is how many popular designs, such as Storm At Sea, are created. A Storm At Sea “block” is made up of only two block patterns. Can you find them?

Microsoft Word - Document5

There are five square-in-a-square blocks, four small and one large, and four diamond/rectangle blocks. The pattern is formed by the arrangement of the light, medium and dark patches within these blocks.

Microsoft Word - Document5

So the next time you want to make a quilt using pieced blocks, first study how the block is made and then play around with the colors. You can easily do this with drafting paper and colored pencils. Try using two, three or four colors to construct the block. What difference does the color arrangement make? What happens when you use a light and dark version of the same color? What happens when you do this with two different blocks and place them next to each other? Before you know it, you have designed your own block or a custom designed quilt.

Donna di Natale is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Wednesday. Visit her at

February 23, 2015

Mrs. Bobbins



For more quilty laughter from Mrs. Bobbins, get The Big Book of Bobbins by clicking here! Just $16.95!

February 20, 2015

My Life in Feedsacks

By Edie McGinnis

edie_mug1I grew up in a small town near Peoria, Illinois. It was a farming community, but I was one of the town kids. And even though I didn’t live on a farm per se, I was familiar with many of the same type of chores that were the responsibility of the farm kids.

Our house was literally on the edge of town. I don’t think there were too many rules governing what one could have or not have as far as animals were concerned. We had a couple of goats named Sandy and Candy. (My oldest sister was allergic to cow’s milk.) Along the fence line, we had rabbit hutches with a rabbit occupying each and a chicken coop. In the spring, my dad ordered about 100 baby chickens. It only took a couple of months before they were out of the coop and into the freezer.chickens

We had a huge garden, too. My sisters and I must have shucked and frozen at least a million ears of corn while we were kids.corn

I don’t think there was ever a time that I was without a cat following me around the yard or sleeping with me at night. My sisters loved the dogs, but I was the girl who loved the cats.feedsack

Every kid I knew had chores to do. It was a mother’s job to teach her daughters how to be good wives and take care of their home.

We learned how to cook and how to wash dishes. I made my first pie when I was 5. No one else was home, so it was a complete surprise to my family. It was also a mess. I had much to learn when it came to rolling out a crust.dishes

After dinner, when the table was cleared and the dishes were done, it was time to sweep the kitchen floor.sweeping

We learned to sew. My grandma taught me how to embroider on feedsack dish towels. It took a lot of practice before my stitches got small and I didn’t have big, ugly knots on the back of my project.sewing

We helped out with the laundry. We had a wringer washing machine, and we hung our clothes out to dry on the clothesline. Nothing smelled sweeter than sheets dried in the sunshine. Nothing sounded creepier to me than the squeaking sound of the wooden clothespins. Gives me the shivers just to think about it.laundry

Once we got the clothes down off of the line, it was time to iron them. This was a job I really hated. I was delighted when permanent-press clothing became commonplace.ironing

One of the best things about getting all the work done was getting a dime or a nickel to take up to Duke’s drug store. He had a soda fountain there, and it was agony to choose how to spend the money. A cherry phosphate was often my choice on a hot summer day.soda fountain

It was a simpler time when I was a kid. We could run from one end of the town to the other. My folks knew if we had gotten into mischief before we ever got back home because everyone in town knew you – and probably your phone number as well.

It’s a sure bet that I won’t be able to illustrate my grandkids’ lives using feedsacks. No iPads, no computers, no Legos or Matchbox cars will ever deck this humble fabric.

I’ll have to stock up on novelty fabric from the store, instead. Oh, wait, I’ve already done that!

Edie McGinnis is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Friday.