Tag Archives: handmade quilts

Proud to be a BIG DOG!


Paul Pierce’s wife describes him a “bigger than life.” This man, who passed away at age 57 in 2012, was adored immensely. And, he adored so many things immensely in return: the Air Force, the Phillies, his motorcycle, his children and grandchildren, Hawaii, and, of course, his beloved wife, Diane.

Paul and his motorcyle.

Paul and his motorcyle.

I say all of this to explain why making a quilt out of Paul’s clothing is a huge undertaking. Usually, I can process a shirt for a T-shirt quilt in a bout an hour. For this project, each shirt is  taking me 1.5 hours! But I am enjoying every minute of the process. As I spread out the shirts and determine which parts will be used in the quilt and the wall hangings, I think about Paul and his interests.

Each shirt needs to be cut along the neck, armholes and sides.

Each shirt needs to be cut along the neck, armholes and sides.










Because Paul was so large, he often wore Big Dog clothing, a line of shirts tailored to the very big and very tall. It makes sense, then, that I include a the size label from the neck of one of the shirts in the finished product.

The size label from a Big Dog shirt.

The size label from a Big Dog shirt.









I love including the front buttons of a shirt in a quilt. Every time someone looks at the squares made from this part of the shirt, they will think about the person who buttoned and unbuttoned this garment again and again.

I don't toss away the buttons...I use them in the squares of the quilt!

I don’t toss away the buttons…I use them in the squares of the quilt!


What a BIG Surprise!


When a recent customer asked me to make a Queen-size quilt plus FIVE wall hangings from her deceased husband’s clothing, I thought, “Well, I hope she has many articles of his clothing because there will be a lot of fabric required for all of those quilt.”

Turns out, I didn’t need to worry. Denise’s husband was 6’4″ and 280 lbs. His clothing, especially his US Air Force flight suits, are so large that I will be able to cut many 5″ squares and have plenty of fabric for the quilts.

Here’s a look at the box that recently arrived in the mail.

First look at the new arrival of clothing for some quilts.

First look at the new arrival of clothing for some quilts.

It may not be obvious, but these items are HUGE. Denise's husband was 6'4" and 280 lbs.

It may not be obvious, but these items are HUGE. Denise’s husband was 6’4″ and 280 lbs.

Not bad for a basement corner!


It snowed this past Saturday and to stave off any  “stuck-in-the-house” blues, I decided to do some cleaning and sorting and reorganizing work in my sewing studio. Two of my stepsons made some racks for my fabric bolts over Christmas and I finally had a chance to get them in place. Here are are some photos.

Making a box of chocolates


I was sitting in a meeting this morning and my mind wandered a bit (doesn’t that always seem to happen to me?). I’m glad it did because all of a sudden I remembered that I have a whole bolt of chocolate-candy themed fabric I picked up last summer and planned to use for birthday table toppers. The fabric is from  Robert Kaufmann’s “Confections” collection.

Once I remembered that I still had the whole bolt to use, I began to think about how perfect this fabric would be for Valentine’s Day items. So, as soon as I got home from the meeting, I started pairing up the candy fabric with some coordinating prints (a pink and a chocolate brown).

I now have the tops of a table topper and 6 placemats. Tomorrow I will do the quilting on them, add some coasters and mug rugs, and then list everything on my Etsy shop, http://www.secondsanctuary.etsy.com.

The Caring Quilt


My mother-in-law was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2007. I knew that chemotherapy and radiation would be hard on her tiny frame. I wanted to help her be comfortable, and even cheered up, during the treatment process. So, I found a whole bunch of novelty fabrics that related to parts of her life. Fabrics about bowling and cards and painting and music and teaching..and so much more. I stitched them all together in an arrangement much like the one in the photo here and called it her “Caring Quilt.”

I have since created a listing of this kind of quilt in my Etsy shop, http://www.secondsanctuary.etsy.com. Each year, at the holidays, there is at least one person who orders one of these quilts from me. What an incredible experience it is for me to learn about some beloved family member for whom a Caring Quilt is ordered and what a privilege it is for me to labor in the process of bringing this gift to life.

Here are some other photos  of Caring Quilts.

Calvin’s Classic Quilt


About a year ago, a woman from Maine ordered one of my Classic Americana quilts. “It’s what I’ve been looking for for years,” she wrote in the message to me when she made her purchase. The quilt I made for her and her family is the one in the photo below. That’s her son, Calvin, checking out his crayons as he colors  away his afternoon.

Since the time I made, and sent, this quilt, Samantha (the mother) and I have become pretty good friends. And, since she is an excellent photographer, she’s been willing to do product shots of a lot of my quilts.

It’s funny the paths that quilting can lead to.

How I Do What I Do*


Pinterest Collage

Someone just recently asked me the secret to my quilts. The advice I gave her is the same information found in quilting instruction books everywhere.


First, collect A LOT of fabric.

I have been amassing my fiber inventory for nearly 25 years. I have old, old prints. I have scraps from clothing and aprons and tablecloths. I have pieces from entire collections. I have full bolts of a single print from a collection. The list goes on. You need a lot of fabric to get that pieced-together look of a Classic Americana quilt.

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Second, I sew 5″ squares into strips of three, trying to have a good representation of light and dark even on the strips.

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I sew with a 1/4 seam allowance. This is a perfect amount– just enough to keep the seams together, but small enough to prevent a lot of bulk, which is important to consider when making a quilt. Quilts have a LOT of seams.

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I always make a standard 9-patch block. This means three squares across and three deep. It’s easy to whip these blocks together once you get started and you can easily have diversity of color and prints in a single 9-patch. I LOVE ironing nine-patches. I could do this for hours, and sometimes I do.

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Before you know it, you will have a many 9-patch blocks–all set for arranging into sections.


I have created an intermediate block of squares that is larger than a 9-patch but smaller than the whole quilt top. I called it the SIXER because it combines six 9-patch blocks (two across and three down). Organizing 9-patch blocks into SIXERS will prevent you from sewing long strips of 9-patch blocks and trying to stitch those strips together. The chances of getting all of the squares to line up correctly are terribly slim with long strips. SIXERS make it possible to get the corners to meet where you want them.

I use four sixers to make a lap size quilt (54″ X 81″). Two across and two down.


Once I have the top loaded on my long-arm machine, I bring all of the layers of the quilt sandwich (top, batting, backing) together with a casual meandering stitch. The rhythm of quilting this way is calming and enjoyable. It actually goes by pretty quickly.


An alternative to quilting on a long-arm machine is to baste the quilt layers together, using thread or safety pins, and stitch right through the middle of each squares, creating a plus sign in the middle of the square.


Finished product.

In the end, you’ll have a great, old-fashioned looking quilt to use as a comforting and sweet backdrop to your life.

*The instructions in the blog are meant to help someone make a quilt one or two times for their home as a gift for a friend or family member. The use of these instructions for using in manufacturing quilts for sale is strictly prohibited. The terms Classic Americana and SIXER are protected by copyright.