by Emma Thomas-McGinnis, artist & quilter
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The theme of “Where you Live” is expressed in this piece through the lavender, my favorite plant in my garden, and my favorite crop of Iowa, the corn. I live on corn all summer.

I live on Eighty first court in Urbandale, Iowa. The challenge for this quilt to choose colors for each of the letters in your address sounded like it would be a tough one for E, U, I!! But when I found a list of colors on Wikipedia, it was actually really fun. I decided to choose three colors that I hadn’t heard of before. Eton Blue (the greenish blue school color of Eton, a prep school in the UK), Ube (a lavender that gets its name from a purple yam in the Phillipines) and Icterine (a bright yellow – I had heard of an Icterine Warbler before, I just didn’t know it referred to the yellow!) (more…)

Project Quilting 3:4 Barn Quilt

February 26th, 2012 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (5 Comments)
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The theme for Project Quilting Challenge 4 of Season 3 is Barn Quilts. I did some research and found some beautiful barn quilt images from Iowa.

Luchsinger/Butler Barn, Dike Iowa

Bernie & Elaine Schnell, Parkersburg Iowa

Robert & Eileen Murra

So my concept started with a red barn sewing machine cover. I recently read that you should cover your machine to keep out dust. I’ve only ever thought of the dust that accumulates while I’m sewing, but I suppose there is just dust that will get in by sitting out too, so now I will keep it covered more while I’m not using it. I only had one good red fabric, so instead of piecing it together, I just quilted the lines for the slats of the barn wood, horizontal for most of it, vertical for the door. I added white windows and trim, like the Luchsinger barn and so many others. And I just happened to have a nice gray shingle-looking fabric for the roof. I constructed it in three pieces, the middle and two sides. The roof has a peltex stiff interfacing inside it that is pretty stiff. That way, the top is straight like a roof and the sides drape down nicely. Otherwise, I think it would have been lumpy and look more like my sewing machine than a barn.

Here are some photos.

Most barn quilts are painted onto plywood and hung as signs on the barns, so that’s how I did my barn quilts too, sort of! I painted white fabric, then sandwiched it into a little quilt and hung that on the side of the barn with some whipstitching. I like how they stand out a little from the barn. The painting was a little tricky and impossible to get totally smooth lines and pointy points. I taped it down, but it was still painting on fabric. But not as tricky as if I had tried to piece a three inch block that complicated!

Overall, I’m very happy with my new sewing machine cover! And I’m proud to have it done before the Sunday morning deadline!

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I’ve been playing in the modern quilter’s world…the piecing that isn’t perfect, just stick it on, sew across and maybe trim…and it’s really, really fun!

From this fabric by Carolyn Gavin called “Spring Street” that had colorful borders…I decided to frame the blocks with a wonky Courthouse Steps.

Which is just a fancy way of saying that I sewed a strip to the top and bottom to each block, then a strip to each side, then to the top and bottom, over and over. I tried to make the strips all different sizes and colors in each block, so they are really fun and interesting to look at.

I only had half as many panels as I need to finish the quilt, so I am making plain courthouse steps for every other block…

So it will look like this:

Another fun block is the Wonky Roman Stripe, from “Block Party: The Modern Quilting Bee” (Love this book by the way!!)

Sew strips onto one side of a triangle and then trim into a square.

So, I’ve stayed away from this kind of project for a little longer than necessary, just because I really didn’t like the word “W0nky” to describe it, but improvisational, liberated or modern, whatever you want to call it, it really is fun to just get piecing and not need it to be perfectly straight or matched up.

Have you tried it? What blocks have you made “Wonky?”

Happy Valentine’s Day

February 15th, 2012 | Posted by Emma in All - (1 Comments)
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It’s a day late, but I want to wish you, my quilting friends…

a Happy Valentine’s Day!

I love you all!
– Emma

Project Quilting 3:3 Tools

February 12th, 2012 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (0 Comments)
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mmmm PIE

For the Project Quilting Challenge theme of “Tools”, I chose pie-making tools as my subject. Pies are a big deal in my family; my mom is an expert pie-maker. We all love to eat pies on holidays. I have been making them for years and I’m fine at it, but it’s never quite as good as my mom’s pie. This year for Christmas she gave me a few tools of the trade, so maybe someday my pies will come close to the quality of hers!

I also enjoy making pies because it seems like such an old-fashioned homemaker-thing to do, so I made this quilt a little old-fashioned too with hand-quilting and a little primitive style. Because of all the hand-stitching I planned to do (and to give it a more kitcheny heritage) the quilt sandwich is made with kitchen-towel woven cotton for the batting. That made it a breeze to stitch through, but gave it a nice quilt weight too.

This mini quilt is 16″ x 19″

I gave it some three-dimensional details, such as the braid for the pie crust….I wish I could make pretty fluted crust edges like my mom can do!! The pastry blender has real wires. They are plastic-coated wires so they won’t rust on my quilt! The rolling pin is stuffed to be slightly rounded. The rolling cloth is the same kitchen towel fabric that is inside the quilt. I hemmed it before sewing on the appliqué to make it look more like a kitchen cloth.

One of my favorite features is the bottom border fabric. It is a leftover from the first curtain I made from my very first kitchen!

I hung it in my dining room recently because I had to wash my other cafe curtain. Look at that cute patchwork! It’s so fun to see old fabric like that be put to another good use. I love my new PIE quilt!

See the other Project Quilting entries at www.KimsCraftyApple.blogspot.com or The Project Quilting Flikr Group.

Oh, and I think you should see my mom, Ginny, the master pie-maker that inspired me to make this quilt. Here she is with her grandson. I’m pretty sure there was a pie in the oven when this photo was taken!

Blocks & Scraps

February 5th, 2012 | Posted by Emma in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)
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You may remember some of those Quilt-a-longs I told you about…are you doing any? Here’s a few of the projects I made…


I’m not very far on Kim’s House & Tree Quilt-a-long, because the blocks are each so much piecing for just one block. This is the only one I have done so far, besides the tree I designed. I’ve started on several others, but they are very involved!

Those are the four Farmer’s Wife blocks I’ve finished so far. They were pretty addicting, I made three in one evening because I just wanted to keep going. These are each pretty involved too!

This was my first, I just had to use that paisley. Then I decided to use more of the cream background on the next one. I’ll have to mix it up, some with the cream, some without or this first one will stick out like a sore thumb!

And remember the “Sew Scraps Along” at Pleasant Home? I loved her blog posts…so many great ideas for scraps!! There was one that I couldn’t resist last week, even though I really didn’t need to start another project!

http://www.pleasant-home.com/2012/01/scrappy-mug-mat-tutorial.html

I love the new tricks I learned from that one cute little project….using interfacing to sew straight and easy small squares together and using ric rac as trim for an envelope turned quilt. I think I will try making a quiltie that way!!

Here’s a few photos of the scrappy mugs mats I made:

I tried another way of quilting the second pink one. I like them both, but the straight lines were definitely easier than trying to hit those diagonals (without marking.)

I actually made four, but Brennan carried away the first blue one I made. It is currently the rug in a miniature box house he’s playing with!

After making blocks that aren’t really a finished project when you’re done, these little mug mats are very satisfying!

Tree of Life Block

February 2nd, 2012 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (3 Comments)
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It’s my turn for the block of the Tree and House Quilt-along at Kim’s Crafty Apple. Here it is!

It’s a little bit of a pieced block to fit in with the others and a little bit Quilties, but I hope you have fun with it too!

 Download the TreeofLifeBlock PDF pattern.

If you’d rather see the instructions online, keep reading.

Materials Needed:
• Lightweight fusible interfacing
• 12 – 2 ½” squares
• Flower and leave fabric scraps
• Light background fabric 8 ½” x 10 ½”
• Ground strip 8 ½” x 2 ½”
• Water soluble glue stick
• Optional fusible web

Step One: Patchwork Squares Side
Cut a strip of lightweight fusible interfacing 5″ x 15″ and arrange your 2 ½” squares along this strip in two columns.

Line up edge to edge as perfectly as you can, then fuse the squares to the interfacing.


First you will sew the short seams across these squares by folding over the first two right sides together and sewing a ¼” seam from the edge of the interfacing.

Fold the next two and sew the seam and so on, for five short seams.


Trim the seam allowances just a tiny sliver (just enough to cut off the fold) allowing you to press the seams open.

Press open, then fold in half the long way and sew the ¼” long seam. Trim and press open as before.


Step Two: Assemble the Background
Press an 8 ½” x 10 ½” piece of interfacing to the reverse side of your background fabric. Sew the ground strip to the bottom of the interfaced background. Then stitch the side panel to the background/ground unit.


Step Three: Appliqué the Tree of Life
If you prefer to appliqué with fusible web, fuse the web onto several green and floral scraps. Free cut various flowers from floral motif fabrics. Also free cut some simple leaf shapes and 5-6 small strips of brown tree trunk fabric.

Note: I do not use fusible web, it gives it a little fluffier look, the edges will fray more, but I like that. You can decide what will suit your quilt better!

Arrange your tree free-hand, starting with a good tree trunk and branches, adding flowers and leaves until you like the look of your tree. Don’t worry if the flowers are not all from the same fabric, it looks a little more whimsical that way! Use a glue (or the fusible web) to adhere them to the background just enough for quilting.

Step Four: “Quilting” the Tree
At this point, you are not exactly quilting because you have not assembled your sandwich, but you can sew a single line of stitching around the edges of all the appliqué pieces. This will hold the pieces on and can be decorative as well. I added a little texture to the tree trunk and veins in the leaves. Use thread that is either matching all the parts or neutral enough to not stick out. (click the photo to see it bigger and see the stitching.)


That’s it, your “Tree of Life” block is done and I’m sure it’s as unique as you are!
Enjoy the rest of the Quilt-a-Long!
– Emma Thomas-McGinnis

p.s. If you’re a new guest here, please stay a little while and look around my blog. I hope you’ll join me as a friend of Quilties too!

Strawberry Fields Forever!

January 28th, 2012 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (2 Comments)
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Project Quilting 3:2 – be inspired by the title of a song

I had a piano book called “The Most Beautiful Songs Ever” open on my lap and thought that was a good place to choose a title from. There were lots of very cheesy, mucky titles about love and beauty and willow and stars…but then I asked Dave for a “visual” song title and this was his first idea. Brilliant!! I’m so glad I asked him. I wanted to make a totally recognizable “Strawberry Fields” quilt and I think I love it!  I listened to the song at least six times through while working on this.

It’s mostly improvisational. I just cut some rolling hills and arranged them right onto the batting and quilted them together. I didn’t even have the size nailed down when I started. Then I cut out a bunch of little strawberry parts while on the phone with my mom! I arranged them and stitched them on in a deliberatively sketchy way. I practiced that first on a separate piece, because I really loved my hills and didn’t want to wreck them. It almost could have been complete without the strawberries. But when I placed a strawberry on the fields, it made me smile and giggle out loud, so I knew it was right!

Then I had just a small chunk of that perfectly psychedelic binding fabric. So I chose to do a single layer, fused binding cut with a wavy rotary cutter, because I had to make it fit!  The finished quilt is 10.5″ x 18″ I made a challenge to myself that no side could be more than 20″ this time, because last time I started too big! Then I had to trim the sides a little because the binding fabric was too short! But I only used scraps and I’m proud of it!

Ok, so if you aren’t playing along with Project Quilting, I just have to tell you…on a Tuesday night, when usually I would be sitting around watching tv or cleaning the house I decided to start thinking about PQ and launched into this truly wonderful evening of quilting and being creative with time I otherwise wouldn’t have used for myself. It was a real treat, got my creative juices flowing and really energized my whole week!  The one week deadline may sound crazy, but it sure eliminates the UFO problem and I end up really enjoying the process from start to FINISH!

Valentine’s Day Quilties

January 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (1 Comments)
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I love hearts, I love pink, I love flowers and roses and all things Valentine’s Day!!!! I just love it! Here’s a few of the fun things I’ve made for this fabulous holiday!

This first heart wreath quiltie sold the day after I posted it. Sad to see it go so fast. I love that border fabric!

This next one is available to purchase at my etsy shop and so are these fun sets of heart sachets (click the photos to go to the listings).

UPDATE: If you would like to make some of these cute little sachets, look above to the links bar and see Projects…I made up a pdf pattern for you! It’s not a step-by-step tutorial, because it’s really simple, and I like patterns that can print in only one page. If you make some, let me know, I’d love to hear about it!

I noticed that my roses quiltie had been in a few treasuries and favorites, so I decided to make another one. Love this border fabric too, it’s a little funky, a little vintagey and really pink!

Then you might not have noticed some of my zip pouches from earlier in January, they would be great for Valentine’s Day!

Can’t wait for Heart Day!

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I’m going to be the presenter at the next Des Moines Modern Quilt Guild Meeting!! The meeting is this Thursday at the West Des Moines Public Library from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. I would love it if you would join me!

We’ll be folding fabric into three-dimensional flowers for quilts, using the techniques in Rebecca Wat’s book “Fantastic Fabric Folding.” I’ll show some of my projects made with folded fabrics and we’ll get to try them out too. Here’s the supply list in case you can come.

Supplies to bring:
• Four (or more) 6″ squares of fabric – good choices include tone-on-tone, nearly solid batiks and solids. Starch the squares if you have time (no need to starch batiks).
• Regular sewing needle and thread to match your fabric
• Small scissors
• A few pins

I’ll be teaching you to make something like this…

then turn into this…