String Quilt

Put your sunglasses on — and delight in my first attempt at a string quilt:


I swear to God I think it took me two years to finish it.  Of course that is not due to degree of difficulty and certainly not the quilt’s fault. We all know whose fault it is — WORK, specifically my JOB, that seems to interfere on a regular basis with my awesome creativity. So other than just the time consumption, there were a lot of things I loved about the process I  went through to get this thing done. For the first time, I used the paper piecing technique — and I am just about in  LOVE with paper piecing because it is so exact and perfect.  I started with an 8X8 square, and used a glue stick to position the center strip:


As you add each string (it’s really a strip) to each side, set your sewing machine stitch width to almost nothing . . . I don’t know the exact term or number for that, my machine and I communicate through telepathy. After you trim the block using the paper as your guide, this will  ensure that when you go to remove the paper from the back, it is almost perfectly perforated to tear right off without ripping your square from hell to breakfast.  Then you are left with something like this:


I could have just sewn all the pieces together as they were, but why would I do that when I could go completely overboard and sew a border around each block? What was another year of my life anyway? Plus without the borders it was burnin’ my eyes a little.  Here are a couple of close ups:












I fell in love  with a duvet cover once.  Then I realized what an huge pain in my brain it was to deal with a duvet cover.  I am still not exactly sure how it was supposed to work, but it made a great back for my quilt:




Quilted by the fabulous Cowtown Quilter,  bound by hand. And most importantly, FINISHED!


Fast and Easy Jelly Roll and Charm Pack Quilt – Part 1

This block started a little something like this…Sometimes I go to my favorite fabric store, the Cabbage Rose, during my lunch break and just wander around.  This usually puts me in a better mood and I usually end up buying something for my stash.  One day while I was there the owner had lost her cell phone and shouted that whoever found it would get a free charm pack. It was on!  I had seen the Half Moon Modern by Moda charm pack and I wanted it!  I love a bargain and free is even better!  I was going to win!  So I waited and listened and I almost took out a display but I found the phone!  The problem then was I didn’t know what I was going to do with it.  I talked to the wonderful staff and then came up with this pattern. I bought the correspondeing jelly roll, my idea of a neutral gray solid and got to stitching.

This block is made with 1 jelly roll (2.5 inches wide), 1 charm pack (42 5 inch squares) and 1 solid color (I got 3 yards and if I have some left over I will incorporate it in the back or use it for bindng).  This will WOW your friends and is really quite easy!  The only parts of this block that you can’t skimp on are 1) a consistent seam allowance and 2) you really need to iron all the seams before moving on to the next step.

**I didn’t like some of the squares in my charm pack so I found a couple of complimentary fabrics and substituted the ones I didn’t like.  The red pictured was one of those replacements**

The first thing you want to do is decide how wide you want your connecting strips to be.  I wanted the color of the outside “panes” and the interior “window” to be the focus so I made my connectors 1 inch finished.  (I cut each of those to 1.5 inches for a 1 inch finished piece.) I wanted my interior solid frames to be larger than my connectors but smaller than my panes so I wanted them to be 1.5 inches finished.

Lets start by cutting your fabric for your first block!

Cut 2 pieces of your solid fabric 2 inches X 5 inches.  Cut 2 more pieces that are 2 inches X 7.5 inches.  Begin by sewing the 5 inch X 2 inch strips to each side of your charm square. Press your seams open and continue. You now have a rectangular piece.

Take your 2 inch X 7.5 inch strips and attach to the top and bottom of your rectangular piece.  Press your seams open and continue.  You now have a charm square that is framed by your solid.

Now take 1 of your jelly roll strips.  Cut 4 pieces from your jelly roll that are 3.5 inches long.  Cut 4 pieces from your solid fabric that are 1.5 inches X 2.5 inches.  Take 2 of your 3.5 and sew the solid piece to each.  This makes your first pane and connector piece.  Repeat with the next 2*3.5 pieces and 1*1.5 piece.  Press your seams open and continue.

Take the 2 pieces that you just put together and sew to the sides of your charm square framed by your solid.  This should measure exactly.  If you happen to have some hangover during this step, mark the center and trim the ends.  Press your seams open and continue.

Now take the remaining section of your jelly roll strip and cut 4 strips in 5.5 inch sections.  You are going to assemble these longer pieces just like you did the shorter pieces.  Press seams open and attach to the top and bottom of your  block.  Press 1 last time and admire your work.

Part 2 – Putting the Blocks Together is coming soon!

Floral Arrangment Tutorial — Making the Best of a Bad Flower Situation

Hello Hoecakes.  My sister Heatheroo the Magnificent was nice enough to do another tutorial for me. I can sew an entire quilt but damn! How does she do this?  Amazing.  Here ya go:

You can’t always get what you want.  How true that is when it comes to buying flowers on the run, on a budget, or at the very last minute. Which is just how I do things around here.

So, I will preface this with a little backstory on these arrangements.  I was asked to do 27 arrangements for a friend’s party.  Always on a budget, and to make things worse, I was taken out of my Tom Thumb Floral Department Comfort Zone.  Thought we’d try a less expensive route, and we went Somewhere Else.  Well . . . here’s what you get.  There were NO HYDRANGEAS! That’s like a day without sunshine!

What we were forced to work with were some very low class roses. Obviously these roses come from the wrong side of the tracks. A few tulips that were puny to say the least, and gobs of what were supposed to be Stargazer lilies that weren’t open. OH! Let’s not forget tuberose. Smells fabulous, but doesn’t do that well cutting and using in arrangements.  Aaaaand to top things off most of the lilies weren’t Stargazers at all, but the smell of lilies trumps any clearance sale you’ve ever been to, so it didn’t destroy my little world.

Step One:  Always! Remove the leaves from the stems.  This should be your first step every time.  At some point I’m no longer going to tell you this.  It will become ingrained in your psyche!

Step Two:  I always place my roses first.  You need to develop the habit of cutting your roses where they rest right above the rim of your chose vessel (vase).  I like to block the color together but you can place them however you would like.

Note there are no leaves!

Next we inserted some very brown (ick!) tuberose.  I picked off as much of the brown as I could, but I was  really going for the scent of the tuberose, not the beauty.  They added a little height and dimension just like the tulips did.  I almost always hand the cluster of the tulips a little longer on a side.  Hey, I’m different.

I placed the non-Stargazer lily in the center for a some height and a little pop.  I used the closed lilies for greenery instead of using the ugly greenery they try to sell you at the flower shop. If you’re lucky and you bought good flowers in the first place, they will open up before the rest of the flowers die.

Here is your finished arrangement.  Piece of cake!

My non-crafty friend even did some of the arrangements herself under my tutelage. Her biggest mistake time and again was not cutting the roses to hit right at the rim of the vessel.  Practice, practice, practice.

I will not stray from my glorious Tom Thumb Floral Department again, but I think we were able to make the best of this floral situation. Lesson learned!

No Piecing Quilt Tutorial — The Aunt Jan Quilt

Don’t even get me started on how awesome this quilt turned out. This was a gift for my fabulous Aunt Jan. It took me about 6 months, but if things like WORK would stop getting in the way, I could have whipped this up in about a month. When I was finally able to give it to her, she was so thrilled she wouldn’t let it out of her grasp even when my 2 year-old son/monkey/forest creature was dangerously marauding through the living room with Cheeto fingers. She went over every individual block  and even sent me a picture of it on her bed when she got home. I could write a whole book on how wonderful Aunt Jan is – but I will sum it up by saying she is THE BEST in so many ways.

But back to showing you how you can make your own version of my Aunt Jan Quilt. I’m going to say this is my original design, only because I’ve never seen another one like it. If I’m stepping on someone’s toes here, WELL I’M SORRY. Keep in mind I’m not that great a quilter. I wing it on a lot of stuff, like ironing and sewing straight seams. I dream up all kinds of crazy things to make. A lot of them do not turn out well. And then sometimes I hit the jackpot. This was one of those times.

Your block size for this quilt will be a finished 12X12, which means I think you cut it 12.5X12.5. Or you can do a finished 13X13. Whatever. If you’re like me and you always forget about the seam allowance until you’ve cut $100 worth of fabric, just make sure all the blocks are somehow the same size.

Looks so good you want to take a bite of it.

This is an applique quilt – which means no piecing required! You’ll be cutting lots and lots of different size circles, so I highly recommend a good circle cheater template and lots of extra rotary blades. Oh, how I love my circle cheater. Put a fresh blade in and let’s get started.

Each block will use approximately 8-10 circles of various sizes so get busy. You can use as many different fabric patterns as you like. You will be cutting circles from a 10 inch diameter down to 3 inch diameter, so get your scrap bag out. Myself, I’m not very matchy-matchy. Whatever you decide, this is a very colorful quilt and it’s going to look good no matter what you do.

The key to making this quilt a workable design is the use of my fave applique product, Heat Bond Lite. For each fabric circle you cut, cut the same size circle of Heat Bond Lite. This will keep the edges from fraying and give each circle stability.

So now you’ve got lots and lots of fabric circles and Heat Bond Lite circles, and you better have a good iron with a setting called “Blazing”. Iron the Heat Bond Lite to the back of each circle.

Now for the fun part. Fold your circle in half, then in half again, then in half again. Just like making paper snowflakes in kindergarten. Not too thick. Snip off the end of your folds – this will ensure that all of your circles are centered. Now you will be trimming up the other end which will ultimately be the design on the edge of the circle. Cut waves, zigzags, whatever. I will warn you that an intricate design will be difficult to achieve – keep your cuts big and bold.

Snowflake fold

Snip the tip

The most important ingredient in making my quilts (besides love, awwww) is the simplicity of the design. This is way easy, despite the number of steps involved.

Now you will begin the process of stacking the circles from biggest to smallest, one of top of the other. Since you already ironed each of your blocks in quarters to establish the center point (of course you have!), start with your biggest circle, centering the hole in the middle over the center of your block. You will  notice that the fold lines in your circle tend to line up with the quartered lines on your block as well.

I couldn't have picked a more blinding color combination if I'd tried.

Peel the backing off of each circle and iron it on top of the previous circle, again centering the hole in the middle. Stack them until you are satisfied with the design.

I usually cut out some kind of tiny applique piece as my last piece in order to cover up the hole in the middle. You can always just take it down to the smallest circle if you would like – just remember when you are cutting the design edge during the “snowflake” part, not to cut the tip off of the smallest circles.

Slice of cherry pie applique in middle. Adorable.

Once you feel like you’ve ironed  every piece of material you have ever owned, you may be done. Then you sew your blocks together with quarter inch seams and then send pics to your friends with a caption that says  “a little something I whipped up over the weekend”.  I took mine to the quilter and then did the binding by hand.

I really only put this picture in here because I'd just had a manicure.

One thing I did that I consider an extra step (now that I’m looking back on it), was go over every circle with my sewing machine before I sewed my blocks together, starting in the middle and spinning it around in a spiral. I was concerned about the edges lifting up and getting folded over by the quilting machine.

Once I took this to my quilter (after I had spiraled every single circle, of course,)  he told me in the future this would be unnecessary. The adhesive from the Heat Bond Lite would keep the edges down in order for the machine to quilt across them, and the many layers of adhesive did not cause any problems for the needles on the machine. He was able to quilt almost to the absolute center and certainly enough to quilt all my edges down.

Scrappy squares on back -- my new go-to design for the backs of all my quilts.

I hope that I have explained the construction of this design to you clearly – if not, just ask!

Circle Quilt — SO CUTE! SO EASY!

This is going to be such an easy tutorial. So easy I’m listing it out in number format: (Now I’m also assuming you have basic quilting skills, which is pretty much all I have. Barely.)

1. Take one yard of fabric, a quilting cotton of course;

2. Cut different sized circles out of your complement fabrics.  Feel free to fussy cut like I did the little cowgirl in the middle. Use your circle cheater template.  No need to make this complicated.

Stole this cowgirl from a pair of my daughter's pajamas. I'm sure she is wondering whatever happened to them.

3. Cut corresponding circles of my favorite product ever, Heat N Bond Lite. Iron them to the back of your fabric circles.

4. Figure out how you want your circles laid out. Peel off the paper backing and iron them on.

5. Machine stitch (or hand stitch if you’re all Fancy Pants and like to make things difficult) around the edges of the circles.  For this quilt I used a zig zag stitch around each circle.

6. Make your backing.  I used some scrappy squares.

7. Take it to my awesome quilt guy — Jerry at Cowtown Quilter — Or you can take it to your own awesome quilt person. (This quilt was cute to begin with — but the quilting he did made it WOW).

I mean, look at this. Amazing.

8. Bind as you wish and you’re done.

I love this technique because:  I don’t have to worry about how straight my piecing is. And I don’t have to iron much because we all know how I hate ironing anything.  And I love a project that comes out looking like I just killed myself getting it done, but really, I was doing most of this while watching those nuts on Doomsday Bunkers. Questions welcome!

Scrappy backing.

Salmon and Asparagus — Grillin Time

As it is officially almost summer in Texas (yes, summer starts in March here), let’s have a look at some food hot off the grill. Today our friend Allyson shares her secrets for what most consider a complicated endeavor – grilling seafood.  She whipped up this beautiful plate of food in about 30 minutes. I’ll  let her fill you in:

For this super healthy and delicious dish, let’s start with the asparagus.  Get some heavy duty aluminum foil, make a little boat out of it, and toss that fresh asparagus aboard. Drizzle some olive oil and some minced garlic in there, brush that around, and head to the grill. Dock your foil boat on the rack.  This is going to cook for about 20 minutes, so put this on 10 minutes before you put your salmon on.

Onto the salmon. I prefer fresh salmon, but since we are all short on time these days,  I find the vacuum packed filets are just as tasty.

At first I was scared of putting fish on the grill.  I would wonder “is it done? Will it stick? Is it going to fall apart as soon as I look at it?” One solution I swear by: PAM GRILLING SPRAY. Your meats will flip right over and no mess left for you to scrape off later.

Season your salmon filets with something as simple as spray butter, the juice of a lemon, and minced garlic. Lowry’s marinade works just as well, but if you’re trying to amaze your houseguests with your culinary skills, make a bunch of noise and make sure they see you squeezing a lemon.  It’s impressive. So we’re at about 5 minutes of prep time so far, and you’re already walking this baby out to the patio.

Now here is the easy part – grill the filets for 5 minutes.  Flip them over.  Grill for 5 more minutes. And you’re done. Serve alongside your asparagus.

I served this dish with sautéed bell, yellow and red peppers with some cilantro thrown in, as well as sliced tomatoes and avocado.  Delicious and most of all, easy!

Make a T-Shirt Quilt the Hoecake Way


This is my first.  This is my first joint project for Hoecakes & Hemlines, my first auction item, my first paid project, and my first T-Shirt Quilt.  This is the first post of a series on how to make your own T-Shirt quilt-The Hoecake Way.

This project began with a call from a fellow Hoecake asking if I would like to join her in making a quilt for her daughter’s PTA auction.  She said it was a paying gig and I was sold!  I was in… then I heard that it was a T-Shirt quilt and we had 4 weeks to get it done… EEEEP! I’m always up for a challenge and agreed!  We began by reading up online and taking bits and pieces of what we found and adding our own spin on things.  We learned a few lessons and I will share those with you as we go along.


20+ T-Shirts **

Fabric for the Back *

Fabric for the Border***


Fabric for the Binding*


Quilter’s Safety Pins

HeatNBond Lite (Not Featherweight)

Roatary Cutter and Self-Healing Mat

Acrylic Quilting Ruler


Sewing Machine


Mary Ellen’s Best Press (starch can be used, but this stuff is FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!)

*Yardage will depend on the finished size of your quilt.

**Depending on the finished size of your quilt you may need more or fewer shirts.  The Hoecake Way does not include sashing between blocks and require more shirts.  This method utilizes both the front and back of the shirts to allow for the least amount of waste possible.

*** A border is not necessary, but it is up to you.  We had the kids from the school sign and draw on our border.  This added some personalization for the auction item.

1st  – Decide what you want your finished quilt size to be.  This is important so you aren’t going back and forth trying to find more meaningful shirts when you have already begun cutting.  I would hate to learn that someone had to donate blood just to get the t-shirt to finish their quilt (you should donate blood because there is a need and it is a good thing to do).  Our finished quilt was 65 inches X 75 inches.  This is plenty big enough to cuddle up with in front of the TV.

We got 5 1/2 total yards of fabric and 5 yards of batting for this project.  This was enough fabric for the back AND binding.  I used the Robert Kaufman’s Android App called The Quilters Little Helper to assist in these calculations. I used several different types of fabric, because I think the back is just as important as the front of a quilt.  Boring backs just aren’t for me.

After assembling all of your materials gather all your t-shirts and get to cutting!  We cut the t-shirts 2 ways.  You can cut the design you want to show first  and then apply the heatNbond lite or you can apply the heatNbond lite and then cut.  Either way works but *******DON’T REMOVE THE PAPER BACKING!!!!!!!************  Apply the heatNbond lite to all pieces according to the manufacturers directions.  Do not attempt to sew jersey material without the backing!  When you cut jersey the material will roll up on the edges when the heatNbond lite is applies this will not happen.

If you have a small self healing mat, you can put it inside the shirt, cut, flip and cut again.  We used graphics that were on the backs of the shirt as well as the small graphics that were on the front.  There is a place for everything. Keep your scraps!

Lay your designs out on the floor or a flat surface.  I begin in the center and then work my way out.  I also try to align blocks to make a row.  Rows are easier to put together. Look for spots that need to be filled, measure and cut a piece to fit that space.  You can add a 1/2 inch to each measurement to allow for some adjustment if you wish, but it isn’t necessary if your measurements are accurate.  Nothing has been sewn together at this point.  TAKE A PICTURE!  This will help you remember your placement.  Carefully pin each row together and begin sewing.  Using the individual rows as a guide rather than trying to tackle everything at one time.

Piece the top with the paper backing still on.  Keep some rubbing alcohol close by in the event that your needle begins to gum up.  ******You will be sewing through the paper backing!*****

When you finish each row, lay the whole thing out again and make sure you still like how things look together.  Sew the rows together.

If you are going to do a border… this is when you measure and cut your border.  When you piece this make sure you sew on the bias (sew on a 45 degree angle).  Begin with the short sides first and trim the excess.  Finish by adding the long sides and trim the excess.

Your front is now finished!  Sit back and marvel at your work!

Stop marveling and turn the whole thing over.  Begin the peeling process.  Begin with the corners and peel to the center.  Use the tweezers to pick out the large pieces of backing left under the seams.  This takes a while, but it is totally worth it!


For this project I took a fat quarter to a friend to be embroidered.  She did this as payment for me watching her house and feeding her critters while they were on vacation.  First I find the center of the top and mark it with a safety pin.  Then I get masking tape and tape the whole thing to the floor.


I took the embroidered piece and centered the words in the center and trimmed the excess.  I then cut my other pieces of fabric for the back in strips of 12 to 18 inches wide and set them out on top of the top taped to the floor.

Keep laying out pieces and sewing them until you have at least 5 inches of excess or more on each side of the quilt top.  You can use really big chunks of fabric for this step.  It can be as complicated or simple as you want it to be.  This is your quilt!  If you love it, go for it!!!!

Grab Mary Ellen’s Best Press and iron the entire thing with open seams or seams to the dark side of the fabric.  Your choice on open or to the side… Now go get your batting and let’s get on the floor!

Lay out your batting over the top which is still taped to the floor.

(Ok, here is a refresh… the quilt top is taped to the floor with the pretty side to the floor.  The batting is laying over the quilt top and the quilt back is pressed with seams how you like them and hanging out somewhere ready to be used.)

Trim the batting to at least 6 inches in excess of the quilt top.  Gently tape to the floor.  This keeps the batting and the top from moving as you are putting the quilt sandwich together.

Mark the center of the back with a safety pin and line up with the safety pin on the quilt top. (You didn’t take that out did you?)

Smooth out all the wrinkles and make sure the horizontal lines are horizontal and get out the pins!

Begin pinning in the center and work your way out.  Making sure that you smooth out the bubbles and wrinkles pin and pin and pin some more.  When you think you are done… put 10 more pins in!

Gently remove the masking tape from the floor, batting, top and move to the ironing board.  We are using the heatNbond lite to baste to the batting.  Do this step with the pins in!  This way it won’t move.

Off to the sewing machine!

Quilt with the “stitch in the ditch” method over the entire surface.  This is to sew along the seams of the top.

You can also use the seams as a guide and sew 1/4 inch on each side.

Read the directions on your batting and make sure that you are quilting close enough for the recommended spacing for your batting.  Some of my blocks required me to add stitches.  I used the masking tape again to accomplish clean straight lines.

I also used the masking tape to determine width between the lines.

This is what it looked like as I was sewing.

Peel the tape off and now it is off to cut binding!

Cut your binding.  I choose to cut mine to 2 and 1/2 inches wide.  I sew on the bias (45 degree angle) and then head to the ironing board. Trim the excess on the 45 degree angles to 1/4 inch.

I use Mary Ellen’s Best Press and iron, wrong sides together.

Back to the sewing machine!  Place the binding on the top of the quilt with raw edges together. Sew to top using 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Flip and secure back of binding to the back of the quilt.

Jenny at Missouri Star Quilts can explain it much better than I can.  Here is a link. Missouri Star has a ton of tutorials and have helped me in many ways.

Last step, pull threads and enjoy!

Open a bottle of wine, put on a good movie and curl up in your t-shirt quilt you made the Hoecake Way!