Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


Quilted Aquarium

At last, at last, at last! I’ve finished the fish placemats after working on them for weeks. After sewing strips together to represent the pebbly ocean floor and the sea, I had to cut out shapes for seaweed, rocks, various kinds of imaginary fish, and a few turtles thrown into the mix.

These all had to be ironed on with “Heat and Bond” and then sewn into place with a small blanket stitch.

Then the batting and backing were put on and the quilting began.

Today I finished the binding around the edges.

There is a set of four, with a darker ocean floor, and a set of six with a lighter floor.

Don’t look too closely. There are mistakes all over the place, but after the first blob of gravy drops on the placemats, that won’t matter anymore.


Something Fishy

There’s something fishy going on in my house these days. After making a set of eight “fishy” placemats, I felt encouraged by what I learned from the many mistakes I had made.  I decided to try two more, and fix the problems I had before.

I made two major changes.


I cut out the all the pieces and had them ready to place. I ironed “Heat and Bond” on all of them and had them ready to iron onto the background, building the scene with all the characters present at once. In my trial runs, I had done the pieces of fish, rocks, and seaweed, one  at a time. It was so much easier to have all the pieces ready to put into the scene at once.


I set my stitch smaller for the applique part where I sewed around the edges of each piece, and matched the thread to the individual pieces rather than using one colour for everything. It’s hard to see the scales on the light blue fish (or any of the others) but if you can enlarge the photo you can see them.

The backing is the same on both.

Take care when using placemats

That have a fishy scene,

The big black grinner prowls around

But tries to look serene.


Beware the Dark Invader

Who lurks by every meal,

He has a constant hunger

Yet nothing does appeal.


The blue fish is too pretty,

The salmon are too fast,

The tiny little tropicals

Don’t make a meal to last.


The starfish are too crunchy,

Their skin is rough and tough,

And all the meat inside them

Is made of gooey stuff.


So Darky’s on the lookout 

For tourists diving here

He’d gladly nibble on their toes

Or on their scuba gear.


Their underwater camera 

Would fall right from their hands

And Darky could then pick it up

And make his own demands.


He’d slip along the hotel pool

Straight to the swim up bar

He’d swap that camera for a drink

And watch them from afar.


The fun he’d have inside this place,

The shocking looks he’d get,

He’d frighten daylights out of them

Although he’s just a pet.


So when you use the Darky mats

And eat your fancy food,

Be sure to drop some crumbs for him

To maintain his good mood.



Underwater Quilting

No, I didn’t quilt these placemats underwater, but I felt like I was drowning in my work at times. Here are two finished and six not finished placemats I worked on while at the quilting retreat.

I wanted to make up the scenes as I went along, so no two placemats are the same. (The one below is finished except for the binding.)

However, you may notice a reappearance of the dark invader, my Darth Vader fish, in several of the placemats. His job is to see that you don’t eat too much at one sitting.

Miss Prissy Fishy below lets the others know that she has special protection from Darky. Who knows what favours she supplies?

So Darky concentrates on other unearthly looking fish for his supper.

And yet, he must wonder why he has no friends. Look at them scramble to get away.

“Miss Prissy Fishy,” says Pretty Boy, “why are you ignoring me?  See how talented I am. I can touch my toes. And anyway, don’t you know that good things come in small packages?”

“I heard that, Pretty Boy,” bubbles Darky, “but in the case of eat or be eaten, just remember that size matters. Oh dear, now look what I’ve done. I’ve upset Little Blue Wonderfish.”

Disclaimer via Darky: Not responsible for any fish swimming upside down.


More Placemats

About a year ago I was going to make a big cushion. I had strips sewn together. The pattern called for a paper-pieced design on top of those strips, but somehow I could never find the enthusiasm to get going on it.

One day I got brazen and cut the cushion square into four pieces. These would be the center of my replacement project, a set of placemats. I wanted a minimum of six placemats though, so I sewed a few more strips together and cut them in half to make two more center parts.

I added some filler strips on the sides to make a longer rectangle, and then decided on a border. Triangles in two bands, top and bottom, should add some interest. I hadn’t made triangles in squares for a while, and had to think about it.

Here they are below, right sides together. I drew a line from corner to corner and sewed  a quarter inch from each side of the line, then cut along the line.

Open up and press. That gives you the squares with two triangles shown above.

I sewed the squares together in rows of eight and then sewed the triangle strips to the top and bottom of each placemat.

After putting batting and a backing on the flimsy (top), I did a bit of quilting in the center parts. Then I put binding around it, and voilà, a placemat made of a recycled cushion.

Don’t look too closely. It’s not perfect, but I feel good about having salvaged the remnants of one project, and used up many scraps at the same time.


Quilting Fun

Everybody loves a quilt. They are cozy and comforting, cuddly and warm. That was how quilts used to be anyway. Now, in addition to those comfy quilts, we have quilting in artwork, wall hangings, placemats, clothing, purses, beach bags, and table runners. The sky is the limit when it comes to design.

Making a quilt used to be something that only grannies did, but recently it is becoming a very popular hobby among people of all ages. Granted, most of them are women, but at least we don’t have to be grannies to learn how to make quilts and projects using quilting.

I recently signed up for four lessons on getting started in quilt making. I had made three quilts before, but I knew they were clumsy efforts, and when my old, old, superold sewing machine packed it in, I bought a Bernina with all the gadgets needed for quilting. Trouble was, I didn’t know what to do with them.

The quilting course was perfect for getting me started learning how to do it right, and at the same time teaching me how to use the very fancy sewing machine I had bought.

The mug rug below with the red checkered pieces is made from an old work shirt, remnants of a pair of jeans, and the extra material from a pair of coveralls that were too long. It’s a “man’s mug rug.”001

The placemat below is also made by throwing bits of material together. This time the material was all new, but the pattern came out of my head. I must have been craving Chinese food because it looks to me as if it belongs in a Chinese restaurant.??????????

Below, is the starter quilt from my first sewing class. It’s far from perfect but it made me happy to learn how to put it together.??????????

Now that I look at these two mug rugs (below), it looks like the pink one is a bit skewed. It shouldn’t affect the coffee cup that will be placed on it. This is the beauty of being a beginner. No one expects perfection and there is always another mug rug to make for more practice.??????????

I love the idea of using old bits of material to make a new quilt. In the clumsy quilts I made long ago, I had pieces of blouses, skirts, and shirts that were too worn out to wear, but still too good to throw away completely. I felt better when I could recycle them.

Quilts have so much to say. I look at one of the old ones and hear a  scrap of blue shirt say to me, “I saw dolphins in Baja.”

Another shirt scrap says, “I chopped a lot of wood.”

Yet another, “I was your favourite shirt until that nail tore me apart.”

“I was a skirt you never liked because the waistband was too tight.” (Oof! Okay, I’ll go on a diet.)

“I was a fancy scrap your mother bought at Goodwill 40 years ago.”

Here is one of the old quilts I made and became unhappy with once I saw how poorly I had sewn it 30 years ago. I took it apart and did a major overhaul on it. I’m much happier with it now, in spite of the inevitable flaws that still crept in.


I have extra placemats now, so drop by for lunch any time.


 And the fun continues when I go for another sewing lesson next week.