Back to School With Love

22 Aug

Fellow Quilters,

My awesome piecer Susanne and I have been busy this week with a fun project.  I was invited to participate in a blog tour with the folks at American Patchwork & Quilting and their One Million Pillowcase Challenge, and today is the tour day.  Northcott has been a proud sponsor of the One Million Pillowcase Challenge for a few years, and this is my 3rd time participating in a blog tour about it.  Last year we made a pillowcase using the popular train pattern.  This year, we got to choose our own pattern from the extensive library of patterns on the AllPeopleQuilt website ( But which one to choose – that was the question!

For inspiration, I looked in the Northcott warehouse at the newest fabric collections that had come in, and found 2 that I really wanted to use: Stonehenge Prehistoric by Linda Ludovico, and Bella Ballerina by Diane Knott. I couldn’t decide, so Susanne and I used both collections. I scanned through the free patterns, and chose Pattern 38 Diamond Band for the Prehistoric pillowcase. The fabric collection includes a lengthwise border stripe that is printed sideways on the fabric, and this type of print is perfect for the body of the pillowcase. I used some of the Stonehenge coordinates for the 4-patch units and a delicious dark marble-looking coordinate for the setting triangles.

The Bella Ballerina collection features ballerinas in ruffle-y dresses, so of course Pattern 1 Ruffle Trim was perfect. This collection has a fabric that has pre-printed blocks of the ballerinas, and is printed sideways, so it became the body of the pillowcase. The width of 3 blocks was a bit smaller than the 26½” piece required for the pattern, so we made the band a bit wider to compensate. It still turned out great!

Last year, I donated the pillowcase to a charity supported by my quilt guild – Yellow Brick House, a shelter for abused women and their children. Along with the pillowcase, I donated a backpack of school supplies, because this was one of the things listed on their website as being greatly needed at this time of year. This year is no exception, and they provided me with a list of supplies. Since Susanne and I made 2 pillowcases, we filled 2 backpacks – one for a boy and one for a girl, to match the pillowcases. I was thinking, as Susanne was sewing, how fun these 2 fabric collections were, and how easy it would be to make a matching cuddle quilt to accompany each pillowcase. The Stonehenge Prehistoric collection includes a 24” x 42” panel that would be a great center to a cuddle quilt – simply add a border (or 4, as it turned out), and you’re done. The pre-printed blocks from Bella Ballerina also made a great quilt center, so we added 4 borders, and voila! In less than 2 hours, Susanne and I had those quilt tops done. I quickly quilted them on my longarm, and Susanne added the speedy machine binding. Two kids will now head back to school knowing that people care about them, and their mom will have a couple less things to worry about.

Susanne and I with our pillowcases, cuddle quilts and backpacks of school supplies

Susanne and I with our pillowcases, cuddle quilts and backpacks of school supplies

My final step was to go to the One Million Pillowcase Challenge website and add our 2 pillowcases to the count. ( Wow, it’s up to 568,688! How awesome is that?!? I know that total will increase on September 19 & 20th when American Patchwork & Quilting hosts their 24-hour sew-a-thon. If you can’t make it to Des Moines (me neither), you can go to one of the many participating shops across the USA and Canada (for a list of shops go to  If there isn’t a shop in your area, don’t despair!  You can still make a pillowcase or 2, maybe with a quilting friend, and donate it locally.  That’s what the Challenge is all about – spreading the love and comfort.  Don’t forget to add yours to the count on the One Million Pillowcase website.

I’m proud to be part of the awesome list of bloggers below that are participating in the blog tour. Please visit as many as you can, as we share our stories with you.

It’s no secret that I like to give stuff away.  For a chance to win a packet of yummy Northcott fabrics, please post a comment on my blog, telling me which current Northcott collection (in the drop-down on the Fabrics tab) you would most like to use for a pillowcase (  I’ll give away 3 packets.

Thanks for visiting, and keep those pillowcases coming!



A Tribute to Dad

15 Aug

My dad passed away August 3 – he was 78, and had battled prostate cancer for several years.  His funeral was a week ago, and it was an honour to deliver the eulogy:

Dad & I at my wedding

Dad & I at my wedding

Who was my Dad? He was the son of Mabel and Jim O’Rourke, his namesake.  He was the oldest brother to Peter, Sandy and Bill.  Family was very important to Dad.  As a kid, I recall weekly visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Sunday after church. We were often joined by Peter’s, Sandy’s and Bill’s families, or some of Dad’s many cousins. Great debates would ensue, and the verbal sparring could be heard throughout the house.  It was always a great time – Peter was the loudest, youngest brother Bill would join in, quickly followed by Sandy’s husband Bob, while Dad tried to be the voice of reason.  He would listen to the arguments, weigh the evidence, and consider the options before he voiced his opinion.  The siblings became great friends in later years, and not a Christmas went by that they didn’t get together to celebrate.

Mom’s family was equally important to Dad.  For many years, we got together regularly with Mom’s brothers Al’s and Ken’s families.  Dad got along especially well with Ken, and enjoyed teasing his daughters Kathy and Karen.  Kathy commented to me that Dad had such a great laugh.  Dad loved my Nana, Mom’s mom, and she adored him.  He would make her special cocktails, and he always took care of her (she was widowed long before Dad met Mom).  He called her Mother, and I thought that was so fitting that I call my mother-in-law Mom too.  I sometimes think Dad called Nana that because she cooked much better than his own mom!

His other family was his Northcott family, where he worked for 30 years, and eventually became president.  He was willing to give almost anyone a chance, and some even got a 2nd chance.  He treated the staff like family, and they appreciated that and respected him for it.  They would do just about anything for my dad.  He offered kind words of encouragement, and handled every situation with diplomacy – he found the right way to say difficult things.  He retired 13 years ago, and the staff still speaks of him with great fondness.

Dad formed fast friendships with school chums Serge, Reg and Harold – a friendship still going strong 60 years later. Together with the 4 wives, they called themselves the POPS – Pig Out Pals- because they would have weekend get-togethers also known as eat-ins.  Dad so enjoyed the camaraderie of these friends, and aging gracefully with them.

Friendships were also forged on Lake of Bays. In the early years, our family rented a cottage next to the Whartons and Callbecks, and Ross Wharton was an even bigger jokester than Dad. For 3 solid weeks each summer, we played hard – waterskiing, horseshoes, BBQing, and epic water fights.  When the lake water got too warm, we used ice-cold well water.  During one such fight, Laurel Wharton snuck up on Dad.  At the last second he stepped aside, and the bucket of well water she had thrown cascaded down Nana’s back as she sat quietly in a lawn chair minding her own business.  In her email to me the other day, Laurel referred to Dad as “your beloved dad”, a sentiment that has been shared with us many times in the past week by numerous friends, colleagues and family members.

In recent years, more friendships formed in the golf communities at the lake and in Venice FL. Mom and Dad loved to entertain, and their door was always open.  Dad thoroughly enjoyed golfing, and didn’t let a bad hip or failing eyesight from a couple of minor strokes deter him.  His desire to golf got him back into shape after his hip replacement, and he simply found ways to get around obstacles like not being able to see the golf ball very well.  When his failing eyesight prevented him from renewing his driver’s licence, he took it in stride with grace – always that positive outlook! He had a quiet determination that saw him through a range of health issues over the years.  When my colleague Susanne was battling cancer, he encouraged her not to give up hope, to stay positive, as he had done.

Dad with my boys Chris & Alex

Dad with my boys Chris & Alex

One of his greatest pleasures was spending time with his grandsons Christopher, Alex and Dillon.  In every photo with them, he is positively beaming. He enjoyed spoiling them to no end, and particularly enjoyed their visits in Florida and the cottage.  At the end of each and every visit, he would say to them “Papa loves you”.

He even let them drive his boat! When my colleague Hania announced 3 years ago that she was going to be a grandma, he told her that grandchildren are life’s greatest joy.

Dad gave my brother, sister and I many things, but the best ones were intangible.  He instilled in us his terrific work ethic – work hard and smart, think outside of the box, value and encourage the contribution of others, but save time for family and fun, for they come first.  Debbie and I have his eyes.  Brian has his hairline.  He liked working in the garden, whether it was growing vegetables, or tending to the perennial flowerbeds.  Every time I putter in the garden, I think of him, and wish he was there, advising me on whether the particular plant in question is a weed or a flower.  When it came to decorating, he was right there beside Mom, choosing fabrics, wallpaper, style of furniture, etc.  He had a great eye for colour and design.  Most of all, he showed us how to be good partners, good parents and good human beings – be patient, loving and kind, and sometimes eat humble pie.

His greatest love of course was Mom, and it showed in all that he said and did for her.  From the jewellery trinkets each Christmas to stylish outfits, he loved to shop for Mom and make her feel special.  When he retired, he took on several household chores to lighten her load, including operating the g.d. vacuum.  I don’t know what brand that is, but it doesn’t work very well.  He liked dressing up in his tux for special occasions, and they made a handsome couple on the dance floor.  She was his honey, his darling, and his blue eyes sparkled when he spoke of her.  They made a perfect couple – he knew when to step in, and when to defer to her. They were soul mates.

Dad had an easy smile that showed his warm heart, and an infectious laugh that could spark a room full of laughter.  He was a proud man – proud of his family and his friends.  He was thoughtful and wise. He was kind and gentle.  The past few weeks have been tough, as we watched Dad slowly slip away, but every cloud has a silver lining.  We rarely get the opportunity to tell the special people in our lives how much they mean to us. I am grateful that we were given that opportunity with Dad.  He is gone, and we are going to miss him, but he will live on in our cherished memories of him.  They are his gift to us.

I’m “celebrating” 100 Blocks Volume 9

29 Apr
Celebration straight-set quilt

Celebration straight-set quilt

Celebration on-point quilt

Celebration on-point quilt

Celebration panel quilt

Celebration panel quilt


Fellow Quilters,
Once again I have been invited to participate in the blog tour for Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks, this time for Volume 9, on sale May 6. I usually scour the issue, scouting out the designs either done by pattern designers who also partner with Northcott to design patterns for our upcoming fabric collections, or designs that feature Northcott fabric collections. Then I recreate these blocks in the fabric collection that Northcott showcases in the advertisement in the issue. This time around there were a whopping 8 blocks! They are #817 Square Dance (designed by Northcott fabric designer Sue Beevers), #818 Triangle Trick (made using Stonehenge), #856 Lavender Lattice (designed by yours truly and made using Lavender Market), #866 Pinwheel Polka (designed by Marilyn Foreman of Quilt Moments), #872 Banner Day (designed by Chris Hoover of Whirligig Designs), #890 Building Blocks (designed by Celine Perkins of Perkins Dry Goods), #894 Face In (made using Passion & Kaleidoscope), and #898 Two Tulips (designed by Margie Ullery of Ribbon Candy Quilt Co.) I thought I would change things up a bit this time around. Since my block was included in this issue, I recreated it in a quilt setting using the Stonehenge Celebration collection featured in the magazine. I came up with 3 different settings: a straight set with alternate blocks, an on-point set with the same alternate blocks, and a setting that starts with the panel in the center and frames it with borders and blocks. Which one do you prefer?
Thank you to all of you who commented on my last blog post. In the post, I talked about fears, and overcoming them. I would say from your comments that my post resonated with many of you, and I was moved by your feedback. Bloggers sometimes feel that they are talking but is anyone really listening? It takes a lot to acknowledge your fears, and to share them with others. I appreciate you sharing yours with me. Many of you commented that you have overcome a fear of, or at least resistance to, free-motion quilting. Many more of you have not quite overcome this fear. Good News! I can help!! In every blog post this year (and maybe next), I will give you a tip, hint, or advice on free-motion quilting. Tonight before I sat down to write this post, I was preparing for a free-motion quilting class that I am teaching tomorrow to the guild in Beaverton. Pretty much all of my quilting these days is done on my longarm, but as I was preparing my samples, I recalled the many quilts that I quilted on my sewing machine. Tomorrow I will try to ease the fears and frustration of the students as we work through various techniques.
So, my first piece of advice is… read every issue of Quiltmaker magazine this year. June Dudley and her staff have called 2014 the Year of Machine Quilting, and each issue contains helpful tips and hints for machine quilting. Even those of us who have been machine quilting for 20 years can learn from these issues. I plan on following along with contributor Natalia Bonner as she guides us through various techniques. Won’t you join me?
My next piece of advice is… practice, practice, practice. Anyone can free-motion quilt with enough practice. Anyone! Check out the clearance table at your favorite quilt shop and pick up a couple of crib-size panels. Quilt them to death – try every technique you can think of until you feel comfortable with it. Quilt around every motif on the panels. Focus on achieving a consistent stitch length. Practice different background fillers such as stipple in all of the open areas. Quilt every square inch of those panels. When you are done, take a look at where you started, and notice how much you have improved. Yes you have!
Okay, time to talk about giveaways. I randomly chose a winner from the comments posted on my last post- congrats to Kimberlee who is trying her hand at making some clothes. Kimberlee will receive a delicious bundle of Artisan Spirit Shimmer fabrics. Today’s giveaway is a copy of Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Volume 9, and some Stonehenge Celebration fabric too. For a chance to win, please comment on which of the 3 Stonehenge Celebration quilts you prefer. Please post your comment by end of day on May 1. And don’t forget to visit the rest of the blogs in the blog tour. Details at


31 Jan

Fellow Quilters,

Happy 2014!  As I sit down to write this post, it seems pointless to say Happy New Year, since it is actually the last day of January.  Was January shorter this year, maybe by a couple of weeks?  Maybe it seemed shorter because in our region we spent most of it huddled under layers of quilts, trying to stay warm.  I suspect that this will turn out to be one of the coldest January’s ever.  Well, I can’t complain too much, because cold weather usually brings lots of snow, and snowboarding this season has been epic.  We’ve even had 3 days of powder so far.  The feeling you get while snowboarding in powder is so euphoric, it almost defies description.  And it’s legal!  Suffice to say it should be enough of a reason for any skier to take up boarding.  I have yet to convince my hubby, but my 2 sons have converted, and my son Chris is in my adult boarding class this year, showing me up, of course, because that’s what kids do.  Each week, instructor Tim tries to teach the group a new skill, such as turning in circles, moguls or riding switch (backwards).  Everyone but Chris is older (45+), and we don’t bounce back as easily as when we were teenagers.  In fact, instead of bouncing, we “splat”.  After splatting a few times, we develop hesitancy to attempt to perform that particular move that precedes the splat.  The trouble is that we won’t improve if we don’t keep practicing.  It reminds me of a great quote by Jack Canfield that I read last week:

Everything we want is on the other side of fear.

How true!  Our biggest fear is usually fear of failure, so we avoid failing by not even attempting.  So we stop attempting, and resign ourselves to the fact that we can’t do whatever it was we were trying to master.  This brings me to another great quote, this one by Noah St. John:

The number one secret to success is giving yourself permission to succeed.

Aren’t we our own worst critics? We say “I’m so terrible at ____”.   It usually takes recognition of our ability/skill/talent from someone else before we acknowledge in our own mind that aren’t as bad as we think we are. We can shorten our road to success by granting ourselves this permission.  For 2014, I will attempt to become comfortable with riding switch on my snowboard.  I will try to practice every week, because I know I can do it, and with practice I will become competent.  I will fall less and less as I practice (fewer splats).  By April, I will have added this skill to my snowboarding “toolbox”.

I can extend this into another area of my life – quilting!  I recently purchased several new books on machine quilting.  I can do one of 2 things with these books – I can add them to my growing stack of unread how-to books on quilting, or I can crack the covers and read them, practice the techniques in them, and give myself permission to successfully use these techniques on some quilts this year.  Maybe this time next month, my blog post will be a book report on these books.  Will my quilting improve?  Not initially, but it will if I practice, because I know that eventually I will be able to competently stitch out the designs.  I have already given myself permission to succeed.  My quilting splats are much smaller and less painful than my snowboarding splats.

My quilting bud Betsey is going to add skills to her quilting “toolbox” when she takes my Borders and Bindings workshop on the upcoming Panama cruise in April, organized by Quilt Camp at Sea.   This is currently my favorite workshop – I love teaching this class, because the participants take away several new “tools”.  It’s great having Betsey in my class – she is very methodical, and takes her time, but she makes sure that she understands the process.  Right now Betsey doesn’t have a roommate, and I would room with her again, as I did on a previous Quilt Camp at Sea cruise, but this time around Hubby is joining me.  Betsey is an awesome roommate – we laughed until we cried.  If you know anyone (such as yourself!) who would like to join us on the cruise, please have them contact Kathy at in the next few days.  Just thinking of this cruise helps defrost my fingers and toes right now.  By April I will definitely be ready for some fun in the sun!

I haven’t done a give-away for a long time, so let’s do one today.  For a chance to win a bundle of Northcott’s new Artisan Spirit – Shimmer fabrics, please tell me about a fear that you have overcome, or would like to overcome, or a skill that you learned despite thinking that you “could never be able to do that”.  Please send your comments by February 6.



Stratford Park Meets 100 Blocks

14 Nov

Fellow Quilters,

Once again I have been invited to participate in Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks blog tour, this time to celebrate the release of Volume 8.  As usual, I had lots of fun scanning the issue for blocks that used Northcott fabrics or were designed by quilters who publish patterns in partnership with Northcott.  This time around I found 6 blocks – #721 Pin-whirl by editor-in-chief June Dudley (she used Serenity by Cheri Strole), #733 A Night Out by creative editor Carolyn Beam (she used assorted Northcott fabrics), #742 Walk About by Chris Hoover of Whirligig, #761 Formation by new Northcott pattern designer Shayla Wolf of Sassafras Lane, #794 Orion by Celine Perkins of Perkins Dry Goods, & #800 On the Grid by Jocelyn Ueng of It’s Sew Emma.  I chose 4 of the blocks to play with this time, redoing them in Northcott’s Stratford Park collection of tonal textures.  Let’s take a look at the blocks!

June's Pin-whirl block

June’s Pin-whirl block

Jocelyn's On the Grid block

Jocelyn’s On the Grid block

Celine's Orion block

Celine’s Orion block

Chris' Walk About block

Chris’ Walk About block

Stratford Park is a collection of 6 tonal prints (pindot, ticking stripe, vine, floral, Jacobean, embroidered eyelet) in 6 color palettes: white, pearl, ivory, fawn, chocolate and ebony.  My favorite fabric in the collection is the embroidered eyelet, and I have used it in 4 quilts that I have made so far with Stratford Park.  It adds so much interest to the quilts, and quilts beautifully.

I tried combining some of the blocks in various quilt layouts, but not all of the blocks wanted to play nicely with the others – this happens sometimes.  So I made some digital quilts showcasing each block on its own.  What surprised me were the secondary patterns that were created in each quilt.  Aren’t the quilts interesting?

#5 - Jocelyn's & Celine's blocks as a quilt

#5 – Jocelyn’s & Celine’s blocks as a quilt

#2 - Chris' block as a quilt

#2 – Chris’ block as a quilt

#1 - June's block as a quilt

#1 – June’s block as a quilt

#3 Lots of Celine's blocks with some of Chris' blocks

#3 Lots of Celine’s blocks with some of Chris’ blocks


#4 - Jocelyn's block as a quilt

#4 – Jocelyn’s block as a quilt

I am giving away a copy of this fabulous issue of Quiltmakers 100 Blocks.  For a chance to win, please post a comment by November 18th telling me which quilt you like the best.  If you’ve participated in previous blog tours, you know that I also include a couple more giveaways, so I will also give away a couple of fabric packs of Stratford Park.  And please visit the other blogs on this tour (  to see what the other quilters are sharing with you.  Next week I will post some pictures of my Stratford Park quilts, so please come back for a visit.  Until then, enjoy the tour!



Panama, Panels and More

12 Nov

Fellow Quilters,

The mayhem of October and Quilt Market preparations is over, and I am settling into the mountain of paperwork that has taken over my desk.  Fellow Northcott staffer Hania, who likes a minimal amount of clutter, shakes her head when she sees my desk.  I am one of those people who functions nicely in a controlled amount of clutter – I have a lot of stuff on my desk, but I know where to find whatever I’m looking for.  I think that creative people need a certain amount of clutter.  How about you?  Is your sewing space spotless, or do you have to push piles aside to cut a fat quarter into pieces?

I have lots of loose ends to tie up, and several new ones to show you.  Last month, being October, I teased you with a couple of fat quarter packs of Sweet Jane, our latest Quest for a Cure collection supporting breast cancer research.  There were some wonderful comments posted – thank you to all of you!  It seems that a lot of us have very supportive spouses/partners, followed closely by friends, sisters and children.  I randomly chose 2 comments – congrats to Jane Ritz & Kathleen Lambert.

In my August post for 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge I also had a giveaway, and Bonnie Pfrimmer, Sheila and Myra were the winners of packets of Noah’s Jungle fabrics.  During my August road trip through Alberta, Canada I presented trunk shows in which I inspired the attendees to use panels in their quilts for simply stunning quilts.  Since Noah’s Jungle has 2 panels, these lucky quilters will receive them in their packets.  How fun!

Another quilt that uses panel-type fabric (it is actually running yardage of 8” blocks) is my Frosty’s Mittens quilt, featured on the cover of Quilting for Christmas, the annual holiday issue of The Quilter magazine.img-Y04132153-0001
Needless to say, I was delighted when I saw my quilt gracing the front cover!!  It uses the Holly Jolly Christmas flannels for a super easy, super comfy lap quilt.

Northcott has recently added a free downloadable pattern for Solar System to the website. WebBanner_Image

This easy wall quilt features the Stonehenge Out of this World collection, and several of the fabrics glow in the dark.  We even added twinkling lights to it.  How cool is that?!? The Solar System wall quilt uses the panel in the center, and has 2 simple borders.  I taught this class at Quilt Market – it is an abbreviated version of my favorite new class on Borders and Binding, in which I teach participants 6 different border techniques, along with our speedy machine binding that looks as good as hand-binding.  I really love this class because it empowers quilters – they learn how to fearlessly apply mitered borders to their quilts, among other things.  The students pre-cut the mitered borders before they apply them to the quilt.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, but trust me when I say that it works!  I was delighted when the Quilt Camp at Sea organizers asked me to teach this class on their upcoming Panama cruise next April 7-18th.  The students will start with a panel as their “quilt”, and then add lots of borders as they fill their “technique” toolbox with these new-found skills.

Borders workshop sample

The other class that I am teaching is my Simplified Double Wedding Ring, and this one is almost full.  Kathy, Pat and the QCAS gang do an amazing job of co-ordinating everything, including providing sewing machines.  It is like going on a retreat on a luxury floating resort.  I am really looking forward to several of the ports of call, including Aruba, Curacao, Cartagena, Costa Rica, and of course the Panama Canal!  I will be ready for some fun in the sun by April, and look forward to seeing some of my quilting “buds” from previous cruises, as well as making some new friends.  If you are interested in joining me, please visit  It will be a blast!

I’d like to send a shout-out to 2 guilds that I visited this week – Dunville’s Own Tiny Stitchers, and the Erin Village quilt guild.  Tomorrow I am presenting at the Prince Edward County guild in Picton, ON.  I am also participating in a blog tour for Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Volume 8.  As in previous blog tours, I am giving away a copy of the magazine, and a couple of fabric bundles, so please come back tomorrow for a visit, or even better, subscribe to my blog.  And have fun visiting all of the other sites on the blog tour.



Sweet Jane Fabric Giveaway

15 Oct

Hello Quilters!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Too many of us have been affected or know someone who has been affected by this disease. I found this great site that has everything you need to know about breast cancer. It is so important to perform regular breast self exams!

QFC logo
Sweet Jane is Northcott’s latest Quest for a Cure collection. It was created by Deborah Edwards in honour of Jane Spolar, one of Northcott’s designers currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Northcott is donating a portion of the purchase price to breast cancer research for every metre/yard of Sweet Jane that is sold.

Plus there are two FREE patterns you can download for this collection:

WeavingHopeWeaving Hope by Jane Spolar
Visit Jane’s web site
*It’s on the home page, you have to scroll down a bit to get to it

Stacks of Support by Patti Carey (free download)Stacks of Support by me, here is the link

Oh yes the giveaway!
Please post a comment telling me who the sweetest person in your life is and why. Example: The sweetest person in my life is my husband, because he never complains that I quilt too much and he supports my love for the craft!
Your comment counts as an entry. I will draw two lucky winners at the end of October. Each will win a fat quarter bundle of the Sweet Jane collection. Good Luck everyone!




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