Mary Jane’s “Bee My Honey”


There’s a 50-acre piece of country paradise in northern Idaho…it’s where you go to get away from technology; see how a working farm, well, works; spend time in a 100+ year old one-room school house; visit the only remaining flour mill on the Palouse, and sleep in a cozy, furnished wall tent in the middle of an orchard {nearby outhouse included!}.  It’s a place to truly go back in time, and it’s all ran by one person….Mary Jane Butters.

Mary Jane has been an organic farmer near Moscow, Idaho for the past 28 years.  She’s been featured in “National Geographic,” on the CBS Evening Show  and in many other publications.  In addition to running the farm, she also publishes a magazine and writes cookbooks.   If all of that isn’t enough, she’s managed to design a collection of fabric for Moda in her spare time.


Bee My Honey” is a bright collection of red, blue, turquoise, yellow and green bees, florals, honey combs, watering cans, and letter “B’s.”  We’ve had a lot of fun using the collection in a few fast and easy projects.


 This little hexie mat is a great way to draw attention to my favorite print in the collection…the multi-colored bees on the turquoise background.

I chose a subtle grey-on-grey dot print for the background.  I used the same fabric on the front and the back, measuring 16.75″ W x 17.5″ H.  You’ll also need a piece of batting with the same measurements.  (If you prefer your backing and batting to be larger than your top, adjust accordingly.)

Using a variety of prints from the collection, I made 24 hexies with 1″ hexie paper piecing forms.  (Hexies are measured along the straight edge, from point to point).  If you haven’t used the paper piecing method for hexies, there are many helpful step-by-step videos on You-Tube.  I made sure to fussy cut the turquoise bee fabric so I’d end up with several whole bees.  Once you’ve made the hexies and removed the papers, press lightly with your iron around the outer edge of the hexie.  Lay them out on your background fabric…I chose to position them just off center and in three rows of 8.  I left about a 1.25″ space at both the top and the bottom of the group of hexies…I didn’t want my binding to overlap the hexies.   I placed the hexies approximately 1/8″ apart.  I applied a small circle of Heat N Bond Lite to the back of each hexie to keep them in place as I worked.  Create a sandwich with your top, batting and backing.  Pin well.


Using my walking foot, I sewed around each hexie, 1/8″ from the edge.


Once the hexies are sewn on, it’s time to quilt it.  I wanted to emphasize the hexagon pattern, so I moved my needle until it was 3/8″ away from the left edge of my walking foot.  I placed the left edge of the walking foot on the outer edge of one of the hexies and quilted around the entire group.   If you have the option on your machine to stop with your needle down when you reach the point of the hexies, this process is much simpler.  Once you’ve gone around the hexies once, start again with the left edge of your foot on the quilting line you just finished and outline it again.  Continue until your background fabric is completely quilted.  I bound my completed mat with 2.5″ binding.


When I travel, I always try to visit the local quilt stores in the area.  Since I have access to so much fabric at Quilt Expressions, most of my out-of-town purchases are charm packs.  Our second project is a fast and easy way to put those charm packs to use.  You need one charm pack, one yard of background fabric, 1/2 yard binding, and a Triangle Square-up ruler  (Click here for ruler tutorial).  For our sample, we squared each half square triangle up to 4.5″.   If you have any questions on how to use the ruler, either view the tutorial link above or stop in and ask us to demonstrate it for you.  This is a great project because you can use your design wall to arrange them in so many different layouts.  Backing requirements will vary based on the layout you choose.

Our finished project measures 32″ x 40.”


Our final project is a lovely table runner using the “Waffletime” pattern by Atkinson Designs.  This pattern is perfect if you have a fabric that you’d like to showcase.  The finished size is 18″ x 42.”  “Waffletime” kits are available in-store and will be available online at soon.

Some day, I hope to take a trip to Mary Jane’s Farm and spend a few days there enjoying nature and learning a bit more about the history of the area.  However, I’m so happy that, for now, I can at least spend some of my free time with the “Bee My Honey” collection.  It makes me think of Spring and the beauty that is just around the corner.

***Source of information gathered about Mary Jane and her farm: ***

Not Just Another Ugly Duckling

Do you remember the story of “The Ugly Duckling?”  It started with a nest of duck eggs.  Somehow, another egg ended up in the nest…a much bigger egg.  Once they hatched, the lucky new mom had some cute yellow ducklings and a not so cute big brown…duck?  As they grew, those yellow ducklings were quite mean to the brown duck because he looked so different.  Time passed and that ugly little duckling turned into a gorgeous, white swan.  Imagine their surprise when something not too attractive turned into something beautiful.


When I bought my sewing machine a few years ago, it came with a bag of attachments.  Most of them resembled the 1/4″ foot I was familiar with.    I couldn’t imagine why I’d need so many attachments or what most of them were for.  I certainly couldn’t fathom why I’d need the big clumsy looking one.  I took out the 1/4″ foot and put the bag in the drawer with the owners manual.  And there it stayed.

About a month ago, I was chatting with a customer as I rang up his purchase.  We were both in the process of attaching binding to a project, and he was raving about something called a “walking foot.”  Hmmm…sounds interesting…pretty sure I don’t have one.  A few days later, I happened to be talking to my mom about the small projects I quilt on my machine…and she mentioned a “walking foot.”  After two years, I decided it was probably time to pull out the sewing machine manual and find out exactly what a walking foot looked like, if I had one,  and what it did.


After a quick read of the manual and a desperate phone call to my mom (who has the same machine), I finally had the walking foot installed.  The walking foot doesn’t attach quite as easily as the others, but it sure is worth the extra work.  I noticed a difference in my quilting right away.


When I piece a small project, like a baby or lap quilt, I usually strip quilt it on my home machine.   Sometimes I quilt in nice, evenly spaced lines, and sometimes I prefer wavy, random-width quilting (see above).    Before I discovered the walking foot, I had to be very careful to alternate the side from which I started each line of quilting.  If I started each line of quilting on the same edge of the quilt, I’d end up with a skewed quilt.  To avoid this,  I’d quilt a line from the left to the right side of the quilt and the next line would start on the right and end on the left.   However, as you can see in the photo above, I always ended up with a bit of a wave between the quilted lines.  This was due to the fact that the top and back of my quilt were not moving through the machine at the same speed.  Oh, but now…


…now the top and the bottom move through the machine at the same pace, resulting in beautiful straight lines without any shifting or wavy fabric between the quilting lines.  With any other foot, only the feed dog underneath the fabric is being used.  The walking foot creates an upper feed dog, which moves the top of your quilt through the machine right along with the back of your quilt.


Since I already had the foot attached, I decided to try sewing binding on with the walking foot.  It worked perfectly!  On my machine, I move my needle to the right one notch and run the right edge of the foot along the edge of the binding…resulting in a perfect 3/8″ seam.  (I personally prefer using a 3/8″ seam allowance…but you can move your needle over another notch if you prefer using 1/4″ seam allowance.)

If you have a walking foot and haven’t used it, I highly recommend pulling it out and giving it a try.   It’ll be the big, bulky, odd-looking attachment in your collection.  Don’t judge it by it’s looks, though!  Sew a few straight lines on a practice piece, and you’ll discover why it is, indeed, a beauty.




Just in time for Spring…”Vintage Play”

PicMonkey Collage

I grew up on a farm in rural Idaho.  As soon as the snow melted and the days warmed, my three brothers and I spent every waking moment outside.  We invented games using whatever we could find on the farm.  We played marbles, climbed apple trees, dug in the sand box, explored the old farm machinery “graveyard,” played baseball in the empty field behind our house, pretended to play school, chased our dogs through apple orchards and corn fields, conquered mountains with those durable old yellow Tonka trucks and rode bikes for hours.  It was a great time and place to grow up.

This past October at Quilt Market, we came upon the Suz’n Quilts booth.  Fabric and pattern designer Susan Marth is the creative force behind Suz’n Quilts.  As I admired her “Vintage Play” fabric line, I was reminded of my childhood.  A panel showing a boy and girl enjoying the simple joys of childhood brought back memories of our time spent on the farm.  I’m not sure I’d consider myself “vintage,” but I sure do love her fabric collection and patterns.


Quilt Expressions has created two quilt kits using Suz’n Quilts’ fabric collection and patterns.  The first is “Vintage Play.”


Vintage Play” combines the Vintage Play panel, fabric collection and pattern book, resulting in a colorful collection of childhood moments.  The kit includes the pattern and fabric for the top and binding.  The finished size is 61″ x 77.”


My Pencil Box” combines Suz’n Quilts’ “My Pencil Box” pattern with American Jane fabrics.  It’s a great quilt-as-you-go project, or it can be quilted after you’ve finished piecing the top.  The kit includes the pattern and fabric for the top and binding.  The finished size is 42″ x 72.5.”


Suz’n Quilts’ book “Vintage Play” contains directions for six lap quilt projects, plus a bonus mini quilt.  The patterns make perfect use of the Vintage Play panel and fabric line.

Stashbusters 2014

According to Bing, “stash” is defined as “hidden store:  a secret store of something such as money or valuables.”   Can you believe they forgot to list fabric?!  My personal definition of “stash” might go something like this:  “the collection of fabric that I just had to have without any real plan or project in mind.”  Yes, it’s valuable and, no, it’s technically not hidden from anyone.  You just need to know where to look!

One of my goals this year is to use up some of my stash…I figure I need to use it up so I won’t feel bad when I buy more.  What is the best way to do that?  I’m so glad you asked!

Quilt Expressions has a long running membership club that meets in the store once a month.  Members can come on either the fourth Wednesday evening or the following Saturday morning.  (Occasionally, these dates may change due to holidays, etc.)  Membership for the year is just $50.  What does the $50 get you?  Twelve new Quilt Expressions original patterns, the opportunity to earn “Stashbuster Auction Bucks” to be used at the end of the year on lots of fun items, a platform for showing us your finished Stashbuster quilts, inspiration through viewing the quilts that others have created, and quality time spent with your quilting friends and with Karen and Della!

Once the meetings are over for the month, most of the patterns are made available for purchase by non-members both in the store and online.  This year, there were two patterns that were just for Stashbusters members.

During Stashbusters last year, our members shared 540 quilts!  That’s a lot of stash busting going on!  Take a peek at all of the gorgeous patterns they received as part of their membership.

PicMonkey Collage jan feb mar

Our first pattern was “Super Six.”  It’s a super fast quilt that uses six yards of fabric.

February brought us a gorgeous Dresen quilt called “Spin Cycle.”

Our third pattern of the year was “Got Strips?”  With a  mix of precut strips and 1/4 yard cuts, “Got Strips” is a great way to use up scraps.

PicMonkey  apr may june

Besides bringing April showers, April also brought us “Morse Code.”  I’m hoping that it’s okay to have a favorite (or two?)…this is mine.  It’s both stash friendly and layer cake friendly.  Two layer cakes plus a small amount of yardage make the entire quilt top.

Our most popular quilt for the year for show-and-tell was “Presto.”  It’s fast, easy and the perfect size to keep on the couch for cool nights or to give as a baby gift.

The most unique quilt pattern (and another of my favorites) was “Neighborhood Association.”  Not only does it use up a lot of scraps and result in a gorgeous quilt, but it doubles as a conversation piece.

PicMonkey Collage july aug sept

July brought us our hot summer weather and a quilt that had us looking forward to Fall and cooler nights.  “Cozy Cabin” is both yardage and fat quarter friendly…and oh-s0 cozy!

If “Cozy Cabin” had us thinking of Fall, “Snowball Stars” had us thinking even further to Boise’s clear blue sky that often comes after a snow fall.

Just in time for the holiday season, we introduced the “Potluck” table runner.  It is a great way to use scraps and can be tailored to any holiday theme.

PicMonkey Collage Oct Nov Dec

Chevrons are so popular right now, but they can be a bit of a pain to make.  Our “Happy Chevron” pattern makes it easy.  It uses the “Flip Flop” ruler and uses strips of fabric, rather than triangles.  You may have noticed that there isn’t a link for this one…it’s one of the members’ only patterns.

November brought a quilt who’s name my spell check doesn’t like.  You can’t imagine how many times it informed me that I was spelling “Almost Pefect” incorrectly.  There it goes again!  If you happen to run into Karen in the store, you’ll have to ask her for the story behind the name of this quilt.  “Almost Pefect” is great for both scraps and charm packs.

Our last Stashbusters pattern for 2013 was “Showcase.”  It called for a charm pack or 5″ scraps and a solid fabric.  The solid fabric does a great job of showcasing the printed fabric.  It’s the perfect size for a baby gift!  And, yes, this is also just for members.

So, if you’re in the Boise area, have some stash to put to use and want to get some additional inspiration from your peers, give us a call or come in to sign up.  Our first meeting dates for the 2014 year are Saturday, February 22nd and Wednesday, February 26th.  We’d love to have you join us!

If you’d like to see some of our customers’ Stashbuster creations, visit us on our Facebook page and look through our photo albums.  We have some very creative customers!

(Full rules and guidelines will be explained at the February meetings.)

Let’s add a little pink and red to all that white!

PicMonkey Collage for NL

Like most of the country, Boise has had snow for what seems like a very long time.   It’s only January, but I think that most of us are ready for it to melt and those Spring flowers to start popping up.  Wishful thinking, eh?  While we can’t do anything about the weather scene outside, we can change our inside view.  We’ve moved the snowman and holiday fabric to the color wall and found some fun ways to add a little pink and red to all of that white.

PicMonkey Collage for Blog

PicMonkey Collage

Our first new kit is made with the Alsace collection.  It’s a perfect combination of creamy white, red, pink , black and grey.  When used together with the Arcadia pattern from Mountain Peak Creations, it is gorgeous!  The quilt measures approximately 60.5″ x 72.5.”

PicMonkey Collage 2 for blog

Fabric Collection Collage

Our second kit is called “Surrounded by Love.”  It is made from the Surrounded by Love collection by Deb Strain for Moda and Anka’s Treasures’ Around the Block pattern.  The fabric collection is a mix of sweet pink, real red and crisp white.  These sweet combinations just might help us survive the rest of our dreary, wintery days.

Working on my PhD

We hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season.  Did you finish all of the handcrafted gifts that you had planned?  Isn’t it nice to see the smiles they bring to the faces of friends and family?  Were you lucky enough to receive a handcrafted gift?  My mom made me a “Let’s Do Lunch Sack.”  I was very excited to receive it and can’t wait to put it to use!

While I can hardly believe that it’s January, I love this month.  I start the month taking a good look at each room in my house…inside cabinets and drawers, under beds, inside closets…in every nook and cranny…to see what needs to be cleaned, organized or purged.  This year, the space that needs the most work is my sewing room.  I’ve just moved into it, so everything is neat and tidy.  However, my fabric is not well organized.  I attended Quilt Expression’s Everything Series:  How to Organize Your Sewing Room this past weekend, and I am looking forward to putting Karen and Della’s system for organizing to work for me.  I’ll be sure to take photos along the way and share them here on the blog.  Since my sewing room is also our guest bedroom, I won’t be able to do quite as much as Della did in her “Big Dig,” but I do hope to make the fabric more accessible so I can use my stash and scraps on new projects.

First, though, there’s something else I need to tackle.  I’ve decided to start out the new year working on my PhD!  Exciting, eh?  Sadly, no, it’s not the kind that would make me so very valuable in the workforce.  This kind of PhD is “Projects Half Done.”

Jan 5 PhD 2

Jan 5 PhD

Do you have a collection of those?  Since I’ve just been quilting for a couple of years, my stack of PhD’s isn’t too big…yet!  I have four projects that I’d like to finish soon…two strip loop baby floor quilts, my daughter’s Super Six (remember that from waaaay back in July?), and a little experiment I started back in October with our “Strips and Squares” bags.  I’m hoping that telling you about them will inspire me to get them finished so I can blog about them!  {smile}

We’re looking forward to a new year here on the Quilt Expressions’ blog.  We’ll be posting about our new patterns and kits,  I have more staff interviews to conduct, and I’ll also be trying out some new-to-me tools and rulers.  If there’s something you’d like to see on the blog, please either leave a comment or send us an email at


“Procrastinate…it frees up time for quilting!”

Wrap It Up!

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I remember walking through the local fabric store with my mom when I was a child, running my hand along every bolt of fabric as I passed by.  There’s just something about the texture, the color, the combination of the two…I can’t resist it!  Add it to a holiday package, and it’s gorgeous!  {And a second gift for the recipient.}

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The simplest way to wrap a small package is with a well-pressed fat quarter.  Lay the fat quarter wrong side up on your work surface.  Set the small box in the middle at an angle, lift two opposite corners of the fat quarter up and over the box and tie in a knot.  Lift the remaining two corners up and tie in another knot.  Finished!  Super easy, and the fat quarter can be pressed and used by the recipient.

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Another way to wrap a gift is with fabric strips.  This is a larger box that I’ve wrapped first with wrapping paper.  I had two 5″ x width of fabric (WOF) strips and another 8″ x WOF strip.  I laid the first 5″ strip on my work surface with the wrong side up and placed the box on top.  Bring the ends of the fabric strip up and over the box and tie in a knot.  The second 5″ strip (the red strip in our sample) was threaded under the knot that we just made, with the wrong side up.  I took the 8″ strip to the ironing board and accordion folded it (remember the paper fans we used to make as kids?), pressing as I went.  The folded strip of fabric was placed on top of the knot.  I brought the red strip up and over the folded fabric and tied it once.  This secured the folded fabric to the package.  I took the ends of the red fabric and wrapped it around to the back of the package, securing it with a hidden safety pin.  Fan out the folded fabric, and it’s complete.

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Here’s another idea…Karen took a narrow strip of fabric, wrapped it once around the package, tied a knot and knotted the ends.  Simple and pretty!


Does anyone recognize what was used on this package?  Karen took one of our 3/8 yd cuts of minky and wrapped it around the package.  Tie it in a knot and you have a cute package topper…and the recipient can use it to make a minky infinity scarf.