Let’s Make Some Rows!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve started sewing some blocks into rows. Not complete rows, because that would require that I had a plan and a size in mind! I thought that you might like a little explanation.

On another note, The Row by Row experience is coming to Boise–and to Quilt Expressions. (If you’d like to visit the Idaho Row by Row Facebook page, and see our “official” row, click here.) Free patterns for Quilt Expressions’ row will be available in the shop starting June 21.

So…in planning our row by row block, I couldn’t help but experiment a little, and of course add the trial “parts and pieces” to my wonky quilt.

rxrhousesThe units are simple little houses and trees, easily made with flying geese. The official Row by Row rules say that our row must be 9″ tall (finished) so that dictated the height of these units. By the way, in case you care, they are all 3″ wide. That 9″ height meant that some of my houses needed to have a little help. Remember, if it’s too short, sew some more on…


Here’s where those little black and white checkerboard strips come in handy. I used them to make the house on the left a taller block.

Finally, I thought the row was starting to look a little washed out, so I added some columns of color squares.


It perks up the row, don’t you think? I’m going to sew these blocks together and we’ll see what happens next!

PS–I’m counting down the days to be back in Idaho! Less than three weeks. Della can tell you in exact days, hours and minutes 😉




Decker the Dog

Hello again! I saw some of you when I was in the shop in Boise–thank you for your positive comments! Today I am introducing you to Decker the dog. That’s my son, Bo, trying to get him to pose for the camera. For a big dog, Decker is a big chicken–doesn’t like his picture taken. Guess it’s true that dogs are like their owners, because I avoid getting in the picture at all costs!

decker-boAnd here’s my wonky portrayal of Mr. Decker, with LOTS of artistic license! Hey, the red collar’s the same and I think I got the nose about the right size …




If you check out my earlier posts you’ll see the original sketch. I really wanted to use the yellow fabric for his body, but I didn’t have a large enough piece. Oh well, I just carefully sewed two pieces together. If you look closely, you can see the seam. Which brings me to my next trick: Quilter’s Choice glue. It’s a water soluble glue (that means it will wash out later) that holds well and dries clear. Anytime I need to match something up exactly, I take the new piece, fold the seam allowance under and press it. Then I dab a bit of glue on the seam allowance. I place the piece exactly where I want it to sit on top of the first piece, and heat set it with the iron to dry the glue. It’s simple to peel back the seam and sew on the pressed fold line. That’s how I managed to line up the dots, and get Decker’s red collar to line up with his body. Ditto for the ears–they were so small I would never have gotten them to line up without a dab of glue!

I’ve also started to put a few pieces together. I’m not done by a long stretch, but I’ve started to build out two of my rows.


None of my blocks were the same size, so this is where the rule, “If it’s too short sew some more on, and if it’s too big, cut some off,” comes in to play. Della, on her soap box was too tall, so off went part of her hat and the border above it. The block of me in my orange pants was too short, so I simply added some scrap squares to make my block longer. Decker got some checkerboard squares to stand on, and some other “parts and pieces” blocks (you are making some of those, right?) got inserted for color and a bit of breathing room.

The next row I put together had two tall houses–I wanted to add a third. Rather than start over making a whole new house, I chopped off the roof of another house block, and added a scrappy bottom. I added some more vertical strips of color, and once again used some of my checkerboard “filler” squares. Notice how on the far left and upper right I chopped them at an angle? I needed to square up the unit so it will fit with the next block(s), whatever they will be!



I know this is a long post, but I’ll end with a shot of my design wall. You can see I’ve got LOTs more work to do, but you can get an idea of the parts and pieces I’ve been playing with so far.  parts_piecesI hope you’re having fun, and sewing along with me! –Karen




Here I am…

karen_donesketch_karenHere I am…decked out for snow. The bright orange pants are truly a bit of “artistic license.” In my block portrayal of Della, I went free-form. In other words, I just cut and sewed without much of a plan. Since my selfie was a bit more complicated, I made a small sketch of my idea–about 2″ tall, and then blew it up on my copier 400%. That sure made things a lot easier when I was trying to judge how to cut the pieces and put it together.

You can see the small sketch in the lower right–and the blown-up version. You can also see I’m going to include Decker the dog–he’s next.

At the risk of boring you to tears–here’s a few tips on how I made the “me” block.  First, I divided my sketch into sections.

sketch_dividedFrom there, I could see how to make the sections, and the approximate size of the pieces I wanted. That was the nice thing about having a full-scale drawing! If you try this, don’t forget to add 1/4″ seam allowances to the pieces. As you can see below, I just laid sections on top of the sketch to get the angle I wanted, then trimmed with the added seam  allowances.


Note how much longer the scarf/body is than the final block shows. It’s sooo much easier to make something longer–I like to fold it to where the seam needs to be and press it. That way I can lay it on top of the next piece and know exactly where to sew to get the look I want.

Next are the beginnings of the face and hat. You can also see that I have a habit of making the pieces lots bigger than I need–it’s easier and they can always trim down. The tassels on the hat were Della’s idea–it worked out great! I started with a small (~1-1/2″ tall x 3/4″ ) rectangle of bright red fabric. Then I folded down the top edge, and folded it in half lengthwise. I inserted it between an angled seam and viola! I did that a few more times until I liked the angles.


That’s it for now. I’ve been making stars and checkerboard strips in-between all the stopping and starting. I’ve got thirteen 6″ stars done…guess I’d better get busy.

🙂  Karen

Meet Della

dellaSome of you know Della from the store. Always smiling and laughing, she is my best friend. So it only seems right that I would have to put her in my wonky quilt. The picture on the left is my first attempt. We’re miles apart but as usual, she added her two cents and requested the lime green dress and curly hair.

I really didn’t like the light background, and I kept trying to make it work. Finally, I took it apart and auditioned some different backgrounds…I liked the red the best. I purposely made her a little shorter and *ahem* slightly wider, and gave her a couple of x-blocks to stand on. And yes, her socks are two different colors–just like she wears everyday. Next I’ll be making me…taller and thinner (and by the way, I got Della’s good-natured permission for that!). Now where can I find pretty and smart fabrics? 😉

Let me know if you need help making a “people” block. I can certainly step you through it.


“X” marks the spot

I’ve been busy making more house blocks–and of course more stars. What started out as a wonky log cabin morphed into a house. And you can’t make just one…

Wonky Log Cabin Houses

Wonky Log Cabin Houses

Along with my houses and stars, I made a few ‘X” blocks, just for filler. They’re really simple. I made a few then trimmed them up to 4″ unfinished. I found it worked best if I started with a 5″ square, and then inserted strips that were approximately 7″ long and about 1″ to 1-1/2″ wide, and cut with a bit of an angle.


Look how cute they look when they’re all in a row:

crisscrossI really love my design wall. It’s so easy to put my parts and pieces up on it, and they stick! Not a one has fallen off and I’ve had them up there all week. I’ve started to play with a few arrangements, but I’m not ready to sew anything together yet. See those big blocks of green under the houses? I’m auditioning some colors for a curvy grass hill.


In my last post I mentioned that there were several things I’d change in my new and improved version–so here’s a few:

1. I think some of the blocks are too big. It’s more piecing (more work!), but I like the look of smaller pieces. Specifically, I think a few of the log cabin type blocks have strips that are simply too wide, and the blocks got too big too fast. Hence the wonky log cabins that turned into houses!

2. I missed with the contrast in the orange/turquoise shoo fly blocks. In other words, there isn’t any! If you’re up close and personal with the quilt you can see the the blocks, but otherwise they get lost.

3. Too many of my fabric choices are muddy or have grey in them.  Overall, the quilt is a little darker than I’d like. So this time I’m trying harder to use “pure” color.

I arranged my blocks in columns in my first quilt. I think that’s an easy way to make everything fit if its the first time you’ve ever done something like this. This time I’m working with rows–not much different–but somehow seems a better fit for my house obsession.

🙂 It’s getting warmer here in Michigan. Thankfully, the snow is almost gone.



Sew Wonky

whole_quiltThere! It’s done! Not really–this is a picture of my first wonky quilt. I shared this last week at our in-store seminar, and thought some of you might want an “end-game” picture.

Even though I love this quilt, I see a lot of things that I could change. I won’t go into detail on that for now; let me know if you’d like me to share my critique! But like every great artist who often painted a series of paintings, (lot’s of tongue in cheek with that comment) I think I just need to make more wonky quilts. I hung this one on the wall here in Michigan–it’s amazing what it does to cheer the place up!

I managed to hang up my design wall–I just love it! It’s a great size: 60″ x 72″ with grommets across the top. It is recommended to hang it on your wall with adhesive hooks, but I went the distance and put a few nails in the wall. If you want a design wall of your own, we have them in the store. I think a design wall is a must for this type of quilt. Right now I’ve just plopped my pieces up on the wall–I’m sure I’ll play with arranging them multiple times.


I don’t have as many parts and pieces done as I’d like (you can blame the IRS for the delay), so I think I’ll treat myself to a marathon sew session this weekend. Join me! I’ll post some new blocks soon. — Karen

Wonky Stars and a little about me

final_starsI was informed by the store that since I’m not as well known as Oprah, I should, perhaps, introduce myself and explain why I am telling you about my bright, save-me-from-winter-grey quilt, from Michigan. My name is Karen (maybe you got that from the first post) Hanson. AKA Mrs. Hanson when I am being particularly ornery. I am the owner of Quilt Expressions (in Boise, Idaho) but I have been living in Michigan since the end of August. My high-school age son is playing on a hockey team here and I got tired of having someone else knowing my kid better than me. So here I am, learning new skills, like how to run a snow-blower!

So, all that said, let’s get back to the important things–quilting! Today I made a few more houses, sewed more black and white squares together, and started on some wonky stars. Right now I’m just in the “parts and pieces” stage, so if you’re sewing along with me just keep making lots of parts. The more parts you have, the more fun you’ll have putting it all together.

If you’ve never made a wonky star before, here’s how to make a 6″ finished star:

The star background consists of eight, 2 ½” squares of the same fabric (four corner blocks and four star backgrounds).

Star points and one center 2 ½” square should contrast with the background (i.e., if the background is dark, the star center and points will be light, if the background is light, the star center and points will be dark).

Lay out background fabric in a nine-patch formation with eight,
2 ½” squares, and the contrasting center square. Four of the background squares will become the star points. On each of the four background squares, place a (approximately) 2″ x 3″ piece of contrasting fabric across the background square at an angle with right sides together.

star_step1Sew ¼” seam along edge of star point fabric. I drew a line for you to see where to sew.

Fold star point fabric over background and press.

From the back, use the original 2 ½” square as a guide, and trim up the unit to a 2 ½” square. Then from the front, trim off the underneath fabric (the original square) to reduce the bulk. A rotating mat is really helpful about now!





Place another 2″ x 3″ piece across the 2 ½” square – the star point fabric should overlap the star point that you previously finished. Sew ¼” seam along the edge.


Fold, press and trim as before. Repeat the process to make four star-point squares. Pictures below show the pressed, but untrimmed star points; trimming from the back; and the trimmed star points from the front.


Don’t worry if you cut off a point–or two–and make the stars points different colors and angles. Layout the star in a 9-patch as shown below, and sew rows together. Press the top and bottom row seams toward the outer squares; press the center row seams to the middle.Sew rows together to make a wonky star. Blocks should measure 6 ½” square. Make lots of stars–try different backgrounds–think stripes for example! You can make them larger or smaller–just vary the size of the background and center squares.

star_layoutTomorrow I’m going to put up my design wall, and make some more “parts”. I’ll be able to put my pieces up on the wall and start thinking about how I will arrange them. What are you going to do? What ever it is, have a great day.