Monday, December 29, 2008

We have news!

We'll be sending an eNewsletter tomorrow announcing what's new on our site. We want to share it with you on the blog first!

C&T, after 2 years of work, made the eBook available. We write about it on our home page and you can read even more, and order it, on the Slice Of Christmas page itself. 

Isn't it amazing how fast electronic publishing is moving?! it is very possible that the day will come when the books we love are never truly out-of-print.

We also have news about our block of the month, Thru Grandmother's Window. Back in 1996 when these blocks were new, quilters requested extra blocks to make the original quilt even bigger. 

We designed 7 blocks (one is shown here) and now these blocks are available to you in one Downloadable PDF. 

This PDF has only the 7 patterns — there are no yardage, cutting, or setting instructions. These patterns must be enlarged in the same way that the Downloadable Thru Grandmother's Window patterns are. The good news is that the 7-block pattern is only $10!

Check out the Show & Tell page if you haven't lately. It's a great place to see what other quilters have made using Piece O' Cake patterns. We enjoy these quilts so much that we've decided to give a $10 credit (to be used on our website) to the maker of any quilt we post on this page! (If you have a quilt on the page already email Linda at and she'll issue you a credit.)

There are other changes on our site but they are pretty subtle. If you find typos as you click around, please let me know. I hate typos!

And, for those of you who might be wondering, Christy is still in the hospital. She's not exactly better, but she's not worse either. She is being well taken care of and for that I am very thankful. Thank you for her prayers for her.

Happy stitching,

Becky (and Linda too!)

Friday, December 26, 2008

I'm late with posts...

I hope you all have had - and are having - happy holidays! Both Linda and I have had good visits with our families. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were spent with those we love and that is the best part of this time of year. 

Linda is on her way home from California with her husband, Paul. I'm hoping they don't get hung up in the bad weather. I had expected to be home today (and writing festive posts) but my sister was admitted to the hospital this morning so I'm not going to be home for a little while. I'm so thankful that she had a good Christmas.

So, please forgive the lack of new posts - we hope to be back up to speed early next week. Until then, happy stitching!

Friday, December 19, 2008

When to trim...

I've been sewing some small leaves whose ends lie underneath a very narrow stem. The ends of the leaves have to be trimmed to fit under the stem. Place the overlay over the block so that you can see exactly how much excess fabric to trim away. 

I always check my applique pieces with my overlay before I trim away fabric. I never trim blindly.

When I can, I wait to trim away excess fabric. These photos show a good example of that... You can see that I have sewn down the side of the stem with the leaves. Before sewing the 2nd side of the stem, I lift the stem up and trim the end of the leaves even with the stem's turned-under seam allowance. 

The longer seam allowance makes it easier to pin the stem firmly in place over the leaf. If the end of the leaf is not pinned down you have to be really careful when you sew, not to let the leaf "wander" out of position.

Happy stitching,


Thursday, December 18, 2008

My granddaughter, Elanor, and I have a tradition of getting together to make Christmas presents for her to give. Her other grandmother, Judy, will help Elanor wrap and label the presents. This year (and last year) Elanor drew pictures that we turned into calendars. (I'll show you this year's calendar after Christmas so as not to ruin the surprise for family members who read this blog.)

Lorna, my daughter-in-law, and I thought it would be fun to "help" Jack make presents too. Handprints on paper came to mind but have you ever tried to get a 13 month old to make 11 good handprints? Judy and I tried that with Elanor one year and the poor kid was very unhappy. Not what we were after.

Lorna and I decided that "art" would be better than handprints. We stripped Jack down to his diaper. I put down drop cloths and we all wore our painting clothes. I got non-toxic washable Crayola paint that did, indeed, wash off when we were done. I used good paper in the hopes that these pieces will age well. Elanor helped - and at the end she got paint on her feet and made some really nice footprints!

We were able to cut out some surprisingly nice "paintings"! Steve shot movies. Here's a short segment showing the young artist at work... you'll notice that he's more interested in the snack than painting until we made that go away to the kitchen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Now I know...

Last night Steve was reading yesterday's post and he decided that it was the perfect time to give me an early Christmas gift. Now I know what the little man is running from!

Steve found my dragon at the RISD gift shop. It's the Dragon Manikin from Art-Alternatives.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The wooden guys...

How many of you have one (or more) of these posable wooden figures? I love mine. I don't usually draw them, they just live on my desk and keep me company. My wooden guys didn't make me smile, though, until my (grown) sons started playing with them. 

Every now and then Jeff and/or Chris will change a pose. I'll suddenly notice that the guys have moved, seemingly by themselves! I can't help but wonder what the little guy is running from, or to...

Monday, December 15, 2008

A quilting tip...

I basted a couple of quilts last week and thought I'd share a trick with you. Whether you hand or machine quilt, here's a way to protect the batting at the edges of your quilt while you are quilting. First, run a line of basting stitches not quite 1/4" away from the raw edge of the top of the quilt. This holds the 3 layers firmly together at the edges.

Trim away the excess batting, leaving about 3/4" of batting beyond the edge of the quilt top. Trim the backing about 3/4" away from the edge of the batting.

Fold the backing over the batting. Butt the raw edges of the 2 fabrics together. Baste the backing over the batting. Do this on all four sides of your basted quilt.

You'll be surprised at how much this simple step will protect the outer edges of your quilt from stretching and fraying as you work. And it cuts down on the amount of lint generated when you machine quilt. 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

50 very unusual buildings...

I found the link to the 50 Strange Buildings of the World on the blog, A Cup Of Jo. These buildings make me smile! 

This house is in Texas but, luckily, my house looks nothing like it. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Have you seen this?

I heard about this video this week - I'm not very up to date with cool You Tube videos. I thought I'd post this for those of you who haven't seen it either. The group, Straight No Chaser, has a Christmas album out now called High Spirits. You can buy it at Amazon or on iTunes.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

What to do with the kids...

My grandson, Jack, is just over a year old and is no longer content to just sit and play. He wants to be everywhere, all at once! He likes to push buttons on anything electronic - the TV, my computer, the printers, the modem - none are safe. He responds pretty well to "no" but I don't want to be a constant "no" machine.

When he and Elanor were over a couple of days ago I got a shipment that came in a big box. It didn't take me long to decide to make my own Jack-in-the-box!

He had toys that he threw out of the box. My job was to return the toys. He has me trained pretty well.

Elanor decided that she wanted in the box too. I was amazed that they could both fit.

We had fun with the box for 20-30 minutes which is a very long time when you are 13 months old. but it's not nearly long enough when you're 52!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

All cleaned up...

Here it is, all cleaned up! This is still a garage. To be more specific, this is my garage, not Martha Stewart's garage. Hers is probably full of way cool stuff. My garage is full of the stuff that cannot live in my house — and most of it is not that cool. But the things in our garage are things that we use at least once a year.

Notice the white walls! The space feels cleaner, and lighter. The white walls are what I wanted changed the most so that alone makes me very happy. 

Almost everything is off of the ground which makes it a lot easier to sweep out. You can see the leaves on the floor - they blow in every time we open the door at this time of year.

I love my blue door! I painted it (and the orange trim around it) a couple of years ago. It makes me smile every time I walk through it.

I haven't shown you the little storage shed in our back yard. We tidied it up as part of this project. Now I can get to my flower pots and gardening tools without having to climb over stuff. I need to get a picture of that soon!

I have vowed to myself that when I put something in the garage, I'm going to put it where it goes. If it doesn't have a spot I'll find it one right then. I'm pretty good about doing that in the house so I'm hopeful that I can train myself without too much trouble. Steve is already good about putting things where they go (I am such a lucky woman!). I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tis the season to be tidy!

My husband and I were supposed to go on a hike this weekend with Steve's brother, Charles, and his wife, Deborah, and 2 more friends. They bailed out on us which opened up the weekend for - oh happy day - the garage clean-up! 

This event was already on my calendar for this week, but it was not on Steve's because of work. I figured that I would spend a full week on this project but with his help we got it done in 2 days! 

So - this is our garage, before... This is the left wall:

This is part of the left and back wall. The door leads into the house:

This is the right wall. The 4th wall is the double-wide garage door and we're ignoring that.

The before-walls were sheetrock covered with a vinyl printed to look like paneling. We've been in the house 15 years and I have never been happy with the walls. I wanted white walls and that was a big part of this clean-up. Painting the walls meant that everything had to come off into a big pile in the middle of the garage. With 2 people doing the piling, it went fast. 

You can see the pile in this photo and the walls with the primer coat of paint. I'm a fast painter and, since this is the garage after all, I was not super-neat. I had both the primer and the finish coat on the 3 walls by 2:00 in the afternoon. I used latex paints and they dry fast!

Here is Steve beginning to put things back...

Steve was really great about doing this on the spur of the moment. The hike would have been lots of fun, and we'll eventually get out there and do that too, but I am oh-so-happy to have this done!

I'll show you pictures the the finished garage tomorrow. For now I have to sign off because the grandkids are due any minute - it's babysitting time!



Monday, December 8, 2008


I have been working on the next BOM. Yet, to have a title. I remembered a technique my first applique teacher taught me year ago. Jeanette Meetze is a great teacher. I thought you would like to see it. 

When appliqueing petals in a circle use this technique. After the petals are appliqued sew a basting stitch below the seam allowance to hold the petal ends in place. They tend otherwise to want to stick up. Quick and easy. I love quilting tips. 

Above if you look close you will see the white seam line. I basted just below it.

Now you are ready to applique the center down.

Blessings Linda

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sprucing up your Christmas tree...

I have a 7' tall pretend Christmas tree. It is almost as old as my youngest son, Jeff, who is now 22 (or 23, I just can't keep up!). It was one of the first pencil trees and it's skinnier than any that are on the market these days.

Our house is not that big and I don't want a bigger tree, but truly this tree has seen better days. Two years ago I decided that it needed a bath so I took the hose to it figuring that if it fell apart, it was a sign from above to move on. It didn't fall apart.

Last year I decided that it needed more than another bath - it needed updating. I bought 2 cans of lime green spray paint thinking that I would change the color of the tree to lime green. I was amazed at how the paint seemed to soak into the tree. Instead of being lime green, it has lime green highlights. That just wasn't enough of an update.

I got a can or two of spray glue and some coarse green glitter. I sprayed the tree in sections with the glue and sprinkled it liberally with glitter.

It's way cute and a cheap upgrade! This year, when the tree came out of the box (after having spent another year in the attic) I hit it again with spray glue and glitter because I like things sparkly.

If you do this here are some tips:
  1. It makes a mess so I did this outside, over a plastic drop cloth. 
  2. Be careful where/how you shake the glitter off the drop cloth. I think I'm going to have glitter in the sand around the rocks in my patio for a very long time.
  3. Carry the tree inside carefully. Some glitter is going to drop off the tree as it is jostled.
  4. Concentrate the glitter on the outer parts of the tree, but don't forget the undersides of the branches. My tree comes apart in sections which makes it easier to do the undersides of the branches (turning the whole tree upside-down would be hard).
  5. A word of caution - my tree is not pre-strung with lights. I don't know if getting glue and glitter on the lights would be a fire hazard but I don't know that I would do it.
Once you start playing with the glitter it's hard to stop. Wreaths, candles, all kinds of things could look better with glitter! 


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Quilter's Chocolate tins

Many of you have seen our Quilter's Chocolates in the cute tins. After consuming a lot of them. I do love milk chocolate. I started thinking about ways to use the chocolate tins. 

The other day I was in a hurry to get out the door to quilt guild. I always take applique to stitch. It helps me not talk during the meeting or volunteer for more than I have time for. I had pinned some applique pieces down the night before. I grabbed my bag with the block in it and was about to grab my sewing bag when the chocolate tin caught my eye. I put my needle, ThimbleIt, toothpick and some Frostings bobbins with the thread wound on them in the bag and off I went. It all fit nicely in my purse. I now also have a tin by my chair with bobbins I am using.

The other use I found was to put the snippets of thread and material in the tin. I am always looking for somewhere to put them. I hate all those snippets all over everywhere. 

Let me know if you find other uses for them. I will let everyone on the blog know.

Always trying but not succeeding in keeping my studio tidier.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My 2008 Christmas ornament...

I've made Christmas ornaments to give to family and friends for many, many years. The list of folks who receive ornaments have changed over the years - especially as children and nieces have gotten older and moved into their own spaces. Sometimes people move off the list when they downsize and no longer have room for more ornaments. I completely understand this as I, myself, am having trouble fitting them all in :-).

This year I made 19 little sparkly houses. I thought I'd share a little bit of the process with you. 

First I designed a pattern. I made a template of the main pattern. It was easy to cut strips the length and width of the house and then use the template to mark my cutting lines. I cut rectangles for the bases and roofs.

I made the houses from poster board - a light-weight, white cardboard readily available in the US. After I cut the shapes out, I folded them where I needed to using a bone folder (which is a really good tool). I glued the ends of the house together using Tacky Glue - a strong, fast-drying glue available in craft stores. 

I mixed up a solution of thin glue (Elmers and/or Tacky glue mixed with water) and brushed it on the houses where I wanted glitter to stick. I used blue, green, and white glitter to make houses in those colors.

After the glue/glitter dried, I glued and glittered the doors in a contrasting color. I cut tissue paper and stuck it to the inside of the windows. 

Next I glued each house to a base and glued its roof on. Luckily I remembered to punch holes in the roofs and strung a loop of wire (to hang them from) before I glued the roofs on!

I made pipe cleaner wreaths and glued them over the doors. I glued on rick-rack greenery and I added sparkly, fluffy snow to the roofs and bases and then... there they were! A cluster of festive houses ready to go off and spread Christmas cheer!

Every year one of the hardest parts of "ornament making" for me is deciding what to make. I enjoyed making these houses so well that I think I'm going to make a variety of different houses for the next several years. Imagine a village of little sparkly cardboard houses!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Answering some questions...

We've had some questions about the free block/project contest. (I really need to come up with a good name for this. Any ideas?) Anyway - here are answers to some questions you may be having:

We are picturing the projects as finished pieces, not unfinished blocks. Keep in mind, though, thatyour "project" doesn't necessarily need to be a quilt. It certainly can be a quilt! But if you wanted to embellish an apron, or tea towel, or pillow, or garment, or whatever else you can think of - that could work too. Imagine your project in a book, inspiring another quilter to use the pattern the way you did!

We welcome entries from outside of the US. The deadline remains the same - there will be time to get your project to us for photography.

You may use any applique method you prefer.

If you have other questions, let us know and we'll do our best to answer them quickly.

Happy stitching!

Becky and Linda

Anna asked a good question - Yes, you will get your project back if it is chosen for publication. We might need to hold onto it for several weeks - that is up to C&T. They need the actual projects in hand to check color. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

We have a treat for you!

As I promised last week, we have something special for you today! We are doing something we’ve never done before... we are releasing a block pattern from our next Block of the Month to you — before it is published! This Block of the Month is so new that it doesn’t even have a name yet!  

It is our hope that you will make a project using this block and send us a photo of your project by March 1, 2009. Our plan is to include as many of these project photos as possible in the Block of the Month publication (tentative release date Spring 2010). There are some rules that you need to follow and they are listed in the PDF. 

Click here to go to our home page. The link to the PDF is in the information about this free block. We hope you have fun working with this block and that you come up with some very cute projects.

Happy stitching from us both!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Alzheimer's Quilt Donation

Good Morning!!!!. Well it was morning when I started this blog. I had some problems so now it is the afternoon. My husband Paul has had the crud this week. So we have been hibernating. You know if you take medicine it takes 14 days to get over and if you don't it takes 2 weeks.

I have been clearing my desk and working on projects in my studio. One of the projects is a small quilt for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. The quilts are no larger than 9" x 12". here is the one I am sending. It is a block from a class I used to teach. It made a pretty little quilt to donate. 

While working in the Alzheimer's booth at Quilt Festival I noticed the greatest way to make a sleeve for these small quilts. I thought I would share it with you here. You can two squares 2 12" x 2 1/2". Then press them into a triangle. Next, before you put your binding on the quilt place the raw edges along the sew line. Sew the two squares to each of the top corners along seam line.sides, That's all there is to it.

Place a small dowel rod in the pockets and you are ready to hang your quilt. I put a pencil in mine. Saved a trip to the hardware store.

Till next time keep quilting. Linda

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'm going on vacation...

Well, not really a vacation - more of a Thanksgiving break. We leave tomorrow after lunch for Oklahoma City (OKC) where we both have family. I'm scrambling to get everything ready and am not finding time to blog. BUT - there is a wonderful treat coming on Monday. You'll like it, I promise! 

I might find time to post between now and then, but I also might not. I'm going to leave you with this wonderful photo of my Aunt Esther and my grandmother, Nan, aka Mabel Eckroat. She was born not long after 1900 and died 6 years ago. (I am so very bad with dates that I don't have the exact ones in my head. I hope I am never in charge of writing an obituary.)

Nan was a stitch! She sewed many of my clothes as I was growing up. She even made my senior prom dress (a halter-top!). She was not a quilter but that's OK. In the picture below she and her sister are pretending to be "bad" - with fake cigarettes! This photo is taken outside of their family home in Cheyenne, OK. When she was little, Nan lived in a dugout (an underground house) so this house is something the whole family was proud of.

I could go on, but I won't because I have to get ready to leave tomorrow :-). Later, I'll post more family photos. I have some really wonderful ones!

Monday, November 24, 2008

My grandson...

I took this movie of my grandson, Jack, a few weeks ago and am just now getting it posted. The boy crawls with his leg bent funny. I'm a normal grandmother so I sort of worry about that but it is my hope that he will walk straight and tall! I will share (and I hope not bore you with) another movie soon!

FYI - those cloths on the floor are there because Jack put them there. He has a drawer full of  (clean) rags that I let him pull out, then I put them up, then he pulls them out... you get the idea.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Something purple...

Steve and I worked in the yard some this morning. It is overcast today, but not raining and it is cool, but comfortable. I raked and cut back plants that needed it. Steve dug up saplings that were growing in bad places. 

I hate to say it but now my hands hurt. There are many good aspects to getting 
older... but knowing that your body is beginning to fall apart is not one of them. Thank goodness for Advil!

I took these "purple" photos when I was in Baltimore and I've been saving them to share with you. I have no idea what this flower is but isn't it cute!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Christmas Trees...

I just uploaded our newest downloadable pattern - The Christmas Trees! This quilt was in both A Piece O' Cake Christmas and A Slice of Christmas. Those books are out of print and we had so many requests for this pattern that we decided now was the time to make it available to you.

We hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cinnamon apples...

Every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas my grandmother, Mabel Eckroat, made cinnamon apples. I cannot image a holiday without them! I make several packages of apples and share them with family and friends and now they can't imagine a holiday without them either :-).

Cinnamon apple rings are served cold and can last several weeks in the refrigerator.

The apples are cooked in a mixture of water, sugar, and red hots. Use apples that will hold up to being simmered for 1-2 hours. Granny Smith's are what I can usually find at my store in Texas. I cook them in a Kobenstyle enameled casserole dish.

The apple-cooking day begins early. Pour 6-7 cups water into the pan (about 2" deep). Add about a cup of sugar and about 1 bag of red hots. Turn the heat to low-medium. Stir occasionally until  the red hots are melted. 

Core, peel, then slice 2 apples. Slices should be about 1/4" thick. Place the slices in the pot, overlapping as necessary.

Let the apples simmer. When they look about like this, carefully turn them over. I use a big, slotted spoon for this task. Keep your spoon in a 2-cup measuring cup that has water in it and any gooey red hots will get dissolved off the spoon.

Let them simmer some more. The first batch can easily take 2 hours. If you have too much water, the apples will lose their shape. This corrects itself as water is cooked off. Too little water and you have syrup - add more water.

You should see simmering, not a rolling boil. And your house is going to have a wonderful, cinnamon-y smell!

The finished apples look like this. I still need to pour a bit of the remaining syrup over them to keep them moist. I do that after I've cooked all I'm going to cook. Store them covered in the refrigerator.

To continue... Add some more water to your pan to bring the level up to the level you began at (unless that was too much water), add some more sugar (1/4-1/2 cup), and some more red hots. You can taste one of the apples from your first batch and adjust sugar and red hot amounts to suit you. As you are preparing your next 2 apples, the red hots will melt. Stir the mixture and begin again.

I sometimes take 2 days to cook apples. The syrup can stay on the stove (with a lid on the pot) overnight. That makes it much easier to begin again on Day 2.

It takes more red hots than you would think. I'm guessing I'll use 5-7 bags for the 16 apples I'm cooking.



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Smaller Lorna's Vine continued...

There were some questions in the comments in yesterday's post about this quilt and I want to answer them here. Note that while the photos in this post are the same size, the quilts in the photos are different sizes.

The original Lorna's Vine quilt is shown above. This quilt is 71" x 71". There are 36 vine blocks in it. 

I sewed together the blocks for the smaller quilt and put it on my design wall with some 8" red border strips around it. Note that there are only 16 vine blocks. The pieced center is approximately 40" x 40". 

I had thought that I might piece the borders - maybe using 1" squares in 4- or 9-patches. But the more I looked at this quilt on the wall, the more I thought that piecing would detract from the applique. Then I wondered about adding a narrow inner border...

I tried a couple of blue strips and decided that, even if they are pretty, they call too much attention to themselves.

I tried some gold strips... and I liked them better. I looked at the photos of all 3 versions of this quilt on my computer and decided to go with the gold inner borders. 

Here is the finished top. The inner border is 1/2", the borders will finish at 7 1/2". This quilt is bigger than I imagined it would be - approximately 56" x 56". But this is an excellent size for the wall or to use as a throw. Now I just have to get it quilted!

I've put together a PDF with the yardage and cutting instructions for this smaller quilt. You still need the book, but the PDF is free. You can click to get it on the Piece O' Cake home page or on the Amish-Inspired Quilts page. Happy stitching!