Saving the Selvages

When I was little, my Mother gave each one of the three Johnson daughters a special word which would help us with a character flaw. My special word was “patience,” a word meant to teach me that I couldn’t always have things as fast as I wanted, when I wanted. (Hum. I believe in previous blogs I’ve mused that some things never change. Well, here we go again. I still fight with wanting things to happen fast and wanting immediate results.)

Now, why am I talking about patience?  Because in my quilt-world-business, I see women who have enormous amounts of patience. Buckets  full, boatloads full, oceans of patience. Patience coupled with persistence.  Women who can work for decades on a single, breathtaking quilt. Women who can spend night after night, year after year,  hand-stitching beautiful quilted designs. Women who can sew the tiniest scraps together to make an incredible piece of art. Women who have more patience than I could ever hope to have.

Not long ago, a customer in the retreat had a gorgeous selvage project she was working on, and the vision of that was still hanging around in my head. So recently, I cut the selvage off a piece of fabric and dangled it in front of me considering, “Do I have the patience to save these tiny strips of fabric and make a bigger project?”

In years past, I would have undoubtedly screamed “NO!,” but maybe maturity is making me more patient hold because I  held on to that tiny string of fabric with the thought that maybe -just maybe – I would do a selvage project some day. (Seems strange considering that I have plenty of bigger pieces of fabric, but the world is a wacky place sometimes……)

  • I could save that selvage for future color combos, either in sewing or home decorating applications.
  •  I could applique assorted selvage strips in varying lengths on a quilt top, creating an art quilt exploding with a wild geometry of shooting lines and tilting planes .
  • I could sew them all together for possible future projects as in the pictures included here.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with my single selvage, whether I’ll add to the collection or just give up the fantasy that I would ever have the patience to put so many tiny strips together, but if you’re one of the lucky people who simply need inspiration and not patience, take a look at these cool projects!


“Where It All Started. . . and Where It’s Led Me . . . .In Honor of National Quilting Day “

It was in the late seventies when I saw an article in a women’s magazine with a Schoolhouse Quilt Block.  I was young, studying to be a teacher and thought, “That would be a cute wallhanging, perfect for me since I’ll be making a career in education.” My creative urges were strong. Sadly, my skill was not!

“I’ll make about nine blocks and frame them.” What did I care that I knew absolutely nothing about quilting? My sewing experience was basic, at best. I did not even own a sewing machine. I had little time and less money. But I was strong-willed and resourceful, (some things never change,) and I determined that I would stitch these blocks up by hand. They looked so cute in that magazine picture, after all.

After purchasing a navy-blue small print, a rusty-nail colored solid, and a sweet little cream calico for background, I formed the plan of alternating color schoolhouses.  Easy enough, right?

I made cardboard templates, but I was not a precise measurer.  (Did that really matter?)  I didn’t have an Exacto Knife, so the windows I cut out of the templates didn’t have sharp edges. (I figured the edges of the window panes wouldn’t matter too much because I could stitch them down how I wanted.)  I didn’t have exact color matches of thread. (Would it really make a difference if I used red thread on the rust?)

My schoolhouse windows looked more like hobbit-hole-ports. Absolutely none of the blocks looked the same. Some of those educational buildings were actually leaning! The sashing was uneven, and the three blocks I had tried to stitch together were cattywampus and crazy. (FYI. . . . I was NOT doing a crazy quilt.)

Years later, I found the box with those sad, silly schoolhouse blocks and tossed it in the trash in embarrassment, but it was that project that planted the seed. Someday, I wanted to know more about quilting.

Forty years later, I run a fabulous quilt shop and retreat center. Who knew what a single look at a schoolhouse could lead?

I’d love to hear your beginning stories or tales of your journey along the way!


What a schoolhouse quilt should look like.

The Practical Use of a Frog

What to do with a frog?

  1.  Kiss it in the hopes a prince will appear.
  2.  Put it in your garden for the insect-eating benefits it will bring you.
  3. Photograph it and be inspired by the fern green and burnt brown color combo.
  4.  Honor it as the inspiration for the unforgettable Kermit.

Okay. I’m playing a little. But what about those amazing things called “Flower Frogs.” Flower frogs were one of my beloved dad’s flower arranging tools.  Daddy would place one in the bottom of a Silver Bowl and gently stick rose stems into the holes, fill the bowl with leaves, and then stand back in pleasure. I have a good collection of “frogs” that I look for at flea markets and frequently use for flower arrangements to get the stalks in perfectly aligned. But recently, I discovered another practical use of the “frog.”

A frog now holds my tiny sewing implements. . . scissors, tubes, pencils, rippers, all within easy reach of my machine without taking much room.  Who knew a frog and a sewist could be such friends? 0313170906-1


Garden Color: Inspiration for the Quilter

If you’re a creative soul, you get ideas for projects from everywhere. The world around you is vibrating with energy and possibilities. You may find ideas for color combinations from a sunset, a person on the street, a run to the grocery store, but a trip to the garden is a sure bet for inspiration.  This particular idea comes from a recent trip to the magnificent Missouri Botanical Garden.  I’m in love with the extreme contrast of the hot oranges and golden yellows played against the dark green and dusty purples. Bold. Unusual. Stunning.


Powerful Pastels

Look what our friend and embroiderer-extraordinaire, Mary Shroyer, created with her Janome 15000 embroidery machine. This quilt is “Sewn Seeds” by Hoop Sisters.  The powerful pastels bring life and vitality to the flowers. Note how the “pool blue” plays against the brilliant yellow, and how the spring green vibrates against the rose-petal pink. It is absolutely gorgeous. Way to go, Mary!

The Fold and Stitch Wreath

Check out this cool project which can be done in all kinds of fabrics to suit any season.

Use it as a wreath. Display it as a centerpiece. Place it around a candle or a floral arrangement. You can whip it up in an afternoon.  Get the pattern at for $9.99.